Claudia emerged unsteadily from the car, which had come to rest at an angle, spanning two parking spaces. She closed the door, then she opened it again to get her purse. She ran a comb through her somewhat windblown hair, and lit a cigarette.
"She almost never drives," Erika said as Claudia made her way to the restaurant door. She was dressed similarly to Erika, but her sweater was a dark blue that went well with her dark hair and eyes.
"Marshall won't let me drive," Jan said. "That's probably about how I'd be."
Claudia came up to our table and sat down next to Erika.
"Has something happened?" Erika asked.
Claudia shook her head. "No, I just had to get out of the house." She looked up at us. "I'm being rude and melodramatic, for which I apologize."
The waiter came over and said, "Miss Forrester, would you like something?"
She looked distracted. "An espresso, I guess."
"Very good. And for everybody else?"
We all agreed, and a few minutes later four espressos were brought over, along with a large plate with a wide variety of miniature Italian pastries. Claudia was still looking thoughtful, so Erika said, "Thank you, Joseph."
He smiled and withdrew.
"As I say, I'm being rude," Claudia said, looking at us. "Jan, Marshall, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you coming here to help us with this." She smiled. "This doesn't benefit you in any way, whether or not this is solved, so I really appreciate the effort."
Jan smiled. "Claudia, you're our friends. We couldn't sit by and let Erika be accused of a crime without taking whatever steps we could."
This was more or less hooey. We had liked Claudia and Erika when we'd met them, but we hadn't become friends with them. We hadn't even known they were leaving U-town until after they were already gone. But you can't really say, "Claudia, I don't care about you at all, but you're involved in a murder that needs me to solve it, and I'd go almost anywhere for that."
But by now it was obvious that we had another agenda as well, which was to get Claudia and Erika to move back to U-town. My employer disliked waste, and I could tell that she thought they were wasted here, and that they could contribute a lot if they came back.