He slept past check out time and was awakened by a maid, who he then shooed away, but didn’t sweat it. It was the company’s dime, after all. No sense skipping a shower. He took his sweet time heating the open can of Murray’s pomade on the hot water spraying from the faucet until it was nice and malleable, then massaged it into the scalp of his graying black hair. It was a ceremony he had been performing all his adult life, outside of the war years. Not many hot showers out in the field.
After a quick toothbrush and comb through, he dressed for comfort in black slacks, a white shirt, zippered boots, and a leather jacket, then hustled with his suitcase and hair still wet out of the room and down the elevator to make time for a checkout, maybe find a bagel or something left over from the continental breakfast. He made it as far as the lobby.
It was an old army friend, Bud Allen. The two smiled and shook hands. How long had it been since they saw each other last? Well, how long since the war? Almost 20 years. How odd, to run into each other at a hotel in Seattle of all places. He was from Louisville, where he still lived today, and Bud was from Baltimore, if memory served. Bud offered to buy a late breakfast, and he agreed, just as soon as he settled up with the hotelier.
They ended up at a shiny new diner close to the freeway. He had offered to drive in the rental Cadillac, but Bud insisted on them using his black Buick sedan. He didn’t mind, he had driven far enough, making countless stops across the country as he went.
The two talked about some of what they had seen over the last few years, but more than that they discussed music, and where Jazz seemed to be heading, the things Miles Davis was up to. Bud was the only black man in their unit during the war, and he was pleased to have found not only a white guy in the service who knew the difference between Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong, but a sergeant to boot. Any shit Bud caught, he always made sure he caught the same or more. If there were any sideways glances in the diner at these two breaking bread together, it was just going to have to be their problem.
“I’ve gotta ask you something, and it’s important.” Bud said, sipping his coffee before he moved into some uncharted ground. “I’ve been working for a certain segment of the government, and we want you to come join us.”
His face grew wryly incredulous.
“I know it seems a bit odd, but I stayed on with Uncle Sam after V.J. day, and some dominoes have fallen in a weird way.” Bud continued, “I got a gig that I can’t talk about too much unless you want to get where I’m at. See some serious action again.”
Ben scratched his face, then said “I have no clue what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Well, I can tell you more about it, but we’ve gotta kill you first.”
Can’t wait to see what happens next? Spend a buck.