“So, where do you usually begin?” asked Sarah.
I looked at my watch and saw the time had just passed 10:45.
“How about we start with lunch?” I replied. “There’s a diner just down the street. It’s nothing fancy, but the food will do you good.”
“Before that, you mentioned your rate. 15 dollars up front, 8 after that plus expenses? I presume cash is okay?”
She opened her purse and took out a small wallet colored gold and the size of a cigarette carton. She flipped through the bills and handed over 23 dollars.
“You always carry that much money on you?”
“Not typically, but I like to handle dealings with money promptly.”
I took the money from her, folded it up and put it in my breast pocket. I pushed the chair out from under me and stood up. Sarah did the same. I grabbed my hat and trench coat off the coat rack in the corner and opened the door. As Sarah walked out, I followed and locked the door behind her.
We made our way onto the street. It was filled with cars and the wind had a cold bite to it. As we walked I noticed Sarah looking over her shoulder a few times.
We got to Martin’s Diner at the end of the block. It was a small place in the first floor of an apartment building. As we walked in I could smell the apple pie that had been baked that morning.
A waitress behind the counter noticed us and I held up my hand to signal two. She pointed to a booth towards the back of the diner.
As we took our seats, the waitress came up and said, “Edward, good seeing you again.”
Turning to Sarah, she said “And how are you, honey?”
“Honestly, I’ve been better. But, Mabel was it?”
“Sarah. Pleasure to meet you.”
“A pleasure as well, Sarah. Can I start you with a coffee?”
“No coffee for me, but I would take some tea.”
“Black tea okay?”
“Black tea sounds lovely.”
“Good, ’cause that’s all we got,” Mabel said smiling.
Sarah smiled in return.
“And coffee for you, Edward?”
As Mabel walked away, I took my hat off and sat it on the table next to the window. It was early for lunch, so there were only two other people in the diner – a man who sat at the bar reading the newspaper and an older woman sitting in a booth close to the door. I could hear the radio coming from the back kitchen along with the clanks of pots and pans.
I took a pen and pad out of my coat pocket. I opened up the pad to a blank page, wrote “Sarah Goodman” at the top and underlined it.
“First place I like to start is, is there anyone you know who would want you and your parents dead?” I asked.
Sarah shook her head. “No one I can think of. I mean, my father had his business rivals, but no one who would want him dead.”
“What did your father do exactly?”
“He owned Goodman Industries. He oversaw the company and handled the high-level decisions.”
“And from what I’ve heard, Goodman Industries is in steel and manufacturing?”
“Mainly, though lately they’ve been interested in expanding to real estate.”
“How long have they been trying for that?”
“Only recently. A few months maybe.”
“And your mother?”
“My mother wasn’t in business. She was the lead conservationist at the Gladwell Historical Art Gallery. She loved working there and everyone there loved her.”
I made notes on everything she had said. I also put a mark by Goodman Industries looking to get into real estate. By this time, Mabel had come back with the tea and coffee. The coffee was fresh and I could smell it as she sat the mug down in front of me.
“You both ready to order?” she asked us.
I motioned to Sarah to see if she wanted something.
She quickly glanced over the small menu and ordered a club sandwich without tomatoes. I ordered a hamburger cooked my usual way.
Mabel took our menus and headed towards the older lady near the door. I asked Sarah, “So who does your father’s company go to now?”
“Right now it goes to the company board until I turn eighteen. Then the company is given to me.”
“How old are you now?”
“Seventeen. I turn eighteen in April of next year.”
“So if you had been killed, the company would have stayed with the board?”
“Anybody on the board who would want that?”
“Again, no one I can think of. The men on the board have worked with my father for years. Most for longer than I’ve been alive.”
I nodded my head as I kept on writing.
“The party your parents went to – whose party was it?”
“It was a party put on by the chairman of the board at my father’s company and his wife. His name is Thurston Hagedorn.”
“And your parent’s estate. That gets turned over to you, I guess?”
“And if you weren’t there, who would it go over to?”
“Well the State, I suppose. I’m the sole heir, so after me, there’s no one.”
I heard the ting of a bell and looked towards the kitchen. Our order had been made and Mabel went to go get it behind the counter. She brought it over, and set the club sandwich in front of Sarah and the hamburger in front of me. We ate in silence and asked each other a few odd questions here and there. I think we were both hungrier than we thought.
The diner was starting to get a little busier. Men in suits came in packs and laughed loudly. A few workers from shops nearby came in as well.
Once we were both finished, I squared the ticket with Mabel and told Sarah the first lunch with a client was always on me. As I gathered my hat and Sarah her purse, I asked her where she was headed next.
“I’ll be going back home. I was given a week off of school to deal with everything.”
“Where’s your school?”
“Well go back there as soon as your able. Being around people will be safer than being home alone. Just make sure to take a different route back and forth each day. And where’s the mechanic you mentioned you talked to?”
“He’s at Oceanside Fuel & Service near Williams Avenue and Poplar. His name is James.”
From my wallet I took out a business card and scribbled an address onto it. I handed it to Sarah.
“This has my office address and my home address on the back. If you get into trouble, call me. Try both of them and you’ll get me at one of them.”
“Thank you,” she answered and stuck the card in her purse. “May I ask where you’re headed?”
“To have a talk with the mechanic.”
I left her at the booth and made my way out the door. I lit a cigarette and headed back to the office in the cold wind.