Tenure Trap

By Clifford Eberhardt

Chapter 2

            Nelson Barcardi; once an eminent investigative reporter; once an influential editor and co-publisher of one of the most powerful newspapers in the country, all-in-all, one of the leading powerbrokers in New York, in his heyday. Always the writer at heart, now, Nelson finds himself hustling out of his small bathroom into his smaller bedroom with a large towel wrapped around his waist, fresh from his morning shower.  The bedroom was cramped with a queen size bed, a full-length mirror, a bedside table and lamp with a chair next to the only window.  A desktop supported a Macintosh computer.  Nelson stood in front of a full-length mirror looking at him.  Then he pulled the towel from around his waist and started to dry his hair.  He finished drying his hair and continued to stare at himself in the mirror.  He liked what he saw.  For a 42 year-old man, he was in pretty good shape he thought.                      
            “Not bad,” he said smiling at him self. “Not bad at all.”
            Nelson picked up a hairbrush, brushed his long, black hair to the back. He gathered the ends in a ponytail and wrapped a rubber band around it. This was more for convenience than style.  While Nelson had the experience of a man twice his age, he had the looks of a man much younger, much younger.  His 6 feet, 190 pound frame was in exact proportion.  His shoulders were broad and his waist small.  His legs were thick and long but not too long.  His face was a smooth, deep tan with a three-day growth of beard.  His square chin was accented by his dark gray eyes that sat perfectly in his head.
            After a quick rub down with body oils, Nelson got dressed in a black turtleneck cotton shirt, a pair of blue jeans, and his favorite brown boots.  He walked over to the desk and picked up his witch, a gold Rolex President.  It was a quarter until eleven. The watch was the only thing he had to show for working seven years as editor of The National Informer.  He put the watch on and went into the kitchen, picked up his briefcase and left his apartment that was located above an antique shop.
            As the summer sun beamed down, Nelson walked to Ocean Avenue to catch a cab to Howard Beach.  As he walked, he tried to flag down several cabs. 
            “Hey, taxes!!” he yelled. 
            But the cabs kept going.  When he got to Ocean Avenue he saw a cab parked on a side street.  As he approached the cab the driver pulled off.  He looked up the street and saw another cab.  He approached the cab and knocked on the window.
            “Hey, you got a fare?”  The window came down and a black face peered out.  “I need to go the Howard Beach, you got a fare?”
            “No mon, I don got no fare... hop in,” the cab driver spoke in an accent that was either Jamaican or West Indian.  “Where’s ‘bout in Howard Beach?”
            “You know where Cross Bay Marina is?
            “I’ve heard of this place... this Cross Bay Marina.  Come, we’ll find it!”
            Nelson opened the back door and slid into the cab.  “I think I remember how to get there,” he said as the cab pulled on Ocean Avenue headed to Howard Beach.  “If I remember correctly, it’s right off Cross Bay Boulevard.”
“I tink' I know dis' place.  Don' worry mon, I git you dere.”  The driver looked into the rearview mirror to get a better look at Nelson.  He could tell the driver was looking at him.  The driver’s brief glance now became a stare.  There was a long silence between him and Nelson when the driver asked, “You that editor mon.. is you?”  Yo' name is. . .  me and me wife watched yo’ trial.  I got it right on the tip of me tongue.  It’s, it’s. . .  I got it, you Nelson Bicadi.  That right, you that big editor fellow.  Ain’t that right, mon?”
            Nelson sat in shock that the cab driver had kept up with his legal fight he had had with International Pacific Insurance Brokers. 
            “Yes, that’s me, but the name is Nelson Barcardi. . . Nelson Barcardi.”
            “I thought that was you. . . I can’t wait to get home to tell me wife that I had Nelson Bicadi as a fare.  She’ll never believe this thing... no, no she won’t,” the cab driver said as he continued to look a Nelson in the mirror.
The cab driver was coming up on Cross Bay Boulevard when he suddenly spoke.
             “Nobody tinks you got a fair trial from that jury. . . them people on that jury was blind as hell.  They couldn't see the truth for nothing”
            “Thank you, I appreciate that.” Nelson felt flattered.
            “This is it mon...  the sign say Cross Bay Marina,” the driver said as the cab pulled to a stop.
            “How much do I owe you?”
            “Seventeen dollar and fifty cent.”
            “Keep it,” Nelson said after giving the driver a twenty.
            “Tink you, Mr. Bacadi.”
            As Nelson walked to the marina, he could see there were a number of boats cruising and sailing in the bay. He walked up the wooden dock past several yachts and came to the last boat in the last yacht.  It was called the Lucky Fish. The Lucky Fish was a fancy cruiser 50 ft luxury yacht with twin diesel motors.  When he saw the Lucky Fish, Nelson remembered how much he enjoyed his last visit on the boat. Dan loved that yacht like it was a person.
            “Hey Dan. . . can I come aboard!  Anybody at home?”  Nelson yelled from the dock.  “Hey Dan, you in there?”
            Dan Everett was a middle age man who a

ppeared wearing sunglasses, a Greek fisherman's hat, tennis shoes and shorts with no shirt.  He stood on the front deck and said,  "Hey Nelson, come on aboard... watch that gang plank."
            Nelson walked across the narrow planks that lead to the yacht.
            “Good to see you, Nelson.” Dan said, greeting him with the deference and respect he was used to showing Nelson.
            “Thanks.  It’s good to be back on the Lucky Fish,” Nelson said as he climbed on board.  “Why are there so many boats in the bay. . .  I’ve never seen it this crowded, where did all these boats come from?”
            “It’s always like this on the Fourth.  People bring boats from all over for the holiday.”
            “Damn!  I forgot all about the Fourth of July. I’ve been so into finishing this book that I lost track of time."  
            “It’s the Fourth all day long, and I got a special lunch plan you, but first you got something for me, right?” Dan asked.
            “Yeah, you know I got the manuscript.  I made the changes you suggested and I’m through with it. People love writers but writers hate to write. I refuse to do any more work on this book.  Here, it’s all yours.”  Nelson attempted to open the briefcase to give the manuscript to Dan's open hands.
            “No! Not right here, let’s go down to the cabin,” Dan said as he led Nelson to the lower part of the yacht.  “Watch your head.  It's a low hatch, but we can talk in private.”
            Nelson followed Dan to a large comfortable cabin.  Lucky Fish The Azimut 50, and Dan paid between $400,000 and $1.4 million for it. That was nothing for a billion publisher like Dan Everett.It had plenty of room for a full kitchen, a comfortable living area and a dinette right back of the inside helm.  Nelson placed the briefcase with the manuscrip of his book inside — on a desk in the cabin and took it out a big folder.
            “Is that it?”  Dan asked me.
            “Yeah, this is it.  Complete with all the changes you asked for,” Nelson handed the folder to Dan.  Dan took the two rubble bands off; opened the folder and started to read.  Nelson looked at Dan as he went quickly through the pages, and then I said, “I’ll go back on the deck while you read.  You can’t concentrate with me sitting here.”  Dan never looked up.
            Nelson walked to the stern of the boat to gaze at the view across Jamaica Bay and all the boats.  He should have been feeling good about himself since he a completed his third novel.  The first two were still in rough draft but Dan kept on insisting that it was only a matter of time before Nelson would be a best-selling author.  He stood there gazing out across the bay as he waited for Dan.  He then stretched out on one of the comfortable lounges and closed his eyes, soaking up the sun.
            “This is gold.  I mean it’s pure gold!”  Nelson was awakened by Dan's voice.  “I mean you stepped into this book Nelson.  I've gone through the first part and I love it.  Me, and the girls will have this manuscript into a screen script before you know it.  Nelson, let me take my hat off to you son, you did one fine job on this novel.”
            “You like it..”
            “Like is not the word.  I love it, Nelson!  I think it’s a masterpiece!”  Dan said and then gave Nelson a big hug.  “It’s time to celebrate.  I got everything ready for a nice lunch and cruise around the bay.  The girls promised to take care of every thing.  You met the twins haven’t you?”
            “No, I don’t think so.” Nelson said.
            “Oh, let me get them and introduce you.  They are on the bow, sunning,” Dan said as he walked forward with the two women.  Jilda! Gilda!  Hey y'all, Nelson is here!  Come on and meet my good friend.”
            Dan came back from on the deck with two beautiful young women.  Both were in polka-dote bikinis and had deep suntans. They were beautiful and breathtaking malottes.
            “Nelson, meet Jilda and Gilda.  They work part-time for me doing editing.  I met them last month when I was at City College, and we've been friends ever since,” Dan said as Nelson exchanged handshakes.  “Jilda will be serving us while Gilda pilots the boat.”
            “Where are we going?”
            “We are just going to take a little cruise around Long Island Sound and back.  You'll love the view.  Come on, let’s have a seat at this little table, and you can tell me all about your plans for the next book while we wait for lunch.  I hope you can put up with broiled Lobster tail, Kobe steak cooked in a shatobrian, shrimp cocktail, fresh garden salad and freshly cooked French bread.”
            The two menwalked over to a table near the side of the deck and Jilda followed. “Would you like some drinks?” She asked.
            “Yeah, let's start with a little Polish vodka, it's in the freezer” Dan said. Get the Dom Pérignon for a chaser.
            “Why Polish vodka?”
            “It's the mildest and finest vodka you can buy.  When it's served chilled, it just like drinking ice water, no taste at all.  This stuff is too mild to be alcohol. Trust me, you’ll like it.” Dan assured.
            Gilda came back to the table with a bottle of frozen Swedish vodka and two glasses.  She sat the bottle in a tub of ice and put two small glasses in front of them.
            “Thanks, Gilda,”  Dan said as he poured vodka into both glasses. “You are going to like this.”
            “Do you mind if I smoke?” Nelson asked.
            “No, I don’t mind, but you should not.  Those things will kill you.”
            “I only smoke when I have coffee in the morning and when I’m drinking alcohol.  Other than that, cigarettes make me sick.”
            “You are the only person I know who has a habit like that.  You really don’t smoke, do you?”
            “I smoke about a pack a week.”
            “Let me make a toast to the greatest unpublished author in the country.  Will you drink to that?”
            “Yeah, I’ll drink to that,” Nelson said as he turned his glass up in unison with Dan.
            “What about another one?”  Dan asked.
            “OK, I can go for another, that stuff is really smooth,” Nelson said as the diesel engines gave a deep throated rumble and idled for a few minuets.  Gilda unhooked the phone, water and electric lines and stood by to cast off as Jilda checked out the engines.  The deep throated rumble of the diesels picked up as the yacht rocked, backed up and slowly pulled into the Jamaica Bay headed for Long Island Sound.  “It must be nice, Dan, to live on a boat and just cruise up the bay for lunch.”
            “It not like this all the time.  Most of the time it’s hard work editing other people’s bullshit.  It rare when I get a manuscript that I feel good about like the story you just wrote. I think your 'By Line,' will be on the bestsellers list before the year is out.  You did on good job on that book, Nelson.”
            “I sure didn’t have to do much research; all I did was write about my early years with The National Informer.  All I did was tell how a news reporter will do just about anything to get a story, even murder.”
            “It's damn good, but you make it sound so simple,” Dan said as he took another sip from his glass.  “Good writers have a way of doing that.”
            “Doing what?”
            “Making things sound simple.”
            Nelson and Dan talked and drank vodka as the boat cruised under a clear sky with a mild summer breeze.  Dan reached over and touched a button and a buzzing noise could be heard in the cabin.
            “Ready to eat, Nelson?”  He asked. 
            “You ready for the food Mr. Everett?”  Gilda asked, popping up before Nelson could answer.
            “Yeah, bring the shrimp cocktail,” Dan said.  He looked at Nelson, “What’s your next book going to be about?  I can’t wait until you get started on it.  We’ll do what we did on the last one; I’ll pay your expenses while you write it and you give me first refusal.  But this time, I’ll be able to give you more expense money.  We got a deal?”
            “I won’t be writing for a while.  I made other plans,” Nelson said.  “I’m trying to get a job teaching at a university.”
            “You won’t be what!  You mean to tell me after all this, you won’t be writing.  You can’t stop writing what ever else you do, you can’t stop writing.”
            “I got to get out of this city for my own good.  I need to find a new environment.  I feel empty inside.”
            Gilda came back to the table with two large bowls half filled with crushed ice and a layer of boiled, peeled jumbo shrimp on top.  She put the bowls down and sat another bowl with cocktail sauce in the middle of the table.  She then set up a small table next to where they were sitting.  She left and when they were almost finished with their shrimp, she reappeared and placed a large tray of broiled Lobster tails on the small table.  The Lobster tails were neatly placed side by side in a circle around a silver bowl filled with melted butter.
            “You can’t stop writing, Nelson.  Every minute you don’t write, you do the world a great injustice,” Dan said as he dipped a shrimp into the cocktail sauce, and popped it in his mouth biting off the tail and chewed with pleasure. The Kobe steak  was next.

Dan asked about his teachinf job. “Where do you plan to teach, Nelson?”
            “I think I can get an appointment a Lulane University.  I need to get my application in by the end of this week.”
            “That’s in Boston, right?  Didn’t they have some trouble a little while back . . . what was that?  I know I remember reading something about Lulane.:”
            “They had a shooting at the university last semester.  That’s why they've got an opening.  Some professor got mad and shot up the place.  He killed five professors and wounded nine.”
            “Why do you want to go there?  Doesn't sound like a very nice place.”
            As the boat entered Long Island Sound, they finished off the shrimp cocktail and put a lobster tails on their plates. Jamaica Bay is an estuary on the southern portion of the western tip of Long Island, in the U.S. state of New York. The estuary is partially man-made, and partially natural.This was Nelson’s favorite so he was not shy as he forked the white meat out of the shell and put a big piece in the melted butter.
            “Nelson, I really hate to hear that you are not going to write another novel.  I guess the present I bought for you won’t be needed now.”
            “What present?”
            “I just bought you a little something to help with your writing, but since you won’t be writing, I guess you want be needing it now.”
            “I didn't say I was never going to write again.  For the time being, I'm in the market for a job.  I need to get some money to help take care of my mother and help with the up keep of my ranch in Kentucky.  I’ll be going down there in a few days,” Nelson said as he ate more Lobster.  “I need to get down there before my brother runs the place in the ground.”
            “So, I see you got your mind made up and I respect that.  I’ll give you your present before you leave and maybe if you find the time, you can use it.”
            “What is it?”
            “Just wait, you’ll see later.  Finish your Lobster and cube steak. . . I think we are heading back now,” Dan said  “Just wait and I’ll give it to you later.”
            Gilda came back and cleaned up the table after they finished eating, and she brought back another pitcher of potato vodka.  Dan poured a glass of vodka, stood and motioned for Nelson follow him down to his cabin.  When they got to the small cabin, Dan opened a side closet and brought two boxes out.  Nelson could read the name on the boxes.  What he saw made him smile.
            “An Apple Power Book.  I can’t believe you got me a Macintosh Power book... it’s the 180 too,” Nelson said as he opened the box.  “This is just what I wanted.  Thank you Dan!”
            “I got me one too,” Dan responded.  “Like yours, mine has eight megs of RAM and a 250 mega byte hard disk.  It has an internal fax modem and all the software you need to do what ever you want.  I knew you would get a charge out of this.”
            “You are right, I am getting a charge al right.”
            Nelson put the computer back in the box and brought it back up on the middle deck where they were sitting.  After they sat back at the table, Dan pulled out his checkbook and wrote Nelson out a check.  He handed it to Nelson.
            “That’s a commission on ‘By Line,’ you can expect more where that comes from, once I get this book into a movie script.”
            “Dan, you don’t have to do this,” Nelson said as he looked at the twenty-five hundred dollars written on the check.  “But, you don’t know how badly I need this.  Since I left the Informer, I have not heard a word from Justine or her mother.  After I lost the suit, they left me out in the cold.”
            “How is the appeal going?  You think you will get the judgment overturned on appeal?”
            “Yeah, I feel good about the case, but that’s not doing me any good right now when the courts have all my assets tied up.  I can’t borrow a dime, and the Informer hasn’t given me a penny,” Nelson said with a little temper in his voice.  “I’m suppose to meet with Justine sometime this week to clear up all the loose ends I left at the paper.” Citing Judgments of -- Reynolds v. Times Newspapers Limited and Others. This appeal concerns the interaction between two fundamental rights: freedom of expression and protection of reputation. The context is newspaper discussion of a matter of political importance. Stated in its simplest form, the newspaper's contention is that a libellous statement of fact made in the course of political discussion is free from liability if published in good faith. Liability arises only if the writer knew the statement was not true or if he made the statement recklessly, not caring whether it was true or false, or if he was actuated by personal spite or some other improper motive. The events giving rise to these proceedings took place during a political crisis in New York in November 1991, and Nelson was forced to resign as editor of the National Informer for overt malice. Meaning that Nelson knew, and was recklessly, not caring whether it was true or false. He belived the writer who lied about his facts; much like Janet Cooke who won a 1981 Pulitzer Prize for a bogus story in The Post about an 8-year-old heroin addict named "Jimmy," then admitted after a lengthy interrogation that she had made it all up.

   “Well, Nelson it looks like we are close to Cross Bay Marina,” Dan said as the yacht slowed to a creep.  “You are going to have to keep in touch with me where ever you go.  We need to get together some time soon and talk over another story idea.  And if there is anything I can do for you, you just let me know.”
            “There is one more thing.”
            “Name it!”
            “I need a letter of reference sent to Lulane University.  You got a pencil?"
             Nelson wrote down the university' address on a piece of paper and gave it to Dan.
            “Is that all?”
            “That’s all.”
            The two men continued to talk as the boat slowly pulled back into its docking space.  They gave each other an embrace and Nelson left the Luck Fish, looking back at Dam as he walked out of sight with his computer under one arm and the briefcase in his hand. 

By Clifford Eberhardt

Chapter 3

            Nelson sat at his favorite table in the French Grill, a popular eatery in Upper Manhattan. The French Grill was an up scale restaurant and only regulars like Nelson were able to violate its strict coat and tie dress code.  He looked at his watch; it was eight-thirty and the streetlights outside the restaurant were just coming on.  He was supposed to meet Justine for dinner at eight, and for the past half-hour he had waited. He had had four gin and tonic and two cigarettes as he waited.  The waiter came to the table and asked him if wanted another drink.
            “No, I’ve had enough for right now.  Maybe after we eat.  Don’t forget to show Miss White to my table when she comes.”
           “Certainly, Mr. Barcardi,” the waiter said.  Nelson lit another cigarette and finished off his drink.  Then he sat back to wait for Justine.  He thought back to the day he first met her and how from that day until the day the jury found him guilty of liable, what a familiar presence she was in his life.  He had taught her how to report, write and edit.  A grin came over his face at the thought of taking a brash 21-year old college graduate and making a first class reporter out of her as she blossomed into quite a woman.  His thoughts were interrupted by a disturbance of chairs moving, people mumbling and he could feel a ripple of life in the French Grill.  He suspected it was Justine.  She had a way livening up a room when she entered, turning the men’s heads and creating envy in women. 
            He turned and saw Justine talking to the waiter.  The waiter nodded in the direction of his table.  She then threw her head back in her traditional style and walked to the table.  Nelson crushed his cigarette out and watched as she came to the table and stood, waiting for him to get up.  She wore a short, black dress that revealed too much at the top and too much at the bottom.  He just sat and looked up at her.
            “Are you going to ask me to sit down, Nelson?”
            “Justine, you know how to sit.  If you think I’m going to stand and then bow before you can sit, you’ll be standing all through dinner.”
            “Are you angry because I’m a little late?”
            “I’m angry, but it’s not because you’re late. . . Justine, you’re always late.  That’s nothing to get angry over.”
            “What are you angry about?” she asked sitting directly across from him.  “What have you got to be angry about Nelson, you got everything.”
            “I’m not in the mood for any of your jokes, Justine.”
            “Excuse me!  I just wanted to say something to cheer you up,” she said as she placed her purse in one of the empty chairs.  “Don’t be so down on me!  What have I done?”
Justine White was Nelson’s assistant on a number of high profile investigations. With several ideas going to the top.  Others say it was well known secret they were having an affair.
            “Nothing, Justine . . . you haven’t done anything.  That’s the problem.”
            Justine was silent for a moment, and then dropped her head as if she was sadden by what Nelson just said.  She was an attractive young woman in her late twenties and wore her red hair shoulder length.  She had light brown freckles that dotted her smooth face.  When she smiled, her perfect white teeth between full moist lips lit up her face.  She lifted her head, looked hard at Nelson with tears in her eyes and spoke in a broken voice.
            “Nelson Barcardi, when everybody wrote you off, I stood by you!  When mother and the other members of the board wanted to fire you because they thought you had too much control over the paper, I was the one who stood up for you!  I was the one who stood by your side everyday of the trial, so don’t get an attitude with me!”
            “But where were you after the trial?  Where were you when I really needed you the most!  Where were you, Justine!”  Nelson said loud enough to draw attention.  “I’ll tell you where you were!  You were out there trying to justify your association with me.  I know you Justine!”
            “I don’t need this!  I can just get up and get the hell out of here and never see you again!”
            “Do it!  I don’t give a damn!  You’ve done much worse!”
            Justine jumped up and hurried to the door.
            “Damn her anyhow, let her go.  I don’t need her, her mother or the paper,” Nelson thought and then looked up to see Justine back at the table.  “What do you want?”
            “I came back for my purse.  But what I really want is to have a nice dinner with you.  A dinner without a fight,” she said in a tone that begged for Nelson’s affections.  “Can I enjoy your company without you beating up on me?”
            “I’m sorry Justine.  Come on and sit down.  I just had to explode at somebody.  I’m sorry it was you.  Of all the asses at The National Informer, you are the last one who deserves my frustrations.”
            “I understand how you feel.  I really do Nelson.  I was hurt more than you think.  The last six months have taken a lot out of me.  I really missed you and you never tried to contact me.  I went by your apartment and you had moved out.  I didn’t know what to do.”
            “Forget it. Let’s just forget it,” he said as Justine sat back down. “You want a drink before dinner?”
            “Yeah.  What are you drinking?”
            “Gin and tonic.”
            “How many have you had?”
            “A few.”
            “You’ve had more than a few.  I can tell.  You probably don’t need another drink . . . have you eaten yet?”
            “No.  I’ve been waiting on you.”
            “Oh, I so sorry you had to wait.  I had a meeting with the bankers and it ran much longer than I thought.  I really wanted to see you Nelson and I wouldn’t have missed this moment for the world.”
            Nelson smiled as the waiter came back to their table.
            “What can I get for you Mr. Barcardi?”
            “Bring me another gin and tonic.  What will you have Justine?”
            “I’ll take a martini straight up, no olive.  Just one more for him.  And we will be ready to order dinner next.”
            “Is that all, Miss White?”
            “Yes, for right now . . . thank you.” 
            Nelson and Justine sat looking at each other, not saying a word.  Their trances were only broken when the waiter came back to the table with their drinks.
            “Here’s the martini for you Miss White and the gin and soda for you, Mr. Barcardi . . . just let me know when you and Miss White are ready to order,” the waiter placed two menus on the table.
            “Thank you.  Come back in ten minutes, we’ll be ready,” Nelson said.
            “Nelson, I been trying for six months to get in touch with you.  It seemed like you just left the planet,” Justine said.  “You really had me worried about you . . . why didn’t you get in touch with me before now?”
            “I tried.  After the trial I tried to contact you at you home and at the Informer.  But somebody was always there to cut me off.  When International Pacific Insurance executed the judgment, they took everything that was in my name.  All the money in my bank accounts, my car, my house in Long Island . . . what else?  Yeah, those creeps even tried to take the ranch I bought for my mother and father, before he died.  But they couldn’t get that because it was in my father’s name and when he died it went to my mother,” Nelson was almost snarling.  “Yeah, they thought they were going to get my horse ranch but they couldn’t touch it.”
            “Where have you been living? 
            “I’ve been living in Benson Hurst.”
            “Benson Hurst!  What are you doing living down there?”
            “It’s the only thing I could afford.  And I couldn’t afford that.  Dan Everett has been paying the rent and keeping me in money while I did a novel.  He paid to keep me up for the past six months and I gave him first right of refusal on the book.”
            “Oh, so that’s what you've been doing.  You’ve been writing a book.  What’s it about?  Tell me the story Nelson?”
            “You wouldn’t be interested in this story.  It's about reporters who’ll do anything for a story.  You know how you used to be before you grew up?”
            “It’s not about use, is it?  Nelson, you didn’t write and expose us did you?”
            “No!  It’s not about betrayal, it’s about murder,” Nelson said but then checked himself.  “I didn’t mean that.  You didn’t deserve that.”
            “Forget it Nelson.  I’m used to taking things I don’t deserve from you.”
            “I’m not trying to give you a hard time.  Justine, you know how I felt about the paper.  I think your mother gave me the shaft, not because I lost the suite but she wanted you away from me.”
            They were still talking and sipping their drinks when the waiter came back and asked if they were ready to order.
            “Have you decided what you want, Justine?” Nelson asked.
            “Yes, I will have the Blackened Sole and spinach with cheese sauce and the wilted salad.”
            “What kind of dressing do you want for your salad, Miss White?”
            “Oil and vinegar.”
            “Will that be all?”
            “Yes,” Justine said and gave the menu back to the waiter.
            “What will you have, Mr. Barcardi?”
            “Hum . . . give me the Prime Rib.  Make sure it’s the crisp part on the outside.  I don’t won’t the inside cut.”
            “Right Mr. Barcardi, I know how you like it.  What else with that?”
            “Give me the broccoli in butter sauce . . . and a baked potato with sour cream.”
            “Anything to drink?”
            “Tea.  Two teas.”
            “Is that all saay?”
            “Yeah, that’s all,” Nelson said and gave his menu back to the waiter.
            “Thank you, sir . . . I’ll be back soon with your order.”
            Nelson looked at Justine and smiled, “How are things at the paper?”
            “Things couldn’t be better to hear my mother tell it, but I think the paper lost its heart and soul when you left . . . most people feel that way.  But as long as we are making money and the advertiser are happy, mother and the board think the paper is a success.” Mom hated my affair with you.
            “How is the circulation?”
            “It’s up . . . we still have the readers that you brought to the paper, and the readers who said they would never read the Informer until you left.  Nelson, you left us in good shape, but mother will never admit it.”
            “Have you heard anything about the appeal?”
            “The last time I talked with lawyers, they needed to get in touch with you to sign some papers.  Have you been in touch with them?”
            “No, I haven’t heard from anybody since I left.  Did they get the papers off?”
            “Yeah, but I had to sign your name.”
            “Good . . . I sure can’t afford to let those bastards off the hook with a $5 million judgment against me.  I can’t let that stand.”
            “Everybody thinks that you brought it own yourself, Nelson, going after Pacific International was a big mistake.  They are just too powerful,” Justine said sipping her martini.  “The word was out; they planned to spend as much as it took to bring you and the Informer down.  Nelson, you should have backed off . . . you made them too angry when you accused them of consumer fraud and never provided your sources.”
            “I was right to protect my sources, if they wanted to remain anonymous.  The judge was wrong to rule that the chairman of Pacific International was a private person, and those are the grounds for appeal.  I hope the attorneys make that point in their brief.”
            “The last time I talked with them, they felt good about a reversal, but it will take time.  In the meantime, you need to get away and let things cool off more.  A year or so after the appeal, you can start right back where you left off at the paper.  But let me know where you are this time.”
            Before Nelson could respond, the waiter brought their order.  He carried a big silver tray over his right shoulder and placed the tray on a small setup table he carried in his right hand.
            “Here are the salads,” he said placing two large bowls filled with garden salad in front of them.  “Oil and vinegar for the lady and French dressing for Mr. Barcardi.  Will there be anything else, sir?”
            “No, this is fine.”
            “I will be back with your food in a few.”
            Nelson poured the dressing over his salad, took his napkin and put it in his lap.  They both were eating when he said, “I’m never coming back to the paper.”
            “You’re what?”
            “I said, I’m never coming back to the paper.  I got other plans I’m working on now.  And the paper is not a part of them,” he said as he started to eat.  “I need a new life.  I need to meet new people.  I just have a need to go somewhere else.  This town has had it with me and I have had it with this town.”
            “What do you plan to do?”
            “I’m applying for a position on the faculty at Lulane University.  I sent my application off yesterday and hope to go for an interview in a couple of weeks for an interview.”
            “What about us?”
            Nelson was silent.
            “Don’t pull that death and dumb routine on me Nelson Barcardi.  What about us?”
            “We could never have a life together as long as your mother is in the picture.  You know how your mother feels about me, and you know how I feel about her.  Oil and water will never mix, and neither you nor I deserve a situation like that.  You need to stay with your mother and the paper and I need to live.”
            After they finished their salads, the waiter removed the salad bowls and set their entrees down.
            “The Blackened Sole and spinach with cheese sauce for Miss White,” the waiter said as he placed the plate of food in front of Justine.  “And Prime Rib for Mr. Barcardi . . . the outside cut.  Here’s your baked potato and broccoli with butter sauce.”
            Then waiter stood at attention, and asked, “Will there be anything else, sir?”
            “Not for me.  What about you, Justine?”
            “I’m fine.”
            “That’s it, thank you.”
            “If you need anything, just give me a call,” the waiter turned and left the table.
            “What are you immediate plans?”
            “Well, next week I’m going to Kentucky to see my mother, and take care of some business at the ranch.  My brother has let the place go to the dogs since my father died.  I need to go and get that straighten out, then hopefully it's off to Boston.”
            “So you really have your mind made up? I know you going to keep in touch.  I know I mean that much to you.”
            “You know I will.”
            They sat silently through their meal.  The waiter came back to the table and asked if they wanted desert.”
            “I’ve had enough.  Do you want anything else, Justine?”
            “No, I’m fine.”
            “Could you bring the bill?”  Nelson asked the waiter.  “We are ready to go.”
            “Certainly, Mr. Barcardi.”
            “That was nice.  It reminded me of old times.  Nelson, I’m going to miss you — I really am.”
            “I’m going to miss you too.”
            The waiter came back with the bill and gives it to Nelson.  Nelson looked at the bill and gave it to Justine.  Without a glance at the bill she reached for her purse; opened it and gave a credit card to the waiter.
            “Add ten dollars for yourself,” Justine told the waiter.
            “Thank you, Miss White.”
            “Oh, that reminds me.  This is for you Nelson,” she said taking a blue moneybag from her purse.  “This is half of what you salary was.  Pacific International tried to take it but I told them that you had received your salary in advance.  It took me all day to get the money up.  I had to do it behind mother’s back.  But it’s your money anyway . . . you earned it and more.”
            “Thank you Justine.  You don’t know how much I need this. You’ll never know what this means to me,” Nelson said as she handed him the moneybag.
            “Be careful with that, that’s a lot of money.”
            “Don’t worry, nobody will get their hands on this.”
            The waiter came back for Justine's signature.
            “Thanks, and have a good night,” the waiter said and left.
            Nelson looked at his watch.  It was ten-thirty. 
            “Are you about ready to go?”  He asked. “I'll walk you to your car.”
            “That would be nice.  Do you need a lift home?”
            “No, I’ll get a cab.” he said.
            “You sure?” she asked as they both got up and headed for the doors.
            “I’m parked right down the street.”
            When they reached her red Lexus, Nelson walked her to the driver’s side of the car.  She unlocked the door, got inside, started the car and rolled down the window.
            “You sure you don’t need a ride?”
            “No, I can make it from here.  But wait, I do need one thing.”
            “What’s that?”
            “I need you to get your mother to write me a letter of reference to Lulane. "Nelson”, you will get a position?" It's open everything's open Nelson answered'
            “She’ll never do it, but don’t worry . . . I’ll write it and sign her name like I do everything else.  Whom do you want me to send it to?”
            Nelson pulled a pencil from his coat pocket and wrote the address on the back of a book of matches.
            “Here, send it to this address.”
            Justine took the book of matches and asked, “Nelson are you sure you want to do this? By the way I got a position as teaching assistant at All Saints Catholic School. That's Not far from Lulane.” Really? Nelson thought, how odd that is.
            “I’m sure.”
            “What about one last fling for old times,” Justine asked holding his hand.
            “That wouldn’t be right . . . then I’ll never leave.  I want this to be clean.  You know what I mean?”
            “Yeah, I know what you mean,” she said and then carefully let his hand go. “I’ll get this letter off first thing.”
            “Thanks for everything, Justine.  You’re a true friend,” he said.  She rolled up the window and pulled off.  Nelson watched as she drove out of sight.




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