as she got nearer to the two blue uniforms, jennifer began to regret her decision to approach them. what a pair, she thought, they look like a rattlesnake and a mole. but she smiled bravely at the one with the corporal's badge.
"good evening, citizen," country girl spoke before jennifer could.
"come to give yourself up?" she pointed to the green van. "the door is unlocked. climb in, find yourself a good seat, and we won't handcuff you until we're ready to leave. how does that sound?"
jennifer kept the smile on her face. "maybe you know me."
"i don't think so."
"i'm jennifer broughton. perhaps you've heard of me? i have billions of fans."
country girl and leslie looked at each other.
"romance novels," said leslie.
"oh. i don't read that garbage myself, but i've heard the name." country girl turned back to jennifer. "romance novels are illegal."
"oh but i personally haven't been declared an outlaw - not officially," jennifer answered with a smile.
"and i'm still welcome in some of the best homes."
"only some of the best homes?"
jennifer laughed. "good one. very witty."
country girl thought for a few seconds. "do you have some i d to show you really are this person?"
"well, i was doing research, and when i do research i leave my i d -"
"get in the van, please." country girl started to walk away.
'wait," said leslie. she came up to jennifer. "i like that coat, jennifer. a little worn, a little out of style, but i like it." leslie turned to country girl. "i'm going to give this prisoner some special interrogation."
"don't take too long. i'll take this side over here, you take that one."
leslie looked up at jennifer as country girl walked away. "relax, jennifer, i'm sure we can work something out here." she took the pockets of jennifer's coat and shook them.
"i don't carry a lot of loose change." she had actually spent it on her research but was she going to explain that to this horrible creature?
"not a problem. how about the purse?"
"nothing of value, i assure you."
"i'll believe you. how did you get here, jennifer, i don't suppose you walked."
"i had a driver, but he seems to have disappeared."
"probably a good move for him personally." leslie was unbuttoning the buttons of jennifer's coat.
"it's a little cold tonight," jennifer said.
"a little. i like the coat, but i really, really like this dress."
leslie fingered it. "you don't see material this good any more. ready to deal, jennifer?"
"i - i -"
"the coat and the dress for your freedom. straight up."
"you want me to send you my coat and dress?'
"no. let's not waste time here, jennifer." leslie looked straight into her eyes and jennifer noticed for the first time that she had a toothpick in the corner of her disgusting little mouth.
"take the coat off, take the dress off, and then you can head off between those two buildings over there. i don't think there are any police there - yet.
you can get right out to highway 25 and do your best work to get yourself a ride."
"ill be in my undies."
"it might help you get a ride. somebody will feel sorry for you."
"running will warm you up. let's go, jennifer, i haven't got all night, i'm supposed to be chasing bad guys."
jennifer took the coat off and handed it to leslie. she started to get out of the dress.
"you can run better without the shoes," leslie said.
"you didn't say anything about the shoes!"
"fine, keep them, they don't look that great anyway. but i like those undies."
"you can keep them, you can keep them, a deal is deal."
"you call this a deal -"
"jennifer, if i was a bad person, i'd take your stuff and arrest you too."
leslie took the dress and wrapped it up inside the coat.
"those two buildings, right over there. have a nice rest of the night."
"ohh! " jennifer raced off and leslie watched to make sure she headed in the right direction.
then she took the bundle and stuffed it in a compartment under the passenger seat of the van.
lillian stopped as soon as she noticed the green van coming up behind her in the fog. she walked right up to it when it stopped and opened the passenger door. she already had a couple of i d coins in her hand and she handed them to martindale without a word, across the lap of the terrified artie.
martindale looked at both sides of both coins and then put one of them into a slot in the dashboard. then she carefully read the little screen when it lit up.
lillian watched impatiently but didn't say anything. in the silence lillian and martindale could hear artie's heart pounding. finally martindale took the coin out and without checking the second one, handed both back to lillian.
"thank you," martindale said, "would it be major - colonel - ?"
"citizen, citizen is cool."
"thank you, citizen. " martindale nodded and began to face forward.
"don't offer me a ride or anything like that."
"i'm afraid we are all filled up."
"regulations prohibit three in a cab, except in emergencies. and we are all filled up in back, too."
"ah. well if you don' t want to let me squeeze in, just let this guy go. he isn't even handcuffed."
"but i wanted to question him about - "
"let him go."
martindale looked at artie, "it looks like this is your lucky night, young man."
"lucky! but my friend got killed - "
lillian grabbed artie by the back of his collar and yanked him out of the seat and on to the sidewalk on his back. then she got into the cab.
"go ahead," she told martindale.
"you won't hit him."
martindale started up and they moved off.
"can't you go any faster than this? the fog isn't that bad."
martindale speeded up.
'that's better. i'm not really in much of a hurry." lillian laughed.
" i just don't like going slow."
"where am i taking you?"
"north. just keep going north until i tell you to stop.
it's not that far. i was prepared to walk if i had to.
am i taking you out of your way?"
"i don't know. we haven't gone there yet."
"true. what's your name by the way?"
"corporal martindale, citizen, from the 1473rd."
"matrindale, 1473rd. you're cool, martindale, you have a very thorough and professional manner.
i'll commend you to your superiors. if i remember to do it."
"not much of a talker, though, are you?"
"i am. i talk too much. it's frequently been the cause of my undoing." lillian looked out the window. the fog was getting thicker but martindale didn't slow down. "i'm sorry if i snapped at you a little back there. i'm a little jumpy tonight. i don't know why. like i said, i'm not even in a hurry."
tania began putting away the folders she had been looking at, slamming them shut.
"i didn't mean anything," annabelle told her. "relax."
tania didn't answer.
"you should relax once in a while. like me. you think i was really all that interested in the paintings and such this afternoon? i was relaxing. you should try it some time."
"i got a call for backup on a surveillance detail. i offered to take it myself. what's the big problem here?"
"none, i guess. have a nice rest of the night."
tania got up and left. she started to slam the door, then carefully closed it behind her. annabelle shook her head and put down the file she had been looking at.
"you took long enough," margot told snuffy when she returned with the two coffees.
"i hope they're still hot."
"they're too hot to begin with." snuffy put the two containers down on margo's desk and picked up a pad of scribbled over paper.
"so what took you so long?"
"i got into a conversation in the cafeteria." snuffy picked up a pencil and sat down.
"come on, snuffy, having secrets from me is not part of your job description."
"i was talking to olivia, the duc d'otrante's assistant."
"really? i'm sure you had a lot to talk about. having so much in common and all. "
"is it true that she was the real brains behind the waterfront gang?"
margot laughed, "i hope you didn't ask her that."
"of course not."
"what was the first thing i told you when i brought you in here?"
"not to believe everything i heard."
"no , not to believe - anything - you heard. it's still good advice, better than ever."
snuffy took a careful sip of her coffee.
"i see you still have a full cup. were you so engrossed with your new sib that you didn't drink any downstairs?"
"i got another cup."
"we do have a budget here."