I returned to my seat, smiling and nodding at Mikey’s mom. She looked skeptical, but had lulled her daughter into some semblance of exhausted sleep on her shoulder, and the baby was still asleep, so she didn’t say anything.
I picked up my book, ready to dive back in to Marlowe waxing on about blondes again, when the woman at the window seat spoke.
“You really talked him into fixing the doll?”
“Seems that way.”
“That’s kind of amazing, you know?”
I shrugged. “Brothers almost never really hate, despite saying so, especially the older ones. My brother had my back more often than not.”
“You’re still close?”
“Yeah, not as close as I want, but I’m going to see him, this Christmas. He lives in Boston, I’m in Belport. Hard to get together, you know?”
She nodded, and absently twisted her wedding band. “I travel a lot for work. It’s hard on me and my husband.”
I didn’t say anything. It didn’t seem like I should. She was edging towards saying something more, I thought.
“How do you know that?” Nikki asked as she measured the cocoa mix.
“I don’t know, really.” I scratched my head. “Guess it’s part of the detective thing. Silence is like a vacuum on people. They have to fill the silence.”
“You have an odd ability to smooth talk or fall silent that is almost uncanny.”
I didn’t say anything to that.
“I confess that in my younger days the art of imperious silence is one I mastered quite well, which is how I recognize it, but you were never formally schooled in court on such matters.”
“How do you get taught—what did you call it—imperious silence?”
“Modern politics has its roots in court intrigue. The art of gathering information for use against potential enemies while not giving away your own vulnerabilities is—” she stopped, spoon halfway to a mug. “You know that I seldom speak on my past, yet you deftly maneuvered me into doing just that. I shall have to remember not to underestimate your abilities.”
“I cannot tell if you are manipulating me or sincere.”
I honestly have no idea what she’s talking about.