It was the tone of her voice, not his name, that cut through his concentration.
Nothing unusual about his daughter calling him by his name, something she'd done since learning it as a child. He loved how it sounded spoken in the soft contralto she'd inherited from her mother. Ordinarily she said “Clem” with an easy affection that rarely failed to slip under the crusty exterior that kept most people wary in his presence. This time was different.
She so seldom put the little interrogative curl at the end when saying his name that doing so now, especially with a heightened volume, conveyed an urgency that was equally unusual for her. Yet, he hesitated. Focused so intensely on a scene in the mystery novel he was writing, he needed stages of disengagement to break free. Part of his brain was calculating the degree of urgency represented by his daughter's not rapping on the door. He took a deep breath and stepped back from his laptop.
“Yes, Mary Beth. Come in.”
The door started to open, tentatively. He took the knob and tugged it enough to reveal his daughter, whose beauty struck him, as it often did, with its startling resemblance to her mother's when they'd met. Her radiant face was composed and serious.
“It's Randy. He said he'll call you from the cabin. Sounded urgent.”
“Thanks, Sweetheart. Can you find my secure phone? It should be in the desk, top left drawer.”
Clement Botticelli returned to his laptop, looked at the screen briefly and saved what he'd written. He closed it then, knowing he was finished for the day.
The throwaway cellphone twittered less than a minute after Mary Beth brought it to him. He'd moved to the recliner next to the dresser where when he worked on his novel he wrote standing.