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Coffee-can Assignment
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Copyright © 2007 Dorothy Johnson   All Rights Reserved

Cassandra Williams was a homicide detective 2nd grade on the graveyard shift. It was her habit to go to the Coffee Bean for coffee, black, a cyber café where sheand her partner detective sergeant Buddy Hayes hung out after their shift. Buddy downed his cup of Joe and he left with just a wave of his hand in farewell.

Cassie lingered not wanting to go home just yet. There was a guy named Andrew Jackson she needed to meet. He was a regular client that intrigued her at the Coffee Bean. She wasn’t sure just what his story was or if he had something to do with the smugglers she sought. She had been trying to establish contact with this man of mystery for some time now. Cassandra hoped that today would be the day that they connected.  Andrew’s usual attire was faded, almost-white, blue jeans and a t-shirt and spit-shinned jump boots. He had shoulder length blonde hair always clean not a hair out of place. Every time Cassie & Jackson had noticed one another their introductions were prevented by cell phone calls, his or hers, or his frantic key pounding as he answered urgent emails. She just had a feeling that today would be the day. She procrastinated with her copy of Writer’s Digest for an additional 15 minutes. And there he stood at the counter ordering an apple cinnamon muffin and a latté. Cassie rose and walked to the counter.

I’ve seen you here before, I’m Cassie Williams”.

He replied, “ I’m Andy. Yeah, I think I’ve seen you here on with your cell phone glued to your ear.”

"That’s me always being reached out and touched by my boss.”
Must be fascinating work,” replied Andy.

"Not as much as you would think - the paper work is hideous,” Cassie responded. “So what do you do?”

“Well, I have a tough boss and I am his trouble shooter.”
Are you a computer tech?”

"No! Why do you ask? Andy returned in a real hesitant voice.
You’re here a lot, at the Bean, and you are always on the computer or running out the door.”

"Oh, that’s because my boss has many interests and details that need my immediate attention so I use this coffee shop as a staging area. His office is just down the street. I am able to work on my files uninterrupted and Jimbo gets his money’s worth.” Picking up his coffee and muffin he walked her to a corner table. They sat down.

"I’ve got a business associate coming to town this weekend and he’s looking for company. He is willing to pay a thousand bucks a night. You interested?”

"What?” Cassandra asked indignantly."

"You’re a hooker. Right?”

“NO! I’m a cop”

“Oh! I’m sooo sorry! It’s just I see you hear every morning, you look worn out, I thought you were a call girl", Andrew said, trying to suppress his laughter.

That’s not funny?” Cassandra laughed as well over the miscommunication."

“Andrew. What is it exactly that you do?”

"I am a record promoter. I work out of Empire Music Studio down on 4th. It’s a real hard sale these days."

"You do know that payola is illegal? I, and others like me, are responsible for the music played on the local radio stations.”  

"That’s fascinating! So that’s why you get so many phone calls and are always typing emails and running out the door”.

"Yeah! What did you think I did for a living?”

"I hope you’ll find this as funny as I do…”

"What?” Andrew asked hesitantly.

"With a large grin on her face, Cassandra said, “Well, we thought you might be a smuggler of pirated toys.

"A what?” Andrew demanded.

“The city is being flooded with counterfeit Tickle Me Elmo’s and My Little Pony Ranches. My partner and I have been staking you out for months, hoping that you’d lead us to the ringleader of the counterfeiters operation.”

Oh,” Andrew said, sheepishly.

"Andrew. Look across the street. Tell me what do you see?”

He looked across the street and saw her partner eating a croissant while he sat in a beat up 1974 Chevy Caprice.

"Hey, that’s Buddy Hayes, I bowl with him every Tuesday night. He sucks. Has an average of 52!”

"Yep,” admitted Cassandra. “He’s a cop. He never bowled a game in his life before he joined the league to keep an eye on you.”

"The right side of Andrew’s mouth turned up in a half smile. Any chance we can start over?”

"Sure. Now that I know you’re not a counterfeiter and you really are a hit man” Cassie said teasingly.

“Same time tomorrow here at the Bean. It’s on me,” Andrew said optimistically.

Copyright © 2007  By Candace Lieber   All Rights Reserved

“Don't move.  I'm just going to check in and then we can go play in the pool.”

I am in a brilliant hall of white stone, a very nice place.  I am wearing the clothes that have been specifically chosen by her for this trip.  We are on an adventure, she says.  And she wants me to stay still.  I heard it.  It sounds reasonable.  I am still.  1, 2, 3…. Then I make a gigantic spinning leap.  

“Kurt!  Behave!”

Just beyond the white lobby lies a dark place of blinking lights and bells and beeps.  I feel a sudden invisible pull toward this dark place. As she moves forward to do the adult stuff at the desk in front of me, I slowly recede from her dry clean only skirt that she keeps telling me not to touch because I might put kid sludge on it.

Mom doesn't notice as I retreat from the white hall, slowly walking backwards and then turn and scurry into the dark.  Right in front of me, a dollar has been discarded next to an overturned ash tray.  Yay.  I make a quick spin and jump to survey where I am.  I pull myself up on one of the tall chairs and squint over into the white hall to be sure she's not missing me yet (she hasn't even turned around - she's still talking to the guy in a suit).  Then I jump down and walk down the aisle of glowing machines.

Adult games, she calls them.  I'm not allowed to play adult games.  I remember.  Last time we were here, she pointed to a sign that she read out loud to me: Must be over 21 to play.  Well, she and her brainy baby flashcards say that 2 plus 1 is 3, and I'm three, so Game On!
I check out the closest machine.  It doesn't look so tough.  My Gameboy has more buttons than these things.  Place the money here… then push the glowing button… I push the button and the machine whirrs and spins, the white paper inside slowly coming to a complete stop.  Cherry, then cherry, then cherry…  big bells and the light on the top goes off.  Uh oh.  I try to push another button, but now the thing is broken and it just keeps ringing at me.

I turn to look around and find some help, and a big police officer is actually moving in to help me.  “What are you doing here?” he yells and grabs me by the shoulder.  “Stand still,” he tells me, which has the effect of making me instantly boneless and hard to hold onto.  He grabs his walkie-talkie with his other hand and radios in.  “I found that missing kid.  He's here at the slots and he's up 3000 bucks.  What do I do with him?”  The officer leads me into a small bright room.  I pull out my Gameboy and start playing.

My mother comes into the room - her mascara is running and she looks like she's been crying.  “Where were you?!” she grabs me and hugs me, seeming not to care that I'm touching her skirt.  “I was worried sick!”
“Your son here is starting his gambling addiction early because you lost track of him.  Underage gambling is strictly prohibited here, yet he climbs up to a machine puts in a dollar and wins big.  Lady, How in the hell did that happen?”

Uh oh.  He said a bad word.  That is definitely on the list of bad words.  H-E- double hockeysticks.   He is going to be in so much trouble.  You should have seen what she did to my brother when he said that word.  I take a deep breath and hold it.

“Mister, I thank you very much for finding my son.  But please don't use such coarse language around him.”

That was it?  My mother grabs me by the shoulders and escorts me out.  I thought she was going to let him have it.  She must have been very worried about me.