I offer to take Ingrid, Kayla and Kendra for ice cream.
“I”m about to leave my office now. I’ll just put on something less formal and we can head down to the Smiarowski’s Farm Stand in Sunderland.”
“I would love that. I was looking at the map. Is that on the other side of the River?”
“Yes, it will give you a different view of the area. And Smiarowski’s had both hard and soft serve. They’ve got you covered. On another note, did the girls like the campus?”
“We want to tell you all about our impressions when we see you. Do you think we could see one of the boarder’s rooms before we head back to the Vineyard?”
“Absolutely. If you are willing to stay until Monday, I can have Kendra talk to our Admissions Director and she can have an informal interview. That will give you time to learn about the nuts and bolts. I hate to steal you away from Martha’s Vineyard, though.”
“No, this makes me a lot more comfortable. Let’s talk about staying. So the girls and I will be ready to go in about twenty minutes, that about right?”
“Perfect. I’ll toot my horn when I’ m all set to go. You should hear it up in the guest apartment.”
I had spent the early part of the afternoon writing up reports as well as a community email about the swan’s brutal murder. How am I going to put a “spin” on that for Ingrid, I wonder? Would I let my child attend school where there was an incident such as this one? Whenever I am faced with difficult questions and challenging decisions, I find myself reflecting upon what my father would have done were he here. Often, that helps. I have a great deal of respect for the Head of Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y.. We call each other from time to time to discuss topics that range from improving the quality of food, plagiarism on campus and finding professional clothes that flatter and do not look frumpy. I did not call today because I did not want to disrupt her weekend anymore than necessary.
Whately Prep is starting to have a trickle of administrators and staff arrive. They are officially due on campus tomorrow. We lease space to an English as a Second Language Program for students from the Pacific Rim countries as well as a nationally known Tennis Academy. The Academy raises the bar for large numbers of students over the course of he summer. Both programs last about eight weeks. They will be clearing out, dorms will be turning over, in the third week of August. Pre-season athletes return to campus a week later. The academic year starts two weeks later. This cycle of comings and goings stays fairly fixed year-to-year. The current addition of graveyard mischief and fowl mayhem adds a wrinkle that will have to be addressed aggressively so it does not get out of hand. My instinct is to call in outside help. Robert Parker has done some work for us in the past; he’s a P.I. who finds run-aways, truant spouses, missing money. He’s the kind of guy whom it is nice to have on your side. I will call him from the house.
As I start up the walk to my front door, I see UPS must have delivered a package. As I get closer, I see that the small, brown box is wrapped and addressed with my name. It strikes me as odd that there is no return address, However, we are relaxed on our campus. Perhaps, too lax. If I stepped over the package and unlatched the door, I am ninety percent sure that I left it unlocked. I reach in my purse and pull out my set of keys. I use one to break the seal of the tape. I set the box on a small outdoor table that fits nicely on the porch. As I pry back the flaps of the box, it takes me several beats before I process what I am seeing. When I am certain that I have identified it correctly, I drop the box, vault down the steps, and lose my lunch in the bushes in front of the house. I fumble with my phone and call Carl.
“I need you.”
I edge back to the porch where the box lay on its side. The contents have spilled out; the swan’s heart is sealed in a ziplock bag with a note. “Yours next.”
My legs wobble. I sit down hard on the front steps, with my hands folded, elbows on knees. I suppose this means no Smiarowki’s Farm.