Sam was sitting at the bar of an upper scale restaurant having lunch. A man on the other end of the bar kept glancing over at Sam and it was making him uncomfortable. Sam didn’t recognize the man’s face. He was a bit overweight with black hair on the side and a bald spot on top. He was an older gentleman probably in his 40’s and possibly even his 50’s wearing a black suit and a white dress shirt. Sam happened to be doing some research for his newspaper writer and was playing the part. He was dressed up in a fitted suit and a blue dress shirt with a white collar. Sam knew his clothes weren’t making him stand out in this place. Sam took a few more bites and took a big drink from his water class and asked for the bill. The man who had been staring at Sam came over and sat down in the barstool next to him.
“You’re Marcus right? Do you remember me?”
“No.” Keep it short and unrevealing Sam thought. Sam started to worry about this guy blowing his cover or being a guy he did some shady business with.
“Yeah you’re him. You used to eat at that diner up on 23rd street right? I used to go there all the time.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about sir.” The bartender had returned with Sam’s bill. He quickly pulled out some cash out from his pocket and told the bartender to keep the change. He didn’t want to risk the man actually seeing his wallet or any type of identification from it. The fact was Sam had been taken off guard by the man.
“Oh come on. You have to remember me.” Sam got off his bar stool and started walking towards the door. “My name is James Galloway. You loaned me some money. It changed my life.” Sam stopped near the entrance of the building. The name James Galloway did register in Sam’s mind.
“That name does sound familiar. Where do I know you from?”
“From that diner. I was going through a divorce at the time and was at the diner with a ton of legal papers and trying to figure out how I was going to afford everything and keep myself from living off the streets.”
“Ok. Keep going.” Sam still wasn’t sure where the story was going.
“You must have overheard me because you mentioned that my lawyer was overcharging me and gave me a card of another lawyer to call. You said you wouldn’t leave until I called the guy so I did.”
“Yeah his last name was Connors. Anyways I called the guy. He sets up a meeting with me and explains how divorced are tough and he won’t expect any payment until all the papers are signed and I have a place to live. So I thank you for your help and…” Sam cut off the man
“And I bought your dinner. We talked about the financial problems you had been going through and I ended up writing you a check for three grand.”
“Now you remember me?”
“What’s your name again?”
“James Galloway. Yeah I remember you now. You must be doing pretty good now eating in a place like this wearing a suit.”
“I’m doing great actually. I ended up getting a promotion not long thereafter and a bonus. A friend of mine came to me with a business adventure about a year ago and now I’m a partial owner of Magglio’s downtown.”
“Magglio’s? I think I’ve heard about it. It’s like an Italian cuisine place with like piano music and stuff right?”
“That’s the one! Listen I owe you a meal and probably a drink or two at the least. How about you stop by the place tonight and we talk.”
“Tonight’s not the best night for me actually.”
“Oh that’s too bad.”
“How about I take one of your cards or something and I’ll call you tomorrow and see if we can do it then.”
“That sounds great.” James reached into his back pocket and pulled out a business card and handed it to Sam. “Listen I have to run but I’m very glad I ran into you here. I can’t thank you enough for what you did. I’m clearing my entire night for tomorrow. I’ll see you then.” James reached out his hand and Sam shook it.
“Tomorrow night. I’ll see you then.” James walked back to his spot at the bar to pay his bill as Sam walked outside and started walking down the road looking at the business card. He pulled out his cell phone and called his private investigator. It rang twice before he picked up.
“Hey, it’s me. I need you to do me a big favor. I need you to look up the background on James Galloway. He’s a partial owner of the restaurant downtown called Magglio’s and if I remember right he does some work at a bank. I need you to fast track this though. I need it by tomorrow afternoon. Thanks.” Sam hung up the phone.
Charlie was in the computer labs on campus writing a paper. It was a midterm paper that was due by the end of the week but he was desperately trying to finish it because it was the Friday before spring break. He knew he wasn’t going to have enough focus to do it during spring break week and didn’t want the worry of getting it done. Sam somehow knew that Charlie was in here working on a paper and decided to show up while he was working on it.
Sam walked into the computer labs and sat down on the computer next to Charlie. He logged in first before saying anything.
“Hey I need to talk to you.” Sam said.
“I’m a little busy trying to get this paper done.”
“Oh yeah? What’s it for?”
“Psychology class. It’s boring. Now leave me alone.”
“Who’s the teacher?”
“Weber. Now shut up.”
“I think I have a few papers you could copy off of if you wanted.”
“And get in trouble for plagiarizing a plagiarizer? No thanks.”
“Well hurry up. I need to talk to you about something.”
“You’re a grown man. It’s okay to take my sister on a date. You don’t need my permission.”
“What? I was talking about a food place. Where’d you get that from?”
“My sister said you guys connected. Whatever that means.”
“Oh I’d definitely connect with her.” Sam said in a sexual innuendo voice.
“No seriously though. What did she say?”
“She said you guys just hung out and talked on Valentine’s Day. She felt like you guys connected a little bit. She said she got you to open up a little.”
“I told her one story about a girl I dated. If that constitutes as connecting well I’ll be damned.”
“And since then?”
“Oh we bumped uglies for sure.”
“Fuck you dude.”
“No seriously it’s nothing.”
“You still talking to her?”
“She’ll email me every now and then and comment on the articles I get published in the paper.”
“What paper? You’re writing articles?”
“Yeah. I told you that.”
“No you didn’t. Only thing you told me you wrote was like a journal and then outlines for master schemes you wished you could pull off.”
“Am I sensing a little bit of jealousy?” Sam asked. Charlie stopped looking at the article on the desk and looked over at Sam.
“You’ve met my sister once and I feel like she already knows you better than I do. Which means either you like her or we aren’t very good friends. We might not even be friends at all like I thought we were. “
Sam was looking through his emails as the two of them were conversing. He just received one from the newspaper guy. He told him he had a new project that he wanted Sam to focus on and forget about the other one. According to the email the writer had been tipped off about a man in the area, a man who was being investigated for a variety of criminal actions. A man that although had committed serious crimes also seemed to commit certain crimes that allowed the investigators evidence to catch other criminals. The writer wrote that he was “The vigilante version of a modern day Robin Hood.” Somehow cops could figure out his presents by the intelligence of his robberies but could never seem to recognize a face, lift a finger print, or find any form of evidence. This was to be his new research project. Somehow Sam was supposed to research Marcus. The idea sent chills down Sam’s back. Charlie stared at Sam as Sam’s face turned blank. He waited for Sam to say something but he didn’t.
“What’s wrong Sam?”
“I think I’m being investigated.” Sam said quietly looking around the room. It was empty other than the student aid sitting at the desk by the door entrance.
“I don’t know. I might need to lay low for a while though. I need you to do me a favor.”
“What is it?”
“I need you to go to a restaurant tonight and scope it out for me.”
“I’m not helping you rob a restaurant.”
“I’m not worried about the restaurant. There’s a man that will probably be there. I’ll get you a description later. I need you to observe him and see if there is anything weird about him or about the place.”
“Why does it matter?”
“Because he randomly ran into me today and now I’m getting an email about ‘The Modern Day Robin Hood.’ You don’t find that suspicious?”
“Could just be a coincidence. I think you’re just being paranoid.”
“I’d rather be paranoid and careful than easy going and in jail. Can you do this for me?”
“Sure I guess. I just need to finish this paper first. You going to spot me some money.”
“Here’s a hundred bucks. Knock yourself out.”
“This place that expensive?”
“No. But you’re my friend. I want you to enjoy yourself.” Charlie smiled hearing this. “And trust me. I only give your sister money if it’s for sex.”
“Dude! Over the line.” Sam smiled and got out of his seat.
“Meet me at my place after everything is all said and done. Make sure you’re not being followed either. It’s starting to get real serious.”
Sam stayed up reading a book and waiting for Charlie to get back. He had given him the description of James and also asked that Charlie take notes on the layout of the building. Charlie finally sent Sam a text and Sam propped the back window open. Charlie crawled through the window within the next half hour and then they sat down to discuss it.
“This James guy was only there for a few minutes in the two hours I spent there. There was only so much I could do without having a date and not being old enough to order drinks. It’s not like it’s a sports bar where you can just watch sports all day.” Charlie handed Sam a napkin. “I drew the floor plan on this.”
“What did James do while he was there?”
“He talked to a manager there and had a drink while he listened to the guy who was playing piano. After that he left. I’m not a trained spy but the guy seemed normal. It looked like he was just stopping by to see the artist playing and happened to talk to his staff while he was there.”
“Yeah it sounds like nothing. He might have just lucked out with this restaurant. I just can’t help but think he did something shady to turn around his fortunes.”
“You just don’t trust anyone do you?”
“Nope and somehow somebody has said something to somebody that has put me on a news reporter’s radar.“ Sam’s cell phone rang. It was going on 11:30 at night. He quickly looked at Charlie for a reaction. Charlie looked as surprised as Sam was feeling about this phone call. Sam wasn’t expecting any phone calls and with the email he read today he wasn’t sure he wanted to answer it.
“Just answer it. It doesn’t have to be something bad.” Sam clicked the answer button on his cell phone.
“Hello.” Sam said dryly.
“Hey. Sorry about calling so late. This is Sam right?” the voice sounded like a young male and he could hear a kid talking in the background.
“Who is this?” Sam asked dryly again not knowing who it was.
“It’s Nate. Your brother.”
“Uh. How are you? How’s your daughter?”
“Lilly is good. She’s four now. She’s been growing a lot lately and given me a handful to deal with. What about you?” Sam noticed he didn’t answer how he was. He went ahead and talked about his daughter instead. He also noticed that Charlie was trying to eavesdrop on the conversation and Sam walked into the other room.
“I’m doing alright. I’m keeping busy.”
“Well that sounds good. Any new ladies in your life?” Nate asked.
“Nate I haven’t spoken to you in how many years now and you want to talk about chicks?”
“Well I heard about Amie and I wanted to call…”
“What do you want Nate? You wouldn’t call me unless you had to.” Sam said cutting Nate off. Nate sighed.
“I think I need your help.”
“I’m getting evicted. Lilly had some bad ear infections and I don’t have health insurance and neither does her mom. I got behind on some bills and I couldn’t catch back up.”
“So what do you need? You need some money?”
“No. I’ll pay that off pretty soon. I need a place to stay.”
“What about Lilly’s mom? Or Dad? They should let you stay with them for at least a little while. I’m at least an hour away from there and that’s speeding.”
“Lilly’s mom is already living back with her parents. She can’t find work these days. And Dad moved. You didn’t know that?”
“Nate how in the world would I know that Dad moved? That man hates me.”
“I’m sorry you’re right. He doesn’t hate you though. But you think I could crash with you?”
“Yeah I guess. I can find you a place of your own. You’ll have to give me a few days though.”
“Uh. I’m kind of starring at the eviction sign on my apartment door right now.”
“You need a place tonight then?”
“Yes.” Sam walked back into the other room and covered his cell phone and looked at Charlie.
“I need a favor.”
“Another one?” Charlie asked.
“My brother needs a place to crash. He has a four year old daughter though.”
“I can’t get them into my place in the dorms. Especially if he has a little girl, there’s no way.”
“That’s what I figured. You’ve been to Lauren’s apartment before right?”
“No. No. There’s no way she’ll go for that. With everything she knows about you.”
“Charlie. It’s for my brother though.”
“There’s no way I can convince her of that. They’ll either have to stay here or you’ll have to call her.” Sam removed his hand over his cell phone.
“Nate, I think I have a friend who lives closer to you guys that you might be able to stay with for a few days. I need to call her though and find out if it’s ok. Can you get all the important stuff out of your apartment and loaded into your car? I’ll call you back.” Sam heard Nate agree and then hung up the phone. He then looked back at Charlie.
“Shit. This is going to cost me something big, probably something personal with Lauren too.”
“Yeah she’ll want something to hold over your head I bet. Force you into doing something you don’t want to do.” Charlie said.
“Like sex?” Sam said
“Dude! Not cool.”
“Shut up. It’s ringing.” Sam walked into the other room again. Lauren answered on what Sam believed was her last ring before it went to her voicemail. Lauren had been asleep and wasn’t very happy about being awoken. Sam gave it his best chance at being nice and sound sweet and sincere, but once Lauren demanded a date his tone changed. He argued with her and tried negotiating something else but Lauren declined and said it wasn’t negotiable. After Sam hung up the phone he had a weird look on his face. He walked back into the other room where Charlie was laying down on Sam’s couch.
“Did she agree to it?” Charlie asked.
“Yeah. I need to call Nate back.” Sam said slowly.
“What’s wrong? That’s great news right? I can’t believe she went for it. What’d you have to tell her?”
“You do not want to know.”
“Of course I want to know. Tell me!”
“I have to go on a date with her this weekend. A full movie, dinner, club, and coffee night cap date.”
“What! That doesn’t sound like my sister at all.”
“That’s what I was thinking. And she did it so… so… quickly. Like it wasn’t a huge pain in the ass to let my brother and his daughter stay over for at least the next few days. And only for a date? I would have assumed she’d want some money or at least grocery money. Or force me into telling her about my family or something and why I needed the favor.”
“Maybe in her mind she doesn’t need you for that. Maybe she knows that she’ll learn more about you by having your brother there then by actually listening to your bullshit?”
“Is it me or have you gotten smarter?” Sam asked.
“I hang around you enough I start to look at things differently now.”
“Is she that smart to wake up from a dead sleep and figure that out though?” Sam asked but to no one in particular.
“Yeah.” Sam and Charlie both said in unison.
“I guess it might be a good thing for me that I haven’t talked to my brother for at least two years. She’ll be expecting more recent stuff and he won’t be able to give it to her.”
“You think that’s a good thing though?” Charlie asked.
“What? Obviously it is.” Sam said annoyed. Charlie sat up from the couch and looked at Sam.
“No what I’m saying is this, you’ve changed over the years. Whether you want to believe it or not that’s another conversation in itself but listen… Your brother knows probably the best version of yourself. He knows you in high school and he knows you while you were in college correct?” Sam nodded his head. “So he knows you as the straight arrow. The guy who sent him gifts even when he didn’t want to talk to you. He knows nothing about all the shady stuff you’ve done.”
“But it’s true. And my sister is great with secrets so I know she won’t tell your brother any of the stuff you might have happened to tell her.”
“Or that you have told her asshole.”
“Whatever. What I’m saying is that if you’re not interested in my sister this is going to be really bad. She’s going to hear all this great stuff about you and” Sam cut Charlie off.
“And she’s going to draw her own conclusions that secretly I’m this great dude who’s just pretending to be an ass.”
“I will have to agree with her on that.” Charlie said a little glim.
“You can leave now.”
“What? Because I know you’re a nice guy? Fine it’s getting late anyways.” Charlie headed for the door and Sam threw a book at him that hit his arm. Charlie stopped and looked at Sam and mouthed the words “are you kidding me?” and then left. Once Sam heard Charlie leaving through the back window he called his brother and gave him the directions to Laurens place and told him what to do. Sam knew this was a bad idea for him and wasn’t even sure why he helped his little brother.