We continued down the sidewalk towards Tina's inn. I still hung back trying to keep up with them and yet not be in any conversation. My ears were unused to so many folks talking to me all the time. I was a bit homesick. Not that I could call my house a home anymore.
Once inside the inn Tina pushed us all to the kitchen, saying, "Well, those pancakes are not worth spit but I can make a new batch." Our jaws dropped at the table Tina had set for breakfast. Anything you could think to put on a pancake was carefully arranged on good plates and serving dishes. The previously made pancakes looked pretty cold shriveled on the platter and Tina picked them up and dumped them into the trash with a shrug. Slowly it dawned on me that all that fancy table stuff was put out for Harry's benefit. As if she overheard my thought Tina asked of Erika, "Where is your boss? He didn't answer my knock and for some reason my key didn't work."
Okay, so Cinda's door wasn't the first one she tried. Cinda looked ill at that comment and Erika replied very calmly, "Well, I would hope not and since he is an FBI agent you shouldn't be going into his room unasked. He made mention that he had some meetings this morning for another case outside town and should be back by dinner or a little bit after. Harry is pretty self-sufficient as a rule and rarely does he take the time to eat. Harry is a busy man, Tina, he's not here on some kind of vacation but to solve a murder."
Tina looked momentarily disturbed by the reply but then waved her thoughts off saying, "Alright, so how many pancakes for you, Uncle Gary?"
Patting his trim stomach he replied, "Only a few, Tina. I need to keep in shape to keep up with young Bob here."
Bobby laughed and said, "I'll have his leftovers." They both laughed obviously comfortable with the other's habits. Tina beamed and didn't bother asking us women if we wanted anything. Since she caught us at the diner she knew we had already eaten. We all were given coffee without a word and directed to the table. She had Cinda sitting opposite her as far away as possible. Uncommented on was the empty seat next to Tina's place. Obviously that had been intended for Harry. The empty chair mocked Cinda. I watched Misty float in and out of range. Honestly I was relieved that Harry wasn't available for breakfast because it would have been a nightmare watching them tear at the man.
I was seated next to Cinda and she took advantage of the other conversations to quickly fill me in on Tina and Gary. In her discrete monotone Cinda said, "Okay, so you know Tina's dad ran off with Louella's mom right?" I nodded softly and replied, "Of course." That was basic common knowledge in town. It really went without saying that if Cinda knew of something I usually did. I must have spaced whenever she told me about Uncle Gary here. It has been known to happen. Cinda could talk for days without stop.
"Well, Tina's mom began to date a few of the locals. Some were actually single. Gary here was always hanging around and Tina began to call him her uncle. Folks didn't put up much of a fuss as he was better than the average guy her mom was dragging home. They stopped dating eventually but the nickname stuck and became accepted. Some people think they really are related." Cinda took a breath and sipped some of her coffee.
I nodded and looked at Gary again. He certainly got around. He seemed to have dated my mom and now I was hearing he dated Tina's mom. But then that was pretty much what happened in small towns. The relationships were nearly incestuous after a few generations. Probably explained why I rarely went out with anyone locally. That and the guys were pretty much boring and stupid. Erika looked over to Tina and asked, "Hey, where's an ashtray?"
Tina sniffed her disapproval and handed Erika a small glass ashtray that looked like it had never been used. Erika said, "Thanks, your pancakes look delicious. Are you sure I can't enjoy one?"
I turned wide-eyed to Cinda in amazement that Erika was going to eat again. Cinda had a puzzled look and whispered, "Didn't she just eat an omelet and a piece of cake?"
"Yes, heaven knows where she puts it all." Erika's figure didn't show any signs of excessive eating but I was stunned by how much I personally had witnessed her inhale.
Tina smiled and said, "Since you put it like that, Special Agent Thomason, of course." The smells drifting over from the stove were good making me realize that Tina really enjoyed the whole running an inn. The men were already digging into the first batch and nearly finished before the refilled platter hit the table. Tina turned back to her griddle and deftly poured out a few more circles. She also pulled from the oven a dish filled with crisp bacon and fried sausages she had obviously made for us earlier. I never understood folks who could bounce out of bed and put so much food in their stomachs. My slices of toast I had earlier in the diner were still settling and the cup of coffee was plenty for me. I watched the men and Erika pile their plates as if they hadn't eaten in days. Even Cinda snatched a piece of bacon and happily crunched while Tina continued to flip the pancakes.
Soon the kitchen was filled with the sounds of everyone eating. Erika even let her cigarette extinguish once she had her plate fixed as she liked. I was the only hold out when Tina finally joined us at the table. The men had gone onto their second servings and Erika was giving them a run for their money with her ability to eat. Bobby looked impressed. Tina couldn't resist asking how everyone liked the food. There were favorable mumbles between bites and I drank my coffee and tried not to look as bored as I felt. Something was eating at me and I was restless.
Cinda remarked to me in the lull of chewing, "Lynn, you moving funny this morning. Was the bed uncomfortable?" She shot Tina a glare.
"Not that I noticed," I quietly answered while Tina leaned in to hear what I was saying, "Just too much going on and I just feel a bit smashed."
Cinda nodded sympathetically while taking another slice of bacon. Tina nodded also and said a bit snippy, "I put in all new mattresses so I would hope not."
Erika looked at me speculatively and seemed like she was going to make a comment or ask me a question but decided to shelve it when Gary said, "Leave the gal alone. This has been a rough week for her." I appreciated Gary's kindness and smiled slightly at him while he busily slathered another pancake stack with butter. I think that made three servings for him, I would certainly hate to see him when he was hungry. The food held little appeal to me but everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the breakfast. It was nearer to noon that dawn but that was ok. I was exhausted and after a few more moments of watching them eat I excused myself and went back to the room. Once inside I fell into the bed and a deep sleep.
I woke with a start to the pitch black room. I wasn't sure where I was at first -- I had been in so many strange places lately. My head was a jumble of half remembered nightmares. Leo and Maria Winters were chasing me in the dream saying I couldn't leave and had to take my rightful place at the head of the family. That was confusing to me since I had no family. I woke slowly remembering that I did in fact have a branch of my family left but I had absolutely no desire to have anything to do with them. It was not like they had acknowledged my existence to my face and with that nasty letter from my birthday I had a bad taste in my mouth and the memory of talking to the family butler was in the back of my brain too. But recalling the rest of my dream chased out those scattered thoughts. In my dream there was Maria, who having the tenacity of pit bull on crystal meth was being called "La Furia" by Leo, kept telling me it was in my blood and she would see that I took my place soon and would know how important I was. She darted around me and kept poking me with a sharp finger that felt like needles being driven into my sides and back. The nightmare vision of Leo Winters had him wearing his distinctive black hat that had silver and gold pins stuck on the brim and the body of the hat, he yanked them out and used them like ninja weapons and they too jabbed me while he peppered me with cantankerous words and mean bites of anger telling me how ungrateful I was and undeserving such an honor.
For some reason upon waking from the weird dream I was now thinking that Leo and Maria were actually in my town to watch over me for my father's side of the family. Shivering in the dark I couldn't get that thought out of my mind. I felt achy and stumbled to the bathroom to get some water.
I was still wearing the clothes I had put on to go out to breakfast a lifetime ago now it seemed. I had taken my shoes off before I hit the bed but left on the jeans and t-shirt. Feeling hot and clammy I pulled off the clothes intending on taking a quick shower. That was forgotten when I caught a glimpse of my body in the mirror. I was covered with small bruises scattered randomly over my body. Nowhere visible with my clothing on but corresponding to the pinches and pokes I had felt in my odd nightmares.
Stunned I softly pressed one of the marks slightly above my pelvic bone to find there was a pinpoint of pain within the bruise. Nearly every spot corresponded to something from my quickly fading dream that Maria and Leo had inflicted on me. I looked in the mirror to see my eyes were shadowed with dark rings as if I hadn't had a minute of sleep in days. My pupils were huge nearly obscuring my iris color. I turned from my image very disturbed by everything it had revealed. Something was happening to me I couldn't explain. A knock on the door further pulled me from my musings.