Chapter Sixty

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Karlson arrived a half-hour later as I extracted the zingers from my lunch bag.


"We need to talk," he said.


I didn't even blink. "Lieutenant, if I don't consume these zingers immediately, my blood sugar will drop, and I could pass out," I said.


"A little melodramatic," he said. "If you didn't want to share, all you had to say was 'No'."


I opened the package and took a bite of the first zinger. "Okay," I said. "No."


"Fine," Karlson said, "You're last."


Three hours later, Karlson had gone through Jimmy, Becky, and Will. Will had wandered in before the interviews began. Karlson nabbed him first. Once he'd been questioned, Will was escorted down to the PSB. Becky had come out crying after her time with Karlson.


Jimmy had been told not to talk to me.


That left Harriet, who was currently being grilled. She came out of Barney's office, Karlson's impromptu interview room, and was immediately escorted home by the last officer on site. Karlson came to get me himself.


"My, my, my," he said, once he was ensconced in Barney's executive chair and I in the client chair once again. As he sat behind the wide expanse of black walnut, he looked smug and irrevocable . . . like Death.


"Does anybody in this office work?" he asked.


I raised my eyebrows. "Yes, actually. Why? What are they supposed to be doing?"


Karlson leaned forward in Barney's chair. "You really don't know what's going on, do you, Paulette?"


Today, the lieutenant pissed me off in record time. I shook my head. "No, Lieutenant," I said. "I don't know shit. I leave anonymous voicemail messages and then wait for all hell to break loose."


He didn't like that. I'd taken all the fun out of his revelations. His full lips formed themselves into a frown. "Back to business it is, Paulette," he said. "Your tip panned out. It's his dead brother's name but Barney's fingerprints with the SEC."


"And that means what?" I asked.


Karlson leaned back in the chair. For a second, I thought he was going to put his feet up on the desk, like Barney had.


"For starters, it's a federal offense to mislead the SEC," he said. "It seems that under Franklin, his real name, Barney did a little insider trading. When he got caught, he turned State's evidence. Barney promised to never apply for another broker's license, and the other guy went to prison."


"Is that it?"


The lieutenant frowned even more. I guess I wasn't listening to him with awed respect shining in my eyes. "You know that isn't it," he said. "You know I suspect him for the murder. Everything fits."


"How?"


"For one thing, he had an affair with Deborah Alston."


My mouth dropped open. "No," I said, shocked.


Karlson's eyes sparkled. He'd been saving that one. "Oh yes, Paulette," he said. "I have it confirmed from two sources."


"Who?"


Karlson batted his baby blues. He was truly enjoying his new role as Mr. Know-It-All. "Let's say that one source got it from the horse's mouth," he said.


"From the Princess? Impossible," I said. "She didn't talk to anyone here."


Karlson started to chuckle. Clearly, there was more to the story. "I guess no one actually needed to talk, Paulette. It's more about the body language."


My eyes bugged out. "Somebody else?"


Karlson nodded. "Her pool of dance partners is pretty small," I said, "unless she was a switch hitter."


Karlson smiled, and it wasn't friendly. "Lover Boy is safe," he said. "You and he seem to be the only ones around here not enjoying carnal knowledge of one another."


How the hell did Karlson know whether we had or hadn't? Oh yeah, he'd already grilled Jimmy. Great.


"Will?" I said.


"Ms. Alston seems to have been keeping pretty busy."


"What does Barney say?"


Karlson sat up straight again. "I haven't asked him yet."


"You're letting him sit in jail?"


Karlson's smile became more of a smirk. "In my work, Paulette, I find it useful to allow suspects to cool their heels."


"So you don't really have anything," I said.


"Actually, I've got probable cause and a whole bunch of search warrants," Karlson said. "Thanks to you."


"But what if he didn't do it?"


"That's not the most important question for you to ask yourself," Karlson said. "Your most important question is how you're going to resolve a few little difficulties here at work."


"Such as?" I said.


"Such as how your buddy the receptionist is going to deal with the fact that her lover, Will, plans to leave her for your friend, Claudia Elaine."


"Becky?" I said. "Little Becky?"


Karlson got up and walked around the desk but gestured for me to remain seated. He leaned against the front of the desk and glanced down at me. He reached forward and traced my scratches with an index finger. "You and Harriet have a great deal in common," he said.


With that, he patted me on the shoulder and walked out the door. The Sleuth King had left the building.

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