"Mr. Diamond?" Heard the voice in my sleep. "Mr. Diamond, are you awake?" Didn't know myself. Felt the hat bein' lifted off my face and opened one eye. "At least you're half awake. That will have to do, I guess." Blue eyes. Smirk playin' slightly across full lips. Small nose crinkled in amused famililarity. Brushed a strand of blonde hair from her face as she leaned over me. Jessica. Jess, to me. As beautiful a dame as I've ever seen. Smart, too. Shame.
"Jess," I mumbled sleepily. "Was I snorin' again?"
"And drooling," she added with a chuckle.
Wiped spittle from my chin with the back of my hand. "Sorry, doll."
"You were doing a little talking again, as well." I squirmed at the thought and eyed Jess sheepishly. "No, Mr. Diamond," Jess straightened and put her hands on her hips. "It wasn't my name this time." Sighed relief. "I believe you called her Veronica." There's that smirk again. "Hope I didn't wake you in the middle of something?"
Rubbed the sleep from my eyes and ran a hand through my hair. "No problem, kiddo," I grinned. "She was a rerun, anyway. Dental hygenist. And let me tell ya..."
"Don't." Threw up her arms and turned away. "It's too early in the day for oral jokes."
"Might need some new material, huh?" I rose from the chair and stretched as Jessica made her way back behind her desk. Watchin' her walk away took the pleats out of my pants. If my pants had had pleats, that is. And if you could call what I was wearin', pants. I needed a new suit.
"Do you want to take a few minutes and get freshened up, Mr. Diamond?" Suddenly, Jess was all business. Wearin' that desk like a cocoon. Lucky desk.
"How d'ya mean?"
"There is a fully stocked lavatory behind that door," she pointed to my right. "You could throw some cold water on your face or grab a quick shave, maybe?"
Subtle. "Nah, sugar bumps. I'm good. Your boss asked to see Dick Diamond, not Mr. Clean. Wouldn't want to disappoint," I explained.
"Just because you're oblivious to your smells, doesn't mean everyone else is." Jess shrugged her indifference. "But if you're comfortable with how you present yourself, who am I to argue?"
Jess knew how to play the game. Thrust and parry. Jab and block. Could hold her own against any mook on the block. Classy broad. Smart mouth. Reminded me of.....Hell, I needed therapy. "C'mon, tickle-tush, you know you love me."
"Yes, Mr. Diamond, my heart's all a'flutter." Knew it. "You're not even going to straighten your tie, are you?"
"Clip on." She shook her head in exasperation. "How about Saturday night? You can teach me how do dress like a gentleman. Or undress like a gentleman. Either way, I'm good."
"Mind if my husband tags along?" she needled.
"Sure, dimple-drawers. He can work the camera."
"Always a pleasure, Mr. Diamond," the young woman snorted. "Talking with you is like getting a rectal exam from Freddie Kruger. Only more painful." Jess picked up the phone and buzzed her boss. "Dick Diamond's on his way in, sir."
"So, I'll call ya about Saturday, then?"
"Good day, Mr. Diamond." Jess didn't look up from her desk, dismissin' me with a flick of her wrist. Caught her tryin' to hide a little smile, though. Good kid. Lucky guy, that husband. I hope he dies tastin' his own blood.
I turned and rapped on the door to the inner office. Friendly voice, "Come in, Diamond."
Made my office look like the inside of a meth-head's mouth. Smelled bad, though. Everywhere I went, the odor of poached eggs and vinegar stung my nostrils. Damn pollution. Maybe it was me. Hard to say.
Familiar, smilin' face extended a manicured hand from behind a massive desk. "Dick, old buddy, how have you been?"
Took the handshake and then a seat opposite my host. "Not as well as you, cupcake." Jerry Jones, owner and GM of the Dallas Cowboys, forced a laugh and sat deeper in his chair. "My whole apartment could fit in that top drawer."
Jerry smiled. That salesman smile he was famous for. I never bought it. I think that's why he kept callin' me back. Knew I could sniff through his load. Jones just stared for a few minutes. Obviously had something on his mind. Could see it behind his eyes. He was troubled. "How about a drink, Dick? Gin, right?" He finally broke the silence.
I declined with a wave. "Nah, cuddles. My liver's still full from last night." Didn't want to admit I just redecorated his parking lot. That would be unprofessional. Gin and two-day-old saurkraut don't mix. Who would'a thought?
"Fair enough. Something else I could get you? We've got everything around here." I shook my head. "Suit yourself. I'm going to get myself a Diet Coke." Reached behind him and pulled a can from a small refridgerator. Took a sip and smiled. "How's your Mom doing? She holding up alright?"
Small talk first, I guess. "Gettin' by," I answered. "You know Mom. Nothin' gets to her."
"She's finding things to keep her busy, then?"
"Got the lead in the prison play," I announced. " 'The Hunchback Of Notre Dame'."
"Really? Good for her," he replied. "I didn't know she could act."
"She can't," I reminded. "But with Mom playin' Quasimodo, they won't have to break the budget on make-up and special effects." Ran a hand through my hair and sighed. "I guess that hump and those hairy arms finally came in handy."
"Still, it's something for her to look forward to," Jerry dropped the subject and smiled again.
"Are we goin' to get to it, chuckles, or just have a smilin' contest?" Jones won this one. I cracked first. Had to bring up Mom, didn't he? "As you can probably see, I missed my beauty sleep."
Jones thought for a minute. "How many times have you been here, Dick?" I shrugged. "You've gone out of your way to help me before, and have always come through in a pinch."
Pinch. My favorite word. "I do what I can, chief."
Jerry leaned forward, claspin' his hands on the desk. "I guess I don't have to remind you how sensitive these meetings are? If word got out that you and I..."
"Gettin' bored, slick," I interrupted. Not to mention, cramped. Saurkraut was startin' to perculate. Shifted in my chair. Didn't help. "What's the crisis this time?"
"My mouth," Jones responded quickly. I choked back a laugh. "It's not funny, Dick."
"Sorry, Shecky. But hearin' Jerry Jones admit he spouts off at the mouth is like Lindsay Lohan admittin' she's a little slutty." God bless her. "How did you expect me to react?"
"Like a professional." he advised. "If it's not too much trouble?"
Shook my head, chucklin'. "Alright, Zeppo," I conceded. "I'll try."
Scratched my head. "I assume what you're all bunged up about are the 'glory hole' remarks." Jones nodded. "Among other things." He nodded again.
"I've had a busy week, no?" Now he chuckled.
"To say the least. What is it with you and microphones? And cameras? And people with ears? For crying out loud, Jerry, it's like you have diarrhea of the mouth." He couldn't seem to take his eyes off the desk. Good thing. That 'diarrhea' comment made the saurkraut renew it's attack on my colon. Couldn't sit still.
"What can we do?" he asked anxiously.
Shrugged. "Nothin', snook'ems." Jones sighed. "Can't go back in time. No matter how much money you throw at the laws of physics."
He pounded the desk. "So I'm screwed, then?"
"For what you've said in the past...Yeah, screwed about sums it up." His apparent discomfort bothered me. The guy must be hurtin' to make a schnook like me feel empathy? I hated myself sometimes. Especially, the morning after two-for-one night at Cap't Lou's Jiggly Hut. But times like this, my heart got the best of me. And it made me sick. Weak. Soft. I was pathetic. "Look, Jerry, I can't do much about yesterday. Nobody can. But tomorrow, that's a different story."
He looked hopeful. "What've you got in mind?"
"That's it? Advice?" He was incredulous. "It better be darn good advice."
"It is." He waited. "SHUT UP!!" Jones jumped. "Just SHUT UP!! For Pete's sake... just... stop... talkin'! When someone sticks a microphone in your face, smile and walk away! You know how to smile, don't ya? Of course you do! Plaster that stupid grin across your face and run! That hole under your nose doesn't have to be movin' all the time, does it? NO!! So just stop it!" Jones sat it stunned silence. Let my 'advice' sink in a minute. Then leaned forward and threatened, "And if you don't? If you ever say anything stupid again...? Somethin' that makes you or your organization look like pig-chasin' hillbillies, I'll make a phone call to the Dallas Morning News."
"And tell them what?"
"That one of your closest advisors is an over-the-hill gumshoe with a weakness for loose women and cheap gin." Not to mention a severe case of the Rocky Mountain Quick Step. My gut was killin' me. "How do ya think they'll react to that?
"That's blackmail," Jerry whined.
"Ugly word," sittin' back in my chair, claspin' my hands behind my head. "I prefer extortion. Much more sophisticated." Jones put his head in his hands and groaned. "It's for your own good, twinkles. It'll make you think before you speak."
"Why do I put up with you, Diamond?" Jerry asked as he pulled his checkbook from the desk.
"Because you need me," I retorted. "Oh, and make it out to cash."
"I always do."
Left Jerry's office and winked at Jessica. "He bought it, sparkles. Every word."
"Again?" she laughed.
"Yep. That blackmail bit works everytime." A sudden cramp stiffened me. Damn saurkraut.
"You OK, Mr. Diamond?" Jess asked.
Winced. "Ate somethin' that's fightin' back," I moaned. "Gonna have to hit the head."
"If you can hold it for a few minutes, I know where Mr. Jones parks his car." A mischievous smile crept across her face. "I even know the security code to kill the alarm and open the doors."
Reached over and pinched her cheek. "Sugar-lips, I knew there was a reason I loved you." Jessica blushed as I made my way to the parking lot to leave a present in Jerry's front seat. Sometimes I liked being me...
Later that night, as I was walkin' up the street to Skitch's Place to celebrate, I noticed someone curled up in an abandoned doorway. Gettin' closer, I realized why he drew my attention. I squatted and took a closer look. Sleepin'. I pulled Jerry Jones' check from my wallet and stuck it in his shirt pocket. Wiped sweat from his brow with my sleeve and stood.
"Thanks for the quarter, Mr. Carver," I muttered to myself. "You need it more than I do."
I saw the lights from Skitch's Place up the block and heard "Freebird" blastin' on the jukebox. Probably the fifteenth time someone played that song already. Familiar voices. Familiar laughter. Familiar. Stickin' my hands in empty pockets, I turned and started the long trek back home. I shrugged. And smiled, runnin' a hand through my hair.
Oh, well. It was a nice night for a walk...
Well, Skinny, Diamond did the best he could. The rest is up to Jerry Jones. I hope you've got the unopened box of poptarts and half a pack of smokes handy. That's all Dick was talking about the whole time he was relaying this to me. Dude's desperate...