Alan Coombes was wondering the same thing. He eyed the pile of manuscripts stacked on the desk. Always claimed you could write the Great American Novel if you could devote yourself to it 100%, didn’t you? Well, now you can. Live a long time on that money and just write and write and write.
Faced with the reality of a dream coming true, he laughed softly. Be careful what you wish for – you might get it, he thought. Well, plenty of time to consider that later. For now, he had to finish Chapter Five of his latest novel. The writers’ group was meeting tomorrow night. It was in composing Chapter Five that an idea came to him and he stopped in mid-word and beamed. He glanced at the closet where the moneybag lay and smiled, then returned to the writing with renewed zest. He would do something about the money later.
Detective Lisa Bogar closed the file and dropped it into a folder in her desk. Shit, this was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack! The killer could be anyone, anyone at all. She was becoming obsessed with the case. Maybe she’d drop by the writers’ workshop tonight. Most of them were amateurs who would never amount to much, but they were interesting and at least it was a break from her normal routine.
She smiled to herself. She knew she had a reputation in the department as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense detective. It had to be that way, because being over-zealous was one way to keep the sex thing from getting to her. The other way was being the Division Karate Champ. But nobody knew about the other side of her personality. They probably thought she spent her spare time reading department regulations. They would certainly never suspect her of being a closet poet and bohemian. Never really know people, she thought. You only see one side of them, at work, or at a poetry reading, whatever. Never know the other side of their lives. For all she knew, even Horny Werner could be a ballet dancer on his own time. She giggled at the thought.
She went to the locker room and changed into civvies, tight black jeans and a tee shirt, baggy vest and boat shoes. She undid the bun and brushed out her hair. After a glance in the mirror, she picked up her bag and sauntered out, bound for the Blue Quail Cafe.
“The sea-slick landscape, oil-bled and gray
Goes slapping gently at the piers each day.
The sturdy wood must think it can withstand
The water’s formless, weak and splashing hand.
So we laugh at all the blows of life,
Because the world is so inept at strife.
The piers forget the water’s strongest trait;
Although the wood rots slow, the sea can wait.”
It was fitting for her mood, Lisa thought, as polite murmurs went around the table. “Great, good imagery, Lisa, kinda scary, etcetera, etcetera and so forth.” The only listener who hadn’t commented on her poem was Alan. He looked at her over his coffee mug and did not smile. It irked her a little. He was probably the closest the group had to a professional writer. At least he was trying seriously. Was his silence a negative comment?
“How about it, Alan,” she said. She cursed herself mentally for caring about his opinion. As a cop, she was completely self-confident, but as a poet she felt very insecure, maybe because she allowed herself to be vulnerable in ways a cop couldn’t be vulnerable.
Alan peered at her over his glasses. They made him look almost fatherly, she thought, bringing fleeting images of her own father, sitting mindless in the nursing home, dreaming of the past.
“The poem? It’s fine, Lisa, very succinct.” He leaned across the table. “What I was considering was why someone as young and beautiful as you would be thinking such dreary thoughts.”
She shrugged. “I guess we all have bad days. Sometimes even I get depressed. Don’t you?”
“Depressed? No, not really,” he said. “I just get bewildered a lot. And lonely sometimes.”
Playing for sympathy, she thought. Probably hopes to get in my pants that way. Fat chance!
He smiled at her, as if reading her mind. “No, Lisa. I like you, but it isn’t because I’m lonely. When I feel lonely, I don’t want company. I get into myself until I stop feeling that way.”
Perceptive, she thought, dangerously so, then cursed herself. She was still being cautious, a wary cop. The whole point in being part of this scene was to get away from that, be a normal, vulnerable human being for a few hours. To let herself be a woman, she thought. She smiled in acknowledgment and began to consider him seriously. “Let’s get out of here. Have you eaten? I’m starved.”
Alan grinned. “I was hoping for something like that. Come on. Let’s go over to the Derby. I’ll buy.”
“I pay my own way, Alan. No strings.”
“No strings, Lisa. Never. Unless we want them.”
She smiled. “And you can read me the latest chapter of the Great American Novel.”
“Fair enough. At least you’ll appreciate it.” He lifted his manuscript and got up.
Lisa was surprised. “You want my opinion? I always thought you were pretty self-sufficient, immune to criticism.”
“No one is immune, Lisa. To anything.” He held the door open and followed her into the night.