December 2, 1922 LAUSANNE, Switzerland: The Chateau Ouchy: The American was twenty-three, tall and muscular, just done with the First World War. He'd recently arrived from Paris to cover the Greek-Turk Peace Conference for the Toronto Star newspaper. He was newly married and cabled Feather Cat, his private name for his wife, to come join him in Lausanne.
December 2, 1922 PARIS: 74 rue de Cardinal Lemoine: The wife was also an American from the Midwest. They lived off her dwindling inheritance in a tiny loft apartment in Paris while the husband worked at becoming a writer. Feather Cat had a bad cold and had not accompanied her husband, whom she affectionately called Poo. Responding to his pleas, she packed and made arrangements to take the train to Switzerland. She loaded all her husband's writings into a separate small valise so that he could work on them, and maybe sell something.
December 2, 1922 PARIS: Gare de Lyon Train Station: The train, typical of the time, had compartments to provide passengers with privacy. Feather Cat handed her baggage to the porter, keeping the small valise. She went straight to her compartment. Before departure, she left to check on her luggage and purchase a newspaper. The valise was gone when she returned.
December 3, 1922 LAUSANNE: The train station: The husband met Feather Cat when the train arrived. She wept uncontrollably, unable to tell him what was wrong. Poo comforted her, saying that no matter what had happened, nothing could be that bad. She told him of the missing valise and his work.
December 3, 1922 LAUSANNE: The train station: Disbelieving, the husband immediately boarded the next express train for the twelve hour journey back to Paris. Poo left Feather Cat in Switzerland.
December 4, 1922 PARIS: 74 rue de Cardinal Lemoine : The husband inquired at the Gare de Lyon train station. He searched the entire loft. He found only one story, "Up in Michigan," in the back of a drawer. Three years of writing, including the carbon copies, were gone. He was especially angry about the carbon copies.
DAY 1 - SUNDAY
"Love is like a war - Easy to begin - Hard to end."
My name is DD McGil, and please don't ask what the DD stands for. I'm female, blonde, a Scot, and in the insurance investigations business -- all of which, I frequently remind people, doesn't necessarily make me a bad person. I make my living in and around the Windy City - quite a nice place, politics aside. Chicago strives to be an elegant city, but somehow it never gets too far from its name which, taken from the Ojibwa Indians, means "skunk."
Chicago, known as "the Second City" until LA went on steroids, is 579 feet above sea level. There was a time when my feet were firmly planted on terra Chicago -- but not lately. I'd like to start at the beginning, but there wasn't really a beginning -only an ending. It all happened eight months ago -- eight long months ago when I was in the midst of a great relationship with a terrific guy named Scotty Stuart. Eight long months ago when I didn't believe in curses. Then my doorbell rang, and I got the news. Since that day I've been fighting desperately to keep my head above water.
The problem was that things had been going too well, and I'd forgotten one of my Auntie Elizabeth's favorite maxims. She warned me at least a hundred times that we Scots must always pay attention to the cogs in the universe and keep watch over our shoulder -- most especially when things are going well. I didn't. And that's when the universe ran me over.
It was a Tuesday, a frosty Chicago evening with the wind howling and the stars so bright and clear any sailor could have easily navigated his way to my third floor walk-up apartment in Wrigleyville. I remember I wasn't at all upset when Scotty failed to appear for our tete a tete dinner. He was involved with the International Monetary Fund doing all kinds of top-secret things with worldwide currency and was often called away unexpectedly, especially in the wake of the current global economic crisis. So I shrugged it off, sipped my pinot grigio and petted my cat, believing I was safe and secure, 579 feet above sea level. As I watched the clouds obscure the moon, I never saw the big wave headed right for me. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Scotty Stuart, but I didn't know what I really needed to know.
After two frantic days without any word from Scotty, the cops finally agreed to list him as a missing person. Then for the next four months, I investigated. I should say tried to investigate. There were no leads, no clues as to what had happened to him or where he'd gone. His car was gone. His cell phone and credit cards hadn't been used, and no one had heard from him. He hadn't bought an airline ticket, a train or a bus ticket. I harassed the cops at the police station every day. I harassed Scotty's friend in the Treasury, Harry Marley, who I'd met working on the HI Data counterfeiting case, and I constantly touched base with Jerry Frehling, Scotty's boss. For all my hot shot investigating, all I uncovered was a big zero. No one had seen him - nobody knew his whereabouts. Even my Aunt Elizabeth, who often has premonitions, was no help. All she could say was, "'Tis a blank, DD. Try as I might, only darkness swirles. I ken nothing."
Her pronouncement along with the fact that there wasn't one single clue made me even more frightened and obsessed. I had to find out what happened. I dropped all my other jobs, made it my only case, and kept investigating, using every angle I could devise.
Then late one night my doorbell rang. I was curled up with my cat on the sofa, and a sudden chill shook me. Scotty! I rushed to the peephole, hoping, wishing, praying. No luck. It was someone I'd never seen before -- a big guy with broad shoulders and a good haircut wearing glasses with steel frames. He didn't look like a cop, but you never know. Sighing, I opened the door on the chain - wide enough for me to see him but not wide enough to let my Ragdoll cat, Cavalier, run into the corridor. How was I to know that even that little opening was enough to let the wave crash in on me.
"Who wants to know?"
He flashed a Secret Service identity badge at me but held his thumb over his name. My knees buckled. I grabbed the doorknob for support.
"Stop searching for Scotty Stuart," he whispered in a low voice.
"Listen to me. I'm only going to say this once. He's in witness protection, and you're not doing him or yourself any good."
"But ... ."
"No buts. You're causing problems you can't even imagine," he hissed. "For God's sake stop looking for him if you want him to stay alive."
He was alive! But could I believe him?
"Where ... ."
Before I could say another word, he'd already turned and hurried along the hallway and down the stairs and was out the door before I reached the landing.
Now its four months later. I did give up the investigation. I had to. There were no more leads, no more clues, and I couldn't - wouldn't - take the chance that I might put Scotty in more danger. I went through the worried stage, the anger stage, the horror stage and the grief stage. I'm past all that. I've even outgrown the "We'll always have Paris" stage. Now I'm in the anti-social stage. I generally spend evenings at home with Cavalier, my Ragdoll cat. We share TV dinners and watch the tube like an old married couple.
My father had a favorite saying, "Let your wants hurt you," and that's exactly what I was doing. I had walked down the same path after my fiancé Frank's death a few years ago. I was in a rut, and that was part of the trouble. I suppose that's why Tom Joyce, my erstwhile friend who runs the well-known Joyce and Company bookstore in Chicago, handed me a ticket to a Hemingway docu-drama performance at Northwestern University.
"Something came up, and I can't use it," he said, pressing the ticket into my hand. "You go."
"I ... ."
"Go for my sake if nothing else," he pleaded. "You're getting positively moribund."
"Adjective, from the Latin, meaning in a dying state."
"Not exactly dying, DD, but I do think stale. You're in the same state you were after Frank died. You've lost your vitality. I know you've started working again, doing a few jobs for your attorney friends, but you hibernate in your apartment every night with your cat. And believe me I like Cavalier, but you're stuck in time."
"It's not like that."
"I know you cared for Scotty. I liked - I like him too. But if Scotty is in witness protection like that Secret Service chap said, then you must realize you'll never see him again."
"I won't accept that."
"And that's exactly your problem. Look, if they had to whisk him away in the dark of night like they did, and he accepted it, knowing he was going to hurt you and Jerry and his business, it means something really big and bad is after him - right on his heels. And it means - whatever it is - it'll probably be after him for the rest of his life - and yours. The first step is to take this ticket and go to the play."
"I feel trapped, like the Great Wall of China is surrounding me. I can't see over it, under it, around or through it."
"The Great Wall, you know, was constructed around 210 BC and is made of 3,873,000,000 individual bricks."
He obviously wanted to change the subject. "Are you making that up?"
"I never make up facts or figures. You know that. It's on the web, and they figured it out mathematically. Anyway, take the ticket."
I knew he was right about me, and the "moribund" stung me into promising him I'd go.
Nonetheless, I was having second thoughts. Lethargy is so easy. I kissed Cavalier good-by, and his kitty meow sounded like he too was surprised I was actually leaving.
"It's not a date," I explained. "I'll be home early." I grabbed my purse and left before my mind changed again.
The stage production was entertaining and surprisingly historically accurate. It featured a Hemingway look-alike re-enacting scenes from the author's life. The theme was "A New Book for Every New Affair." It was based it on the idea that Hemingway wrote his best four books to each of his new wives in turn - "The Sun Also Rises" in 1926 for Hadley; the first wife; "Farewell to Arms" in 1929 to his second, Pauline Pfiffer; "For Whom the Bell Tolls" for Martha Gelhorn in 1940; and "The Old Man and the Sea" in 1952 to Mary Welsh, his last wife. It was an interesting presentation, but I abruptly stopped paying attention when my old college flame, David Barnes, appeared on the stage. I had no premonition he'd be back from Paris directing the production. He seemed to be staring right into my eyes during the rest of the docu-drama.
When the lights came back on, I sat contemplating the empty stage. My feet were being trampled on by the usual scramble of exiting patrons, but I was immobile, damning myself for breaking my own cardinal rule. Years ago, I'd vowed to keep out of the clutches of academia, and most especially from anything to do with Hemingway. I guess some people never learn.
I wasn't sure if he'd seen me or not, but I didn't want to be within twenty feet of David Barnes, damn him. I melded into the crowd heading for the nearest exit and kept my head down. Suddenly, in a flash of brown hair and blue eyes, there he was, saying in that unmistakable David voice,
"DD McGil. I thought that was you. Sometimes it's hard to see out from the stage through those lights."
There was no escape. Tom Joyce and his rotten ticket. I knew I should have stayed home with the cat.
I looked up at him. "Hello, David."
"Where the hell have you been, DD? I've been trying to find you for months. Nobody at the university knew where you'd gone."
"Guess I'm not the only one who's not so good at keeping in touch," I said, thinking about all the years he'd had to call or write.
"I know, DD. I'm sorry."
"Luckily I didn't hold my breath." I edged around him. We were nearly the only ones left in the rapidly emptying lobby. As I squeezed by, David put his hand on the back of my neck, under my hair.
"Wait a minute, DD. I really need to talk to you."
The intimate gesture stopped me. David hadn't changed much since I'd seen him last. He was still tall, handsome, trim, and boyish. And those piercing blue eyes hadn't changed either, except for a few small lines at the corners. He was more tan than I remembered, but that might have been from stage makeup.
I closed my eyes. Long suppressed memories of graduate school flashed through my consciousness. David had been an up-and-coming Hemingway scholar and my first grand passion. I remembered the hard work, the cold cast of light on campus during those Chicago winters, and the delirium of falling in love very fast and very hard. As it turned out, I'd fallen much harder than he, and he'd dumped me for a fellowship in Paris to study twentieth century American expatriate writers. "I'll write you every day," he'd promised at the airport. But that was well over a dozen years ago, and we hadn't seen each other since. It was David Barnes who first taught me how complicated life could be. Then I'd met Frank. And then Scotty. I like men, but statistically speaking, my luck with them was really shitty.
"There's something I really need to talk to you about," he said. "I was looking for you because I've got big news. I finally made it. C'mon, have dinner with me. I need your advice."
The David I knew never needed anybody's advice, least of all mine.
I looked into his eyes, trying to read him. Damning myself for a fool the entire while. This is always how I get into trouble.
"Just what do you have in mind?" I asked.
"You always could put things in perspective," he said, flashing that old David Barnes smile.
If I really were to put things into perspective, I'd run for the door. For some reason, I didn't.
"DD, right now everybody around me has an axe to grind, and I can't trust them," he said. "Will you help me?"
My little internal voice was shoutingno - NO. But he had me. I was curious, and being an insurance investigator teaches you to listen. So instead of ducking out I said, "Okay, let's hear it."
"Time ... is all we have." - Ernest Hemingway
I drove us back to the city in my Miata convertible. It was one of those beautiful summer evenings that stay with you you for the rest of your life. The night air was hot and steamy, but a small breeze coming in off Lake Michigan made the trees sing. Nighthawks circled above, dining on clouds of bugs, their sharp calls punctuating the din of traffic.
It was strange to be talking to David, hearing his voice again after all the years and all the hurt. It wasn't romantic exactly, but I think you never get over your first true love.
After stopping for Chinese take-out, we went to David's apartment. It was a converted loft on the outskirts of the Loop that had once been a vacant factory. This trendy area had attracted all the upwardly-mobiles from the loop's financial district who paid more rent per month than I earned per year. But today many units were vacant, their former occupants victims of the economic melt-down. Redevelopment used to be a good thing, but my how times were a-changing.
David flipped on the lights. His enormous living room was decorated with brown leather furniture and oriental carpets. I spotted a Wan Li clay horse that stood out among the antique Chinese pottery, and I wondered who'd done the interior decorating.
Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lined the walls. Knowing David, they undoubtedly held a lot of first editions. And there were treasures, like the early typewriter with pride of place on the shelf among his extensive Hemingway collection. His artwork was an interesting, eclectic mix. I glanced around, wondering whether David had a roommate, but didn't see any evidence.
David's place far outshone my shabby-chic third floor Uptown walk-up. Even in this crappy economy, David could have bought ten of me.
"That's very beautiful," I said, admiring a large bi-fold screen with hand painted cranes reflecting the soft light.
David smiled. "It's Tang and very unique. Did you know that cranes in flight symbolize good luck?"
Furtively, I touched the screen, hoping some of it might rub off on me.
His cell rang. He answered, excused himself and drifted into another room. Meanwhile I enjoyed the panorama of the city from his window, breathtaking even to a native Chicagoan like me.
"You've certainly done all right, David," I said as he returned. "English lit grads usually don't wind up in a place like this."
"All right? As usual, you're the master of understatement, DD." His eyes twinkled. "I'm a genius at winning those big-buck research grants."
"I thought money was getting really tight in this awful economy."
"Yes, but I do know how to get whatever's out there - and that's the trick."
More likely who to get it from, I thought, remembering his mastery at manipulating our university professors.
"There's something special I want you to try. It's an Australian wine." He left the room, saying, "The Chinese haven't figured out how to make a good red yet. Ha."
He returned with two glasses of deep red wine. "A Shiraz," he said, handing me one. "You'll like it. Full bodied, like the Aussies."
We clinked glasses as he toasted, "To old times."
The wine was lively and satisfying. "Mmm," I said appreciatively. "No hint of the outback."
"I knew you'd approve." He took another sip. "DD, I heard about Frank. I'm sorry."
I wondered how many times he was going to say he was sorry.
"I heard you two were about to be married. He was a good man. But why didn't anybody at the university know where to find you?"
"It was a long time ago. I'm not in the academic rat race anymore. I do claims investigations for insurance companies."
"Insurance? That doesn't sound like you. What happened to that ground-breaking research you were doing in the seventeenth century?"
"It's over, that's all." I didn't want to talk about the whole lousy deal with Frank, with his death and with what happened afterward. We were about to be married and had been so happy. But after he died, his colleagues at the university needed to blame someone for what happened, and they blamed me. Not only did they insinuate I was responsible for his death, they also refused to publish my book, Restoration Scandals. They suggested it wasn't scholarly enough to merit publication by the University Press and debunked it as too risqué. The research, they'd conceded, was flawless. But the content, they decided, appealed more to the prurient interest of the common man instead of to the rigorous requisites of a scholastic treatise. Never mind that's exactly what I'd aimed for. I understood why they were against me
. With Frank dead, I didn't care anymore what they thought, and I walked out. In a few weeks' time, I'd lost not only my husband-to-be but also my career. That's how I ended up doing what I do now, insurance investigations, and that's how I met Scotty Stuart. But I wasn't about to go into any of this with David, so I just stayed silent hoping he'd drop the questions. He took the hint and said, "Well, face it DD, you were never a typical academic anyway. You always rubbed those people the wrong way."
"Remember Dr. Bailey?" I asked.
"She had the vapors over that genealogical research you did on the word 'fly.'"
"Yeah. The verb was fine. So was the insect. But the nominative 'gentlemen's apparel' was too much for her."
"You know damn well that wasn't the phrase you used to describe that particular piece of clothing, DD." We both laughed, our shared past re-forging an old bond.
Debating with myself to go or stay, I took another sip of the Shiraz and asked, "So what kindof help do you need from me?"
His eyes narrowed, and after a drawn-out pause he said, "Remember how I always wanted to unearth those lost Hemingway manuscripts?"
"You mean the ones stolen from his first wife, Hadley, at the Paris train station?"
"You remember. A-plus."
"You used to say they might provide key elements to Hemingway's personality and writing style."
"Ready for a surprise? I've got them."
"The Corona #3 is the only psychiatrist I would ever submit to." - Ernest Hemingway
I stared at him. Here we were, sitting over Chinese take-out, discussing what, if true, would be the literary find of the twenty-first century. The incident at the Paris train station in December 1922 when Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, lost a valise filled with everything he'd written for the past year was well known. Scholars and Hemingway buffs have speculated for years about whether the stolen manuscripts survived and their possible whereabouts. But no clue has ever been unearthed. I wondered if this was a con -- some sick ploy to attract my attention after all these years. But that didn't make sense.
I put my wine glass on the coffee table and sat down on his leather sofa, stunned.
"I'm having trouble taking this in, David. Where did you find them? Are you sure they're genuine? My God, if this is true, everyone from the New York Times to The National Enquirer will be after you."
He sat down too. "It's true, believe me. Eleven stories, the beginning of a novel, and twenty poems to be exact."
"This is incredible. After all these years...."
He swirled his right hand in the air. "Bring on Oprah, Ba-ba Walters and the three-ring media circus."
I got up and paced the room. "David, at the risk of dumping cold water on your antics, how can you be so sure the stuff is really Hemingway?"
"Modern technology. The easiest part was having the paper authenticated. Then I verified that the pages were typed on a typewriter similar to the one he used at the time - a Corona No. 3."
"But that typewriter was from the early 1920's. How can they ...?
"DD, ours is a truly marvelous world. There were two -not one but two original Corona Number 3 typewriters on e-Bay when I searched. And voila - " he pointed to the typewriter I'd noticed on the bookshelf, "there it is in all its glory."
I crossed the room to examine it more closely. "It's still in fairly good condition. I thought it was just a prop."
"It's no prop. It's vintage early 1920's -- exactly like the one Hadley gave Hemingway on his 22nd birthday in 1921 before they left for Paris. I even have the case for it."
"Does this one still type?"
"Technically, DD, the typist types, not the machine."
"Ha ha. Very cute. Well, can you use it to type something?"
"Absolutely. They were made to last. Remember Hemingway lugged his all over the world in war zones when he was working as a correspondent. On this one, some of the keys were sticking, but I cleaned it and oiled it and now everything works fine. I had to get a ribbon for it - that was the hard part." He inserted a piece of paper, moved it into position with the carriage, and pecked out "Hello DD McGil. It's about time I found you."
"Amazing you're here right now, DD."
There was a sudden pause. I kept silent and carefully avoided making eye contact.
"Well," he finally continued, "what's also amazing is the highly sophisticated software program I used to prove it was written by Hemingway. It categorizes word, sentence, and punctuation usage patterns. Believe me, the results indicated positively that the material is all one hundred percent pure Hemingway."
"Unbelievable," I said, sinking back into his sofa and ignoring the odors of the untouched Moo-shu Pork and Mongolian Beef take-out. "Tell me everything."
"Years ago when I arrived in Paris on that fellowship, I started looking for them."
"That part I remember," I said wryly.
"I really am sorry, DD. I meant to keep in touch, but ... ."
"Anyway, I went everywhere Hemingway lived or visited in Paris. I traveled to Spain, too. But all I ran into were brick walls. When I came back to the states, I systematically investigated every place that had any connection to Hemingway, no matter how remote. I went to Michigan, Oak Park, Wisconsin, Kansas. Even Toronto. Nothing. Until three months ago. That's when someone sent them to me."
Now I knew David was conning me. I got up from the sofa and headed towards my purse, next to the untouched food.
"Wait. Seriously, DD, I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. Please stay." The words tumbled from his mouth. "I really need your help. Please."
I stopped, clutching my purse to my chest, and looked at him. "Who sent them to you?"
"I have no idea. I wish I did."
"This whole thing sounds like something out of the supermarket tabloids," I told him.
"You know how much work I did for years trying to unearth these manuscripts,
DD. But the honest truth is, the package arrived at City College simply addressed to Professor David Barnes. I'll show you."
"This sounds preposterous. Was there anything on the package? Any clues you could follow?"
"Nothing. I tried, but it's a complete mystery. Inside the package was an old valise, the manuscripts and poems, and a cryptic note in a purple, hard-to-read script listing the titles of the stories and poems along with the dates they were written. The note was signed, 'Regacs Ma Fily.'"
"Do you still have the note? Did you try to trace the shipper? Let me see the manuscripts."
"The manuscripts aren't here, and the note is with the manuscripts."
"That's it," I said, heading for the door. "I know bullshit when I hear it."
"DD, please. This is all true. After the way I left you, I know it's hard to trust me. But I'll let you see everything. I did put a trace on the package, but the shipper was a blind alley. It was sent from a shipping company in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. They searched their records, but the receipt contained a phony company name and false address."
"I can look at everything?"
"Absolutely. The only reason the stuff isn't here right now is that my attorney is concerned that other interested parties could get a warrant and seize the manuscripts when the news breaks. And it's going to break any day now. Probably tomorrow. I've got them in a safe place where they can't be taken."
"What are you going to do with the material?" I asked, still not convinced this wasn't some kind of con.
"Auction everything off. I've got a contract with a big auction house."
"You're not going to keep the manuscripts for research? You're already a big name in Hemingway scholarship, but this would put your name in the history books."
"My name will be in the history books even if I don't keep them. If I keep them, I'll be living in court and doing nothing but paying lawyers. The Hemingway estate, the Oak Park Hemingway Trust, the City College, they're like a school of hungry sharks. I need to sell everything as soon as possible. And it's important not to have any of the manuscripts published before the sale because of questions over Public Domain."
"Public Domain? I don't see what that has to do with it."
"My lawyer says that if anything gets into print, that puts it into the Public Domain, which could mean that I'd have a harder time proving ownership."
"It sounds like your attorney's made it into a nice Catch-22. The sale of the stuff itself validates your ownership of it. I admire the mobius logic. He must think you've got a good claim if he's recommending you auction it all."
"He thinks it's air-tight because I've got possession. Nobody associated with the manuscripts is alive, so nobody can say what really happened to them."
"But won't the Hemingway Trust file an injunction to stop the sale?"
"The auction house tells me that generally only the government or a library challenges a sale. But because Hemingway is so hot and the time to sell is now, they didn't want to take any chances. They've already contacted the law firm for the Hemingway Trust and managed to get a signed release from them to allow the auction to take place."
"So you're free and clear?"
"Not exactly. I had to sign it too, agreeing that we'd fight out the proceeds from the sale in court."
"Does that mean you could be left with zero?"
"Au contraire. They had to acknowledge in the agreement that I have the manuscripts, possession being nine tenths of the law and all that. So I've negotiated a guaranteed minimum percentage of the sale price. A percentage I'm happy with, even if the court awards me nothing additional."
"Clever," I agreed. "This agreement establishes provenance, and whoever buys the manuscripts at the auction will be the new legal owner."
"My lawyer thinks so. So does the auction house. Whoever buys stands to make a bundle if they want to get them published. And my court case with the Hemingway Trust over the proceeds will be fodder for even more publicity and drive up the value for the new buyer."
"I see." I was becoming convinced now in spite of myself that David was telling the truth. "This reminds me of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings manuscript of 'Blood of My Blood' that was lost for 74 years and finally turned up in a box in somebody's house. Her second husband fought for ownership but lost."
"The head of the auction house cited that case, too. They felt it strengthened my claim."
"So what do you need me for?"
"The manuscripts are insured, and the insurance company wants a look at all the material. So far I've dealt only with the top guy at the insurance company, and I gave him a few sample pages--nothing he could publish. Now they want to see it all or they won't insure. I don't seem to have a choice. I've got to show them everything."
"Okay, but you still haven't answered my question."
"I told you when we first met in the theatre that I had been looking for you. I was. I know you, DD. I can trust you. I still can't believe how lucky it was to just bump into you tonight."
Yeah, I thought. Luck with a healthy dose of Tom Joyce. I was going to get even with Tom for giving me that ticket.
"You realize what a colossal find this is, DD. I can't have the manuscripts in my possession. Think about it. It's way too easy for someone to serve me with a warrant and walk away with them. I'd loose everything. But you could take them in for verification. No one knows who you are, so they'll be safe. And I know you'll keep an eye on them to make sure no duplicates are made."
I sat down again, stunned.