Slow Squeeze(7)

By: Dianne Emley

William freed his hand from underneath Barbie’s. He blushed and started washing glasses. “Thanks.”

“I’ll bet William’s not from California,” Iris said.

Barbie opened her eyes wide. “Really? That true, buddy?”

“I’m from Wisconsin.”

Iris raised her eyebrows a little and smiled, being careful not to be indelicate in her victory.

Barbie put her hand on Iris’s knee and leaned close to her ear. Her lips brushed Iris’s hair. “Lady, you’re a good judge of character.”

“Thanks, but that was easy. I think the more typically Californian someone looks, the less likely they’re from here.”

“I’m going to have to think about that one,” William said.

Barbie’s expression was suddenly serious. She grabbed Iris’s hand. “Honey, don’t sell yourself short like that. You are a good judge of character.” She maintained eye contact with Iris and squeezed her hand while she nodded, expecting assent.

Iris just smiled.

William continued washing glasses. “If I can interrupt, you said you saw Iris on TV?”

“Of course you can interrupt, Billy.” Barbie dunked a toast circle in olive oil and crunched it noisily. “Mmm, that’s different. Iris was on the Susie Santé show.”

“That’s right.” William brightened, having solved his puzzle. “Before Christmas. ‘Women in Finance.’ And you were in the paper, too. That money-laundering thing at…what’s the company?” He snapped his fingers. “Kinney…”

“McKinney Alitzer,” Iris answered. “So. I’ve been unmasked.” She sipped her wine.

“Someone at your office was murdered, right?” William continued enthusiastically. “And they never accounted for all that money.”

Iris tossed back the last of her wine.

“Let’s stop talking about this,” Barbie said. “Lord knows this poor woman’s been through enough.”

William left to wait on a man and a woman at the other end of the bar.

“So, you got a boyfriend, Iris? You’re not married, are you?”

“I’ve got a boyfriend.”

“He in business?”

“No, he’s a cop.”

“That’s right. I remember that from the show. Well, that’s a job if there ever was one. Betcha he’s a big, strong kinda man.”

Iris nodded and smiled, her eyelids dropping a little with the thought of John Somers.

“Well, of course he is. What else could he be?”

William returned, wiping his hands on a towel. “So you went on the show to talk about the murders?”

“Billy!” Barbie exclaimed, hopping up a little on the bar stool. “We’re droppin’ the subject.”

“It’s all right,” Iris said. “I’m used to it. A friend from my MBA program is the producer. She told me it’d be fun and I might get some new business.”

Barbie gestured toward herself with both hands. “And here I am. When I moved out to California, I said to myself, ‘Barbeh, you gotta get that Iris Thorne to manage your affairs.’ See, honey, it wasn’t a total loss.” She patted Iris’s thigh.

“My friend promised we’d just talk about the old-boys’ network, the famous clients I’ve had and stuff like that. But Susie Santé brought up the scandal in my first two minutes on camera.”

“Oh, it was awful,” Barbie said. “I felt so sorry for you. Even Susie Santé with her heart of stone shed a tear.”

“It was good television,” Iris shrugged.

William ran glasses through a hot bath, then a cold one. “It’s an amazing story.”

“I just want to put it behind me.”

“How did the people at your office react to you being on TV?” William asked.

“They weren’t thrilled. The firm’s trying to put the scandal behind them, too. But I’m still their top salesperson in L.A., so…”

“So fuck ‘em,” William said.

Barbie blinked her eyes as if someone had hit her in the face.

“Sorry. I get too familiar with the patrons.”

“That’s okay, Billy. It’s just that I could never get used to vulgarity.” Barbie tugged at her tight skirt, which had inched even farther up her hips. “Enough of this sad talk.” She waggled an accusing finger playfully at the bartender. “It’s all your fault. Treat Iris to some more wine.”