Trendy, according to Virginia who was Clarissa’s older sister, but she still looked lithe and lean in her sweats. While we were waiting for Clarissa to show, she picked out a blue Go Barefoot shirt for me, and a much larger one for Smokin’ Joe.
‘Awesome,’ she said. ‘Polynosic fabric … top dollar.’
So were the eighty-dollar tags, but Mister Muscles was right there.
‘I’ll pick it up,’ he said with a flash of his smile, the one he saved for autograph hunters.
I’d forgotten that he was loaded, although our bail bonds must have depleted his fortune, yet I had the weirdest feeling that he was bankrolling Taylor.
Maybe he didn’t want to embarrass me, or maybe he thought he had backed a winner.
Whatever, I wasn’t going to let him down.
‘Cool,’ I said, as the shop bell rang and Clarissa waltzed in, shaking her fist.
‘That friggin’ bitch!’
Seemed like the Kandoo Swamp Donkey had given her a hard time over my visit, and now Clarissa was short a couple of hundred bucks.
I could see that the cost of locating Le Chef was going to be steep. I exchanged a glance with Smokin’ Joe who nodded his head as if he was on the same wavelength. I pulled out my bankroll and started to riffle through the bills.
I had their attention.
I peeled off a couple. ‘Le Chef,’ I said. ‘Where can I find him?’
That’s where Virginia – call me Ginny – came in. Friend of a friend’s buddy; a couple of calls and we had a diner address.
According to Ginny, a country French cuisine restaurant in a bland building on Nalani Street, no view, but once inside it would be like being in France. Family owned; the husband cooked and the wife served.
Alec liked eating there.
We booked a table that night, mainly to check it out. Ginny and Clarissa were our cover, and we hoped to strike it lucky.
Not with the women, though, but when they had changed into evening dresses – shimmery soft and feminine – I could have been tempted.
We detoured back to Sandy’s for a pre-dinner cocktail – left the women chatting to a couple of seniors while we showered and changed into our new gear, then called a cab.
Inside La Bastille, a ceiling fan hummed above our heads as I gazed at the pictures adorning the stone walls. The owner told us his restaurant was designed to have an intimate, neighborhood feel of a Paris café with authentic and classic French cuisine to match; I guess he was proud of that. We sat in a booth where the lighting was subdued, could have been romantic another time.
We chose the cassoulet for our main course, and a bottle of house red, and then another bottle. By the time we moved onto the cognac then the bourbons, the place had emptied and no sign of Le Chef.
‘Final round,’ announced Smokin’ Joe. ‘
Duck ’n weave time. Clarissa giggled and a glassy-eyed Ginny seemed to be hanging on his every word. I took some “tourist” pics; hell, it would be natural enough.
While we waited for a cab to take us back I went over to the bar and chatted to the owner’s wife; told her we’d like to make another reservation. I looked for Alec Czerwinski’s name while she scanned through the pages, but it wasn’t there.
Feint with the right.
‘Your restaurant is great … any local French … or Europeans eat here?’
‘A couple’, she said. ‘Roger and Su from Canada are regular patrons ... and a Polish man … at least I think he’s Polish … or he could be Russian.’
Jab with the left.
‘I know a Polish dude … big, tough guy. Al Capone, we call him.’
She smiled. Skipped a page and pointed to the following Tuesday. ‘See this?’ I saw an “A” penciled in. ‘Alec … yes, could be him … but he’s a chef.’
I shook my head. ‘Not this one. The dude I know works the skipjack boats… hunting tuna.’
I felt a nudge in my ribs. ‘Cab’s here,’ said Clarissa, pulling at my arm and enticing me away with a glazed gleam in her eyes. ‘Our one.’
Call me shallow – or it could have been the wine - but the way I looked at it right then, Clarissa was the kind of babe I hung out with. She had the looks of a hometown girl out on a hot date and looking for a cool dude to pop her cherry, not like Linda, or Janet, who were major league players; unobtainable to a beach bum like me.
I left Ginny hanging onto Smokin’ Joe while I escorted a clinging Clarissa back to Sandy’s bar for some horizontal action.
It wasn’t what I had in mind.
Trade must have been slack, Sandy had locked up and the bar was in darkness. Only my Dodge was parked there. Clarissa had a fit of hiccups while I retrieved the porch key from its hiding place - I opened up the back entrance, and switched on the bulb – her hiccups became more of a gargle, and I turned around.
Straight into oblivion…