My work was almost done.
The Golden Mermaid was back on its feet. They had a new menu. The place was cleaner than it had been in years.
The parking lot still needed work, and they could use some more decorating and polishing. They'd have to hire a new cook. But the important thing was they had customers again. All they really needed now was financing.
William would take the bait. I was sure of that. Ann would get a partner, and some much needed capital. And it would be good for him, as well. He needed another project to replace that misguided pipeline. What would be better for him than a restaurant?
Mazie drove one of the delivery trucks that came to the restaurant. She was blonde, in her late thirties, I would guess, with a matter-of-fact air about her that matched her jeans and work boots. We were nearly on the southern end of her route, which started about a hundred and twenty miles north of the restaurant.
She agreed to give me a lift on her return trip one night.
I was all packed.
They'd miss me at first, but they'd adjust. One of the tricky things about my line of work is the people. They get attached to you. It's always hard on them when the time comes to move on. I wish I could do that memory thing that Dudley does in the movie—make them forget me.
* * * * *
I'd picked a good day to leave.
The lunch crowd was the best we'd had in a long time, and there were already plenty of reservations for dinner. It was quarter past four, a slow time in a restaurant, and the place was empty except for Julie and me.
We were taking advantage of the lull to clean up a little, and set the tables for dinner. The afternoon light slanted through the windows, and Julie was humming to herself as she wiped a table.
I had decided I should tell Julie I was leaving, even if I told no one else. But before I could say anything, the front door slammed open and Ann strode in.
She was actually grinning.
She stopped at the first table, put her fist down, and leaned on it, cocky. Her tongue was visibly in her cheek, and her head bobbed up and down as she looked from one of us to the other—like one of those little dogs people put in the back windows of their cars.
She kept this up until we both stopped working and gave her our full attention.
"Well, I just got off the phone with William Hogan," she said, "and have I got news."
Julie dropped her cloth on the table.
"He is going to buy this restaurant."
Julie took a moment to digest this.
"The beach too? And the house?"
"The whole kit'n kaboodle."
"But where will we live?"