Welcome to FROST HARROW Book 3. (No previous reading required.) Please support my work via Patreon at www.PaySteve.com. Enjoy!
SEVENTEEN – BLUE MONDAY
Monday morning arrived far too soon for Grant. Relaxing around the mansion and spending time with Ivy made the weekend fly by in record time. Fortunately for Grant’s resolve, the two had no more encounters quite as erotically charged as the back rub.
Grant wasn’t sure if he felt happy or sad about that. While he knew the value of waiting between relationships in the age of AIDS (at least long enough to be tested twice, six months apart—a precaution both of them had agreed to), the tension was beginning to wear on his concentration.
Grant rose early, as usual, and went to meet José Martinez at The Nest, one of Grant’s favorite diners on Frosthaven’s lower west side.
José walked in as Grant finished his second cup of coffee.
“Hey, boss,” he said. “Que pasa?”
Grant shook his head. “Nada, sorry to say.”
José sat in the booth across from Grant. “No news from the police?”
“No good news anyway. I spoke to them this morning. They want to keep the yellow tape up for another day or two.”
José poured himself a cup from the coffee pot on the table. “Maybe they want to wrap us up in that tape for Christmas.”
“Could be,” said Grant. “I don’t blame them for wanting to be thorough, though.”
“They find the head?” José asked. Though the rest of the skeleton turned up at the site, the corpse’s head remained conspicuously absent.
“Not as of this morning. I’m sure that’s one reason they want to keep going.”
“Well, shit.” José motioned to a waitress and ordered two eggs, two strips of bacon, and some toast. Grant ordered a vegetarian omelet.
“You should try it,” he said to José. “They really do a good job.”
José shook his head. “No thanks. My stomach rebels if it doesn’t have its minimum daily requirement of cholesterol in the morning.”
He paused and poured himself some coffee. “So, why’d you want to meet me here this morning, boss?”
“Just in case what happened has happened—the police not reopening the site,” said Grant, taking another sip of coffee. He leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. “I know a lot of the workers are worried about this. I also know they respect you more than anyone except maybe Byrd.”
“Well, some of them, anyway.”
“Anyway, since Byrd doesn’t much listen to what I say, I figured talking to you was my next best step. I don’t want anyone to worry. Everyone’s jobs are secure.”
Grant chuckled. “Just ’cause he’s an ass doesn’t mean I’m going to fire him. He’s been with the company a lot longer than me. I figure he deserves a pretty generous transition period.”
“You’ve cut him a lot more slack than most people would have,” José noted.
Grant leaned back in the booth. “Maybe. Anyway, I’ll talk to him before this morning’s meeting. I don’t think he’ll listen, but…” He shrugged. “So, I figured talking with you was a good place to start. Give me a little warm-up before trying to tame the lion. Besides, you’re better breakfast company than Byrd.”
“De nada. Okay, I’ll be sending you with the Habitat group this morning. I want Byrd doing renovations, where I can keep an eye on him.”
“Working with the poor might be good for his soul.”
“And bad for their nerves. No. I don’t want to inflict Byrd on anyone except myself. At least if he’s with me I can fire him if he really gets out of line.”
José smiled. “You better watch that famous Winslow temper. I hear you’re a tiger if you’re cornered.”
Grant laughed. “That’s probably a bad translation. I think what you heard was ‘pussycat.’”
“Yeah. Maybe that was it.”
The food came and they spent the rest of breakfast talking about things other than work.
José thought the meeting with his fellow workers went okay. It was mercifully brief, and as it turned out, Grant separated the crew into three parts, rather than two.
The majority went to work with another Winslow Construction crew working on the new gym for Winchell primary school. Grant explained that if they could get ahead on the school job now, he could pull some of that crew back to help with Green Hills once the cops left the site.
The second group, went to help Habitat. That left José, Byrd, and a few others to do renovation at the warehouse.
Byrd grumbled about the decision, of course, but the only thing he could do was to ask José and the others to meet him at Green Hills, after quitting time.
Apparently, Byrd had some sort of offer to make. Despite misgivings, José and most of the rest—even Bobbi Weis—agreed to meet later.
Grant remained busy in the office most of the day, so José assumed the boss didn’t know anything about his foreman’s clandestine plans.
“Should we tell Grant?” José asked Bobbi as their shift ended.
“Let’s see what Byrd wants,” she replied. “Who knows? Might not be anything to complain about.”
José shook his head. “That’d be a first.”
“Has anyone seen Kay this morning?” Grant asked Sylvia Hutchinson, one of his accountants, after the morning meeting. He thought the meeting went well, though he knew he hadn’t won everyone over yet.
Sylvia shook her dark head. “No. I don’t think she came in.”
“Did she call?” asked Grant.
“The receptionist didn’t mention it.”
Grant rubbed his chin. “Hmm. That’s odd.”
“She’s been having some trouble at home lately,” Sylvia offered.
“Really? I didn’t know.”
“Yeah. Messy divorce, I guess.”
“She’s got two small children, doesn’t she?”
“A boy and a girl. I think they’re with their father in Duluth.”
Grant rolled his eyes. No wonder she hadn’t wanted to go home for a long weekend. He cursed himself for not being more aware of what was going on in Kay’s life. She was one of his more valuable employees.
Calm down, Grant, he thought. You can’t be father confessor and best friend to all these people.
He walked to the phone and dialed Kay’s number, but got only an out-of-service recording.
“You don’t think she’d have gone off to Duluth without telling anyone, do you?” he asked Sylvia.
“That wouldn’t be like her,” Sylvia replied, stuffing a folder into a file cabinet and closing it. “If you want, I could swing by her house at lunch. See if she’s okay.”
Grant nodded. “That would be good. Guess we’ll just have to muddle through without her this morning.”
They muddled through the afternoon without Kay as well. When Sylvia stopped by her house, the doors were locked, and everything seemed to be in order. The garage had been locked, too, so Sylvia couldn’t determine if Kay’s car was there, and whether she might be home.
As Sylvia saw no sign of anything being amiss, she and Grant decided to give Kay another day before taking any further steps. Grant’s call to the phone company about the deadline yielded a promise to look into the problems “as soon as we can.”
Just before five PM, Nancy Stapleton dropped by the office with the revised Green Hills logo and some new campaign ideas.
Nancy wore green today—another impeccably tailored outfit that seemed designed to show off her body to best advantage.
She’s clearly one of those women who likes to always look good, Grant told himself.
As he and Nancy finished looking at advertising roughs, Ivy arrived at the office door.
“Hey, big-shot newsmaker,” she called to Grant, smiling, “time to eat.”
Grant checked his watch. “Oh, God, Ivy. I was supposed to meet you at the park forty-five minutes ago, wasn’t I?”
Ivy nodded. “But I figured you probably got wrapped up in some scheme or other, so I decided to stop up and check. We’re supposed to meet Cassie and Rick at the Green Leaf for dinner, remember?”
Grant crossed the room and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Sorry. That’s the world of construction and high finance.”
“I’ll get used to it.”
Grant smiled. “I hope so.”
Nancy packed her things back into her portfolio. “I’ll leave you two alone,” she said, buttoning her coat. “Can I call you if I have any questions, Grant?”
She waved as she left the office. “See you soon, then.”
Grant nodded. Ivy watched the other woman sashay out the door. “That’s some perfume,” she noted.
“Really?” asked Grant. “I think it’s the same one she always wears.”
“Awfully gussied up for a business meeting,” said Ivy.
Grant tidied up his desk and went to get his coat. “Appearance is important in the world of advertising and publicity.”
“Grant, really I think she might be advertising for something else.”
Grant adjusted his collar and raised one eyebrow. “I know you mentioned that before but, honestly, I don’t see it.”
“Grant, you are either the sweetest man I’ve ever met, or the most dense, or the best liar.”
He put his arms around her. “I’ll plead the first. Do you really think she was flirting with me?”
Ivy gave him an “Are you kidding?” look.
Grant chuckled. “I’m sorry. Guess I’ve just been wrapped up in my own little world. Or maybe I was blinded to all other women by your brilliance, Ms. Frost.”
“Flatterer,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. “C’mon, you can be blinded by me at the restaurant. We’re going to be late.”