I clambered to the seat as the sleek black car rocketed away from the curb. I could see I wouldn't be getting out until the car's other occupant finished having his say. He was older than me but still spry despite his girth and age. I recognized him at once.
"I know you," I said. "You own the-"
"Yeah, yeah, everybody knows me," he said. "That isn't important now. Just think of me as a senior executive in the back of a car. Capish?"
"I have a problem you can help me with," he said.
"I seriously doubt that. You may have the wrong guy."
"You're on the Friends of the Library committee, right?"
I nodded again.
"Then you're the guy," he said. "I think we can help each other out."
"I don't think I need any help."
"Really?" He tossed a manila envelope into my lap from across the car. "There's $26 in there. The same amount as what you owe Donna D. for spotting you at bingo last Thursday."
"You're paying off bingo debt? Why?"
"That's the kind of help I give people who do me favors."
"You need me to do you a favor? At the library?"
He leaned across the seat. His breath smelled of scotch and baseball stadium hot dogs. "There is an issue with some overdue books that I would like to see taken care of."
"You want your overdue fines waived?"
"Well, I can't imagine overdue book fines being more than the money in this envelope."
His face screwed up in frustration. "The amount isn't the point. The point is that I am an influential man in this community. I can't be seen as someone who flagrantly checks out books and then fails to return them."
"So you're bribing me?"
"That's an interest free loan with no repayment schedule. You understand?"
"I really don't."
"Make the overdue fines go away and pay back that sweet little old lady who paid for your bingo cards."
"Have you returned the books?"
He opened up a shoulder bag laying on the floor at his feet. One beefy paw went in a rooted around, finally emerging with two books. He held them out to me.
I accepted them and looked at the titles. " 'Commercial Real Estate for Dummies'. 'What to Expect in Prison'. "
"I have varied interests." He lowered the privacy screen. "John, take this guy back to his car. We're all done."
The limo swung around and glided back to curb where I'd gotten in. "One more thing," he said, as I exited the car. "You're in the deep end now. You get hung up returning those books or erasing the fines and you're on your own. I don't ever want to hear my name associated with this."
"Um, yeah, sure. You'll never be anything more than the senior executive in the back of the car."
He leaned close again. "You mean the unknown senior executive in the back of the car. Right?"
"Right. Got it."
The limo sped away, merging effortlessly back into traffic.