Chapter 149: Louella Gets Grilled

by Alice Cherbonnier

Just two hours ago Louella had learned her public relations job had been abolished. She'd then had to pack her belongings under the watchful eye of a rent-a-cop hired for the occasion.
Up to that point, her company's layoffs were just business-as-usual-in-corporate America. Louella had been there before, and knew the drill. But the script had changed: there was a scream. Her boss, who had executed the layoffs, had been found dead in his office, of causes as yet unknown. Now Louella was sitting on a contemporary blue upholstered chair whose padding was so thin she had to keep shifting to avoid pain on her sit-bones. Figures idiot management would buy things for looks and not for comfort! she groused as she waited for her turn to be interviewed by the police.
She was bemused to realize she was glad Mr. McQuay was dead. This is ridiculous! she marveled. I'd be more upset if I'd broken a hangnail! She glanced at the others waiting to be heard. I wonder if one of us killed him!
Louella had always wanted to be a detective, ever since her Nancy Drew days. But she'd stopped reading mysteries years ago: too much sex. Not like the romance novels, where it's expected, she thought. But I bet I could write a good mystery. Why not do it while I'm unemployed? She daydreamed a little about becoming famous. I guess I'm so relaxed because I don't have a big mortgage payment staring me in the face, she mused. I've paid down my credit cards. I might actually do something interesting with my life besides slave for a paycheck.
The door to the interior office opened and Madelyn hurried out, staring at the carpet. The detective signaled to Louella. She stood, straightened her too-short skirt, and followed him inside. The door closed behind them. A second plainclothes cop was making notes on a legal pad. She nodded to Louella to take a seat. "I'm officer Kenner," she said, "and this here's Detective Anderson. We need to ask you some questions."
What is this? A script from `Dragnet'? She could at least say `ma'am'! Louella, poised from her high school modeling classes, folded into the chair and crossed her ankles. ("Never cross your knees," she remembered the teacher saying. Funny the lessons you remember.)
After the usual name-address-and-phone number routine, Detective Anderson got to the point. "Do you recognize this?" he demanded, shoving a sheet of computer print-out across the desk to her.
She stared, horrified. It was the text of some office e-mail she'd sent to a friend down the hall. But I erased that! she thought. She was aware of cold beads of sweat forming under her blouse.
It was not a message she was proud of, but it had seemed funny at the time. It was about McQuay, what a jerk he was, and how maybe they could work together to make him look bad so he'd be fired. She prayed they hadn't found Joan's reply.
She cleared her throat. "Oh, that! Just some fun we were having! You know how office talk is!" She giggled nervously, hating herself for doing it but unable to stop. "I mean, don't you sometimes wish your boss would drop off the face of the earth?"
Whoops! Wrong thing to say! The officers were looking at her with veiled alertness. They didn't answer. Louella blurted, "Did you find other messages about that?" They just stared. Louella was frantic. Then she noticed with relief that Detective Anderson was wearing white socks.


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