[Still at] Tarragon, St. Paul’s Bay, Malta
For the rest of the meal, she was quiet. The food came and went, and both of them declined dessert. Chase because he didn’t like them and his guest, well, because she wasn’t feeling it.
He was terrible with smalltalk, so he said nothing.
By this time, the sun was below the horizon. The sea was indigo, lit only by sodium lamps along the shores of a small port. Located between Libya and Sicily, Malta was a strategic location for power over the Mediterranean. Having been inhabited by a dozen or so civilizations from Arabic to Spanish, this unassuming island saw more action in a century than most parts of the world in eons.
In the white noise of the restaurant, she opened her tan woven Bottega Veneta clutch and pulled out a golden locket on a small chain. The necklace looked older but well restored, a tiny representation of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross with the letters INRI hung below the flat ovoid pendant. Chase remembered seeing the keepsake prior, she seemed much more protective of it back then.
“Help me think,” she placed the chain on the table in front of him and Chase opened it to verify the portrait inside.
“This has to be expensive…,” Chase noted the craftsmanship, his thumb traced an artisan arabesque along the locket’s inner edge, “The kind of money that can afford a piece like this, and for a toddler?”
She was impassive, and it felt to him that she already knew the answers.
“Alright, I’ve decided,” his companion said abruptly, “I think we should burn the papers.”
“You don’t care that you might have verifiable birth information?” He handed the chain back to her.
She considered, he saw thoughts passing behind her wandering eyes, but something else prevailed and she put the locket away, “Nothing changes.”
“Absolutely nothing?” He wanted to call her bluff. She couldn’t possibly deny herself this knowledge, being such a seeker.
“I’ve chosen my family, emphatically,” That reference to VILE was ironclad, but Chase only furled his brows.
Maybe she was decathecting from this to protect herself, but psychological barriers or no, another argument existed. Sometime between three and five years ago, Malcolm Avalon donated his DNA to a research project with UCSF. That branch also coincidentally shared data with ACME Labs.
“What about DNA?” he threw that thought out there, and instantly received a subsidiary frown.
“Let me stop you,” she had volume in her voice, he knew that was cue to drop the subject, “I appreciate this, I don’t know what this may mean for you, but you owe me nothing.”
He disagreed, owing anyone anything had nothing to do with the truth. Considering his next words, Devineaux sank into his chair and watched her through the sound of breaking waves. If he told her she deserved justification, he would be ignoring the many times she dodged the consequences of her actions. And if he did insist on change, he could seem overreaching, meddling in something that wasn’t at all broken.
As she finished her glass of Maltese rosé, either pity or empathy let her hand fall next to his, and she found his pulse. He realized that he had waited too long to speak.
“When I’m ready, I might go see this… Tête de Femme.”
Hearing that, he chuckled, somehow freed from having to put thought into words; and the thief gave herself a congratulatory smile.
“I need to go,” she eventually indicated, briefly clasping his palm in hers.
“Go, I got this,” he signaled the waiter, but as he reached for his pocket, he found it light.
The side of her lips curved up and the pickpocket signed the dinner bill with an Italian alias. Once satisfied with her victory, she gave him back his wallet.
“Thanks,” Devineaux accepted, then he rose to pull out the chair for her.
Gracefully, she stood and leaned to kiss his cheek, running her white-lacquered nails over his clean shave.
“Good night,” she studied his eyes before glancing to the documents, “Thank you.”
Chase nodded affirmatively. Even though his thoughts cycled back to what else could be done, he resolved that it was best honor her wishes. Buttoning up his linen jacket, he adjusted his cuffs and reached for the envelope.
Then he stopped, pausing over her empty wine glass and the ghost of her lipstick.
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