Café Chocolaté

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Chapter XIV

Chapter XIV – Adrian Terrence

Xavier’s sigh reached Adrian and he mirrored it. The little girl’s sobs wrenched his heart. The little arms clung tight to his cousin’s neck and her shoulders shook convulsively.

“It’s not brave to cry!”

Adrian sighed again. Why would such a small child need to be brave? Who would leave her alone to be brave on her own?

Despite the tears, Adrian almost enjoyed seeing his cousin with the girl. He knew how much Xavier and Louise had wanted children, but Adrian had forgotten how gentle and protective Xavier became around children. How much he cared about them – even when he didn’t know them for very long.

A huff from, he thought, Kimberly Liath, distracted him. She followed it up with a retort. “She’s still crying. For goodness sake! If she were my child, there would be an end to all the fussing!”

Adrian saw a flash of anger settle on his cousin’s face, as he continued to sooth the little girl.

“I doubt it,” Fabian muttered.

“You shouldn’t!” Kimberly’s voice reminded Adrian of metal striking stone. “I’ll have you know that my daughter would never behave in such a noisy, distracting manner! She knew how to behave because I know how to parent! The present child is selfish and ill behaved, and she’s being spoiled! If I had any say in the matter, she would be punished, and I can assure you she would be quiet!”

Xavier clenched his jaw, grinding his teeth so hard that Adrian could almost hear it. Monique choked on a sob, even though she had begun to grow quieter.

“Punishment would be overkill.” Eddie’s frown deepened with the disgust in his voice.

“Not at all! She’s being a brat!”

“You can’t be serious.” Adrian hurried to speak before Xavier had a chance. His cousin usually remained calm regardless of other people, but Adrian knew when to recognize a swiftly shorting fuse.

“Of course, I’m serious!” Kimberly’s gray eyes looked cold, but determined.

Monique’s muffled sniffle punctuated the woman’s reply and Adrian shook his head. “Who here is not frightened at all?” He didn’t speak harshly. He felt too much sorrow over the woman’s cold manner and Monique’s tears. “She’s a child. Created to be taken care of and protected by those of us who are older and more capable. She needs comfort, prayer, and reassurance, not punishment.”

“Sounds like spoiling to me.”

“It sounds loving to me.” Renee sighed. “Leave the poor girl alone. She’ll quiet soon, I think.”

Kimberly huffed again and tightened her crossed arms.

“What are we supposed to do next?” Ginger sat at the table folding a napkin over and over on itself.

“Do?” Adrian repeated.

Ginger looked up at him quickly, a startled look in her eyes. “Not with the kid. I meant in general. We’ve got a murderer on our hands and a killer on the loose.”

Mary’s wide eyes danced wildly toward Eddie. He gave her a wary glance and sat down.

“We do find ourselves in a rather awkward situation, at best.” Fabian drew circles on the table in front of him with his index finger. “A murderer among his victims. A hunter among the hunted…”

“Or perhaps the murderer killed his victim and has no intention of harming anyone else.” Eddie still spoke with obvious disgust.

“Think of that, did you?” Ginger folded her napkin roughly.

“Oh, I did. There’s no colorful way to say that though.”

Ginger frowned at her napkin.

“We know who killed him!” Mary Dill began, but the combined reproof of the entire room, didn’t allow her to continue.

“We need more proof than what you offered.” Fabian didn’t look up, but continued drawing his circles. “We ought to do some investigating and see if we can discover who really killed poor Gary Bradshaw. That way we can be prepared to protect ourselves, should the need arise.”

“And if the killer comes after the rest of us?” Kimberly’s gray eyes bored into each in turn like hot coals. “What then?”

“I think it unlikely that they plan to take us all on.” Adrian wanted to diffuse the growing tension in the room. “Or kill anyone else in plain sight. Besides, if they wanted to do the former, what would have stopped them from doing it already?”

“We don’t know any of that!” Mary Dill ventured to speak again.

“That’s the problem. We don’t know anything.” Fabian nodded at his circles. “We need to know who the killer is. We need to be sure. I’m rather confident in my abilities and I would be happy to volunteer myself as investigator.”

“Absolutely not!” Ginger’s head snapped up and she crumpled her napkin.

Fabian dropped his circles in surprise and turned toward Ginger. “Why not?”

“Because I don’t trust you and I never have!” Ginger’s eyes narrowed.

“I would never-”

“I said that I don’t trust you!” Ginger smacked the table and stood up. Adrian could see Eddie tried to remonstrate, but she pushed him aside impatiently. “I don’t want you investigating anything!”

Fabian crossed his arms. “I suppose you have someone better in mind then. Yourself? I can’t say that I trust you either.”

“No one can trust anyone.” Renee punctuated her statement with another sigh.

“I can trust my cousin.” Adrian said it aloud before he really thought it through.

“Agreed. The same is true on my end,” Xavier added. The child in Xavier’s arms had grown almost entirely quiet and still, only a soft whimper every now and then giving an audible reminder of her tears.

“You’re absolutely sure that you can trust each other?” Ginger crossed her arms and even her stance looked skeptical.

“I’m sure of it,” Adrian said.

“Then,” Ginger dropped her arms, “you two do the investigating. He’s a lawyer and, how did he put it? The only representative of the law of the United States in this café. You seem to have put yourselves in charge anyway.”

Adrian shook his head. “I’m not convinced that we should even be attempting an investigation in the first place!”

“We need an investigation.” Timothy moved in his chair and looked around the room. “A murderer can’t just run among us unchecked.”

“An investigation conducted by the wrong person could be worse than no investigation at all.” Anna Carpentier spoke in a weary voice, almost as if to herself.

“So, we vote someone in, who we think won’t betray us or botch it up.” Ginger nodded toward the cousins, giving Adrian a sense of unease. “Who agrees that those two should do the investigating? One of them is a lawyer and the other is an author!”

“Prime material according to television shows.” Fabian smiled with some amusement, but Ginger apparently missed it.

“Exactly! Televised stereotypes are there for a reason!”

Adrian raised his eyebrows. Which could be that there’s no reason founded in reality whatsoever. It’s just that people find it endearing.

Ginger pushed forward, raising a hand. “Who thinks that they should investigate?”

The vote moved swiftly, starting with Fabian and Eddie, and ending with Kimberly.

Adrian shook his head and turned toward Xavier with a grimace. “I can’t say that I’m sure this is a good idea, Cousin.” He spoke in a guarded undertone.

Xavier smiled vaguely. “I can’t either, but if we don’t, one of them will. It’s possible that we can keep the peace while doing it, better than some people.”

“Possible. What…” He glanced around the room. “What do we do if we succeed though?”

“I don’t know yet. I’m rather hoping that we’ll get out of here before we have to decide that, but if not, we should think about it.”

Adrian nodded. “That was a helpful answer.”

For the first time since the explosion, though quiet, Xavier laughed.

“So?” Ginger sounded impatient. She stood, her arms crossed again, her ponytail bouncing with the tapping of her foot. “Will you do it?”

Adrian glanced at his cousin one last time. “We’ll investigate. Though I trust that we’ll get out of here before we reach any conclusions.”

“What will you do first then?” Ginger sat down again. She grabbed the beat up napkin and began fiddling with it once more.

Adrian didn’t respond directly. What do we do first, Father? I’m not confident that we even know what we’re doing.

Everyone in the room seemed to be waiting impatiently. Adrian looked at Xavier, who mouthed a single word. Adrian relaxed.

“We’ll pray first.”

“Do what now?” Fabian raised an eyebrow and, for the first time, sounded actually startled.

“Pray.” Adrian repeated. “This entire situation needs to be brought before the Lord and the investigation of the murder is no exception to that.”

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