“You don’t seem to understand,” Elena Paulson insisted. “This car does not belong to me.”
The woman stomped her foot, grinding her heel against the pavement to make her point.
She would have wagged a finger at him too, the parking attendant thought in amusement, if she had not been wearing a diamond nearly the size of his head. They were in front of Marty’s, one of the trendiest restaurants in L.A.
He shrugged and held up the keys. “Miss, I am sorry you seem to be having an unpleasant day. But this is the car that you drove up in. Perhaps you’re thinking about one of the other cars you left at home? The Porsche, or the Bentley?”
“You arrogant little prick,” she shot back. “Do you know who I am?”
She actually lifted her sunglasses a little, to give him a peek at her face.
“Miss Paulson, you come here every Wednesday and most Saturday nights, yes, I know who you are.”
“I DID NOT drive here in that car.”
“Miss Paulson,” he said in his kindest, lowest voice. He put the keys in her hand and gently squeezed it shut. “Let’s speak softly, shall we? A scene here on the street in front of the restaurant and the paparazzi will be all over it. They have abused you enough in the press, haven’t they?”
She seemed shocked. For a minute he thought she might just slap him. Instead she took a little step back, nodding her head affirmatively. Sadly, what he said might have been the kindest words anyone said to her all week.
“Now,” he whispered. “Miss Paulson, I realize you’re overwrought. But you must calm yourself. You gave me the keys thirty minutes ago and went into the restaurant. I took it around the back to park it. And I noticed something was wrong with the taillight. Miss Paulson, I looked in your trunk. There was a dead body in there.”
Elena Paulson was quiet. She shoved the dark glasses back over her eyes. She was trembling, just a little. He knew now she’d listen to whatever he had to say.
“Now, you don’t have to worry about that body anymore,” he told her, his eyes narrowing. “And you should not feel bad about it. You know, you weren’t the only client Wally stole money from. I’m surprised half the city is not after him. It’s people like him that give everyone a bad name.”
She shook her head. “What about my car? DNA evidence…”
There was an edge to her, which he liked. She was working the angles like a good businesswoman. He knew she had it in her. You didn’t get to the top of the music industry without some hardness in you.
“You need not worry about that. We’ll take care of it. Think of this car as being on permanent loan from the owner. We keep it around just in case… one of our clients might need help.”
“And what do you get out of this? How do I know I can trust you?”
“You’ll just have to go on faith,” he grinned. “There won’t be any traces of Wally to find. Our chef has great knowledge of how things should be prepared.”
She rocked back on her stilettos, almost falling over. “Excuse me?” she choked.
“Come now,” he said. ” I own the place, and my son manages it. We’re a family outfit. Now, you did kill the man, regardless. You’re not going to get all high and mighty and vegan are you? Because if you said anything, to anyone, your dirty little business would be out.”
Wally had been an awful boyfriend: a lie, a cheat, and a thief. But she didn’t know how she was going to feel about him being served up as someone’s dinner.
She got in the car, fighting the urge to be sick.
“If you’re squeamish,” the man said, “you may want to skip the prime rib on Saturday.”
©2008 Lori Titus