Copyright is held by the author.
WE LEFT the darkness and voices of the bistro and stepped out onto the edge of the parking lot. The late night air was fresh and cool, refreshing after the muggy bar. Above us pulsed and buzzed a beckoning blue Blue City neon sign. At the far side of the lot, beside a fence, I noticed a man standing beside a light colored Mercedes coupe talking to another man behind the wheel. The standing man started coming toward us. He was big, in his twenties, wearing a leather jacket and dark pants, and waddled as he walked.
I handed my keys to Sera. “Get in the pickup.”
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I have to talk to this guy.”
She gave me an irate look. “I’m a sworn officer, Joe. If something’s about to happen, let me handle it.”
“No offense, Sera, but you’re a forensics technician.”
“To hell with you. I’m not hiding.”
“Then wait by the pickup.”
I kissed her and pushed her gently. She walked to the pickup.
The man came up to me and stopped.
“What’s up, Milo?” I said with a friendly smile.
He looked surprised. “You remember me?”
“We met last night. Did you come over to say hello?”
“No. Eric wants to talk to you. He’s sitting in that car over there.” Milo looked at the Mercedes.
“I don’t have time right now, Milo. Go back and tell him to call my office and make an appointment.”
It took Milo a while to react. His eyes were not exactly dead, but dull.
“No way,” Milo said. He stared at me, then grabbed my arm.
I pulled free and punched him in the gut, which felt like a side of beef, and he reacted like a side of beef.
“Don’t do that again,” he said, reaching for my arm. I backed away.
Suddenly, Sera was beside me, holding up her palm to Milo like a traffic cop.
Undeterred, he stepped forward, and Sera sprayed an aerosol in his face. He stopped, coughed, wiped his eyes, and shook his head, acting disoriented. I caught a pungent whiff of pepper spray. He staggered back blindly, almost into the path of a car crossing the parking lot. Its horn blared.
“Nice work,” I said, pulling Sera toward the pickup.
“Thanks, Joe, and don’t you ever underestimate me again.”
“Definitely not. All the same, it’s time to leave.”
We got into the pickup. The starter growled, and the motor roared. “Attach your seat belt,” I said as I clipped mine.
“At a time like this?” she said.
“Do it!” I yelled.
I shifted into reverse, released the clutch, and the pickup sped backward across the lot toward the Mercedes. I took care to avoid Milo before hitting the Mercedes. The impact made a crunching sound and shoved the Mercedes back against a concrete wall.
I shifted into first and drove slowly out of the parking lot. “Did you see the driver?” I said.
“He’s okay,” Sera said. “So’s the guy I sprayed. You crunched that pretty car. Boy, I hope he has insurance.” She giggled excitedly.
“Serves him right. Threatening me like that. Lucky you showed up.”
“You think and act fast.”
“I have good reflexes.” She laughed a little too much, almost hysterically.
“Settle down now, Serafina.”
“Wow, that was exciting. It really hit the adrenaline button.”
Still shivering with excitement, she moved beside me.
After a while, she sat up straight, slid across the bench seat to the passenger side, and gave me timely, accurate, and very precise directions to her condo in Little Italy. When we got there, it was what I expected from a woman in her technically demanding profession: simplicity, efficiency, and honesty. Likewise, what happened between us in the hours that followed.
I left shortly after dawn. As soon as I parked in the driveway at home, I checked the pickup for damage. Its heavy steel bumpers had a few scratches and dings that looked fresh, but they were not obvious.