1976 Jeep CJ-7

Just when Dobie was beginning to think that Lexi wasn’t actually a woman at all, but some sort of tightly compacted force of nature, she fell asleep.

She had worked on the cars with Joseph for thirty-six hours, nonstop.  When Joseph stopped for the night, she kept going, methodically removing batteries and draining fuel tanks.  She didn’t stop and barely ate until they were through.  Five meals went untouched.  Only Kira and Maya seemed to be able to get her attention, and they made sure that Lexi ate some fruit every few hours. 

When she collapsed, Joseph carried her inside, cradling her like a child in his big arms.  He appeared at the door to Dobie’s office with her.  “We are finished,” he said simply.

“Is she okay?”

“Asleep, sir,” he said.  “I found her sitting next to the XK140.  She is sleeping very deeply, and I did not wake her.”

“Take her up to her room, then, Joseph.  Thank you.  You said you were finished?”

“Yes.  All of the cars have been prepared according to the museum display guidelines.  They can be put back into driveable condition in the future, if you would like.  I…we have kept the necessary parts to do so in the storeroom.”  He had been holding Lexi this entire time, but didn’t seem the least bit tired.

“Thank you,” Dobie said again.  He turned to Victor.  “Why don’t the two of you put her to bed–no, wait, have Kira put her to bed, please.”  He nodded to himself, happy with his last-minute nod to propriety. 

“I will carry her up,” Joseph said.  The tone of his voice suggested that wild dogs couldn’t have taken Lexi away from him.  That was interesting.  Dobie had never seen the taciturn Russian mechanic warm up to anybody.

The phone on Dobie’s desk chirped.  He recognized the tone as being a forwarded call from his office, and picked it up.

“Danny Packard is on the line for you,” his secretary said.

“Thank you.”  He considered for a moment what Danny might be calling about–almost certainly, Becka knew by now that he and Lexi had been seen together.    Not good.  If Danny was calling, it was probably because Becka was too angry to speak to him.  Definitely not good.  Dobie took a deep breath and switched over.  “Hello, Danny, what can I do for you?”

“I’m on my way to Marjori,” he said, his voice high with excitement.

“Excuse me?”

“Mom says that Lexi Crane is in Ile du Soleil.  I’m going to find her, and I need to stay at your house while I’m looking for her.  Mom said that I should call you because you have guest space.”

Becka might have sent Danny because she suspected Lexi was with him.  That, or she wanted Dobie to keep Danny out of trouble.  It wouldn’t have been the first time.  The fact that he hadn’t heard from Becka firsthand suggested that she didn’t know he’d gone, though.  “I thought you were…”  Was there a nice way to say, ‘under family house arrest?’  He couldn’t think of one.  “…at home,” he finished lamely.

“Well, I left,” Danny said, somewhat snotty.  “I’m having a driver meet me; I should be at your estate in an hour.”

The airport was barely an hour away.  “You’ve already landed?”

“Yes, of course.  A pleasant surprise, eh?”

“It certainly is,” Dobie said.  “It may be a bit inconvenient, however.”  You have no idea how much so, he thought.  “I’m…having some work done at the house, and I’m not sure I can put you up right now.  Let me have Victor meet you, and take you to the Four Seasons.”

“Aw, you don’t have to do that,” Danny said.

“No, honestly, it’s my pleasure.  I’d hate for you to see the house in the state it’s in right now.”  He chose not to elaborate; it would be a more convincing lie if there wasn’t too much detail.

Danny hesitated.  “I understand.  I’d like to at least come by, though.  I want to see what you’re doing to that fabulous house.”

“Tomorrow,” Dobie said.  He wouldn’t be able to put Danny off for long.  “Go to the hotel, and come by tomorrow, okay?  Let me at least clean up a little bit.”