The Vanishing Santa, Part 4

Assistant District Attorney Michelle Ambrose was extremely ambitious when it came to her career.  No one knew it yet, but she planned to run against her boss in the next election.

Once elected District Attorney, she intended to hold the office for two terms, do amazing things, and then set her sights on becoming the state’s next Attorney General.

After that, she was open to running for Governor, if that’s what the people wanted, or moving on to something on the national stage.

As far as Michelle was concerned, no political position was out of reach.

The same ambition was not there, however, when it came to spending the weekend holiday shopping with her family.  It wasn’t that Michelle didn’t love her parents and siblings.  She was just afraid of how they would react to meeting her new boyfriend.

Of course, they had already met Wally, but that was back when he was the teenage younger brother of her high school boyfriend.   Michelle wasn’t quite sure how the family would react to this intriguing new direction for her love life.

On the one hand, they might be thrilled that she was finally seeing someone.  Michelle had made it clear that work was a priority and she had no time for a relationship, but try telling that to parents who were dead set on having grandchildren.

There mere thought of having kids caused Michelle to shudder.  Not because she didn’t love children, but because she hadn’t factored them into her ambitious career plans.  She always assumed that a husband and children would be there with her at the podium during campaign stops and victory parties, but she hadn’t given any thought to when and how that family would materialize.

Michelle’s gut told her that her family would be intrigued by the identity of her new beau.  They wouldn’t quite know what to make of it at first, then ask lots of questions, then move on to teasing her about the age difference, before finally accepting Wally if he was the one who made her happy.

So the question on Michelle’s mind at the moment was: Did Wally make her happy?  And perhaps there was a follow up question as well: Was Wally her boyfriend?

They hadn’t actually discussed labels yet, but they had been spending a lot of time together, and as far as Michelle knew, they were exclusive.  Then again, Wally could be cheating on her with Bruno, but did his man crush on his mentor really count?

To play Devil’s Advocate, one could argue that Michelle had a bit of a crush on Maggie.

Michelle grumbled at the frustration this inner monologue caused, and just stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror.

Wally was in the bedroom getting dressed.  He practically lived at her place at this point.  Clearly, if they were going to share a space it would be her house.  Wally’s home base was a cramp, dingy apartment that looked and smelled like a college dorm room.

There was no way that an Assistant District Attorney with political ambitions would be caught dead at a place like that.  Unless, of course, it was a crime scene and she was there as part of her job.

Michelle growled this time.  This was way too much stress for so early in the morning, but all the mental chickens were coming home to roost because they were due at her parents’ in an hour.

Christmas, Detective Bruno, Modern Philosopher“What are those weird noises, babe?” Wally asked with a smile as he came up behind her and kissed her neck.  “Or should I just pretend I didn’t hear them?”

Suddenly, the bad thoughts disappeared from Michelle’s brain, and all she could think about was how happy being with Wally made her.

She turned to face him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and gave him a long kiss.

The kind you reserved for someone who was more than an occasional overnight guest.

“What was that for?” he asked in surprise.

“Which one of us is the lawyer?” she replied with a mischievous grin.  “Shouldn’t I be asking all the questions, Officer?”

“I think you’re using both your superior interrogation skills and your feminine wiles to avoid answering my question about the suspicious noises,” he countered with a sly grin.

Michelle countered with a serious face.

“I believe you referred to them as weird,” Michelle corrected him.  “Should I ask the court stenographer to review the record?”

Rather than waste time with words, Wally lifted her into his muscular arms and kissed her.  It was a long, intense kiss that undoubtedly went a long way towards answering Michelle’s previous question about whether Wally was her boyfriend.

When they both finally came up for air, Michelle was blushing deeply.

“It doesn’t take a Law degree to figure out that you are trying to either distract me, or butter me up,” Michelle purred.  “Whichever one it is, I can confirm that it is definitely working.”

Wally smiled and gently lowered her to her feet.

“You got me,” he replied with a sigh.  “I know we’re supposed to meet your family today for holiday shopping, and to give them a chance to digest the news that we are a couple, but is there any way I can get a raincheck on that without ending our relationship?”

Michelle feigned disappointment for Wally, but on the inside, she celebrated the stay of execution from having to go public with their relationship to her family.

Like any good lawyer, she had an excellent poker face, and the ability to misdirect a suspect (or love interest) with a facial expression that did not match how she truly felt.

“But my family was so excited to finally meet you…” she replied with a pout.

Wally fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Probably because he felt so guilty, but also because he was obviously putty in her hands.

“I promise to make it up to you,” he assured her.  “I want to meet them, too.  It’s not like they don’t know me, but they don’t realize I’m your special friend now…”

Michelle broke character and giggled.  “Special friend?  Is that how you see me?  And how am I special to you, Officer Wainwright?”

Wally was totally confused now.  His brain had been in survival mode out of fear that choosing work over Michelle could lead to the downfall of their still nascent relationship.  Yet here she was, giggling like a school girl.  Was she upset or in a good mood?  She was already so difficult to read.  Wally didn’t need this new complication.

“Well, we’ve never discussed labels…” he said with more than a hint of embarrassment in his tone.

Michelle smiled, and kissed him on the cheek.  It was easy to mess with him, but in a twist that surprised even her, she had no desire to play with this man’s emotions.

She would definitely need to unpack that one later.

“What do you want to call me?” she asked as a sly, sexy smile replaced the pout.

She moved a little closer to him as she awaited his answer.  Her proximity made Wally feel tingly all over, a feeling he much preferred to confusion and panic.  Michelle really had him running the emotional spectrum, and something about that really appealed to him.

He would definitely need to unpack that one later.

“I’d like to call you my girlfriend,” he replied with a confidence he hadn’t quite been sure was there.

He pulled her close, but didn’t kiss her.

“What do you think about that?” he asked.

Michelle’s beautiful face lit up in a smile.  “It’s so much nicer than special friend…”

He kissed her before she could ruin it with a giggle.

When they finally broke the kiss, she smiled up at him.  “I guess I can forgive my boyfriend for blowing off our plans with my family.  I assume it’s to attend to the needs of your work husband?”

Wally laughed louder than he should have because he really didn’t know how to react to what she had just said.

“Bruno asked me to work a case with him, and you know how important that can be for my career,” and then he quickly heard what he had said and made a much needed course correction.  “Not that my career is more important than you.”

She smiled.  “Nice save, Officer.  Don’t worry, I understand ambition, and won’t hold it against you.  This time.  Just promise me when you get home, you’ll take a shower.  I refuse to spend the night smelling the other object of your affection on you…”

She giggled, and he grabbed her and lifted her off her feet.  Then he spun her around for no other reason other than that he liked to hold her.

“I promise you’ll have my full attention tonight,” he vowed as he lowered her to the floor.

All his time with Bruno had taught Wally that sometimes, it’s best to leave things unsaid.  He wanted to comment on how she had said ‘when you get home’ when she talked about his returning to her house after work, but he didn’t want to ruin the moment.

Having been called her boyfriend already had his head in the clouds, and he needed to pull it back down to earth before Bruno yanked it down for him.

“Promise me you’ll be careful,” she insisted before she let him leave.

“I promise.”

They kissed and he left.

Michelle turned to face the mirror.  She smiled at her blushing cheeks.

“You have a boyfriend,” she told her reflection.

Then she smiled and headed out of the room to prepare for a day with her family.

short story, humor, Modern PhilosopherWally somehow managed to contain his excitement until Bruno had reached his desk.  Since Wally was just a rookie, he did not have a desk in the Detective’s bullpen.  Instead, he borrowed a chair from a nearby desk, and parked it next to Bruno’s.

“What is it, Kid?” Bruno asked in his usual early morning grumpy mood.  “It looks like your head’s gonna explode if you don’t let out whatever the hell it is you wanna say.”

You didn’t get to be the best Detective in the city without being perceptive and learning how to read people.  But even a rookie beat cop could tell that Wally was bursting with excitement.

While he wanted to tell Bruno all about his conversation with Michelle, he knew that such information would not go over well when Bruno hadn’t yet had time to acclimate to other humans.

That process could sometimes take an entire day.

“Out with it already!” Bruno ratcheted the crankiness level to eleven.  “I ain’t got no patience today.  I hate working Saturdays, and I hate that we’re chasing a balloon rather than a corpse…”

“You’d rather there be a dead body?” Wally asked against his better judgment because he was in a great mood and wanted to rib his mentor.

Bruno didn’t say a word.  He just made a face that conveyed should Wally ever wise off like that to him again, his future would contain a lot of time spent in a hospital bed, perhaps in a full body cast.

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a look from Detective Bruno was worth a tirade of curses and threats that could not be any more powerful had they actually been spoken.

“I’ve been digging through the files, and there’s no mention of the Astro Cowboys.  And don’t worry, I did not go to Gangs or Organized Crime,” Wally reassured him.  “I know to never go asking for help and putting myself in another department’s debt.”

Bruno eased up on the look, and maybe even cracked the slightest hint of a smile.

“Good to know ya absorb a thing or two I say,” the Detective grumbled.

“Frustrated by the lack of answers, I figured it couldn’t hurt to just Google it,” Wally announced proudly.  “And that’s how I found our answer.

“Google, huh?” Bruno grumbled.  “I guess Alexa ain’t working Saturdays?”

Wally ignored the dig, and handed Bruno a piece of paper with a photo and odd lettering on it.

“What the hell am I looking at?” Bruno demanded.

“It’s a flyer,” Wally revealed.  “The Astro Cowboys aren’t a gang or some crime family.  They’re a band.”

Bruno looked completely dumbfounded.

“The kind that plays music?” he sought clarification.

Wally nodded.  “According to that flyer and the band’s page on Facebook, they specialize in a unique fusion of electronica and country music.”

Bruno cringed at the words.  “I ain’t gotta hear them play to know that ain’t no million dollar idea.  Who the hell is the audience for that?”

“I guess the folks who drink at The Golden Rodeo,” Wally replied as he pointed to the name of the bar at the bottom of the flyer.

“And one of these clueless Joes is named Tex?” Bruno queried as he continued to stare at the flyer like he hoped it would eventually make sense if he looked at it long enough.

“Tex Bourbon is listed as the lead singer, lead guitarist, and creative mastermind behind the Astro Cowboys,” Wally replied while failing to maintain a straight face.

Bruno placed the flyer on his desk and sighed.

“It ain’t right us giving up our Saturday to hunt down some Grand Ole Opry wannabe with a name as ridiculous as Tex Bourbon,” Bruno groused.

“Amen to that, Chip Bruno,” Wally quipped.

Bruno planted his meaty index finger in the middle of Wally’s chest.  Despite all the muscles there, the rookie definitely felt the pain.

“If we wasn’t in a house fulla cops right now, I’d beat ya like a piñata filled with my favorite candy for mocking my name like that, Wallace,” Bruno threatened.

The color quickly left Wally’s face.  “I’m sorry.  “I was excited to solve the mystery, and for some reason I thought it would be okay to tease you about your name in a bonding moment…”

Bruno drummed his fingers on his desk and just stared at Wally while the young officer stewed in his panic and flop sweat.

“I promised Maggie I’d take it easy on ya, so I ain’t gonna do nothing, but let’s make that the last time you wise off today at my expense,” Bruno warned.  “I truly ain’t in the mood.”

Wally nodded that he was in complete and total understanding with that rule.

“So maybe we should head over to The Golden Rodeo to get some background on these guys?” Wally suggested in an attempt to prove that he was ready to be serious again.

Bruno grunted and stood up.  Wally sprang out of his seat in response, ready for action.

“Sounds like as good a plan as any,” Bruno grumbled.  “Ya know, cuz I ain’t got much experience when it comes to tracking down missing Christmas ornaments.”

Wally allowed the grouchy Detective to get several steps ahead of him, as well as out of arm reach should be decide to turn and throw a punch, before he asked his next question.

“So if I were a piñata filled with your favorite candy, what would I be filled with?”

Bruno sighed.  That was the only response such a question warranted.


About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Christmas, Humor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Vanishing Santa, Part 4

  1. kristianw84 says:

    Oh, I love this so much!! I love the relationship between Wally and Michelle, and Bruno’s quips always make me chuckle!

    I did not see the twist of the Astro Cowboys as a band coming. Now, I’m even more intrigued! I agree with Bruno about the electronica and country music mix, though.

    Amazing, as always! I’m so excited for part 5!!

  2. beth says:

    I’m so glad they’re happy together

  3. markbialczak says:

    I hope we are there when Michelle finally brings Wallace home to meet her family, Austin.

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