So... without further ado, I continue the story:
“It’s a good thing you’ve got a police escort,” the officer said. “Your card-dealing friend back there has just been arrested for running an airborne con game. We hauled him off the Concorde flight from Paris a few minutes ago. Rest assured, Miss. He’s no danger to you, or we wouldn’t have allowed you to sit back there.”
“Aha!” I thought to myself, “So that’s why he looks so familiar. I saw them in the concourse as I was headed to meet Elliott’s plane.” I sneaked what I hoped was a surreptitious glance at my companion. OK, it turned into a lot more than a glance; I openly stared at him. He could have been someone’s rich uncle or, I supposed, somebody’s Sugar Daddy. It was apparent that his suit had not been purchased “off the rack.” Even sitting, when most jackets would bunch up a bit, the dark, pinstriped fabric lay smoothly across his shoulders as though he had been dipped in it. I may not be able to afford really good clothes, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize them when I see them. And the hands he had used to deal the cards had never seen a hard day’s work -- I’d bet a half-month’s pay on it. There was neither a callus nor a hangnail to be seen and some sweet young thing, no doubt, had buffed her heart out on his nails, most likely while he was getting his gorgeous silver hair trimmed by a Master Barber. I couldn’t help but be a bit envious of his hair; Miss Clairol and I had a monthly appointment in my bathroom, and my hair, when it became uncontrollable, was whacked at the local beauty school.
“Are you going to hold those cards all day?”
I must have reacted in some physical way to his question because he hastened to say “Don’t worry. I’m not going to bite you!” Then he chuckled, the sound soft and low in his throat. My skin began to crawl and my mind was in turmoil. My father laughed just like that!
I think I fainted, something I’ve never done before in my entire life, because the next thing I remember was a fit of coughing as I inhaled a breath of pungent ammonia. “Are you all right, Miss?” It was one of the police officers. The cruiser was drawn up to the curb and the door next to me was open. He was leaning across me, waving that damned inhaler under my nose.
“Yes. Yes! I’m fine! Please, get that thing away from here.” I had another fit of coughing and began to sneeze! I dug a tissue from my purse to wipe my streaming eyes and, quite unladylike, blew my nose with a honk that would make a goose envious.
Again I said, “I’m fine. I’m fine! I’m so embarrassed! I’m really tired, that’s all. Just get me to the bus station, please. I promise I’ll rest on the way back to Chicago.” With some trepidation, and a lot of motherly warnings (who would have thought that policemen could be ‘motherly?) they dropped me at the Greyhound Station. As they drove away, I allowed myself one backward and very uneasy glance at the man in the back seat; a man who had not uttered a single word during or after my little ‘episode.’
The timing of my arrival at the bus station couldn’t have been better. The next bus to Chicago was due to pull out in just twenty minutes. Buying the ticket left me just enough cash in my wallet for a small package of chips and a Coke, which I chug-a-lugged like it was the Elixir of Life itself! I’d had quite a shock to my system, hearing my father’s laugh from a complete stranger! The dream I’d had a few years ago came rushing back, as vivid as if I’d just awakened from it.
The station’s loudspeaker blared the impending departure of the bus to Chicago and immediately drove the dream to the back of my brain. The next few minutes were spent in surrendering part of my ticket, assuring the driver that I had no luggage, and finding a seat where I could, hopefully, be alone. I was fortunate that there were only a few people going to Chicago from Milwaukee at that time of day, and I took a window seat a few rows behind the driver, and no other passenger sat beside me. One small blessing! I think I would have screamed if I’d had to say a word to another human being, at least for a while.
As the bus pulled out, I allowed myself a not-so-small fit of pique at having to be on the bus in the first place. That crazy Elliott! Crazy me for allowing him to commandeer my car to transport those, those, those… stinking reptiles! These thoughts led me to questions I should have had from the beginning: How in the world did Elliott get his hands on two young Komodo Dragons? How did they get from Indonesia, where they are a highly protected and closely controlled species, to India? Did Elliott make a side trip he didn’t tell me about? How, and from whom, did he get permission to bring them to the U.S.? Altogether too many unanswered questions! Elliott would have a lot of explaining to do!
Photo of Young Komodo Dragon by Raul 654
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