A Jump To Conclusions No. 21

For a moment, I thought she might get up and walk out, so desperately did she stare at the door, but after a moment, a marked change came over her. She sat straighter, stopped drumming her fingers, and looked me in the eye for the first time. She spoke, and sounded determined. “I knew both of them.”

Again, she volunteered nothing further, but I could see the effort it took her to hold onto her nerve. Before she had a chance to lose her grip on it, I said, “We’ll start with Mr. McKenzie. How did you come to meet him?”

“I was a student at the University of Nexus, in the theoretical physics program. Abbot—” she sniffled, closed her eyes for a heartbeat, and pushed on “—Abbot was a common sight, recruiting for his firm. We met after one of his events. He took a liking to me.”

“He was still married at the time?” I asked.

She looked almost horrified, and hurriedly corrected me. “It was nothing like that. I think he saw some of himself in me, or maybe he thought of me as a surrogate daughter.” She let out a laugh that was half-sob. “It does sound trite, doesn’t it?”

“There is an element of reality to most cliché,” I said. “Please, go on.”

“We were close,” she said. A moment passed, and she said, “We only rarely had the chance to meet. Even so, after I finished my program—three years ago, it would have been—Abbot offered me a position with his company. I accepted, and we were able to have lunch together every week or two.”

“Was his wife aware of your meetings?”

She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, and I looked back to my pad. She seemed to find it easier to talk into space which happened to be occupied than to someone concrete, and she went on. “I couldn’t say for sure, but I would think so. He spoke often of her, and he conveyed her best wishes on more than one occasion. He took it very hard when she left, and I haven’t seen him outside of work for a month or two.”

“Could you be more specific as to the last time you spoke?”

She mulled it over, ticking off weeks on her fingers. “Two months ago, nearly on the nose.”

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