The restaurant was large and dark, with smells of stews and steaks and beer and cigarettes. At that hour, just after five in the afternoon, there were a lot more people in the bar than in the restaurant area, and we easily got a large table. The mâitre d' gave us menus and then stepped away.
"I have to ask why it was so important to know where people were born," Stu said as he examined the menu.
Zoe looked puzzled, so we explained. Then she still looked puzzled, but now for the same reason as Stu.
My employer smiled. "I had the idea that Jerry might be one of the four women, just a thought. So, I wondered if that detective would have known the difference. I have the impression that, in general, people from the coasts encounter this sort of thing much more often than people from the middle of the country.
"The second part, having Marshall ask the same question of the four women, was a blind, a way of mystifying your father, Zoe. The question was meaningless, just an excuse for Marshall to meet you." She smiled. "My husband's experience with women is extensive and varied. I was fairly certain he would be able to tell the difference if he met you face to face. Of course, I did know you were the only possibility of the four."
"How? I know Ashley is Korean, but–"
"The detective saw Ashley's photographs, explicit nude photographs, of herself and Wilhelmina. He is not that savvy in this area, but–"
"I get the idea. What about PF?"
"Marshall has already met her, several times."
"And you're the authority on transvestites?" she asked me, smiling.
"My husband, though he is too modest to speak of it, is an expert on women in general. Said experience acquired before our marriage, of course."
"That's not modesty," Zoe said, "that's being a gentleman. Like Mr. Mason. I think sometimes they're a vanishing breed." She smiled at me again. "When Marshall was bringing me to the car, he made me climb the ladder first, I guess in case I suddenly decided to attempt a daring escape, and I did notice that he carefully averted his eyes as we climbed, so as not to look up my dress. I'll bet that detective wouldn't have been so polite."
Zoe was wearing a turquoise mini-dress with white leather sandals and large white hoop earrings. She wore a bit of makeup, expertly applied, and appeared to be a slender, healthy girl in her mid-twenties. Her masculine origin had not been easy to detect.
"There were other indications in your favor," my employer continued. "You had worked at the restaurant on weekends, which was consistent with being at school during the week. You lost that income while the restaurant was closed, which was consistent with suddenly needing more money. It was certainly enough to justify sending Marshall to meet you."