There was a pay phone on the platform, and Erika walked back to use it as we stood next to the car, which was a large, black luxury sedan.
I felt a bit embarrassed at how much luggage we had brought with us. On one hand, my employer's self-confidence led her to think she would be able to wrap this up quickly. On the other hand, she wanted to appear at her best in front of the Forresters.
"I did realize we were that close with Erika," I said quietly. "She seems really glad to see us."
"She is. And we will find out why very soon, but I'll hazard a guess that you're right. However Claudia feels about being back with her family, Erika is not happy here."
Erika smiled sheepishly as she came back to the car. "I'm sorry for fawning all over you both," she said as I helped my employer into the passenger seat.
"We're here to help," Jan said, taking out her cigarette case, "and we're glad to see you, too." I got into the back seat as Erika started the car, which purred with quiet power, as though it could have jumped over the train station if it had felt like it.
Erika pushed in the cigarette lighter in the dashboard and we pulled slowly out of the small parking lot and onto the road. It was a narrow two-lane road, and we drove without seeing any other cars for several minutes, curving around a large hill, and then down into a valley and around a reservoir.
"It is nice to see friendly faces," Erika said as Jan lit a cigarette for her after lighting her own. "Thanks. And I warn you that I may gripe a bit at the restaurant. Even apart from the murder, it's not been easy going."
"With Claudia?" Jan asked. That was a bit blunt, I thought, but it was the right thing to say, since Erika laughed.
"It is such a delightful change, I must say, to be around people who actually say what they mean. And, no, not with Claudia. Not that I ever get a chance to show it, except in private, but I'm very happy with her, and she seems happy with me. But I will admit that I'd be happier if we were back home, in our home, and I think she would be, too, but... Well, we talk about it a lot."
She sighed. "Just between us, she's trying to figure out what to do with her life. And she feels really uncomfortable to be thinking about that at her age." She smiled. "Not that she's that old–"
"Oh, come on," my employer said with a laugh. "She's ancient. She may be even older than Marshall here." We all laughed as my wife turned in her seat to wink at me.
"Perhaps," Erika said, "but they're both pretty well preserved."
"True. What do Claudia's parents think about this? Usually people don't want their adult children moving back home."
She shrugged. "Her mother would be very happy to have us stay here forever, though she does want Claudia to start doing something. She goes on and on about how well Claudia did at school, all the different classes she took, how good her grades always were, and so on. I think that, in her mother's eyes, Claudia is the last hope of her generation in the family to do anything worthwhile."
"Which is a wonderful position to put Claudia in, of course."
Erika nodded. "Of course."
"You want to go back to U-town, don't you?" I asked.
She smiled. "Of course I do. I didn't go to U-town to meet Claudia, after all. I went there to be there, to see it and to live there. She was there already, and it happened around her, and she was never completely comfortable there."