She waved the magazine at us when we entered her room. She gestured to a couple of guest chairs by an open window that overlooked the grounds.
‘Hi. Grab a seat.’ Her voice was steady, but I could see her struggle to form the words. It seemed like her facial muscles weren’t working properly.
‘You’re looking great,’ I said as we sat down.
Janet nodded at Ginny; strained to raise an eyebrow at me.
‘You going to introduce me…?’
It hadn’t been easy to convince Ginny that we were the good guys – especially with her sister’s body dumped in the freezer like a lump of meat. She had cursed us for being insensitive and disrespectful – told us to call the cops; then Amos helped us out by saying Smokin’ Joe wanted to bring down her sister’s killer as much as she did, and we needed her help to do that. Eventually she calmed down, and agreed to come with me to visit Janet.
‘…Ginny … Janet,’ I said.
Maybe Janet intended to keep quiet – I couldn’t tell - but an awkward pause lingered before Ginny rubbed her eyes and spoke to her in a soft voice.
‘My sister’s dead ... Shayne says she was killed by the person who attacked you.’
Janet stared at me; maybe noticing my patched-up cuts and bruises as well. ‘Is that so?’
Janet asked me to plump up her pillows; then said. ‘Maybe you better tell me what happened. All of it.’
I came clean - told both of them everything about Stern and Van Grossman and how we hoped to trap Le Chef at La Bastille the following Tuesday – but he had outsmarted us. It wasn’t much, but Janet seemed gripped by it all; said Le Chef had abducted her...
'…I came to in my office with him shouting at me. Wanted to know what evidence I had found. Of course, I denied anything, but he said Stern knew we had something.’ Janet screwed up her face. ‘Look what the motherfucker did to me, said I wouldn’t look pretty anymore if I didn’t tell him.’
I blinked. ‘So you told him I had the stash?’
Tears formed in Janet’s eyes. ‘Is that what you think? Is that what you really think? She started to shudder, gave me a look that I hadn’t seen before – one that showed me what an asshole I was. She turned to Ginny.
‘I told him to go fuck himself.’
I squirmed in my seat when they both started to cry; didn’t know where to look or what to say, so I busied myself reading her cards. It was all my fault; my big ego thinking I could make it with Linda, same with Clarissa, and it nearly cost me Janet.
Maybe it had cost me Janet.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I said. It sounded lame – hell, it was lame; too little, too late. I put down the cards, said I would go and get coffee for all of us, and crept out of the room.
When I returned with a tray of Kona mugs, Janet and Ginny were discussing my future. I listened to their plan, outlined by Janet.
‘Ginny will confront Le Chef at La Bastille next week. She’ll pretend you killed Clarissa and wants revenge … lure him outside.’
I looked at Ginny.
She nodded. ‘I want him to rot in hell.’
I felt a chill; something in Ginny’s eyes made me shudder. Call it a sixth sense, but it seemed she was masking her true feelings.
Janet tried to smile. ‘He’ll be off-guard … or maybe not … but you need to deal with it, whatever.’
I could see the punch line coming. Janet hit me right on the chin.
‘Now it’s your turn to put your life on the line … whatever it takes to bring Le Chef and Van Grossman to justice.’
Meaning, I was expendable...
When we returned to Smokin’ Joe’s place – it was our safe haven - I brought the big fella up to date, but I couldn’t help feeling that Janet, and maybe Ginny as well, had a backup plan in place. Janet had never mentioned Mr. Muscles, nor had she admitted talking to Detective Patterson, although one of her “well-wisher” cards was from him.
And that added a new dimension to the chase for Le Chef. I could imagine the scenario: we would apprehend Le Chef outside the restaurant, only to spring a police trap. All of us would be taken into custody and dumped in cells. Ginny would reveal where Clarissa’s body was being stowed, and that would be that.
End of story.