The Imagineer

Connie Arceneaux is dancing across from me, twisting and gyrating her body in ways that are driving me crazy. Van Morrison plays “Brown Eyed Girl” and I sing along with him.

I reach for her. She puckers her lips, and I pucker mine, but they never touch. She pushes me back.

“There’s a priest standing over there watching us,” she says.

I glance in the direction she nods, and sure enough, a priest dressed in his priestly clothing is standing and watching us.

“You need to wake up,” he says.

 “No way,” I say and turn to Connie. “Pucker up butter cup,” but it’s too late, the morning light is already seeping through my eyelids.

***

Reluctantly, I opened my eyes and glanced at my clock, seven thirteen in the morning. My cell phone is playing “Brown Eyed Girl.” I reached out to grab it probably one of the worst mistakes I had ever made. A jolt of pain grabbed my head and squeezed my brain until blood ran from my eyes. That’s what it felt like anyway.

“Hello,” I mumbled into the phone. Why couldn’t people call me at a decent hour? Was it a conspiracy or did the rest of the world run on a different time than me?

“Mr. John LeGrand?”

“The almost dead John LeGrand.”

“Mr. John LeGrand, the detective?”

“Yes, for Christ’s sake. What the hell do you want? It’s like seven o’clock.”

“My name is Alfred Young. Have you ever heard of me?”

“No. Should I have?”

“No there is no reason you should. I need a private detective, and you were recommended to me.”

I sat up. If I thought my head was hurting before, I brutally wrong. It took a full thirty seconds, before my eyes cleared up enough for me to see again. The voice on the phone was offering me a job, and I needed one desperately. The poker game the night before was friendly enough, but I lost over a hundred and fifty dollars, a small fortune for an out of work detective.

“Go ahead, Mr. Young.”

“I’m calling from Boston, Massachusetts.”

“From Boston. I’m in Louisiana.” I thought I would state the obvious.

“I’m aware of that, Mr. LeGrand. I have my reasons for seeking help out of state.”

“May I ask you who recommended me?”

“Sissy Ching recommended you. I have known her for many years, and I trust her judgment. She told me that you were honest, hard working, and discreet.”

“She did?”

Sissy Ching ran the Stagger Inn Motel and the Stagger Inn Bar, and she occasionally referred clients to me, but I didn’t think she liked me much.

“Yes she did.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. Young?”

“I don’t want to discuss this on the phone with you, Mr. LeGrand. Can you come to Boston?”

“I’m afraid I’m not in a position to pack up and drive over a thousand miles for an interview, Mr. Young.”

“I’m not asking you drive here, Mr. LeGrand. I will send you a plane ticket and have someone meet you at Logan International. I will also compensate you for your effort, if it turns out you can’t help me.

“In that case, you have a deal, Mr. Young.”

“Good. How soon can you fly over here?”

“Give me a chance to shower and eat a handful of aspirin.”

There was a pause on the other end. He was either grinning or regretting the offer.

“What is your nearest airport?”

“Lafayette, I guess.” I didn’t fly much.

“I’ll have a ticket ready for you. I’ll have my secretary call you with the information shortly. I’ll see you soon Mr. LeGrand.”

“Thank you, Mr. Young.”

I struggled up and staggered to the bathroom. Despite my debilitating hangover and my empty bank account, my fortune was starting to look up.

***

Once I’d taken my shower and come to terms with my dismal poker playing and over-indulging, I decided to do a little research on Mr. Alfred Young. It didn’t take long. I typed in his name into my search engine; I got back thousands of hits. It seemed, Alfred Young was a very rich and very important man. He was listed as one of the top twenty richest men in the United States. He made his money as a Christian Theme Park Designer and later as a designer and supplier. His company, Christian Imagineers Inc., supplied just about all Christian Theme Parks in the United States and the world. He had a lock on this Christian theme park stuff. One article talked about the personal life of the man. He was married, no children, and was a deeply religious man. The article did not say which religion he belonged to, but apparently, he attended church on a regular basis. I studied the picture that came with the article—a good-looking man, in his mid to late forties, I suspected. He had short dark hair, no gray showing. He had a square jaw, a sharp Roman nose that looked like it had been broken at some point. The face was the face of an athlete. He stared straight into the camera, exuding confidence. This man got what he wanted. I would have to remember that.

***

I arrived at Logan International Airport the next afternoon. A uniformed man with a chauffeur’s cap held up a sign with my name. I walked up to him.

“I’m John LeGrand.”

He placed the sign in a trashcan and led me to the baggage center, took my bag from me and carried it. He had parked the limousine in a no parking zone. He opened the back door for me and threw the bag in the trunk. Then he jumped in behind the wheel and drove off without having said more than three words to me.

We drove to Squantum Massachusetts, a small community across the bay from Boston, and pulled into a gated yard, circled the circular driveway and parked in front of a Mansion. There was no other word for it. A two-story monstrosity, it gleamed white under the Massachusetts’s sunshine. I counted fifteen windows including the two gables poking out of the slanted roof. The steps, about fourteen or fifteen feet wide, leading to the front door consisted of a white marble probably from some exotic location like India or Turkey. The scenery was incredible. I smelled the ocean. The waves licked against a pristine beach. Across the bay was a community. The chauffeur joined me with my bag in his hand.

“What city is that across the bay?”

“Wallaston,” he said simply and led me into the house. Calling the place a house was about as accurate as calling the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion a shack. It felt like I had just walked into an elegant tunnel when I entered. A stairwell acted as a mahogany ceiling over the foyer. Staircases on either side acted as mahogany walls. The floor was black marble. When I came out of the tunnel, two enormous mahogany pillars, no less than twenty feet tall, greeted me. A chandelier rained sparkling light down on me. Several large paintings with religious themes covered the mahogany walls. I stood in the middle of the room and spun around nearly hypnotized with the opulence.  Never in my life had I seen anything like it. Once, when I was in the military I had the chance to attend an opera in Rome. This place, the sheer lavishness of it, put that opera house to shame. It baffled my mind how one person could be so filthy rich.

The chauffer led me into a library that was bigger than the Ellisonville Junior College library. I sat down in a couch across from a mahogany desk and waited. For some reason, I felt like I did waiting for the principle to hand out punishment when I was in school. I didn’t like it.

He walked in wearing a suit and tie. He looked older in person. It certainly wasn’t because of the way he carried himself—ramrod straight. He shook my hand, walked to the desk and sat down on the edge of it. I’m no psychologist, but I understood what he was doing—he was higher than me; therefore, he had the power.

“Welcome to my home, Mr. LeGrand.” I nodded. “Maybe I should begin by telling you a little about myself.”

“Mr. Young,” I interrupted. “Perhaps it would save time if I told you that I researched you fairly thoroughly, and I know just about everything about you that I need to know. Maybe, we could skip the introduction and move on to what you want me to do.”

He grinned—a slight upturning of the left side of his face.

“I knew I was right to trust Sissy. Maybe I should tell you how I know her?”

“That I wouldn’t mind hearing.”

Again the grin.

“This is between us, Okay?” I nodded again. I did my psycho analyzing again and understood that he was trying to gain my trust—I’ll tell you a secret. That’s how much I trust you. “You see, my older brother was killed in Vietnam as was her husband. We met in Arlington where they are both buried. She and I engaged in a long conversation about our loved ones. We spent a long night together.” He paused and held my gaze. “Not what you think, Mr. LeGrand. “We spent the night in the lobby of my hotel. We got to know each other intimately. By that, I mean we learned what mattered in our lives—what our dreams were, our views about life, death and survival when everything you loved has been taken away from you.” He paused and let that sink in. I was getting tired of the way he would suggest a sexual relationship with Sissy and quickly turn it around again. “When daylight appeared, we hugged and went our separate ways; we never stopped corresponding, however. To this day, I email her regularly. We’ve become fast friends.”

“That’s interesting. I’ve always like Sissy.”

“What’s there not to like?”

I nodded, tired of the small talk.

“Why did you bring me to Massachusetts, Mr. Young?”

“Fair enough. I suspect my wife is having an affair, Mr. LeGrand.” The buddy-buddy tone was gone from his voice. It was all business now. “As you’ve gathered from your research, my reputation as a Christian husband is very important. Christian theme park owners are not going to work with someone who does not profess the same beliefs as them.”

“Good point,” I said.

“The fact that my wife is having an affair does not bother me.”

“It doesn’t?”

“No, Mr. LeGrand. She and I have been estranged for some time now. She understands that if she wants to continue living in the style, she is accustomed to, she has to be discreet, which she is, but I have not gotten to where I am wearing blinders. I don’t want to stop her affair. I want to know with whom she is having an affair.”

“Understood.”

He pushed a button on the desk.

“My personal secretary will fill you in on the details.”

A few seconds later, a beautiful red head walked in. She was dressed in a tight fitting business dress, dark shoes, and a jacket over a white blouse. The outfit screamed sex. The way she carried herself screamed business. Interesting combination.

“Beverly, this is Mr. John LeGrand. Mr. LeGrand, this is my personal secretary Beverly Wright.” She walked over and shook my hand—her grip was strong, her hand cool. She sat down on the couch with me, crossed her legs revealing a nice thigh, and turned slightly facing me.

Beverly was very efficient. She gave me a picture of the Mrs., who was a real looker, too, judging from the photograph. She handed me a manila folder filled with all kinds of information, most of which I probably didn’t need. I thumbed through it.

“Does she follow an itinerary?” I asked Alfred Young.

“Yes, she does.” He turned to Beverly, who looked a little sheepish. “Didn’t you add that to the folder, Beverly?”

“No, sir. I seem to have failed to include it.”

He turned to me.

“Beverly will rectify that error immediately, Mr. LeGrand.” He glanced at her, and it was obvious that he wasn’t very happy with her. “Is there anything else you need?”

“I could use a rental car to get around and maybe a map of the area.”

“Done. She’ll get you a car with a GPS system in it. Any particular car?”

“As long as it runs. The plainer it is, the more innocuous it is.”

“Done. Anything else?”

“A motel. Someplace near here.”

“I’ll get you one in North Quincy. Anything else?”

“No. That should pretty much cover it.”

He turned to Beverly.

“You got that?” She nodded and slunk out of the room.

“It’s hard to get good help now-a-days,” I said, and he grinned, but there was no humor in it. “Let’s talk pay,” I said changing the subject.

“I’ll pay all your expenses including travel to and from Louisiana and seven hundred dollars a day. Is that convenient?”

What could I say? Seven hundred dollars a day plus all expenses was a lot more than convenient. It was great, but I was a greedy bastard.

“I usually get a thousand dollars a day plus expenses.”

“You’re not the only one who does his research Mr. LeGrand. You get a hundred dollars a day plus expenses, but I’ll gladly give you a thousand a day if you succeed. Is that a deal?”

I nodded, and he pushed that button on the desk. Beverly appeared again.

“Give Mr. LeGrand some cash for incidentals and have Maurice drive him to his motel. You think you can do that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good day, Mr. LeGrand. Call Beverly when you have something. She’ll get the word to me.” He shook my hand and walked out the door. I had been dismissed. I was just an employee now.

***

The next morning at seven o’clock, I sat in my new rental mini van—that one wasn’t about to stand out—parked just up the street from Alfred Young’s mansion. I didn’t care what he thought about his personal secretary. She was very thorough. I had in front of me a detailed week’s schedule for Mrs. Young with places she normally visited and addresses. I had spent some time in my motel room the previous night figuring out routes, so that if I did lose her, I would at least know where I was going. The mini van was fitted with a GPS system, but I didn’t know how to use the darn thing and was not in the mood to learn just then. I was certain that if Mrs. Young was having an affair, the address would not be listed on her itinerary since she apparently gave this information to her husband’s personal secretary. I check the listing. Every day at eight o’clock, she went to Curls, a women’s workout gym. She had several lunch appointments listed with whom she was going to meet. Apparently, Mrs. Young was a religious person because she attended church three times in the week—three o’clock Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at a Catholic church on the other side of Revere. I wondered what Alfred Young’s religious affiliation was.

I parked outside the gym and waited for her to finish her work out. When she came out, I followed her to a mall where she bought a few bottles of make up or something and jumped in her silver Mercedes SLK, again. This time she drove to a restaurant in the middle of Boston. I nearly lost her twice in the traffic, but when she parked in front of The Boston Whaler, I was able to park two spots from her. I followed her in. The place was dark and smelled like booze and air freshener. I was sure this was her rendezvous spot, but she sat at a table by herself and sipped on a drink of sorts. I couldn’t tell if it had alcohol in it or not. At about ten to eleven, two other women joined her. She stood up and politely hugged each one. Then they sat together and the waiter brought them three drinks. They hadn’t ordered, so they were regular enough that the waiter knew what they drank. The other two women looked just like her—rich married women with time to kill. At eleven thirty, they stood and walked into the restaurant part. I followed them and sat about two tables away. The waiter brought me the menu and asked me what I wanted to drink. I asked for beer and opened the menu. At these prices, my one thousand dollar a day expense account would not last long. I ordered a lobster dish and a glass of white wine. The bill was over a hundred dollars, and I was getting out of it cheap, judging from the way the three women were pigging out. After the meal was over, they hugged again, said goodbye, and separated.

I tried to follow her out of the city, but I ran into one of those Boston traffic circles and came out on the opposite side of where she exited. I pulled up to a stop sign and checked the itinerary. She was headed for the tennis club, although I was sure she wasn’t going to play tennis with the food and drinks she had just wolfed down. I wouldn’t be able to gain access to the tennis club anyway, so I had plenty of time to work my way back to Quincy. I pulled out my cell phone and called the personal secretary.

“Is there any way I can get into the tennis club in Quincy?”

“Where are you, Mr. LeGrand?”

“Just getting out of Boston and on my way to Quincy.”

“Give me about ten minutes. There should be a pass for you at the door when you get there.”

“Thanks. What does Mrs. Young do at the tennis courts?”

There was a slight pause at the other end of the phone.

“She spends an hour or two in the sauna.”

“An hour or two?”

“Yes. An hour or two. Apparently, she enjoys the steam and the heat.”

“I’d turned into a prune if I spent that long in there.”

The secretary laughed.

“I’d better get busy if I’m going to get you into the tennis club.”

“Thank you.”

The tennis club was at the end of a long tree-lined street. The building was a low-slung brick building surrounded with exotic-looking flowering shrub. I parked my minivan in the football-field-size parking lot and walked to the front door. Although they weren’t visible, I could hear the sound of tennis balls slamming against the courts. A pretty girl with blond hair behind a counter called me over.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Yeah,” I said. “My name is John LeGrand. I should have a pass waiting for me.”

“Oh, yes, Mr. LeGrand. Could I see your identification, please?”

I pulled out my Louisiana driver’s license and handed it to her

“I’m sorry, Mr. LeGrand, but we get all kinds of people trying to enter the club.” She handed me a clip-on visitor’s badge.

“Yeah, everybody wants to be a tennis player,” I said. “Where is the sauna?”

“Down that hallway and to the left. The indoor courts are just beyond the saunas.” She looked me up and down. “There’s a sports shop right before you enter the indoor courts. You can buy a racket and a tennis ensemble if you would like to play. The outdoor courts are this way.” She indicated the opposite direction with her head. “Just beyond the bar/restaurant.”

I followed the hallway to the saunas. The men’s locker room door stood on the left. The women’s locker room and sauna was on the left. I walked to the sports shop and tried out a few of the rackets. A sales clerk, wearing white tennis shorts and shirt, walked up to me.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“No,” I said putting down a Babalot racket. “I’m just visiting.” I showed him my visitor’s badge. “I was just looking at the different rackets you have.”

“We have quite the collection here, and if you don’t find what you want, we can easily procure it for you.”

“Do you string the rackets here?”

“Oh, yes sir, we have our own stringer. He has strung rackets for some of the most famous and well known pros.”

I nodded.

“Thanks,” I said. “Where is the bar?”

He seemed disappointed.

“He led me to the door. If you follow that hallway there, it’ll take you straight to the bar/restaurant.”

I followed the hallway and before long, I was in a large restaurant. There were one or two tables taken up, but mostly it was empty. Several people sat at the bar and sipped on drinks. I walked up to the bar and sat on a stool. The bartender, a suave Latino guy with bright white teeth, walked up to me.

“Can I help you, sir?” He asked with a slight Latino accent.

“Yeah, how do I get to the outdoor courts?”

“Right through that door.” He pointed to a tinted glass door to the right of the bar.

There were at least ten outdoor courts and players occupied most of them. I watched a red headed woman slam a cross-court backhand against a tall skinny man. He dove for the return, but his racket was a good two feet from the ball. I looked at the woman with admiration. She glanced in my direction, and I nodded. She smiled.

Mrs. Young was not in the bar, the indoor courts, the restaurant, or outside, so she could only be in the sauna. I dropped off the visitor’s badge with the blonde at the entrance, sat in my rental and waited for Mrs. Young to come out. She came out about an hour later. It was now nearly two o’clock, and she had not been home yet. She jumped in her car and drove to a small Catholic church in Revere. It was close to three o’clock by the time we reached there. She drove into the parking lot and parked behind the church. I parked in front and walked to the church entrance. I tried the large wooden doors and found them unlocked. I walked in slowly, carefully. I wasn’t sure if Mrs. Young was in the church or not. The place was empty. I walked back past the altar and into the sacristy. There was no one at all in the building. I went back to the mini van and waited for Mrs. Young. I was afraid to drive to the back of the church, not knowing what was there. About two hours later, she drove out. It was nearly five thirty. She drove straight home. I parked the van on the street just up from the Young mansion   After about four hours, I decided she wasn’t coming out again, so I returned to my motel.

The next morning I parked in the same spot and waited for her to come out. She went straight to the gym. Afterward, she returned to the mansion. I sat in my van and waited her out. About eleven thirty, she drove out and I followed her to a little restaurant on the water in Wallaston. I sat down and had a basket of fried clams and a beer. She had Calamari and a glass of wine. Afterward, she drove to the tennis club again and sat in the sauna for an hour. I sat in my van and waited for her. When she came out, she took me to the church in Revere again. This time I parked in the front, but I walked to the back of the church. She had parked her car in a driveway next to a small white house. In Louisiana, priests often lived in small houses next to or behind the churches they served. I figured this was the same thing. I stood around and waited until she came out of the house, about an hour later. The priest, a young man in his mid thirties, hugged her and she climbed into her car and led me back to Squantum. I parked on the street and waited some more. My cell phone chimed.

“Hello,” I said.

“This is Mr. Young’s secretary. Mr. Young would like to talk with you.”

“When?”

“Right now. I’ll open the gate for you, and you can come in through the servants’ entrance. Mrs. Young will not see you that way.

An oriental guy in a suit opened the door for me. Apparently, the servants wore suits in this place. I followed him through a kitchen the size of the super dome, through a dining room with a table you could probably play football on, and back to the room where I’d first met Mr. Young.

He sat on the desk again and he didn’t waste any time telling me what was on his mind.

“Apparently, you are enjoying that healthy expense account, Mr. LeGrand. Following my wife around does have its advantages, I suppose, but you are supposed to find out with whom she is having an affair, not spend my money without result.”

Rich or not, I wasn’t going to take this from him. I didn’t bother sitting. I walked right up to him. The oriental guy started forward.

“You tell that little bastard to hold his distance, or I’ll flatten his face.” An empty threat since I was not much of a fighter. “First of all, if the few dollars I spent trying to keep up with your high-spending wife annoys you, then why don’t you tell her to curb the spending a little? Second of all, I’ve only been on this case two days. I’ve followed your wife religiously everywhere she’s gone in this damn metropolitan nightmare. She has not been between the sheets with any man or woman that I know of. Now if that’s not good enough for you, pay me off. Send me home. Do whatever you have to do, but get off my butt. I’m not your lackey.”

I backed off and sat down next to the secretary on the couch. She was staring at me, her mouth slightly opened in surprise. Alfred Young grinned that crooked grin of his and stood up.

“Well said, Mr. LeGrand. I just had to make sure you weren’t playing me for a sucker. You understand, don’t you?”

“I understand that rich men are often paranoid, Mr. Young. They don’t like to lose their money.”

“Well said, again, Mr. LeGrand. There’s a philosopher somewhere in you. That said, perhaps you can tell me what you have found out so far.”

“Sure.” I pulled out a little notepad. There wasn’t much written on it, but clients liked the effect. Too much television. “She really has not deviated much from the itinerary your secretary gave me. The only real deviation was the little church she attended in Revere.”

“Church? What kind of church, Mr. LeGrand?”

“A small Catholic church. It is just outside a neighborhood. There’s a school on one side and what looks like a strip mall on the other.”

“As far as I know my wife is not a religious person, let alone a Catholic. You say she goes inside the church. What does she do in there? Pray?”

“Well, actually she talks to the priest. Apparently, he has a house behind the church and that’s where she’s been going.”

“Could she be having an affair with a priest?”

“Priests are men, too, I guess, but I don’t think it’s likely. What’s more likely is that she knows him. Maybe he’s a relative of hers?”

“My wife is from Georgia, Mr. LeGrand.

“Maybe the priest is too, Mr. Young.”

“Fair enough. What’s your next step?”

“As soon as I leave, I will go to my motel and do a little research on the priest. Find out who he is and whether or not he has any connections to your wife. For that I’ll need more info on your wife, where she’s from, parents’ names, etc.”

“My secretary will furnish you with that. When do you expect to have some results, Mr. LeGrand?”

“Mr. Young, I cannot force your wife to have an affair. Did it ever occur to you that maybe she is not having one?”

“Believe me, she is, Mr. LeGrand.”

“In that case, I can only follow her and wait for her to make a mistake. She will sooner or later if she is having an affair.”

“Good. My secretary will see you out.” He turned to the oriental guy. “Come William, we have to be in Boston in forty-five minutes.”

***

The next morning—after a couple of hours on the computer the night before, I found very little about the priest; from New Jersey, forty-one years olds, attended Seton Hall, served as priest at Saint of Lost Causes Catholic Church—I parked outside the gated mansion and waited for the queen to drive out. Promptly at seven forty five, she drove out the gate and drove to the workout place. I waited outside until she came out, and she drove back to the mansion. After a while, a black Mercedes showed up and someone opened the gate for it. The windows were tinted, so I couldn’t see who was driving, but I figured it probably wasn’t the affair person, because all the servants would be there as would the personal secretary—she worked out of the house, I was told. I leaned back in my seat and waited. After two hours, I dozed off and woke up some time later as the gate swung opened. I expected it to be the Mercedes, but instead it was Mrs. Young in an apparent hurry, because she squealed her tires in her rush. I glanced at my watch, one fifty five. I had been sleeping for a long time. We hadn’t been on the road long before I realized that we were going to Revere. She was going to visit the priest again. She pulled into the parking lot and drove behind the church. I followed and parked on the side of the church. I sat and waited again. After about twenty minutes, I climbed out of my mini van and walked up to the priest’s house. I knocked on the door and waited. I heard some stirring in the rear of the house, so I knocked again. The priest came to the door and cracked the door opened. He was young for a priest with his own congregation—late thirties or early forties. He had dark hair, a little mussed up, a sharp chin, and kind dark eyes. He was dressed in jeans and a tee shirt not tucked in.

“Yes, may I help you?”

“Yes, father,” I said. “I would like to confess.”

“Confession is held in the church every afternoon from four thirty to five thirty. You are welcomed to come then.”

“But father I’m not sure if I can then, and I really need to confess.”

He opened the door a little more, so he could see me better.

“I’m sorry, but I am indisposed right now. Perhaps you can come back here in thirty or forty minutes. I will be able to confess you then.”

“I’ll try, father.”

He opened the door a little more and blessed me. The priest had no shoes on.

I returned to my van. Mrs. Young was having an affair with a priest. It was going to be interesting to see how Albert Young was going to react. I dialed the secretary’s number on my cell phone.

“Yes?” She said.

“I need to talk to Mr. Young. I think I’ve answered his question.”

“Do you think, Mr. LeGrand or do you know? Mr. Young only deals in certainty.”

“Let’s put it this way. I am convinced, and if Mr. Young is not convinced he can come out here and check it out himself.”

“Okay. I’ll pass on your message. Stay with Mrs. Young until you get word from me.”

“Got it,” I said and hung up. I was getting tired of dealing with these people.

Mrs. Young pulled out of the church and headed back toward Quincy. She stopped at a gas station and had the car filled up while she sat in the car and talked on her cell phone. I took the opportunity to top off my mini van. The gas was a little expensive, but it would all go on the expense account. She pulled out and I followed. She pulled into a strip mall and parked. I followed her into the mall. She walked past several stores before entering a little mall bar. A sign over the door proclaimed it, The Irish Luck Bar. I walked in. The place was dark and smelled stale. Several people lined the bar and only two or three showed enough interest to look up at me. Mrs. Young had found a table and was sitting alone, nursing a drink. I slid onto an empty stool and ordered a beer. The bartender tried to make small talk, but I discouraged him, so he shrugged and returned to the ball game on the television over the bar—the Sox were playing the A’s. From my vantage point, I could just see Mrs. Young through the mirror. The door opened, and she looked up. A man walked in wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. He walked up to her table and sat across from her placing the briefcase on the table between them. The bartender asked the man what he wanted, and he answered a martini. When his drink arrived, the man took a sip from it and opened up the briefcase. He pulled out a handful of papers and passed them on to Mrs. Young. She read them, squinting in the poor light. Occasionally, she would stop, place her finger on a spot and ask the man a question. Satisfied, she continued reading. When she was done, she handed the stack back to the man who replaced them in the briefcase and clicked it shut. They sat and talked for a few moments longer before she stood and walked out. I let her go and walked to the table instead.

“Hi,” I said. “Can I buy you another martini?”

“Get lost, Bud.”

“I noticed Mrs. Young didn’t tell you to get lost.”

He looked at me quickly.

“Sit down,” he said. “You’re a little more interesting than I first thought.”

He raised a hand, and the bartender brought over another martini and a beer for me.

“Now, let’s start with who you are,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” I countered. “I was here first. How about you tell me what you’re doing with Mrs. Young?”

He smiled.

“An impasse, but I have something that tips the impasse in my favor.”

“What’s that?” I had to ask.

“An assistant district attorney’s identification.” He pulled it out and placed it on the table away from the eyes at the bar. I glanced at it. It was exactly as he said.

“Okay. You win.”

“Let’s start at the beginning. Who are you?”

“I’m a private detective from Louisiana. Albert Young hired me to follow his wife. He wants to know who she’s having an affair with. I’ve been following her for the past two days.”

“Is she? Having an affair, I mean.”

“Yes.”

“Okay. I don’t need to know who.” He paused for a second or two. “You look like a nice guy. If I were you, I’d collect from Albert Young and go back to Louisiana. How should I put it? Things are going to heat up here pretty soon.”

“Aren’t you worried that I’ll warn Young?”

“Not really. You see, you’re practicing detecting in my state without a license. I could probably keep you in jail long enough for you to lose your cherry, if you get my meaning.”

“Loud and clear,” I said. “Can I go now?”

“Go where?”

“Louisiana, of course.”

“Of course,” he said and sipped from his martini.

***

I drove to my motel, packed up and loaded the mini van. I settled the bill and added the cost to my expense account. Then I drove to Squantum, parked outside the gate, and waited for the call from the secretary. It came a lot later than I thought it would. It was well into the night when my phone played my “Brown-Eyed Girl” ringtone.

“Yeah?” I said.

“Mr. Young will see you now.”

“Open the gate,” I said. “I’m coming in.”

“Oh,” she said, and I saw the gate swing open. I drove through and parked in front of the house. I walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. The secretary answered it.

“Come in, Mr. LeGrand. Mr. Young is in the library, waiting for you.”

I followed her. Albert Young was perched on the edge of the desk once again. He was reading a paper. When we walked in, he dropped the paper to the desktop and faced me.

“I hear you found out with whom she is having an affair. I told you she was having an affair.”

I pulled out my notebook again.

“Yes, she is having an affair. She’s been going to church every afternoon, except she hasn’t really been going to church.”

“Just what are you saying, LeGrand?”

“She been going to the priest’s house.”

“What? You’re saying that she’s been sleeping with a priest?”

“I don’t think there’s much sleeping going on.”

“You’re absolutely positive about that?”

“No. Without seeing them in the act, I can’t say that I’m absolutely positive, but I’ll tell you this. I’d stake my job on it.”

“Tell me what you saw.”

“I waited until they’d settled down. Then I knocked on the door, and the priest came out in untucked tee shirt and jeans. He was barefooted, too.”

“That’s it?”

I grinned, giving him the same lopsided grin he gave me earlier.

“How many priests do you know who will visit with their parishioners in their bare feet?”

“Good point.”

“I think my job is done here. Can we settle up?”

“Let’s see, a thousand dollars a day plus expenses. What does that come out to, Beverly?”

“That’s three thousand seven hundred and nineteen dollars, Mr. Young.”

“You forgot the motel,” I said and handed her the receipt.

She examined it for a second or two.

“Four thousand one hundred and three dollars.”

“Here’s a deal, LeGrand. I’ll give you ten thousand dollars. You go away and forget you ever met me.”

I shrugged, secretly dancing inside my head. Ten thousand dollars was more than I could have ever hoped for.

“And you are?”

“Goodbye, Mr. LeGrand.”

***

I left there as quickly as I could, but I wasn’t going to the airport just yet. I drove to the church and knocked on the priest’s door. He answered it. This time he was dressed in the traditional dark garb priests wore.

“Yes?” He examined my face a little more carefully. “Aren’t you the one who wanted to confess this afternoon?”

“Yes, I was father.”

“Do you still need to confess?”

“No, father, but I would like a few moments of your time.”

“Come in then.”

He held the door opened for me and indicated another door in the hallway with his head.

“That’s my office there. Why don’t we go in and have a seat.”

He sat behind a desk, and I sat in a comfortable chair across from it.

“What can I do for you, Mr… I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“LeGrand. John LeGrand.”

“What can I do for you Mr. LeGrand.”

“It’s what I can do for you, father. I’ve been hired by Albert Young to find out who his wife is having an affair with.” He flinched almost as if I had slapped him. “My investigation led to you.”

“If you’re planning on blackmailing me, I have no money, Mr. LeGrand.”

“I’m not blackmailing you, father. I’m merely giving you a heads up. Soon Mr. Young and his wife are going to be embroiled in a very long and difficult legal battle, and you might find yourself dragged into it. My advice is for you to make a clean breast of it, publicly and save whatever fragment of your current life you can.” I stood up, and he stood up, too.

“Why are you warning me like this?”

“Because you are not in Albert Young’s league. He will chew you up and spit you out. If he needs a sacrificial lamb, you will do nicely—a priest having sex with his wife. What a nice distraction from all the other troubles he will be facing. See what I mean?”

“Yes, unfortunately. Thank you, Mr. LeGrand.”

“Don’t mention it. I mean that, don’t mention it.”

He showed me to the door.

***

It was hot and humid when I got off the plane in Lafayette. I went straight to my old Dodge Ram van and didn’t stop until I was in Ellisonville pulling into my driveway. I had ten thousand dollars in my pocket and a bed that I’m sure missed me as much as I missed it. I had just showered and was about to take an afternoon nap in my own bed when my cell phone went off. It was Beverly, Albert Young’s secretary.

“Mr. LeGrand, you will need to read the national papers tomorrow. It seems a Father Dermot Dunlop confessed that he’d been having an affair with Mrs. Young. It really has turned everything upside down over here. Mr. Young blames you, but he’s not sure how you did it. Farther Dunlop says that guilt was his only motivator. Not only that, rumor has it that the Boston district attorney is considering charging Mr. Young with fraud and even money laundering. Would you know anything about any of that?”

“Beverly, it sounds as if you should probably start sending out your resume. I don’t think your future is too secure with Albert Young. What do you think?”

She laughed.

“I think you are right Mr. LeGrand.”

“For Christ’s sake, my name is John.”

“And I think Mr. Young made a mistake when he brought you to Boston.”

“Mr. Young’s mistakes were made long before he met me, Beverly.”

I wished her good luck, and we said goodbye. I hoped that she wouldn’t become entangled in the hurricane that was going to hit the Young fortune.

***

I fell asleep after that phone call and dreamed a long complex dream that I could remember very little of. The only part that came back to my waking mind was a beach with white sand and blue, blue water lapping against it and the feeling that I would never wake up again, but of course I did. There was always the phone.

 

Jude Roy has published widely in print and online sources, including The Southern Review, American Short Fiction, National Public Radio, Prism International, Zuzu’s Petal Quarterly, A Writer’s Choice Literary Journal, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, and numerous others. He was born and raised in Chatagnier, Louisiana and is personally acquainted with his setting. He also lived in Squantum, Massachusetts for a year. He studied writing under Ernest Gaines, Richard Bausch and Alan Cheuse.

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