“Geezus Christ, Sam!” said the Mayor, rather loudly. “Every time I see you, you look older than the last time I saw you.” It’s called aging Mayor. It happens to the best of us, that and good scotch, or bad scotch, I don’t know.” I thought, what a dumb thing for him to say. I mean, the guy had put on at least thirty pounds if not more since I last saw him, but I wasn’t about to point that out. People were staring at us for obvious reasons and also at the Mayor’s bodyguard, a rather large Samoan chap who once played for the Forty-Niners who stood just feet away. His eyes were nervously scanning the restaurant back and forth, back and forth. Mayor Russell saw me eyeing his security detail and chuckled. “Tui came along when I told him we were coming here,” said the Mayor. “Ordinarily, I don’t bring him unless I have business in areas where I’m not that popular.” “Oh, and where is that?” I said. “You know perfectly well where,” said the Mayor, motioning to the waiter. “Oh, you mean the Bayview district where you sent in your “storm troopers” a couple of weeks ago and cracked a few skulls - one of which was an elderly woman!”
“I do not condone that sort of violence, Sam, and you know it!” “Yeah, I know that, Hank,” I said, immediately feeling embarrassed for using his nickname. “Sorry, Mayor. I apologize - that slipped.” “Don’t sweat it, Sam,” said the Mayor. The Mayor now leaned forward, while motioning me to lean in. “How’s the Chili Verde?” That was not what I was expecting him to say, but my selection of such a crowded place was my fault. My hunger at the time of our phone conversation was to blame. There was no way the Mayor was going to disclose any sensitive info in these environs. I couldn’t blame him. I felt like an idiot. “Probably the best in the city,” I responded. We ate and talked and laughed about old times.
Then it was time to go, and I wanted to apologize for selecting such an unreasonable place when the Mayor, who was busy signing an autograph, stood up and put an arm around my shoulder. “Walk out with me, Sam.” His limo was parked right in front, and as Tui opened the rear door for him, the Mayor grabbed my hand. I felt something in our clasp as he gave a wink and disappeared into the limo’s back seat. I watched as they drove away while slipping whatever it was he gave me into my pants pocket. It felt like a folded-up piece of paper. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there so I could read it, and also get me a friggin’ drink! I wanted so badly to order a Margarita or two, but I restrained myself as I knew the Mayor was a teetotaler. I began looking for the nearest liquor store I could find.
A very interesting thing happened at the liquor store where I stopped after my lunch. I was standing at the counter, getting ready to slide my credit card toward the clerk. I can’t explain what happened next. One minute I was almost salivating at the thought of downing that quart of Black Duck vodka, and the next minute I was driving away from the liquor store - without the vodka! What the hell just happened? I drove back to the office in a daze. Had I just had a “spiritual experience,” as they talk about in A.A., or did a kernel of responsibility from deep beneath layers of doubt, procrastination, and irresponsibility elbow its way to the surface?
I had been a highly respected cop once! I had also been one of the best P.I.’s in the City - that is until the booze got the best of me. Was the D.A. just throwing me a bone for old-time’s sake, or was the assignment he handed me a vote of confidence - not to mention the money - to help get me back on my feet? Then I thought to myself, this case had too high a volatility quotient to it, and the ramifications could be devastating to a lot of people. I just didn’t know yet. I found myself feeling grateful for the opportunity the D.A. placed in my hands. I had this thought that he might’ve heard I went to some A.A. meetings. I knew his dad had been a raging alcoholic for years, and he had gotten sober and still goes to meetings all the time. All I know is, he evidently had some confidence in me. I was determined to do my very best to get to the bottom of whatever lay ahead of me, and that meant laying off the sauce. I’m not a very religious person, but I said a little prayer asking for the strength to persevere with my battle with the booze and help me finish the task at hand.
I pulled the object from my pants pocket that the Mayor had slipped me. I gave it a cursory glance as the traffic was too congested to spend too much time looking at it. It was indeed a folded piece of paper, and I couldn’t wait to read the contents. I slid it into my shirt pocket just as the guy in front of me slammed on his brakes. Sonofabitch! I almost hit the bastard!