When I pulled into the spot labeled, Reserved for Mr. Keller, I ended up in the space right next to the back door of he law firm. At the moment I was opening my car door, the efficient Delores Sheppard was opening the dark green rear entrance door. "Welcome, Lieutenant. I must say that you are punctual. Nine o'clock to the second."
"Good morning, Miss Sheppard."
"Mrs. Shepherd, Lieutenant. Widow. I lost my husband in the war."
"My condolences, Mrs. Sheppard."
"Thank you, Mr. MacKenzie. Mr. Brown is involved in the Partners' breakfast agenda meeting. So please follow me."
She guided me through a back hallway that obviously had received no decorator's touch. This was utilitarian space, strictly for the use of the hired help. Then through a non-descript door and voila, we were in the inner offices of Mr. Brown.
"Please, Lieutenant, have a seat. Coffee?"
"Yes, thank you. Just black."
She had set me in one of the two desk chairs facing her secretary's desk, while retreated to what appeared to be a workroom to rustle up the coffee. As she walked away, I could help admiring her shapely derriere shown off by her rather snug fitting suit. She called out from the back room, "Would you like a strawberry Danish, Mr. MacKenzie?"
"No, thank you." And then I finally found the itch. That lovely voice was the voice over the phone that had wanted a meeting at The Olde Corner Bookstore. Mrs. Delores Sheppard was the mysterious Miss No-Show and she was still not showing her cards.
As she returned with two mugs of coffee, I now had the stress of trying to maintain a poker face. She smiled as she handed me a white mug emblazoned with that corporate logo, the elegantly scripted Brown & Keller. "Thank you, Mrs. Sheppard."
"He shouldn't be long."
She opened her desk calendar and busied herself with the stuff of keeping a lawyer on the task of making the money rain. She was one of those thousands of nearly nameless women that I felt never got credit for their worth in American business. As the years have gone by, I have become more and more convinced that the world is really run by secretaries.
"Mrs Sheppard. I may need to see Mr. Brown at his new office. I was wondering if you might write down for me directions as to how to get there."
"Will you be driving or taking the train?"
"Oh, I'm sure I'll be driving."
"It really is not too difficult at all. But I'll leave you the office number down there in case you get lost."
I asked her as she was writing, "Will you be making the move with Mr. Brown?"
She surprised me a bit when she said, "No, Lieutenant. I'll be switching over to work with Mr. Keller. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving old Boston. I've been here all my life, you know. Born over in Cambridge. My father was a history professor at Harvard."
"Really. And you never felt the urge for the academic life," I asked.
I had the sense that she really didn't care for the question but she shook it off with a glib answer. "Sorry to say, I was more interested in dating the boys than in studying the books."
"Ah, same with me. I mean ... except with me, dating the girls."
She grinned, "I was assuming that was what you meant."
"Ah, Lieutenant. I think I hear the Partners' meeting breaking up. He should be right along.
She gave me a look or two, along with a smile or two, while the traffic in the hallway went back and forth.
"Ah, Mr. Brown. Your nine o'clock is here."
"Lieutenant MacKenzie. I hope this won't take long. I have very tight schedule today. You know, the wheels of justice must be kept turning."
"I shouldn't be very long, Mr. Brown, I simply need to follow up on our last visit."
As I stood and followed Brown into his office, Mrs. Sheppard handed me a note. "Your directions, Lieutenant."
"Oh, yes, thank you, Ma'am."