Niles arrived at the dinning room of the Harbor Inn before 7:00. No one was in the dinning room and the clang of pans and water running came from the kitchen. He helped himself to a cup of coffee.
As soon as Niles sat down Steve walked in. “I’m late. You beat me here this morning.”
“Early bird gets the freshest coffee,” Niles said.
Steve poured a coffee. He sat with Niles at the table next to the window looking out over the deck and harbor.
“The trees are starting to turn in Canada,” Steve said.
“I suppose things slow after the leaves change,” Niles said. “What else is there to do here.”
“Really slow,” Steve said. “You’ll see a few places close-up shop; the art gallery, all the gift shops, only two restaurants will stay open.”
“What about this place?” Niles said.
“They have bookings all through the winter,” Steve said. “Some people want to come to a place where it’s dead quiet, but not dead lonely.”
“What about the other motel?” Niles said.
“They’ll close,” Steve said. “You don’t have to worry about your morning coffee, I’ll have her open. Charley and Shelly are taking off around the end of the year,” Steve said. “They’ll be gone for a couple weeks. They’re going to let me run the place.”
“If you ask me, they should just shut the place down a couple weeks,” Niles said.
“What!” Steve said, “and have you going elsewhere for coffee or worse yet, making your own.”
“I hope that’s not the only reason to keep this place open,” Nile said.
“There’s a few folks in town that week visiting family and it’s overcrowded at some homes,” Steve said. “When the Listons heard about it, they started booking rooms. It’s a good deal, off-season rates and all.”
“So, Steve,” Niles said, “did you have the same job with the Petits?”
“I spent a fair amount of time here,” Steve said.
“And the Listons kept you on,” Niles said.
“They asked me to,” Steve said. “I don’t get paid. I know this place better than the Listons or the Petits. It’s a place for me to do something; make coffee, check people in and out, make folks feel at home, answer a phone, relight the pilot, clean a table. That’s not to say I never get paid; they slip me few dollars now and then, but it’s a place to be. What would I do if I lived in New York City, feed pigeons and squirrels?”
“Down there we have old guys killing and eating the pigeons and squirrels,” Niles said.
“I’m the continuity,” Steve said.
“Were you the silent partner?” Niles asked.
“Me, no, not me,” Steve said, “I’m a stock market player.”
“How do you do?” Niles said.
“I do okay, not a genius, but I do okay,” Steve said.
“Got any tips?” Niles said.
“Plastics,” Steve smiled. “Just kidding. There’s this chip company about to expand. The guy who gets in early, well you know the rest.”
“Hmm,” Niles said, “I know nothing about the computer industry.”
“Computers, who said computers?” Steve said. “I’m talking tortilla chips. They’re blending the flavor of salsa and cheese right into the chip.”
“Maybe it’s just me,” Niles said, “but I like to dip and I think a lot of other people like to dip too. They like the moisture the salsa offers, tortilla chips can be dry.”
“Well that settles it,” Steve said. “I’ve done my market research. I won’t be putting my money in tortilla chips.”
“You remind me of this guy back in New York,” Niles said. “Always hung out at this bar nursing a half glass of beer – Louie Balagos. I could go up to him and say, Louie I can’t find the weapon, I can’t find the body. Louie would say, come back in a week and I’ll have what you need.”
“I’m not your man Louie,” Steve said.
“No,” Niles said. “Louie was loyal to no one, you’re loyal.”
“You think he was killed here, don’t you?” Steve said.
“Yeah,” Niles said, “he was killed here.”
They sipped the coffee and each man sat with his thoughts.
“Steve,” Niles said. “I think we’re becoming friends, but you are keeping a distance. I understand that. I’m walking easy because this is where I want to live and stay, but there will come a time when I ask you a direct question and I expect a direct answer.”
“I overheard he died in the very chair you are sitting in right now,” Steve said.