Chapter Fifty-four

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I woke in the wee hours dreaming of snakes. Snakes that swirled up my ankles to become shoes—green snake skin shoes with thin spike heels. Clearly, this talk of buying clothes wigged me out.


When I awoke the second time, the alarm was two minutes from going off. I beat it to the punch and got up. I was first in the shower and freshly dressed by the time my mother made the first pot of coffee. It seems a second pot was needed so Olaf could take some in his thermos.


I was up so early for work that I actually had time to pack myself a lunch. My mother offered to do it, but I decided that the less I depended on her the easier it would be to live alone again. She did, however, sneak a package of raspberry zingers into the bag when I wasn't looking, because when I got to my desk at work I found them.

Her surprise was so sweet and so sudden that I was catapulted back in time to childhood when the zingers in my Charlie's Angels lunch box meant that my mother wouldn't be able to afford a soda on her break. Back then, it hadn't made much of an impression on me that Mom herself never had zingers. Only much later did I come to understand that she took bologna for lunch every day because it was cheap, not because she liked it.


"Paulette? Honey, are you okay?"


I glanced up from my desk into the bedroom-brown eyes of Jimmy Dolan. He leaned over my desk, and I hadn't even smelled his cologne. I smiled and nodded, quickly wiping an errant tear away with the back of my hand. Geez, I was becoming a real sap. The basement was empty but for Jimmy and me.


"Jimmy," I asked, "how can we get a look at someone's SEC license?


"Is this a quiz?"


"Yep. And it's also a good way for you to get back in my good graces after you failed to call me back last night."


"We went to a concert," Jimmy said. "The Rockford Symphony played Irish composers."


"Did Ralph Vaughan Williams write enough music for a whole concert?" I was pleased with myself because I'd remembered to pronounce "Ralph" as "Rafe."


"Very funny," Jimmy said. "They also played orchestrations of Turlough O'Carolan."


"The harp guy? I used to love a tune of his called 'Fanny Power.'"


"You're good," Jimmy said. "That's my mother's favorite O'Carolan tune. Are you sure that your father wasn't Irish instead of Scots?


"Och, no," I said. "Hey, we're all one big family of Celts anyway. Same island family. Big sibling rivalry." I smiled in what I thought was a disarming fashion. "So what about the elusive SEC licenses?"


Jimmy shrugged and sat down in my extra chair. "I think they're all kept in a big binder in the library of the Chicago office," he said. "Somebody checks them every year to make sure that all the brokers are up to date."


"Any idea who that somebody might be?"


"I might," Jimmy said, "if she still works there."


"Who?"


"The librarian."


"You know the librarian?" I said. "By all means, e-mail her and get the official names on all the licenses for the Rockford office. Can you do that?"


"I can," Jimmy said, "but. . . ." He turned in his chair to look at the computer we used for checking market orders.


"But you have to send her chocolate?"


"No," he said, "but I . . . we . . . we used to go out."


My lovely Jimmy began to go a bit pink about the gills. "Did you dump her?" I asked. I tried to crinkle up my face in a frown, but I couldn't manage it. I was alive, I had zingers in my lunch, and Jimmy Dolan sat next to me glowing in the most adorable fashion.

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