Five minutes had passed since Chloe had tried to place the call to her job in Washington. As she lowered the receiver toward the telephone cradle, she faintly heard “Personnel, Mr. Wimpledink.”
Chloe rammed the receiver onto her ear. She began her rehearsed sob story, “Hello Mr. Wimpledink, this is Chloe Lambert. I’m in North Carolina, my mother’s had a stroke and I must tend to her while she convalesces. It’s…it’s too early for a prognosis.” Chloe sniffled. “I need a leave of absence…my landlady will come and get my last check on pay day.” Please let him believe this big fat lie…
Right on queue, he was sympathetic, “I’m so very sorry to hear that Miss Lambert. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, I don’t even know if…if I can help her now.” Her voice trembled.
“I understand. I can give you about a month, but after that I cannot guarantee that we will continue to pick up your slack—you understand.”
“Yes…yes I do. Thank you. Good-bye.” Stunned, she hung up the phone. That had gone too well, no mention of…
Rubbing her ear, Chloe shouldered the swinging the door open and left the kitchen. Hungry people stuffed the bakery. The bell tinkled as people entered and left. She scanned the crowd. Unfortunately, not one soldier was in the bunch. “Can I be of some help to you, Mister Grogan?”
“Oh no, don’t bother yerself one bit Snow White. Go. Have some sunshine.”
“The sunshine will wait. I need to find a job first. Anything at all will do.” The sooner the better. I need to assimilate into Miami Beach and my fresh start.
Paddy filled two boxes with assorted doughnuts and shoved them in her arms. “1500 Collins Avenue—the bank. Tell the manager I sent ye.”
Chloe carried the heavenly smelling boxes outside. The skies were partly cloudy, mostly bright blue. With the morning breeze blowing through her hair, Chloe felt pretty. As she waited on the corner to cross the street, she snuck a chocolate frosted doughnut from the top box. A long convoy of army trucks trudged along. By the time she’d made it to the bank, two more doughnuts had gone AWOL.
The short and bald gourd nosed guard smiled as he held the door open for her. “Take them to Mr. DuNoir, the last office on the left, miss.”
Chloe looked at his gold wedding ring. She wasn’t too disappointed he was taken. Just because I need a husband doesn’t mean I have to be stuck with an ugly one. He’s almost as ugly as that poor nun from the train. They could be siblings. Chloe walked through the small nearly empty bank. Locating the manager’s office, she knocked on the glass of the open door.
He smoothed his slicked back vanilla hair and beckoned her in.
She said, “Patrick Grogan sent me.” Chloe noticed his eyes. One was mud brown, the other ice blue. Averting her gaze, she put the boxes on his desk, shuffling the full one onto the top. A sense of familiarity sent her trying to conjure him up, but she couldn’t place him. And no way would she have forgotten those heterochromatic eyes. Ha, maybe that’s why he’s familiar. I remember that from the chapter on family traits in biology class. This whole town is déjà vu-ey.
His voice was inflectionless, “Well, that was fast work. Paddy is a dependable old Irishman. What’s your name? Any banking experience?”
Taken aback, Chloe smiled as she gave her name but denied previous work experience. There is no way I can use the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as a reference for a bank in Miami Beach. As soon as he called to check, my jig would kaboom.
“I’ve got a bachelor’s degree. In home economics.”
“The position of Girl-Friday will be yours on Monday. Report in promptly at 8:50 a.m., and be prepared to be flexibly bored, but continuously busy.”
* * * * *
In the White House, President Roosevelt propelled his way down the corridor, accompanied by his new Vice President, Harry S. Truman.
“Harry no. I won’t give him five minutes to waste my time on his pork rinds—I’ve got to get down to the Situation Room this morning and have a check on our boys in the Philippines. Last night I awoke with a little piece of strategy that just might save some lives down there.”
“Okay, I was only…”
“Harry, you shouldn’t even be here—and stay away from the secretary of state as well. We must separate the line of ascension. You need to go underground. And I’m making two cabinet members take vacations, on rotating shifts. Gotta preserve the office of the presidency. Doesn’t matter one hoot to the country whether it’s you or me or he, just so long as someone survives. Make arrangements with the army to hunker down in one of their caves in New Mexico until things cool off. Good morning Vera.”
Franklin wheeled himself backwards out of his Oval Office doorway. He stared at his secretary. “You’re not Vera.”
She stood and extended her right hand. “Hello sir. I’m Pamela Downs, your new secretary.”
He blinked with surprise. “What’ve you done with Vera? —Harry, what’s going on?”
The vice president flipped up his palms and shrugged.
Pamela Downs sat back down and responded in a cracking voice, squirming in her rolling chair. “Mr. President—Mrs. Blandings…took…took a position at our embassy in London.”
“What—? When—? Why didn’t she tell me?” The president swallowed hard.
“London… ?” His voice trailed off. He entered his office and slammed the door. Franklin rolled to the window, hyperventilating as he clinched his fists, then wiped his eyes. He observed the young marines patrolling the White House grounds. The president swiveled around to his desk, composed himself and punched the intercom button.
“Get your steno pad…Pamela, is it? Find out who’s in charge of those tunnels to the bomb shelter, in the event we need to evacuate congress…”
* * * * *
Chloe’s first week at the bank was quite hectic. She was forever running for coffee from the drugstore at the other end of the block. The food counter was in the rear of the store. As she stood in the ever-present line, her gaze always halted upon a pair of porcelain cherubs on the clearance table. It occurred to her that babies had to die in order for there to be cherubs in heaven. Chloe always shuddered and teared up. I’ll be so glad when they sell those.
Mr. DuNoir liked his coffee hot with double cream. She learned to ask for the cream separately. The diligent Girl-Friday stirred it in as she served him. That way the refrigerated cream didn’t cool it off as she waddled down the street.
When Chloe wasn’t fetching this or those, she sat at her cramped little table counting pennies. Bags and bags and bags of pennies. They never ceased to reproduce each other. Once in awhile a dime would weasel its way in. Between the copper and the steel pennies, and her eyes crossing, things got exasperating at times. Especially when some inconsiderate cad would walk by and blurt out a number, on purpose probably. She forgot where she was and had to begin again.
The bank only had one teller and Chloe didn’t notice many people coming and going. Well, with the war going on, and since the darned army had taken over, she guessed that would put a hurt on the banking business.
Perspiring profusely, Chloe knew her wool and tweed suits were out of place in this steamy climate. Not only that, but living over a bakery was fattening. She now had to loop a rubber band in the buttonhole of her skirt. She tied it, pulled it through and hooked it onto the button. She could only zip it half way up. Her untucked blouse covered the embarrassment. Chloe made a mental note to go shopping for a new wardrobe next week. Well, at least a new skirt or two. And I need to get introduced to some soldiers, right away.
* * * * *
A large corner office at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing possessed a panoramic view of Washington. Exotic plants framed the expansive glass windows. Mrs. Dolly Grogan put her hand over her mouth and nose because of the unpleasant odors they emitted. She walked around a massive desk to peruse the ornately framed oil paintings on the walls. Portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin stared back at her with quiet dirty looks.
The director of personnel, Myron Wimpledink, returned from a morning meeting. He kissed her chubby cheek. “Hello Sis. What brings you ‘round?”
“Hi Ronny. I’ve come to fetch Miss Lambert’s paycheck and deposit it for her.”
“—Oh yes. She phoned me. Her poor mother—.” Myron unlocked his desk drawer and thumbed through some envelopes. He handed Chloe's paycheck to his sister.
“I’ll go right strait down to the bank now…by the way, how’re our zinc mines producing? Any more dividends?”
Myron’s face lit up. “Yes, Dolly, as a matter of fact, I have your cut ready—and—uh—you’ll be pleased to know that Miss Lambert also invested in our limited partnership. Would you mind depositing her monthly dividend as well?”
“I’d be delighted too. That poor girl…uh… what with her mother so sick and all.”
Myron closed the door to his office and unlocked a safe hidden behind Benjamin Franklin. He counted out two piles of currency. Wrapping a rubber band around the smaller stack, he handed it to his sister and said, “Here’s your cut.”
Her eyes grew big. “You are a financial genius, ‘Ronny. You oughta be one of the big wigs on Wall Street, don’t ya know.”
Myron opened his desk drawer and pulled out a larger rubber band. He bundled up the second pile. “This is to go into Miss Lambert’s account. She’s a working girl and was able to buy more shares.”
Dolly accepted the bundle, and fanned the ends of the bills with her thumb. She put the sheaf under her nose and inhaled the fresh scent of cash. Much nicer than the stink of his plants.
* * * * *
After work on a February Friday, Chloe mechanically headed home, never ending images of pennies clinking through her mind. Waiting to cross Lincoln Road, two hands covered her eyes from behind. Initially startled, she gathered her wits. Calm down Chloe girl, it’s Just some clown who wants to play.
The deep British voice was déjà vu-ish, but she didn’t want to place it. She picked up a strong scent of after-shave lotion. Sweetly lime, with some spice in it. Chloe heard the giggles of passersby and the steady flow of traffic.
“Stop it! Let me loose!” She pulled his arms down and swung around. Chloe immediately focused on those arms. Strong and well developed with little golden half-curls up to his bulging white short sleeves. His chest was above her head. Her heart raced as she moved on to his square shoulders. Before she looked up to see his clean shaven face, she already knew. He was Mike Taurus.
Mike opened his firm lips. His large slightly crooked two front teeth flooded her with memories.
He said, “Now don’t tell me you don’t remember me at all.”
Chloe’s heart was transported back in time. Oh, she would never forget him. Teeth, tongue and oh that soft beard, so perfectly groomed. And unfortunately, trouble and tears. She’d never been kissed like that by anyone before…or after. Mike Taurus was the God of Kisses. She’d often day dreamed of meeting up with him again, hoping she’d do everything right, if she ever got the chance again.
A bus honked. Chloe pulled herself together. “Taurus! What are you doing here…and what happened to your soft…to your beard?”
He flashed a superior grin at her “No—just what are you doing here Lambert? Did you forget you have a mission? Flitting off on holiday to the beach isn’t in your orders—you daft little bird. And there’s been this handy dandy new invention I came across, it’s called a razor.”
“I…I have personal reasons that made me leave. And I’m not going back…either. Hey, you’re not my supervisor anyhow! And you can’t make me.”
Her fight or flight mechanism kicked in. Adrenalin surging, Chloe ran though the traffic, against the light.
Mike’s long legs caught up with her. He said, “Perhaps you did—finish the case then? Found out who was doing the counterfeiting? Like maybe it was you?”
Tears ran down her cheeks as she tried to quicken her pace. “No! How dare you accuse me! You of all people know I’m…I’m a good girl!”
Taurus grabbed her arm and looked dead into her olive green doe eyes. “Oh yes, I certainly know just how good you are. Unfortunately for me. But your beloved virtue is beside the point here. Just what kind of an American are you, Lambert?”
Appalled, her tears turned to anger. “How dare you! I refuse to defend my patriotism to you.”
“Well you’d better come up with something on your way back to DC.”
“I’m not going!”
“You have to.”
Chloe wracked her brain as she tried to stall. “I’m not fit for the job. I…I have a medical problem.”
“Yeah, terminal virginity.”
She kicked him where he deserved it, and jumped into a taxi before the old lady in the backseat could close the door. Chloe scrambled across her lap and sat behind the driver.
Chloe commanded him to “Floor it!”
One block before the bakery, Chloe shouted, “Stop!”
She flung open the door and threw some change at the cabby, most of which fell on the startled old lady’s lap.
Chloe apologized, “Sorry Madame!” and slammed the door.
Satisfied that Taurus hadn’t caught up with her yet, hoping she’d shaken him, Chloe entered the bakery through the back alley. She heard the phone ringing. Great luck, this helped her to avoid Paddy. She raced up the stairs.
Paddy answered the phone, “Paddy-Cakes Bakery, this is ‘im.”
“Hi-ya Paddy, how’s muffins?”
“Muffins is rising high Dolly darlin’. What’s up with ye?”
“Me and Orpha went to see Holiday Inn finally, at the matinee. Shirley had some big date, so it was just the two of us glamour girls. Gorgeous costumes they wore. Anyhow, we strolled home past Blair House, that’s the official guest house of the White House, don’t ya know. We noticed all kinda fire trucks going in, then a helicopter came and went…have you seen one of them yet?”
“Yeah, between the naval base down in the Keys, and the army right here under my pimply Irish skin, I’ve seen it all.”
“So, Paddy, wooing any of them pretty, rich Jewish women down there… ?”
* * * * *
Chloe traversed the stairs two at a time. She fumbled with her key in the door lock. It opened. She headed straight into the bathroom. Paddy must be putting diuretics in those doughnuts, because that’s all I seem to be doing these days, running to the bathroom. She quickly did what needed doing.
Sprinting into the bedroom, she yanked the closet open and gasped. A sable coat hung on the back of the door. Okay Chloe girl, there’s a simple explanation for this. Maybe Mrs. Gee had it cleaned and sent for a surprise?
As Chloe pulled the fur off the hook, it clunked hard against the door. She stuck her hand in the right pocket and pulled out a revolver. With shaking hands, she laid the coat and gun on the bed and opened the curtains. She squinted at the serial number. “My service weapon!”
Picking the coat up, she dared to stick her hand in the left pocket, where she pulled out a red shoe heel. She heard the creak of her door as it flew open. Chloe grabbed her weapon and squatted behind the brass bed, aiming.
Mike Taurus slammed the door. He seized the rocking chair to shield his private parts, still smarting from her kick.
Something wasn’t right. Chloe didn’t feel well. She had a weird sensation, like fire rising from her flat feet, singeing her legs, torso, arms and neck, before engulfing her head. The rocker orbited the room, along with the raspberry sherbet sheets. Her stomach went along for the ride. “I’m gonna be sick. Need to get to…” The light rapidly dimmed. “…must see the sunball…I’m blind!”
Chloe lost consciousness. Vague voices penetrated the blackness. A long string of cuss words, and then she felt movement. She screamed in her own mind, I am a good girl. Why won’t they all just leave me alone?
The voices penetrated again, “Poor little Sleeping Beauty.”
“Ooof…she’s heavier than she looks.”
Chloe felt a bumping sensation. Rhythmic bumping and swaying. Different voices. Images of the rock hard river…falling in the snow…the frozen numbness of the ice…
* * * * *
Someone squeezed her hand. She opened her eyes.
“Nurse! She’s come to!”
Chloe realized she was lying in a bed with metal rails. Her legs were elevated. There was an army blanket at the foot of the bunk. She blinked and yawned. Where am I? Looking around, she saw two stacked footlockers serving as a bedside table. Grass cloth covered the walls. Pink flamingo motif drapes hung limply on the green louvered windows. This place looks like it was decorated by a committee consisting of a drill sergeant, a Bermudan housewife and a medical equipment supplier.
A whistle clean platinum blond smelling of rubbing alcohol appeared. “How are you feeling honey? You had quite a little spell.”
“Cold. So cold.”
“Now that’s not something we hear a lot.” The nurse unfolded the charcoal gray wool blanket. She placed it over the sheet and smoothed it out, all the way up to Chloe’s chin. She tucked it in all around her.
It felt rough and itchy, so Chloe wiggled and contorted to get her face away from it. The nurse stuck a thermometer under Chloe’s tongue.
Chloe wondered why she was in this…hospital?
“Have you been fainting often?”
Chloe shook her head negatively.
She remembered finding the fur, weapon and heel.
The platinum blond grasped Chloe’s left wrist and counted her pulse for the requisite minute. She made a notation. “Calm down honey. Don’t you worry…the baby’s heartbeat is loud and clear. How far along are you?” The nurse removed the thermometer and recorded the number.
Chloe turned her head toward the window. She heard someone else’s voice. “Doctor Payne needs you in four-oh-two. Stat.” Rubber soled footsteps scrambled then faded.
In an angry hushed tone, Taurus began, “Look at me Lambert.”
He demanded, “What happened to that frigid little waif that blew our cover in Pennsylvania? Do you remember her? I got reassigned to the U. P. of Michigan for that one.”
Chloe turned her head and growled, “You had no business telling the alleged counterfeiters we were newly weds so they’d let us sleep in their barn and then…and
then…oh!” She struggled to free her arms from the tight cocoon and then pulled the covers over her head.
“So when’d you get married? Who’s the God of Fire that boiled over the Ice Queen?”
The nurse returned, clipboard in hand. “Doctor Payne has approved your release. I just need to know when was the first day of your last menstrual period?”
Chloe popped her head out of the turtle shell. “September first.”
“September first? You mean you had some spotting then? You’re much further along than that. The height of your uterine fundus measures thirty-one weeks.”
Taurus asked, “Nurse, can she leave now? Should we expect more spells?”
“Yes she’s healthy and free to go. Just don’t let her get over excited and make sure she eats protein regularly. Limit sweets and starches.” The nurse left them alone.
“Well, get dressed, we have work to do.”
“I am not dressing in front of you and we do not have work to do.”
“Fine, I’ll be waiting outside.” Mike Taurus left the oddly decorated hospital room.
Chloe numbly dressed as she planned her exit. She peered out the drapes. No fire escape or ledge. Peeking into the hall, she saw a dead end. No way out. I’ll have to go past the desk where Taurus is using the phone.
She approached him from behind, pausing to listen in.
“—Yeah, this is gonna work out to our advantage—Perfect for our cover—Right then.”
She shoved him as he was hanging up. He stumbled into the high countered desk. Chloe breezed toward the stairs.
“So Lambert—no—Missus—just what is your last name now?”
Chloe kept walking.
“Just what are those personal reasons you have for leaving your assignment in Washington?”
“Can’t you guess, imbecile?” She trotted down the purple carpeted stairs.
“So you’re preggars, big deal. When the agency finds out, you’ll take a desk job, then a short leave of absence, then back into the field. Is your husband here?”
“Back in DC? What happened, did you have a lovers spat? Didn’t wanna make love in the stable?”
“No, no and no!” She exited through the lobby door of the commandeered lavender hotel. Humidity punched her in the face.
“Then what are you doing in Miami Beach without your hubby?”
They jaywalked across the street.
“I don’t have a hubby!”
“Oh…I’m so sorry. Was he a soldier? Killed in action?”
Chloe abruptly stopped in front of a radio repair shop. So did Taurus. She glared at him. “I’m not married. And I never have been. What do you think of that?”
Mockingly, Taurus scorned her, “Scandalous! The agency will brand you with a scarlet letter for this you hussy!”
Chloe feared the United States Secret Service really would fire her for being an unwed mother.
She stomped down the block. He kept pace.
Chloe held back tears. Oh what a mess I’ve gotten myself into. Dear lord forgive me of my sins.
He looked at his watch as they crossed Bay Road. They reached the bakery in record time.
“Good-bye Taurus. Just walk outa my life right now if you know what’s good for you.”
“We have a new assignment. Locally. Pack your things. I’ll call for you in a quarter hour.” Agent Taurus strode around the corner.
Chloe plopped down in a wobbly chair at one of the two little wrought iron tables on the sidewalk in front of Paddy-Cakes Bakery. She absently traced the emerald window lettering with her eyes. The nurse’s words sunk in. “…No, you are much further along…the height of the uterine fundus is showing at thirty-one weeks…”
With her hand shaking, Chloe tenderly placed it on her bulging belly, tears silently falling. What have I done to you? Oh please help me. Mommy’s so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.
A jeep screeched to a halt, stopping midway into the intersection and words were exchanged with a pedestrian. Trembling, Chloe stood up and walked to the bakery door. She noticed the small ‘Notary Public’ sign as she shuffled inside.
Paddy was making change for a soldier. “Hello little Miss Muffet. Is yer tuffet all better now?”
“Yeah, yes it is.” Her stomach growled in hunger pains at the cinnamony apple pie aroma wafting through like a magic carpet ride. She passed into the kitchen and trotted up the creaky staircase. Realizing she didn’t have her purse, Chloe turned the knob. They’d left it unlocked. Doesn’t matter anyhow. Someone didn’t need a key. But who? Before she could dwell on it, she saw an envelope on the hardwood floor. Chloe picked it up.
For your eyes only: C. Lambert
She shut the bedroom door and opened the letter.
New assignment. Agent Taurus will contact you.
Walking into the bathroom, she struck a match and lit the corner of the envelope. She defiantly held it until the flame was one iota from burning her fingertips and then dropped it into the commode. She repeated the ritual with the letter and then flushed.
As Chloe hurriedly packed, she thought back to the last time she’d worked with Taurus. They’d made great progress collecting evidence. His hunch had almost paid off. They’d had a magical evening, but then she got stupid. Of course he’d be bitter. She closed her suitcase and trotted down the stairs.
She met Taurus in the back alley. He opened the passenger door of his green 1941 Dodge pickup truck. She climbed in. He tossed her luggage into the back. They rode silently west into the City of Miami, then headed south, hugging the shoreline of Biscayne Bay. She stared out the windshield at the overcast evening.
* * * * *
He stopped the truck at a public park. Agent Taurus carried Agent Lambert’s luggage toward a nondescript boathouse. As she walked, her hand gently caressed the baby. He threw her things in a drab metal motor boat, and dragged it into the bay. Chloe clumsily stepped in, and sat at the front, facing him. Mike pulled the cord. The motor roared on the first try.
Ten minutes into the voyage, he noticed tears were flowing down her face. He hollered over whining engine, “What’s the matter, Lambert? You’re one lucky bird not being disciplined for your disappearing act.”
“There is something terrible wrong with my baby.” What have I done?
He cut the motor off and stumbled to her. The boat rocked wildly. She grabbed the sides.
“What do you mean? Are you in pain?”
“No. It’s just what the nurse said. How big my womb is. I am not thirty-one weeks pregnant. That’s almost seven months. I can’t be any more than just barely turning five months.”
“Oh now relax, she said the baby was just fine. So you conceived earlier than you calculated.”
“No that’s impossible. He only…he just…the one time.” Her voice was breaking and her nose was running. The tears tasted salty like the spray from the ocean.
* * * * *
Taurus sat back down. With a clenched jaw, he pulled the cord and resumed the voyage. What in the hell am I going to do now?
The Intracoastal Waterway was relatively calm, except when they were caught twice in the wakes of Coast Guard ships. Chloe vomited over the side both times.
Taurus focused on the scatterings of little islands, some lush and thickly wooded, with mangrove and palm trees. Others were inhabited. He navigated southeastward in between Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Penetrating the Atlantic Ocean, the water became deeper teal. More small islands dotted the mauve shrouded horizon.
Within an hour, they arrived at a dilapidated dock. Taurus cut the motor. Pelicans flapped overhead. He tied the boat off on a piling, threw her things onto the weathered decking and climbed out. “Ow!”
“What?” she asked.
“I got a splinter.”
He reached for Chloe’s hand and assisted her up.
“Let me see it.” she requested.
Mike raised his eyebrows.
“No! You know I mean the splinter.” What an inappropriate time for him to slip into his incorrigible wolf persona. Incorrigibly charming. And alluring. Stop it Chloe girl. You’re just as inappropriate as he is.
* * * * *
“It’s nothing. I’ll live.”
She twisted his hand and examined it. Chloe flicked the surface of his calloused palm and teased the splinter back up from whence it entered. She dropped the sliver into the water.
Mike felt intoxicated from her touch. She’s such a sweet girl. Sensory memories flooded his brain as he tried not to let his improper feelings show. If only things had worked out differently…
“Thanks.” He resisted the urge to hold her little hand in his as they walked along the narrow white sandy beach toward the only structure, a modest turquoise bungalow. “How are you feeling?”
“Much better since everything came up.”
“Sorry about the rough cruise.”
As the fishy breeze chilled goose pimples up on Chloe’s bare arms, the big fuchsia sun emerged from the clouds, just in time to disappear into the ocean.
Climbing three weathered wooden stairs, they arrived at the house. Chloe waited for him to unlock the orange door.
He threw her things in, shut the door and turned to his partner on the front porch. “Tell me everything.”
“What’s it matter? I’ve really goofed things up this time.”
“Who did this to you?”
Chloe began sobbing. “Bill.”
“Hundred Dollar Bill.”
“What?” Taurus grabbed her shoulders and firmly backed her into a rattan rocking chair.
She plopped down.
He sat in an adjacent rocker. “Look, how can I help you if you won’t let me in on it? You need me Lambert, and heaven help the world, but I need you as well. Now start from the beginning.” He pulled a handkerchief out from the pocket of his gray trousers and shoved it on her nose. “Blow.”
And blow she did, four times. “Hey, this smells like beer.” Chloe turned the cloth and blew thrice more. She carefully refolded the sticky hanky and offered it back.
Chloe shook it open and hung it on the peeling white gingerbread railing. She stared at the intricate cutouts of hearts, spades, rum bottles and palm trees.
“You know I’ve been working at the DC B.E.P., right?”
“Yeah yeah yeah. Just spit it all out.”
“Well, one of the cops there, Bill, Sergeant Blandings, he was real nice to me. Bringing me chocolate frosted doughnuts and saying nice things about my outfits and such. And he even was helping to ease my workload, being all gentlemanly like…”
“What do you mean by—he was easing your workload?”
“He’d come and pick up the imperfect currency and take it to the incinerator for me, so I didn’t have to climb the stairs in my high heels, carrying the bags.”
“Oh great—I don’t like where this one’s going!”
“Anyhow, one day he kissed me. And it’d been so long since anyone had done that
and…I dunno… He was kinda cute and next thing I knew, we were sneaking around, meeting up in Rock Creek Park and such.”
Chloe rocked rhythmically. Her hands gripped the smooth arms of the old chair. The half moon tried to peek out of the clouds.
“Okay, I get the picture. You poor stupid female. Let me guess—he’s married and his wife just doesn’t understand him, and one night, all alone in the park—he had his way with you, then told you it was all your fault for being a cock tease.”
Chloe stifled a sob.
“You don’t even get it, do you girl? You still see him in this romantic fantasy. You think love is the same as being used. Haven’t you ever been in love for real Chloe? With a real man, not this bastard?”
Chloe gritted her teeth. “You men are all alike.”
“Don’t even go there Chloe. I never forced a woman. You of all people should know that. You said yes with your—bewitching sighs, then abruptly refused me—and I honored you.”