Chapter Thirty-seven

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At 1 p.m. sharp I met Jimmy at our favorite no-name pub on East State Street. We'd driven in separate cars, so we could pretend to the office that we'd eaten at different restaurants. As if anyone was paying attention.

   
I planned to regale Jimmy with Becky's high-tech spy mystery about the sleazy stilettos, which I figured would make him laugh as hard as I had. Simone was hardly my vote for Miss Congeniality, but I wouldn't try pinning a murder on her only because she was fond of tacky shoes.

   
But Jimmy saw it differently. "Somebody killed Deborah," he said, "so we need to investigate every angle." We sat at a table by the window that looked out on East State Street. Our cola drinks were already sitting there, awaiting our greasy fish and chips lunch.

   
I surveyed him up and down. "Okay," I said, "if you show me where the pod is, I won't kill you."

   
"Very funny," he replied, "but maybe Simone knows more than she's telling."

   
"Yep, I think she's hiding vital clues," I said, "like where I can get a pair of those stiletto heels in lizard green." I chuckled at my own joke. "And since when do you care, Pod Boy? Before yesterday, you were withholding information because you didn't want me to get involved."

   
That spirited exchange was interrupted while our waitress dropped off two large orders of deep-fried cod and fries. She'd served us before, so she dumped a stack of paper napkins near my plate and went to get extra tartar sauce for Jimmy.

   
Jimmy cut a piece of fish and slathered it in sauce. He winked at me in lieu of an answer. I wouldn't give up.

   
"Okay, easier question," I said. "Fill me in on this rascal I've heard so little about, this Jimmy Dolan character."

   
Jimmy grinned and wiped his mouth. "He's an international man of mystery?"

   
I shook my head.

   
"Okay, what do you want to know, Luv?"

   
I'm not neat and my clothes weren't dry clean today, so I picked up the piece of fish by the big end and dipped it into the sauce. Then I bit off the end, put the fish back on my plate, and dug into my fries.

   
"Tell me how you got exiled to Rockford," I said after savoring a couple of fries. "Who the hell did you manage to piss off?"

   
"Can you wait until we get to the fry stage?" he asked.

   
I nodded. Jimmy ate in shifts. First came the fried fish course, followed by the fried potato course. He chose not to mix the two food groups.

   
I asked, "Any other strange eating habits that I should know about?"

   
He finished a mouthful. "I like popcorn at movies," he said.

   
"What's so strange about that?"

   
"I don't eat it until the movie starts."

   
"What, not even to test the salt?"

   
He shook his head. "Ruins the taste."

   
"Of the salt?"

   
He grinned. "No, eating the popcorn before its time."

   
"Hmmm. We shall eat no popcorn before its time. Orson Welles, right?"

   
Jimmy started on his French fry course, so his mouth wasn't as full. He nodded. "But in bloated Ernest and Julio mode. Whereas The Third Man, that was vintage Orson."

   
"Nice try," I said. "Citizen Kane. Classic Orson."

   
"And Macbeth?" he parried.

   
I thought a second. "Orson with a bard?"

   
"Couldn't have said it better myself," he replied.

"So what about this Dolan guy?" I said. "Can't hide behind Orson all day, Bud."

   
Jimmy looked at me and chuckled. "Too easy." He ate another French fry. "Okay, scuttlebutt on Dolan is that he's too romantic for his own good. Rescues damsels in distress. Believes in Santa Claus and writes to the Easter Bunny."

   
I furrowed my brow. "Don't you mean 'believes in the Easter Bunny and writes to Santa Claus'?"

   
He shook his head. "Santa only brings presents," he said, "but the Easter Bunny hands out Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs."

   
I nodded. "Always go for the chocolate. Excellent motive, Mr. Dolan. And about this Rockford business?"

   
Try as he might, Jimmy wasn't going to evade me this time.

   
"I asked for it," he said.

   
"By mouthing off?"

   
"No," he said, "literally. I asked for the assignment."

   
"You wanted to come to Rockford? Honestly?"

   
Jimmy chuckled again. "Guilty as charged. It was for Kate, you see."

   
I smiled, but my lips were scraped tight against my teeth. Kate again.

   
"Chicago was a little too big for her," he said. "She's from a small town, and she was used to knowing everyone's family."

   
"That must have been tough in Chicago."

   
"Yeah. I thought Rockford might be more her size."

   
"And is it?"

   
He smiled again. "I met you. No complaints."

   
"And Kate?"

   
"She's gotten to know everyone in our building already," he said. "It's only a six-flat, but that's a beginning."

   
"Is she homesick?"

   
Again, he smiled. "Sometimes, but she calls her Mum every week and chats for an hour. We got a special deal on overseas calls."

   
"Ah," I said. "And how are things in the old homeland?"

   
Jimmy waxed poetic about Kate and her family across the ocean while I finished my meal. It was almost as if he was a member of Kate's family, I thought. Then it hit me again—the awful truth—he was a member of Kate's family. Church ceremony or no, he'd married into the family.

   
And if you looked at things in the right kind of way, I was the home wrecker.

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