Leather chairs and a matching couch loomed in the darkened reception area, and Mary scooted past the terrifying furniture for the elevator, which didn't come fast enough. Once inside, she breathed a little easier, and when the elevator reached the lobby, she stepped off and glanced around, her pulse slowing to normal. The fake-marble lobby was bright and empty, except for a fake-granite security desk manned by a guard too sleepy for her comfort level. Bobby Troncello, an amateur boxer Mary knew from the neighborhood, undoubtedly dozing over the sports page.
"Wake up, Bobby," she said, making a beeline for the desk. She set her briefcase on its glistening surface and peeked over the edge. "We got trouble."
"What do you mean?" Bobby looked up, edging the maroon cap he hated over his thick eyebrows. His brown eyes were glassy-wet, his nose wide and dotted with large pores, and his mouth a slash that was usually swollen from the gym. The
Daily News lay open on his desk, tabloid-size, its pages cut in a soft zigzag fringe, and a can of Coke warmed beside an oily white wrapper from a cheesesteak dinner. Only the end of the long hoagie roll remained, with a brownish knob like an elbow.
"I just got a phone call from a very angry man named Tom Cott. I don't know what he looks like, but he threatened to come here tonight and shoot me."
"Uh-oh." Bobby's forehead knit unhappily.
"You're supposed to tell me not to worry."
"Don't worry, Mare. Bennie already told us to watch out for this Cott guy. Nobody gets upstairs, you know that. He comes in my lobby, I'll take care of him myself. I wouldn't let anybody hurt my homegirl."
Mary smiled, almost reassured. "He went to Bennie's house tonight. He said he looked her up in the phone book. I called her and left a message warning her, but I'm worried."
"About Rosato? I'd worry about him." Bobby laughed, rising to stretch arms that strained against the seams of his maroon blazer. His lapels parted as he reached up, releasing a heady combination of Drakkar Noir and fried onions. "If that knucklehead tussles with her, she'll kick his ass from here to Broad Street."
"But he said he'd shoot me, or us. I think." Mary couldn't remember much Premenstrual Tom had said after shoot, and his calling her a whore bothered her more than it should have, especially when it was part of a death threat in general. "What if he has a gun? What if he goes to Bennie's house with a gun?"
"So what? Rosato carries concealed." Bobby snorted.
"She'd bust a cap in him before he could find his pants pocket."
Strangely, I feel worse. "Is this your best stuff, Bobby?"
"Don't worry, everything's fine. You been workin' too hard, night after night. Lemme get you a cab." Bobby grabbed Mary's briefcase, walked around the security desk, and looped an aromatic arm around her shoulder. "By the way, what did you decide about my friend Jimmy? You gonna let me hook you up?"
Mary hid her dismay. Bobby had been trying to fix her up with his fellow boxers, a continuous loop of Joeys, Billys, and a stray Pooch. Lately, everybody was playing matchmaker, as if they'd all decided Mary wasn't allowed to be a Young Widow anymore. She hadn't known there was an official cutoff.
"I told you about Jimmy. We went to Bishop Neumann together, he's a real nice guy. Works his dad's plumbing business, got a nice car. Season tickets to the Eagles. Club level, Mare."
From Killer Smile by Lisa Scottoline. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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