I reached into the refrigerator, selected a bottle of citrus-flavored green tea, and wandered into the den where I sat in my favorite slouch chair near the window and tossed the bottle cap into the nearby trash can.
Taking a sip of tea from the bottle, I opened the envelope and read the following:
Dear Mr. Tate:
I hope this letter finds you well and able to take on a painting project for me. I should like to meet with you to discuss the details of the project and hope that August 6th might be convenient for you. If so, I will arrange to be in Lexington, Kentucky on that date and staying at the Hilton downtown. I know this is close to your home and should be a convenient location. I would prefer the Marriott there, but there are so many nice places to meet and eat in the downtown area. If some other date is more suitable for you, please call the number in this packet and we will arrange another time. If I do not hear from you by July 27th, I will assume the above arrangement is acceptable.
Thank you for your consideration.
I always require any second contact regarding an assignment to be in person. “Mr. Marsden” had planned this meeting to be very convenient for me. Not only would I not be forced to grab a plane or drive to some remote location, but the writer of the letter had also very artfully concealed where his home base was located. Still, it was a bit of a disappointment in that I would not have the opportunity to visit some city that I had not yet seen.
Oh, well — a job is a job. One must put aside the minor disappointments that sometimes come with accepting work.
August 6th was still two and a half weeks away.
I settled into the chair, sipped the tea, and gazed out the window at the layer of heat that seemed to hang over the field outside, interrupted only briefly as passing clouds blocked the hot July afternoon sun.
The next two and a half weeks were spent as was most of my time when not actually working. I busied myself with reading and painting.
The local library is a wonderful place to visit, and who can complain about getting a book for free, even if it’s only for two weeks. I had long ago determined that I would never resort to reading a book on Kindle. There’s something very satisfying about actually holding a physical book in your hand and, sometimes, even smelling (at least in one’s mind) the aroma of the paper and the ink as a story unfolds before you.
I’ve been told that it’s possible to highlight passages of a book on a Kindle and to go back and forth as one desires to find a sentence or paragraph already read. Still, the pleasure of holding the printed word in one’s hand is somehow very satisfying — and if the process of the printed word has been good enough for almost six hundred years, it’s certainly good enough for me.
My replenished supply of paints and brushes that I had purchased while in Cincinnati was rapidly becoming depleted, as I had plunged back into my long-neglected hobby for several months and was attacking canvasses with some vigor.
Being a bachelor, I feel no compunctions about leaving completed paintings laying about wherever it’s convenient at the moment. Thus, my den was somewhat cluttered with various size paintings, all completed, leaning against furniture and walls and bookcases, waiting to be placed in storage slots that had been specifically designed for them in a special room of the house.
I paint in the den because the light there is so good and it allows me to more easily get to the phone or the front door.
The room where the paintings are housed does double duty. Being little more than a storage room, and one to which visitors are never escorted, it also houses my weapons collection and what few bottles of wine that I keep on hand.
And, truth be told, the weapons collection is not an especially large one. Several weapons are those which I use in my work, such as the Remington Model 700, type M40, .308 caliber rifle with a Schmidt & Bender 12x scope. This is the standard Marine Corps sniper rifle and is well suited for some of the jobs I do. I also have settled on Sig Sauer pistols and have three, a P238, .380 ACP — which is one of the smallest pistols made, being only 5−1÷2 inches long and weighing a mere 15.2 ounces. It’s easy to conceal and has enough power for short-range work. I also have a Mosquito, which is a .22 caliber pistol and can be effectively used at short range, and a 1911, which is a copy of the famous M1911 .45 caliber pistol which served the U.S. armed forces for almost fifty years. This pistol has a great deal of stopping power with its heavy round.
The other guns and weapons I have on display are military collectibles and are rarely fired or used. They are beautiful collector items.
Of course, I didn’t know which of these weapons, if any, would be required for this commission. There’s always the chance that some other esoteric form of weapon may be required, like the one used in Cincinnati.
I guessed I would find out on the sixth.