On the street, as we walked quickly down the block and through an alley to the next street, she explained further.
"As we were discussing last night, Dr. Lee is interested in more than vampires. I don't think that interest would extend to having us followed, but I don't want to take a chance."
"So, we have a mystery to investigate besides vampires?" I asked as she reached for the knocker on the wooden door in front of us.
"Maybe," she said, knocking. "We'll have to figure that out."
As the door opened, I wondered at her use of "we" in that sentence. Assuming this was the case Mona had brought to us, my employer had been trying to keep me away from it. I wondered what had changed.
A woman opened the door and smiled as she motioned us in. "I'm so glad you could come back this afternoon," she said, leading us down a dark hall and into a large living room.
There were two other people in the room already, another woman and a man. The room gave a bit of the same feeling as Ashford's house: a combination of big, dark, heavy, old furniture and unmistakable evidence of reduced circumstances.
The difference was that here there were no deliberately eccentric touches. The architecture was conventional, and there was electric light. The paintings on the walls were mostly portraits, formally dressed and stiffly posed, plus a couple of landscapes.
Our hostess (I thought of her as such, and it turned out I was right) motioned for us to sit, and my employer said, "I didn't meet you all yesterday, and obviously Marshall wasn't with me then, so perhaps we should introduce ourselves. My name is Jan Sleet, and Marshall is my assistant."
Our hostess came over and I stood to shake her hand. She was of medium height and attractive, with full dark hair past her shoulders and strong features, wearing a black knit dress. I thought she was probably in her late thirties. Her handclasp was firm and her gaze was direct.
"I'm Claudia Forrester," she said. She glanced at my employer. "Should I..."
"Please fill Marshall in," she said. This was unprecedented. I usually had to come up with information on my own, or not at all.
Claudia drew in a deep breath, then her shoulders sagged and she turned to the other woman, who nodded. She was somewhat younger, slender and blonde, wearing a sweater and a skirt.
"I'll tell them," she said. "It's alright." Claudia sat next to her and lit a cigarette.
"We had dinner here that night," the blonde woman said, "Jason and Ryan and I." She gestured at the man. "This is Jason Garland. He lives here." She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I should explain."
"Would it help if I asked questions?" my employer asked as she took out her cigarette case.
"It probably would," she said, "and please, have one of ours." She took a wooden box from the table and held it out. My employer took a cigarette, and I lit it for her.
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