Chapter Sixty-Seven

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Ten minutes later, I parked on a side street under a big elm. As I got out, I realized this was the exact place the Swede had parked when he and Otto found the secret door. Strange coincidence.

I scanned the street, but Jimmy's car wasn't evident. Lots of other side streets, I figured. The sky was dark, so I walked under the streetlights until I came to the corner that joined our parking lot. I walked across the brightly illuminated lot and let myself in with the key.

As expected, all the lights were off.

"Hello?" I said.

"I'm down here," Jimmy said.

Without the overhead lights to guide me, I was a little worried about how I'd get down the stairs. Finally, by hanging on to both handrails, I made it down to the basement level. Jimmy's door was closed, but I could see the halo of light around the doorframe.

I opened the door. "I'm here," I said.

Jimmy sat at his desk. He wore a truly ugly Hawaiian shirt in rust and green. His coat hung on the back of his chair.

"Did you park on a side street?" Jimmy said.

"Greet much?" I said.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Hello, Paulette, are you well?"

"Yes," I said. "I parked on a side street."

"Good show."

"So?" I stood just inside his office.

"So," Jimmy said.

He didn't move from the desk. This was more awkward than I expected. When I played the scene out in my head, Jimmy met me at the door, swept me into his arms, and things progressed rapidly from there.

"Could I get a kiss?" I said.

"Of course," Jimmy said. He swiveled his chair toward me but didn't get up.

I walked over, leaned against the client side of his desk, and bent forward. I hoped an eyeful of cleavage would give him ideas.

"Kiss me, You Fool," I said.

Jimmy swiveled forward and touched my lips with his. Then he pulled away. Clearly, someone felt a bit shy. I grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him up and out of his chair and into my embrace. This time my tongue did the tango in his mouth. When he sat back down, there was no doubt as to my intentions.

"Uh, Paulette," Jimmy said, "I need to ask a favor."

"I'm way ahead of you," I said.

Maybe he merely needed a little encouragement. I put my purse on Jimmy's desk and dropped to my knees in front of his chair. I reached for the button on Jimmy's pants with nimble fingers of my own, and in seconds I had his pants unbuttoned and unzipped. I was about to pull at his boxer shorts when he found his voice.

"A computer favor, Paulette."

I didn't stop. "I can do that afterward," I said. My fingers reached into his shorts.

Jimmy's big hands came down and pulled mine up and away. "I'd like the favor now, please," he said.

I stood and looked at him. "What the hell is going on?" I said.

"I might ask you the same question."

I leaned against his desk. "Okay, I'll bite," I said. "I thought we were picking up where we left off yesterday. When you said 'exciting,' I naturally assumed . . ."

"Oh," Jimmy said. He managed to zip and button himself while still sitting in the chair. "I'm sorry, Paulette," he said. "I really need a computer favor. Can we take a rain check on the other?"

"The other?" I said. "So you called me over here to do some God-damned computer trick? That's our date?"

Jimmy had the grace to blush. "Yes," he said.

"You know what?" I said. "This can wait until Monday."

I picked up my purse, slung it over my shoulder, and headed to the door.

Jimmy stood up, too. "Actually, the favor can't wait," he said. "I really need you to do this for me. Now."

I glanced up at him. Standing, he had me by seven inches, but I had the pounds on him. I folded my arms across my chest.

"Going to try and make me?" I said.

His hands came to rest on my shoulders. "Please, Paulette," he said. "I know I'm an idiot, but I really need your help."

I put my purse down again. He was right. He was an idiot, but he was my idiot. "Okay," I said.

Jimmy finally expressed an emotion. His sigh of relief was so breezy that the hair on his forehead fluttered. "Thank you, Paulette," he said. "Bless you."

"I'll expect big kudos when I'm done," I said. "What's the computer trick that you can't do yourself?"

"I need you to erase a record from the database," he said.

This went directly against company policy. The system self-deleted records after a certain period. If clients were contacted three times in a year and chose not to buy, the system purged them at year-end. Jimmy knew that. What was he up to?

"What record?" I said.

"That woman I called yesterday, Selma Douglas."

"Who?" I said.

Jimmy sat down in his chair. I began to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was it a coincidence that I texted Simone about that name and now Jimmy needed me to delete it? Not bloody likely. What had I done?

No wonder everything felt wrong since I'd arrived. Simone had to be here somewhere, but where? Jimmy stared at his hands, so I took a step closer to the door. Maybe I could still get us both out of here.

"She called me," he said. "That woman called and asked to have her file closed. She doesn't want to be bothered again."

"Oh, I get it," I said. "She must have been upset about all the money the Princess lost for her. I'll bet she was pissed." I took another step toward the door.

I turned my back on Jimmy and reached for the doorknob when I heard Simone's voice behind me.

"Pissed?" she said. "You have no idea."

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