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Monday, April 03, 2017

Lover In Sight

She was a long way away, but I couldn't take my eyes off of her. There were lots of people around, and it seemed like every other second my sight of her was interrupted by some random person passing by her closely. Oh man, was she beautiful, dressed in her summer dress, with a wide-brimmed, woven straw hat that seemed to take your worries away, just by beholding the scene in its entirety. Everything about her seemed to be created just for the world to celebrate everything about her. Her fluid gait was highlighted by the way in which the hem of her dress seemed to caress the air that flowed under it. Watching her closely, it was as if she was gliding along through the world, instead of walking on it like the rest of us. And when she smiled, which was thankfully always, everything in a one-mile radius seemed to greater so bright that it would all just fade away into absolute white.

I had a date with her. Well, truth be told, it was more of an appointment of sorts. And, to potentially make matters worse, I picked today, late on a Sunday morning, to be precise, to try and see her. It would have helped to have mentioned to her that, as strange as it was, this was an ideal day for me to try and meet with her, because from all the way over here, it was going to pain me a lot to try and get her attention. And after this herculean task, it was practically impossible to get her to go along with taking care of business, when she was obviously enjoying her weekend to the fullest. Still, if I didn't make the effort to close this deal, then, I wasn't going to get paid. As much as I hated having to push her out of this beautiful comfort zone, knowing full well that I would have lost my cool if anyone else attempted to pull such a move on me, the task at hand had achieved the status of inevitability.

Bringing my wits together, and mustering up what little charm I was told that I had, I made my move. It struck me that my visual identification of her was based on a single photograph that had been shared with me. When I first saw it, I noticed that the picture was not as clear as it should have been, being a possible combination of a poorly shot photo, poorly edited and printed, and in all likelihood, scanned carelessly, creating a ghost-like replica of the original. Still, I thought I noticed certain identifying marks, the most prominent of which were the dimples in her cheeks. I was pretty sure that I was looking at those very same dimples, but a doubt no matter how small, is the kind of pea under your mattress that you cannot accommodate in your life, especially when there is financial gains on the line. Most importantly, these gains were to be enjoyed by my current employer, before I would receive any scraps, if at all there were any, so, I had no real say in the matter. I decided to try her cell phone. But first, I needed to get out of the noisy crowd of humanity that I had unwittingly become a part of.

I made my way to a small cafe-slash-bistro, that seemed to have a lovely set of dining booths set up on the first floor. I had never tried this place before, but had heard and read enough about it online to feel like I had been here several times prior. The layout seemed unchanged, as I remembered from the newspaper and magazine clippings of this place, and thankfully, one of two corner booths was vacant, and apparently, waiting for me, as my waiter reported in attempted chucklesome exchange. I thanked him, and slipped him ten bucks, indicating that I wished not to be disturbed for the duration of my patronage. Before he could react, I rattled off the names of their two bestselling entrées, and asked for a bloody mary, further impressing on him the urgency of my request. He nodded with eager acknowledgement, although there seemed to be a moment when he seemed to feel that it might be necessary to inform me that the entrées at this cafe-slash-bistro were particularly generous in serving size but thought better than to bring it up. He did, however, indicate that one of the entrées would take thirty minutes to be ready, which was his way of letting me that I could expect a disturbance, and therefore, a direct yet inadvertent ignoring of my request to be left alone, with this period of time. That was more time than I needed.

I leaned towards the window as I whipped out my phone, my fingers already making the required gestures and touches to call her phone. From the window, I managed to spot her, still largely in the vicinity of where I had left her before I moved to a more secluded spot to try and call her. The phone rang in my ear, but I didn't see a response from her. I momentarily wondered about the technological progress of human civilization, being able to make calls from one phone to another, anywhere in the world, but having to wait for what seemed to be an eternity to connect to them when you were looking directly at them. Another ring, but still nothing. My doubt was now growing into an obvious fact. This was not who I was supposed to meet. The next half-instant led to brief panic, thinking about how I may have missed my chance to pounce on this impromptu opportunity to meet and conclude matters that required concluding, as I had been repeatedly told, beyond the slightest hint of a reasonable doubt. If I had been careless enough to have screwed this up, well, I needed to put all of my remaining energy into coming up with a plausible story, which would have to be the perfect blend of top-news-story-meets-Aesop's-Fables. The third ring made itself heard in my ear. Before my heart could skip a beat in sheer fright, I saw her pause in mid-stride. She looked down at her handbag, and seemed to touch it on the outside, checking for some sort of vibration from within it. Once her hand had confirmed this, she reached into her purse and fished around for a moment, finally pulling out her cell phone. Squinting at the screen because of the glare of the midday sun, she let it vibrate once more before raising the phone to her ear.

"Hello?" she asked, opening the call with some, expected trepidation.

"Good afternoon Ms. Rossini. My name is Michael Fisher. I was trying to get you on the phone all day yesterday bust wasn't able to. Would you mind awfully if I took a few seconds of your time?" I  flung forth in reply, not taking a breath between explanation and question, making sure she had no chance of attempting to cut me off and hang up.

"Well, I was in the middle of my Sunday shopping," she began, trying to subvert my attempt to cut into her free time, "But, I would be glad to answer a couple of questions, if we could keep this short." She was as polite as she was beautiful, and on any other day, I would have probably apologized to her for intruding upon her. But that day wasn't today, unfortunately, for either of us. I still couldn't take my eyes off of her, and if this were a scene from some romantic chick flick, I would have waved to get her attention, before swan diving from the window into the mass of humanity below, surviving the fall without a scratch to my person, before running into her arms in slow motion. It was a whole second and a half before I began to respond.

"Why, of course, Ms. Rossini. I do so apologize that you have to endure business on your day off, however, I would only like to ask you three questions," which was my way of setting up for a favorable response to go ahead from her, "after which I will be out of your hair, I promise." Ending emphatically, I hoped to drive home my point that I was deeply apologetic for causing inconvenience, but that it was inevitable and I had to do it, in spite of knowing better. It worked, because I could see the smile return in full force as she acquiesced.

"Question one..." and I paused briefly as if I was trying to recall what I was going to ask her, rummaging through pages of mental notes, but really, staring at her with even greater dedication than I was when I was part of the crowd below, "Did you ever happen to work for a Mr. Scolera, uh, Mr. Antonin Scolera?" There was no sound, not even the hint of exhaling. But, it was the arresting of the breathing that tipped me off. She knew, and I still had two more questions to go. The dimples on her cheeks faded rapidly away, taking with them the joyful redness of her cheeks, leaving only a sickly pallor.

"Question two, Ms. Rossini," I decided to use her name to coax her into offering an answer, "When was the last time you saw Mr. Scolera?" I may have been mistaken, but it seemed to me like she was now frozen, in space and in time, a mere shadow of her former self from only a moment ago, with a tear running down her cheek. She attempted to hide it from the public milling about around her, tilting her head further forward and letting her hat play the role of instant veil. But the long, slender path that the tear from her eye had marked out as it descended her cheek, that was easy to spot as it caught my eye, like a homing beacon, flickering brightly in the bright sunlight, with the tiniest hints of facial movement. Still no response from her, and in spite of the visual tear, there was no sign of this anguish in her breath. She was attempting to be the quintessential stoic, showing no signs of any emotion.

"Question three," but as I began, I suddenly saw her look up, and start to make her way through the crowd. She seemed to be heading to the parking lot, and while a little hurried, which you would notice if you had been studying her closely, not quite quickly enough to draw any undue attention to herself. Oh, she was beautiful, and that meant people would be drawn to gaze upon her, naturally. But, in this case, not enough to run up to her, or to cut her off and ask her if everything was alright, because doing so would require the kind of explanation that would make the unknown offerer of friendly support sound psycopathic in a court of law, a natural deterrent. I started again with, "Question three,...where's the money, Ms. Rossini?"

With that, she was off, her pace quickening to a fast walk, her body making stronger contact with the passersby in front of her that she was trying to get out of her way. I had all the proof I needed to confirm that the person in the badly presented photo was the one standing in front of me. Yet, it was with a heavy heart, one that was torn at the prospect of bringing such beauty to an end, that I hesitated. She had disconnected from the call before I had completed my third question, returning her cell phone to her purse, before making her slow-but-deliberate run for it. But I had my eyes on her the whole time. In complete knowledge of my present hesitation, I hesitated a little more, biding the time that I was pretty sure I had. I waited until she recognized her car, walked first over to it and then around it to get to the driver's side, stepped up to the door with her keys in hand, was about to open the door...BANG!

The shot was inaudible. Any lingering smell from the gunpowder was quickly combined with the heavier smokes of the various tobaccos being consumed in the other booths. The weapon I had used was easily concealed on my person, being dismantled to resemble a collection of everyday objects that one would find in the average backpack. And, as if on cue, my food arrived as promised, served up delicately, paired with a great white wine, and becoming the second best thing about my day today. Still, the first best thing had to be Ms. Rossini, even though she was so far away, because I couldn't take my eyes off of her.
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