Or "Don't judge a __________ by its __________..."
OR "The star-filled sky reminds me of..."
Or "Did she/he really just slap..."
I hope you're enjoying my first PI story. I'd love to hear what you have to say!
Personal Business #3
Personal Business #3
The sun's long down and the night kisses the earth like a playful lover by the time I serve my small stack of papers and drop by the apartment to clean up. MoMo is irritated with me that I haven't been around to tend to his every need, but he graciously allows me to feed him, spoiled cat that he is.
I shower, shave, and run a quick eye over my limited wardrobe, deciding what's good and what's not. For a typical night out, it would be flannel shirt and jeans, along with my best cowboy hat, and silver hoops in my left ear. But this isn't exactly date night, it's business, and while that ensemble might easily fill the bill in most of the bars I frequent—the kind where modern country is the music of choice—I know it's not gonna cut it at the Huntley, and the last thing I want to do is stand out like a sore thumb—or a PI.
I finally decide on medium gray slacks with a matching jacket, pale blue shirt, and my best boots. A little country chic doesn't hurt. I keep the hoops in just because I can; I leave my blond-streaked brown hair casually messy. It's not too long or too short—too long and you look like a hippie liberal, too short and they think you're the law. Somewhere in between's usually just right. Though I can't help thinking I'm due for a trim; it's looking just a little shaggy. I leave enough stubble around my lips and along my jaw to be fashionable, before I hit the road. At the last minute I decide to grab my hat. It's a good way to blend in with a crowd; people usually remember the hat before they can pick out the face that goes under it. I've got Jeremy's picture tucked inside my jacket, too, in case I haven't quite memorized his new, hotter than hell features well enough to spot him on his own turf.
Yeah, sarcasm. It's a wonderful thing.
My Nikon's already in the car. I don't know if I'll need it tonight or not, but at least I'll have it. Not that I intend to lug it with me into the hotel; I have my phone camera for that. The Nikon's for surveillance; it's got a telephoto lens and it works well in low light, and it doesn't require a flash. It wasn't cheap, but it was very worth what I spent on it.
Franklin Boulevard is a long damn road; it runs the gamut from the low rent section of the city through the posher, snobbier parts of town—the Huntley Hotel's situated in the latter, along with a few other hotels of like mind, some expensive eateries, an art gallery, and some high end boutiques and office space that would cost me more in one month's rent than I'd earn in one of my better years.
The Huntley's a bit rich for most people's pocketbooks, even for dinner; it caters to those in the higher income brackets as well as a more sophisticated out-of-town clientele. That's probably the big attraction for Jeremy, besides the fact that he can be the big cheese because he's married to the absentee boss's daughter. He can eat his fill of wealthy guys who breeze in and out, whether on business or pleasure—his own private sexual smörgåsbord, with no worries about his bits of fun on the side sticking around for the long haul or getting clingy.
My first thought as I pull into the parking lot is what time does Cinderella arrive? It looks like something out of a living breathing fairy tale. Big, white and gold, and elegant with a capital E. Swanky enough to have its own valet service—two young guys in matching livery—as well as a doorman. I pass them by, opting for do it yourself—i.e. the parking lot—it's free and then I don't have to wait for anyone to get my car back. Could come in handy if I need it in a hurry.
The lot's more than half-full. I manage to snag a spot for my Malibu not too far from the door. It looks like they've got something going on tonight. Or maybe this is just the fashionably late supper crowd. I close the door and cast a quick glance up into the darkness; the star-filled sky reminds me of a song my dad used to sing when I was a kid, something about the stars at night being big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. His buddies down at the station used to kid around with him; they called him the Singing Cop. Even if he couldn't really carry a tune. 'Course, neither can I.
As I approach the front door I can't help but notice that the grandeur of the place certainly doesn't diminish with proximity. Makes you realize the huge gulf that separates the haves from the wish they dids. Is that what this is about, Jeremy, your wanting to be one of the privileged? So why are you risking that for the sake of a little dick on the side?
I tip my hat and nod at the doorman. "Evening."
"Good evening, sir." He bows me through the open door and I enter the Huntley for the first time—I suspect not for the last.
The inside is just as white as the outside, even more so. Looks like the designer was fond of marble; it's on all the walls, and the floors, and the blocky pedestals where museum-quality stone statuary sits on display. An interlocking gold pattern runs the length of the hall that leads to the front desk. I'd swear you could fit a football field inside this place, and not be crowded. Hanging above the desk is a large, white chandelier unlike any I've ever seen. I guess it's considered to be a fine example of modern art or something—but it's not my thing. Personally, I think it's ugly.
People in evening dress mill about the lobby. An event board is set up on a gold easel; it contains all the information I need. There are actually two events tonight: a wedding reception, and a retirement dinner. I opt for the former; bound to be more going on that might entice Jeremy's interest. I don't see him spending any length of time on the senior citizen circuit; at least not any more than his job requires.
First I scope out the front desk for any sign of Jeremy. Behind the blocky wood and chrome front stand three people. One woman and two men. Neither of the men are Jeremy; one's too young, the other too blond. Didn't think it'd be that easy.
On a hunch I follow some of the well-dressed crowd, figuring they'll lead me to where I'd like to go. They drift down a nearby hallway, and we crowd ourselves into one of the elevators. Pressed against the back wall, I find myself standing very close to a diminutive brunette. Judging by her fuschia satin dress with the plunging neckline and huge matching bow that's parked on her caboose, I'd say she's either a bridesmaid or she just has bad taste in dresses. Judging by the gleam in her eye as she glances up at me, I'd say she's either unaccompanied, or she's on the prowl. Or both.
I tip my hat and nod politely. She giggles in that cutesy tipsy way girls get when they're not used to drinking and they're feeling no pain. "I bet you're a friend of the groom."
I smile noncommittally. "I'm guessing you know the bride."
That sets her off and she giggles again. The elevator comes to a smooth halt. I glance at the indicator; it says three. Everyone gets off, and I trail them, Miss Tipsy at my side. She latches on to my arm, and I do nothing to shake her off.
Down the hall we go. I can hear it now, the sound of people gathered together in celebration of the societal kind. We wander through a set of double doors that open into what must be the scene of the crime. The Marlborough Room, according to the legend on the wall.
"Do you dance, cowboy?"
"Yes, ma'am. A little."
"I betcha line dance, don't you?" She's hanging on my arm, and one of her hands is doing an exploratory down my back. I stop, on the pretense of needing to sneeze, and manage to shrug out of her touch without seeming too obvious. Not that I think she'd know obvious if it hit her, not at the moment.
"I've been known to." I try to put a bit more distance between us, but she latches on to my arm again, her fingers almost digging into the flesh. I grin and bear it for now.
"Maybe I can get the band to play something we can line dance to?"
She nods her head, looking away from me, and I follow her glance. The band sits off in one corner of the room, near the empty dance floor—several guys in bright blue suits sporting professional smiles. The Lester McCann Sound is their name, at least according to what I can read on the bass drum. From the mix of instruments I see, they probably specialize in old school, slow tunes of the romantic type. I could be wrong, but I suspect that they don't have any Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, or Keith Urban in their repertoire. Probably just as well.
As I'm wondering how I'm going to disconnect myself from Miss Tipsy, who's decided she wants to play doctor and has started to administer a standing check-up, her hands roaming somewhere too far south of the border for my taste, rescue comes in the form of the irate bride. She's got her white satin train gathered and crushed inside one hand, probably to keep from stepping on it; her cheeks are flushed, and her stilettos sharp as she clacks toward us.
"I've been looking everywhere for you, where've you been?"
"Just went outside for a smoke," the bridesmaid flails. They both turn their eyes on me; I shrug, as if to say nothing to do with me.
"I can see what you went outside for," the bride comments dryly. "Come on, it's almost time for the toasts. Gerald is furious, you need to calm him down." She yanks on the bridesmaid's arm, and although she digs in her heels, the bride manages to overcome her reluctance and drags her off to face the wrath of Gerald, whoever he might be. The last I see of her is a mouthed warning that looks like "I'll be back", before they're swallowed up in the crowd.
Seems like a good time to get a drink and survey my surroundings. With any luck, it won't be a cash bar. If it is, though, I'll just put it on my expense report, like anything else.
I'm in luck, it's an open bar. Judging from the bottles of liquor I can see on the shelves, a pretty nice one at that. Father of the bride must be decently loaded. No call liquor, all brand names.
Three bartenders on duty; I guess this is a heavy-drinking crowd. Or one that doesn't care to be kept waiting. While I'm making up my mind, one of the three approaches.
"What can I get you?"
I glance briefly at him, and then back to the bottles. Normally I choose draft, but since I'm not paying the tab, I think I'll do better. "Jack and Coke." I finally decide. "Black label."
"Yes, sir. Right away."
He turns and quickly picks out the familiar square bottle. While he mixes, I observe. His blond hair is close-cropped and his eyes are a bright blue. He's got a down home look about him, with a firm jaw, wide nose, and lips just a little too thick to be really thin. He wears a long-sleeve white shirt beneath a black vest, with matching trousers; he's got a decent build. When he turns, I can't help but notice he has a nice ass.
No Mr. Universe, but then that isn't my type anyway. I certainly wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers.
"Enjoying yourself?" He makes professional chatter as he mixes my drink.
"Sure. What's not to enjoy about a wedding?"
"What indeed?" He offers me a quick smile, hands me a glass and a napkin. "Have a good night," he bids me before turning to another guest. I take the hint and move along, sipping at the drink. Lotta booze in that. Either he's just naturally heavy-handed on the alcohol or he's sending me a message. I store the information for future reference; right now I don't have the time. I gravitate away from the bar, looking about me.
I can tell dinner is done, and people are getting restless. No one's on the dance floor. That seems a waste of a band, but until the bride and groom take their first dance, etiquette demands that everyone else refrain. So what's the hold up?
The bride mentioned toasts. Someone must be missing, but who? And why? I guess I'm just naturally inquisitive that way, but I want to know.
If that greeting was intended to startle me, it doesn't work. Three guesses who's standing behind me, with her arms wrapped around my waist in an overly familiar bear hug. And here I thought she'd be occupied long enough for me to case the joint and go. Guess I misjudged her interest in me.
"Isn't your friend going to be mad that you snuck off again?" I manage to twist out of her grip, and I plaster a well-meaning smile on my face to take away any potential sting in my words.
"Call me Darcy." She leans up on tiptoe, trying to bridge the several inch gap between us so she can whisper in my ear, as if she has confidential information to impart. "She's got her own problems going on, but don't worry. Pretty soon you can take me out on the dance floor and show me whatcha got."
Somehow I think that what she has in mind, the dance floor would be a rather inappropriate location.
"What's wrong with the bride?" I politely ask, trying to get her mind off of dancing—horizontal or otherwise—and me in the same thought.
She shrugs and reaches for my drink. Before I realize what she's about, she's taken a sip, leaving lipstick residue behind on the rim. "Her dad's on it, whatever it is." She looks toward the head table. I see the bride. She's standing next to an older gentleman. Must be her father. He's taken a rather protective stance; I've seen the posture before. Protecting his little girl from the unpleasantness of the world. He's talking, rather animatedly, to a man in a dark suit. Even from this distance, I can see Daddy isn't happy.
The other guy must be a member of the staff. He has a placating hand upon the father's arm. Looks like he's trying to diffuse the situation, whatever it is. All I can see is his back, and his conciliatory attitude.
And then he takes a step back, turning so that I can see his profile. Both men are smiling now, so all must be well. Then my heart gives a lurch, and I damn near drop my drink.
Looks like I've just struck pay dirt. It's Jeremy Daniels. He's looking even better than in the photo. And damned if I don't want to just jump his bones in the worst possible way.
to be continued
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Until next time, take care!