After spotting a stranger lurking outside Marilyn’s store, I made sure the door was securely closed. Assured it was, I walked up the steep, narrow steps to the second floor.
I felt like I entered another era. A huge living room stretched before me—I guessed it to be at least 20×12 feet. To my right, a row of windows faced the street outside and directly opposite me a fireplace with a tall black mantel with clean Art Deco lines.
The lamps and furnishings were a mixture of Modernist and Art Deco styles—even the painting evoked the era. One canvas caught my eye—a vintage black and white reproduction of a Kesto’s brassiere ad.
The long, willowy figure of a woman with arms raised and shielding her eyes, looked like an Art Deco figurine. It was art imitating life, imitating art.
“Do you often stare at women?”
I turned to see my own Siren of Gotham in a black satin ankle length gown, decorated at the neckline with beads and rhinestones. She took my breath away.
“You are taking me to dinner, aren’t you?”
I could think of other places I’d love to take her, but the way she was dressed, it’d have to be Sassafraz.
“I am—I just need to make a quick phone call.”
The phone’s on the side table—I need to apply some lipstick.”
I reached for the phone—even it was vintage—a black Crosley, desk style, with a rotary dial. I phoned Sotto Sotto and spoke to Ernesto.
“I need a table at Sassafraz—can you get me one?”
“Of course, Signor Lennox—ask for Carmine.”
“I owe you, Ernesto.”
“Not at all Signor Lennox—you have always been generous with me—I am honored to return the favor.”
As I replaced the receiver, Marilyn came out of the bathroom and I could feel my heart pounding in my ears.
“You look absolutely beautiful.”
Her eyes shone, the way a woman’s eyes shine when she’s won a victory. She quickly recovered herself and looked down demurely.
“Do you have a coat?”
“Do I need one?”
“No, the weather’s still fairly mild—and we’ll be in the car.”
I was secretly pleased. I wanted to flaunt her so the world could see her beauty, but another part of me wanted just to be with her—in a room without windows or doors.
I was on my guard as I escorted her to the car, but the street was deserted now. I debated whether to tell her and cause her to worry, or wait to tell Abe. Maybe he could assign a patrol car to watch her apartment.
“Thinking about something?” She asked, as I opened her door.
“Why do you ask?”
“You just seem unusually quiet.”
I laughed softly. “You gave me a lot to think about this afternoon.”
“Okay,” she said brightly, and slid into the seat.
I still felt uneasy and resolved to try to phone Abe—even from the restaurant, if I got the chance.
The drive to the restaurant was uneventful, although a huge, black sedan seemed to follow us part of the way, but as we neared Yorkville, he turned off onto a side street.
The parking valet had the same look in his eye as the car jockey at Sotto Sotto. I didn’t care. He could take it and open it up on the Parkway, or wrap it around a pillar for that matter.
Marilyn didn’t like the car, so I didn’t either.
We were seated ironically at the same table as Samantha and I occupied a mere month before—even got the same waiter, who seemed to recognize me, but wisely kept mum.
Sitting directly opposite us, by herself, was Jessica Alba.
“Do you recognize that girl?” I said, subtly nudging my head in Jessica’s direction.
“Are you looking at women again?”
“Seriously, it’s Jessica Alba.”
“Should I know her?”
“She’s a film star.”
“Oh. I’m not familiar with contemporary films.”
Why did that not surprise me?
“I was just saying.”
“I wish you would.”
I looked at her perplexed. “What?”
“I wish you would tell me what’s on your mind. I know something’s bothering you.”
“How do you know that?” I said bristling.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, “I just do.”
The cat was out of the bag—there was no point in pretending.
“I saw a man outside your apartment lurking in the alleyway.”
“What did he look like?”
“Older—burly—maybe in his mid-fifties to mid-sixties, but strong-looking.”
“Sounds like the same man who followed me home.”
“I’m going to call Abe.”
“Why would you do that? The man hasn’t done anything.”
“Yet.” I said, “he hasn’t done anything yet—but he will.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Just a vibe, I get from him.”
She went silent for a moment.
“You go by feelings then?”
“I didn’t figure you for the type.”
“Why not—I’m here with you, aren’t I?”
“Touche,” she said.
I won a small victory but it did nothing to dispel the feeling of imminent danger lurking just outside the restaurant.
© 2017 – 2018, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.