Secrets of the Lottery Winner

Secrets of the Lottery Winner

CHAPTER 4: PASSION IN BANKING

Why did Gari select the Mid-Continent Trust Company as the repository of his fortune? Of course, it was Lefton & Associates’ bank, and thus fit neatly into his plan. But there was more, for the truth was he held not another Chicago financial institution in as high regard. In Gari’s experience and indelible in his mind was this: Mid-Con, as it called itself, was home to the rich and well heeled of Chicago. It exuded prestige, housed old money, represented cliques and useful associations. Really, Mid-Con was the only financial home for him and his new wealth.

Gari sat in the Private Bank, reserved for the crème de la crème, where he could breath the wealth; it filled his nostrils as fine woods and aniline leather, expensive colognes and perfumes, and charmed his ears with quiet, rippled gently from time to time by the swish of a skirt or a soft voice offering assistance.

He sat in an area that shamed his living room. Torchieres illuminated subtly. At his knees was a mahogany coffee table; and on it was coffee in a white porcelain cup that rested on a saucer, a presentation he hadn’t enjoyed for years, the world now enamored of mugs, as quantity counted for more than taste and elegance.

He’d been in this comfortable circumstance for five minutes when a whispery voice aroused him from near somnolence.

“Mr. Garibaldi, I’m Catherine Lourdes. It’s my pleasure to meet you in the flesh.”

Casting his eyes in the direction of her low, comforting hail, he believed in that instant he was living a miracle, as a vision had surely descended from the heavens. Catherine Lourdes hovered tall and willowy, blonde and fair, with blue eyes and pouting lips subdued by matte maroon lipstick, on more leg than possible, attired in a conservative suit that looked anything but dowdy as it clung to her like lustrous blue ink. She could have been in her mid twenties, but Gari guessed by her title—vice president—she was thirty, maybe a bit beyond.

“I’m pleased to meet you, too, Ms. Lourdes.” He detected a fleeting twinkle in her sapphire orbs and realized she understood how deeply he meant the normally reflexive reply.

Gari followed her to her office, a half-wall cube outfitted with a handsome mahogany desk landscaped with the accoutrements of refinement—a yellow-shaded banker’s lamp, a leather blotter, a matching set of leather-clad pen and pencil in holders with letter opener mate, and a sparseness bespeaking an individual either well organized or not busy. He seated himself in a leather armchair in front of the desk.

“I won’t take much of your time, Mr. Garibaldi. I’ve completed the paperwork for you. Simply review it and sign where I’ve indicated and we’re done.”

He accepted the papers she proffered, breezed through them, and signed where she’d marked with Post-it notes, using the heavy chrome pen supplied by her.

“Excellent,” she said. “I’ve talked to the State and arranged for your annual payment to transfer directly to your account. Half will deposit in the money market and half in the checking accounts you’ve authorized today. Does everything look correct to you, Mr. Garibaldi?”

“Everything certainly does, Ms. Lourdes. Thank you very much,” he said, skating the papers across to her the glassy desktop.

She scooped the documents with long red-tipped fingers, jogged them to uniformity on her leather blotter, dropped them into a file folder, and returned it to the drawer behind her desk. Then she glanced at her watch, a woman’s Rolex.

“It’s nearly lunchtime. Would you care to join me?”

Gari flipped his eyes down at his own watch. It was eleven-thirty. Not quite lunchtime, but what’s a half hour between a fellow and his banker?

“I’d love to,” he said.

She sped through a litany of cuisines and he settled on Italian. She strolled him off the private bank floor, through the lobby teeming with commoners, who surprised him by queuing for teller service, a practice he assumed was extinct, onto Monroe, and then to Trattoria Italia, a chic door he passed often but had never entered, barred by outrageous prices, insufficient funds, and lack of time.

They walked downstairs. The hostess greeted the banker by name, as if Catherine Lourdes was a principal in the restaurant. She escorted them to a table for two, away from empty tables that awaited their diners who at that very moment were departing their offices for the place. It would provide them privacy, after the throngs descended.

“Do you drink, Mr. Garibaldi?”

He was taken aback by the question. She noticed and clarified: “I mean, do you occasionally drink at lunch? Many people don’t these days.”

Nobody at Lefton & Associates, for certain. Larry’s rule was, “Don’t order and neither will the client.” The man knew more ways to save a buck than Emily, and she was quite the expert.

“Usually no, Ms. Lourdes. But today’s special, isn’t it?”

“Catherine, Mr. Garibaldi.”

“Gari. G-a-r-i.”

“Interesting spelling. An Italian thing, I think.”

“More like an Augustus thing. I guess my parents had second thoughts about the name.”

She smiled and his stomach fluttered.

A waiter presented himself liveried in black and white and a tuxedo bowtie. He asked if they’d like to start with drinks.

“Why not?” Gari said.

She ordered a Campari and soda. He was about to ask for a beer, but switched to a single malt scotch. It seemed sophisticated to him.

“What are your plans, Gari?”

He blurted, “Move to Los Angeles and lead a wanton life.” He groaned inside: This without an ounce of scotch yet in me.

The waiter delivered their drinks and saved him momentarily from issuing further ridiculous remarks.

She toasted him. He toasted the two of them for a reason he couldn’t pinpoint. Then the scotch hit his brain and sedated him. He leaned back in his chair.

“What about you?” he asked.

“I’m happy with the bank.”

“You should be. You’re a vice president.”

She shrugged. “It’s not the same.”

The waiter surfaced to take orders. Hers was a salad, which didn’t seem like much of a lunch to him. His was a salad and the chicken pasta.

Watching the waiter depart, he felt good, light, agile, and, best of all, independent.

“So,” picking up where she dangled, he asked, “not the same as what?”

“As vice presidents where you work.”

He screwed up his face. “I work in an ad agency. A small place. Believe me, vice president means nothing. In advertising, it’s just a way to get away with paying people less.”

“Similar to banking.”

“Kissing cousins,” he said, blossoming crimson. He slugged his drink as if it might extinguish the fire kindling in him; but, of course, the scotch was gasoline. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been a banker for five years.”

“Never too late to make a change.” He thought this was superb advice emanating from somebody who wasn’t even a lowly vice president and never managed to leave Lefton & Associates. Now he was a millionaire and he still couldn’t leave. This indeed was an absurd world.

“What kind of things do you do when your banker’s uniform is in the closet?”

Her giggle startled him. Here was a banker, a vice president, a woman who leaked sophistication as ordinary people did sweat, chortling like a pigtailed schoolgirl.

“I paint. I mean I attempt to paint. I wish to paint.” She paused, thoughtful. “Well, what I really mean is I paint a little. Passable stuff. Middling. I’m taking a painting class at Columbia after work to improve.”

“What do you paint?”

“Me?” she asked, pointing a red tip at her breasts, which he had no trouble following.

He spread his hands, saving himself from uttering the threadbare, “Whatever,” though it was rattling around in his head and close enough to his mouth to take up a leaping position on the tip of his tongue.

“Figures.”

“Figures, as in people?”

“Yes. Nude people. The human figure.” She outlined her torso with a lovely, smooth motion, mesmerizing and enamoring him. “It’s beautiful.

“It can be,” he agreed. Especially on somebody like her, though he wasn’t sufficiently lubed to utter this.

“What kind of figures?”

“Women. Men are too shy, I suppose, to pose. How about you, Gari, would you pose nude for a bunch of students?”

“It would depend.”

“On what?”

“On whether they were real artists or voyeurs.”

“Well, I think they’re a bunch of artist want-to-bes.”

“Too bad. I prefer voyeurs.” What? And only one drink.

She giggled again. “I’m half voyeur.”

“Aren’t we all, Catherine?”

Gari surreptitiously surveyed the restaurant. It had filled, and he felt as if everybody in the place was listening to them flirt. He stunned himself with this word. He hadn’t flirted with a woman in several years. He feared he’d lost whatever meager skill he’d possessed in the art, and was pleased to see he was holding his own, actually doing fine. The situation stirred memories of grammar school when he and his pals whispered about the girls. The nuns circled with radar in their habit bonnets, attuned to chatter just like his conversation with Catherine.

“Which half of you is the voyeur?” she asked.

He knew how he wanted to answer, like the guys in the music videos who clamped hands on crotches. He settled for pointing at his eyes.

Lunch arrived as he pulled up his eyes. A second round would be a disaster, but he was polite and asked if she cared for another. She said he was filled with wonderful ideas. He agreed and sent the waiter off for two more as the bus served their orders.

The waiter quickly reappeared with their drinks, asked if all was to their liking, and vanished. Gari was grateful for the waiter as the interruption had cooled whatever it was that he had sensed was heating up. He conceded it was for the best.

He tucked into his salad and turned his eyes up at her to ask how hers was, when he noticed she wasn’t eating. She was toying with the top button of her blue suit jacket, working it in and out of the buttonhole, giving the impression she was undecided as to her desired state of dress—proper or dishabille.

He was kindling again and thought he might offer encouragement, but nothing came to mind; at least nothing he was comfortable repeating to her, foremost among the nothings, “Unbutton the other one while you’re at it.”

He suspected she possessed telepathic abilities because she took his direction. She wore a white bra, little as far as he could discern and diaphanous as well. The bra cupped and lifted two tanned breasts and pushed them ever so slightly together to produce a stimulating display of cleavage. Enjoying the exhibition, he realized he’d missed a lot as an average Joe, or in his case, a poor slob.

“Warm in here,” she said. “Must be a problem with the air conditioning.”

He acknowledged with a smile she wouldn’t mistake as sly, or worse, lecherous.

“It’s such a lovely day, I was thinking of playing hooky this afternoon,” she said. “You ever take an afternoon just for yourself, Gari?”

Hardly ever, he realized. Larry Lefton blew like Vesuvius on days Gari took off for legitimate illness. Skipping out rarely occurred to him. He needed his job, and Emily would murder him if he lost it over something as capricious as taking an afternoon to himself. She’d see nothing but selfishness in such behavior. Now, though, he was in a new world. He was no longer poor Gari, slave to his job and his family. He was rich Gari, independent, free to do what he wished. So what if Larry didn’t like it? Technically, he didn’t need the job any longer, except as a cover. And, well, he did plan to skip work in the future. If he was going to live part-time in Los Angeles, there would be times when he wouldn’t want to, maybe couldn’t, get back to put in an appearance at Lefton & Associates Monday mornings. Larry would just have to get used to his absences. After all, Larry couldn’t manage an account to save this life, and Gari was the linchpin. Nobody in the joint could stand Victor Lubeck. Not that he could, but he was inured to Victor.

He returned Catherine’s smile, trying to keep his as crafty and wise as hers. “Life’s short, so we may as well enjoy it while we can.”

“You know what I like to do?”

He had a few ideas, but none seemed appropriate to voice. He settled for shaking his head.

“I love to visit the Art Institute. Days like today are perfect. The place is deserted.”

Gari tried to excite himself about wandering through the museum with a beautiful woman, and he attempted mightily to reply without hint of disappointment. A trace did slip in despite of his effort. Riding under his hardly repressed feeling, perhaps even unknown to him, was relief. How would he have responded if she’d suggested what he suspected was on her mind? Emily, again spoiling things for him. She insinuated herself into his lunch as his responsibility, as the person to whom he owed loyalty. Contemplating what he had been thinking … allowing Catherine’s display to mesmerize him … taking his banker up on a harmless walk through the museum, these felt to him like betrayals. What was he thinking, he wondered, when he’d hatched his secret lottery plan, when he’d decided to create a second life in Los Angeles, when he reveled in deceiving Emily? Wasn’t someone like Catherine Lourdes part of his plan? Part? The whole plan and nothing but the plan?

“I haven’t been there in years.” The sentence exited his mouth effortlessly, as if concern, trepidation, and regret weren’t his companions.

“Well then, come on, let’s finish and go. I’ll show you my favorite exhibits. And I’ll bet you right now the museum’s empty.”

Gari insisted on paying for lunch, the fare for which he regarded as contemptuous robbery. His indignation lasted no longer than it took him to realize he was reacting as Emily would. It was then that he really felt like a new man, his own person, able to spend whatever he pleased on anything he fancied. Before leaving the table he checked the bill a last time and felt pretty good about it. He felt free of Emily and her niggardly oversight.

Catherine suggested they walk. Gari, however, was lethargic. He’d enjoyed an unusually large lunch—normally he ate a simple sandwich prepared with lightweight generic bread, a thin slice of a cold cut, head lettuce, and a dab of mustard, which always irritated him, for how much could mustard cost? He railed and marveled at Emily’s cheapness. I am a free man.

Gari also had two scotches in him, and he never drank at lunch, and rarely at home. His head reeled from the drinks, though when they stepped outside he was beginning to regain control over himself.

He said they’d probably walk plenty in the Art Institute and flagged a cab. She thanked him for his consideration, because obviously he had observed she wore four-inch heels. Her shoes hadn’t really registered with him until that moment, and then they struck him like an erotic bullet. He was quite aroused and expressed his roiling sentiment as, “Nice shoes.”

She entered the cab first. He noted her long and shapely legs as she extended the right maneuvering into the cab. Entering and exiting cabs was always a trial, but in that instant it occurred to him the auto designers might have had in mind an experience such as he was having. After she was settled, he folded himself next to her with a blatant and not all together intelligent toothy beam on his face.

He hunched within a foot of her, just on the outskirts of what he defined as his inviolate personal zone. It was a barrier Emily invaded regularly, not for intimacy, but simply to make a silly point about saving, demonstrating frugality, or asserting herself. Larry Lefton, occasionally, acted like Emily. If he wanted to scold Gari for a violation of the Lefton & Associates business code, which had little to do with uprightness, forthrightness, and general customer satisfaction, and everything concerning the best way to screw the client, he’d break through Gari’s personal barrier and get directly in his face so he couldn’t help but catalog every food and beverage the man had consumed for a week. Gari hated having his personal space, about the only thing truly his in the whole world, violated. Though he did admit to himself he would not mind Catherine Lourdes scooting a few inches closer. This was the brand of violation he could tolerate, actually invite.

She fanned herself and moved closer, knowing she had crossed the line, using the motion of her hand to indicate how nonchalantly she regarded her little invasion. “Sitting near an open car window is dangerous for a girl’s grooming.”

It was a reason, but he suspected a guaranteed quarter of a million a year it wasn’t her compelling motivation. Sure his attitude was cynical. However, to believe the world worked any other way, that a woman like Catherine Lourdes would want to be near a middle management and middling man—yes, he was middling until that Wednesday—was purely delusional. He now possessed the sweet grease that lubricated the world. And so it was natural that Catherine would slide toward him in the bank, the restaurant, and the cab.

He moved in her direction, saying, “It plays havoc with mine, too.” It elicited a laugh from her.

As the cab bounded along, the conversation flagged, and Gari, not a person to tolerate a conversational vacuum, injected, “So what is your favorite part of the museum?”

More coy lip maneuvering from her: “Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t you?”

Gari supposed he would, if he could survive the cab ride. The temperature, her nearness, her frangipani, cloying in the heat—goading him to perceive her as shapely candy—and her excursion into coquettishness, saccharin perhaps, but nonetheless enticing, had him suppressing the mounting urge to twitch obscenely on the sticky vinyl, and wishing he had a satchel to lay across his lap, as his pants were tenting as the cord connected to his imagination tightened.

Thankfully the cabbie, who’d circumnavigated around Rush Street, a practice Gari despised as a ploy to jack up fares, stopped in front of the Art Institute. Handing money to the cabbie, he was aware some of Emily’s cheapness had rubbed off on him. Maybe the adage about married people was true. Maybe they did grow more like each other the longer they remained together.

Catherine led the way on the long climb up the wide and sweeping stairs, wending through the crowd, mostly young who perched on the broad steps, some in groups engaged in animated discussions and others singly or in pairs leaning back, sunning themselves. She halted at the top, catching him by surprise so he almost rear-ended her. She turned, and he did the same.

“I adore the city view from here,” she said brightly. Gari focused on her face, not just because she was beautiful, but also to see if she was genuine. He concluded she was, and the view of South Michigan Avenue was pretty damn good, too.

“Beautiful,” he agreed, keeping his tone enigmatic. He was demonstrating he could be coy too.

She inspected him with hooded eyes. “Let’s go in,” she said.

She was correct; the place was as lively as the city morgue with the staff out to lunch. He lowered his voice over concern it would reverberate through the chambers and rattle the classics and unnerve those few contemplative souls who had sequestered themselves here on a sunny summer afternoon. But their conversation was minimal while she dragged him from exhibit to exhibit, joyfully getting full value from the admission fee he’d paid. He couldn’t say truthfully the teapots, paperweights, sculptures, and most of the paintings moved him. It wasn’t that he was insensitive to fine art; he liked the stuff as much as the next fellow, especially if it resembled or enlightened the familiar in his life. Forget guys like Kandinsky, Rothko, Picasso—you name an abstractionist, and Gari didn’t care for him or her. He wasn’t very fond of Monet, Degas, Renoir, and those types either: much too fuzzy. Still, he discovered himself emitting affirmatives like “Oh,” “Yes,” “Hmmm,” which he employed with such frequency he found himself modulating from time to time to pretend his reactions were varied and thoughtful. Catherine loved, adored, cherished, praised, marveled over, was moved by, welled tears in response to, and about fainted before every article of art angling into her line of vision. To display indifference or, worse, boredom, would certainly have devastated his stunning banker; Gari didn’t wish this for he understood niceness begat niceness, or perhaps even something greater. His barely inaudible agreement and concern for her served him sufficiently for Catherine to announce after two hours of art traipsing that it was time to visit her favorite place in the entire museum, favored even more than the Impressionists, which had been the only exhibit to render her speechless, temporarily.

This place was deep down in the museum out of sight of casual visitors. The sign on the door leading to this special enclave warned “Employees Only.” When he hesitantly pointed out this was a restricted area, she said, “I have connections.” A woman like her, he didn’t doubt it.

She rapped on the door and a mismatched redhead opened it and invited them in. The woman was perhaps ten years older than Catherine, tall, bulky in the breasts and hips, and short in the legs. Her voice was harsh like she’d answered Catherine’s knock straight from the restroom where she’d been working sandpaper in and out of her vocal cords. Gari might have found this attribute enticing, but he didn’t care much for her shape and tossed-on appearance.

“Toni, this is Gari Garibaldi, a client.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Toni said, extending a hand. He took it and her grip, powerful as a carpenter’s, shocked him. “You must be rich. My friend Catherine likes her men rich, don’t you Catherine?”

“Never mind her, Gari. She’s a starving artist and likes her men the same. She lives in a garret.”

“I thought we only had attics in Chicago.”

Toni stared hard at Gari as if he’d dropped in through the ceiling, a male creature strange in many regards who bore watching. She emitted a sharp laugh, followed by a drawn and phlegmatic cough. “You’re sharper than Catherine’s usual fare,” she said when she’d regained her voice.

“Anybody around this afternoon?” Catherine asked.

“Does anybody include me?” Toni retorted, pausing for effect. “Didn’t think so. Place is empty today. They all had something to do.”

“Nobody would mind then if I showed Gari around?”

Toni regarded them with twisted lips. She might have been attempting a smile, but just as easily sneering. Gari couldn’t tell. She glanced at her wrist, which Gari noted was bare. “Gee, look at the time. I was supposed to be upstairs five minutes ago.”

“Please,” he said, having reservations about being alone with Catherine, who, as attractive as she was, was losing a bit of her appeal and raising goose bumps on his scrotum, “don’t leave early on our account.”

“Have to. I’m in the middle of a war over the color yellow.”

Gari’s face veiled in perplexity.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s an art thing. I’ll be back in around thirty,” she said, disappearing into the corridor.

Catherine closed and locked the door. He drew a deep breath.

“Don’t you love the smell in here? You can almost feel the good things they do—Toni and her crew.”

Wood, paint, pungent chemical odors permeated the workshop. The space reminded him of a hardware store of the old, vanished variety, with wooden floors that creaked under your feet and goods stacked to the ceiling and in an order meaningful only to the flannel shirt clerks who prowled the aisles. It was difficult to know what to say, but beauty in a place of beauty, at least the part on the floor above, inspired him.

“They’re preserving beauty.”

She registered appreciation, as if he’d read her mind.

“Of course, beauty. You’re kind of sensitive, aren’t you, Gari?” she murmured, sidling next to him and entwining an arm around his.

Moisture percolated up in the valley of his back and trickled down to cozy with the goose bumps. He shuffled. “We ad types are like that.”

“Sarcasm is appealing too.”

She unwrapped from his arm and raised a hand to his cheek. He watched it rise, and it seemed she moved in slow motion. Her fingers were long, slender, and her nails glistened in perfection, like red mirrors, pristine, as if they’d been fashioned that very morning in anticipation of this very use. Lightly, she dragged the red tips across his cheek and traced the borders of his lips. She was half a head shorter than he and rose on her toes until her lips leveled with his. She touched them with hers.

Those lips were soft and sweet, warm marshmallows, new creations reminiscent of Teddy and Sammy’s, whose images stirred uneasiness deep in him, but not the urge to stop her. He sensed her breath behind the lips, also sweet and sensually heated. His instinct was to push back, escalating with a tad more pressure than she’d used. Instead, he stepped away, out of the range of her mouth and the lusty smell of her, the boys again prickling him.

Catherine pursued him. She placed her hands on his shoulders to halt his flight and draw him closer. She pressed full length against him and kissed him hard. He succumbed and reached around her and embraced her and returned her kiss through opened lips.

She gripped his necktie and undid it neatly and slowly, as he slid her jacket over her shoulders and down her arms, she obliging him by dropping each shoulder in turn. With his tie undone and her jacket on the floor, she removed his jacket. They resumed their embrace. She was a furnace in his arms, and delicate, almost unsubstantial, too. Pushing the cups of the little nothing of a bra he’d spied in the restaurant, her nipples, pink and erect, burned like torches against his chest, superheating his libido. She edged him back until something stopped his progress. He glanced behind and saw a waist-high table clean except for a t-square. When he’d diverted his eyes from her, she’d gone to work on his belt, unfastening it, and by the time he’d turned back to her, she’d shoved his trousers and underwear down to his knees. Shrugging the pants and underwear to his ankles, he unzipped her skirt, reaching behind her, sliding his hands into her panties along the curve of her ass after the skirt had fallen to the floor. As he held and caressed her and glided his lips to her neck, she stepped out of the little clothing puddle. He hoisted her unto the table, placing her face slightly above his. She bent forward to kiss him viciously before falling back on the table. For ten minutes, they put the table to a use not in the manufacturer’s design.

This was not anything like lovemaking with Emily. Emily expected a build up. Early in their marriage, he’d considered foreplay fun; but it had transformed into a labor over the years, work he was willing to engage in until recently, when the reward had become so meager it didn’t warrant the effort. In those early days, she demanded more than flopping into bed, him directly into her, and the next instant into the bathroom, out as fast and on to other things. Catherine was a woman who did not require kindling. She was already scorching when the time came. Moreover, Emily rarely initiated their lovemaking. Apart from when she was determined to have children, the job was entirely his. With Catherine, banking had been on his mind. Maybe a little sex, the fantasy of it, when she’d toyed with her jacket button in the restaurant. Obviously, she’d had more than bank service on hers. Or maybe a romp in the restoration room of the museum constituted management and client service in her administrative manual.

When they finished, a shimmer flashed between her breasts and he realized he hadn’t removed her bra. He bent to taste the sweat oozing from her, and to expose her breasts with a nudge of his nose, to lick her nipples through the translucent fabric, still erect and bright pink, a color he hadn’t seen in years. But she sat up abruptly and he bumped his nose into her sternum. She hooked her index finger under the misaimed proboscis and lifted. “Time to go,” she pouted. She pushed him away and bounded off the table.

She was dressed with her hand on the doorknob while he labored with his shirt buttons.

Gari gestured at the table. “Shouldn’t we … you know?”

She glanced and said, “There’s nothing to clean. We’re neat fuckers.”

In the corridor, they passed restrooms and she informed, “I’m ducking in for a second to freshen up. I’ll meet you right here, so don’t wander off.”

He went into the men’s room feeling like an old married hand. He was an old married hand, he corrected himself, and this is exactly what old married hands did, tell each other to wait in front of restrooms. It was like a day at this or that place with Emily and the boys, planning rendezvous to avoid losing a child or a wife, and usually in front of this or that restroom. Except, of course, when he waited for them he wasn’t feeling drained, or guilty.

It was three when they left the Art Institute and, as near as Gari could discern, around ninety outside. She suggested he walk her back to her office, and it turned into a long trek as she stopped to examine the displays in the Carson’s and Macy’s windows and gushed over clothing and chattered incessantly about how she just had to get her wardrobe in shape for the fall. Gari marveled at her and the situation. Emily never talked about clothing and never fretted over dressing for seasons. Emily was a woman of pedestrian and frugal tastes. Her daily outfit consisted of a pair of blue jeans, a tee-shirt, and sneakers in the summer and sweater over the tee in winter, sweats more often than not evenings, a dress and flats that fit like boats, her feet looking big but still floating in them, on Sunday mornings.

An hour later they arrived at Mid-Con, where Catherine pecked Gari’s cheek. “If you ever have questions about your account, you know where to reach me.”

Gari wanted to snap a quip, but he was completely at a loss. What, he wondered, do you say to someone who suddenly appeared to have fallen victim to a colossal case of amnesia?

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