I wanted to sleep late but Vanessa had to leave early for her office. Her hard and fast rule is that if she has to get up early, everybody has to get up early. So she woke me up as well. Thanks hon. Before she ran out of the apartment, we decided to meet at Timothy’s for dinner at seven. I still felt her goodbye kiss on my lips an hour later.
‘The Diner,’ the local greasy spoon on the first floor of my office building is my favorite place to stop for breakfast before going up to my office. ‘The Diner’s’ cooking exhaust vented in the alley directly under my third floor office and when my windows are open, I can smell the day’s lunch special cooking. The food’s good, the portions filling and cheap and the atmosphere relaxed.
I sat at the counter and Debbie, the grill “man” who doubles as counter waitress came over and handed me a menu. Debbie was in her mid twenties, five feet tall. Her long brown hair tied in a ponytail and pulled through the opening created by the adjusting strap at the back of her ball cap. She wore a stained and faded Washington Redskins tee shirt and washed out, faded blue jeans with bottoms of the legs worn to tatters from continually being under her heels as she walked. She also wore as part of her uniform a long wide white apron which hung below her knees. Debbie wore the apron wrapped twice around her slender body as if wrapped in a shroud. Her shroud tied in front at her navel. The accumulation of splattered grease and dropped food made the original color of her Reebok shoes indistinguishable. Her voluminous apron effectively hid her figure from view not that anything would ever come from it. I’m a man, I’m alive, ergo, I’m gonna look at the female form. Looking is fine. It’s a survival of the species thing. Hey, that’s why there are museums and art galleries.
“What’ll you have, Jake,” she asked. Debbie used to be friendlier but within the last few months her attitude towards me changed and not for the better. Now she acts as if she were doing me a favor by waiting on me.
“Pancakes and coffee,” I said. Debbie walked back to the grill to start my order.
“Are you going back?” Lyons asked.
“I’m giving it very serious consideration,” I said. “You want to tag along for the fun of it?”
“I’d like to but I have to take a trip out of town for a couple of weeks, maybe longer” Lyons said. Knowing Lyons like I do, he’s probably off to a third world hell hole doing a job for the three lettered government agency that prefers to remain nameless. The agency doesn’t want the world to know they had any part in the job done they hired Lyons to do.
“If I can finish the big court case I have on Monday and another big case after it, I’m going with him,” Vanessa said, a smile on her face.
“I have about half a day’s work on my desk. Then Tuesday, I want to do some research on Prohibition and speakeasies to get some perspective of the times and events of the day. If Vanessa’s finished her cases, we’ll leave Wednesday or Thursday morning,” I said.
“Benny, are you sure you can’t put off your trip. You know how I love ghosts and skeletons and paranormal activity,” Marilyn asked. Lyons looked down at the table.
“Honey, I’ve already postponed it twice. It’s now or never. Sorry, sweetie, I can’t get out of it this time,” Lyons said, giving Marilyn’s cheek a kiss.
“Damn,” Marilyn said, dejectedly. The room grew quiet. I thought that Marilyn waited for someone to rescue her, me, and suggest she come along with us. If I had my druthers, I’d rather have Lyons. I kept my mouth shut and played dumb. It wasn’t a very hard acting job for me. Vanessa obviously sensing my distress broke the silence as she said, “I think I”ll have the ribeye, medium rare.” There was no further discussion of Marilyn accompanying us.
We ordered dinner and enjoyed the good food and good company. The four of us spent the rest of the evening talking about other things; anything, everything except skeletons. We revisited our thoughts about spending New Years in St. Thomas, a trip we talked about taking a year ago.
Vanessa and I went home, made love, then fell asleep afterwards snuggled in each other’s arms.
Ben Lyons is my former Marine Corps platoon corporal in the first Gulf War. He’s also my best friend, next to Vanessa. I call him Corporal. He calls me Sarge. We work together like a well oiled machine. We know what each other’s thinking in any given situation and we react instinctively and correctly to any predicament. We’ve never had a tactical problem yet where we didn’t correctly anticipate each other’s next move. We’ve had each other’s backs since we joined the Corps. I’ve trusted him with my life and he’s trusted me with his.
Lyons was the product of a teenaged mother and a one night stand. His mother gave him up for adoption minutes after giving birth. He spent eighteen years in a New York City orphanage under the care of a kindly woman he came to call Mom. The kindly woman took Lyons under her wing and wanted to adopt him but in those days single women were prohibited from adopting. Forced to leave the only home he had ever known when he turned eighteen, Mom gave him a key to her apartment and told him she would be home after her shift. Lyons stayed with Mom for several months but with no future insight, he joined the Marine Corps.
Ben Lyons is a problem solver who travels the world solving problems for the highest bidder. He often helps me when I need backup. We were involved last Christmas time in a bloodbath in the Monkey House at the D.C. Zoo. Two organized crime organizations vied for control of the prostitution trade in the city. Neither side succeeded.
Vanessa and Marilyn became best friends almost from their first meeting. My smart, legal-eagle wife accepted a dollar retainer from Lyons, Marilyn and myself so that anything we may inadvertently say about our work is privileged communication between lawyer and client. Marilyn and Vanessa, loving ladies that they are, even accompanied Lyons and myself as part of the security arrangements to several parties at a client’s apartment. The apartment happened to be one of the most upscale and expensive brothels in the city of Washington. Our beautiful wives made a big splash at the parties.
Vanessa and I arrived at Timothy’s just as Lyons helped his wife, Marilyn, step from their yellow cab. Once seated in a corner booth, we gave our drink order to Erin O’Connor, the pretty Irish colleen waitress who happened to be a distant cousin of the owner, Timothy. Erin has a pretty face surrounded by shiny black hair, deep blue eyes and a bright white smile. She stood five feet three, about a hundred pounds. Her snug green knit Timothy’s Pub collared golf shirt with an embroidered shamrock superimposed over an Irish harp and the Timothy’s logo embroidered in Gaelic script above her left breast accentuated her full figure. Over our drinks, Vanessa and I told Marilyn and Lyons all we knew about the skeleton in the old speakeasy and the Primrose Hotel.
Haunted houses, spooky ghosts and skeletons grabbed Marilyn’s imagination and bring a light to her eyes almost as brilliant as the light that Lyons brings to her eyes. She was ready to leave right away for Mossville and check things out. Para-normal ghost hunting TV shows on the cable kept Marilyn up late at night. Lyons on the other hand listened quietly and as usual mulled the facts over in his head.
Marilyn St. Clair married Ben Lyons about six months before Vanessa and I tied the knot. She decided to keep her birth name after she married Lyons. She said it would save her the aggravation of having to change a lot of paperwork. Maybe Marilyn gave the same idea to Vanessa. Who knows.
Marilyn’s parents were divorced when she was only three. A few years later her mother married a moderately well off man who wouldn’t or couldn’t be a father figure to young Marilyn. He refused to pay her college tuition forcing Marilyn to work her way through college. She found summer work as a barmaid in one of the seaside saloons in Ocean City Maryland. She worked summers after her sophomore, junior and senior years until she took the job in the Department of Labor. Then for the next two years summers working through lunch hours during the week to get the extra time to leave early driving from D. C. to the beach every mid-afternoon on Fridays. She usually made it to Ocean City around six o’clock and working the weekends and driving back to D.C. after the saloon closed Sunday night.
Marilyn St. Clair, advanced up to her present position of administrative assistant to the Secretary of Labor. Before they were married, Lyons started to tell her about his line of work. Marilyn told him she didn’t want to hear the details. All she wanted from him was to know when he was finished and coming back home to her. He never talks about his work. I doubt he even tells Marilyn about the work he does with me.