Saturday, January 12, 2013

A little mystery...

Wind was howling through the man-made canyons of downtown San Francisco. It was rare enough for it to be windy, but even more so for the amount of wind. 60-70 miles per hour was the high wind warning for the day. Scott pulled his coat a little tighter around himself and soldiered on to his hotel. It was a boutique hotel off of Bush Street called The White Swan Inn. His contact for this particular trip had booked the room and made all of the arrangements for his stay.
    It was a quaint spot with a decent view, free baked goods, coffee and tea throughout the day and a central location to the businesses he had the need to visit. That it was within walking distance of Union square and a short cab ride most everywhere else also helped. Generally speaking, he would have liked to be closer to the Haight and Ashbury part of town, but the hotel had not been his choice.
    Breakfast was a quick endeavor in the small dining area in the basement. While reading his notes, he partook of the breakfast of the day: scrambled eggs and a couple of sausage links paired with some toast and excellent coffee. By 8am he was walking to his first stop, a commercial upscale building being renovated for a larger business. Naturally, since the person who was meeting him there had a vested interest in the completion of the smaller project, it was deemed necessary to have their business handled there.
    If the wind had been less intense, or his business far enough away to warrant a cab, he would have missed her. Cowering in a small corner, waiting for a bus, was a long necked blond woman with her hair up in a messy bun. She wasn't glowing like the night he'd seen her carousing with a married man, but there was no mistaking the woman from the restaurant. She had on a long tan London Fog trench coat which was belted tightly on her pleasantly curvy figure. He looked longingly across the street, wanting to go over to her. To ask what the hell she was doing out here, and to find out where she was going. The traffic wasn't slowing down and there was no hope of getting across without a light. By the time he got to the light and was across, her bus had already picked her up.
    A girl he had once known, a million miles away in a small mountain valley town, had told him that the difference between stalking and being pursued was if the girl thought you were cute. He'd have to handle this delicately. He couldn't risk freaking her out. But this just wasn't something that happened to people. There was a reason he'd seen her. He quickly wrote down the number of the bus to look up after his meeting and continued on his way.
    The meeting could have gone better. He'd kept the account, but only after promising some provisos that would not make his boss happy. He arrived back at the small room on the top floor of the quaint 'French' hotel and quickly opened his laptop. After almost a half hour of searching, he was unable to locate the route that the wayward young lady had taken. The number 2 line ended near the Golden Gate park, but from there, he didn't have any idea where she might have gone.
    Really, the only hope he had was to go back there the next morning around the same time and see if he could find her again. It was a depressing thought, and before he could get too far into it, he was on the phone with the client for the next day. The client was calling to reschedule for later the next afternoon, as something had come up at his daughter's school. Being that Scott had already decided that he was going to go to Haight and Ashbury for dinner and a couple cocktails, it was welcome news.
    The afternoon was spent with a light lunch from the corner bodega and writing out both the new terms of the client from that morning and a prospectus for the next client. By six o'clock, he was in a cab, headed for Martin Mack's Gastropub on Upper Haight. Scott knew all about San Francisco cab drivers and gave him specific directions so that he wouldn't give him the run around "tourist route" that took twice as long and cost twice as much. After tipping the man and walking along part of Haight to see what had changed since his last trip, he headed inside.
    It wasn't his normal fare. Most days he would have opted for an upscale restaurant that served overpriced tapas that required several courses to even approach something close to being filling. But today, he just wanted a fucking cheeseburger and a beer. Okay, maybe two or three beers... and a shot.
    He had ditched the suit for something a little more low key: Jeans and a button down t-shirt. All still solidly designer items; apparently he didn't own anything that wasn't designer anymore. Not that he knew when that had even happened for sure. But none of the tags were visable and he really didn't care at the moment. He just needed to get his mind in gear and figure out what he was going to do next.
    There was a menu at the end of the bar, so he sat down and started looking for the cheeseburger section. Maybe he'd even get a side of jalapenos to put on top. If he was very lucky, they would even be pickled.
    "Hello, what can I get you?" Scott put down his menu, gasped and proceeded to choke on his own spit. The bartender had big azure eyes and soft, but slightly wild, blonde hair that had been swept up into a loose bun high on the back of her head. She pivoted gracefully and grabbed him a glass of water and patted him on the back while leaning over the top of the bar. She smelled like vanilla, figs and something else wild and entirely her own. After a moment, he had stopped coughing and took a sip of the water. She was back on her side of the bar and had a genuinely concerned look on her face.
    "Are you okay?" He realized that he was blinking rapidly and didn't actually have any kind of plan on what he would say to her when he met her. Usually he had all of his interactions completely planned out. It was sort of his buffer against losing control of the situation. "Do you want something else to drink?" She was smiling tentatively now, almost like she was trying to put him at ease.
    "Yep, yes, actually... yeah. A beer. Whats on tap?" He was seriously screwing this up. She pointed down the bar about three feet away with a thumb as he raked his hand through his hair. Turning back to him, she giggled softly to herself.
    "Tell you what, I'm just going to make you something you'll like." He made a gesture to wave it off and actually managed to open his mouth to protest when she cut him off. "Don't worry, its on me." And she winked at him. Winked! What the fuck?!
    She returned to his place at the bar with a mysterious and large glass of what looked like a margarita.
    "Don't over think it, just give it a try. You'll like this, I can tell." Her eyes were glowing and she had on a mischievous little half-grin. He sniffed at it doubtfully before taking a sip. It was a margarita, but there were a few extra ingredients that made his taste buds stand up at attention.
    "See? I told you you'd like it." She grinned wider, before turning pseudo-serious on him. "You're gonna want to eat something with that, though. What'll it be?" She already had out her notepad and a pen from her apron and was waiting patiently.
    "Cheeseburger with pickled jalapenos on the side. French fries and a small side of ranch." She nodded her approval, grinned again and walked over to put in his order and help some other customers who had just come in.
    He was still trying to figure out what to say to her when she came over with an ice water and asking if he'd like a refill. She'd have to charge him for the next one, though. He nodded yes and managed to smile back. Not the debonaire smile that he used to pick up women, but his own, slightly goofy one.   
    He was still mentally beating himself up when he noticed the three people come in and take turns hugging his mystery woman. In all of the excitement, he still hadn't caught her name. The bartender and the woman of the threesome looked very alike, except for their hair. One of the men was obviously with the curly haired redhead.  The other one was leaning in towards his bartender in a very casual, but more than a little possessive, masculine way.
    She didn't seem to notice, or if she did, didn't seem to care. Either way, it didn't bode well for her apparent (or at least hoped for) single status.