To Catch a Bad Guy

By: Marie Astor

“There is a reservation for three under Tom Wyman,” Lisa addressed the hostess.

“Oh, yes.” A rail-thin blonde smiled at them. “Mr. Wyman is already here.”

“Lisa!” A velvety baritone called from across the room. A man rose from his seat by the bar and walked toward them.

“Tom, so wonderful to see you!” Lisa leaned in for an air kiss exchange. “So sorry we are late.”

“Nonsense, good company is worth waiting for.” Tom grinned.

“You’re such a charmer.” Lisa batted her eyelashes.

She’s flirting with him, Janet felt a sting of irritation. She was not even interested in this Tom Wyman character, but, in spite of herself, she was hot with resentment. Lisa’s behavior was reminiscent of all those teenage double dates Janet had endured, with Lisa flirting away with the very guys Lisa had supposedly invited as Janet’s dates. Sure, Janet was much older now, but when it came to her friendship with Lisa, other than the number of candles on her last birthday cake, not much had changed.

“Tom, Tom Wyman.” Tom’s eyes locked in on Janet’s as he extended his hand. Coiffed was the word to describe him. Everything about this man was polished: his manner of speech, his silky dark eyes, his curly black hair, which was carefully slicked back, and his tailored outfit of Brooks Brothers suit and pink shirt with onyx cufflinks.

“Janet Maple.” Janet blinked, sensing Tom’s smooth, manicured fingers wrap around her hand.

“Janie just started working for me today,” Lisa cut in.

Janet nodded good-naturedly. She hated it when Lisa called her Janie – the diminutive was reserved for family only, but somehow, years ago, when Lisa had overheard Janet’s mother call her Janie, she had picked it right up and Janet never had the heart to tell her to stop.

“Some would say never hire your best friend, but I’m of a different opinion. Janie and I are the best of friends, and I know that we’ll get along splendidly at the office.”

Tom let go of Janet’s hand and looked at Lisa, bemused. “Well, Lisa, from what you’ve told me about Janet, she is going to be a great asset to the firm.”

Janet beamed him a smile. She did not know much about this Tom Wyman character, but she could have kissed him on the spot for putting Lisa back in her place.

As if reading Janet’s mind, or more likely her facial expression, Tom said, “Columbia Law School graduates rarely come clamoring for employment, especially those who graduated magna cum laude.”

“I see that Lisa has been talking about me.” Janet returned Tom’s wink with a smile. She might not like the idea of Lisa meddling in her personal life, but that did not mean that she would let Lisa steal the limelight from her date – not anymore.

“Yes, she has.” Every word uttered in Tom’s silky voice sounded like a caress. “And I for one am glad to know that I’ll be working with an alumna.”

“You went to Columbia also?”

“I did: class of two thousand.”

He is seven years older than me, Janet’s mind did an involuntary calculation. “It’s always a pleasure to meet fellow Columbia alum.”

“Indeed. And I hope that we’ll be seeing quite a bit of each other.” Tom’s eyes lingered on Janet a second too long for a casual glance, and she was not quite sure how to respond.

“Well, should we get seated?” Lisa tapped her foot. “I’m starving.”

“Forgive me, I seem to be forgetting myself.” Tom nodded at the restaurant hostess who had been lurking in the background, careful not to interrupt their conversation.

“Please follow me.” With gazelle-like grace, the hostess glided across the floor.

Her head cocked, Lisa sashayed after the hostess. Tom stepped aside, letting Janet go in front of him, and she could not help a warm, giddy feeling spreading in her chest. She certainly did not intend to get involved with Tom Wyman, but it sure felt nice to be the center of his attention.

“So, Janet, tell me more about yourself,” said Tom after they had ordered lunch.

“I’m not sure where to begin. I’m afraid I’m not that interesting.” Janet lowered her eyes, breaking away from Tom’s gaze. His eyes were like two black olives: dark, glistening, and unsettlingly sharp.

“Why, Janie, as usual, your modesty is getting the best of you!” Lisa pursed her lips. “Tom, do you know that Janie has spent the last four years at the DA’s office?”

“Oh?” Tom’s eyebrows shot up high. “What an interesting career choice. And may I ask what division you were in?”

“I was in the Investigation Division.” When Janet spoke of her former occupation as Assistant District Attorney, most people were either impressed or terrified – the latter were usually employed in the financial industry. There was one memorable occasion when Janet had mentioned her employment while being flirted with by a handsome financial type during happy hour, which resulted in the guy’s falling off his bar stool and promptly vacating the bar premises. But then there were plenty of occasions when her choice of occupation elicited accolades and admiration – those were mostly from members of senior citizen communities who were frequent victims of financial rogues whom Janet so diligently tried to catch. In either case, most people never went as far as inquiring about the specifics of her job, which made Tom’s pointed question surprising.