Chapter 22 The Night before the Funeral

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The Italian restaurant smelled like fresh bread and garlic. Jerry took off his hat and walked over to the booth in the corner. Hattie looked up as he sat down across from her. The sunken candle flickered on the red checkered tablecloth. Jerry kissed Hattie's cheek. "Did I keep you waiting?" he asked.

Hattie shook her head.

The waiter came over and Jerry ordered a beer for himself and a glass of red wine for Hattie. The couple at the table nearest to them were discussing a recent vacation in Hawaii. The tidbits of sentences that could be overheard didn't fit into a rainy November night in Seattle.

The waiter brought their drinks and Hattie and Jerry ordered their usual dishes. In the back of the restaurant, a pianist began playing Three Coins in the Fountain.

"The funeral is tomorrow," Jerry said after a few moments.

Hattie nodded. "Yes, I know."

"Will you take the day off?"

Hattie shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I'm only scheduled to work in the morning and I'd rather be busy at work than sitting at home thinking about everything. Besides, I'd rather not explain it to Mr. Canfield."

"I'm sure your boss would understand." Jerry took a drink of his beer. "Is everything ready?"

"Yes. Mrs. Kent has been wonderful. She only asked me a couple questions about Loretta's favorite flowers and that sort of thing. Then she arranged everything. I suppose you already know she's planning a reception for Loretta's friends and family at Woodrow's home afterwards?"

Jerry nodded but didn't say anything. He stared down at the red checked tablecloth and ran his finger absently along a line. Hattie sipped her wine.

"Jerry," she said after a few minutes. "I want to say that I know how you felt about her, and I understand."

He looked up and frowned. "No. I don't think you do."

"Loretta was a very attractive woman and you are a man. It's perfectly understandable. I know how the world works. It's just one of those things."

The waiter came and set the hot dishes on the table. Hattie busied herself with her napkin and Jerry waited until the waiter was gone before saying, "Look Hattie, I know what you're getting at and I'll tell you the same thing I told the police; there was nothing between Loretta and me. Do you really think I'm the kind of man who would do something like that?"

Hattie lowered her voice so that it was barely more than a whisper. "You don't need to pretend with me. I know you went out to meet her that night."

Jerry's eyes widened. "What are you talking about?"

Hattie sighed and looked embarrassed. "After what Bernard said... I guess, well, I'm embarrassed to admit it but what he said bothered me. I suppose I was jealous, and I was... well, I guess I was watching you. I saw you sneak out during the film."

Jerry looked down at the table. "Did you tell anyone?"

"No," Hattie whispered. "It would only make things difficult for you and I know you wouldn't hurt her."

Jerry sighed and leaned forward so that he could lower his voice. "Listen Hattie, it's true that I was going to step out during the film. You saw me get up, but I changed my mind."

Hattie frowned. "But I saw you leave."

"I never did," Jerry insisted. "I went to the door but then I came back and I watched the film from the back of the room."

"But the note from Loretta..."

"It wasn't what you think, Hattie. But all the same, I'd rather you didn't say anything to the inspector. It's bad enough that I found that glove in my room."

Hattie seemed surprised. "Was the Inspector interested?"

"Oh, he was very interested. He spent the afternoon searching the house. He went through every room and his men checked every door and window. He used lots of finger print powder. Then he got a complete list of everyone who'd been in the house."

"Does he have any idea how it got into your room?"

"No more than I do," Jerry said. "It's a complete mystery."

"Perhaps Loretta put it there herself, sometime earlier I mean."

Jerry set down his fork and leaned forward on his elbows. "You are suggesting that Loretta was in my bedroom."

Hattie spoke quickly. "I'm only saying that I know she was very beautiful and I know how men felt about her and—"

"Hattie," Jerry interrupted her calmly. "I was not in love with your cousin. I was planning to meet her, that part is true, but there was nothing romantic about it and I didn't go anyway. Now, can we just relax for a bit and enjoy the music and our dinner?"

Hattie looked down at her plate and blushed. "Of course."

The accordion played an old melody and after a few minutes Jerry said, "You know who that Inspector fellow reminds me of? A mess hall officer I knew in the army; he never missed a beat. We used to joke that that guy could see through walls."

"You've never really talk about the war," Hattie said. "What did you do actually?"

Jerry gulped his beer. "I wanted to save the world but all I did was spend a few months in a Nazi prison." He ordered another beer.

"Oh." Hattie said. She slowly turned her wine glass on the table cloth. "That must have been horrible, for you and for you family."

Jerry set his fork on his plate. "Look Hattie, over the course of the evening, we've talked about Loretta's memorial, a glove that implicates me as her murder, and you've as much as accused me of having been in love with her, despite my objections. Can we please just talk about something trivial for a few minutes, something besides my family or my time in a Nazi prison camp?"

Hattie took her wine glass and sighed. "Okay, Jerry, you win. Nothing emotional. Nothing serious. So, how about those Rainiers?"

"Baseball in November?" Jerry chuckled as he leaned back in his chair. "Thanks for trying, Hattie."

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