Chapter 1 – The Meeting
Bob Smith was bored.
He sat in his apartment in a small town in Upstate New York wondering why he had decided to come back to this place on this particular weekend. It was not like it was a holiday weekend or that anything special was happening. There was this small piece of business concerning his Mothers estate that he had attended to on Friday but other than that, he had nothing to do. He thought about it and decided that as he was on vacation, he was going to enjoy it.
His mother had passed on a six months before and she was the last of his immediate family. His Father had left them when he was still a child so he had little memories of him. He did have a brother and sister but both of them had long left this small village, one to teach at Oneida University and the other had married and was the proud mother of two girls. She lived in Schenectady, not too far south on the Thruway. As the oldest and as yet unmarried one of the family, it had fallen to him to act as Executor for his Mother and Friday’s business closed that episode.
Bob Smith was an Engineer with a large Pipe-Line Company. He spent a great deal of his life travelling from job to job which accounted for the reason why he was not yet married. He kept this little apartment for some stability so that he had a place to call home when he was not on the job. Actually, as he sat there looking out of the window, he wondered if it even made sense for him to maintain a separate living place as the company always paid for his lodgings wherever he worked.
He had been with this company, The William Jones Construction Company for many years joining them soon after he graduated from New York State University as an Engineer. He had worked his way up until he was one of the top Engineers running the larger projects. He had many men at his disposal and when he was on the job, spent long hours on the job site. When he had any free time, he liked to hike the mountain trails sometimes with others but mostly alone, just him and nature. His work was his main interest and he didn’t really have any hobbies so for him to be sitting around with nothing to do was a little more than he was used to.
Bob Smith sighed and looked at his watch. It said 3:00 pm. It was a nice Spring day and the sun was shining so he decided to go out for a walk around this small village and then maybe stop at the Coffee Shop. He did still knew a few people and thought he may run into one of them so that at least he could talk to somebody… anybody. The village really only composed of the Main Street with a couple of branch streets with the Coffee Shop situated next to the Bank that he had helped build fifteen years ago.He walked in and looked around.
There were a couple of tables with businessmen looking as papers and another had a family with kids. He checked up at the counter and sat down in one of the empty seats with an older gentleman on the one side and a young good-looking women on the other. “Excuse me” he said to the young woman, “Is this seat taken”? “Go ahead” she said “No one is sitting there”. “Thank you. I’m much obliged” he said.
He ordered a latte and sat there deep in thought and was not aware that the young woman was addressing him until she touched him on the arm. “Are you from around here” she said “I haven’t seen you in here before”. “Well you could say that originally I am from here but my work takes me away a lot so I don’t get back too often” he said “Do you live here”? “Yes, I own the beauty salon up the street and just stopped in for a coffee”. “My name is Angela, what’s yours” she asked. “Bob Smith, pleased to meet you” he responded. “I could use a haircut, do you cut men’s hair”? he asked. “Yes, stop by around four o’clock as I am free at that time and will cut your hair personally” she said. She paid her bill taking three coffees to go he guessed for her co-workers. “We’re three stores up on the right”.
He looked at his watch and saw that he still had fifteen minutes to spend so he turned to the older guy on the other side and struck up a conversation with him. “Wait a minute” said Bob “I know you, you used to own the hardware store on 4th Street. You still run that”? The older gentlemen turned to Bob. “Frank Jones’ of Jones’ Hardware and yes, I still own it. Business is a little slow so I stopped in for a coffee. Do I know you”. “Don’t know if you remember me as the last time I was back was about six months ago. Name’s Bob Smith and my Mom was Jeanie Smith who died six months ago. I’m just back in town on business attending to her Estate”. Bob said. “Wasn’t there some mystery over her death, might I ask. Some sort of suspicious circumstances”? Frank Jones said “Yes, they are treating it as a suspicious death but have not been able to come up with any leads and have not really determined the cause of death. It has all of the signs of a heart attack but they are not sure. They are still looking but I don’t hold out too many hopes” said Bob. “Too bad. She was a nice lady. My sympathies to you and your family” said Frank Jones as he got up to leave. “Stop by the store sometime”.
I walked over to Angela’s Salon a couple of buildings up and as I walked in, noticed there were three other chairs all taken by ladies in various stages of having their hair done. The place was bright and cheerful and the radio was playing lively music in the background. “Hey everyone, this is Bob Smith, visiting from out of State. Bob, this is Josie and that is Mrs Black in the chair”. I turned and said hello after I recovered from this introduction. I thought I was going to slide in and slide out without anyone noticing me and hadn’t bargained for this. “This is Jackie and in the chair is Mrs Williams and over in the corner is Evelyn with Jan Bricker in the chair. Everyone, say Hi to Bob”. There was a chorus of “Hello’s” from the assembled group. Jan Bricker said she was sorry to hear about my Mom. Turns out they were acquaintances. I thanked her and turned away and they all went back to their own conversations.
I turned back to Angela whose last name was McPherson as she introduced herself more formally. “Thanks a lot” I said “Now everyone will know me” and laughed. Angela kept up a steady stream of conversation as she washed and then expertly cut my hair. “Don’t forget to cut my eyebrows “I said, “They grow big and bushy without adequate care”. She laughed and trimmed the offending items. “It’s been six months since I was back and when I was here before, I always had my Mom to keep me company. What does a person do for entertainment other than eating and drinking”. I asked. “You’re in luck” she exclaimed, “There is a Dance at the VFW this evening which is open to everyone. Why not go to that”? I knew where the VFW was and thanked her for her information and said “Goodbye” to the assembled ladies. I walked out to a cheery farewell from them and wondered what they would be talking about now that I wasn’t there.