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"What's your sister's name?" The counter man.
"Katelin." Jack said with a straight face.
They filled out the paper. The university had special rooms for visiting Alum, but just a few, and they were lucky to get one. The rooms were scattered all over the place, there were even some that were caretaker apartments years ago in academic buildings. The one they got for Jack's mysterious older sister was in the old library building that was now the music hall annex.
They argued a little more, for the benefit of the counter man, then walked out. They floated to Mary's room to get a few things, namely a full bottle of white wine that was on top of her TV. Then they left without a word to anybody where they were going.
The room's door was just inside the back door of the music hall. The sign over the old door still read 'book delivery' carved into the old stone lintel. Jack unlocked the door and peeked inside. Then they heard the string section of the orchestra practicing upstairs.
"Perfect." They both said simultaneously.
Jack even picked her up and carried her inside.
The room was nice enough, a full miniature apartment. Jack hung the "OCCUPIED' sign on the door and locked the deadbolt, then put the chain on the door, then propped the desk chair under the doorknob. Mary stuck the phone in the bottom drawer of the dresser wrapped in a towel.
Then in the middle of the room, to the music of the strings they found each other.
Colleen was giving Dale the rundown on each display in the Meditation room. She showed him the intricate calligraphy on the small series of Islamic plaques, and a urn that was painted with a delicate design inside and out from the Caliph of someplace Dale had never heard of years and years ago. The Catholic alcove looked like a church, the Jewish display was complete with a Torah scroll, and the candlestick, 'menorah' Colleen called it. Then the Buddah collection was obviously her favorite.
"There are statuettes from all over the world, some are hundreds of years old, this one," She carefully picked up a green carved stone figurine. "Is a perfect unflawed niece of jade nearly a century old."
Dale was relieved she didn't hand the figure to him, he was positive he would drop it and end up paying for it for the next hundred years. She described the significance of the lotus, then talked about how to touch your own soul. She was silent for a minute, looking at a very small Buddha, a tiny thing almost lost on the shelf.
Dale looked at it too.
"This is new." She said slowly.
"New?" Dale whispered. "It looks old."
Colleen looked at it with reverence. "It probably is old, but it wasn't here a couple of days ago." She smiled at the freshman. "Would you like to help me solve this mystery?"
Dale nodded an enthusiastic yes. Colleen assumed a reverent stance and asked religious items of the room for wisdom and patience.
Dale hesitatingly asked "me too" under his breath with half-closed eves.
Colleen first wanted to question the butler, she said he changed the fresh flowers on a couple of the alcoves every day early in the morning. "The Madonna gets a fresh lei daily, and the lotus bowls about every other day, and the other two get fresh plants about every other week, the House supplies it all, early in the morning there is a fresh flower delivery for the entire house, its a lot of flowers two big baskets a couple of times a week, and always at least an armload."
They found the butler. He had noticed the small Buddha one day last week when he was checking to see if the room had been dusted, sometimes he said, the housekeepers needed checked behind. But he had no idea where it had come from. This seemed to upset him slightly.
Colleen thanked him and asked Dale if he had time to go to the library with her. She wanted to check some art books to see where it had been carved. "Statues that small can't be very common, there has to be a single monastery someplace that specializes in carving them."
Dale agreed and they took the limmo over to the library.
They held each other very close, it was a long time before either said any thing. Then it was mostly sweet nothings and idle mumbling.
Jack smiled at her and held her hands tightly. "Let's see if there is any ice in that fridge."
She nodded. Since the wine was warm, they didn't have much choice.
There was. But the only cups they had were plastic motel type cups. Jack poured the drinks and Mary looked around, she had a sudden thought that was out of sync but she said it anyway. "Jack, how's Bonker doing, I haven't heard anything for awhile."
Jack looked at her. She was sitting on the bed, digging in her purse.
"Oh, he's out of intensive care but still in the hospital. The team doc says he's lucky to be alive. He had some sort of infection but he seems to be doing OK now." Jack brought her her wine.
"Iced wine takes some getting used to. But it's better than hot wine." Mary sipped it. "Its ok."
Jack put the rest of the bottle in the fridge. They sat and toasted her deviousness, and kissed nearly spilling his wine in the process. She had back on the bed and pulled him down to her. It was the greatest kiss in the history of the human race, or at least in the top ten.
In a few minutes their clothes were a lot looser, the wine forgotten, and the temperature in the room was several degrees warmer, or so it seemed. They kissed and let their hands wander while the muffled ringing of the phone demanded they stop. They didn't stop, the ringing did eventually.
They heard shuffling and talking in the hall outside, nobody knocked on the door. The voices went away, then a few minutes later they heard what sounded like a jazz ensemble warming up in the practice room down the hall.
Jack and Mary ignored the urge to dance.
They were very involved when Jack leaned away from her and asked a loaded question. "Did you bring one?" He whispered.
It took Mary a minute to figure out what he meant. "No, I thought there was one in my purse, there isn't. You don't have one?"
He shook his head slowly.
Mary offered a solution. "Let's just keep this up and get one later. We got this room for two days."
"I thought you only paid for one night? You gave them forty dollars for us to be alone?" Mary smiled. Jack shook his head, "I love you."
Jack grabbed her and pulled her over on top of him, they almost fell off the bed. Mary had decided that, yes, she was probably really in love with this nut. Whatever else he was, he wasn't boring.
Colleen knew the library like it was hers. She led him through the stacks upstairs, into an area that hadn't seen daylight for years. Then she started pulling books off the shelves and handing them to him almost faster than he could hang on to them. He got a look at a couple of titles, Eastern Art History, said one thick book, then there was one with half the title in Chinese or something. Another read in French what Dale translated with high school French into 'Religious Art Objects-volume three' Colleen lead him to a table. Then he noticed she was carrying several books herself.
She took the ones that weren't in English and told him to look in the indexes for Buddha's, Hindu, India, and so on checking mainly for pictures or drawings, she'd read the text later.
The search was on. Dale was content, he felt like a real scientist doing research into something that might be really important. He even thought of a question to ask her when he found a picture of a small statue.
"How tall is our Buddha?"
Colleen looked up, she thought for a second with her eves closed visualizing the object. "Almost eleven millimeters tall, about five wide. I'll measure it when we get back, but that's close enough for now."
Peggy and Jeannie talked awhile about everything from the fire to professor that was in trouble, then Jeannie wanted to know what Peggy had come over to talk about.
"Jeannie, I had a fantasy, with Dale."
"You're still seeing him?"
"Shush, I had a fantasy with Dale and he wasn't in it."
"Well. Good for you, who was the fantasy about? Anybody I know?" Jeannie leaned foreword, ready for all the details.
"No it wasn't like that, I was kissing Dale. Just a kiss, no tongues or anything, but it wasn't Dale, I knew I was kissing him, but I thought it was somebody else, except it was very real I could almost feel him holding me. The other guy, not Dale because he wasn't holding me. Understand?" Peggy was out of breath.
"Girl. You had a good one." Jeannie pushed her lips out so much they nearly covered her whole lower face. "Who was the other guy?"
"The Sun Singer." Peggy said. Jeannie gave her a blank stare. Peggy repeated the name and described the statue.
"I wanna see him. Let's go see your bronze lover." Jeannie giggled.
They walked to the Mansion. Jeannie had never been in it, and Peggy promised to show her around.
In the garden Jeannie took one look at the statue and just stared.
She left the grounds without a word without seeing the mansion.
Their play had one about as far as it could go and still stop.
They stopped, had a sip of wine, and decided to either go to the Grand Grocery, Film, Deli, Pharmacy, Autoteller, and Parcel Drop if you read the front of the building, most people just called it 'GG', or just simply die right then and there.
They walked into the store hand in hand, they even stopped to kiss gently just outside the store. The place was fairly empty this late in the evening. The GG was open twenty-four hours, and was a haven for the late night fried chicken crowd and those looking for persimmon flavored gelatin at three in the morning. Jack and Mary wandered the aisles, got what they came for, and some snacks. They were looking at the wines on sale when they heard a piercing voice. Leon was heading toward them.
"Hey Jack! Where've you been? The new soccer coach, ahhh, Coach Mackey, has been looking all over for you. He says you can come back on the team. You know they fired almost all the coaches anyway..."
"I thought the whole program was canned. Done. Finished." Jack was stunned. Mary looked at both of them.
"Well it was. Sort of." Leon waved his overlong arm in circles. "The conference reinstated soccer and basketball when the university fired everybody. Our team will end up with a few forfeits and start a week or two later. But the soccer team will be back playing in a week, of course the games may not count..."
Leon was six foot ten, he looked like a skeleton that needed a good meal. His arms, neck, legs, everything were too long, and his ears proved God had a fine sense of humor.
His trademark 'windmill slam' was undefendable, the opposing players were too busy getting out of his way. Leon could play net defense better than some pros, and had no ego, he was modest to the point some thought he was acting. His only problem was, his movements weren't as fluid and graceful as the bigger schools and pros wanted.
Mary liked Leon, but she knew this was the end to their romantic interlude when Mark, a JV player showed up and added his voice to the persuasion of Jack to come back to the team.
"Every player will have to be drug tested before the first game, then urine tested once a week the rest of the season. Everybody. Coaches, trainers, players. Maybe even the cheerleaders."
Jack asked why he was being allowed back on. The other two looked at each other. "You haven't heard? Frank broke before the arraignment. He told stories, named names, set up his supplier, its all very secret but we find things out." Leon smiled.
Jack thought about it. "Did my name come up in all that."
Mary took a deep breath. She examined a display of corn chips intently.
Peggy was left standing in the driveway of the mansion watching Jeannie walk down the sidewalk in a great hurry. She had no idea what had gotten into her friend.
Jeannie knew exactly what had gotten into her. The statue of the Sun Singer had what her grandmother called 'power'. Jeannie was sure of it. She wished she had sent more time with the old woman, but it was too late now. Her grandmother was still alive, still sharp, and was considered a 'wisewoman' within her clan. She saw things nobody else did, knew things nobody told her, and could predict baseball scores with some accuracy. Her talents were respected by the older people of her community, but most of Jeannie's friends thought the old people were just superstitious, though Jeannie had always been fascinated by the beliefs.
Jeannie remembered her Grandmother telling her of objects with power, some had spirits in them, others had a personality within them. Jeannie had always been suspicious of the computer in her father's office. But now she knew, this statue in the garden had power of some sort, even Jeannie felt it.
Jeannie walked into the sorority house with several ideas of what to do to get ahold of her grandmother in New York.
"Jeannie! You got a phone call. She says she's Mama Hellwater."
A chill spread through Jeannie. "Grandma Hellwater, I was just thinking of you. When did you get a phone?"
Colleen was staring with a terrible frown on her pretty face at the picture and description of several small Buddha's Dale had found in one of the thick books. The work was identical to their Buddha. But the stone was different. In fact all four of the pictures were of identical carvings in different stones. One was ivory, another was in a blue stone, and another was in green/blue jade.
"According to the text the monks travel on foot all over their country, and now all over the world, picking up small perfect stones to take home where they are all identically carved into the exact same statue. Modern instruments cannot usually measure differences between the statues, ones carved today against ones a hundred years ago. The monastery is in the worst of the Burma rain forest." She was reading to herself as she talked to Dale. It turned out the book had one more photo of a statuette, actual size with some measurements, Dale wrote them down as Colleen read them. Then they left for the house to see if, indeed, part of the mystery had been solved.
Dale asked another question, "What if a statue isn't perfect?"
"The book says the imperfect ones are crushed and used in the stone garden around the monastery. Since only a few of the monks are master carvers I imagine a lot of them are crushed while the novices are learning to carve."
"Why all the same statue?"
"Its a Zen type of thing Dale. They are achieving harmony by giving the same likeness to many different types of stone, difference is harmony as well, but they are striving for a sameness within the difference. Why such a small statue, who knows, maybe the attention to microscopic detail gives them insight into another dimension of their own consciousness. It's give me a headache." She smiled.
Mike punched Jack's arm. "Sure did, Coach talked about how much they must have leaned on you to give that statement. Everybody knows you didn't like Frank and that crowd, but hell man, we're all on the same team." Mike put his arms around Jack and Leon and shook them solidly while smiling at Mary.
Mary smiled back and walked toward the camera counter.
Jack patted Mike's shoulder and asked why they were out to the store in the middle of the night.
"We needed cookies, and some eggnog mix, and some frozen onion rings.
"And a pepperoni pizza." Leon added.
Trying not to think about that combination Jack said he'd see the coach first thing in the morning and went after Mary.
They weren't quite in the same mood as when they had first walked into the store. Jack seemed to have another reason to live now.
He was back on the team, well, almost back on the team. He was excited about that for a few minutes. Then, right in front of the automatic teller machine...
"Mary." He grabbed her and spun her around to him, kissing her long and hard. "Lets get out of here.
They walked out to the Toy, Jack's car, and kissed again inside. Mary clutched the bag containing their purchases, and smiled at Jack, she was happy for him, she really was. Jack turned the ignition of the Toy, and nothing happened.
"Its OK, it does this once in awhile." He got out and fiddled under the hood. Then tried the key again. "Really, it'll start in a minute." More fiddling with this and that under the hood, then under the dashboard. This time turning the key produced a grinding howl from underneath, a shuddering of the whole car, several loud pops and some crackling, then a loud 'KCRLUNK! ' and silence.
"OK" Jack said after a minute, "It's never done that before." He stared at the dashboard, then tried the key again. Nothing.
Mary took his hand off the wheel. "It's a nice night for a walk, maybe you'll get lucky and somebody will steal it."
Peggy was just leaving the TV lounge when Colleen and Dale walked in.
Dale told her what was going on and they followed Colleen to the meditation room. Dale found the pale in her notes with the measurements Colleen and Peggy measured the statue. The measurements were exact.
"This is a wonderful place Colleen, I didn't know it was here. Peggy said looking around. Colleen explained it to her, Dale added some from what he had been told just a few hours before, then they were all invited to a special tea given by Poi Kareem, the Saudi prince, to celebrate the birth of his nephew.
Peggy was still dressed up enough but Dale was sent upstairs for a tie.
Then something about a 'charge d'affaires' from the Saudi conciliate in Chicago would be coming, sent the house from a proper calm into a cry of 'battle stations!'
Suddenly the main hall was transformed from the daily sedate to an international reception area. Flowers were rounded up and re-arranged into large showy pieces. Peggy was set to work polishing some odd pieces of formal silver.
A few hasty calls pulled in enough local dignitaries to ensure the proper mention of the event on the local news, who was also called and briefed, and the local newspaper's society page editor.
This was how the Rozbilski House staved in the mainstream of society while staying out of mainstream society.
The butler was everywhere. Moving people and furniture, setting up and taking down. Never breaking a sweat.
They had an hour and a half from the word that the 'charge d'affaires' was coming to the tea to celebrate the new heir to the throne. But they were done with time to spare.
The limmo driver called from the airport. The party of four was in hand, on the way. Changes to the seating arrangement to accommodate the extra visitors were made immediately. The first to arrive was the academic dean of the university, and a member of the board of trusties.
They were greeted, and briefed on diplomatic etiquette.
The city's deputy mayor showed up, followed closely by the local congressman. There was a brief power struggle as who should be at the head of the reception line, which was settled when former governor Howard showed up at the last minute.
"Governor Howard" The butler smiled, "Good to see you again." The gentleman had been a resident at the house while in law school many years ago.
The 'charge d'affaires' arrived. He was in a very formal western style suit as was another gentleman with him, but their two aids were in traditional garb. He worked the receiving line like a master and introduced his guests to the group with great flourish, Mister Nassr was to be the next ambassador to Canada from Saudi Arabia, and he was not comfortable with western ways, as was exhibited by his unease in his wool suit and tie.
Dale shook hands with them and tried to disappear, but there was no way out. The tea began in the hall, with music by a string quintet from the campus, and the evening was off to a grand start.
Mary got out of the car. She could smell burnt wiring. Jack slammed his door and stood there.
"Well. I'm still in a good mood. And I want to get you back to our room." He kicked the Toy. The car didn't respond.
Mary took his hand and steered him back toward the campus. They turned down rides from almost a dozen people in everything from hot rods to dump trucks. They talked and walked, even sipping from the quart bottle of beer.
Eventually they arrived at the room.
It was still empty. No music floated down the hall, but they heard several people talking about music.
They locked the door and relaxed. Jack decided he needed a shower after the mess with the car and the walk. Mary agreed and turned on the TV. While he showered, she fell asleep.
Mary woke up later, it was dark outside, her watch said four a.m. Jack was asleep in the chair, his legs propped up on the stool. She got up and washed her face, then she used the complimentary bottle of evil tasting mint mouthwash to dissolve some of the gunk on her teeth. Smiling that yet another romantic interlude had fallen before the firepower of the real world. On the soap opera Cindy watched people were always hopping in and out of bed for no reason at all.
If only they knew how it really was.
"The ratings would knock us off the air." She said to the mirror. She walked over to Jack and gently roused him.
"Come to bed sweetheart." She whispered, he murmured something and followed her lead to the bed. Then he was fast asleep again. Smiling Mary lay beside him and they literally slept together.
Dale quickly decided that formal diplomatic occasions were not his cup of tea. He also decided that he really didn't like tea with cream and sugar. Then he decided that the former governor was a real live windbag.
Peggy had managed to extract herself after the toasts and a short speech by the prince announcing the new heir.
Dale started talking about all the homework he had and begged to be excused. In a few minutes he was upstairs hiding in his room.
Dale did a little homework, after he changed out of his dress clothes. Later he went to check on Peggy. She was in her room but took a minute to answer the door.
"Hi Dale." She closed the door after him.
"I got tired of reading and thought I'd see how you were doing, you got away from the party before I did."
"I wanted to get started on a report." She sat at her desk.
Dale, not the most observant person in the world just noticed that Peggy was in her nightgown with a robe over it.
"Ahhh, I should go. I need to get finished."
He bumped and banged his way out of her room. Dale didn't feel like doing homework, and the reception downstairs had every sign of going well into the night. Dale wandered out into the dead of night, intending to walk back to his old dorm and see Kremin or somebody.
But Dale, being Dale, was sort of lost on his way across the campus. He figured out where he was and headed across the parking lot to the dorms beyond.
"HI! . . . Hi Dale, need a ride?" The voice was familiar but he couldn't place it. She looked familiar as well. Except he really didn't recognize her with her clothes on.
Ellen grinned like a shark.
Dale was trying to figure out who this girl was. He didn't recognize the car. He couldn't see her face, but the voice rang a bell. Then he smelled a very sweet perfume. The voice finally registered.
"Dale, I was angry when you didn't for you to come back, then I called your room. I thought maybe you didn't like me. You do like me don't you Dale?"
Dale nodded at her, then he noticed she wasn't heading toward campus any longer. Dale didn't know the town around the campus, he had walked to a supermarket with some of the guys from the dorm, and there was a small shopping center down the block from the mansion, but other than that he had no idea where the rest of the city was, let alone where Ellen was going.
"There is a nice park just down the road, there is a nice view of the lake, would you like to see it?" Ellen smiled at him.
"Sure." Dale said.
Ellen drove through the gate to the park, Dale got a glimpse of a sign that prohibited beer kegs and unleashed dogs. Ellen seemed to know exactly where she was going even though the road forked several different times. She only slowed down for speed bumps. Then they were there. The overlook wasn't spectacular by any standards.
The lake was too small to give a decent reflection of the moon and sky. The other bank was cluttered with a boat rental stand and a bait shop. There was the glare from a neon sign from off to the right on the other side of the spillway. But it was still a nice place to sit and look.
Except Ellen never just sat and looked.
Jack awoke with a start. He felt something next to him and became disoriented in the strange room. "Who?!?" He squawked with his top lip stuck to his teeth. Suddenly he figured out he was in bed with Mary. But he couldn't remember going to bed with her, or anything else. Jack more or less fell out of the bed and found the bathroom.
While he was rinsing his mouth out he remembered the talk last night with Leon and Mike, he had to get over to the athletic building and find Coach Mackey.
Mary was still asleep, Jack scribbled her a note promising to meet her later, then he left to find the coach and get somebody to tow the Toy back to the house.
Coach Mackey was glad to see Jack and started talking about their triumphant return game next week.
"Oh, by the way Jack, you're team captain. They voted yesterday."
Cont in Two Dorms Part 19
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