She wasnt a moper by nature, so she didnt have the slightest idea how to go about it. She avoided Fry as much as she could. That wasnt easy because they were working the same restaurant and well, there was a part of her that wanted to see her. A lot.
She let Brian take over the kitchen as much as she dared and hid in her office. But it was hard to hide from someone as small as Fry, she could get in all those tricky places. And there was this pressure French could feel building up in the small woman. Fry hadnt said anything, but French could tell by looking at her. And she knew what it was. It was the pressure building from all of those unasked questions. Sooner or later theyd explode out of her and French would be buried under their weight.
She sat at her desk, pushing a pencil around, thinking over the last couple of days. Shed had another e-mail from Snitch. It had come a few days ago, but French hadnt been keeping up on her digital correspondence. Shed been kind of busy these past few days. The message was less cryptic, but still corny as hell. It had come the day after Julias party. It read, I tried to warn you, but you wouldnt listen. Stay away from Julia Harding, she does NOT have your best interests at heart. Uncle Max and Jasper are in on it too.
Not any more they werent. They werent going to be in on squat, not for a long time. The papers had had a big story about a drug bust on the waterfront. There wasnt a lot of information or detail provided about the event that French recognized. The end result was to her liking though and had been part of the deal shed struck with Agent Hayes.
It had been a surgical manoeuvre as far as the government was concerned. French considered that this was the same government that paid thousands of dollars for toilet seats and small fixtures, so why shouldnt their concept of the word surgical be screwy as well. They wanted Max and Jasper as part of a cleanup they were doing in some of the larger crime organizations. They werent interested in Mitchell, they didnt care about Julia. She found that interesting.
As in all things, it helped to have connections. She wondered how much Mitchells father Zachary had to do with it. He was one of the biggest movers and shakers of all time. Though he rarely moved two blocks from Wall Street, when he did parts of the world shook. Portia had threatened him with divorce once if he didnt come to the island for a week one summer. The currencies of three nations fell while he was gone. He hadnt left Wall Street since. But his reach was long.
She wondered if Max and Jasper had been born higher up the food chain if it wouldnt have been Mitchell or Julia in that warehouse. No matter, it wasnt. Mitchell was on the loose, as was Julia. One or both of them had probably killed Louisa for getting in their way and all she had to do was prove it.
Dil, who was as low on the food chain as you could get, had come out of the warehouse relatively unscathed. Agent Hayes had gotten all aflutter over him being there. French put her worries to rest. While she seriously thought they could get away with telling him hed had a bad dream, she figured the guy could use a break. Hed had a tough night. She told Martha that hed believe almost anything and used the arson gang shed dumped in Cezars kitchen as an example. Martha got uptight about her dealings with Polly Weems and her goons, but was convinced that Dil would swallow any story she fed him. French suggested she add a secret handshake and if possible dig up a decoder ring.
And here she was, back to Fry and the keys and the whole mess that had landed her on the floor of a warehouse with a spook on top of her explaining that, He wasnt worth it. She could get some help and probably live out a normal life if shed just give it a chance. She hadnt figured Martha for a sap. Even Monica was tougher than that.
Or Monica was something. French wasnt sure what she was. Some kind of bird watching librarian, with a thing for her grill man. Shed nearly choked that night in Monicas kitchen when Andre had blushed as Monica gently brushed one of his tattooes. That had been a bit much.
There was a knock at her door. She yelled for whoever it was to get lost. Fry poked her head in. Do you want me to get lost before or after I bring you this? She held up the drink French had called the bar for.
French felt caught. She should have known. Fry was like water, or some other unstoppable substance that people took big insurance claims out for.
French motioned her over and pointed at the corner of her desk. She would have pretended she was busy on something on the computer, but it wasnt on. And because she was as anal retentive with paperwork as she was at keeping her station clear, there wasnt anything on her desk but a pencil. So the natural thing to do was to look at Fry.
It wasnt that hard to do. To look at Fry. There was that sick feeling shed been getting for the last few days, but there was something else too. Busy out there?
Fry looked surprised. Sure. Its Saturday.
I know what day it is. Are you busy yet? You know, all your tables full?
Almost, Im waiting on a reservation. Barbra says theyll be late. Fry smiled.
Ask me a question.
You want me to ask you a question?
Yeah, itll be my good deed of the day, go ahead. It might also be a distraction from the noxious churning in her gut.
Fry had so many questions she didnt know where to start. Near the top of the list was, Why have you been avoiding me? and Did I do something wrong?. But French didnt look like she really needed to take on her insecurities at the moment. She went a little further down the list and considered, Did you have anything to do with that big gang thing over on the other side of town night before last? or What happened to all of that bruising? Didnt anyone ever tell you that they usually last longer than that? But French didnt look like she needed to be grilled on any of that either, so she settled for something else that had been worrying her. Arent you going to cook tonight?
Nah, Im giving it to Brian tonight. Like youve said, he hasnt had a lot to do around here.
Oh. Fry hadnt liked the sound of Frenchs voice. If possible, shed lost even more range and was talking in a monotone nearly all of the time. Not to mention the fact that it had been days since the chef had asked her to try so much as a cracker to see what was in it. They hadnt talked about the spices, or the flavors, the colors, the textures or even the aromas of anything in the kitchen. French seemed to be withdrawing from their fledgling relationship like the fog from the town in the morning. Quietly, but surely.
You still want to get that stuff from City Hall? French asked.
Of course. Fry perked up, if French was asking her to break the law again, things might be looking up.
Were on then. French decided that forward was the direction of choice. Besides, her butt was getting numb from all of the sitting shed been doing.
Skyler was feeling exceptionally good that evening. Shed managed to ditch her baby sitters, Tim and Paul, and had what may have been one of the nicest dates she could remember. Alyssa was wonderful, once theyd gotten beyond some vehement disagreements about social issues and protest tactics. Turned out, theyd both been arrested at two of the same protests. They had a lot in common.
Shed dropped Alyssa at her home and was walking back to her house. It was late and kind of dark and deserted on the street, but she didnt feel like she had much to worry about now that Uncle Max and Jasper had disappeared. Theyd given her the creeps. There was someone else she should have considered being worried about.
Without warning, that someone stepped out of a shadowed doorway, and grabbed her by the ear. She was dragged around a corner, off the main street shed been on.
Ow! Ow! Ow! French, cut it out! French released her ear and Skyler rubbed at it to relieve some of the pain. If thats the kind of thing youre into with Mitchell, fine, but Im not interested.
Cute. But Im not here to make passes at the worlds most inept double agent. Im here to tell you to butt out. I dont know whats going on around this island, but for some reason a lot of people who should know better keep poking their noses in where they dont belong. So quit it.
I have no idea what youre talking about. Skyler schooled her features. She was thinking of Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. It was the greatest old film and Bergman personified hot for her time. Or possibly all time, excepting French, of course.
Okay Snitch. But youre not fooling anyone but yourself with that transparent game face. And she thought Fry was bad. What Im saying is this and I want you to listen carefully. Julia Harding is a dangerous and apparently bitter woman. Do not, and I repeat, not, mess with her. I dont want you following her, watching her, or even thinking about her. Got it?
Is that why Mitchell says shes one room short of a hotel?
He misses you. Skyler said.
Hes got a funny way of showing it. I know hes your brother, but hes cracked too.
Dont tell me youre just figuring that out.
That Skyler would have anything approaching perspective in regard to her elder sibling was news to French. It hadnt just occurred to me, no. But its beyond over between us.
I know. But he does care about you. In his own, oldest sibling, gotta have it my way kind of way.
Well, maybe thats our problem. Two control freaks in the kitchen is one too many. Stay out of this. All of it. When it blows over, we can analyze my shortcomings and anything else that may cross your mind, but in the meantime...
I get the picture.
Any friends you can visit in Europe or the city?
Im not leaving the island!
Alright, alright. But watch yourself. And keep an eye on that little activist youre dating. I think she may be playing fast and loose with you island girls this summer.
Alyssa? Skyler was glad that the dim lighting would hide the blush that was working its way up her neck. It hadnt done anything to disguise the squeak in her voice. Shes... I dont think shes...
Ive seen her with someone else. Not too long ago.
You mean Violet, your waitress friend? Theyre not dating. Alyssa wasnt attracted to Violet.
Whats wrong with her?
Skyler wasnt sure if French meant Alyssa or Violet, but she sounded defensive. She went for the more obvious conclusion. Nothing, its just that Violet helped her see that shed been repressing her desires in a prejudicial manner.
Sounds like Fry.
Besides, Violet, or Fry, or whomever, is interested in someone else.
Alyssa didnt say. French was peering at her through narrowed eyes. Skyler wasnt sure if they were having the same conversation. French, whod seemed kind of distant for most of their exchange, had gotten edgy.
Well, Ive got to go take care of things. You stay out of your brothers business and leave it to me.
Continued in Chapter 33.