Why did she believe someone was following her?

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A VG Serial: ToxiCity’

Episode 43

Deanna went with Stone to the hearings that night. The location had been moved from Village Hall to the Community Center, an annex to the primary school that could hold over three hundred people. Over a hundred had shown up.

Stone spotted Ann Heller and Gerald Krieger in deep conversation. Earlier Krieger had disclaimed any knowledge of the dog and seemed surprised to hear about it. Calls to Ann Heller, Timothy Stargis, and Barbara Michaelson also ended in denials.

Krieger had changed clothes for the hearings, tonight wearing a navy suit. Same power tie, though, Stone noted. Heller, a small woman with brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, wore jeans and a black sweater. They stopped talking as Stone approached. “Evening, folks. How goes the fight?”

“No fight, Detective. Just a strategy session,” Krieger said.

“What is your strategy if they vote to go ahead with the mall?”

Krieger rocked back on his heels. “We’re not convinced they will, but if they do, we’ll up the ante. Feldman is going to need a thumbs-up from the village board, and that’s not a foregone conclusion.”

“You sound like tonight is.”

“It could go either way,” Heller said.

“And if it passes?”

Heller put her hands on her hips. “I don’t see that happening.”

“But if it does?”

She cleared her throat. “In the event that it passes, we’ll obviously be forced to take some kind of action. I’m sure Jerry has an idea or two.” She bent her head toward Krieger.

Stone stifled a smile. Krieger probably hoped it did pass. Any legal action would mean dollars in his pocket. At Stuart Feldman’s expense.

The crowd noise subsided, and a wave of energy seemed to radiate through the room. Stone turned around. Ricki Feldman and Paul Landon shouldered their way through the crowd. A second man, tall and beefy, followed. Ricki seemed oblivious to the crowd, many of whom backed away as if she was Moses parting the Red Sea. As she approached, she nudged past him, her eyes wide.

“Deanna, is that you?”

Stone did a double take.

Deanna smiled. “Ricki. How are you?”

Then he remembered. Ricki had hired Deanna to promote a Feldman development at Fort Sheridan. Stone followed Ricki’s gaze. Deanna was in black maternity pants with an embroidered white blouse she’d bought from a street-vendor who claimed to have imported it from Ecuador.

“My god.” Ricki pointed at Deanna’s stomach. “When are you due?”

“January.” Deanna grinned.

“I didn’t know you were married.”

“Last week.” Deanna reached for Stone and crooked her arm through his.

Ricki’s eyes widened. “You’re married to him?”

Deanna rubbed Stone’s back and nodded.

Ricki turned to Stone. “You never fail to surprise me, Detective. What is it they say about the company one keeps?”

Deanna cut in. “You can tell the man by the company he keeps.”

“That’s it,” Ricki said. “First Matt Singer, now Deanna Steele. You clearly run with the best.”

Stone and Deanna exchanged looks. Then Stone said, “The hearings are going to start soon. Allow me take you to your seat.”

She nodded and headed into the gym. “While I’ve got you,” she said quietly, “what did you find out about the dog?”

“Not much.” He explained what Sharon Fox reported.

“I don’t believe it. How can that be?”

He answered her question with another. “What about your suspicion that you were being followed? What’s going on?”

“Nothing new.”

“So that’s good?”

“Only because I’ve taken steps to control the situation.” She motioned to the man in back of her. “Rufus, this is Detective Stone. Rufus Dorman. He’s going to be with me for a while.”

Stone nodded to the man.

“Deanna— “Ricki flashed Deanna a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I hope you’ll work for me when we get this thing going. It’s a perfect gig for you. If you can take time away from—that.” She pointed to Deanna’s stomach.

“What a nice offer. Thank you.” Deanna replied.

That was Deanna-code for “not on your life, lady.”

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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