“Do you know how to drive, Mr. Chamberland?”
“Certainly,” he says. “Ah, but I don’t have a car, ma’am, just now. I had one, but…” His shrug is eloquent.
“I have a car you can use. Can you drive stick?”
“My first car had a manual transmission, ma’am. It’s been a few years–,” he scratches his neck– “but it should come back to me quick enough. I might not be so good on your clutch, though.”
She waves that away. “Someone will be by this afternoon with the car so you can remind yourself. You’ve got a week, Mr. Chamberland.”
“A week’s plenty,” he says. “I should be able to get by after a week of practice.”
“No. Getting by isn’t enough. You’ve got to be perfect, do you understand?”
“Sure, sure. Until next week, then…” She leaves behind a perfume of gardenias and an envelope containing five hundred dollars, fat with twenties.
“I don’t trust her,” growls the bottle imp. “She’s trouble.”
“Course she is,” Tim says, dropping the envelope into the floor safe, lighting a Fatima. The sharp smoke washes away the gardenias. “I’m in the mood for trouble.”
“Do you remember Ingersoll?”
“Short man with a Santa Claus beard?”
“Yes, you have him. He’s gone now, do you see? Took her retainer, then decided he didn’t like the look of it and tried to back out.”
“And he was killed?” He snorts.
“No. He’s just gone, poof! Maybe he was killed but whoever did it, he’s very good at hiding his traces. All the powers of earth and air are – hst! – silent.”
Chamberland leans back and laces his fingers together behind his head. “Ingersoll was a damn fool.” He blows smoke at the imp and it retreats, its eyes glaring balefully at him for a moment before they, too, disappear. “I’ll take her trouble and give it back to her all nice and pretty with a bow on top. Yes I will.”