Chapter Sixty-three

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I was pretty upset by the turn of events at the PSB, so the moment I left, I made a beeline for the nearest Beef-A-Roo. Auburn Street. After a double cheeseburger, giant Cherry Pepsi, and large cheese fries, I stopped at a nearby convenience store for dessert—a bag of Brach's Bridge Mix. In my life, the grease food group inevitably leads to the chocolate food group.

But eating so much comfort food in so short a time gave me a stomachache instead of the solace I sought. I ended up in bed in my mother's house with a hot water bottle clutched to my belly. My stifled moans were merely incidental.

The only advantage I could see in my present condition was that Thursday was the Swede's bowling night, so he wouldn't be home to see me suffer. I could writhe on my couch bed for as long as I wanted to and fall asleep whenever I felt like it. Mom skipped her TV shows for the night. No Glee for anybody.

I fell asleep early and woke up late. My mother shook me awake before she went to work and told me that Jimmy had called the night before. Even if I hadn't been asleep, I wouldn't have talked to him.

At 10 a.m., I vowed to drag myself to work no matter what it cost me. I suppose I could have called in to explain my tardiness, but who was there to call? Barney had been hauled off to jail. Harriet turned herself in. Was I supposed to call Becky now? I could barely look at her.

How could I have been so wrong about so many people? Little Becky, my blond chia pet, slept around on her husband? And with Will Jaffarian of all people? Ewww. He was so slick that she should have slid off him at the critical moment.

And Princess Deborah? How could she have cheated on her long-suffering fiancé with the likes of Barney? I could vaguely understand her need to get out of Rockford, but I'd found Barney's Achilles heel without sleeping with him. And then compounding Barney's eww-factor with Will? I didn't get it.

I would never consider myself a prude, but here I was agonizing about whether or not to bed Jimmy while my coworkers were trading partners faster than square dancers at a convention. Was I insane or were they?

And the only other person who had managed to keep her knickers on throughout had sent me poison pen letters and torched my apartment. Her rationale being that I was having an affair with Barney, the man she worshipped. If I was this atrocious at judging character, the Swede was about to be featured as Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

Moreover, because of me, Barney landed in jail. Sure, I'd thought vaguely that he might be the murderer, the same way you figure your chances of being hit by a meteor—there's a possibility but it's more likely to happen to somebody else.

Now, when I thought about Barney as the murderer, it seemed ludicrous. Barney was more of a wheeler-dealer than a killer. For one thing, he seemed to not take anything that seriously. Sex was a mere roll in the hay, while love was the woman who patiently forbore such indiscretions. Even wealth was simply talking somebody else out of his money.

As I dressed for work, it occurred to me that Barney was too selfish to kill anyone. He loved his life and didn't want to give it up. He disliked change and didn't seem desperate enough to risk upsetting his routines. Could a guy who laughed at his own Big Head / Little Head foibles be arrogant enough to kill someone and figure he wouldn't get caught? I didn't think so. My money was still on Simone, even if Odin didn't believe me.

Despite the workday dress code, I opted for my new jeans and my other new blouse. It wasn't as if any clients were due in. Since I had to drive through McDonald's for a couple of breakfast burritos and a diet soda, I didn't actually get to the office until 11 a.m.

The lights were on but the door was locked. I had a key, so I let myself in. Becky wasn't at her desk. My guess was she'd stayed home. The lights also appeared to be on in the basement, but I wasn't going down there all by my lonesome.

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