I try very hard to look outwardly unassuming. Because nobody in my position wants to call attention to oneself. I have to blend in, fade into the crowd—become invisible.
I have certain outfits that I wear when I am on a mission. Most of them are neutral colored, baggy dresses. Sometimes I wear jeans, but only when I am near a campus or in a bar. I like to wear makeup, but I keep it toned down. I probably shouldn’t wear it at all, because with my blonde hair and drab coloring, without it, I would be even more unassuming. But even I have some small vanities.
When I enter a room, all my senses are on alert. I notice everything. The tables with their crisp linen cloths. Silver brocade walls. Couples chatting over their club sandwiches. The slightly opened window. The lone diner, sitting near the door, a man who blinks too often—and whose nails are bitten to the quick. When I see my contact, we approach one another casually, as if by accident. “What a surprise to see you here! How are you, Clifton?” I ask, shaking his hand and smiling. “You look healthy. Been to the ocean?”
Clifton nods blandly. He looks cool and breezy in his tennis whites. “Yes. The family needed a getaway. We had a lovely long weekend in Newport.” He shifts slightly, indicating the French doors at the left of the long room, next to the bar. We stroll towards the bright light streaming in from the golf course.
We stroll along the cart path, watching the golfers. As soon as we are far enough away to be overheard, we get right down to business. “Do you have it?” I ask.
“Of course,” he answers. “Do you think I would come without it?”
We both know this is dangerous. “I thought you might have lost your courage, right at the last minute. It has happened before, and we both know it.” I look behind us. No. No one.
He reaches into the pocket of his tennis shorts and hands me a little slip of paper. “Take this now, and don’t look at it until you get into your car. You can be sure it is the real thing. Maggie. You know you can trust me.”
He slips it into my hand. I palm it, and then look at my watch. “Why, Clifton, honey! I lost track of the time! I really must go—” All of this said just a bit loudly. We turn, walk back to the clubhouse quickly. As we round the corner of the low, many windowed building, I see some people I know. We both gasp. Clifton and I veer off from one another.
I cross the gravel, and hurry into my Volvo. The seats are hot; I flinch and lift my thighs. Heaving a sigh of relief at getting this far without detection, I open the slip of paper. There it is—what I have been seeking. What I have wanted for years.
I have it, finally. Clifton’s mother’s secret cruller recipe.
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