Note: We've had so much fun with serialized stories that I'm trying my hand at one again! Here's the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.
Greta Morgan's office was nearly as barren as the grounds around Martin Gardens. A metal desk, two folding chairs, and a cheap office chair on rollers shared space with a flimsy metal file cabinet. I could tell the cabinet was inexpensive by the type of handles on the drawers.
The blinds were pulled behind Greta's seat, and an inexpensive desk lamp provided illumination directly to her desktop. "Please, make yourselves comfortable." She picked up the phone and dialed a number. "Lacey? Could you bring me a pot of Constant Comment? Three cups please. Cookies, too. Thanks so much."
I sat there seething with anger. But I was also feeling a little ashamed by my earlier outburst. Skye wore a pleasant but amused smile. Kookie's eyes took in our surroundings. He seemed considerably perked up since our arrival. The bobbing up and down was less apparent, but his keen interest was still obvious.
"Tell me how you know Helen, please. I don't know much at all about her background, and I'd really like to know more," said Greta.
Bit by bit, I explained how Honora had asked me for a favor for her friend. Skye chipped in, talking about how she'd always wanted a big bird. I picked up the narrative, by detailing how Kookie had gone downhill fast. Then Skye volunteered what we'd recently learned from Pete, the vet. She finished with, "We couldn't think of anything else to do, but to bring Kookie here for a visit."
"I see," said Greta, as she gestured to a young woman pushing a metal food cart in the hallway. The server set a silver tray on the desk and, after checking to see that we had everything we needed, promptly departed.
"What are these?" Skye bit into one of the chocolate-covered cookies.
"McVities. They're from England. Aren't they wonderful?" Greta poured tea for all of us.
Yes, they were wonderful, but I wasn't about to give the woman the satisfaction of knowing I liked her treats. To me, this was an elaborate bribe, and nothing more. Even as I pouted, I could sense Greta was sizing me up--and thinking hard. Kookie wanted a nibble of the cookies. Skye offered him a piece, after scraping off the chocolate.
"As you are aware, Helen's condition is terminal. Since coming here, she's shown very little interest in life or her surroundings. And that's a shame. I believe we should live every moment we're given until we draw our last breath."
I started to protest. I wanted to point out that anyone, under any circumstances, would be depressed living here. But Greta waved me into silence. "Please? Just let me speak for a minute, so you've got the background. Then you can share your thoughts. You see, this building was designed and constructed by a company that went out of business just as they were finishing up. The furniture had been ordered. The wall coverings and lights and appliances installed. But then they went belly up. Mr. James Boehner bought the place, but that purchase hadn't been planned for. Wasn't in the budget. He had to cannibalize several other planned expenditures to cover the cost of the structure."
My father was an entrepreneur. I consider myself one, too. As I listened, I started to see exactly where Greta was going. "They didn't have enough money for the landscaping. That's what you're telling us. They got to the plants and ran out of dough."
"You've got it. Exactly. Mr. Boehner has gone back to his funding sources in an attempt to raise more money. I think he'll get it, but there are a lot of hoops to jump through. What you're seeing right now is a partially finished project. And I regret that. We all do. Here..." She stood up. "Let me show you the original plans."
A cardboard tube had been stuffed behind the file cabinet. Pulling it out, she popped off the top and unrolled three sheets of paper, stapled together at one corner. The top page showed an artist's rendering of the landscaping, complete with colors and drawings of plants. I had to admit, the rendition took my breath away. The second page showed the courtyard and surrounds. Although the work seemed a tad ambitious, it was also stunning. Mentally, I tried to put a price to what all this would cost. Thinking back to what I'd paid to landscape around my house in St. Louis, I came up with a figure. It was hefty. Very hefty indeed.
"Now," said Greta, putting her empty cup back on the tray. "As soon as you finish your tea, let's go say hi to Helen."