Shawn never supposed anything about Lady Olga's home-based establishment of wonders. Beyond the forcefield, a.k.a. the back door, anything, from chartreuse aliens to moth men to insidious dwarves might lie in wait. Into this cornucopia, Shawn slithered, the door slapping shut at his back and his hands reaching for the bottoms of his hoodie pockets.
As it turned out, absolutely nothing waited inside. The soft table lamps, their shades enriched gems of stained glass, were doused. And so were the slew of overhead spotlights that shone down on strange, encased objects from small nooks of the world. The oversized desk Lady Olga used for lengthy sit-down sessions, for hyperbolic astrology forecasts and tarot readings stood empty directly across from Shawn. Upon it, the usual barrage of papers, books, green-shaded banker's lamp, but no sign of anyone, not even of the piratical cat Nikolai. Through the still air shifted a bouquet of spicy scents: sandalwood, lavender, with nasal-burning undertones that only came from lighted incense sticks, and not the less heady and pleasanter stock of essential oils. It was not the stale scent of yesterday's meditations, either; the perfume was new, without the flavor of cinder. Shawn realized he'd arrived at a meditation hour. That didn't excuse him. The sign on the door had said Lady Olga was in. No lock had barred his entrance.
He stepped ahead into the dim domain of a real psychic. He had never stepped beyond the portion of the room marked off by the "direction desk," the shelves of little boxes that stored loose dried herbs and bottled oils. The slimmest of hesitations, and Shawn entered the new world, grimacing faintly as if expecting a booby trap to knock him senseless. Nothing happened.
The major partition waited next, the one of the screen door between Lady Olga's office and Lady Olga's abode. Shawn opened the screen, flailed knuckles to the frame, and about ready to query a hello, his ears caught a distant melody. Music drifted to him from an unknown point. He tried to follow it, inching into the house one shuffling foot at a time. Clearly, this was the kitchen. A galley-style kitchen, old, revamped in recent years but only in the way of appliances and electrical. A peek into the sink yielded more information about Lady Olga than Shawn had never known: therein were two plates, two forks, two mugs. The thought hadn't occurred to him that Lady Olga would live with someone—other than Nikolai. Brow wrinkled, Shawn edged closer to the music's source. He was soon out of kitchen, and either had to go to the right or—he swung his head around to see what waited to the left—or to the laundry room. "Right it is," he mumbled.
It was a tiny, carpeted dining room, a lot like the small square space at home, just furnished better. The music's volume increased, and the source came through the open patio door across the adjacent living room. He saw other signs of more than one presence in the house: music magazines cluttered a coffee table, mixed up with Olga's new age periodicals and stacks of astrology, herb and health books. A comfortable armchair, worn down in certain parts, with a table next to it that held what appeared to be a humidor, a few more books about the art of being manly and the psychology of love. Shawn's brow-wrinkle deepened. Exactly who was Olga associating with these days? A cigar-smoking, chair-sitting psychiatrist with hedonistic and vain attitudes? It wasn't his business, of course. Even if the guy wore jackets with suede elbow patches.
His hands crept behind his back, collected there as he stared into the open expanse of the side lawn. Olga's house was at the end of a tiny neighborhood. In the background, tips of the hills visible through trees. The sky was unbearably blue that day, naked of all cloud. The mountains looked dark and uninviting, unlike the bushels of flowers still blooming at the edges of the garden, the plethora of shiny-leaved trees—and a black cat proudly perambulating his land while his mistress, in lotus position, sat on a blanket. Olga had on a fat-brimmed turquoise hat, a pretty halter-strap dress of tropical colors hidden beneath a lacy knitted pullover, beaded jewelry from lobes to ankles. The sunglasses kept Shawn from knowing whether he'd been spotted. But she unlatched a relaxed hand from the top of her knee and flipped the portable radio to silence. Now he knew he was being stared at behind black lenses in bright pink frames.
"I let myself in," he said, hands still behind his back. Other than his parents, Lady Olga was the lone person in the world that could make him feel he should feel ashamed of himself. For what, he didn't know. Identically, she was the one person in the world who'd verbally declared that his charlatan ways had brought the world more good than harm. His intentions were pure, except for a few mistakes here and there—which he could hardly help. Nobody was perfect. The thing about spiritualists, like Lady Olga, and Shawn couldn't deny that a part of the noun fit himself, was this great importance of trying to be perfect, then accepting faults as they occurred. There was always a slip up or two on the quest to ultimate oneness.
As though sensing his discomfort, Lady Olga set sunglasses above hat's brim, and enfolded Shawn in a moment's hug. He patted her back in return, a little uncomfortably. She was warm from sitting in the sun, smelling like apple blossoms and roses. Meditation, sweet smells. Shawn had her put together in a matter of seconds. Before she could say how nice it was to see him back in California, Shawn had to give her a window of opportunity. It was only fair.
"Want to talk about it?"
She stared at him, puzzled for a moment, then slapped her hands on his shoulders, laughing. "No, honey, wouldn't wish to burden you." She started gathering effects from the carpet of grass: radio, blanket swirled in one hand and thrown over her arm. "What was that you said to me last time? Something about skipping romantic advice and going straight to abstract philosophy."
"That sounds like me. But I have learned something. Let me help you with that." He grabbed the incense burner from the top of the patio table, and shimmied the door aside for her and Nikolai.
"What have you learned? I see you're calmer than you were. No more wisdom in you than ever there was. But you get people. You don't like it that you get them. Doesn't change the fact that you do. You want to give me romantic advice?"
"Just this, and then I'll shut up about it: I've learned that you can be wrong and try to prove you're right—or you can be happy."
This brought Lady Olga into a chuckle. She laid aside blanket and radio in the living room. The sight of the manly books, the chair, the humidor, did not pain her as she glanced at them. The fight was fresh enough to make her sore, but not so deep that his things hurt her. "How did you know?"
"First of all, your music is New Flamenco. Not really in my taste but it is considered to be some of the most romantic music in the whole world. Secondly, you smell like roses and flowers. Love spell stuff. Not a spell for him—or her—or whomever—but for yourself."
"I'm not feeling very romantically inclined lately. Good work, though, psychic detective. Now, come into the kitchen. We'll have some peach tea, like my mamma in Georgia used to make, and you can tell me what you're doing here. I am psychic, but, oh honey, I am not that psychic!"
Tisdag, November 2:a 3:15 PM
Dear June, (today your name is June)
Any possible doubt I had that Lady Olga is a real psychic has been hit with enough photon torpedoes to be completely obliterated. Trust me. The woman's the real thing. Of course, I know that I might've led her on with a couple of strange sentences of my own. Not like "Scratch pad winnebago fundaments" or "Howard's flowers tripping chimpanzees." Not funny-funny sentences. Just funnily formed sentences. That might've pretended English was a verb-second language again. So Lady Olga looks at me over her tea and says, "What's up with you, Shawny boy? Been reading Shakespeare?"
As a matter of fact, I had been reading Shakespeare. Insert appropriate gasps and exclamation points: !
Lassie has gobs of Willy the Bard in the Nautical Room (the guest bedroom). Leftover from his college days. No copy of The Taming of the Shrew, but I was reading Julius Caesar, and laughing sporadically at all of Lassie's little notes. He should know all about "Foreshadowing" now, I'll say that much. Also will say that if I can get him out of town ever again, I'll drag him out to some Shakespeare performed outside. It's too bad we missed Keanu Reeves doing his Hamlet. That's life.
Lady O got me talking Shakespeare. I don't know much. She knows even less. Between the two of us, we knew about as much as I knew when I read Romeo and Juliet back in eighth grade. The grand apex of my Shakespearean knowledge, actually. That's kind of sad. I told her that I thought Julius Caesar was "twisted." A bunch of men plotting to kill someone… Yeah, what's not to love? But it has some kick ass lines. It's about men complicating their own lives and hoping the end justifies the means (and, as usual, it doesn't). Frankly, I don't mind reading the play.
It helps if I think of Brutus being played by George Peppard, but as he played Hannibal in the A-Team—so it's really like Hannibal playing Brutus. Brutus, smoking a cigar and wearing a toga, and saying, "I love it when a plan comes together" instead of crap like "This the bleeding business they have done." You can't say a line like that AND be cool. Doesn't work. The rest of the cast would be as follows: Templeton Peck is Caesar. B.A. would be Cassius. And Murdock can play all the other parts. I want Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson in there just for good measure.
Note to older Shawn: The above thought should go into your Tree House Book of Nonsense: A Memoir. It would make the old-fart version of Gus laugh right out of his adult diaper.
My visit with Lady O wound up being more insightful than just plain educational. She felt compelled to read cards for me, and had me choose a deck. I chose some with pin-up girls on them—why not?—and it turned out to be a deck of playing cards. "You can read playing cards?" Well, yes . . . yes she can. I wanted to know how it was done, but we ran out of time. I was a bit jazzed up on super-sweetened tea and the stuff she told me from a couple of clubs and some diamonds laid out in a Celtic Cross.
"You're bored, aren't you?" she asked.
"In what sense?"
"In every sense," her lacquered coral-tinted nail hovered over the five of clubs, then she pulled out another card, a jack of hearts, "but not domestically. You're busy at home. Or about to be. Remodeling, maybe?"
A second card was pulled from the top of the upside-down deck and laid over card six. Queen of Spades reversed. "At work," she amended. "You're bored at work."
I couldn't say anything to this that made sense. Ninety percent of what I say doesn't make sense anyway, so I'm not sure what held me back. "Draw another one," I said, banally, because I didn't like the direction of this topic. It's like floating around in outer space without a jet pack. Drifting. No air. Earth looks pretty, though. Hooray for the view!
Lady O heard the tone of my voice: Danger, danger! Neither of us were in a mood to pry into my private and professional life. I mean—she's already reading my life in a bunch of symbols in a game of chance. I couldn't tell her a whole lot she wasn't already seeing. Her mouth hung in a suspended upward curve, leaving another card on the table. Clubs again. Then spades drawn over card seven.
"Not for anything too outlandish."
"What are you going shopping for?"
"Oh, something blue?"
"I don't know." At this point my heart pattered a little. It happens when Lady O looks at you long enough. I've had the same reaction while standing two feet in front of an alligator, a live one, with no glass partition. "Do you think I should look at something blue? I was actually thinking of brown. Brown's kind of an 'in' color right now. I can wear it with a beige shirt, a pink one, a blue one, a white—and I see you're getting at something else and I am going to shut up now."
Shawn, this is June speaking. Query: Why do you TALK SO MUCH. Dude. Shut. UP.
"You could just borrow one," said Lady O, gathering up the cards before I got a final chance to observe them. "You're not buying anything else?"
"Maybe a chair. A blue chair. Or are you talking—something expensive? Lassie's not really a Big Purchase kind of guy. And I don't have much money of my own. What do you think we're going to get? Or—oh! oh!—are we going to win the lottery?"
The deck split in two, she shuffled the cards together with her thumbs, pushed them into a stack. "Shawn," and she looked squarely at me, "you like horses, don't you?"
Which leads me to say . . . No, we're not buying a horse. The horse comment seemed to be a non sequitur, completely disassociated with the suit thing, the chair thing, the whole Big Purchase thing. She asked me because—
The Psych office's front door rattled open. The heel of a boot touched the tile. "Shawn? Are you . . . here?"
Shawn slammed the zhournelle shut and shoved it away. "In here, Jules."
"Ah, there you are."
"Yes. At my desk. Exemplary detective skills, as always."
Juliet flattened her mouth, sticking her arms straight to her sides. "Gus said you haven't been here since you've been back."
"This is my first time here, yes. To be honest, I thought I was in the wrong psychic detective agency. It's really clean. Too clean, in fact. Has Gus been in here—and did he bring the Scrubbing Bubbles with him?"
To test his idea, Juliet ran a fingertip across the top of the chair rail. Dust and grit free. Looking around, ceiling to shelves to the edge of Gus's tidy desk, she gave a nod of approval. "He must've cleaned it. Not with Scrubbing Bubbles, though. Gus is more a Pine Sol person."
"Should've known. Now, into this awkward silence while we stare at each other wistfully, I will insert the obligatory question: What are you doing here—at this hour? Oh, is it mani-pedi time? Should we go for tea afterwards?"
"I'm not here because I was out getting a mani-pedi, though my cuticles could use some attention."
"Gus can massage your cuticles with moisturizer for hours, Jules. Just ask him. Do you want a chair? A blue one? I'd offer you a drink, but since I haven't been here in two months and I somehow doubt Gus has stocked us up on Yoo-hoo and Tab, all's I gots for you is water. Tap or toilet. Take your pick. Don't be shy. Both are equally refreshing."
"Really, Shawn, I'm good. But, um, I will take a seat." She glanced around for a suitable contraption to use. "Oh, let's just—" Gus's desk chair wheeled out with a squeak, then a horrible grinding sound when a wheel met with a really old, disgusting half-nibbled lollipop with fur and hairs sticking on it. "Ew—ew!"
Shawn heard something thunk into the bottom of a very empty wastepaper basket. He didn't want to know what the Ew was about. Maybe Gus's cleaning spree hadn't been more than superficial.
Juliet situated the chair on her own, giving a couple of test jumps to straighten herself, get the creases of her coat and skirt . She grinned and let out a happy sigh. Shawn wasn't sure if she was about to condemn him or console him. He had it figured out as soon as she sought distraction in the case file he'd left on the end of his desk. He let her scan its contents. Her brow furrowed, her bottom lip tightened. Usually meant a question she felt she shouldn't have to ask, but would anyway.
"What's 'Apply Liberally at Sunrise'?"
Shawn cranked his fingers hard around a color-changing gel ball. It squeezed out yellow between his fingers. "The last case I did."
"Oh." She read through his odd notes, some in short hand, and some were not his handwriting at all but Gus's—mostly the end stuff, the follow-through: Summer Preacher's gory suicide in the Tanglevine Club. "How'd you come up with that title? Seriously, Shawn, put the ball down. You're not intimidating me."
"Intimidating you? That wasn't even my course. My hand's cramped from writing. I need to work out the kinks. As to the title, you should ask yourself that question, you and that jokester spouse of yours. Who gets married at sunrise? Nobody. And, anyway, there wasn't a lot of time to come up with a cleverer name, and all I had around me was my tube of lip balm. You're here to tell me to get out of Mr. Waterstone's way, aren't you? I asked you not to be shy. Did Lassie send you?"
"No," Juliet thumped the old case file back on Shawn's desk, "no, he didn't." Her eyes hardened. "The Chief did."
Shawn huffed and squeezed the ball harder. "Oh, really, now? Why could that be, I wonder?"
"Shawn, Mr. Waterstone committed suicide. We've run into nothing but dead ends finding anything about Christopher Sly. This isn't a good way for you to use your time."
"What about the missing Shakespeare book?"
"We haven't any proof that it is a stolen item. He could've given it away."
"But why would a guy hang himself from a tree and just happen to leave a note saying he killed someone else?"
For that, there was no answer. Juliet tried to be compassionate. It used to work with Shawn. "It's strange and weird and people who are in that state of mind do a lot of strange and weird things. I understand that you might have—have some—sensations that would lead you to carry on with this case, but, really, Shawn—there is no case. The man committed suicide. It's time to let this go."
Shawn chucked the ball to her. "I think you need that more than I do right now. What did Lassie say when Chief Vick drop-kicked me like a Murphy? Come on—what'd he say? You did tell him, didn't you?"
Juliet threw the ball back at him: it splatted against his chest. "Of course he already knew. And you know he'd side with you in just about anything. Where to eat dinner. What sort of bed sheets to buy. Whether or not a guy was murdered or killed himself."
"We are a loving and supportive couple."
"He thinks you're right. He thinks there's more to this case. I don't. Chief Vick doesn't. Gus doesn't."
"Well, if Gus doesn't—let me just get to work on one of the other cases I have lying around. Oh—wait—that's right—I don't have one!"
Completely thrown, Juliet settled, slouching, her face stiff. She lacked her usual tranquility. But the look that started to sprout was compassionate. She'd fully assessed him. "All right, Shawn. You know what I'm going to do?"
"Does it involve pom-poms?"
"I'm going to let you and Carlton talk about this. Yourselves." The last word held a tincture akin to a threat. Juliet began to see too much hope and smugness in Shawn. "But don't read much into it. The Chief is working with the DA's office to get Waterstone's death ruled a suicide. The DA will be able to tell if there's enough evidence to proceed with his death as homicide."
Shawn's evaluation of Juliet was not really equal to hers of him, yet he was able to uncover something lurking beneath the film. "Why do you want me off this case?"
She wasn't above being frank. "Because you just got back, and I think you could use a little bit of an extended break. I know you and Carlton had a fight before he left you out in Indiana on your own."
"Yeah, but we made up. Anyway, it wasn't a big deal. Just tension. I know you and Gus never fight and all—"
"Wait, Shawn—who says we don't?"
"Uh . . . Nobody. Nobody ever says anything like that. It's sweet of you and all, Jules, to worry about me. And, fine," he bobbed his head, raised his hand as a gesture of defeat, "I'll back off a little bit on my whole 'Waterstone was Murdered and Shakespeare Did It' angle. I won't even parade an ulterior motive. Parade? Heck, I won't even take it for an itty-bitty walk on an itty-bitty leash! Unless I happen to stumble upon some really convincing evidence to the contrary, I'll hunker in the same Suicide Cabin as you, Chief Cupcake and Guster Smelly Pants."
Her face went into a scowl.
"Sorry, I couldn't think of another name. Wit takes time to emulsify, you know! These things just don't fly out of my mouth—"
"I'm going to hold you to your word." Juliet committed the unprecedented act of spitting into her palm and sticking it out for Shawn to shake.
Feeling the camaraderie, a sort of sibling rivalry with Jules, Shawn likewise spit into his palm and smashed the piled juices together. After separating their hands, neither of them wiped the dampness away. Toughness and pride kept them from it.
Juliet might've plied Shawn into the corner, make him fight or go home, the effort just hadn't sequestered her from all empathy. "Well, how about I give you a ride?"
And Shawn clung to his suspicions. "Why do you want me to go home? And quit this case? And why do you think I need rest? Do I look emaciated or something? I thought I was looking kind of buff myself." He grazed his fingertips over his abs, not quite a six-pack but maybe more like a four and three-quarters. "This is what lifting hay bales will do to a man." He went through a cycle of muscular, Romanesque poses, including an exact replica of the famed Discobolus.
"No reason out of the ordinary," she hesitated, lifting her eyes everywhere but near Shawn, and then mumbled something unintelligible.
"What was that?"
Again, another mumble.
"It sounds very much like you said 'You need to spend time with Carleton.'"
Juliet wouldn't admit it.
"Is there a reason why—?"
"Shawn! Stop being so suspicious! Carlton went home more than forty minutes ago. I'm surprised he didn't beat me here. Do you want a ride home or not?"
Shawn accepted the ride. The Psych office lay quiet after their departure. Soon enough, the door opened and in came Shawn and Juliet once again.
"Yeah, gross," Juliet said, vying for a bit of the running water at the tiny counter sink where she and Shawn were desperately trying to wash away each other's spit from the palms of their hands.
"Jules, Jules, come on! No hoggies!"
"I just want the soap!"
Despite Shawn's accomplishments that day, all of which Carlton was willing to hear, he maintained an idea that Shawn was holding in one crucial part of his daily itinerary. Too tired and bothered by an unsolved case sitting on his desk, one that he was not about to let Shawn peek into, Carlton let the evening pass by in its usual manner. A habit of making dinner together had formed while at The Willows, and, back in Santa Barbara, the habit refused to crack or even wither slightly. Carlton was given a task to do that wasn't tiring, usually chopping vegetables or stirring gunk in a pot. Shawn did most of the hard work. If the kitchen were just a bit bigger, he'd get a serious aerobic workout flinging himself from pantry to cupboard to refrigerator to stove.
Shawn discussed his visit to Lady Olga's in a limited way, dismissing Carlton's queries. "I don't think I should talk about it. She doesn't like you much, Lassie, and I'm afraid of breaking our trust. But her card reading for me today was interesting. She said I was bored."
"How's that being psychic? You're always bored."
"That card was pulled when I was thinking about that blue chair I saw at the furniture store. Maybe blue's not right for the living room, after all."
"Was it ever? What blue chair?"
Shawn couldn't remember if he'd told Carlton about the blue chair. If he hadn't, no harm done. He jumped over a conversation that most would instigate. "I liked the style of the chair, it's just that a bold pattern might be better. Especially if we get around to painting some of these somber rainy-day walls you've got around here. It's like the fog just came rolling on in one day and plastered itself to every wall in your house. If Robert Pattinson came in here and stayed against the wall, we'd never seen him again, he'd just vanish."
"I like gray," Lassiter murmured, blandly, defenselessly. "We can talk about chair prints later. It would help if I've actually seen the apparatus in question. What else was in Lady Olga's reading?" A frigid, faraway expression honed in on Carlton, before deadening into a dread. "You're not bored with me—already?"
Shawn's laugh was a long series of short, low, melodious bumps. He didn't laugh like that very often; one had to tickle him the right way or make just the right kind of joke early in the morning. Or, apparently, five-thirty in the evening. Carlton felt his ear tugged and his cheek kissed softly.
"No, not bored with you. I'm bored with my wardrobe. I think I might wear your clothes tomorrow. I'm only saying that in case there's something you don't want me to wear, and now you'll have plenty of time to hide it at the bottom of the hamper before I get up in the morning. I'm also bored with not feeling like I'm a real resident of this house."
Carlton wondered to what this sentence appertained. Shawn had dived out of the kitchen, leaving Carlton to stir rice till it was golden brown in the ten-inch skillet. He heard rummaging, a zipper—Shawn's backpack—and into the kitchen Shawn popped once more. Carlton's hand extended to a rectangular bit of plastic, a driver's license. It was nice to see the address of Sunberry Lane under Shawn's name. Shawn had originally used Gus's old apartment address many years ago. Carlton pinched the corner of the card tighter before giving it back to Shawn. He felt choked up.
"It's nice—" His voice actually cracked. "It's nice to see that you really belong here."
Shawn's face turned hot, something that rarely—if ever—happened to him. "I feel very legitimately yours, in case I didn't before. And I got a library card, too!" The library card was flashed, arched through the air triumphantly. But with his heart pounding wildly, Shawn mumbled inaudible words into his hand.
Carlton stopped stirring the rice. Shawn's profile was static, revealing nothing, but his extraordinary eyes contained a hint of guilt's toxin. "What did you just say?"
Kitchen, dinner cooking, argument coming—oh, God, it was like the worst moments of his childhood were rising from their coffins to haunt him. His parents' arguments, his constant need for attention, his attempts to get them to focus on something other than their own troubles. Those combative feelings were not going to help him now. Refocused on the present, Shawn leaned into the counter. He was an adult—of sorts. He could carry on a rational argument. Maybe. If he failed, what of it? He'd dash off to the bedroom and, in a little while, Carlton would come in and they would talk in lowered tones. Why waste the time? It was better to be cool now. And then eat dinner.
"I was hesitant to accept the offer because I thought you wouldn't like it," Shawn started. The original opening was much different: Don't be angry, but I got an interview for a new job. Then, his adult mind started overpowering the kid within. He wasn't about to start off a topic this heady and sensitive by telling Carlton not to be angry. Carlton could be as angry as he damn well pleased. Just as long as he got angry after dinner was cooked. Shawn's stomach was still bubbling in hunger, under the tighter wraps of anxiety.
"Wouldn't like what? What'd you do? What offer?" A sensation of understanding enveloped Carlton. Either psychic powers rubbed off, or Shawn was becoming an annex to the life and mind of Carlton Lassiter. There was a slight possibility of both. "Mike asked you to work at the bar again, didn't he?"
Mike was always asking Shawn to work at the bar, either covering one of the DJ's who didn't show up for the themed costume party or for a sick mixologist. "Uh—no. You know I don't like to work at places I actually enjoy. Takes the fun out of it. But," Shawn thought that if Carlton had made the guess of a second job, and neither of them were clawing at each other's throats, he might stand a decent chance, "but I do have an interview for a part-time job tomorrow at eleven and I really don't want you to be angry about it because it might have something to do with the case but Lady Olga didn't really say it had anything to do with the case but you know how psychics are when we get an idea and—"
"Whoa," Carlton held a palm over Shawn's fast-paced lips, "slow down, thoroughbred." Shawn looked frightened. Carlton's hand dropped. "You thought I'd be angry."
"I know how you like to take care of me and everything, but there's not much going on at the offices or at the station. With Gus married and—God, I am bored." He itched the back of his head nonchalantly.
"I don't like taking care of you," admitted Carlton, staring at the rice and wondering if it was golden brown enough. He wasn't too terribly hungry now, but he wanted Shawn to eat. Huh—how about that. Maybe he did like taking care of Shawn. "All right," he said gruffly, "maybe I do. But if you're in hyper-drive all the time, I don't know how Psych is enough for you. And—what case might your potential job be attached to?"
"Waterstone. Maybe." Shawn winced and gave a shake of his head. "I don't know. It could."
Carlton decided to let that go. "Lady Olga put you up to this?"
"Yeah, she suggested it. That's why I think it might tie in with the case. She had no juju vibes about Waterstone, whether he was murdered or really hanged himself. Well, I'll find out. Her cousin Jefferson works in the Club's human resources department. Jefferson!" Shawn struck a fresh pose, gentle fist resting on his abdomen, shoulders square, expression shifted into royal elegance. "What crazy names! Orlando and Jefferson! Anyway, I'm going to see him tomorrow at eleven."
There was no comment to counterpoint Shawn's analysis of Jefferson's grandiose name. "What club? A nightclub?" A shudder shot through Carlton. He really didn't want Shawn working at a nightclub. Dirty, smarmy, smelly, loud. People rubbing on each other obscenely while music played. Bah! No one else was allowed to rub on Shawn that way.
"No, I wouldn't work at a nightclub. The hours would be horrible. We'd never see one another."
Carlton grinned, pleased. He tried to make sense out of the instructions on the recipe card—one of several Maddie had given them in the hopes they'd eat better. What other kind of club was there? Sam's Club. The Wine-Taster's Club. The Hibernian Club.
"The Country Club," Shawn proclaimed.
There was also that kind of club. "The Santa Barbara Country Club?"
Shawn nodded, sweeping chopped onion into the skillet. This conversation was going remarkably well with Carlton. Maybe they would really break down all their brick walls and tell each other everything. "That's the place. I might even be able to get a discounted membership for us. How about it? We could golf on Sundays. And smooch in front of everyone at the pool on Mondays. That'd be fun, wouldn't it? I wonder if they have some kind of open sexuality policy. H'mm," Shawn was actually pondering the discrimination policies of the Club before Carlton brought his attention back to that side of Earth.
"What's the job? You haven't said. Pool boy? Cabana boy?"
"Nay-ay-ay-ay!" Shawn gave his best imitation of a horse. He leaned into Carlton. "Ever had any stable boy fantasies? You might be able to realize them—but after tomorrow. I'm going to be working with the ponies."
Dinner was nearly spoiled by that point. The smell of burning onions woke Carlton from the hypnosis Shawn had placed on him. Almost madly, he stirred the onions and rice together, poured in the water, and lidded the skillet. Shawn was still plastered to him.
"Your head feels very heavy. Something else you want to say?"
Shawn's nuzzling of Carlton ceased long enough to say aloud his thanks. "I appreciate you sticking with me on this case. No, don't get wriggly. Juliet told me."
"Damn O'Hara. Well, I'm not doing it just for you. I've had an intuitive gut longer than you've had an intuitive mind, and I know foul play when I see it. Waterstone might've hanged himself, but I think Christopher Sly might've been real and maybe he was murdered. Still," he pulled Shawn even closer, "you're welcome. What makes you think you're going to find out anything at the Country Club? I never came across anything of Waterstone's that said he was a member."
"Maybe he wasn't when he died," Shawn shrugged, finding a piece of bread to gnaw on, "but that doesn't mean he didn't used to be a member. I'll try to find out. When can we eat? I'm starving. Oh! Crap! Laundry!" He dashed out of the kitchen, remembering the laundry he'd left hanging outside.
"Don't go too far, Shawn! Ten minutes until supper's ready!"
The back door slammed shut. Carlton buttered the sliced baguette to put into the oven, his head shaking a little at the endearing entanglements of his life. Shawn, bored? How was that even possible?