Mysteries, thrillls and chills . . . one story at a time.
Now what was that all about? I puzzled through the complicated shifts and turns of the past hour with Vivien Nolan as I followed her directions along the back drive. Thoughts of her odd behavior were swept away when, perhaps a minute later, I finally reached Keith Nolan’s “studio”. I shook my head at the use of that word which, up to now had always conjured up visions of a shabby one-room loft in Paris or Venice. This particular one level structure could have comfortably housed a family of four.
I stood in the middle of the path when the front door opened and a tall man walked out and leaned against one of the porch pillars. “Hey,” he called out the jovial greeting, his smile, open and friendly. “You must be Corey.”
It was Keith Nolan of course. I’d have recognized him anywhere even though the publicity stills I’d seen in no way captured the real essence of the man. He was at least my dad’s age, so somewhere around forty-five but unlike my dad who was settling comfortably in middle age, this man appeared to be just as fit as he might have been when he and my dad were playing college ball.
“Yes sir, I am so honored to meet you. You are like, my hero, man! I’ve read every one of your books. Twice!” I all but ran the last few feet, hand outstretched, grinning from ear to ear.
Dang, Corey, you’re acting like a star struck teenager. Chill!
“Um, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate this opportunity. Sir.”
Keith Nolan might be used to having people fall over themselves when they meet him for the first time but quite frankly, I was appalled. I usually displayed a bit more swagger.
“Well, thank you Corey, call me Keith. I’m glad you’re here. You have no idea how your being here is going to save my butt and my deadline.” He grinned at me as he stepped off the porch. “How’s your mom and dad doing?”
“Oh they’re great. They told me to thank you for choosing me for this internship. I promise you, I will work very hard, Mr. Nolan. You just tell me what you need and I’ll take care of it.”
“I have no doubt about that. Your CV was very impressive.”
Keith Nolan actually read my curriculum vitae? Oh God, wait till I tell Jacob.
“But we can get into all that later,” he said. “This is your first day here. Let’s have fun. We’ll work tomorrow. Some friends of mine are playing at a jazz club downtown. You want to join me?”
Was he fucking kidding? Most people would kill for any opportunity to spend even a minute with this man. There’s no way I would miss something like that. I choked out an agreement, striving for nonchalance. Keith gestured towards the main house. “Have you already gotten settled? Unpacked?”
“No, Mrs. Nolan picked me up from the airport and sent me directly back here to meet with you.”
“Of course she did,” he murmured under his breath. “Well, come on. Let’s get your bags and I’ll give you a quick tour.”
The tour included four of five bedrooms, a huge library, a movie theatre and a game room with every conceivable game system created. There was no sign of Mrs. Nolan, though I kept a careful eye out. My room was on the second floor and overlooked the pool. After dumping my bags on the floor next to the bed, Keith suggested that we head back downstairs. On the landing, I paused and walked over to the glassed in room across the hall. Keith followed me over and spoke off-handedly.
“That’s Vivien’s space.”
The house was gorgeous, with modern furnishing, lots of clean lines, a monument to stark minimalism. I figure they’d hired a professional decorator. It was perfect but there was no way I could ever see myself kicking back with pizza and coke to watch an NBA game there either.
But this room, Vivien’s ‘space’ was the exact opposite. A real person lived here. The walls were painted a deep aquamarine. The furniture had been clearly chosen for comfort rather than for design. From the doorway, I saw a pair of discarded shoes next to the plush pillow-backed sofa as if someone had kicked them off before stretching beneath the knitted throw tossed haphazardly across the back. The flat screen television mounted against the opposite was on but muted and tuned to a cooking channel. The desk, plain, hardwood, and sturdy contained a desktop computer – I could see a thin sheen of dust on the monitor from across the room – and several haphazard piles of papers scattered across the desk. The small garbage pail next to the desk was filled to overflowing.
Keith shouldered in front of me and closed the door. “I don’t know why Vivien won’t allow the housekeepers in there. The place is a mess.” He seemed to swallow past his annoyance and flashed me another smile as he guided me down the steps.
“So, what time do you want me to start tomorrow? Do you want me to meet you downstairs in the dining room or come directly across to your studio?”
“Typical of Vivien not to mention this, but I’m not living here right now. I bunk out back, in my studio.” I waited a beat to see if he might add more. Keith avoided looking at me and I fought to think of a way to move past the sudden awkwardness.
“I really wouldn’t mind staying out there with you. I wouldn’t want to put her out or make her uncomfortable, “I said.
“Certainly not. I’d never hear the end of it if your parents got wind that we stuck you out there in the dog house with me. No, this house is huge. There’s more than enough room. Besides, Vivien was in perfect agreement to you staying here. You probably won’t be seeing much of her anyway.”
I didn’t get a chance to ponder Vivien’s expected absence. Keith reminded me of the evening’s jazz set and we finalized our departure. He sent me back upstairs with a pat on the back and instructions to unpack and rest up for the evening. On the second floor landing, I paused outside Vivien’s space and wondered just what I had let myself in for.