Hairy Chest Man sat on a bench as fog rolled in from the bay. That nickname—for Harry Chesman—was inevitable, but not the aggravation it might have been. He smiled, remembering. His father had been an Air Force sergeant. The family was relocated from base to base and school to school, like clockwork, every two years. Each time, the problematic moniker stayed behind. At the start of junior high, his father retired early, and they settled down for the long term. By then, Harry had hair, and the nickname merely highlighted his incipient maturity.
"What's up, Chesman?" Donny Wax sat down beside him, a paper coffee cup in his hand.
"Ah, just thinkin' about the past." He called to the waitress inside the café. "Hey, Zoe, how about another?" It was his café now, the closing having taken place in the past week. But he had been running it for two months.
"Sure, Boss. Two shots?"
"Of course," Harry replied. He had switched from social drinking to binge drinking when his wife had died five years back, then to coffee two years later. He had stopped smoking too, but could run through enough caffeine during the day to, as Donny once put it, 'buzz a Boy Scout troop'.
Donny frowned and shook his head. "Thinkin' about the past, huh. I had you pegged as a stay-in-the-now kinda guy. Like the AA group. One day at a time."
And it was true. For the first two years after Naomi had been killed in a hit-and-run, Harry had been a wreck. Bottles piled up in the living room. Cigarettes had supplied him with a raspy voice, sputum, and a troublesome cough. Then a friend had gifted him with a beat-up 27-foot sailboat. Harry had never sailed before. He took courses. After several months restoring the boat, the next three years were spent tooling up and down the West Coast, docking only briefly at ports and harbors. Tapping his savings. During that time he had developed the habit of enjoying the moment, whether it was sun sparkling off wind-tossed water, or lightning striking too close for comfort.
"Yeah, yeah," he said to Donny. "It's just, that fog made me think somehow. The past is a fog. Memories come out of it. Like those boats moored out there." He pointed to several vessels that had appeared, ghost-like, from the morning's mist.
"Here y'are, Boss." Zoe placed a porcelain cup on the low table next to Harry's bench. She looked snappy, with a black apron over her dress. "How about a scoop of sugar with that?" Zoe often tried to get Harry to doctor up his coffee, thinking he needed to put on a little weight. It had become a standing joke.
"I'm not sweet enough as-is?"
Zoe flipped a smile to Harry, and returned to the customers inside the café.
When Harry had docked at Finley Island off the northwest coast of Washington state for the first time, he sensed it was where he was going to settle. Much like when he'd met Naomi—love at first sight. When the Sea Chanty Café had come up for sale, it had been as close to perfection as anything had been, in his life for those past five years. He'd changed the name to Harry's Delusion, causing something of a stir in the tiny community of Finley. But he'd made friends quickly, and the quirky town absorbed another quirky resident.
"Hey, Zoe," Donny Wax called, waving a hand. She heard him through the open door and waved back.
"In a min, Waxy. Order's up."
Donny carefully sipped his coffee, still quite hot. He turned again to Harry. "The wife? That what comes out of the fog?"
Harry looked down at his cup, steam rising in a graceful curl. Then he gazed back at the boats. "No, that wasn't it. I thought about Naomi all day every day, for a few years. One night, in a storm that almost capsized me, I knew that she wouldn't want me doing that. Pining away my life. Waves were washing right over the boat. I thought I'd bought the farm. Next day when the sun came out, I was...different."
"Huh," Donny said. "Different how?"
Harry shrugged and ran fingers through his recently-graying hair. "Well, first off, I stopped being obsessed with Naomi being murdered."
Donny pursed his lips. "Wow. Murdered. I didn't know that."
"Well I guess you wouldn't. I don't talk about that time much." The fog was lifting with the morning's sun, and gentle lapping sounds reached them from the rocky shore just a few yards below the deck where they sat.
Donny made a twisting smile. "Hey, we're friends, right? No need to tell me everything. Past is the past."
Harry grinned at Donny. They bumped fists as had become their habit, since Harry had become Donny's AA sponsor. "I don't mind talking about Naomi. Just doesn't come out of the fog like it used to. They investigated—wrote it off as an accidental homicide. Never did find the driver."
Harry looked up at Zoe, who had appeared rather magically beside their table. "What's yer pleasure?" she said, hands on hips, smiling down at the two. "Your usual, Waxy? Oatmeal and fresh fruit? Side of sourdough toast." Donny made a thumbs-up. Zoe bowed to Harry. "And for you, my thinness, something nice and greasy. Bacon, egg, and sausage on a bagel. Home fries." She cocked her head. "You'll be so much more handsome when I get a few pounds on you."
Harry looked up, over the top of his tortoiseshell glasses. "Thanks, but no thanks, Zo. Take me as I am, or let me go. Just toast. And another coffee. Drip, this time." Any coffee was good coffee to Harry, as long as it wasn't polluted with additions, the worst of all being pumpkin spice. As Zoe left, Harry continued with Donny. "They found the car, though. Stolen. Driven off a low embankment."
"I don't think so. The only prints in the car were from the family it was stolen from, and a couple of their friends. What kind of joyriders wear rubber gloves?"
"So you think she was murdered. But the cops didn't?"
Harry rose and stretched, breathing in the salt air mingled with scents of fish, tar and seaweed. Heaven! He did a few toe-touches. He and Naomi had been frequent joggers and bicyclists, but he became listless after her death. In the years before the boat. Now he was into fitness again. He sat. "No. Detective Garda thought it was someone wearing driving gloves. There had been a robbery at a 7-11 earlier that evening, and he figured it was that guy making a fast getaway. Didn't see Naomi on her bike, and sideswiped her. Even though she always wore a reflective vest."
"They never caught the guy? The robber?"
"Nope. Security camera showed a guy with a hoodie. But there weren't any customers, and the clerk didn't notice the car. Then he got conked with the butt of a gun. The clerk did."
Zoe returned with a bowl of oatmeal and a bowl of fruit, which she set down on the bench beside Donny. "You like the raisins in when it's hot, right? And a pat of butter. And brown sugar. And almond milk—forgot that, get you some in a sec."
"I love you," Donny said and smirked. "Just like my mother. Though somewhat younger." They both laughed.
Zoe put a fresh cup of coffee on the table next to Harry, then added a plate she had been balancing, which held a piece of nicely-toasted sourdough bread, and a sausage. Zoe kneeled in front of Harry. "Pul-eee-z-e?" she said, fingers together as if praying.
Harry picked up the toast, smiled sweetly, and handed the plate with the sausage back to Zoe. "I'm afraid the chef messed up my order," he said.
Zoe sighed and took the plate as she stood up. "Gonna fade away, Chesman." She turned and went back through the doorway.
Donny stirred the butter and raisins in his oatmeal. "Did the security tape show the guy wearing gloves?"
"Yep. That's what convinced Garda. Common thief with gloves. No fingerprints. They investigated, but couldn't find any reliable witnesses near the hit-and-run. Amazing how little people remember."
Zoe came by with a container of almond milk, and poured some onto Donny's oatmeal. "Thanks Mom," he said.
"Yeah," Harry continued. "Or observe. Or invent." He ate some toast and drank coffee. "You get flakes who say one thing one week and something else the next. Not necessarily on purpose. Human nature, I suppose."
Donny forked a piece of kiwi fruit. "So what else?"
"You said 'first off' about when you stopped being obsessed with the murder. So what else changed in your life?"
Harry chuckled. "I'm able to carry a tune! Used to be tone deaf. Naomi gave me a hard time. Guess I sounded like a happy chicken. Loved folk songs, but you didn't want to hear me sing 'em."
"Not after the first time."
"So what happened?"
Harry finished his coffee and raised the mug in the air for more, catching Zoe's eye through the doorway. "The morning after that big storm. Coulda been I got knocked on the head that night." Harry gestured, "Sun came out, white clouds to die for. A little wind rippling the water. I started to sing—and even I could tell I was in tune!"
Harry's Delusion Café was set on a low rocky bank close to the tideline. Two hundred feet to the south was a boardwalk that ran for a half-mile along the shore. In a recent year, the boardwalk and associated shoreline had been bought by a local land bank for preservation and public use. By the time Harry arrived on the island, the walkway had been rebuilt, with benches spaced along its length. Walkers and joggers shared the seaside park with parents pushing strollers, toddlers toddling, and hand-holding lovers. Leashed dogs allowed, no skateboards.
Delusion was the only eatery next to the park. The previous owner was Kway, a Native American whose name, Harry learned, was derived from a term meaning stinking fish slime. But Kway was one of the most fastidious people Harry had known—transitioning to owning the café had been as smooth as salmon scales. After twenty years, Kway had simply decided he'd had enough, and moved back to tribal lands on the mainland, somewhere to the north. The old man's principal gift to Harry, in addition to a well-worn native-art playing card set and a carved bone potlatch spoon, was the wording in the café's deed. Harry was guaranteed the establishment's existence despite new county regulations about what structures could stand along the shoreline. Delusion was grandfathered in.
"What a life," Harry said. He was looking down at his bare feet as he ran along the boardwalk. The old disintegrating boards had been replaced with composite planks carefully manufactured to look like weathered wood. No splinters. Over the side, in the water, Harry saw translucent moon jellyfish floating just under the surface. Strands of eel grass waved at him from below, and he could see all the way down to the rocks and mollusks and starfish on the bottom. "What a life," he repeated, and looked up.
"You get used to it," his jogging companion said, her short black hair bouncing across a light brown face—cappuccino, Harry's coffee-laced brain had observed when they'd met. Her also-bare feet paced his. She wore pink jogging pants and a lavender top. "Not everyone fits in here, though." She smiled sideways at Harry. "What about you? You gonna love me and leave me?"
Mira and Harry had met the week before. She didn't ordinarily frequent restaurants, but when her water bottle ran out one day, she stopped in at Delusion, sweating from a jog in the sun. Harry had been behind the counter and gave her his friendly smile, a notch more than he used for the typical new customer. Mira had edged along the stools, pushing her empty water bottle down the counter. "Water! Water!" she had said, feigning a thirsty desert traveler. Harry grinned as he took the bottle.
After that, on several occasions they had gone hiking and bike riding together. Some in his situation would have been reminded of Naomi, for better or worse, but Harry's new psychology did not work that way. He sat on a bench, and Mira plopped down beside him. "'Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies,'" he quoted, and shrugged. "How could I possibly leave you?" She raised an eyebrow. "Aristotle," Harry said.
She laughed and looked out over the water. Cormorants skimmed the surface. Gray clouds gathered to the west while blue sky lay claim above. "Old Ari? I thought he was more the science type."
Harry nodded. He felt the warmth of her body inches from his own. An excited tingle passed through him—possibly the first of its kind since Naomi's death. Was it time to rejoin that world? "I'm the science type," he said, pointing to his tortoise-rim glasses.
She laughed and nudged him with her shoulder. "You? I had you pegged for a crusty sailor, recently bathed and shaven so you don't scare patrons away. Didn't you tell me you were on a boat for the last decade?"
Harry laughed out loud. "Three years does not a decade make! Guess what I did before...well, before..." he coughed uncertainly, composing his voice. "Before...when I actually had a real job."
Seagulls squawked overhead and a fighter jet from the naval base to the south tore across the sky as Mira considered. A fish jumped a dozen yards off. "Hmm. I see you as either a professional cuddler or a chicken sexer."
Harry laughed. "That does sound appealing. Cuddling with sexy chicks."
"No kidding," Mira said. "There are professional cuddlers." She leaned against him. "Want to practice? I bet it pays more than being a café owner."
"Not even close. Be serious. What do you think?"
"Human scarecrow? Snake milker? Nail polish namer?"
"No. Nope. Nix," Harry said in response. "That's your idea of serious? Seriously?"
She grinned. "I cannot be serious in your presence, Harry. I don't know what it is..." She frowned. "Maybe it's your face. Or the fact that you always wear shorts and go barefoot everywhere. Or that you had a bacon-pattern Band-Aid on that cut." She fingered a scab on Harry's arm. "Or that they called you Hairy Chest Man in school!" She laughed, stood up, and jogged off. Harry jogged after her.
When they next slowed to a walk, Mira took Harry's hand. It was the first time she had done so during their acquaintance. "Okay," she said. "Lay it on me. What were you in the Land Before Time?"
"I was researching how to engineer viruses to put freckles on a person's face. And conversely, removing them if the customer wanted."
Mira playfully pushed Harry sideways. "Now you're just yanking my chain. I deserve it."
Harry turned and walked backward, facing Mira. "No. No kidding. I was a genetic engineer for a biotech company. They wanted to get ahead of the wave. Get patents nailed down for when cosmetic genetics goes public." He grinned. "Virus-induced tans too."
Mira stopped. "Interesting. My soul mate was screwing with God's creation." She saw Harry's face slacken. "No, no, I didn't mean it that way. I'm not a church-goer, believe me. It's just...hey, wow, freckles. Who knew?"
"It was a job. Also had a project to make skin bacteria repel mosquitos and black flies. Like I said, science type." Harry shrugged. "Wasn't on the high school teams. Got into a good college 'cause I made a cyclotron in the basement. Fell into gene crunching along the way."
"Cool! Let's head back. You can buy me a drink. Of water!"
Back at Delusion, the two sat at an inside table in a corner. Ceiling fans turned lazily above a murmur of conversation. Zoe came over. "Hey, Boss," she greeted Harry. "Hey...ah...Mira, right?" Mira nodded. "So Boss, you'll have a..."
Mira interrupted. "Double espresso and a juicy steak. For Harry." She had been inside the café only twice before, but remembered well the weight-gain banter between Harry and Zoe. "And he'll have a baked potato. Lots of sour cream."
"Right on, girl," Zoe said. The two women high-fived. "Gotta beef up the boss. And for you?"
"You have Gerolsteiner?"
"Of course we do," Zoe replied, smiling. She nodded toward Harry. "It bubbles up through volcanic rock—and he's the science type." She looked back to Mira. "Can I interest you in some mango-basil Vacherin to go with? That's the only way I can get any calories into him."
Mira nodded. "Sounds lovely. Do you specialize in desserts?"
"Nah," Zoe replied. "Just his favorite. Otherwise it's cherry pie, no ice cream. I'll leave you two lovebirds whilst I get your first course." Then to Harry, "Vacherin for you too, my dear?"
"Sure. Why not. I don't get out all that often. But hold the steak. And the potato."
After Zoe had left, Mira reached across the table and took Harry's hand in hers. "Look, science guy, don't take this the wrong way, but how about coming by my place tonight?"
Harry looked over his glasses. "The wrong way?"
"Actually, scratch that. There is no wrong way."
~ ~ ~
Later that afternoon, back in his tiny apartment, Harry, who had no mobile phone, checked messages on his land line. There was just one. "Harry," it said. "Listen. This is Garda. Something has come up. About Naomi's case. I'm going to open it up again."
Crap! was Harry Chesman's first thought upon listening to the message from detective Garda. But why crap, he quickly thought to himself. Wasn't this what he had wanted all along? Reopening the investigation? His gut had told him right off that his wife's death was no accident. But even if that were true, what did he want? Revenge? Justice? Naomi was dead, and nothing short of an alternate universe was going to bring her back.
Now it had been five years—two of which had been spent agonizing about the unfairness of life, and the last three in a journey of recovery. His initial reaction to the message was the urge to immediately buy a plane ticket to Los Angeles and see what the hell Garda had turned up. But the last week, and especially the last day, had given new meaning to his existence. In some ways, like Naomi—jogging, hiking, joking—Mira pulled all the right strings. Yet she had not simply fit into an empty hole in the Harry-and-Naomi story. Her likenesses had not stirred up memories. Mira's own personality had a force-of-nature quality that attracted him. And scared him. Would he be able to live up to her expectations? Wait, that's wrong, he thought. Expectations were wrong. The journey, not the goal.
Harry was abruptly aware that he had been pacing on his Brazilian teak floor. Patterns in the wood, he thought. If we could read them—the story of a teak tree. A giant organism in a far-off country—now consigned to supporting my feet.
He turned into the kitchen nook and started heating water for coffee. Mira had invited him to her house for dinner. What did that mean? Friendship certainly. Making out on the sofa? Cautiously flirtatious banter leading to carefully orchestrated turns in the bathroom, and then the bedroom promenade? Ripping each other's clothes off in the living room and then wild sex on the floor? Cool it, Harry said to himself. Whatever will be.
But thoughts would not leave him. He had to follow up with Garda. Didn't he? With new information, there might well be questions for Harry, leading to new paths of inquiry. Had so-and-so been overly interested in Naomi? She'd been a member of several groups—perhaps some suspicious character had been identified in one of them. Had they found the 7-11 bandit? Was it still a simple hit-and-run, but with a suspect in custody? No, he thought. He knew it was a murder. But was there ever resolution for murder?
Harry poured water through the coffee in his brass filter. A grind of Kenya beans from his friend Caleb, roasted just four days ago. Caleb said to let them age five or six days after roasting. Harry sipped the hot coffee carefully. Splendid! Caleb's coffee was the absolute best he'd ever tasted. In the pleasure of the moment, his ruminations faded. His mind was blessedly blank, the only condition in which, for him, sensible decisions could be made. He sat cross-legged on his flattened Zafu meditation cushion.
Ten minutes later, he rose and showered, then sat at his desk to write a Haiku.
busy bee seeks bloom
for open relationship
and sweet dalliance
The telephone trilled. He poured another cup of coffee and answered on the fourth ring, just before the machine picked up. "Hairy chest man," he said.
"Hey Boss, it's Javon. Got a minute?"
Javon was Harry's ordering and general business person for Delusion. He had a tax certificate—not a CPA, but he could officially wrangle with the IRS. Why, Harry considered for the Nth time, did so many young folks in Finley have odd names? Like Amaryllis, Jupiter or Beech. Maybe he had just been away from land too long. Times had changed. Or he'd been out of the loop to begin with. "Sure Javon, what's up?"
"We're almost out of halibut, and our supplier just jacked the price by a buck a pound. I can get farmed cheap, but—"
"Come on Javon. You know better than that. Can you get wild on the mainland?"
"Yeah. But you add on the time and gas and the ferry, and a buck a pound doesn't sound so bad."
Harry snorted. "Send Beech. And tell Manny he can stuff his dollar a pound. But tell Manny first. I bet he comes down. Don't pay that S.O.B. more than twenty cents."
"Gotcha, Boss. How ya' doin'? Heard you got a sweetie! Tonight the night?"
"Asshole," Harry said, chuckling. "Where'd you hear that?"
"What—you ain't been here long enough? No secrets in Finley."
"See you tomorrow, Javon."
"Sure thing Boss."
Before Javon could hang up, Harry spoke again. "Say Javon. You're still single, right?"
"You know I am," Javon responded. "I'm not the best person for marital advice."
"No, not that. I might have to go away for a few days. Week at the most. Think you can handle things at Delusion? Seeing as there's no wife and kiddies..."
"Yeah, Boss. No problem. You put in plenty of hours, but I can double up. For a while anyway. What's shakin'?"
"Ooh, a secret. Have fun tonight, Boss."
Harry smiled and flicked the mouthpiece with a finger. "Kiss off, wanker." He hung up and took a swig of now-lukewarm coffee.
The walk to Mira's house would be less than five minutes. There was no florist in Finley, so Harry stopped at the little supermarket, which carried cut flowers from somewhere. Naomi had loved tulips, so he wouldn't get those. He chose a spray with appealing whites, blues and yellows—the most expensive selection, which might be an indication of something. Harry knew little about flowers, and he had limited sense with feminine tastes.
Bottle of wine? Harry didn't drink. Not anymore. And he couldn't bring wine if he wasn't willing to partake. Perhaps Mira was a teetotaler too. Teetotaler too—he liked the sound of that. He took a moment to think of a short poem for the card supplied with the flowers. Nothing came to him. What about the Haiku he'd written earlier?
busy bee seeks bloom
for open relationship
and sweet dalliance
He was not one for open relationships, but the poem would give him an opportunity to mention that. Sweet dalliance sounded okay. He signed it Ha-Ha-Harry.
~ ~ ~
Mira's place was closer to the water than Harry's house. It had a white picket fence, and behind that a comprehensive garden, with a grape arbor along one side. Harry had walked by many times without knowing it was hers. It was not on the route they usually took for walking or biking, and Mira had not mentioned where she lived. They had simply met at Delusion for their outings. A stylized wooden carving hung over her door. Harry recognized it by now, as probably a Coast Salish representation of an orca whale. It looked old, the colors faded. There were local artists who did similar work, but Harry thought it might be authentic.
He rattled the hanging wooden chimes by the door. Heard footsteps inside. Rattled again for the heck of it. Mira opened the door. She wore a lovely dress the color of driftwood, and a necklace of strung beach glass—something Harry had come to appreciate in his short time on Finley. She said nothing, but stood there looking into his eyes. There were amber flecks on a greenish background. Harry had failed to notice that before. Her gaze was soothing. After what could have been long enough for a match to burn down, Harry made a hint of a smile. Mira returned it. Usually, Harry was uncomfortable looking into anyone's eyes for more than a second or two, at least without conversation. But this was different. Were there secrets that passed between them, soul-level dialogues like people seemed to think went on? Nothing like that presented itself, but there was peace that arose either from her, or him. Or both.
"Thank you," Mira said as she took the bouquet of flowers from Harry's hand, still looking into his eyes. "They're lovely."
"I don't drink," he said, then mentally kicked himself for letting these be the first words out of his mouth at this exceptional moment. "I mean, I would have brought wine, but—"
She laughed heartily, breaking eye-contact. "Me neither," she said, taking his hand with her free one, and leading him through the door. "If you had, I'd have had to re-gift it. And what would that say about our relationship? Oh," she went on, "you've written something here." She looked at the card and read the Haiku aloud.
"I'm sorry about that," Harry said playfully. "I wrote it earlier today, and that's all I could come up with at the supermarket. When I got the flowers."
"Love it!" Mira said. "Although I don't do open relationships."
"Thank God. Me neither. And I'm not a bee."
As Mira walked gracefully away toward her kitchen island to get a vase for the flowers, she looked coyly over her shoulder. "A little dalliance," she said. "That sounds do-able."
Mira brought a bowl of salad over to the table, and Harry sat in the chair he presumed was his. The tablecloth was a tan check that went well with the napkins—a pairing he would have approved for Delusion. Then she retrieved a small basket from the oven, covered with cloth. Warmed bread, Harry thought approvingly. She set it in the middle of the table, and leaned over beside Harry. She took his face in her hands. They were warm—from the bread basket? She kissed him square on the lips. No tongue, but lingering. "I thought we should get that out of the way," she said.
Harry smiled up at Mira. "I'm not sure exactly what that was. Appetizer?"
Mira took a breath and exhaled. "Why should we sit here eating dinner, having conversation and a nice time, and all the while wondering what it would be like to kiss?"
"Works for me," Harry said with a laugh. "Personally, I liked it."
"I've never done that before," Mira said.
"Done what exactly?"
"Kissed a man before dinner on a first date."
"Ohhh, is that what this is, a date. Well it's a first for me too. On a first date. Before dinner." Harry grinned up at her. "But now I'm going to be sitting here eating dinner, and wondering what dessert's gonna be."
During the meal, after the grilled halibut with cilantro-garlic sauce and before the roasted pears with espresso mascarpone cream, Harry made a decision. He would tell Mira about the details of his tentative future involvement in the Naomi investigation. There was the possibility that this would dampen the romantic tenor of the evening, but what the hell. Mira needed to know enough about him to assess their relationship. He, Harry, was not the one-night-stand type. He savored the last bite of grilled halibut, then raised his glass of Gerolsteiner. "To revelations."
Mira tentatively began to raise her glass. "Sounds ominous."
Harry reached out to clink. "Look, I just want to be out front about a few things."
"What, you need more time for the Viagra to kick in?"
Harry had a fit of laughter, then set his water down. "No, no, nothing like that," he said smiling. "You know I was married—I told you that."
Mira nodded. "Yes, Naomi. She died after being hit by a car."
"Right. But I didn't go into detail. I think she was murdered." Harry paused for a moment to let that sink in. Mira raised her eyebrows in a go-on kind of way. "The cops investigated, but figured it was a simple hit-and-run. A fatal accident, possibly by someone who held up a local store."
Mira pursed her lips. "That's why you took up sailing—escape the memories?"
Harry leaned back in his chair, tipping the front legs up. "More or less. First I spent a couple of years drowning my sorrows in aquavit."
Mira slapped a palm on the table and laughed. "I love it! No cheap vodka for Harry! You had class even when you hit bottom. Aquavit!" She paused. "Some day I'll tell you my story. So—what? You're pining for lost love? Can't get her out of your mind? I don't buy it. You're not that type."
Harry leaned forward, chair legs clunking back to the floor. "No, you're right. I'm not the pining type. But here's the thing. I get back to my place this afternoon, and there's a message from detective Garda. They've got something new, and they're reopening the investigation."
Mira had gotten up, and she began taking plates to the kitchen alcove. "Well, that's great," she said. "Isn't it?"
Harry stood up to help in clearing the table. "Yeah, you'd think. But two things. I don't know that I need more answers than I've already got. Naomi's dead. Justice—whatever that means—I'm not sure it makes any difference to me now."
Mira set plates in the sink and nodded. "You've had your grief. Let the police do their thing. They might want to talk to you anyway. What was the second thing?"
Harry put a dish and glasses in the sink, stood behind Mira, and put his arms loosely around her shoulders. He noted that Mira was about three inches shorter than he was. Her hair smelled just how he imagined a lovely woman's hair should smell. "When I got that message," he said, "my first thought was, 'crap!' Literally. Because of, well...you." He leaned lightly against her. "I felt it was my responsibility—or some might think it was my responsibility—to go to Los Angeles. See if I could help. But..."
"I get it," Mira said, turning in Harry's arms to face him. "We've got this thing happening. A wonderful thing."
"A fantastic thing," Harry added.
"And you're worried that if you run off before the flames are properly fanned..."
Mira turned her head upward to look at Harry. "Well don't worry."
"I'm going with you."