It was time Margie and I had our weekly dinner out (at my expense), and my suspicions were right: This was probably going to be our last dinner together. While on the phone about the time and place, I very casually dropped in the comment that my latest case was "kinda interesting," and that what was interesting was that the Bad Guy (no crime yet, so I couldn't call Carlos a "perp," the way they did on NYPD) was from Colombia, but seemed more into love, sex and vacationing in S.B. than he did in drugs, and . . .
Margie cut me off short and asked to be picked up at 6 for dinner at The Pier.
The swordfish-steak dinner was a bust, the wine was over-rated and the price was too damn high. More importantly, there was a definite chill in the air despite the harbor side tourist trap being a tad too warm when we walked in. We should have gone for Mexican or Chinese.
Margie waved aside any talk about safety issues in my line of work and seemed to want the evening over with. This led me to want it over with also, and so the hell with it.
And so it ends, I thought, suddenly melancholy and probably frowning. We argued briefly over the size of the tip, as usual, and after she won and I paid too much, as usual, she said it would be nice to take a little walk along the harbor. So we did.
We walked slowly, not saying anything. Lovely night, ripe ocean smells throughout. I took her hand and stopped her. Soulful looks exchanged. Small waves hissed against the breakwater rocks below the walkway. I'd never said, "I love you." Did I love her? We turned and kept walking, my arm around her shoulder.
"I guess I'm not in the mood for a movie," I said.
"Me neither." We turned and walked back to the car.
"Let's think about things," I said. "At least we've isolated a problem. Now maybe we can fix it." She only nodded.
I could almost see little banners being pulled through the balmy evening air by flying Cupids. One said, "I'LL BE THE ONE TO DECIDE WHAT I DO WITH MY LIFE."
The other read, "I'M NOT CHANGING MY MIND ABOUT THIS."
We seemed to be reading each other's thoughts quite well, as lovers will do. I knew she would open the door quickly when I stopped the car, and I wouldn't need to see her to the door, much less come in for a drink or whatever. Especially whatever. Not tonight.
I was right. It was a perfunctory kiss - the worst kind -- and goo'night.
Well, hell. I went home in a deep sulk, stopping to buy a sixer of Pacifico Clara beer, just in case. Didn't want to run out of beer on a night like this.
I needed to talk to my journo-freak reporter friend Mannie, about Carlos Carranza, to see if Carlos had any public life, so the morning after the bust-up, I called Mannie, and he leaped at the chance for "a" drink at Don Francisco's over by the newspaper, a big happy bar with big happy margaritas. He said that beforehand he'd see what was shakin' with this guy Carranza. I told him Mason thought he had a South American sidekick. They seemed to be living with, or were long-term guests of, a rich Montecito playboy named, Poubelle.
"Oh yeah, I've heard of him," Mannie interrupted. "A rich fairy with more money than brains. Inherited, I guess. Anyway, lookin' forward to a Friday drink. RelaxAYshun, mon," he said in Carib accents.
A drink. One drink, with Mannie? No way. But I had to admit that a few drinks would be fun. OK, we would get drunk. I would find out stuff, I was sure. Mannie knew stuff, and when he didn't, he knew where to find it. Journalists are basically gossips. Drinks would be on me, of course, but that's what expense accounts are for. A nice concept, "expense accounts." Teachers didn't get into that much, and I was enjoying it these days.
Then I had the infrequent Bright Idea: I called Bard Purtch, a commercial fisherman I knew, and arranged to have him take me on a boat ride on short notice when I called him. I explained that there was this sailboat I wanted to tail. I had to know what took place out on the briny, and whether Lorraine was one of the crew.
I mentioned that there was "a lot" of money in it for him -- $1,000 minimum plus fuel -- and since he wasn't after swordfish this time of year, he was eager to go out. On a confidential basis, of course.
Now I had to listen in on the love nest at Poubelle's one more time, at least.
To be continued.