No spoilers just a taste from Wild Bill, to show a book that’s generally serious in tone can have some fun, too.
Ben Borowski had the blues.
“You gonna tell us what’s up, or not?” Will tipped back his chair, heels on the desk. Eleven o’clock, and Ben hadn’t said ten words all day. Will had mixed emotions about drawing Ben out. Most days he’d be thinking up a fake call to get him out of the office, shut him up for a few minutes. “What happened? One of the dancers at Heavenly Bodies say you looked like her dad?”
The look from Ben stopped Will rocking his chair. He suppressed most of a grin, gave anyone in the office who wanted to listen time to gather. “Come on, Benny. Out with it. You know we’re not going to let it rest until you tell us.”
Ben glanced around the room, saw the usual suspects. Amanda Dalrymple. Fa, already turning a chair around so he could lean on the back to listen. Couple of guys from the Sal Enna team, in to compare notes. Will waved to Mike Satriale, on the phone in his office. Satriale ignored him, already in an animated discussion. Will extended his right arm in Ben's direction, wagged three fingers toward himself.
“Last night’s my night to take Shannon to dinner, right?” Ben divorced a year; his four-year-old daughter lived with the ex. “We go to Fuddruckers so she can mutilate her food and eat half an ounce of meat. Her mother’s on a vegetarian jag this month and it’ll piss her off when she hears where we went. So we walk out and there’s this Starbucks across the street, and Shannon wants one of those cookie things—what do they call them?—biscottis? Something like that. I think they taste like stale bread, but she loves them. I say, fine, I’ll get a hot chocolate, get her some milk to wash the thing down. We’ll be ten minutes late getting home. Not a crisis.”
“Why’d you get hot chocolate?” Fa said. “It was eighty degrees yesterday.”
“What else am I going to get? Coffee’s just as hot.”
“Iced coffee, Ben.” Amanda tilted her head, made a “yummy” face. “That iced shaken coffee is to die for.”
“Or iced tea, even,” Fa said.
“Or pop.” Will enjoyed having help to agitate Ben. Amanda and Fa were working out just fine. “Don’t they sell pop there?”
Ben faced all three for a second each, not sure where to start. He chose Will. “Not like you mean. They have stuff they call pop, but it’s not like anything I ever drank. I like hot chocolate, okay? If it makes you feel any better, let’s say I had an iced tea. Now can I tell the story you couldn’t live without?”
“Iced tea and biscotti?” Fa learned fast. “You serious?”
“I’m not eating the fucking biscotti. Shannon is. I’m just getting something to—”
“You’re not going to eat anything?” Will said.
“I just ate at Fuddruckers. Do you want to hear the story or don’t you?”
“Yes, we want to hear the story,” Will said. “You’re just doing a shitty job telling it, is all.”
Ben waited for quiet, checked every face in turn. The two agents from the Enna squad stood against the wall with semi-suppressed smiles. Ben’s stories were legend, especially with Will to disrupt them.
“We’re in there, Shannon’s eating her cookie—with some cold, white, whole, Vitamin D milk,” Ben said, glaring at Will when it looked like he might interrupt. “I’m drinking my hot chocolate—I mean iced tea—and this little girl from the next table starts talking to Shannon. I don’t pay much attention—it’s two little girls, they’re getting along—then the mother turns around to see what the kids are up to, and she’s hot. Long, black hair, beautiful face, pouty lips, nice, snug sweater over a great rack. I’m thinking she might be a little young, then I’m thinking she’s old enough to have a kid the same age as mine, what the hell?
“I start talking to her, work it around so she knows I’m with the Bureau—nice, stable, profession, background check already done—and I find out she works at Hooters on Wells Street. I start to say she’s perfect for it, but I catch myself in time.” This spoken to Amanda, who nodded approval. “Turns out she’s seen me in there, recognizes me once we get to talking.”
“She should,” Fa said. “You’re probably there more than she is.”
Everyone laughed but Ben. “So we talk. She’s a graduate student at DePaul, English Literature or English History. English something, I don’t remember.”
“I bet you’d remember if it was written on her sweater,” Amanda said. More laughter. Amanda blushed like a kid saying something clever her first time at the grown-up table for Thanksgiving. Ben started to weaken. He was in trouble if even Amanda could tee him up.
“So I ask what she’s doing in Starbucks, and she says she’s waiting for her mother so mom can sit the rug rat while Shelley—that’s the young mother’s name, Shelley—goes to work.”
“Thanks, Ben,” Will said. “I was about to offer twenty bucks if you could remember her name.”
Ben flashed him the finger. “Just then grandma walks in. Nice looking woman. I guess she would be, with a daughter who looks like this girl I’m talking to. We get introduced, and I’m thinking this is great. I get a chance to be nice to Mom, show some respect, this is moving right along.”
Ben stopped, tasted some of his cold, not iced, coffee. Blew his nose. Tied a shoe. Then the other one.
Will said, “Ben.”
Ben said, “So Grandma looks at me kind of funny, and says, ‘Ben Borowski? Are you with the FBI?’ And I’m thinking, sweet, somehow she knows I’m a respected law enforcement professional—” loud coughing from the audience, including the two visitors "—this can’t help but be a good thing. So I say, ‘Yes, that would be me,’ and Grandma says, ‘You don’t recognize me, do you? You took me to my sorority dance at Northwestern when Danny Connolly got sick at the last minute. We were both juniors.’ ”
The room erupted. Agents came from other rooms to see what all the noise was about, stood with confused faces while Ben’s audience wiped tears from their eyes.
“I tell you,” Ben said, “if that’s not a dick shriveler, nothing is.”