Furthermoreit was November and it had been a long, long time since Id spent time in the snow.
So I decided yes, Id go. But I knew Jake. If I was going to work with him, attack was the best method of defense. "Would you be peering over my shoulder?" If so he might as well hire a temp worker.
"What do you mean?" His voice was sharp and angry.
"If you want me, you must let me do the job. You run the restaurant and bar as usual. Leave the hotel to me." The silence was so hot it almost burned the wires.
Finally he spluttered, "Listen, there are things you dont understand. There are things happening. You cant just "
"Please, Jake. Thats the way it has to be."
My ear was filled with mutterings. I heard him say, "Ella will kill me," then, "Gotta do something." He stopped talking for a while and I could picture him in tortured thought. Finally he said, "Come on then. Ill do my best."
Getting Jake to let me run Tall Trees Lodge by myself would be like getting a tiger to eat only vegetables. I'd try.
Meantime, how would the shop be doing? At noon, when I was sure she'd be up on a Sunday, I called Harriet. "I have to leave for a while," I said, "but I know you and Irma can handle things until I get back." I hoped they could.
"Oh, sure. We'll be fine for a couple of days." I could picture her easily. She'd be lounging in her Victorian walk-up flat, a cup of ever-present coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She'd be wearing her Sunday silk-satin negligee and her slippers would have furballs on the toes. Her hair would be an unruly cloud of red. I always expected her to tell every male customer to "Come up and see me some time," à la Mae West. They adored her.
"It may be longer than a couple of days, Harriet. I have to help my uncle. His wife has been hurt."
There was a longish pause. "How long?"
"I'm not sure but you'll be all right." We didn't have any huge jobs looming, just a website and a few three-fold brochures that Irma was designing, plus a bunch of term papers, resumes, and business reports that Harriet could do with her eyes closed. The work was just enough to keep the wolf from my door, not enough to improve my standard of living.
"How far are you going?' She sounded more worried than I thought she should.
"Up to Cougar Pass." It was four to five hours away in the mountains.
I heard her take in a breath. "In your car?" She sounded as if she didn't believe it. She had a point. My car was twelve years old, a Honda. They lived forever, didn't they? I'd quit checking the odometer; it just made me nervous. Anyway, it drove a lot better than it looked.
"Listen, just tell me you'll handle things 'til I get back. Don't take on any jobs you don't feel comfortable doing. Can you help me out here?"
I thought I heard a groan. "Sure," she said. "Just keep in touch."
I hung up, closed my eyes, and let my chin drop onto my chest. There were times when I wished for an ivory towerjust me and my books and my computer.
I roused myself and went to pack.
"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city." George Burns said it. Maybe hed known my Uncle Jake.
I needed to be very clear in my thinking, about what I would and what I would not do at Tall Trees. And just how available I would be. Because I knew Jake would not treat me like an employee. Hed treat me like family. That meant hed expect me to work fourteen-hour days if he got a sudden whimsy. "Youre family, Maren," hed say. "Its your duty to help out here."
From The Madd Mountain Murders by Lana Waite. Copyright 2004 Lana Waite. All rights reserved.
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