“It’s a Whisper Gallery,” said Jay with a level of confidence that Fiona found admirable. He was being measured and cool and very sure of himself, using a tone she guessed he’d mastered years before. “It was recently discovered in the rocks in Digger Island. Dr. Elizar invited me to participate in the investigation – you remember Dr. Elizar, he was a speaker at the last symposium and attended the banquet that evening.”
Jay told her he was sure they wouldn’t remember Dr. Elizar. If they did, they didn’t show it. He avoided direct conversation with either of his parents. He delivered the pitch to an invisible audience or one on the other side of the kitchen wall not to Camilla and Heydon. Fiona knew he had trouble with his mother but she probably would not have noticed anything wrong if she hadn’t known something was.
He had come up with the Whisper Gallery on the long drive from Cloud Lake to South Beach. It was an archeological masterpiece that required total silence to study – no internet, no wi-fi, no shouting no singing, nothing but silence in the Gallery itself. Nobody should expect to hear from them, particularly Jay’s parents. She had expected problems but so far hadn’t seen any sign that they were very concerned. Still…
Fiona stepped up her game and aimed a Happy Student smile directly at Camilla Lombardo. “It’s well supervised,” she told her. Camilla responded with a curious expression as if she didn’t understand why Fiona would think the supervision was important.
Three small toys lay near the door to the deck, hidden beside a sideboard as if they were cunningly waiting for an opportunity to escape. Fiona sympathized with them.
Heydon Mitchell sat on the other side of the table. He’d been her father’s good friend since they were kids, and he’d practically turned everything upside down trying to find him when he vanished. She’d seen him frustrated and angry and afraid for her and Viv, and he watched her now, maybe kind of protective. Perhaps he thought she was dating Jay. Perhaps he was worried about that.
Looking at her now, not at Jay, he asked in a calm voice, “The two of you were invited together? Vivian is okay with being left alone?”
Fiona was clasping her hands too tightly, her knuckles white, and she carefully and slowly loosened her fingers and pushed her hair back. “Yes she is. She’ll be fine, and Viv has always admired old things. It’s very old. It’s a thousand years old. Or two thousand.”
As a team both Camilla and Heydon swung their attention back to Jay. Heydon gave his son a peculiar look. So did Camilla but she still said nothing. Heydon said to Jay, “I’ve never known you to take any interest in archeology.”
Jay leaned back in his chair, hands clasped behind his head. He gave his father a general sort of smile.
“Normally I wouldn’t be but there’s been some research on coupling free electrons to optical resonators. In these galleries a wave travels almost perfectly around the gallery and they’ve managed to trap light with an electron microscope using the same effect. The place on the island is pretty rare. I’d really like to see how it works. I’m lucky to have a chance to do it.”
That appeared to have done it. Nobody but Jay had a clue about optical resonators. Camilla finally spoke. “Fiona let’s go get some air out on the deck while Jay packs. Heydon make sure Jay packs everything all the things and something warm. Old places tend to be cold.”
Heydon and Camilla exchanged a look. Uncertain, Fiona glanced quickly at Jay who ignored her. Did his father think they were dating? Would that be a problem if he did? She was confident Jay could put an end to that. She was delivering him, not dating him, not that he knew about the delivering part, not yet.
Camilla lit a candle on a table under an umbrella on the patio, one of many candles burning in the dark. It was a beautiful place just as she remembered from the times she’d been here as a child. Years ago, but she still remembered.
Very gently, Camilla told her, “Heydon and I looked for your father and mother everywhere. Gabe disappeared close to the same time, and I thought maybe it was connected and I thought that if I found him maybe I would find your parents too.” She took a deep breath then went on. “I didn’t find anything about any of them. I’m sorry Fiona.”
That was unexpected and after the day’s meeting with her blind mother, difficult to hear. She walked over to the pool and looked at the water and told herself fiercely to get a grip. She would never be able to help her mother if she didn’t Fiona hadn’t been at all sure how far to push this thing with Gabe but since Jay was refusing to even discuss it, she had to at least raise it.
“Maybe Gabe went somewhere where he couldn’t easily return, but maybe he left sort of a clue with a friend, something you haven’t heard about, like a place where you met up, that kind of thing.”
Camilla stared at her. “I would have heard if someone knew anything about where Gabe went or if he left a message for me. No one would keep that from me. People you love don’t go somewhere and not come back or contact you if it’s possible for them to do it.”
She was getting nowhere with this. Camilla didn’t give her anything useful – nothing about a place where they met up and she wasn’t going to give her anything. She couldn’t question the woman about weird shit like the name of a road. Camilla would suspect something was up. From the way she’d responded, she already did.
“Let’s go look at your clothes,” Camilla told her in a firm voice, definitely changing the subject. “We’ll go through them and I might have something you can wear when you’re walking in a hole in the ground because I’m sure nothing you have will last if you put any dirt on it at all.”
They started toward the door into the house, and there was Jay’s little sister Hailie sitting in a corner on the other side of the spa. The toys Fiona had seen in the dining room now all stood in a group facing Hailie like a neighborhood toy meeting. Hailie must have retrieved them when she wasn’t watching.
Hailie saw her, smiled, got to her feet, picked up one of the toys and held it out to her. “Here,” Hailie said in a light, sweet voice.
Puzzled, Fiona took the toy. It was some kind of green thing. “Well thank you. What is it?”
“It’s a gift,” Hailie said slowly and carefully as if explaining the concept of a gift to a smaller child. “Sometimes it makes lights.” She smiled again.
Fiona looked at the toy with more confusion than interest. It made lights? Was there a battery in it? She turned it over and then back again to try to figure out what it was, a little cow or maybe a whale.
No. It wasn’t a cow or a whale.
Hailie’s toy was a dragon.