Fraser was the only one around the Vecchio dinner table that was focused on Ray. Everyone else: Ma, Francesca, Maria, Tony, the kids and even Ray himself had their attention riveted on the tall woman who sat beside Ray.
Even sitting down, she was tall. Or perhaps it was just her way of dominating the room that made everyone feel, subliminally, that Vincenza took up more physical space than anyone else around. The usual babble and bantering of Vecchio dinner chatter was subdued. All were listening to whatever Vincenza had to say. They had much to listen to, as Vincenza had an opinion on every subject. She delivered the opinions in a deep and sultry voice that didn’t need to be raised to capture everyone’s attention.
Most of the family seemed happy to have Vincenza at the table. Tony was enjoying just looking at this classic Italian beauty. Francesca and Maria seemed to have embraced her as a sister and listened with rapt attention to her pronouncements about what colour eye-shadow each of the Vecchio sisters should or shouldn’t wear. The kids were enjoying the novelty of having Uncle Ray’s bride-to-be close by where they could observe her every foible and mannerism.
Everything about Vincenza seemed to be a performance: she waved her fork in the air to make a point, tossed her head to make her smooth, raven hair dance about her shoulders, turned often to touch Ray lightly on the arm and occasionally kissed Ray on the cheek. Fraser wondered if it were deliberate on her part to choose a moment when he happened to be chewing to kiss him. It made it look as though she were bestowing her valuable attention on a chipmunk.
But Ray looked happy. Yes, it was gratifying to see Ray enjoy himself and enjoy the woman beside him. If a woman was what Ray really wanted, then Fraser would have to be a good friend to his partner’s future wife. And he’d have to keep his own love for Ray a secret. Never, never would he force his affection on his friend without first being assured that the object of his love would not shrink from him in disgust.
If Ray had loved me, he would have told me. Fraser forced himself to believe this. His Italian friend was not shy of showing his emotions. So, Fraser made the mental effort to believe that it was fortunate that his friend had found, it seemed, a dream woman – beautiful, brainy, bold and desperate to be his wife.
Desperate. Odd that that word should pop into my head just now, Fraser thought. But that’s what seemed to be. She’s working hard to impress Ray every minute, and to impress all of the rest of us, too. What does she fear? They’re engaged. She’s wearing a diamond solitaire (which Ray hadn’t been able to afford to buy for Angela) and there’s a wedding scheduled for two weeks from Saturday. Ray is smitten with her. And yet, she’s not at ease with him or with the family. Fraser pondered the mystery as he ate. I wonder if she loves him, the Mountie thought. I hope, for Ray’s sake, that she does.
Am I the only one that doubts, Fraser wondered and swept the dinner table with his eyes. All around him the woman held the extended Vecchio family in her spell. No. There was one hold-out. Fraser studied one pair of eyes that watched Vincenza closely but did not sparkle with enjoyment, one mouth that frowned ever so slightly. Ma must have felt his gaze upon her. She darted a quick glance at the Mountie, just enough for him to be sure of her disapproval of her daughter-in-law-to-be.
“And I found the most delightful wallpaper for the kitchen. Absolutely perfect,” Vincenza declaimed in a tone that dared anyone to champion wallpaper of any lesser perfection.
“You want to change the kitchen wallpaper, cara?” said Ma, tentatively. She glanced towards the kitchen of the Vecchio house.
“Gwen, no, of course not.”
It was just a little thing that bothered Fraser but apparently none of the Vecchios, that Vincenza addressed Ma by her first name. Fraser had graduated from “Mrs. Vecchio” to “Ma” within a week of meeting her and never really thought of Ray’s mother as even having a given name.
“I mean the kitchen we’re going to have – Ray and me,” she declared.
Silence fell over the dining room. All of them looked from Vincenza to one another and back to Vincenza again.
finally spoke up, but addressed herself to her brother. “Ray,” she said
carefully, “you never mentioned anything about getting your own place.”
So far during the evening Ray had been enjoying his food, his family and his fiancée without any sign of tension. Now, he stiffened, finished chewing the bit of lasagna that was in his mouth, swallowed with deliberation and turned to Vincenza with his first frown of the night.
“Vincenza, didn’t we decide we’d tell Ma about that later?”
Cautious. Too cautious, thought Fraser. He’s afraid of this woman. As afraid of her as he is of his mother. Why didn’t I see it before?
Vincenza was having nothing of his caution. “Ray! Now’s the best time to tell them, now that we’re all together.” She leaned towards Ma. Fraser found himself wondering if anyone else noticed Ma leaning away. “Gwen, dear, I’m taking Ray out of your hair. I’ve found us a wonderful apartment in my Aunt Yolanda’s building. Just the right size and just the right price. Wait until you see the tiles. The most exquisite tiles you’ve ever seen anywhere.
Tony stiffened. He himself had chosen and laid the ceramic tiles in the Vecchio bathrooms a mere two years ago and had his own opinion as to whether more exquisite ones could be found in some other house. He waited for someone to come to his defense but the Vecchios were too stunned to speak. So he spoke for them.
“You’re taking Ray out of the house?” he asked.
It was just the right phrasing to echo the feelings of the silent Vecchios. “Taking him out of the house”, not “getting your own place”.
Vincenza’s already low voice dropped a good octave lower still. “Is that a problem?”
Francesca cleared her throat and forced out a sound that was something like: “And Ray’s okay with this?”
Ray threw his napkin aside impatiently. “Is Ray actually sitting here? Maybe you could ask me something?”
Francesca jumped to her feet. “Okay, big brother. I’ll ask you something.” Francesca opened her arms in a wide inclusive gesture. “What are you thinking? You’re leaving your own house?”
Ray dropped his eyes. “Vincenza thinks we’d be better off in our own place.”
“And what do you think, Raymondo?” Ma put in.
They all waited.
“Well?” Ma insisted.
Fraser found himself gripping the bottom of the carved rosewood chair under him. Ray’s first wife had lived in the Vecchio house, as did Tony now and even Francesca’s ex-husband during their short marriage. There was no question that Ma expected the family to stay together and Vincenza had a plan of her own. Could Ray’s obsession with his new love over-ride his obedience to his mother? Stay or go, the woman in Ray’s life who lost this match would punish Ray for it, of that Fraser was sure. What would Ray’s next words be? Whatever they were, they would most likely provoke fireworks and Fraser wanted to be grounded when the explosions burst.
But Ray was cautious enough to forestall a blast. He leaned over and kissed Vincenza’s cheek first, then stood and walked over to his mother and planted a kiss on the top of her grizzled head. “It’s so sweet how you fight over me. You know what I think? I think we’re ready for dessert.
Fraser could see that both women’s minds were working furiously trying to decide whether to let their son or fiancé get away with this diversion. In the privacy of her own thoughts it seemed to him that each gave up for the moment and let the possible storm pass. He loosened the grip on his chair. They would get though the evening without anyone getting fried.
Vincenza made a big noise about wanting to clean up after dinner but somehow got diverted by Maria’s kids who demanded she read them a story before they went to bed. With suspicious ease, the boy made a picture book appear from a handy spot on the living room floor. Each child tugged at one of Vincenza’s arms and led her toward the stairs. She ascended like a queen flanked by two attendant pages. Ray followed dutifully, bringing up the rear of the entourage.
In the kitchen, Ma dismissed her two daughters and son-in-law. “Go watch TV,” she ordered, “Benito and I will do the dishes.”
Helping Ma in the kitchen pleased Fraser on many levels. The fastidious Mountie enjoyed making a messy place clean again. Helping Ray’s mother made him feel like a part of the Vecchio family. Stacking the dishwasher was a test of his skill – how to get the maximum number of dishes into the machine in the most efficient arrangement to allow the flow of water on each dirty surface.
Ma rinsed the supper dishes and handed them to him one by one to the Mountie to arrange in the machine. The dishwasher was half full before she got to the point.
“What do you think of this Vincenza?”
Fraser sighed and placed a soup ladle into a carefully chosen spot before giving his non-answer. “What do you mean?”
Ma took his arm, steered him to the kitchen table and sat him down on a chair. She sat down beside him and leaned close. “Do you think she loves my son?”
“I’m not sure I can answer that.”
“Meaning, no, you think she doesn’t and you don’t want to say it.”
Thus pinned down, Fraser ducked his head in embarrassed acknowledgement. “I think she has an ulterior motive, but I don’t know what it could be. Her attention to Ray seems, I don’t know . . . “
“Forced, I can tell. And if I can tell, you can tell. Right?”
Fraser’s silence showed that he agreed.
“But I don’t understand why, Benito. My Raymondo, he’s a sweet boy and good-looking and has a steady job. Anybody would love him, that’s true.”
didn’t dare smile in front of Ma but he thought to himself: I certainly do love
him, and it has nothing to do with his steady job. It has to do with his
wonderful bright eyes, his proud nose, his easy manner covering his intensity,
his overall, incredible Ray-ness.
“But something just doesn’t feel right,” Ma concluded.
Fraser had been feeling guilty until now. He had been sure his misgivings had only been due to his own desire for Ray and his envy of this woman. It was gratifying to know his fears were not all in his own head. He had an ally.
“I agree,” Fraser said.
“But what can we do about it?”
“Ma, the question is: should we do anything at all?”
Ma picked up Fraser’s two hands in her own and peered into his face as she said, “Yes, we should. We love him and we don’t want him tied down to someone who doesn’t love him as much as we do.”
What does she mean, what does she mean? Fraser’s mind raced at the possible implication of her words. She used the plural – we love him. Does she think I love him as a dear friend, a brother, or does she read in me what Ray himself cannot?
upon him were steady and loving. He searched her face for possible emotions:
pity? Disgust? All he saw was steadfast
“What would we do?”
Ma dropped his hands and stood up. She walked over to the kitchen sink and then turned back to face him. “Benito, you know how to track people.”
“You’re not a detective like my Raymondo but you can follow people and see what they do.”
This time Fraser did smile. “I’ve had some experience doing that.”
“So they don’t notice?”
His smile widened. “There wouldn’t be any point in following them if they did notice, Ma.”
She matched his smile. “Good. So you will follow this Vincenza and see what she does when she’s not with Raymondo. If she has a secret, I know you will find it.”
“She’s with Ray most of the time. As you say, he’s a detective. He will notice if I follow them, even if she doesn’t.”
Ma’s smile widened to a full grin. “I said he was a detective, I didn’t say he was perfect. When he’s with that woman he won’t be so careful.” Then she came back to Fraser and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I think you can follow my Raymondo pretty good.”
Her motherly kiss warmed his cheek first, and then the warmth spread through his face and all through him. He luxuriated in the sensation for a few moments before rational thought returned.
“I think,” he began carefully, “you may be over-reacting just because she wants to move Ray out of the house.”
“I may be over-reacting?” Ma repeated. “Just me? Don’t you want to know what she’s really after?”
“Just because she seems false to us, it doesn’t mean she’s hiding some guilty secret. I’m not sure that tailing her is going to tell us what her motives are.”
Ma had an
answer for him. “Then, if she’s got nothing to hide, you won’t find anything.
And that would be good to know too.
Ray and Vincenza spent most evenings together, although out of deference to his mother he did not spend the night at her place. By keeping to shadows and hiding behind fences and bushes, Fraser was able to tail them from a restaurant to her apartment building. Some tracker’s instinct told Fraser to wait outside until Ray came out again to go home.
As he stood there in the shadows waiting he saw, in his mind’s eye, Ray’s hand touching her face and then drawing her close for an intense kiss. He shivered. He himself should be the recipient of such a kiss. It was his own face that Ray should be caressing. He continued to torture and pleasure himself with alternating scenes in his imagination. Ray sucking at her breast, then Ray nibbling at Fraser’s own nipples. Ray running his hands over her bottom, then Ray caressing Fraser’s own waiting flesh. Ray shoving himself hard into her – no, no, into me. It was all the Mountie could do to keep still and silent as he imagined all this.
Somehow a couple of hours past and Ray emerged from the old brick mansion now converted into apartments. Fraser was anguished to see that Ray was unsteady on his feet as he came down the concrete steps, gripping the wrought iron railing as he carefully put one foot before another. Evidently that woman had put him through an intense physical workout.
Fraser controlled his anguish and jealousy. You’re here to observe, he told himself. He observed Ray get into the Riv and drive away. The same tracker’s instinct that had made him stay put before told him to continue waiting. Within twenty minutes his instincts proved true. Vincenza emerged. Fraser slipped around to the side of house and watched from around the corner as she came down the walk from the front door to the street. She was wearing different clothes than before. With Ray she had been wearing a semi-formal dress, light blue with a high collar and long sleeves. Now she had on a tight miniskirt and halter top. Her long black hair was also different – spiked and shooting out from her head, whereas with Ray it had hung smoothly, almost sedately, close around her face, neck and shoulders.
Fraser held still and invisible just until she had closed herself into a taxicab. Then he flagged down a cab of his own and ordered the driver to follow her, feeling momentarily foolish at speaking the hackneyed line “Follow that car.” Of course he added “Please” but it didn’t make it sound much better.
Vincenza’s taxi came to a stop outside a building that had once been a church but was now apparently a bar of some kind. A pink neon sign identified it as “The Church Club”. Fraser asked the cab driver to wait while he observed Vincenza get out of the cab and head for the large wooden double door of the club. The woman eased the right hand door open and slipped inside.
Fraser sat watching while other people went in and out of the club. Mostly they went in pairs and all of these pairs were same sex. Occasionally a lone man or woman passed through the doors. Fraser’s powers of observation were strained to try to make out which were men and which were women, their clothes being no reliable indicator.
Fraser asked the driver to wait and then got out of the cab. He needed to find a phone quickly. A club patron of indiscriminate gender came out of the left hand door and paused to look the Mountie over with clear appreciation.
“Do you know where I might find a phone?” Fraser asked politely.
“Help yourself,” offered the patron in tone that suggested he or she was offering much more than the use of a telephone.
Fraser chose to ignore this as he chose to ignore all such blatant bids for his attention. He murmured a brief “Thank you kindly” and called Ray’s house. If Ray answered, he would have to hang up. But Ray had looked pretty exhausted when he left Vincenza’s place. Hopefully he was in bed by now. Please let Ma answer, Fraser prayed to no deity in particular.
Despite the lack of direction of the prayer, it was answered. Fraser heard Ma’s “hello”.
“Ma, listen and don’t talk. I’m sending a taxi over to the house. Get in it. The driver will bring you to where I am.”
I’ll be right there,
Ma and Fraser stood outside the club both watching the doors. There was a definite risk of detection in the two of them being there. Fraser had the speed and agility to spring behind a parked car if he caught sight of Vincenza coming back out the door, but Ma’s considerable bulk precluded her being able to move as quickly. It was a risk Fraser was willing to take. He wanted another witness to what he was expecting to see.
“You say she went in here, Benito? A gay club?”
Fraser turned and looked at her with some surprise. “You know this is a same-sex establishment?”
“I want us to go in together, Ma.”
She chuckled. “A man and a woman going in here together. I don’t think so. You go in alone. It’s for you to go in a place like this, not me.” She gave him a significant look.
She does know I’m gay. She’s telling me she knows, Fraser decided, and it hurt his dignity. Ma surely couldn’t believe he frequented places like this. He didn’t go around looking for men to sleep with. He was deeply in love with only one man. He studied her face and again saw the look of affection she had given him in the kitchen the other night.
“Better a good-looking man than an old lady,” she assured him. “That’s all I meant, Benito. It’s a nice night and there are plenty of police around. I’ll be fine waiting here. Go.”
“No, the whole point was to have both of us here as witnesses, in case . . .” he paused, having difficulty with the end of the sentence.
“In case there’s something to witness. All right, caro. In we go. And don’t we make an adorable couple.” She linked his arm into his and they entered the club together.
The Church Club was an upscale establishment. The music, not too loud, was a good decade old, and the clientele were well-behaved. But for the pairing of the patrons it could have been any respectable bar. Only a few people there were in any way outlandish and one of these was Vincenza. Fraser and Ma caught sight of her sitting in a booth with another woman, much younger. The woman was blond and dressed modestly in jeans and a T-shirt. The Mountie pushed Ma quickly and unceremoniously into the booth behind them before Vincenza had a chance to notice.
As Ma settled herself Fraser put a finger to his lips in warning. Ma gave him a look of exasperation. (Do you think you have to tell me to be quiet?) Fraser made a small grimace of apology. (Sorry, Ma.) She smiled back at him. (It’s okay, caro.) This silent conversation finished, they concentrated on listening to Vincenza and her companion.
They heard Vincenza say, “So that’s why I haven’t been able to spend so much time with you. Carol, he’s the perfect cover.”
The other woman, now identified as Carol, sounded angry. “You mean to tell me you’ve been spending all this time with a man?”
“I need security, honey. Once I’m married I won’t have to worry about anything. I’ll have a husband to feed me. Ray’s so old-fashioned, he wouldn’t expect me to keep a job. We’ll have plenty of time to be together while he’s out chasing bad guys.”
“Won’t he notice? Men are stupid but they’re not that stupid.”
Vincenza snickered. It was an evil sound that made both Ma and Fraser cringe.
“Ray is. He’s smart enough to earn a detective’s salary but he knows dick about relationships. He’s got this friend. Gorgeous - if you like men. The poor sap has the hots for Ray and Ray doesn’t have a clue.
Ma was just able to pick up Fraser’s blushing in the dim light of the bar. She reached across the table and picked up his hand in her own.
“And who knows? Maybe he’ll get shot and I’ll be a widow. “
At this, Ma squeezed Fraser’s hand in alarm. Fraser used his free hand to pat her wrist reassuringly. (A male couple on their way from the bar to the dance floor glared at them. “That’s disgusting” complained one of the men to his partner, appalled at this blatant display of heterosexuality.)
“Well, I’m still not sure,” Carol whined. “We’re supposed to be exclusive, Vinnie.”
“We are exclusive. Ray doesn’t count. He’s just a man. I can handle him. Do you know,“ she lowered her voice, leaving the eavesdroppers straining to follow, “he actually wanted me to live in that dingy old house with the whole bunch of them. You ought to see his fat old mother. I hope I never turn into something like that.”
Tears welled in the old woman’s eyes, reflecting the soft light. Fraser gave her hands a squeeze first, then let them go and began to stand up. Ma shook her head violently. He paused, half-raised in his seat, then sank back down reluctantly.
“I just need a couple more weeks. Don’t call me. Once I get this marriage stuff settled we’ll be just like before. I promise.”
It was apparent that “Vinnie” was the dominant one in this relationship. Fraser began to feel just a little sorry for Carol. If he were ever able to talk to her alone, he would encourage her to stand up for herself and not let Vincenza take advantage of her.
“Come on, let’s dance,” Vincenza purred. “I want to hold you in my arms right now. Come on, honey.”
Fortunately, the women were sitting closer to the dance floor than Ma and Fraser. They didn’t have to pass the table where the old woman and the younger man had been sitting listening. Vincenza and Carol got up together and went arm in arm to the dance floor.
“What do we do now?” Ma whispered, wiping the wetness from her eyes and trying to get down to business.
“We’ll get Ray here to confront her. I think these two are going to be here for a while. Hurry home and get him.” Fraser reached for his Stetson for some taxi money. But Ma wasn’t watching him. She was watching Vincenza and Carol dance a slow dance, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. When Vincenza’s back was turned Ma ran out of the bar, leaving Fraser impressed by the speed at which she moved for a woman of her size. The adrenaline rush of a mother protecting her young, he decided. Ray’s lucky to have her for a mother.
Vincenza scorns poor Ma and I’m so fond of her, Fraser thought as he sat in the booth. He had to keep watch to make sure Vincenza, a.k.a. Vinnie, didn’t leave the building but that was all he could do for the moment. If Ray were my husband, Ma would be my mother-in-law, he mused. I could live in the house with Ray and all the family and be one of them. Everything that duplicitous woman despises – I want for myself.
He chided himself for his selfishness. This isn’t about me. It’s about saving Ray from a horrible fate. Stupid to imagine myself living with Ray. How would we explain to Maria’s children that Uncle Ray and Uncle Benito sleep in the same bed?
It was well into the wee hours and there was very little traffic to slow Ma down. Fraser was still deep in thought when, twenty minutes later, the customers of The Church Club were subjected to the sight of yet another mixed couple coming through the door. Many of the regulars knew Vinnie. The loud, unpleasant scene between her and that Italian guy was talked about for weeks afterward.
Ray didn’t go so far as to actually cancel their regular Tuesday lunch, although Fraser wished he had.
Ray was genetically wired to be incapable of being angry at his mother, so Fraser took the brunt of his wrath. Fraser knew it was only displaced anger at “Vinnie” and at himself for being taken in. He also knew that someday Ray would realize this. But until that time came, Ray was determined to make his Canadian friend suffer.
Ray drove them to a diner. “So you can have what you want and I can have what I want,” he spat out, not looking at Fraser.
Having lunch together and refusing to look at or talk to his Mountie friend except for mundane matters involving the ordering, consumption and paying for of food was worse punishment than outright rudeness.
And here I was thought that once Vincenza was gone, I would be able to tell him how much I love him. The more fool I, eh?
Fraser ordered chicken fingers, not trusting himself to be able to eat anything messier lest his trembling hands drop sauce or cheese all over his uniform. By constantly repeating to himself “I am a Mountie” he worked up the courage to speak.
“Ray, about what you said in car. About ‘what I want’ . . . “
“Don’t tell me anything, just eat, okay. I know what you wanted and I know what Ma wanted. Fine, Vincenza’s history. You got what you want so be happy and leave me alone.”
Fraser ‘screwed his courage to the sticking point’ and plunged ahead. “I didn’t get what I want, Ray. I think I . . . I mean I’m pretty sure I . . . “
“What!” Ray barked.
Fraser had to actually close his eyes so that he didn’t have to look at Ray as he said, “I. Wanted. You. For. Myself.” He sagged, the enormity of finally saying the words pressing down upon him. “I know this is the wrong time and I know you hate me right now. But I love you, Ray. The thought of seeing you ruin your life when I know I could make you happy. I couldn’t stand it.”
Ray had been on the last bite of his lasagna when Fraser said this. His choice of food had also been very deliberate – he was punishing his mother in absentia by eating lasagna made by somebody else. At the Mountie’s revelation, Ray’s mouth dropped open and bits of sauce and half-chewed pasta dribbled out onto his chin.
“Benny,” he said, too liquidly for Fraser to be able to interpret his feelings from the way he spoke the word. “Benny,” he repeated.
“Yes, Ray?” Also without feeling, waiting to follow Ray’s lead.
Ray dropped his head into his hands. Fraser heard tiny grunts, not quite sobs, coming from his friend. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you make me keep on looking for women?”
“I never made you look for women Ray.”
“I know, Benny, I know. You didn’t make me. I couldn’t tell you what I was feeling. I was afraid of what you’d say. I was afraid of what Ma would say.”
The die being thus cast, Fraser dared to reach over and touch his friend. He picked up a paper napkin from the table and wiped Ray’s chin. Ray grabbed Fraser’s hand and clutched it, close to his mouth, then brought the captive hand to rest against his lips. He kissed the Mountie’s hand gently then let it go.
The couple sitting at the table nearest to them stiffened with horror, but neither Ray nor Fraser had awareness of their surroundings or how they looked to others.
“Why do you think I wanted a wife, Benny? It was you I wanted and I was so ashamed. Do you get what I’m telling you?”
to use Vincenza the same way she wanted to use you.
As a cover.”
“I’m a louse. I know that. But how can I tell Ma I love another man. It’d kill her.”
Fraser’s eyes clouded with tears. “Ma already knows how much I love you. I don’t think it’ll be too much of stretch for her to believe you love me back.”
“You . . . you love me?”
“Always have, ever since the first day, Detective Armani.”
Ray sniffed loudly and wiped his eyes with a napkin. Unfortunately it was the same napkin Fraser had used to wipe Ray’s mouth, leaving a smear of red sauce on Ray’s eyelids and brow. Fraser shook his head in gentle dismay and dipped the end of a clean napkin into his water glass. He cleaned Ray’s lovely face then crumpled both soiled napkins into his plate so that Ray would not pick them up again.
“You know, I like it, hearing you call her ‘Ma’.”
They sat gazing at each other and trying not to cry too obviously in public.
“God, these women! They’re like to destroy us! Vincenza! Victoria! What were we thinking?”
“Veni, vidi, vici,” said Fraser, under his breath, pronouncing the last word “vicky”.
“Latin my grandmother taught me. Julius Caesar. I came, I saw, I conquered.”
“I know Latin, Mister Knows-A-Gazillion-Languages. You’re pronouncing it wrong. It’s ‘vee-chee” not “vicky”.
“Not the way my grandmother taught it. It’s definitely ‘Vicky’,”
Ray was going to remonstrate further, than caught on to what Fraser was saying. “Vinnie. Vicky. They almost conquered us didn’t they?”
“Almost,” Fraser agreed. “Almost.”