“Desperate affairs require desperate measures.”
Admiral Lord Nelson (1758 – 1805)
Cynthia Powers was relaxing in the lounge of the Café Pierre Bar, just where she said she would be. J.P. Kilroy immediately spotted her as he entered the wide, spacious lobby of the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. Ignoring the concierge who stepped out to greet him, he turned toward the isolated but comfortable lounge tucked away in the far left corner of the lobby. There were just a few customers, businessmen he presumed, in the lounge.
She was smoking a cigarette while enjoying a Martini. She heard his footsteps echo off the white Marfil marble floor and looked up from her high-back quilted armchair to greet him. Cynthia was wearing the same business suit as earlier but changed the white blouse for a powder blue one with a neckline low enough to show ample cleavage. She quickly stabbed her cigarette into a crystal ashtray and glanced at her watch.
“Right on time, Mister Kilroy,” she remained seated and extended her hand.
“Please, call me J.P.” He took her hand, resisted a ridiculous urge to kiss it and shook it gently. “It’s really nice of you to set this up.” He sat in an identical armchair next to her with a view of the lobby entrance.
“Not at all. It was the least I could do, considering.” She left the sentence unfinished but he knew what she was referring to. Right, Cynthia. Considering that you and your boss kept me occupied for so long that the men I needed to speak to left by the time you finished with me!
“Well, thank you just the same,” he said sincerely. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised what Public Affairs Officers are asked to do,” she replied with an impish grin.
A waiter appeared and he ordered a glass of Cabernet Franc for himself as well as a refill for Cynthia. She reached for the pack of True Green Menthol Lights on the small glass-topped table between them. “Would you mind, terribly?”
“Go right ahead. I’m an ex-smoker myself.”
“Isn’t everybody?” She shook a cigarette from the pack and picked up the lighter. “Thanks. Sometimes ex-smokers are the worst…the most judgmental. I’m glad you’re not.”
He took the lighter and lit it. She surrounded his hand with both of hers, guided the flame to the tip of her cigarette, holding on to his hand just a little too long. He immediately got aroused. She was coming on to him, he thought. She was a sexy, sensual woman and he wondered how she would look naked. The heated metal on the lighter singed his thumb, shattered the fantasy growing in his mind and snapped him back to reality. He winced and the lighter fell to the floor.
“Too hot for you?” She had a broad mischievous smile.
“Uh…could you…I mean…could we…the dinner?” he stammered, changing the subject back to why they were there in the first place. She was certainly sending out strong vibes and he found himself increasingly more attracted to her. He would definitely have to see where this flirtatious mating-dance might lead, but only after he addressed the pressing matter at hand.
Her demeanor became slightly more businesslike after obviously embarrassing him. “Ah, yes, the dinner. The good news is they are all staying at this hotel, compliments of the DOD.” She was referring to the Department of Defense. “That’s why I arranged to have dinner here, in the American Grill Restaurant. The food’s not all that great but it’s convenient. By the way, dinner is on you.”
“That’s great. Is that the bad news?”
“No. Mister Abraham is not staying for dinner. He has a plane to catch.”
“Shit! I really wanted to spend time with him most of all.”
“Be good and maybe I can arrange something down the road,” she flashed her impish grin again.
“Could we please focus here?” he asked calmly, exasperated.
He became rattled when she toyed with him and she was enjoying it. “Sorry,” she smiled. “Sometimes I just can’t help it.” She composed herself. “Schuyler Johnson, Harley Tidrick and Frank West will be joining us. I believe they’re all leaving tomorrow but I could be mistaken.”
“Fantastic! I really do appreciate this.”
“Actually, Colonel Chase…” she began but stopped when he suddenly stood up.
“There he is now, excuse me.” J.P. hurried quickly to the main desk area of the lobby toward a distinguished looking black man and a beautiful, young woman. His short salt and pepper hair was heavily gray on the sides. A long cashmere overcoat covered his dark blue business suit but not his white shirt and gray tie. The white scarf around his neck made him look like a notable musical conductor. The young woman walking alongside him was wheeling a pull-suitcase toward the front door.
“Excuse me, Mister Abraham,” said J.P. as he approached them and offered his hand. “My name is J.P. Kilroy, I mean John Kilroy.”
Lincoln stopped and looked at J.P. a glint of recognition in his eyes. “Of course, you’re John’s son.” Lincoln took his hand in both of his own and shook it warmly. “This is my granddaughter, Keisha.”
J.P. nodded, smiled and shook her hand. She was polite but appeared hurried.
“I wonder if you have a minute to…” he began when she interrupted him.
“I’m sorry Mister Kilroy but we do have to go. We’re late to the airport.”
“She pretty much runs the show for me these days,” Lincoln smiled at him and then at her. “I owe today to her persistence…and to your father, of course.”
“Of course, today, I’m sorry.” In his haste J.P. had completely neglected to mention the Medal. “Congratulations, sir,” he apologized.
“Grandfather, we have to go,” urged Keisha.
“Just one minute, dear.” He turned to J.P. “I just wanted you to know, Mister Kilroy, that I asked the President, at lunch at the White House today, to include someone from…”
“It’s all right,” J.P. interrupted. He looked at Keisha. “I completely understand. It’s not a problem.” He turned his attention back to Lincoln. “I just was hoping that you could tell me something about my father, how you met him, what you knew about him, how you won that Medal together?”
Lincoln gave him a strange and quizzical look. “But, the President insisted.” He continued as if not hearing what J.P. said.
“Please, Mister Kilroy, we do have to go,” Keisha was getting impatient and tugged at Lincoln’s arm, coaxing him toward the door.
“Perhaps I can call?” J.P. asked.
“Colonel Chase knows how to reach us,” she called back over her shoulder. “Sorry, no time now.” Lincoln had a look of resignation on his face as his granddaughter led him away. “Nice to meet you,” were her last words as they exited the lobby.
J.P. became aware of Cynthia standing alongside him as Lincoln and his granddaughter entered a waiting taxi. “Well, that was a strange conversation,” he remarked.
“The man is well into his seventies,” she replied. “He seems lucid and articulate but I’m sure he has his senior moments. They probably all do.”
“I’m sure,” he sighed, still staring out the lobby door.
“I heard somewhere that they’re dying at a rate of fifteen hundred a day.”
“Who’s dying?” he asked.
“The World War II veterans,” she answered. “They’re getting up there in years!”
“Dying,” he muttered. “Yes, of course, just like my father.” He mused on the thought for a moment as the taxi pulled away. He wondered if he would ever see or speak to Lincoln Abraham again. At that moment, he resolved not to let too much time go by before he contacted him. He turned to Cynthia, gently grabbed her elbow and guided her toward the hotel restaurant entrance.
“Well, if they’re dying at such a rapid rate, we’d better hurry up and have dinner.”