leslie started complaining as soon as they were out of the station and on the way to the waterfront. country girl put finger to her lips and pointed to the dashboard of the van. leslie looked a little surprised but shrugged and shut up. after chewing on her toothpick for a while she curled up against the passenger side door and went to sleep.
the streets were clear so country girl started making good time, even keeping behind the carefully driving martindale. the afternoon was getting on.
martindale disappeared into the first tunnel and country girl followed her. leslie stirred a little but didn't wake up.
larry looked out at the water. "peaceful here isn't it?" he asked sally.
"i guess. we were going to have a little talk about something?"
"we will - as soon as i figure out how to begin."
sally leaned back against the bench. "don't hurry on my account."
'i don't think you appreciate your situation."
"i appreciate it perfectly. i need a job. i lost my job because of your idiot boss charlotte. now i need one. that's my situation."
"a brilliant analysis. out of fifty billion people in the universe charlotte just decided to pick on you. is that what you think?"
"i don't know what she thinks. or if she thinks. but all this is because of those stupid letters."
"true enough. you're on the right track now,"
'i wish i'd never even gone to you with the letters."
"well you did, and that's why we're sitting here."
larry laughed. "well, why did you think we were here?"
"i just thought -"
"you wanted to look at the waves."
"well, i do. they're very peaceful. but, sad to say, we also have some serious business."
sally folded her arms and looked out at the water.
"then why don't you get on with it?"
"i will - as soon as i figure out how to begin."
"well, start figuring. i'm not sure i want to sit here all night."
the maid led annabelle and tania past a couple of closed doors into a large drawing room. two men were seated on easy chairs on either side of an bare coffee table.
they were both leaning on canes. their low conversation stopped when they looked up at the maid and the two detectives.
"police," josephine announced.
"of course," the taller and better dressed of the two answered. "thank you, josephine." he looked at annabelle. "will you have questions for josephine?"
"i don't think so. unless she accompanied you to mr fairweather's house on the night of the infamous poker game."
the other man chuckled and shook his head at this.
"ah, yes," the tall man smiled at annabelle. "no. josephine has been in my service for a while, but she was not accompanying me on that fateful night."
annabelle looked at tania, who shook her head.
"she can go," annabelle said. she started looking around the room.
it was fairly large, but sparsely furnished.
"do you mind, monsieur le duc," tania asked the tall man, ''if we seat ourselves?"
"no. no of course not. i - would you like some tea?"
"tea!" exclaimed annabelle. "do you actually have tea?"
"some questions," the duc replied, "are best answered by not being answered.
josephine will bring you a beverage with many of the qualities associated with tea. whether this actually makes - "
"just bring it, " tania interrupted.
"and let's move over there." she pointed to a heavy couch by a fireplace, with two chairs facing it.
"of course, of course," the duc looked closely at tania. "have we met, detective -"
"ah yes yes , one of the kelly girls. i thought i recognized you."
tania made no response to this, and the duc and his companion rose and started toward the fireplace.
"bring tea for four, josephine."
they were barely out of the tunnel when martindale pulled over beside a little drink and sandwich store. country girl pulled over about fifty feet behind her.
leslie woke up. "why are we stopped?"
"i don't know. martindale just pulled over."
leslie squinted out the window. "maybe she's just getting a drink."
"maybe. she's getting out now. she's coming back here."
martindale was walking slowly back to country girl's van. she had a slip of paper in her hand.
"we've been diverted," she told country girl. "you guys are to keep going to the waterfront on the original assignment." she handed country girl the piece of paper. "here are the directions if you need them."
"not really, but thanks."
"you're welcome. good luck."
country girl and leslie waited silently as martindale walked slowly back to her van, took her time about getting started, and finally moved off. then they both got out and moved up the door of the little store.
"this is stupid," country girl said. "i think we're being set up for something."
"you mean you're being set up and lucky me is along for the ride."
"whatever. but let's keep keeping our mouths shut."
"a brilliant plan."
"what do you want? all we can do is go along and see what happens. but keep quiet and not make it any easier for them."
"we could escape to the lost continent of asia." leslie nodded at the store. "or maybe we could go in here and get a drink."
"all right." country girl looked up at the sky.
"how much time do we have?"
"plenty, now that i don't have to go as slow as martindale."
inside the store, edwin was watching them through the window.
it was his first day behind the counter. connie was perched on the counter a few feet away from him.
"are they coming in or not?" edwin asked.
"yes, here they come now." connie moved a little further down the counter away from edwin.
country girl opened the door, and a little bell rang. she came in, with leslie behind her.
"good afternoon, officers." edwin's voice quavered.
"no cause for alarm, citizen." country girl took a small coin out of her pocket. "we just want a couple of drinks."
"of course. what would you like?"
"orange is always good with me," country girl answered.
"i'll have mango lemon papaya," said leslie.
"i don't think we have that," said edwin. "we do have -"
"give her an orange too," said country girl.
" - plain mango and plain papaya." edwin finished.
"plain papaya is good," said leslie.
edwin went over to the refrigerated case.
"you know what i heard?" connie asked leslie and country girl.
"no, what did you hear?" leslie answered. she took a toothpick out of her pocket and stuck it in her mouth.
'that all these drinks really taste the same, they just color them different."
"is that a fact?" said country girl.
"i didn't say it was a fact, i said it was what i heard."
"maybe the colors make them taste different," said country girl. "ever think of that?"
"and besides," said leslie, "orange and orange mango are exactly the same color."
'you employed here?" country girl asked connie.
"i just hang out and help out - make myself useful."
"i could be useful to you. aren't you afraid someone's going to steal your truck?"
"sure, if they know the six digit ignition code."
"somebody could try to steal the wheels. there's people around here that would scrape your paint off just out of nastiness. i could go out and watch it."
edwin had finally found leslie's papaya drink and put both drinks on the counter.
"thanks for the offer but we're not staying long," country girl had put the coin on the counter and picked up both drinks.
"you don't have to pay," connie said.
leslie took the toothpick out of her mouth. "we're police officers, not thugs."
edwin still hesitated, looking at the coin.
"take it, sib," country girl told him. "it's just a little one."
she started out the door and the bell jingled behind her as leslie followed.
"i'd like to be on the police some day," connie called after them.
"go for it," said leslie.
"whew!" said edwin when the door closed. "did you have to jabber at them like that?"
"you got to sass them a little or they think you got something to hide."
"that was a little?"
'i was just getting warmed up."