Marie eyes my clothing with distaste. “I don’t know what she did for a living, but she seemed quite cultured and well-to-do.” She said the latter like I wasn’t even good enough to be on the same planet, much less achieve the same social status.
“Did she ever mention her husband?” Jack broke in.
“ Non ,” Marie said, confused. “It was my understanding that she was a widow. I assumed she inherited her money from her late husband. Are you saying she wasn’t a widow?”
“Her husband is very much alive,” I said. “Did you ever note any marks on Mrs. Murphy? Maybe notice something out of the ordinary when she was trying on clothes in the dressing rooms?”
“ Oui , yes, as a matter of fact I did. I saw a large bruise on her collar bone that was all shades of the rainbow. But when I asked her about it she said she’d been in a car accident and it was damage done by the. . . courroie .” She motioned her hand across her body.
“Seatbelt?” I asked.
“ Oui , seatbelt. I had no reason to doubt her. She was a very nice woman.”
Jack thanked the tart, I mean woman, and discreetly put her card in the right pocket of his coat and promised to be in touch soon. I rolled my eyes and grabbed the bags waiting for me on the counter. How could Jack fall for someone that obvious? Why would he want a woman like that? I’d never understand what went on in the male mind.
Lunch was a casual affair of take-out burritos eaten in the car on the way to see Janette Taylor, Dr. Hides’ secretary. I was tired of the sullen silence. I wasn’t made for long bouts of anger. I was more of an explode then fizzle kind of gal.
“I don’t want us to be angry with each other, Jack. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.”
He was silent for a long while, so I just assumed he wasn’t ready to move on yet, but then I heard him exhale a long breath.
“Shit, Jaye, I just don’t want you to get hurt. I didn’t like the way he looked at you.”
“And I didn’t particularly care for the way the French pastry looked at you either, but we’re both grown ups, and even though we spend most of our time together we have lives apart.”
“I know it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Just promise me you’ll be careful with this guy.”
“I promise.” I felt pretty secure in my oath. We were only going to dinner after all. I wasn’t exactly a believer in love at first sight. I’d seen too many fairytales destroyed to go for that nonsense. My parents for one. Fiona Murphy for another.
“What do you think about what she said about Fiona?” I asked Jack as he drove out of Nottingham towards King George Proper to Janette Taylor’s home.
“I think Fiona had secrets. And maybe there’s more going on here than meets the eye,” he said.
That was pretty much my feeling as well, so I just grunted in assent and looked at the neat rows of houses with identical dormers and box windows lining the street. Every one had box hedges and brick mailboxes.
“God, how do people live in places like this? There’s no character,” I said.
“People often find the urbane and consistent a comfort.”
“Not us,” I said, thinking of our jobs and the houses we both found solitude in.
“No, not us,” he said.
Janette’s sporty little Honda Coupe sat in the driveway under a mountain of snow.
“I guess she’s home,” I said with a sigh. I was a little tired of getting in and out of the cold. Plus, I wanted to get home and primp for the evening. My fingernails were a mess, and I hadn’t exfoliated in over a week.
“Hang in there, tough guy,” Jack said, punching me on the arm. “Your date will come soon enough.”
Janette Taylor answered the door in baggy grey sweats, a bright pink terry-cloth robe, and she sported a swollen, red nose. She had Kleenex hanging out of both pockets and one held tightly in her fist. I could hear the T.V. blaring in the background and smell the overwhelming aroma of Vicks Mentholatum.