I’d heard this story half-a-dozen times. I lit a Winston and tuned out, leaning against the wall, peering past our potted ferns hanging in macraméè holders, out the window, when I wasn’t sneaking peeks at the fox.
Everyday I marveled at the view through our knee-to-ceiling windows. When the sky is clear, Lake Michigan is blue and peaceful. At sunrise its waters beam a billion gems of sunlight shimmering off a dazzling golden surface. When the weather is rough, the lake becomes a military gray with angry white caps assaulting the sandy shores all along Chicago’s summer playground. On a moonless night, it’s solid black: impenetrable to the inquiring eye.
On a clear day, I could stand in my living room and see boats, planes, cars and trains. Single-propeller Cessnas floated at a distance past our 21st floor apartment towards Meigs Field. Automobiles that looked like toys for tots zipped along the gray-black surface of the Drive. Commuter trains from the South Shore Line jostled their way between Prairie Towers and South Shore Drive while white sails, off on the horizon, dotted the blueness of the lake like little puffs of cirrus clouds drifting in the sky.
Chicago is a beautiful city.
The meeting ended with an agreement that there would be another meeting. The next would take place in a month, again on a late Sunday afternoon, at Rudolph Lomax’s home. Allison and I thanked our guests for coming and we were told, time and time again, how grateful everyone was that we had called this first get-together. I was tempted to go over to the fox and formally introduce myself. But Allison was watching me watching her. We followed everyone towards the front of our apartment.
Roy strutted into our bedroom where we’d tossed everyone’s coat on our big brass bed. He grabbed a drab brown wool coat, helping the fox put it on. Then he scooped up his own gray herringbone, throwing it over his shoulders as if it were a cape. He pulled a Deerstalker cap out of his coat sleeve, and then arranged it gingerly over his coiffure Afro. A copy of the best seller, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, slipped out of Roy’s coat pocket. Bakman nudged me and whispered in my ear, “Oh shit, Sherlock.” Roy snatched the blue paperback up quickly, and stuffed it back inside his pocket. He looked embarrassed, but only for a flash. His blush went as quickly as it had come. He stoked his wood grain pipe and chirped “au revoir.”
As Allison stood at the door, showing our guests out, I waved goodbye to Roy and the fox. Then I tapped Bakman’s elbow and motioned with my head towards the kitchenette, down the hallway. We hovered in front of the fridge.
“Well, what?” Bakman said, toying with me.
“Oh, you want ‘Information Please.’ Let me run this by you first: She flirts with phony.”
I rolled my eyes at him and let go an exasperated exhale.
“Her name is Raejean Corliss. It should be pronounced Ray-Jean, but she calls herself Ray-Jawn. Will correct you in a snap. ‘That’s like dawn with a J,’ she’ll say. Dig it? Makes it sound French and shit. Continental. Cultured. European cultured. Why? What for?” Bakman shrugged.
I shrugged back.
“But what the fuck,” he sighed. “That sister is so fine that if she wants to be a ‘Ray-Jawn,’ then let her be...”
“Does she work at the C-O?” I asked, impatiently.
“Sort of. She’s an intern. An intern with promise, huh?”
“Very. She hooked up?”