Fuck-Ups & Looking in Oranjestad:
We'd been in there all night. Gerold and I drank from the after-hours to the pre-hours and into the first of the next day's opening hours at Jurgen's Tavern. Palling with the Deputy Police Commissioner has its perks.
It's around 10:30am when Gerold finally slaps me on the back with a "Breakfast!". He spins off his stool and clomps his way out the front door. I follow, not much in the mood for breakfast. We stride down the street. Gerold's greeted with several passing "Morning, sir" and "Good day, sir" hellos. Gerold responds to them all with the same disinterested wave of his hand and a "Yah, yah, hey", rarely even looking to see who he was addressing.
We step into a hotel I don’t catch the name of and pass through the lobby. Gerold turns to me, points to the surroundings as we walk into the hotel's restaurant and says "Historical landmark, don’t piss on anything." I tell him I make no guarantees. He responds with "I warn you. Is all I can do."
Gerold breezes by the maitre 'd, weaves through the buzzingly occupied tables to an empty one in the back corner. He plops down in his seat, the corner of the restaurant to his back and all the activity laid out in front of him.
"Here." He kicks the chair next to him away from the table. "Sit."
And I do.
Gerold stares at the space between him and the table. He wobbles a little bit, dips a little more.
I tell him we didn't get menus when we strode past the-
"Doesn’t matter," he says.
A well-groomed, fresh-faced, tuxedoed waiter glides up to our table.
Gerold holds up two fingers. The waiter gives the quickest, slightest bow and whisks away.
"What was that?" I ask him.
"Is the coffee good here?"
He gives a thumbs-up, eyes still locked on the nothing between him and the table. My face starts to feel simultaneously tight and saggy. I tell Gerold I may have had too much to drink.
"Coffee," he says again. "Breakfast."
As I tell him I've never had a breakfast that sobered me up on the spot, our shiny, polished waiter delivers two bowls and two small carafes of milk to our table. I look at my bowl: dry, dark beans.
Gerold grabs his carafe of milk, pours it over his beans, digs in with a spoon and starts crunching away.
"What is this?" I ask him.
I pick one of the beans out of my bowl and sniff it. It is coffee.
He points at my bowl with his spoon, still crunching on a dark-roasted mouthful and says "Eat it."
When in Aruba, do as the Dutch.
I’m just starting to enjoy my breakfast when lightning strikes the empty chair next to me in the form of a strong-jawed but feminine brunette with the palest blue eyes I've ever seen. She begins rifling off what sounds like questions in Dutch to Gerold. Some of his answers are simple grunts, some are shakes of his head, but most of them are shrugs. Finally the brunette stops and looks over at me with those pure, pale blue eyes. I had been sobering up but her look whaps me with a good one in the center of my gut… it feels good for now, but I know the feeling… and it always ends up hurting something awful later on down the road.
She extends her hand, palm tilted downward: the handshake of a person who’s used to taking control.
"Arlene," she says. "I’m an attorney at Promes Van Doorne."
I shake her hand.
"As in Arlene Ellis-Schipper, former Head Secretary of the Public Prosecutor’s Office?"
She arches her eyebrows.
We both know she doesn’t have to answer the question.
"I’m J.J. Oblivian," I say. "I write for the Los Angeles Ext.Sub. Press."
I start to let go of her hand but she gives the slightest squeeze to let me know the shake's not over yet.
"What else do you know about me, Mr. Oblivian?" she asks.
"That the Ellis in Ellis-Schipper is your husband's last name."
Her eyes narrow.
She slowly lets go of my hand. I've been here less than 24 hours, I don't need to start making enemies with powerful lawyers just yet. I smirk to defuse the tension. I think it works. She doesn't smile but the corners of her eyes tell me she wants to.
"I'd better get back to my office and check my legal texts," she says.
"Why's that?" I ask.
"That smile of yours just might be against the law."
I try to keep the barbed flirtations going with: "Well, that line should be." Shit. I fucked it up in two seconds. I smirk again… maybe… just maybe… Nope. Iciness.
"Just joking," I tell her.
"Hmm, well, our jokes in Aruba are funny. Just look at Gerold."
I do look at Gerold: he shrugs, his concentration still on his breakfast.
"Mr. Oblivian," Arlene farewells as she rises from the table.
"Mrs. Ellis," I respond.
That puts a hiccup in her step as she walks away.
"What did she want?" I ask Gerold.
He shrugs as he uses his tongue to pick something out of his teeth.
"There were a lot of words coming out of her mouth when she first sat down."
"Bah," Gerold says as swats the air in front of him, "I stopped listening to people two days ago."
He gets up from his chair.
"Must get to work, later we will get together. Don't pay for breakfast, is already okay."
As he's walking away from the table I ask "Get together where?"
Without turning around he answers "I'll find you."
As I watch Gerold stride out into the lobby, I notice that he now looks 100% sober and fully refreshed. I finish my bowl of beans and begin to feel rather okay, myself.
As I step out of the hotel I hear a "ssst". I look around and then another "sssst" followed by a whispered "American". To my right is small native boy, the color of my breakfast, hiding behind one of the columns that decorate the front of the hotel. The boy motions for me to walk towards him, again whispering "American".
I walk over and ask "What's the problem, kid?"
"I know where the body, the girl, I know where she is."
"Good for you."
"Really, I find her. No one else knows. I show you for five dollars."
"Why me?" I ask.
"You want to see or not?"
I look into the sun blanketed, windy street as I mull over my options. I take a five dollar bill out of my pocket, tear it in half and hand part of it to the boy. I hold up my half:
"If you're full of shit, I'm gonna leave with both halves."
"You will see, I am true, I will leave with both. This way."
And he scampers down the street.
Originally Printed on 7/8/05
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