Chapter Sixty-one

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Siren-red stilettos were chasing me and trying to draw blood with their four-inch heels. My alarm broke in about the time that the shoe posse had me pinned to the bed in my old apartment while flames licked the sheets. It was a relief to simply open my eyes.


Breakfast was French toast. My mother wouldn't be going into work until noon because she had a doctor's appointment. The Swede sat in the kitchen, mostly drinking his coffee in silence.


They both had already seen the morning paper. Barney's picture was page one in the Rockford Register Star. I ate in silence, occasionally slurping my coffee. I didn't want to talk about it, and they hesitated to ask.


I'd talked to Claudie last night on the phone and shared Odin's insights. Okay, I skipped the part about Will and Becky. I needed to get in the middle of C's bedroom frolics like I needed a hole in my head. C knew somebody, probably an old lover, who could search all the legal databases on his laptop, so I asked her to check what Simone's maiden name had been. Late, late she texted that Simone's maiden name was DuPre. Exactly my damn luck.


In the middle of my silent routine at Mom's house, the telephone rang. My mother picked it up, listened for 30 seconds, then handed it to me.


"Ms. Goddard," Lieutenant Greenberg's voice said, "the pleasure of your company is required yet again at the Public Safety Building."


I sighed. "Remind him that we spoke yesterday," I said.


I could hear Greenberg cover the telephone with his hand and murmur something.


"He says to tell you that he needs to speak with you again, today, in person."


I sighed heavily for emphasis. "What time?" I said. "I've got to make arrangements with my supervisor."


"Ms. Goddard, your supervisor is already here."


"Harriet?"


"We need to see you as soon as you can get here," Greenberg said. Click.


I returned to the breakfast table and helped myself to another slice of French toast. The Swede clanked his cup against the saucer. I looked at him and frowned, daring him to ask me something. My mother wasn't that easily cowed.


"Is there a problem, Dear?"


I didn't glance up from my plate. "Karlson says he needs to see me. Again. For some reason, Harriet, the office manager, is already there."


"I'm sure she's only doing her civic duty, Honey," my mother said. "She was very sweet on the telephone."


I rewarded my mother with a frown. "And she was even more charming when she scraped her fingernails across my cheek," I said.


Last night I'd explained the scratches to her, as well as Barney, Harriet, my coworkers—even my responsibility for the whole thing. Couldn't she remember from one day to the next?


"I'm sure it's all a misunderstanding," she had said.


That was my mother's answer to evil in the world. All just some terrible misunderstanding.


"Caroline," the Swede interrupted with some miscellaneous busy work for my mother right in the middle of my conversation with her, "I put the fuse in your car."


"Oh," my mother said. "I left it in the other room." As usual, she ran off to do his bidding.


Once my mother was out of the room, the Swede looked at me. "I go with you downtown," he said.


I glanced up. "What?"


"The lieutenant does not look out for you," he said, flicking a finger in the direction of my face. "Your mother, she worries."


"I can take care of myself," I said.


The Swede held up five splayed digits on one big hand and began counting them off one by one. "The paper shredder, the notes, the fire, these scratches. . . ."


Okay, my safety rating had dropped a few dozen points in the last six months, but I was still the Lone Ranger—except for Claudie in the role of Tonto.


"And you would protect me how?" I asked.


He shrugged his shoulders. "I look. I listen."


In a way, I was touched. The Swede actually cared, or had my mother put him up to it? Love me, love my dog . . . and my kid.


I shook my head. "I'm out of it," I said. "Karlson thinks he bagged the killer. I'm safe."


"And you think?"


My mother swept back into the room flushed with her success. She held up her right hand. "I've got the fuse," she said. Now Olaf needed to put it in her car, as he'd offered earlier.


I got up. "I think I need to go chat with Odin," I said.


Without a backward glance, I walked out the front door and got into my car. I hadn't even packed a lunch. Today, I might need the extra calming energy of Beef-a-Roo's cheese fries.

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