Walking in the front door of Lily’s his eyes were assaulted by stainless steel, and boomerang patterned formica basking in the glare of fluorescent lights. Jerry squinted through his headache and fatigue to find his partner standing and waving at him from the far booth of crowded the diner. He hurriedly walked toward him past rows of work a day people shoveling pancakes into their mouths.
“Morning Jerry!” Mister Davis took him by the arm, grabbed his hand and pumped furiously; Jerry thought the motion was going to make him vomit. “I went ahead and ordered us up a pot of coffee kiddo.” He said guiding the younger man into the booth. “You seem like you could use it, you look like unadulterated shit.”
“I haven’t been sleeping much lately. Been up for days getting my head wrapped around your Maslow problem and I…”
“Way I see it kiddo Maslow’s your problem, at least for the time being.” The smile on Davis’s face narrowed just a bit as he leaned back against the red buttoned cushion of his seat. “That’d be why you’re the one whose stayin” up late thinkin’ about him.”
“Alright then,” Jerry poured himself a coffee out of the carafe on the table, “I’ve been working myself sick on the Maslow problem.” He wrapped his hands around the cup feeling the warmth of the hot liquid; absent mindedly he began to roll the it back and forth in his hands. “I think what I’ve decided is that Peter Maslow and I should become very close friends.”
“You’re fidgetin’ with your drink again, I told you to be careful about that,” the older man admonished. “Look, I thought it was agreed we needed him out of the picture. You were going to get rid of him and then take over his position. I’m not sure I get where you’re goin’ with this angle Jerry.”
“We do need him gone, but just to make a vacuum in the organization, if we just take him out there is no real guarantee that I’ll be the one to fill it. I got to thinking about something you said a few weeks back. You said I should find a way to get alongside him.” Jerry blew across his coffee, watching the surface of the black liquid ripple outward. He set it back on the table without taking a sip; he could feel Davis’s disapproving look, but decided he was too exhausted to care much about it. “The way I’m looking at it, if I get in good with our boy he’ll introduce me around to his friends. If I get them to trust me, I get shown around meet the real players. That way when some unfortunate fate befalls poor Peter, They already know me, I’m in a better position to take his place. Then I work my way around, get a good look at the operation and find out who’s pulling the strings.”
“Kiddo, I never said that you should get friendly with the guy, I just meant you needed to know who you’re dealin’ with. The game we play is mostly about research. A successful job is usually seventy percent done by the time we hit the field.” Davis produced a flask from under the table and poured a small amount of its contents into his mug. “Sounds like you got your heart set on this angle, and it’s your play to make so just make sure you got your ducks in a row before we start.” He raised the flask and offered it towards Jerry.
“Christ Davis, ” Jerry groaned, “what is it with you? I mean, the entire time we’ve been working on this it ‘s been like being on a three-month bender. Your telling me to have my ducks in a row and every time we get together, we end up drinking like it’s Spring break. Give it a rest.”
The old man looked genuinely hurt. “Just bein’ sociable, you don’t want any just say no, preferably with a fuckin’ thank you at the end of it.” Davis dropped the flask into his bag. “You know there was a time when people had some damned manners, knew how to be gracious.”
“I’m sorry, I just meant. Look I’m just really tired and I’m getting snappy.
“Whatever kiddo,” he fished around in his bag and produced a thin plastic card which he tossed on to the table with out ceremony, “There’s your expense account, start by gettin’ yourself some breakfast. Pretty much anything on the menu is good, though I’d avoid the Hollandaise sauce in your condition. Then go outfit yourself with the right wardrobe. You can play this anyway you want just be ready to go by the end of the month.” Davis stood, and slung his bag over his shoulder. “You know how to find me if you need anything”
“Really Davis, I mean it. I really am sorry.”
“So you said. Job get’s the best of all of us sometimes, each in our own ways.” The old man started walking away, buttoning his coat.
“Hey Davis,” Jerry started.
“What is it kiddo?”
There’s this thing I’ve got on my mind that I can’t shake, Jerry thought, but if I try to focus on it, really think about it, it’s like it moves farther away. If I look at it too long my head starts to throb and everything gets all fuzzy. That’s why I can’t sleep, that’s why I snapped at you. There’s something just on the edges of my thoughts that I just can’t keep a hold of, but I know it’s something important.
Instead he just said “Nevermind, I’ll see you around.”
Davis raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Yeah, ok kiddo. You take care, and get some rest.”