58. We Got a Product

Jen drained her champagne glass. She filled hers again and topped off mine. The bottle rattled in the ice. She had a fire going in the hearth.

“Really. Leo is how old?”

“Actually? Or how it seems?”

“Birth certificate.”

“Eighty-six.”

“How long you been married?”

“Ten years. Give or take a century.”

I made a guess on the math. In her fifties, most likely.

“I know. What was I thinking. I met him, he was seventy-two. I mean, Joe Biden’s seventy-two. Back then Leo was… vigorous. Pharmaceutically enhanced, but still. We had some good times.”

“You don’t mind my saying, the age gap.…”

She gave me another pat, this time on the hand, and leaned in closer.

“The life I wanted, Leo could deliver. He didn’t earn a penny of what he had, but when you’re spending it who cares? It’s a liberation, having the things you want when you want them, the exhilaration of it. It was exciting, back then.”

“You grew up…”

“Poor? No. Everybody wants to say they were middle class. We never lacked for the essentials. The Mercedes in the garage. The vacations to Italy. The pool. The private schools. I had expectations.”

“Leo. He must be your father’s age.”

“Older. Thank God my father died long before the wedding. It would have been a lot to explain. Leo’s ex-wives were bad enough. Witches, all of them casting spells.”

“But you married him.”

“After the first heart attack. He insisted.”

“His life wasn’t complicated enough?”

“He wanted to be sure somebody would be at his bedside. Leo had burned a lot of bridges by then.”

“Forgive me, Jen. But since we’re being honest? I don’t feature you as the Florence Nightingale type.”

“I told him it was a ’til-death-do-we-part deal and I meant it. But I never thought…”

“Eighty six. It’s not really that old. Not any more.”

“I didn’t mention the second heart attack.”

“Before the wedding?”

“Of course.”

Jen filled her glass again. I put a hand over mine when she moved in with the bottle.

“Have a little fun,” she said.

“I have something serious to discuss.”

“About Leo? I don’t see where this is going.”

“About Leo. About you.”

“I’m not sure we know each other that well.”

“Duke. I’ve had some business with him lately.”

“I thought he was finally…”

Jen had been in on his post-death caper, when Duke was on the prowl for his so-called killer. She helped him mislead me and Doris during that absurd investigation.

“Duke doesn’t go down easy. As you know.”

“What is it this time?”

“He’s got a product. We got a product.”

“What does he want with money now?”

“It’s complicated.”

“With Duke it’s always complicated.”

“He’s privy to certain information. Being dead.”

“I can’t say you know how to charm a girl. But go on.”

“Ye know not neither the time nor the place? Rings a bell?”

“Day nor the hour, to be exact. Sure, I did my time in a pew.”

“What if you did know the day?”

“I’m not sure I want to know. I’d have to think about that.”

“How about for Leo?”

“I don’t have to think about that at all.”

Tomorrow: Just hit Accept

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