Lucien Steele staggered downstairs at 8 am still in his dressing gown, not expecting the crowd that awaited him in the kitchen.
"Good morning, Mr. Steele. I was beginning to think you'd never join us."
"Sorry, er, rough night."
"So I gathered."
A pretty young woman with brown hair giggled.
"Forgive me, I'm Lucien. And you are?"
Lucien offered his hand. Jean came up behind the girl and put a possessive hand on her shoulder.
"This is Mattie. And the young man in uniform is my nephew Danny. As you can see, if there is any trouble the police are just a knock away."
Lucien exchanged handshakes with Mattie and the Danny, who grinned at him.
"Nice dressing gown, mate. Where'd you get that?"
Jean turned to the stove and brought Lucien a plate of eggs, toast, and and bacon. As he reached for the plate Lucien looked down self consciously at his extravagant robe, black silk with gold Chinese dragons.
"I lived in Hong Kong for a while."
Jean snorted at that.
"More like Chinatown in Melbourne."
Lucien opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it, and instead settled down to his breakfast.
"This is delicious. Did you make this Jean?"
"Of course. I used to be the housekeeper."
Lucien gaped at Jean, a bit of egg clinging to the side of his mouth. Mattie cleared her throat, trying to discretely point at it. Lucien reached for a napkin. Jean crossed her arms and leaned back against the counter.
"Maybe best to get your beard trimmed when you are in town too. Anyway, I used to work for the owner of this house, Dr. Thomas Blake. I was his housekeeper and receptionist. He was meticulous and demanding, but generous too."
"Somehow I doubt that."
Jean looked shocked.
"What would you know about it? Someone like you could learn a thing or two from him. He let me study for my private investigator license while working here. He even advanced me the money for some of the classes, even though he knew it meant I would quit some day. When he fell ill very suddenly I took care of him. After he passed away, he left the house to me. I was shocked at the time. But he had no children, none living anyway, and it gave me the financial security to finish my training and start the agency."
"Jean's the best in the business!" Mattie piped up.
"Too right." Danny agreed around a mouthful of toast.
Jean smiled and started to clear away the dishes.
"A private investigator who cooks. What a marvel."
"You laugh now Lucien but wait until you try my rabbit stew tonight."
Jean tossed Lucien a dish towel.
"Now since you aren't ready to go out you can help Danny with the dishes while I go over some files. I need to meet with the Chief of Police this morning. Superintendent Lawson is an old family friend and he throws me a bone from time to time. He is arranging security for a big event at the Art Gallery and would like my help. I'll introduce you. You won't be working this case but once you get up to speed and start representing the agency you will see a lot of him."
"Not Matthew Lawson?"
"Yes, you know him?"
"No, I must have heard his name around town. I think I'll take a pass. You go ahead and get the details on the assignment."
"I think you have already forgotten you work for me, not the other way around."
"Right, but seeing as I am new in town I think I aught to get the lay of the land first. Familiarize myself with the town. After I go to the barbers and the tailor - like you instructed - I can start reviewing some of the case files. This way when I meet the Superintendent I'll at least appear convincing."
"Hmm you may be a better con artist than I thought. I hope so you're right. But first, dishes."
Lucien took his place next to Danny at the kitchen sink.