Chapter Twenty-six

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As I drove to work on Wednesday, I considered my situation. My problem was that I didn't quite know what to do. Obviously, I should call Odin and tell him about the note on my windshield, but I didn't want him to forbid me from getting involved in the case. For all I knew, the note could be some parting shot from Harriet.

I couldn't be sure when I'd gotten it. It might have been on my car in the brokerage firm's parking lot, although that seemed a bit too obvious even for Harriet. The real question was who knew that I was on the case in the first place?

I turned into the brokerage firm's parking lot and saw a car I didn't recognize behind the building—an old Mercedes. It was right in front of the back door, idling.

The hour was only 7:45 a.m. Given that I'd received a threatening note, I slowed my pace considerably. The Benz was black with tinted windows that made it impossible to see who was inside.

As I walked past the driver's side door with my office key fully extended in case of trouble, the window inched down to reveal a sulky Simone. Her designer sunglasses couldn't disguise the unpleasant sneer on her face.

"You're early," she said. "I'm not paying for overtime."

I smiled more heartily than I felt. "I know," I said, "but we want to keep Barney happy, don't we?"

"Mr. Dunbarton to you." She tapped her blood red fingernails against the steering wheel in time to the Barry Manilow on the CD player. Her nails exactly matched the color of her suit jacket and presumably her skirt, although I couldn't see the skirt from where I stood.

She never wore trousers, preferring to show off her stems with short skirts and skyscraper heels. She looked good if you liked that sort of high-maintenance, twisted-one-turn-too-tight school of female psychology. To me, she looked brittle, like a tall, thin, glass ornament.

"Don't let me keep you," she said as her window inched up again.

I waved and walked around her car to the door. Too bad Simone didn't work at the brokerage firm, hadn't met Deborah Alston, and didn't know about the secret passageway, otherwise I would have suggested her as our #1 suspect on the principle of the thing.

Unfortunately, nothing was ever that simple. I let myself in, made the coffee, and wandered downstairs. Only after I flipped on the computers and saw the date, did I figure out that exactly one week had passed since I'd come down those very stairs to find Deborah's dead body under my desk.

Nobody seemed to notice that I stayed upstairs without going back to my desk until there was somebody else in the building.

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