“Long stemmed wine glasses and tablecloths are a proposition, Caswell.” Elise gave the room and its elegance a practiced eye. “Or an apology. Suspect, regardless, for a man who just asked me how my French was before he asked me about wine. I spend two evenings a week with bored, over-educated or homesick women reading French Literature and speaking French. Things I’m sure you knew before you asked.”
“I don’t run background to see if friends are still friends.”
“Kirklin does.” A suppressed fondness danced across her face. “I’ve forgotten what starch does for you.”
“Living alone, chasing ghosts…” The same look crossed his face as well. “I’ve forgotten that an intelligent, beautiful woman can make the simplest things impossible.” He pushed a worn, leather bound journal across the table cloth. She picked it up, absorbed its texture, held it to her nose and fanned the pages. She tilted her head slightly, pulled the journal away.
“Jicky. Lavender and vanilla, gone softly exotic. Shalimar’s demure older sister.” She opened the journal, glanced at its contents. “Written in several wonderfully elegant longhands.” She measured his discomfort again. “May I ask?”
“Evelyn Blanchard gave it to Kylie.” He caught himself stalling. “I was wondering –”
“If I might have a read? Certainly. I’m surprised that you aren’t still acquainted with any academics who would gladly –”
“Bad idea all ‘round, Elise. I apologize.” He reached for the journal and she pulled it away.
“I see. More to the long-stemmed glasses and pricey dinner than bribery?”
“Elise…My schoolboy French is long gone,” he nodded to the journal. “But I got a bit. I need someone I trust, not someone who worked with my wife or I pay or we kiss each other’s asses for favors. And you and I…Need to talk.”
“Elise? I need to…Sorry…We need –”
“We do, indeed. At length. Summary or transcription?” She measured him again. “Literal, seventy words a minute, more-or-less. Give me a week. The envelopes?” He pushed them across in the same path as the journal, one old and yellowed, one new. She opened the old one, fingernailed the contents. “Names and dates. Who and how. Very well.” She tucked it in the journal, opened the other card. “Everything I should have said is everything I should have said. Now I don’t know where to start.” She lifted her chin a touch and shrugged, almost imperceptibly. “Where you can start is ordering us wine you know I’ll drink from someone that works here who isn’t playing with their phone or flirting, while I visit the ladies.”
She closed the door, set the lock, put both hands on the marble sink surround and hung her head. And shuddered, hard, from the inside out. She took a deep breath and held it, let it go slowly, touched the outside corners of her eyes with a paper towel and hoped that she could still be in a room with someone she was betraying and not betray herself.
Cas reached across the pub table, handed Shona and Kirklin each a flash drive. “From a journal kept by Kylie’s father. He didn’t desert, wasn’t an ass, he never knew about her. He was a detective, came over here on holiday looking for signs of his grandfather that year, met a pretty English girl on the boardwalk in the summer of eighty-eight and so’s the tale. He died in 2007 but not before sending Evelyn his journal and notes.” He let them marinate in that for a moment. “His grandfather, Dorian Simone, was Captain of the Juliette Simone.”
The Art of Drowning
What could possibly go wrong?