“Parker seemed to be comfortable here, but she always walked with her back to the wall, almost scooting along with her hands out as if trying to feel for a doorway or an opening of some kind. When she walked up or down the stairs, she walked sideways, with her back to the wall.”
“She spent almost all of her time in this library. Since she refused to speak, I wasn’t sure she could remember how to read, but I would later be assured. I would lay odds that she read every single book in here. It was like she was trying to satisfy a long ago forgotten voracious appetite for the written word.” He motioned toward the corner and said, “she always sat in that chair, with her back to the wall.”
Harvilles’ eyes teared a bit when he said, “I once saw her standing in front of my piano, and wondered if it triggered anything. I told her there was music in the seat, if she’d like to play something. I walked away, hoping, but I never saw her look at it again.”
“I would talk to her just like I would talk to anyone, but I never again asked if she remembered me. I never asked if she remembered her parents. I never told her what happened to them, nor did I ever ask what happened to her. You know, I didn’t care if all I got was silence. I knew she listened because she would make eye contact, and a few times she looked at me like she wanted to ask me a question…but she never did.”
“Then, after a year, she finally spoke.”
I was spellbound and patiently waited until he continued. He was drawing circles on the top of his desk with his finger, like he was trying to find his words…maybe words that he didn’t want to say. Maybe he was having thoughts that he didn’t want to have, or didn’t want to revisit. I didn’t know what he was going to say, but I could tell that it was going to be painful for him.
He took a deep breath and said, “I remember that day like it was yesterday. Parker walked into the library and said, ‘I want to learn everything there is to know about the law’.” She acted like there had been no silence for the entire year she had been here, and I found that a bit troubling.”
“I had to resist my inclination to ask questions about the past, or why she suddenly wanted to talk, so I played along and asked her what kind of law she wanted to study.”
“With absolutely no hesitation, she said, ‘criminal law.’ I want to know every trick of the trade, be it legal, illegal, moral, immoral, aboveboard, underhanded, walking through the front door, sneaking through the back door, full disclosure, don’t ask, don’t tell, under the rug, clean and crisp, or down and dirty’.”
He said, “I was a little taken aback, but I asked her why, and her answer made my blood run cold.”
I knew I was going to risk being chastised when I asked, “what did she say?”
Harville had expertise when it came to deflection. After my question, he said, “I told you that she was a child prodigy, right?” I told him that he had mentioned it. “Well, you can also safely bet that she didn’t have any sort of education for the ten years she was gone, so that posed a problem.” He hesitated and said, “well, in a way.”
I immediately asked how she was able to get licensed with the Bar. I knew a degree was necessary, and how many years it required, and of course, so did he. He looked at me and said, “there are some things you will not know. That is one of them. You will not know what happened to her during those years she was gone, and you will never know the answer to your prior question.”
I was flummoxed. I would NEVER know the answer to my question? I didn’t work that way. Like Parker, I wanted full disclosure, but that “don’t ask, don’t tell” crap didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to know the words that made Harvilles’ blood run cold.
That particular conversation was obviously over when he suddenly turned his chair around, and completely out of left field said, “this is a beautiful estate, don’t you think?” I nodded. “I own hundreds of acres,” he said. “Hundreds. I can’t tell you how many times I used to show Parker around on one of my golf carts. She was such a bright little thing. She wanted to know the kind of every tree that stood on the property, and the name of every flower that bloomed in the spring.”
I watched as he seemed to be immersed in nostalgia.
Turning his chair back around, he picked up the thick folder and as he tossed it to me said, “you have questions about Parker. You want to know about her. You didn’t understand her. You hated her. You didn’t know why or how she could and would defend the lowest of the low. You will find the answers to most of your questions in here, but there is a caveat.”
“Once you read it, there will be demands and requirements, and most importantly, there will be a code of silence. Those demands and requirements cannot be refused, but there will be rich rewards. Do you understand?’
I hesitated a bit. Harville stood up and said, “have you not wondered why you are sitting here?” I had to admit that I hadn’t. I was sure that it wasn’t because he so thoroughly enjoyed my company, or found my intelligence to be quite challenging.
He said, “do you think it was an accident? Do you really think a seasoned attorney like me would be so silly as to not only leave an autopsy report behind, but request the return of an unimportant one? There was a reason you were contacted. That’s why I gave you instructions to contact me when you figured it out, remember?”
I sat in silence. I really didn’t know what to say. He looked at me and said, “you were chosen.”
“Chosen?” I asked with bewilderment. “Chosen by whom?”
“By Parker,” he said. “She left specific instructions that should something happen to her, you were to be contacted. You may not know why, but it will become clear in time. So what do you say? Are you in?”
I needed to know more. I couldn’t just arbitrarily give him an answer. Trying to sound authoritative, I said, “I need more information.” With a look that made a chill run down my spine, he replied, ‘well, you’re not going to get it’.”
I finally gave a weak “okay.” Harville read me like a cheap novel, and didn’t seem to appreciate what he perceived to be uncertainty. “This is no time for a flip, half-assed, insincere agreement. You have to be dead sure,” he said. “You have a choice of whether to read what’s inside, or leave it here. Once you have read it, there will be no turning back. Your life will be forever changed, and you must be prepared for that.”
I told him that I understood. Harville looked at me and asked, “do I have your word?”
I’d been known to stretch the truth a little, or skirt around it when necessary, but when I gave my word, the torture had never invented that could make me break it. My word was my bond and it was written in stone.
He shook my hand and gave me the folder. He held onto my hand and looked me square in the eyes as he said, “great tragedy can befall a man who breaks his word.”
As I was walking out, I thought I could hear my knees knocking. I stopped at the door, turned and said, “you didn’t mention the tattoo.”
He looked at me and said, “you’re right. I didn’t.”
As I was walking back to my car, I couldn’t help but wonder. “Had I just sold my soul to the Devil?”
To be continued____________________________