This follows directly after breakfast as Cosmos, which is chapter 4, if you scroll back down. very first drafty.
Chapter 5 Dinner with McHaggerty
As the day's field trip ended and the kids climbed into the green bus for the ride back to campus, Rune climbed into McHaggerty's Land Rover. (OR what?) His Land Rover was newer than ()'s, and in much better shape, and the seats were more comfortable, and Rune, who was tired from hiking and standing slumped into the passenger seat and relaxed as Dr. McHaggerty drove them to Manlius, a small town that was an outlying suburb or Syracuse.
The movie they were going to see, A Child in the Forest, was not a blockbuster movie, but a small film made by some Universityfilm-making students at Maine College of Arts (MCA, pronounced Mecca) Portland Maine documenting the supposedly true story of a boy diagnosed with autism who had blossomed under the loving guidance of a naturalist at (), near Portland, Maine. It would never be shown at any of the larger theaters, and was showing for one night only at the small Manlius theater. Dr McHaggerty rambled on about it as he drove, telling Rune that the theater's owner's elder daughter, Jennifer, went to school at MCA, and his younger daughter, Alice, was at ESF studying to be a naturalist.
"Oh, Alice Hartman!" Rune exclaimed, "I know her, she's in my program."
"Oui, Exactement!!" McHaggerty exclaimed, in a very fake French accent. Rune could almost imagine him twirling a villain's long curled mustache, and it made her uneasy. "That's why I thought you'd like to see it. It applies, of course, to your area of study."
They went to dinner at The Library, a small sidewalk Cafe in the same block in downtown Manlius as the theater. The evening was cooling off and a small breeze had come up, and there weren't many people eating outside. They took a table near the building for shelter from the wind and away from the two other sets of patrons.
"May I order for you?" Dr. McHaggerty asked. Rune agreed and he got up and disappeared inside. Rune smiled. She never knew what McHaggerty would order for her, but it was always good.
A few minutes later, the waitress came out with a bottle of red wine, which she opened to allow it to breathe. That gave her a hint that the main course would probably be beef. A few minutes later, she came back and poured a taste for Dr. McHaggerty, who declared it "fine."
The wine was good, a little dryer than Rune would prefer, but she never mentioned this to McHaggerty. She didn't want him to lower her in his estimation. He felt dry wines were preferable to sweet ones.
Soon the waitress returned with a plate of grilled calamari. Rune had had grilled calamari in Slovenia and had loved it. She never expected to be able find it in the the USA and was pleasantly surprised how good it was.
"This is great!" she gushed to to McHaggerty.
"I thought you would like it," he said, beaming.
"I do, I really do, thank you! Thanks so much." she went back to concentrating on the food and noticed that tiny glasses of white wine had been served with the calamari. It wasn't as dry as she expected, and she knew that he'd had the waitress bring them out just for her amusement. They were shot-glass size, and Rune sipped delicately between bites of calamari. She noticed that McHaggerty wasn't taking much, and knew he was leaving it for her. He was such a nice man.
The main course was aged filet mignon, tender enough to cut with a fork, passed over a flame briefly, just enough to tinge the otherwise red meat, with thin slices of grilled garlic inserted into slits in the meat. It was exquisite.
There were three spears of perfectly cooked asparagus woven under and over a ring of baked acorn squash dusted with a light mix of cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar.
For dessert, McHaggerty had ordered her a small portion of death by chocolate so rich that Runes embarrassed to be eating it in front of him. It was almost orgasmicly delicious.
They didn't talk much during dinner. Rune ate, and McHaggerty watched her as he too ate. He seemed to enjoy his food, but Rune reveled in hers.
After dinner, they sat back in their chairs to enjoy the last of the wine and McHaggerty said, "Have you heard from Buck?"
Rune wondered if he was psychic. "I just got a letter from him. He's coming here. Like next week."
"You don't look too happy about it."
"I'm not. He wants something, but I don't know what."
"Why do you say that?"
"He said he needed to talk to me. He did not say why."
"You don't have to give it to him. You can always say no."
"Saying ‘no’ is not my forte." Rune declared. She thought she a flicker of a smile pass over McHaggerty's lips and it gave her the willies.
"So, what was your favorite thing about Slovenia?" he asked, and she was grateful for the change of subject.
"Oh, that's an impossible question to answer. It was all so exciting. I loved loved loved the dance of the dead, for example. I'm not sure it was my favorite thing, but it was so cool."
"The Dance of the Dead?"
"Yeah, it was this incredible () in this little old church in (). It showed skeletons dancing with the rich, the poor, the young, the old, a baby. And the angels had goiters and rotten teeth because everyone there had goiters because there was a lack of iodine in their diets. I'll send you a link, there are pictures on line. yr not allowed to take any while you're there, but I did sneak a few. Not on this phone, obviously, since you just handed them out."
"I loved Grad Prejama, that's a castle in Prejama. It was a beautiful castle, now a museum, built into a cave. They withheld a siege because the cave had passages to another valley where they were able to get supplies during the siege. Then after the siege ended, the king was murdered in his own bathroom by his own people."
That's an interesting story, did you get so see the cave?"
"Some of it, and some others, too."
"In Bled, there was a castle on a cliff, very lovely and photogenic. Also a museum, and a church on an island. So beautiful. And huge mountains. Triglava. Wow!"
"And you have photographs of all these things."
"Well, yes. I do."
"And when I get it set up, you'll give a show."
"Yes. Listen, Dr. McHaggerty, Larry Thompson told me not to ask about the deaths of those four Cornell professors. But it seems so unlikely that they made that kind of mistake. Do you have any idea why he would discourage me from asking about it?"
"No, none," McHaggerty said, his eyes suddenly serious and sad. "I have to admit, but I'd prefer you don't talk about this, please, though I thought they'd been murdered and I said so at the time."
"If you said so then, why not now?"
"It's been thirteen years. It seems as if it's time to let sleeping dogs lie. I have no idea who did it. Someone did, that much I believe. But what good is it to stir it all up again?"
"But then why do you use it as a teaching tool?
"Because I think it could save lives if people use it as a warning."
"Even though you don't believe that's what really happened?"
"Even so. Collecting multiple kids of mushrooms can lead to possible contamination or confusion. It's a kind of dangerous carelessness."
"You're not really sure what happened, are you?"
"No, not absolutely. Either someone somehow maliciously poisoned them or they made a terrible mistake. That possible mistake could be avoided, if indeed that was what happened."
“But . . . if it wasn’t happened, perhaps not collecting mushrooms together isn’t quite as bad as you’re making it out to be—if people were careful, why couldn’t they collect say three kids of safe mushrooms?”
“I would recommend that for safety’s sake, if you wanted to do that, that you collect them into separate bags to examine again later—to avoid cross contamination. I don’t think beginners should do that.”
“I think you’re over-compensating for something that never happened. But never mind that for now; why did Larry tell me to butt out, to stop asking questions? Could he have been involved?”
“I trust Larry, and besides, he was down in North Carolina or somewhere because his mother was dying. I’m 99 and 44/100th% sure he really was there with his mother and not up in the Adirondacks with the fated professors.”
“Who was up there? Was anyone with them? Did anyone come back alive?”
“Rune, leave it be. Really, just drop it. It’s time for the movie to start anyway.” McHaggerty called for the waiter and asked for the check. Rune stood and followed him toward the theater, shaking her head.