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The Swan King

By Kevin Greene All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Mystery

Chapter 4

4

I put my phone down on the counter and stared at it for a few minutes, trying to decide if Donnie was the biggest asshole I knew. Weight-wise I think he was, although there was this really fat guy I used to work with that was seriously annoying. But he was more bitchy and whiny than anything else, not so much an asshole. So weight wise, Donnie won. Non weight wise, just based on sheer assholishness, I knew of a few people that could probably give him a run for his money. Clearly, this required deeper consideration so I decided to put it off until later and called Poon, who I am proud to say is “Ken Tang” in my phone contacts and not “Poon”. But neither answered and I left a message asking for him to give me a buzz back whenever. I then called a couple of people I knew who bought and dealt comic art. They knew nothing about a Curt Swan Superman cover but were suddenly interested. The dangers of spreading the word.

There were more leads I could’ve followed then but I decided to push them until tomorrow. After I finished my soda I checked my iPhone for the closest comic book store. If it were reasonably close by I would drive over. After dealing with knuckleheads like Donnie, the geek solace of thumbing through comics was sorely needed. It was Thursday and all the new books had come out the day before so my batch was already at home, half read. But there’s always something to pick up from a comic store.

The nearest was a place called New World Manga in Livingston, which is the next town west of South Orange. It was maybe fifteen minutes from where I was. Sold. I got rid of my trash and stepped outside, taking in some sun. The skateboard kids were gone from across the street and there was no blood on the concrete so I guess they all survived. I guess.

On the way over I thought more about what Donnie had told me. Donnie was an All-World bullshitter, so I was not inclined to believe his little story about a leg-breaker trying to muscle in on a comic cover deal. It just sounded like nonsense to me. Was he trying to scare me off of this? To what end? I gave up trying to understand it; I’d end up in the nuthouse trying to get behind Donnie’s reasoning. If some clown called me up and actually tried to brace me for a Curt Swan Superman cover then I guess that would show me.

New World Manga was in a little sort of strip mall on Mount Pleasant Ave, sharing the space with a diner, some other places that I did not immediately recognize just what their business was and a carwash. The car wash and the diner had some customers but overall it was pretty slow and quiet. It was even more so in New World Manga, which was fine by me. I definitely was not in the mood for a crowd of people. A guy named Lionel was running the place and we struck up a good conversation about DC’s New 52 thing and Marvel NOW. Then we talked some classic comics, had a friendly disagreement over some artists and even threw some New York Jets in there. I bought two back issues of Secret Avengers that I completely missed and a new issue of Conan, which looked pretty damn nice. Good times. I actually felt bad when I had to tell Lionel that I always get my comics at Midtown in the city. Dude had presented a good case to be a regular customer but driving out to Livingston every week was not viable. I’d kill myself if I had to make that drive on the regular. I promised I would drop in now and then and left.

By the time I turned onto my block in Brooklyn it was well past four o’clock. There were a decent amount of parking spaces available as a lot of drivers weren’t home yet and I found a spot a little down the street right behind a beautiful silver Audi R8. Wow, two R8’s in the same day. I parked, got out and took a look at it. The R8 was a sleek little race car looking two-seater that probably would do zero to sixty in exactly how long it would take a person to say zero to sixty. And this was the V10, too. Ridiculous. This car had to be over $150,000. Definitely a visitor. I took one last look at it, apologized to my Jeep for staring and walked back to my place.

My building has a doorman named Pierre and he was standing out front as I approached. Pierre flashed me a wide smile when he saw me, one that was much wider than normal, and he closed the gap to meet me. Oh, boy. Somebody in my building must’ve done something interesting. Or stupid. Or both.

“You have company.” he said. Pierre was Haitian and had a deep voice so even if he had said, “You have a can of peas.” it still would’ve sounded cool.

“Oh, do I?”

“Yes. Very attractive company.” he said, smiling even broader.

Huh. As we approached the front door I was trying to imagine who it was. There was one person I knew it couldn’t be. Pierre would’ve said so. And I doubted that she would come back… though I had to admit that I wished she did.

Jessica Chandler was sitting on the visitors couch opposite Pierre’s station, looking at her phone. She was wearing black jeans with a white button up blouse and a light black jacket over it, very simple but nice. She had on black open toe shoes with a little heel, not too much, and I could see her magenta painted toes. Her hair was a little different but I couldn’t really place how. Maybe after tennis and everything she changed it a little. For some reason it looked different to me. After a second she realized that someone was watching her and she looked up. A smile lit up her face and she rose, extending a hand.

“Mr. Farrar, it’s good to see you again.”

“Will, please.” I said, shaking her hand and smiling back. “What are you doing here? Not that I’m complaining.”

She laughed a little and I glanced at Pierre, who was leaning against his little desk and clearly enjoying the whole thing. I frowned at him and he pretended to check his visitor’s log.

“Well, I thought we could talk a little more about the cover and arrange a sort of check in schedule.” Said Jessica, tucking her phone into a tiny bag that I didn’t see before. “We didn’t get a chance to talk.”

“You could’ve called me, you didn’t have to drive all the way out here. What if I didn’t come back until late?”

She smiled at Pierre. “Well, I would’ve given my number to Pierre, who was a very nice host in your absence.” I glanced at Pierre again and he seemed almost embarrassed, which was funny to me. “I didn’t have your number on me. I called you from my father’s phone the other night. So I wanted to give you my contact information… besides, I’ve never driven to Brooklyn before. I’d thought I’d be adventurous.”

I laughed. “Adventurous would be leaving that Audi, which I assume is yours, out too late. You’d have another adventure walking home. What do you have, a collection of Audi’s?”

Jessica slid up to me and put her hand lightly on my chest. I say slid because she didn’t really seem to walk so much as she glided up to me. Her big blue eyes were right on target with mine. She had on a pretty smelling perfume I didn’t recognize, but it was light and subtle.

“A few,” she said coyly. ”And you wouldn’t let me walk home, would you?” Her voice was all was sweet and cute and sexy at the same time. I glanced at Pierre and almost burst out laughing when I saw his slack-jawed, big-eyed reaction.

“No, I wouldn’t do that, you’re right. I’m sure you could talk me into giving you a ride.”

“In your car or…?” she teased.

“Wow.”

“I’m sorry!” she said, laughing. “I am really out of control here. It’s this Brooklyn air.“ She fanned herself and laughed again. “Forgive me.”

“No problem at all. But we should probably talk about that “ride” upstairs. I think we’re embarrassing Pierre.”

She laughed again and as I steered her towards the elevator I snuck another glance at Pierre who was just staring at us, open-mouthed. I thought about how many questions I would have to answer or avoid later.

We passed the mailboxes and I thought briefly about checking mine but changed my mind. Mail suddenly didn’t seem to be a priority at that moment. But I wasn’t exactly sure if I were reading these vibes correctly and even if I was, I wasn’t sure if it would be best to keep this as professional as possible. I didn’t really see how anything that happened could complicate things but you never know. Sometimes it’s better to not find out. I was weighing all that when the elevator opened before we got to it and Karen Carter, who lives down the hall from me, stepped out.

Karen is a hot mother of two who I guess you would classify as a cougar. She was over fifty but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her; if I didn’t know her I would’ve guessed maybe early forties. You could tell she had kids but she was a damn good looking woman, especially with the Chestnut colored hair she had been rocking lately and the recent weight loss. Karen, come hell or high water, always, always, always hits on me. She is unrelenting, even knocking on my door with a loosely tied robe on and not a whole lot underneath. I’m not above getting with an older woman but her husband is a corrections officer and I did not need that kind of trouble. Her being married was bad enough. I know for a fact that all CO’s are insane. I didn’t need a crazy, enraged man with a gun knocking on my door at two in the morning. I would bet that most people didn’t.

Karen smiled when she saw me but then she saw my hand on Jessica’s elbow and the smile left her face. Oh, boy.

“Hi, Mrs. Carter.” I said. I wasn’t sure how this would go but I tried to start it off as cordial as possible. I didn’t owe Karen anything but I knew that strolling into my apartment with a white girl raised the bar for potential nonsense.

“Well, aren’t we formal,” she said in a monotone voice, eyeing Jessica up and down. Nice. We were off to a good, chilly start. “Who’s your friend?”

“Hi, I’m Jessica Chandler.” said Jessica, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Jesus. I didn’t want introductions, I wanted hi’s and goodbyes and out. Jessica stuck her hand out and said “And you are?”

There was a moment of absolute stillness, Jessica smiling, waiting for the shake and Karen looking at her hand like it was electrified. It seemed to last forever.

“Annoyed.” said Karen and walked away.

Jessica looked at me and I rolled my eyes as I stopped the elevator doors from closing and hustled us in. I punched four and gave Jessica a headshake as I leaned against the back wall. Just before the doors closed I could see Pierre staring at me with a huge smile on his face.

“Hmmm.” said Jessica. “I don’t think your old lady girlfriend likes me.”

“Stop.”

“I bet this building is crawling with Farrar cougars. One for each floor?”

I laughed. “Two, actually. Except for the 8th, I’ve got three up there.”

“Oh my God, not Mrs. Smithers, too? She’s seventy five years old.”

That one got me and I burst out laughing.

“Smartass. I got no girls in this building.”

“Uh huh. Well, you need to tell your friend from the lobby that. She seems a tad possessive.”

“A tad.”

“So, William Farrar must have a lady friend somewhere, I imagine.”

“Not at present.”

“Oh. So William Farrar must’ve had a lady friend recently?”

I opened my mouth to answer, thought about it and then closed it.

“Ah,” she said. “A story.”

“A story.”

“Am I going to hear this story?”

The elevator got to four and the door opened.

“Not if I can help it.” I said and escorted her out.

I guided her left and past two doors before we reached my apartment. I got my keys out and was about to open the door when I paused and looked at Jessica.

“I just wanted to warn you,” I said, with mock seriousness. “There are wonders past this door. Amazing, fantastic things await you. You will be thrilled.”

Jessica smirked and put a hand on her hip. “My, we’re confident.”

“Not me, silly. The apartment. My stuff.”

“Oh. I messed that up, then. Ok, let me try again. Oh! Fantastic things, you say…?”

“Never mind, you ruined it,” I said and opened the door.

I try not to beat people over the head with my geek likes and tendencies, my love of comics and sci-fi and animation and the like. Not that I’m ashamed of it. But it can put people off a bit when you are all in their face about it. That can apply to anything, though. If you met some guy that was really into salsa and he was wearing a t-shirt and hat that said “I Love Salsa” and he was blaring salsa music from a boom box you would be like “Wow, this dude is REALLY into Salsa…. and he’s freaking me out with it.” I try not to be the salsa guy. I’ve seen enough comic geeks to know how well that can go.

So when you first enter my apartment, you’re not assaulted by all things geek. Not at first anyway. The very first thing you may notice is that there is a Japanese movie poster for the original Shaft with Richard Roundtree, which is just to the left of the door, across from my coat closet. Black movie posters + Japanese design = badass. Every time. I have another Japanese movie poster of Super Fly in my bedroom, which isn’t nearly as arrogant as it sounds. It was the only place left that had room. Seriously. There’s also a Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero Japanese theatrical poster in there and a Bullitt Japanese one too. See? No huge ego. Although I’m sure some psychiatrist could write a paper on the Freudian overtones of those particular prints being near my bed. Hey, sometimes a poster is just a poster.

But the apartment does sort of become a shrine to geekdom when you fully enter it. The other framed pictures on the wall are all comic art and the entertainment unit that holds my television also holds about sixty or seventy different statues, action figures, toys and the like. Maybe eighty. Leaning against the unit on either side are my full size Captain America shield and Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, which cost me WAY too much money but were just too cool not to buy. A two-foot tall Godzilla (Hensei style for those in the know) guards the shield while a shiny Terminator and Striker Eureka from Pacific Rim keep their eyes on the hammer. I also had a few pieces of comic art framed and hung next to the entertainment unit, nothing even remotely like Coleman Chandler’s collection but a few pieces that I loved and planned to never sell. Well, planned, anyway.

And that’s just the start, really. Most of the people who visit me are geeks like me or just used to it. When I had new visitors who were not into all of it I became very aware of just how much stuff I have.

Jessica stepped to the middle of the room and stared at everything.

“Wow.”

“Yep,” I said, nodding.

Jessica blinked a few times and then shook her head.

“I give you credit, Will, you are a proud, not-messing-around geek.” Then she frowned and peered at me intently. “Is it geek or is it nerd?”

“Geek,” I said. “At least to me, anyway. Nerd is more math-y/science-y, I think. Like, if I were showing you my prized collection of moon rocks or some test tubes from Thomas Edison’s lab I would be a nerd.”

“Ah. So, since you’re just showing me framed comic art and statues of super-heroes you’re just a geek.” she said, teasingly.

I laughed and nodded slowly. “Yep. Yep, that’s pretty much it.”

“But I bet some of this stuff is valuable, right?” she asked, staring at Cap’s shield. She turned to me and smiled. “Like, really valuable.”

“Some of it probably is. I have some other stuff tucked away that could bring in some good money.”

“Oooh, investments. Nice.”

“I guess. Most of my stuff is of personal value to me. What I like.”

She nodded and continued looking at the action figures and models and I continued looking at her. She was very, very attractive. I had to watch myself and not do something stupid.

“I’m sorry, I’m a lousy host, “ I said. Come sit down. Would you like something to drink?”

“Um… water is fine,” she said, distracted, and then picked up a phaser from Star Trek VI, the cool black and silver ones with the extra long “clip”. She pointed it at me and said, “I like this one.”

I put my hands up and got serious. “Be careful, Jessica. That’s set to kill.”

Her eyes widened for a split second and then she smirked. “You jerk. You actually got me with that one.”

I burst out laughing and retreated to the kitchen as she made “pew, pew” noises and fired at me. When I returned with her bottle of water she was posing with the phaser in two hands as she looked to the side, like she was peeking around a doorway. “Do I look dangerous?”

“You’re too sexy to look dangerous.” I said. That one got away from me but I couldn’t help myself.

“You’re cute.” She smiled and took the water from me. Then she leaned in and kissed my cheek.

“But I can be both,” she said in a low, sexy voice.

Jessica put the phaser down and backed up to the couch which faced the entertainment unit. Off to the right of the couch were two big windows and my prized Pottery Barn leather armchair in between them. I loved that chair. I got it at an estate sale and probably still paid too much for it but man, did I pass out in the thing occasionally. Worth it. The blinds and curtains were open so before Jessica sat down she looked out but besides the back of the building on 16th St. and a small alley there wasn’t a whole lot to look at. She positioned herself on the couch and some pictures I had on a little table next to it caught her eye. One picture in particular made me groan inwardly.

“Are these your parents?” she asked, excited, picking up one. “This is a beautiful picture!”

It was. The two of them were bracketing me at my high school graduation, my mom looking proud and my dad looking proud but annoyed at the same time. He hated taking pictures. There were some more of them, like their wedding picture and one from when I was really small and we went to Florida.

“Yup, that’s them.”

“Look at you!” she laughed. “Where do your parents live?”

“Well, “ I said. “They reside in Linden, New Jersey. But they don’t “live” there.”

Jessica stared at me for a second and then it dawned on here. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Like you said, it’s not your fault. Or is it?”

She looked at me again although she was far more puzzled this time.

“Just repeating your line from earlier,” I explained, sitting on the couch. “When we were looking at the big picture of your mom and your aunt.”

“Oh, yes! Yes,” She laughed and opened her water bottle. “Forgot about that. Wow. That seems so long ago for some reason.”

“You’re right, it does.”

We were silent for a moment while she took a drink of water. I didn’t know why it suddenly felt awkward.

“So,” Jessica said. “Do you have any brothers and sisters?”

“Nope. Just me. Which was fine. Being an only child never bothered me. I did sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a brother or sister. I guess you didn’t have to wonder, huh?”

Jessica rolled her eyes. “No, I knew all too well about having a sister. Ms. Goody Two Shoes.”

“Your sister?’

Again, Jessica looked puzzled and then caught on. “Oh, no, I’m sorry. That’s what she used to call me. Jennifer was always the black sheep of the family. Always getting into trouble. Drugs, police, stuff like that. Daddy kicked her out months ago. Took her out of his will. She hated me for being the “boring, do right” sister. Daddy’s favorite.” She shook her head and took another drink. “Family nonsense. You don’t want to hear about that.”

“I want to hear about whatever you want to tell me.”

She smiled at looked again at the pictures. Then she reached over and picked up the one I was hoping she wouldn’t.

“Who is this?” she asked.

The picture was of a young black lady, medium skin color, with a beautiful full lipped smile and long black hair, her nose crinkled with laughter, her light eyes sparkly in the September sun of that day. She was wearing a salmon colored tank with an opened white button up blouse over it. She was quite lovely, stunning in fact. You couldn’t see that she was wearing ripped jeans and sandals, her toenails a bright magenta. You couldn’t see the tiny scar that she hated underneath her chin that she got when she was nine or the tiny tattoo of a bird on her ankle that got one night when she was drunk. And you couldn’t see me, laughing as well, taking that picture and being happy that I got to take a picture of someone like her. I almost couldn’t see it now, either. It seemed like another person got to take that in a different time, so long ago.

“That’s… “ I paused and then stopped. I genuinely didn’t know how to answer the question. I guess her name would’ve been a good idea but I didn’t even want to say it.

“Ohhhhhh,” said Jessica. “The story.”

I nodded.

“I won’t ask what happened. Can I ask where she is?”

“You can ask,” I said and shrugged. “I don’t know. She could be in New York. She could be on Mars. God knows where.”

Jessica looked at me, then the picture and then back at me.

“You obviously miss her tremendously. But maybe she’ll come back to you one day?”

I shook my head. “No. Sometimes things just don’t work out. No matter how badly you may want them to.”

“I’m sorry,” she said and put the picture down. She was silent for a few seconds and then said, “Did I mention that you’re cute?”

I laughed and she beamed at me.

“Ah, got you happy again.”

“Just a ploy to make me smile, huh?” I said, giving an exaggerated pout. “You didn’t even mean it.”

Jessica slid closer to me and touched my leg. “I meant it. I think you are very handsome. Handsome and funny and very, very nice. I’m glad my father hired you. And I’m very sorry that someone hurt you.”

I looked at her and smiled and realized that she was a lot closer to me than I thought. Her sky blue eyes were only inches from mine. I had never seen eyes that color that close. I could smell her perfume and feel the warmth of her hand on my leg and the next thing I knew we were kissing.

Her lips were soft and warm and then they parted slightly and I felt her tongue on mine. I touched her face with one hand and was just I starting to put my other hand around her when suddenly she was at the far end of the couch, her eyes wide and panicked.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my hands raised. “I didn’t…′

She waved me off and composed herself, “No. No. That was me. I just…” She paused and looked at the floor, thinking. I waited.

After a few seconds she said, “I’m… involved with someone. Seriously involved.”

“Oh.”

“At least I think it’s serious. We’ve been together for a long time and it’s…. it’s not going anywhere. At least not where I want it to go.”

’Marriage?”

“I’ll take living together at this point,” she said, standing. She turned and looked out the window at that crappy view but I’m sure she wasn’t actually seeing it. “I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated with my relationship. I just want more of a commitment and I’m not getting it. I shouldn’t be dragging you into it.”

I stood too but I didn’t approach. I didn’t want to push up on her or anything while she was venting. “It’s alright. I’ve been told I am a good listener.”

“A good kisser too,” she said and rolled her eyes. “There I go again.”

“Well, I won’t say I didn’t like that part.” I said. “Just being honest.”

Jessica smiled at me and we just looked at each other for a few seconds longer than we probably should have. Then she looked away and reassessed the apartment.

“This is, um… this is a nice little place you have here, Will. But where do you sleep? Does the couch pull out?”

“No, I have a bedroom,” I pointed towards the front door but to the left of it. There was a short hallway that led to the bathroom but I could see how you wouldn’t notice the bedroom, which was on the other side of the wall of the living room. “Over there.”

“Oh!” said Jessica, surprised. “I thought you had a studio apartment.” She walked to the hall, made the left and I heard her say ”Nice.” Then: “Oh, you have a cat?”

I followed her to the bedroom. Jessica was standing near the bed and Thor was spread out on her side, her paws out in front of her. She let out a yawn and considered Jessica’s hand as it was carefully offered to her. Thor sniffed her, then licked Jessica’s fingers and then rubbed her face against them. Attention whore.

“Aw, she’s sweet,” said Jessica. “What’s her name?”

“Thor.”

Jessica stopped rubbing and gave me a look.

“Thor? Seriously, Will? Does everything have to be geeked out?”

“No, there’s a good reason. Really,” I walked over to Jessica and pointed at Thor’s head. “See how her face is all gray but the top of her head and ears are white? It’s like she’s wearing a winged helmet like Thor.”

Jessica’s face scrunched up. “Thor doesn’t wear a helmet.”

“No,” I said, semi-annoyed. “That’s movie Thor. Comic book Thor wears a helmet with white wings… well, he used to, anyway. Now he has the metal winged helmet but he used to have the helmet with the bird wings and why am I even attempting to explain this?”

She laughed and then picked up a trade paperback off of my nightstand that I had just gotten on eBay called Silver Surfer: Requiem. She flipped through it and said, “He’s cool.”

“The Surfer? Yeah. Are you familiar with him?”

She turned through a few more pages and then answered. “Yeah. Um… he was in that Fantastic Four movie.”

“Where Galactus was a cloud,” I shook my head. “Major point of contention with comic book fans.”

“Yeah, isn’t he supposed to be a giant guy? In a crazy helmet?”

That surprised me. “You don’t know Thor’s helmet but you know Galactus has one?” I laughed.

She turned a little red, shrugged and put the book back down. Then she turned her attention to the posters around the room. ”SuperFly?” she said, eyebrows raised.

“Stop.” I said, smiling.

She walked over to the wall opposite the bed where I had original comic art framed and hung and pointed to an empty space between two of the pieces. “What happened here?”

“Yeah, I had to sell a piece. I needed the money.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. Was it a piece you liked?”

“One of my favorites,” I said, standing next to her. “A Michael Golden page from Doctor Strange #55. Just a great piece, Sold it to this guy named Rich Cirillo. Rich is cool. He’ll give it a good home.”

Jessica snorted. “A good home? So he’ll feed it and water it?”

“And take it out for walkies.” I said and she burst out laughing. Then she turned, put her arms around me and kissed me deeply.

I held her and returned the kiss, feeling her body against mine and smelling that perfume again. Her hands slid under my shirt and up my back, her nails gently raking me. I fought back a shiver and held her tighter against me with one arm and ran my other hand through her hair. She made a very small sound deep in her throat, like a tiny moan and then pulled back slightly, her half lidded eyes staring into mine.

“Jessica,” I whispered. “Your man…”

“Don’t make me think.” she breathed and kissed me again.

- - - - - - - - -

It was later when we were lying in my bed with me talking about her dad and Jessica listening. I had been holding her but then she very slowly pulled away. I really didn’t think anything about it but then she abruptly got up, gathered her clothes and went into the bathroom. I heard the door close and then nothing.

I stayed there for a minute, on my back, looking up at the ceiling and then I put on my boxers and went to the door. I knocked lightly and waited.

“Jessica? You ok?”

Silence.

“Jess?”

The door opened and she was fully dressed except for her little jacket which was draped over the end of the bed. She hurriedly shouldered past me and turned into the bedroom, avoiding my eyes. I followed her and leaned against the doorjamb, watching her. She walked back and forth past the bed three times before she realized where her jacket was, then picked it up, aggravated.

“I have to go,”
 she said, clumsily putting the jacket on.

“What’s wrong?”


Still not looking at me, she fumbled for her bag. She searched through it, confirmed her phone was there and then put here arm through the tiny straps until they rested on her shoulder.

“Nothing. I just…”


I walked to her and gently put my hands on her upper arms. She jumped slightly and I felt terrible for startling her. What had just happened? I could feel tension tightening her whole body as she stood there stiffly. She still avoided my eyes and all I could see was the top of her head and blonde hair trailing downward.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked. “Talk to me.”

She shook here head, sighed and finally looked at me.

“We shouldn’t have done that,” she said.

It was my turn to sigh then. I let go of her arms and rubbed my eyes. “Jessica…”

“I’m not blaming you, Will. Not at all. This was my fault. I let this go too far,” she shook her head. “It’s completely my fault. I wanted this to be professional.”

“It still can be,” I said. “What happened here doesn’t change that. Whatever we did or will do later won’t change the fact that I am working for you and your dad and I am going to do my best job on this.”

Jessica sighed again and walked past me and out into the living room. I followed.

“I hear what you’re saying but… I am in a relationship and you’re doing stuff for my dad… it just isn’t right. I have to keep this straight, you know?” She walked over to me and took my hands. “You made me feel a way I haven’t in a long time. You really did. But I can’t go any further with this. And I need you to respect that.”

I started to speak but really didn’t know what to say. Jessica pulled her phone out of her bag and dialed a number. I heard my phone in the bedroom chime and vibrate.

“Yeah, that’s me,“ she said. “I want you to call my cell directly with any info you have on the page. Anything. The number I called you from before is my dad’s cell. He was sitting there when I first contacted you so I just ended up using his. But if you call him back on his phone you’ll be lucky if he answers. Keep me up to date and I’ll relay it to dad. As soon as you find that cover, call me.”

“Ok.”

“You saw my dad, how crazy he is about this art. I really, really want to find it for him, to make him happy. And I know you can.”

I nodded. “I’ll find it.”

Jessica stared at the floor for a second and then looked at me.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. There is definitely…. a thing there between us, Definitely. But I can’t pursue it.”

Once again she approached me put her hand on my face. It was warm and soft and gentle.

“Tell me you understand. Please.”

I did understand but didn’t at the same time. If she wasn’t happy with this guy she was with… but then I stopped and really looked at it. Who was a kidding? She was white and loaded. I wasn’t destitute but I definitely couldn’t run in her money circles. And working for her dad was one thing. I’m not sure how he would react to me getting up close and personal with his daughter. Maybe Jessica was right. This wouldn’t work out one hundred times out of one hundred. I had to be realistic about this. We had two worlds colliding here. No matter how much I wanted to take it further it couldn’t work.

But, damn, it seemed pretty good.

“I understand,” I said. I’m sure I didn’t sound very convincing.

“Find that page for my dad. And for me,” She kissed me on the cheek and we looked in each other’s eyes. “But pretend this didn’t happen. I wish we didn’t have to but please. Just pretend that these last few hours didn’t occur, like it was a dream. It’s better if we didn’t speak on it. Ok?”

I shook my head slowly but said “Alright.”

“And remember to call my cell.”

“Ok.”

We stood there and looked at each other and I didn’t know what to say. She looked like she didn’t know what to say either. So we both stood there not saying anything until Jessica sighed again and adjusted her little bag on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry.” she said again, walked to the door, opened it and stepped through. She closed it behind her softly, guarding against the slam. That was nice, at least.

I stood there and listened to her walk down the hall towards the elevator. It was quiet and I thought that maybe she would come back but there was a bing sound and then the elevator door sliding open. Then it closed and there was nothing.

I waited a few minutes, thinking maybe she would call or text or do something but she did none of those things and after a few more minutes I realized that I was standing by my front door waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen.

I slunk over to the couch and sat heavily. It was amazingly quiet, way more quiet than Brooklyn at this time should be. I heard a Q train rumble to a stop at the Cortelyou Road station a few blocks away and then after half a minute it started back on it’s journey out towards Coney Island. Then it was silent again. I looked at the picture of Her on the table and for about the billionth time I wondered where she was and how she was doing. Was she happy? Sad? Neither? Did someone that she liked just confuse the hell out of her and walked out of her place and left her feeling wistful? Or was that just me? Probably just me.

Thor sauntered over to me and meowed, her eyes big and black in the darkening room. She could read that I was feeling bluesy and out of sorts. Or at least, I liked to make myself think that she did. I let her jump on my lap and I sat there stroking her and listening to the low car and bus noises that I probably was just too fuzzy brained to hear before. Then, after sitting in the dark for God knows how long, I got up, ate some reheated Beef Lo Mein and went to bed.

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