Zero at the Bone

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Authors: Mary Willis Walker
directions to Travis Hammond’s office.
    “And, Katherine,” he said, “I want to repeat that anything I can do to help you, I want to do. Just let me know what it is and it will be done. Promise you’ll let me know?”
    She started the car, thinking of estates and wills. She was desperate to know if she could get what her father had for her in time to prevent the foreclosure. Would it be enough? Ninety-one thousand dollars? She took a deep breath. Well, she was about to find out.
    As she pulled away from the zoo parking lot she looked in the rearview mirror at Ra, his ears blowing in the breeze from her open window. It had to be enough.

6
    KATHERINE had been surprised to hear that Travis Hammond was Lester’s lawyer. He was the only person from her old life in Austin that Leanne Driscoll had kept in touch with. He had been a close family friend and attorney to three generations of Driscolls, and given the rancorous split between her parents, it was mystifying that her father would choose Hammond to handle his estate.
    The office of Hammond and Crowley was in a tiny, low stone house on Guadaloupe Street. A historic landmark medallion with the profile of Texas glittering in stainless steel was affixed to the left of the door.
    Katherine liked the interior instantly. It was sparsely furnished and cool, with white walls roughly plastered, and wide-planked pine floors, bare except for some Navaho rugs tossed at random angles. On the walls hung three black-and-white photographs—originals by Ansel Adams, she thought.
    A very young receptionist wearing blue jeans and a faded workshirt was busy typing with two fingers at the keyboard of a Macintosh computer. When Katherine identified herself, she stood up and started to smile, but stopped herself, and instead said, “Yes, ma’am. Sorry to hear about your father. Please sit down for just a sec.” She hurried from the room and slammed a door in the back. Before Katherine could sit down she had returned, with the old attorney limping at her side.
    He was very thin and exquisitely tailored in a charcoal-gray suit. Above the snowy shirt collar and yellow paisley tie, his tanned, leathery face looked like a mask of tragedy. His mouth turned down at the corners, and his skin was a mass of brown wrinkles, like a peeled apple left out in the sun to dry. As he greeted her, a tic in his right eye convulsed all the muscles in that side of his face.
    But his courtly Texas charm shone through. “Katherine Driscoll.” He drawled the name out as he took her right hand into both his own. “Thank you for coming to see me. I can’t tell you how devastated I am to hear about your father’s accident. I would have called you right away, but I was in Lubbock and just got back to Austin at noon to hear about it. Sam McElroy tells me you found out by accident. I’m so, so sorry about that. Forgive me.”
    Katherine thought he really did look devastated. She wondered if that meant he had been close to Lester.
    “Oh,” he said, turning to his young receptionist, “this is my granddaughter, Susan Hammond, helping me out in the office while she decides whether to go to college or not. Hold my calls, please, Susie Q, so I can talk with Miss Driscoll.”
    “Okay, Grampa,” she said, already back at her slow typing.
    Travis Hammond took Katherine’s arm and ushered her through the door of his office, taking care of her as if she were the frail one with a bad knee and a case of the shakes. He settled her on a beige camelback sofa and turned to close the door. The office, like the entry, was cool and simple, but she was jarred by the glassy eye of a huge deer head hanging on the opposite wall. It looked out of place in this civilized environment.
    The lawyer turned and caught her staring. “Are you a hunter, Miss Driscoll? It’s one of my great vices.”
    “Well, I train retrievers,” Katherine said, “and I take them bird hunting as part of the training—duck and quail mostly, but no,

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