“Jeff, this has been very helpful. Thank you for coming over. More soup?” Suzie grabbed the ladle in the tureen of chowder. Grateful to her lawyer for making house calls, she wanted to show her appreciation however she could.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. As long as you feed me this well, I’m glad to give what advice I can, but for a professional opinion, you’ll have to come in to the office.” He held his bowl out for a refill.
“Shouldn’t have bothered,” Gene muttered. Suzie ignored him.
For this particular dinner Suzie had placed Gene near her at the foot of the table snf Jeff on the other side. Beyond their little circle sat Vin next to Miranda, and Ben opposite them.
At her request there were no other guests today. Suzie wanted this to be kept in the family, so to speak, though in this case the family included borders. So why had she been compelled to set the table with one of her more elegant tablecloths? It negated the normally cozy gathering, and highlighted for her the absence of the man who used to sit at the head of the table.
“So,” Suzie said. “Gene’s social worker was right when she said I might have trouble adopting Gene because I’m not married.”
“That and because we never proved that his father is not suitable to raise him.”
“But that’s stupid,” Miranda yelled, her fork crashing down to her plate. “Didn’t Gene move in to here because his father nearly beat him to death?”
“That was never proven officially,” Jeff said calmly. His baffling unflappability was one of Jeff’s best traits.
Suzie noticed Gene didn’t say anything. He’d been very quiet the whole meal. But then, he’d never been that enthusiastic about her adopting him. Since she’d finally gotten him to agree to it, she’d tried to press forward, but it was proving difficult.
“Would it really make that much difference if I were married?”
Jeff shrugged as he helped himself to another dinner roll. “We’d probably be done with this now if you were.”
“Where am I going to come up with a husband?” Suzie looked at the head of the table with a sense of longing. Well, that was water under the bridge. Drew had made his position quite clear when he left. His work was more important to him than she was. She smiled half heartedly. “Just kidding. It’s not like I’ll marry just to make it easier to adopt Gene.”
“He’s coming back,” Vin said over the top of his raised glass. His eyes were sharp and wary. There was something going on there that he hadn’t been talking about. He’d run off to New Mexico a couple of times now, but would never tell her how Drew was doing. Every time she asked, he seemed lost for words.
“Is he really coming back? All he ever told me was that he’d try.”
Vin looked uncomfortable. There was definitely something more going on there.
“There’s no guarantee that Drew would marry me, even if he were here, or how long he’d stay before he was re-assigned.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be an issue anymore,” Vin said darkly.
“How is he, anyway,” she asked, not really expecting an answer, but hoping.
“I guess this is as good a time as any. You all need to know.” Vin put his glass down carefully. “Drew has been on his way back here for a little while now. I called him on his cell phone a couple of times. He said he was on his way, but…”
“But?” It must be something bad to make Vin of all people hesitate. Not that he was as spontaneous as Miranda, but he didn’t generally hold back like this.
“Last I heard from him, he was in Mexico. In Juarez. According to a border guard, he gave his phone to the authorities there, and hopped a plane to Denver.”
“Denver? Juarez?! What was he doing there?”
“You know he was working a narcotics case.” Again, Vin looked away, clearly uncomfortable.
Suzie got a very bad feeling. It made her skin pebble.
“He was working undercover, and was forced to take a designer drug. It… changed him. He isn’t the same as he was before.”
“Changed him?” Suzie tried to imagine Drew as an addict. She couldn’t do it. The Drew she knew was such a solid, practical, intelligent man. She couldn’t bear to visualize him looking like someone in a Meth billboard.
“You wouldn’t recognize him.” Vin’s eyes looked hollow as he said it. “So if you see someone who looks like a bum waiting on the front porch, don’t panic. It’s probably just him.” Vin said this part to everyone at the table.
“Oh. Oh, no.” Suzie covered her mouth with her hand, trying to hide some of the fear and hurt, and stared at the big, empty end of the table.