Symphony 129

Mrs. Cobb blinked back tears and nodded.

Pollard went on, “Mr.  . . . I didn’t get your name?”

“Campbell.”

“Mr. Campbell, Lisa doesn’t like me. Ever since Mrs. Cobb and I got engaged, she has been doing everything she can to break us up. She told Judy the same story about me trying to seduce her, but there’s nothing to it. Hell, she’s just a baby! I’m real sorry you folks got all caught up in it, but it is a matter between Lisa, her mother, and me.”

“I’m afraid that’s not true any more,” Bill replied. “When she came to us for help, that involved us. We can’t just pretend that it never happened.”

By shifting his position slightly, Neil could see the entrance to the parking lot through Bill’s window. He kept one eye on Pollard and the other looking for the case worker or the sheriff.

“I want to see my daughter,” Mrs. Cobb said suddenly.

Bill shook his head. “Not until the case worker gets here.” He had chosen not to mention the sheriff.

“You can’t keep a woman from her own daughter, man!” Pollard snapped. “Who do you think you are?”

Bill tried to divert him, but Pollard bored on relentlessly. “I don’t know who you think you are, but if you don’t let Lisa’s mother see her right now you are going to have me to deal with.”

Neil snapped, “You mean like Mrs. Cobb has had you to deal with?”

“What does that mean?” 

“Mrs. Cobb,” Neil said, “Mr. Campbell and I both know that your friend has beaten you on more than one occasion, and I suspect that he has beaten Lisa as well. We will know for sure before the night is over. Don’t you think it’s time to admit it, and get help before it’s too late. If you don’t protect your daughter, they may take her away from you.”

Judith Cobb looked stricken. She glanced at Pollard, then looked away quickly. She said, “I’m all right. Nobody beat me and nobody beat Lisa. And nobody tried to rape her.”

Neil could not figure her out. She was afraid of Pollard, of course. But was it the simple fear of a hostage, brought on by his power and his nearness, or was it more complex and twisted? Did she love him? Were her feelings for her daughter tinged with jealousy and resentment?

And where was that damned sheriff?

Pollard shot to his feet, knocking his chair back against the wall. It was a move of calculated violence. No one could say afterwards that he had lost his temper, yet the move had been supremely threatening. Here was a man who had not only sculpted his body, but had also taught himself how to use it skillfully as a tool for intimidation.

Pollard said, “Take us to Lisa now.” There was quiet menace in his voice. Mrs. Cobb had winced when he rose; now she lowered her head. He touched her shoulder and she flinched, then looked up again as steadily as she could.

“Mrs. Cobb,” Bill said, “you don’t have to be afraid. There are agencies which will help you.” He shifted his gaze to Pollard and added, “Starting with the sheriff’s department.”

Neil was so proud of Bill Campbell that he felt like applauding.

Pollard just looked at Bill. Nothing shook him. Before he built himself up, he must have had to learn when to speak and when to keep quiet. It seemed that he had never forgotten that lesson, and it made him doubly dangerous.

Neil had a sudden, sinking feeling. Suppose Jim Pollard stuck to his story.  Suppose Judith Cobb backed him up. Suppose the sheriff and the case worker believed them.

Pollard leaned over Bill Campbell’s desk and said, “I want to see her now. If you don’t take me to her, I’ll just go find her myself.”

He wanted a chance to intimidate Lisa! more tomorrow

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