AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR
LATER THAT same morning, three men — two lawyers and the judge — sat in a room of the courthouse while Lon finished speaking.
«It’s an unusual request,» the judge answered, thinking about the situation. «It seems to me the trial could very well end today. Are you saying this matter can’t wait until later this evening or tomorrow?»
«No, your honour, it can’t,» Lon answered almost too quickly. He told himself to stay relaxed. He took a deep breath.
«And it has nothing to do with this case?»
«No, your honour. It’s of a personal nature. I know it’s out of the ordinary, but I really need to take care of it.»
The judge leaned back in his chair, looking at him for a moment, and then said, «Mr. Bates, how do you feel about this?»
The lawyer cleared his throat. «Mr. Hammond called me this morning and I’ve already spoken to my clients. They agree to postpone until Monday.»
The judge looked hard at both of them. «I don’t like it,» he said, «not at all. But Mr. Hammond has never made such a request before, and I assume the matter is very important to him.» He paused, then looked at some papers on his desk. «I’ll agree to postpone until Monday; nine o’clock sharp.» «Thank you, your honour,» Lon said.
Two minutes later, he was leaving the courthouse. He walked to the car he had parked directly across the street, got in and began the drive to New Bern. His hands were shaking.
NOAH MADE breakfast for Allie while she slept in the living room. Bacon, rolls and coffee, nothing special. He set the tray beside her as she woke up, and as soon as they had finished eating, they made love again.
They showered and afterwards Allie put on her dress, which had dried overnight. She spent the morning with Noah. Together they fed Clem and checked the windows to make sure no damage bad been done in the storm.
Noah held Allie’s hand most of the morning and they talked easily, but sometimes he stopped speaking and just stared at her. When he did, she felt as though she should say something, but nothing meaningful ever came into her head. She usually just kissed him.
A little before noon, Noah and Allie went in to prepare lunch. Using what he had, they fried some chicken and baked many bread rolls, and the two of them ate on the porch, listening to the birds singing.
While they were inside doing the dishes, they heard a knock at the door. Noah left Allie in the kitchen.
Knock, knock. Louder.
Noah approached the door.
«I’m coming,» he said as he opened the door. «Oh, my God.»
He stared for a moment at a beautiful woman in her early fifties, a woman he recognized at once.
«Hello, Noah,» she said.
Noah said nothing.
«May I come in?» she asked; her voice was steady, showing nothing.
He mumbled a reply as she walked past him, stopping just before the stairs.
«Who is it?» Allie shouted from the kitchen, and the woman turned at the sound of her voice.
«It’s your mother,» Noah finally answered, and immediately after he said it he heard the sound of breaking glass.
«I knew you would be here,» Anne Nelson said to her daughter as the three of them sat around the coffee table in the living room.
«How could you be so sure?»
«You’re my daughter. One day when you have kids of your own, you’ll know the answer.» She smiled, but her manner was tense, and Noah imagined how difficult this was for her. «I saw the article, too, and I saw your reaction. I also saw how nervous you’ve been during the last couple of weeks, and when you said you were going shopping near the coast, I knew exactly what you meant.»
«What about daddy?»
Anne Nelson shook her head, «No, I didn’t tell your father or anyone else about it. Nor did I tell anyone where I was going today.»
«Why did you come?» Allie asked.
«I came because I had to,» her mother said, «Which I’m sure is the same reason you came. Am I right?»
Anne turned to Noah. «I know you don’t think so, but I always liked you. I just didn’t think you were right for my daughter. Can you understand that?»
He shook his head as he answered, «No, not really. It wasn’t fair to me, and it wasn’t fair to Allie. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here.»
She watched him as he spoke, but she said nothing. Allie, sensing an argument, cut in. «What do you mean when you say you had to come? Don’t you trust me?»
Anne turned back to her daughter. «This has nothing to do with trust. This has to do with Lon. He called the house last night to talk to me about Noah, and he’s on his way here right now. He seemed very upset. I thought you’d want to know.» Allie inhaled sharply. «He’s on his way?»
«As we speak. He arranged to have the trial postponed until next week. If he’s not in New Bern yet, he’s close.»
«What did you say to him?»
«Not much. But he guessed. He remembered my telling him about Noah a long time ago.»
Allie swallowed hard, and then asked, «Did you tell him I was here?»
«No. And I won’t. That’s between you and him. But knowing him, I’m sure he’ll find you. All it takes is a couple of phone calls to the right people. After all, I was able to find you.»