We meet at a restaurant near Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta. It's one of those places that calls itself a bistro, which I think is French for "our-staff-is-gay-so-we-can-overcharge." I'm about to order a beer when I hear Chase ask what flavor martini they have today.
I hear the waiter tell him something about boysenberry with a touch of melon juice and I laugh thinking it's a fucking joke, but my brother orders it.
"I'll have a Scotch, straight up," I say. And before he can ask me what brand I'd like, I turn to Chase. "Since when do you drink boysenberry martinis? I remember the face you made when I gave you your first beer."
He laughs. "It must have been domestic."
I shake my head. You know the younger brother on that old TV show Frasier? I never noticed how much Chase looks like him. Skinny, with blond hair combed to the side, I bet he pays more for a haircut than I paid for the clothes I'm wearing. His hands look like a piano player's. Mine look like a piano mover's.
But he still has the family nose. His hasn't been broken so many times it bends to one side, like mine, but it's red and round. No wonder the kids in school used to call him Bozo.
"Hey Chase," I say. "Remember when I used to beat up the kids at school for you when they'd call you names?
He looks like he's about to say something, but the waiter returns with our drinks and takes our food order. I tell him I want the beef tenderloin because it's the most expensive thing on the lunch menu and my little brother is paying. Chase smiles and says he'll have the same. He sips his martini and makes a face.
I reach over and taste his drink. "Where's the olive, man?" I ask the waiter. He turns up his nose, but I see him smiling just a little. Me and Chase crack up.
Chase really isn't a bad guy. He's helped me out of a few jams, just like I used to help him. When I lost my cop job in Philly for using excessive force, Chase brought me to Atlanta and got me security work at his company until I found work on my own. I stayed with him and Lori and the kids for a while. I enjoyed playing Uncle Tommy to his two boys. I still see them more than I see my own kids.
And Lori. What a piece of ass. I remember telling Chase at the wedding that I used to think he was queer, but he did all right for himself. They met at college, Penn fucking State. I could have gone to college, but our parents wouldn't pay for me. They said I wasn't college material. The old man took a second job when it came Chase's time.
The food comes and the booze is making me feel good, so I don't even mention how small a piece of beef they serve for $16.95. He orders red wine. I have another Scotch.
I'm still wondering why he invited me for lunch, but I figure he'll tell me in good time. I'm relieved he's treating me so good. I eat my free meal and keep up my end of the conversation.
Chase has hardly touched his food. He keeps looking like he wants to talk. I keep eating. Finally, he puts down his fork and says, "Tommy, I need your help."
I wait for him to speak, but he stays silent. His nose gets redder than usual.
"Lori is having an affair."
Now I could hear my own heart beating. I force myself to look him in the eye. "You sure?"
"Yes . . . No. I mean, I don't know for sure, but she's different. In bed, you know?"
I want to ask him how, but I don't dare say anything.
"I have no proof. Maybe I'm just being an idiot. I tried talking to her, but she denied there was anything going on. She said I was imagining things." He finishes the last of his wine. "But there's something in her voice, her eyes. I know she's cheating on me, Tommy."
"Who with? You have any idea?"
"No, not a clue. I feel like such a fool."
I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. "What do you want me to do?"
"Investigate," he says. "Find the bastard and . . . and take care of him, like when we were kids."
Since leaving the force, I make my living off people like Chase and Lori. I follow them around, hide in the bushes, and take pictures when I find them playing in someone else's garden. I work for a group of divorce lawyers who pay me for information, especially if it comes with photographs.
"You sure this is what you want?"
"Yes," he says quickly, like he doesn't want to give himself time to think. "I don't even want to know who it is. Just take care of him. I don't want to lose Lori."
He isn't making sense. I don't ask him what he means by taking care of him because he pulls out this wad of cash, pays the bill, and says, "I'll pay for your time. And something extra." He hands me a lot of money. "This should get you started."
I take his money. He has plenty to spare. "I'll handle this," I say. He holds out his hand and we shake. He even grabs my shoulder like he wants to hug or something.
I walk away wondering what to do. Should I tell Lori we gotta stop? But I figure I'd do better not saying anything for a while. It would be a shame giving up prime ass like that, especially when I'm getting paid.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson