Why am I on a stool in this bar, Danie thought staring into her G&T in the East End London? Why she was drinking a Gin and Tonic was easy. It was the go-to drink of her favorite detective character by B. C. Beaton. And she supposed this travel to London England was too, in a way. One of the planes leaving out of Philadelphia heading away from her life was to England. Agatha Raisin’s England. Britain or Italy were the choices having ancestors from both countries.
The pub was in a centuries-old darkish building with a wooden beamed low ceiling and yet the candlelit lamps around the room gave it an attractive atmosphere. The place was crowded with thirtysomethings occupying both ends of the bar with her in the middle fitting right in being four years younger. Some of the tables had the seventies and counting ups crowd at them with a few tables sporting the in-between generations. She didn’t want to talk. Luckily the woman dressed for the kill and covered in jewelry on her left gave Danie her back as she was engaged with making a score with a guy in perfect business attired.
The large guy on her right wearing a shirt with a multi-color grid necktie tried chatting with her using an unusual line. “Where’d you get those clothes, sweetheart?”
Danie glanced down at her 1960’s ensemble; vintage white short leather jacket, Lambskin black Mod cap, black and white mini skirt and go-go boots. Bought in a retro boutique near Spitalfields Market while doing her own walking tour her guide book in hand. She was trying to obliterate her life from her mind by absorbing the amalgamation of cultures around. She had to admit, it didn’t work.
“This is the twenty-first century, sweetheart!” the man was saying, an open mouth grin on his face.”And your hair is all wrong. It’s too straight for that time frame. Are those dark roots?” he leaned in for a closer look. “Your blonde color isn’t really blonde, is it?”
Danie got rid of Mr. Notmytype when she said using a posh accent, “Piss off, dear.”
He turned away and Dannie sighed, maybe I’ll travel to the Cotswolds and buy a house like Agatha’s. That was followed by the thought she should get back to the hotel and hide out. Be alone.
Forgetting Mr. Notmytype she pictured her father as she remembered him. Then pictures of her mother going through her illness floored back followed by her brothers as she said bye to them in the courthouse. She was weary; worn out yet she felt the tears that come behind seeing all their faces once more. Danie’s body sagged as she leaned forward and put her head on her hands.
Movement next to her made Danie glance around. Mr. Notmytype was getting up and headed for the door. The two men were standing behind her talking. What was said make her glance at them?
The deep voice of one said, “Wait outside. When she leaves you go with her.”
Danie frowned, what’s that about? She eyed both men. One was thick set in a dark jacket, light pants, and a cap. The man who talked moved into the vacated stool on her right. He was in a dark suit, had a full head of dark hair going gray. From his voice Danie knew he was an American.
He turned to look at her. Danie quickly opened her purse and searched inside for a tissue. She closed her purse and wiped at her eyes with the tissue. She picked up her drink only to sit it down again.
GOD knows what will become of her two younger brothers. Forced to be divided and each moving in with a greedy aunt, their mother’s two sisters, who lied to the court. Her mother’s will giving them custody and power over both her brother’s money. They denied that they had promised their dying sister her last wish to disregard the will and let the boys stay with Danie living in their own home until they were of age and the estate would go to them directly. Danie told her mother she wouldn’t need more money than what she already had been given after the death of their father three years earlier.
Danie had run from the courthouse unable to bare the total ending of her family. It was all gone. Yes, hugs and kisses were sparse at home but that wasn’t all there is to love. There was kindness and lots of it.
A quick good-bye to the boys at the end of court she drove to Ben’s house. She ran from the hurt like escaping from an abusive lover. A place unknown to her other than what she knew from tv shows she saw and books she read. Some of them were places she’d like to see before making a final decision. All her belongings were packed in Ben’s car since he would drive Danie to the airport and sell her own car for her. He was already caring for her black lab, Reilly and would send him on to her once she found a place she could live. She was going to start over in the backup plan she had worked out.
Her brothers Skylar, age seventeen and Leland, fourteen, told her they would miss her but reassured her they would be okay since there was nothing any of them could do to change the situation. Skylar added they would think of it as a new adventure after all the sadness. They would still have their friends, a few cousins their own age and be in the same school. They were just trying to comfort her, she knew. The three of them spent the night before the final court hearing talking and making arrangements to keep in touch by texting and skyping.
Danie swiped at her eyes again, not caring that her smudged makeup was being totally swiped away.
“You’re not doing very well at drowning your sorrows,” the man now sitting in Mr. Notmytype’s seat said.
Danie looked his way. He was sitting facing her. She glanced at the half-full glass in front of her. “That’s not wise I’ve been told,” she remarked, liking the sound of her own British accent.
He kept glimpsing across the room at a table where a couple was having an engrossing conversation.”No, it’s not,” he said tilting his head to one side and meeting her brown eyes.
Danie hurriedly looked away slightly flustered and took a sipped from her drink.
“You live around here?” he was asking.
“No, I’m staying at the hotel next door,” she said darting a look his way.
But he was looking at that couple again.
“Your girlfriend? Why are you watching them?” she queried, now supposing that was the case and he was stalking the woman.
He turned to Danie and gave her a smile. “No, she’s not. I’m Joe. Joe Graydon. What’s your name?”
“Danie people call me.”
“Short for Danielle?” he pressed while once more surveying the couple across the room.
She studied his profile. “No,” she retorted, not liking his presumption. “That’s what everyone thinks! You didn’t answer my question.”
“About what?” he said transferring his gaze back to her. He scrutinized her not missing a thing.
“She’s not your girlfriend so why are you watching them?” Danie questioned, now with a strong interest.
Joe shrugged and the chuckled. “Let’s say I’m doing a job. Nothing more.”
“If your a spy you need to work on your technique,” she remarked.
His mouth fell open. “Really!”
“Unless you are trying to be obvious. Then you have it down pat. I heard cops sometimes do an open tail.”
He was looking across the room again. Danie did the same.
He said laughing out loud, “You get that phrase from a tv show?”
Danie blinked and focused on finishing her drink to cover her red face.
“I’m a detective of sorts,” Joe added and held out his hand.
There was that quick smile of his. Danie didn’t hesitate and shook his hand. This time his grin turned into a quick laugh then back to that smile that said he was listening. She stared at their interlocked hands. “I’m Geordana Torerelli.”
“Like another drink?” Joe asked.
“No, I should get back,” Danie said, taking out her wallet. She frowned thinking she didn’t really have any reason to go.
Joe was disappointed. He was enjoying the light exchange they were having. “I like your outfit. I remember…” he stopped, glancing from her to the couple and then back.
Danie looked too. The man was looking their way.
“You remember from the 1960s,” she said finishing his thought.
“Hardly,” he quipped with a raise of an eyebrow. “I was going to say I remember seeing pictures with your style of dress from then. I’m probably not much older than you.”
“Sorry. I saw your hair and…” She motioned for the bartender, to hid her screwup. She should go back to the hotel thinking she needed to be alone.
But Joe said, his money in hand, “I’ve had gray in my hair since I was sixteen. I’ll get the bill.”
“Thanks, you don’t have to,” Danie said, her emotions swirling. She did like him; his face, his great smile and the lull of his deep-set voice.
As the barman took the money Joe demanded, “Hey, what’s happened to your accent. It vanished. You’re an American or Canadian. Where are you from?”
Danie gave a little laugh. “New Jersey, USA,” she told him and looked across the room, “You aren’t watching your couple anymore. They’re leaving. You didn’t detect that!”
“You’re a funny person, I see. I saw what I needed,” he said.
Danie nodded and stood. “Thanks for the drink Mr. Gumshoeman.”
“You’re welcome. Will you be here long?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know. No, I guess. I have to find a place soon. My dog is going to be shipped over so I need to get a place for him and me.”
Joe nodded and reached into his suit jacket. He pulled out a business card. “Here’s my card. While you’re here call me if you like. Hope I see you around, Danie.”
Danie took it and said goodbye. Walking to the door she read the card.
‘Rimble’s Detective Service. Joe Graydon.’ On the back was a cell number and Kramer Road, Nottinghill. She tucked the card into her jacket pocket and realized she’d stopped crying some time ago.
As Danie went out the door Joe stood and watched her go fighting an inner battle to go after her. There was no denying, Danie was something special.
Joe put his phone away. A call from HQ out of the blue never sat well with Joe. He wasn’t sure what was happening but something was up. His jobs came from the head of the Europe station: Stan Wright; another rat in the pack. In the best of times, Morton Caminski was squirrelly. Lately even more so. Joe sensed a difference in the running of the Company in Washington and it started when Caminski took over.
Turning onto Kramer from Pembridge Joe went to the Victorian-style townhouse that Rimble used for the Detective business and turned the key in the lock. He walked through the entrance way to the hall with the crimson wood trim that permeated the entire house.
Searle Jones came from his office. “How’d it go?”
“She did what she was supposed to. Simon and Moreley can take it from here, ” Joe informed his trusted friend. “I’m off in the morning to France. I’m meeting with Wright and Koler. Something’s up. I’m wondering what Caminski has up his sleeve. He phone a few minutes ago.”
“Oh,” Searle mouthed startled, all to mindful of the consequences that could mean coming from CIA headquarters.
He took the stairs two at a time heading for his apartment on the third floor. The second-floor being Searle’s rooms and their ‘safe house’ if one is needed. Halfway up, Joe stopped, “Searle?”
Searle halted on the threshold to his office. “Yes, boss?”
“Find out what you can about a Geordana Torderelli from New Jersey, USA. Danie to her friends, mid-twenties, blonde hair, brown eyes,” Joe said continuing up the stairs.
“Anything, in particular, you want to know?” Searle called.
“Anything. And everything,” Joe exclaimed, reaching the second-floor landing.
~Copyright 2019 J.D. Holiday