It's Been a Long, Long Time

She delivered my drink, McKenzie style ... with a lime slice.  I thought that was mighty impressive, a lady who does her homework.

She then went to work in the kitchen, bringing together with a remarkable efficiency.  "I hope you like Cantonese," she called out from the kitchen her voice passing through a curtain of glass beads and sheer silk.  "As you can tell I'm rather into all things Far Eastern. "

I called back, "I've noticed.  What's the fascination?"

"Oh, I was born in China.  My parents were missionaries."

I smiled.  But before I could answer, "That's interesting," Miss D. popped her back into my sight, "Really!  I suppose they have always worried about me, just a little."

There was chit-chat about her upbringing and her hope of someday going to college and law school.  I tossed in certain inane moments in my past and about my cat.  She tried prying into my once married life, but I steered away by asking me about the story behind a massive, old tapestry that was hung on the windowless wall.  "My Lily, that is beautiful.  Is it very old?"

"What?" she  called back.

"This big tapestry here on the wall.'

"Oh, the palace scene.  They say it's about  seven centuries old.  Is that old enough?  During the war, a wealthy family near the mission station gave it to my mother for safekeeping.  That family and my mother never made it out of China; the tapestry and I did."

Checking out some photos on the intricately carved teak table table that was tucked up beside my chair, I called out, "Are these photos of your family?"

"Yes they are.  That's my parents in the kimonos, and that's me and my brother in the silly looking coolie hats."

I guess I pushed for one question too far.  "Where's your brother now?"

A cool as she could be, with not a flinch, she delivered some plates to the table, wiped her hands on her apron, and said, "He's doing life in Sing Sing.  Dinner's served.  Do you need to wash up?"

With the pouring of the wine, Miss Devonshire began to tell her tale.  She had once been the other woman in the older Mr. Brown's life.  But it had been called to a close when his wife had taken sick with cancer.  As a peace offering and as an insurance that her propriety would not fail, she was given a lifetime position with the law firm.  She was paid handsomely by way of a monthly envelopes from a German insurance company.   When the older Mrs. Brown died, Mr. Brown sort of gave up on life, turned the business over to his son, young Benjamin.  It fell to him to fulfill the firm's responsibility of keeping Miss Lily, happy and content.  And that Benji did, dutifully.

The mistake that young Benjamin would make was introducing Lily to Benji's wife. These two ladies soon became fast friends, best friends, intimate friends, loyal friends.  As Miss D., my former Miss Prim and Proper went on, I began to believe that their friendship may have gone even further into secret places.  And then when, down the road, it fell to Miss Devonshire to make the arrangements for the clandestine encounters between Miss Yellow Roses and her boss, she just couldn't betray her new found friend. 

Then came the news that I was waiting for but would never have guessed would be the news I would get.

"Lieutenant, it was Benji's wife, Annie, who came up with the idea of blackmailing Benji, not for the money but to get sweet Miss Molly on her way out of town.  And I wrote the letters and old Paddy delivered them."

"You do know that might be considered blackmail, Miss Devonshire, and that's a crime.'"

"Well, we're hoping that you will forget about that bit of trouble for the sake of  some help with your bigger concerns.'

"Alright.  What do you have for me?"

"I think Paddy Flanagan was murdered by some of O'Hara's boys."

"Lily, that's a reasonable guess.'

"Yes, I suppose it is, Lieutenant, but the difference is, I was in that parking lot when it went down.  Anne and I were to meet Paddy there that night and deliver to him the files on the Billington case to deliver to the Senator, but we got there early.  Paddy pulled in and he said we always should wait for the parking lot to clear.  But two guys jumped of another Checker cab and did old Paddy right there."

"So what's the connection with O'Hara."

"Lieutenant?  The Checker Cab Company has always been a delivery service for O'Hara's back room dealings.  let's his boys go wherever they want and nobody takes notice.  How could you not know that?  "

I admit it.  I was embarrassed. 

"So why are you telling me?"

"Mr. MacKenzie, my Annie is getting scared.  She's in over her head and doesn't give a d*mn about her husband anymore.  We're cutting our losses and getting on with life.  now can help us?"

"I don't know, Miss Devonshire, let me think about it a bit.'

 

"Well that brings us the next question, Lily.  Who killed Mr. Billington?"

"I suspect our own Mr. Blair might know something about that?"

"Why?"

"Because Billington was threatening to go to the feds with some accounting issues with the firm, in particular, the payments that O'Hara had been making to Benji."

"For what?"

"For Mr. Brown to keep Molly under control and out of the news."

"Well, what about Molly?"

"I don't know, Lieutenant, I don't know.  But Annie and me had nothing, nothing to do with it." 

"Are you sure about all this, Lily/"

With that she reached into a small drawer in a Chinese lacquer box that sat on the sideboard by the table.  She handed me a locker key.

"When you get back to the bus station, you find all you'll need in there.  Now Annie and me will be left alone on this now, agreed."

I thought for a moment about what I could and couldn't do and then made a vain, baseless promise, "I'll take care of you and your girlfriend."

I expected her to correct my phrasing but she didn't, and I figured she didn't for a reason.

We had fortune cookies and tea.  Then about the time the romance might begin, she gave me a straight-forward word of direction.

"Lieutenant, thank you for your time.  There's a cab outside waiting to take you back to the station.  Don't worry, it's not a Checker.  And good-luck."

No kiss, no frolic between the sheets, just good-bye.  And with that my long, long time of lonely became at least one night longer.

Outside, down at the foot of the steps to the gracious old Victorian, I was glad to see that it was a Yellow Cab waiting for me.  A Mr. Felangi, a man of recent unknown origins who hadn't yet mastered much English, was my driver.  He didn't ask a word, just drove, dropped me off at the bus station and waved good-bye.

 

 

 

The End

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