Her given name was Delicia Martinez Pau, but nobody had called her anything but Deli since her older brother Gabo hung it on her as a baby. But it was strictly co-incidence that Lori and Polo had hired her to work the counter at the Blue Iguana, serving up bagels and sliced lox to gringos who missed delicatessen delights. So of course she was now Deli del Deli. And had an eye for gringos.
And something about that pair sitting out front on the wooden sidewalk caught that eye. Couple of fashion models had been her first peg, statuesque black Catwoman and hunky Mr. BlueEyes. Then she’d watched them move around a little, browsing the shelves, checking out the glass-front cooler, and she was thinking more like, athletes. He’s the no-nonsense relief pitcher who can also hit for the cycle, she’s a dirtywork power forward in that black woman’s basketball league they have in the states. But now, watching them eat and talk, and the way they watched everything else, her big thought was: cops.
“Not bad at all,” Aphra was saying, sitting out front with all the little golf carts and scooters and mini-trucks passing by like they were hanging in LegoTown. “But I heard the food’s really special over there in that Mango place.”
“I just can’t see waiting in line to get into a place that’s crowded,” he answered, methodically munching his turkey breast on egg bread.
Aphra would have couched it in terms more like, “lines are for chumps”, but she nodded in agreement. Matter of fact, she was finding the guy extremely agreeable. And damned sexy. You know, for a man. “They said come by Monday night for Jamaica jerk barbecue.”
“It’s a date.” He looked at her a second as he said it. Was that what it was?
“Be sure to remind me.” She’d moved past any doubt this guy was after her ass, and not in the usual way. Just a feeling. It’s smarter than street-smart, her Momma had told her: it’s bush-smart. You work the street, it’s a good thing you stay a little bushy. And her vibe was telling her that bush wasn’t what this cat was after. Although, he was starting to get a little gleam in his baby blues. And she’d thought sitting around her waiting for her jack-girls to show up with her intel was going to be boring.
And she might as well make the most of the wait because it wasn’t going to be quick and simple. The tracking unit she’d put in the camera for MeiMei–figuring it for the one thing she’d hang onto, no matter what–had been coming home to Mummy just fine. Then it had stopped for a few hours and headed south again. So Aphra had grabbed one of those fucking golf carts and gone to check out the last place it sent from on land. Some house with a dock on the water down by Garrafon. Crawling with cops.
Then it was out in the bay, screwing around, at a standstill. Before heading over towards the mainland. Would she come back up, bring it on home to me? Who knows? One thing she’d figured out, using some super-sneaky software off the crypted terrabyte USB flashdrive that passed as a tribal necklace when not plugged in to a computer, was that the current posture of the sending unit was consistent with something floating inertly in the current. Damn. Well, nothing to do but wait and see if those little bitches could get their boat turned around and hump it on home.
Meanwhile, there was this mega-cute guy sitting there, everything he said to her making sense: not her usual experience while chatting with square breeders. It’s almost like they were in some club, waiting until it was okay to flash the secret handshake. Guy called himself Roger Parker. Likely freaking story.
Meanwhile, Roger Parker, aka Townsend Hardley, was having similar feelings about the situation. He’d been around this woman three times and each time felt more like she was the only woman he’d ever met that he could talk to. She was a colleague, really. And damn good at the craft, apparently. The idea of having a woman he could talk to about the big features in his life and be understood, have a conversation between equals while lying in bed together, just floored him. What would that be like?
It was the first time he’d ever had any sort of attraction of the human kind for anybody he was working. Of course he was still young: his old man had apparently fucked everybody he came into contact with. And that’s who was kind of on his mind here: another topic that got under his skin but he couldn’t talk about to anybody.
“Well, I’m doing okay in my work,” he told her. Which he’d said was “Information consultant.” And it was actually true, wasn’t it? “But thing is, my father was kind of a legend in the same field. I get around older guys and I feel like they’re talking to me as extension of him. Like he’s throwing a big shadow over everything I do.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” And she did, that’s what was weirding both of them out. “Except it was my Momma who was the stuff of legends. And everybody around her seemed to just be waiting for me to grow up and be a pale copy of her. I might as well have been called ‘Junior’.”
“So how do you deal with it?”
“Got out from under, hon. Went my own way. She got nothing to do with what I’m doing now, communications facilitator.” True also, no? In the same way.
“I’ve considered that, but I really like what I do. It’s really who I am. And all I really know.”
“I hear that. And I know other stuff. But I’d be bored shitless being an exec or model or whatever. Porn star.”
She was smiling when he glanced at her. “Well, I considered that, of course,” he said, “But they took me so low in the draft…”
“I had plenty of offers, believe me,” she said. “Some from my Momma’s friends and colleagues, too. Makes you wonder. But I didn’t have to change what I was doing, just took it down the street, you know? Highest bidder. Then went indie.”
“That’s crossed my mind.” Hell, it had been burned into his mind on a couple of occasions. Double up, triple up, work for a cartel, for the Mob, for some Wall Street asshole. “But, I don’t know. I guess I plan on just growing up and making a bigger name than Pops.”
Hmmm. There was something to be said for that one. But you didn’t really make a name in the private spy gig.
“Well, at least you learn a lot when you’ve got ‘rents’ in the field, huh?”
She sure had. All sorts of useful shit around the house, Debra’ boyfriends du jour falling by with their guns and berets and rad-rap. Talking to me some in between jamming Mammy. Talk about a glass ceiling, though. Stokely-who she had a brother named after, by the way–always said that a woman’s position in the Movement was “prone”. Not supine, you notice. Gotta have that fine ass up top.
“Yeah, there’s that,” Townsend acceded. Dandled on the knees of killers and cold warriors, picking up the lingo and tips as he got older. Realizing later that some of his conversations with some of his dad’s butthole buddies, little fireside chats that moved from his touchdowns or freethrows last week to his future career plans, were really more like pre-job interviews.
She stood up and stretched like a panther, then looked down at him, patted her belly and smiled. “Yummy nummy in my tummy.” And it hit him, an active, probing hunger for her. He’d never felt anything like that for a woman since about eighth grade. He imagined stroking that tummy, licking that navel. And what not. Whew.
He stood up, carefully dusting any crumbs off his lap. He looked at her and said, “Hey, we ought to have a drink or two, with a view of the sea. How about we go to my place at the Avalon for a while?”
She turned her head towards him, inclining it slightly forward. Looked him over good and proper. Said, “I got a better idea, White Boy. How about we go to my place, poke our toes in the sand?”
Deli watched them walk off towards the main street where the cabs passed, not quite leaning toward each other, but with a connection you could see a block away. Heading straight for bed, she thought. I’d like to see a video of that little hookup. Then she went out to pick up their plates and two really generous tips.