THE RECALCITRANT P.I.
a Mac Armstrong mystery
Copyright © 2018 by T.F. Pruden
All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author.
Bobbi turned from the stone-topped island to return to the open concept family room of the mansion overlooking the muddy Assiniboine River. At the far end of a Bauhaus inspired sofa of less than comfortable proportion but stylish appearance sat her mother, resplendent in a suit of summer white.
"When do you leave, darling?"
"The ticket says next Friday afternoon," Bobbi replied, "at 2pm, so check-in an hour before that I guess."
"Well," her mother's voice feigned enthusiasm, "congratulations are certainly in order, my dear. Congratulations to you! I must say I'm not surprised. Not in the least."
To avoid the risk of spilling it on a much-prized Persian carpet, Bobbi placed her tall glass on the coffee table before reaching to embrace her mother. Her mother now stood waiting for a hollow gesture.
With perfunctory warmth it was soon completed.
"You'll leave contact information?"
"Yes, of course I will mom."
Her mother stood staring, wearing a look of silent discomfort. Bobbi smiled. Her mother looked away. The older woman raised a hand to her face, holding it there a moment before turning to walk a few steps before standing next to the stone mantel of a white-painted brick fireplace.
It appeared a well-practiced performance, if lacking the ease provided by talent.
Bobbi took the opportunity to grab her glass from the table while taking a seat on the edge of the cool sofa.
"How long will you be gone?" her mother's voice was ethereal, seeming to drift in from a long distance, "Your father will want to know. Whenever he should happen to call."
The high ceilings crafted by a poorly chosen mid-century modern renovation of the Tudor Revival six-bedroom lent an unintended auditory effect. Bobbi controlled the urge to snicker, but not without effort.
"We've got a few months of sessions scheduled," Bobbi's reply was practiced, "but if the record company likes the demos we could spend the next year and a half making an album. Or so I've been told."
The length of the pause that followed would tell the tale, that's what she believed. Bobbi waited, not daring to look at her mother. With elaborate calm, she drank from the glass filled with cold water.
Her mother had once been a wealthy flower child of significant beauty. Amid a summer fling, she married a career diplomat lost in a drug-addled stupor. Upon restoring his sobriety, soon enough he ceased to find her amusing. That was long ago. At this point, the opposites no longer attracted so much as tolerated one another, with this best accomplished while residing on separate continents.
Divorce of course, remained out of the question.
Her mother considered married life delightful apart from the chore of raising the requisite children. Which habit amounted largely to a never-ending series of ever pricier accommodations or increasingly inconvenient impositions, at least so far as she could tell. With her husband's tacit approval, she responded by hiring nannies while enrolling both children in boarding school at first opportunity.
While the eldest turned out a quiet enough boy, the second proved a most difficult girl.
Her mother, though much like Bobbi's father an inattentive parent, was not an unkind one.
Treatments as necessary were soon enough delivered. Need either proscribed by activity or necessary for comfort without grudge or delay in all cases was provided. Both parents despite lengthy absence with consistency professed great affection for each child, including the shedding of appropriate tears on occasion of success or failure.
To their children in any case, it seemed what each parent most wanted was to be free of them.
Bobbi followed a lead provided by her brother, committed to making it so as soon as reason would allow.
From somewhere far away, a clock chimed the hour of another slow passing afternoon to the reliably empty dining room. Her mother started, looking off to the kitchen as though expecting someone to call for her attention. Finding no one there, with a practiced smile she hid the embarrassment of a momentarily untended emotion.
She turned to face Bobbi.
"That sounds delightful, my dear!" her voice again feigned enthusiasm, "You must let me know what your expenses will be. You know we're more than happy to fund your education, so don't feel your time is limited. We know these things can take a while! Remember your brother was seven years in school, another two finding his professional feet."
Bobbi struggled to hide her elation, instead drinking from the water glass while considering the appropriate allowance for which to ask. She had not expected it to be this easy, though with relief came a fading disappointment she tried her best to deny.
This was after all, how her mother showed love. Like her father, it was in most cases a matter of dollars, not sense.
Figuring the right amount to ask for was thus a means of evaluating the relative importance of either intention or appreciation. Asking for too much meant stretching the bounds of the latter, while too little devalued the former to the point of questioning its relevance.
Bobbi considered herself a master of this equation, having learned it from her mother, who she acknowledged as the best.
With a relaxed nod, she smiled as she recalled the figures provided by the independent record producer for the cost of an apartment, transportation, plus musicians with plenty of studio time. Her dream was close to coming true now; she heard it singing like a choir in her mind, calling her on to what could only be greatness.
"I've got everything laid out for you to review, Mom," Bobbi's voice was crushed velvet on polished glass, "I know you wouldn't want me to overlook anything."
It was a bold play, but necessary.
"Oh honey, you know I'm no good with figures," her mother's voice was a protest, "just tell me how much to send monthly, and I'll have the bank deposit it to your account."
Bobbi allowed herself a triumphant grin but hid it with a look to the hardwood floor at her feet as she nodded.
"Sounds good, Mom," Bobbi's voice reflected perfect teenaged sincerity, "and thanks ever so much to you and daddy!"