“Why, Jackson? Why did you have to –“
Both men stopped talking as Lydia Carson approached their table at The Club Revere. Jon Trainer thought that Lydia’s facial expression revealed alarm and maybe a touch of fear. Her eyes appeared to be wide open, red and teary. She banged the table’s edge with her hip, hard enough to upset Trainer’s glass of iced water, and then she flopped her body down into the seat beside him and breathed a long sigh.
“I’m sorry, but –“
“Not a problem,” said Trainer, as he slid back his chair in an attempt to avoid the stream of water that ran toward his lap. “Are you all right?”
“I’m not sure, Jon. Mark and I had a visitor early this morning, and –“
“And is that so unusual?”
“He was asking about you. Said he was a detective. Showed me his ID card.”
“Wait a minute. This a joke, right? I mean, when you walked in here, I figured Jackson invited you, but this is going too far for a prank. You look scared, and you have me worried now. What’s up?”
“I told you. I didn’t,” said Jackson to Trainer. Jackson pointed a long, brown finger in Trainer’s direction as he continued to speak. “I didn’t invite anyone but you. I thought we came here to talk about renting a house together. Look, should I just leave you two alone to sort things out? I mean, I can go see Douglas now and sign the lease –“
“Hold on just a minute, Jackson,” said Trainer. “I’m not quite understanding what’s going on here.” As he spoke, Trainer rubbed the thumb and index finger of his right hand up and down along his mustache, so his voice sounded muffled.
“I don’t want to upset you, Jon,” said Lydia. “But I’m kind of upset myself. This man, this detective . . . well, like I said, he was asking –“
“Slow down, Lyd,” said Trainer, who was still smoothing down his mustache as he spoke. “You want a drink? You look like you might need a drink.”
“Mark doesn’t know I’m here. I gotta get back soon. What with his running in to you and me last night, and all, well we’re fighting with each other as it is. I just came here, because when you didn’t answer your phone, I figured you might be here for brunch, and I wanted to warn –“
“Warn? You wanted to warn me?” Jon Trainer noticed that Lydia’s hands were trembling. Again. Much as they had trembled the evening before when Mark met the two of them at the cafe. Only this time more than just her hands seemed to be shaking. Jon tried to meet her glance with his own, but her blue eyes darted this way and that inside their sockets.
“Okay, Lyd. It’s okay,” said Trainer, although he understood that nothing would ever again be as simple as okay. “Tell me what questions this man asked you. Was he local?”
“This ain’t none of my business,” said Jackson, as he stood up and pushed back his chair. “You can get the check this time, friend. I’m off to see Douglas. I’ll call you later. Take care. And Lydia, you look damned sexy when you’re nervous.”
Jon knew that he had more important concerns at the moment, but he felt his face flush with anger as Jackson walked toward the restaurant’s front door. Flirting, especially with a so-called friend’s current love interest, was a compulsive habit with Jackson Chessman. Jon avoided confrontation with Jackson only because he needed the man’s cooperation if he was to survive, financially speaking, this move from one coast to another.
“He didn’t say where he came from, not exactly. But he sounded like he knew the place where you and Francesca lived. He asked me if I knew you well, and if I could tell him where you were staying now, and if I ever heard you talk about a place named something like Weehawkin Creek and –“
“One thing at a time, Lyd. Did you tell him that I’m subleasing Debra’s apartment?”
“Do you know this man, Jon? Do you know why he’s here, at my door of all places, asking about you?”
“Not exactly. But I’d guess that one of Francesca’s friends is trying to get hold of me. I told you why it’s important to me to be alone, away from her right now. So what did you say to him?”
“I admitted that I know you; that much seemed obvious anyway. But I said that we just met each other, and that all I knew is that you had an apartment somewhere. Look, please tell me, Jon, because I’ve never had a detective knocking at my door before. Maybe this is none of my business either, but I happen to be falling in love with you at the same time things between me and Mark are falling apart. So can you tell me why Francesca would want to talk to you so badly that she’d hire a detective?”
Trainer inwardly jumped at Lydia’s suspicion that it was Francesca who had hired the detective. To let on otherwise would be to give up the game and thereby force him to move a second time in quick succession. He wasn’t ready just yet to take to the skies again.
“Like I told you many times before, Lyd. Although I left all my worldly possessions behind with Francesca, possessing me is what she seems to want most of all. I’ll take care of this. Just promise me, if you can, that you won’t answer any more questions from this so-called detective, not at least until I’ve had a chance to contact Francesca and set her straight. There’s nothing here to worry about. This all fits in neatly, I’m sorry to admit, with my history where Francesca is concerned.”
Jon Trainer couldn’t guess, of course, whether or not he had convinced Lydia Carson that she need not feel anxious. But for now, he thought, a nonchalant air of self-control was the best he could do to contain the situation. He leaned back in his chair, snatched the cotton napkin that lay beside his plate, forced from his throat what he considered to be a lighthearted chuckle, and wiped at the wet stain on his trousers.
“So you and Mark are arguing? I’m sorry to hear that, Lyd. But I’m here for you. When will I see you next?”
“Can I call you after things have calmed down?” said Lydia.
Jon noticed the subtle stutter of hesitation in Lydia’s voice, and he tried to ignore the same.
“Of course. Now please go home and try to relax. I plan to do the same.”
Lydia pecked him on the cheek before she turned to leave. Her lips felt cold and tight.
Jon Trainer laid down what he thought was enough cash to cover the bill and followed a comfortable distance behind Lydia Carson.
Willahawkin Creek. He hadn’t bothered to correct Lydia’s pronunciation of the place. But it was the detective’s mention of Willahawkin Creek that most concerned Jon Trainer.
Jon would not be going home just yet, and he couldn’t imagine when he might next feel able to relax.