I arrived at the downtown transfer station at four-forty; Miss Devonshire arrived at five-ten; the L-Bus pulled in at five-seventeen, two minutes late. Not all that bad for evening rush hour.
She made sure we made eye contact before she showed her year-round pass to the driver, a rather rotund fellow whose voice had the sound of one of the islands, the Bahamas, maybe. I had spent the best two weeks of my life in the Bahamas, sunning my New England bones on white sand beaches, getting drunk on Bacardi rum and falling in momentary love with a local delight named Anita, a brown skinned lovely who trolled the tourists looking for a better opportunity stateside. I boarded three persons after her, struggled to make the right change, and then coincidentally found a sit beside the now off-duty Miss D.
We pulled out of the station, one of the places where the hired help of the more-well-to-do of old, well-established Boston migrated to and fro from their homes in faraway, less-pricey parts of town.
The bus was three-quarters full, filled with the laboring stiffs of life. Miss Devonshire was in a class at least one above the rest; maybe, two above me. I have become used to that reality. While cops in uniform are symbols of respect and authority, off-duty cops are working stiffs trying to scratch out a living.
In a sad bit of theater, I started, "Ma'am, my name is Ian, Ian MacKenzie."
She offered an disbelieving smile to my theatrics but joined in the charade "And folks call me Lily." She paused then went on, "Mr. MacKenzie. Nobody on this bus much cares what anybody else says, so we can talk freely."
I was a bit embarrassed by her comment, but I swallowed my pride and tried to restore my street savvy persona to our sad charade. "Well, Miss Lily. What's on your mind?"
"My boss wants me to see what you know about his girlfriend's case. Said to seduce you if I had to."
I have to admit her candor did catch me off guard. "Pardon me, ma'am."
She went on. "It's part of my job, Mr. MacKenzie, the better paying part. I handle the firm's personal hospitality for clients with certain social needs, if you know what I mean."
I tried to take it all in stride, but my mind was gasping, "Really!"
"But, Mr. MacKenzie, I am not here to pump you for information, I'm here to give you some information that you just might find helpful."
I asked two questions right on top of each other, "Why and what?"
"Later, Mr. MacKenzie, over dinner.'
We then spent a longer time on that bus ride than one might think, getting off at the far end of Marlboro Street. From there it was but a few steps to her apartment, a once elegant Victorian House now sub-divided into three cozy apartments. She seemed to have the pricier apartment of the three for hers included those romantic round tower rooms.
She seemed as comfortable as one could be as she unlocked her door, simply presuming that I would follow her in.
As she tended to our coats, dutifully fed her tropical fish and took care of her four orange and yellow canaries that were flitting up and down inside a tall bamboo cage, I took a tour of her immaculate place, decorated to perfect in all things oriental, from a thousand far off exotic lands
"Please, Lieutenant. Have a seat. Would you like a drink?'
"Miss Devonshire, I'm on official business."
"Relax, Lieutenant. I make a pretty fine whiskey sour. Southern Comfort, right?"
"That'd be fine," I answered, but my thinking was, "Mac, you're about to mess up, old man. You're about to mess up big time.'