Did you miss Part One?
From Nursing a Grudge
The hostesses with the frizzy red hair returned with two steaming
mugs in her hands. She placed my coffee in front of me, sloshing hot
liquid over the top and onto the table. I pulled Laurie away
The waitress didn’t even notice; she merely put Jill’s mug in front
of her and asked, “Ready to order?”
Jill smiled up at her. “Not yet.”
The waitress smiled back.
Well, there you go. Jill got smiles, I got a coffee mess.
“Let me know when you’re ready,” the waitress said. She spun
around and attended to the other moms that were camped out on a
large leather couch in the corner of the tea house. One mom leaned in
and whispered something to the waitress, then they all turned and
stared at us.
I lifted my mug and sighed as I placed it back down into the
puddle of coffee on the table. I needed another hand. “Want to hold
Laurie?” I asked.
Jill quickly glanced at her immaculate blouse. “Um, yeah. Sure.”
She didn’t look at all sure.
I reached into the hulking diaper bag that was always with me now
and pulled out a clean spit-up rag and handed it to Jill.
She looked relieved as she placed it onto her shoulder and took
I quickly wiped up the liquid on the table and watched in horror as
Laurie batted a hand dangerously close to Jill’s hot chocolate. The
other hand had already found its way into Jill’s hair.
I finished mopping up the coffee and much to Jill’s relief took
Laurie back, who squealed like a demon.
“Tell me more about your experience with Brent Miles,” I said,
hoping to distract Jill from Laurie’s wailing.
“Oh no, let’s not talk about him. He’s boring.” Jill’s eyes roved out
the window and she frowned.
I followed her gaze out the window. “What?” I asked.
The man with the skull cap was still on the corner. He seemed to
be staring right at us. A chill ran up my spine and I hugged Laurie
“That guy is still there,” I said.
Jill fluttered a hand around dismissing him.
“What do you think he’s still doing there?” I asked.
Jill shrugged nonchalantly. “He’s probably waiting for someone.”
I stared at him through the glass. He took something out of his
pocket and looked down at it, most likely a phone. Jill was probably
right; in a few seconds whoever he was waiting for would turn up. I
tried to ignore him even though my P.I. senses were firing like
“He gives me the creeps,” I muttered.
Jill turned away from the window. “I have news.” She glanced at
the swinging doors and whispered. “I got my own show over at the
“What?” I whispered back, only my whisper was so loud, it
bordered on being a cheer.
Jill’s hand covered her lips, signaling me to keep my voice down.
“That’s awesome!” I said, this time more quietly.
She nodded at me. “I just came from the studio. The set is
The swinging doors to the back opened as our waitress walked
through them. She stopped momentarily to check in on the moms in
“Shoot,” I said. “We’d better order or she might yell at me.”
Jill snorted and flipped her menu over.
I scanned the list. I was hopeless under pressure. I only made out
words like saucy, spicy, savory and hot. It told me nothing.
The waitress stood before us poised with paper and pen.
I decided to order whatever Jill did, which turned out to be the
Mediterranean Panini: prosciutto ham, fresh basil, tomato and feta.
Sounds good to me.
“Same for me,” I said.
The waitress nodded at me. I’d just made her life easier and I was
somewhat in her good graces now. She retreated through the
As soon as the waitress was out of earshot, Jill leaned in and whis‐
pered urgently. “I can’t let Brent Miles know about the show. He can
ruin things for me, Kate.”
The skin on my arms turned to goose bumps. “Ruin things for
Before she could answer, the sound of a dog barking erupted out
of Jill’s purse. I stared at it, surprised.
Jill giggled. “Like my ring tone?” She pulled her Tory Burch bag
onto her lap and began to dig through the front pocket. “Brent Miles
is weird, Kate.” She pulled out her phone and grimaced. “Egad, I hope
it isn’t him calling right now!”
The vision of the skull cap man holding his cell phone flashed in
my mind. I twisted in my chair to look across the street.
Skull cap man was gone.
“UC Med Center,” Jill said.
I turned back to her. She was staring at her phone display an
expression on her face somewhere between puzzled and cautious.
“I missed the call,” she said flatly.
I grimaced. A hospital calling couldn’t be good news, could it?
Unless it was a message from her doctor, then it might be. Only
judging by the look on Jill’s face, it didn’t seem hopeful. “Maybe they’ll
leave a message,” I said.
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Jill shook her phone as if that would speed up the voicemail alert
function. “I hope everything is all right with Perry. He went hiking
this morning.” Her lips twisted and her forehead creased as she
thought for a moment. “I hope he didn’t sprain an ankle or
I nodded reassuringly. “And who is Perry?”
Her face lit up with a smile. “He is my latest conquest. He’s hot,
hot, hot Kate. I can’t wait for you to meet him. 6’4’’, sandy blond hair,
dimpled chin. Looks straight out of a Pendleton catalogue.”
I laughed. “You usually go for the short, bald type.”
Jill almost snorted out her hot chocolate, then clamped a napkin
to her mouth. After a second she cleared her throat and said, “I do
I laughed again. “What about Henry?”
Jill chuckled. “I was 16 for God’s sake, and he wasn’t bald. He
“Bald. He was bald. Even at 17, he had a receding hairline.”
“Henry was very sweet. I can’t believe you have such a cruel
I feigned innocence. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with
short, bald guys. I’m just saying I thought they were your type.”
“Nobody’s type is short and bald.”
“Let’s see, there was Henry, then Richard, Brandon, Mitchell—”
“Okay, shut up. Maybe looks aren’t that important. All the guys
you mentioned were like, artistic, poets, you know?”
It was my turn to snort.
Jill pointed a finger at me. “And you’re forgetting Gunter.
“Who could forget Gunter? He was a Nordic god.”
Jill raised her eyebrows at me. “Only he was a little jerky. Perry is
just as hot as Gunter, but sweet.”
“Oh. A little rosy around the edges, are you? Is it love? How long
have you been seeing each other?”
“A few months,” she smiled. “We met at Bottle Top downtown. Do
you know it?”
I shook my head. “Please, I don’t get out.”
She laughed. “You’re out now.”
I waved her off. “This is different. It’s a baby-friendly place. What
is Bottle Top, a club?”
“No, a swanky restaurant I reviewed,” Jill said.
“So it’s love, then?” I pressed.
“I gave it a pretty good review.”
I laughed. “I meant Perry.”
She smiled. “Him, too! I give him a great review!”
“Wedding bells?” I asked.
She blushed. “You know what, Kate? Maybe. Maybe, finally, yes.”
Her phone beeped and she glanced at the screen, then frowned.
She held up a finger. “One second, okay?”
I waved a hand at her. “Of course.”
She tapped at the screen, then pressed the phone to her ear.
My stomach rumbled and I fidgeted with my water glass. When
was my lunch going to arrive? The waitress hadn’t even brought a
I laughed to myself suddenly, thinking if I were a restaurant critic,
I would be as harsh as Jill. I absently wondered what she liked about
this place. Yes, the atmosphere was cozy and kid friendly, but where
was the food, for God’s sake?
Jill covered her mouth with her hand. I watched her face. It didn’t
look like good news.
Our waitress approached with steaming plates in hand. As she
placed the dishes in front of us, Jill pushed back from the table.
“Kate. I’m so sorry. I have to go. Perry’s at UC. He fell from Painted
“What? Is he okay?”
Painted Rock was a cliff on the north side of San Francisco. It was
a featured attraction on the Land’s End hike that ran from Ocean
Beach and Sutro Baths all the way to the Legion of Honor. There were
many notorious cliffs, one of which was Painted Rock, which boasted
some of the most spectacular views of the Marin Headlands and the
Golden Gate Bridge. The cliff literally dangled over the Pacific. A fall
from there could be grave.
“I don’t know.” Jill pulled a credit card from her purse.
I waved her away. “I got it, don’t worry. Do you want me to go
“Oh, thank you, Kate. But no, you have the baby. You can’t bring
her to a hospital.” Her face crinkled at the word hospital and I could
only guess what was rushing through her mind. She added, “I’ll call
She leaned over to kiss my cheek, then rubbed Laurie’s knee.
“Goodbye little baby. I hope to see you soon.”
I nodded and watched her leave, an uneasiness overcoming me. I
looked at the corner. Skull cap man was back, and this time he trailed
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