A Paragon of Respectability

Paragon is one of my favorite words. I use it often and located it multiple times in the novel I’m currently writing. An excerpt from Kalorama Road.

The moment I entered his home, I found the clue I’d been searching for, for several years. Photos of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather hung respectively in the great room—Riley, Kane, and Pennington Emsworth. Pennington is the name I’d heard years ago when I stepped inside 1414 Kalorama Road. The alias, patrons of his illicit service, used to hide their true identity. Throughout my college years, I’d seen many pictures of Franklin Emsworth. I’d assumed from his fatherly expression and erudite studies, he’d be more humble in real life. Therefore, I was shocked by the air of self-importance one sees sometimes in the wealthy, as he led me into his home, through a grand parlor onto an informal patio. Although he’d granted me an interview, his actions showed disdain and disinterest. And with his condescending air, I’d expected a summons to pour him a drink at any moment.

For years he’s appeared the paragon of respectability, a hardworking, charitable man worthy of praise and admiration. But after further scrutiny, his character isn’t shiny and pristine. Underneath well-tailored suits and immaculate grooming, lies a vainglorious, petulant man living off his family’s name and wealth. The many University endowments bestowed over the years appear self-aggrandizing efforts to gain favors and wield control. Every year, he donates large sums to Emsworth University. Yes, the University is the namesake of his great-grandfather.

As an investigative journalist bent on uncovering the truth behind Patrice Jensen’s disappearance, I’ve managed to unearthed Franklin Emsworth’s many transgressions and foibles—young women, excessive drinking, gambling, and other unseemly exploits. No, he’s not a demigod or paragon of respect, but a weak man with a shameful past. I’d gathered a sizable amount of information on Franklin Emsworth before the interview, garnering facets of his personal and business life. Besides his family’s wealth, Franklin built his own fortune as a real estate developer. Married three times, he never had children. All three wives divorced him because of philandering ways, leaving the marriage wealthier than they’d been as single women. Regardless, he’s never without a woman on his arm, usually conspicuously young.

Mr. Emsworth escorted me to a table and chair on the back patio, overlooking a wide expanse of yard. Dressed in chinos and a short-sleeved shirt, he appeared younger than his sixty-one years. Not fully gray, fading blond hair disguised silvery strands, except at his temples. Neither thin nor fat, his frame is solid for a man his age. Yet, his belly hadn’t weathered aging so well, and pouches beneath his neatly pressed lavender shirt. Dark rims framed blue eyes and raccoon shadows highlighted by a sun-kissed tan, a tan that spoke of travels to some distant island, as spring had just arrived on the East Coast.  I broached the topic of his recent endowment toward the newly created Franklin Emsworth School of Business and facilities to house graduate students.

He interrupted. “I can tell you’re a beer man. Can I offer you a drink?” He asked while summoning his assistant.

Copyrighted by E. Denise Billups – All Rights Reserved

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