“No amount of travel on the wrong road will bring you to the right destination.”
- Ben Gaye, III
I shifted in my chair as Kevin Greely made his case to our largest client. They had a huge contract for a desalination plant we wanted, no, we needed, but I couldn’t help thinking my boss’s groveling was sickening. My phone vibrated again, the third time in five minutes. I glanced around the table. All eyes were fixed on the PowerPoint presentation, so I dipped into my jacket for a peek. Frozen, I stared at the number as it buzzed.
It was her.
I pushed back from the conference table, drawing the attention I dreaded.
“Uh, sorry. I gotta get this. Family emergency. I’ll be right back.”
Greely’s eyes bore into me as he said, “Hustle up, Dom, we’re moving to your wheelhouse next.”
“This should only take a minute.” Slinking out of the room, I knew I’d have to concoct something believable to keep Greely off my back. Boy, did I hate kissing ass. This job was nothing special, just a placeholder, and the money sucked to boot. I had to move on, and fast.
Hitting callback, I hunched near a column with my eyes on the conference room door.
A shiver, part exhilaration, part queasiness, ran from my gut to my nose. I felt like a fifth grader calling my crush from the bathroom. The quote, “Good things come to those who wait,” rushed into my head.
“Hey, Robin, sorry, I was in a—”
“Phil’s still not back. Do you know where he is?”
“He didn’t come home again last night and didn’t show up at work today. Where is he?”
She needed reassuring, and I was gonna try my ass to provide it.
“I’m sure he’ll be back—”
“Cut the bullshit, Dom, you said that yesterday. Where the hell is he?” She sounded well beyond concerned.
“I don’t know, Robin.”
“Oh, come on, he tells you everything.”
Spot-on. “Look, I’m sure he’s okay, but did you check around, like the hospitals?”
“Of course. I checked NCH Downtown and North, Lee Memorial, Health Park, even Physicians Regional, though he’d never go there. Something’s wrong, I can feel it.”
I had to agree with her. “I’m sure there’s an explanation. You’ve got to remain calm. Let’s not jump to any conclusions here. Okay, Robin?”
“I know, but look, you can tell me. I just wanna know.” She raised her voice. “Is Phil screwing around again? Has he taken off with another one of his bimbos?”
I didn’t need to be reminded that Phil collected women like coins. The crazy thing was, it was nuts to do so, given he had Robin.
Robin and Phil had been married for ten years, some good, some bad. I remember the day they got hitched. Robin was a catch: good-looking and making serious money at only twenty-five. That wedding day was bittersweet for me because Phil was the brother I never had. The two of them made such a striking couple it was depressing.
My buddy, Phil Gabelli, was no slouch either, and I hated competing with him for girls when we grew up. The fact is, I never stopped competing with him. Even married to Robin he was still dipping his beak in where I fished. He had Robin, I mean, geez, what else could you want?
The conference door groaned open and a stern-faced Greely waved me over. I held up a finger. Greely shook his head, hiked his thumb, and disappeared. Man, I can’t wait to tell these guys to go fly a kite.
“Look, Robin, I know you’re upset, but I’m sure he’ll turn up. He always does.”
“I don’t know what to do, Dom. This time is different, I can feel it.”
I could hear her cell phone ringing in the background.
“Hold on a sec. Oh, I gotta go. It’s the detective handling the case.”
Detective? Case? Do detectives get involved in a missing persons report? I reached for my inhaler. It was probably normal. Robin was a type A. It was one of things I loved about her, though Phil didn’t feel the same way. She’d push with a laser-like focus, bullying you or turning on the charm, either way, whatever worked, to get what she wanted. Phil would complain to me about it, but I knew it was the reason she was so successful. He didn’t know how to handle her, but I found her easy to deal with. Like I told Phil, putting up with her foibles was a small price to pay for all the dough she brought in.
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” - Frank A. Clark
Looking in the mirror, my five-o’clock shadow bothered me. I shaved and put on a nice pair of jeans and a new shirt I’d gotten at a Waterside boutique. I wanted to look upscale casual, whatever that meant, because a detective by the name of Frank Luca was coming by.
Luca was about six feet tall and another good-looking guy. I immediately wondered what Robin thought of him.
I went to shake his hand, but he waved his ID and stepped in.
“This shouldn’t take long, just trying to get some background on Mr. Gabelli.”
“No problem, Officer, or is it Detective? How should you be addressed?”
“Well, if my old man was here he’d say call me anything, but make the check out to cash.” Luca smiled. “Detective, Officer, Frank, makes no difference.”
“Sure. Is your pop still around?”
Luca shook his head. “Nah, been about five years now. Still tough to believe.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I lost my mom two years ago and it still hurts. I like what Queen Elizabeth said, ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’ Pretty good, isn’t it?”
Luca nodded and pulled a notebook out of his jacket.
“Shall we get started?”
I pulled out a couple of bottles of water and we sat around the kitchen table.
“Crazy that Phil took off, ain’t it?”
“You say took off, did he have any particular reason to run?”
“Well, you know, Phil was, I don’t know, restless. He couldn’t sit still for a minute, unless it was on a barstool chatting up a lady.” I smiled.
“Phil liked to drink, womanize?”
“Well, he didn’t drink that much. Look, me and Phil go way back. I mean, we’re tight as can be. Geez, he’s pulled me out of so many jams I lost count. I just don’t want to bad-mouth him or nothing.”
“I get it. I’m just trying to get some information to go on. Anything you tell me stays with me. I need to understand if he took off or if something happened to him.”
I leaned forward. “What do you mean? Like he’s hurt or—”
Luca threw up a palm. “Let’s not get carried away. My job is to investigate his whereabouts and follow the leads, bad or good, wherever they point. Now, you were saying your buddy liked to play the field.”
I smiled. “Fair enough, though not fair to Robin. She’s something, ain’t she?” I wanted Luca to react, but he didn’t give me any clue to what he thought of her.
“Well, Phil’s one of a kind. Let’s say he’s never had a problem with the ladies. I’m sure you know what that’s like, right Detective? I mean, with your looks. Hey, you know what?” I snapped my fingers. “You look like that actor George Clooney. Yeah, that’s it. Wow, a spitting image. You must get that a lot.”
Luca smiled thinly and shook his head. What a stiff.
He said, “Go on.”
“Let’s just say Phil took full advantage of his situation. That’s all.”
“You know, his looks, his way with women. You could call it style. He basically was irresistible.”
“And did his wife know about his,” Luca made quotation marks in the air, “activities?”
I frowned. “Yeah, she knew. Robin would get pissed and threaten to throw him out, but Phil’d weasel his way back in, making the same old promises. Robin would fall for it over and over.”
“You think maybe she finally got tired of being made a fool?”
“What? You don’t think? Nah, can’t be, there’s no way she’d do anything bad to anyone, not to Phil, no one.”
“Got to ask.”
“Yeah, I know most times it’s the spouse, but hey, he’s probably just,” I lowered my voice a notch, “holed up with some broad.”
“Robin said you and Phil were tight as can be and if anyone knew where he was it would be you.”
Robin? He’s on a first-name basis with her already?
“Yeah, me and Philly go all the way back to grammar school. We played Little League, went to high school together and all. Robin probably told you I was his best man at their wedding.”
Luca nodded silently.
“But really, I don’t know where he went. I wish I did.”
“Do you know if they had any financial issues?”
I shook my head. “No way. Robin brings home the bacon, and a lot of it at that.”
Luca asked, “Perhaps he had money problems of his own.”
“Nah, she makes more than enough, and they share it.”
“You know they pool their money?”
“Like I said, Phil tells me everything.”
The detective nodded. “Do you know anything or any reason at all for him to disappear?”
“Not really. He’s had a couple of flings that lasted a while, but I don’t know, I guess he could’ve taken off with one of his dames. You know it wasn’t the best of marriages, and he’d say he wanted to take off sometimes.”
“Did you take him seriously, or was it something a lot of people fantasize about when they hit a rough patch?”
I shrugged. “I guess no more than the next guy.”
Luca asked me to name any of Phil’s current and former girlfriends I could remember. After scribbling in his notebook, Luca stood, signaling the chat was over. As I walked him to the door, he asked, “Is there anyone you know he had a beef with? Anyone that might have a reason to cause him harm?”
Finally, a good question. “Well, to be honest, Phil could be kind of a wise guy at times. He loved to bust balls. You know what I mean? Nothing really mean-spirited, but sometimes people could take him the wrong way. You know?”
“Anyone you think might have took him the wrong way?”
I gave him a couple of names and he left.
Missing person cases aren’t my bag, but since there’s few homicides along Florida’s Gold Coast, it was a break from running down burglaries. Most of these types of cases break down to either someone flying the coop or murder, which, like I say, is rare, especially in Naples. Chances were this guy would turn out to be a runner.
While I interviewed the wife, I couldn’t imagine this guy Phil Gabelli taking off on her. The wife’s name was Robin, and boy was she a beauty. The woman began to hypnotize me as we talked, until I realized she screamed type A, which shook off my hormonal instincts. You see, type A’s think they’re smarter than everyone else. They’re also known to be fanatical planners. It makes them successful, but many times they’re also the ones who think their meticulous planning will allow them to get away with a crime.
I reassessed things. She was pretty torn up, but something wasn’t quite right. The wife was holding back, but was it just the normal personal stuff nobody gives us the first time or two, or something more sinister? She was hard to read. I’d need more face time, but it was early, and who knows, her hubby might show up any minute.
The wife was insistent that I go see her husband’s lifelong buddy, a guy named Dom Stewart. Was this a classic diversion, or was this her really trying to get to the bottom of her husband’s disappearance?
I looked at the pictures Gabelli’s wife gave me. I don’t swing from the other side of the plate, but there was no doubt this dude was pretty. Come on, buddy, talk to me. Where the heck are you? Why don’t you give your old lady a call?
Putting the photos aside, I finished filling out a missing persons report. Then I ran the friend, Dom Stewart, through the system. Nothing came up, not even a speeding ticket. A real altar boy.
The sun was shining onto my desk, so I adjusted the blinds. I’d only been in paradise for two years, and I needed every day of them to get over the loss of my partner and best friend, J. J. Cremora. These Southerners are a lot sharper than the rest of the country thinks, well, here at the sheriff’s office anyway. After I’d gotten down here, they cycled me through a bunch of temporary partners, knowing I’d need time. Finally, they permanently paired me with Mary Ann Vargas, who, I had to admit, was a good cop. She happened to be on vacation at the moment, not that I needed my partner to chase this case down.
Picking at leftovers from last night’s Cinco De Mayo meal, I updated the case file with the report and interview and uploaded a picture of the missing guy. Nothing else was pressing, so I called this Stewart guy and headed back into the sunshine.
Stewart lived in North Naples, in one of the hundreds of gated communities that I thought gave people a false sense of security. I couldn’t imagine having kids and dealing with the K-Mart cops at the gates to drop and pick them up. On the plus side, Pelican Perch was another example of a beautifully manicured community that was bright and cheery.
Dom Stewart lived in a medium-sized, second-floor coach home. Everywhere else they’re called townhouses. I figured this place went for about three hundred and fifty thousand. That’s another thing, down here, everyone is real estate centric. I can’t recall the last conversation where the price of a house didn’t sneak into the chat. Me? Guilty as charged. I enjoyed talking about it as well.
Anyway, Stewart cranked the door of his coral pink home open a millisecond after I rang the bell. I never liked that when it happened; it made me suspicious. Stewart was about five feet ten, one sixty, with brown hair. He looked like a guy who’d be anal about his garage. You know them, they have the floor painted in a high gloss and everything’s hung up, nothing on the floor.
Stewart was wearing a light blue button-down shirt and a pair of three-hundred-dollar jeans. Was he trying to make an impression for our chat, or was he just one of those neat freaks? I showed him my badge and we made our way to the kitchen. Boy, the place was clean but sparsely furnished and needed updating. I lowered my estimate to three twenty-five max.
Inspirational-type prints hung everywhere. “May you live all the days of your life.” I had to read that one twice before I got it. “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” “Fortune favors the brave.”
A magnet proclaiming “Carpe Diem” was on the refrigerator. Stewart opened it, revealing a shelf of water bottles lined up like soldiers, and grabbed two before sitting.
He didn’t seem nervous, but he either loved to talk or was trying hard to make a connection with me. I’d have to keep this guy on track or I’d be here all day. I made a few notes along the way, but it was looking like good old Phil had taken off with another gal. A chick magnet it seemed.
It was interesting but not surprising to learn that Phil was a bit of a wiseass. When things come a little too easily, a lot of guys get overconfident and it rubs some of us the wrong way. Maybe he really ticked someone off. It wouldn’t be the first time some Romeo got whacked for playing with some other guy’s Juliet.
I jotted down a couple of names Stewart offered and left.
“Doing what you want to do is easy. Doing what you have to do is hard.” – Larry Elder
Robin called me right after seeing Luca to tell me she’d put together a search team. Can’t say I was surprised; she wasn’t one to sit on her hands. I was glad she called me but miffed she didn’t tell me in advance she was thinking of one. Either way, I was on my way, but there was no question, a search team felt strange, and I didn’t want to participate.
Robin lived in a nice section of Pine Ridge Estates, where the lots were large and the houses ranged from a million and a half up to three and more. I liked it. It had a good location that had its own feel and the name had a nice, highbrow ring to it. Her house was worth over two million, I discovered when I looked it up.
When I pulled up to the house, the gray paver driveway was already filled with cars. A small crowd had gathered on the covered entryway of the house. I surveyed the house as I got out of the car. It was always perfectly manicured, and today was no different.
Robin, clipboard in hand, was standing in the doorway. I quickened my pace, toning down my smile as I nodded hellos and sidled up to her for a quick embrace. Her cell phone buzzed. Man, she smelled good.
Robin finished the call from a volunteer.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
“I can’t wait for the police. They said they’d find him, but the thought of him lying somewhere hurt—I, I just couldn’t bear it.”
She teared up. I reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze.
I said, “So let’s get looking then. Where to?”
“I don’t know where to look first. It’s overwhelming.”
“I know, but one step at a time. How about we divide up and start with the parks and wooded areas.”
She nodded. “Yeah, I told Marty and Joe to take a few of us and head to Wiggins Pass, Veterans, and Gordon. We’ve got to check around his job.”
“Good places to look.”
She said, “There’s also a lot of undeveloped land by the Tech Park on Old Forty-one.”
Her cell phone buzzed and she told the caller to get a few others together and to search for Phil and his car at Big Cypress Park in the Everglades. The park was a vast swamp with boardwalk access. They’d need a hundred people to check it all out. Man, this was going to be a long night.
I had zero interest in walking through any wooded areas and even less in trudging through some skanky swampland. Staying with Robin was my plan. As teams began to form, I told Robin, “Detective Luca came by to see me.”
“Really? I’m surprised. He didn’t seem too interested. What did he have to say?”
Not interested? He had to be interested at least in her.
“Not much, just asked a bunch of questions. I gave him as much information as I could.”
“If I knew I wouldn’t ask. Now come on, Dom.”
“I mean, we both know Phil liked to, you know,” I fingered quotation marks, “roam around. I just told him what I knew. That’s all.”
A volunteer came up and spoke with Robin.
“Okay, let’s get going,” Robin said.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not going, are you?”
“Of course. I can’t just sit here.”
“But you gotta stay here. You know, this is the, the command center.”
“You think so?”
Bingo, she was listening to me already. “Of course. You’re the perfect, shall we say, field general.”
She briefly smiled. “If you think so.”
“Absolutely. We should both be here.”
“No, no. You can’t stay here, Dom. Nobody knows Phil like you do. You’d know where to look. Peg will stay with me.”
Damn. Much as I wanted, I couldn’t push back against the reasoning.
Off I went with ten other do-gooders who started calling Phil’s name out before they got off Robin’s driveway.
It was muggy as all hell, and my shoes were caked with dirt. We must’ve walked ten frigging miles through the farmland south of Immokalee Road and Everglades Boulevard. Why anyone thought Phil would be out here was a mystery to me. I played my part, calling his name out every couple of minutes, but I knew it was futile. It was a drag and I had to keep reminding myself of the quote by Kaplan: “If I am right about the big picture, I will be rewarded for my patience.”
I was starting to get hungry. I called Robin three times as we trudged along, ostensibly to see if anyone had any news. Though she was definitely stressed, she still sounded like a glass of sugar water. I couldn’t wait until all this was over.
The sun was sinking, and I suggested we circle to the right and head back. I was never so happy to see the daylight dissipate into a dishwater gray as we got back in our cars. Starving, I headed back to Robin’s.
All the search teams had come back hours ago, but there were still a dozen people at Robin’s house. Go home folks. Can’t you see she needs time to unwind? Unfortunately, her sister, Peggy, who’d driven down from Savannah, was now staying with Robin.
They were twins, mentally speaking, but Peg was nothing to look at, though she did have some money. I figured she’d be around for four, five days max, as she had a big job running a chain of hospitals. Robin said the two of them were no longer close, but blood is thick, so I needed to keep my distance.
We used to go to this Chinese joint—Robin loved their moo shu pork. I knew she’d appreciate it, so I ordered that and a couple of other dishes. The food broke the tension, but as much as I hated to, I knew I had to leave before the others did.
Heading back on US 41, the radio barked, shoving Robin’s shapely image out of my head. Another code 38 in Golden Gate. A car was on the way, but the desk wasn’t sure if this domestic disturbance involved a hostage situation and asked for any unit in the area to respond.
The Coastland Mall was in sight. I threw the strobe light on and hit the gas pedal. As I sped onto the overpass I saw a marked car, lights blazing, on Airport Pulling. He made up ground and was only a half mile behind me as I turned onto Coronado Parkway. By the time I made a right onto Tropical Way he was glued to my bumper.
I slid into a space behind two other marked cars in front of 16715 Tropical, which I quickly valued at well under three hundred K. As I hopped out I saw between houses the traffic whizzing by on Santa Barbara Boulevard. Two uniformed officers were straddling the front door, pleading with whoever was inside to open up.
I turned around. It was Bill Bailey.
“Dress rehearsal for the Indy Five Hundred?”
“I don’t drive like no grandma when my fellow officers need me.”
Bailey was a tad too enthusiastic of a brother in blue for me.
“Yeah, well, if you would’ve hit a bump, or a real grandmother pulled onto the road, I’d be wondering what color suit to wear to your funeral.”
A ruddy-faced officer who couldn’t have been more than thirty had jogged over from the front door. I introduced myself as the young bucks fist-bumped.
“What’s the deal?”
Officer Reilly explained that someone he assumed was the husband answered the door and said he’d open the door but never did. Reilly asked to talk to the wife, who’d called 911, but the male claimed she was busy with the kids.
“This guy have a name?”
“Oh, sorry sir, Watkins, John. Caucasian, forty-two years of age.”
“Uh, don’t know.”
“Well find out. If this is a hostage situation we’re gonna need as much data as possible.” I headed to the door.
There were no sidelights to sneak a peek, so I rang the bell. Twenty seconds later I hit the door twice with the heel of my hand. A smoker’s voice responded, “What do you want?”
“Just want to make sure everyone’s all right.”
“Everything’s okay. There’s no problem.”
“I’m gonna need to see for myself.”
“Why? I want my privacy.”
“I understand, sir. However, it seems your wife called nine-one-one saying she felt threatened.”
I raised my voice a couple of notches. “I’m gonna ask one more time. Open the door, or I’ll have it rammed open.”
“Leave us alone.”
I was about to threaten him when a sharp pain hit my abdomen. I hunched over for a second.
Reilly came up behind me. “You okay, Luca?”
“Yeah, got some gas pains. Gotta stay away from that Mexican food.”
Reilly told me Watkins had just started a new job working nights at FedEx and asked if he should call for backup. I told him to hang on a minute and pounded the door again.
“I told you everything is okay, so leave us alone.”
“Look, let’s not make this into something you’re going to regret. There’s no reason to let FedEx know the cops are at your house, right?”
“Hey, don’t play with my job, man. I need that.”
“You’re in control. You open, there’s no reason to let FedEx know you had a spat with your old lady.”
The lock clicked and the door opened six inches. I wedged my foot in, nearly crushing Watkins’ barefoot toes. Watkins was a skinny turd of a guy. Day-old stubble and what looked like a dove tattooed on his neck.
“See, there’s nothing going on, so why don’t you just leave us alone?”
“I’d like to see the missus.”
“Well, she’s the one who made the complaint.”
He lowered his voice and opened the door another six inches. “She gets a little carried away from time to time. You know what I mean?”
As I said, “I sure do,” I pulled the door open.
“Step outside, Mr. Watkins.”
“This is my house. You can’t force me out of my own damn house.”
“Reilly, would you and Bailey arrest this gentleman for failing to obey a police order?”
“All right, all right. Can I put on shoes first?”
“Outside, Watkins. Now.”
I stepped into the house and called out, “Mrs. Watkins? Detective Luca here. Can we have a word with you?”
The door to the bedroom slowly opened and a red-headed woman of about forty walked into the family room. She’d been crying. I followed her, thinking she probably made a great apple pie. Broken glass had been swept into a pile, and a broom rested against the couch.
“Are you okay?”
“How about the children?”
“They’re both at school.”
“What happened that made you call nine-one-one?”
“I shouldn’t have called. It was a mistake. I don’t want John to get in trouble. He didn’t really do anything.”
I rubbed my gut, man was it sore. “Take it easy. Let’s see if we can settle this among ourselves. Okay?”
“It was really kinda nothing. John had gotten in from work at about five a.m. He needs to settle down. He can’t go right to sleep, it’s like his rhythm is off from working nights.”
“He was watching TV, like he always does, but it was kinda loud, so I got up and asked him to lower it.”
She frowned. “He was being spiteful and raised it. So, I got a little bit mad. I didn’t want the kids to wake up.”
“What did you do?”
“I pulled the cable box plug out.”
“Well, he, you know, got upset. I shouldn’t have done it. It takes too long for the cable to boot back up.”
“Did he get physical with you?”
She looked at her feet. “No, not really.”
“It’s okay, you can tell me what happened. Nothing’s gonna happen to John.”
“It was nothing, really. He got up and plugged it back in, and I tried to unplug it, and we both went for the plug at the same time, you know, and we banged into each other and I lost my balance and banged into the table and the vase fell over.” She gazed at the glass pile and teared up.
“It’s okay. What happened next?”
She sniffled. “That vase was my mom’s. She gave it to me. It’s the only thing of hers I have. When it fell I got really mad, but it’s all my fault.”
“But when you called nine-one-one, you said you were threatened, afraid, for you and the kids.”
“The kids got up and they, they were crying because we were arguing. So, I put them back to bed and stayed in my daughter’s room till it was time for them to go to school.”
“The kids went to school, then what?”
“Well, I was really angry about the vase, and he was sleeping, and I know it was stupid but I put the TV on real loud. It was stupid. I don’t know why I did it. It was childish, but I wanted to get back at him.”
“So, he woke up and started yelling. He was right, he needed his rest and all. I don’t know what got into me, but I put the volume all the way up. He came flying out of the bedroom and he was cursing and chased me. I ran into the bathroom and he was banging on the door. I told him I was gonna call the police and he said to go ahead.” She shrugged. “So, I did.”
“Did he lay a hand on you?”
“John would never do that.”
“Did he push you into the table?”
“No, like I said, we both kinda collided.”
“Do you want me to run him into the station, you know, to cool him off a bit?”
“No, he’s cooled down. I mean he was mad I called, and he’s right, it was stupid, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
“Nine-one-one is not a game, ma’am, but by all means, if you feel there’s a danger to you or the children please don’t hesitate to call.”
“Stay here a minute. I’m gonna talk to your husband.”
John Watkins had bummed a smoke from Bailey and was leaning on the entrance column.
“What do you say you open the garage?”
“Open the garage? What do you think you’ll find there? Bodies?”
“Unless you want the neighbors to see you get in the back of a police car, I’d say we have a little talk out of their view.”
Watkins punched in a code and the garage door lifted, revealing a lawn mower, an assortment of bicycles, and plastic kids’ furniture.
“So why don’t you tell me why the county’s got three law enforcement officers here?”
His story didn’t vary too much from his wife’s, except when it came to the vase. He said he knocked into it by accident, but I knew he broke it on purpose. It was stupid and vengeful but a heck of a lot better than knocking your wife around.
“You know, John, I’m not one to be advising anyone on marriage, but one thing I can tell you is it ain’t gonna get easier if you don’t respect the things your wife holds dear to her. Geez, you broke the only thing her mom left her.”
“No, I didn’t. It was an accident.”
As I threw a palm up, my belly pain sharpened.
“Look, go in there and make up with your old lady. Buy her something she likes to replace the vase. Surprise her with something.”
He nodded like a bobblehead doll.
“Go ahead and make up before your kids get out of school.”
My pain receded, and as he headed for the door I said, “Say, John, you like pie?”
“Uh, yeah, sure.”
“What’s your favorite?”
“I guess apple or blueberry.”