I scrunched down in the front seat of Bitsy’s MINI Cooper as well as I could. The car was made for a little person, not for someone almost six feet tall.
As far as I knew, no one had followed me.
But then I had a thought: What if they demanded Bitsy stay and be “monitored,” too? Just so they could avoid a lawsuit?
A little flaw in what we’d thought was a perfect plan.
My leg fell asleep, and when I moved it, pins and needles tickled my muscles. I wondered what time it was; Leslie had taken my watch along with my earrings. I rubbed my ear-lobes. They were naked.
Ah, brilliant idea. I shimmied around and stuck the keys in the ignition, turning it until the clock lit up like a Christmas tree.
I debated turning on some music but decided against it in case someone came by and heard it and wondered why the radio was on in a car that was apparently empty.
I counted the seconds and watched the numbers slowly change on the clock. One minute, two minutes, three minutes… This was going to get old really fast.
Footsteps outside. I peered up at the window and saw a hand reaching for the door. Every muscle got tighter.
Bitsy climbed in and gave me a grin as she put on her seat belt and turned over the engine.
“You look like origami gone bad,” she said.
“How’d it go?” I asked, ignoring her.
“Oh, I made a fuss, then got up and showed them my miraculous recovery.” She paused and looked down at me. “Dr. Bixby saw you leave.”
“How do you know?”
“He walked me to the elevator and said if you show any symptoms at all, you have to come back. He also said he’d have to alert the authorities.”
Either he was on my side or he wasn’t. He couldn’t be on the fence. That didn’t bode well. Especially since “the authorities” would undoubtedly be Frank DeBurra, who was already mad at me because I hadn’t yet answered any of his questions.
Bitsy stopped at the garage cashier and handed over a few dollars.
“I expect to get reimbursed,” she said grimly as we pulled out into the sunshine.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said and started to stretch out.
“Not yet,” Bitsy warned as the car turned.
Sirens sounded from somewhere.
“They’re behind us,” she said.
“How far back?”
“Are you sure they’re after us?”
“No. But I don’t want to do anything that would make them suspicious, so stay low and I’ll take care of it.”
Bitsy was very good at taking care of things, but she also could take things too far. As I felt the car speed up, I got a little worried.
“I can lose them,” Bitsy muttered to herself.
The car turned this way and that, and I had to hold on to the center console to keep from getting bumped around. I gazed longingly at the seat belt that dangled just over my head. The pins and needles were worse now.
A few more turns and we could no longer hear the sirens.
“I think you can get up now,” Bitsy said.
Easier said than done. I finally managed to get into the seat, reaching over my arm for the seat belt and securing it.
I didn’t recognize where we were. It looked as though we were in an alleyway.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“You’ll know soon enough.”
I knew better than to question her further.
Finally she pulled up against the curb and stopped the car. She turned to me.
“Do you think you can find Charlotte?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t think she killed that guy, do you?” Bitsy asked.
I’d briefly asked myself the same question but pushed it aside. I’d seen Wesley Lambert’s body and its environs. It seemed as though he’d just died from getting sick from the ricin. Nothing had been mentioned about the possibility of him being murdered. “No.” I paused. “I don’t know how long I’ll be.” I thought about my clients. “Can you reschedule my afternoon?”
Bitsy smiled. “Already did. And I’m not kidding about the raise.”
“And you’ll have to pay me back.”
“Two dollars for parking?”
She was handing me a bunch of bills. “You’re going to need something so you can get around.”
I took it, quickly counting out fifty bucks. “Thanks. You’ll get everything back and then some.”
She smiled. “I know. Call later and let us know what’s up.”
I got out of the car, then leaned down and asked, “Where are we, anyway?”
“In a safe place,” she said.
I shut the door and she took off. I watched the back end of the MINI Cooper until it turned right and out of sight.
Looking around, I suddenly became aware of a stink that was emanating from a Dumpster just a few feet away. Mixed in with it was the odor of Chinese food. Steam was pouring out of a vent in the building to my left. A Mexican guy wearing a stained white chef’s coat was sitting on a plastic milk crate and smoking a cigarette, talking to a guy who had his back to me. Smoke curled up from the cigarette dangling from the guy’s fingers.
The salt-and-pepper buzz cut and the ink on his arms told me where I was.
In the alley behind Murder Ink.