Monday Niles dropped by the precinct for one last goodbye. A chorus of greetings and well-wishes followed him to Banyon’s office.
Banyon looked up from the desk.
“You look real good sitting there,” Niles said. “It fits you.”
“Thanks, Cap,” Banyon said. “Guess what? I got a new chair coming.”
“That’s good,” Niles said. “My car’s packed, house sold, my stuff is already at my new place in Maine. As soon as I shake your hand and give you a hug, I’m on my way to Brewster Harbor.”
“Oh,” Banyon said, “I got a voice mail on the office phone. It was Annie. She said she wanted to see you.”
“She probably has a class this morning,” Niles said. “I’ll swing by on my way out.”
They shook hands and hugged. Banyon walked Niles to the office door.
“Give me a call if you want to talk,” Niles said.
“Same for you,” Banyon said. “Oh wait, I nearly forgot.” Banyon walked back to the desk and opened the middle drawer. “Looks like a small gift box. I didn’t look inside. I figured it was yours.”
Banyon walked back to the door and handed the box to Niles.
“Fifteenth anniversary gift,” Niles said. “A crystal paperweight. Her first grade picture on one side and mine on the other. She moved out two days before I could give this to her. I must have tossed it in the desk.”
Niles opened the box and examined the crystal. He looked at the pictures and smiled fondly. “Thanks, Banyon, thanks a lot.”
Niles slipped through the squad room without notice.
He drove to the campus and walked into the rear of the room of Annie’s lecture. She saw him immediately. Niles sat in an empty chair.
The sound of her voice, the way she gestured, and strolled in front of the class brought a warmth to his chest and reminded him of the need for a breath.
After few moments more of her lecture she glanced at the clock at the back of the room. “We are going to cut this lecture short today. Read the chapter on contingencies and be ready to explain the cited cases at the end of the chapter. See you all later; same bat time, same bat station. That used to be funny.”
The students filed from the room and Annie walked back to Niles and sat in the seat beside him.
“I thought it was funny,” Niles said.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Annie said
“Yeah,” Niles said , “you left a message at the precinct.”
“I wanted to kind of clear up the mess from a couple weeks ago,” Annie said.
“There’s no mess,” Niles said.
“I want to hear whats in your future, I really do, and if I can help or offer some support or encouragement,” Annie said. “It matters to me.”
Niles briefly looked down at the floor and his eyes darted around the room as if words might appear in thin air as if being scrolled in some invisible teleprompter.
“Funny,” Niles said, “I thought you just might be returning something of mine you found in an old coat pocket or desk drawer.”
“I never wanted to hurt you this badly,” Annie said.
“If there is one thing about our marriage that I am truly certain about,” Niles said, “it is I expected too much. I had a switch. When I left the precinct, I turned it off. I figured everybody could do it. I was wrong. I should have understood that.”
“Not really,” Annie said. “The switch came on as soon as the phone rang.”
Niles hesitated for a moment. “You’re right.”
“I know I left you alone far more,” Annie said. “At the moment, it seemed important.”
“It seemed like you were always in demand,” Niles said, “and I suppose that was to compensate for my sudden departures to a crime scene or to investigate something that couldn’t wait.”
“And,” Annie continued, “Your work made it easy to do what I wanted to do more than anything in the world; go and solve a dispute in a contract or lecture someplace. I recall something you said to me a few years ago, when your ego becomes bigger than the law you’ve lost perspective and usefulness.”
“I don’t recall that,” Niles said.
“I use it in my classes and lectures all the time,” Annie said. “I even got credit for it in some book.”
“Anyway, I’m glad you called,” Niles said. “My decision has been made.”
“When are you going?” Annie said.
“Now,” Niles forced a smile.
Annie forced a smile. “Well, things certainly happen fast in your life. So tell me about where you are going.”
“A little downeast fishing village, where the land meets the sea,” Niles said. “Where the sunrise brings hope. The nights are for rest, renewal, and good dreams. A good place. Pleasant people who smile.” Niles smiled. “Where a contract is your word. A policeman is there to make them feel safe, fill out accident reports, talk down a squabble, and there is a nearly two year old murder that has not been solved.”
“Now that’s your type of fun,” Annie smiled.
“That’s one of the reason I got hired,” Niles said. “I have an old friend who is mayor and wants the whole thing cleared up or at least have the appearance.”
“What’s left to do in the city?” Annie said. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, Annie,” Niles forced a half smile, “Everything is done. The house is sold, My belongings are in Brewster Harbor.”
“You weren’t going to tell me were you?” Annie said.
“No,” Niles said. “I thought the other night at the restaurant was maybe the best way to leave things.”
“Winston though he was protecting me,” Annie said.
“He’s never seen you negotiate or in a court room has he?” Niles said. “Remember when I went with you to that factory in Pennsylvania and you had to break down the contract to the rank and file of two hundred dock workers. When it was all said and done I think they would have hired you to work the docks with them.”
“And you held my hand all the way home,” Annie said. “I was shaking so much.”
“That was me shaking,” Niles quipped.
“So, do you have someone?” Annie said.
“Oh sure, don’t worry about me,” Niles said.
“Well who is she?” Annie said. “Tell me something about her.”
“Her name is Lucinda,” Niles said. “Very quiet and shy. She’s a pharmacist.”
“Sounds as exciting as being married to a business lawyer,” Annie said.
“Well, she has a lot of interesting hobbies,” Niles said. “She likes to paint.”
“And with all the beautiful scenery, there must be a lot to paint,” Annie said.
“Yeah,” Niles said, “she keeps herself occupied. And she does a lot of work behind the scenes in the community, very involved and community minded.”
Annie clasped Niles hand between her to hands. “You have a lot to give her.”
“I think she knows that,” Niles said.
“This is goodbye, Annie,” Niles said.
“It sure is,” Annie said.
They stood. Niles reached in his pocket. “The guy replacing me found this in my desk.” He handed it to Annie. “It was for our fifteenth. Just a little something.”
Annie opened the box. “You were some handsome dude.”
“I’m glad your teeth came in,” Niles said.
They laughed and for a moment it was 25 years ago. Reality and the present soon spoiled the moment.
“They can remove my picture,” Niles said.
“I’ll keep it someplace dear,” Annie said.
Niles gave her a quick hug. “Take care, Annie.”
She smiled. “You too, Copper.”
Niles backed slowly away.
“The reality,” Annie said. “If it didn’t happen 15 years ago, it would have happened today.”
“No it wouldn’t,” Niles said, “but thanks for trying to make me feel better.”
Niles quickly walked from the room and out of the building. He climbed in his car and drove away with eyes red and moist.
Driving along two hours outside New York City, “Holy crap! What made me think of Lucinda, of all people.”