New Winslow S6E53

Cleo liked Jude. She felt a little disloyal to Andrew, since he’d hated the man for reasons that were obvious to everyone except himself. But they seemed to be getting along better these days and Jude was a cool guy, so Cleo couldn’t bring herself to feel guilty when she waved to him from the table she’d managed to snag at a small coffee shop in Barre.

“Thanks so much for meeting with me,” she said as he laid his coat carefully over the back of his chair.

“Of course!” he said with a sparkling smile. “Hang on, I’m going to get a cup of coffee. What do you want?”

She motioned to her own cooling latte and biscotti. “All set, thanks.”

He went up to the counter, and she looked around the shop. It was a surprisingly trendy little place, with industrial design based on its location in an old factory. The exposed brick was lined with ivy and old photos from the town were hung in clusters around steel decorations. She and Jude were among a few people here, including an older man on a laptop and a young woman with a guitar case beside her. Cleo caught the woman’s eye for a second and smiled, then turned back to the papers in front of her.

“Thanks for being so patient,” Jude said as he sat down a moment later. “I had a client this morning who would not. Stop. talking.” He rolled his eyes in a charmingly exaggerated way. “We went twenty minutes over the planned hour and he didn’t seem to notice or care that I had another appointment.”

Cleo laughed. “I promise I won’t waste your time.”

Jude waved her off. “You’d never waste my time,” he said. “I wouldn’t even let you pay me if it weren’t for the fact that you keep insisting.”

“Of course I’m paying,” Cleo argued.

He scoffed and Cleo could see exactly what had drawn Noah to Jude, even if they seemed completely different on the surface. Then Jude put on a pair of reading glasses as Cleo pushed the top contract toward his side of the table.

She waited quietly as Jude read through the first contract, humming softly as he marked a few things down in the margins. After about ten minutes of trying not to look at her phone or tap on the table, he finally set his pen down.

“It’s a decent contract, with a few changes,” he said, sliding it back over to her. “The language is a little messy in the middle, so you’ll want them to clarify exactly which markets they’re thinking about. But if they’re willing to make those changes, I’d go with it.”

The relief that rushed through her was stronger than she’d anticipated it being. “Thank you so much,” she said. “I won’t take up anymore of your time. I’ll just use this one to look at the other and-”

“Hand it over.”

He motioned for the paper with a perfectly manicured hand and she slid it over to him. Again, he picked up his pen and it was only a couple seconds before he made a fierce slashing motion with it across the paper.

“Don’t do it,” he said, crossing out another segment. “This is amateur hour over here and they’re trying to sneak in some claim to future songs as well.”

“It’s for a car commercial,” she said.

“Yeah, and they’re betting on you not having a lawyer to read this over.”

Cleo’s face was hot, but she said nothing as Jude moved through the contract, still marking it up, muttering to himself every so often. Every page was covered in writing when he handed it back a few minutes later.

“I can’t tell you what to do,” he said. “But I would strongly advise against taking this deal, even with the changes. Just looking at it, I can tell that you’ll spend more on lawsuits to get your money than you will actually earn from it.”

Since this was the biggest potential money earner, her mood drooped. But then Jude’s eyes narrowed as he spotted the third contract she hadn’t been planning to give him.

“We’re almost out of time,” she argued as he reached across the table and plucked up the paper.

“I’ve got time for friends,” he said, already reading the contract.

He seemed more satisfied with this one, nodding in approval even as he marked it up. This contract was for a movie soundtrack. It was a low budget film and she’d get an advance, along with the distant possibility of royalties if anyone actually bought the soundtrack.

“This is the best one,” Jude said finally. “It’s not going to pay your bills, but it can’t hurt. Try to get performance royalties when it’s shown in theaters. But even without it, it’s straightforward enough to be worthwhile, especially for a single song that’s being played all over the internet anyway.”

If it had felt at all odd to be here with Jude before, the feeling had melted away as their meeting went on. He took off the reading glasses and looked at her.

“Why now?” he asked. “I remember you were hesitant to do more when I texted you last month. What changed?”

“My mom,” Cleo admitted. “She’s moving into memory care and my dad’s going to need help paying the bills. He’s got money, but not what it’ll take to do this. And I guess I’d rather be called a sellout if it means keeping things stable.”

Jude shrugged. “Maybe I’m just cold-blooded, but I say get the money. You did the work and it’s going to get used anyway, so you should get what you deserve. What are you doing for work now?”

“Food delivery,” Cleo said grimly. “But I’m looking for another job closer to Boston. And I’m working on a new album to go with the single. But if I’m helping my dad with my mother’s costs and moving closer to where she’ll be, I need a more solid income.”

“If your focus is multiple income streams, this isn’t a bad addition to that,” Jude said. “Just don’t do that particular car commercial. And for the love of God, call me when you get more offers.”

Her latte was cold by now, but she took a sip anyway. Jude glanced at his watch, seemingly in no hurry to leave. “How’s the café coming along?” he asked. “Have you seen it?”

“A couple times,” Cleo said. “They’re really fixing it up.”

“Yeah, Noah’s told me stories.” Jude said with a laugh. “I can’t wait to see it.”

He said it so casually. Cleo was still deciding if she was able to risk going to the opening day. None of the others had pushed it, but the idea of not being there was almost more chilling than the idea of getting stuck. But she knew that was also the attitude that had led her and Edie to drop their guard and get Edie stuck. And Andrew stuck. So how could she keep falling for it?

Cleo was going to spiral if she didn’t yank herself out of this thought process now. So instead, she smiled and took another cold sip of her latte. She could just enjoy this day for now and worry later.




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The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

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