Fleming returned the next night and Luke was sitting on the last stool and the end of the bar.
As she sat down next to him, she said “I worry a little about you.”
Luke looked into the mirrored shelves of endless bottles of liquor, then looked at her and said, “do me a favor. Don’t.”
Fleming said “too late. I’m already vested in you. I want…..”
Before she could finish what she was going to say, Luke slammed his hand down on the counter loud enough to turn heads and said “fine. You want to know my story? I’ll tell you. Then maybe you’ll get off my back!”
Gil was slowly and inconspicuously edging his way closer to them. He could see Fleming’s lips tighten in anger but she simply said “okay.”
After motioning for Gil to pour him another drink, Luke began.
“You were right. I was in law enforcement. So was my father. He was a beat cop for 38 years and never once had to fire his weapon.
I was proud of him but I wanted more. I wanted to carry that gold shield. I wanted to catch the bad guys and lock them up.” He smirked as if making fun of himself when he said “I wanted to serve and protect.”
He downed his drink in one gulp. Gil poured him another and listened as Luke said “I served…but I couldn’t protect.”
Fleming asked “what do you mean, ‘you couldn’t protect’?” Luke angrily said “do you want to hear this or do you want to interrupt by asking questions?
Again, Fleming’s lips tightened but she said nothing.
“I finally got that gold shield,” Luke said. “My first big case was investigating the murder of a prominent banker. When I got to the scene, I strutted in and took charge. I was the big man.”
“We suspected that it was a hit,” he said. “It was one of those ‘make your peace with God’ shots in the back of the head. It had long been thought that he had been laundering money for the mob but nobody could ever prove it. Maybe he decided to quit or maybe he got caught pocketing some of the money. We didn’t know and to tell the truth, we didn’t care.”
He continued. “After interviewing several people who worked for him, I was told that there was an eye-witness. I remember being a little disappointed. Having an eye-witness didn’t involve any investigative expertise or sleepless nights or the usual angst you see on television shows about detectives who ‘care so deeply’.”
Luke motioned for another drink. Gil poured and looked at Fleming. He had one of those “wow” looks on his face. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the story or the amount of whiskey Luke was downing.
“Anyway,” Luke continued, “it turned out that the eye-witness was Jenny.”
Gil couldn’t muffle his sudden surprise intake of air. Luke angrily said “why don’t you come over and pull up a stool? That way, you won’t miss anything.”
“My apologies,” Gil said as he once again offered his display of surrender and retreated further back.
Fleming wasn’t going to once again be chastised or basically told to shut up, so she said nothing and listened as Luke continued.
“They had Jenny in a back room and I went in to talk to her. She was shaking and absolutely scared to death. I told her that she was going to be okay. She looked at me and said ‘do you promise’?” Luke looked at his glass, now empty and said “I promised her.”
Then he got up, took three twenties out of his wallet, tossed them next to his glass, turned and walked out.
To be continued______________________