A novel after Katrina.
When the winds and the rain from the Hurricane subsided, everything on the south side of the levee was inundated with the foul water left behind. Five stone houses built by the once famous J T Callahan still stand proudly on the shell mound overlooking the devastation a few feet lower in altitude. Hotel Maison Ensoleillée across the street lost its roof and its fourth floor to the wind. The flood waters penetrated the foundation and the old hotel leaned precariously and slowly collapsed into the smelly brown waters of the out of its banks Mississippi.
Everything changed abruptly. Most of the residents evacuated from their homes moving to other cities and towns scattered over several states. Few returned as a miasma seems to enshroud the area. The waters receded leaving behind the five stone sentinels built in 1844 standing guard over the sea of mud left behind.
The once proud neighborhood fell into abject ruin. At night human scavengers come out from their dens and foraged for anything left behind by the evacuees. They rob and sometimes kill anyone foolish enough to be in the area after dark.At night the only light is from one incandescent flood-lamp, the other hasn’t been replaced yet. it illuminates a hand painted metal sign hanging by two chains from a rusty wrought Iron brace above the door. The 1844 vintage house was built from stone quarried far to the north and brought by barge down river to the building site. The dim light shines on the entrance to “Maddi’s Hair Salon” which is eleven steps up and just about three inches above the high-water mark left by the flood last fall. It is not intended to be something for a pedestrian to navigate by. Anyone stupid enough to be out and about in the dark here deserves what ever horrible thing that fate has in store for them.
The first floor didn’t get wet, but the wind and tree branches tore the roof up so the torrential rain came in faster than Maddi could catch it in buckets and pour it down the toilet in the third-floor bathroom.
The window of the second floor facing the street has a small computer printed sign that reads Gunn Investigations. A sun faded “for rent sign” decorates the third-floor window since the wind damaged the roof leaving several leaks as reminders of the storm and the subsequent flood.
Thomas Gunn, the former commander of the New Orleans Swat team retired with two bullets in his spine five years ago and has been in residence in Suite Two ever since. Tommy is now a sixty-year-old man with graying hair and a lean build who just received his Private Investigator’s license. His deep blue eyes are intense and seem to see into her soul.
Normally, she would not have rented to him. He made her just a bit uncomfortable, her heart beating too fast behind her ample bosom. She felt the caress of his eyes passing over them slowly as if memorizing every contour of them. His type was not what she really wanted. But business had fallen off since a Fantastic Sam’s had opened four blocks away. She needed the money from renting apartment number two, just to make expenses.
She is fifty-nine years old, still beautiful with smooth unblemished skin, Irish blue eyes, and salt and pepper hair. Her smile is one of her best features. However, now she just grins when it is appropriate. It has been a long time since she allowed herself to smile. There hasn't been much to provoke a real smile in her life for years. Maddi has never met a man who captivated her interest. She lived alone so long now that the idea of a change of status had not crossed her mind in decades. Her family was her clients, she knew the children and grandchildren of all her customers.
Maddi, the present proprietor of the first floor Beauty Shop on Levee Road, inherited a lot more than the house and business. The set of her jaw and her no bullshit attitude was inherited from her grandma. The shop still has the same name as when her grandma passed it on to Maddi. The old woman had named the enterprise after her granddaughter. It was as if the old woman could see the future through the window of her red 1951 Studebaker convertible.
When Maddi was six her mother and father were killed in that same car. Her mother, Aoibhinn borrowed the old woman’s car to pick up Maddi’s father, A helicopter transferred him from the offshore rig that he worked on to the Grand Isle Heliport. Grandma Aoife burst into tears pointing outside at the thick fog bank which had crept up the River and was now enveloping Southern Louisiana.
“Mom it is just a little fog. I’m so glad it didn’t cover the gulf and cause the crew stay on the rig.”
Grandma stood with her jaw thrust out, “No, no, Aoibhinn not tonight. They have a place for Jim to sleep there where he will be safe until the fog lifts.”
“Mom, I’ve just got to pick Jim up, I can’t bear the thought of his being this close to home and not be able to wrap my arms around him. I miss him so much.”
The old woman stood her ground, “Child tonight is not the night to pick anyone up from the heliport. Wait until tomorrow until after the fog burns off.”
“Mom, I will at least try picking him up. If the fog is too bad, I can always turn around and come home.”
Maddi’s mother was just as adamant as Aoife.
Maddi stood beside her grandmother with her hands on her hips. She couldn’t imagine her mother turning around for anything once she started driving. “I miss my daddy too. But Momma the fog will get a lot thicker tonight. I want you to get home safely.”
To this moment she can still see the look on her mother’s face. At that point nothing anyone said could have changed the tragedy that occurred. The red convertible crashed into a canal on the way home and both her parents were drowned. It was late afternoon the next day before the fog lifted enough that the red convertible was spotted, almost completely submerged just a few feet off the roadway.
Maddi’s life changed, she moved downstairs into the old Aoife’s tiny apartment behind the shop. The third-floor apartment where Maddi’s family had lived was then rented to another offshore worker and his wife and son.
She grew up helping her grandmother. Beauty School was a necessity, not an option for her. When her grandma died from a stroke Maddi took over the clientele of the shop. It was small but brought in enough to satisfy her immediate needs.
A wild haired artist named Alexander Kahn, behind in his rent three months occupied Apt #3. She wrestled with the hassle of kicking him out. When the order came, he was the first one to evacuate with his paint box, a few drawings in a cardboard tube, and one small suitcase. She knew that she would never get a dime from him. Maddi was pleased that she could avoid evicting him.
She went to the third floor to check out how much mess the artist had left behind. When the worst of the storm passed, she could from the third-floor window see that the levee had breached letting water flood into the area below her building. She knew it was built well and was the highest point in the area except for the breached levee. She cried out in fear when she heard wind push the branches tearing at the roof. The vacant hotel across the street lost its roof and began leaning toward collapse.
Tommy stayed too. He came out onto the stairs and called to her. “This is not a good time to be alone. Come down here, it is the safest place in the building. I don’t think the water can get this high and the winds would have to tear a whole floor off to get to us.”
She went down to his apartment where they sat on chairs across his little table in the dark except for the light from a vintage hurricane lantern. At the height of the storm despite her inner strength Maddi whimpered a little in fear. Tommy reached across and held her tiny hand tightly in his large strong hand. “It’s going to be alright. The worst is over.”
During the long hours that followed she was better able to bear the fear knowing Tommy was with her. They talked about everything and nothing. She talked about beauty school, her grandmother, and about the neighborhood when she grew up. Many changes before the storm tell a tale of a neighborhood on its way down and the slow disintegration of her past way of life. In then past, the shop had customers all day long usually keeping Maddi busy enough that having lunch time was rare. Before big events like Proms and School dances and Mardi Grais she kept the shop open two to three hours late as well as bringing her friend Rita out of retirement to help her.
He talked about his years in the Marine Corps Investigations Unit and his subsequent time with NOLA PD, his promotion to lead the SWAT team and how much he enjoyed being the leader of such a close team. He extracted a butane hotplate and a new bottle of gas from the lower section of his kitchen cabinet. He put a well-used percolator filled with water and dark roast coffee over the flame. He extracted coffee grounds, cream, and sugar from his stash of necessities.
She shocked him with her question, “Why did you leave SWAT?”
Tommy cleared his throat, then continued. “I have two bullets nestled so close to my spine that they were inoperable without making me a quadriplegic.” He hadn’t meant to tell her, but he realized there is no way to dodge her question without creating more and generating. God forbid. sympathy. “Doctors watch for complications that so far have not happened.” He shifted in his chair.
“I apologize for prying. I can tell you are not comfortable talking about it.” She touched his arm, “I’ll never bring it up again.”
Her touch remained longer than he was comfortable with, so he suggested, “I have stuff for sandwiches which needs to be eaten soon.”
“Let me help, you don’t need to wait on me,” Maddi said.
“No problem, I know where everything is, and you don’t. Please Keep your seat.” He quickly manufactured two Po Boy sandwiches that rival a great sandwich shop. “I have milk that will sour if we don’t use it up soon.”
“I have juice and bottled energy drinks downstairs as well as ten each gallon jugs of water I filled from the tap just as the storm got close.”
“You did very well Maddi,” said Tommy.
When the wind died down, he went out onto the roof to see what he could. Water was rushing through the breech in the levee. The streets were deep rivers of brown water. It might be awhile before they could get away from where they had chosen to last out the storm. But between them they could eat and drink for a while without outside help.
After the storm last fall everything changed abruptly. The neighborhood was evacuated most people left their flood damaged homes and possessions behind. No one came back and the few who sheltered close by were present residents of the area of Levee Rd.
A slap dab repair to Maddi’s roof did little to stem the flow of water when it rains but it was all Maddi could afford. Now any time it rains, she scurries to the third floor to dump the five buckets placed strategically under the leaks. Not all the drips are captured so the third floor has mold problems.
A large tall man with graying hair nimbly climbs the steps to the hallway tapping on shop door to get Maddi’s attention. Maddi is statuesque with naturally curly, salt and pepper hair. She is currently finishing up with a cut and style for her only customer of the day. Motioning to the man at the door to come in she holds a mirror in front of the matron sitting in her salon chair.
“Is this what you had in mind Miss Ethyl?”
“I t’s perfect Maddi. Everyone always says you do the best hairdo south of the river.”
Ms. Ethyl smiles widely and places two twenty-dollar bills into Maddi’s outstretched hand. “Keep the change. I’d wind up paying a lot more for a lot less if I went elsewhere.”
Maddi sighs, “Not many people left on this side of the river since the flood last year. It gets harder every day to get by. But I’ll keep praying for a miracle.”
A tall man in a wrinkled suit opens the door for Ms. Ethyl.“Have a good day ma’am.”
She smiles at the attention and walks carefully down the steps to the broken surface of the sidewalk. When the door closes behind Ms. Ethyl, the man speaks, “I wish I had some money to pay you Ms. Maddi, but all I have is what may turn out to be some good news.”
“Tommy, good news doesn’t pay my bills. I’m about to have to close the doors and try to find somewhere else to live.”
He looked at his shoes, “I know the roof needs some serious work but, I think I can get a contractor to bring it back to code.”
“Much as I would like to fix this building up, I have no money to pay for anything right now.”
“That is just it, Maddi. It wouldn’t cost you a cent because one of my client owes me $4000 for services rendered and he has no money since his wife cleaned out his accounts and ran off with his ex-partner.”
“How does this benefit me?” asked Maddi with one slightly raised eyebrow. “We would still need supplies.”
“Kevin says he has a lot stockpiled for a job that didn’t happen, so he would fix your roof at no cost to you to pay me.” Tommy smiles. “That way you get something for rent. And I get a little ahead instead of always being behind on my rent.” His face blushes dark red.
“I guess that would be better than nothing.” Maddi lifted her chin and a very slight smile crept across her young-looking face.
“I’ll carry materials for him, he has no money to pay a helper, so I volunteered, said Tommy.”
“I’d like to meet with him and find out if he will do a good job on my roof. The last work I had done didn’t accomplish anything. The roof leaked worse after they did the work and I couldn’t get anyone to even come back and look at it.”
“Kevin is my friend and he won’t cut corners or burn you.”
“I’ll talk to him. Have him come by early in the morning.”
" See you around 9 am, put the coffee on and we’ll see what we can work out. Kevin will inspect the roof first and let us know if we have a workable situation.”
Maddi held onto his hand a little longer than necessary. “Tommy, thanks, I know how much you need money too.” The physical contact made her heart pound rapidly in her chest leaving her a little dizzy.
“See you tomorrow Maddi,” Thoughts that neither of them would risk saying aloud, filled the room with their curious energy.
After he left to climb the stairs to his rooms Maddi heaved a sigh to relieve the tension behind her ample bosom. That night she got out the bottle of rose scented lotion she habitually used on her always chapped hands. After she applied more than necessary, her fingers crept beneath her coverlet and she touched herself thinking about Tommy.
The next morning at 8:45 AM Tommy led a husky young man in bib overalls up the stairs to the Beauty Shop. He turned down the hall and tapped on the door of Maddi’s tiny apartment behind the beauty shop.
A soft voice mellowed with a telltale lifelong New Orleans accent said, “Come in how do you like your coffee?” She pulled two chairs out from her tiny folding table. “Sit here, I’ll sit on my couch.” After the two men were seated, she brought in a tray with a steaming pot of Community Coffee and a cup with lumps of sugar and tiny tongs to serve them. A small pitcher of thick whipping cream sat next to the sugar. A plate is piled high with fresh out of the oven pecan covered sticky buns.
“This is my friend Kevin, He is the best roofing contractor that I know,” said Tommy. “Kevin, this is Ms. Maddi.” The two men sat in chairs at the ends of her tiny table with Maddi on the long side seated on her couch acting as hostess.
“Help yourself to the cream and sugar, the sticky buns are delicious, if you would like one use these. She hands both men a carefully folded large white cloth napkin.
“I took the liberty of doing an aerial inspection of your roof with my drone camera,” said Kevin. “Your roof is definitely worth the effort to save it.” He picked up a sticky bun and took a bite. “Delicious,” smacking his lips with obvious pleasure.
“Have any people from the government approached you about abandoning this property,” asked Tommy?
“I had a visitor from the Corps of Engineers last week. She told me that she would do everything within her power to assure that these five stone houses along Levee road would not be torn down” said Maddi.
Kevin said, “The Pictures from my drone reveal that there is only one other building on this block which appears to be occupied. Seems strange to me, from the air none of the buildings on this block appear to be damaged any worse than this one. They were all above the floodwater level.”
Kevin and Tommy unloaded supplies from Kevin’s large bed Dodge pickup truck, placing them out of the way behind the door from the third floor which opens to the roof. If anything had been left at street level it would not have been there in the morning. Human scavengers abound in this area especially after dark.
Kevin worked nearly for a week on the roof. squaring his debt to Tommy. His work paid Maddi four month’s rent on the second-floor walkup that served as Tommy’s office. The other room there was where Tommy kept a bedroll which he unrolled at night onto the couch some tenant in the past left behind.
A coffee pot and a microwave were kept on a small table in the office next to a 9-cu ft refrigerator / freezer. The second room had a Cedar wardrobe and a small matching chest of drawers that Tommy had purchased long before the flood from a yard sale in the Garden District.
Maddi, a spinster, has run the beauty shop for almost forty years. Her grandmother, the owner before her, let Maddi work after school. She grew up there, moving into the room behind the shop when Grandma had a stroke when Maddi was seventeen. She never ventured far from the beauty shop and had never met a man worthy of her attention until she met Tommy.
He is blatant unaware of her feelings or perhaps, he ignores them well never saying or doing anything to encourage her. However, he has his own fantasy about scooping her into his arms and kissing her while caressing her beautiful boobs. His luck with women in the past has not been good. His job constantly interfered with his love life. He long ago gave up and resigned himself to living alone. Now he is a private investigator who never turns anyone away who really needs his help. Most of his clients bartered with him bringing him containers of frozen food like gumbo, jambalaya, and shrimp etouffee.
There wasn’t much cash money from his business, so he constantly must scratch to raise money to pay his rent. He frequents the Tap room / pool hall a few blocks away where no one who knows him will ever play him because he is an excellent pool player. When he can’ raise any money playing pool he is forced to be late with his rent, he stands before the little woman hat in hand and begs forgiveness and a little more time. She always fusses at him and then allows him a little more time.
If Maddi could rent out the third floor to anyone but a “Starving Artist” she might make up some of the deficit from her no longer viable beauty shop. Her only problem is that repairing moldy ceilings and wallboard takes money for supplies even though Tommy would willingly help. She hates having to rely on Thomas. She knows his financial situation and understands all too well the old saying, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip.” It isn’t that Thomas didn’t keep busy, he did. It is just that few of his customers pay him with cash for his services. He is a natural born investigator though and is willing to help anyone in need whether he has a hope of being paid or not. All neighborhood business was off considerably. Most of the residents evacuated when Katrina hit New Orleans. There isn’t enough income to pay all the bills. Renting the upper two stories would barely pay for taxes and utilities. A few very old customers live in the tenement a couple blocks down the street. There is no reason for anyone else to ride a bus more than two or three blocks into this decrepit neighborhood for a hairdo.
After Kevin fixed the roof, Tommy managed to get one of his clients to trade drywall and Sheetrock for ceilings as well as mud to tape to hide where the sheets join. So, Tommy went to work on the third floor. After he tore out the moldy dry wall and ceiling Tommy discovered that there was a cache of stuff behind an interior wall.
He got Maddi to help him after closing time and they began to go through what had been stashed behind a false wall. There were account books that dated back to the time the house was built. The biggest surprise was a bag filled with gems. Tommy had never seen such a collection before. There were Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, and some that looked like diamonds.
“These have to be glass,” said Maddi. “None of my ancestors could have afforded to have real gems.”
“These gems look like they may have been hidden from Union troops. My gut tells me that they are real. Find a good place to keep them.” Tommy looked at them through a magnifying glass that he always carried in an inside pocket. “I will take the smallest of each kind to be appraised. Long ago I helped prevent some thieves from getting away from a jewelry store robbery. If the old proprietor is still available, I’m sure he would appraise them without charging me very much.”
I don't know what to think,” said a wide-eyed Maddi. “If they are real gemstones their discovery could be a life changing event.”
“First thing tomorrow I’ll call and find out if I can get them appraised without cost, “said Tommy.
“Thank you, Tommy,” Maddi touched his arm. “This gives me hope again. I think my grandma would smile.”
Tommy turned facing the little woman. “Maddi you deserve a break.
She smiled a real smile that Tommy had ever seen before, “You do too, Tommy, you are always doing things to help others and they hardly ever pay you enough to cover your rent.”
Morning comes early, Tommy left his blinds open the evening before to allow the first light of day maximum access to his room. He wanted an early start to reach his old friend’s tiny apartment in the eldercare facility. Menashe, a retired Jewish Jeweler was an early bird and Tommy wanted to get there before his pot full of delicious coffee was empty. It was a forty-minute bus ride to reach his destination meaning a before breakfast departure for Tommy.
Tommy reaches the ends of his fingers into the pocket that holds the four sample gems neatly wrapped in one of his two handkerchiefs. Tommy was wearing a Ruger LC 9 mm pistol in his ankle holster. Under his jacket he Kept his Desert Eagle pistol. Tommy had spent enough time as a Swat Commander that he appreciated the old saying “Get there Firstest with the Mostess.” He was aware of the dangers of riding a city bus. This time of day, the danger would be slight because of the number of people that ride up the Levee road and then take the bridge across the river to an area of higher ground. It was five feet above sea level a distinct advantage over most of the city which was below sea level. Since the flood though things were always a bit chaotic no matter the time of day. His insurance was loaded and ready when called. A bunch of young thugs would get the surprise if their lives if they picked this bus which carried an innocuous old grey-haired ex swat commander called Thomas Gunn. His Cop friends referred to him as Tommy Gunn, Lethal Weapon was taken by a cop with an uncanny resemblance to Mel Gibson.
The bus is nearly full of people who ride the bus to work daily after crossing two main feeder routes just sixteen blocks apart. There are always ten to fifteen transferees waiting when this bus arrives. Tommy saw no young thugs or bangers in the bunch. Tommy maintains his harmless old man look until the bus stops a long block away from his destination the Eldercare facility. Menashe always snorts at that name for this place. “Lots of Elders and not much care here.”
Tommy called from his apartment just before he left to give the friend he was to visit enough warning to brew coffee.
“It’s Tommy, come to put me out of my misery for not being the best of friends,” said Menashe.
“You will outlive me by twenty years,” retorted Tommy. The balding old man that put his yarmulke on his head upon waking daily lead the way into his tiny kitchen.
“I made a full pot of coffee, so we won’t run out,” he said smiling. He has a bright lamp on the tiny table next to two cups with spoons and two serving dishes for packages of condiments.
“You know I drink your delicious coffee black, my friend.”
“Now, you have something you wished to show me?”
Tommy took a long sip from his cup. “Ah Caffeine.” Then he digs out the handkerchief with four small lumps twisted together inside.
Menashe holds them reverently in his gnarled liver spotted hand. “What have we here.”
“I need to know if these are genuine. I dug them out of a hollow wall last night.”
The older man took a loupe from his pocket. He looks at each one carefully. “Tommy do you have any idea what you have here?”
“Tell me they’re glass, and we can get on with our day.”
The old man spread the stones out on the wrinkled handkerchief. “Let me get my scale.” He put the clear stone under the light and looked at it for a long time. “What do you think the provenance of this stone is.”
“I was thinking that these stones were put in the wall to keep them out of the hands of the Yankees.”
“The old man said good guess but wrong century, my friend.” He took a sip of his coffee and weighed the clear stone. “Over 2 1/4 carats. And it is perfect without blemish. It was cut before the second World war by Jacob Asscher. This one diamond would wholesale at nearly $6000.”
“What? That news is going to make a certain lady very happy,” said Tommy. “Are you sure?”
“I’m as sure as I can be without a few more tests. I really don’t need more tests on this exquisite blue white diamond.”
“Are the other stones genuine as well?”
“If they’re fakes, I have to say the best I have ever seen. Ah, are there more than these?”
“A double fist size velvet drawstring bag. I need you to look at them. I didn’t want to bring them here via city bus.”
" I'll spring for a cab and breakfast at Denny’s,” said the old man. His excitement was obvious.
“Menashe, don’t get too worked up, old man.”
“I’ll be there for your wake, Tommy.”
The two men walked close together for the three blocks to Denny’s. After they ate too much breakfast Menashe called a cab. Both men had paid close attention to their meals avoiding thinking about the gems in Tommy’s coat not wishing to draw attention to themselves. When the cab came Tommy heaved a sigh of relief, the cabbie was a patron of the Draft House and Pool Hall which Tommy frequented. The ride to Maddi’s Beauty Shop only took fifteen minutes.
Maddi had two customers when Tommy and Menashe climbed the stairs to the shop.
“We need to talk to you for a minute,” said Tommy.
She stepped close to Tommy. He held his finger across his lips. “I need the rest of what we found.”
Maddi seems to be in a state of shock, “Are they valuable?” she whispers.
“My friend Menashe will need to examine them,” says Tommy.
“I anticipated that and put them in the middle drawer of your desk” Maddi whispers.
“What kind of trouble are you two getting up to? Whispering in the corner like naughty little children,” said a voice from under a hairdryer.
Shelia just got new hearing aids and could hear a pin drop. Maddi’s other customer was an octogenarian named Sally who need more than her current hearing aids to hear anything. Conversing with her require shouting.
“Nothing of interest to anyone else, I’m going to do a little repair work on the third-floor apartment,” Shelia.
“You must have come into some money since the last time I talked to you,” says Shelia the biggest blabbermouth in town from under safety of her hair dryer. Maddi is only tempted to throw the hairbrush in her hand at the nosey old lady. The thought provides her some comfort without hurting anyone.
“Ha, I wish I had come into some money. Tommy made a trade for the wallboard we are going use to finish the third floor so I can rent it out,” Maddi smile a conservative little smile as she helps Shelia get out from under the hair dryer. “Sit here in this chair so I can comb-out your hair, Shelia.”
Maddi stopped in front of her other customer. “I’ll be just a few more minutes then I’ll trim your beautiful silver locks, Sally. Thank you for waiting so patiently.”
Tommy leads the way upstairs to his office.
Menashe was breathing hard when they reached the door. “My place may be small but at least it has an elevator.”
“Don’t pass out on me, old man,” said Tommy.
After they went into his apartment Tommy spread out a navy-blue bath towel on top of his little table and unceremoniously dumps the gems out onto it. The old jeweler sits in the available chair on the far side and peers down intently at the jewels shaking his head for the longest fifteen minutes of Tommy’s life.
“I don’t believe what I see.” He finally stopping his examination of the stones the old man rubs his eyes on his shirt sleeve. “What I see is absolutely incredible! How did you come into possession of this incredible collection of stones?”
“They aren’t mine and before you ask, I didn’t steal them. I just want to find out what they are worth for the woman that owns them.”
Menashe sat shaking his head in disbelief as he picked up each stone and held it in the light looking at it through his loupe. “These stones are worth much more than you can possibly imagine. These stones once belonged to a very rich man who really knew stones.”
“How do you know?” Tommy asked.
“I have seen perfect stones before. Usually only small stones under five carats. Some of these are huge in comparison. “This is the wealth he collected over a lifetime; I can’t begin to speculate what these magnificent stones would be worth auctioned at Sotheby’s.” He shrugs his shoulders and turns both palms up. “Maybe one of those files will have a detailed history of these stones. A man who collects stones like this wants to know as much about them as possible. It increases the perceived value.” He put both hands to his lips and blew through them as if warming them. “I am curious to know who owns them.”
Tommy said, “The lady who runs the beauty salon and owns this building. There was some storm damage to the roof, and we discovered this cache behind a wilted wall.” His discomfort is obvious and puts sort of a force field around him.
Menashe nods his head with understanding but growing impatience. He motions with his fingers. “Out with it, we’ll grow old and die before you answer my question.”
Tommy had his own question in mind he needed answers before he said much more. First, he was going have Menashe sworn to silence.
“I’ve known you for years, my friend. You tell me these stones are worth a fortune. I believe you but this find also it puts an insurmountable obstacle in the development of a relationship with Maddi. If I were to make an overture to her now, there will always be a doubt. Is he only here for my money?”
Menashe said, “I know your luck with women was bad when you were on the police force. You have no excuse now because of your work, It’s time Tommy. You need a good woman to help you. That Maddi woman caressed you with her eyes. It is time to do something about that look.”
“I was about to see if Maddi was in the mood to establish a relationship.” Tommy groaned loudly. “Now we have this fortune between us. It wouldn’t be right for me to make my move now. She would always wonder if I am only interested in her money.”
There was a rustle in the hall. “How long has Maddi been standing by the door to the hall?” He thought.
Maddi was indeed just outside his door. “I just baked a frozen peach pie and I have vanilla Ice cream. Are you and our friend Menashe, ready for some?”
“Only if you’ll come in and sit with us,” said Tommy opening the door wide.
“Where can I set this pie while I go downstairs for the ice cream?”
“Here,” said the little Jewish Jeweler. “I will wrap the gems in this towel, to make room for food.”
While Maddi goes downstairs for ice cream Tommy makes a pot of hotel blend Community Coffee.
The old man has a smile on his face when Maddi returns. “I do love ice cream and peach pie,” he says smacking his lips.