point.” “Maybe.” “ Maybe again. You like that word, don’t you?” Bernadette didn’t answer. She quickly walked down the aisle and went outside, relieved to be cooled by the rain as she jogged down the steps.
Chris Stannard had taken a booth with window seats—she’d had her choice, since she was the only customer at that hour—and through the glass, she saw him hurrying down the pavement in the rain. Anna’s description of the guy had been perfect: he could pass for a pumped-up Clark Gable, tidy mustache and all. She hoped Anna had been equally accurate about the man’s willingness to help, eagerness to make things right. She needed a zealot. Anything to get it done. She followed him with her eyes as he hiked up the steps to the restaurant—a knockoff of an old railroad dining car—and went inside. He didn’t notice her at first; his head was bent as he ran his fingers through his wet curls. He wore a tweed blazer over a sweater and jeans. Clark Gable playing the part of a college professor. He looked up, saw her, and headed for her table. As he came up to the booth, she saw fine lines around his eyes betraying his age—well into his thirties—but there was no gray hair mixed with the black. Handsome. Would he find her as attractive as she found him? She reached up and brushed her cheek with the tips of her fingers. The makeup was minimal, but her skin was clear and she’d dabbed on a little perfume. Her brown hair was parted down the middle and styled into a blunt cut that went a few inches past her shoulders. A flattering look for a woman of her years—which was in the same neighborhood as his. The nurse’s uniform didn’t do any favors for her figure, but she’d had no choice, since she’d gone to the diner right after work. She stared straight ahead, waiting for him to make the first move. He cleared his throat and extended his hand in front of her face. “Chris? Mrs. Stannard?” She slid out of the booth, stood up, and gripped his hand. “Sorry,” she said. “Zoning out for a minute.” He was a head taller than she, and his shoulders seemed to fill the width of the dining car. His size and closeness intimidated her, and she took a step back from him. “Sorry I’m late.” He folded his hands in front of him. “How can I help?” Her eyes flitted to his large mitts and went back to his face. “This is going to take a while.” “I’m not going anywhere.” He waited until she slid back into her side of the booth before he took the bench across the table. “May I buy you a late dinner?” She shook her head. “Just coffee would be good.” He raised one of his large fingers, and the waitress—an older woman with gray hair in a tight bun behind her head—came to the booth with her pad. She clicked her pen and put it to the paper. “What looks good, kids?” “Two coffees and…” He glanced over at the rack of pies on the lunch counter. The waitress, in a singsong voice: “We’ve got banana cream and coconut cream, blueberry and cherry, pecan and apple, peanut butter and—” “Peanut butter,” he interrupted. “My mother used to make it. Haven’t had it in years.” He looked across the table. “Sure you don’t want something?” “Maybe I will try the peanut butter.” She smiled.
She waited until a lull in the conversation. Reaching under the table, she slipped her hand inside the purse on her lap. “This is for you,” she said, sliding the envelope across the table. “I am not a hit man,” he whispered, pushing the envelope away from him. Their in-booth jukebox, mounted to the wall just above their table, was winding down on a Roy Orbison pick. “Only the Lonely.” It was cranked as loud as it could go. “You need to support yourself.” She pushed the envelope back across the table, and it stuck halfway between them on a patch of something sticky. “Take it.” He scanned the diner. Though the other