‘She spotted him when he came in. Graying hair closely clipped. Brown tweed sport jacket over a white shirt unbuttoned at the collar. Jeans. Neutral facial expression.
It was his casual, actually nondescript, appearance that made her sure he was her guy.
He met her eyes, gave her that backwards nod of acknowledgment that only men give, and walked to the bar. After he paid for his beer, he came to her table and sat down.
‘You said on the phone you need someone followed. Just so we’re clear, everything I do is on the up and up. No funny stuff. Is this about an unfaithful partner? Somebody who owes you money? I’m not cheap, and I can’t give you an idea of what it’ll cost you unless I know exactly what I’m dealing with.’
She’d been turning her water glass in circles while he talked, leaving interlocking rings of moisture on the table. She looked up and said, ‘Let me get a beer first.’
When she returned to the table and sat down, she stared at her beer for a moment without drinking it and said, ‘The person I want you to follow is me.’
One of his eyebrows twitched but he had it under control so fast she’d have missed it if her intense stare hadn’t moved from her beer to his face.
‘Is this a security thing? You need a bodyguard?’
‘I need you to figure out who I am.’
‘Do you have amnesia? Have you suffered a blow to the head? I’d have better luck tracking you down on the Internet than trailing you through the city.’
‘Oh, I know my biography. I need someone with finely-tuned observation skills who can watch me when I don’t know I’m being watched.’ She pointed at the beer. ‘I couldn’t decide what I should order to drink when I got here. I waited to see what you’d order. That’s my biography in a bottle. In high school, I dated the star running back. I didn’t even like football, but I became a cheerleader. My college boyfriend? Total science nerd. I graduated with a degree in biology that I’ve never used because the first job I could get after college was as a bank teller. I hated it, but I started dating one of our customers who was a rodeo stock contractor.’
‘And you became a bullrider?’
‘No. But I did learn to waltz and line dance, and I know George Strait is supposed to be a great guy and all, but I don’t like country music any more than I liked football. And I didn’t like NASCAR, but there I was, sweatin’ and drinkin’ in the sun while my eardrums took a beating on weekends. Not to belabor the point, but in the name of romance, I’ve gone scuba diving, run a half marathon, learned more than anyone should know about cheeses, and mimicked Stevie Nicks in a rock band. Trust me; I am no Stevie Nicks. I’m thirty-two–okay, thirty-five–and I don’t know who I am. I’m betting you can scan your brain and think things like I don’t like liver. I’d rather stay home tonight. I’ve never thought Julia Roberts is America’s sweetheart. I prefer the mountains to the beach. Because you know who you are and what you like. I can try to start those conversations with myself but… Now see, you did that thing with your eyebrow again. It means you think I’m a little kooky but in a good way. So before you know it? I’ll be asking you how to get my PI license and trying to be your quirky sidekick.’
‘I don’t want a quirky sidekick. I’m still not sure how you think my following you, even surreptitiously, is going to help.’
‘I’ve comparison shopped. Detectives are cheaper than analysts. Plus if I sit in somebody’s office and bare my soul, I’m just going to try to figure out how to become my shrink. I want you to notice what catches my eye. What makes me stop and shop? When do I smile when I’m alone? What do I watch? If there’s nobody there to mirror, do I like dogs? Kids? Volkswagens? Riding boots? Tulips or, uh, whatever other kinds of flowers there are?’
‘I can already tell you horticulture isn’t going to be your passion.’
‘Is that on my tab or free information?’
He almost grinned then stood up. ‘That one was free. I’ll text you a quote. I may see you soon. But you won’t be seeing me.'”
I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.