Chapter Fifty-nine

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Downstairs in my own little domain, I called Jimmy. "Guess who now makes enough money to buy you lunch?" I said.

"A Mary's Market lunch?" he asked.


I pretended to sigh. "Okay, we can go healthy for once," I said.


Jimmy had developed a taste for Mary's meatless arrabbiata pasta with a low-fat scone for dessert. My bad influence obviously needed to be exerted more strenuously. He was delighted to hear my happy employment news.


I figured that I could make a quick trip later in the day to do my county clerk research on Simone. We real, full-time employees could extend our lunch hours one day and make up for it the next.


On purpose, I didn't tell Jimmy about the kiss. That was my little secret. We were trying to fix a time for lunch when someone from upstairs bellowed my name. I told Jimmy to hold on and set the telephone down on my desk.


"Paulette!"


It was Becky, and she never yelled. Harriet didn't allow it. Something was very, very wrong. I ran up the stairs. Two uniformed police officers stood next to Becky. A third was positioned across the room in front of Barney's doorway and one more stood in the doorway to Harriet's office.


As I stood gaping at the top of the stairs, Jimmy moved up beside me. He patted my arm so I'd know he was there.


"You didn't answer," he said.


"know," I replied.


I turned to Becky. "What's all this?"


Becky had a tissue to her eyes. "They're arresting Barney," she wailed.


"What?"


Oh shit, I'd been kissed by a killer.


Two uniformed officers nudged Barney out of his office. His hands were handcuffed in front of him. A scream reverberated throughout the room. Harriet. She dodged around the policeman in her doorway and ran toward the boss.


"How dare you?" She kept shrieking those three words over and over as two officers herded Barney toward the front door.


Barney turned to Harriet, smiled, and spoke slowly. "I need you to do something for me, Harriet. I need you."


Harriet's mouth closed instantly. She took a step away from the officers.


"Call my lawyer," Barney said. "Go call my lawyer."


Harriet seemed to listen to him because she left for her office.


The two officers hustled Barney closer to the door. One more step and they'd be outside. What happened next occurred all at once. The officer nearest Harriet took Barney's coat from the coat stand beside the door and made to place it over the handcuffs.


As Barney turned to thank the man, he faced Harriet coming up behind the officer. "No," Barney yelled. "Harriet, no."


With the cop momentarily out of her way, Harriet ran toward Barney. She looked as if she was going to charge the officers who held him. At Barney's "no," she changed direction and launched herself at me. If I hadn't been leaning against the banister with Jimmy next to me, I would have fallen down the stairs.


"This is all your fault," Harriet said. She grabbed at my face and pulled at my hair. "Your snooping and that damned Italian cop."


With the help of one of the other officers, Jimmy got Harriet off me and back into her office. Barney was quickly whisked out the door.


Becky offered me her box of tissues, then her mirror.


"Damn," I said. Harriet's nails were short, so the damage was minimal. Nonetheless, I sported two four-inch scratches across one cheek.


"I've got makeup to cover that," Becky said. She held out her purse to me, but her hand shook.


"Sit down," I said. "I'll be fine." Jimmy proved to be useless at that point, so I went to the kitchenette and got Becky a glass of water. I also got one for myself. We sat together on top of Becky's desk, shaking, and trying not to spill on ourselves. Pretty much, we failed.


When the officer came out of Harriet's office, he told us that Lieutenant Karlson was coming to interview us and that we should not leave, even for lunch. He said to cancel any appointments with clients.


Becky got up to check the brokers' calendars, but I didn't move. I had no clients to see, and my knees were still weak and shaky.


Had I caused all this? I'd felt so clever when I found out about the dead brother. But Barney as a killer? I might have thought so before, but today it felt all wrong. I could see Barney doctoring an SEC license, but not killing Deborah. He was lusty, not bloodthirsty. Besides, I was sure that Simone did it.


Jimmy rubbed my shoulder. "You okay?"


"No," I said, "I'm in shock."


"Me, too," he said. "Can we go back downstairs?"


"We can ask," I said. "Is Harriet likely to come for me again?"


Jimmy lifted my chin and took a good look at my scratches. He shook his head. "Not bad for an old broad," he said.


Depends," I said.


"On what?"


"On which side of these scratches you're on," I said. "From my vantage point, they hurt like a son of a bitch."


"We'd better get you cleaned up," Jimmy said.


We got permission to clean me up after the officer had called the request in to his chief. Jimmy walked me down to the Ladies Room, soaped up a paper towel, and carefully cleaned my wounds. They still hurt but at least I knew I wouldn't get infected.


Becky had offered her makeup again, but I shook my head. Maybe pain would be good for my soul. Harriet had been right about one thing. What happened was all my fault. Barney wouldn't have been captured without my helpful telephone call. And my prior relationship with a cop. What on earth had I done?


Jimmy held my hand and squeezed it. "Does this have anything to do with yesterday's research?" he asked.

"The less you know, the less you'll have to tell Karlson," I said.


"Okay. Is this the part where you reign triumphant, My Queen?"


I looked at Jimmy and rolled my eyes for his benefit. "To quote another queen of my acquaintance, 'Off with her head.'"

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