“Purple,” she says, before I can even open my mouth.
“Excuse me?” I say. I mean, yeah, I’m pretty dark-skinned, but I’m not exactly the color of tar at midnight, much less purple. That’s insulting bordering on racism, and I’m not real clear which side of the border it’s on. I am deliberating whether I want to deal with that or just let it slide, when I notice she’s not really looking at me. It is more as if she is looking around me.
“I’ve never seen purple before,” she says. “It’s very pretty.”
Okay, I’ve already got her pegged as at least eccentric. This should be interesting. I offer my hand. “Foster Cain, Ms. Dark.”
“You can call me Jeanne, or just Dark.” She takes my hand, switching the cane to her left so deftly that I didn’t even notice her doing it. Her handshake is all soft and ladylike, and she sits. She makes no move to take off those glasses. They are so dark I can’t even see her eyes, much less determine their color, or whether they are bugging out like a psycho-zombie slasher. “My eyes are brown,” she says, while looking toward Hardesty who’s now returning with two cups of coffee and a Danish.
“Excuse me?” I say, for the second time. I heard her. It just caught me off-guard, her reading me like that. I’m the reader; she’s the readee.
Get with the program, lady.
She turns toward me, and finally looks me in the face. She smiles. I like it. “You were wondering what color my eyes are. They are brown.”
I smile back. “And how did you know that?”
“Because, you are a man. Men always wonder about whatever part of a woman they cannot see.” I can tell she’s looking at my suit and tie. “Plus, you are a gentleman, and so I know you would not wonder about any other parts.”
I either just got put in my place, or flirted with. Maybe both. I’m glad I’m melanin-enriched, or else I’d be blushing like a teenage girl. The magnet is working, but I’m not sure if it’s working on her, or on me.
“Ah, I see you two have met,” Hardesty says, ending the constant cheery whistling that makes me want to crush his skull. “Foss will be handling the remainder of the interview alone, Ms. Dark.”
“Ms. Dark.” She really is a muckety-muck.
“Now the parameters of this are simple,” Hardesty says, slurping on his coffee. I peek at Dark, and she looks like she is about to call Ralph in New York. “No discussion regarding the particulars of the assignment. Other than that, anything is open.” He dips a chunk of his Danish in the coffee, jabs it in his mouth like a tropical fish swallowing those little worm flakes and keeps talking. It sounds a bit like he said, “When you two get to Cayman,” but it’s hard to tell with his mouth stuffed with a future heart attack.
Dark is looking up at the ceiling. Hardesty glances at her, but doesn’t respond, like he’s used to seeing her look everywhere but at whoever’s talking. He obviously has never watched himself eat. I’m watching only because it’s damned fascinating, like viewing one of those nature shows where a snake swallows a horse whole. Hardesty took that poor Danish’s life in three bites.
“You said Cayman?” I ask.
Hardesty nods, while licking the epidermis from his fingers. I make a mental note to sneeze into my hands if he looks like he’s going for the exit handshake. “Right. Assuming everything goes as expected, you will both be heading out in two weeks. Details to follow, but don’t make any summer plans.”
With that, he stands up, grabs his coffee and thankfully not my hand, nods to Dark, and zooms out like a fat racecar. I’m left wondering why this interview would lead to my summer being tied up.