Part 2: Miss Taken
by Lainie Lee
An Expanded Drabble
Part 2: Miss Taken
Frank La Nez had a fantasy on the walk back to his hotel. He did all the things New Yorkers did when walking in their city, shaking his fist at motorists, stepping around street people and avoiding eye contact with other pedestrians but his mind traveled somewhere else. He didn't really see most of the city anyway, he'd lived there all his life except for college and the army, and much of it had the invisibility of long familiar surroundings.
Instead, he imagined the girl he'd seen in the Little Italian Bistro. He pictured the soft ash blonde of her hair and wondered about her eye color. Her features had made an intaglio on his mind. She had a strong profile but delicate at the same time. Full lips, long pale lashes that brushed her cheek when she blinked. Little pink ears with no earrings at all. Small elegant hands with no calluses from rough work, whoever she was she hadn't had to wash dishes or scrub floors for a living.
He waited for the light to cross Canal. The exit from the Holland Tunnel merged with the wide street only a few blocks a way and traffic was New York heavy, lots of yellow cabs and service trucks, very few private autos. When the light changed, he crossed. A cabbie trying to beat the light to make a turn honked at him but he didn't even notice.
He imagined the blonde as the pampered only child of indulgent elderly parents. She wouldn't be a native New Yorker from the City but from some rural area upstate, or Pennsylvania or the Midwest. Sickly as a child, her parents had spoiled her and still worried about her living in Manhattan.
He knew she liked to read, he'd seen the book she had in hand all the while she'd been eating breakfast -- a romance novel, The Eagle and the Dove by Jane Feather. He touched the bridge of his nose and smiled, thinking about the soft ash blond of her hair, the color of a dove's feather perhaps.
Across Canal, in Tribeca now, a bum approached him; smiling people sometimes gave a few quarters just to avoid spoiling their moods. Frankie ignored the street person with a steely gaze fixed a foot below the smelly man's face and through his breastbone. A look that hard could see the Battery from the steps of the Guggenheim, drilling through fifty blocks of concrete, brick and rebar. The bum flinched.
Frankie didn't notice that either. He'd turned east on Canal, toward what used to be Little Italy and now had been claimed by an expanding Chinatown. He had to zig and zag a bit to get to his hotel. He'd turn south again before the Thai noodle shops and Korean grocery stores made it obvious that the neighborhood he'd grown up in had disappeared. He did like oriental food, though and didn't avoid the place.
He wondered if his blonde liked Asian cooking. He knew she enjoyed good food but had to watch her pennies. She went to CUNY where she studied some soft subject like History or French Literature of the 18th Century. Or Communications, maybe she wanted to be a reporter or a telejournalist. Sure, a lot of college students subsisted on ramen noodles and hot water but she found time and money to eat a nice frittata. She had class, he liked that.
He strode purposefully along the sidewalk; people naturally got out of the way. He didn't have Packy's height but he wasn't a small man and his shoulders still had muscle from working out in the basement gym of his hotel. He'd played football, offensive guard, in high school and college and his nickname hadn't been The Nose then but 'Church', short for churchkey for the holes he'd opened like a canopener in opposing lines.
A few people still called him Frankie Church or just Church. Some of them did it because they'd known him back then, a few more maybe because they thought it was his real name and some because they felt nervous about calling him Frankie the Nose.
He passed a storefront gym and wondered what the blonde would look like in one of those lycra exercise suits the girls wore now. He pictured her in tight fuchsia spandex, breasts pushing out, small waist. Maybe she didn't have such big breasts; he liked them big but she was young. Not too young, eighteen to twenty, he figured, since she attended CUNY. He knew that from the stickers he'd seen on her books.
He knew too, that she had only a slapdash vanity, wearing no makeup on a Tuesday morning and only a simple gold chain around her neck. Her clothes were neat and clean and not cut to show off any figure, that bulky sweatshirt concealing any swell of breast, however large or small, while the shorts revealed those elegant legs. She could be proud of those legs and perhaps she was. Frankie liked them.
He imagined her in high heels and a short cocktail dress, jewels and evening makeup, a hint of some spicy, floral scent around her as they danced, her blonde head resting on his shoulder. He hoped she wasn't taller than he in heels, he'd seen her standing, walking, briefly. Five-foot-seven or eight, he guessed, which would be all right since he stood a fraction over six foot himself.
She didn't have a boyfriend, he knew it. Amazing, but would any man who called her his own not have been with her, not have made sure she had some piece of jewelry he'd bought her to display, not have been sitting with her in a crowded restaurant to deflect the gaze of men more than twice her age? No, she had no boyfriend, had never had one. More amazing, but he didn't stop to consider how he knew such a thing, he just did.
She hadn't even had a watch, let alone an engagement ring or charm bracelet. He planned a detour from the route back to his hotel; he knew of a small jewelry shop just off Lafayette owned by a Lebanese Jew with an Italian wife. Izaak's would have something nice for the tall blonde. He grimaced, he didn't know what color her eyes were, he hadn't seen. Her eyelashes were soft golden curtains hiding them and she had never looked directly at him.
Diamonds then, diamonds would catch the color of her eyes and shine as only diamonds can, crystal rainbows, drops of the sun. Hazel, her eyes were hazel, warm amber with green and golden flecks in them, he suddenly knew. An emerald with diamonds to catch and feed the glow of love; he would buy her an emerald to wear. Izaak would have just the one, true green, not too large but a pure color -- set in a ring with diamonds around it.
Romance novels fascinated the closet sociologist in Davey. Maybe his mom picked the really good ones to put in his book bag but so far he had enjoyed all but one or two of the genre. The better authors, he suspected, did a ton of research and knew a lot about human nature. He paused for a moment to look again at the cover of the one he was currently reading. Set in Spain and Morrocco in the 1400s, it was about a Muslim knight who fell in love with a half-gypsy vagabond girl.
Complicated with treachery and betrayal, imprisonment and escape, he felt sure that things would eventually turn out okay for the two lovers, The Eagle and The Dove -- even if so far the girl seemed reluctant, sort of a given in any romance novel. He smiled, he'd never read one with a sad ending, perhaps they didn't exist.
Right at the point he'd reached in the story, the Muslim guy had just abducted the girl from a camp of gypsies but out of respect for her, he hadn't had them all killed. Davey took a few moments out of reading to think about that. What would it be like to have someone that ruthless, and powerful, willing to do things just because you asked for them but unwilling to give you up to go free?
It didn't occur to him that he'd identified with the heroine of the story, because of course, romance novels are written for a female audience and the reader is supposed to identify with the heroine. It seemed natural, in the context of reading the book to have a male lover, dangerous, passionate and powerful. He actually shivered a bit, thinking about it. Then he took a sip of coffee and re-opened his book, but someone loomed over him and he looked up.
Packy Bellafonte stood six-foot-ten in his stocking feet, nearer seven feet with his specially built orthopedic shoes. Without those size eighteen brogans, his feet would hurt so bad after half a day that he could hardly walk. He had to have all of his clothes tailored, too, Big and Tall just didn't cut it. He didn't believe that love stories should have unhappy endings either, though he had very little experience with anything in the way of romance.
Davey pushed hair out of his face before realizing the shadow on his book wasn't his own. He looked up, and looked up some more and then a bit more -- and another little bit more. For a moment, he thought he might penguin out of his seat, toppled like a tourist trying to see the spire of the Empire State Building. No one that big had ever stood that close to him. His mouth hung open because his jaw hadn't kept up with his eyebrows.
Packy's deeply wrinkled face creased in a smile. Boy or girl, the kid reading the book had a cute face and such a look of astonishment that Packy felt tempted to say, "Ooga-booga," or something similar. He didn't like scaring people who didn't need scaring but the kid didn't look afraid, just surprised.
Larry on the other hand, knew love and infatuation aren't reasonable or temperate and can end in tragedy and misfortune as easily as not. He didn't want his boss embarrassed or disappointed; he'd do practically anything for the old man who deserved some happiness.
The skinny boy with the delicate face of an angel had attracted Frankie's attention and Larry felt that Frankie wanted to believe in beauty and romance. Ordinarily, when Frankie felt the urge for passion after his wife died, he had Larry hire a call girl for him from one of the better Manhattan agencies or get him tickets to Vegas for someone without a City history.
This time was different. Very different. Larry spoke. "I've paid your check, miss. If you would just come with us, someone wants to meet you."
Davey shifted his gaze to Larry's friendly mustache. He hadn't even noticed the mere six-footer standing there until he spoke. "Miss?" Davey said, his voice squeaking a bit. "I think you're making a mistake." He tried to focus on the situation but the man-mountain and the misidentification had him mentally off balance.
Larry smiled, keeping his voice low and still friendly. "Perhaps. But you don't want to make a mistake, do you? It will be very much worth it for you to meet our boss. Please. Packy, get her book bag."
Davey made a grab for the canvas satchel several seconds too late. The giant had scooped up the bag in a paw bigger than Davey's head while the one with the mustache held out his hand as if to help Davey up. It occured to Davey that the two men were dressed like Wil Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and he didn't believe any of it.
"Please, " Larry said again, using the charm and trust he seemed to naturally generate. "Just come with us. Someone wants to do something nice for you."
"Huh?" said Davey. Why would anyone want to do something nice for him? But he stood, reaching for his book bag, his other hand marking his place in his novel with an index finger bookmark.
Packy's face wrinkled up in what he meant as a reassuring smile but looked a little more carnivorous. Packy couldn't help how he looked and it hurt his feelings a little when Davey snatched his hand back. "I'm not going to keep your stuff, miss," he said. "I'll just carry it for you." He held the bag down and opened. "You can put your book away if you want."
"I'm not a miss," said Davey but Packy just stood there holding the book bag out. Davey glanced at the page number in his novel, memorized it, closed the book and put it into the bag. He really didn't like giving up the bag since he actually carried all his money and identification in one of the inside pockets. His mom teased him about his 'purse' but he had never liked sitting on a wallet and since he had to carry all the books anyway....
"Ready?" asked Larry after Davey had gotten rid of the book.
Davey pushed hair out of his face and glanced around. No one seemed alarmed though a couple of small kids stared at the giant. So Davey just nodded and let himself be led out of the restaurant, following Larry with Packy right behind. It didn't feel like a romantic abduction because there were no horses or ships, no moonlit cliffs, no chill night air to raise the hairs on his neck in dread and he didn't have to beg for anyone's life to be spared.
The staff of the Little Italian Bistro didn't even notice the drama, except that it was hard not to notice someone like Packy. Even more, with the big guy around, who noticed much else?
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