LADY DONOVAN PHONES FRANK, PART FOUR
(the Donovans are on the phone; it's late and Frank is still shaken from his dream)
"And the man who plays Ardeth Bey looks like you, but with longer hair. Scrumptious!"
"Thank you, my Lady."
"You still sound a little shaken up. You want to talk about it?"
"It's nothing I can't handle. Just a bad dream. I've gotten too much stress lately."
"You just returned to work! No, no, dear. I didn't mean it that way. It's not that I didn't enjoy having you home for those six months. It's just, well, it seems that you react differently with this job."
"I've never done undercover work before even though my mother practically wrote the book on undercover work. I'm reacting to having to learn different ways of applying my skills."
"Kinda like when I started my new job?"
(Frank chuckles softly and a smile cracks his mouth) "Exactly the same thing. You felt out of your true element, having to learn new skills while applying your existing skills to the demands of the new job."
"It took me six months to settle into my new job. The sudden death of my boss....ohhhh! And you were off in classes for those six months."
(Frank is smiling) "That I was. I really did need the time to study child and adolescent psychology."
"For our children as well?"
"Yes, for our children too."
"Is it really true that drug users are emotionally trapped at the age when they first started using?"
"That is indeed correct, my Lady. You know me, how I like to plan and how I don't like not being in control. Many of the criminals my unit goes after were heavy users as teens and some of them were left to the streets since childhood."
"And taking those courses would better enable you to reach into their minds."
"Correct." (Frank smiles broadly. He walks over to the chaise lounger, then changes his mind and goes to the small mini bar on the far side of the room, next to the fireplace. With one hand, he takes the stopper out of a crystal decanter containing scotch whiskey. He pours himself a small shot of whiskey.)
"The clinking of glass tells me you're going to drink something. Mmmmm, the scotch?"
"Guilty as charged. What's my sentence?"
"Three rounds of lovemaking."
"Accepted and entered into the record."
"Love you back, my Lady."
"There's something I've been meaning to ask..."
"And that is?"
"Well, those courses couldn't have taken all of your time during the day..." (Lady D is interrupted by a soft noise from Frank.)
"You know where I was during the day...the Academy and the University."
"Did you receive additional training?"
(Frank pauses the glass halfway to his mouth while he quickly debates his answer. To his wife, he did receive additional training in psychology courses but part of his days were also dedicated to learning advanced techniques in counterintelligence. Frank makes his decision and takes a sip of his whiskey. He swallows.)
"My Lady." (he says this as a soft statement) "My Lady, the Academy's courses are rigorous and the post-graduate work courses I took at George Washington University were time demanding. The distance between GWU and the Academy in Quantico is more than sufficient to account for my time."
(Frank had neglected, and still neglects to tell his Lady that with his beaching leading into his new job came the privilege of using a helicopter to get around the WDC region from Quantico. The helicopter cut down on the time needed to get from Quantico to various points in the Washington Region during his additional training in counterintelligence. Frank also neglects to tell his Lady that he'd finished the course work for GWU inside of a month.)
"So that's why you were always a bit short on the phone. You were stuck in I-95's traffic! I remember you phoning in from the scene of that horrible accident just up from Quantico."
(Frank nods then remembers he is on the phone) "I remember. Two dead."
(Frank had been using ground transportation on that particular day and had been in the fifth car behind the car which had been, well, basically smushed by an overturned tractor trailer. The tractor trailer's driver had had a stroke; he survived but with some paralysis on his left side.)
"The driver was in the rehab class at the hospital. I remember him quite well when I was going in for my own treatment. He'd be walking really slow down the hallways."
"Are you having any pain still?" (Frank's voice is full of soft concern for his Lady.)
"Not anymore. After the treatments were finished, the pain went away."
"Porphyria is an unpleasant illness."
"Tell me about it. When I was a child, the other girls at summer camp used to nag at me because my urine sometimes was a dark blue. They thought it was dye."
"A genetic miscode. You're missing an enzyme which processes the glucose."
"It was such a relief to finally understand why I'd been having stomach pains all my life. Misdiagnoses, round-robin doctor visits, umpteen gynecological visits, tubes in my stomach, and elsewhere...and it was porphyria. King George was said to have porphyria."
"It's a little known illness. I think physicians have porphyria located under 'other diseases of humans.' I wasn't too happy with the amount of time it took to get you properly diagnosed."
"You're such a dream. Always caring for me."
"I love my Lady."
"And I love you. I can't seem to say that enough. I am glad the miscode wasn't passed to our children."
"Porphyria is treatable with the proper medication." (Frank takes a sip of his whiskey)
"And proper loving by the spouse."
(Frank smiles, then puts down his glass)
"And love should be in the prescription given by every doctor."
"I agree." (Lady Donovan yawns and Frank continues) "How about I read you a story, my Lady, and then you go off to slumberland?"
"That would be wonderful! What are you going to tell?"
(Frank smiles, slyly). "Once upon a time, there were two lovers."
"Their names were Romeo and Juliet. Their love was pure, and true, although they were both very young by current standards." (Frank picks up his glass, sips, swallows, then continues).
"Their families were feuding and they didn't want the two teenagers to fall in love. But kids, being kids, did the opposite of what their parents expected. And the two fell in love. Their families found out, and grew angry at the two lovers. Juliet, in order to avoid marrying a man named Paris, drinks poison that makes her appear dead for two days. Romeo finds out about Juliet's death, and goes to see her body. Romeo enters Juliet's tomb and finds Paris mourning his beloved Juliet. Paris challenges Romeo to a duel and Paris loses. Romeo then drinks poison and dies as he kisses Juliet's lips. Juliet, upon awakening from her poison drink, finds Romeo's body beside her, then takes his dagger and kills herself."
"A story about love against all odds."
"That's what we have here: a love against all odds. In my job, my family can be taken away from me in a heartbeat, or I can be killed by a vengeful acolyte of Sonny's or any of the other criminals I took down."
"You're saying we should enjoy our love to the fullest every day?"
"That I am. Romeo and Juliet had but a little time to themselves before their families tried to pry them apart."
"Sometimes I feel like we're living in a Kurt Vonnegut short story. The one about Harrison Bergeron where everyone who is beautiful, or intelligent, or athletic has a handicap placed on their person by the Handicapper General."
"Sounds like a nightmare world. Why do you think we live in the world of Harrison Bergeron?"
"The Handicapper General has a device placed in the ears of people who are overly intelligent. A loud noise comes over the earphones every twenty seconds to disrupt the thoughts."
(Frank knows what his wife means but intends to ask her because he senses she is shaky his new job.) "How does that apply to our life?"
"Every time I feel safe, a criminal pops into our lives, threatening to take away the safety I feel with you."
(Frank is concerned about Lady D's statement, and his concern shows on his face). "Do you think I'm going to get killed?"
"Sometimes I think that I, or our kids, are going to be kidnapped, tortured and killed. But I don't want you to be unduly alarmed, dear. I know you are the absolute best at protection. How you manage to protect me and the children astounds me, every day. I don't know how you keep up your compsure under the strain. I've been reading about criminals, you know."
(Frank is genuinely alarmed but pleased that his wife thinks so well of him and his skills and this also shows on his face. The last fact relayed by Lady D surprises Frank.) "You've been reading up on on what kind of criminal cases?"
"Probate. Drug. Homicide."
"And which do you prefer?" (Frank knows many people are drawn to crime; especially lurid cases. Probate cases, in particular, fascinate people because probate cases expose the accumulated assets--both financial and emotional--of an individual over a lifetime. Probate cases, like the Marshall Estate, tend to fascinate the public because they can expose hidden grudges, sometimes pitting sibling against sibling, husband against wife's family, wife against husband's family.)
"I think....probate. Death is usually natural, not inflicted by someone else."
(Frank nods to himself and a small smile plays out on his lips. He is pleased his Lady prefers Probate cases. Although many English--and Frank knows his own mother lived in England and his Lady's great-grandmother was from Cardiff, Wales) prefer murder mysteries, Frank deals enough with murder on a daily bais that murder intrudes into every fibre of his being. And he would prefer his Lady be interested in Probate, where the crimes are generally limited.)
"Probate cases are interesting. Some can expose hidden grudges over a lifetime."
"That they can do. Like the Marshall case. Do you really think Mr. Marshall was competent enough to make his own financial decisions?"
"That would be for a judge to decide. But it certainly could bring the inheritance verdict into question."
"Will you dream about me tonight?"
"Of course! I dream about you every night!"
"Yes. I dreamt last night that we were ghosties."
"We had died, and we became ghosts who welcomed other souls into the aftelife."
(Frank thinks this dream is not good, as it indicates stress in his Lady's life. Everyone has stress but his Lady's dreaming about ghosts has Frank concerned. And he takes a sip of his 25 year scotch whiskey.) "Ghosts."
"Ghosts. It was strange. We became ghosts and we were the welcome committee in the ghost world."
"Why do you think you had this dream?"
"I don't know. I know I am concerned about being away from you and the children."
(Frank nods, and sips his whiskey again. Separation anxiety. His lady was experiencing separation anxiety.)
"It's important that the children have time apart from the parents in order to practice their social skills. Likewise, it is important for the parents to have time away from the children to re-establish their pre-children relationship. You know as well as I do that becoming a parent means less time interacting with your spouse as an adult."
"I know. It's just that sometimes I feel as if everything I do, everything I say, is guided by what's correct for the children. But sometimes I wonder.."
(Frank is going to push her logic). "Wonder what?"
"Wonder if our children would be smarter, or more social, or something if I didn't work or if I had co-slept with them during their infancy."
"Our children are perfectly fine. And each is reading at least three grade levels above their classmates."
"The result of Children's Shakespeare."
"The result of their parents treating them as intelligent humans, albeit young humans."
"We do tend to read stories above their grade level. Like with Olivia, when I read Watership Down to her over a month's time, she was so enthralled and she kept asking me to let her read parts of the page."
(Frank smiles. He remembers his Lady reading Watership Down to their daughter. He'd thought the book too...too...well, too old for their daughter, but Olivia had taken to the story like a duck takes to water as a hatchling.) "She's smart isn't she?"
"Yes." (Lady D pauses before she continues.) "Do I worry too much about what other women think about how we are raising our children?"
"At times, yes you do. Just as I worry about what other men think about how I am raising our children. I am career FBI and that does take a toll on children. I worry that at times, I am thought of as less than a parent than as a sperm donor for the children."
"You are not a sperm donor! You raise the children just as much as I do! Why, just the other day, our daughter Olivia was telling people how she was going to deduce how the cake got stolen from her classroom. A regular young Nancy Drew she was! And she was telling her friends how she was going to solve the crime of how the cake got stolen from her classroom--just like her daddy would deduce it stolen!"
(Lady D is indignant that anyone would have the gumption to think that Frank is less a father for his job and that thought shows in her voice.)
(For his part, Frank smiles at the thought of their daughter telling her classmates she was going to be just like her daddy. And he takes another sip of his scotch.) "Point well taken. Children do tend to imitate parents."
"And what about the fact that we've installed stereos in their headboards?" his lady wants to know.
(Frank nods. The adult Donovans have had cassette players inset into the headboards of their kids' beds. For at times, the kids get nightmares, and after their parents comfort the children until the children drop off to sleep, the kids tend to fall asleep to their parent's croonings, then snap awake some time later. But the kids love listening to their favorite audio books--their son is predilected towards the sound-effects enhanced "Star Trek" audio books whilst their daughter tends to prefer falling asleep to to Amelia Bedelia stories on tape.)
"It does seem that our children have an insatiable appetite for audio books late at night."
"Well I, for one, do not mind if the children take a flashlight and read under the covers."
"Nor do I mind. The children will need to get up at their usual time the next morning, unless it's a weekend day."
"And the kids will learn just how much they can read before they suffer the consequences of not getting enough sleep."
"Exactly. Sometimes, kids need to learn the consequences--within reason, of course. Staying up until the wee hours late a few school nights will teach the kids that they need to plan their time a little better--exchanging less playtime for more reading time, and less television time for more reading time."
(Lady D laughs) "For our kids will be very sleepy the next day in school! Mrs Thurmond asked about our kids' sleepniness the other day. I told her not to worry about it. That our kids were learning that surreptiously reading under the covers after bedtime would adversely affect their alertness during the school day."
"And what did Mrs Thurmond say to that?"
"She laughed. And said that she wished more kids would read under the covers at night. She wanted to know what the kids were reading. I told her they were onto The Three Investigators. And she gasped! Old blue haired Mrs Thurmond actually gasped!"
"The Three Investigators is a series which was great during my school years, but has fallen by the wayside. It seems that Jupiter, Pete and Bob are not the kind of characters kids like to read nowadays."
"Yeah? Olivia seems to think that Jupiter Jones is a teenage Frank Donovan."
"Yes. In The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy, Chapter Three, Olivia says that the description of Jupiter Jones was 'bang on' with her daddy."
(Frank chuckles as he remembers that particular book. In that Mystery, a mummy 'whispers' and is hiding a fortune in jewels. In the third chapter, Jupiter had been listening in on the conversation at Headquarters via a modified walkie talkie, and neither Pete nor Bob had been aware of the fact. This action was very much what Frank himself did at times with his own staff.)
"Ahh. If I remember correctly, Jupiter finds the jewels in a hollowed out corner of the sarcophagus."
"You guessed correctly. Out of all of them, I prefer the Mystery of the Whispering Mummy myself."
"Really. I prefer The Mystery of the Green Ghost as my particular favorite."
"Oh come on! You simply can not say that the Green Ghost is better than a lost mummy! One of the characters Whispering Mummy even carries the last name of Bey, just like Ardeth does in the Mummy movies!"
"But nothing compares to the Mystery of the Silver Spider!"
"Well, that story is set overseas and has the Three Investigators posing as juinor Intelligence officers for the US government....why, you scamp! The three teens are doing undercover work, just like you!"
(Frank and his Lady laugh simultaneously. The Mystery of the Silver Spider does have the Three Investigators probing into the disappearance of a foreign country's emblem of royalty--a silver spider--and the investigative trio find themselves armed with a two way radio and a contact at the American Embassy. Naturally, the trio take down the bad guys, and restore the rightful Prince to the throne.)
"I plead guilty."
"And your sentence shall be, on top of the other sentence you have earned, a long night of confinement with yours truly. Of course, orange chicken, warm bread pudding and a bottle of Dom Perignon will be in attendance."
"Naturally. A full stomach makes anyone predilected towards a night of loving."
"Whore?" (Frank is rather excited at being referred to as a love-whore but he doesn't want to show this in his voice.)
"The Drew Carey show made reference to the fact that Drew was a 'pity-whore' when he repeatedly sought sympathy from his friends whenever things got rough for him."
(Frank is confused now.) "So, what is the reference to love whore?"
"It means that you are more interested in making love than anything else."
(Ahh, now Frank understands. And he smiles.) "Love is important. And we can make a night of it. Soft music. A roaring fire, a bearskin rug. The Dom chilling out."
"And us. Us just being a couple. Doing couple things while the children have fun with their own peers."
"And one day the children will be doing the same things with the opposite gender that we are going to be doing tomorrow night."
"Right. It's after midnight."
"You know, I've been reading about this physiological development of the brain that starts about age eight. What's on with that?"
"The brain tends to undergo physiological changes beginning around age eight. That means that the maturation process has already begun. The process takes about two years and during that time, kids will naturally slow down their learning processes."
"Is that the reason why our son is going through a slowdown in his schoolwork?"
"Yes. And despite what the professional educators will have you believe, our son is perfectly normal. It is a normal slowdown as a result of the puberty process beginning."
"So he will catch up in a few years?"
"Yes. He will catch up to the educators' standards in a few years. Think about the differences between a book suitable for an eight year old and a book that an eleven year old will read by himself. The language is simpler in a book for an eight year old but an eleven year old will be able to process complex thoughts, and emotions."
"Is that why our son's taste in reading material is changing?"
"Yes. And do you know what?"
"I think you've managed to keep me on the phone for much longer than I had wanted you to remain awake."
"I miss you. That's why I kept talking. Are you upset?"
"Not at all. But I know that you are sleepy, and that you are lying against the pillow with the covers up under your chin holding the phone to your ear. How about I hum something to put you to sleep?"
"That would be very nice."
(Frank begins to hum a tuneful song, slow and lulling. In his mind's eye, he sees his Lady's grey-green eyes shutting for a few moments, flitting open, then shutting again.)
"I love you."
"Love you too."
"I'll hang up now."
"Just until later on, when I pick you up at the station."
"Love you back."
(Lady has shut off her phone and Frank sits back on the chaise, balancing his glass of whiskey on his rock-hard stomach. Frank relaxes even more into the chaise. His eyelids flutter up and down. Realizing he was falling asleep, he places his whiskey glass onto the floor next to the chaise. Before he knew it, his dark brown eyes have closed and he is breathing steadily.)--Back to Main page