There was sudden silence as all eyes in the room turned toward the disturbance.
"Sir," the hostess said, her high, thin voice carrying in the hush. "Your shirt is not suitable attire. I'm sure they'd be happy to serve you at Bart's. It's on the highway."
Two men stood in the doorway. Both were unkempt.
The younger one in the muscle shirt interrupted. "Know where it is. We got a room here. We want to eat here."
The older man looked in their direction and a gap-toothed grin spread across his face. He waved and shouted, "Cousin Crystal."
Crystal moaned and covered her face with her hands.
Carter leaned toward Crystal and whispered, "Black sheep?" hoping to tease her into a lighter mood.
She lowered her hands and glared at him. If looks could kill, that one was lethal enough that he and the two cousins across the room would all be dead.
"It's all right," the old man assured the hostess as he and Muscle Shirt brushed past her. "Cousin Crystal owns the place. She'll see we're taken care of."
The two men quickly crossed the room, pulled chairs from nearby tables, and sat down, one on either side of Crystal.
The older man asked, "Aren't you going to introduce us, Cousin?"
Carter's lips twitched, but he managed to keep a straight face as he watched Crystal pull herself erect and put on a formal air.
"Carter, this is Tully Palmer and his son, Duane. They are, as you have probably surmised by now, my cousins." She looked at the two men she had introduced and nodded toward Carter. "This is Carter Jamison, our newspaper editor."
"Pleased to meet you," Tully said. He grabbed Carter's hand and pumped it.
Not distracted by the introductions, Duane looked around. "What do we have to do to get some service around here?"
"You've had such a busy day, out shopping for roofing materials and all," Crystal said. "Room service is just what you need."
Duane looked doubtful, but Tully gave her his attention.
"Yes, room service," Crystal continued. "And, you know, I'll take care of the bill for you." She stood up. "We'll do that now." She grabbed the back of Tully's chair as though she might pull it out from under him. "Let's go talk to the hostess. You can give her your order. Then you can go relax, and they'll bring your food right up to you."
"Well," Tully said, rising to his feet.
"In fact, I'll take care of the hotel bill, too. For the inconvenience to you of having to wait for the bank to open on Monday."
This added benefit brought Duane to his feet. Carter followed suit, and the four of them filed to the hostess's station.
Crystal explained the situation and said to charge everything to her, including her meal with Carter. While the cousins gave their orders, she quickly went to the hotel desk and took care of their stay.
Then she bounded out the door and down the steps, Carter following, wondering how anyone wearing high heels could travel so fast.
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