CURVE BALL

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Chapter Nineteen

Billy Dee drove out of the police lot. Neither he nor his passenger, the sports reporter, Melissa Stone talked. He wanted to think. Who the hell would be that stupid to leak, and more important, why? He glanced at the half smoked cigar resting in his ashtray. Damn, he could use a smoke. He looked over at Melissa.

“I prefer Romeo and Julietta, myself,” she said, “the smoke is smoother and more tasteful, particularly the maduro.”

“Huh?” Billy Dee’s hand stopped in mid-air.

“Cigars. You’re smoking…?”

“A Mac…”

“Oh, you like Macanudo’s.”

“Jesus, yeah it’s a Macanudo. He lit it and drew.”

“Smells great,” she said, “I’ll join you if you have another.”

He took another puff, and hit the accelerator. Who is this broad, he thought. He saw the sign for the bar a half-a-block away. This may not have been his best idea. Too late. He checked his upper pocket. “Sorry, don’t have one.”

She appeared disappointed. Good. “Look,” he said, “I’m not trying to be a friend or your buddy. You said there’s a leak.”

“Come on now Officer Jackson, you’ve driven me to a bar. The least you can do is buy a drink. I was out there awhile waiting for you.”

“Okay, okay, I get it. One drink and then you’ll tell me.”

“Sure. God only knows what I’d say after 2.”

He drew on the cigar and then exhaled. The smoke filled the car. Instead of gasping, Melissa took a deep breath. “My dad was a cigar smoker. I guess I get it from him.”

“Yeah?”

“Any chance he got he would light one.”

“No kidding.”

“The smell reminds me of him.”

“Is he still…”

“No he passed away two years ago.”

“Sorry.” Billy Dee glanced at his cigar. “And your mom let him smoke?”

She gave him a look. “What do you think?”

“Got it,” he chuckled. Yeah that was usually the way. He put the cigar back in the ashtray. “Okay, let’s have that drink.”

They walked by two people at the bar hunched over clutching their glasses. A basketball game played on an old TV resting on a shelf above them.

“To the back,” Billy Dee said.

There were five empty tables. “Grab a seat.”

She looked at her choices. “It may be better to stand. Those stools look like they’ve been through war, and not on the winning side.

“Suit yourself. What are you drinking?”

“Vodka Tonic…Grey Goose.”

He gave her a look. “You’ll be lucky they have Smirnoff’s.”

She shrugged, “Then whatever.”

He ordered her drink and a beer for himself. Bud or Miller was the house brands usually the only brands. On occasion Pat the bartender had Old Style, but not this night. He brought the drinks back to the table.

She took a sip.

“I’ve done my part,” he said.

“Geez, won’t you let a girl enjoy her drink?”

“Not so loud.”

She looked around. “There’s no one here besides the two up front. I think they have other things on their minds.”

“I shouldn’t even be in this damn place, and certainly not with someone like you. I mean a reporter, or whatever you are.”

“I’m a sports reporter, like I told you. I’ve been working on the Jack Rakow story.”

“Really?”

She leaned closer. “For months.”

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