Tag Archive | "Coffee Club"

A Threat Received

Florence ordered the chicken breast broiled with almonds, steamed broccoli, and Caesar salad. She watched while Shorty ordered the 16 oz T-bone, mashed potatoes, and green beans. She decided on the white chardonnay while her partner selected the Budweiser.

“I doubt if the Caesar dressing will have anchovies,” she remarked as the waitress wandered off. Her comment was intended more to break Shorty’s gaze at Hilda’s figure than it was a comment on the haute cuisine of Bradley’s Steak House.

He turned back to her with a guilty start and asked her about her real estate business.

“You know I’m not talking about that man,” she told him, referring to Cabot Fleece.

He drained about half his glass of water, licked his lips, and decided that he ought to use his napkin. He played around with his spoon and fork, standing them up, intertwined like lovers.  “It wasn’t on my mind at all,” he insisted.

Florence wondered why Shorty was suddenly so nervous. He’d been pestering her for months for a date, and now that she’d finally accepted the idea of eating supper with him, he’d begun acting uncharacteristically shy. “What’s the matter, Shorty?” she asked him. “There’s something bothering you.” Statement, not question.

Shorty finished his glass of water and looked toward the service counter. “Now where could Hilda be with our drinks,” he wanted to know, stalling and dabbing at his mouth for the second time in less ten seconds.

Florence sat back and looked around her. It was relatively early and there were only a dozen people scattered at tables across the room. The dark paneling was restful after the bright glare of cloudless skies outside, and the red tile floor was cool. Later, the Steak House would fill up with noisy, beer-drinking ranch hands and lonesome salesmen looking for a little action. She smiled to herself, maybe at one time they might have found entertainment, but everyone and everything had moved on from Walfer Falls. There were only a few hangers-on—she was one of them—who either couldn’t get away or were attached to the town with other sorts of unbreakable ties.

Hilda served Shorty’s beer first and then placed Florence’s wine in front of her. That was the way of it, she thought. The men get all the attention. Even Shorty noticed this lapse on Hilda’s part and looked embarrassed. “Hilda, I’m here with a real lady,” he said.

The waitress looked amused. “I know sweetie. I also know where my tip comes from.”

The waitress was trying for rough humor, but Florence knew better. Hilda could be a regular bitch. “How about some more water for the man? Did you notice his glass is empty?”

Hilda looked pure daggers at Florence. “And after all the customers I’ve wined and dined in this place,” Florence said after Hilda left them.

This time Shorty kept his eyes on Florence and not on Hilda. He couldn’t decide whether the woman was being serious or joking. “I can’t lie to you, Florence; I gotta tell you something.”

Crap. Am I going to get a proposal? What is this man about to confess to me? “Whatever it is, Shorty, I don’t want to hear it,” she said.

“Oh yes you do, Florence, and I couldn’t sleep if I didn’t say it.”

So it’s not about me, it’s about your guilty conscious.

“Is this what’s been bothering you?” she wanted to know.

“I know a fellow down in Austin, and I owe him a lot of money,” he started out.

“Sorry, Shorty, I don’t loan friends money unless it’s for cancer cures,” Florence said immediately.

Shorty looked embarrassed. “No, I promise that it’s nothing like that. It’s that he’s been asked by another fellow to keep an eye on you ‘cause you stirred up something troublesome with that Cabot Fleece.”

“So how did anybody know about that?” Florence was taken aback and a little angry. “Have you been talking about me?”

“No ma’am, I promise. I don’t know how they knew, but these people have their ways and they can be very unfriendly.”

“Are you talking about your friends?”

“Oh no, they were afraid for your safety so they asked me to look out for you.”

Florence thought that Shorty might be exaggerating his role and told him so.

“I can take care of myself, thank you,” she said.

“I’m sure you can,” he said apologetically.

They were interrupted by the arrival of Florence’s salad and some hot rolls with four pats of melting butter soaking into the napkin lining the basket. Hilda was trying to be nice this time when she filled Shorty’s glass from her pitcher and even asked if she could top up hers.

“Thanks,” she said somewhat insincerely to Hilda.

“I guess she finally remembered that I bring in clients,” she told Shorty as soon as Hilda has sauntered away.

“So, what do these friends of your want me to do?”

 

 

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The Loops begin to Close

Lawson Brewer glanced at his radar unit and shifted down into third. His green XJ220 Jaguar responded by leaping forward on IH 37 between Corpus Christi and San Antonio. Power poles began flipping backwards as his the speedometer crept up past 162 kilometers per hour—nearly a hundred miles per hour, Lawson estimated. He shifted into fifth gear and let the engine loaf. He had a clear three miles before he’d have to slow down to avoid the speed trap ahead of him.

He had his windows down, enjoying the whip of the wind and the sound of the pavement underneath the racing tires. Country music from a CD filled in the cracks in the audio. His wild white hair ruffled in the turbulence; he narrowed his gray eyes to slits as he scanned for slow traffic in the lanes ahead of him.

He had just come from two wonderful days in Corpus Christi where he had wandered the seaweed strewn beaches and spent money at five-star restaurants like Waterstreet in the center of the city. He’d expressed delight at the botanical gardens even though the collection had yet to recover from a recent drought. He had especially taken pleasure in the aquarium which he decided was world class, comparing it with some he’d seen in Europe and on the West Coast.

Lawson had wanted to plan a long vacation to satisfy his urge to return to his roots as a research biologist. In his early days, he had made important advances in the understanding of butterfly migration. After a decision to make a change in his life, he had been the owner of several night clubs where many of the most popular musicians often played. He’d made a small fortune, but ultimately he grew tired of the game. Recently, he had sold all but one of his places. He retained a silent partnership in a pub named the Rat’s Rest on South Congress in Austin, Texas. It was from these connections that he retained a finger on the many pulses of Texas politics—Texas pollution, he sometimes called it.

The car phone bleeped and Napolean Forest’s code number appeared on the special console under the satellite radio controls. Lawson let the Jag settle down to seventy-five, muted the music, and closed the windows. The car now rolled forward in silence.

“Tequila Sour.” Lawson’s voice was decoded and activated the link.

“Yes? What is it, Napoleon.” he followed up.

“A little puzzle for you,” Forest said. “It’s about a woman in Walfer Falls. Interested?”

“Depends,” Lawson answered.

“You’re aware that we’ve become interested in the movements of Schumflatt and his Free Range Party?”

“I’d heard,” Lawson answered.

“Then, you’ll know that we track inquiries on a man named Cabot Fleece—not his real name, by the way—who is a front man for Schumflatt’s fund raising campaign.”

“A petty criminal, I hear,” Lawson returned.

“But potentially dangerous,” Napoleon added. “A woman named Florence Duvan ran an inquiry on a credit card yesterday. She was searching for information on Fleece. I don’t know what the connection is, but it could be dangerous for her. Also, it could be very interesting to learn what Fleece is doing up in Walfer Falls. We hear strange rumors coming out of that area, but we haven’t been able to pin anything down.”

Napoleon went on, “I remembered you used to know Shorty Johnson when he played for the Cowboys… one of your player-investors before he was cut. Thought maybe you might get in touch. Ask him what he knows. I’m told he’d welcome a paycheck.”

Lawson thought about it. “I think I can do that,” he said. “I can reach you in the usual way?”

“We still maintain an account at Umerca Trust. Ask for Cameron Compton. He’ll expect your call. Use the discretionary funds. He’ll release the cash to you.”

“Right,” Lawson returned. “Anything else? How’s Jaqi Le Mans doing these days?”

“Driving like a maniac, as usual,” Napoleon returned. “You keep up with Marshal Griller?”

“He stops in at the Rat’s Rest now and then. He still introduces himself as Mr. Green,” Lawson told Napoleon. “I guess he still works for some agency, though he doesn’t mind doing background check on employees when I ask him. Peggy’s radio show is getting popular. She keeps promising me a plug for the Rat’s Rest.”

“Get back to me as soon as possible on Florence Duvan, will you? I have a bad feeling about what’s going on in Walfer Falls.” Napoleon broke the connection and Lawson drove on in the silence.

After a few minutes, he activated the phone and had the system dial Shorty’s number in Walfer Falls. Even though he hadn’t used it recently, he still monitored Shorty’s movements in case he should make enough money to pay back the money he owed Lawson. After about six rings, Shorty picked up.

“Shorty? Lawson Brewer here.”

“Yeah, I know it’s been ages. No, I’m not calling about your loan.”

“I may have a little job for you if you’ve got the time.”

“You know a Florence Duvan?”

“You’re dating her? That’s convenient. There’s a couple of things I’d like to know.”

“No, I don’t want her to know anything about me. Keep it simple.”

 

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Readers are reminded that these posts are works of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people or places is either purely coincidental or for fictional purposes.

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Part of a Secret Uncovered

The more Florence Duvan thought about the stranger who was interested in appraisal values, the more curious she became. He hadn’t mentioned his full name—just introduced himself as Cabot, which she assumed was his last name.

She mentioned her curiosity to Mildred, the owner of the pie shop across the street. “Everybody is asking me about that stranger who drives the Cadillac,” she said. “I don’t even know his name, much less understand why he’s looking at appraisal values in Walfor Falls.”

“I know what you mean,” Mildred said. “There isn’t any value here any more. The assessor was afraid to come to the council meeting last week. Things have gotten really bad for many folks.”

“If I knew his name I might be able to find out something about him and why he’s nosing around,” Florence said as she took another bite of a new marmalade pastry that Mildred was experimenting with. The nest of marmalade included a wild mustang grape half buried in the center. The burst of tart flavor from the wild grape was a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of the marmalade. “Mm, this is really good,” she told Mildred. “I think you should add this one to your daily special.”

“Guess it can’t hurt,” she looked around at her empty shop. “We’re so overwhelmed with customers.”

“School will be out soon, and then you’ll get some customers,” Florence said, trying to encourage her friend.

Mildred grinned, suddenly. “If you really think it might help the town, I think I can give you a clue about the Cadillac Man.”

She walked behind the counter and reached under the register, pulling out a box that she took back to their table. She opened the box, and Florence saw that it contained a large number of receipts with credit card billings attached.

“I know I should keep these locked up,” she said when she saw the look on Florence’s face. “There’s no one around her that would bother stealing them.” She dug through the pile and came up with a slip that she handed Florence with a triumphant flourish.

Florence examined the ticket. Cabot was his first name and Fleece was his surname—that and his credit card number would tell her all she needed to know. She thanked Mildred profusely, promised to keep her informed, stuffed the rest of the pastry in her mouth, and rushed back to the computer at her office.

An hour later, she sat back and grinned. The trail had been anything but straight. She discovered a Cabot Fleece who lived in Austin, Texas. The account number on the card was issued to a corporation which listed itself as Friends of the Free Range, an organization that Florence connected with a newly formed political party called the Free Range Party. Apparently, Friends was only one of several nonprofits listed as fund raisers for Craig Schumflatt, a man that Florence had heard was trying to decide whether or not to run for Governor.

Florence still had no idea why Cabot Fleece would be poking about in Walfer Falls, but it probably had something to do with the Free Range Party and Craig Schumflatt. Interesting.

She was about to go back across the street for another pastry and to tell Mildred her latest news when Shorty Johnson walked through the door with a big grin on his face.

“I’ve got some information for you,” he said. “It’ll only cost you an evening with me, and the steak will be the best rib eye in Walfer Falls.”

Florence eyed Shorty skeptically. “Where will this dinner date take place?” she asked.

Shorty blushed faintly. “Well, you can’t really buy a good steak in any of the local restaurants, so I was going to get some special cuts in Fort Worth. I thought I’d cook them on the grill in my backyard.”

Florence sighed. “I don’t know, Shorty. What’s this piece of information?”

The ex-coach narrowed his eyes. You’re not going to cheat on me, are you? If I tell you a little bit, perhaps you can make up your mind whether I’m worth it.”

She couldn’t help but laugh. “I wouldn’t want you to get that desperate,” she said.

“A man’s got to protect his reputation,” he smiled back. “Let’s just say it’s about a man named Cabot.”

“You mean Cabot Fleece,” Florence smile back at him, watching a disappointed look spread across the man’s face. “I already know all about him,” she said, deciding not to mention that she had only known for less than an hour.

“Do you think he’s really trying to buy up property for Schumflatt?” he asked.

“It isn’t clear to me,” Florence hedged. “I’m keeping my eye on it.”

“So, you won’t be wanting the rib eyes?” he looked hopeful.

“Go ahead and get you steaks,” she relented. “Mildred will bring her new pastries and I have a bottle of good wine put back. I’ll farm out the kids on Melanie and we can have a nice evening.”

She could tell that it wasn’t what Shorty had in mind. She was impressed to see how graciously he bowed to the inevitable and clapped his hand flat on the table and said, “Sure thing. We’ll have a great evening. What more could a man want that two attractive women, good food, and fine wine?”

The way he said it made Florence blush.

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