This is Part 6 of a serial story. The story began here.
The next morning I packed my bags for Pampa. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad, working with Steve. The case itself seemed interesting. And heck, it would just be nice to get out of the apartment for a while. I had found memories of Pampa, visiting Grandpa and Grandma Mackenzie there when I was a kid. It'd be nice to go back.
Everything was loaded in the car, and I was about to leave, when I realized a critical error. I had neglected to select the right music. “Where's the Sonia Leigh CD? The new one?” I asked Charlotte as I rifled through the stack of random stuff we left near the front door.
“What do you want that for?” Charlotte replied.
“I need driving music.”
“You haven't MP3'd it?”
“Not yet. I've been busy.”
Charlotte rummaged through the music stack near the stereo and came up with the CD. “I'm surprised you listen to her,” she said as she handed me the CD. “She's pretty anti-lawyer.”
“Well, yeah. Don't you listen to the lyrics?”
I ran through the cache of song lyrics in my head. It took me a moment to pick out the words worrying Charlotte. “Lawyers do lie,” I eventually pronounced. “You can't hate on the woman for speaking truth.”
“You don't lie,” Charlotte said sweetly.
“The hell I don't.”
“Oh. Well, you'd never lie to me.” Charlotte moved around the sofa and stood directly in front of me. “You'd never lie to me, would you, Maryanne?”
“No more than you would to me,” I replied cheerfully. Pushing past Charlotte, I snagged my purse of the coffee table and scooped up the file. “I'll call you when I get to Pampa.”
“Okay. Be careful,” Charlotte said quietly.
Outside, I paused. Something wasn't right. I ran my pre-trip checklist through my head again, and came up with all completes. So what was bothering me? I walked slowly down the stairs. When I was at the car, it hit me. I pulled out my cellphone and called Robert Brooks.
“Can you do me a favor?” I asked when he answered.
“Sure. You name it,” Robert replied.
“I have to go out of town for a few days. Will you check in on Charlotte while I'm gone?”
“Why? She's a grown woman. She can look out for herself.”
Wow. Talk about potent emotion. Robert has a massive crush on Charlotte, and his vehement denial of that fact colored his reaction to just hearing her name. “Please, Robert. She could be in trouble. I didn't say anything before, but...that last case? The one against the law firm? There was a threat against Charlotte.”
“What? By who?” Robert asked, concerned. “I thought we got all those SOBs.”
“We missed one,” I said sourly.
“You want me to keep watch outside the apartment?”
“No, nothing stalkerish. Just drop by occasionally to say hi. If you need some pretense, say I hired you to sort through the legal files from the old firm. Call me if anything happens.”
“You got it.”
“Thanks, Robert. I'm just a little worried because...well...she's not acting like herself. She is, but she isn't.”
“What do you mean?”
“She forgot my coffee yesterday.”
Robert laughed. “It's the end of the world as we know it,” he mocked.
“Jerk,” I muttered, and hung up.