Her eyes rolled. “You’re not that good at kissing.”
“Oh, I can try again.”
She gave him a flustered smile. “Go look at the wiring, weirdo. I’m going to get my tool kit. I got new locks since I can’t find my aunt’s keys to the old ones. I think she might have buried them somewhere.”
Shep followed her out.
And Harry got to work.* * ****
Celeste stared at the phone. She had it on speaker since she was alone in the space she used at Beaumont Oil’s small but elegantly appointed office in the town square. There was a larger office in New Orleans that served as the main corporate headquarters, but the family had always kept this building in Papillon for everyday work. Cal spent four days a week at the New Orleans office, staying in the French Quarter house that had been in the family since they’d moved to Louisiana from Texas.
She was glad he was there now because she didn’t particularly want anyone to overhear this conversation. “What do you mean she has ninety days?”
There was a pause on the line that let Celeste know her tone had been heard and properly received. Margret Hawkins cleared her throat before she began speaking. “Well, there are rules, you see.”
“Then bend them.”
“Well, uhm, you see I wasn’t able to send out the man I would normally send out. He’s more willing to listen to reason,” Margret said in a breathy tone. “I had to send out Darnell, and he’s a real stickler for the actual rules we have in place. He said it wasn’t as bad as he’d expected and felt that Ms. Guidry had a real handle on things. He liked her contractor a lot. Said he was a solid guy.”
“I would like to know the name of that contractor.” She would find out the name and then hire him right out from under her. There weren’t many contractors around, not ones who could stop everything they were doing to put all their eggs in Seraphina’s not-well-funded basket.
There was a shuffling sound. “It’s not in the paperwork. We don’t require that a homeowner have a contractor. Most of the time they can do the work themselves or have family helping them. You know our rules are actually pretty relaxed.”
“Then someone should tighten them,” Celeste ground out. It was obvious Margret was a moron, but then she should have known that little mouse couldn’t get the job done. And now there was paperwork, and she knew how government entities functioned. She hung up before Margret could say another word.
She was about to dial up her attorney when there was a brusque knock on the door, and suddenly Sylvie Martine was striding in past her useless assistant, who might be looking for a new job soon.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Beaumont,” Carla was saying. “She insisted. I tried to tell her you were on an important phone call, but she walked right by me.”
Celeste made a note to herself to hire a quicker, wilier receptionist. She would bring in the coach of the local football team to teach her how to tackle unwanted visitors like the one she found herself face-to-face with now. Sylvie Martine was young to be a mayor, but there was no way to mistake the air of authority the twenty-seven-year-old exuded. She was dressed in slacks and a chic blazer, the silk blouse beneath of an acceptable style. Sylvie would be someone Celeste would tell Angela was a suitable friend, even a suitable potential daughter-in-law, despite her working-class roots. If only Sylvie chose her friends well.
“It’s all right, Carla,” Celeste said, sitting down in the chair she’d bought when she’d taken over after Ralph passed on. “I always have time for our mayor.”
Sylvie stood in front of the desk, her arms crossed and obviously ready for a fight. Before the door had even closed, her eyes had narrowed. “I would like to understand why you’re attempting to bribe city employees.”
She was going to take that route? “I assure you there was nothing exchanged between me and Margret. I was simply asking about a property that happens to be close to my own.”
“A property that also happens to have changed ownership to a woman you have had problems with in the past,” Sylvie pointed out.
In the past? Her son was still dead, so there was no “past” about her problems with Sera Guidry. How could there be when the woman paraded herself around town constantly? It would have been bad enough if she was like many of the other young adults who only came home for holidays and visits, but Sera was always around. She was a cockroach nothing seemed to drive away. “I assure you my only thoughts are about safety. You know Guidry Place has been falling into disrepair for years.”