We went over to a corner of the bar near the exit and stood under the ominous portrait of a frowning Tony Scalia. If I believed in omens, I would have left then. “So what do you need to talk to me about?”

“You first. You’re looking for a favor, too, aren’t you?”

“What makes you think I want to ask a favor? Maybe I want to tell you something you need to know.”

She raised a skeptical brow. “Like what, for instance?” she asked in the kind of tone that suggested she found it almost impossible to credit the notion that someone like me could have anything of importance to tell someone like her that she didn’t already know. I don’t even think she meant it; it was automatic. A tiger may smile playfully but with blood on its teeth, chances are you won’t take it that way. No wonder she was a trial lawyer.

“Like maybe I’m pregnant and you’re the father,” I said. She laughed. I always liked her laugh. Unlike everything she ever said to me, her laugh didn’t feel like it was aimed at my genitals. “OK, so I’m not pregnant and you’re not the father. Maybe I inherited a million dollars and I want you to help me spend it.” That got her attention. Money always did.

“Did you? Inherit a million dollars?” She didn’t believe it for a second but hope was writ large in her eyes just the same, like the hungry croc who sees a big, juicy antelope on the shore hoping that this one time the damn thing will be dumb enough to go swimming. If I had inherited a million bucks, I’d be lunch.

“You wish. No, you’re right. It’s a favor. But a really smaaaaall one…” I put my thumb and finger less than a nose-hair apart. “That big. No bigger.”

“Oh, goody!” She clapped her hands in delight. “Maybe we can trade. I’ll help you, then you can help me. So brief me. What’s up?”

The urge to bolt was becoming almost more than I could resist, and I would have been gone like a streak of light with a hearty “Hi-ho, Silver!” if I hadn’t been even more afraid of Aunt Harriet than I was of whatever Carolyn had up her Versace sleeve. I blocked my rebellious feet by putting a bar stool between them and the exit and then told her the story.

“A trip all the way up to Brewster? A killer pit? Stealing a trophy right out from under the owner’s nose? Cops hot on our trail?”

“Alright, so maybe it’s asking a little more than I made out–”

“Are you kidding? It sounds like a hoot.” I should have known she was going to react that way. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Good. Great.” My voice may have sounded enthusiastic but inside, my guts were about as joyful as a convict standing over a trap door with a rope around his neck. Pit bulls, my Aunt Harriet, now Carolyn. There was no way this could end in anything but disaster. “The only thing is, the party is Saturday night. Can you make it?”

Please let her be busy, please please please….

“No problem. Free as a bird.”

Damn damn damn damn-–

“Don’t look so worried, Ponsie. You came to the right dog expert. It just so happens that administering knock-out drops to pit bulls is a specialty of mine.”

Why was I not surprised? “Don’t tell me, for gawd’s-sake. I’ll take your word for it. I’ll pick you up Saturday at 3.”

“Good, and when we get back, you can do me that little favor I mentioned.”

“Which would be?” Now even the bar stool was trying to get away and I had to grip it more firmly to keep it from fleeing in panic.

“Nothing much. I need to get married next week. To you.”

I knew what it was now. I had died and gone to Hell and no one had told me. “Married,” I said, surprisingly calm. “To you. Next week. Me.” I nodded quietly. Yes. of course. This was the sort of thing that happened every day in Hell. It all made perfect sense.

My mouth must have been open because I felt Carolyn put a gentle finger to my chin and push it closed. “Relax. It’s not what you think. I’ll explain everything on Saturday.”

That’s what I was afraid of.

How To Know When You’ve Died and Gone to Hell: When everything is working out just the way you planned it.

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