WHEN FIONA GOT to the office Monday morning, Lucy Leebald, who was already there, typing more of Mrs. W's memoir — Fiona was, in fact, a bit late this morning — said, "Mrs. W says come see her."
Though she'd had trouble getting out of bed this morning, despite Brian calling to her from the kitchen every three minutes, Fiona did in fact feel better today than yesterday. Saturday night's March Madness party, followed by the pub crawl instigated by Mrs. W, had just about finished her off. She knew she'd drowsed a bit in the limo after the final bar, and Brian had had to hold her arm to steer her from curb to elevator and from elevator to apartment, where she'd slept heavily but not restoratively until almost midday, so that yesterday had become a completely lost and wasted day, but by this morning her recuperation was very nearly complete, so it was with a clear eye and a firm step that she crossed the hall to Mrs. W's office.
Where Mrs. W looked as chipper as the first robin of spring. Fiona had never guessed the woman had such stamina. Closing the door behind her, she said, "Good morning, Mrs. W."
"Good morning, my dear," Mrs. W said, and then, a bit archly, "Where have you been keeping young Brian?"
"Oh, I'm glad you liked him, Mrs. W"
"He's a charming young man. Sit down, dear."
Fiona perched on the uncomfortable settee, notepad in lap, and Mrs: W said, "Apparently, he's quite a talented young man, as well. Some of the decorative work on the walls was his, I understand."
"Somehow," Mrs. W said delicately, "that television station— What is it called?"
"Exactly so. It somehow doesn't seem quite the right place over the long haul," Mrs. W suggested, "for a person of maturity and talent. Wouldn't you say?"
"Brian does enjoy it there," Fiona said, which was as close as she could honestly come to defending his occupation.
"Oh, I'm certain he must. His co-workers are such a jolly lot. Especially that Sean. I quite enjoyed myself with them all."
"Well, your costume was wonderful," Fiona said. "Everyone was just in love with it."
Mrs. W came as close as she could to a simper. "I must admit," she said, "I was pleased at the effect it had. Do you suppose Brian would like to go back to university?"
Surprised, Fiona said, "He has his degree, Mrs. W In broadcast communications."
"Oh, really?" Mrs. W seemed quite interested. "One obtains a degree in broadcast communications, does one?"
As Fiona looked for a response to that, the phone on Mrs. W's desk tinkled, and she picked it up: "Yes, Lucy? Thank you, dear, I'll speak to him." Smiling at Fiona and holding up one finger to indicate that this wouldn't take long, she pressed the button on the phone and said, "Yes, good morning, Jay. How are you this morning? Really? Why's that? What? My God! Jay, how could that— That's horrible, Jay. For all of us, yes. What do the police say? Have they no idea— Yes, of course, of course. Well, obviously. Two o'clock. I will be there, Jay."
Mrs. W hung up and turned toward Fiona a thunderstruck face. At this moment, she looked less like the wicked witch of the west and more like Munch's Scream. "Unbelievable," she said.
Fiona, bursting with curiosity, said, "What is it, Mrs. W? What's happened?"
"The Chicago chess set has been stolen. '
"Oh, my God," Fiona said, and inside she was saying, Oh, my God. They did it.