Moon Island (Chapter Fourteen)

Dinner was served in the dining room.

And what a dining room it was. It had a vaulted ceiling complete with a hand- painted mural of a mountain that I suspected was the nearby Mount Rainier.

Very Sistine Chapel-like, and it, no doubt, would have taken a skilled artisan months to complete. The dining table itself looked like it was out of a movie set. So long that it seemed comical, it was vaguely boat- shaped, as in, it tapered off near the end, wider in the middle. It had a beautiful golden floral inlay, with intricately carved pedestals holding the whole damn thing steady.

Italian, I figured, and worth more money than I would make in a month. Two months.

Steaming filet mignon and crusted chicken breasts and barbequed ribs filled many platters placed along the center of the table. All of which smelled heavenly.

All of which were off-limits to me. Yes, I accepted a small serving of salad, claiming I was a vegetarian. Allison snickered at that, and I gave her a small elbow in the ribs.

Well, maybe, not that small. She oophed and nearly toppled over.

My bad, I thought.

Meanie, she thought back.

But she had played it off well, turning the explosion of air into a hacking cough that earned a few scowls from those around the table. When she was done hacking into her napkin, she glared at me. I shrugged and smiled sweetly.

I counted seventeen people in all.

Thirteen adults and four kids. The kids ranged from tweens to toddlers. Tara sat on the other side of me. I recognized the man at the head of the table: George Thurman Junior. Or, as he preferred, Junior, according to Tara who'd gotten Allison and I caught up, just before dinner.

Patricia Thurman, Junior's beautiful wife – too beautiful and too perfect, if you asked me – sat to his right and didn't stop looking at me.

There was an older couple sitting together across from me. They both smiled warmly at me. There was a devilishly handsome young man who hadn't stopped staring at Allison. To her credit, remarkably, she'd ignored him completely. I knew she was still grieving for her one-time boyfriend, the boxer, Caesar Marquez, and wasn't in the market for men. There were two men sitting together, rather closely. I caught them smiling warmly at each other. Next to Tara was a young man who looked oddly familiar. No, not familiar. I mean, yes, I'd seen his picture before, but there was something about him…

Then I figured it out. His smile. It was the same kind of big, expressive smile that I had seen on Tara, my client. Lips curled up. Almost clown-like.

His name was Edwin Thurman, and he was Junior's only son, the black sheep of the family with a history of drugs, public arrests and jail time.

I scanned the entire lot. Yes, a psychic scan of sorts. I couldn't read everyone's mind, thank God. Yes, it turned out that I could actually influence thoughts. But I could also get impressions from people. I noted, in particular, that my inner alarm was ringing mildly. There was a potential threat here, somewhere at the table.

I hated when that happened.

Dinner was served. There was no wait staff, which I found slightly curious. A big house like this with no staff? Who cleaned and cooked and manicured the lawns?

So, we served ourselves, like commoners. Of course, I just picked at my salad and scattered it around and pretended to eat, all while I spat it back in my napkin. I drank the wine, which at least gave me some semblance of humanity.

The dinner was mostly subdued. No one asked any questions of Allison or me.

No one really looked our way. No one, except for Junior's beautiful wife. The kids talked quietly among themselves, often laughing.

The many couples talked quietly, too. I scattered the salad sufficiently and Allison, bless her heart, reached over and picked at my salad as well. The end result was that I appeared to have eaten my light dinner, or at least some of it. I appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be one of the living.

As I pushed my salad away, feigning fullness, the young man sitting next to Allison looked at it, then at my nearly finished goblet of wine.

And smiled at me.

Knowingly.