A Bite to Eat (Part II)
It was raining as Brent got off the trolley – the sort of icy, early-spring rain that goes down your back and makes you shiver. He tried not to think about it as he hurried the half block to the restaurant. He’d thought of driving, but that could be a tricky business in Philadelphia, and besides, he wasn’t sure he wanted his car spotted. Anyway, the trolley made enough stops on Girard Avenue that he’d gotten off closer to the restaurant than he would have if he’d tried to park.
Brent pushed open the door of Happiness Noodles and walked in. Breathing in the aromas of peanut oil, rice, noodles and scallions, he looked around. Good, Paulie wasn’t there yet. But Brent knew he would be. He’d been following Paulie off and on since Shane’s funeral. Now he found a table and sat down, back to the wall. Five minutes later, the door swung open again and Paulie walked in. Shaking his hair a little to shed the rain, he took a seat at a table about ten feet from where Brent was sitting. For the next forty minutes, Brent kept pace with Paulie as he ordered and then ate.
Tamsin wasn’t entirely sure she could do this. She’d only been to the States once before, so just getting used to everything again was hard enough. And this on top of it was only adding more stress. But she’d felt terrible for Brent when his cousin was killed. She’d promised him she’d help if she could. Then he’d called her and told her what he wanted.
‘Why do you need me?’ she had asked him, ‘You can do this without me.’
‘I know, but you were there. You saw what happened. I figured – I don’t know – you might want to.’ He was right about that, anyway. She did feel a part of it all. He’d paid for her plane ticket and hotel, too. And what he wanted wasn’t very hard – nothing to it, really. She’d be on her way back to the UK tomorrow and that would be that. She squared her shoulders, took a breath and got ready.
When Brent saw that Paulie was done, he stood up and walked past his table. Then he turned back, making sure he got close. Paulie looked up, ‘Do I know you?’
‘Maybe. I think you knew my cousin, Shane. Shane Donato.’
‘Oh, yeah, I heard about that. Damned shame.’
Paulie got up and Brent walked with him to the door, draping an arm over Paulie’s shoulder. ‘I appreciate it, man.’ he said.
Paulie shrugged. ‘Whatever.’ They shook hands, walked out the door, and then went in opposite directions.
Two mornings later, Brent stood outside of the building where he knew Leo had his office. He thought about changing his mind, but decided against it. He went inside, looked at the panel of names and office numbers on the building’s directory, and tapped his finger on the one with Leo’s name. A few minutes later, he stood at Leo’s office door. Leo was sitting in what was probably an expensive leather chair. Paulie stood by the window looking down on to the street below.
Leo looked up, his eyes narrowing. ‘Yeah?’
Paulie turned around and looked at Brent. ‘You know who this is, Leo? It’s Sal’s nephew.’
Leo half rose in his chair. Behind him and to the left, Paulie smirked maliciously.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ Leo asked. ‘Are you a moron or something?’
Brent held his hands up to show they were empty. ‘I wanted to bring you something. Something I think might interest you.’
‘Yeah? And why should you want to interest me?’
Brent reached into his pocket and pulled out a telephone. He laid it on the desk in front of Leo.
‘What’s this?’ Leo asked.
‘There’s a video on it you should see. I’ve already got it up there. All you have to do is press ‘Play.’’
Leo raised an eyebrow, but swiped his finger over the screen. Then he pressed ‘Play.’ His face darkened as he watched what was on the screen.
‘What the hell is this, Paulie?’
‘What do you mean?”
‘I mean, I see this video of you talking with this kid.’ He gestured at Brent. ‘You know what his family did to me!’
‘But I didn’t! I mean, I saw him, but that’s it.’ Paulie looked at Leo’s face. ‘I swear!’ he insisted.
Leo’s eyes glittered. He played the video again, watching as Brent threw his arm around Paulie’s shoulder and shook his hand. Tamsin had done good video work. He looked at Brent. ‘You got balls, kid. Now, go home and forget this.’
Brent didn’t need to be asked twice. He nodded once and left the room, stopping in the men’s room to be sick on his way out of the building.
A week later, Tamsin was settling back into her routine of work and writing. She thought about Brent from time to time, but he’d told her it might be a while before he got in touch. One afternoon, she was going through her reading list, ticking off the novels that she’d finished, when her new telephone buzzed – an incoming email. She picked it up, opened up her email app and saw that the note was from Brent. It contained a link to an article in a Philadelphia online newspaper:
‘The body of 42-year-old Paul Richardson was found in his car early this morning….’
Brent had added only one line to the link:
‘Guess it worked. And thanks.’
Tamsin put her telephone back down on her desk. She picked it up and put it down again. She stared into space for a moment. Should she do it? Why not? Her tutor had told her that she’d write a better novel if she could tap her own experiences. She nodded her head once, picked up her ‘phone for the third time and sent Brent an email.