Gabriels redemption, p.56
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.56

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 56


  And she’d done things for him. Things she hadn’t wanted to do, such as various sexual acts and pretending not to care while he fucked other women.

  She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as a terrible idea took hold.

  She had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. He had everything to lose and God damn it, she’d see that he lost it.

  She put the water glass aside and wiped her mouth, darting into the bedroom on surer feet. She crouched on the floor and pried aside one of the floorboards underneath her bed. She withdrew a flash drive and carefully put it in her jacket pocket. Then she replaced the floorboard.

  Grabbing her coat and purse, she headed to the door. As she hailed a taxi, she didn’t notice the dark car parked across the street. So she didn’t realize that it pulled into traffic behind the cab, following at a safe distance.

  Chapter Fifty-nine

  Gabriel, are you getting my messages? This is the third time I’ve called and gotten your voice mail.

  “I left you a message this morning about the train engine. There are letters scratched into the bottom of it and they say ‘O. S. ’ I don’t know what that means, do you? And how did you know to look for them? I never noticed them before.

  “I’m sorry you have to extend your trip but I understand. I hope that your meeting with your aunt goes well.

  “I’m at the library working on my last seminar paper. You know we’re not allowed to talk on the phone here. Text me and I’ll step outside and call you back. I love you. And I miss you. ”

  Julia groaned as she ended the call. Gabriel’s messages had been melancholy and sad, and growing more so. Somehow, between all his errands and her attempts at completing and submitting her lecture for publication, they’d missed one another. She worried about him.

  At least if she could complete her final seminar paper, she’d be finished for the semester. Then she and Gabriel could begin their Christmas holidays.

  She began typing on her laptop in earnest.

  “What do you think of Giuseppe Pacciani of Florence?” Lucia Barini, chair of the Department of Italian at Columbia University, gazed at Gabriel over her desk.

  He snorted. “Not much. He’s published a few things in addition to his book, but nothing of consequence, in my opinion. Why do you ask?”

  “We’re conducting a search to replace one of our retiring professors and he’s on our long list. ”

  Gabriel lifted his eyebrows. “Oh, really?”

  “However, a graduate student has made serious allegations against him, dating all the way back to when she was his student in Florence. You know her—Christa Peterson. ”

  Gabriel grimaced. “Yes, I know her. ”

  “I heard the rumors about what happened in Toronto. I also heard that Christa started those rumors and that she’s one of the reasons why you and Julianne are no longer there. ”

  “Julianne was admitted to Harvard. We were getting married. I was eager to leave Toronto. ” Gabriel’s affect was decidedly flat.

  Lucia gave him a friendly smile. “Of course. I only realized what a problem Christa had been after Jeremy Martin persuaded me to take her. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been inclined to admit her. We receive a lot of applications and can afford to be choosy. ”

  Gabriel simply sat, immobile like a statue.

  Lucia removed her glasses. “It’s come to my attention that Christa is a troublemaker and that she takes her troublemaking tendencies wherever she goes. She had trouble with Pacciani in Florence, she had trouble in Toronto, and apparently, she had trouble with Katherine Picton in Oxford this summer. Katherine telephoned to tell me to start teaching etiquette to our graduate students since it’s obvious they don’t know how to behave in public. ” Lucia’s tone was absent any amusement. “I don’t like receiving calls like that from anyone, especially from her. This semester, my faculty informed me that no one wants to serve on Christa’s examination committee. They’re worried about being slandered for harassment. ”

  Gabriel’s look was pointed. “They’re right to be worried. ”

  “That was my thought, as well. Now I’m in the awkward position of either having to agree to supervise Christa myself, and offending Katherine, or having to tell her to go elsewhere. ” Lucia tossed her glasses on the desk in front of her. “I don’t suppose you have any suggestions?”

  Gabriel paused, knowing in that instant that Christa’s academic career rested in his hands. He could explain, in detail, what really happened in Toronto and Oxford, and demonstrate the lengths to which Christa would go for a sexual conquest. Such information would no doubt make up Lucia’s mind for her.

  He pulled his glasses out of his pocket and then put them back again, acutely aware of the words Julia (and St. Francis) would whisper in his ear.

  Exposing Christa would also expose himself and Julianne. She didn’t want the rumors fed. And she deserved to be able to stand in a room filled with academics and be seen for herself, and not as part of a scandal.

  Lucia was a friend, but not a close one. Gabriel didn’t want to revisit every encounter he’d ever had with Christa Peterson, embarrassing himself and his wife. For her sake, and the sake of her reputation, he decided to try a different tack.

  “If we put the personal issues aside, I can tell you that Christa’s work for me was mediocre. ”

  “That’s been my impression. If you couple that with her behavior . . . ” Lucia shrugged. “She’s a liability. ”

  “I doubt Pacciani is blameless. I’ve seen him in action. ”

  “He represents another difficult situation. ” Lucia gestured to a file that was sitting open on her desk. “Christa is making allegations about his past behavior, but there are reports that he beds his students and that’s why he’s eager to leave Florence. I don’t want that in my department for obvious reasons, not least of which is because it invites lawsuits. ”

  “Yes,” said Gabriel, tapping his foot unconsciously.

  Lucia placed her glasses in a case, which she then tucked into her purse. “Enough of my troubles. Let me take you to lunch. I have reservations at Del Posto. ”

  She pushed back from her desk. “We have a lot of catching up to do. Is it true that Julianne told Don Wodehouse that the question he asked wasn’t germane to her thesis?”

  Gabriel laughed uproariously. “No, that isn’t true. At least, not exactly. ”

  He followed Lucia out of the office, proudly describing Julianne’s presentation and the way she handled her questioners, including Professor Wodehouse of Magdalen College.

  “Damnation. ” Gabriel cursed his iPhone, which appeared to be dead.

  As if he had the power of resurrection, he shook it, pressing the on button repeatedly. He’d almost decided to fling the item into Central Park out of frustration when he remembered that he’d neglected to charge it the evening before.

  “Julianne will be worried,” he muttered, as he walked the streets of New York to Michael Wasserstein’s office.

  Mr. Wasserstein was retired, but since he’d been Owen Davies’s attorney from the time he penned a prenuptial agreement for him in 1961, he’d agreed to meet Gabriel at his former law firm.

  Gabriel looked at his watch. He had just enough time to make a quick call to Julianne from a pay phone before his meeting.

  He located an obliging phone at Columbus Circle, swiped his credit card, and dialed her cell phone. After several rings, he received her voice mail, once again.

  “Damnation,” he muttered (once again).

  “Julianne, for God’s sake, answer your damn phone. I’m going to have to buy you a pager. [loud exhale] I’m sorry. That was rude. Would you please answer your phone? I’m calling from a pay phone because I forgot to charge my phone last night and now it’s dead. When I get back to my room I’ll charge it. [brief pause] Now I’m wondering if I brought the charger cord with me. I can’t seem to remember a damn thing. See what happens when I
’m away from you? I’m lucky I’m not homeless and panhandling. I’m on my way to see my father’s attorney. Apparently, he has some things he wants to say in person. [longer pause] I wish you were here. I love you. Call me when you get this message. ”

  Gabriel hung up the phone, then continued walking, his thoughts on his upcoming appointment.

  “So how’s it going, Rach?” Julianne asked her friend that evening, connected as they were by long distance.

  “It’s fine. ” Rachel’s normally cheerful demeanor was decidedly subdued.

  “What’s wrong?”

  Julianne could hear a door open and close.

  “I’m just going into the bedroom so Aaron can’t hear me. ”

  “Why? Is something wrong?”

  “Yes. No. I don’t know. ” Rachel sounded exasperated.

  “Can I help?’

  “Can you get me pregnant? If so, I’ll book you the next flight to Philadelphia. And I’ll see that you’re canonized for performing a miracle. ”

  “Rach. ” Julia’s tone was gently reproachful.

  “What’s wrong with me?” Rachel began to cry.

  Julia’s heart tore at the sound of her best friend’s sobs. Rachel’s tears were the soul-baring cries of a woman who desperately wished to become a mother.

  “Rachel, sweetie. I’m so sorry. ” Julia felt her own eyes water as she listened, not knowing what to say.

  When Rachel’s tears subsided, she spoke. “We’ve both been to the doctor. The problem isn’t Aaron. The problem is me. I’m not ovulating. So I’m going to have to start having hormone injections in the hope that they can jump-start my ovaries. Or else . . . ”

  Rachel sniffled.

  “I’m so sorry. Are the hormone injections a big deal?” Julia’s question was hesitant.

  “You could say that. Damn it, I don’t know why my body won’t cooperate! The one time I want it to do something important, it fails me. I just don’t understand. ”

  “What does Aaron say?”

  Rachel laughed. “It’s what he doesn’t say. He keeps telling me that it’s all right, that everything will work out. I’d rather he told me that he was pissed off and disappointed. ”

  “Is he?”

  “How could he not be? I am. ”

  “I’m sure he’s upset because you are. ”

  “That doesn’t help me. ”

  “Then talk to him. ”

  “Why, so I can discuss how much of a failure I am? No thanks. ”

  “Rach, you aren’t a failure. And it sounds like you have options. So don’t give up hope. ”

  Rachel didn’t respond.

  “Do you want to come up for a visit?”

  “No. Work is really busy right now. But you’re coming home for Christmas, right?”

  “That’s right. We’ll be home next week, I think. Sooner if Diane goes into labor. ”

  “Have you heard from them lately?”

  “I talk to them on the phone every Sunday, and Diane sends me email updates. So far everything is okay, but they’re still worried about the stress of delivery on the baby. She’s going to deliver at the Children’s Hospital, which means they’ll have to drive into Philadelphia when she goes into labor. Or get a hotel in the city around her due date. ”

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