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.It is a purely personal matter.”“Well, if it involves Xerxes employees, I can see that you get whatever assistance you need.”I don’t like revealing my clients’ business.Especially not to strangers.But in the end I decided to tell him—it was the easiest way to get help.Not the whole story, of course.Not Gabriella and the baby-sitting and Caroline’s insistent manipulativeness and the angry Djiaks.But Louisa dying and Caroline wanting to find out who her father was and Louisa not wanting to tell.“I’m European and old-fashioned,” he said when I finished.“I don’t like the girl not wanting to respect her mother’s wishes.But if you are committed, you are committed.And you think she might have said something to Chigwell because he was the plant doctor? I’ll call and ask him.He probably won’t want to talk to you himself But my secretary will phone you in a few days with the information.”That was a dismissal.I slid forward to the edge of the chair so that I could stand without bracing my arms on the sides and was pleased to find that I moved smoothly, without the brandy affecting me.If I could make it out the front door without bumping into a priceless art object, I could easily handle the drive home.I thanked Humboldt for the brandy and his help.He turned it aside with another chuckle.“It’s a pleasure for me, Ms.Warshawski, to talk to an attractive young woman, and one who is brave enough to stand her ground with an old lion.You must come again when you are in the neighborhood.”Anton was hovering outside the library to escort me to the door.“I’m sorry,” I said when we reached the entryway.“I promised not to tell.”He stiffly pretended not to hear me and summoned the elevator with frigid aloofness.I wasn’t sure what to do about the doorman and my car, but when I tentatively displayed a five-dollar bill he caused it to vanish while tenderly helping me into the Chevy.I devoted the drive home to thinking of reasons why I was better off as a PI than a billionaire chemist.The list was much shorter than the drive.10Fire When ReadyI was drowning in a sea of thick gray Xerxine.I was choking while Gustav Humboldt and Caroline stood talking earnestly on the shore, ignoring my cries for help.I woke up at four-thirty, sweaty and panting, too roused by the dream to go back to sleep.I finally got out of bed when it started to get light.It wasn’t cold in the bedroom, but I was shivering.I pulled a sweatshirt from the pile next to my bed and wandered around the apartment, trying to find something to turn my mind to.I picked out a scale on the piano, but stopped after one: it would be unfair to the neighbors to work on my rusty voice at this hour of the morning.I moved to the kitchen to make coffee, but lost interest after washing out the pot.My four rooms normally seem open and spacious to me, but now they were making me feel cramped.The jumble of books, papers, and clothes, which usually looks homelike, began to appear shameful and squalid.Don’t tell me you’ve been infected by Djiakism, I scolded myself crossly.Next thing you’ll be on your hands and knees in the lobby scrubbing the floor every morning.Finally I pulled on jeans and my running shoes and went out.The dog recognized my step behind the locked first-floor door and let out a little yelping bark.I would have liked her company, but I didn’t have a key to Mr.Contreras’s place.I walked over to the lake alone, unable to work up energy for running.It was another gray day.I could tell the sun was rising only by a change in the intensity behind the clouds on the eastern horizon.Under the sullen sky the lake resembled the thick gray liquid of my nightmare.I stared at it, trying to reason away my lingering unease, trying to lose myself in the changing patterns and colors of the water.Early as it was, joggers were already on the lake path, getting in their miles before putting on pinstripe and panty hose for the day.They looked like the hollow men, each wrapped in a cocoon of sound from his private radio, their faces blank, their isolation chilling.I dug my hands deep into my pockets, shivering, and turned toward home.I stopped on the way for breakfast at the Chesterton Hotel.It’s a residential hotel for well-heeled widows.The little Hungarian restaurant where you can get cappuccino and croissants caters to their slower pace and better manners.As I stirred the foam in my second cappuccino I kept wondering why Gustav Humboldt had summoned me to his presence.Yes, he didn’t want me nosing around in his plant.No executive likes that.And yes, he had the inside dope on Pankowski and Ferraro.But the chairman of the board calling in the lowly detective to tell her in person? Despite all his talk of Gordon Firth, I’d never even seen the Ajax chairman in the course of three investigations involving the insurance company.Heads of multinational corporations, even if they’re eighty-four and dote on their grandchildren, have layers and layers of underlings to do that kind of job for them.Last night my vanity had been tickled.The invitation alone was exciting, let alone the rarefied surroundings and incredible brandy.I hadn’t stopped to wonder about his comradely flow of information, but maybe I should.And what of little Caroline? What did she know that she hadn’t been telling me? That Louisa’s two pals had been fired? Perhaps that Louisa herself had been involved in the efforts to sabotage the plant? Maybe Gustav Humboldt had been her lover long ago and had stepped in to protect her now.It would explain his personal involvement.Maybe he was Caroline’s father and she was due a gigantic inheritance, out of which a modest fee to me would be eminently feasible.As my speculations grew more ludicrous, my mood lightened.I headed home much faster than I’d left, passing the second-floor tenants on their way to work with a “good morning” almost cheery enough for a flight attendant [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]