Chapter 11. Unique and neat

“Wait,” Cathryn said into her phone. “How did you know I found him?”

The minivan that was probably carrying Maxim Patryshyn and Marcy (full name Marycela?) Coachman was now a pair of taillights merging in the distance and then turning a corner. It was cool and breezy in the concrete canyon. For want of anything better to do, Cathryn went back into ÖL and sat back where she had been, at the window end of the bar, as she listened to Pierre von Falk on her phone.

Pierre’s voice was now so professionally polite it was almost shiny. “I get the daily update notices for Worcester online dictionaries. The spelling of your name is…” There was a pause on the line. Then: “…I won’t say it’s unique, because apparently I physically can’t call it that, because there are other Cathryns in the world and the word ‘unique’ has lately been updated by Maxim. But so has the word ‘cathryn,’ heretofore unseen in Worcester Dictionaries.”

“Wait. What?” Cathryn by reflex grabbed for her glass of wine to take a drink, but it was (a) empty and (b) cleared away already, it being a slow Monday evening at this bar.

“Congratulations. You’re the latest mountweazel, joining the august ranks of ‘marycela’ and… never mind.”

“What the hell is a mountweazel?” Cathryn said, loudly enough that the bartender and a patron four stools away both turned and looked at her, a fact she saw reflected in the window. She hunched slightly by reflex.

“Look it up,” Pierre said, sounding, to be honest, maybe a little pissed off at the moment. “Look up ‘cathryn’ while you’re at it. But how did you find him? Are you a friend of Marcy’s?”

“I’ve never met Marcy,” Cathryn said, which was, in almost any technical sense, true. “I don’t know her. I got Maxim’s email address and hers from a bookmark someone left on the subway. A Worcester bookmark. It had your email, hers, and his.”

“What? For f—” It sounded as though Pierre had abruptly moved the phone away from his head and was holding it against some article of clothing to muffle it while he made a few vocalizations. Then the phone came back to his face. “You found it on the subway.”

“Yes. My friend said she was nauseous, and this guy across from us looked at her and turned some colours and ran off, and he left the bookmark behind. By accident, I guess. He must be one of your customers.”

“You could say that. Well, you sure have lucky timing. Or something.” Pause. “Wait. When was that?”

“On the subway?” She thought for a moment and realized it had been just the day before. “Sunday… yesterday evening.”

“Huh,” Pierre said quietly. Then, in case the first one didn’t take, “Huh.”

“…What can I do?” Cathryn said.

You’ll be fine,” Pierre said. “I’m sure of that.”

“My husband?”

Pause. “I don’t know. I’ll let you know if I think of something. …What’s his name, by the way?”

“Henry Gibson.”

“Is his middle name anything unusual?”

“John.”

He made a disappointed “Hmmm.” Then: “I have to go. I have someone to find. Call me if anything changes.”

“Thanks,” Cathryn said. The call disconnected as she said “’Bye.”

She set down her phone. The barman appeared like a genie. “Another wine, ma’am?”

Ugh, no. But something was needed. “Bourbon. On the ro—” She caught herself. He probably wouldn’t bring it to her on actual stones, but just in case: “Sorry. Neat.” He walked away and then she realized she could have just said “with ice.” Well, this should be… neat.

She opened the Worcester app on her phone and typed in “mountweazel.”

It told her it was a noun: “an invented term included surreptitiously in a reference work.” The word’s origin was the 1975 edition of The New Columbia Encyclopedia, which included an entry on Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942–1973), a fictitious American photographer. Mountweazels, the entry further explained, are typically used to catch publishers copying from someone else’s reference work rather than doing their own damn research.

The bourbon arrived promptly, a single shot like a fawn-coloured wading pool at the bottom of a perfectly clean tumbler, not a drop out of place. “Eight fifty,” said the man.

Cathryn pulled $11 out of her wallet and handed it to him. “Thanks.” She sipped it. It was common rail bourbon and quite sufficient unto the day. She turned back to her phone and typed “cathryn” in the search box in the Worcester app.

It found nothing.

She gave it the kind of stare her husband strove daily to avoid being on the receiving end of.

And then she realized that it was the free app, not the Universal one.

She was going to have to install the Universal app on her phone.

Or she could just go home.

She was going to have to go home anyway.

She picked up her purse, tossed back the remaining bourbon, and as she set down the glass someone tapped on her shoulder.

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