Inspecting The Inspector
By Robert Lubrican
Copyright 2010 Robert Lubrican
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5| 6 | 7
I dropped my briefcase on the floor beside my desk and sank into my chair. It had been a long (working) weekend, and now it was Monday, and the work would just go on. I was sure Joe Sibliani, my boss, would give me some comp time if I asked for it, but I had four cases pending, and without a partner I wasn't going to be able to look for any slack time soon.
There was a post it note on my computer monitor that said "Happy Birthday - Joe" on it. It wasn't my birthday, so I knew Joe had something for me. The "happy birthday" part wasn't necessarily an indication that I'd like whatever he had. It had better not be another case, though. I knew that. I was already overloaded, and he knew it. The public didn't really understand what cutbacks meant in a government investigative agency. What they meant was that already overloaded public servants - and that's exactly what I was - decided to retire early, thus reducing the ranks of experienced investigators even more, until the whole investigative mission began to implode. And without a watchdog ... well, the wolf rules.
I levered myself up and out of my chair to go see Joe. I felt like I was in my sixties instead of forty-three. That came from too many hours at work, too many hours in the car getting to my next interview or case and back, and too little sleep. And I'm fifteen pounds overweight, but I don't have time to do anything about that.
Joe is just as overworked as the rest of us. He was behind a mountain of paperwork when I stuck my head in his office door.
He looked up. "I didn't bellow. I left you a note. And it was even pink, which I felt was doing my part to spruce up your area and brighten your day."
"I'm overwhelmed at your enthusiasm" I said. "On second thought, I'm only whelmed."
"Well," said my boss, looking grave. "I think you'll change your tune when you see what else I got you. I managed to get you a new partner. Try not to ruin her, OK?"
"Her?" My eyebrows rose.
I have nothing against women in law enforcement, especially the kind we do, which is basically white collar fraud investigations. I was an MP in the Army for seven years, and while I had some great male partners, there is a kind of uncomfortable built in competition between males, even when they're friends. But when you have a female partner, a lot of that competitiveness just disappears. It's easier to be a real team with a woman. Of course there is the potential for sexual tension, but I've found that if there's any attraction to start with, it tends to ease off after you get to know each other well enough. Especially if she's married. I've never married, but I respect the institution. And jealous husbands can kill you just as easily as anybody else.
My surprise was more because fraud investigations don't seem to be a draw for most women. I don't know why. Maybe it's the attention to detail that's required, or the incredible crushing boredom of sifting through a mountain of paperwork to find one tiny clue. It is almost literally like looking for a needle in a haystack. But I've been doing it for sixteen years, and that gives you some perspective and time to refine your techniques. Suffice it to say I've developed a kind of magnet to search for that needle with.
"Yes, her," said Joe. "She's young, but she's motivated. It would be nice if she stayed that way for more than six months. You have a way of wearing down a partner, and I would prefer that in this economic environment, that you refrain from doing that this time."
"I'm not the one wearing anybody down," I said. "It's the job that's wearing people down."
"Don't start with me," said Joe, but there was no heat in his voice. He knew the deal as well as I did. "Just go solve something so I can throw that in the face of the bean counters."
"We're the bean counters," I pointed out, grinning.
He frowned. "I mean the ones who are fucking up our nice, not-so-comfy existence by cutting the funds we have to work with."
"Yeah," I said. "That's what all our customers say about us too."
"Go break in your new partner!" snapped Joe. "And I don't mean break her."
"Do I just get to pick any female I happen to see, or are you going to give me a name?" I asked, looking innocent.
"Kelani Tokorau," he said. "She should be in records, getting the rundown on the forms we use.
"Kelani," I said. "Interesting."
"No it's not. And behave yourself. This girl is young enough to be your daughter."
"I'm starting to get interested," I said, grinning again.
He looked straight at me. "Consider me her father, Bob. And you know how I feel about office romances. Don't make me transfer her. Or you, if she turns out to be as good an investigator as she is a good looking woman."
"Yes sir, Daddy, sir," I laughed. "When was the last time you saw me chasing a skirt around this place?"
"You haven't seen this skirt yet," he grumbled. "Now get out of here. Go solve crime!"
I left and, instead of heading back to my desk, which is what I would normally have done, I went in search of a skirt named Kelani.
I served a tour in Korea while I was in the Army. Korean women don't age well, for the most part. But when they're young, they're amazingly good looking. There is a cultural thing going on which makes a Korean girl act humble and submissive. Trust me. At heart she is anything but submissive. And there is usually some language barrier to overcome, and if you don't understand what your man just said, it's not odd to simply sit and hope that further edification is forthcoming. So a lot of GIs come to the wrong conclusion and snap up the cute young things. Then they take them home to the U S of A where the girl can really flower. Sometimes it even works well for the couple. I know this because I had a lot of soldiers working for me at one time or another who had a Korean wife.
Suffice it to say that the primary lesson I learned was not to assume that that darling, young sloe-eyed girl, who casts her eyes to the floor and smiles and nods, is anything other than a tiger who isn't unhappy at the moment.
This became important when I sauntered into records and saw Millie, our records clerk, showing pieces of paper to a young woman.
Kelani was Oriental.
Then I actually took time to think about the name. Kelani was Polynesian, most likely Hawaiian.
Many among the unwashed masses of maledom think that all slant-eyed women look the same, and behave the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While I'm not an expert on the subject, I was aware that Polynesian women are a little different than Korean women. I haven't known as many of them, only two, in fact, and neither of them well. But the sense I got was that they were more assertive and less subservient on a cultural level to begin with. That culture also ascribes the same level of importance to pleasure that the Koreans do to work. Captain Cook thought that the Polynesian girls were trying to seduce his sailors, when in reality, they were just curious as to whether these white men would make them feel any better than the men they were used to. It wasn't seduction. It was just how they lived their lives. Of course interacting with the white man fucked all that up, but that's another story.
Millie looked up and said something. Kelani turned to look at me.
Korean and Chinese women have round faces. Japanese women have a longer, thinner face, with lighter skin and a more delicate epicanthic fold in the eyes. Chinese and Korean women look sturdy, and are. Japanese women look delicate and fragile, which they can be.
Polynesian women are a mixture of the two, with an oval face and almond-shaped eyes with a tilt that is there, but isn't obvious about it. They are taller than Korean women, but shorter than their Japanese counterparts. Generally, they are shapely and rarely have either flat chests or huge breasts. They look athletic, rather than stout. Kelani was all of those things, though softened somehow. There was a component to her looks that I couldn't classify. She had the requisite thick, blue/black, straight hair that draped down her back, held from misbehaving with a jeweled band. It wasn't a pony tail. It was more like the short train of a wedding gown. Except it was black, of course.
I realized my heart rate had increased from its normal 70 beats per minute to my training heart rate of about 125 bpm.
This girl wasn't merely good looking. She was ravishing ... gorgeous ... incredible. There weren't adjectives of a lofty enough nature to classify her.
I suddenly realized I was in deep, deep trouble. Then I realized I was going to be in even more trouble when the two women staring at me saw the tent that was about to develop in the front of my slacks.
"I'll be in my office when you're finished with her," I said.
Then I turned and hurried to my desk, where I could sit down and hide my growing erection.
Kelani appeared within five minutes. She stood hesitantly in the doorway and looked at me.
The standard setup for a field agent in the D.C. Inspector General's office is a room about twelve by twenty feet, within which there are two standard issue five foot desks, two four drawer file cabinets, two what I call night stands, two desk chairs, and two straight-backed interview chairs. If you're a GS-12 or above, you can usually get a couple of bookshelves. Otherwise you have to supply your own. Toss in the odd personal items of decor and there isn't a lot of excess room. Cover the desk with a computer monitor and keyboard, plus piles of case files and supporting documents, and ... well ... it looks like bureaucratic Hades.
It can be, actually ... but never mind that.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," I said back.
"Uh ... I'm Kelani ... I think we're going to be working together?" Her voice had that lilting accent that many people mistake for British, but which I knew to be Australian. She didn't sound too sure of what she had just said. That's not strange. Being dropped cold into a government operation can be a confusing and even frightening experience. And she couldn't be a day over eighteen, so she had no experience. Except I knew that to be an Agent, she had to be at least twenty-one. Which was patently impossible for this woman.
"Are you an intern?" I asked.
Her cheeks turned pink. "I just graduated from FLETC," she said, her voice suddenly hard. It was the first exhibition of a trait I would see many times in the future, and come to respect.
FLETC, which is pronounced Flet-see, stands for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. It's in Glynco, GA, not far from the Atlantic coast, and is where all federal law enforcement personnel go through basic training. You wear a blue uniform at FLETC if you're in basic training, and are therefore referred to as a Smurf by all the other students. Those other students are already members of the federal law enforcement community, whether it be the Park Service, Border Patrol, Internal Revenue Service, and on and on. The exceptions are the FBI and CIA, which train their Smurfs, or whatever they're called, elsewhere. But even they send their people to the advanced courses at FLETC. Smurfs had it the worst, because they were the not-even-rookies-yet that everybody else looked down on. And it was a demanding course, with a lot of attrition. Which was why people who graduated from Smurf school didn't appreciate being mistaken for mere interns.
"Oh," I said. "You look about seventeen."
"I'm twenty-three!" she said, getting even pinker.
"Well, I'm Bob, and that's your desk," I said, pointing at the other desk in the room. It had at least a hundred and twenty pounds of paper piled on it in manila file folders that were stacked a good two and a half feet tall. "Welcome aboard."
She stood there, looking beautiful.
"Are those my cases?" she asked, sounding a little less sure of herself.
"Those are our cases," I said.
"How many are there?" she asked, sounding awed as she took a couple steps toward the mountain of paper.
"At the moment only four," I said.
"That's four cases?" she gasped.
"Sorry," I said. "I misspoke. There are actually only three on your desk. I'm working on the fourth one here." I patted the three stacks of folders, each a foot tall, that covered a third of my desk.
"That's insane," she said.
"That's the biz we're in," I replied.
"What do I do?" she asked.
Ahhhh. She had just scored a point. Instead of trying to impress me with her self-perceived talents and value, she was willing to ask for direction. It was a good sign. I realized I had just thought about her as a criminal investigator for the first time. That was a good sign too. Then I realized I was staring at her chest.
Oh well. Baby steps.
Actually, it only took Kelani six days to get up to snuff on our cases, which was better than impressive. She was intelligent and had an eye for detail. She asked a lot of questions and had this way of stating "truths" that she then let me either confirm or correct. It was actually quite helpful to me too, because I had to present the cases to her in some coordinated, logical fashion. In the process something jumped out at me in one of them which turned out to lead to the missing piece of the puzzle that solved the case. I actually gave that lead to her as her first lead to run down. Then I used that case for her to learn how to write a final report on and present to the AUSA, which stands for Assistant United States Attorney. He took the case, but only because it was Kelani presenting it. He wanted to keep her in his office for as long as possible, and the only way to do that was to accept the case. I almost laughed, watching him drool over her.
By then we had been working together for two months, and I had learned how to shut my libido down upon command ... sort of. It, meaning my libido, was a little like this mixed breed Black Lab puppy I had when I was a kid. When I came home from school that dog went absolutely ape-shit until I had spent at least ten minutes paying attention only to her. Then she'd calm down and be a normal dog.
When Kelani first arrived in the morning, my libido acted like that dog. I got an erection, had wild, crazy fantasies, and then slowly doused the fire with buckets of reason. Necessity is the mother of invention, so I invented a tradition where, for the first fifteen minutes of each day, we went over what we had done the day before, and what we were planning to do on that day.
While I stayed seated at my desk.
So she couldn't see what she had done to me.
I said it was to make sure we both knew what the other was doing, but it was really just a way to let my vital signs return to normal after the adrenaline rush of seeing her for the first time each day.
I'm serious. She was that good looking.
Still, it was a rocky start for her because we didn't build the normal intimacy between partners that usually happens. I just couldn't take her out to drink beer and shoot pool and chase women. Or merely admire women if he was married. And then there was the sudden influx of visitors to my office with urgent, complicated, time consuming questions. They were all males, of course, and at least half of them were married. Doug Masters is in his fifties, has grandchildren and has been married to the same woman for thirty years, and even he came in and drooled over her. I talked to Joe and he had a meeting, while Kelani was out on an interview, and basically told the guys she had a Samoan boyfriend who was jealous, who had threatened my life, and who was being kept on a short leash by his girlfriend. That was all a lie, of course, but at least the gawkers slacked off and only salivated from afar.
Five months into her probationary year, I knew I had a winner on my hands, and was going to try to keep her as my partner for as long as humanly possible. She was smart as a whip. She had made her own case right there in the office when she saw a janitor struggling with a trash can liner which kept slipping down into the can. She chatted with the guy about it, and he complained that the bags weren't tall enough. So she found the specification sheet on the bags and figured out that all the bags on the rolls in our office were two inches too short. That expanded to all the bags we could find anywhere. It turned out the contractor had set his machines to make the bags two inches shorter than required. It doesn't sound like much, until you realize he was making hundreds of millions of bags and charging the government for all the plastic he wasn't using. Then he used all that extra plastic to make even more bags to overcharge the government for. It turned out to be a fourteen million dollar case, and she made it in less than three weeks, based on chatting with a janitor.
She always stayed in the office as long as I did, which was tough on her because my job was my life. Army life can be hard on a marriage. The closest I had come to getting married was being engaged, and all it took was one tour in Korea for her to find another bed to sleep in. I gave up women for a while, and got spoiled after that, having things the way I liked them, so I never let a woman get close enough again to threaten that.
We were actually catching up with the backlog of cases, and she had only had one of her own cases refused by the AUSA. It was good to have a partner I could hand off to in a tough interview, and one I could trust at my back on a remote Corps of Engineers site where some employee had been skimming from construction funds and our presence announced his imminent long term change of residence from a nice bungalow with a wife and kids, to a four by six prison cell in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Well the cells are bigger than that, I'm sure. But they're in Leavenworth, Kansas, for pity's sake.
So all was going well. That didn't mean it was going routinely. There was still something there that was keeping us from having the same kind of partnership I had had in the past. Think of a wall, erected between two people, who have the magical power to wade through that wall to get to each other. But it slows them down. It's an impediment to free and easy communication sometimes. But you can get through it with some effort.
I don't want to leave the impression that the cases suffered for it. They did not. We worked really well together. But there was this intangible thing there, an invisible elephant in the room, if you will. I'm not explaining this well. It was just different. And it was how I felt about her that made it different.
I wanted to bang her like a drum.
And you're not supposed to feel that way about your partner.
So I erected the wall, to protect her from my base desires. It was for that reason that we didn't know as much about each other as normal partners would. I've had partners I didn't have to talk to at all about a particular subject, because I knew what they thought, and what they'd do in a given situation. That seamless, almost married kind of relationship was what was missing with Kelani and me.
I did know a few things, though. I knew, for example, that she was from New Zealand, rather than Australia. I knew she had graduated from USC with a bachelor's in accounting. We worked out at the same time in the gym sometimes, so I was aware she knew some kind of Kung Fu/Jujitsu/magic stuff that made me completely confident she could take care of herself in a tough situation. She sparred with Jake Whittaker pretty regularly. Jake is a street fighting juvenile delinquent turned law enforcement officer, who took to kick boxing in the academy and held titles. I saw him land a blow on Kelani's head exactly once. She rolled over backwards and came up mad as a wet cat. She kicked the shit out of Jake without actually hurting him at all. Well, his pride was thoroughly bruised, but that was all. After that they just did workout fights, with neither trying to win.
I knew that if she picked up a weapon, she'd be competent with it within three or four rounds. She fired her assigned pistol like she'd been born with it in her hand.
Kelani knew I was ex-military and had been in the unit for almost seventeen years. She saw me lifting weights and working out, so she knew I was in decent shape. I didn't run anymore, because running had taken its toll on my knees. I swam instead, though not enough to shed those fifteen pounds.
But the list of things we didn't know about each other was prodigious. I saw her eat many different kinds of food, but had no idea what she preferred. I intentionally avoided asking about her love life, because I knew if I found out some guy was tapping that regularly, I'd end up wanting to kill myself. Or him. At least for a day or two. And she never asked me about my dating life. She knew I wasn't married, but that was all.
We didn't know what each other's hobbies or off work interests were. We didn't know what stores the other shopped at. We didn't know where the other lived. I didn't know if she drank beer or not.
It was a little like stories I had read, written by Isaac Asimov, where a human detective worked with a robot detective. They were a great team, but there was no real chemistry between them.
And that was our status when Joe assigned us the case that changed both our lives.
These days, if Joe had a case to assign us, he didn't necessarily call me in as the senior Agent on the team. If I wasn't there, he'd brief Kelani on it and give her the file. When I got back, more often than not, she'd already have it broken out as to what needed to be done immediately, and what could wait until we had more time. And that's what happened with the Great Divide National Park case. Joe called Kelani in, while I was out getting our lunch and gave her the file. When I got back she had her elbows on the desk, fists supporting her cheeks, reading.
"This guy is an idiot," she said.
"What you got?" I asked, handing her a bag with a double cheeseburger and large fries in it. I also extended a cherry limeade.
"You ever heard of the Great Divide National Park?" she asked.
"Nope," I said.
"Well it's in the Rocky Mountains, and they have this rustic camping operation up there. It's on government land, but run by a contractor. The only way in or out is by horseback. Snowmobile in the winter. But once you get there, they have most of the comforts of home. They have a dining room, for instance, where you can take your meals. Or you can take a plate back to your cabin."
"Okay," I said, munching on my own food, fries, in this case.
"The manager requisitions all the supplies, but the government pays for them. He's been going through enough food to feed more people than the camp will accomodate. He's been doing that for the last four years."
"And let me guess, the camp hasn't been completely filled during those four years," I said.
"Half-filled most of the time," she said. "It was being looked at to cut because not enough people were using it. That's when somebody noticed all the food going in there and notified us."
"What kind of food?" I asked.
"Steaks, prime rib, lobster, king crab, fresh fruits and vegetables, you name it."
"Haven't got that far yet," she said. "Some of it gets used up legitimately. And they get it in by chopper. Can we count transportation costs?"
"Not usually," I said. "It's going to have to be the value of the supplies we suspect are being diverted, and it's going to have to be more than twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars for the AUSA to even look at it."
"That shouldn't be a problem," she said. "Just my preliminary look suggests it's going to be at least half a million."
"For food?" I was surprised.
"There are other supplies too. He's gotta be selling it on the side. I suppose he could be letting some people come in for free, but like I said, even if the camp was full, they couldn't use that much stuff."
"Joe give us any direction?"
"As a matter of fact, he did," she said. "Some Senator's wife is on the board of Friends of the National Parks and she's all upset about this."
"That's not direction," I said. "That's just notice that it's going to be a pain in the ass."
"Maybe," she said. "But that's why he wants us to go undercover and visit the camp."
"How do you want us to work this?" I asked Joe. Kelani was standing right beside me.
"Take a bunch of camping gear and go as husband and wife," said Joe, shrugging. "How else would you handle it?"
Images of camping with Kelani distracted me a bit.
"Just go camping?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Joe. "You can be a businessman who has defense industry contracts, and Kelani here can be your trophy wife. They'll buy that. I know you can handle yourself in the wild." He looked at my partner. "You done any camping?"
She laughed. "More than you could ever imagine," she said. "I can play that role, no problem."
"Okay then, problem solved. You two go up there, stay a week, find out where that stuff is going and whether the records match events on the ground. If it's obvious, just bust him then and there. Call us and I'll have the U.S. Marshals come in and get you or something. And if you need time to make the case, then just go home like all the other campers and finish the case when you get back. It ain't rocket science, Bob."
And, just like that, Kelani was my trophy wife and we were going camping together for a week somewhere in the mountains.
We had to rent a car, because of the amount of gear we'd have to haul, which included sleeping bags, back packs with clothing for a week and various other crap which we honestly didn't know if we'd need or not. There was just too much of it to fly with. We included my lock picking tools, cuffs and weapons. That part was risky, because the flier advertising the "adventure experience" specified in no less than four places that no weapons were allowed. I didn't think they'd actually go through our stuff, though. I threw in several cameras. They would be expected, and we could use them to document various aspects of the case, including paperwork we didn't want them to know we had copies of.
We gave ourselves two days to get from D.C. to the park. It would take most of another day to trail ride up to the camp, according to the information we'd received when we booked the trip. Then a week of beautiful scenery, fantastic fishing and all the wildlife we cared to photograph. Evenings provided entertainment of various kinds, from fish fries to mountain music, performed by staff members, to soaking in the hot tub while the air got frosty around you. And it only cost about half of what a week on a cruise ship in the Caribbean would run. Per person, of course.
We made it to St. Louis the first evening, and checked into an economy motel. Per diem was covering everything, but we were expected to make it stretch, since we made cases on everybody else exploiting it. Kelani did most of the driving the first day and, to be honest, I caught up on sleep. As such we didn't spend a lot of time chatting.
I was the only partner she'd ever had, so she wasn't really aware that most cops have a bond with their partner that is almost closer than the husband/wife bond. Of course in our business we weren't chasing crooks down alleys all that often, and I'd only pulled my gun once in sixteen years. Even then it had been because there were five bad guys, and just one of me to arrest them all, because my partner was stuck on the other side of a locked door. So the feeling of having each other's life in our hands wasn't at the forefront of our working relationship. I was more the mentor, and she was the bright up and coming star pupil at that point. We hadn't spent hours on surveillance together or smelled each other's farts and all that stuff.
So when we checked in and started toward adjacent doors to adjacent rooms, and she said "Where we eating tonight?"
I said "What makes you think I know anything about St. Louis?"
She nodded and said "I'll figure something out. Be ready in twenty minutes."
I left my jeans on, but changed shirts, putting on a button down. As I put my arm through the sleeve I felt a twinge of pain from the scar under my right arm where an Iraqi bullet had taken a chunk of one rib and some flesh out during Desert Storm. It was why I'd gotten out of the Army with seven years in and gone to work for the IG's office in Washington. I was pretty sure that when George H. stopped us before we got to Baghdad and actually conquered that fucking country, that we'd see old Saddam again. And the next time he'd know what to expect from the United States Army. I don't mind sacrificing for my country, but I want it to count for something, you know?
I heard the tap on my door and checked my watch. It had only been eighteen minutes, but I wasn't going to quibble. I opened the door and almost closed it again.
Kelani was dressed in skin tight leather pants, below a tank top that made it completely clear that she wasn't wearing a bra. Her hair was now in a thick pony tail that swished just exactly like a pony's tail would. She had on sunglasses, and hoops now hung from earlobes that I had no idea were pierced.
"You ready?" she asked.
"For this?" I asked, out of breath, my eyes darting all over her body. "You must be joking."
"I take it I look like a trophy wife then?" She grinned.
"Call the paramedics, because I'm having the big one!" I gasped, and then clutched at my chest.
"Don't overdo it," she chided. "You're supposed to be used to this, remember?"
"Darling," I said, dropping into my role as her older husband, "It would take me thirty years to get used to this."
"Thank you!" she said, still grinning. "I worked hard picking this outfit."
"Please tell me that's not what you brought to wear camping," I said.
"Oh, I have more," she said. "But it's summer, and it's hot. Most of what I brought is pretty much the same. I thought I was supposed to be a young hottie who bagged an old fart."
"I'm not an old fart!" I complained.
"Of course not," she said too quickly and with almost no credibility. "Should I go shopping for better clothes while we're here?"
"Uh ... no," I said. "It will be fine. In fact, it will work out very well. Everybody will be watching you, and nobody will pay any attention to what I'm interested in at all."
"If you think so," she said. "Remember, I'm new at all this."
"I'll remember," I said, looking over her shoulder to avoid letting my eyes drop to stare at breasts that were free as birds inside that skimpy tank top. "We'll go over things tonight. You'll be ready."
"Okay ... good," she said. "You ready to go? I'm starving."
She led the way to the car and I took the opportunity to reach down inside my waistband, grab my cock and pull it straight up. It would be less visible that way. My eyes never left the undulating ass cheeks packed into that black leather as she walked. I saw she'd put on heels that had maybe two or three inch spikes. They accentuated the hip roll. I could have watched her walk for hours. She turned and tossed me the keys.
"I drove all day. Your turn. I'll navigate."
A car rolled by, full of young men who all leaned out of the windows of the car and catcalled to her. She calmly flipped them off. I was astonished. I had seen Kelani work, and her interaction with suspects and witnesses was good, but quite ordinary. I realized I'd never seen her in a social setting until now. We were out on the street, and she was acting like any other good looking girl going out to eat.
She consulted a piece of paper that looked like a map.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked.
"I printed it off," she said.
"On what?" I asked.
"I brought my laptop and the small printer, remember?" she said.
"Oh ... yeah." The printer was one of the things we didn't know if we'd need or not, but wanted along just in case. It had already proved its worth. She used it to guide me to a German restaurant I'd never have found if not for the map.
"You like German food?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said. "I've never had any. That's why I wanted to come here."
I'd done a tour in Germany. Jaeger schnitzel with bratkartoffeln - fried potatoes - was on my list of all-time favorite foods.
The design of the place was pure American, but the food I could see on the plates we passed as the girl led us to a booth looked authentic. The place smelled good too. They had European beer glasses, which meant big, and I saw one full of amber liquid with that hazy yeasty look of good German beer. My mouth was watering as we sat down across from each other. The waitress left menus and Kelani flipped hers open and then put her elbows on the table and rested her cheeks on the heels of her hands. She was leaning forward, and the tank top let me see the inside swells of her nut-brown breasts.
I salivated even more.
"What funny names for things," she muttered. "I can't tell what anything is."
"I'll translate," I said.
I asked her a few questions and suggested she try Schweine schnitzel, with Spaetzle noodles. I was going to get the potatoes, so if she wanted something less bland than the noodles we could swap portions. When I asked her if she drank beer she nodded in the affirmative.
The waitress came back and I gave her the order, adding a stein of Schwartzbier and another of Weissbier, so that we'd have two tastes at the table, light and dark, and she could choose which she liked better.
She kept looking at the menu, asking questions, and I kept looking down her shirt. The waitress brought the beer, but Kelani ignored both glasses. Finally she closed the menu, looked at both glasses of beer, and chose the amber colored one. I left the Schwartzbier where it was so she could taste it too.
She took a good swig, swallowed, and smiled. "I like that a hell of a lot better than Coors."
"It's the difference between plain water and strong tea," I suggested.
"No, it's just better tasting beer." She smiled. I told her to try the other and she took a swig of it. "That's good too. I'm glad I found out about German beer."
An hour later we both sat back, stuffed, but happy. She was nursing her second beer, and I was on my third.
"I could get used to this," she sighed.
"All of it," she said. "It's nice not to be in the office. It's nice to get really good food. I like going under cover."
"Yeah ... well, it's not necessarily all Schnitzel and beer," I said. "Not that I anticipate this mission is going to turn out to be dangerous, but sometimes it all goes to shit and your ass is hanging in the wind, and all you can think of is how great it would be to have the four boring walls of your office around you again."
"Maybe," she said. "But I'm going to enjoy it until that happens."
I waved at the waitress for the bill. "That's as good a plan as any," I said.
When we left the restaurant, traffic had died down, and getting around in the city was easier. For that reason I asked if she wanted to do any sightseeing. We basically drove east until we got to the Mississippi River, using the big, silver arch St. Louis is known for as our guide. The Arch itself was pretty impressive. It looked too sleek and too thin to go that high up into the air, unsupported by any exterior wires or cables. There was a riverboat docked nearby, ablaze with lights. A sign said it was a floating casino.
Had I been with one of my previous partners, we might have stopped and gambled a while, getting drunk and trying to pick up women. With Kelani in the car, though, I just headed back to the motel.
I took one last look at her, fixing her look in my mind, and we went to our rooms.
I jacked off, remembering what she looked like, and then fell asleep.
Since I still had the keys to the car, I knocked on her door in the morning and took my stuff on down. I started the car and found a public radio station to listen to Morning Edition on while we started the day. I didn't figure she'd want to talk. I hoped things wouldn't be strained between us. We were turning into a pretty good team, and I wanted that to continue.
She came out of her room dressed in hiking shorts with cargo pockets on them, and a long sleeved sweat shirt. She had fabulous legs, if you like legs with muscles on them, and I did. She tossed her stuff in the back seat and slid into her bucket, fastening her seat belt automatically.
"Hit it!" she said.
I saw a Dunkin' Donuts with a drive through and that gave us something to get out of town on. We were heading west on I-70, which rapidly took us into rolling hills to the west of St. Louis. Traffic was light. We lost the public radio station an hour later. About all I could find was country music or loud preachers. There was a sprinkling of oldie rock stations, but I wasn't in the mood, so I just turned the radio off.