I stood up to meet Karlson and checked to my right. Jimmy's door was closed. He had a client in there, presumably. I hadn't seen anyone come down the stairs, but, between the tunes on my headset and the work, I hadn't paid attention.

Karlson was all in black with a tone-on-tone black shirt and jacket sans tie. Maybe today was a relaxed day at his office, but you couldn't tell from his face. Someone was a little miffed that I hadn't called him back.

"Lieutenant," I said by way of greeting.

He checked out my small, open workspace. "Is there someplace more private?"

"There's Will's office," I said. "Depends on what you want to talk about. I have nothing more to say."

"Good," he said, "because I wanted you to listen this time."

He smiled with only medium brightness, but the effect was still stunning. I turned up the corners of my mouth a quarter of an inch or so from a scowl to a displeased frown.

"You know how to listen, don't you, Ms. Goddard?"

I chuckled before I had a chance to think about where he was going with this. Damn! "Nice paraphrase," I said. "Bacall appeals to you, does she?"

"Nah," he said, "we macho, tough guy cops prefer Humphrey Bogart every time. But they sure had chemistry."

Macho, tough guy cops? Lt. Karlson was starting to read my mind again, and I didn't like it. When he began to get human, bad things happened. "Will's it is," I said.

Leading him across the basement was the easy part since Will had the day off. The tricky bit came when Jimmy's door flew open as we passed. A beautifully dressed woman backed out of the room and right into Karlson. You would have thought he just awakened her from a century of slumber with the way they went on. She was so sorry. No, but he was so sorry. No, but she. . . . They reminded me of those two super-polite chipmunks on the cartoons I watched as a kid. Disgusting.

The only thing for me to do during this display was to watch Jimmy get embarrassed over and over again. Though the situation wasn't his fault, something was making his sallow complexion flush pink. Maybe he blushed because he hadn't wanted me to see this particular "client." Irish, just off the boat—if you judged by her lilting accent.

Karlson ended the apology exchange by walking the lovely Celt up the stairs. Police business, presumably, but I'd be drop-kicked to Wisconsin if he didn't manage to return with her telephone number.

Meanwhile, I took the measure of a thoroughly pink James Patrick Dolan. Surveying him from crown to soles, I managed to keep my mouth shut. When Karlson reappeared moments later, my only comment to Jimmy was "Nice bird." Then I was dragged off for another interrogation.

Karlson seated himself behind Will's desk and pointed to the client chair. For once, I did as I was told. All I thought about was Jimmy's client. Who was she? Why hadn't Jimmy told me about her? Was he dating her?

"That was fun," Karlson said. Only Karlson could find amusement in this sort of gut-wrenching nightmare.

"Tell me, did you get her telephone number?" I said. I might be suffering, but I wasn't about to let Karlson know. "Jimmy and I have a bet." I made this up, but he didn't know that.

Karlson smiled at me—full on this time. In another time and place, I would have been entranced. As it was, I noted with interest that little Enzo Karlson enjoyed pulling the wings off his captive flies. "A gentleman never tells."

I was impressed. He'd even managed to say the words with a straight face. I beamed back at him. "Right," I said. "All you cops are gentlemen under the skin. That would explain the beatings and extra-marital affairs."

Karlson didn't like that. He frowned and gazed at his fancy watch. Momma had probably taught Karlson that being a gentleman entitled one to brownie points, green stamps, and frequent flyer miles. I was not amused.

"Aw, go on, Karl," I said. "I'm one of the guys after all. It's not as if you were ever going to date me." It was a taunt. I was going for the jugular, so I wouldn't be the only one leaking radiator fluid. The man of my dreams looked to be two-timing me with some Irish chick.

"You're dating him, right?"

I loathe people who don't immediately feel the pain I'm trying to inflict. Didn't he know I needled him? This guy had dragon hide instead of skin. I shook my head. Either I wasn't used to playing on this level or he had game . . . or both. I didn't want to admit that last part.

"You win," I said with a sigh. "Yes, I'm seeing Jimmy." I pulled at a stray hangnail on my thumb because I didn't want to see his reaction.

"Good," he said. "Because she's some distant cousin or something. He's helping her out with stock picks, so she's also a client. Like he said." He paused. "Feel better?"

Feel better? I felt numb. Is that why Karlson had gone after her? I took a deep breath and held it a few seconds to stop the world from spinning.

"Let me get this straight," I said. "You walked that gorgeous woman up the stairs so that you could check out her bonafides . . . for me?"

I finally knew what my mother meant by the phrase 'butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.' No one could have appeared cooler or more innocent than the Karlson who sat before me.

"Of course," he said through that wide toothy grin. "Why else?"

I wasn't convinced. "Oh, I don't know, Lieutenant, police business, murder investigation, personal amusement. Any number of reasons rate higher on the food chain than I do."

"Okay," he said. He stared at me with a serious expression on his face. "I owe you, Paulette. You were right about my mother, which makes me the King of all the Assholes, like you said."

"Actually, I like Supreme Emperor of all the Assholes even better."

He cocked his head to one side. "You don't make this easy, do you?"



"I guess not, Enzo. You're the first man to apologize for being an asshole," I said. "I'm out of practice."

My phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out and found a text from Claudie that said "Let's fight crime together! I wanna be your sidekick." Before I stopped myself, I giggled.

Karlson noticed. "Funny?"

"Not exactly. My friend, Claudie, is convinced that we can solve the Princess' murder. She wants to be my sidekick."

"And you are not overjoyed because?"

"Seriously? Because dead is not a good look for me." That earned me a lopsided grin.

"Text me everything you find out the minute you find out, Paulette. If I know what you know, you're safer." With that, he wrote his cell number on a sticky note and passed it across the desk. Luckily, I didn't have to load the numbers into my phone in front of him. I didn't want him to see my pitiful excuse for technology.

I folded the note and slipped it into my pocket. 

"Sure this isn't just an excuse to slip me your digits?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny, Ms. Goddard," he said.  Then he grinned the big, sexy grin that he got from Mama, and I actually enjoyed it for once.

"My mother wants to invite you to dinner on Sunday. Can you come?"

Sunning myself in the warmth of little Enzo's smile, I agreed to dinner with Mama, forgetting utterly my own Mother's Sunday constitutional to which I had invited Jimmy.

Death and the MotherlodeWhere stories live. Discover now