Chapter Thirty-four

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While I had been chatting up Kate, Claudie had been chatting up Jimmy. Since Kate was gone, I took the opportunity to give Claudie the high sign. She tried to tell Jimmy where she was going, but he was already in the middle of some deep conversation with Mickey.

C took Kate's empty seat next to me. "So?" she said.

Before I answered, I had to take her in. Tonight, she was the woman in black except for a baby pink push-up bra. It was Loreena McKennitt meets Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan mode. In Rockford, the look made her the center of attention, despite Jimmy's Celtic sweetheart.

"It's a look," I said.

She pretended to frown, but I could see that she was secretly pleased. If I commented on it, then her outfit was even more outrageous than she suspected. This particular phase of C's was tailor-made to shock. However, shocking people in Rockford was way too easy. I didn't see the sport in it.

"So?" she repeated.

"So her Celtic Loveliness has the hots for Mickey," I said.

"But she's married," C said.

"So I reminded her, but she gave me some crap about not in the eyes of God."

C's eyes got big. "Oh," she said, "civil ceremony."

"This makes sense to you?"

C nodded. It ought to have occurred on me—being Catholic herself, C would understand Kate's weird reasoning. In my sheltered little Methodist upbringing, married was married. The County Clerk made it just as legal as the minister.

"Mother Church only pays attention to marriages performed by a priest," C explained. "If you get hitched by a Justice of the Peace, it isn't a sacrament, so it doesn't count."

"Which means exactly what?"

C grinned with her trademark sexy grin. "It means that Jimmy told you the truth," she said. "He's one civil divorce away from being a free man."

"And Kate?" I said.

"In the eyes of Holy Mother Church, Kate was never married," she said. "It was merely a convenience for the Feds. Short answer—Jimmy loves you."

Now it was my opportunity to smile. "Thanks, C," I said. "It's only that Lover Boy hasn't been exactly forthcoming with information."

"Who is?" she said.

C prefers her lovers mysterious, and often she doesn't even want to know their names. I, on the other hand, have always required a certain amount of disclosure from the men who love me. That didn't make my love life any more successful than C's, but it was my policy nonetheless.

At that point, C and I changed partners. We swapped seats, too. She struck up a conversation with Kate about the Irish style of harp playing while I sought to mend my fences with Jimmy.

Mickey was off serving mixed drinks to a rowdy bunch two tables over. Jimmy finished the last of the beer in his glass.

"She's quite something," I said.


"She's interested in Mickey," I said.

Jimmy rolled his eyes. "Has to be Kate."

"He reminds her of someone in a movie."

He chuckled. "That's pretty much her experience of life," he said. "American cinema." I didn't comment about Kate's personal experience with guys in pubs. Perhaps she'd thought it better to keep that knowledge to herself.

"He kissed her hand," I said.

"He what?"

"He played the courtly gentleman when she came in and kissed her hand," I said. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that he was smitten."

"What?" This time he said it louder. I might have been mistaken, but this news seemed to piss Jimmy off.

"And this would be bad because?"

Jimmy stared at me with his bloodshot eyes, and his frown wasn't a pretense. "He's too old for her," he said. "She's just a kid."

"That's right," I said. "It isn't as if she's free to roam. She is, after all, still married to you."

Now I frowned. Jimmy grabbed my hand before I could stalk away. "She's still my cousin and my responsibility," he said. "I don't want to see her get hurt."

"And me?"

"I wouldn't hurt you for the world," he said. His eyes told me that he spoke the truth, but I didn't dare believe him.

"So why don't you come clean?" I said. "Every time I get close, you pick a fight to put me off." I failed to mention that my therapist, Liz, noted that I was also to blame for changing the subject and then getting angry. Hmmm, note to myself: might be time to work with Liz on my anger issues.

Jimmy hung his head. "You talk about that first investigation as if it scarred you for life," he said. "What marks will this one leave?"

I took Jimmy's other hand. "That, My Love, is my decision to make. You can't live my life for me any more than you can make Kate's decisions for her. We call it free will here in my universe, and even our God gives us leave to fuck up."

Jimmy pulled my hand toward him and kissed the palm. "Point taken," he said. "So what shall I tell you?"

"Let's start with Will."

Twenty minutes later, I knew that Will had nearly as many paramours as Barney. The most useful bit was that Will complained about the Princess poaching his accounts.

Then, when Barney hadn't kicked her ass to Will's satisfaction, Will had gone over Barney's head to some honcho in the Chicago office. That's how an official investigation was launched from the main office of our brokerage firm, but it was cut short at Will's request a week before the Princess's untimely demise.

Jimmy may have been right to hold back that kind of bombshell from me. It certainly didn't put Will in a good light, but it also didn't tag him as a killer.

When Jimmy wasn't trying to pick a fight with me, he was really quite sweet. Once he'd coughed his information, we'd gone quickly from holding hands to trading kisses. And things would have ended quite perfectly for me except that Jimmy went home with Kate.

In fairy tales, the lovers always end up together.

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