Let's Try this Back on Track thing again
Week 77 & 78
Let’s Try This New Year’s Thing One More Time-
[Getting “back on track” has been harder since I’ve had some bug or virus playing silly buggers with my sinuses of late; hits me with fever and chills for 20-24 hours, then backs off into migraine level headaches for a couple days and finally cons me into thinking it’s gone for another four days, only to start all over again. And nothing, not even my go-to Cold-Eze is helping.]
Passing the Cloth
I didn’t have to wait long. Nor was the night time traffic in the CPF disturbed. Meecham chose high noon on the third day after our phone “conversation” to show himself and one or two of his underlings around the Potter’s Field. I think one City Commissioner joined the tour. No cameras, no one walking behind them talking into smart phones. One young man in glasses and a full beard scratched notes onto a palm-held notebook with a golf pencil. Neighbors looked out from their windows, but since it wasn’t Spaccone or even Kluzky, they stayed away.
Meecham pounded on my front door an hour later.
“Please, come – “I was pushed back and out of his way before I could finish inviting him in.
As I said, I had not seen the man in nearly six years. I remembered thinking then that age and gravity had not been kind to the 1970s Sayresville High School football star. The past six years had only determined the cruelty of aging when mixed with a wealthy man’s life. His blue eyes were mere squints in a fat face relieved only by a sharp, eagle beak of a nose. His high school senior photo showed him with curling golden hair, which now looked more of brass than gold and without question these days the curls ran thinner.
“I am glad you followed orders and stayed out of sight,” he said, dropping his round-bellied weight onto the sofa, which groaned. With his meaty fingers, Meecham unbuttoned his powder blue suit jacket, loosened the white tie and unbuttoned the top button of his blue-and-white striped shirt. “Particularly in that unprofessional costume.”
I wore clean, unripped mom jeans and a nice blouse with lace at the collar and he called it unprofessional. I decided that since I was not likely to see him for another six years, I could let that pass. And I did.
”The cemetery proper looked tolerably well kept,” he went on. “I am glad the mowers are taking their work more seriously.” I said nothing about the new mowers. But he did. “I was, however, highly disappointed to see the slovenly manner in which you keep the resting place for our more unfortunate brethren.”
Did people really bite their tongues until the tongues bled? I wondered if I would have to find out.
Meecham pulled out a whitish cloth from his jacket pocket, holding one corner between thumb and forefinger as if it were fouled by some substance he would not name and flapped the rest at me. “I found this near one gravesite. Are you in the habit of leaving your filthy handkerchiefs in the Potter’s Field?”
“I am not in the habit of using handkerchiefs,” I told him. I held out my hand for the cloth, but he refused to give it to me. Still, it looked familiar. I could almost feel the age of it and remembered Varney. “But I think one or two of the mowers are.” Or so Missy and Mischa thought and so they told me and then I acted upon their idea.
As I write this now, I am still unsure if putting that cloth in Varney’s pocket did not make me legally or morally complicit in the tragedies that followed. Either way, it gnaws at my mind like Ambr’ on a freshly-torn throat. And it is something I will have to live with.
In a cemetery.
Another question you have. No, it is not always advisable to do as a ghost suggests. If they could lie in life, they most certainly can lie in death and it takes some little work for the living to know the difference. The criteria are never the same, as no two ghosts are the same and their appearance fades with the years. There’s little or no chance of catching a tell-tale blush. Watching ghost’s eyes, furthermore, is little like watching the ball in an active pinball machine. You’ll be lucky to catch the flicker of deceit. Missy and Mischa had no such flicker. Nor do I think them capable of it. There was deception from another ghost going on here.
Meecham made that flipping motion that drew the majority of the cloth back over his fingers in a pseudo-fold. “Then I shall take it to the union office in the morning and demand reasons for their mowers’ littering our hallowed ground. In the meantime, I will run point on the new indigent burials. I expect any and all materials you have to be sent to my office by the day after tomorrow.” He rose to leave. The sofa and I relaxed a little. He opened the front door, then, as if all his world were indeed a stage, turned to deliver his parting line. “As they say, never send a lackey to do the earl’s business.”
I heard Grandma Rose’s voice then: “That man. Even his vocal cords strut.”
I opened all the windows once his driver pulled the Lexus out of the CPF’s south entrance. The weather buddy had promised rain that day. Let it rain, I thought. Let the rain come through the windows and wash everything out the door right into the drainage ditch.
Rin and Lallie could go surfing.
I spent the night copying the maps I’d drawn according to David’s directions, a somewhat less accurate map of potential gas lines, and a list of the graves into which the Board had already double-dipped. I stuffed it all in a Board-purchased envelope, stuck on a Board-purchased postage stamp and left it in my mailbox for the mailman in time to see the middle schoolers doomed to summer school trooping down Mansfield Road.
Two girls in ripped jeans, tight tee shirts and wearing cosmetic masks of silvery blue eyeshadow, purple blush and hot pink lip gloss, were having a vocal disagreement going.
“I said, keep your skanky ass away from my man!”
“I asked him first, bitch!”
“Darren don’t want no sloppy seconds like you!”
Too much daytime TV again, I supposed. Or parents who never grew emotionally or mentally past puberty. The dualing pre-teens devolved into trading “Fuck you!” and threats of tearing hair and other bodily harm that might well have peaked the interest of some of my living neighbors along the block. But I had work to do, ledgers to keep or something like that. I returned to my desk, with the front storm door open and the screen door shut and locked.
I would have kept at least one ear on that fight, had the police not arrived with sirens wailing into my driveway before the last “Fuck you, bitch!” I did not wait for them to knock on the screen door frame. I came out to them. And an audience.
Neighbors peered out of their windows. The kids home for the summer darted across Mansfield to watch up close. The summer schoolers stopped their cat fight to watch from a distance. Mrs. Schnosburg pretended to weed her front walk, but I knew from her grin that her plan was to pick up more gossip than weeds.
“Have you seen Maurice Varney this morning or in the past three days?”
And so on. No, I didn’t have Varney’s phone number. Nor did I have Trumbull’s. The union secretary had always maintained that was “confidential” information. I suggested they contact her.
“We have, ma’am. Mr. Trumbull is dead.” He let that sink in until my knees went soft. I sat down on the top step. “Ms. Farmer, do you have an equipment shed on the premises?”
“Yes. Over there, right inside the hedge. With the red frame door.”
“We have a search warrant, ma’am to search that shed. I have to ask you to stay here on your porch.”
“You think Varney holed up there?”
“It’s a possibility, ma’am. We know he’s armed and dangerous.”
“You’re telling me he killed Trumbull?”
“We have reason to suspect he did, ma’am.”
Four of them moved towards the shed. As I watched them move carefully, service revolvers or whatever police carry these days raised, communicating with their hands, I began to wonder if I was not still inside my front room, watching television. By the time they reached the shed, the whoop and howl Charlie and I had heard some nights ago started up again from inside it. That was no dog, but a two-legged, non-feathered species of bird, soon to be relabeled a Jailbird, if the police were right.
They shouted for Varney to come out with his hands raised. Whoop and howl. They warned they would shoot if they had to break in and he did not surrender. Whoop and howl. One officer tried to kick the door in. Whoop-whoop and howl. Then his partner waved him off and pulled the door outward, the unfastened padlock slapping against the metal door. A scream I could only associate with movie-grade horror and childhood monsters greeted them. Then silence.
It required all four officers to carry Varney out. My mower was filthy with nearly a week’s growth of beard. His red windbreaker had spatters of a darker red and his jeans were crusted with mud and grass stain. His face had blood spray and he foamed pink at the mouth as he writhed and kicked in their hands. He shouted, he shrieked, he whooped and howled, but Varney uttered no words I recognized other than, “Pocket! God-damned pocket!”
As I learned later from the less-composed and shrieking secretary, Trumbull had been shot five times: in the chest, belly and twice in the groin. The scattergun hadn’t left much of his torso, but his face, mouth and eyes wide with puzzlement, was picture perfect. Varney owned a scattergun. He had a license and told anyone who would listen that he was the only one who touched it, and then only to shoot the squirrels overrunning his yard. Barring a Perry Mason twist, I expected that the case was closed. Varney killed Trumbull. As to motive, state of mind and all the TV police procedural considerations, I’d wait for the news buddies.
I watched the patrol cars and other assorted official vehicles leave ruts in my front lawn and gravel driveway without comment.
Missy and Mischa had some explaining to do.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, summoning ghosts is not a science so much as sheer luck and another headache.
I waited until after sundown. Then I took myself to sit on one of the iron benches on the backside of Section A, facing Section F, Mischa’s grave and one of the pole lights.
There are people in the world who claim to communicate with ghosts on a regular basis. I always found it interesting that they could do so when it was convenient to them, and not necessarily for the ghosts. That being said, whatever skill they have, be it valid or vaunted, I do not possess it. I have no skill in telepathy or astral projection or whatever is used by others to communicate with any ghosts, least of all the CPF ghosts. Especially not Missy and Mischa, even if they had lied to me. It is more often than not as if any energy I might direct their way does go right through their empty heads the way my hand would if, say, I were so rude as to poke them in the ear or eye. Or perhaps my energy “emissions” would be too scattered for them. Meditation and some oriental practice to focus my mental energies have been on my “things to learn” list for years, but somehow, in the chaos of life at the CPF, I have misplaced that list.
Even so, I knew David was another case altogether. I had no doubt he had used some influence on the gossips to influence me at a time when I could not think clearly (seriously, who could watch an attack like Ian’s and think at all? I’d like to meet the person and then punch him or her in the face), influence me to plant the – what was that scrap of fabric? It looked nothing like a handkerchief, now that I had some distance and Varney’s meltdown to consider it. It had felt old. Older and coarser than great-great-great Grandmother Bessie’s wedding gown, which Grandma Rose preserved and only let me touch once. Had David offered a piece of his shirt? His shroud? Something so personal that he could haunt the carrier of that scrap and drive them mad? Mad enough to kill.
I thought of Meecham. I cursed the late hour, then decided if I could not raise the gossips by midnight, I would wander the Potter’s Field with my grandfather’s flashlight and try to think him up out of his grave. It might be rude, but driving a man insane to the point of murdering his friend, not mention whatever David had in mind for the fathead Treasurer, seemed a whole lot ruder.
For too long for my already frayed nerves, I heard nothing but a silky wind. I saw nothing. Not even Rin and Lallie scampering through the graveyard doing whatever twenty-something lovers do. The wind swept up the Section A hill and teased my hair and my face. It smelled of rain and rot and I had no real idea of how I would ask David about the piece of his shirt or shroud, if that in face was what that scrap was. I had some doubt.
Then Ambr’s voice sent that doubt scurrying for its life and my body up and behind the iron bench. She led her merry little band of bloodsuckers down the Section A path towards her family’s leaning mausoleum. Like Robin Hood, all but Ambr’ were laden with some sort of booty not well wrapped. A leg fell out here, an arm there. Nikki Vine carried a small cooler with a red cross on the side. The other new recruits were complaining. Volubly.
“I told you she was too heavy for me to carry.”
“Well, we couldn’t take the skinny one. She wanted to vote.”
“God! I swear this old bitch weighs a ton!”
“Why can’t we meet them at the church?”
Ambr’ spun around finally and stamped her foot. Nikki nearly dropped her bundle. “I told you,” Ambr’ said like a mother repeating herself for the thousandth time, “this is Tuesday night. We can’t go into the church until Wednesday.”
“But why didn’t we get the old one? The one you used last for the high school thing?”
Ambr’ yanked open the old iron door. Even her entourage winced at the scraping groan of the old, rusting hinges. “Get inside and stop your complaining!” she snarled at them. They struggled past her, their heads bowed. One I would have sworn was whimpering. Ambr’ took a cursory look around and entered the sagging building.
I rose from behind the bench and crept toward the mausoleum. I would not go in; the acoustics in the crypt would bring the conversation up from below. I hoped.
Ambr’:“Put her down gently. We need her alive.”
Minion, probably Nikki: “Alive, but out of it.” A wave of giggles.
Ambr’ again: “Naomi did the best she could. She’s of a certain age and I can’t risk taking her so far that her heart stops again. It might not start a third time. Now, Beth is the Servant Women’s Auxiliary President. She has some status in the church. Nobody will dismiss her as some crazy old woman.”
Minion: “Somebody will. Those assholes always dismiss women with a cause as crazy.” I heard Ambr’ growl again about language. The minion spoke again, more quickly, “But, like you say, with Beth, people will listen. They’ll have to listen.”
Ambr’: “The rest of you back off. I need room to do this properly. If she dies, one of you will die. I swear it.”
Murder Too Young
You must be wondering what is going on here. I have yet to see the particular act itself, and frankly, I never want to see it. But, as Derek would tell me in the days to come, Ambr’ invaded Beth’s mind that night.
It’s not uncommon. Or so Derek and the countless supernatural romance novels, starting with the genre classics that Polidori and Stoker wrote, claim. There are, they all say, those vampires as well as ghosts who can and often do enter and/or influence any living minds that not accustomed to thought involving more brain cells than a television commercial. And we will be charitable here in not guessing how many minds that has to be. However, this might explain why so few of us know and are willing to admit that the undead exist. Find the majority of households after sunset with the television on and the brains turned off and the thought control job is already done.
But, back to the point. Some vampires, Derek told me, can invade a living person’s mind the way professional hypnotists do with or without the props. “That is,” he was quick to add, “if they were possessed of the hypnotic gift while they lived.”
I still think “possessed” is a particularly accurate description for such folk. I’ve read piles of books and articles on high priests and charlatans from ancient times to modern cult leaders. Supposing there is a good and loving God, I could not conclude anything but that these fiends have to be victims of possession. I shudder to think they chose to be so vile. Derek, and Charlie when I shared these thoughts, told me I am inexcusably naive.
Still, take Ambr’s case. If she hadn’t been possessed by whatever voodoo her mother raised her on, I’d rather think she succumbed to a kind possession that night in 1932. The problem was, it was Derek who possessed her.
Here Charlie would say I over-think things. People and the undead are what they are. In either state.
But to get back to Derek’s explanation: in his century and a quarter’s experience, most of the undead, however, are not gifted in hypnosis. “That is a convenient literary technique,” he said, “to prevent the living from acknowledging responsibility for poor choices. Oh, and to make the sexually frustrated swoon.”
No, Derek said that most bloodsuckers and other control freaks of the undead resort to physical means: half-strangling or -smothering, pinching nerves until the victim is barely conscious. His personal preference, however, and the method he trained his “family” practice, by far, turned out to be Ambr’s choice this night: draining the victim’s blood until the heart beat is barely a whisper. The victim hears nothing but the whisper of his or her heart and the vampire’s voice. Both become lifelines.
Once s/he has the victim’s complete focus and very life in hand, the vampire can plant memories, ideas, plans, anything that s/he wishes the victim to know, believe and do. Derek called it the first “stage of dying.”
Derek admitted many do die before they obey the hypnotic suggestions. The trick is to know when and how to replace the lost blood. If the vampire offers her or his own blood, s/he creates progeny. If blood of a different type is transfused into the victim, there’s a less than 50-50 chance the victim will survive. The correct type must be acquired before the process begins. Now, mind you, he did not speak of the physical survival as the best option, either. The victims can never return to what or who they were before the blood drain. I suspect this is where the myth of zombies arose. And, Derek took too much pleasure in informing me, once the vampire’s will had been fulfilled, the victim’s usefulness usually ended. The exception would be if the victim were young and strong enough to endure the process more than once. Few were, and most were put out of their earthly misery. Any turned to a vampire would not survive the sleeping period, as they could not be trusted, so their makers or someone like Derek would make sure head and body parted company before the dirt on the grave settled.
I told him that did not explain Ian. He told me to shut up and be grateful for his instruction.
It was, then, a blessing that I did not know about this that night in the cemetery. I might have done something stupid. Like rush into the crypt and get myself killed.
“I’m hungry.” That was a rather loud whisper.
“Shut your mouths! I shall be done when I am done!” Ambr’ used her bullhorn voice again.
Whatever she said and whatever she did then, we the living would all have to wait to learn. A low moan rose up and bowed down on the wind from the top of the hill.
It couldn’t be Old Sharpe. The mowers left all the headstones alone and Charlie’s impromptu aggregate of mud, piss and gravel seemed to be holding the old fart down. I scrambled over the gravel on the path up to the hill top and the oak tree.
The light did not reach into the line of graves south of the oak tree. I had to squint to be certain of a black form lying in a loose fetal position across two plots. It moaned again. I shuddered, then remembered the flashlight in my shaking right hand.
The circa 1970s flashlight battery ran low, but I got enough of a beam to find a dark-skinned girl, thirteen or fourteen, in cheek-drop cutoffs and a halter top that halted nobody’s view of her tiny undeveloped breasts. Her hair lay in snarled extensions around her oval face and her ragged breathing was painful to hear.
Looking closer, I saw the makeup. It was troweled on, Grandma Rose would have said. Silvery blue on the eyelids (rather creased and gapping by now), with purple smudges on her cheeks. I recognized her from the morning cat (or, more accurately, kitten) fight on the way to summer school. This child had apparently survived the fracas with Darren’s other woman and made it home to change, I guessed, to meet Darren. For what purpose, I decided not to consider. Besides, she’d met someone else – yes, I confirmed the puncture wounds on her throat. What made no sense, however, was the fact that she still lived.
The rising hairs on the back of my neck told me Derek stood behind me. Tailored suit and silk shirt, his cufflinks glittered in the flashlight. He smoothed back his luxurious black hair from an apparently breezy flight and pushed the flashlight beam away from his face. Still I saw a raging fire in those dark eyes.
“This isn’t your doing, is it?” I had to ask.
“Someday, Grace Farmer, you will insult me once too often. I do not feed on their kind any more than I will feed on yours.”
“Ah. The pure blood business. Then who –“ I looked down the hill. “Ambr’ did this.”
He made that barking sound that passed for a laugh. “It still breathes. Ambr’ knows better.”
“Unless she was interrupted. Looks to me like Ambr’ found the girl, made a start and then the troops interrupted her. Her merry band kidnapped one of the church ladies for her tonight. They’re down in the crypt now.”
In less time than it takes to tell, Derek slammed me up against the oak tree, holding me by my neck a few inches off the ground. “You lie!”
“Since when?” I gasped out. He let me drop.
“No, you do not lie to me.” He frowned, looking down at the shadowy mausoleum. “It makes no sense.”
“We’re talking about Ambr’. Not much that she does will ever make sense. You know that.” He humphed, but did not disagree. I moved back to the child. Brushing back some of the tangled hair, I saw blood seeping from where her earlobe should have hung. “And Ambr’s gotten into ear-biting lately.”
“She’s always been ‘into’ it,” Derek mused. He looked almost wistful, as if recalling a fond memory. He shook the idea away. “Irrelevant and immaterial.” He looked back at the unconscious girl, who had started moaning for her mama. “Go home, Grace. I shall have to deal with this.”
I grabbed the lapels of his suit jacket. “She’s a child, Derek! Practically a baby! Okay, she’s a painted, foul-mouthed, possible slut of a baby, but she’s barely a teenager.”
Derek looked down at me. I thought for a moment I saw pity in his face. Then he grinned, fangs bared. “Ian,” was all he said.
I had not seen Ian McNulty in the shadows. I suppose he had not wanted to be seen and had been biting his tongue. Either that, or he’d had a particularly bloody feast that night because red dribbled from both corners of his mouth. He moved without a sound to take me by the waist and in a cold rush that heaved my stomach back towards my spine, he flew me to my front steps.
“I – I can’t come in, fuckit,” he said by way of an apology.
It occurred to me then that I was crying. I laid a hand on Ian’s tweed-jacketed arm (so he was hunting professors now?). “Don’t let them find her here, Ian. Please. See if you can get her home. Or at least to the middle school. Someplace she knows. Knew.”
“I will.” And he was gone.
As I look back on that night, I have realized that was the night I knew I would have no children. The Baumann-Farmer family legacy in the CPF would end with me. I could not bring a child, not even Charlie’s child, into that world. Derek would never threaten it, but younger, less circumspect vampires could challenge and ultimately end him. Then it would be open season and the mere forbidding them entrance to my home would work so long as the child was a non-mobile infant. Greta was gone. Missy and Mischa were in all ways spineless. Rin and Lallie, too young. Don’t even mention Old Sharpe. I and any family I had would inevitably be unprotected.
And then there was David. King David of the Potter’s Field, who could rally ghostly energy enough to blow a coffin out of a grave. Yes, I believed that century and a half old specter had shoved the new coffin out and stood it on end. Or he had persuaded his fellow indigent ghosts to do it, no doubt in much the same way he had pushed the cloth up from his grave and then prevailed upon Missy and Mischa to begin his revenge.
Yes, I thought it had to be revenge. What else? For the double-dipping with new homeless bodies? I could not recall any mention of David in my ancestor’s ledgers/diaries, but I had never looked for vengeful ghosts either. I would have to look, and, while I was at it, figure out how they raised children in this place. Or why.
No, no child for me. I wondered if I should even mention this decision to Charlie. Much good it would do me, since he seemed horrified by simply kissing me.
And yet there Charlie was, when I stumbled into the house. He had two toasted cheese sandwiches doing their toasting thing in Grandma Rose’s largest skillet. He turned with the smile I loved towards me, blinked, and then with two steps took me in his arms and pressed my head to the flesh between his collarbone and his arm. I surrendered at last to all I had seen and all I knew and I wept. I did not, however, cry so hard that I missed the gentle pressure his face pressed to the top of my head. He didn’t speak. He only breathed into my hair and I would swear he did kiss the top of my head. Not that he would admit it. Not even to prove me a liar.
What is it about some cultures that the answer to almost every problem is food first and then talk? When I had stopped shaking and gasping, he set me on one of the stools. Then he gave me a paper towel from the roll by the sink to dry my eyes. I opened my mouth to speak, but he laid an index finger on it and fetched our sandwiches. Say what you like, the man makes a mean toasted cheese. I tried to speak again.
“Eat first, talk after,” he directed.
I ate. Delicious as it was, the sandwich sat like a greased rock in my belly. “You got off early,” came out of my mouth before I thought.
“It’s after midnight, Grace.”
“And you came straight from work.”
He smiled. “I told you I can’t get you off my mind.”
Some of the women in my romances might well have wept again at that proclamation, but my mouth spoke from a different genre: “They killed a child tonight Charlie.”
His hand with his own last bite paused a few inches above his plate. “What? Who?”
“Ambr’ and her anti-suffragettes or self-hating posse or whatever the hell they are. They attacked a middle school girl. I mean, she was dressed like a whore in the kind of blouse that lets her tits flop out at will and cut offs so short her butt cheeks hung out, but she was a kid.”
“Why would Ambr’ do that? Why wouldn’t she, you know, re-educate the kid with the threat of death?”
I considered this. “Maybe that’s what she did. Started to lecture the girl and the dumb kid swore back at her, so Ambr’ fed on her enough to make the girl weak and willing to listen. She was still alive when I found her, but only barely. The girl, I mean. Derek came along to finish her off.” I slid off the stool to put my plate back in the sink, as another answer arrived in my brain. “Wait. Maybe Ambr’ wanted to kill the girl. She couldn’t stand to see a girl that age or any age flaunting herself like that. She might have even caught the girl and a boyfriend doing it on a grave. That would drive Ambr’ insane! So she scared off the boy and bit into the girl.
“Then her posse kidnapped one of the church ladies – probably on Ambr’s orders – and interrupted Ambr’ before the girl died. That has to be it! Ambr’ was ashamed of attacking a child! Or of not finishing a job or maybe for losing her temper. Proper women don’t do that, you know.” I slapped my forehead. “That’s why she left the girl not quite alive in a dark section of the hill.” I winced. “And Derek would not want witnesses.”
“OK, I’ll admit that makes as much sense as anything that happens here,” Charlie said. “But why did they kidnap the church lady?”
“They went into the crypt before I could see,” I said. “But I heard something about Naomi not being strong enough to ‘do it again.’ I think she meant standing up in public and speaking Ambr’s words. They have Beth, the other lady I met in the church parking lot. Ambr’ must be trying to prep her for some speech or demonstration or whatever else she’s planning.”
Charlie rolled his eyes. If I had not stood at the crypt door, I might have done the same. Even for a cemetery with vampires and ghosts and a single, sexually frustrated female caretaker, there have to be limits to an already outlandish plot. “Again, Grace, why would they do that? Or better, how would they do that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Now tell me what you think Ambr’ is planning.”
“I don’t know.”
“And is it going to happen tonight?”
“I don’t know.”
“Now, for the final question: what can you do about it tonight?”
I hung my head. “Nothing, I guess.”
Charlie stood, put his plate in the sink and put an arm around my shoulders. “Right. Nothing tonight. So let’s go to sleep and we’ll check the crypt at sunlight for the church lady. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find a nice stake and put an end to Ambr’s plans once and for all.”
P.S. In case you were as hopeful as I was that this take-command and caring attitude might result in something worthy of that missing orchestral swell of emotion and physical love – forget it. We slept bundled. Again.