Wrenna launched into a technical explanation—slightly dumbed down—of how the Klemperer Group’s considerable computing power had been dedicated to teasing from the Internet information regarding Miss H-V. Beyond the occasional “Ah?” or “Really?” Semple didn’t know what to say. At last the narrative came to an end. “And you found nothing out about her?”
“Not a scintilla. There’s no proof that your housekeeper has lived on Earth. No birth certificate or passport is associated with a woman like the one you described, having the name Hegyi-Virág. There are no credit cards, no driver’s license, no bank accounts; no retinal scans; not even a library card.”
“Did not having her Christian name hobble your search?”
“Knowing that would have been helpful but in the end it wasn’t much of an obstacle to overcome.”
Semple drew a deep breath. “What will this wild goose chase set me back?”
She laughed. “That’s the kind of practical question I would expect to hear from Mother. Consider it gratis, Father.”
“Then Herr Klemperer is an extremely generous man. Please thank him for me.”
There was another peal of laughter. “It’s best that my boss remains in the dark about this particular topic. To be honest, I ran the search remotely from my apartment over several nights, when the system capacity wasn’t being fully utilized.”
“I do not know what to make of this fragmentary information.”
“Try not to worry, Father. Not leaving a trail of electronic breadcrumbs is unusual in the Twenty-first Century but that doesn’t make Miss H-V an axe murderer. Oops: I’ve got to go. Love you!”
Wrenna’s face disappeared in a blink and the laptop screen was again filled with text. It occurred to Semple that he had just wasted a portion of irretrievable creative time, and for no good reason. He massaged his face then bent to his work. Just as he had been back in the rhythm of things for almost an hour a new Skype call came in.
“Oh hello, Maisie. I don’t mean to be short but thus far today my writing schedule has been a dog’s breakfast. I really must finish the chapter I’ve been working on.”
“I apologize, Papa.” Maisie’s personality was the more conventional of the twins’. The undercurrent of French in the background indicated that Maisie was calling from her cubicle in the literary agency in Rouen. She wore an expensive tweed business suit and a thick plait of shiny black hair was draped over her left shoulder.
“Wrenna texted me right after she spoke with you. This H-V woman concerns me. If my sister was unable to track her down, then your housekeeper must have a good reason to mask or erase her identity, don’t you think? What if she is a terrorist?”
“Miss H-V has her quirks but I very much doubt she fits the profile of an anarchist.”
“’Quirks?’ Whatever do you mean by that, Father?”
Semple wished he could take back his last remark. “Oh, just a few small things. You needn’t worry about them.”
When it came to inheriting Emma’s personality traits, Maisie had Wrenna beat, hands down. She was like a terrier that, once she had something in her jaws, worried it to death.
“Father, I have holiday time coming to me; why don’t I pop over for a short visit?”
Semple knew she really meant: “Why don’t I investigate this woman in person, as I think she’s got you hoodwinked?”
“I appreciate the offer but there is no reason for you to use your time off for that purpose.” Semple’s irritation got the best of him. “If I feel a need to be rescued I’ll let you know. I really must get back to work. Goodbye!”
* * *
The wisdom of seeking advice about his housekeeper gnawed on Semple for the rest of the morning. As capable—and concerned—as the twins were, damned if he would give them free rein into exploring his affairs. By noon he had reconsidered the matter. Picking up his mobile he made a call that left him feeling both hopeful and somewhat nervous.
Down in the kitchen Semple ate lunch then he fished a rectangle of card stock from his shirt pocket and propped it against the water glass. It read:
Dear Miss Hegyi-Virág: this evening I shall dine out.
You need not prepare a meal for me.
Semple shut down the computer on the stroke of six. He shaved for the second time that day and showered. He put on a crisp white shirt, the midnight blue suit not worn since Emma’s funeral and a red silk tie. Standing before the lavatory mirror he gave himself the once-over. When last had he taken such care over his appearance? Indeed, what reason had he for doing so now? Semple splashed cologne on his cheeks and left the house.
[© 2019 Robert Edwin Stone, II]