"I hope I haven't come at an inconvenient time. My name is Albert Preston. Mr. Horace Hubble requests the honor of your presence at dinner this evening." He had a slight English accent.
Horace Hubble? The richest man in town. Wants me to come to dinner?
I had heard of him; the whole town had. Probably the whole state. And I'd heard some very strange rumors, Everyone had. The thing for certain was, I knew nothing about him.
"Me? I'm sure I don't understand."
"I'm sure he will explain himself if you will only come with me right now."
"I don't know." I said it with conviction. Does he really expect me to get into a car with a complete stranger? And go to a house I've never been to before? To meet a man with a very strange reputation?
This man, Mr. Preston, though. There's something about him. A calming demeanor. A glow of peacefulness. "You have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I assure you of that," he continued.
Who is this man with those piercing, light blue eyes? "I don't know," I said with no conviction that time.
A flash of concern crossed his face. He could tell that was an insult and the roll disappeared. "I can understand your reluctance. How can I soothe your worries?"
My mind raced and I became conflicted. Down deep I wanted to go. My curiosity was piqued. I felt safe with this man – somehow. Which was strange in itself.
But this was so too strange. Too many unknowns. Mr. Preston was so serious. This was no hoax, but I simply couldn't go alone. That would be absurd.
Who could I get? Susan and her husband were out of town. What a shame. They love an adventure.
"My I speak to my husband, Bill, about this?"
"Certainly." His smile was back.
I smiled, let the door close, walked into the den and sat in the chair. Bill was on the couch.
"Something very odd has occurred," I told him. There's a Mr. Preston at the door. He works for Horace Hubble. You know, that eccentric millionaire who lives in that huge house north of town." I paused, remembering. I hadn't been up that way in years. "On that particularly pretty hill with all the dogwood trees. Well, we've been invited up to that big house for dinner tonight. There's a limousine here, now, to pick us up."
"Limousine?" Bill tilted his head toward me.
"I don't have anything thawed. Might be a nice time. Something different anyway. The chauffeur seems very nice. Could be kind of fun. Get us out of the house for a while. Good food. A short drive through the country. Fresh air."
He finally turned and looked at me. "Aw, Babe! You know how I hate those stuffy affairs where I don't know nobody. No doubt they'll want me to wear a coat and tie. You know how I hate that. Sitting around all night making small talk with total strangers I hope I'll never see again. Yek." He made a sour face. "I'd rather get my gums scraped."
He took a healthy swig of his beer. "And besides, you know that Tony and Moe and Steve and Ronald and Willy Billy are coming over for the Rams and Broncos. That game starts in about an hour. You can make us a bunch of sandwiches, right? Look. Tell 'em we appreciate the offer and maybe we can do it some other time."
And something snapped inside me and I knew exactly what it was. My temper.
I stomped up the stairs, marched into the sewing room, closed the door and sat in the stuffed chair in the corner. I couldn't remember ever being this angry. Bill could be so selfish and unthoughtful.
Then it occurred to me to ask myself, why I was angry over this? This kind of...
- Kevin Warrick Fitzgerald
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Kevin Warrick Fitzgerald (Author)
Mr. Fitzgerald lives south of Columbus, Ohio, and is hard at work on his next book.