"You think she'd be smarter than that." Simmons nearly grinned with affection. "She never does like to pay for her own gas. Always puts it on the card so I'll have to pay, come bill time. She's tight with her money, see. Funny for a woman to be that way. And though she knows I'll be stroking the checks, she always has to stop for the cheapest gas, even if it means driving out of her way. I bet if you checked, you'd see they were selling gas at that station dirt cheap."
"Dollar and a penny for regular," said Strange.
Simmons rose from his chair, his belly and face quivering as if his flesh were being blown by a sudden gust of wind. "Well, I'll see you, Derek. I'll take care of your services, soon as I see a bill."
"Janine will get it out to you straightaway."
"Right. And thanks for the good work."
"Always hate it when it turns out like this, Jimmy."
Simmons placed a big hat with a red feather in its band on his big head. "You're just doing your job."
Strange sat in his office, waiting to hear Simmons go out the door. It would take a few minutes, as long as it took Simmons to flirt with Janine and for Janine to get rid of him. Strange heard the door close. He got out from behind his desk and put himself into a midlength black leather jacket lined with quilt and a thin layer of down. He took a PayDay bar, which Janine had bought for him, off the desk and slipped it into a pocket of the jacket.
Out in the reception area of the office, Strange stopped at Janine Baker's desk. Behind her, a computer terminal showed one of the Internet's many sites that specialized in personal searches. Janine's brightly colored outfit was set off against her dark, rich skin. Her red lipstick picked up the red of the dress. She was a pretty, middle-aged woman, liquid eyed, firm breasted, wide of hip, and lean legged.
"That was quick," he said.
"He wasn't his usual playful self. He said I was looking lovely today"
Janine blushed. "But he didn't go beyond that. Didn't seem like his heart was all that in it."
"I just gave him the bad news about his wife. She was getting a little somethin' - somethin' on the side with this young auto parts clerk, sells batteries over at the Pep Boys in northern Virginia."
"How'd they meet? He see her stalled out on the side of the road or something?"
"Yeah, he's one of those good Samaritans you hear about."
"Pulled over to give her a jump, huh."
"This the same guy she was shackin' up with two years ago?"
"Different guy. Different still than the guy she was running with three years before that."
"What's he gonna do?"
"He went through the motions with me, telling me what he was going to do to that guy. But all's he'll do is, he'll make Denice suffer a little bit. Not with his hands, nothin' like that. Jimmy wouldn't touch Denice in that way. No, they'll be doing some kind of I'm Sorry ceremony for the next few days, and then he'll forgive her, until the next one comes along."
"Why's he stay with her?"
"He loves her. And I think she loves him, too. So I guess there's no chance for you and Big Jimmy. I don't think he'll be leaving any time soon."
"Oh, I can wait."
Strange grinned. "Give him a chance to fill out a little bit, huh?"
"He fills out any more, we'll have to put one of those garage doors on the front of this place just to let him in."
"He fills out any more, Fat Albert, Roseanne, Liz Taylor, and Sinbad gonna get together and start telling Jimmy Simmons weight jokes."
"He fills out any more"
"Hold up, Janine. You know what we're doing right here?"
"It's called "doing the dozens.'"
Copyright © 2001 by George P. Pelecanos. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Littl, Brown & Co.
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