So whats the score? Fry sat on Frenchs couch and rubbed her feet. Shed finished her shift and was taking the opportunity to get some circulation back in her toes. She and French were having a counsel of war. All heretofore withheld information would be exchanged. Or so she hoped.
French proceeded to relate all of the details that shed been conveniently omitting up until now. She even threw in a few extra irrelevant ones, just to show that she was making an effort.
So hes got a tape and some papers hidden in the basement of city hall?
Stupid place for it, but there you have it.
Seems like a good place to me. Its big, theres security there too. If you dont mind me asking, why didnt you go in yourself? From what you did in the library, I doubt city hall would be much of a problem for you.
French shrugged. Easier with the keys. Especially the one to the alarm. I dont waste my time if I can help it. Hes also a sneaky little bureaucrat and he made sure that one of those locks is a real pisser to pick. So the keys would save a lot of time. French had been mildly impressed with Jasons grasp of the caliber of the people he was up against and the absolutely paranoiac steps hed taken to ensure his own safety. Not to mention that of the documents that had been the cause of his problems.
Monica aside, he didnt trust a soul. That was mainly because he didnt have a damn clue whod killed Louisa. As far as he was concerned, she was a great public defender à la Erin Brokovich who was gathering important information on a great big conspiracy in the government of Comstock. Shed entrusted him with some evidence and he was defending it and himself to the end. That was his story and he was sticking to it. The deluded little snipe. Some people would believe anything.
Divesting Jason of his misplaced hero worship wasnt high on her list of priorities. Getting at what hed stashed away was. Could it be the elusive paper trail that could nail Mitchells or someone elses ass to the wall? Was it a dirty movie starring one of Comstock's finest?
Oh! Oh! Oh! Fry had jumped up from her chair and was waving her hands in the air. French couldnt figure out if shed been bitten by something or was having an attack of some kind.
What! Sit down for Petes sake, youre making me nervous.
Big girl like you? Afraid of a little excitement? Fry was smiling at her, but French wasnt biting. They were going to keep this business-like. As business like as was possible with Fry waving her socks around and walking all over the place in her bare feet. She had cute feet, French would give her that. And the most she could hope for with Fry was an orderly casual, formal was out of the question.
I forgot to tell you! Mrs. Landry, one of Louisas neighbors, said she saw Jason go into Louisas that night, but after he left, another man visited briefly. She couldnt see who it was, but she insisted it was a man.
And why is Mrs. Landry so interested in the coming and goings at Louisas house?
Oh, its the block in general, or as much of it as she can see from her second story porch. Some people watch people on TV, other people, like Mrs. Landry, find the real thing more interesting.
What makes her so sure it was a guy?
She said, from what she could see, he was dressed like a man and had the build.
And how long have you known this little tidbit of information?
Um, well, you know how things have been kind of crazy around here... French had raised her eyebrow. Fry had come to know this as her dubious expression. Well, I wasnt keeping it from you on purpose. Not since the night you let me eat tofu inside. Before that it was purely out of spite.
Ah, ha! So I see Im not the only one guilty of withholding.
You can hardly equate the two. Besides, I meant to tell you... eventually. Theres a difference.
So you say. Anything else you might want to tell me?
Bernies been talking to the bank about a loan.
He should. French had written Bernie off her list for good.
And I really enjoyed the wild mushroom crepe today. That had such a wonderful texture and arrangement. All of the flavors were balanced to perfection.
It was alright. You cant get really good morels around here. Im assuming that were finished catching up on all things morbid?
Sure. Have you tried looking out at Komer Farm? They have great stuff, all organic.
Some of their stuff isnt bad. I stick to my usual purveyors, then Im not running all over the place constantly...
Theyll deliver it for you.
You seem to know a lot about their growing and distribution methods. Any reason for that? French had stopped by the Farms roadside stand a couple of times on her runs. They had a good selection and the couple who ran the place was nice enough. For people who spent the balance of their time in the dirt.
Ive worked there quite a bit. My sister Joe is part owner.
Dont you mean Harriet?
This stumped French, whod met the Joe in question. He wasnt anyones sister as far as she could tell. I dont know how to tell you this, but your sisters a guy. With five oclock shadow, the works.
I know. But hell always be my sister. Hes okay with that. Frys tone was reassuring, as if that would explain everything.
Frenchs expression must have clued her in that it didnt explain much. Hes a non-operative transgender male. A she-guy. Though Joe sees himself as a guy. Mostly.
Yeah, he has what he calls his femmie days. Then he says he feels more like tossing a ball funny and not scratching his crotch in public. He calls me to get in touch with his feminine side. He says he doesnt want to be threatened by it, but understand it. His masculinity was always easier for him to identify with. Personally, I think his femmie days drive Harriet up the wall. He wants to know what shes feeling all of the time. That can be irritating. Shes not the most patient woman youve ever met.
Whats she doing with a Spark then?
So, what does Mother Spark make of this? That mustve been a toughie, even for your parents.
My parents knew Joe was different from a young age. I think it was easier for them. Im the one who had a hard time with it. This admission interested French. Fry seemed like the be all, end all in understanding compassion. I love my Dad and have some terrific guy friends, but Ive never understood the attraction, ya know? Joed been crossing for a while, but when he told me he was going to start the hormones and thinking about the operation, I couldnt wrap my head around it. It didnt make sense. She was a lesbian. Out. Why did she want to be a guy? To me, women are just so... so... ya know? Feminine. Theyre strong, soft, courageous, and magnetic. And men are... i dunno... well, theyre...
Not on your radar screen. French wondered how this worked with Bobby. He looked kind of femmie, but he was definitely a guy.
I guess. Joes Joe. Hes the sweetest sister I could hope to have and if I need someone to explain the more cryptic behavior of my male friends, hes always got an insight. He hasnt joined any mens groups, which Im thankful for. Not that Harriet would put up with the drumming or anything. But sometimes we dont understand each other. Its like were on opposite sides of some divide. We try to work it out, and when we cant he just picks me up and spins me on his shoulder til I say Uncle.
Probably as good a method as any to shut you up. Maybe Ill try it sometime.
You and what army?
Whos this army you keep asking about? Like Ive needed any help with you up til now? There was no getting away from it with Fry. She couldnt resist the banter. She was an odd fish, from an odd family, but good company as that kind of thing went. She was certainly interesting.
Maybe Ive been taking it easy on you up til now. French gave her a dubious look. But Fry was secretly hoping shed take the bait and try to prove her wrong. She had a theory about French and her new found needs in her personal life.
Whatever you say shorty. Im shakin in my boots from here on out.
Fry gave up. So, are you okay with that? I mean Joe.
French shrugged. Why wouldnt I be?
It bothered a lot of people around here, I can tell you that much. And it drives me crazy how people can get about gender and orientation, but you cant ignore how they feel. I may not agree, or be able to be around them much, but I cant ignore that its important. So I thought Id ask.
You dont have to worry about me. If it makes you feel any better, I once had a close acquaintance who was a tranny.
Fry made a face at Frenchs choice of expression. The term always struck her as inappropriate. It sounded more like something youd find in a babys crib than a term for sexual identification. Oh, were you good friends? She knew so little about French, any bit of information was welcome.
Ha! No. Julia and I were associates who slept together. Neither one of us was foolish enough to think of it as anything more.
Close your mouth Fry. Thats not especially attractive.
Sorry. But shes... Shes...
A woman? Id guess youd be all swell with it. What with your sister and all. French could never understand these liberals. They couldnt even keep to their own impossible standards for acceptance and cuddly thinking.
Shes a Senators wife.
No and to it. I dont know if youve noticed French, but the United States Senate is a pretty conservative bunch.
I dont pay much attention to politics.
I gathered not. But the point is, there arent a lot of transgender people in that crowd. There arent many women, people of color, or gays for that matter. Is this one of those things that all the rich people know and dont care much about, but they dont talk about it either because of that weird double standard?
Was I supposed to follow that?
Like the Old Boat Regatta today. All of those boats racing around out there that they all know are bogus, but nobody says anything about it. Is this like that?
Nope. Precious few know about Julias bogus parts.
What?! What Im saying is that Julias discrete. You know, like you and your best friends husband.
Who? Frys head was beginning to get that inside-out feeling she sometimes got when she was talking with French.
You know. Lover boy, Bobby.
I have no idea... Fry suddenly got the idea. You thought Bobby and I? We? Hes my cousin you dope!
French looked disgusted. Well, if youre into that kind of thing, who am I to judge you? What were your parents feeding you guys as kids anyway?
I am NOT involved with Bobby. We work together a lot sure, but weve never... Im a lesbian.
Whats that got to do with anything?
Its happening again! Nothing is making any sense. Let me say this in the most simple way I know how. I am not interested in Bobby in any other way than as my cousin and one of my best friends. You said it yourself. Men are not on my radar screen, that about sums it up. Got it?
Sure, you dont have to get so excited about it. Youre a dyke. Fine, whatever. Suit yourself. Fry could be so defensive.
So why wouldnt anyone else know about Julia? Except you, of course. Fry asked.
Im not saying no one knows. Im saying that if they do, theyre few and far between. Shes extremely picky about who gets into her bed. Always has been.
Lucky you. Fry couldnt help it, she was getting jealous.
It wasnt exactly a cozy relationship.
Its none of my business really. Oh, but how she wished it was. I wonder if maybe someone found out. Like Louisa.
Not a chance. Julias no fool. She knows exactly what kind of a problem she could cause for Jay. Shes probably erased any evidence that ever existed on Julius Emery. She also had the operation years ago, before anyone knew who her family was.
French wasnt sure how this whole honesty thing applied to the concept of hunches. She decided to play it safe. She told Fry that Julias fathers company, JCE International, was the company whod bought the remains of the Fishermans Prize and more importantly, the property adjacent to it. Theyd also bought the Grist Mill.
So why didnt you tell me that before?
I didnt think the two things were related.
Oh. Fry wasnt sure why the thought that French might not share all of her various problems with her was so disappointing. After all, she was just a pushy employee, tagging along after an internationally acclaimed chef with more enemies than she knew how to keep straight. Maybe Fry could make out a list for her. She could cross reference and arrange it so that French would know which incident was likely to be related to which enemy. So now you think this might be related to the murder?
There are a couple of things that keep cropping up. Mitchell and Julia. Somethings going on. Maybe its something Louisa got wind of. Maybe she threw a stick in the spokes and got the wrong somebodys attention.
But do you think that your friends might have killed her?
Well, not Mitchell, but even though you say you and Julia were once acquaintances, you seem friendly now.
French was shaking her head. If thats friendship, I want nothing to do with it. Julia and I have an understanding. I stay out of her way, and shell stay out of mine.
But she invited you to a party. I dont get it. I thought you were involved, you seem so intimate.
French was startled by the observation. Were anything but. Dont kid yourself, that woman may seem like shes all sweet sophistication, but under that skin theres a hard as nails businesswoman with one overriding obsession and its got very little to do with anything so mundane as friendship or sex. Shes an absolute fanatic about her damn hotels. Nothing else much gets on her daily planner. It can be pretty obnoxious.
Fry was staring at her like shed said something odd. French continued, Well, I guess Jay would be the other bee in her bonnet. For all of their differences, they stick together. And you know something?
No, at this point, I really dont.
Ive been sitting here talking to you for way too long. I have to get to it and you have to get to whatever it is youre getting to. You want me to get those documents and we can look them over tomorrow?
Not on your life! We go together.
Suit yourself. Wear something over that hair. Its too reflective in the dark.
Fry brushed her hand through her hair causing it to stick out in even more directions. Whatever you say chef. Whens the heist?
Continued in Chapter 29.