Then Erika looked up. "Should I make more coffee?" she asked. "For the others?"
Jan shook her head. "Please don't bother. When they get here, we'll go right upstairs." She sipped a bit and smiled. "This is very good coffee, by the way."
Erika smiled, and Claudia said, "I don't know how she does it. I can use the same pot and the same beans, and mine comes out tasting like dishwater."
The doorbell rang, and Erika got up to answer it, returning a moment later with Doc and Vicki. Both Claudia and Jason stood up to greet them, and there was round of handshakes and introductions.
People were occasionally awkward when meeting Vicki, because of her unusual appearance, but Claudia treated her as she would have treated anybody else. She introduced Jason and Erika by name, without identifying how they fit into her household, but she put her hand on Erika's shoulder when presenting her.
When they sat down again, however, there was again a decorous distance between the two women.
The conversation was general and innocuous, ending up with Doc asking Jason a series of questions about the college where he taught. Vicki was quiet, as she often was with strangers.
Then, finally, the doorbell rang again, and Erika went to answer it. When she came back with Jack and Ray, it didn't take a great detective to deduce that they had stopped by at a bar, probably Duffy's, for a quick shot or two on the way, but of course Claudia didn't react to this as she was introduced to them.
Then, when everybody knew who everybody was, my employer led us all up to the top floor and to Claudia's bedroom.
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