Featuring Layton & Adler
The past week had been a mess. The kind of mess that those of us in social media dread. Thankfully, the brunt of the chaos had been in our AHL feeder team, the Rush, but since they were currently without a social media guru (their term not mine) I’d been called in to try to stem the uproar about a drunken son coming out at a public event.
Somehow, we’d capped the potential wildfire. I’d done what I could but internal mechanisms in Carlisle had somehow smothered the flames quickly and efficiently. I wasn’t sure what had been done or said behind closed doors but that wasn’t my concern. I’d been on loan from the Railers, so once the firestorm was under control, I was back in Harrisburg, missing Adler terribly. Road trips were miserable. I’d gotten used to his big warm body curled around mine at night.
Although, being able to sit in a small little café with a cranberry muffin and some steaming hot tea and read was helping to lift the doldrums and ease me back into my job here. I’d been anxious to get my hands on this novel, a retelling of the traditional stories of the Norse gods, so I’d snuck away from my office, print book in hand because I spent enough time looking at screens all day, and found this little coffee ship tucked back on a side street. Snuggled into a plump chair, muffin cut into bite-sized bits, I flipped open the book and a small pink bit of paper fluttered down to my lap.
Since this was a new book, I blinked stupidly at the slip of paper before picking it up from my thigh. It was carefully folded, the folds sharp and neat. I carefully unfolded it, the sounds of people chatting, and coffee beans being ground fading away as I read over the short, typewritten note to me—
Mr. Foxx –
Go to the corner, enter into the men’s shop, and ask to speak to Mr. Dingleman. He has something for you.
Secret Agent Man
My gaze flew from the note and raced around the coffee shop. Someone was having a good laugh right about now. Had I put the book down at any time? No, I didn’t think so. So then how the hell… I read the note several more times, my tea growing colder. Then I looked around the café. No one here seemed to be tittering behind their hands at me. What the hell was going on? This rang of Adler, but I had just picked up my book at the bookstore less than an hour ago. Also, he was still in North Carolina and not due home with the team until later today.
I sat there for some time, bullheadedly refusing to budge. Then, my curiosity got the better of me, so I rose, stuffed my book under my arm, and left my tea and muffin behind. The sound of city traffic met me when I exited the café. I hustled along to the men’s wear shop on the corner and rushed inside. Suits, rather well-made ones, surrounded me. I was drawn to a rack with smoky gray jackets but pushed aside that desire and stalked to the register. A small, bent, old man smiled up at me.
“Mr. Dingleman?” I asked, feeling the need to be covert for some stupid reason.
“Yes.” His voice was brittle and cracked.
“I’m Layton Foxx. You have something for me?”
He smiled like the sphinx, pattered off to some backroom, and emerged with a small slip of pink paper. My pulse kicked up as the paper was dropped into my open palm.
“Thank you,” I murmured, turning my back to the elderly gent to open the crisply folded note.
Mr. Foxx –
Very good! Now go to the cigar shop two blocks over. Ask for Ms. Johnson. She has something for you.
Secret Agent Man
“What the hell?” I mumbled, shoved the second note into my front pocket, and jogged out of the men’s shop. Two blocks over, I found Ms. Johnson in a fine cigar shop.
She smiled just as knowingly as the tailor had, walked to a large humidor, and pulled out a plastic tube that should hold a fat cigar. She uncapped the tube to shake out a small slip of pink paper, this one folded so tightly that it was slim enough to fit into a cigar tube.
“Who gave this to you?” I asked the young woman.
“A secret agent man,” she replied with a wink.
Okay, this was getting to be ridiculous. I had work to do, a backlog of social media posts to get up, several interviews to set up, and now I was being directed to make my way to Riverfront Park to find peace, whatever that meant.
“Was the man who gave this to you a handsome redhead?” I asked Ms. Johnson. She merely smiled sweetly. “Damn it.”
I huffed out of the cigar shop, flagged down a cab, and rode to Riverfront Park, my mind whirling. This had to be Adler. But how? Ugh. It was maddening. Tossing cash at the cabbie, I exited the taxi and made my way into the park, walking past joggers and people out enjoying the fall weather.
“Peace. I’m looking for peace,” I whispered to myself. That kind of hit close to home because yes, I was looking for peace. I’d found a good deal of it in Adler’s arms but there were still nightmares…still things that haunted me and kept me from giving myself wholly to Adler.
I saw the sign. Peace Garden. The flower beds were thick with mums, the Susquehanna River flowed gently behind the flower beds. I moved into the garden, walking slowly along the river until I came to a bench where some idiot in a trench coat and a Fedora sat. Adler looked up from under the brim of his hat, a cat who ate the canary smile on his far-too-handsome face.
“Dare I ask?” I enquired, taking a seat beside him.
“Private jet, lots of running around, and quite a few bribes,” he replied as he draped an arm around my shoulder. “Think you can sit here with me for an hour or two? You look stressed.”
“According to you I always look stressed.” I felt a little uneasy being this public with our touches, but the warmth of his body and the sound of his voice began to work its magic. My muscles began to soften, and I melted into his side.
“Well yeah, but you look even more tight than usual. Did you have fun playing Sam Spade?” he asked, his Bogart impersonation spot on. I nodded. “Good. Bet it took your mind off the Rush and the Railers and Twitter posts for at least an hour. Think you want to go home and play with a private dick?”
“God, that was bad.”
“I know. So, you want to?”
“In a bit. I’m enjoying the peace your arm around me brings right now.”
He tipped up his Fedora, kissed my cheek, and we sat there until the sun set. Then I took the private dick to my place and we investigated ways to please each other.