I’m not a terribly inquisitive person – I’m really not. My business requires me to stick my nose in other people’s lives all the time, sometimes unearthing secrets that should remain buried forever. Consequently, I’ve learned not to question people about their personal business unless I absolutely have to. So it didn’t surprise me that I knew very little of Sean Donahue’s life outside of work. I’m Rick Simon, and Sean Donahue is my partner in Simon and Donahue, Private Investigators.
We’ve been working together for a while now and I didn’t know much more about Sean’s personal life than I did the day he decided to join me in this new partnership. He told me he’d been married to a District Attorney named Cynthia Rawley and that they’d been divorced for several years. And I knew that he was currently dating Deanna Bradley, our attorney’s right-hand man.
He drove a late model Camaro that was always spotless and would drink almost any beer on the planet. And he loved the food at Miguel’s, our local hang-out, almost as much as I did. We’d become friends without too much effort, but we usually didn’t spend much time together away from work. I’d loved and lost one of his best friends – Dani Coleman, a local artist. At least I assumed I’d lost her. She’d been in New York working on a local commission and we hadn’t spoken in more than six painful months. The rift that caused radio silence was more my fault than hers.
Oh, yeah, Sean was once a Detective on the Los Angeles police force. Truthfully, I didn’t know what he did or didn’t know about me. We knew we could trust each other and that we had each other’s backs, and those were the most important things in our relationship.
Mid-morning on a Tuesday, we were both working on the final report for a case we’d just wrapped up and were sitting in my office when Sean’s phone rang. “Donahue,” he answered and didn’t say much after that for a minute or two. Then all of a sudden, he let out a whoop and a holler and started laughing excitedly. When he finally got himself under control, he said to the person on the phone, “I know, I can’t wait. I love you, too. See you soon.”
“Deanna?” I asked casually, expecting his answer to be ‘yes.’ But it wasn’t, and I was about to be graced with a plethora of information.
“Nope,” Sean started, “my brother Finn.”
“Your broth – what?” I yelped.
“My brother Finnegan. We call him Finn. Didn’t I ever tell you about him?”
“Tell me about him?” I questioned. “You didn’t even tell me there was a Finnegan.”
“Yeah, sorry. I tend to be close-mouthed about my personal life. Habit.”
“I’m your partner,” I reminded him. “So spill.”
“Finnegan Patrick Donahue. Captain Finn Donahue, United States Air Force. He’s been in Afghanistan for three tours, and he just told me he hasn’t signed up for a fourth. He has three months off and he’s coming home.” There was a big note of pride in Sean’s voice. Anybody that served in Afghanistan had more balls than I did. And three tours – that gave any brother the right to be proud.
“Younger or older?” I questioned the second most close-mouthed man in the world.
“Younger, by three years. The only thing he ever wanted to do was fly airplanes. He got his pilot’s license at 16, joined the ROTC, and then graduated from the Air Force Academy at age 20. He was fortunate enough to spend a year at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas and three months at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. After that . . . “
“He’s been flying for the Air Force ever since?”
“Something like that,” he answered me, grinning.
“No. He came close once, but they decided they were too young. Been single ever since. I can’t believe I didn’t tell you about Finn.”
“Neither one of us has done a lot of discussing our personal lives, Sean,” I reminded him. That was God’s honest truth. I think it goes back to what I said at the beginning of this – we stick our noses into other people’s lives out of necessity, and we’re reticent to divulge too many personal details. Sean knew more about me than I did about him, and I think a lot of that was because of the relationship I’d had with Dani. “Any other brothers or sisters you forgot about?” I asked, kidding.
“No, that’s it. Just me and Finn. How about you?”
“Only child,” I answered, but that wasn’t entirely true. I had a sister for the first two years of my life. She died of complications from the flu just a little after my second birthday, and I barely remember anything about her. It’s easier to tell people I was an only child than to explain something I didn’t remember. “When was the last time you saw your brother?”
“Eighteen months ago – the last time he had any extended leave. I’ve got a lot to tell him.”
“And a lot to show him,” I reminded him. Simon and Donahue were in new offices, located at 347 Cumberland in Huntington Park. We were just three blocks north of Miguel’s when we’d been several blocks south before the move. This was a brand-new office, bigger than the last one, with designated parking spaces and a private coffee bar in the reception area. Hey, when you drink as much coffee as the three of us do, that was one of the features that enticed us to move.
Then there was Deanna Bradley, and she was definitely someone to show off. Most of Matt Steiner’s clients (Matt is our corporate attorney) had tried to get Deanna’s phone number at one time or another. Matt kidded that even he didn’t have it – but Sean did, and he made good use of it. Deanna was sweet and kind and one of the most efficient people on the planet, and it didn’t hurt that she was a knockout
and a natural redhead. I’d gotten the impression recently that the relationship was progressing quite nicely. I was glad that things were going well for Sean. More than once he’d gotten me out of trouble and gone above and beyond in covering my backside. And he didn’t tell me what an idiot I was for having done my best to make a mess of things with Dani.
“So, when is Captain Finn Donahue going to be home on leave?” I wanted to make sure that Sean didn’t get involved in some long, drawn-out case if it would be anytime soon.
“Sometime in the next two weeks, depending on when his crew gets back to the states and how much debriefing is involved. That’s about as close to a date as he can give me. God, it’s gonna be good. So much in my life has changed since I saw him last.” He paused, thinking about something that I wasn’t a party to. Then he glanced at me and grinned. “I can’t wait for you to meet him. He’s much more fun than I am. Robin will be glad to see him again, too.”
“Robins met him?”
“Met him? She went out with him the last time he was stateside. Pretty regularly, too. I’m surprised she didn’t tell you about him.”
That little devil was the thought that ran through my mind. Robin Short has worked for the partnership in one form or another for a smidgeon over six years. She was an integral part of Simon and Winchester until my original partner died, and she’d stayed on when Sean joined us, and we became Simon and Donahue. Robin was everything we needed her to be, and sometimes more. I used to say, on top of everything else she was mommy when I needed one, but I’d been trying to change my bad habits and must have been doing a decent job because it had been a long time since her mommy services were required.
Sean didn’t need a mommy . . . either his mother or the police force had done a spectacular job of raising him. If I ever got to meet . . . hey, wait a minute. I was about to say if I ever got to meet his mother, I’d have to tell her what a fine job she did when something hit me. I didn’t know if his parents were alive or dead. “Sean – while we’re talking about family, are your parents still alive?”
“Sure are; both of them. Why?”
“Because you’ve never talked about them.”
“Oh. Guess it never came up. They live in Encino.”
We sat there for a minute and looked at each other, each one realizing just how little we actually knew about the other. What they say about great minds thinking alike must be true, because we started laughing simultaneously.
“You got any deep, dark secrets you think I should know?” I asked, still chuckling.
“Hell, no,” Sean answered. “What about you?”
“You know all of mine,” I told him, not being completely honest. I thought about explaining the ‘only child’ answer and then decided to leave it buried with the two-year-old I had been. There were some things in my life that only Eddie knew, but they related to the business and consisted of nothing personal. I figured they could stay buried with Eddie. It seemed I had a lot hidden about the man I used to be, but now was not the time to dredge any of that up.
We finally finished the report we were working on when Finnegan’s call came and decided it was an excellent time to take a break and go to lunch. “Miguel’s?” I asked.
“Fine with me,” Sean answered. “Robin?”
“Sure. Why not?” I replied. If Finn hadn’t called Robin, it was probably a good time to tell her about his coming home soon. Besides, I could tease her unmercifully about not giving me the dirt on her love life. Sean went to his office to get his coat, and I walked out to the front desk. When we changed locations, we’d acquired a lunchtime answering service, so we were free to go to lunch whenever we had time, and the service would cover the phones. “Lunch at Miguel’s?” I asked her, and she brightened considerably.
“Who’s buying?” she asked with a smile on her face.
“Who always buys?” I retorted.
“Count me in,” came her answer, and she stood and grabbed her purse as she set the phone to answer mode.
“I’ll drive,” Sean volunteered, and we were soon out the front door. It seemed strange to head south instead of north to get to Miguel’s, but we would get used to it. Once we got there everything fell into place and Miguel was as happy to see us as we were to see him.
“Corona,” I told him when he came over to get our order.
“Same,” Sean grinned at him.
“Iced tea,” Robin ordered.
“Spoilsport,” Sean teased her.
“I’ve got to write checks this afternoon,” Robin defended herself. “Or would you like me to underpay everybody?”
“No, no, no,” Sean answered hurriedly, causing all of us to laugh.
Once Miguel distributed the drinks, Sean broke the news. “Guess who called me this morning?” he asked.
Robin shrugged her shoulders and looked glum. “Who?” I was hoping Sean’s news would be a welcome surprise. I know how much she hurt when Eddie died, and I wanted to see that bright smile again.
Instantly she brightened. “Really? How is he?”
“His tour of duty‘s over. He’s coming home.”
Robin broke out into a big smile. “Did he ask about me?”
Sean shook his head. “No, but he was calling from Afghanistan, so his call time was limited.”
“Did he tell you if he signed up for another tour?”
“Yeah, he told me.”
“Well?” she asked peevishly.
“Oh, you wanted an answer to that,” he teased. “Sorry. He didn’t sign up for another tour over there, and he has ninety days off.”
“I’m glad he’ll be home soon. I can’t imagine how much you’ve missed him. I’ve missed him, too.”
“Say, Miss Robin, you never told me you dated Sean’s brother. You never even told me Sean had a brother,” I ribbed her.
She looked genuinely surprised. “Sean didn’t tell you?”
Sean sat there quietly sipping his beer, trying not to look guilty. I laughed and shook my head. “Nope. I didn’t have the faintest idea. I wonder what else he’s forgotten to tell one or the other of us?”
“Or left something out when he told us?” Robin added.
Then we all had a good laugh and waited patiently for our lunch.