Christine has become more creative with the cooking, and the Mexican tortillas filled with canned vegetables and black beans are delicious. I’m not sure how she seasons them, but it works. It would have been nice to have some cheese sprinkled on them, but dairy products are pretty much gone now.
Christine continues to order Falk around after dinner as I move to the other side of the fire to sit. Though my leg has pretty much healed, it sometimes gets sore when I stand for too long, and I need a break. I find an empty lawn chair near the shed and back away from the fire. There’s less wind here, and I’m tired of the smoke getting in my eyes.
Brett grabs a chair nearby and yanks it over so he can sit facing me.
I haven’t spoken to Brett very much. I’ve noticed him with Caesar quite often, and he has a similar bearing. I once asked if he was also in law enforcement of some kind, but he said he had been working in manufacturing.
“You made the potatoes?” he asks. “They were damn good.”
“It was actually cauliflower,” I tell him. “Seasoned like mashed potatoes but supposedly better for you. They end up tasting about the same.”
“Well, it was damn good, whatever it was. Not sure about that other stuff. It didn’t taste like anything Mexican I’ve had before.”
“What have you had before?”
We both laugh, and Brett offers me a drink from the flask he has in his pocket. I glance at Falk, knowing he won’t approve, though he also won’t say anything about it. He had lightened up quite a bit after our chat a few nights ago. He’s not looking in my direction, but I decide to decline anyway.
“Suit yourself,” Brett says as he takes a good swig.
“I was never much for scotch,” I admit. “Martinis are more my style, but they’re a little more complicated than just opening the bottle.”
“All the complicated parts of scotch are done before it ever gets into a bottle,” Brett says. “Caesar knows his scotch. He’s picked up some good stuff on supply runs. It helps relieve some of the tension.”
“I’m sure that’s true.”
“It’s a little tense around here, ya know?” Brett leans forward and rests his forearms on his knees as he looks up at me with a toothy smile.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“You know.” He grins wider. “All these guys, one single chick. You realize you’re quite the topic of discussion when you’re not around.”
The friendly chat we have been having feels abruptly different to me. I sit up a little straighter to shift my chair away, but Brett just scoots his closer. Our knees are almost touching. I swallow and grasp my upper arms with my hands.
“So, how many people here know who you really are, Hannah Savinski?”
My muscles flex, and I push back against the chair. I can feel my throat tightening up, and I glance around to see where Falk is, but he’s no longer next to Christine. It’s dark enough that I can’t find him right away. He was here just a few minutes ago, so I know he’s not far.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“It’s all right, babe.” Brett continues to smile at me. “I won’t give ya away. I’m surprised people haven’t figured it out.”
“They have a lot of other things on their minds.”
“Still, that’s a gutsy thing you did. Powerful people to go up against.”
I nod. I’m not at all relaxed by his declaration to keep my identity to himself. Everything about his posture makes me think he wants something else.
“Your face was all over television in Chicago,” he says with a smile. “I mean, Archive Industries is big business all over the country, ya know?”
“Um…yeah, I know.” His words are increasing my discomfort. I’ve only talked to Falk about my past since the attacks, and he doesn’t tend to ask a lot of questions.
“You were all ready to testify in front of all those government types, right?”
“Something like that,” I mumble.
“Did you get a lot of names?” he asks. “Like, the other people Hudson worked with?”