The M&A team camped out at Loveridge & Associates knew Kim Thesman. Kim belonged to Garrick’s entourage, not DEI’s. She represented the new breed of young executives, cross-training their way to the top. She’d played basketball at UConn and followed that up with a Harvard MBA. She could be one of the boys when she had to and dress to kill when she wanted to. She had a healthy tan. She was everything Milada was not, and Milada strongly suspected the team was just as happy that Kim was taking over.
Back at the office, Kim Thesman popped open her attaché and handed Milada a folder. It was the curriculum vitae for one Curtis Matheson. Milada scanned down the sheet. “BYU Graduate School of Accounting. Very good, Jane,” she murmured to herself. She said to Kim, “I’ll brief him myself before I send him out. He’ll mostly be working with Kammy and Mr. Wylde.”
“How quickly do you want to move on the WMI proffer?”
“Slowly. Let’s get Mr. Matheson on site first. We need to win over the rest of the family before we start exploring the financials. I expect there to be a few skeletons in the closet, and I don’t want any big surprises before we get into the particulars of a hands-on audit.”
Thursday morning Milada introduced Kim to the WMI board. The rest of the day they spent going over the books with the KMPG crew.
Milada ended her participation at four-thirty. Karen helped her collect her things and followed her down to the lobby. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Will you coming back soon?”
Milada smiled. “I’ll be back and forth over the next couple of months, but you should be seeing much more of my sister Kammy.”
“Your sister? Oh, yes, with the long hair. You can’t miss the family resemblance.”
Milada bowed her head before the glass wall of the isolation room and crossed herself. Nothing could induce her to face the sermons to come in a real house of worship. In each of the three synoptic gospels, Jesus had issued the same warning: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The Elizabethan language rang hauntingly in her ears. She knew these King James verses well and stood condemned by them, having surreptitiously attended the funeral of every child that had fallen into her grasp.
I am the resurrection, and the life, Jesus said to the sisters of Lazarus. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
“I don’t believe in you,” Milada whispered to herself. And when would she ever die? When would incorruption put on the corruptible? When would her life be swallowed up in a victory for the dead? A time to prepare to meet God, the child had explained. How long would that take? Longer than even she would live. She crossed herself again, turned to leave, and found herself face to face with Rachel Forsythe.
“Milada—” Rachel said.
“Rachel,” Milada replied with a nod of her head, suppressing the same shock of surprise she’d felt the first time they’d met. Why did this woman remind her so much of the Mother Superior? Sister Gertrude, who had been right about Rakosi, who had fought to keep them at the orphanage. But Rakosi had money, and the bishop had decided—what with the sale of a profitable indulgence and three fewer mouths to feed—and so that was that.
Milada was glad to leave, glad to leave the insufferable nun behind her forever. Just as she would be glad to put Rachel Forsythe behind her forever. She looked at her again, and Rachel had tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Milada. Thank you for everything.”
Milada nodded again, almost a bow of contrition. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Rachel shook her head.
Milada hesitated and then said, “I should have told you earlier—and I know this will sound self-serving—but that night your daughter spoke to me. She knew who I was, and she knew my name. She told me to tell you that God never walks away from an honest wager. I have no idea what that means.” Or anything else the child had said, words Milada would repeat to no one else.
Rachel shook her head again.
At a loss for words, Milada said, “The lasagna was quite good.” Rachel almost laughed at the non sequitur. “I’m leaving tomorrow. A small family emergency came up. Uncle Frank has managed to get himself into more trouble than usual this time.” She sighed. “Hardly the end of the world. But—”
“You love him anyway.”
“Yes,” she said with a crooked smile. “He must be saved from himself.” With that, Milada nodded again and then went to brush past her. But Rachel reached out and caught her and put her arms around her and held her tightly, the same way Sister Gertrude had that last time, knowing that Milada was leading her sisters into hell. For a moment Milada’s composure almost crumbled.
Only for a moment.
When they separated, their eyes did not meet. Milada did not stop. She did not turn around. She did not look back. Some Bible stories she had taken to heart.