Chapter Four

"Wait for it, wait for it…."

BOOM!

"And that, gentlemen, is the tell-tale sign of the boss telling us that the fun in the office will have to be suspended…for a little while, anyway," David chuckled as the slam reverberated through the room.

The Wobblie wolfpack looked lost. Moments ago, they had been dreaming of a phone flirtation with a fresh, fiery, fishnet-stocking-clad female. Now, their heads hung as though Mom had grounded them for a month. David inspected their doleful display as he meandered over to Maddie's door.

"Ah now fellas, not so blue! Don't you worry. I've been a pretty good negotiator lately when it comes to stuff that's crossed her desk. I think I can get her to come around again."

The door jerked open and Maddie quickly scooted out backwards, running into David.

"I knew you'd reconsider, Maddie, but I was really looking forward to the negotiations…arbitrations…accommodations—"

She turned quickly, pushing his hands off her backside.

"David!" she gasped as the employees stared. "May I see you in my office?" she whispered emphatically.

He shook his head. "Almost too easy…"

"Ms. Hayes?" Agnes cautiously interjected. "You did hear me tell you there was a client waiting in your office—a Mr. Harry Sofer?"

"A client?" David asked, a little crestfallen. "If that's all…"

The male employees' disappointed muttering was, apparently, lost on Maddie.

"Yes, Agnes, you did tell me. And he is indeed… waiting…though…maybe we left him waiting a little too long…David—come on—"

David edged around her and slipped through the door. A man, squarish, with dark, close-cropped hair, sat in the chair in front of Maddie's desk. He didn't turn around, or make any indication he heard David. Maybe he was hard of hearing?

He cleared his throat, and said, loudly. "Hello, Mr. Sofer. I'm David Addison and this is—"

Mr. Sofer chose this moment to slump forward. His head landed on Maddie's desk with an awful thud. Drunk? Or—

"Oh, David…this can't be good…this isn't good at all," Maddie breathed.

He walked around the desk, where he had a good view of the man's face. It was blue. "Well, I don't think Harry thinks it's so great either."

He grabbed Harry's shoulders and tried to set him upright in the chair, where he slowly slumped over sideways.

Maddie stuck her head out of the office door. "Mr. Viola? Ms. DiPesto? Could you please come in here?"

Agnes followed Bert and closed the office door behind them.

"Oh, dear…" Agnes sighed.

"Agnes, we need you to call the paramedics and report the death of Mr. Sofer," Maddie whispered. "Did he give you any indication as to why he wanted to see us?"

"No, Ms. Hayes. Only that he wasn't feeling too well and asked to wait in your office," she whispered back.

David stood in front of Sofer. "Bert, dig around a little on this guy. Find out what he wanted…or needed. Usually we do work for a client before they kick the bucket."

"Yes sir, Mr. Addison. I'll see what I can find," Bert answered, his voice quaking. He hightailed it—quietly—out of the office.

"Ms. Hayes, should we wait with him? I mean…it's kind of sad…passing on…all by yourself…you know?" Agnes lamented.

"Mr. Addison will wait with Mr. Sofer, Agnes, and I'll work from Mr. Addison's office. So any calls—"

"Wait a minute! Why do I have to stay in here?"

"Unlike earlier, Mr. Addison, business should go on as usual," Maddie argued, turning to go.

"Oh-ho-ho! Not so fast," David replied, grabbing her arm. "If I remember correctly, usual business is usually in here. Don't worry Agnes. No one around here, dead or alive, will be lonely."

Agnes nodded with satisfaction and gently closed the office door as David took the blanket on the couch and threw it over Harry's head.

"Do you have to do that?" Maddie protested.

"Well…I figured he wouldn't want to be seen like this."

"Yes, but that blanket—"

"What about that blanket? Don't tell me—your Great-aunt Ruth knit that for you way back when you were just a Gerber baby?"

"Never mind!" With one last look at the sofa, she retreated behind her desk. "I suppose I should try to catch up on some paperwork."

David gave her an incredulous look. How can she even THINK about paperwork lying on that desk of hers after what lay there yesterday?

He plunked into the chair next to Harry.

"What now David?" Maddie softly questioned. "Can't you find something to do?"

"Why are you whispering? It's not like you're gonna wake ol' Harry up!" David patted Mr. Sofer on top of his blanket-covered head, making him slouch further to the side, while Maddie shuffled a few papers here and there, avoiding his eyes.

"So…"

"So?" She moved a paperweight to the other side of her phone and then picked it up again, sliding a folder underneath it. Pulling a drawer open, she grabbed a stack of files and slid them across her desk. The stapler fell to the floor, and Maddie startled.

David picked up the stapler and sat down with it on the corner of the desk. "So…" he started again, clicking the stapler shut. Maddie jumped a second time, then looked up at him, exasperated.

"Do you have to do that? Can't you just—be quiet?" She tilted her head in Harry's direction. "You know, out of respect?"

"I've had just about enough of our cadaverous client giving you the willies." Grabbing the office chair, he wheeled Harry over to the corner, behind the big potted plant.

"Better?"

But Maddie merely nodded and opened another folder.

A sinking feeling hit him in the gut. Whoever said dreams were meant to come true musta been drinking a lotta hooch...Is this the same woman who, less than twenty-four hours ago, had me pressed across this desk enjoying a well-practiced kiss?

He ran a hand through his hair, contemplating their situation. Maddie shifted slightly, and a smirk crossed his face as he glimpsed the necklace resting softly on her collarbone.

Pacts…Pals…and now…Pearls.

Pearls or no, she was elevating ignoring him into an art form. Any other man might let her little show punch him in the ego, and slip away through the ropes before the second round. Not him—not this time. This time, he'd stay on his toes, bouncing around the ring, hoping to transform an uppercut into another liplock.

He wasn't about to believe she hadn't thought about it. In fact, given the violence with which she was entering numbers into the adding machine, she might be thinking about it right now. A sound like gunfire shot around the silent room—rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-TAT!—as number after number gave up the ghost.

"David, why are you hovering? Can you hand me those folders behind you?" she asked, the tearing of the paper tape on the machine, bringing him back to the present.

He picked up the small stack and held them just out of her reach.

"David!"

"Maddie." He stood holding them further away as she tried to grab them again.

"Okay, David. Very funny. But I'm not in the mood for games," she began to simmer.

"You were all for games yesterday," he quipped, tossing the folders on her desk.

Maddie stood, her hands on her hips. "I wasn't doing anything of the sort!"

"Yeah? Well, what do you call that little tango across your desk then? Because if it were a wrestling match you had me down for the count!"

"If anyone is attempting to play games, it's you!"

"Me?"

"You, yes YOU! Magillicuddy blows the whistle…"

"That would be a bell in this case—"

"… for a timeout and I turn around and you're gone. No good-bye, nothing! And then you show up here like you're expecting some-some—blue ribbon or trophy!"

Maddie's face had turned three shades of red and she began to pace. Her flushed neck only made her pearls stand out even more.

"What is it, David? I give you a gift and then you think I EXPECT a gift in return? And then when you do give me a gift you expect something more?"

David tucked his hands into his pockets and resisted the urge to raise his voice to her timbre. Instead, he grinned, saying nothing. Maddie started a slow burn, and he realized how much he had missed seeing her sizzle. But it probably wasn't a good time to fan the flame. Not if he wanted to get to the end of this game…or whatever this was, and figure out where she stood.

"It was just a gift, Maddie. A gift with no expectations attached. Unless…"

"Unless, what?"

"Unless you are expecting something else?"

"This is all a game to you, isn't it?"

"Now…" he slowly approached her, crossing the line in the sand. "… does that last thing you gave me count as a gift? 'Cause if it did, it'd be my turn to give, right?"

Blue eyes flashed and snapped, but he stood his ground, as his eyes trailed down to the pearls and back, lingering on her lips. "Maddie, I want—"

The door burst open.

"Where is he?" demanded a tall, uniformed paramedic.

"What?" Maddie asked, flustered. "Oh—there, in the corner—"

David pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "You shoulda waited five minutes…there might've been another stiff in here."

Another paramedic, shorter and wider, gave them a rather withering look as the first man wheeled Harry into the center of the room. As they examined him, David leaned into Maddie.

"Don't think that this is over."

"Over?" she hissed. "When did it even start?"

"Nope, no vitals," the short paramedic announced. "Let's pronounce him."

As the tall medic called out the time, Maddie turned away from him and went back to stacking folders. David couldn't help wondering whether their putative client was the only dead thing in the room.

TO BE CONTINUED