Kate took the stairs two at a time to the fourth floor. For the first time in weeks, she felt energized. Her hand still hurt. She still missed her father. She still wished she could hibernate between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. But today was a good day.
It would have been a better day if she could have avoided Mr Koehne.
“Good afternoon, Mr Koehne.”
She wasn’t sure what else to say. She could hardly open the conversation with, “Sorry your sister turned out to be a psychopath.”
Koehne handed her an envelope.
“It’s thirty-days notice,” he said. “According to our agreement, for the first six months, either party can give thirty-days notice to terminate if the arrangement proves unsatisfactory.”
“Due to family obligations, I find advisable to go back to working out of my home.”
“Understandable,” Kate agreed, adding to herself, especially when your landlord is the cause of the family problems. Then, because she had to know, she asked, “Did you have any idea what your sister was doing?”
He stared at her, wide-eyed. He knew.
“Forget I asked,” she said quickly. “But between you and me, seek legal counsel. Your sister has confessed to killing the cats because they were watching her – just as her own cat had watched her. She will no doubt be found non compos mentis and be remanded to a psychiatric facility to get the care she has evidently needed ever since her husband abused her.”
Koehne dropped his gaze.
“Her husband’s disappearance will be re-examined,” Kate warned. “If at any time they discover that you knew that she was making cyanide out of peach pits . . .”
She let the sentence hang. He nodded and turned away from her.
“I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me . . .”
Jake didn’t make a dig about the Christmas song, he was just pleased to see Kate so cheerful. She was giving the wistful song a jaunty beat and seemed completely unaware that she had an audience.
“I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams . . . Yes, I know you’re there, Carmedy.”
“Making café au lait?’ he asked, pretending he hadn’t heard her.
“Coffee nogs,” she said. “We’re celebrating.”
“The solving of the Cat-killer Caper?”
“You did a good job with that,” he added. “Though if Thorsen knew you downloaded information about Collin’s missing husband when you were supposed to be changing your bandage . . .”
“I did worse than that, I used his authority to request a second test of the poison used on the cats to look for organic traces. It occurred to me that if Irene was turning her pit shells into mulch, she might be finding a use for the kernels too.” she gave him a self-satisfied grin. “But that’s not why we’re celebrating.”
“My tenant has given his notice. I should be sorry about the loss of income but mostly I am hugely relieved.”
While she steamed the eggnog and poured the coffee, he did some last minute considering. When she turned to hand him his mug, he broached the matter.
“Before you rented the suite to Koehne, I was thinking of making you an offer on the space. I thought I could convert it to an apartment.”
She leaned back on the counter as if it was the only thing keeping her from falling over in shock.
“You don’t like the idea,” he said, trying not to sound hurt.
“No, I think it’s brilliant. The tax rebate for creating new residential space will cover a big chunk of the renovation costs, and I won’t have an annoying deadbeat for a tenant.” She grinned at him. “At least, you better not be an annoying deadbeat.”
“I also had an idea about Christmas,” he added, figuring he might as well try for the whole enchilada. “Come home with me. My aunt and uncle would be happy to have you.”
He could read her answer on her panicked face.
“It would be my way of paying back Joe for inviting me to the Thorsens’ way back when,” he added, hoping to make it seem like nothing more than a friendly invitation.
Kate fought for control over her emotions. For a moment she thought Jake wanted more from her than a working relationship and for a moment that was fine with her. Scary, but fine.
“Thanks, Jake,” she said, feeling that the occasion warranted the use of his given name. “Mum and David went and made plans for me to go skiing with them. I’m not crazy about skiing but they’ve made the reservations and . . .”
“I understand,” he said. “Maybe next year.”
He backed away from her and for a moment he was under the mistletoe. She wanted to take advantage, but she hesitated and the moment was gone.
Maybe next year.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Alison, Midnight, Christmas 2010
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