Still In The Past
The questions that my husband was asking made me uncomfortable. Why Marge was telling him I'd met up with Randa was odd. I know that I'd mentioned it to him, even if he hadn't paid any attention. He wanted to know what we'd talked about and I couldn't imagine what he meant. I had no desire to mention the newspaper clippings. I decided to ask him a question.
"Randolph, nothing much. Just casual girl talk. You know inconsequential things. What kinds of papers are you talking about?" I now waited in the silence for his reply. The phone hummed in my ear for a beat.
He cleared his throat and said, "Alanna, the family is missing some investment documents and Marge thought Randa had them last."
I didn't say anything. She certainly hadn't given me stocks or bearer bonds so I was in the clear. Nothing but newspapers or horrible tales from foreign lands about fires and beatings. Definitely nothing to do with high finances like Randolph was implying.
"With her deranged mind she may have inadvertently given them to you with some papers or something at lunch," Randolph was giving me an out while still probing.
"No, she didn't give me anything," again I lied to my husband. It was becoming too frequent a pattern, I thought. Which was definitely more than a little disturbing for the wellbeing of my marriage. Randolph abruptly hung up. For a moment I had thought his cell phone had disconnected us due to faulty towers or something -- like a mountain got in the way or something -- but instinctively I knew it hadn't been the phone company but him.
Another call followed Randolph's, distracting me from all those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. I'd answered thinking it might be Randolph calling back; it was one of my night chefs from work, he had a mental meltdown and needed some hand-holding about an elaborate catering job that was scheduled the next day. I took notes and figured I couldn't do it long distance so I flew down to assist. Besides, if I was honest with myself, I didn't like the way my thoughts were processing everything, and I was getting pretty scared.
When I woke the next morning I had conveniently shoved aside the hellish turn my personal life had taken. A green envelope in the foyer, shoved under the door during the night obviously, brought it rudely crashing back. It soon joined the other messages on the counter in my kitchen. For some reason I couldn't seem to help myself from opening the damn envelopes. Call me obsessive or compulsive, but it was as though I had no willpower.
The familiar handwriting nagged at me, I knew that I'd seen this writing in the past. On a hunch I went to Randolph's desk. Randolph adored the information super highway with a child-like enthusiasm. All of his 'writing' now took the form of laser printed notes. He thought nothing of spending twenty minutes composing and printing a sheet of paper he could have written by hand in five minutes.
I pawed a little deeper to see if, by chance, he'd noted anything down in longhand anymore. I found some mutual fund investment documents in trust for his family with Randa's name boldly written on the paperwork in ink on the upper left corner of the pages. Carefully I held the most recent note side by side to compare. I was frustrated to see no apparent similarities since one was printed while the horrible little note was written out in cursive. I arranged everything back in order then left his office. Now I had no choice but to think about the message in front of me on the latest delivered bit of poison.
"Ring, Ring, Answering Machine. Tick, Tock, can you keep your door locked tight tonight? One way to get my call is in person."
This note had the addition of my phone number written around the end of the letter in a chain dozens of times. But a closer comparison of the two notes I had received in green envelopes I found some differences. Both had arrived in the same green creepy envelopes yet the previous envelope had a three by five inch card as the filler. The type usually printed with invitations except it was a plain card free of embossing and written with the nasty blue inked message. The latest envelope contained a folded sheet of stationery. This sheet matched the invite card in color, a soft green. To my eye it looked to be from the same style of stationery. The quality was very good, this wasn't slick boxed cheap paper.
This morning's message was written in blue ink but the handwriting wasn't as fluid as the one that accompanied the 'heart card' -- which was how I mentally termed the first 'at-home' letter. The writing was broken mid-word and pressed deeply into the page on some words while almost illegibly soft on others. Yet both messages chilled me because they had arrived at my home. The first letter that had arrived at work was a logical place for anyone to write me, while very few people knew my location at home. I didn't like the fact there was someone out there who'd obviously found me; if Randa had been truthful, already living with me. Both choices were upsetting. Everything pressed in on me as I went back to the kitchen to figure out my next move.
It dawned on me that Randolph hadn't come home. Again. Once I had returned from the job late the previous evening, sadly I'd been too tired to notice. When I got to the kitchen I pushed the button for the answering machine and heard Randolph saying that his mother had been deeply disturbed by the funeral and would need his support. He had said he'd call me in the morning at work and elaborate. I was strangely relieved by his absence.
I found it more than a little ironic that the family would term the little outing yesterday at Forest Lawn a funeral. After having gone to real funerals in my past I was appalled by Randa's send off. Plus I felt more than a little guilty for having discounted Randa's feelings at the bistro. The overheard giggling in the limo still jarred me. No matter what Randolph claimed, I still thought his family was more than a little bizarre and completely dysfunctional.
Sipping at my tea, I mentally listed what I would need to do. Grabbing the phone, I delegated my pressing duties to more capable hands on my staff. Mine were more than a bit on the shaky side. I arranged to cover my schedule for the next few days claiming I needed to concentrate on the family matters. Since it was in essence the truth, I was happy to get the immediate weight off my shoulders of the daily chaos of running my business. With all my time freed up I could concentrate on proving I wasn't crazy and maybe get to the bottom of all the strange coincidence and occurrences plaguing my life.
Once I had my business covered I wasn't as worried about that anymore and I could focus on the train wreck my life had become. Firmly convinced I needed to deal with my crappy relationship and fears concerning Randolph I plotted my day. Here I had tried, convicted and practically sentenced Randolph without any factual or physical evidence. I decided to see him and figure out if this was all my projection onto him or if he actually was guilty of what I feared and the other unspoken horrors lurking in my heart.
Tossing on a pair of jeans and an oversized sweatshirt I snagged my backpack and left before I could talk myself out of the half-formed plans in my head. In the few times that I'd visited that haunting address, 825 Hollyberry Street, I'd taken great pains to dress extremely conservatively as in 'lady-of-the-manor' style per Randolph's wishes. Over the years I had learned that Randolph though that the ultra-modern woman made his family uncomfortable. Seeing how it had meant so much to him and took so little effort on my part, I automatically bowed to his wishes. If I was brutally honest with myself I had to admit that I usually conformed quite easily to others' wishes. It was ingrained and part of my job. At least that was how I consoled myself. But no longer did I feel the need to play the role for Randolph much less his family.
Defiantly, I twisted my hair up into a youthful ponytail. I wasn't pleasing anyone but myself. While on the drive up to the family residence I placed a call into my work. Janice, working as my personal secretary now, said I'd received a call from Jean Claude Danziger's family. Once I'd repeated back the number given she quickly disconnected, then I placed a call to that number. The freeway had slowed to a stand still so I jotted down the number on a scrap of paper and waited for the call to be connected.
René Danzinger answered the phone. I identified myself and he said that he was Jean Claude's older brother. We exchanged pleasantries and discussed briefly how Jean Claude was doing. He thanked me for my flowers and then asked if I had time to meet with him concerning his brother. He added that the police had been questioning the restaurant employees regarding me and Jean Claude. Stunned, I agreed to meet with him at the hospital later that evening.
Disconnecting the phone I continued to the Hagen manor. I was disturbed by all the letters, calls and strange gifts. Weary, I did not look forward to the potential confrontation with Randolph but I had to get this pressure off my back. As I approached the gates the pit of my stomach dropped and my head ached in a nasty state of flux. I really thought I could wake up to find all of this had been a strange nightmare caused by eating bad shellfish.
Randolph's car was in the open barn-style garage just off the front door. I didn't see the limo from the gravesite anywhere so I guess they'd given up the driver. I knew that at one time Rachel had a full time limo driver on staff. Randolph's silver Cadillac was next to the Bentley. I had never seen the Bentley out of the garage. The car was painted British Racing Green and in mint condition. It was always waxed and beautifully shined and polished. The tires even glistened in the cool shade; I don't think that the sun ever hit that car directly when it wasn't on the road. Once I asked Randolph whose car it was. He never told me. He did list out the make, model year and engine dimensions but as I later came to realize he hadn't ever said exactly who owned it.
I felt rather strange pushing the doorbell. Every time we'd been visiting, Randolph had just walked straight in without knocking or announcing his arrival. I'd never thought to ask for a key as it wasnt my home. He probably had one but I never saw him use it. His mother or cousin would usually rush to greet us before we'd even reached the end of the entry hall. It spooked me how easily they appeared. I didn't know who, if anyone, would answer the door. Last month Randolph said his mother had fired the latest in the long line of housekeepers. This one was allegedly stealing. Knowing Rachel I thought it was more likely the woman wouldn't work eighty hours a week for half of minimum wage. Rachel was petty with her money and from what I'd seen, an unreasonable employer.
As these thoughts flitted through my mind the door was yanked away from my upraised fist. Marge stood there arching her eyebrow at my hand. Sheeplishly I shrugged an unspoken apology for the near miss to her nose. Marge never liked me much. She ignored me completely for the most part at any meeting. My physical presence now couldn't be waltzed past or avoided since there was nobody else around except us. I waited to see what she would say.