Lady Crymsyn Chapter 18

Screaming, screaming, screaming.

I was alive. Trapped inside my body. My dead body.

Alive and aware, as cold cement oozed over it, layer upon layer, the weight crushing me into a stony trough of a grave.

Dead and unresponsive to the danger, absolutely unable to move.

Internal shrieks drowned out all thought. There could be no thought with such gibbering fear tearing me apart.

Caught away from my earth I had such nightmares as this, but those were softened by the innate knowledge that they were only dreams. My daylight paralysis was part of it, unavoidable but acceptable. This was different, to be fully conscious, fully sensible of every inch of my flesh smothering under the pressure.

The stuff flowed thickly, and there was no end to it. My face, then torso, it crept over and encased my raised arms, seeped under my neck, filled in the space under my back, buried my legs. The weight piled up, compressing, burying me alive-not-alive, burying, smashing...

The tiger-growl clamor of the cement mixer became distant as more cement poured in, muffling my hearing.

I had no need to breathe, but the instinct to do so was there, far more potent than any newly acquired supernatural ability, the source of my panic. My brain tried to make my body breathe. The lack of response added to the panic, and the cycle began anew.

Screaming. Mindless screaming...

Until...

Shut down.

Not a blessed moment of unconsciousness, but a shutting-down of the mind. It was still aware of the body's peril, or what was happening to it, but the emotions had cut off as though someone had thrown a switch. Catch a bird, and hold it long enough and it ceases struggling, waiting in blind dread for what comes next, release or death. You can kill a bird just by holding it. The shock is too much for it to live.

But I was able to think, to understand. Only dimly, for tiny instants at a time, yet more than some hapless sparrow dragged down by a cat.

Yes, this was bad. To have the stuff filling your mouth and nose, clogging your eyes and ears. Bad. But it wouldn't last. It could not last...

A tremor. Very small.

My foot, the beginnings of a movement. Not much. Just the toes.

Fight or flight. The choice was flight. To get away. Toes, feet, legs to take me elsewhere.

I groaned inside. Made a change from screaming.

Too slow. I wanted out. Now.

Focus on... what else? Pain in my head? Was it going away? Was I healed enough to escape?

Felt like an ice pick was jammed into my skull. Maybe I should go back to screaming. Wood did this to me. Upshaw's Hollywood affectation with the walking stick. Damnation, I should have taken care of him at the start, not wasted time on Nevis's song-and-dance act. I'd underestimated... everything. God damn it. God damn me.

But not just yet. Not until I broke free of this improvised tomb and kicked their asses up to their earlobes.

That desire began to erode the fear. And the pain. The ice pick feeling, if it was not going away, was at least becoming tolerable. Healing. I was finally healing.

Just wait a little longer, a soothing voice told me. Just a little-

The hell with that.

Trying to vanish so soon after such an injury was like putting your arm in an automatic wringer. Once started, you keep going until the rest of your body stops it or gets squeezed along for the ride.

It was all or nothing this time.

I couldn't tell right away if I'd vanished. The usual lightness, of floating wasn't there, only the muffled senses of touch and hearing. But I suffered those in solid form.

Solid. The cement. I'd gone through brick walls before. Not pleasant, but passable. It was very porous compared to glass, lots of air spaces.

Those were apparently suffused with water now. I couldn't wait until the damn stuff dried.

I tried pushing upward. It shifted. Was I solid after all? I didn't think so, for the ice pick feeling was quite gone now.

More shifting, reluctant, slow. I got a mental picture of myself struggling to the surface like a bubble of air trapped in winter-cold molasses.

Seemed to be going up through yards of it, which was impossible. The trench wasn't that deep. It was all in my head. Like the screaming that wanted to come back.

Then some invisible tendril punched a hole in the muck. The rest of me coursed through the opening and suddenly shot clear.

I bounced against the ceiling, dropped to the floor, and skittered into a wall, all on purpose, all to let myself know I was free, that I could move again.

This was how it was supposed to feel.

I shook and rolled and danced in midair, an unseen whirlwind of me.

The trauma of such a near miss was still there, though. I mentally twitched inside and out from it. Had too much to handle, needed a way to work it off.

I turned my attention to the interlopers, who still lingered at their task.

The cement mixer was off. They stood next to it, probably looking down at the trench they'd been filling.

’’It's caving in,’’ said Upshaw.

’’Just a big air bubble,’’ Nevis assured him.

Truer words ...

’’Get a shovel and jab it up and down where he is. That'll get it out. Come on, this junk's starting to set. We have to leave it smooth or someone might get suspicious.’’

’’I'm getting blisters.’’

’’Good.’’

Scraping noises. Grinding. Nevis had started up the mixer again.

I re-formed.

The basement was well lighted, though the air was cloudy with choking cement dust, the floor slick with slopped water. The mixer was electric, allowing them to work inside. I'd asked specifically for an electric model just for that purpose. I could have gotten a gas-powered one sooner, but I'd wanted electric to avoid having fumes leaking into the main room above.

Nevis and Upshaw were out of their tux coats and dusted with the grime of their work, but not as badly as myself. I was soaked through head to foot, liberally coated with whatever had been able to cling to my clothes when I'd vanished. To them I'd look like some mud-monster from the swamps.

Good, I thought, in echoing agreement with Nevis.

Neither of them heard my approach. Each had a terrible moment of utter shock, another instant of complete hysteria, and then they were fast asleep. Nothing more than that.

For now.

I went to a recently installed shop sink. In the future it would be enclosed in the janitor's basement closet. It had two spigots, one of which had a garden hose hooked up, providing the cement mixer with the necessary water. I scrubbed my head and hands, working the gritty garbage out of my hair and ears, spitting it from my mouth. It was a job.

When I got clean enough to function again I went upstairs.

The lights were on, nice and steady. If Myrna the ghost had tried to warn me of trouble, she'd been right on the money. Too bad for me that I'd wasted her effort. I checked the lobby, particularly the floor where I'd fallen.

Yes, a smear of blood marked the spot. Nothing compared to what I'd cleaned up last week, but definitely something that needed attention. A wet napkin did the trick. I shoved it deep into the trash can under some lemon rinds.

My head was knitted up. I was physically sound again, but feeling a very strong fluttering that meant I would be wise to feed before retiring. There was still so much work ahead before I could go to the Stockyards, though-like figuring out what to do with Nevis and Upshaw.

Then an answer to both problems neatly and diabolically presented itself to my weary brain. I felt an awful grin take over my face, and a tinge of regret that Escott or Gordy couldn't be here to appreciate the idea.

Actually, I did have someone I could share it with, but he wouldn't be in a state of mind to applaud my genius. I'd probably have to hypnotize him into cooperation. Unavoidable, but I needed another pair of hands.

I tapped on the access door. ’’Malone? It's safe now. Come out.’’

He'd followed orders and stayed put, though it must have been a nasty ordeal for him to sit in the dark for so long. Still, it was better than the one I'd been through... until I counted in our last conversation. No wonder his teeth were chattering.

He emerged, money bag still in hand, keys in the other. I relieved him of both.

Profound astonishment as he took in my ruined and now bedraggled tuxedo. ’’Mr. F-Fleming, what happened to you?’’ Tic.

’’I had a little disagreement with your former boss. He's in the basement. I'm going to need your help.’’

’’D-doing what?’’

I fixed him with a look, making solid contact despite the booze I'd given him. He was a perfect subject for this kind of thing, very easily suggestible. ’’You'll find out. Just do what I say, and we'll talk about what to do with you later. That will be all right with you, understand?’’

He nodded in blank-faced agreement and followed me down to the basement. Along the way we picked up a couple of sturdy wood boxes that had held wine bottles.

With the dividers removed they were exactly the right size for what I had in mind.

How much of the next hour Malone drifted in the aftermath of hypnotic haze I couldn't guess, but he cooperated beautifully, asking no questions.

The same for Nevis and Upshaw. They stood placid and unaware in the boxes while Malone and I shoveled in congealing cement from the trench. The stuff was setting up fast, but it would take a long time to really solidify. No matter. It would be too late for them.

The hard part, the clumsy part, was loading the two of them into my Buick, which I'd backed into the alley. I almost gave up on my brilliant plan as Malone and I worked to haul them up the ramp-a wheelbarrow helped there-and somehow fit them into the car. I put a tarp over the backseat to protect the upholstery. The boxes made things very awkward. They had to be lifted in first, and with the greater part of a man's body attached to it. Good thing for me that I was not at all concerned with the physical comfort of my slumbering cargo.

Malone got in the passenger side, I hit the starter, and we were soon coasting through the silent and near-empty streets toward the Stockyards. I checked the time. A couple of hours yet until sunrise. Comfortable margin. Hard to believe so much had happened in so short a time. No wonder I was tired.

I didn't talk;neither did Malone. No way to tell if it was because of his preference or my influence.

Parking in a place between the streetlights, I told Malone to stay put, trusting that he would trust me. Instead of sieving through the fence, I went over it, going semi-transparent in time to avoid the jolt of hitting the ground. Vanishing was easier, but it would stick me with another hypnosis session. I did not want the bother. Malone would just have to guess why I'd stopped there.

My business with one of the cows did not take long, and I felt reassuringly restored for it. All I needed was a good cleaning up, but not just yet. More to do. Just a little more.

I drove to a very unpleasant and seldom traveled area of the Yards. You couldn't see the air, but you could feel it covering you like death's blanket. Yards away from the center, you could hear the constant buzzing of the flies.

Poor Malone began gagging. I told him to breathe through his mouth, but that wasn't much of a help. Within a few minutes he frantically begged me to stop, which I did. He opened the door and vomited freely. He seemed better for it, but I was walleyed for any sign of repetition. I was sorry for him, but none of it could be helped.

I pulled as close as I dared to a promising spot. It had something I was looking for, a sort of walkway that extended out over a sizable pool.

Again, Malone and I had a barrel of laughs manhandling the heavy boxes and their human appendages out of the car. There'd been no room for the wheelbarrow, which was a pity. Thankfully, the boxes had handholds cut into them. Those helped a lot. Lifting, I took most of the weight, but needed Malone to balance things and guide us.

The walkway did not look or feel safe, wobbling alarmingly as we stepped onto it. Had to risk it, though.

A lot of grunting and barked shins later, Nevis and Upshaw were right at the edge of the walk, and I was ready to wake them up. I sent Malone back to the car. This was my private show. It would only upset him to watch.

The idea of beating them to death had been the most tempting to me, but after thinking about it, I decided it was too swift and merciful. They were guilty of greed and stupidity, mostly of stupidity, especially Upshaw with his ambition to play with the big boys. Well, if he wanted to learn about the Chicago underworld, then he had just entitled himself to a firsthand experience of one of its more infamous customs.

As with any enterprise, location is everything. Usually if a man has disgraced himself with the mobs enough to deserve cement overshoes, it is wise to sink him in a very deep part of the river or lake, providing the fish a chance to dispose of the body.

Again, that would have been too swift and merciful. I had something considerably more hideous in mind.

The Stockyards is an ugly area, but the backsides of the various processing plants are a hundred times worse. Upton Sinclair had exaggerated nothing in The Jungle, and that was thirty years ago. As it was, he'd badly underdescribed the supreme stench of some places where the filth and waste was flushed out of the plants to gather in shallow pits that eventually trickled into the river.

The putrefied meat smell combined with blood and urine and feces and any other body matter that was not processed. The waste products of thousands upon thousands of slaughtered animals flowed daily into the open air to bake in the sun, to roil and turn upon itself, to simply rot. Day and night it was covered by flies, the big biting kind. Their maggots writhed freely in the more solid eddies. To call it a cesspool would be a compliment to it and a gross insult to cesspools the world over. This was a pit right out of hell, only hell wouldn't have anything this bad.

I had no need to breathe, and I still avoided the place. I'd had absolutely no use for it.

Until now.

At a prearranged word from me Nevis and Upshaw woke at the same time. They'd been artificially asleep on their feet. It did not take long for the awful realization to dawn on them as they sorted their confusion and looked down at their legs. Somehow they'd gone from burying me in cement to being half-buried themselves. The how of it was of no concern to them so much as the what-was-to-come-next part. The pit beneath them was their most important clue.

Now they swayed and shouted in alarm, anchored by their legs as I'd been anchored to an unresponsive body.

Their shouts didn't worry me. No one came here if they could help it.

Nevis, his eyes wide, stared incredulously at the red, brown, and green sludge and, like Malone, promptly emptied his stomach. In antic imitation, Upshaw did the same. He nearly lost his balance and fell sideways into the muck. I grabbed one of his flailing arms and pulled him upright just in time.

’’Not just yet,’’ I said. I had to breathe to talk, and for the first time in a very long while was tempted to lose my dinner, too.

Upshaw was babbling too fast for me to follow, though the gist was predictable. He was willing to do anything to avoid his fate.

Couldn't blame him.

Nevis was just as scared, but trying to coax me into talking. He was good at that, but the vile air made it hard for him. He'd turned a shade of green I'd never seen before, and on his gaunt features it was not flattering.

’’P-please, Fleming. You don't want to do this.’’ He was trying to sound calm and reasonable. The effect was rather lost as he swatted desperately at the flies swarming around him.

’’Actually, I do. Very much.’’

’’You can't kill me over a mistake.’’

’’You were willing to kill me.’’

’’It was Tony!’’ His calm cracked. ’’Tony hit you! Not my idea. I just wanted the money! For God's sake, Fleming, don't do this!’’

I waited for him to wind down. Upshaw was openly sobbing. ’’Nevis, in this town I can do just about any damned thing I please. I want you to think about that when this crap closes over your head.’’

’’I'll forget about the money! I swear! I'll give you the lease, I'll tear it up. You can have my club, anything you want! Anything!’’

His voice had risen like a factory whistle. With good reason. I was shoving his box closer to the edge. He clutched wildly at me, but I got out of the way.

’’No, no nonono-’’

Upshaw was same.

This was entertaining.

I sat on the walkway, planted a foot on the side of each box, braced, and pushed.

’’NOOOOOOOOO!’’

They went in at the same time, tipping sideways off the walk, screaming fit to wake the dead.

Or give a good laugh to the undead.

There followed a truly nasty splash as they hit. More thick splashing as they floundered. More screaming until it dawned on them they weren't drowning after all.

However, they were trapped in a good two-foot depth of it. Drowning would have been a mercy.

With a little mutual effort, they'd be able to get themselves upright again. There they would remain for the next several hours or more until perhaps some early worker happened to look out a window and notice them. That would depend on the wind direction, though.

I felt sorry for the poor working bastards who would have to haul them out, but what they hell, they'd have a great story to tell later at their local bar.

A day's rest-or rather a day's utter unconsciousness- cured me of most of the remaining jitters from the previous night's ordeal.

I'd phoned Bobbi to let her know I wouldn't be coming over to her place to celebrate after all, honestly claiming exhaustion as an excuse. From the muzziness in her voice as she said she understood, I gathered that she'd fallen asleep anyway while waiting. It happened sometimes;we never let it annoy us.

Malone I took home. He seemed pretty battered and stunned, not unlike after his alley beating, but this was more emotional than physical. My influence must have been pretty thin by then, but there wasn't time left to me to deal with him properly. Dawn was coming, and I wanted to clean up before collapsing onto my basement cot.

I told him to see me tomorrow at the club, adding a nudge to it to ensure his presence. In the meanwhile, he was to act as though nothing were amiss and get some sleep, plenty of sleep.

Saturday evening I rose to a silent house. No way to tell if Escott was out buying a loaf of bread or still avidly pursuing the delectable Miss LaBelle. I assumed he'd been home at least once, since the mail and papers had been taken in. He'd show up when he showed up, and I wished him good luck.

In the meantime, I took along some spare workman's clothes, expecting that I'd have plenty to do in the club's basement. There would be plenty to do in the office as well, once Malone arrived.

He was late. I wasn't worried, not much, and not yet. I had confidence in my ability to influence him. He would be by.

Lady Crymsyn's basement was surprisingly tidy. I'd checked Leon's work notes. He'd been puzzled by the jump I'd apparently made on filling in the trench. Carefully choosing his words, he suggested that it would be better if I left the rest of the job to his crew. Not that I hadn't done all right, but they had more experience. The translation meant I'd left them a truly lousy mess to clean up, particularly in regard to the mixer. I'd hosed it out, but should have left it to those who knew how.

Well, I was still boss, still signed their checks, so I could take my lumps and like it. At least they didn't have to be digging my body out of that damned trench, but I couldn't tell them to count their blessings about it.

Inspection of the rest of the place didn't take long. The janitorial company had made things like new again, ready for the club's grand opening next weekend. All that was left was to finish the basement, and the men had made a good start today. It was costing me, but would be well worth it to achieve those changes, to blot out the last remains of the building's sad and sordid past, to cleanse it for good. I had doubts, though, about ever spending any significant amounts of time in that damned basement. Certainly not alone if I could help it.

I ended up in my office, making a point to turn on the light, though I could see fine from what filtered through the closed blinds.

Malone would need it.

Flipping through the books didn't take long. Last night's revenues were encouraging, but did not nearly meet expenses. The grand opening would offer a reduced cover charge, which would defray things further, and once the joint was up and running the red ink, with good luck, would gradually be supplanted by black.

On a clipboard was a list of a number of acts that I could book in the future;Malone had efficiently recorded them. In the mail were letters from various performers requesting audition times. There would be no dearth of entertainment at Lady Crymsyn. The trick was to find names that would draw in the people. I'd met the Marx Brothers once, maybe...

The doors downstairs. In the quiet of the building even a normal human would have heard them being unlocked and opened. I waited as tired feet carried their owner up to me.

He was neatly dressed, as always. In his blue suit this time, having no need of a tuxedo on a closed night. Malone stood hesitating on the threshold, searching my face for some kind of clue. He looked as I'd expected him to look, weary and defeated, a haunted cast to his dark eyes as I waved him in to take a chair on the other side of the desk.

He must have had a hundred questions, but that many makes it impossible for any one to emerge coherently. The important one, though, was plain on his face.

What will you do with me?

I'd felt the same almost a year back when walking into Escott's office for the first time. He'd had my fate in his hands, and no clue from me on whether or not I'd fight him for it. Malone would not fight, not for himself, anyway.

’’Get any sleep?’’ I asked.

Tic. ’’Yes, quite a lot actually.’’

’’Well, it was a long night;you needed it. I never thanked you for all the help. You remember much?’’

’’The last part vividly. For a while I thought you were going to kill them.’’

’’Huh. They probably wish they were dead by now.’’ The two of them would likely be very sick for the next few weeks. I hoped they'd have the sense to see a doctor, though there were probably things growing in that muck of which medical science had never heard. They could expect dysentery at the least, maybe lockjaw unless they got some shots... oh, yes, there were lots of grim possibilities.

’’What happened between you?’’ he asked.

’’Nevis got pushy, and Upshaw got stupid. I have a short fuse with those types.’’

He couldn't take more social chat. He drew a deep breath, about to plunge to the heart of the matter, but held off as I raised my hand, palm out.

’’I know, I know. There's some things we need to clear up.’’

’’I'm-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lie to you about myself, about who I am.’’

I shrugged. ’’It's over, and I understand why. But I think you'll understand that I have to let you go.’’

’’I expected that, but what about the-’’

Before he could say ’’cops’’ I waved him down again. ’’Knowing what we both know, I doubt if we'd ever be comfortable working together again. However, I've written you out a good reference. I fibbed on the dates so it looks like you had a steady job here for a long time, but no one is too likely to notice.’’ So saying, I handed him an envelope.

He didn't move, just blinked, not comprehending. ’’I d-don't-don't-’’

’’Malone or Tielli or whatever the hell you want to call yourself, I can't judge you. I've done things I'm not proud of. I can't undo them, but for the life of me I don't think I would given the chance.

’’You're a good man. You did what you thought you had to do. What you did was wrong, but I might have done exactly the same thing. I heard two wrongs don't make a right, but there are times when it just doesn't apply.’’

He bowed his head, releasing a long sigh that wavered close to weeping.

’’I did a lot of thinking about this. You asked me last night to protect Norrie. After mulling it over I concluded the best way to carry that out is keep you two together. She's had everything taken away from her once in her life, that's too much for anyone. I'm not going to be the one to do that to her again.’’

’’Dear God.’’ That's all that came out of him for a while. I waited until he fumbled for a handkerchief and blew his nose.

’’You'll be doing me a favor,’’ I continued. ’’I'm rotten with kids. The kind of life I got I wouldn't be able to watch out for her like I should. She needs a father. That's you. That's your job;I sure as hell don't want it. And it would be a good idea for you both to get out of town.’’

He took the suggestion without surprise, leading me to suspect he'd been considering it himself. ’’I suppose that would be for the best. It'd be foolish to stay here with all that's happened.’’

’’What you should do,’’ I said, leaning back in my chair, ’’is head out to California.’’

’’But I don't know anyone there.’’

’’Count that in your favor. You don't want to know anyone.’’

A very small hint of a smile almost made it to his features, but turned into that tic again. Maybe if once he got out from under things, had some control over his fate, he'd relax.

’’It's a good place to be, I hear. Orange trees right in your front yard, maybe you can open up another store, work for yourself for a change. Be around for your kid when she's out of school. They got some good schools there, colleges, universities. I don't know how they are about architect majors, but you've got plenty of time to figure that out before she's ready.’’

It was a good picture. He obviously liked it. ’’Thank you. I'll get us out there. She can start the new school term-’’

’’Ah, there's just one little thing.’’

He shut his eyes, swallowed. Bracing.

’’That problem I had with Nevis also had to do with Lena-Helen. I'll call her Lena. It seems she was a bit light-fingered with him when it came to her job. Now he didn't mind it at the time, but when he found out exactly how much was involved over the years he got itchy about it. The way I see things, if he didn't mind at the time, he shouldn't mind later, the later being now.’’

Malone blinked, desperately trying to follow.

’’Doesn't matter, you don't need to know the details. What I'm saying is that Lena built up a sweet nest egg for herself. I happened to find it. I told myself then that it would only be fair to give it over to her family-providing she had one. The money should go to her daughter, but I don't know how you'd feel about accepting it, considering the source.’’

’’It does present a moral perplexity,’’ he admitted after thinking a bit. ’’It would never make up for the wrong Helen did, but it might alleviate some of the hardship that resulted from that wrong.’’

’’I was hoping you'd be smart about it.’’ I pulled a fat manila envelope from my jacket pocket and laid it before him on the desk.

His eyes got big. ’’Goodness, how much is there?’’

’’Enough to get you to California. You need to put a chunk of that in a savings account for Norrie's college, you know. There's also the tax problem, but I can tell you how to get around those declarations. You're gonna get real lucky at the track for the next few days.’’

’’Thank you, Mr. Fleming.’’

’’You can call me Jack, now. You're resigned, remember?’’

’’Yes, Jack. I don't know what to say. I owe you my life, Norrie's life.’’

’’Just make sure she grows up pretty;she's already got the smarts.’’

He hesitantly reached for the envelope and peered inside. ’’Oh, my God. How much is here?’’

I told him.

Then I had a bad few moments dealing with things when he tumbled forward in a dead faint.

What with Malone and a lengthy visit with Bobbi I got back late. Escott was home by then, still awake, and in the parlor with a stack of papers. He still wore what I knew to be his best suit and his shave was good for another few hours, but he had his shoes off, his feet up.

’’Have a good date?’’ I asked.

He had his nose buried in an article about some woman trying to fly around the world. It reminded me of Nevis. He wouldn't be flying for a long time. ’’Yes. Miss LaBelle is quite pleasant company.’’

’’When she's not speaking for ghosts?’’

’’Indeed.’’

I wanted to ask more, but he was a gentleman and gentlemen don't talk.

’’The reviews are over there,’’ he said, pointing to a stack of newsprint on the table. ’’They seem most favorable.’’

I'd read them all at Bobbi's. She'd been almost as excited as if it had been her club. We went to the Nightcrawler to celebrate with Gordy and Adelle, then I took her to dinner, and then... well, a gentleman doesn't talk.

’’Thanks. I'll have to get a scrapbook.’’

He looked over the edge of the paper. ’’Is there something wrong?’’

’’Just a small problem. Might not come to anything if I can hire someone in time for next Friday.’’

’’And just what do you define as being a small problem?’’ he asked warily.

’’As of tonight, I'm short one general manager.’’

’’Really? I thought Mr. Malone was doing an excellent job.’’

’’He was, but there's been a death in the family. He's going to have to leave town. There's some kind of inheritance involved, so I don't expect him back.’’

’’Dear me, that does rather leave you in the lurch... oh, Jack, you don't mean to say-’’

I shrugged, all apologetic. ’’I know. It's an imposition. But if I can find someone else in time, you won't have anything to worry about.’’

He made curmudgeonly noises.

’’Seriously, it'd be a real favor to me if you could fill in.’’

’’Oh, God.’’

’’Just to open the joint and watch things until I'm up and awake and can take over. I'll be more than glad to pay for your time.’’

He muttered deep in his throat.

’’There's one other thing-I've hired Miss LaBelle to play Lady Crymsyn for the rest of the month. She'll be there every night.’’

That put a new face on it for him.

We worked out the details and shook on it.

He snorted, though. ’’I had a dreadful feeling that it would eventually come to this-me working for you.’’

I had the good grace not to say anything.


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