Disclaimer: Dis claim er bein' Ellen Raskin an' ownin' De Westin' Game sho' is tendentious, Marse Qohelet'. You's better off not makin' it.
Image disclaimer: See "Tabernacles".
T. R. Wexler sat in the executive washroom of the Westing Building, staring in dismay at the small, plastic rod in her hand.
No, that's wrong. There was a woman sitting in the executive washroom of the Westing Building and staring in dismay at the small, plastic rod in her hand, but that woman wasn't T. R. Wexler; indeed, at that moment she wasn't even Turtle. If she was anybody, she was Flora Baumbach's Alice: a scared little girl whose world had been turned upside down, just like when Sandy had "died" on the last day of the Westing Game. Except that, in this case, it wasn't a death that was distressing her; quite the opposite.
She looked down at the rod again, hoping irrationally that it would look different than it had a second ago. No such luck: the same glowing pink symbol stared up at her, seeming almost to mock her as it winked in the darkened room. (If she ever found the idiot who had started the fashion of putting luminous displays on these things, she would hunt him down and force a gallon of phosphorus down his throat.)
She told herself firmly that it was ridiculous for her, of all people, to get so worked up by this. She was the great financial daredevil ("Tornado Rider Wexler", they called her), who could lose two million dollars in a bad stock pick and never bat an eye. What was so dire about this situation as to send her so near to panic?
But she knew perfectly well. With her BQK fly-by-night, all that had been at stake was her own private fortune. Now, it was Theo's trust that was on the line.
But that was ridiculous, she thought. She hadn't betrayed their agreement in any way; in fact, she had adhered religiously to her responsibilities in that department. It wasn't her fault if the drugs had turned out to be useless when taken along with her allergy medicine – and it was pointless to suggest that she could have simply not taken the latter. When she went on business trips to New York, she had to take Abraracourix. She had been raised in small-town Wisconsin; her lungs weren't built for breathing air that was ninety-five parts smog per hundred.
But that wasn't really the point, was it? Of course Theo wouldn't accuse her. That wasn't his style. But would the two of them ever be able to discuss the future again without him thinking (and her knowing that he was thinking), Of course, I can't count on Turtle to follow through on whatever we decide here?
She took a deep breath, and forced her nerves into steadiness. If she let her present mood have its head, there was no reason she should ever get up from this toilet seat, and she doubted that the board of directors, who were expecting her in about fifteen minutes to present them with a plan for adapting to Congress's new forest-preservation bill, would appreciate that. It was time for her to take control of herself.
She stood up, brushed off her skirt, and exited the washroom and made her way to the Westing Building's conference hall.
The conference hall was empty, of course. The meeting wasn't for another half-hour; Turtle just liked to rehearse her presentations on the spot before she gave them. She walked over to the far end of the room, set down her materials at her place at the conference table, and looked about the room for a minute or two, trying to give the economics of ecology the sovereign place in her mind that it ought to have at that moment.
As she did so, she caught sight of the portrait of Sam Westing above the CEO's chair. It had been painted by Michael Shane Neal, and was perhaps her favorite thing in the building; somehow, Neal had managed to give the WPP founder all the proper outward Lutheran rectitude while simultaneously conveying, through the carriage of his body or the sparkle in his eyes, the mischievous spirit of her old friend.
She looked into the figure's eyes, and smiled ruefully. "Well, Sandy," she said aloud, "looks like you're going to get your wish, after all."