Hide and Snoop (The Odelia Grey Mysteries)
they were leaving on vacation. Friday night was to be a small birthday bash for Isaac.
    “If Zee can’t watch Lily, I’ll have to stay home with her.” I was disappointed but felt very motherly and responsible as I said the words.
    “If Zee can’t watch her Friday night, maybe my parents could,” Greg offered. “You know my mother loves little kids.”
    That was an understatement. Between Greg, his brother, and his sister, only his sister had produced grandchildren for the Stevens family, and recently she and her brood had moved to Northern California. Renee Stevens was going through grandchildren withdrawal, just as Zee was going through the anticipation of getting her own one day.
    I turned my memory away from my earlier phone call with Greg and settled back on the present and Zee.
    “I have a really big favor to ask you,” I said to my friend as she stirred something in a large pot on the stove. The steam drifted over to my nostrils. It was aromatic, filled with scent of gentle spices and chicken—probably a homemade stew or soup. My mouth watered. Lunch with Steele had seemed like days ago. I hoisted my behind onto a stool in front of the granite kitchen counter.
    “You want me to watch Lily tomorrow while you go to work, don’t you?” Zee put the wooden spoon down on a spoon rest and wiped her hands on a kitchen towel. She moved from the stove to the counter, standing across from where I sat.
    “Could you?”
    “Of course,” Zee replied in a happy voice. “I figured you might need a sitter for tomorrow.”
    I fidgeted on the stool, my short legs dangling uncomfortably until I could find the foot rail. “Can you also watch her tomorrow night? Greg and I have dinner plans.” Before Zee could answer, I gushed, “If you can’t, that’s okay—I do have a backup plan, and you’re already going above and beyond.”
    Zee didn’t answer the question, instead honing in on the obvious information behind it. “So Lily’s staying with you for the entire weekend?”
    “If I can’t locate Erica tomorrow, she is.” I gave her a quick update on my conversation with Carl.
    Zee didn’t say anything but returned to the stove, where she picked up the wooden spoon and started stirring whatever was in the big pot again. It didn’t need it, but Zee needed something to do. In her head I knew she was stirring the information I’d just given her as vigorously as she was whirling around the contents of the pot.
    “So in spite of my warning, you’re going to hunt down Erica Mayfield?”
    “You forgot, I’m also sneaking around to see if she and Mark are doing the nasty.”
    Zee didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. She fixed me with the two pools of chocolate she called eyes and set her mouth into displeasure.
    “I didn’t have a choice, Zee,” I told her, going on the defense. “Carl gave it to me as an assignment. It could be the difference between keeping my job or not.”
    “Did you even put up a fight, Odelia? Did you tell him you were out of the attorney-hunting business?” Zee returned to the counter, still clutching the spoon. I worried she might bop me over the head with it. She didn’t, but she did shake it at me with determination while her left hand, knotted in a fist, latched onto her bulky left hip. “Well, did you?” Zee’s coffee-colored face was stern but not scrunched in anger. I took that as a good sign. Still, I leaned back from the counter.
    “No, Zee, I didn’t. I’m thinking the sooner I find Erica, the sooner all the crap about Lily and my job will be cleared up. Carl didn’t sound the least bit pleased with Erica and her shenanigans.”
    She put the spoon down on her spotless counter. “Would you really file a discrimination suit against that firm?”
    “Honestly? The idea never occurred to me until I found out Erica was trying to influence the Woobie partners against me. If they decide they want Mark over me strictly based on work product, I wouldn’t like it, but

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