Derek sat behind his desk glaring down two deputies. “You couldn’t find your ass if it was nailed to your butt!”
“We weren’t looking for dog shit,” said one of the men.
“Well, somebody else was.”
That somebody else appeared at the office door behind the deputies.
Derek saw Abby, dismissed the deputies with a nod, “Later.”
Filing past Abby, the officers offered flat smiles and disappeared.
“We have to talk,” Abby said.
Derek got up from his chair, moved past her and checked the hall outside his office. Another officer walked past, saw Abby, and gave Derek a sly smile.
“Look,” Derek turned to Abby. “I want to hear everything you have to say. But not like this. You want my full attention…?”
The Rio Grill’s back-bar bore the inscription: All great civilizations have been based on loitering. The food and drink was good, the contemporary California Spanish atmosphere, comfortable, white table-clothed tables surrounded by white stucco wall room dividers. On top of the low walls, impressionistic metal sculptures of colorful Iguanas, Armadillos, and Porcupines watched over diners. A fanciful Coyote/Wolf creature looked ready to pounce on the duck breast with squash chilaquiles mole on your plate.
Abby and Derek sat at a deuce in a dining alcove. Derek refilled her wine glass, encouraged she dressed for dinner, actually wore a little makeup masking the cuts and bruises from her adventure on the cliffs of doom.
“You look good.” Derek said, raising his glass in a small toast.
Abby met his glass with a knowing smile, willing to play the game if that’s what it took. “When you’re hungry, peanut butter and jelly looks good.”
“And I am starved. How about you?”
Abby perused the menu. “Everything looks yummy.”
Derek perused Abby. “Yes, it certainly does.”
Abby looked over the top of the menu and saw the Coyote/Wolf with the sharp teeth peering over Derek’s left shoulder from the wall behind. My, what big teeth you have, Grandma, flashed in her head.
Derek smiled, All the better to eat you with…
Abby checked the menu.
“And if I haven’t said so,” Derek smiled softly, “I am truly sorry about the accident. Glad you’re okay.”
Abby bit her lip, summoned restraint from arguing accident. “Were you able to trace the driver?”
“Phony ID. Dead end.”
“Don’t you find that suspicious?”
“Yeah. I do. But that still doesn’t tie anything back to Knox. I’m sorry. But we have nothing.”
“You have Winifred.”
“No. You have Winifred.”
“She was there, Derek. We know that. Her paw was smashed by somebody who didn’t want to leave any witnesses.”
“Okay. Possibly. Maybe. But according to everybody we’ve talked to, Knox was depressed. Maybe he couldn’t live with what he was going to tell the Feds.”
“And somebody made sure of it. Winifred knows who it is. Now they’re afraid I do too.” Abby drank the rest of her wine and poured herself another glass.
An hour later Abby was decidedly more relaxed and gazed at Derek, “I used to be just like you.”
Derek’s look said I doubt it.
“No really. Thought it was all a lot of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. And then I ran into this old girlfriend. Told me about this amazing experience she had with her Irish Setter.”
“Come on, Abby. Not tonight.”
“Just listen. It’s a really funny story. See, Judy had two dogs, Cleopatra, an eleven-year old champion Irish Setter, and a four-year old snaggle-toothed pit bull mix, Fred. Cleo was definitely the star, a dog diva. Then almost overnight she became severely depressed, wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t let the groomer or Judy bathe her – and she loved to be pampered. The vet couldn’t find anything physically wrong. But she was just wasting away. Out of desperation Judy brought in this animal psychic, Sylvia McLaine. Anyway… there was just no way Sylvia could have known about that other Irish Setter invading Cleo’s domain. Except through Fred…”
“Fred?” Derek needed a scorecard.
“The pit bull. Apparently a very charming guy. He was the only one who could have known what happened. Except for Cleo who was so distraught she’d have nothing to do with Sylvia. So, Sylvia got the whole story from Fred.” Abby smiled as if that made everything clear.
Derek nodded and refilled Abby’s glass.
“I just want you to know…” Derek said, “I really need you to understand that I’m not the bad guy here. We just didn’t talk about that kind of stuff where I grew up.”
“I know all about Wichita. We’ve had this conversation before.”
“The world’s tough enough. Why complicate it with all this psychic bull—”
“Because we evolve. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Grow up, Derek. Move on. Dirty Harry left San Francisco and became mayor of Carmel for God’s sake! Anything’s possible.”
Abby was on a roll when Derek got a text on his phone.
Abby watched him text back. “Ever wonder how that message got to you? No strings. No wires. It’s all up there in the clouds. The ether. The cosmos! ENERGY!”
Derek held up his hand signaling time out, trying to concentrate on texting.
“Billions of tiny particles vibrating hither and yon… And you don’t understand, or really care how it works, as long as the message gets through.”
“Please, Abby. What can I say? It just isn’t real for me. Okay?”
“Okay.” Time to pull the trigger. “You want real, Derek? Okay. Let’s get real.”
“Great. Let’s get real.”
“Why do you think we broke up?”
“You seemed to prefer sleeping with Murphy…”
“Don’t sell yourself short.”
It was the only bone she would toss him and he happily chewed on it. For about five seconds.
“Remember the time I went to that conference and Murphy spent the weekend with you?”
“Yeah… What about it?”
Abby smiled, a cat about to devour its prey.
~ ~ ~