Thursday, September 20, 2012
The box lunches didn't compare to the chicken pot pies that were being offered at O'Sullivan's Pub this evening but Jack didn't notice. He was irritated that he was on his way to New York City to retrieve the artwork Daphne Saint Marie had stolen from him earlier in the day. Audrey was sitting by his side. She tried to calm him down but he was furious.
“We will go directly to the police station when we arrive in the city. Jimmy O'Rourke is on the force. He and I were roommates. He's a good man. Come to think of it he warned me about Daphne. I should have listened to him back then.”
“Don't be so hard on yourself, Jack. We all make foolish mistakes at one time in our lives. Remember we would never have met if I hadn't followed Grady Murphy to Camden Corners because of my silly crush on him.”
“That's true and because of you, Elizabeth and Grady are now together. I can't say I like the thought of you mooning over another man but if it brought you to Camden Corners and me, I'm glad of it.”
The train pulled into the station. Jack had lived in New York long enough to know his way around. Audrey was mesmerized. She had never seen so many people and buildings in her life. She was caught up in the excitement and began to wish she and Jack weren't on a mission to recover artwork. Audrey knew the Hightowers had a motor car and she had seen quite a few in Buffalo but it was amazing how many automobiles and horse drawn carriages were together on the streets. Jack felt more comfortable in a carriage and that is what they rode to the police station.
The officer on the front desk called Jimmy to the reception area.
“Jack Mackenzie, I can't believe it's you” Jack and Jimmy had kept in touch but this was the first time they'd seen each other since the day Jack packed up and left New York vowing never to return.
The men embraced and Jack introduced Audrey to his old friend. Jimmy was glad to see Jack had moved on.
“Am I ever happy to meet you Audrey. I can tell just by looking at my friend Jack that you have brought out the best in him. I'm off duty in just a few minutes. Come home with me. Eileen will be thrilled to see you again.”
Jimmy lived in the neighborhood so they walked to the brownstone and surprised Eileen who was balancing a baby on her hip.
“Jack, what a wonderful surprise. Come in, please.”
Audrey and Eileen hit it off immediately. Jack told Jimmy about the stolen artwork and Daphne's visit.
“Eileen can tell you about Daphne and the scandal after her husband died. She gets all her information from the gossip columns.”
“Yes, and Jimmy loves to hear all the gossip. Daphne's husband died about a year ago. He left most of his money to charity and only an art studio to Daphne. She tried to fight the will but she didn't have enough money for a lawyer and nobody would take her case because the will was ironclad. It came out that her name was really Doris Schultz. She is from a small town in Kansas where she lived on a dairy farm. She changed her name and latched onto Grover Fulton. Daphne was one of Grover's five wives. He divorced them as soon as he felt they were past their prime. Daphne was young and naïve when she and Grover married. She didn't realize she was signing away all rights to his money.”
“I say she got what she deserved” said Jimmy.
“Well now Daphne or Doris has my property and I want it back.”
“Let's go,” said Audrey. “I don't feel quite so intimidated by her now that I know her name is Doris Schultz instead of Daphne Saint Marie”
Daphne was putting the last painting on the wall when the studio door opened and in walked Jack, that insipid girl from Camden Corners and a uniformed police officer. This was not in the plan thought Daphne.
“Darling, I thought you would be following me to New York. Haven't you missed the city, my love? I know what is best for you and having your wonderful work displayed in my studio is so much better than that silly little town of yours.”
“Hi Doris, nice to see you again” said Audrey.
Daphne was surprised her true identity had been discovered by this child. Her whole demeanor changed in that moment.
“Look honey, you may have your hooks in Jack now but I know what a man likes in a woman and you can never compete with me. Now you and the officer can be on your way. Jack and I have unfinished business.”
“You are right Daphne, we have unfinished business. My entire business is in your studio without my permission. Officer O'Rourke is here to help me retrieve it. I would suggest you move your carcass out of the way while we pack everything up. By the way, don't call my fiancee honey again.”
Daphne shrugged her shoulders. “Artists like you are a dime a dozen. My studio will be filled with expensive art in no time. Now get this junk out of my sight.” She stormed off into the back room wondering how she was going to pay the light bill next month. Maybe it was time she found another occupation. She had a few good years left in her. There are plenty of older gentlemen who are in need of companionship.
Jack, Audrey and Jimmy wrapped each piece of art carefully and carried it one by one to Jimmy's waiting carriage. With that problem taken care of, Jimmy was anxious to celebrate a visit by his old friend with a night on the town. Eileen dropped the baby off with her mother. It had been a while since she and Jimmy had taken in all the sights of Manhattan. She had always liked Jack and was happy to know his relationship with Doris Schultz was finally over. Audrey was the perfect match for her husband's good friend.
Audrey was delighted with the hustle and bustle of New York. They stayed on for a couple of days and there was still plenty to see but they did have to get back to reality.
Jimmy and Eileen saw them off at the train station promising to return for another visit very soon. Audrey was looking out the window when she noticed a tall regal looking woman walking arm in arm with an older gentleman at least five inches shorter than she was. He had a stogie dangling from his mouth and sparkling diamond rings on his fingers.
“Looks like Daphne Saint Marie is back in action” she said to Jack who simply shook his head.
Everyone in Camden Corners was happy to see the travelers return with all of the art work intact. Carrie helped hang the paintings in their places.
Audrey stopped at the medical offices to thank everyone for being understanding about her leaving.
“It hasn't been that busy” Elizabeth told her friend.
“Are you feeling alright Elizabeth? You look a little pale”
“Oh I'll be fine. I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights. I think I just missed my roommate.”
As the day wore on, Audrey worried about Elizabeth. She wasn't herself. Grady was busy treating one of the Burke boys who had been enjoying a toboggan ride with his friends until his steering went bad and they landed smack into a pine tree. There weren't any broken bones but Grady was making sure none of the boys had head injuries. He noticed Elizabeth was a little quiet but didn't think anything was wrong until Audrey came rushing into the room.
“Elizabeth just fainted. I helped her to the examining room and she is awake but she is burning with fever.”
Grady ran into the room. He could tell just by glancing that she was a very sick young woman. Doctor Tom took over the care of the toboggan riders as Grady wrapped Elizabeth in as many blankets as he could find and drove her in his carriage to the Mackenzie house where he put her to bed. Audrey went with them. Grady insisted Audrey wear a mask while she cared for Elizabeth. Grady knew Elizabeth's illness was extremely serious. He had seen an outbreak of influenza during his residency in Buffalo. He erased from his mind the young woman who died from the disease while under his care. He knew the best place for Elizabeth to be was in the hospital but he didn't think she would survive the long trip to Greensboro. Doc McMillan agreed. The new Camden Corners hospital couldn't be completed soon enough. After swallowing medication, Elizabeth was able to sleep. Grady and Audrey stayed by her side. The bedroom was closed off to the rest of the family. Audrey and Grady took turns sleeping on Audrey's bed. Jack made sure food and drinks were brought into the bedroom for the caregivers. Their carefree days in New York were just a distant memory. Jack knew if anything happened to Elizabeth, Audrey would be devastated.
Everyone in town was anxious for Elizabeth. She had only been a resident of Camden Corners for a short while but she, Grady and Audrey were well loved already.
Vicar Will opened the church for a special service offering prayers for Elizabeth and also for the containment of the flu virus. Everyone was taking extra precautions to wash their hands often and see one of the Docs if they experienced any symptoms at all.
After looking through the log, Mary McMillan saw that a young man who was passing through town had been to see Grady. He was suffering from a cough and fever. Grady had treated and released him. His nurse was Elizabeth. Grady was beside himself with guilt that he didn't recognize the symptoms as influenza. If only he had treated Elizabeth earlier she wouldn't be suffering as she was.
“Grady, you can't know everything there is to know about medicine just because you have an M.D. after your name. Even we seasoned physicians miss clues. Medicine is very complicated. It wasn't obvious this young man was as sick as he was.” said Doc trying to comfort him.
“Why did Elizabeth have to be the one to come down with this disease? Why couldn't it have been me?”
“We never know why some people are more susceptible to contracting an illness. Her isolation has helped to curtail the spread of the disease through town and that was your doing. How is Audrey? Is she showing any symptoms?”
“No, I'm checking her carefully because I know she won't let on if she is feeling poorly because she is set on seeing Elizabeth through this.”
Four days later Elizabeth opened her eyes. “Am I late for work? What are you doing in my bedroom Grady?”
He and Audrey laughed and cried. Everything was going to be alright. Audrey thought about that day just last week when Daphne Saint Marie entered Jack's gallery. How silly she had been to be envious of that superficial woman. This was what life was all about. Living in a town like Camden Corners where people cared about their neighbors. Where families grew and loved and riches were not the ultimate goal. Where two friends could be happy and planning futures with two handsome men. Valentine's Day wasn't too far off. We'd better start making plans. I wonder how Dr. and the soon to be Mrs. Murphy feel about a double wedding. She looked toward the bed and saw a sparkling diamond on Elizabeth's left hand.
Yes! Life is good.