The elevator trip down was just long enough for Cathryn’s mental wheels to get some traction on who to talk to next. Pierre von Falk seemed pretty much tapped out. Karly Presser was out of the loop. Maxim Patryshyn had the magic wand but didn’t know how he got it and wasn’t fully sure how to wave it. She had one other name to try. And she didn’t want to waste any time.
She stepped off the elevator and looked around the lobby as she walked towards the door. There were two armchairs and a low table off to one side. She sat down, pulled out her phone, and composed a new email:
To: Marcy Coachman
From: Cathryn Espy
Subject: Worcester online definitions
Dear Ms. Coachman:
I hope you can help me. I have some questions about the revised definitions in the online Worcester Universal Dictionary and their ramifications
She stopped. “Ramifications” literally meant “branches” and she didn’t need arborial advice. She backed up and retyped:
I hope you can help me. I have some questions about the revised definitions in the online Worcester Universal Dictionary and their effects. I have talked to Pierre von Falk and to Maxim Patryshyn and there are some things they have not been able to resolve for me.
Wait. Was “resolve” a safe word to use? She decided that it was safe in context.
Best to keep it short. Fewer words would be fewer accidents waiting to happen. She hit Send.
A woman with short dark hair entered the lobby and walked past Cathryn, apparently taking no notice of her. She was of medium height and was wearing elegant flat-soled shoes and a very stylish raincoat and carrying a plush Louis Vuitton purse. From the quick glimpse of her face Cathryn got, she appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties. She walked up to the concierge desk and said, “Maxim Patryshyn, five seven nine, please.”
Cathryn almost said something, and then hesitated. The concierge called up and the woman headed to the elevator. Cathryn turned back to her email.
There was already a reply from Marcy Coachman.
It was an auto-reply.
Thank you for your email. I am out of the office. Please direct any questions or concerns to Pierre von Falk, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cathryn almost said something to express her disappointment but did not. She remembered that Marcy was the Twitter person for Worcester. She opened up Twitter on her phone and searched for @worcesterdic.
The account’s two most recent tweets were from that morning. The first was a Word of the Day. The word was “farewell.” The second was an animated gif of a cat waving goodbye.
She searched for a Twitter account for Marcy Coachman. There was one.
Its last two tweets were late on Saturday evening. The first was, simply, “what just happened” – with no period or question mark. The second was just one strange word: “mountweazel”.
Cathryn looked at the avatar for the account. It was a woman’s head turned three-quarters away from the camera.
It looked a bit like the woman who had just gone in to see Maxim. But Cathryn couldn’t be sure.
She opened her web browser and searched “Marcy Coachman” to see if she could find any pictures of her.
Her search results told her two things of interest:
One, that the woman who had just gone to see Maxim was probably Marcy Coachman.
Two, that a woman named Marycela Coachman had won thirty-seven million dollars in the Massachusetts State Lottery on Saturday and had claimed it that morning (by which I mean Monday). The name was in a press release from the lottery. Google was kind enough to include this in the results, in sixth place, due to its sophisticated name-matching algorithms.
Now she needed to decide whether to wait for her to come back down. It could be a while. For all she knew, it could be all night. And the concierge would sooner or later ask her why she was still there.
She looked up towards the doorway. Across the street, she now saw, was a pub, or bar, or something like that. It had a window facing the door of Maxim’s building. Now, wasn’t that lucky. She put her phone in her purse, stood up, walked out, crossed the street, and went into the bar.
The bar was called ÖL, according to the sign above the door. It was not busy – hardly surprising on a Monday evening. Cathryn sat down at the end towards the window; she had a good view of the front door of 26 Prince Street. She ignored the dozens of beer taps and carefully ordered a glass of cabernet sauvignon, then pulled her copy of What Does It All Mean? out of her purse, opened it to the bookmark, and picked up where she had left off: “But while Confucius (Kong Fuzi) believed that matching names correctly to their objects would achieve civil order, the Sanskrit thinker Panini (not a sandwich) held that the true meaning of a word was what people actually used it to mean, not what it was ‘supposed’ to mean. Panini was a very sophisticated scholar of linguistics – much moreso than most modern grammar-advice writers. But he did have one thing in common with at least some of them: He believed that through using and understanding words well one could approach the divine.”
Cathryn looked up every so often to see if there was any movement across the street. She didn’t have a view up to Maxim’s window, so she couldn’t see whether his lights were still on. But she should have nearly ten seconds to see anyone coming from the elevators to the street.
The cab sauv arrived and she paid for it. It tasted like it had been stored next to the stove. Somewhere there was a salad that might deserve it, but not one she would want to eat. She kept reading. “That had nothing on philosophers from St. Anselm to Kurt Gödel who effectively said that God was a necessary side effect of semantics. The ‘ontological argument’ these bright sparks set forth, with charmingly mathematical reasoning, was that God is logically necessary because the concept ‘God’ exists – in other words, God exists by definition. (If you really want to hurt yourself, see the sidebar for details.) Talk about the ultimate lexical magic! But if words can create God, what other tricks can they pull?”
Cathryn snapped her head up, her eyebrows pursed.
A minivan pulled up in front of the door of 26 Prince. It blocked her view. She leaned forward – as if that would help – to see if she could see through the van’s windows. Of course they were tinted. But she saw two people get in, one with a backpack, one with a big purse. They sure looked like Maxim and Marcy.
She stuffed the book into her bag, gulped the wine by habit – gah! – and headed for the door. The van pulled away and left her standing on the sidewalk staring at its retreating rear end.
And then her phone rang.
It was Pierre von Falk.
“Hello?” she said, as one does.
“How did you find him?” Pierre’s voice said. “Or who do you know?”