Page 51 of Smoke in Mirrors

“I heard.” Leonora paused and lowered her voice. “What did he say about my other question? You know, the one concerning the man who likes to work with tools and is afraid of marriage and having a family?”

“Hang on, dear.” Gloria looked at Herb. “What about the chances of an academically inclined woman finding true love with a man who likes to work with tools and is afraid of marriage?”

“Don’t see any problem there.” Herb looked wise and all-knowing. “Been my experience that a man who’s good with his tools can handle just about anything that comes along in life.”

“That sounded very cryptic,” Leonora said on the other end. “What’s it supposed to mean?”

Gloria scowled at Herb. “What’s that mean? That stuff about a man who’s good with tools being able to handle things?”

“Never mind,” Herb said enigmatically. “Tell her to concentrate on finding some good recipes for lasagna and apple pie.”

“That’s it from this end,” Gloria said. “Good luck, dear.”

“Wait,” Leonora said. “One more thing. Say this person from an academic background, say she had already served one meal to this man who’s good with tools.”

“Yes, dear?”

“Say that what she fed him was leftovers,” Leonora said grimly. “Would that be a problem? Has she already shot herself in the foot?”

Gloria put her hand over the mouthpiece and looked at Herb. “She wants to know if she has already shot herself in the foot because she served this tool man a meal made up of leftovers.”

“What kind of leftovers?” Herb asked.

Gloria took her hand off the mouthpiece. “What kind of leftovers?”

“Potato salad and some sandwiches.” Leonora hesitated. “The potato salad was made from your recipe, Grandma.”

Gloria looked at Herb. “My potato salad and some sandwiches.”

“No problem with your potato salad,” Herb said. “Tell her she’s still in the running.”

Gloria cleared her throat. “Herb says your friend who served the leftovers is still in the running, thanks to my potato salad.”

“Oh, good. Thank Herb for us, Gloria.”

“I will, dear.” Gloria ended the call and dropped the cell phone into her pocket. She beamed at Herb. “I appreciate this, Herb.”

“If I get her married off for you, you’re gonna owe me, Gloria.”

“I’ll cook you a nice lasagna-and-apple-pie dinner.”

“Forget the lasagna and apple pie. You know what I want.”

She sighed. “Your name on the column.”

“You got that right. We got a deal?”

“Deal,” Gloria said.

They were standing on Deke’s back porch looking out at the cove. Wrench was investigating some bushes at the foot of the steps. Technically speaking it was twilight but it was hard to tell for sure, Thomas thought. The fog had come in again, blurring the line between day and night. The wispy stuff had thinned a little during the afternoon but it had never entirely dissipated. Now, in the face of the oncoming darkness, it was once again growing dense.

In fact, he decided, the fog this evening was downright eerie. With a little imagination you could almost convince yourself that it was some kind of otherworldly vapor. It seemed to rise up from the cove, weakening the barrier between the real world and the one on the other side of the looking glass.

Down below on the jogging path, occasional shadowy silhouettes appeared and disappeared in the mist. Each was heralded by the distant, hollow echo of shoes hitting pavement. You could tell whether the next figure to materialize briefly would be a runner, a jogger or a walker based on the rhythm of the footfalls.

“So, Rhodes was checking up on her?” Deke asked.

“Either that or he was planning to steal her identity but it seems a little unlikely that he’d choose her for a target.”

“Yeah. He was checking her out,” Deke said softly. “Just like we checked him out. What the hell is going on here?”

“Wish I had an answer to that one.”

“She’s stirring things up, isn’t she?”

“Who? Leonora?” Thomas exhaled deeply. “I think you can say that, yes.”

“I had a feeling she would. Like I said, she’s a catalyst.”

“You were right.”

A brisk, martial-sounding thud-thud-thud preceded a sturdy aerobic walker who appeared briefly and then vanished in the mist.

“She seemed right at home at your place last night,” Deke offered very casually. “Using your shower and all.”

“Uh huh.”

“Cassie mentioned that she passed Leonora on the jogging path early this morning. Said it looked like she was on the way to your house. For breakfast maybe.”

“We’re both early risers.”

Deke nodded. “Something else you two have in common.”

“Something else?” Thomas glanced at him and then went back to watching the ghostly joggers. “You’ve noticed other things Leonora and I have in common?”

“Sure.”

Thomas hesitated but curiosity got the better of him. “Such as?”

“Hard to explain. Maybe it’s the way you two do things.”

“The way we do things?”

“Yeah, you know.” Deke moved one hand a little, searching for the words. “Once you’ve made up your mind to do something, you just keep at it until it’s done. You make a commitment, you keep it, even when you’ve got some doubts. Look at how you’ve stuck by me this past year. I know you’ve wondered, deep down, if I was looney-tunes.”

“Hey, so what if you are a wack-job? You’re still my brother.”

“And the Walker brothers stick together, right?”

“Right.” Thomas wrapped both hands around the railing. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t have any doubts about your mental health. Not anymore. When it comes to your conspiracy theories, you’ve made a believer out of me.”

“I think I’ve got Leonora to thank for that,” Deke answered. “My point is that she is a lot like you in some respects. Look how she put her life on hold to come here to find out what happened to her half sister. That’s the kind of thing you would have done. Hell, it’s exactly what you did.”

Thomas shrugged. “You’d have done it for me.”

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