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AnOldPal

When all tourists were gone, Cheryl looked sternly at Dinah. “You realize,” she said, “Someone will have to find out exactly what Mr. Palmer and his lady-friend were up to and where.”

“Yep,” said Dinah. “The evidence, we’ve got to get rid of the evidence. Think what the board would say if Edna found it.”

“More the point, think what Edna will say.”

“Oh, god, and she’ll be here in an hour. They came from upstairs, you take the east half, I’ll take the west.”
“I’m sorry, sir, we’re closed for the afternoon,” said Cheryl, looking over Dinah’s shoulder.

Dinah turned around to see a tall, narrow, balding man with a permanent sun tan.

“Stillwater!” she yelped.

“Hey, Abernathy, how the heck are ya? Saw that article you wrote in Historical Archaeology last year. Still don’t get it, do you?” Stillwater was pushing 60, lean and lanky. The long hair he wore through his forties was gone now, trimmed back and off, far off his forehead. She hadn’t seen him in nearly a decade.

Dinah gaped at him as if he were an alien, then said, “Of all the gin joints…”

“Oh please! Not Bogart! Not in the middle of the afternoon!”

Dinah shook off her astonishment. “Cheryl, let me introduce Ben Stillwater, proud owner of one of the choicest jobs in archaeology in one of the most fabulous cities on this planet, director of the Oaxaca Institute of Archaeology in Oaxaca, Mexico. And a personal pal of mine from longer ago than I care to admit. Ben, this is Cheryl Lassiter, part time docent, and local miracle child from the history department over at MSU.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Cheryl, looking at Dinah in amazement. “Miracle child?”

“Figure of speech,” said Dinah. “Maybe you ought to go follow up on the trail of Mr. Palmer, while I chat with the prodigal son here. Come with me, son.”

Dinah led the way to the gallery at the back of the house, where a couple of large white chairs sat welcomingly.

“So what the heck are you doing here?” asked both at once.

“Oh, you first,” said Dinah.

“I’m staying with Pete and Cecile. I’ve got a sabbatical for the year, and am spending it in Duluth.”

“A sabbatical? Since when do you feel the need to leave Oaxaca for any length of time?”

Stillwater settled into one of the big chairs. “Okay, let’s see. The last time I saw you, what, New Orleans, seven or eight years ago? It’s been a nightmare since. First we had this huge ugly political hassle with the local government, then last summer we caught one of the students dealing drugs out of the lab.”

“That sounds interesting.”

“And she was having an affair with one of the lab directors—one that is, or rather was, married to a local girl. One ugly mess. After all that simmered down, I was sick of the place, at least temporarily. I finagled a six month sabbatical. I’m up at Duluth until August, working on that book, finally; doing some ice fishing. I got my assistant director running the show down there, good guy, but with things so bizarre it really is bad timing for me to be gone, so I had to go check on things. I flew down last week and picked up the car this time. Thought I’d drive back up along the river. I’ve known Pete Frazier and his wife forever, so I dropped in on them on the way. Pete told me you were over here.”

“Sounds like you could use a break, and about time. How’s Suzy like Duluth?”

Stillwater took a breath. “We, uh, we split up a couple of years ago.”

“Jesus, Stillwater, what is this, number three?”

Stillwater squinted at Dinah. “What are you doing here? Pete didn’t tell me that. I thought you were in Pennsylvania. What is the urbanite doing down in the deep south? You didn’t go and retire on me, did you Abernathy?”


Created by KKris. Last Modification: Sunday 14 of March, 2004 09:05:25 EST by KKris.