Book: Ask the Right Question

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5

By the time I finished dinner I had decided there were a number of ways I could go.

Mrs. Forebush looked the most direct, if she would see me. But other approaches were available.

For one thing I could try to track down some of Fleur’s friends or old teachers at the Butler Nursing College. Get to the critical era by going forward from college days rather than backward from the present. The question was whether the nursing college days had been that important to Fleur Crystal.

Or I could take the general question of Eloise herself. I was fighting her fight, but the whole circumstance rested on the correctness of her blood typings.

Perhaps the thing to do was to rent a white doctor suit and go to the Crystal doorstep. “Would you all bleed into these test tubes please?”

But it wouldn’t work. Eloise would giggle and blow my cover.

Instead perhaps I could learn something by talking with her teacher, Shubert, the one with whom she had done the lab work.

Or maybe Dr. Fishman would help:

From what Eloise had said about the miscarriage he knew Fleur’s blood type. Certainly he would know a good deal about many of the Crystals.

Or maybe I should just go see Fleur Crystal. That would be fun. I could use all the tact of a mad elephant.

There was also a general problem of approach. But one much simpler now—after seven years in this business—than it used to be.

I called Maude Simmons. I got her permission, for ten dollars, to tell my interviewees that I was working on a feature story about the Crystals for the Star. If they called her to check, ten bucks more.

I decided to try Mrs. Forebush first. Having neglected to get Mrs. Forebush’s first name from Eloise, I hit the phone book. Two Forebushes listed bore women’s names. I tried “Anne Marie,” being conservative. She was the first one listed alphabetically.

A man answered the phone. “Forebush.”

I asked for Anne Marie.

“Gee, buddy, I’m sorry. She can’t come to the phone; she’s feeding the baby right now. But if it’s about typing I can help you. She’s a great little typist, she really is. Real smart. She can make a few words look like a lot or a lot of words look like a little. She was a secretary before the baby and she’s real good.”

I was sure she was, but she was the wrong Forebush.

A man who is alone a lot warns himself about the significance of insignificant happenings. I had picked the wrong Forebush first. Let that be a warning. I found myself telling myself. Alphabetization leads to ruin.

Florence Forebush, 413 East Fiftieth Street. Humbolt 5-8234 was the right Mrs. Forebush.

The phone call. Smallest effort clearing the biggest hurdle.

“… and I wondered if you would be willing to help me out on this story by talking to me about the later years of your former employer, Estes Graham?”

“Estes?” Her voice was perky and light as life is long. “Why that would be very nice.”

“Would tomorrow be all right?”

“Now let me see. Tomorrow is Friday. Anytime between Let’s Make a Deal and the four-thirty movie will be just fine. Will two o’clock be all right?”

Which gave me a morning to plan for. From the legions I considered teacher Shubert, Dr. Fishman, and the nurses’ college. I settled on Fishman because he should have information on more than just one person.

Wilmer Fishman, Jr., MD’s phone listing gave me the same number for his office and his home. I got a recording which instructed me to record a message after the chime. Instead of doing so I hung up in a mild, foolish quandary. I had expected, unconsciously, to get straight through and talk to the man. Anything else was somehow difficult.

One makes one’s own problems. I hit myself on the cheek, another movement of a man alone. I called Fishman’s number back again.

I left a message after the chime. Bong! Not unlike, Froggie’s Magic Twanger on the old Buster Brown Show. I would like to have a nonmedical consultation regarding one of his families. If possible tomorrow, Friday, before one o’clock. I added my name and number and hung up.

Sitting by the phone, I dwelt a moment on the contingent nature of my plans. But it was OK. If he would see me, fine. Any time left over I could use to appear unannounced at Central High School or at Butler College of Nursing. If he wouldn’t see me, I could do both. Very efficient. Very businesslike. I was a finely honed machine. Hmmmmmmmmm.

I was humming.

I stopped humming, aware for the third time that my consciousness was collapsing around me. Too much alone late and soon, not enough begetting and spending.

I made one more call. To my woman. We went out for a drink. Then we came in for a drink.

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