The St. Croix Scandals

Chapter Three

 

Harold Burgmeier, the director of the physical plant, entered Dr. Avery Wilsonís office shortly after three.

Wilson waved the tall, thin man to a chair. "Any progress of the repair of the mosaic?" he asked.

"Iíve got a paint crew over there right now, and--"

"Is it warm enough to paint?"

"No," Burgmeier replied. "But I have them scraping the gazebo down. The next warm day we have, Iíll get it painted. You said you wanted it fixed up in a hurry. And I have the tiles ordered. Itíll have to get up to sixty before we can repair the mosaic, but it will be done the first chance we get to do it."

"Have you sent the bills over to the bank?"

"Sure."

Wilson began sifting through the piles of paper on his desk. "Was there something else?" he asked, noticing that Burgmeier made no attempt to move.

"Itís Saunders," Burgmeier said, boring into the administrator with his dark eyes.

"What about him?"

"He wants more money," Burgmeier whispered.

"Close the door," Wilson hissed.

Burgmeier leaned over and gave the door a tug. It closed slowly.

"What does Saunders want?" Wilson asked.

"He says if he doesnít get more money, heíll--"

"Heíll what?" Wilson interrupted. "What can he do?"

"I donít know," Burgmeier said. "But if he does anything, Iím the one who gets hurt. And Iíll take you with me."

"Youíre not going to get hurt," Wilson said. "You have Saunders talk to me. Heís getting greedy. And heíll ruin things for all of us."

"But,"

"Leave it to me. Iím not going to let anything happen to our little set up." Wilson was quiet for a moment. "Did that furniture shipment get put into storage?"

"Yes. Everythingís in Duluth. We can get it whenever we want."

"Great," Wilson said. "Now, donít you worry about Saunders, Hal. Iíll talk to him and straighten him out."

Burgmeier left, propping the door open.

Wilson dialed his secretary. "Harriet, bring me the P. O.'s on the dorm furniture."

* * * * *

DeWitt Hamilton left St. Croix just as the snow began to fall. The wind howled at thirty miles an hour out of the northwest, bringing a quick drop in temperature. By morning, it would be below zero, and Hamilton was glad he had thought to add de-icer to the gasoline tank earlier in the day.

As the wind whistled and the car sped westward toward the interstate, DeWitt could think only of Lorraine Stouffer. She was twenty-one years younger than he was and, despite her three children, had a good figure. Of course, she worked out, a routine she started in high school as a distance swimmer for Minneapolis High. She swam laps at the college over the lunch hour. Hamilton was tempted to go and watch, but he knew that her husband, Jackson Stouffer, often caught her at the pool, so he dared not risk being seen there. She also walked every morning with his wife, Jillian. That was a bit ironic. But Lorraine had been the one to suggest it to his wife while they chatted at one of the faculty wivesí teas.

Now Jillian was nagging him about his health. And, last Tuesday, after the Chamber luncheon and his bout with diarrhea, he was sure his wife would ask old Doc Livermore to make a house call. He finally convinced her it was just a touch of food poisoning. He hated her nagging him to exercise more, to eat less.

He had to admit he was gaining weightóover twenty pounds in the last year or so. He noticed it was having an effect on his breathing. But he knew he could lose the weight if he set his mind to it. Her nagging just made him resistant to doing what he should do. That was one of the major differences between Lorraine and Jillian: Lorraine never nagged.

What else made them so different? He wondered. Obviously, their ages. Jillian was just a few years younger than he was. But at fifty-seven, she was still a very shapely woman. He and Jillian, then his secretary, had a brief affair the summer after he divorced his first wife, Rosemarie. He married Jillian right after the end of the fall semester. The next year, they moved to St. Croix. Jillian had a hysterectomy shortly thereafter, and their sex life had never been the same. Jillian liked to cuddle and snuggle in bed, but that was as far as she wanted to go. He tried to get her to do more for him, but she refused.

Lorraine, on the other hand, was an enthusiastic sexual partner, always willing to try something new. Together, Hamilton and Lorraine had explored condoms and lubricants, positions and fantasies; over the past six and a half years, they had learned each otherís likes and dislikes, as well as each otherís needs. Lorraine was everything Hamilton had ever wanted.

Lorraine could cook better than any woman Hamilton had known could, including his own mother. Jillian was competent. But, especially the last few years, she had become very fat conscious. As a result, dinners were less to Hamiltonís liking. No more mushroom sauce for his steak. In fact, no more fatty steak. Well, tonight, he thought to himself, he would have the biggest, juiciest steak on the menu.

* * * * *

Lorraine left for Duluth at four forty-five, after giving Michael, her older son, some last minute instructions. "Donít forget to get your sister to her dance lesson tomorrow. Your dad canít do it. And I doubt I will be home."

"Okay, Mom," Michael said. "Donít worry. Weíll be fine."

He pushed the door closed before she could say anything else. Lorraine knew everything would be fine. But she tried to ensure that no crises would erupt that would necessitate a call to her at the hotel. Of course, her little sister, Ceelee Baker, would already be in the room and could tell them some story or another. But she hated to put her sister in such an awkward situation.

There was a thin coat of snow on the streets as she pulled out of town. But once she was on the highway, heading west, the roads were quite clear. Too much wind, she thought, unconsciously pulling her heavy coatís furry collar up around her neck. There was little traffic on the highway, but the few semis that rushed by in the opposite direction made her little Civic fishtail across the road. I need to slow down, she reminded herself.

* * * * *

Despite the inclement weather in St. Croix, Hamilton made good time moving west toward the interstate. By the time he pulled his dark blue Taurus into the parking lot of the Big Game Inn in Moose Lake, the snow had stopped. The wind was fierce, and the air was bitter cold, but at least there was only a little snow. Hamilton pulled his car to a protected spot along the south bank of rooms. He popped the hood and draped his engine with a radiator blanketóan added precaution for the deep freeze the night was to bring.

After checking in, Hamilton headed to his room on the east bank, only a few doors down from where he left his car. The room was typical for a moderately priced motel roomósmall table, a couple of chairs near the door; lavatory and toilet at the far end of the room; double beds separated by a small shelf topped with a bolted down phone and clock; four-drawer dresser opposite the beds with a TV bolted to it. Hamilton hated the room. He hated meeting Lorraine in such surroundings. She deserved better.

The heating unit in the wall was on, but set on its lowest setting. Hamilton turned it up before removing his coat and setting his bag in the small closet.

He called home to tell Jillian he was in Moose Lake and that, although it was cold, he had missed most of snow. He asked her if she had any plans. She was so predictable: a warm fire, a hot toddy, and a good book. He promised to call if he wouldnít be home for supper the next night. She said she was glad he was safe. That she loved him. Kissed into the phone. He hung up and flipped on the TV, half-watched the news, half-dozed.

* * * * *

Theodore Vincent was just parking in front of the home of his departed wifeís niece when Jackson Stouffer pulled into the drive. "Going to be miserably cold in the morning," Vincent observed. "Hope Lorraine makes it all right."

"Me too," Stouffer said, extending his hand. "But with Ceelee up there, I couldnít have stopped Lorraine from going to Duluth."

"Yes, Ceelee," Vincent replied slowly. "How is she, anyway?"

"Fine, I guess," Stouffer replied. "I donít have much to do with her. I donít know how to relate to her. Sheís so...so," his voice trailed off.

"Self-possessed," Vincent replied. "At least, thatís what Doris used to say. Doris would have done anything for those two girls, but Ceelee did try her patience."

"She tries everybodyís patience," Stouffer agreed. "Thatís why I canít complain when Lorraine goes to see her. It means I donít have to see her and try to be pleasant. Lorraine says I donít have to like my in-laws, but I do need to be civil. Ceeleeís the only one I have trouble being civil to. And, for the most part, I like the rest, present company included."

"Thatís nice to hear, Jack," Vincent said. "Now letís get inside where itís warm."

Just then, Michael opened the door. "Hi, Dad. Uncle Ted. Gail said you were out here. And Kevin said to tell you to get in because he was starving. Man, itís cold out here," he added with a shiver.

"Well, weíre coming in right now," Stouffer told his son. He motioned to Vincent to head up the three steps to the door.

"How are you?" Vincent asked as he entered the house. "You seem to be taller every time I see you."

"Great--" Michael started to say.

"See, I told you they were out there," Gail said, standing in the living room. "And if you hadnít gone out there, no tellingí when they would have come in."

"Weíre not that bad," Stouffer said to his daughter. "Besides, itís too cold to stay out there very long. Your mom get off all right?"

"Yeah," Michael said. "I practically had to put her in the car though. She always has one more thing she needs to tell us to do."

"She just worries about you," Vincent said, taking off his coat and handing it to Stouffer."

"But she doesnít need to," Gail said. "We can take care of ourselves. Canít we, Daddy?"

"Well, I guess weíll find out," Stouffer replied. "Whereís Kevin?"

"Heís setting the table," Gail said.

"Oh, really?" Stouffer asked.

"Donít act so surprised, Daddy. I said we could take care of ourselves. Besides, Iíve been telling him to do it for the last hour. Uncle Ted, while Daddy grills the steaks, do you wanna play some cribbage?"

"Love to, as long as you donít skunk me," Vincent replied.

"And donít forget, I get him for chess after we eat," Michael said.

As Gail led her uncle into the den, she said in a whisper, "Iíve been meaning to ask you something, but I donít want my dad to know."

"Oh?" he asked, matching his nieceís quiet, serious manner.

"I was wondering ifóI hope it wonít bother you...but," her voice trailed off. "I mean, Aunt Doris started to teach me when I was little...."

As they entered the den, the two could hear her dad say, "Well, Michael, I guess itís up to us to make dinner."

"Okay, just let me do the steaks, will you, Dad. You like to get them too done. Mom made some broccoli and rice stuff, so I guess you can make the salad."

Gail closed the door behind them.

"Now, Honey, what are you trying to ask me?"

Gail leaned against the closed door. "I was just wondering if I could start using Aunt Dorisí ceramics stuff. I mean itís just sitting out there in your garage. And she did start to teach me how to use it."

Taking a seat at the small card table, Ted Vincent looked at his niece for a moment. He sighed. "You know, Iíve been wondering what to do with all of that stuff. Youíre right. It is just sitting in my garage. I didnít have the heart to throw it out." He paused for a moment, shuffling the cards. "Iím sure Doris would have loved the idea. She wanted your mom to learn howóalthough she never asked her right out. So, yes, Honey. You can use the stuffó"

"Great. Thanks, Uncle Ted." She crossed to the table and gave him a smothering hug. "But donít tell anybody. I want to surprise my dad on his birthday."

* * * * *

Lorraine Stouffer was preparing to make a left turn into the Big Game Inn from the center turning lane when someone hit her car on the right rear end. With her front wheels turned, her car nosed into the oncoming path of a small van. Fortunately, the driver of the van was able to slow down and only nudged Lorraineís car, just crinkling the body in front of the front wheel.

A policeman, less than a block away, turned on his flashers, and pulled into the turn lane beside the van.

The young woman who had been driving the car that initiated the contact was already out of her car and moving around toward Lorraineís door. Lorraine cracked the window, but stayed in her car. She was unhurt, but she was a bit shaken.

"Iím so sorry. Iím so sorry," the woman said.

The policeman came up to the Lorraineís door. "Are you all right?"

Lorraine nodded.

"What happened?" the policeman asked.

"It was my fault," the young woman said. "I was trying to slow down for the light. I guess it was more slippery than I thought. The breaks locked, and I skidded into this lady. Lucky I wasnít going fast."

An elderly man joined the group next to Lorraineís car. The policeman asked him what happened. "I donít know," he replied. I was just starting across the intersection when this woman," he nodded toward Lorraine, "moved into the lane right in front of me. There was a car next to me, so I couldnít swerve and miss her. But, lucky for both of us, I wasnít going fast."

The officer checked the young womanís insurance card, and stayed while the three drivers exchanged names and addresses. He supplied each with accident report forms and gave the younger woman a ticket. "I hate to give you a ticket, but I have to. Thereís a good chance you wonít have to pay a fine," he explained. "Just tell the judge about the weather and the road and your brakes, and youíll probably be okay."

"My husbandís going to kill me, anyway," the young woman said. "We just got this car."

The officer stopped traffic so that Lorraine could get her car into the innís parking lot, and the elderly gentleman could get down the road without further delay. He waited for the younger woman to get back into her car and move down the road before he turned off his flashing lights and resumed his cruise along the highway, heading south out of town.

* * * * *

DeWitt Hamilton was just stepping out of a hot shower when the phone rang in his room. It was 6:40. "Yes?" he asked, toweling himself off.

"Itís me." Lorraine said.

"Great," Hamilton replied. "You just get in.

"Yes," she replied. "I havenít even taken my coat off."

"Iím is one fifty-one. What room are you in?"

"One eleven. Hungry?" she asked.

"More than you know," he replied with a laugh. He thanked God for Lorraine. "Where do you want to go."

"The restaurant here is about as good as anything else in town," she said.

"I knew we should have gone to Duluth," Hamilton said.

"No, you would have left the office too early," Lorraine replied. "And too many people know you and Jillian there."

Hamilton did not reply.

"Since youíre way down at the other end, why donít we just meet at the restaurant," she suggested. "Iíll be there in about ten minutes."

"Make it five minutes, and itís a date."

"Great. I canít wait to see you."

Hamilton took out his electric razor and gave his face a quick shave, splashed on some cologne, and pulled on his clothes before leaving to meet Lorraine.

She was standing in front of the hostessí desk when he came in. She wore a big, blue parka over a sweater and nylon, jogging pants.

"It was too cold to dress up any," she said, seeing him give her the once over.

"You look fine," he told her. "And, youíre right. It is too cold."

Hamilton ordered a steak with all the trimmings. Lorraine ordered a small filet, medium rare. They enjoyed their dinners and a bottle of wine in the half-empty restaurant. Lorraine talked about the kids and her shopping. Hamilton kept a mildly amused smile on his lips and half-listened, enjoying just being with her.

"You donít know how much Iíve missed you. Any chance you can go to Stillwell next week?" Hamilton asked her as he escorted her back to her room.

"I donít think so. Not this time."

"Iíd really like to be able to see you while I am in St. Paul."

"Me, too," she said. "But Kevinís got the school play, and I promised to help with costumes. I just canít."

Their dinner stretched over to a third cup of coffee. By the time they retreated to Lorraineís room, the temperature was below zero. "You forgot to turn up the heat before you left," Hamilton said when he took off his heavy car coat.

"Hurry up and fix it," Lorraine said, slipping more deeply into her parka. "Itís freezing in here."

Once the heater was cranked up, Hamilton took off his shoes, but refused to take off more until the roomóand the bedówarmed up. Lorraine stripped down to her nylon, jogging suit, and the two huddled and cuddled under the blankets. Fifteen minutes later, after the bed heated up, they finished disrobing and enjoyed each other more directly. But they stayed under the covers.

"You make me feel so good," Lorraine murmured, lying on her stomach.

Hamilton straddled her back and messages her shoulders, but after a few minutes, she asked him to slide off. "I need to move my legs, honey. Theyíve been awfully tight since I went skiing last month."

Hamilton lay on his back. Lorraine rubbed his chest, felt the fleshiness of his abdomen.

"What are you thinking about, my darling," Hamilton asked.

What?" Lorraine asked, although she had heard the question.

"I was wondering what you were thinking about."

"Nothing. Just that itís so nice to be here with you."

Soon the two drifted off to sleep.

* * * * *

The big meal and the games of chess and cribbage too their toll on Vincent. He was almost too tired to pull the garage door closed behind him when he finally made it home at eleven. After bolting the garage door, the elderly banker limped across the garage to his wifeís workbench and paused. Dorisí ceramics table was just the way she left it. She made nothing the last year and a half of her life. It was, however, one of the many things she talked about doing just as soon as her treatments for cancer were over. Her first priority was the making of dollsí heads, hands and feet for the two grand daughters, Brittany and Courtney. She had ordered the molds; they were still in the sealed carton on the shelf above her workspace. "I wish I had gotten to those dolls," Doris said about a week before she died. It was the only thing Vincent thought she regretted not doing before she died.

Vincent remembered how much she wanted to teach Lorraine how to mold the clays the way she did. But that wish, too, was unfulfilled. Perhaps, Vincent thought, Gailís interest in the ceramics stuff would bring his wife some pleasure as she watched from above. "I hope Iím doing the right thing," he said, fingering the dusty lathe.

Beneath the table, were the various clays and powders she used. She explained all of the supplies to him on more than one occasion, but the value of one clay or oxide over another never really sank in. "I hope Gailís not expecting me to help," he said, looking up.

He retreated into the house. He got a glass and filled it with water, sipping it slowly. He trudged into what used to be the guest bedroom. He set his half-empty water glass on the table by the bed before flipping on the TV. He stripped to his shorts and climbed onto the bed. He felt tired. So tired, he thought.

* * * * *

When Hamilton awoke, it was 5:00. He decided to go back to his room to shower and get ready for his trip north. He pecked Lorraine on the cheek before easing out of the bed and putting on all of his clothes.

"Damn," he said, closing the door and turning into the wind. He walked quickly, head tucked down to protect it from the icy breeze. Because the air stung when it hit his lungs, he hardly breathed. He nearly fell about halfway across the parking lot. He grimaced with a slight groin pull as he hobbled the rest of the way to his room.

Hamilton was glad the heat was up when he got into his room. He stripped down to his shorts and stood in front of the warm air blowing out of the window unit. He bent low, putting his hands on the vent, allowing the breeze to warm his hands, ears and nose. Once he had feeling in his hands again, he started the water in the shower. As the steam fogged the mirror, he stepped into the stream and let it beat on his head and shoulders. Nothing was quite as relaxing as a shower, he thought.

After his shower, he quickly shaved and dressed. Even though the heater was running on high, the floor was still cold on his feet. He decided to have coffee and read a paper before heading on to Duluth. On his way to the restaurant, he stopped at his car. The vinyl seats crackled as he slid across them, and the windshield immediately fogged and froze. But the turned key elicited a reluctant grind and then a loud vroom as the engine kicked in. He moved the car in front of the restaurant and left it locked and running while he had his coffee.

* * * * *

After his 8:00 a.m. sculpture lab on Friday morning, Glenn Coombes went to Dean Stoufferís office. His denim coveralls were still covered with fresh plaster powder, despite his repeated brushings as he crossed the campus. Coombes waited outside the office when he noticed it was empty.

A few minutes later, Jackson Stouffer rounded the corner. "Mr. Coombes," he said, coming down the corridor, "what brings you here?"

The sculptor said nothing. He followed Stouffer into his office.

"Have a seat," Stouffer offered.

"Better not," Coombes replied. "I get kind of dirty in the lab."

"Itís okay," Stouffer said.

But Coombes remained standing. "I donít really know where to start, Dr. Stouffer. Helen...Mrs. Watkins...said she heard I wasnít getting tenure."

Stouffer considered how to reply. On the one hand, the list of who was or was not going to get tenure was not out for general consumption. How Mrs. Watkins, or any of the chairs for that matter, knew who was or wasnít on the list was something he was curious about. On the other hand, what Mrs. Watkins had told Coombes was true. "I am surprised youíve heard about it," Stouffer said. "I just found out, and Iíve asked the president to look into the matter for me."

"I know tenure doesnít mean much," Coombes said. "I mean, I know thereís no money involved. But it hurts when the place where you work says you're not worthy of this...vote of confidence."

Stouffer didnít reply.

"I think my work speaks for itself. I know I donít have some sort of higher degree. But students come here to learn from me. And I think I teach them well. Many have gone on to successful careers after studying here. I would think those credentials would be sufficient for this school...for anywhere...."

"Iím trying to get to the bottom of this for you, Glenn," the dean replied. "Iíll let you know the moment I hear anything."

* * * * *

Ceelee Baker met her Lorraine Stouffer in the parking lot in front of Haggertyís Outlet Store in the new mall on the edge of Duluth. She parked on the right side of her sisterís car.

"What happened?" she asked, as she slipped into the front seat.

"Little accident."

"I can see that," Ceelee said. "Does Jack know?"

"No," Lorraine replied. "And heís not going to. I already checked with a body shop, and they can have it fixed up by tomorrow at noon."

"Oh?"

"Just follow me over there, will you?" Lorraine asked. "We can talk about it after I get the car in the shop."

"Okay. Okay," Ceelee replied.

"We can shop afterwards, and then go to the hotel for supper."

"Whatever you want," Ceelee said. "Youíre the big sister."

"Thanks, I owe you," Lorraine said.

"More all the time," Ceelee answered. "More all the time." She returned to her own car and followed Lorraine to the body shop.

* * * * *

Dr. Richard Pendleton, President of Duluth University, came around his desk to greet DeWitt Hamilton as he approached his office. "I was afraid you would have to cancel, what with all the snow St. Croix was hit with last night."

"Heard about the storm," Hamilton said, "and went to Moose Lake to spend the night. Interstate to here was just fine."

"Great," Pendleton replied. "Coffee?"

"You bet. Thanks."

The two men stepped into a little kitchenette off the reception area to the presidentís office. It was equipped with a full-sized refrigerator and a microwave, a large table and chairs. The room was much nicer than the little closet where Margie made his coffee, Hamilton thought.

"You want to work in here?" Pendleton asked. "Easier to work at this table, and the coffee potís closer."

"Suits me."

"Iíll be right back, then," Pendleton said. "Iíll just get my folder. I was just going over the appropriations. Things look grim."

"Donít I know it," Hamilton agreed, taking off his overcoat and folding it over the back of a chair.

When Pendleton returned, he tossed a half-inch thick folder on the table before getting himself some coffee. "So what have you heard?" Pendleton asked as he sat down across the table from his colleague.

"Gault sent me some of the preliminaries from the governorís recís. I canít say I like what I see."

"Those the same as these?" Pendleton asked, rifling through the folder and pulling out a multi-paged list of line items and numbers.

"Mineís dated last Friday," Hamilton said.

"These are a few weeks older. Any changes? Did you even see these?"

"Yeah, I got that one. That was from Swenson on the finance committee, right?" Hamilton asked.

"Yes, these are from Swensonís office."

"Well, there are just a few changes from those numbers that mean anything to us...and none of the changes are favorable," Hamilton said.

"What else would you expect," Pendleton said. "Thereís an election coming up in the fallóhave to be seen as trying to save money this time of year."

"Weíre going to have to convince the legislature to increase faculty appropriations. If they donít, Iíll have to raise local taxes just to meet salaries for next year," Hamilton said. "I need to raise them anyway. Weíve got a lot of physical plant needs we canít meet right now."

"Same here. I talked to Swenson the other day," Pendleton said. "He says thereís a chance we can boost everything as much as two per cent. But he says the problem will be convincing the governor. You know, I had to send out contract renewals without salaries listed again this year."

"Me, too," Hamilton agreed. "Itís the second year in a row Iíve done that. And last year, I all but promised a raise this time around."

"At least I didnít make that promise, although I bet everyone here has that expectation. This job is getting harder all the time," Pendleton said.

"So, how are we going to sell the governor?" Hamilton asked.

* * * * *

"Do you know when your car will be ready?" Ceelee asked, as Lorraine climbed into the passenger seat of her ten-year-old Skylark.

"He said heíd try to have it done tonight. But he guaranteed me it would be ready by noon tomorrow," Lorraine said.

"Whatís Jack going to say?"

"About what? About my staying another day here in Duluth? Or about the dented fender Iím not going to tell him about?"

"Wonít he say something when he sees the bill for the repairs?"

"He wonít see it. I do the bill paying, so heíll never know."

"What else are you keeping from him, Sis?"

"Everything that will upset his day," Lorraine said with a laugh.

"Oh," Ceelee said. "Speaking of keeping things from someone, I donít think I told you my big news."

"No, you havenít told me anything I would call big," Lorraine agreed.

"Guess where Carl and I are going for the summer?"

"Letís seeóhis folkís?" Lorraine guessed.

"No."

"Our folkís?"

"No."

"Well, that rules out a marriage anytime soon, so I give up," Lorraine said.

"Weíre going to Europe."

"Europe?" Lorraine asked.

"Yes," Ceelee replied. "Heís gotten a grant to do some work in St. Petersburg. And since weíll be going through London and Bonn, we are going to spend some time in each place on the way. Weíre going through Vienna, Barcelona andóget thisóParis on the way back. Weíll be gone for over three months."

"But what about your job?"

"Iíve already put in for a leave of absence. It got approved yesterday. But," Ceelee said, "I would have quit and just come back and looked for something if the library had said no. I mean, Europe. How could I not go?"

"Does that mean I get custody of your apartment?" Lorraine asked.

"Doesnít it always, when I am out of town?" Ceelee laughed. "Doesnít it always."

* * * * *

"Awfully cold to be out here scraping paint," Kevin Dalton said as he surveyed the three maintenance people working on the gazebo. The men all wore leather mittens with liners. It took both hands to hold on to the tools securely enough to get much of the flaked paint off the wooden structure.

"Boss said we had to be ready to paint next time it gets above forty," the shortest of the men answered.

"I told him it was nuts," replied the heaviest of the trio. "Told him if I got just a little bit frostbit from being out in this wind, Iíd sue."

"Told us not to be cry babies," the short one said.

"Told us he could find people who wanted to work," the heavy one added.

"Maybe we shouldnít be telling this kid what we were told," the last of the three said. "It ainít none of his business what we do and why we do it."

"I was just asking," Dalton said. Turning toward the shorter one, he asked, "Arenít you Larry. You fixed the showers in the Barker Hall last week."

"Yeah, Iím Larry."

"Remember me, Kevin Dalton--"

"Oh, yeah. The kid that workís for the paper."

"Yeah."

"Hey, fellas," Larry said, "heís okay. Kevin, these are two of the best guys I ever worked with, Tom Cunard and Dick Gleason."

"Nice to meet you," Kevin said. "When do you go on a break. Iíll pay for some coffee to warm you up."

"I vote we take one now," the heavy one, Tom Cunard, said.

"Yeah...well, okay, " Larry said. "We been out here over thirty minutes, so I guess it would be okay with it being so cold."

* * * * *

Dr. Avery Wilson returned to his office at 2:30. "Margie, Iím behind, and I have to get the bank transfer completed by 3:00, so donít let anyone in to bother me until after I finish."

"No problem, Dr. Wilson," the gray-haired woman replied, pulling at the top button of her blouse.

After closing his door, Wilson powered up his computer. He took a disk from a locked drawer in his desk and placed it into the drive before clicking on the bank-transfer program. The school had a number of accounts that were swept into interest-bearing accounts where the accumulated balances would do the college some good. Years ago, he discovered how much interest could be earned over a weekend, even overnight. And it was considerable. It took him six months to convince Hamilton, but Hamilton really wasnít a dollar-and-cents man.

When Wilson showed him how much money the college would have earned, the college changed their banking practices. And Wilson designed the whole thing. On weeknights, he often let Lucille do the routine transfers. But for the weekends, he liked to make certain decisions and transfers himself.

Wilson scanned the interest rates available and made some adjustments in which accounts would be emptied where, then clicked the transfer icon. The entire transfer process was completed in a matter of seconds, even though a number of different banks in different cities were involved. Wilson again thanked his good fortune to live in times when such things were possible. It would have been impossible to handle all of the paperwork involved in less than a half-hour before desktops. Wilson saved the transfers to disk, edited a few notations, and printed out a record for Margieís and Lucilleís files. He exited the program. He locked the diskette in the drawer of his desk before shutting off his computer.

"Margie," he said, depressing a button on the intercom, "the transfer report should be printed in about five minutes. Be sure to file your copy, give one to Lucille, and bring me the other copy as soon as itís finished. Oh, and, if we have some fresh coffee, Iíd like that, too."

"Yes, Dr. Wilson. Will there be anything else?"

"No, I donít think so. Why donít you tell the rest of the secretaryís they can leave at 3:30 today."

"Oh, thank you, Dr. Wilson. I know everyone will appreciate it."

End of Chapter Three