Classic Round Robin ~ Chapter 7

by Alyssa G.

 

A quick cab ride brought Catherine to a French restaurant that she and her father had often frequented back in her corporate law days.

The manager, upon spotting her outside, hurried to open the door for her and welcome her inside.

“Ms. Chandler! It has been far too long. Your father is waiting for you at your usual table.”

“Thank you, Janette, it’s wonderful to see you, too. I see married life agrees with you. ” Catherine smiled, gesturing to the smiling woman’s waistline, or rather, lack thereof. 

Janette laughed, her blond hair swaying as she walked Catherine to her table. “Only three more weeks to go . . . assuming this little one agrees to wait that long! My staff keeps telling me to take it easy. I think they’re afraid I’m going to go into labor in front of them.”

Catherine had to laugh at that. “I certainly hope not! Though it would be a pretty interesting story to embarrass him or her with someday.”

As they reached a table in a private corner of the restaurant a distinguished gentleman with a warm smile rose to greet them. “Aah, there’s my beautiful girl . . . and what’s this?” Charles Chandler smiled, while making a production of checking his watch. “Not even fashionably late! Who are you, and what have you done with my favorite daughter?”

“Dad, I’m your only daughter,” Catherine answered with a grin, as she leaned over to kiss her father’s cheek in greeting.

“I’ll send your waiter over. Enjoy your meal.”

“Thank you,” Charles answered, as he sat back down. “So, Catherine, tell me. How is the DA’s office treating you these days? Are you working on anything interesting?”

“I doubt you asked me to meet you for lunch just to discuss my work.”

“Well . . . .” Charles picked up his wine glass and toyed with it for a minute.  “We could discuss your love life, if you’d rather not talk about the office.”

Great, thought Catherine, here we go again. “Actually, Dad, there is something that I wanted to discuss with you.”

“Oh?”

“Yes.” Catherine took a deep breath in an effort to gather her thoughts and plunged on. “I know about what happened earlier this week. You scared me, Dad. Are you all right?”

“Cathy . . . .” Charles reached over and briefly squeezed his daughter’s hand. “I’m sorry to have worried you, really I am.” Charles shook his head while pretending to study the menu for a moment, before closing it with a snap. “I can’t believe Kay told you. She’s knows how I feel about this.”

“Kay? I haven’t spoken to Kay in weeks.”

“Peter? I don’t believe this! You know, doctor – patient confidentiality used to mean something.” Charles turned around, and signaled to the waiter that he was ready to order.

After they finished placing their orders, Catherine stared at her father in confusion.

“Dad? What are you talking about? No one had to tell me anything. The story was in all the local papers.” Catherine thought for a minute more, then added, “Given who else was there at the time, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover it made some of the national ones as well.”

“Why would my heart condition make the papers?”

Heart condition?” Catherine jumped out of her seat and came around to her father’s side of the table.

“Now, now . . . let’s have none of that.” Charles said, as he used his silk handkerchief to dry his daughter’s tearing eyes. “I am just fine, and I intend to stay that way for a good while longer, I promise you that. Besides”, he couldn’t resist adding, “you don’t think I’d leave you alone until I was sure you found your someone special, do you?”

“Dad, I thought we agreed to let that drop”, Catherine said as she returned to her seat.

At least she’s forgotten about my health – for the moment anyway. “All right, all right, I’ll behave myself – for now.” He sighed dramatically, while rolling his eyes heavenward. “Of course, a father can’t be blamed for wanting his only child to be happy. You know it’s all your mother and I ever wanted for you.”

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

Catherine chuckled. “You can stop the guilt trip.”

“On one condition,” he answered with a smile.

“What?”

“I won’t give you a hard time about the men, or rather the lack of men, in your life, if you agree not to worry yourself sick about my health.” Charles stuck his hand out across the table. “Agreed?”

Catherine sighed and took her father’s hand in her own. “Agreed. But only on the condition that you tell me what’s going on. I don’t want to find out about these things because of a random slip of the tongue.”

“Well, I can tell you inherited my lawyer genes . . . all right, counselor, it’s a deal. But, wait a minute, if you weren’t talking about my health, what were you talking about?”

“The incident in the park. I saw your picture, I know you were there.”

Charles pulled out his most charming smile and figured he’d see if playing the innocent would get him anywhere. “So what if I was? I was on a quiet stroll on a quiet night with a new lawyer in our office…a fine young man…actually, now that I think about it…”

“Dad.” Catherine knew her father well enough to know where this conversation would head if she let him get away with it. “I don’t want to hear about any fine young man, I want to hear about you. Why were you in the park so late at night? Were you there to see Helena?”

“No…I can’t say that I was. If I wanted to see her, it would have been easy enough to arrange.” Charles raised his wine glass, adding, “There are advantages to being on the board of so many of our city’s finest artistic institutions, including the one that Helena is currently performing at.” 

“Do you think you could arrange an introduction for me? I’d love to meet her.”

“There’s a reception for the opera company tomorrow night. Why don’t you come with me? It would be wonderful to attend an elegant affair with a beautiful woman on my arm.”

“I’ll have to see if I can rearrange my schedule a bit, but I’d love to.” Catherine looked up at her father with a knowing smile. “But just for the record, Dad, I happen to have it on good authority that you already have a beautiful woman in your life.”

“Oh?”

“Uh huh.” Catherine smirked, thoroughly enjoying the sight of her father squirming in his seat, looking very much like a child who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “So…have you asked her yet?”

“Asked who? Asked what? Now, Cathy, I don’t know what you think you know, but…”

“Dad…” Catherine smiled and shook her head, amazed that her usually forthright father was this shy about his own romantic entanglements. He certainly had no difficulties discussing hers! “Dad! I ran into Marty Howards, yesterday . . . as in Marty Howards of Howards Jewelry?” She laughed at the sight of her father blushing. “He wished me congratulations on my father’s upcoming marriage. Apparently you’d been in recently to look at engagement rings. Dad, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Can’t a man keep a few things to himself, at least for a little while? Besides, it’s not like you tell me everything.”

Uh, oh…just the kind of thing I don’t need him thinking about my life. “Is this because I’m not more open with you about my personal life?” Catherine was tired of being this evasive with her father about her love life, but what choice did she have?

“Actually, it’s about that night in the park.” Charles leaned over the table, his eyes meeting his daughter’s head on. “Cathy, I saw something that night, something I just can’t get out of my mind. There was this woman…she ran out from behind a tree towards someone who was being beaten by a group of men. Cathy . . . I need you to be honest with me. Was that you?”

Catherine was saved from immediately answering her father’s question by the sounds of shattering glass and a woman’s scream.  

 

 

 

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