Good Reading : July 2005
goodreading 49 designer. Before I was even aware of what I was doing, I was shoving the couch across the room and rearranging the chairs and tables and area carpets so that the room, though still stark, no longer looked like a furniture store. Fortunately the movers had happened to place the antique highboy that had been Larry’s favorite piece of furniture against the appropriate wall.That I could never have moved. After Alex left without having lunch, I hadn’t bothered to eat, either. I’d covered both plates and put them in the refrigerator, but now I realized I had the beginning of a headache. I wasn’t hungry, but I knew a cup of tea would help stave it off. The doorbell rang before I could take my first step toward the kitchen, and I stopped in my tracks. Suppose it was a reporter? But then I remembered that before she hung up, Georgette Grove had told me that a mason was on his way to repair the limestone. I looked out the window and with relief saw the commercial vehicle parked in the driveway. I opened the door, spoke to the man who introduced himself as Jimmy Walker – ‘The same name as a mayor of New York in the 1920s.They even wrote a song about him.’ I told him that he was expected and closed the door, but not before I had to see from inches away the damage that was on the open side of the double door. For a moment after I closed the door, I kept my hand on the handle. With every fibre of my being I wanted to open it again and shout out to Jimmy Walker and the whole world that I was Liza Barton, the ten-year- old child who was terrified for her mother’s life, and to tell them that there had been a split second when Ted Cartwright had looked at me and seen the pistol in my hand and then decided to throw my mother at me, knowing the gun might go off. That split second had made the difference between Mother’s life and her death. I leaned my head against the door. Even though the house was pleasantly cool, I could feel perspira- tion on my forehead.Was that interval something I actually remembered, or merely something I wanted to remem- ber? I stood there, transfixed.Till this moment, my memory had been of Ted turning and yelling ‘Sure,’ then throw- ing Mother in a single motion. The door chimes sounded again. The mason had a question, I was sure. I waited for half a minute, the time it would take to answer if I’d been in the next room, and then opened the door to find a man in his late thirties with an air of authority about him. He introduced himself as Jeffrey MacKingsley, the pros- ecutor of Morris County, and, almost witless with worry, I invited him in. ‘I would have phoned if I had planned to stop by, but I was in the vicinity and decided to express my per- sonal regrets at the unfortunate incident yesterday,’ he said following me into the living room. As I mumbled, ‘Thank you, Mr. MacKingsley,’ his eyes were darting around the living room and I was glad that I had rearranged the furniture.The slipper chairs were facing each other on either side of the couch.The love seat was in front of the fireplace.The area carpets are all mellow with age, and their muted but rich colors were caught in the rays of the afternoon sun.The highboy with its fine lacquering and intricate carving is a beautiful example of eighteenth-century craftsmanship. The room needed more furniture, and, despite the fact that there were no window treatments or paintings or bric-a-brac in place, it still suggested that I was a normal owner with good taste settling into a new home. That realization calmed me, and I was able to smile when Jeffrey MacKingsley said, ‘This is a lovely room, and I only hope that you will be able to get past what happened yester- day and enjoy it and this home. I can assure you that my office and the local police department will work together to find the culprit, or culprits.There won’t be any more incidents, Mrs. Nolan, if we can help it.’ ‘I hope not.’Then I hesitated. Suppose Alex walked in now and brought up the photo I had found in the barn. ‘Actually . . .’ I hesitated. I didn’t know what to say. The prosecutor’s expression changed. ‘Has there been another incident, Mrs. Nolan?’ I reached in the pocket of my slacks and pulled out the newspaper photo. ‘This was taped to a post in the barn. My little boy found it when he went out to see his pony this morning.’ Choking at the deception, I asked, ‘Do you know who these people are?’ MacKingsley took the picture from me. I noticed that he was careful to hold it by its edge. He examined it, then looked at me. ‘Yes, I do,’ he said. I felt that he was attempting to sound matter-of-fact. ‘This is a picture of the family who restored this house.’ ‘The Barton family!’ I hated myself for managing to sound genuinely surprised. ‘Yes,’ he said. He was watching for my reaction. Minute by minute, I went over the mistakes I had made today. A normal wife, finding that picture in the barn would have called her husband and told him about it.