T is for Trespass - Page 23/144

“Just now. I have a rental car out front. Turns out my boss thought the trip was a fabulous idea, so I flew into L.A. last night and met with clients all day. I didn’t start the drive up until seven, thinking I’d be clever and avoid the rush-hour traffic, but then I got stuck behind a six-car pile-up in Malibu. At any rate, I’m sorry to barge in, but it just dawned on me I don’t have a key to Uncle Gus’s place. Is there any way to get in?”

“Henry has a set of keys and I’m sure he’s still up. It won’t take me a minute, if you want to come on in and wait.”

“I’d love to. Thanks. Do you mind if I use the loo?”

“Be my guest.”

I showed her into the downstairs bathroom, and while she went about her business, I crossed the patio to Henry’s back door and tapped on the glass. The kitchen lights were out, but I could see the reflected flicker of the television set in the living room beyond. A moment later, he appeared in the doorway and flipped on the kitchen light before he unlocked the door. “I thought you were in for the night,” he said.

“I was, but Gus’s niece showed up and she needs a house key.”

“Hang on.”

He left the door open while he found the set of keys in his kitchen junk drawer. “The way you described your phone conversation, I didn’t think she’d come at all, let alone this fast.”

“Me, neither. I was pleasantly surprised.”

“How long will she stay?”

“I haven’t asked her yet, but I can let you know. You may end up dealing with her anyway since I have to go into the office first thing tomorrow morning.”

“On Saturday?”

“I’m afraid so. I’ve got paperwork to catch up on and I like the quiet.”

When I returned to the studio, Melanie was still in the bathroom, and the sound of running water suggested she was washing her face. I took two glasses from the cabinet and opened a bottle of Edna Valley Chardonnay. I poured six ounces for each of us and when she came out, I handed her Gus’s house key and a glass of wine.

“I hope you like wine. I took the liberty,” I said. “Have a seat.”

“Thanks. After three hours on the freeway, I could use a drink. I thought Boston drivers were bad, but people out here are lunatics.”

“You’re from Boston?”

“More or less. We moved to New York when I was nine, but I went to school in Boston and still visit friends from my BU days.” She sat down in one of the director’s chairs and did a quick visual survey. “Nice. This would be a palace in the city.”

“It’s a palace anywhere,” I said. “I’m glad you made it out here. Henry was just asking how long you might stay.”

“Until the end of next week if all goes well. In the interest of efficiency, I called the local paper and placed a classified ad that starts tomorrow and runs all next week. They’ll put it in the ‘Help Wanted’ section-companion, private-duty nurse, that sort of thing-and they’ll also run it in the ‘Personals.’ I wasn’t sure Uncle Gus had an answering machine so I gave his address. I hope that wasn’t a mistake.”

“I don’t see why it would be. You probably won’t be swamped with applicants at this time of year. A lot of people postpone job hunting until after the holidays.”

“We’ll see how we do. In a pinch, I can always try to scare up a temp. I do apologize for my response when you called. I haven’t seen Gus in years so you caught me off guard. Once I decided to fly out, I thought I might as well do it right. Speaking of Uncle Gus, how is he? I should have asked about him first thing.”

“I didn’t get over there to see him today, but Henry did and says he’s about as you’d expect.”

“In other words, screaming and shouting.”

“Pretty much.”

“He’s been known to throw things, too, when he’s really on a tear. Or he did way back when.”

“How are you related? I know he’s your uncle, but where on the family tree?”

“My mother’s side. He was actually her great-uncle, so I guess that makes him a great-great to me. She died ten years ago this past May, and once his brother passed on, I was the only one left. I feel guilty I haven’t seen him for so long.”

“Well, it can’t be easy if you’re on the East Coast.”

“What about you? You have family out here?”

“Nope. I’m an orphan child as well, which is probably for the best.”