It took Doc longer that I had thought it might to reach us, but when he did, Doc burst into the office full of vim and vigor, and you might want to add with more than a splash of vinegar.
"Daggum you, MacKenzie. Everywhere you go, I have to follow and clean up the mess. You sure you're not bumping off these poor souls just to make my life miserable."
"Good morning, Doc."
Doc gave me the look, you know the one that says, "Leave me alone, you idiot." He then turned to do his work, but he gave the body of Mr. Benjamin Brown little more than a cursory look. "He's dead. Suicide. Self-inflicted gunshot to the brain through the mouth, We're done. MacKenzie, where you taking me to lunch?"
This version of the good Doctor Brewster was usually the aftermath of one of his well-known all-night drunks. Every now and then, maybe once every three months, Doc would just fall into a deep, dark pit, lose control of his soul, go off to some bar and drink himself blind. It was like clockwork. I figured it was some sort of weird psycho thing with Doc. But he would always sleep it off, live for awhile with a hangover from hell, make our lives miserable for a couple of days and then he was fine. Again, like clockwork.
The officers were jotting down eye witness accounts from Delores and other members of the staff; the medics were wheeling in the stretcher; the forensic gal was looking the office over; while I was bagging the suicide note and file folders. My gut told me to keep that these best be kept with me, and for time being only with me.
I turned to Calabrese and then Doc, "How about Big Shirley's?"
Without a word, both said to me, "What a surprise! Sure."
As we left, I gave a farewell nod to Delores. She seemed to be now in charge, composed and competent. "My God, her boss just committed suicide and she is as cool as cool can be. What's with that?"
Calabrese rode with me and his secretary had snagged Sissy, offering her his charm and a ride. Doc followed in his car, giving Tony and me about fifteen fewer minutes to have to bear the brunt of his headache.
"Hey, MacKenzie, I see you brought clubhouse gang with you. What's the occasion? City go broke?"
"Hey, Shirley. I guess we'll need your end booth for the three of us and the other two, well, you sit them somewhere private." The end booth at Shirley's was prime real estate, the only booth where more than two could sit together. Life as good, it was empty.
"The Dutch apple just came in from the bakery, Mac. The Lunch Special is the BLT and cream of potato soup. If you're smart you'll order that. And MacKenzie, someone delivered a big package for you this morning. It's in the kitchen."
"What in the world?" As Tony and Doc scooted into their seats and scanned the menus, Shirley grabbed me by the arm and hauled me off through the swinging doors and into the kitchen. There, out of sight of the customers, stood Blue-Eyed Mary. She didn't say anything, just walked up and kissed me a good one, then whispered in my ear, "Thanks, Mac."
Shirley, a little reluctant to interrupt my big moment, finally said, "She wanted to come in today just in case you dropped by. I can't see why, but she did."
Mary got rather bold and said to me eye to eye, "Why don't you invite me over to your place, Mac, and I'll bring dinner. Seven o'clock?"
"Works for me," I said. Over her shoulder, Shirley gave me a wink. "Gotta go, Mary. Seven o'clock. I'll be in the lobby."
Sometimes in the midst of all the crud, life can still be good, very good indeed.