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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Romantic Stories Collection: Love with the Proper Killer Part 5

The doorbell rang. Oh, no. Jerry was here before I'd decided what to do. How could I go out with him with these suspicions crowding into my mind? And if he suspected I knew, what then? I'd been thinking I'd just call the whole thing off, but here he was.

I opened the door. "Donna, you look great, as always."

"Just my office clothes. I haven't had a chance to change yet."

"Come just as you are. You always look wonderful to me." Jerry looked deep into my eyes. I stepped back and reached for my coat. Well, I had to eat. Lou Ann and Laurence were coming along, anyway. They'd wonder where we were if we didn't show up. I could decide what to do at dinner. Maybe I could slip out and call the police before we left.

There was valet parking at the fine Italian restaurant. Jerry handed over the keys to the Caddy calmly. I was sure he had the cat along. I refused to look in the back, just in case.

Inside, Lou Ann and Laurence waved to us from a table. "Won't you join us?" Laurence asked, just as though I hadn't set the whole thing up.

"Delighted." Jerry gave me a bemused look. "Shall we?"

"Fine," I said, feeling miffed that he didn't want me all to himself. What was the matter with me? Did I want to be alone with what was probably a psychotic killer on Valentine's Day? While not terminally brain-dead, I still felt a twinge of regret as he pulled out the heavy dark chair with the velvet seat for me and his long, slender fingers ruffled a tendril of hair on my neck.

Stringed instruments were playing love songs through the ages. Candles were flickering, voices were soft and intimate. It could have been a wonderful evening with the right man. Maybe Mac next year, if I survived the evening. But something wistful in me still cried, 'Jerry, Jerry, Jerry'.

I forced myself to study the wine list. Jerry was murmuring something in French to the maitre 'd, looking suave, competent and throughly adorable. I kicked Lou Ann under the table, to stop her from drooling. When I straightened up, Jerry seemed to have gone suddenly berserk. He leaped to his feet, overturning the thick crystal goblets of water onto the snowy white linen cloth.

"That's my car!" he yelled.

Under the bright lights that lit the entryway, his Caddy was coming slowly around the circular drive, blocked in for a moment by a driver who was backing up. I'd heard that sometimes parking attendants take these little joy rides when they think the patron's safely inside for an hour or so.

Jerry was already on his feet and running for the door with a sea of fascinated diners staring after him. "Hey!" I could hear him bellow as he swung the door open.

Several things happened at once. The driver in the front seat saw him through the rear view window, attempted to reverse, floored it and drove into Jerry and the side of the building with a resounding crash, just as Jerry was crossing behind the car. Then he leaped from the driver's side and ran away into the darkness.

"Somebody call an ambulance!" I heard the maitre d' shout as I hurried towards Jerry. Laurence beat me to the scene.

"Just lie still," I heard him saying. He took off his jacket and threw it over Jerry while he tried to keep him quiet. "There's an ambulance coming."

"Fitzhugh," Jerry said weakly.

"I'm sure he's all right. Don't worry. I'll take care of him," I promised like a fool.

Although the car looked like a write-off, the cat carrier had unfortunately survived intact. It lay upside down in the front seat with a very angry occupant.

The ambulance came screaming up. I watched as they loaded his now unconscious body onto the stretcher. What a Valentine's Day. First Mrs. Patrickson. Now Jerry. More like a Valentine Massacre.

"I'll just go along home, if you don't mind, Lou Ann," I said. "Thanks for all you've done."

"Call me," she said, pressing my hand. She looked genuinely sorry for me. I got into the Corvette with Fitzhugh in the cat carrier. As I drove out I saw them going back to the restaurant, peppered with questions from fascinated diners who were standing around watching.

Oh, Jerry, who are you? I thought and felt weepy for no reason. After all, I reminded myself, he probably tried to kill me, psychopath that he was, and got Mrs. Patrickson instead.

As I stepped off the elevator, the cat carrier bumped against my legs. The police tape and notice on Mrs. Patrickson's door seemed like a warning. Be careful. Watch out.

I went bravely into my apartment, set the carrier down and opened its door. Fitzhugh stayed where he was, glaring.

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