In the mirror, Blow saw a woman approach the house from the opposite direction. She wore jeans and a heavy shirt, but no coat, and was carrying what appeared to be a covered dish. He wondered if maybe she was a neighbor. Evidently someone had seen her through a window, as the door opened before she'd reached the porch. Blow saw hands reach out and take the covered dish. The woman followed them into the house.
Blow rested his head against the cushioned support atop his seat and tried to prepare himself for the emotional discomfort of joining a group of people mourning the loss of their patriarch and longtime friend. The prospect gave him a peculiarly self-conscious sense, being both an outsider and a lawyer. He cringed inwardly anticipating the ambulance-chasing—even worse in this case, hearse-chasing—perception his uninvited appearance likely would make.
He was aware young lawyers trying to gain traction in solo practices often faced this notion, sometimes promoted in jest or jealousy by more established lawyers. And he knew by reputation a couple of older practitioners for whom tangible evidence was said to exist supporting this pejorative. A professional hazard to avoid with discipline, one in which, as with conflicting interests, appearance and suspicion walked hand-in-hand and had the toxic capacity to impugn a career.
At the same time, the Kellams needed immediate protection from the blood-aroused predators, both those wanting the invaluable historic evidence the family possessed, and the media, itching to expose their front door to the world. Blow wished now he was dressed informally, as he assumed the other callers were. His strategy, he decided, was to avoid any lawyerly air.
He knew he would present best as his normally low-key unassuming self. A somber tone under the circumstances would be natural. He'd remind Mrs. Kellam of his fond memories of the store, his visits with his father as a child. If she seemed receptive he would advise her to avoid talking to anyone she didn't know, either on the phone or at her door. He would advise her to secure the musket and the documents in some place other than her home. He would offer his services as an attorney if she felt the need. If she asked him for his fee he would tell her not to worry, that they could discuss this later and that until they reached an agreement she would have no obligation to him whatsoever.
As a backup plan, if she was too distraught or was simply unreceptive to him, he would offer his condolences, mention the impending media assault, slip her a business card and get the hell out of there.
The butterflies squeezing out of their cocoons in his abdomen were the same damned ones that had appeared before every one of his stage performances and before every trial he'd had in court, and, truth be faced, before every action he remembered that had involved uncertainty whether about his conduct or about circumstances outside his immediate control. The thought that occurred to him just then, as he reflected morosely in the strange car outside a house filled with people trying to cope with death, was that he felt an odd relief, an unexpected acceptance understanding this propensity toward existential cowardice. He knew his training gave him a better than even chance to cope, successfully, if only in increments, that his conditioned ability to ignore the reality of self long enough to play an appropriate role could serve him in good stead, and would once he stepped forward and seized the moment.
Movement in the mirror caught his attention. Someone had stepped out of the house, was standing on the porch looking toward the car. Blow recognized Salzwedel's pea coat, then the teacher himself, tall and slim, facing the car. Magic time. Blow pushed open his door and climbed out onto the shoulder. He noticed for the first time the grassy slope that began only inches from his feet and dropped gently to a shallow ditch. Its bottom glistened with standing water no doubt from the night's deluge.
He closed the door carefully and touched the car for assurance as he tightroped until he was around it and onto the road. Then he saw Salzwedel walking toward him. Someone was following, a boy in jeans and a T-shirt, whose sullen body language conveyed more than grief. A woman appeared on the porch. She was wearing a housecoat and waving what looked to be a jacket. She shouted something. The boy turned back, shook his head determinedly and waved her off. He continued after Salzwedel.
They met on the road next to the car. “Mr. Stone,” Salzwedel said, introducing the boy, who Blow saw had tears streaming down his face, “this is Sarah.”