Marveling to himself at the defining power of a name, Blow knew his predisposition, buttressed by the student's cropped hair and slump-shouldered shamble from the house to a proximity of several feet, had held him captive to the illusion the person standing in front of him was male, right up to the instant Salzwedel introduced “him” as Sarah.
The snap, setting things right while concurrently freeing a subliminal wisp of androgyny Blow had picked up from the youthful figure as it approached, brought Sarah Kellam into focus with a cerebral equivalent to the movie effect of one face fading in from another to compress time or shift identity. Until he knew her name, the square-faced, freckled, ruddy cheeked youth with the helmet of auburn curls looked to be perfect for a Norman Rockwell model. The boy would be wearing a frayed straw hat, chewing on a long-stemmed blade of grass and sitting barefoot on the bank of a pond, fishing pole anchored beside him.
Now, the gender question essentially settled, he found himself staring at a living likeness of someone he knew only from her many published photos. Sarah Kellam was a dead ringer for Amelia Earhart.
“Hi, Sarah. I'm so sorry to meet you like this. Your grandfather was a fine gentleman.”
Anger flashed in the girl's eyes, which had fixed on his with a probing energy. Swollen reddened tissue surrounding them gave the unwavering pale blue at the center a prosecutorial acuity.
“You didn't know Gramps. That's just bullshit. You're a fucking lawyer.” She spat the words at him in an alto snarl. Her stare held steady on his face an extra heartbeat before she turned to her teacher. “Why did you have to bring a damn lawyer here, Mr. Salzwedel?” Her voice rose in volume and pitch. “They're all vultures. He must think we have money or something.” She turned back to Blow, glaring, face scarlet.
Blow inhaled deeply, let it out. A couple of crows on a power line overhead were arguing, as if taking sides in the discussion below. Blow shrugged, kept his voice calm. “It's a job, Sarah. And you're right, I didn't know your grandfather, not like you did. But my dad used to bring me to his store when I was growing up. He was always friendly and kind to me and my sister. I've been by a few times since then. He remembered me. I was telling you the truth. He was a fine gentleman. To me, always.”
The girl's eyes never left Blow's, but they softened as he spoke. They flicked down a second or two when he'd finished, then returned to his. He had seen her wipe the tears from her face as she'd approached. Now they were back, diluting rage with a glistening fragility.
“So why are you here?” The edge was gone but her voice carried a note of cautious skepticism. Blow looked at Salzwedel. Using gentle language and inflections, the teacher explained the danger Sarah's family was facing. He emphasized that Blow could be their buffer from media inquiries. Blow would help them secure the historic materials.
“If you and your mother agree, Sarah, Mr. Stone can keep them in his office safe. No one can steal them that way, and no one can see them without his permission--”.
Blow cut in, “And yours, too, of course, Sarah. Your permission, too, and your mother's. I would check with you before showing any of it to anyone. It would take a court order for anyone to get to see that musket or anything you have that your great-great-grandfather wrote.”
The skepticism resurged, darkening her face. “And how much would you charge us for that?”
“To hold those things for you? Nothing, Sarah. The only way your mother would owe me anything is if she were to hire me as her attorney, and we could talk about that some other time. The thing is, right now is when you need to secure those items. There are powerful people who want to get their hands on them. Powerful, dangerous people.”
“Is that why somebody killed Mr. Gunther?”
Blow and Salzwedel exchanged a quick glance. “Why would you think that, Sarah? Did Mr. Gunther know what you have?”
“He sure did. He tried to buy it from Gramps. Gramps threatened to shoot him if he didn't leave the store.”
“Do you know how Mr. Gunther found out? That you had these things?”
“Sure. Because he read my blog. He must've seen one of my student records, is what I think. My middle name is Hosner.”
Silence reigned then. Anyone driving by might have thought Blow, Sarah and Salzwedel were entranced. Even the crows stopped jabbering.
Sarah crumpled suddenly, her face a mask of teenage agony. “Oh my God,” she blurted, and stamped her feet. “Oh, God. I killed Gramps! Oh, God no. Oh, God...”