Roman walked into Keegan’s and brushed the snow off of his coat. It was really not much more than a flurry, but they’d probably be getting more tonight.
The place was pretty empty. He could see someone sitting in a booth, their back to him, but that seemed to be it for customers. Then he spotted Noah working the bar.
“Hey, Noah,” he called as he walked over.
Noah looked over and turned scarlet. “Roman,” he nodded. “Um, can I help you?”
“Is Olivia here?” Roman asked. “She said she could lend me some tomatoes. My order never arrived today.”
“Oh, yeah, she’s out back.”
Noah looked away and Roman felt a spark of sympathy. He’d been there.
“Thanks, man,” Roman said, and stepped into the kitchen.
He’d never been in the Keegan’s kitchen before and he immediately liked it. The equipment was solid, and there was a charm in the original architecture of the building that was missing from most of the kitchens he’d ever been in.
He knocked on the doorframe. “Hey, Olivia? You in here?”
“Hey, Roman!” Olivia called from around the corner. “Hang on, I’m coming.”
She walked over to where he was standing. “Here, come to the walk-in with me and I’ll get you those tomatoes.”
She started walking toward the heavy metal door of the walk-in fridge and he followed after.
“So your order never showed?” she asked, pulling open the door.
“Uh, kind of,” Roman replied. “I got in it with a delivery guy a couple months ago and said I’d pull my business if they sent lousy produce again. I think they’re still pissed at me so my deliveries are inconsistent.”
Olivia pulled a face. “That’s rough.”
Roman laughed. “Yeah, Celine is not happy. She said it’s my problem to figure out.”
Olivia seemed a little unsure how to respond. “Anyway, I appreciate the loan,” Roman continued. “I’ll get them back to you when my delivery comes in.”
“That works for me,” Olivia said. “I’ve got plenty left for the next few days so don’t hurry.”
Olivia picked up a box of tomatoes and handed it to him.
“Perfect,” Roman said, pushing open the fridge door with his shoulder. “You’re a lifesaver.”
“Not a problem,” she said as they stepped out. “Let me know if you need any more before your order arrives.”
“Hopefully not, but thanks.”
Roman shifted the box in his arms. “See you on Thursday.”
“See you then.”
They both grimaced slightly at the thought of sitting through playgroup. Then Roman turned and walked through the swinging doors.
Noah was still behind the bar, drying some glasses. Roman hesitated for a second. Maybe it wasn’t his place to bring up what had happened on Christmas Eve.
But even if it wasn’t, someone passing along support had saved his own life, no question.
Noah looked up and stopped what he was doing. “Roman.”
Roman licked his lips. “Noah, listen,” he started. “Um, if you ever want, um, there’s a meeting over at the Congregational Church every Tuesday and Friday night. It’s a good group of people. I go pretty often.”
Noah looked confused for a second, then looked somewhere behind Roman like he was searching for an escape. “I work Tuesdays and Fridays,” he said flatly. “But thanks.”
“Sure, sure, no problem.”
Roman set down the tomatoes. He knew there was a real chance it would go straight into the trash, but he pulled his business card out from his wallet and picked up a pen that was sitting on the bar. He scribbled down the meeting information and held it out to Noah.
Noah paused, looking at the card. Then he reached over and took it. “Um, thanks,” he said tightly.
“Offer’s always on the table,” Roman said with a nod.
Noah nodded back at him. “I have to…”
He gestured vaguely behind him.
“Yeah, I should get these tomatoes back before the snow gets worse. See you later.”
Roman picked up the tomatoes and walked back outside. The snow was picking up a little as he got in his truck.
Noah had wanted nothing to do with him. But he’d taken the AA meeting information and that was a start.
Iris swung the Open sign on the shop door over to say Closed. It was a little earlier than usual. Technically, it was closing time, but Iris usually kept the store open a longer than the stated hours. It wasn’t like she had a commute to worry about and it brought in enough extra sales to be worth it.
Today though, she’d closed up exactly on time. She’d even rushed out the last couple of stragglers who had been contemplating their essential oil options. She felt a little bit bad about it, but they’d gone without a fuss and now she needed to get ready for tonight.
Andrew would be over in twenty minutes. This was the first time they were actually going to be able to start digging and do some real work. The past few sessions had been strictly research. Which was great when they actually found something potentially useful. Not so much when they just spent hours spinning their wheels.
She went back into her tiny storage room and pulled out a folding table and a couple of old kitchen chairs the previous owner had left there. She took a few minutes to get them set up, then started digging through her inventory for the supplies they’d need.
This was a spell she had found in one of her books. An honest-to-God curse removal spell. She’d found it in a dusty old tome tucked way back in a box of books she’d been meaning to unpack for years. But it looked simple enough. Maybe a little too simple, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be effective.
After all, a simple ouija board had brought Roland into her life.
Speaking of Roland, she watched as the candlestick she’d just placed on the table slid slowly toward the edge. She pointed a stern finger at it. “Enough,” she said. “We’re not messing around tonight, Roland. Do you understand?”
There was a pause as the candlestick stopped moving. “Thank you.”
There was a knock at the door. As Iris turned to let Andrew in, she heard the candlestick hit the floor.