‘Sorry it’s not a candle-lit dinner for two,’ I said as we arrived at the hot dog stand around the corner from the hospital. The sun was lower in the sky and the humidity was starting to subside.
‘That’s okay,’ she said, ‘I haven’t eaten since breakfast and this is much better than the hospital canteen.’
‘Once we find the doctor and solve the murders, we’ll hit the town,’ I said speculatively.
‘Sounds good to me,’ she said. I wasn’t expecting her to reciprocate. I hoped she meant it.
I ordered and paid for two hot dogs: mustard and onions for me, ketchup and no onions for her. I took a bite and hoped it would stop the incessant rumbling in my stomach. I took the last bite of my hot dog and ordered a second before I’d finished off the first.
‘Pretty hungry, huh?’ she noticed.
‘I haven’t eaten all day either,’ I said, ‘Actually, I never really eat anything resembling food. If I have one more, it’ll be my first three course dinner in years.’ Agent Simpson laughed at that, which I wasn’t expecting. I had been hoping it would raise a smile though.
‘Someone needs to sort his life out, doesn’t he? Forgive me for being presumptuous but I’m guessing you’re not married. Am I right?’ Agent Simpson asked as she took a bite out of her hot dog. A spot of ketchup stuck in the corner of her mouth. Before I could decide whether to tell her or not, she licked it off. I must have stared at her for a second too long.
‘Well, am I right?’ she asked again.
‘What makes you say that?’ I asked sarcastically. She smiled again. God knows how, but I might actually be close to being charming here.
‘I was married,’ I said.
I decided to tell her. ‘She’s dead.’
Her face was suddenly filled with the look I always see when someone finds out about Sarah, a mixture of sympathy and wishing they’d never brought up the subject in the first place. Before she could say anything, I told her not to worry.
‘It was years ago. I’m over it now,’ I lied, ‘what about you?’
‘Never married. I’ve had a few near misses but I’ve got too much going on in my life. I don’t think I’ve got room for a man.’
‘A career woman, huh? Don’t you want kids? Part of me wants to have kids but another part of me knows that if I can’t even take good care of myself, the kids wouldn’t have a chance.’
‘I’m sure it’ll happen one day,’ she said, ‘there’s plenty of time left for both of us.’
My mind turned to the case. ‘So what the hell are we going to do? How can we compete with those guys today? You know more about this case than I do. Have you got any idea who they were?’
‘No idea at all,’ she replied almost instantly. She was a bit too quick to answer. I tried to push my suspicions to the back of my mind. ‘Whoever they are, they’re obviously well funded.’
‘And well trained. I thought they were military until they started killing cops. The problem now is that we’ve got nothing to go on. We’ve hit a dead end.’
‘Don’t lose heart. We’ll get a break. Silver bullets, remember? There can’t be many places that make silver bullets in this area. And we’ve still got Doctor Forrest to find.’
‘The best lead we’ve got is the doctor’s wife but now that he’s been taken again, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to give us anything that will lead us to him now. I’ve been doing this for years but I still hate all the waiting around.’
‘Because you like to be in control? You don’t want to have to depend on other people,’ she speculated.
I looked at her.
‘Takes one to know one,’ she said and we both smiled.
We both leaned against the wall outside the hospital and shared a moment of peace, lost in our own thoughts as we finished our hot dogs. A cool breeze blew past us as the sun went down.