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.”Tumbril sat well back in his large leather chair to gaze with thorough disapproval at Fiona.“You went into the files?”“Yes, sir.”“Of a case toward which you had absolutely no responsibilities?”“Yes, sir.”“You searched through matters that were none of your concern,” Tumbril summed up, “and then you went to the principal in the matter to toady up to her.”“No, sir, I just—”“Yes, sir! Well, young lady, if you thought you might be advancing yourself with this behind-the-scenes rubbish, you’ve done quite the reverse.You will go and clear out your desk and wait for security to escort you from the building.”“Jay!”“I know what I’m doing, Livia.Miss Hemlow, the firm will mail you your final compensation.You will understand we will not be able to give you a reference.”“Yes, sir.”“Good-bye, Miss Hemlow.”Stricken, not yet able to think about what was happening to her, Fiona turned toward the door.“Young lady,” Mrs.Wheeler said, and when Fiona turned her heavy head the older woman had leaned forward to hold out a card.“Phone me,” she said.Hardly knowing she was doing it, Fiona took the card.She couldn’t think of a thing to say.Tumbril could.“You’re making a mistake, Livia.”“Not the first one I’ve made in this office,” she told him.Tumbril threw one last scowl at Fiona.“You may go.”She went.The envelope! If security found that envelope, with all that information on all the Northwood heirs, she’d be worse than fired, she’d be charged with felonies, her reputation would be destroyed forever.Trying not to look in a desperate hurry, Fiona walked faster than she’d ever walked before through the maze of cubicles to her desk.She pulled the envelope from her shoulder bag, slapped a mailing label on it, wrote her grandfather’s name and address on the label, and carried it away, to drop it in an absent person’s out basket on her way to the ladies’.Once in there, she realized she actually did need a stall for a moment, which was just as well because, when she stepped out, security was standing there, frowning at her, a heavyset severe woman in a uniform of brown.She said, “Fiona Hemlow?”“Yes.”“You’re supposed to be at your desk.”“When you’re fired,” Fiona told her, “it makes you need to go to the ladies’ room.I’ll just wash my hands.”The security woman followed her back to her cubicle, where her neighbor Imogen widened her eyes but knew enough not to say anything.Fiona took her few personal possessions from her desk, permitted the security woman to search her bag, and then they headed off for the elevators.Fiona looked at it all, so familiar, so much of her life.All those hunched backs, those computers, telephones, stacks of documents, all of these creatures pulling steadfastly at the oars of this galley while their betters sat out of sight, next to windows.Fiona smiled.Suddenly a weight had lifted, and she hadn’t even known she was carrying it.“You know,” she told the security woman, “I’m a very lucky person.”29FRIDAY AFTERNOON, ANNE Marie took a shuttle back up to LaGuardia from DC.Kelp cabbed out there from the city a little ahead of time, so he’d have leisure to find just the right wheels with which to deliver Anne Marie back to their love nest.His first priority, as always, was a car with MD plates, he being firmly of the conviction that doctors have a greater than average experience of the highs and lows of human life, and will therefore whenever possible gravitate toward the high; as in their choice of personal vehicle, for instance.This trip, however, was more than ordinarily special, as being the return of Anne Marie after three days of travel to and from DC and dealing with the Earring Man while there, all on Kelp’s behalf.So, when he began his ramble through long-term parking, keeping an eye out for MD plates and no dust (early in the long term), his other criterion was that he wanted a woman doctor’s car.In the old days he would have looked for a modest sedan with lower-than-average mileage but more than the usual dents, but times had changed and the old signifiers no longer signified.Well, something had to signify.Kelp strolled for a while among the wheels on offer, and then he saw a white Lexus RX 400h, the low-fuel-consumption hybrid, and yes, MD plates; unusual on a white car.This doctor drives a hybrid, so this doctor cares about the planet.And the bumper sticker: The Earth—Our Home—Keep It Tidy.Uh huh.And when he looked through the driver’s window, there was the clincher: two bottles of Poland Spring water in the cup holders.An electronically inclined acquaintance of Kelp’s named Wally Knurr had recently sold him, at very little above cost, a carefully restructured universal remote.Originally meant to find its way through the various individual electronic signals of every known TV, VCR, and DVD, the machine now provided the same service for your most recent automobile models, thus bypassing all the physical violence of yesteryear.It took Kelp barely a dozen clicks with the remote to make the Lexus give him the bleep of welcome.He checked inside, to be sure the parking fee ticket was in its place behind the sun visor, saw that it was, locked the Lexus again and went off to find Anne Marie.Who seemed to be the only one in her group to come down the long ramp from the gates without a briefcase.What she lugged instead was a bulky black leather shoulder bag bouncing on her right hip, which made her look like a particularly fetching stew out of uniform, and from the tail ends of a few conversations he observed as the herd headed this way some of her fellow passengers had dreamed of being in a position to get her even further out of uniform, but forget all that now: her boyfriend’s back.They kissed, to the disgust of the briefcase-toters, and made their way out to long-term, where Anne Marie gazed with pleasure upon the Lexus and said, “For me?”“I picked it out special.”“You’re very thoughtful,” Anne Maria told him, as he remoted them into the car.Once he had the seat adjusted back from somewhere up against the firewall, the Lexus was fine.Kelp happily paid the three-day parking charge and out they went to Grand Central Parkway, westbound toward the city.As they drove, he said, “I guess it all went okay, then.”“You owe me four hundred bucks.”“Extra beyond the airfare, you mean.How’d I do that?”“Mr.Earring Man wanted an advance,” she said.“He smelled a felony, and would risk his reputation for no less.”“I can understand that,” Kelp said.“You did right to pay him [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]