“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Lillian said, “but I got the impression that the ‘other comments’ section of the questionnaire was one of the few places on the form where you were actually more or less truthful in your responses. Or did you shade those answers, too?”
Definitely time to change the subject.
“You got anything to eat back in your cottage?” he asked.
She blinked and refocused. “You’re hungry?”
“Starving. I woke up this morning and realized I didn’t have any coffee in the house. Nothing to eat, either. Forgot to stop at a grocery store last night.”
“You expect me to feed you breakfast?”
“Why not? Be the neighborly thing to do. If I had coffee and toast and maybe some peanut butter, I’d invite you to my place.”
“Be amazed at what you can do with peanut butter.”
“I see. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I didn’t pick up anything yesterday, either. I’m planning to drive into town in a few minutes to get something from that bakery Rafe raved about last night.”
“Incandescent Body?” He got to his feet. “Good idea. My brother knows food.”
She was not sure why she had allowed herself to get talked into accompanying Gabe into town.
Something to do with the odd mood she was in, no doubt. But when she walked through the doors of the bakery a short time later, the heavenly fragrance of freshly baked bread quickly resolved any doubts about her decision. She suddenly realized that she was ravenous.
No one knew much about the group of New Age types who had moved into town a year ago and opened Incandescent Body near the pier. They dressed in long, colorful robes, wore a lot of jewelry that appeared to have been inspired by ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts, and seemed a little too serene to be real. They called themselves Heralds of Future History.
The initial reaction of the town folk had been one of acute disgust and, in some quarters, outright alarm, according to Rafe and Hannah. The town council had expressed deep concerns about the possibility that Eclipse Bay had a genuine wacko cult in its midst. The Eclipse Bay Journal had run an editorial that had advised the authorities to keep a close watch on the new crowd.
But in a town in which the only bakery had been closed for nearly three years, the Heralds of Future History soon proved to possess one major redeeming feature. They baked like angels.
It was going on ten o’clock when Lillian and Gabe arrived. A number of people were sprinkled around the handful of tables. The customers were primarily a mix of local residents, a couple of rare winter tourists, and some young people in denim and khaki who looked like students from Chamberlain College.
The heads of the locals swiveled immediately toward the door when Lillian walked in with Gabe on her heels. Lillian could guess their thoughts. Hannah and Rafe’s marriage a few months ago had thrilled and fascinated the entire town. And now here was another Harte woman with a Madison male. Would wonders never cease?
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” she whispered to Gabe.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” He came to a halt at the counter and studied the artfully arranged breakfast pastries behind the glass. “The only other place open at this hour is the Total Eclipse. You don’t want to eat breakfast there, trust me.”
“Good point. Any restaurant that uses the motto ‘Where the sun don’t shine’ probably isn’t a terrific breakfast spot.”
“Right. Besides, those corn bread muffins look incredible. I’m going to have two. What do you want?”
“People are staring at us.”
“Yeah?” He glanced around curiously, nodded civilly at the people he recognized and then turned back to the croissant display. “So what? You’re a Harte. I’m a Madison. Put the two together in this town and you’re bound to get a few stares.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“Of course, a few stares don’t bother you,” she muttered. “You’re a Madison.”
“You got that right.”
He approached the middle-aged woman dressed in a long, pale robe standing behind the counter. She wore a white scarf over her graying hair and a pristine white apron. A crescent-shaped amulet hung from a chain around her neck.
“May the light of future history be with you,” she said politely.
“Thanks,” Gabe said. “Same to you. I’ll have a couple of those corn bread muffins and a cup of coffee, please.” He looked over his shoulder. “Decided what you want, Lillian?”
She hurried forward. “A croissant, please. And green tea.”
“For here or to go?” the woman asked.
“For here,” Gabe said.
“Say, I recognize those voices,” boomed a whiskey-and-cigar voice from the other side of a curtained doorway.
Lillian suppressed a small groan and summoned up a smile for the husky, robust woman dressed in military fatigues and boots who appeared in the opening. Arizona Snow had long since passed the age that officially placed her in the senior citizen category but she had enough energy for a far younger person. She also had a cause.
“Well, now, I call this perfect timing,” Arizona Snow said with evident satisfaction.
“Morning, A.Z.” Gabe said. “How’s the conspiracy business these days?”
“Those bastards up at the institute laid low for a while after your brother and Hannah managed to put a spoke in their wheel, but things are heating up again.” Arizona beamed at Lillian. “Good to see you back in town.”
“Nice to see you, too,” Lillian said. She waved a hand to indicate the bakery. “What are you doing here?”
“Regular weekly briefing with the Heralds.” Arizona lowered her voice to what she no doubt thought was a confidential level. “Instituted the routine a couple of months ago after I got to know ’em better and discovered that they’re not naïve dupes of the agency like most everyone else around these parts. They understand what’s happenin’.”
“Glad someone does,” Gabe said.
Arizona leaned a little farther out the doorway, swept the outer room with a quick glance and then motioned to Lillian and Gabe. “Come on back. I’ll bring you up to date, too.”
“Uh, that’s okay, Arizona,” Lillian said hastily. “We’re a little busy this morning. Aren’t we, Gabe?”