“Don’t worry, Em, we’ll get it. Your hunches have been right so far.” Neal’s words were comforting, but the sudden thought of all I had riding on this project made them fall flat.
“We need more than hunches and good luck.” A thought struck me. “Oh, before I forget, I got your note about Professor Markham coming to visit the site tomorrow. Did he say what time he’ll be round?” The washer finished and I began loading the wet clothes into the dryer.
Neal shrugged. “He said he was having lunch with friends in the area and would drop by near closing time.”
“You gave him directions?”
“He said he knew the way.”
“Well, it’s nice he’s making the effort, even if we don’t have any monumental architecture or gold treasures.” I shut the door to the dryer and started it. “Just let everyone know that there will be a Divine Visitation; they already know they need to be on best behavior for me,” I joked, “but extra-best behavior for Tony would be appreciated, of course.”
“No problem, Em.”
I started up the stairs when Neal called out hesitantly, “Are you okay, Emma?”
I paused in the half shadows of the staircase, the smell of clean warm lint and detergent in the air, neither of us able to see the other’s face. The sound of the washing machine and dryer filled the silence that hung between us. “Sure, Neal. Thanks.”
“I mean,” his words came out hurriedly, “I just mean, what with this morning and all.”
“I’m fine. Really. Good night.”
I turned on the steps and headed back to my room to wait for the clothes to dry, realizing just how long and odd a day it had been. It was funny how one bizarre occurrence could be so effectively blocked out by the minutiae of everyday life, as though your mind was struggling to divert itself elsewhere. The memory seemed to wink at me through the protective layers of daily duty and organization, letting me know it was still there, waiting for closer examination.
I closed the door to my room tightly and, robbed of my night off, began sorting paperwork in anticipation of the coming workday. But it was no good. Pushing my chair back, I went into the tiny bathroom, came back with my glass, poured a generous measure of bourbon into it, and then put the bottle away. I sat down, finally, to address the fact that I had stumbled across a corpse on the beach this morning.
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