“Is this where we’re supposed to meet?!?”
I knew that it was…but that didn’t stop me from posing the question out loud, as a polite way to insinuate that everyone else should hurry the fuck up and get here. I didn’t want me and my wife to be the only ones in this dimly-lit, cool cave. After all, if we were suddenly ambushed by surreptitious ninjas, we’d need more numbers to even the odds. Of course, the chances of being assaulted by a gang of ninjas was pretty close to nil, especially within a Jersey parking garage that faced Manhattan. But hey…stranger things have been known to happen…
“Stop being so impatient! You’re gonna make the both of us irritable.”
Even though I saw her viewpoint, I didn’t say anything in response…mainly since I didn’t want my wife to have the satisfaction of being right. Like any other couple who’s spent more than 5 years together, every disagreement naturally takes on the form of a contest of wills; it’s just the way of things. Standing on the rim of a large pool of light, we continued our vigil. I feel like I’m Bob Woodward waiting for Deep Throat…but with a less noble cause. I kept my eyes trained forward on the doors, while Rhonda kept us abreast of the general news in the world via her phone. In the midst of describing yet another annoying comment on Facebook, she paused her story when we both clearly heard a sound from the shadows in front of us.
She dropped the phone to her side and looked at me. “What was that?”
I squinted at the surrounding darkness. “I think that someone else is here.”
As the figure moved closer towards us, more details about our newcomer could be made out. He was tall with dark hair, and he moved with a certain amount of confidence. Within a few feet of the pool’s rim, I could make out a police uniform.
As a greeting, I yelled out my inquiry. “You’re here for the meeting, too?”
He stopped directly across from us, with just the bottom half of his face was illuminated. Only the tips of his shoes were brave enough to venture out from the shadows. “Yep,” he replies. “I guess that I’m in the right place. Where’s everybody else?”
“They should be here soon,” replied Rhonda quickly.
I gave him a nod and a salute. “Officer O’Bannon, right? Good to know that we’ve got the town’s best police captain on our side. Maybe I could get you to help us with a few parking tickets…?”
“I don’t see why not,” he replied. “What’s a few parking tickets between friends?”
My icebreaker did its magic, and we all chuckled a bit as we waited for the remainder of our plenary gathering. After a few more minutes, other people took their places in the light’s circle, and we soon had the full circumference occupied by various sorts of people. In total, there were somewhere around a few dozen people in the garage now.
I directed a whisper to my side. “You talked to any of these people, yet?”
“No, not really. A few words here and there…but all in all, not much.”
I took a quick look around. “Some of these guys seem like weirdos…but I guess that we’ll just have to make do with the given situation.”
“Stop being so pessimistic,” chided Rhonda. “I bet that everything will work out. Wait…there are some people missing. Who’s not here?”
“Hmmm…I think that the Sikh guy isn’t here yet. And I don’t see the other cop, either.”
“Well,” shrugged Rhonda, “maybe they’ll show up later.”
People politely talked with each other about the weather, and the general murmur continued in the room for several more minutes before a booming voice could be heard from the front of the garage. “Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I’m so glad that so many of you could make it to our meeting! God bless all of you.”
All the heads of our shadowy council turned to look at the figure who approached with a slow, confident pace. As the light removed the darkness covering him, we could see an older gentlemen in a modest suit with expensive shoes walking towards us, and he sported a slight grin under his thin moustache. The expression on his face matched his gait: calm and measured. When he was only a few feet away, he ground his spent cigarette on the back of a small black case and put the butt within its confines.
“I didn’t know that Mr. Vitalona was a smoker,” remarked Rhonda in a low voice.
I shook my head. “Neither did I. He must have some sort of technique for disguising the smell. Tricky devil.”
Mr .Vitalona took his place at the side of Officer O’Bannon with a friendly pat on the back. After they quickly shook hands, Mr. Vitalona turned to face the group that encircled them. “Isn’t it funny to see good and evil shaking hands, everyone? Only in New Jersey! As most of you already know, I am Mr. Vitalona, but since we’re all friends here, I insist that you call me Raymond. Also, I’m standing next to my long-time friend and colleague Richard O’Bannon, but we insist that you call him Richie. Right, Richie? In any case, we’ve got a lot to get done here tonight. So, let’s start now and finally get down to business.”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy, muttering bastard on occasion.