30 - Alfred's Replacement

The Guardian Dolphin

image

At that moment, to Julie's horror, a window slid open behind the policeman, and Mr. Smith's head stuck out. He took one look and ducked back in, slamming the window closed again.

Officer Barnes glanced around in time to see the sill go down.

"Found someone to take his place already?"

Her mother laughed.

"Him? No, he just showed up…"

"…on Tuesday." Julie blurted. "And we hired him as a back-up. But he's—he's better than Alfred. I think that's why Alfred got mad."

God! She was an idiot. Her mother was looking at her like she had lost her mind. She wasn't going to help Mr. Smith at all, and she was going to get herself in trouble, as well.

Officer Barnes held the picture up for them to see.

"Either of you see this man last night, or this morning? The one with the goatee and glasses?"

Julie decided to take a chance.

"It's Mr. Smith, Mom. The one who helped Tim and me at the party."

Her mother squinted at the picture, then back at Julie.

"Helped you." She said. "Really?"

Officer Barnes focused his attention back on Julie.

"Did you see him after the party?"

"No." Julie said. "He was very nice to us, Mom."

The officer handed the picture to her mother.

"Neither one of you?"

Her mother pursed her lips. This was not a good sign. But then their gazes met, and Julie thought there was just a chance.

Please. Just this once.

"Actually," her mother said. "Actually…

"…I was at home last night."

Julie wanted to kiss her.

Officer Barnes took the picture back and shrugged.

"Well, I hate to stop for nothing. This new guy's better than Alfred? Maybe I should meet him."

And he walked into the restaurant.

Her mother gave her a single, withering, glance, and followed. There was no doubt about it, she was in deep shit.

When Julie got inside, Officer Barnes was already sitting at the counter.

Her mother tried to discourage him.

"I'm afraid we'll be opening late, with Alfred quitting and all…"

But he just grinned his boyish grin. Mr. Innocence.

"No hurry."

"I really don't know how long it will be…" her mother said.

"I'll start with coffee. It smells good."

Julie headed for the kitchen. If she could just warn Mr. Smith, there was still a chance they could… She didn't know what there was a chance they could do. She just wanted to warn him.

"If he's not ready," she said, "I'll fix you something. What would you like?"

Officer Barnes laughed.

"You two haven't had any customers in so long you don't know how to act around one."

The pompous little…

"Well, Officer…" It was Mr. Smith's voice, coming from the kitchen.

Julie's heart stopped. She stepped back from the swinging door.

Mr. Smith's head was poked through the serving window, in full view of the officer.