Niles placed a call to human resources and requested a week’s vacation.
For the first time ever the job appeared mundane and mechanical. Between updates on cases with detectives thoughts drifted to a life beyond what he ever imagined for his future. Niles thought that eventually he might be asked to retire, wheeled out in a wheelchair with most of his teeth and marbles missing.
“I’m not as strong and fast as I used to be,” Niles thought, “but I know all the tricks. I know the quickest route to the exit and how fast to take a corner without running off the road.”
At 3:00 he pulled his phone from his inside jacket pocket and punched a number.
“Hi, Annie, it’s me.”
“Yeah, it’s been a while.”
“I’ve been doing fine. How ‘bout you?”
“That’s good to hear. Look, I have something important to talk about, are you busy tonight?”
“You name it.”
Niles chuckled. “Of course, I’m buying. You name the time.”
“Seven is fine.”
“You name it.”
“Rosie O’Grady’s, great choice.” Niles dropped the phone back in his jacket pocket.
He finished out the day leaving at 6:30.
His mind overloaded with thoughts he was nearly giddy about the future. He grabbed a cab for a 10 minute ride that seemed to last only five.
Rosie O’Grady’s was a place Niles and Annie dined once a month; the last Thursday of each month.
Allen, the maitre d’ greeted Niles just inside the door. “Mr. Quinn, it has been a while.”
“Indeed,” Niles said, “just like old times, last Thursday of the month.
“Annie is already at a table,” Allen said. “Are things looking up for you two?”
Niles smiled politely. “No, Allen, so hold off any celebratory notions.”
“I’m sorry,” Allen said. “I didn’t mean to appear intrusive.”
“Not taken that way at all,” Niles said. “You’re a romantic at heart.”
“Let me show you to your table.”
Niles followed Allen to a table where Annie waited with a wide smile and a male companion.
Allen seated Niles.
“I thought we could meet alone,” Niles said.
“I’ll get your waitress,” Allen said.
“I’m sorry, Niles, but I thought it might be a good time for you two to meet,” Annie said.
“When have you ever had me meet one of your students?” Niles said.
“He’s a professor,” Annie said.
The man reached across the table to shake hands, “Winston Hollingswad, professor of international trade law.”
Niles shook his hand. “Niles Quinn, captain, homicide, 10th precinct.”
“I’ve been anxious to meet you,” Winston said.
“Who the hell is this guy, Annie?” Niles said feigning confusion. “Seems like he knows me, but I don’t have a clue about him.”
“We’ve been seeing each other for about a year,” Annie said.
“That’s no problem,” Niles said, “we haven’t talked in two.”
“Sorry to spring it on you like this,” Annie said, “but it all came up all the sudden.” She smiled primly in an effort to change the tone of the conversation. “So, do you still have the place on 24th?”
“Yeah,” Niles said. “It’s perfect for me. So, really how does it happen Wadsworth tags along?”
“It’s Hollingswad,” Winston said,
“I’m sure,” Niles said.
“If I may add, it was not contrived,” Winston said, “we bumped into each other quite by accident when walking to the subway and I sort of invited myself along. We just thought it would be good that we meet.”
“Excuse me,” Niles said, “but are you some sort of kook? The only theory under which this might make sense is if children were involved or some sort of financial complications. There’s nothing between me and Annie, except the past, we made a complete break when we divorced. What is it, you want to size me up. You’re younger, Skippy, so what. I could still kick your butt.”
“I am a fourth degree black belt,” Winston said.
“And I’m packing heat,” Niles said
“Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, Winston,” Annie said.
“Perhaps you’re right,” Winston said.
“Do I get a vote here?” Niles said and continued sarcasticlly. “It was a terrific idea. I’m going to spill my guts out to the both of you. You see, Annie, I don’t have anything as romantic going on in my life as you do, but I wanted to talk something over with you, because you were the tenderest and most honest person I ever knew. And I was the jerk, to which when this evening is over, will be substantiated beyond reasonable doubt. So here it is. I got a call today to take a job in Cod Patch, Maine. It was an old Army buddy. He knows I’m close to retirement and he offered me a job as chief of police. And…” Niles continued as if wanting. “I just wanted to talk to someone – you.”
“It sounds like a good opportunity,” Winston said.
“Who ask you?” Niles said.
“I’m sorry,” Winston said. “I thought a third party might help.”
“Allen, the matre ‘d is a third party,” Niles said.
“I’m beginning to resent your tone,” Winston said.
“It sure has taken you long enough. I resented you from the moment I laid eyes on you,” Niles said.
“Let’s be civil,” Annie said. “I didn’t want it to turn into this.”
“The best way for this to remain civil is for me to leave,” Niles said and stood.
“Niles,” Annie said, “maybe another time.”
“Let him go,” Winston said, “he’s hurt.”
Niles started to walk away. He stopped and faced Annie. “I just wanted to talk with you and maybe you could have wished me well.”
Allen walked by leading a man and woman to their table.
“Allen,” Niles said, “the guy with Annie, spit in his food.”