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Sad Lisa – Chapter Fifteen

Banner for Sad Lisa, an Operation Quickline story
July 18, 1984

By the next morning, I was actually glad that Sid had gone out the night before. He’s impossibly grouchy when he gets horny, and he was in a much better mood that morning.

Pull Quote from romantic spy novel Sad Lisa: I think we’re both in trouble.

After our run and breakfast, we got dressed for house hunting. But before we left, I called Mama to ask about the deposit on the reception site.

“Oh, I am so glad you asked about that,” she said. “I plumb forgot about it.”

“Hold on, Mama. My friends Kathy and Jesse just decided to get married, and they got George’s and my date at the parish. Do you mind if they take booking for the reception?”

“Not at all, but why don’t you give me your friend Kathy’s phone number?” She paused. “I managed to get us a bit of a courtesy discount, being in the industry and all. So, we’re going to have to play this one real careful like.”

I laughed. “How about if I give Kathy your number? I can’t give hers without permission.”

“Fair enough.”

Mama then asked me how I was feeling, and I told her I was fine, which I was. I then called Kathy.

“Mama said to call you,” I told her. “She says it’s going to be a little tricky since she scored what she called a bit of a discount and what I’m willing to bet was a whopper.”

Kathy laughed. “I think between my mother and my own money, we’ll be alright. Thanks again, Lisa.”

I never did find out what Mama had gotten or what Kathy ended up with. Kathy did book the space, though.

Sid appeared in the door between our offices. “Did I just hear you right? Kathy and Jesse are not only getting married, they got your wedding date at the church?”

“Yeah. Turns out George left Jesse everything he owned, which is quite a lot.” I smiled at him.

“That’s good.” He paused. “And how are you feeling about it?”

“Perfectly fine. I wasn’t going to be using that date. They deserve it.”

“Okay.” Sid nodded, then turned serious. “I just spoke with Henry and the news is not good.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Powers has been leaving the consulate. He’s got someone with him, according to our British friends, but they keep ditching the tails.”

“Do they have the dossier?”

“The Brits say no. Powers is still being pressured to produce it. And there’s one other development. Angelique told Henry this morning that someone followed her home last night. Henry checked with the Brits and Powers was out of the consulate during that time.”

I frowned. “Why follow Angelique? That makes no sense.”

“I know.” Sid shrugged. “Henry does not want Angelique staying alone tonight and suggested that she call me.” He winced. “She said absolutely no thanks. The only thing soothing my wounded ego is that she does not want to go over to Henry’s, either.”

“Hmm. Would it be risking our cover too much if I volunteered to stay with her?”

Sid thought it over. “I don’t see why it would. I’ll call Henry.”

Angelique must have been more worried than she’d let on because she was happy to call me and ask me to stay.

“I feel a little ridiculous,” she said over the phone a few minutes later. “It’s not that big a deal.”

“Better safe than sorry,” I told her. “Plus, it will be fun, and right now, I could use a little fun.”

“Terrific. If I call in the order, do you mind picking up some pizza on your way over? Henry’s putting a tail on me and has told me to go straight home tonight.”

“As long as it’s a large one.”

We laughed and then hung up. I went ahead and packed for that night, bringing along some cards and a board game in addition to my nightgown, robe, and other stuff.

Sid and I took off for the Inland Empire again.

“Henry gave me a list,” he told me as we whipped down Interstate 10 in his Beemer. “We got about five tracts, all in the Chino and Ontario area.”

“And one in Diamond Bar,” I said, flipping through the newspaper ads that Sid had put on a clipboard.

“Yeah. Henry also said that teams have flown in from all over the country. But we still have a lot of ground to cover.”

“I guess we hope that the teams can keep following Powers, then get the dossier when he does.”

Sid shook his head. “Not likely. If they want him to lead them somewhere, they can’t get too close. And Powers is trained the same way we are. He’s going to assume that he’s being followed whether or not he is and take evasive maneuvers just on principle.”

Sid did a last-second lane change, then sped up, sliding around cars, keeping an eye on his rearview mirror, as if to prove his point. Which was kind of funny, since I don’t think he was even aware that he was doing it, the habit was so ingrained.

It was a really rough day, pretending to be happy and excited about buying a new home for our little family while wondering if we were going to miss something crucial and end up exposed and possibly dead. We checked house after house, none of which had even the least bit of errant tape, scratches on doors, or cleaned spots. We checked closet shelves, and when there were cabinets, those, too. We found absolutely nothing.

The tract in Diamond Bar was the last, and it was getting close to five o’clock when we finished with the final house there. Sid’s lead foot got a work out that afternoon. There really wasn’t much to talk about, so we talked about what we liked and didn’t like about the houses we’d seen. We’d both concluded what we most disliked was how they all looked alike, for the most part.

We got to Culver City, where Angelique’s apartment was, in good time, and Sid didn’t complain about stopping for the pizza. I also bought a salad. Sid had added a bottle of good chianti to the stuff I’d packed earlier that morning, although he pointed out that Angelique was quite a connoisseur, herself, and had a nice collection. The pizza was warm in my lap as we pulled up in front of Angelique’s building.

“Lisa,” Sid said as he turned off the ignition. “I’ve got a thing tonight that I can’t really get out of. Made a promise weeks ago. Believe me, I’d much rather be here, keeping an eye on you two.”

“We’ll be fine, Sid.”

“Anyway, here’s the number where I’ll be.” He handed me a card.

That was odd, but I was grateful.

“I don’t think anything’s going to happen,” I said.

“Well, call me if it does.” He sighed. “And call me at home when it’s time to come get you.”

“I can take a bus home.”

He shook his head. “I’ll come get you. I know you can take care of yourself, but there’s no point in asking for trouble.”

“Fair enough.”

I leaned over to kiss him, but he’d already gotten out of the car. Sighing, I got myself and the pizza box out, then leaned in to get my other belongings. Sid stayed out on the sidewalk as I went up to the building’s glass doors and got myself buzzed in.

Angelique was waiting and had her table set and the wine already poured. It was something from the Napa Valley, she said.

“I feel so silly,” she said as we sat down to eat.

“Can’t hurt to be a little careful,” I said. “And besides, it’ll be nice to do a sleep-over.”

Angelique chuckled as she dished some salad onto her plate.

“How have you been?” I asked.

“Really good,” she said and took a sip of wine. “The time off has been really good for me. It’s kind of funny. I liked the sex, and I was so proud of owning my own sexual power. But in the end, I was really de-valuing myself. I’m probably not going to become a nun or anything. Still, I think I’m going to wait for a really good man before I go to bed again.”

“You know, I think Sid would support you in that.” I munched on a slice of pizza.

“What do you mean?”

“Sid really does care about you as a person,” I said. “I mean, there’s the thing with me.”

“Aha!” Angelique slapped her hand on the table. “I knew it!”

“Okay. You were right about that. Just don’t get too excited. We both have a lot to work out, me as well as him.” I shrugged. “But he was worried about you and how you were doing and he does care about you as his friend.”

“Huh.” Angelique looked thoughtful for a moment, then turned her gaze on me. “And how are you doing? I mean, with losing your fiance and all.”

“Oh, it’s been pretty awful,” I conceded. I blinked, then reached for my glass of wine. “Wow. This is really good.”

“Are you avoiding me?”

“No. It’s just that Sid said you were a real connoisseur and he was right.” I set my glass down. “Anyway, thank God Sid has been around. He’s been a real rock for me. I don’t know what I would have done without him.” I looked at her. “He, uh, asked me to move into his bedroom.”

“It’s about time.” Angelique took a bite of salad, then looked at me. “Uh, was this before or after George was killed?”

“Before,” I said. “I couldn’t, for all sorts of reasons, but I also decided that I needed to break up with George. I just didn’t get a chance to before…”

“That must have made things rough.”

And so dinner went on. Angelique was a great listener and agreed with me that Sid was probably not ready for me to move in any more than I was ready.

“I mean, he probably would give up sleeping around,” she pointed out as we landed in her living room, wine glasses in hand. “I don’t know if he’d be a hundred percent faithful, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was.”

“What do you mean, Angelique?”

“Well, it’s something he said to me the last time we were together. He liked making love to me because it was familiar and comfortable.” Angelique grabbed a wine bottle off her coffee table and opened it. “Cabernet sauvignon, out of Calistoga. You want some?”

“Maybe in a bit.”

“Anyway, he had never said anything like that to me before.” Angelique filled her glass. “He’s always been very complimentary, don’t get me wrong. But it was always about how I looked and what he liked that I did. Surface stuff. And I would never have guessed that he’d like being familiar and comfortable. But now, I almost wonder if he’s getting tired of playing around all the time. This is, by the way, in addition to being seriously hung up on you.”

“Huh,” I said. I sipped some more wine. “It’s funny, but you may be right. When he dropped me off here tonight, he said he had to go to this thing, that he’d promised, but that he’d rather be here keeping an eye on us.” I shuddered. “Henry really got him spooked, and I thought that was why he’d rather be here. But he didn’t sound too excited about the thing, either.”

“Really?” Angelique’s jaw dropped. “Oh, my lord. I think I know what the thing was.” She dove for her purse and her pocket calendar. “I was supposed to be there, myself. Here it is. Sex Olympics at Barb Petrie’s place. It’s in Brentwood. She made a big deal about it because of the Olympics coming to L.A. She even said she was bringing in some foreign talent.”

I was blushing furiously. “Uh, Ange, I really don’t need to know about all of this.”

“You might want to,” Angelique said with a snigger. “One of these days, you will get the benefit of his antics.”

“We’ll see about that.” I shifted, feeling far more aroused than I wanted to.

“That’s not the point,” Angelique said, flopping onto the couch. “Sid loves the Sex Olympics. Really loves them, even when he can’t compete and he’s been out of the running since taking Best All-Around for the fourth time in a row three years ago. They had to make him a judge. They couldn’t get anyone else to compete. If he didn’t want to go tonight, that is amazing.”

“Ange, he can’t compete. Of course, it wouldn’t be as much fun to him.”

“Hah!” Angelique sat up. “He hasn’t been able to compete for three years and still loves the event. Or did. You have no idea what a sea change this is for him.”

“Oh.”

Angelique flopped back into the couch. “Who would have thought it! Oh, my lord, this is amazing.” She scrambled up and tucked her feet under her. “You do know what this means, darling, don’t you?”

“Sid is… What?”

“He’s getting ready to settle down.”

“Ange, that’s ridiculous. Even if he was, he’s not capable of it.”

She looked at me severely. “What about you?”

“What about me? I’m not the issue here.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Lisa. You love the man. It’s written all over you, and I sure as hell know what that looks like better than anybody.”

“Okay, so I do. But that doesn’t help me right now. He’s not ready.”

Angelique looked at me with a sweet grin. “Neither are you. Don’t you get it?”

“Apparently not, although I think we already came to agreement on the not ready part.” I blinked and looked at my glass. “And what about you? You love him, too!”

“Yes! But Sid was my fantasy.” Angelique came toward me, shoving her way through the couch cushions on her knees. “I have finally gotten that. What you haven’t gotten is that he is your reality. That you two have something that even he doesn’t know what to do with. And you don’t either!” She laughed loudly.

“This isn’t helping.”

“Lisa, it’s what you told me about deserving more in my relationships.”

“So, this is your revenge.” I gulped the rest of my wine.

Angelique laughed and poured more wine into my glass.

“No!” She shook her head, clearly trying to find the right words. “You and Sid are trying to figure out what works for you two, as individuals and a couple. It may not be the marriage thing. It may be. I do not know and do not care. The thing is, you two love each other and want each other, but neither of you has figured out what that means or how that’s going to happen. And that’s okay.”

“Huh?”

“It’s okay. You and Sid do not have to do anything. You’re fine. Whatever will happen, and I believe it will, will happen in its own good time and you, my dear friend, do not have to do anything, not one little thing, to make it happen. You’re okay. Sid is okay.”

“I never thought otherwise.”

“Bull puckey.” (Okay, she used the naughtier version.) “You’ve already told me that you’ve been freaking out since Sid asked you to move into his bedroom. Lisa, sweet Lisa, what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s all going to be fine. Really. You probably know Sid a little bit better than I do, but I also know him and in ways you will never know him. I’ve known him longer…” She paused. “And I’ve spent a lot of time in bed with him. The thing is, we both love this man in very different ways. I can see where his heart is in a way that you can’t because you’re too close to him. I love you and adore you. You are, without question, the best thing that ever happened to that idiot. So do not doubt your feelings. Do not worry about it. You and Sid will be fine. I know that more than I’ve ever known anything. You and Sid will be fine.”

“Okay.”

I really wanted to believe her. I probably knew, in my deepest gut, that she was right, but I couldn’t make my head understand it. Angelique bundled me into her arms and held me close.

“You guys are going to be fine,” she said again. “And if I have to lose Sid, I am so grateful that it was to you.” She pulled away a little and looked me in the eyes. “You will take good care of him, won’t you?”

“Of course, Ange!” I gasped and looked at her again. “I have to. I love him.”

“I know. That’s the only reason I don’t mind losing him to you too much.” She sniffed.

The next thing I knew, we were both crying and holding each other. Later, in my more rational frame of mind, I had to put the incident down to too much wine. But I had only drunk the one glass. Ange had drunk more, but she wasn’t slurring or otherwise showing the effects. Nope. The reality was, we were both crazy, head over heels, in love with Sid Hackbirn, and she had just relinquished him to me. And I had no idea what I was going to do about that.

We staggered to bed another hour or three after that. My board game sat forgotten on the coffee table. The second bottle of wine lay on its side, completely empty, and it had been really, really tasty. I went to bed in Angelique’s second bedroom with my mind whirling.

She had certainly offered me some perspective that I had not considered. That maybe Sid was getting tired of sleeping around? Okay, that one seemed doubtful and perhaps reflected her own state of mind. And the idea that I was not ready to settle down myself? Probably. I had resisted George’s hovering and had found myself chafing at Sid when he’d tried to be there for me. Then there was the idea that I really didn’t need to do anything and that everything would work itself out. Hmmm. It was probably true, but I couldn’t see it. On the other hand, I didn’t necessarily need to see it.

All these thoughts kept chasing themselves around my brain, and as it turned out, it was probably a good thing. I was the first to hear the steps in the front of the apartment that shouldn’t have been there. That being said, Angelique was not that far behind me, although I had no idea of that because she was in her bedroom.

I crept toward the bedroom door and oh, so softly, opened it and peeked through. I saw a dark figure in the dining area, opening the drawers in Angelique’s breakfront, and tossing the contents out right and left.

“What are you doing?” Angelique screamed, her words sprinkled with cuss words.

The figure turned toward her. I thought I saw a gun. I wasn’t sure. I just knew that I was almost in reach, so I screamed and ran at him. He turned toward me and I jumped him. In the struggle, I felt something sting my left arm, but I kept screaming and hitting at him, barely noting the white glint on the outer edge of his left hand. A minute later, a gun went off and the man slipped out of my arms and ran for the front door. The gun went off again. The man was gone.

Angelique yelled something obscene and ran for the front door. I sank onto the couch, feeling more than a little woozy.

“He’s gone,” Angelique snorted, coming back into the apartment. “Lisa! Are you alright?”

“I think so.” I looked down at my left arm, which was burning. “Oh. I think I got cut.”

I have to give Angelique an enormous amount of credit. She grabbed a dishtowel and told me to press it against my cut, then called somebody to get help. The paramedics arrived soon after and insisted on taking me to the emergency room. Angelique came with me. I was able to get my purse and produced the card that Sid had given me.

“He asked me to call if there was trouble,” I told Angelique in the ambulance.

Some minutes later, I was unloaded and put in a curtained cubicle. Angelique had disappeared, but then returned.

“Sid’s on his way,” she told me. “So is Henry.” She sighed. “I think we’re both in trouble.”

We weren’t, but both Sid and Henry were not happy. Henry insisted on bundling Angelique up and taking her to his place. Angelique wasn’t thrilled, but when Henry took her home, she didn’t protest that much. Sid remained with me, holding my right hand and keeping me distracted while the cute intern stitched up the cut on my arm.

“You’ll need to keep your stitches dry,” the intern said as he finished.

“Yes. I will,” I said.

The only thing that was left was for me to sign the paperwork and for Sid to agree to pay the hospital for the visit and the ambulance ride.

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