Amanda Wright was a slight, blonde woman in fashionable clothes. She seemed worried but fully in control, almost exasperated at this situation. She was ready to receive me and held a dossier as she let me in the door.
“Would you like some coffee?” she asked as I sat down.
I took some moments to reply. Her furniture was sleek, the walls of her living room bare but for minimalist wooden bookshelves. There were no photographs in the room, and certainly no television. Did I really want coffee? For inspiration I looked down the hallway leading out of this room. Doors opened into mysterious worlds as yet unknown to me. This had once been the house her father lived in. It mattered little to me that it was clearly hers now. She stood impassively waiting for my answer.
“I’m all right, thank you. But I will take some water.”
“Water it is.” She spun in place and left. Did anyone else live here besides her? It was hard to tell. There were no telltale animal scuffs on walls or furniture. Gradually, out of corners and mantelpieces, slim bamboo plants in glass beakers winked into visual notice. A faint aroma of coffee and incense began to register, accidentally personal like an imprint left by a head on a pillow. She came back with my water and a cup of coffee for herself.
“I know why you’re here. What name are you going by in town?”
“My name is Vinay, Mrs. Wright.”
“Well, Vinay,” with emphasis on the name, “I haven’t talked to my father in years.”
“I’m well aware, Mrs. Wright. Has he communicated by mail?”
“No. But I receive mail for him all the time and forward it to his university address.”
“As you’ve been doing for years, no doubt.”
“Decades.” She took a sip of coffee. “My mother saw him in a cafe last year. She called me about it.”
“Did she care?”
“No, not really. She said he got fat.”
“She’s been saying that for years, Mrs. Wright.”
“Decades. And look all the difference it’s made.”
I had no reply to this. I took a sip of water. I needed more information than she seemed willing to give. I found her unusually tight. In my line of work it becomes easy to make people talk. It is only necessary for completing my duties, and on the whole I find the mastery of that skill has made me a more pleasant person. But here I had met my match. Mrs. Wright’s cool demeanor left me no cracks.