Chapter Sixty-four

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Though I hadn't a clue as to my employment future, I felt that I already owed Jimmy a healthy lunch at Mary's Market. So we pulled into a free spot in their East State Street parking lot. For coffee and pastry, I preferred the Edgebrook branch, but for lunch the main restaurant was the place to be.

We were seated immediately at a nice table near the window that faced East State Street. Jimmy went for the passion fruit iced tea while I stuck with water. Since I'd eaten the breakfast burritos, I didn't want to do anything further to upset my stomach. My conflicting emotions were doing that all by themselves.

"Is he right about the Rockford office?" I asked.

Jimmy gazed out the window and smiled. "Will doesn't know shit," he said. "He only talks as if he does. Nothing can or will be done until Karlson is finished with Barney."

"Okay," I said, "it's just. . . ."

"Just what?"

"I don't want to let you go."

Jimmy reached over to touch my hand. "You don't have to, Paulette. I'm not going anywhere."

"But you don't know that," I said.

He took my hand in his. "What? We work at the only brokerage house in Rockford," he said. "There are other jobs for me here, Paulette."

I would have tried to argue the point for form's sake, but the waitress arrived with our drinks. She also wanted our lunch order.

As expected, Jimmy went for the spicy pasta sans meat. I, on the other hand, went for a plain ham and havarti sandwich on wheat with aioli potato salad instead of chips. Jimmy didn't notice that I was turning over a new leaf.

"I want to tell you about this strange telephone call I had this morning," Jimmy said.

"Really? What?" I thought that his long face looked absolutely Byronic in the soft sunshine. A shadow from the Venetian blinds crossed his face at the nose and made his eyes seem even more deep-set and serious than usual.

"I called the telephone number for this client, but I got some temp agency instead," he said. He brushed his fingers through his hair, and again put his hand on top of mine. I noticed that the hair on his wrist grew along the back of his hand almost to his fingers.

"I hung up."

I looked up from his wrist to his face. "Go on," I said.

"I thought I'd got the wrong number, so I dialed it again. Only I got the same temp agency."

"Which one was it?" I said.

I rubbed the hair on Jimmy's wrist with my index finger. The hair felt soft and fuzzy.

"A+ Temps," Jimmy said. "Isn't that the one you worked for?"

"Yes," I said. "A+ so the name would be first in the telephone listings."

I wondered how Jimmy could get his stretchy watch band on and off without catching his wrist hair in it.

"What happened then?" I said.

"I asked for the client. Her name is Selma Douglas, and the receptionist put me on hold."

"Maybe it's somebody who works there," I said.

Jimmy shook his head. "I don't think so," he said, "I checked her account history. She used to have some serious cash, but she lost it all on worthless penny stocks."

"Penny stocks? Wait. Those are so volatile that they aren't even listed on the major stock exchanges, right?"

"Yeah," Jimmy said. "If you're smart and very lucky, you can make some money on them. But our firm avoids them."

Because our food arrived then, the next few minutes were taken up with eating.

"So what happened with the client call?" I said.

Jimmy wiped the red sauce from his chin, but he missed a drip at the corner of his mouth. "Some woman picked up and asked what I wanted."

He licked the sauce from the corner of his mouth with a quick in and out stroke that reminded me of the motion of his tongue in my mouth when we were kissing. Which reminded me in turn of the feel of that same tongue on my nipples. A surge of desire sizzled through me like a lightning bolt.

It must have shown on my face because Jimmy said, "Paulette? Are you feeling all right?"

I turned toward the window. Then I nodded at Jimmy, and under my breath I said "Nothing a cold shower wouldn't cure."

Jimmy leaned forward and scrunched up his face as if trying desperately to hear what I mumbled.

"I'll tell you later," I said. "What did the woman say at my former temp agency?"

Jimmy gave me a goofy smile and nudged my foot under the table. Maybe he'd heard me after all.

"She let me do my spiel about my name and the firm's name and that I took over Deborah's accounts," he said, "but as I'm about to ask her if we can set up an appointment, she says she's not interested and hangs up."

"Damn," I said, "that's harsh."

Jimmy took another bite of spaghetti and swallowed it. "I got the sense that she couldn't get me off the phone fast enough once she heard the name of the firm," he said.

"How much money did she lose?"

"Looks like upwards of fifty-thousand bucks."

"On penny stocks?"

"I know," Jimmy said, "I thought Deborah was a better broker than that."

I chuckled. "If I'd been that client, I would have yelled at you for a while because I was pissed."

"Me, too," Jimmy said. "Now what was that business about cold showers?"

And for the better part of an hour, Jimmy Dolan regaled me with the many and varied amenities one might find in a rented room. He knew we weren't about to look for one anytime soon, but he managed to make me laugh all the same.

Back at work, Will was in his office on the telephone, and Jimmy left me to do the same. I turned on the computer at my desk, plugged in my headset, and logged into Spotify. Time for some tunes.

Two hours later, Will had already left for the day. He was done calling all the clients on his list. Jimmy was taking Kate to another scary movie, so he kissed me quickly and loped up the stairs. He'd offered to include me, but my life was already too scary.

Besides, he was going to call more clients in the morning, so he could justify leaving early. I couldn't, especially not after trying to seduce a co-worker smack in the middle of the work day.

It wasn't dark outside yet, but I didn't feel comfortable being in the office alone. Something about finding a body under your desk will do that to you. I planned to stick it out until five o'clock on the dot and then I was gone.

I was still doing some busywork that probably wouldn't matter once our branch was closed when it occurred to me that Selma Douglas started with the very same letters as Simone DuPre. It couldn't be that easy, could it?

Selma Douglas was a client of the firm, so I didn't need to check the database for that information.

Hmmm. Maybe I needed to rattle somebody's cage. I had Simone's cell on speed dial, so I texted her. The upshot was simple as was the message: "Did u change ur name from Selma Douglas?"

Unlike Barney, Simone had approximately 50,000 reasons to want the Princess dead.

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