Someone very close to Myra Lambert has been brutally murdered. It’s commonly believed that her longtime stalker is the person responsible. Ex-cop Glenn Sparrow has been hired to play bodyguard for the vulnerable heiress, while his best friend Homicide Detective Lt. Max Harper solves the case. After a foiled abduction, Glenn and Myra retreat to the Lambert family farm, where they hope she’ll be safer and harder to find.
The drive from midtown Manhattan to Oneonta was usually four and a half hours, but Glenn was a bit of a lead foot and could cut almost an hour off that time. Still it was a long drive and he wasn’t sure how comfortable Myra would be, doing it in silence; which seemed to be their most harmonious form of communication thus far. So, he was relieved when she was worn out enough to doze for the first half of the trip.
When she did wake up he had been thinking intently about her case, wondering impatiently whether Max and Jerry had been able to find out anything about Fred Hargett; so it surprised him when she suddenly asked, “You a big fan of reggae?”
Since Ziggy Marley was singing about love being his religion, the question hadn’t exactly come out of left field. Glenn felt a little shy about answering her though, because of where it might lead.
“Yeah, I’m a fan of the genre. But there are a lot of different types of music I like to listen to.”
“Who are some of your favorite musicians?” She asked stretching her arms and grabbing hold of the dashboard, then hunching her shoulders like a cat. He wondered if she had ever danced professionally; she had a dancer’s body.
“That’s a difficult question for me. I like all types of music.”
“Okay, let’s make it an easier question then. Who are the last four bands or singers that were brand new to you that you also really like listening to?
“Well now, that’s pretty darn specific,” Glenn chuckled and glanced over at her with a cocked eyebrow, “okay, let’s see, there’s the new album by Passenger…Philip Philips is fun and in the same vein; someone I really like right now is Gregory Porter. He’s been kicking around for a while but I’d never heard of him until my Starbucks app gave me a song of his for free.
“I never heard of him either. Do you have something of his on your iPhone?”
“Yeah, a couple of things.”
“May I?” She asked, her hand already on the phone.
Nodding, he told her the code: “1314.”
“You’re not worried about me having the code to your phone?” He could hear the mischievous smile in her voice.
“No. I change it frequently.”
“Hmmm, you really were a cop, weren’t you? I hate coming up with passwords and codes for everything. I had a friend who use to use her name for every password and when they asked for numbers…”
Just then Gregory Porter’s deep alto came through the speakers, singing No Love Dying. She listened for a moment then Maya raised the volume until the car was filled with a jazzy horn solo and then the melodious tones of his voice came back, lulling them to someplace exceedingly cool, Glenn thought.
“I can see why you like him. He’s…soulful.” When the song ended she picked up the phone again, “What else of his can we play?”
“There’s another on there you might like.” Glenn smiled. It never ceased to amaze him how good music could be the great leveler in any relationship new or old.
The rest of the ride went quickly. They talked more about music and he discovered that, like him, she had pretty eclectic tastes. They found they both liked world music of all things and then she squealed when she discovered he had a Toni Childs album. He confessed that an old girlfriend had turned him onto it but, he’d really liked it at the time, even though he didn’t play it very often anymore. They settled on listening to it for the rest of the ride.
“I read somewhere she ran away from home at fifteen to become a blues singer. Can you believe that?” She said turning to look at him. “Apparently her parents were so strict they wouldn’t let her listen to pop music or go to the movies or anything. So brave, I…I can’t imagine what kind of courage that took.”
“Were you close to your parents?” Glenn was tentative about questioning her given her strong reaction to it when they first met.
“Yes, we were close. Very close in fact. This drive always reminds me of them. We came up here a lot when I was little.”
The quiet took hold again. Glenn had heard from Max that Myra’s parents died in a particularly bad car accident somewhere in Delaware County. There were rumors that her Father had done some social drinking at a party before taking the wheel that night. His wife hadn’t been wearing a seat belt when he dodged another car and hit a tree at about 50 mph. Myra’s mom flew straight through the window about fifteen feet, breaking her neck, and probably paralyzing her. It was 3 days though before she died in a hospital bed never having regained consciousness. Her Dad died on impact. Glenn suspected that last part was a blessing.
Agatha managed to protect her son’s and the family’s image by pretty effectively squashing the whole drunk driving issue in the papers, but information like that was always still in the ether, no matter what. Myra had only been 13 when her parents died; her brother had just celebrated his 9th birthday. Glenn wondered when Myra found out what really happened that night with her parents, but he definitely was not going to push his luck by asking her.
Instead he looked out the window at the dramatic changes in the landscape and marveled at what was becoming a very scenic trip. The vistas were overrun with fall colors and would’ve inspired even the lamest artist, Glenn thought. Every small town they went through had a different personality, some more interesting than others.
Glenn hadn’t spent a lot of time in upstate New York but he could remember his Father bringing him up here once when he first came to live with him. A friend of his Dad’s had a cabin in the woods and they’d gone up alone together one weekend. They hadn’t done a lot of talking either but, that was something that never seemed to bother them. His Father had taught him that talking wasn’t always a commodity worth investing in.
They arrived at what Myra referred to as “the farm” just after sunset. Myra touched his arm and lifted her chin to indicate the turn off or he would have missed it. He drove cautiously for four or five miles on dirt roads, expecting startled deer to pop out at any moment. Eventually he saw the side of the barn and a large white clapboard house in his headlights.
Once out of the car there wasn’t much light, so Glenn couldn’t get his bearings; but he could sense the remoteness of the place by the piney smells in the air, the sounds of insects, and what probably were small animals. Myra made herself busy almost immediately by “opening up the house” as she put it.
Unlocking the door she carried in some wood off the neatly stacked pile on the front landing. Walking in behind her the first thing he noticed was the staircase leading upstairs. On the riser of each step was a painting, the paintings clearly connected to each other and were the realistic interpretation of grass, trees, a barn and then Glenn got it. It was a painting of the farm. The house on the property was on the riser of the bottom step and each step above that depicted its immediate surroundings.
“My Mom painted that when my brother Joshua was a little kid. It was how she taught him different markers on the place like the stable and the poplar trees.” Myra had come back in the foyer to stand next to him looking at the steps.
“Giving him the lay of the land, you could say.” Glenn joked.
Myra smiled before adding, “She’d been an art teacher before she met Dad. She was always doing things like this. She built my first doll house with her own two hands. It was an Indian palace, like the Taj Majal. She gave me bindis for my forehead and made a sari for me to wear while I played. My friends were so jealous.”
“She sounds…terrific…amazing really.” Glenn found himself at a loss for words when he tried to think what it took to have that kind of creativity.
“Can you build a fire?” She asked. He noticed her eyes didn’t look tired anymore. It was like somehow this place had revived her. Her skin looked warmer, her eyes clearer, more beautiful.
“Yeah I think I can manage that.”
“Great. It gets really cold up here at night, even in August. We used to joke that you could see four seasons in a single day.”
Glenn suddenly had an intense sense memory of his first winter in New York almost 20 years ago and how cold he’d been. It didn’t matter how many blankets his Grandmother piled on top of him he still woke up with cold feet and chattering teeth. Balling up some newspaper he found in a metal bin in the living room, he set about making a fire while he listened to her putter around in the kitchen nearby. When he got the fire lit and knew it wouldn’t burn out, he went into the kitchen.
He found he liked watching her move. There was an economy in the way she did even semi-complicated tasks like uncorking the wine or opening the can of tomatoes. There were no wasted or gratuitous gestures, like she knew exactly what she wanted at all times and how to get it.
Dinner was simple: Orecchiette pasta with tuna and homemade tomato sauce; Dinner was also delicious, Glenn thought. She apologized profusely for the meagerness of the meal. Then she promised the next day she’d make him a real country dinner after they went to one of the farm stands that always set up on the road between here and Oneonta. Maybe they’d even pick some apples that grew out in back of the house and she’d bake a pie. Apparently that wouldn’t be difficult since counting the farm across the road, which her family also owned, their land covered about 1000 acres; so there were plenty of apple trees to choose from.
Glenn was beginning to wonder who the real Myra was: the sophisticated social butterfly and professional real estate broker or the country girl who baked pies and lived on a dairy farm for most of her life. Like most people she was probably a walking contradiction and a mixture of the two.
After dinner, she made instant espresso. She found a lemon in the fridge and cut thin slices of the rind to put in the coffees.
“You haven’t asked me any more questions about Fred.” She spoke quietly, not looking at him, but instead taking a sip from the tiny espresso cups.
“No, I haven’t.”
“But you want to.”
“Yes, but it can wait til tomorrow.”
She smiled then, but she still wouldn’t look up at him which disturbed him. He wanted to see her eyes. They were expressive eyes and he believed, perhaps fool heartedly that he could tell what she was thinking when he looked into them.
After they finished their coffees, they walked in the dark through the enclosed back porch but as they stepped outside Glenn was stunned to see that the whole backyard was illuminated just by the light of the moon and as he looked up he could see the stars, millions of them it seemed, blanketing the sky. The surprise must have shown on his face because Mrya was looking back at him and smiling, “It’s called a gibbous moon, city boy – not quite full, but full enough to still be impressive.”
They laid close together on the grass, fully dressed, not touching. His shoulder holster was uncomfortable so he took it off and put it on the ground close to his hand while she was speaking, “When we lived on this farm full-time, Mom would bring us out on nights like this in our pajamas, for midnight picnics she said, so we could applaud the moon’s spectacular performances.”
They were quiet for several moments looking up, then touching his hand gently, she turned her head to look at him, “Thank you for bringing me here Glenn, I needed this. It’s crazy but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as safe as I do right now, here with you.”