It’s the humane thing to do…
Decklan Stone had just recently turned ten years old when his father Milton gave him a very hard lesson in compassion.
There were seven kittens born a week earlier that Decklan’s father had decided in very serious and determined tones needed to be drowned in the small pond located in the very back portion of the Stone family property.
“This is the right thing to do, Decklan. We can’t have all these cats running around here. They’ll starve, suffer, and then die. Go into the garden shed and bring me one of those burlap sacks we used for the potato sack races on your birthday.”
Milton Stone was an educator, a high school teacher of English literature.
In private, though he would never admit it, Milton was also a devoted sadist. Few things in life gave him greater pleasure than to see others suffering both physically and emotionally. When his son exclaimed happily at the dinner table the previous night that he had discovered the hiding spot where a semi-wild neighborhood cat had given birth to a litter of kittens, Decklan’s father realized another such opportunity had presented itself.
With every tear shed by his son, Milton’s own pleasure increased exponentially, though well hidden beneath a layer of carefully crafted, fatherly wisdom.
“Decklan, it’s the humane thing to do.”
Ten year old Decklan had no idea what the word humane meant and in that moment he didn’t care to find out. All he knew was that it was associated with the impending murder of seven innocent lives.
“Decklan, stop your crying! Come here and hold the sack open.”
Milton’s son did as he was told. He knew better than to question the authority of his father, thinking that to do so might very well result in his being thrown into the pond along with the kittens.
The sky was overcast, the upstate New York air thick with unusually high humidity. The lush, well manicured grass of the Stone family’s backyard had often been an escapist oasis for young Decklan, but on this day it was to be quite literally the scene of a most horrific crime.
Milton Stone held several small rocks taken from the side of the yard and proceeded to dump them into the sack held by his young, teary-eyed son.
“Now show me where the kittens are.”
Decklan hesitated, thinking he might yet convince his otherwise all-knowing father he couldn’t remember.
Milton’s voice issued the familiar warning growl that signaled he was nearing dangerous levels of displeasure. His clean-shaved, long and lean face was marked by a pronounced and disapproving frown. The blue eyes that resided behind a pair of thick prescription glasses narrowed slightly, further communicating how close to the reactive precipice Decklan found himself.
“Decklan…TAKE ME TO THE KITTENS.”
The boy’s eyes glared back defiantly.
He refused his father’s request.
Retribution was swiftly delivered in the form of firm slap across Decklan’s left cheek. He was struck with enough force he fell to the grass-covered ground below.
“Don’t make me ask you again.”
Milton Stone’s son stood up far more quickly than the father would have thought possible. Decklan straightened his shoulders and jutted his chin upward while he ignored the stinging pain that still permeated the left side of his face.
The gesture left Milton momentarily stunned. Decklan had never been so forcefully impudent before.
“Very well, I’ll just find them myself and you won’t have a chance to tell them goodbye. I’m disappointed in you, Decklan. I wouldn’t have thought you to be such a cruel little monster.”
Milton could barely conceal his smile as he watched his son struggle with the concept of abandoning the kittens in their moment of greatest need. There was just a short pause before Decklan relented, emotionally spent and still physically hurting.
He pointed to the shed.
“They’re in the back in a hole under the floor.”
Decklan watched as Milton gave him a wide, approving smile and noted once again how his father’s eyes remained devoid of any warmth or kindness. The elder Stone’s eyes never smiled.
“Very good, Decklan. Come on then, let’s get to it.”
Father and son walked across the yard’s thick, green grass and then made their way to the back of the shed. Decklan could hear the kittens meowing loudly for their mother who had inexplicably gone missing.
“Reach into the hole and grab a kitten and put it into the sack.”
Decklan’s tears streaked his face and his nose began to run, causing him to sniffle loudly. Milton reached out with his right hand and pushed against his son’s small back.
“Son, don’t disappoint me. I told you, this is the humane thing to do.”
Decklan reached into the hole underneath the shed with trembling hands and withdrew the first of seven kittens. Each one had eyes that had just recently opened. Their soft fur smelled of shared warmth, and dirt. Decklan had already memorized a name for each kitten and proceeded to recite that name silently to himself as he dropped the kittens one by one into the sack.
Furry Ear, White Sock, Stubby, Big Nose, Pink Toes, Long Tail, Chub-Chub…
Milton Stone closed the sack filled with kittens and rocks. He nodded at his son and again gave his unsmiling smile.
“Now we go to the pond.”
During the journey to the pond the kittens began to wail loudly at their dislocation and Decklan watched in horror as the sack’s exterior showed the newborn feline siblings moving frantically from inside their burlap tomb.
I’m not going to cry anymore. I won’t let him make me cry.
The slow march to the pond was nearly unbearable for Decklan. His eyes remained fixed upon the constantly moving sack being dragged across the grass by his father while his ears were assaulted by the kittens’ plaintive cries to be returned to the warm and safe confines of their former home underneath the shed.
Decklan began to quietly hum a song that had recently been repeatedly playing on the small, portable radio he had received as a birthday gift. It was a habit he employed during times of great stress. As a younger child the song would often be a commercial jingle. On this day as the kittens’ collective panic intensified the closer the bag came to the awaiting pond, it was David Bowie’s Space Oddity that played on a loop inside of the boy’s increasingly dismayed consciousness.
When his father stopped directly in front of the pond and then looked down at his son and began to speak, Decklan only heard the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar and the voice of David Bowie in his head – calm, comforting, and otherworldly.
Milton Stone lifted the sack off of the ground and then swung it around his head and flung it with a loud grunt into the water.
Planet Earth is blue and there is nothing I can do…
The music stopped the moment the bag hit the pond’s surface. Decklan flinched, tried to look away, but found himself unable to do so. The burlap sack floated for a few agonizing seconds, an intolerable amount of time that allowed Decklan to make out the unmistakable outline of tiny paws being pushed against the bag as the kittens fought to be free.
They wanted so badly to live.
Milton Stone relished the strain that was evident upon his son’s face as the bag finally slipped silently beneath the dark cover of water. He reached out and gently placed his left hand around Decklan’s shoulders. It wasn’t enough to simply see the boy’s pain. The school teacher had to feel it as well. When Milton spoke next his voice conveyed an unusually cheerful demeanor, oddly juxtaposed with the seven bodies Decklan knew lay at the bottom of the pond.
“And that takes care of that!”
Decklan’s father turned and began to walk away. After a few steps he paused, but kept his back to his son.
“You did the right thing, Decklan. You did the humane thing. Don’t forget that.”
For the remainder of his childhood, Decklan Stone never did forget that day, especially the haunting and horrible sounds living things make as they drown.
His nightmares wouldn’t allow it.
The water was especially calm during twenty-two year old Adele Plank’s quarter-mile voyage from Deer Harbor to the private island of her interview subject for the college newspaper assignment she hoped might lead to her much-desired future as a journalist. She had first read Decklan Stone’s one and only bestseller, Manitoba, shortly after her sixteenth birthday. It had been a gift from her then recently deceased grandmother, Beatrice who declared the story to be, “…one of the best I ever read!” Grandma Beatrice read a lot of books, so Adele knew the compliment likely had at least some merit.
It had taken Adele less than two days to finish the three-hundred and-seventy page novel, a feat which had since never been bested. She read it for a second time, and then a third, memorizing the subtle nuances of each character, especially the way the writer weaved multiple plot lines into a remarkably satisfying conclusion.
She loved Manitoba and so then by default did she come to love its author as well.
“You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken someone besides myself to Mr. Stone’s island. I think maybe…hell, almost four years and that was his publicist who flew all the way here from New York for a meeting that lasted all of an hour. I remember him telling me Mr. Stone hates the telephone, doesn’t do email, none of that stuff. With him it’s in person or it’s not at all. Anyway, that’s what we all call it around here, Stone’s Island, but its real name is Wasp Island. That’s what I knew it as when I was a kid but he’s been living there for thirty-odd years now, so we all just call it Stone’s Island these days.”
Adele gave a polite nod and half-smile to the somewhat incoherent ramblings of the man who had earlier introduced himself to her as Will Speaks. The forty-six year old Deer Harbor local had a ruddy complexion, ample belly, and a wide, smiling face that complimented his good-natured demeanor. He was the one contacted by Adele’s newspaper editor to transport her across Deer Harbor on Will’s small, Boston Whaler skiff. Even as she watched the passing water playfully splash against the small boat’s dull, white hull she still couldn’t believe she was actually going to meet him.
Her newspaper editor had called Adele into his cramped and paper-strewn office just three days earlier to give her the good news that Decklan Stone’s longtime publicist had just contacted them to say the author agreed to the one-on-one interview initially proposed by Adele herself.
“I don’t know why he chose you, Ms. Plank, but he did. Stone hasn’t spoken to anyone in the media since his wife’s death – and that’s been more than twenty-five years ago! This interview is going to get you national attention. You might have just been given the journalist’s version of the winning lottery ticket.”
It was that reclusive nature that had no doubt greatly enhanced the appeal for Decklan Stone that Adele carried with her since first reading Manitoba. By then, Stone’s reputation as a mysterious recluse who had all but disappeared from the world, gave him an aura of the unknown that had always fascinated Adele. She had spent hours staring at his black and white photo that dominated Manitoba’s interior back cover. She knew the faint lines that crossed his forehead, the large, expressive eyes, the slightly upturned nose, the full-lipped, almost feminine mouth that conflicted with the strong, undeniably masculine jaw-line and the somewhat unruly, dark hair that crowned the head of a man Adele and many others considered a literary genius.
“Have you ever seen him?”
Will turned around in the wooden seat that barely contained his large and lumpy frame so he could look behind him where Adele sat on a simple wood bench at the very back of the Whaler.
“Yeah, I guess I have, though not for a while and it wasn’t up close. Late last summer after dropping off his monthly supply order I looked back on my way back to Deer Harbor and saw him standing on the dock staring at me. I waved at him. He didn’t wave back.”
This bit of information peaked Adele’s interest. For the first time since stepping onto his boat, she was interested in what Will Speaks had to say.
“What did he look like?”
Will shrugged his wide shoulders, making certain to talk loud enough so his voice could be heard above the droning din of the small two-stroke motor that powered the skiff.
“Oh, I don’t know. Kind of then, tall, I think he was wearing a sweatshirt. There was almost fifty yards of water between us by then. Like I said, I waved but he didn’t wave back. Makes me think he’s probably as much of an asshole as some folks say.”
Adele was quick to ask a follow up question.
“People around here don’t like him?”
Will, sensing the verbal trap, quickly shook his head.
“I didn’t say that. I guess it’s more, well, we don’t really know him. He’s a mystery. I mean, that’s why you’re coming out here to do the interview thing, right? So you can try and solve the big mystery of Decklan Stone?”
Adele wasn’t about to let Will off the hook that easy. She also made note of his phrase, “the interview thing”, thinking it something a much younger person would say.
“But you said some around here say he’s an asshole. Those were your words, Mr. Speaks. I’d appreciate knowing who those people are.”
Will’s face took on a pained wince look as he realized he should have kept his mouth shut, or a child that has just been caught with his hand resting in the cookie jar. His next reply was again sprinkled with an oddly childlike speech pattern juxtaposed within the body of a full grown man.
“Oh, I didn’t mean people today. I’m sure your, uh, research, if you’ve done research, you know about his wife’s death, her disappearance and all that stuff. There were some around here who thought maybe it wasn’t like the cops said it was, is all I meant. I was just a kid then, so don’t take what I say as how it is by any means.”
Adele knew the story well. Decklan Stone’s young and beautiful wife was reported lost in a nighttime boating accident, her body never found. That tragedy took place just three years after Stone had become among the most successful and widely regarded authors of his day when he was but twenty-seven years old. He was thirty when Calista Stone was said to have slipped beneath the cold and dark, San Juan Islands waters never to return, and from then on whatever continued literary promise Decklan Stone might have had, seemingly perished along with his wife. He had become an extension of the tragic romance that was such a critical element to Manitoba, a condition that no doubt contributed to that novels’ return to the bestseller list immediately following Calista Stone’s death and the mystery that surrounded it, earning Decklan that much more money, mystery, and notoriety.
Few things are as attractive or sell as well as human tragedy.
“Didn’t your father used to be the San Juan County Sheriff?”
Will’s eyes widened slightly, a gesture that let Adele know her earlier research was correct. He gently increased the Whaler’s speed, wanting to be done with the college girl and her questions.
“Is he one of those you just said doesn’t like Decklan Stone?”
Will turned himself away from Adele and then pointed to the small private dock that extended out like a long, rigid finger from a small, densely wooded island in the middle of Deer Harbor.
“We’re just about there, Ms. Plank. I’ll be pulling in port side.”
Adele had no idea what port side was until after the Whaler turned to the right to allow its left side to come to a slow and well controlled stop directly against the dock. Will tied off the skiff, jumped out onto the dock, and then extended his right hand to help Adele from the boat.
“Is that the same boat?”
The boat in question was a forty-one foot, red, white and blue, wooden-hulled Chris Craft. Adele had seen photos of it while scanning the Internet for the information pertaining to Calista Stone’s death. She knew the boat to have been built in 1961 and purchased by Decklan and Calista shortly after they bought Wasp Island in 1986 following the bestselling success of Manitoba. It was the same boat that Calista is said to have died falling from.
Will scowled as he tried to avoid Adele’s eyes. His response was a barely audible grumble.
“Yes, it’s the same boat. He has Old Jack come out every six months to keep her looking right.”
Adele had no idea who Old Jack was, but made a mental note to follow up with the name. She then took out her phone and snapped several pictures of the boat, the dock, and the island. It was an undeniably beautiful place with rock-strewn beaches, abrupt, dark- stoned cliffs, and majestic evergreen trees that rose up like towering, silent sentinels that kept watch over all who accessed the small island.
“The path begins at the end of the dock. It’ll take you directly to the house. If I remember right, it gets a bit steep, but a young person like you should have no trouble at all.”
Adele readjusted her backpack and then offered her right hand which Will quickly took into his own much larger and calloused appendage.
“Thank you for helping to get me here, Mr. Speaks. I hope to have a chance to speak with you again soon.”
Will gave Adele a forced, pained smile and then shrugged.
“I can’t make any promises on that, Ms. Plank. I don’t want to cause any trouble with Mr. Stone. He pays me good to bring him his supplies and jobs like that aren’t exactly easy to come by around here. Oh, when you call me to say you’re ready to be picked up, you might have to use Mr. Stone’s landline. Cell phones don’t always work out here.”
Adele smiled and then readjusted her backpack again, realizing she was doing so more out of nervousness than necessity.
“Ok, I’ll do that. It shouldn’t be more than a few hours.”
After she took several steps on the dock toward the awaiting trail to Decklan Stone’s home overlooking the waters that surrounded his private island, Adele heard Will call out to her.
“You be careful, Ms. Plank.”
Adele tried to reassure him with a smile.
“I’ll take my time getting up there. Don’t worry, I won’t slip.”
The smile normally affixed to Will’s face vanished. His eyes narrowed as he gave Adele a long, hard stare.
“I’m not talking about you getting up to the house. I’m talking about you getting back.”
It was at that moment Adele wondered why the seemingly affable and generous, albeit childlike, Will Speaks wasn’t personally escorting her safely to the awaiting home of Decklan Stone that was almost entirely hidden behind a wall of trees.
“Have you been to the house, Mr. Speaks?”
Will shook his head.
“No, not for a long time.”
Will peered up at the faint outline of the Stone residence through a gap in the tree line.
“Mr. Stone doesn’t allow it. He’s made that clear. I drop off the supplies on the dock, and then leave. At the end of the month I have a check mailed to me from a place in New York with a list of supplies to be delivered the next month. That’s what my dad tells me to do and so…so that’s what I do.”
“And why do you think I need to be careful when I get up there?”
Will looked down as he shuffled his feet, looking even more like a nervous child than a grown man. He felt as if he was being watched from above.
“It’s just that I think people who meet someone who they think they know are…disappointed. You’re not the first fan of the writer to come around here hoping to get a peek. I figure everyone just needs to let it be. Let him live up there alone because that’s what he seems to want.”
Adele readjusted her backpack for a third time.
“Yeah, but I’m the first one who he actually invited, right?”
Will gave Adele a slow nod as he kept his eyes locked onto hers.
“Yeah, I guess so. Unless I hear otherwise, expect me back here in three hours like you said. And let Mr. Stone know I’ll be here then, too.”
Adele was both fascinated and just a bit uncomfortable at Will’s sudden concern over her well being. That discomfort was quickly pushed aside as she reminded herself she was about to meet the reclusive Decklan Stone – in person.
“Ok, Mr. Speaks, and thank you again.”
She gave Will a quick wave as he hopped back onto the Whaler, restarted its motor and began to move away from the dock.
He didn’t wave back.
The path at the end of the dock consisted of a narrow trail of compacted gravel that led upward and then through the densest area of trees. After several steps, Adele paused to look behind her at the glass-like, glistening waters below. She could see Will Speaks navigating the Whaler back to the Deer Harbor marina and then moved her eyes upward to follow the slow, circling path of a Bald Eagle. To her right between a gap in the trees, she saw a small cove almost entirely hidden from the main body of water by a dark, circular outcrop of rock behind which a small, red-hulled fiberglass runabout was tied by a long rope around the trunk of a tree that hung over a thin sand and pebble beach.
Adele took a deep breath and relished the intoxicating mixture of saltwater and trees that she had earlier read via an online travel blog, was one of the things that made the area so unique.
It was certainly a beautiful place, the kind of place she could easily imagine a writer like Decklan Stone living out his days in quiet solitude.
I would love to live here.
Adele Plank was a student of the nearby university in Bellingham, some twenty-six nautical miles from Deer Harbor, but she had grown up in Washington State’s interior, born and raised in the small town of Concrete in Skagit County. She had never been to the San Juan Islands, though knew of people who summered there and spoke glowingly of its enchantingly mysterious nature. The primary islands of San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez were accompanied by a myriad of smaller but no less beautiful islands, numbering over four hundred in total. It was a boater’s paradise, a place that had long attracted visitors from all over the world.
Adele whirled around and found herself staring up at Decklan Stone. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell partly open as she tried to find something to say but her mind left her wanting.
“Can I take your backpack? The trail gets a bit steep, though it does make for a nice workout.”
Oh, my - he’s gorgeous!
Decklan Stone appeared remarkably well preserved. Though Adele knew him to be fifty-seven years of age, he could easily have passed for a man in his early forties. His lightly bearded face was nearly devoid of lines, his blue eyes bright and clear, and his dark hair nearly as thick and unruly as the black and white photo of him that accompanied Adele’s copy of Manitoba, taken thirty years ago.
“Oh, yes, uh…thank you. Hello, my name is Adele, Adele Plank.”
The author easily dissected the distance between himself and Adele in a few quick and confident steps down the trail, bringing with him the subtle scent of cologne and tobacco smoke. His voice was low, smooth, and dangerously enticing. He was just over six foot, with wide shoulders, narrow hips, and especially long, athletic legs housed in simple, tan khakis that accompanied a thick, cream-colored wool sweater. A pair of dark grey, loafer-style boater shoes adorned his feet.
“Yes, I know who you are, Ms. Plank – I invited you.”
Adele tried not to blush but failed as she placed her backpack into Decklan’s long-fingered, outstretched hands. She made note of the gold flash of a classic Rolex watch as it peeked out from underneath the left sleeve of his sweater.
“How was the journey here?”
Adele cleared her throat and smiled.
“Oh, it was great. Such a beautiful place…and this island! It’s just…it’s just perfect!”
Decklan stood silently staring down at Adele for a few uncomfortable seconds and then he looked up into the vigilant trees overhead as his voice took on a tone of inward contemplation.
“Perfect? I don’t know about that, but it is home.”
The author shook off whatever memories had suddenly taken him away and he smiled again, flashing a row of perfectly aligned and whitened teeth.
“Just follow me then, and we’ll be to the house in no time.”
Adele did as she was told, struggling just a bit to keep up with the longer-legged Decklan Stone as he easily made his way up the narrow path even as it steepened considerably, as promised.
With her lungs stinging their angry discontent, Adele stood looking directly across a small, grass and flower clearing at the log-framed house that loomed on the other side and was stunned to find it looking exactly as it did from the news clippings of decades ago. The two-story structure had a covered, wrap-around front porch that dominated the entrance, and a large balcony that led out via a pair of French doors from what was the second floor master bedroom above.
It was the house Manitoba’s long-ago success had built.
Decklan paused to turn around and look at the visibly awe-struck college newspaper reporter behind him.
“It’s just wood and concrete with an old, washed up writer hiding out inside of it.”
Adele snorted far louder than she would have liked.
“I think it’s a lot more than that, Mr. Stone.”
“Please, just call me Decklan. Mr. Stone sounds so…old.”
Adele shook her head with enough force it made her cheeks jiggle.
“You don’t look old! You don’t look old at all!”
The much younger Adele was mortified at her own behavior. She had rehearsed this moment a hundred times in her head and yet she was doing exactly what she had promised herself she wouldn’t – come off as some star-struck, half-psycho fan.
The author chuckled, both surprised and grateful for Adele’s overly enthusiastic defense of his alleged, not-yet-old appearance.
“Well thank you, Ms. Plank, I’m more than vain enough to admit to enjoying hearing someone as young as yourself willing to see me as something other than a decrepit relic of some bygone era. Let’s go inside. Would you like some tea?”
Adele nodded while silently reminding herself to calm the hell down, though another part of her was screaming out in disbelief over the fact she was about to have tea with Decklan Stone inside of his home.
Oh my god…oh my god…oh my god!
Decklan stepped up onto the expansive porch and then pushed open the custom-made, dark-stained Birch wood front door. He looked down at Adele and gave her a reassuring wink.
“Here we are, Ms. Plank. Welcome to my home, and thank you for coming.”
The interior of the Stone residence was as tasteful as its exterior would suggest. The hand-crafted furnishings were sparse, simple, and yet exuded quality and class. The floors were wide, reddish planks that softly creaked and groaned when walked upon. Decklan tapped his foot lightly.
“The floors came from a decommissioned wood-hulled trans-Pacific sailboat from the late 18th century, shipped here from Taiwan when the house was first built. I’ve always appreciated the idea of something old finding a new purpose, a kind of…immortality.”
Adele wanted to sigh but made certain she didn’t. She had never heard anyone say anything quite like that, and it left her feeling like the luckiest person alive to have heard it spoken in the wonderfully low, soft, yet masculine voice of Decklan Stone.
“Can I use that quote?”
Decklan’s head tilted to the left as his brow lowered slightly.
“Uh, for the story, I’d like to use what you just said.”
The author paused and then his eyes widened as he was seemingly reminded as to why Adele was there in the first place.
“Oh, of course! Yes, feel free to use what you want. I don’t have any preconditions, Ms. Plank, though my publicist has demanded approval of the final piece prior to publication.”
Adele nodded quickly, not wanting to ruin the time with her host with the more mundane, real-world talk of business.
“Yes, Mr. Stone…Decklan.”
Decklan flashed his brilliant smile again and motioned for Adele to follow him into the a-framed great room. Massive floor to ceiling windows offered up sweeping views of the San Juan Islands and the waters that surrounded them.
“Have a seat, Ms. Plank and I’ll be out with some tea in just a moment.”
Adele stared out through the windows and then moved her head slowly from left to right as she scanned the room. A wood-framed, leather bound couch and two matching chairs faced the windows with what looked to be a hand-carved coffee table made entirely of driftwood. A large bookshelf dominated the left wall, while the right side of the great room revealed a massive stone chimney fireplace and next to it, a hallway into which Decklan had disappeared into. Adele assumed it led to the kitchen. She could hear water running. Besides the couch and chairs there were no other furnishings. Even the walls were absent any artwork.
Everything about the room is intended to focus you on the view, and what a view it is!
Adele took out her phone and snapped a couple pictures of the postcard-like scenery outside. She felt a slight breeze and looked up to see a large ceiling fan repeating a slow, circular path directly above where she stood. The home smelled of Decklan Stone – his woodsy leather cologne with just a trace of tobacco.
I’d love to wake up to that scent every morning.
“Oh, you’re still standing! Please, have a seat, some tea, and let’s see about getting this little interview of yours started, shall we? I hope you like white tea. My mother introduced it to me years ago and it has become something of a daily ritual.”
Adele lowered herself in the chair to the left of the couch while Decklan, after handing her a half-full tea cup and saucer, did the same in the chair on the right. He took a slow sip, savored it, and then lifted his eyes to stare back at his guest who at that same moment was silently screaming at her hands to stop trembling as she slowly brought the tea cup to her lips.
The tea had a light, floral scent with an almost undetectable hint of honey.
“Mmmm, it’s good. Thank you.”
The author appeared genuinely pleased at the compliment received for the tea. He took another sip from his own cup and then cleared his throat and shrugged.
“Well…shall we begin?”
Adele reached into her backpack and withdrew a small tape recorder that had been given to her as gift by her mother when Adele was just a little girl who dreamt of someday being a reporter. She preferred to use it instead of more modern digital options because of sentimental value. Decklan pointed to the device.
“It appears you value old things as well. I haven’t seen one of those in years!”
Adele responded with a sheepish grin.
“Is it ok I record our conversations?”
Decklan nodded while he swirled the contents of his cup.
“Of course, that’s what reporters do, right?”
Adele opened her mouth to say something and then abruptly closed it as she momentarily lost her train of thought. When she finally did reply, her hands began to tremble once again.
“To be honest, I don’t really know, Mr. Stone. I’ve done a few stories for the newspaper but this…this is something way beyond my experience.”
Decklan folded his hands and placed them against his salt and pepper stubbled chin.
“I’m confident you’ll do just fine, Ms. Plank. Please proceed. Perhaps we should start with the proverbial elephant in the room. Ask the question everyone wants to ask of me, the question that has been my primary reason for my retreating from the all too superficial world of literary celebrity.”
Adele felt her eyes blinking rapidly as she felt a terrible panic rising up from within her. She was going to avoid the subject of Calista Stone’s death, at least initially.
But now he’s demanding I start with it. Is he testing me? Could I end up being thrown out of his home without an interview?
Adele took a slow, deep breath and stared into the author’s eyes and found them warmly reassuring her to do that which just seconds earlier she had no intention of doing. The words came out rushed, sounding pathetically amateurish to Adele’s ears.