Chapter 3: Conspiracy
Once his head cleared a bit, Cornelius decided that they really needed to get some ice cream. He’d been meaning to cut back on the drinking, after all, and you didn’t meet strange people in black suits in ice cream parlors.
He punched the request into his GPS while he sped up the highway.
“Get off at next exit,” said the female GPS voice.
“Did I just see you type in ice cream?” Lacy said. “Oh, yummy.”
She acted like a giddy teenage girl. Cornelius liked that. He said, “Sure. It’s a nice change of pace, don’t you think?”
“Oh, absolutely. I love ice cream.”
They pulled into the narrow parking lot of a strip mall. Cornelius thought, This is better. No fake iDs. No pretense. Just hanging out with a hot young actress.
With this in mind, it came as quite a shock when he turned from the ice cream counter holding two chocolate cones that he saw the two men in their black suits sitting at a table near Lacy. They stared at him.
Cornelius felt his blood boil and his head throb. “Why the hell are you guys following us?” he shouted at the men.
“Oh, Cornelius, it’s okay. They’re just my bodyguards,” Lacy said.
“Daddy won’t let me go anywhere without them,” she explained.
Cornelius felt dizzy. This had to be the craziest thing that ever happened to him. The two men kept staring at him.
“Then why didn’t they help you when your car broke down,” he asked?
Lacy looked perplexed. “I would never let them do that.”
Nonplussed, he said, “If he can afford to send bodyguards after you, then why were you driving that crappy car?”
“Oh, that’s not my car,” she explained. “I borrowed it from a friend of mine at school. She borrowed my car to impress her family when she picked them up from the airport.”
Who’d have called the odds on this one. A spoiled rich boy who worked in a blue collar job to satisfy the conditions of his trust randomly runs into a spoiled rich girl with bodyguards who obviously rebels against her father.
The cold and wet drip of ice cream snapped Cornelius back to the parlor. He sat down at the table and handed Lacy a cone.
“When I picked you up, you said you were having a terrible night. What happened that was so terrible, beside your friend’s car breaking down?” he said.
She looked around the ice cream parlor and then down at the table. “It’s just so terrible. You won’t understand.”
“Try me,” he said.
She sniffed, and for a moment, he thought she might start to cry again. “Well, I was supposed to meet this boy for dinner. He stood me up.”
Cornelius got a clear picture, now. He could see some pimply faced peon walking into a restaurant carrying cheesy flowers and running straight into that pair of body guards. It would be a wonder if Lacy didn’t get stood up all the time. He thought he could handle this situation.
“A guy must be crazy to stand you up,” he said, trying to turn back on the charm. “Do you think maybe we could do this again tomorrow night?”
She looked up into his eyes, smiling. “You’re giving me the distinct impression that you like me.” She batted her eye lashes at him.
A leg on his chair suddenly broke, laying him out on the floor. His ice cream cone went right into his neck and chest. Lacy sprang to her feet saying, “Ooh, are you alright?”
Cornelius could only laugh. “It really is much better if you wear it,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to wipe the ice cream from his neck.
Lacy giggled, and the straight faced body guards sniggered.
“At least we get free ice cream when we come back,” Lacy said as they walked out. They couldn’t stop laughing about the incident with the weak legged chair. The store manager felt so bad (or was so afraid of being sued) that he gave Cornelius a book of free ice cream coupons.
As they passed through the door, Cornelius promptly dropped the coupon book in the trash. Just another thing I don’t need to keep track of, he thought.
They sat down in the little sportster once again, and the two bodyguards climbed back into their black sedan. Cornelius decided that if planned on dating Lacy that he would need to have a little fun with her protective detail.
“Where do you live?” he asked as they pulled out of the parking lot. It had become late, and the traffic had really lightened up.
“I’m staying at a friends house while she’s in Europe. Down by the beach,” she said. “West it is,” Cornelius said, turning left onto the road.
Lacy played with the GPS built into the dash board. When she figured out how it worked, she put in the nearest cross streets to the house; she couldn’t remember the address.
Cornelius couldn’t help but look back in the rear view mirror over and over at the black sedan that tailed them. “Why does your dad have those two goons following you around everywhere?”
“They’re not goons. They’re actually very nice,” she said with a huff.
A bit embarrassed, Cornelius said, “I’m sorry. I just thought you didn’t like them when you said you would never let them help you with your car trouble.”
“Well,” she said, “they already do so much for me already, I just couldn’t put them out, so when they tried to help me I told them to go away.”
This woman truly perplexed Cornelius. Sometimes she sounded almost smart, then she said things like this. In the absence of his prompting, she went back to talking about her friends.
”...with the most horrible perm I’ve ever seen. Well, I just had to save her, so I took her to my stylist, Frank.”
Of course, Frank, he thought.
“He knew just how to fix it, and did a brilliant job on her highlights.”
“Uh, huh,” Cornelius said with a nod. He had to think of a way to get off this subject before his brain went numb.
He decided the best course; play to her vanity. “You said you’re studying to be an actress, right? You seem like you’d be really good at it.”
She giggled and leaned on his shoulder, grabbing his arm for a moment. Her hair flew into his face. It smelled nice. “Well, aren’t you just a sweetie. Yes, I’m studying the be a thespian. I even starred in a play in a 99 seat theater.”
“Really? What was it called,” he asked?
She took a moment to answer. “I don’t remember. It was something like, The Lila, or was it, The Delila.” She shrugged and stared out her window.
“That sounds interesting,” he lied. “When do you think you’ll be finished with school?”
“Oh, you can never actually finish acting school,” she said, suddenly very serious. “It requires dedication and a life time of learning to become a true master.” The silence following this revelation became uncomfortable. Cornelius feared that if they continued talking on this subject that he would laugh, and he didn’t want to ruin this new relationship so early.
“Tell me more about what you do,” Lacy said. “You said you work for the government and you help people.”
“Yeah,” he said slowly, trying to buy time to formulate an answer that wouldn’t sound lame, but he just found his job too lame and gave up. “Yeah, I help people come into the country.”
“Oh, like a border guard?” she said.
“Not quite. I’m more of an immigration officer. I interview immigrants who wish to become citizens and help them complete their paperwork.”
“That sounds dull,” she said. “They must pay pretty well, though.”
“What makes you say that?”
“This car. It’s nice.”
He felt embarrassed again. He hated talking about money with girls, but then, this particular girl seemed to have her own money, so maybe it would be okay. “My dad left me some money when he died.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said, putting a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.
“Exit right,” the GPS interrupted.
He didn’t really know what to talk about after that, and Lacy seemed to be in the same boat. Only the recited directions of the GPS unit broke the silence. “This is it,” Lacy said, pointing to a large house of mostly glass on the right. By the time Cornelius walked Lacy to the door, the suited body guards hopped out of their car and started toward the door.
She took his hands in hers and said, “Cornelius, I’d really like to see you again tomorrow.”
“I’d like that. What’s your number?” he said.
She didn’t answer, but looked past him at one of the bodyguards. He pulled a pen and a slip of paper from his jacket pocket and scribbled down a phone number, then handed it to Cornelius.
When he turned back around to say good night, Lacy threw her arms around him and kissed him full on the lips. “Thanks for saving me tonight,” she said as she stepped away. She gave him one last smile, then turned to open the door, and walked into it.
“Are you alright?” he said as he reached to help her back to her feet. The bodyguards shoved him out of the way and helped her to her feet.
“Boys, now that wasn’t very nice,” she said to the two men.
“Sorry Miss,” they said in unison.
She fished around in her purse and pulled out a key.
“I’m sorry about my bodyguards. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, and unlocking the door, she disappeared into the house, followed by her bodyguards.
As Cornelius drove back home, he reflected on what an astonishing night he’d just had. Certainly not the most exciting night he’d ever had, but probably the most colorful. And as the he pulled off the road with the wild bumping of his car caused by the fresh flat tire, he thought, Where are those bodyguards when you need them? Perfect.