“I’m going out for groceries,” Doris said.
“I’ll go with you.”
She put a hand on my forehead again. “You still feel hot. Stay.”
She pulled the covers back up to my chin.
“You hear that noise?” she said.
I pretended I didn’t know what she meant.
“Air in the pipes? Tomorrow. I’ll check it out.”
She’s a saint. I’ve said that. She drives me crazy with her saintliness. Giving all that money away. It’s like living with Mother Teresa, if Mother Teresa owned a wardrobe that was heavy on black leather, spike heels, Doc Marten’s and odd lingerie. Who gives away forty million? In comparison…
Oh, why get started?
As soon as I heard her drive away I slipped on my robe and headed for the basement.
Duke was sitting on the steps.
“How quickly we forget,” he said.
“I didn’t forget. I wanted to be discreet.”
“She going to find out sometime.”
“Better after the money’s in the bank.”
“Who’s talking about money?”
“How do you know about…”
“The dead. We know a lot. Sleeping. Awake. Bad or good. And so on.” He smirked. “Fatman. Be good for goodness sake.”
“That was a mistake.”
“Only if you get caught. Of course you always get caught. You feel guilty. You look guilty. You smell guilty. Might as well put it on Facebook, pal.”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“Needless to say.”
“How you going to explain it?”
“Maybe I won’t have to?”
“Ha, ha. You been listening to me? Two paths here. Abject groveling apology, crawling on the floor, licking her shoes and so forth. Or your best-defense-is-a-good-offense play. What did you expect, we been dead in the love department, the running off, the leaving me alone, the cold shoulder. Lay it on as thick as possible.”
“What’s your recommendation?”
“None of it works. You got to live through it. Time. Heals all wounds. Not really. You forget and you don’t forget. You work around it. You’re lucky, maybe she’ll have a fling herself. Your classic balance-of-terror deal.”
“The truth, which nobody wants to hear.”
“Jen. She might go for the truth. Depending on Leo’s expiration date.”
“Tough luck all around, Fatman. Our records, Leo is good until twenty-twenty-nine.”
“About this, no.”
“Leo is going to hit one hundred?”
“Data privacy, HIPPA, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but Leo’s going to put Jen in her grave. Not that he’ll know it. But he’ll be breathing long after she stops.”
“We all make bad deals.”
“Still. Isn’t there anything we can do?”
“Interesting. We’ve been in discussions. Pimlipper. Graydon. Some of the crew in Interventions. About extending the product features.”
“What does that mean?”
“Sit down, Fatman,” Duke said.
Tomorrow: It’s complicated.