The restaurant was heavily patronized when Luke arrived at 7.30pm. Every table in the place was occupied by starry-eyed couples, young and old, as well as business types.
Kelly sat at a table near the center of the room. Her face lit up and she waved to him when their eyes met.
He approached the female maître d’ standing at a lectern just inside the restaurant and gestured to his date. She returned a welcoming smile and a nod of approval for him to enter.
Luke approached Kelly and greeted her with a kiss on her cheek. He then removed a deep red colored, single long stemmed rose from behind his back. Kelly accepted the romantic gift and savored the sweet-scented fragrance while Luke slid into his seat opposite.
As the night progressed everything about their dinner was going well. Their food was great, suitably complimented by a bottle of full flavored Cabernet Sauvignon. The service was friendly, conversation flowed freely and the company, well, she was sublime.
Luke was relaxed when he was in her company. He was enamored by her natural stunning beauty and still couldn’t believe that someone so stunning was not in a serious relationship.
He dabbed his mouth with his serviette then lifted his glass of red and took a sip. Kelly leaned on her elbows while holding her glass of wine in with both hands. She stared across the table at him.
Luke smiled. ‘What…?’ he asked smiling back at her.
‘Nothing…’ she said. She replaced her glass of wine on the table. ‘It’s just that…I was noticing, admiring really…how relaxed you seem tonight…It’s really great to see.’
‘Well there are two reasons for that…’ Luke replied. Kelly’s curious eyebrows lifted in anticipation. ‘One…’ Luke began, ‘is that I am sitting here having a magnificent dinner with the most beautiful woman I have ever met…’ he said with a proud convincing smile. Kelly was obviously flattered by his compliment. ‘And the other…well it’s not that important it’s–’
‘It is to me…’ Kelly said.
Luke smiled. ’It’s just work related,’ he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. Kelly nodded as a silent indication to keep going. ‘Well…’ Luke began as he sat back in his chair. ‘I had these four serious cases…you know…murders…’ he said, ‘that threatened my career as a Detective. They were pretty tough to solve and I had been having a rough time since my fiancée left me. Well…’ He smiled proudly back at Kelly. ‘I solved the last one today. All four offenders have been caught and locked up. So you see…it’s a great feeling and my Lieutenant—the same one who threatened me with demotion to uniform—was full of praise for my achievement.’
‘That’s fantastic…’ Kelly said with genuine praise. ‘You have every right to be happy. You’ve earned it. Enjoy it.’
Luke’s expression change slightly as his eyes lowered. ‘What’s wrong?’ Kelly asked.
‘Oh, it’s nothing…I just…well, these cases, you know solving them was fantastic, but I can’t take all the credit,’ he said.
‘I don’t understand.’ Kelly lifted her wine and took a sip.
'I met this old guy at Barnaby’s a few weeks back. I was on a bit of a lone bender when things weren’t going well after the break-up,’ Kelly rested on her elbows holding her glass with two hands. She nodded her understanding.
‘He said he was a retired cop from the 90th…’
'Oh, that’s where my grandfather worked…the 90th,’ Kelly said.
Luke nodded before continuing. ‘He saw I was on a bit of a slide and he came over and sat with me. We got talking and he told me “a problem shared is a problem halved” and—’
‘My grandfather used to say that all the time,’ she said. A warm smile filled her face when she spoke of her grandfather.
Luke smiled at her interruption. ‘Anyway, he asked me to talk him through each of my difficult cases and one-by-one, he told me where to find the evidence I needed and who he thought was the offender,’ he said. ‘I doubted most of his predictions actually…’ Luke continued. ‘But you know what…everyone one of them…that’s all four of my cases…crime scenes he had never visited… evidence he had never viewed… all four were absolutely spot on. And because of him…These violent crooks are off the street and my job has been saved.’
‘Well that’s fantastic…isn’t it?’ Kelly asked.
Yeah it is…It’s just that, I wanted to thank him and I can’t find him anywhere. I just feel like it is all incomplete until I let him know just how he helped me.’
‘You said he was a cop from the 90th…maybe someone up there might know him,’ Kelly said.
Luke nodded. ‘Yeah I thought about that. He said he worked in Northern Brooklyn Homicide for thirty-five years…so he should be well known,’ Luke said. ‘But he’s been retired for eighteen years so these guys have a tendency to drop off the radar after that amount of time.’
Kelly held a firm glare back at Luke.
Luke frowned. ‘What…What’s wrong?’ Luke asked.
‘What did this old man look like?’ Kelly asked quite directly.
‘Um…’ Luke thought for a moment. ‘He was old…about 80ish. Um…He wore a fedora hat, and a light weight type of overcoat…’ He paused when he noticed Kelly slowly shaking her head. Unsure what was wrong he continued. ‘And he had this walking stick…that—’
‘What are you doing?’ Kelly firmly asked.
Luke shook a bemused head. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘This old man you say you met…why are you doing this…?’
Luke was confused. ‘Well…you asked me what was wrong so I’m tell—’
‘Not that…’ she said firmly. ‘The old man…your description of the old man…thirty-five years in Northern Brooklyn Homicide…at the 90th…wearing a hat and coat…retired eighteen years…you are describing my grandfather… and I want to know why you are doing this.’
Luke scratched his confused head. ‘No…I’m describing the old man I met that night at Barnaby’s. How could I possibly describe your grandfather...? I’ve never met him.’ Luke said. ‘The old guy I met had a walking stick….did your grandfather have a walking stick…?’
Kelly’s eyes started to well up. Her face distorted slightly as she fought back tears.
Luke continued. ‘Because, if he did… then maybe it was him. And anyway…Would it be so bad if it was…? I don’t understand why you’re getting upset.’
‘My grandfather did have a walking stick with a skull on the handle…it was carved into ivory–’
‘Well so did this old guy I met. He told me it was a gift and that it had grown on him over time.’
’I said did have a walking stick, Luke…because my grandfather has been dead for fifteen years,’ she said through tearful eyes. ‘The walking stick was given to him on retirement by the boys from the 90th…He had a hip replacement and needed assistance to walk, so they passed the hat around and presented it to him on his last day.’
Luke frowned. He was perplexed. He was at a loss as to why she was getting upset. 'Well, obviously the man I met couldn’t have been your grandfather, could it…? He said with furrowed brow. ‘I don’t understand what I have said to upset you.’
‘Did he tell you his name...this old man….did he introduce himself to you?’
Luke’s eyes lifted in contemplation. ‘He did… he said his name was Bria –’ Luke cut himself off mid-sentence. His expression firmed. It dawned on Luke that the last name the old man gave him was ‘Murphy’--the same surname as Kelly. He had never made the connection before now.
‘Brian what…?’ Kelly asked. Her tone was demanding.
Luke’s passive eyes moved to meet Kelly’s firm stare. ‘Um…Murphy…’ he said cautiously. ‘He said he was Brian Murphy…’
Kelly lifted her serviette from her lap. Her head shook in protest. She dropped the scrunched up serviette onto the table and stood from her chair.
‘I don’t know what you’re trying to do…but I don’t appreciate it.’ Luke watched on, confused by her reaction. ‘If you think this is funny then you’re sadly mistaken. I loved my grandfather, very much. He meant the world to me and I don’t appreciate what you are doing. He has been at rest for fifteen years.’ Kelly aggressively jabbed a finger towards the street. ‘They have a memorial for him at the 90th and everything…how the hell could he have met you at Barnaby’s? And why would you say that…? Do you think it would impress me…?’ She held a firm gaze on Luke before continuing. ‘What you’re doing is sick, and I don’t appreciate it…’ she said. ‘I seriously underestimated you Luke…I thought you were different…’
Kelly stormed out of the restaurant. Luke remained with a fixed gaze and open mouth, stunned as he watched her leave. He was completely perplexed by her reaction. He lifted his glass of wine and sat back in his chair while he tried to process what just happened.
Luke tried to think back to what he said and if it could’ve been misinterpreted. Maybe something he said was out of line, or offensive to her. But try as he may, he was not able to find anything to rationalize Kelly’s actions.
He emptied the content of his glass with one gulp and refilled it again. While holding the refilled glass he stared blankly in contemplation. He rubbed a thoughtful hand across his mouth while he considered how quickly a great night turned to shit.
Luke poured the last of the wine into his glass. He considered that maybe he should visit the 90th and look at this memorial of her grandfather. Maybe then he could tell her that he looked at the photograph and he can confirm that it wasn’t her grandfather he met—even though he knew it wasn’t, and maybe then she could put this silly little misunderstanding behind her.
Like it was a shot of bourbon he emptied his glass and signaled the waiter for the check. When it arrived he peeled off some bills and dropped them into the check folder then moved to exit the restaurant.
He smiled at the maître d’ as he walked by. ‘Everything alright Sir…?’ she inquired.
‘All good, thank you,’ he said. He smiled to her then exited the restaurant.
Luke heaved open the heavy glass doors and stepped inside the foyer of the 90th precinct. With his hands buried deep in his pockets he made his way to the inquiry counter, to the uniform Sergeant who watched him approach.
When Luke caught the Sergeant’s attention he nodded a silent greeting and opened up his suit jacket to reveal his gold shield on his belt.
‘Detective...’ the Sergeant greeted with a single nod.
‘Hi,’ Luke said. He leaned an elbow on the counter. 'Luke Fox…from the 84th.’ He extended his hand to the Sergeant, who responded with a hand shake. ‘Um, I’m after a bit of a favor…’ he said. ‘You see, I’m dating the granddaughter of a gentleman by the name of Brian Murphy and we got to talking about him tonight. I believe he worked here in years gone by.’
The Sergeant smiled knowingly. ‘Ol’ Murph…’ he said nodding. ‘Certainly did. He’s a legend around these parts…What about him?’
Luke smiled. ‘So I hear,’ he said. ‘Well the thing is… when we were talking about him, his granddaughter, my girlfriend Kelly, mentioned some sort of memorial that you guys have up here for him...’
‘And you want to see it…?’ the Sergeant said as a question.
Luke nodded. ‘Exactly…Would that be possible?’
‘Don’t see why not.’ The Sergeant moved to his right and unlocked a half door situated beside the front desk. ‘Come in…I’ll take you down.’
The Sergeant escorted Luke down a back-of-house corridor. ‘So why the interest in Ol’ Murph?’, the Sergeant asked as the two men strolled.
'Did you ever meet him?' Luke asked.
‘Nah… He was just before my time, but you forever hear stories about cases he solved and the things he accomplished.’
'Well…’ Luke began. 'That’s sort of why I am here. Let’s just say that I’ve had a couple of successful collars recently that I think were inspired by the way Murph ran his investigations, so I thought I would love to see just who this old guy was...you know, learn a little more about him if possible.’
The Sergeant pointed to an open doorway on their left as they approached; a non-verbal indication as to where they were heading.
Luke entered the brightly lit room. Immediately in front of him was a full kitchen, complete with double sink, overhead and under bench cupboards, oven and a full size refrigerator.
To his left the room opened into a long rectangular room about seven yards long and about five yards wide. Two rows of tables aligned end-to-end extended down either side of the room making two long dining tables with chairs on either side.
The Sergeant pointed to the left, towards the end wall. ‘That’s Murph’s corner down there,’ he said.
There was a framed photograph hanging on the wall, but he was too far away to make out any features. ‘Go ahead…’ the Sergeant flicked a finger towards the end wall. ‘Let’s go take a look.’
As he strolled through the mess room Luke noticed there was a standard hallway timber coat stand in the far corner of the room. On one of the hooks hung a grey colored fedora hat. On another hook hung a light colored overcoat. As he neared he noticed a skull walking stick in the umbrella stand. Luke’s brow dipped at the obvious similarities.
‘That’s just our little tribute to ol’ Murph…’ The Sergeant said. ‘I understand that’s all he ever wore…that friggin hat and coat and, well the boys from the 90th gave him that walking stick. So…when he passed we decided to hang them here at the place he called his second home for most of his life. It’s only fitting.’
Luke nodded his understanding as he moved closer to the large fifteen by twenty inch framed head and shoulders photograph on the wall to the left of the coat stand.
As his eyes met the person depicted in the photograph he froze. The old man in the photograph appeared to be smiling back at him.
The Sergeant noticed Luke’s reaction. ‘What’s wrong…you look like you’ve seen a ghost or something,’ the Sergeant said.
‘Huh, oh, no…no I, it’s just that he looks so familiar.’
The Sergeant gestured to the photograph. ‘Well…that’s ol’ Murph…’ he said. ‘That was taken shortly after he retired, I believe.’
Luke stared at the photograph as he nodded. ‘And he’s dead yeah…?’
‘Oh yeah…he’s long gone.’ The Sergeant gestured to the engraved brass plaque under the photo.
Luke was stunned. A cold shiver ran the length of his spine. The hairs on his arms lifted among the mass of goose bumps. He struggled to comprehend it. The old man staring back at him from the photograph was unmistakably the same old man he met at Barnaby’s that night.
But how could that possibly be? Everything was identical, right down to the hat, coat and walking stick. He read the inscription written on the brass plaque underneath.
“Brian “Murph” Murphy
1930 – 1998
In recognition of 35 years at the 90th
A True Legend.
Luke considered that if Murph was born in 1930, and retired in 1995 and was sixty-five when he retired, then he would be eighty-three now. He rubbed a hand across his mouth. The old man he met at Barnaby’s said he was retired eighteen years and was eighty-three.
Luke scratched his head in contemplation. What the hell is going on? How could the old man he met at Barnaby’s, the one who helped him solve all those cases…be dead for fifteen years?
‘You OK, Detective…?’ The Sergeant asked. ‘You look a little pale.’
‘Huh…?’ Luke startled from his deep thoughts. ‘No, I’m... just a little awestruck I think at finally seeing who he is. Everyone that I’ve spoken to about him speaks very highly of him.’
‘Very true... From what I’ve heard around here is he was one tough cop, but only to crooks. They say he had a hand shake that crushed your hand, but deep down he was a gentle man, you know, a bit of a softy. But watch out if you crossed him.’
Luke nodded. That’s exactly how he found him to be; gentle and caring, but the old man certainly gave the impression he would’ve been a tough old cop.
This was all too difficult to process. He didn’t believe in ghosts and life after death. But despite his strong beliefs, he was at a loss to try and explain this bizarre, yet mystical supernatural encounter with someone who has been dead for fifteen years.
The old man was so real sitting there in the bar that night talking to Luke about his cases. He couldn’t possibly have been conceived from deep within Luke’s sub-conscious imagination. Luke had never met ‘Murph’ before that night in the bar, and despite the old man being widely respected among the 90th, Luke had never heard of him, or had any idea who he was.
His eyes darted in realization. So that's why the old man avoided shaking my hand, or why he refused a drink.
Luke thanked the Sergeant for the opportunity and left the 90th precinct a short time later.