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a novel by
CHAPTER NINE (c)
Hart walked into the Union Club – an oxymoron since union workers were the last people that this particular club would ever admit – wearing a polo shirt and a pair of dockers and carrying his worn but stylish leather briefcase. The maitre d’, a tall man, about fifty, with jet black hair and eyes as warm as the inside of a root cellar, scanned Hart’s periphery, a distasteful job if his twitching mouth was any indication. He asked Hart between pinched lips whether he had a jacket, perhaps in the car.
Hart shook his head. “No jacket. Bicky Coleman, please.” Hart scanned the room and spotted his father-in-law holding court at the far end of the room with four expertly-tailored gentlemen. It was hard to tell one tanned face and Armani suit from the next. Hart sidestepped the maitre d’ who protested until he saw Mr. Coleman coming toward them.
“About time,” Bicky said gripping Hart’s hand in a firm, as opposed to bone crushing, hand shake. “Where the hell’ve you been?”
“I told you I was going to spend the day with…”
“Leave your Goddamn cell phone on next time.” The corners of Bicky’s mouth quivered as he attempted a smile. Hart struggled not to laugh. Bicky wrapped what might be termed an affectionate arm around Hart’s shoulder and led him to a pair of leather arm chairs set in a private alcove. A waiter materialized and asked if the gentlemen would prefer a cocktail. Bicky ordered Chivas, Hart a Jamieson, both with rocks. Hart noticed that some of the thick, brocade curtains were closed. Apparently, the rooms could get pretty cozy. Maybe I could take Sonia here sometime….
“Did your wife give you a package for me?” Bicky asked nonchalantly.
Hart opened his briefcase as the waiter set two whiskeys before them. Bicky looked at his watch and took a sip. He swirled the ice in his glass, transfixed by the beverage.
“Is this a bad time?” Hart asked. Bicky took another drink, a swig this time.
“I’m scheduled to talk to Graighton at 7:30.”
“Bill Graighton?” Hart asked. “About what?” Hart followed Bicky’s glance at a shadowy figure sitting alone in an alcove across the room, talking on the phone.
Bicky snapped his fingers and held out his palm. Hart’s remorse for Sonia’s hasty actions was replaced by a protective annoyance. Hart pulled the report from his briefcase and slapped it into Bicky’s outstretched hand. Bicky gazed at his daughter’s handwriting before opening the envelope. He scanned the cover and shoved it back in the envelope. Hart thought he caught a grimace on Bicky’s face, but the man couldn’t smile to save his life, so he wasn’t sure. Bicky nodded once, an almost imperceptible nod, and the figure in the alcove rose, closing the curtain.
Bicky turned to Hart: “I shouldn’t be more than half an hour. Go have a drink. Talk. It’s time you started making these people your own.”
Hart was about to protest, but Bicky was already standing. Hart grabbed his drink and briefcase and did the same.
“Just leave the briefcase. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
Hart looked at his watch. The image of crawling in bed next to Sonia was already dimming, but if the cloak and dagger stuff had something to do with the report, he’d better oblige Bicky for Sonia’s sake. Hart waited until Bicky entered the alcove, and headed to the bar.
to be continued. . .
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