We pulled into the parking lot of an elegant-looking Italian restaurant. I got out of the car and helped my employer to stand.
The restaurant was large and fairly dark, and as far as I could tell we were the only customers. This was good, if we were going to really pump Erika, since the waiters wouldn't be trying to hustle us out. I did hope that the food would live up to the decor.
The maitre d' came over and got us seated, and we declined the offer of wine or cocktails. I had a strong impression that Erika was a regular and valued customer (or, probably, the Forresters were).
"May I start by complaining some?" Erika began. "Or are you impatient to get to the actual mystery?"
Jan laughed. "Please, complain as much as you want. We are not at all impatient, and in any event all sorts of things may prove to be relevant. I was saying to Marshall before that I don't know how Claudia feels about being back home, but I had the feeling it might not suit you."
"She says I'm too sensitive, but it's just got worse." One server brought us a pitcher of ice water, and three glasses, and another brought a loaf of fresh Italian bread (I could smell it even before it reached the table), and then another server (I wasn't sure who ranked where, but they were all men) brought a large plate. He placed it in the center of the table, and then he poured olive oil into it. A fourth man came and ground pepper into the olive oil from a huge mill, until Erika nodded that it was enough. I took a piece of the warm, soft bread, dipped it into the oil, and then ate it, and my expression apparently told the tale.
Erika smiled. "This place is wonderful. We usually eat at home, but whenever we eat out, it's almost always here."
"Quite a change from U-town," I commented as they tried the bread. U-town had, in general, the best food I've ever eaten in my life; but service was frequently somewhere between eccentric and nonexistent, and even the best restaurants looked like they'd bought their fixtures at a rummage sale. I don't think there was a restaurant in U-town where the chairs all matched, for example.
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