Finally got Friday over for Arpad! I’ve already written when he picks up Lily and have them just to the park late Saturday morning. Which, unfortunately, is likely when I’ll have the next chance to finish the scene. It’s there, just needs writing! Making good progress for once!
Arpad returned the shake and introduction while he sat. He saw the older man had some kind of shredded meat under a helping of the sauce that seemed so popular here. Barbeque, he said carefully in his mind, to get the pronunciation correct.
Muttering a short thanksgiving in Hungarian he chose to speak before eating.
“For that heads up last night, I own you thanks, Mister Stephens,” Arpad said, now eating.
“For stating the obvious?” the Stephens snorted before taking a sip of his whiskey. “Everyone talks about the weather, son.”
He is telling the truth; he is not telling the truth. Arpad chose to push.
“If you don’t mind my saying, you look like law enforcement. Am I correct?”
“Mnn!” was the older man’s reply around a fork-full of meat. He swallowed. “What makes you say that?”
“Just a guess, really. Your shoes are too scuffed to be a simple businessman; the way your coat lies on your shoulders because of the pistol in its holster under your left arm,” Arpad said with his glass of palinka before him. He took a sip. “Things like that.”
That got enough of a laugh for a few others to glance over before returning to their meals.
“Aren’t you the clever one! Well, you’re right: I work for the Texas Ranger Division. How about you, Mister Rigó?”
From his general briefing about Texas he had read that the Rangers had been like a State police corps; now they would be a national force. And they were once affiliated with that Cheka organization: ExComm.
“I am a minor functionary in the Foreign Ministry of the Habsburg Empire,” Arpad allowed, cutting another bite of lamb. Why not tell a little truth, too? “Among other things.”
Stephens paused to look very directly at him.
“We all have ‘other things,’ lad,” he said softly. “May I ask what brings you to this out-of-the-way town?”
“Is this personal or professional curiosity?” Arpad smiled.
His smile slipped.
“I see.” Arpad paused to wipe his lips on a paper napkin. “My brief from Vienna is that I am to look into the resources of your country for trade possibilities. After that I am to proceed on to the Rocky Mountain Federation and the Deseret Republic to open diplomatic channels.”
“Good luck with the latter two,” Stephens muttered around some more meat. He leaned back to regard the man opposite him. “’Resources’ huh? I guess that includes people, too?”
That was too obvious, Arpad thought.
“The relationships of Lily Barrett have attracted much attention,” Arpad allowed.
“Christ, tell me about it!” Stephens said with some exasperation, rubbing his left hand across is balding head. “I warned her years ago…!”
“Well,” he said with a sigh, collecting himself, “that girl would bite my head off if I went about sticking my nose in her personal life, so how’s about, one bureaucrat to another, I give you a little intel on your next two stops?”
“I would much appreciate that, Mister Stephens,” Arpad agreed, pouring himself a little more palinka.
Thirty minutes later, having finished both dinner and the bottle, Arpad excused himself to his hotel room. What Stephens had had to tell him only reinforced the tidbit Lily had mentioned before: there really was no ‘Rocky Mountain Federation,’ just badlands pocked by small strong-man dominated areas; some the size of a small town but most just affiliated ranches or farms. Finding out Arpad was Catholic he quipped that the Deseret Mormons might not even allow him into their land.
Not one to rudely look at his mobile while at a meal with another, Arpad had ignored the two messages that vibrated in. Closing the door to his room behind him he took out this phone. Both from Lily.
R U picking me up? When?
Followed, twenty minutes later by:
Arpad? We still on?
About to write back, he shook his head and pressed ‘call’ instead.
“Arpad!” She answered immediately, with concern in her voice. “Um… ah…”
He smiled his amusement at her nervousness to his empty room.
“My apologies, Lily,” he said slowly. “I was eating dinner here at the hotel and ended up in a conversation with someone.”
“Oh! That’s fine! I guess that’s your job as a diplomat, after all!” She paused again. “Was it a guy or…”
And she has a jealous streak, too!
“Not at all, Lily. Just some policeman called Stephens.” Arpad paused to recall his incident in the machine’s home earlier. “After having met Fausta and Ai, I have plenty of beautiful women in my life right now!”
“Kyle!” he heard her spit in anger. “Spying on me again you SOB! Wait… what did you just say about Ai?”
So there is a definite connection between that Ranger and this girl. Who doesn’t she know?!
“They, um, is summoned the right word? Summoned me into their home around noon. Fausta attacked me then I had a short chat with Ai.” Arpad gave a playful laugh as he moved to sit onto the couch. “Gorgeous girls! Wish I could have stayed longer!”
“Yeah, Ai’s real form is cute…” her voice dropped again. Silence hung between them.
“To answer your texted question, Lily: yes, I am planning on picking you up at eleven. From the helpful locals I thought a stroll and lunch in Getzendaner Park would be nice.”
“Oh. Not been there in years. It’s nice. Uh… er…” he waited for her to find her courage. “I’ve Mrs. Lanning covering for me. When should I tell her I’m coming back?”
“Oh I don’t know, Lily!” another smile. “Best just tell her you’ll be back Sunday morning!”
He didn’t recognize the sound but his guess would have been someone trying to cover their phone’s microphone while squealing. He wondered if she would go for that…
“I…” she was breathing heavy now. “I’ll ask her if that’s okay… Arpad.”
“Good! That reminds me: when’s Mass at the church? I’d like to walk you in on my arm, Lily.”
The next sound was easily recognized as someone dropping their phone. Followed by picking it up and dropping it again. He just made out a faint ohmygod! ohmygod!
“Mass is at nine thirty,” her voice was not as clear. Arpad suspected that she, like her phone, was lying on the floor. “I can’t wait to see you, Arpad!”
“Of course. Good night, Lily.”
“Wait! One last thing!” she yelled.
“Why…er… why did you call? And not just reply to my message?” she was quiet again.
“Because I wanted to hear your voice. Bye, now.” He pushed the ‘end call’ before the squealing started again.
Arpad set his mobile onto the coffee table with a smile. She’s got to be the most honest person I’ve –
“Arpad?” he heard Ai ask from his phone. With the most dangerous friends…
“I am older as to what flirting is,” she announced.
“Are you?” Is she angry? She didn’t sound it.
“It is an interesting human custom,” she continued, “so long as it’s not used maliciously.”
“Such is not my intent, Ai. I admit in these few days I am fond of her.”
“Then your trip all this was is a success: you’ve a glimpse as to why we love her, too! Good night, Arpad!”