The Mentor

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Chapter 16

Luke wasn’t the only one wearing sunglasses inside and moving slowly when he arrived at work the next morning. By 8am the office was filled with quiet talking, coffee swilling cops, all with bloodshot eyes and nursing sore heads. Many were heard vowing the ever familiar morning-after-the-night-before promise of, “Never again…”

Their session at Barnaby’s last night turned into a bender, extending well into the early hours. Benny closed the doors at midnight to his general patrons, while allowing the cops from the 84th to stay on in private. After he had finished closing up, Benny joined the team for several more rounds, most of which were on him.

As a result, Luke arrived at work feeling flat and unmotivated. He approached his desk and began unloading his property into a drawer when a hand written note sitting on his desk caught his attention.

After casually glancing around the office for clues as to who may have left it, Luke lifted the note.

It was a message advising him the uniform police had been called to the discovery of a pistol this morning in a roadside drain near the Fenway Projects.

Luke’s eyes lifted to the wall clock. He certainly wasn’t expecting to head out this early in the shift. The note read that the uniform cops had intentionally left the firearm in the drain where it was found until Luke arrived and they were waiting for him at the scene.

Thanks to a huge session at Barnaby’s last night, Luke slept through his alarm this morning, so to avoid being late, he decided to skip purchasing his morning coffee on the way to work, opting instead to grab one after he signed on. Looks like his overdue hot cup of caffeine will have to wait.

It took less than four minutes for Luke to travel the half mile to the scene where the pistol was discovered. He pulled his vehicle in behind the black and white parked on Sandstone Street then alighted from his vehicle.

The uniform boys did the same, meeting on the road in between the two parked police vehicles.

‘Hey guys…Do we know what type of firearm it is?’ Luke inquired.

The senior officer shook his head. ‘We haven’t touched it yet.’ He gestured to the curb. ‘It’s still down in that drain there.’

‘Who called it in…do we know…?’ Luke asked.

The senior officer rolled his eyes. ‘We were driving down this way…’ The officer indicated south along Sandstone Street, ‘and this old guy waved us down, so we—’

‘Wait…’ Luke held up his hand. ‘Old guy…What did he look like?’

The officer’s eyes flicked to his younger colleague, exchanging a frowning, puzzled glance. He shrugged. ‘I don’t know…an old guy,’ he said. ‘You know…about sixty-five, grey hair, grey beard, thick glasses, you know, the ones like the bottom of coke bottles… Ah—’

Luke waved the back of his hand top the cop. ‘That’s OK, I get the idea,’ he said with an obvious tone of disappointment when it wasn't his missing old man from Barnaby’s.

The cop continued. ‘The old guy said when he stepped off the curb to cross the street he looked down and saw the pistol sitting in the drain. We just happened to be driving by…’ he again rolled his eyes, ‘so he waved us down.’

Luke gestured towards the drain cover. ‘Give me a hand to lift this grate,’ Luke said.

The younger cop was one step ahead of the more senior officers. He moved to the vehicle’s trunk and removed a tire iron to use as a lever.

Once the grate was lifted the senior cop motioned to his more junior partner. ‘Thanks for volunteering…down you go,’ he said.

The young cop peered into the drain before looking back at his more senior partner. His eyes moved to Luke before bouncing back to his partner. The older cop obviously knew what his younger partner was thinking.

‘He’s a Detective boy…they don’t climb down drains,’ he said. ‘Go on…down you go.’ He flicked a finger at the drain.

Fortunately for the young cop, the drain was dry due to the lack of recent rains and only about 2 ½ yards deep. Apart from the smell and a bit of dust and dirt, the retrieval was fairly uneventful.

Using his pen, the cop lifted the firearm up by the trigger guard and climbed back out of the drain. ‘Looks like a 22,’ he said. He held it up to his awaiting colleagues.

‘A 22…?’ Luke questioned. He moved to examine the weapon more closely before his face screwed up in disappointment. He rubbed a disappointed hand through his short cropped hair. ‘My missing gun’s a nine mill,’ he said. ‘Oh well…’ Luke shrugged. ‘It’s all yours, boys.’ Luke returned to the driver’s door of his vehicle. ‘Thanks anyway,’ he said before he climbed back into his car.

With that out of the way, Luke still craved his first coffee for the day, so he decided to stop off at the first café he passed on his return to the office.

After a short drive Luke found himself slowly rolling his vehicle along the popular shopping strip on Smith Street. His eyes were peeled for a café—any café.

That’ll do. Luke chose a narrow-fronted café nestled between a ladies’ couture store and a shoe store.

The first available parking space was about 100 yards up, on the opposite side of the road to the café, but to a desperate coffee starved Luke, that was close enough. Luke parked his vehicle and quickly made his way back to the café.

If popularity was any indication, the coffee shop was clearly the right choice. It was filled with customers, all of whom were dressed for the office. It was so busy, there were two rows of stanchion ropes set up to direct the queues of waiting customers to a sign with a pointing hand that read “Please wait here for the next available Waitress.”

After stepping inside Luke joined the back of the eight deep queue, which fortunately moved quickly.

The café had four female staff—two were taking orders and two were working double time churning out the coffees.

By the time Luke was near the front of the queue a further twelve people had lined up behind him.

While he waited his focus moved to the four hardworking girls preparing the coffee orders. One girl in particular caught his attention--the girl on the end, furthest away from him. She was cute.

The longer Luke waited to be served, the more he found himself watching her work, and the more he watched, the more attracted he became. She was beautiful – mid to late twenties with mousy brown hair pulled back tight behind her head; a look that complimented her natural beauty.

When he arrived at the front of the queue, Luke was called up by the other girl taking the orders, not the cute one he had been ogling. Luke stepped aside to allow the female customer behind him to go ahead of him.

Within seconds his goddess called him up. The first thing Luke noted was she wasn’t wearing any rings on the fingers that matter. But she was all business. The woman took his order with little else conversation offered. Luke was captivated by the woman’s large green eyes, so much so, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. The poor guy was smitten.

After giving his order, Luke worked up the guts to strike up a conversation. ‘What time does the boss let you out of here...?’ he asked.

The woman lifted her mesmerizing green eyes from the order pad and smiled, but she did not reply. She turned to her rear and handed the order to one of the Baristas. When she turned back she flicked a quick side-ways glance at Luke, ‘If I had a dime for every time I get asked out over a coffee order…’

Luke stepped to the side to wait for his order to be prepared so the next in line could approach. He smiled at her comment. At least she spoke to him.

‘Seriously though…’ Luke persisted. ‘What time do you finish? Your mean old boss doesn’t make work you all day does he? You must get a break at some time,’ he asked.

Without lifting her eyes from writing down the next customer’s order the woman said, 'I am the mean old boss…’ She smiled at the customer whose order she had just taken. Her eyes flicked to Luke. 'This is my coffee shop,’ she said before handing the order to one of the baristas behind her.

‘Good…then your boss won’t mind you taking a break... Maybe I can buy you some lunch.’

The woman shook her head once. ‘I don’t have time for lunch…’ She beckoned to the next in line. ‘That’s the second busiest time of the day for me,’ she said then greeted the approaching customer.

'OK then, maybe do eat dinner, don’t you…?’ he asked light heartedly. But his dream girl failed to respond as she took the next customer’s order and payment. ‘No…OK, then what about a drink…after work…?’ Luke tried.

The woman showed little interest in Luke. She collected Luke’s order and placed it on the counter in front of him. She smiled the standard thank you for your business smile that she gave to everyone she served and then called on the next customer.

Luke wasn’t giving up without a fight. He removed his business card and placed it on the counter in front of the woman. ‘If you change your mind, give me a call. I’d love to catch up.’ He slid the card towards the beautiful woman.

The woman’s eyes dropped to Luke’s business card. She rolled her eyes then firmly pushed the business card straight back at Luke. ‘No thank you,’ she replied. Her tone was direct.

Luke was taken aback by the woman’s abrupt attitude. After she completed taking the next order, the woman’s firm glare flicked to Luke. ‘I’m not going to be another one of your cop conquests…’

Luke’s brow furrowed. He was confused at the accusation and where it came from.

The woman continued her rant while she wrote down the next customer’s order. ‘My grandfather was a cop, my father’s a cop and my two brothers are both cops…I have lived around cops my whole life...’ she said. Her tone was bitter. ‘With the exception of my family, I know what you cops are like…you’re all the same. You brag to all your colleagues about the women you sleep with…you’re all pathetic little boys.’ Her head lifted from the order to a puzzled Luke. She flicked her hand towards the street exit door then announced, ‘so take your business card and give it to some other desperate girl who’s happy to be another notch in your belt.’

Luke was stunned. Where the hell did that come from? His puzzled gaze scanned the café where most, if not all of the customers now stared back at him. Suddenly his dream girl wasn’t so attractive. She was a bitter, sad woman.

He was humiliated as he lifted the business card from the counter. He was stunned as he turned and moved towards the exit door with slow steps, all the while he trying to work out what just happened.

As he reached the door Luke stopped and turned back towards the attractive young woman, but she failed to return his confused gaze.

Maybe it was because he missed his morning coffee, or maybe it was because he felt humiliated in front of all those customers, but whatever the reason, Luke decided he wasn’t going to take it. His fiancée had walked over him when she unexpectedly left him, and now this woman was doing the same. Stuff her...she’s not walking over me as well...I don’t even know her.

With his knew found bravado, Luke marched back to the counter where he politely excused himself to the next in line being served. The coffee shop owner glared at Luke with a cold-hearted, what do you want now glare.

Luke unleashed. ‘For your stuck-up, holier-than- thou generalized information…I am a cop, but I’m nothing like the person you just pigeon-holed me into. I was engaged for eight years but my fiancée left me two months ago for another man. You are the first woman I have asked out in over eight years…Thanks for making that awkward. I get it…Maybe I ain’t no oil painting, but you could’ve just said, “No” to my offer, but instead, you chose to humiliate me, simply because of what I do for a job, which I can only assume was to make you feel better. You don’t know me…If you did, you would know I’m nothing like the person you so publicly accused me of being…I don’t have a belt with notches.’ The woman stood in silence listening to Luke’s rant; in fact, the whole shop listened.

Luke continued. ‘My only mistake was thinking you were a beautiful woman who I would like to share a drink, or some dinner with – nothing else. There was no pre-planned agenda,’ Luke waved the back of his hand at the woman then turned and moved towards the exit.

Half way to the door Luke stopped and spun back towards the shop owner. He hadn’t finished. ‘If you are going to pre-judge every man that tries to get to know you by your cynical, unrealistic generalized standards, then you are going miss the opportunity to meet some genuine people…You are going to end up a very lonely and bitter old woman,’ Luke said. ‘I feel sorry for you…Someone must have really done a number on you... and it’s a real shame,’ he said with an up and down regard before turning and heading for the exit.

‘Good for you Hun-nee...’ A gum chewing middle-aged woman standing in line quietly said to Luke as he passed by. Luke smiled and nodded once to the lady as he passed.

When he reached the exit door Luke didn’t look back; he wanted to, but he didn’t. Instead he wrenched open the door and stormed from the café. All eyes in the café returned to the café owner standing open mouthed watching Luke storm out. She appeared stunned at Luke’s verbal retaliation. It was evident Luke’s comments definitely made an impression on her – one way or another.

Regardless of what she felt though, it didn’t matter to Luke now; he won’t be going back there any time soon.

As he crossed the street towards his vehicle, Luke was fuming. His stride was long and fast. His ego had just taken a huge hit, and by someone he found himself attracted to. Luke was humiliated and at the same time angry. All he wanted to do was get out of there.

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