The article moved on from Leedskalnin’s construction methods to his past. He was born in Latvia, where he’d spent his first quarter-century before coming to America. He’d begun building his castle for the ‘lost love’ mentioned in the headline, a girl named Agnes Scuffs. Leedskalnin apparently built his castle in the hope—in the belief—that she would be so moved by the gesture that she would return to him.
“This part,” Powel said, pointing to the paragraph Lewis was reading.
“Yes,” Lewis said, the reason for Powel’s interest coming clear. The eccentric man had cured himself of tuberculosis.
“I called Dr. Vorregend,” Powel said. “He’d never heard of anything like it. Said it sounded like some kind of mumbo-jumbo.”
“I’ve never heard of anything like it either,” Lewis said.
“But if it’s true, if this Leedskalnin fellow really did manage to find a cure…”
Lewis heard the anxiety in his brother’s voice. It wasn’t a note Powel often sounded.
“We should talk to him.”
“I’ve tried,” Powel said. “He doesn’t have a phone. I’d send a letter, but I don’t know if he can read and write English.”
Powel walked behind his desk and dropped the article on top of the blotter. Sighed, put his hands into fists, put his fists on the desk, and leaned forward, getting ready to speak again.
He looks old, Lewis thought. Old and tired. It wasn’t just the strain of running the corporation, because truth be told, Lewis, as the number two man, did as much of the actual running, if not more, than Powel.
They’d been in business together for nearly twenty years, and that was how they’d split up responsibilities from the start. Powel dreamed up the big ideas, Lewis implemented them. The combination had worked out pretty well. Crosley was the largest company in Cincinnati now, bigger than Procter and Gamble. They were into radios, refrigerators, house8 hold appliances, about to launch a car. A lot of stress for both men.
But Powel’s worries went deeper than the company these days.
“Still…sending a letter…it’s worth a try,” Lewis said. “I’ll have Dorothea type one up.”
Powel looked at his brother, and all at once, Lewis understood what Powel really wanted done. Why he’d called Lewis up to his office.
Lewis cleared his throat. “The new parts supplier in Miami,” he said, “Benny Merino. I probably should go down there and meet with him to review the specs.” Lewis, in truth, rarely made these kinds of trips, but if it would ease Powel’s mind, he would go.
Powel smiled. “Homestead—where this fellow is—it’s not far from Miami. Twenty miles south, I think.”
“While I’m down there…I could take a drive, talk to Leedskalnin. See if there’s anything to what the article says.”
Powel’s smile broadened.
Lewis came back to the present. He walked past Leedskalnin’s garden and was tempted to grab a tomato off the vine. They looked good. Leedskalnin was walking back from the castle, heading straight toward him. Waving a finger.
“What are you doing?” he called out.
“You have mildew,” Lewis announced.
Leedskalnin frowned. “I have what?”
“Powdery mildew. On your collards. See?” Lewis plucked a leaf and showed it to Leedskalnin.
“Ah,” Leedskalnin nodded. “I have this last year too. All my greens—ruined.” The last word sounded like ‘ruint.’
“You might try spacing the plants out a little more. Let them get a little more sun. Don’t water quite as much.”
“You are farmer?”
“Long time ago I was. Now I just keep a garden. Start my day out there, five-thirty in the morning. Get my hands in the soil, get the blood flowing….”
Leedskalnin nodded and smiled.
Lewis smiled too. “These days I work in an office. In Cincinnati. With my brother. Which is what I want to talk to you about.” He brushed his hands together to clear off the dust. “My name’s Crosley, by the way. Lewis Crosley.”
When they shook hands, Lewis was surprised at the strength in the smaller man’s grip—like a pair of pliers. Rough, callused hands.
“I am please-ed to meet you, Mr. Cross-ley. I will give you tour now. To show my thanks.”
“I really just want to talk to you.”
But Leedskalnin hurried ahead to the main gate and then to the metal door, pushing it open. Stepped inside and waited for Lewis to follow.