The Adjustment - By Scott Phillips



WHEN I GOT home at five and told Sally I was heading for Kansas City, she blew right up and wanted to know where the hell I got off just taking off without any advance warning.

We’d been married for a long time—since ’39—but the war came along and I was gone so long I really had halfway forgotten I was someone’s husband. I’d actually been less accountable when I was in the army, having only a corrupt first looey to answer to instead of a wife and an employer.

“Listen up. This is my job, and unless you want to get one yourself I need to keep it. And when the old man says jump, I jump.”

I closed my suitcase and tried to kiss her, and she pulled back. I laughed and lunged for her, caught her by the shoulders and pulled her close. She relaxed and kissed me back, and I was starting to wish I could put off my departure by an hour or so.

“Just tell the old man to give you a little more advance notice next time. I had a nice dinner planned.” Her pretty pout turned into a beautiful half smile, and I swatted her on the ass on my way to the front door.

I HEADED NORTH in my company Olds to Seventeenth and headed east past Wichita U, where I’d spent four years studying business and trying to screw coeds when Sally wasn’t looking, and wondered idly about going back nights for a master’s degree. For the moment I was enjoying my work at Collins Aircraft well enough, but who knew, it might get tired. Right now it was hard to imagine doing any one thing for the rest of my life, even though I knew that I was going to have to pick something before too long.

I turned onto Oliver and then onto Thirteenth, where I was surprised to see some signs of development; this far northeast had seemed destined to be farmland forever. Like all the other changes Wichita had undergone in my absence I took it as almost a personal affront, something that had been done just to disorient me when I got back.

The sun was already down, and it was cold as a well digger’s ass, and right then it started to snow. I cursed and turned on the wipers; if it was slick all the way to KC it would add an hour or more to the trip.

NOT THAT IT really mattered. The truth was I could have spent the night in Wichita and made the trip early the next morning. But there was something I wanted to do that night if I could arrange it, and an extra night away from Wichita was always cause for celebration, even if it meant pissing off my beautiful, mercurial Sally.

IT WAS ALMOST midnight when I hit Kansas City, and a quarter past when I stepped inside Drake’s, an all-night diner catering to employees of St. Luke’s hospital. The woman I wanted to see didn’t get off until three in the morning, but if I read the Star and the Times both right down to the classifieds I could keep myself occupied until she got home to let me in.

At the counter I ordered coffee and eggs. The Star led with the murder-suicide of a married couple in tony Overland Park, the twist being that the wife had done the shooting. Their grown daughter, other relatives, and longtime family friends all proclaimed their bafflement; the deceased had no known health or marital problems, and they’d planned to mark their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary two months hence with a party that had been anticipated as one of the highlights of Kansas City’s social season. Hubby was a reserve officer in the Army Air Corps and had flown missions over Germany, the article said, and had been back about as long as I had.

On an inside page was a nice photo of the murder house, a vast Tudor with a palatial lawn and circular drive. “The Harold J. Lamburton residence, scene Friday of the shotgun murder of Mr. Lamburton and the suicide of his wife, the former Christine Whittaker. Star File Photo.” That’s high society, when the paper keeps a file picture of your house. I wondered if she used a rabbit gun for better coverage, or something bigger calling for greater accuracy; a lot of girls in that part of the country were handy with a shotgun, even—maybe especially—in that rarified social stratum.

“You want