There Comes A Time – Part Four [FICTION]

Diner

Detective Evan Pappas gives Carla dreaded news at a local diner. (Photo by Paul Sableman, Flickr)

The crisp air blew Carla’s hair back as she and Detective Evan Pappas walked down the deserted street in silence. The cool breeze felt good on her skin, but she tightened her coat’s belt anyway, just so it didn’t start flapping in the wind. She had wondered when she would see him again. Over the past year, he’d been a fixture in her life, appearing frequently at first, but then as time passed the visits came farther and farther apart. “So, you said we needed to talk,” she said, not daring to look at him. For a cop, he was exceedingly handsome with his shock of black hair, his rich olive complexion, and disarming smile. She could only imagine that some criminals were only too happy to be handcuffed by him and carted away. 

“I did. Let’s go in here,” he said, indicating a mom-and-pop all-night diner at the end of the street. She wasn’t hungry, but she didn’t have the energy to put up too much fuss. Once they were seated in a secluded booth away from listening ears, he said, “I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get back to you.”

“I just assumed no news was good news,” she said, waving aside his apology as unnecessary. Carla found it hard to watch his face too closely for long. He looked as though he had just stepped out of some ancient Greek temple, and she could only imagine how delicious he might look in a toga. Those kinds of thoughts, however, made her feel guilty, especially since everything was still unresolved.

“Maybe that’s true in most circumstances,” he said. “But in an investigation like this, that’s not the issue.”

They were interrupted momentarily by an ancient waitress with clown-red hair teased up into a beehive, green cat eye glasses, and glittering baby blue eye shadow painted above her long false eyelashes. She placed two glasses in front of them so hard the water nearly sloshed out onto the table. “What can I get you nice folks,” she asked, her voice so raspy Carla thought she must have chain-smoked unfiltered cigarettes most of her life.

“What’s the special tonight, Gilda,” Evan asked

“Meatloaf. But you don’t want it. It’s so tough I keep waiting for Goodyear to ask for the recipe.” She cackled over her own joke. “You want something to drink while you look over the menu?”

“Do you have any pie?”

“Peach, strawberry, and lemon meringue. Those are actually edible, and the peach is downright tasty.” Gilda said.

“Then bring us two pieces of peach pie and two cups of coffee, please,” he said, flashing his most charming smile.

“Coming right up, Ares,” she said, scribbling their order down on a tablet.

Carla waited for the detective to correct her, but when he didn’t, she said, “His name is actually Evan, not Ares.”

“Nope, it’s Ares. Isn’t it sugar,” Gilda said with a wink before she turned and sauntered away.

Carla looked inquisitively at the detective. “Ares?”

Evan laughed. “The department eats here pretty regularly,” he explained. “She’s given most of us nicknames. I’m Ares after the Greek god of war.”

“Ah,” Carla said, as if that explained everything, even if it didn’t make any sense to her whatsoever. What nickname an aging waitress gave him, however, wasn’t the foremost thing on her mind.

“So the real reason we’re here,” he said. “It’s obviously not for the food.”

Carla leaned forward in her seat, clutching her purse tightly under the table. She’d come to count Evan as a friend. He was kind and compassionate, but determined and tenacious too when it came to her case. Most of all, he respected her enough not to tiptoe around issues. He knew she liked him to give it to her straight. “Obviously. So what have you got?”

“You’re not going to like this,” he said. “But after a year of digging for answers, the chief is closing this investigation as a cold case. He says resources need to be allocated toward cases we can actually solve.”

Carla felt her throat constrict. She had known this could be a possibility, yet she had never really thought it would happen either. The department was just giving up? She sipped her water with trembling fingers, then placed the glass gingerly back on the table. “So they’re not going to look anymore?”

Evan shook his head. “No, they’re not.” He reached across and grasped her hand in his larger, stronger one. “But the case is still on my radar, Carla. Believe that.”

She nodded as she reached up to wipe away the dampness from her eyes. “I’m sure you’ll continue to do what you can. But it has been a year. I guess there comes a time when we simply have to move on, no matter how tough the prospect of doing so might seem.”

“The chief was just going to send you a letter, but I wouldn’t let him. I told him I needed to deliver the news myself. I’m truly sorry we couldn’t do more. It’s just…” Evan’s voice faded as he watched her try to keep her composure.

“There were no viable leads. I know.” She looked up as Gilda returned to the table to deliver their pie. “Thank you.”

“Sure thing,” the waitress said as she looked down at Carla and noted the anguish on her face. “Ares, heroes don’t make women cry,” she said, trying to lighten the moment.

Evan smiled. “Yeah, but I’m not feeling particularly heroic tonight. Could you give us a bit of privacy Gilda?”

“Course,” she said, before taking her tray and making herself scarce.

Evan sat back in his seat and watched Carla for a few moments in silence until she raised her eyes to meet his again. “Are you going to be okay?”

“Let’s see. My family is gone, I have no closure, and the police have chalked this investigation up to a lost cause. I’m just peachy.” Carla offered a small smile then. “I guess that’s why we’re having peach pie, huh?”

Evan chuckled. “Well there’s always more where that came from.”

“On a normal day, I’d say let’s order all three kinds and just drown our sorrows in pie,” Carla said. “But I just started a new fitness program today and went back to the gym. Somehow I think that counts as a conflict of interests.”

“True. Plus I don’t think losing your girlish figure would bolster your spirits any.”

Carla shrugged as she stabbed a gooey piece of pie with her fork. “Maybe. Without a man in my life though, who’s going to complain?”

Lance’s apartment was everything Daphne thought it would be: tastefully decorated and glamorous with an amazing view of the downtown skyline. What she didn’t expect was the walls full of books, the grand piano, or the original Gustav Klimt painting that hung over his mantle. “Are you sure you’re the same man I went to high school with,” she asked as she sipped a glass of Merlot.

“Why would you ask that?”

“I somehow don’t remember you being such a Renaissance man back then,” she said. “You seemed like you’d be more interested in playing with G.I. Joe than collecting art and reading the classics.”

Lance chuckled. “I was always a closet nerd. Yet you remembered I liked to write.  Where did you think I got the inspiration?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I guess I never gave that much thought to it. You were just so nimble on the field, I never really imagined you with your nose in a book or perusing a museum.”

He came around the corner with two plates in his hands and set them on the glass dining room table. “Oh, you’re referring to the Klimt,” he said, realizing her eyes were staring up at the portrait. “That was my grandmother’s. I inherited it when she died. Do you like it?”

Daphne rolled her eyes. “Of course! I’ve just never known anyone who owned one before. So color me impressed,” she said as she looked down at dinner. He’d made a large Caesar salad, two thick New York strip steaks, and green beans sauteed in truffle oil. Everything smelled delicious. “In fact, I’m impressed on multiple levels.”

“Thanks! I hope you like the way it tastes too.”

“I’m sure I will,” she said. “You sure you want to go to all this trouble for me though? Isn’t there some heiress you’d rather be having dinner with?”

Lance gave her a stern look. “I’m sure. Besides, I tired of those women long ago. Movie star looks and vapid conversation don’t go very far.”

“Well you’ll get neither here,” she assured him, laughing.

He realized how his words might have come across and had the decency to blush. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that you’re not beautiful.”

“Oh lighten up. I’m no wilting flower. I knew you weren’t trying to insult me. You were one of the few who never did,” she said. “Now let’s dig in before this dinner gets cold.”

The two of them had a surprisingly good time together. Their banter seemed effortless, and in an odd way it really did seem to Daphne as though they had once been friends, once upon a time. Once again, she chalked it up to them sharing the common experience of high school. She kept reminding herself to live in the moment, not to make the dinner something that it wasn’t, or to focus too much on what never was. This was a new experience for her, and it was pleasant, and she wondered if this is how all the pretty girls used to feel back then, when she watched life from the sidelines rather than jumping in like an active participant.

After dinner, he poured them both more wine, and then he even played the piano for her. She watched, mesmerized as his long fingers danced over the keyboard, filling the room with beautiful renditions of songs from old movies they had watched as teenagers. She even sang along to a few of them. This was a different experience for her, and far removed from the few rare dates she’d been asked out on by sweaty blue collar types who thought she was a girl with “a great personality.” In fact, they usually treated her more like one of the guys than as a potential lover. She thought she’d made her peace with it. However, as the evening wound down, she suddenly found herself wanting more, and wondering if she would ever find it.

“I had a great time,” she said as he saw her to the door. Lance had already called her a cab and it was waiting for her at the curb just outside the lobby.

“I did too. Promise me we’ll do it again sometime,” he said.

She paused and smiled at him. “You say that like you actually mean it.”

“What am I going to do with you Moretti? Of course I mean it.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Now go catch your cab. The meter’s running.”

Daphne rubbed the side of her face. “Lance Daly! As I live and breathe, I will never wash my cheek again,” she said, laughing as she walked out the door. “See you at work, good lookin.'”

She could hear him laughing too as he said goodnight and closed the door.

Click here to read part three of There Comes A Time and click here to go back to the beginning of the series

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to There Comes A Time – Part Four [FICTION]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    In the fourth installment of THERE COMES A TIME, Carla is dealt another blow while Daphne is pleasantly surprised during her dinner with Lance. Now tell us: Do you think Lance is legit or is Daphne wise to be wary? And what do you think happened to Carla’s family? The answer will be revealed tomorrow!

  2. Pingback: There Comes A Time – Part Five [FICTION] | Jathan Fink

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