Friends, Lovers, Chocolate: Isabel’s niece, Cat (she of the unsuitable boyfriends), has been invited to a wedding in Italy. This means that Isabel is left in charge of Cat’s delicatessen—a task to which the redoubtable moral philosopher proves more than equal.
Left alone to steer the shop, Isabel becomes intrigued by the customers. One man in particular attracts her attention. He is recovering from a heart transplant, and wonders about the origins of his new heart.
Soon Isabel is drawn into an investigation of the facts behind the transplant, with fascinating results.
“Money,” said Cat. “That’s the problem. Money.” Isabel handed Cat a glass of wine. “It invariably is,” she said.
“Yes,” Cat went on. “I suppose that if I were prepared to offer enough I would be able to get somebody suitable to stand in for me. But I can’t. I have to run it as a business, and I can’t make a loss.”
Isabel nodded. Cat owned a delicatessen just a few streets away, in Bruntsfield, and although it was successful, she knew that the line between profitability and failure was a narrow one. As it was, she had one full-time employee to pay, Eddie, a young man who seemed to be on the verge of tears much of the time, haunted, thought Isabel, by something which Cat could not, or would not, speak about. Eddie could be left in control for short periods, but not for a week it seemed.
“He panics,” said Cat. “It gets too much for him and he panics.”
Cat explained to Isabel that she had been invited to a wedding in Italy and wanted to go with a party of friends. They would attend the wedding in Messina and then move north to a house which they had rented for a week in Umbria. The time of year was ideal; the weather would be perfect.
“I have to go,” said Cat. “I just have to.”
Isabel smiled. Cat would never ask outright for a favour, but her intention was transparent. “I suppose ... ” she began. “I suppose I could do it again. I rather enjoyed it last time. And if you remember, I made more than you usually do. The takings went up.”
This amused Cat. “You probably overcharged,” she said. And then a pause, before she continued: “I didn’t raise the issue to get you to ... I wouldn’t want to force you.”
“Of course not,” said Isabel.
“But it would make all the difference,” Cat went on quickly. “You know how everything works. And Eddie likes you.”
Isabel was surprised. Did Eddie have a view on her? He hardly ever spoke to her, and certainly never smiled. But the thought that he liked her made her warm towards him. Perhaps he might confide in her, as he had confided in Cat, and she would be able to help him in some way. Or she could put him in touch with somebody: there were people who could help in such circumstances; she could pay for it if necessary.
They discussed the details. Cat would be leaving in ten days’ time. If Isabel came for a hand-over day before then, she could be shown the current stock and the order book. Consignments of wine and salamis were expected while Cat was away and these would have to be attended to. And then there was the whole issue of making sure that the surfaces were cleaned—a fussy procedure subject to an entire litany of regulations. Eddie knew all about that, but you had to watch him; he was funny about olives and often put them in containers marked down for coleslaw.
“It will be far more difficult than editing the Review of Applied Ethics,” said Cat, smiling. “Far more difficult.”