That night, after all the cousins had left and Beatrice was left cleaning up the ever-growing mess in her living room, Arthur slipped through the front door. Tonight, he had no bottle of wine, and his eyes were bloodshot, as if he’d been staring at a screen all day. Beatrice, forgetting her bitterness towards him, felt relieved, if not completely ecstatic, to see him.
Arthur was barely through the front before Beatrice began rattling off her plan to him. He listened patiently, with an expression that was entirely impossible to read.
“… Janelle is the key to all of this. Poor, naïve Janelle will spill her guts to me without a second thought. She mentioned this bakery, so I’ll meet her there for coffee, say its to catch up. She probably only knows her part of the plan, but at the very least she can tell me where they’ve been all these years. And like you said, if we can find that out, we can take down the cousins for good.”
When Beatrice finished explaining her plan and finally came up for air, she looked expectantly at Arthur. His eyebrows were furrowed and his lips were pursed. Beatrice knew better than to say anything; after a while his face relaxed, and he began to speak.
“You might be a spy after all,” he said, smirking. “You were right to pick Janelle out of the group, she’s the weakest link. She also seems pretty close to Gerald Jr., so she might know more than we think.”
Beatrice felt very proud that she’d come up with this plan all by herself, and that Arthur, an international spy, approved. But she was not prepared for what he said next.
“I want to come with you.”
“Excuse me?” Beatrice replied, looking slightly offended.
“We can’t underestimate your cousins. Just look at the headquarters they put together in your apartment; they’re smarter than we give them credit. They were probably watching you for months before they moved, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have eyes on your apartment right now. If you don’t introduce me soon, they’ll start to get suspicious. So I go with you to have coffee with Janelle; you tell her I’m your boyfriend. Its simple, painless. And it gets me direct access to everything going on.”
Beatrice sat silently for a moment, disheartened by the fact that everything he said made complete sense. Had her cousins really been watching her for months? Did they already know who Arthur was? Were they kidding themselves thinking they could outsmart the cousins? As if sensing her impending crisis, Pepe pattered into the room, jumping onto Beatrice’s lap. He was closely followed by Beatrice’s mother, wearing a quilted nightgown and an oversized fruit hat.
For possibly the first time, Beatrice truly appreciated her mother’s antics. Laughing, she scratched Pepe’s unusually large ears and shook her head at her mother’s hat.
From the other side of the room, Arthur smiled kindly, and got up to leave. As he reached the door, Beatrice called after him, “I’ll talk to Janeelle! See you for coffee!”