I’d like to share my one and only fiction piece with all eight of my loyal followers. It is a farsical satire loosely based on events of my distant past. It is entertaining but hardly informative. Please read and enjoy and by all means send me any comments or feedback. Best….A/D
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BOB LESKO: The Dramatic, Riveting Tale of the World’s Greatest Catch
By The Artful Dilettante
….a dramatic and inspiring story that will leave the reader spellbound.—New York Times
….by breaking all the conventional rules of literature, the author has sparked a revolution in fiction writing.—Entertainment Magazine
….the reader will have a very difficult time putting down this gem.—The Literacy Hub
….the very definition of romantic drama and tension wrapped around a riveting detective story. Hopefully the author will consider doing a screen play.—Variety
….the suspense was overwhelming. I read all 45 pages in one evening.—J. K. Rowling
THE FOLLOWING IS LOOSELY BASED ON THE AUTHOR’S REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: TRISH COLLINS
CHAPTER TWO: BOB LESKO
CHAPTER THREE: THE WEDDING
CHAPTER FOUR: THE RECEPTION
CHAPTER FIVE: FINDING BOB LESKO
CHAPTER SIX: PI FITZGERALD AND THE SEARCH FOR BOB LESKO
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE PHONE CALLS
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE TRIP TO MARLAND
CHAPTER NINE: THE GALA IN BOB’S HONOR
CHAPTER TEN: THE PLAN UNFOLDS
CHAPTER ELEVEN: BOB MEETS FLANAGAN
CHAPTER TWELVE: LESKO MEETS TRISH AND CARLILE
CHAPTER ONE: TRISH COLLINS
Trish awoke that morning, her wedding day, the same way she had been awakened every morning for the last ten years of her life–an 8:00 A.M. phone call from her best friend, Sheila McGillicutty, who later that day would be Trish’s maiden-of-honor. Each morning call began with the same question from Sheila, “Has he called yet ?” referring to Bob Lesko, Trish’s ex-boyfriend whom she hadn’t seen nor heard from in ten years. (It was exactly ten years to the date that Bob Lesko had disappeared without a trace.) “No, replied Trish, he hasn’t called. I’m beginning to lose hope. You know, if he doesn’t call by 4 o’clock, I’m screwed.” Trish was to marry Carlile R. Stevens at 4:00 P.M. that very day.
That was THE Carlile R. Stevens, the fabulously wealthy and world-renowned inventor of the Clapper. Not only was the Clapper undeniably useful, but it had come to dominate the Golden Age of Telemarketing in which we all still very much live. The Clapper had arrived in our TV rooms and our lives with the swiftness and fury of a tornado, its ads soon appearing on nearly every channel 24/7. For ten consecutive Christmases, the Clapper was the nation’s #1 stocking stuffer. The Clapper jingle was on everyone’s tongues and lips. The Clapper helped keep several failing companies afloat. According to one Rite-Aid executive who spoke on condition of anonymity, “If it hadn’t been for the Clapper, we would’ve gone belly-up.” American consumers, especially the elderly, were lapping them up like hotcakes, wiring them into their bedroom lamps, TVs, even their oxygen tents.
As for Carlile R. Stevens, he had become an overnight billionaire and public sensation. Since the outbreak of the Clapper, he had addressed nearly every Ivy League school commencement ceremony, and had been invited to address graduation ceremonies at nearly every major state university, large charitable foundations, and the annual conventions of nearly every Fortune 500 company. Even after having sold the rights to the Clapper to a third party, he still remained the company’s chief spokesperson and cheerleader for the Clapper worldwide, almost 40 years after he had introduced it to a public ever clamoring for any half-assed piece of junk they could wrap their hands around.
Stevens was sheer genius, equaled only by Ron Popiel. Although they had never worked together to fuse their towering intellects, both almost simultaneously broke the marketing code of the American consumer and introduced a nation, if not the world, to non-stop telemarketing. Both realized the shallowness, and the yearn for novelty and immediate gratification, of the American consumer. Americans were captivated by the interminable ads on late-night TV, promoting products of dubious utility that could only be purchased through an 800 number on the screen, cutting out the retailer. His infomercials were unparalleled and are still today considered the “Gold Standard” of infomercials.
Later, retail outlets would pay outrageous sums of money to stock their shelves with their products, notably the Clapper, the Pocket Fisherman, and Sham-Wow. The Dawn of the Internet would line their pockets with astronomic sums of money. Stevens and Popeil were inducted unanimously into the Capitalism Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.
“Then, why do you so despise him?” asked Sheila.
“Well, first off he’s not Bob Lesko, the only man I’ll ever love. I’ve told you this a million times, Sheila.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And secondly, because he’s constantly walking around singing or whistling that stupid Clapper theme song. I’m telling you I just can’t stand it anymore. ‘Clap on (clap twice), clap off (clap twice), clap on clap off, the Clapper,’ “ she sang in mocking exaggeration of the Clapper theme song.
“Then, why are you going through with it? Why’d you agree to marry him ?”
“Because he’s worth nearly a billion dollars from that stupid Clapper. I hate that thing. He has his whole god-damn mansion, all 17 rooms, hard-wired with Clappers. And none of them are in sync. If he claps in the kitchen, the oven turns on but the fridge turns off. His aging mother lives with him. She has COPD and spends most of her day attached to a breathing apparatus. If he claps near her room, her breathing apparatus turns off, and she’s crawling on the floor gasping for air. If I’m listening to the stereo, it turns off if he claps anywhere near the thing. I’ve asked him a thousand times to stop singing and clapping to that stupid jingle. He flatly refuses, saying emphatically, ‘The Clapper is my life. It took me 15 years to invent. That’s as long as it took Edison to invent the lightbulb. I will never stop singing the Clapper jingle, nor will I ever stop clapping to that jingle’.”
“Look Miss Pissy-Pants, barked Sheila, we’ve had this conversation a thousand times. Today’s your wedding day. Carlile’s madly in love with you. Face facts, face reality. Bob Lesko’s never coming back. Your father’s hired dozens of PIs over the years and not one of them has turned up a lead. For all you know, he’s dead and gone.”
“Don’t say that, don’t talk like that. I hate when you talk like that about Bob. Yeah, Carlile’s a nice guy and yes he treats me like a princess. He’s told me many times he’d step aside immediately if Bob were to come back into my life. He hugged me tightly before leaving the other night, saying, “Trish, I’d do anything for you. I’ll help your father find him. I just know he’s out there somewhere. I’ll never give up, none of us will.”
“OK, I’m sorry, Sheila. I’m just, you know, unhappy and very nervous about the wedding. Truth be told, I’m worried most about the guests and the safety of our family once they realize that I’m not marrying Bob Lesko.”
“What !? How would your wedding guests get such a stupid idea ? Isn’t Carlile’s name on the wedding invitations ?”
“Well, yes and no, replied Trish, sheepishly. Sheila, can I let you in on a very closely held family secret?”
“Well, my father Wited-out the groom’s name on every wedding invitation, hoping nobody would notice.”
“It’s the whole Ancient Order of Hibernians thing. You know, my parents and everyone of their friends are the elite of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chevy Chase, MD, Chapter #1309. Everyone of them, including my father, has been a past Grand Marshal of the Order and Chancellor of the Privy Council. These are very influential people. They hold high-ranking positions in nearly every level of government and the global financial system.”
“It’s just a crusty bar, for Christ’s sake,” quipped Sheila.
“To you perhaps,” replied Trish. “But to all of them, it’s a sacred Irish brotherhood. And all of them so loved Bob. Especially my father and Sergeant-at-Arms Ed Flanagan who both treated him like a son. They waived all of the Irish ethnicity requirements just so he could become a member.“
“Well, what exactly did they like about him,” asked Sheila?
“Well, as you know, Bob just lights up the room when he walks in,” said Trish.
“No, I don’t know,” replied Sheila dismissively. “I always found him rather annoying.”
“How so?” inquired Trish.
“Just call it osmosis,” replied Sheila.
“Whatever, anyway, said Trish, almost immediately after Bob and I met, my father took an immediate shine to him. He just saw so much promise in him. They began to go to the Hibernians in the evenings for drinks. Father quickly began introducing him to other members of the leadership, including dad’s hulking nemesis, Sergeant-at-Arms Ed Flanagan. The Hibernians were impressed with Bob’s towering intellect, his quick wit, and the ease with which he could discuss any topic on the planet in great detail. He had a rapt audience. Within weeks, the Hibernian Board of Chancellors voted unanimously to waive the ethnicity requirements and grant Bob full membership in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chevy Chase, MD Chapter #1309.”
There was, to be sure, something of a chasm, to say the least, between what the Hibernians thought of Bob and the reality on the ground. Lesko was hardly a towering intellectual, but compared to the average Irishman, he was an unparalleled genius. Lesko was little more than an artful dilettante mixed with blarney and a quick, wicked sense of humor, combined with a stout-hearted guffaw. The Women’s Auxiliary of the Hibernians was no less enthralled. Everyone one of them thought Bob exuded raw sexuality.
“Well, said Trish, from the very beginning, my father took him under his wings and began to take him to the Hibernians nearly every evening for drinks. Within a short time, he had the lot of Hibernians in the palm of his hand. He never paid for a single drink. They blindly sucked up his blarney like a camel at an oasis.”
“Seriously, said Sheila, I always thought he was kinda goofy, frankly, not really serious about life, nor a career, nor anything for that matter. And it’s not like he really left you. Or let you know he was breaking up. He just stopped calling and disappeared into thin air.”
Sheila’s opinion of Bob was much closer to the truth than that of the Collins’ family and the Hibernians.
“Sheila, that’s a large part about what they so loved about him. He just didn’t want a lot of attention. He shunned the limelight. He hated people fussing about him. He knew that if he told me he was breaking up, the whole family would have been devastated, just overwhelmed with grief. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened anyway. My family has still not gotten over it. Sometimes I think they’re making progress, finally starting to get over it. But then they fall back into their old ways. The crying, the sullenness, the bouts of deep depression. Especially my parents and my brother Seamus. They’ve been in therapy for ten years. We’re all just stuck in this interminable Bob rut.”
“Well, said Sheila, I think all of you are f***in’ crazy.”
“Listen Sheila, every Wednesday evening, all of us get together to reflect upon Bob’s memory, his presence in our lives, and the impact he’s had on every life he’s ever touched. It’s very spiritual. Wherever he is, I’m sure he’s thinking of us. Please join us sometime.”
“Oh my G-d, whispered Sheila to herself, this wedding is going to be a bloodbath.”
CHAPTER TWO: BOB LESKO
Robert John (Bob) Lesko, 42, arrived home from work to find the customary rental delinquency notice slipped under his door. He had been employed at the Brooklyn Candy Company as a shift supervisor going on ten years. He had moved to New York almost immediately after he ceased contact with Trish Collins. With the exception of occasional, meaningless, short-term relationships and one-night stands, Bob’s love life was a big zero. A lot like his checkbook.
Bob shared the apartment with his lifelong friend Tom “The Stoke” Stoker. It was located at 409 E. Chauncey Street, Brooklyn, New York. Both were Penn State graduates with useless, unmarketable degrees. Both were, however, fairly well-read and articulate, and loved to engage in late-night alcohol-infused philosophical discussions.
Just about every night, the boys stepped out to have a few at their favorite watering hole, Dingleberry’s Bar & Grill. They had a steady, actually unsteady, group of buddies and an equal number of female groupies who bid for their fleshly services. In a nutshell, they were not the types you’d write home about.
On this particular evening, Bob struck up an evening-long conversation with an attractive woman he had never seen at Dingleberry’s before, one Maggie Dunmore. They found themselves growing enamored over the course of the evening, probing deeply into their respective pasts, while regularly exchanging long, sloppy kisses. Bob invited her home; she accepted with feigned reluctance.
Naturally, the subject of Trish Collins came up, as Maggie was especially interested in Bob’s past relationships. After a quick roll in the hay, Maggie relentlessly probed him for the utmost details of their relationship. Maggie simply could not fathom how anyone could spend six months with the same person.
“Bob, asked Maggie, “not to get personal or anything, but how did you ever spend six months with same person? It’s the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard of.”
“Yeah, me too. She was relentless. All I ever wanted was a girl I had to see like every other Tuesday. We met at a party in Bethesda, MD, just after my seventh year in college. I had moved there to take an internship with my home district congressman in Pittsburgh. That’s where I’m from. Between her and D.C., I just couldn’t stand it anymore. So I bailed.”
“So, after you met her, what happened?”
“We immediately hit it off, but only for a short while. I lost interest after about a month. She was totally clueless. She had several siblings, equally clueless, who were influencing her behind the scenes. About a month after we met, she confronted me, ‘You’re nothing like anybody else in my family. Everyone was so anxious to get married. We’ve been dating for nearly a month, and you haven’t said a single word about marriage.’”
“Wow, exclaimed Maggie, I can’t even imagine being married. It’s like so over the top.”
After another session of the “wild thing,” Bob and Maggie fell asleep a little after 3 AM. They were awakened shortly afterward by the opening of the front door. It was The Stoke, arriving home after a stop at Dingleberry’s. It would be an hour or so before Maggie would meet The Stoke.
Like Bob, The Stoke grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. They met at Penn State’s McKeesport Campus. They soon began driving around between classes blowing joints and drinking quarts of warm Schlitz, two for a buck at a local watering hole. They would return to class in no shape to return to class. However, they became fast friends.
Maggie was dying to meet the Stoke. Well, more than meet. She had grown tired of hearing about Bob’s old girlfriends. With Bob fast asleep, Maggie quietly slipped away and entered The Stoke’s bedroom. Almost instantly, she began sexually assaulting him, over and over, until they passed out from exhaustion. After several torrid “horizontal mumbos” they fell fast asleep making small talk.
The household awoke around 10 AM. Bob prepared a scrumptious breakfast of Western Omelettes, home fries, and biscuits with cream-chipped beef—for him. Maggie and The Stoke had to settle for Blueberry Pop-Tarts.
Before taking her leave, Maggie Dunmore showered with both Bob and The Stoke. She was all about being “fair and balanced.” Before leaving, she assured both of them that she would readily share her pleasures with both of them as time and circumstance would permit.
“You know, she said, I’m lately pretty much a regular now at Dingleberry’s. It’s a first-class watering hole. I look forward to seeing you guys there.”
They nodded in agreement, as Maggie bade them good-bye.
After she was out-of-sight, they laughed uproariously and high-fived one another repeatedly.
CHAPTER THREE: THE WEDDING
Sheila arrived at Bride Ground Zero at the Collins’ estate near 1:00 PM to do all of the traditional things maidens-of-honor have done forever to assist the bride-to-be in preparing for her big moment. She felt, however, as though she were at a wake.
Trish and her sisters, who had arrived hours earlier to console her, were weeping uncontrollably as the clock ticked mercilessly toward 4:00 PM. The girls took turns sitting next to the phone in case Bob called. It was a fool’s errand as no such call was forthcoming.
Trish delayed the inevitable for as long as possible—she began putting on her wedding gown a mere 30 minutes before the ceremony. She hadn’t even bothered to wash her hair or brush her teeth. She threw her deodorant stick into the toilet.
Trish wore an Ainsley Gown, one of Modern Trousseau’s signature bridal gown collection. This vintage-inspired look received a fresh update with a dusting of Swarovski’s delicate crystals. Constructed in French alençon lace over Modern Trousseau’s featured latte silk duchess, the gown’s fit-to-flare style featured a couture lace skirt with re-embroidered organza flowers. The Ainsley gown had repeatedly won Top Honors in bridal gown competitions over a decades-long period and was regularly cited among the Top Ten bridal gowns of all time. It was the very definition of haute couture.
The guests began trickling into St. Maurice of Galway Cathedral around 3:00 PM. Many of the guests had visible looks of consternation on their faces after having seen the wedding invitations with the groom’s name Wited out. They couldn’t quite put their fingers on it but something told them it just wasn’t copacetic. They sensed that Moe Collins was trying to hide something, but they couldn’t quite put it together. I mean, Wite-Out has but one purpose—to conceal, to hide.
At around 3:30, the organist, Sean McFealty, began softly playing traditional Catholic pre-nuptial music. McFealty, a lifelong Hibernian and close family friend and confidante of the Collins family since childhood, likewise sensed the pall that had discernably enveloped St. Maurice of Galway Cathedral.
Back at Bride Central, Trish and her wedding entourage tried to pull it together. Sheila simply could not understand the stupidity of it all. Nevertheless, out of her deep loyalty to Trish and the Collins Family, Sheila bit her tongue and refrained from any sarcastic or ill-considered remarks. If ever there were an occasion for sarcastic or ill-considered remarks, this was it.
Then, at ten minutes before Zero Hour, Trish began sobbing inconsolably, unleashing a torrent of obscenities at Bob Lesko for never having called her in the past 10 ten years, and especially today, her wedding day. She began indiscriminately throwing potted plants, exquisite Ming-dynasty vases, and anything she could lift. “How could you do this to me, you bastard?”, she screamed over and over. She could not fathom that not only had he not phoned her in ten years, but that he had scarcely given her a passing thought.
Trish and the bridal party finally contained themselves and resolved to maintain their dignity throughout the ceremony. They arrived at St. Maurice of Galway Cathedral in a stunning horse-drawn, shamrock-green coach with footmen just minutes before 4:00 PM. At the insistence of Moe Collins, the police blocked off every street within a half-mile of the Cathedral. Commuters were furious and were not shy about expressing their rage. Some even wrote letters to the editor. Nevertheless, throngs of Irishmen and well-wishers lined the way of the coach, waving Irish flags. Many were dressed as leprechauns and Irish milkmaids. Some wore Irish-green plaid kilts and carried bagpipes. Many were inebriated. Trish politely waved back from the coach with a strained smile pasted to her face.
Upon arrival, the bridal entourage posed briefly for the eager paparazzi, autograph hounds, and well-wishers. They then lined up in the vestibule to await the entrance of Archbishop Angus MacPherson and his retinue of altar servers and flunkies.
In the meantime, Carlile and his groomsmen paced impatiently in an alcove off the right side of cathedral’s nave. His Best Man, brother Noel Stevens, broke into a meltdown as Zero Hour approached. “I just can’t stand it anymore,” he said repeatedly. I’m nervous as a henny-penny. I just know I’m going to cry my eyes out. Can’t we get on with it already? I’m a nervous wreck. Mary and Baby Jesus, I’m thinking about getting hysterical. I can’t control my bladder. And now I’ve gotten a run in my stockings.”
Carlile and family and many close friends and acquaintances, knew that Noel had serious gender-confusion issues, among a host of other neuroses. He had a lot in common with The Godfather’s Fredo Corleone.
The other groomsmen included Trish’s two older brothers, Seamus and Paddy, who had reluctantly agreed to participate in the ceremony. Sean could not bring himself to take part in what he called “a sham wedding,” but he had agreed to attend the reception.
At last, it was Zero Hour. Moe Collins implored the Archbishop for a 30-minute delay, clinging desperately to the faint hope that Bob might still call. MacPherson, an old-school Irish prelate declined saying, “Sorry Moe, but the show must go on. I am duty bound by Our Lord and Savior and the dictates of His Holy Mother Church to marry these Children of God at precisely 4:00 PM. And I aim to do just that.” The Archbishop, fully aware of Moe Collins’ Wite-Out shenanigans and the Collins’ family’s disdain for the groom, refused to be a party to it. A despondent Moe respectfully accepted the Archbishop’s decision.
At precisely the stroke of 4:00, the Groom and Groomsmen entered the nave stage-right as organist Sean McFealty began playing Percel’s Trumpet Tune at peak volume as though it preceded the announcement of a Royal Birth or the ever-elusive Middle East peace agreement.
Just before the bridal procession began, a tearful and distraught Ellen Collins turned to husband Moe and said, “Maurice, how did we let this happen? Bob didn’t say a word, he just up and disappeared without a trace. How did we let this happen? One minute they’re a happy couple, the next—he’s gone without a trace. The suddenness of it all makes me wonder if it was us. Is it something we said? Or did ?—to break his fragile, eggshell sense of self ?”
The crowd began to murmur, at first quietly. Then the bridal entourage proceeded down the aisle with pin-point precision. Moe put his arms around his Baby Girl and proceeded to escort her down the aisle. They were greeted with a chorus of boos and catcalls. The walls of the ancient cathedral could not contain the clamor. A few shouted, “Where’s Bob Lesko? This is a fu**ing farce !” and another, “I just knew something was fishy when I saw the groom’s name Wited out.”
“You’re gonna pay for this big-time, Collins, shouted Sergeant-at-Arms and Moe’s arch-nemesis, Ed Flanagan. As Sergeant-at-Arms, said Flanagan, “I’m going to initiate proceedings to have you permanently blackballed from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.”
Before the bride and her father reached the altar, tempers reached a fevered pitch. Some threw eggs and shoes at them; a few simply took their wedding gifts and went home. Once at the altar, the couple weathered a relentless barrage of verbal assaults. A group of drunken Hibernian thugs raced to their cars, grabbed kerosene-dipped torches out of their trunks, lit them, and stood outside the Church repeatedly chanting in unison, “We want Bob,” as well as obscene and nonsensical things. The police quickly moved in to disperse the hooligans.
Archbishop MacPherson quickly commandeered the mike and pulpit, imploring the crowd to allow the wedding to proceed civilly. “All of you are a disgrace to your Holy Mother Church,” he stated emphatically. “Have you no respect for the Sacrament of Marriage? Sanctified by Our Lord and Savior at the Wedding of Cana. I demand that you cease this hateful and childish behavior.”
The guests reluctantly acceded to the Prelate’s demands.
After a Solemn High Mass, with all the bells and whistles, Archbishop MacPherson pronounced Carlile and Trish Husband and Wife at around 5:15. Mr. and Mrs. Carlile R. Stevens. To avoid any further violence, the bride and groom were quickly ushered to a hidden exit inside the Archbishop’s chancellery. Everyone proceeded to the wedding reception at the Loyal Order of Hibernians, Chevy Chase, MD chapter #1309. With the notable exception of Sergeant-at-Arms Ed Flanagan.
CHAPTER FOUR: THE RECEPTION
The Hibernian Royal Banquet Room was decorated to perfection in an Irish dental motif.
Nearly every member of the Collins family was actively employed in the dental profession. Moe had been making dentures for over 40 years; he was considered the best in the D.C. area, and consistently ranked among the Top Ten denture-makers in the country. It made him a multi-millionaire and among the elite of the Washington, D.C. Irish community. His wife, Ellen, delivered the finished dentures to his clients.
Seamus and Paddy had a joint dental practice in D.C.’s upscale Dupont Circle district. Trish and her sister Colleen worked there as chairside dental assistants. Sean apprenticed with his father learning how to make dentures, with the ultimate goal of his eventually taking over the family denture business.
As such, the reception was completely done in a dental motif with lots of green shamrocks adorning the grand reception hall. The bride and groom were seated in dentist chairs at the head table, with the glaring dental lights all but blinding them. They both had to wear special glasses, like the kind you get after cataract surgery. Each guest and member of the wedding party were given an emerald-green dental bib fastened by one of those pull-chain things found on ceiling fans. Each guest received the usual complimentary gift bag given dental patients at the conclusion of their appointments—a travelers-sized tube of Colgate, a spool of dental floss, and a generic, sub-standard toothbrush. At Carlile’s insistence, each guest was also given a Clapper.
The reception was catered by D.C’s best—Benson’s Catering of Bethesda, MD—exclusive caterers to the Deep State. At least half of their staff were Deep State operatives to ensure that any overheard conversation snippets among the guests would remain strictly private. Benson’s required every employee and their immediate family members to undergo monthly polygraph examinations.
The wedding fare was the only approved Hibernian Society wedding menu, known as St. Patrick’s Wedding Feast. Carlile and the Stevens’ family had no say in the matter; Moe Collins was calling all the shots, telling them from the beginning to butt out. From the outset, the wedding reception would be stridently Irish with the dental motif. Fare included:
• Tossed Field Greens Salad Bowl with Peppercorn Ranch
• Celery Seed Coleslaw
• Mixed Fruit Bowl
• Irish Soda Bread with Raisin and Caraway & Dinner Rolls with Butter
• Corned Beef with Cabbage
• Turkey & Vegetable Pot Pie
• Sautéed Sole with Lemon Herb Butter
• Traditional Shepard’s Pie
Shrimp Scampi, Scallops and Mussels in a white wine sauce over Pasta
• Sage Marinated Roast Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Peppers
• Irish Beef, Lamb and Guinness Stew
• Fish and Chips with Lemon & Roasted Garlic Tartar Sauce
• Sweet Potato Casserole
• Herb Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
• Buttery Garlic Mashed Potatoes
• Mama’s Best Mac & Cheese
• Steamed Vegetable Medley
• Honey Green Beans with Carrots
There was no music, that is, in a happy or joyous sense. There was a string quartet well off the side playing a non-stop, repetitious version of a funeral dirge. As such, there was no dancing. There was no throwing of the bride’s bouquet nor the bride’s garter. Everything was very serious and stilted and somber. Conversation was muted. There were no wedding pictures and photography was strictly prohibited. The Collins Family wanted no recorded history of the event. One guest tried to sneak in a photo of the event; Moe promptly smashed his camera into a thousand pieces.
Most of the guests left immediately after dinner, simply because their only acceptable choice for groom was not there, and their utter disgust with Moe Collins’ lame attempt to disguise the groom’s true identity.
Collins’ nemesis, Ed Flanagan, did not show up. He raced home from the wedding ceremony to begin building his impending case to permanently dismember Moe Collins from the Hibernians. It was not as open-and-shut as it appeared; Collins had a retinue of spit-shined attorneys on retainer. As crusty and determined an Irishman as ever, Collins would not go down without a fight. And neither would Flanagan.
CHAPTER FIVE: FINDING BOB LESKO
Moe Collins awoke the morning after the wedding in a cold sweat, an utter state of panic. He was shaking uncontrollably, hands tightly clasped around a tumbler of Tullamore Dew. Ellen tried everything to calm him down, but he was on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown.
“Ellen, what am I going to do? They’re going to have me thrown out of the Hibernians. And Flanagan already has the votes. I have to, I absolutely must find Bob Lesko.”
Moe telephoned sons Seamus and Sean and summoned them to the Collins’ Compound—a 15-room Tudor home nestled on 24 acres of secluded bayside property on Kent Island, Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Family members and Hibernians often referred to it as Little Hyannis Port.
They arrived 30 minutes later, fully armed. “Just tell us what you want, Dad. We’ll do whatever you ask.”
“I must find Lesko and put an immediate stop to this movement to kick me out of the Hibernians. It’s my whole life. It would end my life. If we could only find Lesko and bring him back to Maryland, we might be able to torpedo the whole god-damn operation. Flanagan is dead set on blackballing me from the Hibernians. This cannot stand.”
“OK, Dad, said Seamus, what do you want us to do?”
“I want to hire the best PI in the business. This person must be a full-blooded Irishman. They’re the only people I like and trust implicitly. I want you to contact your connections inside the Shamrock Society, an association of retired Irish law-enforcement agents at every level of government. Seamus, Sean, time is of the essence. We must find Lesko and we must do it ASAP.”
“Of course, Dad. I’m still in close touch with my long-time friend and fellow Notre Dame alumnus, attorney and retired FBI Special Agent, Michael Hoolihan. I’ll call him right now. I’d trust him with my life. He’s belonged to the Shamrock Society and the Hibernians for as long as I know. His credentials and character are unimpeachable.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Get up off your ass and call the guy.”
“Yes, Dad, immediately.”
Seamus picked up his cellphone and called Hoolihan. As it was 7:00 A.M. Sunday morning, Hoolihan’s cell was off. And besides, it was 4:00 AM on the West Coast. Moe went crazy. “Isn’t there another way to contact him? Can’t you guys just drive over to his place ?”
“Dad, he lives in Los Angeles.”
“OK, just keep trying every minute. This is such a critically important matter,” said the Irish patriarch, red-faced with anger and hypertension.
Finally, after an hour, Hoolihan answered his phone. “Shameful, ol’ buddy, what’s up?, referring to Seamus’ old college nickname. Good to hear from you.”
“Look, said Seamus, we have to act quickly. My father desperately needs the very best PI on the planet. And he must be a full-blooded Irishman. They’re the only people my father will do business with. Money is no object, Michael.”
“OK, I get it. So what’s the deal?”
“Do you know any top-notch PIs who fit the bill?”
“Well sure, Michael replied, but I need a little time to do my homework. So, what’s the deal, Shameful?”
“OK, a long time ago, actually 10 years ago, my baby sister, Trish, fell head-over-heels in love with this guy named Bob Lesko. My whole family and all of Dad and Mom’s friends immediately and totally fell in love with the guy. And their wives, and their kids. He was extremely charismatic and just plain endearing. He didn’t have one drop of Irish blood in his veins, yet they waived all the ethnicity requirements so he could become a full-fledged member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. I’m telling you it was f*****g incredible. He had an almost hypnotic charisma. He could charm the skin off a snake. On top of that he was informed and articulate, and well-versed in nearly every topic under the sun. And in the minutest detail. I mean, if you asked him what time it was, he’d tell you how to build a clock !”
“By Our Lord and Savior, replied Michael, “this is so over the top, even a leprechaun doesn’t have such charm.”
“Enough, said Seamus, we haven’t a minute to lose. If we don’t find this Hunky Lesko, my father will be doomed. I need the best PI the other side of the Rainbow.”
“OK, said Hoolihan. Let me handle it. There are several retired investigators in the Shamrock Society. I’ll contact them and get back to you by tomorrow morning.”
“Great, said Seamus, this will calm my father down for now and get the ball rolling. Talk to you tomorrow.”
Hoolihan called Seamus first thing in the morning. “Shameful, I’ve got good news. The Shamrock Society hooked me up with the best Irish PI in the known universe—one Eamon Fitzgerald. He has a track record of successes a mile long. If anyone can find this Hunky Lesko, it’s Eamon Fitzgerald.”
“So how do I get in touch with the guy?”, asked Seamus.
“He does no business by telephone. He insists on face-to-face contacts in discrete, intimate settings—small cafes and stuff. His residence is a closely guarded secret, but is believed to be a very secluded and well-guarded place in Flint, Michigan.”
“So how do I get in touch with him?”
“I’ve already set it up through a Shamrock Society intermediary. You’re to meet him at McSorley’s Ale House in the Cooper Square neighborhood of Manhattan at precisely 5:00 PM on Tuesday, March 2. The introduction will be an exchange of passwords. Arrive there 10 minutes early and get the reserved two-person table. It’s all been pre-arranged. At precisely 5:00, he’ll sit down and say, ‘The geese fly south in winter’, to which you will reply, ‘Shamma, Lamma, Ding-Dong.’ “
“OK, tell your contact I’ll be there. And Shamma Lamma Ding-Dong to you, my friend.”
“Seamus, after today, you must never use that expression on an open line. Fitzgerald is extremely security conscious. He’d have my head on a pike if he knew I told you these passwords over an open line. Good Luck and Godspeed. Bein and Begorra.”
“Bein and Begorra,” replied Seamus.
March 2, McSorley’s Ale House, Cooper Square District, Lower Manhattan
Seamus arrived at McSorley’s Ale House at precisely 4:50 P.M on Tuesday, March 2 as instructed. At exactly 5:00, a large man in green-plaid kilts, a matching Irish tam, with a beautifully carved blackthorn shillelagh in his right hand approached Seamus’ table, sat down and whispered the passcode, “The geese fly south in winter,” to which Seamus replied in hushed tones, “Shamma-Lamma Ding Dong.”
They introduced each other formally as Mr. Collins and Mr. Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald promptly got down to business. He spoke in a deep, commanding baritone with a thick Irish brogue. “OK Collins, your Notre Dame friend tells me you, or more precisely your father, wants to find some Hunky from Pittsburgh named Lesko. A Bob Lesko to be exact. Does your ol’ man have the resources to finance what may a long, drawn-out search-n-find investigation?
“Yes, Mr. Fitzgerald, money is no object. My dad made a fortune making false teeth for the elite around the Beltway and beyond. He had a very wealthy clientele. He had clients around the globe. You wouldn’t believe how many rich and famous people wear false teeth.”
“I know all this already. Don’t you think I’ve haven’t done my homework in advance, lad ? And by the way, let’s dispense with the formalities. Call me Eamon and I’ll call you Seamus. So, his full name is Robert John Lesko, age 42, last known address Chevy Chase, Maryland?”
“Yes, that’s correct. By way of background…”
Fitzgerald abruptly cut him off, ”Look, I know the background. Your sister fell in love with this hunky Lesko, and despite the passage of a decade, she’s still clings to the faint hope that he’ll waltz back into her life. Fat chance I say. She has better odds of winning the Irish sweepstakes,” Fitzgerald said with a bellowing guffaw.
“Yeah, I know.” said Seamus. My father has been threatened by this asshole Flanagan to have him blackballed from the Hibernians.
Fitzgerald, red-faced, immediately and sternly rebuked him, “Look lad, there’s no such thing as an Irish asshole !”
“I’m, I’m sorry, sir. I stand corrected. You’re right, there’s no such thing as an Irish asshole. Never has, never will be. But, while we’re on the subject, what about an asshole that’s comes pre-attached to an Irishman, you know, from birth and stuff ? Doesn’t that by definition make it an Irish asshole ?”
“Enough, lad, before I twist you into an Irish pretzel. I’m in no mood for humor. Never am. Time is money.”
“Yes, sir, just a little humor, you know, just to break the ice and stuff.”
“You’re wasting my time, Collins. Let’s move on.”
“OK, lad, just what can you tell me about this Hunky Lesko? He just disappeared, I understand. Was there a missing person’s investigation? An apartment search ? Prints taken ? Evidence of foul play? A farewell note? Anything ?”
“No, sir, my father imposed a iron veil-of-silence over the whole matter. He knew that his fellow Hibernians would freak out if they had learned of Lesko’s disappearance. Over the years, he had hired at least a half-dozen PIs, all to no avail.”
“Well, just what the hell did you do to keep this hidden for ten years ? I mean, We’re talking ten f*****g years, lad.”
“Well, for ten years, we made up every cock-n-bull, cockamamie story we could think of. We just told people that he worked abroad for the CIA, that he was out of the country most of the time, and that he was incommunicado. We told them that he rarely came to the states and when he did he insisted on complete anonymity and seclusion. Of course, there were doubters—especially Ed Flanagan—who didn’t believe a word of it. Flanagan has always been a pain in my father’s ass.”
“Look, Seamus, after I find this hunky Lesko, and I plan on finding him dead or alive, what is it exactly that your ol’ man wants me to do? Just give him Lesko’s address and be done with it?”
“No, said Seamus. He ultimately wants you to lure or convince him to come back to Maryland. Once there, my father hopes that Lesko can put out the fire with the Hibernians, fall back in love with my sister, or convince my sister that her husband, Carlile R. Stevens, is her true love, much as it hurts personally. My dad loved him like a son, I loved him like a brother. He was just so magnanimous, so endearing. God, I miss him,” he said tearfully. “So, to get this done, once found, my father wants you to start slipping large cash payments under his door or under the seat of his car. The envelopes will include instructions, an explanation, and a phone number he’s to call—Trish’s old landline phone number–which she had transferred to Stevens’ residence just in case he should call. It’s not just her landline, Eamon, it’s her lifeline.”
“Personally, I think your sister and all of you are bat-shit crazy. But money is blind. Face facts, he’s never going to call. But I’ll take the case. I’ll require a $100,000 retainer in gold. When the balance dips below $50,000, I’ll come calling. All my expenses will be dutifully itemized and sent by personal courier weekly to your dad’s estate on Kent Island. By the way, your ol’ man’s Wite-out scheme was beyond stupidity. I couldn’t stop laughing for 20 minutes, and I rarely laugh. Whoever came up with such a stupid idea?”
“It was my wife, Miasma.”
CHAPTER SIX: PI FITZGERALD AND THE SEARCH FOR THE HUNKY LESKO
Seamus returned to the Collins Compound on Kent Island to find his father ridden with anxiety with his hands wrapped tightly around a tumbler of Tullamore Dew. It was 9:00 AM. “Well ?” the ol’ man bellowed.
Seamus spoke haltingly as he related the details of his meeting with Eamon Fitzgerald.
“He took the case and is very confident of success. He wants a $100,000 retainer in gold which must be replenished should the balance fall below $50,000.”
“OK, let’s get it done. I believe this is only way to defuse Flanagan and his horde of cut-throats, you know—the likes of Mickey Delaney, Seamus Flannery, and Mickey O’Toole. Well, and there’s still a slim chance that Lesko will come around to Trish. Stevens is fully behind it. He loves your sister so much that he’s willing to part with her. Talk about selflessness. I may have been premature or hasty in judging the lad.”
“So what’s Fitzgerald’s game plan?”
“Dad, Fitzgerald is a pro’s pro. He has unlimited access to Deep State archives with cutting-edge, state-of-the-art people-finding software. He told me he’d have Lesko’s address in a New York minute.”
“Enough already with this folderol. How do I get him his money? Will he accept untraceable cash?
“Unfortunately, no. He wants $100,000 in gold, delivered to an intermediary at an as yet unspecified location. Fitzgerald and I have established a Dark Web cryptic communications channel.
“Alright, whatever he wants. I can have the gold tomorrow. I can have a courier here at 4:00 AM. Look, I don’t know how long I can delay Flanagan and his henchmen, but I have a couple of crack attorneys working on it day-and-night. After all, I wrote the national by-laws. There’s nothing in the Hibernian charter or its by-laws that prohibits Witing out a groom’s name from a wedding invitation.
“OK, dad. Things are moving apace. Everything will be OK.”
The Quest for the Holy Grail
Fitzgerald immediately got down to business even before Collins’ down payment in gold was delivered. He worked alone; he had no researchers, aides, nor clerical assistants. He worked out of a dingy, dusty, cluttered third-floor office space in an all-but-abandoned section of downtown Flint. His internet connections were fully encrypted and secured by the latest state-of-the-art anti-hacking software.
After no more than an hour’s work on the Deep Web, Fitzgerald found the Hunky Lesko at 409 E. Chauncey Street, Brooklyn, New York. As it was late, Fitzgerald decided to wait till morning to scope out the place. In addition to the address, Fitzgerald was able to get the make and model of Lesko’s car, as well as the license plate number. He booked a red-eye flight from Detroit to New York. He also booked a two-week stay at a Brooklyn rooming house scarcely a two-block walk from Lesko’s apartment, at the corner of 101st and E. Flaversham.
Fitzgerald awoke at the crack of dawn. After his usual breakfast of burnt unbuttered toast, two Guinness Stouts and several tumblers of Tullamore Dew, he drove to Detroit International Airport to catch his flight to New York. After landing, he hailed a taxi to the rooming house. After a quick shower and power-nap he went to work taking a lay of the neighborhood. Within an hour, he’d found the Hunky Lesko’s apartment, and more importantly, his car. Moreover, through Lesko’s intercepted e-mails and texts, Fitzgerald would learn of Lesko’s favorite watering hole—Dingleberry’s Bar and Grill.
Of course, Fitzgerald decided he would drop in on Dingleberry’s that night to size up the lad and his acquaintances. He would do his damnest to engage the lad in in a long conversation of his previous relationships, notably his relationship with Trish Collins. It was a tall order, but if anyone could extract information almost effortlessly, it was Eamon Fitzgerald. He said to himself, “I’ve never been so intrigued with a target in my life. I just have to find out what it is that made these Hibernians go bat-shit crazy over this Hunky Lesko. And the details of Lesko and Trish.”
Mano a Mano at Dingleberry’s Bar & Grill
It was Friday. Bob arrived home from another day at the Brooklyn Candy Company around the usual 5:30 PM. The candy company was well within walking distance so Bob was able to pocket any commuting costs. The Stoke arrived a scant 15 minutes later. They began their usual routine, getting ready to go to Dingleberry’s. Fridays and Saturdays were always special. “Getting ready” entailed much more than getting a shower and changing clothes. It meant “getting primed,” or as they put it, “getting damn near liquored up.” Neither was capable of engaging the opposite sex without being damn near liquored up.
Fitzgerald arrived at Dingleberry’s first, by plan. By the time the boys arrived Fitzgerald had had 8-10 tumblers of Tullamore Dew. Before the night was over he would have twice that, without skipping a beat. Bob and The Stoke arrived in tow. They took their usual seats at the bar, ordered drinks, and waited patiently for their buddies and would-be paramours. They sat but two stools away from Eamon Fitzgerald.
At this point, Eamon did a complete 180 and decided that his best move would be to just confront and come clean with Lesko. After all, he reasoned, why waste precious time trying to strike up a conversation with a hormonally-charged adolescent distracted by young lovelies and yucking it up with his guy pals? He would simply approach him and ask him for a couple hours or so of his time in a private setting of Lesko’s choice. He would make Bob an offer he couldn’t refuse.
He approached the Hunky Lesko and said, “Lesko, I’m private investigator Eamon Fitzgerald and I have seriously important business to discuss with you that would be in your vital interest to discuss.”
“What have I done? I am like totally scared shitless.”
“No need to be afraid, lad. You are in no danger, from me nor anyone else, except maybe your landlord. I’ll pay you $200,000 in cold cash tonight for a two or three-hour conversation at a quiet private setting. I’ve rented a room at 101st and E. Flaversham. If you’re not comfortable with that venue choose another place.”
“This is like totally f***ing insane. You’re gonna pay me $200,000 in cold cash for a two or three-hour conversation?”
“You heard that right. You’re starting to waste my time, Lesko. My clients don’t like that. I don’t come cheap. Shit or get off the pot lad.”
“Alright. Let’s just go to the room at Flaversham. It’s nine. I’ll give my roommate The Stoke the address and tell him to call the police if I’m not back by midnight.”
101st and E. Flaversham
The two walked over to the rooming house at 101st and E. Flaversham, a scant four-block walk from Dingleberry’s. Upon entering, Fitzgerald poured two sizable tumblers of Tullamore Dew. They sat face-to-face at a medium-sized table in the spartan studio apartment.
“So, Fitzgerald, now I get it—you’re going to ply me with liquor and pump me for whatever sort of information you’re after. I’m here to tell you—I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’. I can’t imagine what you’re after. I work for a f***ing candy company. I live from pay-to-pay. I’m nothing but a big loser, a hang-nail on the fickle finger of fate.”
“Lad, I’m here to tell you things more than ask. And I’ve been asked for your assistance in clearing up a matter of grave importance to my client. Your cooperation will likely leave you a very wealthy man—enough to buy your own god-damn candy company.”
“Just tell me, already, said Bob, what is this all about? I’m small potatoes, peanuts. I’m the assistant operations manager for a god-damn candy company in Brooklyn. I don’t owe anybody anything. I’ve never done anything to anybody. All I wanted to do was to go out and get loaded and, hopefully, well, you know. And now I’m the lynchpin of a f***ing international crime syndicate. What the f**k is going on?,” said a visibly agitated Lesko.
“Lad, do you remember Moe Collins?”
“Of course I remember Moe Collins. He could be a horse’s ass, but I remember him. But, in all fairness, he was very kind to me.”
Fitzgerald gritted his teeth tightly, and said, “Lad, there’s no such as an Irish horse’s ass.”
“You’re absolutely right, sir. I stand corrected.”
“Well, Collins needs your help.”
“How could I possibly help him?”
“Let me explain, lad. You once had a relationship with his youngest daughter, Trish, about ten years ago. Correct?”
“Yes, but what of it? Nothin’ f***in’ happened. It only lasted a few months, six tops. I neither implied nor committed to anything. I’ll admit it, I discarded her like a used condom, but I was just a clueless kid, only 32 at the time.”
“I’ll tell you what of it. You just up and left for New York without a trace. By the way, Trish was married two Saturdays ago to Carlile R. Stevens. Ever heard of him?”
“Who hasn’t heard of Carlile Stevens? He invented the Clapper. It’s common knowledge. Every school child knows this. He’s one of the most recognized faces on the planet. And he’s probably a billionaire. So what’s so bad about her being married to Carlile Stevens?”
“I’ll tell you. She’s still happens to be madly in love with you. As are her parents, her siblings, and nearly all of Moe Collins’ Hibernian flunkies. They’ve never gotten over your disappearance. Several are in therapy, for years in some cases. You can’t make this shit up, Lesko. Collins tried to pull the wool over their eyes by Witing Out Carlile’s name on the wedding invitations. Over the years, they had steadfastly continued to believe that Trish was still engaged to be married to you. After you had disappeared, Collins placed a bogus engagement announcement in the Washington Post along with a statement at the end that you’d been tapped by the State Department for a highly sensitive extended overseas assignment of indefinite duration. The family spoke in unison to cover up your disappearance. They made up every possible cock-n-bull story to support your alleged overseas assignment.”
“So what does Collins want of me? I still don’t know how I could be of assistance.”
“Listen. Collins’ Hibernian friends were apoplectic over the Wite-Out prank. Totally pissed. Sergeant-at-Arms Ed Flanagan has been gunning for Collins for decades to have him blackballed by the Hibernians. It’s strictly a personal vendetta going back to their time together at college. Flanagan has the votes. Collins has retained a retinue of attorneys to delay the vote while building a legal case for himself. Collins has vowed to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary to prevent his being ousted from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.”
“So where do I come in?“, asked Lesko.
“Alright lad, I’ll lay it out so that even a Hunky from Pittsburgh can understand it. Are you still in love with Trish?”
“I have never been in love with her, for even a minute. And we were never even close to an engagement. We just dated, maybe twice a week. I was new to the area; I went for the low-hanging fruit. A month or so into the relationship she started buggin’ me about getting married, telling me all of her sisters were married and asking me why I was taking so long to propose. That’s when I decided to get the hell of there and high-tail it to The Apple.”
“Well, what exactly was it about her that you found so repugnant, so revolting?”
“I just couldn’t take the stupidity anymore. It wasn’t just her, but her parents and siblings and all of their Hibernian friends. They treated me like the Second Coming, which I must admit, I found flattering for a while. For reasons that I can’t quite wrap my hands around. I still have no idea why they found me so god-damned appealing. I mean, I’ve never been anything more than your ordinary, run-of-the-mill schlunk. Same with my roommate, The Stoke. We’re both just complete schlunks.”
“Look lad, there’s lots of money in this for you. If you can get Trish to agree to welcome you to visit her and Stevens, you’re in for another $300,000. And, if you’re able to convince Trish that Carlile’s the perfect husband for her, we’re talking big bucks. With a lifelong line of credit. Ya folla?”
As agreed upon before the meeting, Fitzgerald handed Bob a black briefcase with $200,000 in unmarked currency.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE PHONE CALL
Bob paced the floor impatiently as he tried to prepare himself for the most important phone call of his life. He hadn’t talked to Trish in over ten years, but it seemed like a lifetime. The Stoke was there at his side.
“Stoke, I just don’t know if I can do this.”
“Just pick up the god-damn phone and call her,” The Stoke sternly responded.
Ever so slowly, he dialed Trish’s phone number—301-853-8000, one digit at a time. The phone began ringing. In a few seconds, Trish, knowing it could only be one person, began peeing her pants.
Her hands trembling, she picked up the phone and haltingly said, “H-H-Hello.”
“Trish, is this Trish? This is Bob Lesko. Do you remember me?”
Trish abruptly dropped the phone in an hypnotic state. She broke into spontaneous back flips, crashing through the living room bay window. She was taken to Chevy Chase Hospital. She sustained a severe concussion with multiple lacerations and contusions. It took the ER staff hours to remove the tiny shards of glass from her face and neck and arms.
The Stoke asked, “What happened, man?”
“I don’t know, man, the phone just f***in’ went dead. I’ll try again tomorrow.”
The Stoke was furious. “Why did you hang up on her ?”
“I didn’t hang up on her, Doofus. She just dropped the f***in’ phone. It was followed by a loud noise, like the breaking of a large sheet of glass. Keep your shirt on Stoke, I’ll try again tomorrow.”
The Second Phone Call
Trish was released from Chevy Chase Hospital early that morning. Her family kept an all-night vigil with novenas, rosaries, and dozens of blessed candles. Carlile did not leave her side.
Evening approached as Lesko prepared for his next phone call to Trish.
“This is driving me bat-shit crazy. I’m telling ya Stoke, this is driving me bat-shit crazy. How did I get myself into this mess ? I mean Moe Collins, the Hibernians, Carlile Stevens, Trish. They’re all crocodiles circling the raft.”
“Just make the god-damn phone call already.”
Bob picked up the receiver and once again slowly dialed 301-853-8000.
Trish again answered haltingly, “H-H-Hello. Is this you, Bob ? Are you calling to propose to me. You’re the only man I’ve ever loved. I’d dump my husband in a New York minute for you. You once told me I had turned your life around, that right after we met you started drinking heavily, chain smoking, falling behind in your bills and stuff.”
“Well, no Trish, I’m not calling to propose, but I am going to be in your area with a good friend of mine, The Stoke, and I was wondering if I might visit you, you know like, at your home. I hear that you’re married to Carlile R. Stevens, the world-renowned inventor of the Clapper.”
“Yes, I am married to Carlile, and we’re very well-to-do people. But it’s you I’ll always love, Bob.”
“Trish, just slow down. Trish, I’m just not the marrying kind. At least not yet. I mean look, I’m only 42. I mean, get real. You have no idea how f***in’ miserable I would be if I were married to you. Carlile is so in love with you, so dedicated, so loving. It’s true, he may not have my charisma, or my charm, or my drop-dead good looks, but he loves you dearly. I cannot imagine the pride of being married to the inventor of the Clapper. I mean, what a catch !”
“Don’t ever say that to me again. I’ll never be able to go on. Whatever prompted you to call me? You haven’t called me in ten years, even on my wedding day. I think you have nefarious purposes in coming here.”
“No, not at all. I’m going to be in the area next week, starting Monday, on business, sort of. I’d love to meet Carlile, he’s sort of a personal hero of mine, having invented the Clapper, and all his humanitarian efforts. Don’t forget, he donated a Clapper to every single person living in sub-Saharan Africa. One doesn’t get such an opportunity everyday. And I surely want to see your family. I mean, after all. And I wanna meet all those ol’ guys from the Hibernians—you know, Ed Flanagan, Mickey O’Toole, Zeb Shaunnessy, Jim Flaherty, and Tommy Shanahan, all of them. They were so kind to me and so much fun. I would just love to see them all again.”
“Well, I suppose it would be OK. But I really thought you were calling to propose to me. I’d leave Carlile in a New York minute for you Bob. But when I tell my family you’re going to be in the area, I’m sure that they’re all going to start crying tears of joy. I’m sure they will want to host a small reception in your honor while you’re here. Please attend. I’d love to see you regardless of your feelings. And by all means, bring you’re friend, The Stoke. I’m sure my family and friends will embrace him as well with loving arms.”
They bade each other Good-Night.
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE TRIP TO MARYLAND
Bob and The Stoke awoke at 8:00 AM Monday to begin their trip to Chevy Chase, Maryland—Trish Central, Moe Central, Hibernian Central. Everything had been pre-arranged—the Amtrak to BWI Station, and a waiting limousine arranged by Eamon Fitzgerald which would pick them up and hastily take them under cover of darkness to a secluded location near Wye River Plantation. Having gotten this far, Lesko had already earned himself $500,000, $200K for the initial meeting at E. Flaversham, and another $300K when he arrived at Wye River Plantation. If he could square everything with Ed Flanagan and the other anti-Collins Hibernians, he would earn himself another $500,000. And, if he could somehow convince Trish that Carlile was her true love, he would earn himself yet another $1,000,000. He had agreed to give The Stoke a 20% cut for his lifelong friendship, and the moral support he had given Bob throughout the crisis. The party was scheduled for Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM.
Lesko and the Stoke settled into their new digs, a manorial estate owned by Moe Collins (under Ellen’s name) near Wye River Crossing, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The place was teeming with polished, well-heeled staff, busily going about their appointed rounds. They were to be at their guests’ beck-n-call.
Bob and the Stoke were given separate suites and were told that there was nothing beyond the deepest desires, even chocolate mousse. Their bed linens were made of 100% 1,800-thread-count My Pillow Giza Dream Sheets, courtesy of Mike Lindell. Buttery soft, cool, and wrinkle free. Bob and The Stoke were in pig-shit heaven, relishing every available pleasure. Hot baths, Geisha girls, even naked women doing backflips and somersaults in their rooms. Whatever their hearts desired on Moe Collins’ dime.
Tuesday was a free day for the boys– swimming, relaxing, and having everyone of their fleshly desires satiated. They drank bone-dry martinis until they puked.
Wednesday, Doomsday, High Noon at the OK Corral
Bob and The Stoke awoke to what could only be called the most important day of their lives. With a $1,000,000, maybe $2,000,000 on the line, Bob was considering every word he had to say to Trish, Moe, and Flanagan. The Stoke knocked on Bob’s door shortly after 8:00 AM. After a hearty breakfast of eggs with hollandaise sauce, maple Canadian bacon with the fat removed, and multi-grain toast points drenched in luxurious creamed chipped beef, they lounged while planning their strategy—what to say, when to say it, in short how to conduct themselves with so much pride and money riding on the line.
Lesko was determined to roll the tables—convince Trish that Carlile Stevens, and not he, was the only right man to be at her side, and likewise, convince Flanagan to call off his Hibernian coup against Moe Collins. Considering Trish’s undying love for Lesko, and Flanagan’s lifelong animosity with Collins, this would be no day at the beach, mused Lesko. But Bob, ever confident even cocky, was convinced he was up to the task. He never once questioned his ability to carry it through. There were naysayers to be sure—namely Moe Collins, even PI Eamon Fitzgerald, but neither Bob nor the typically cynical Stoke would have any part of it.
The party was set for 7:00 PM at the Collins’ residential estate in Chevy Chase, MD. By noon Benson’s Catering had begun preparing the Lobster Bisques, clams and oysters on the half-shell, Mulligan Stew, colcannon, their signature cheese puffs, ice sculptures, kegs of Guinness, and every other imaginable potable.
The boys were ready to rock the house.
CHAPTER NINE: THE GALA IN BOB’S HONOR
Spit-shined, Irish-green limousines began a procession to the Collins’ residence beginning around 6 PM. There had never been anything like it. Traffic was backed up for miles in all directions. The uninvited motorists were infuriated, blowing their horns incessantly. Hot-headed commuters began engaging one another physically. Some even wrote letters to the editor. Emergency vehicles were dispatched en masse to within a five-mile radius of the Collins’ estate.
Bob still suspected that the event might even be a set-up by Collins and Trish’s brothers to lure him into the Compound in order to crush him physically for having broken Trish’s heart, for not having called in ten years, even on her wedding day. He had half-convinced The Stoke that they were walking into a hornets’ nest, where the Collins’ boys lie in wait. Nevertheless, they were determined to go through with it. The payoff was too dear.
The boys would be fashionably late, by design. Eamon Fitzgerald timed their arrival for 7:30. Their limo pulled into the Collins’ residence bedecked with green shamrock-shaped lights. For security reasons, Fitzgerald flew back to Detroit, his mission having been accomplished.
By this time, the guests at the Collins’ estate could scarcely contain themselves, peeing frequently while displaying other nervous habits. Just then, a little after 7:30, the guests were advised that Bob and The Stoke had arrived at the guardhouse. The guests assembled around the stately, double-plated cut-glass front door.
Trish and Carlile waited to open the front door to the eagerly awaited duo who were instructed to ring the door chime but once.
Bob rang the door chime. Trish and Carlile flung open the door instantly as if by the force of a hurricane. The crowd, with crystal champagne flutes in hand, burst into a long, rousing applause followed by repeated renditions of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
People were clamoring and tripping over one another to shake hands with him, perhaps even get a warm embrace or an autograph. Even Carrie Ann Inaba was there. Bob and The Stoke were star-struck. Then, in a flash, Bob and The Stoke looked around the room and noticed that dozens of photos of Lesko adorned the walls of the Collins’ estate–framed, perfectly hung, dated and captioned. Bob’s confident presumptions of breaking Trish’s obsession with him had all but evaporated in a nanosecond.
“This is nucking futz,” said The Stoke. “Tell me about it,” responded Bob.
“But I’m not giving up until I’ve exhausted every option. I must talk to her, then Flanagan. But first I must check in with Moe. He is, after all, paying the bills.”
In the meantime, Sheila McGillicutty and The Stoke began sharing furtive glances. It had not gone unnoticed, as Bob and Moe Collins and several guests had also observed. After staring at one another for several minutes, The Stoke and Sheila shyly approached one another, their eyes fixed upon their mutual desires.
They introduced themselves; then softly hugged one another while The Stoke gently placed a kiss on Sheila’s left cheek. They smiled, and while holding hands, continuing to gaze into each other’s eyes. They were inseparable for the rest of the evening, chatting it up in one of the many alcoves and antechambers at the estate. At around midnight, Sheila bade The Stoke farewell. He walked her to her car where they kissed passionately. Sheila readily accepted The Stoke’s invitation to visit him in New York. It was the first of many surprises in this riveting tale of drama and intrigue.
CHAPTER TEN: THE PLAN UNFOLDS
Shortly after arriving at the Gala in his honor, Bob approached Moe Collins and asked if they could speak privately. Moe quickly agreed and led Bob to an antechamber off Collins’ personal study—called The Sanctuary. Moe poured two healthy tumblers of Tullamore Dew.
Moe guy-hugged him and said, “Bob, it’s just so great to see you,” he said, while wiping the tears from his eyes.
“You too, Moe. It’s been too long.”
“I just wanted to let know exactly what I am planning to do, my sweeping strategy to roll the tables. Moe, just to let you know, there will be no shenanigans. I’m not going to be a party to another one of your preposterous Wite-Out schemes. Or the lies you’ve been telling everyone about my being out of the country for ten years and that phony engagement announcement. I’m going to be painfully honest if necessary with Trish and Flanagan and the rest of the Hibernians. It’s the only way I’ll ever break the spell.”
“What’s that supposed to mean ?”
“Just what I said, Moe. I’m not going to tell Trish a bunch of lies and bullshit. Same with Flanagan. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching since I first met Eamon Fitzgerald. I had no idea about any of this hero worship, deserved or not. I had no idea she was still pining for me, so obsessed that I had wronged her 10 years ago. I aim to do right by her this time. I’m not the glib, insincere operator I once was. I believe the best way in this case and every case is to be upfront and completely honest. It’s been a profound journey of redemption.”
“Bob, I just wanna know. Why did you dump her so suddenly and just check out of our lives without a trace ? No letter, no nothing. Do you have any idea how much pain and agony and anguish you’ve wrought upon Trish, our family, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chevy Chase, MD Chapter #1309? For ten years we’ve been hoping for a miracle. You broke her heart, our hearts. Seamus has been in therapy since you left. How can you so nonchalantly explain this away?”
“Look, Moe, she started pressuring me to get married only a few weeks after we’d met. Moe, allow me to be perfectly frank. I simply couldn’t take the stupidity anymore. I mean a woman in her 30’s shouldn’t still be working on her times tables.”
“So, I guess that means you’re not going to change your mind and propose to her.
“No, Moe. I’m not going to change my mind. Will all of you stop this talk of marriage? A marriage of Trish and me would be an unmitigated disaster.”
“Just forget it. Don’t worry Moe. I’ll patch things up with Trish and Flanagan. Before getting back to the party, and it’s something I must really know. Tell me, because I really think I need to know—what exactly happened between you and Flanagan that’s at the root of your mutual animosity ? If you don’t tell me, it’ll be like playing solitaire with a deck of 51.”
“Alright Lesko, I’ll tell you, but you mustn’t talk about this with anyone.
“You see, Flanagan and I were best friends since childhood. We were next door neighbors, thick as thieves. Two freckled-faced Irish kids who could practically read each other’s minds. Went to the same schools from K-12. Our families celebrated Thanksgivings and Christmases and birthdays together, year after year. Those are among the most cherished memories of my youth.”
“Then we were off to college—both of us accepted to Notre Dame. We were roommates on the buddy system. Then I met Ellen O’Connor—the love of my life, my Wild Irish Rose. It was love at first sight—however, for me and Flanagan. Ellen was hopelessly in love with me; of course, Flanagan never had a chance.”
“That’s when the falling out began. Flanagan was insanely jealous, nearly had a nervous breakdown. He seethed with rage, hurling cruel and painful insults at Ellen and me, often in public. Finally, Flanagan dropped out of Notre Dame and transferred to Providence. He just couldn’t stand seeing us together anymore. After returning from Providence, Flanagan met and married Colleen Clancy, who was born and raised in our neighborhood. I named my firstborn Colleen. She’s a princess. Colleen gave him three lovely children. But it did nothing to slake his rage.
“Ellen and I married soon after I started my business making false teeth. Lesko, you have no idea how many rich and famous people wear false teeth. If you throw in partials, you’re talking half the country. Lesko, you’ll never know how rewarding and how much clean fun it is to make false teeth. There’s nothing that jazzes me quite like a set of newly-minted false teeth.”
“OK, said Lesko, enough with the false teeth. I have a meeting with Flanagan tomorrow at 10:00 AM sharp. And, I’m to meet with Trish and Stevens tomorrow evening at their home. First alone, then together. Everything will be fine. I’ve never been so cocksure of myself. I will have earned my $2,000,000.”
“Please be gentle with Trish, even if you have to lie. Tell her you’re engaged to a woman in Brooklyn.”
“No thanks, Moe. Those days are over. I’m going to tell her that we’re incompatible, and that Stevens is the love of her life, despite the fact that he told her he would kick her to the curb if I were come back into her life. And I’m going tell Flanagan pretty much the same.”
“OK, son, I mean Bob. If things go as planned, stop by day after tomorrow to pick up your due. By the way, I couldn’t help but notice the chemistry between your buddy The Stoke and Sheila McGillicutty, still ongoing I’m sure.”
“Yes, Moe, I, too, picked up on their chemistry. There are possibilities there. Sheila promised him a visit to New York as soon as possible. He really needs someone.”
“Yeah, Bob, that makes the two of you.”
CHAPTER ELEVEN: BOB MEETS FLANAGAN
Bob Lesko arrived at Ed Flanagan’s home promptly at 10 AM. Bob was prepped and ready. Colleen Clancy Flanagan answered the chime and led him to Flanagan’s study. Flanagan sat waiting for him with tumblers of Tullamore Dew. Flanagan leaped out of his comfy couch to warmly embrace Bob; the gesture was warmly reciprocated.
“Oh, G-d Bob, there are no words to describe my happiness at this moment,” said Flanagan through the tears. I never thought I’d see you again. Ever. For 10 years, we have been searching for you in every nook ‘n cranny. And for answers about your disappearance. All of us were completely befuddled. We could not imagine why, without any fathomable explanation, you just up and disappeared and walked away from Trish Collins and her family and rest of us. We are all so happy you’re alive and well. I love you like a son, so does Moe Collins.”
“Ed, I’d like to talk to you about Moe. He’s just not himself. He sullen, he’s lost weight, he’s taken on a pallor. He drinks Tullamore Dew from morning till night. It started right after Trish’s disastrous wedding. And escalated after learning of your attempt to blackball him from the Hibernians for that stupid Wite-Out scheme.”
“When we all received our wedding invitations, said Ed, we first began murmuring amongst ourselves. We just thought that something was fishy, but we couldn’t quite put it together. Until we saw Carlile Stevens waiting for her at the altar, we all still believed without question that Trish was to marry Bob Lesko. That’s when all hell broke loose. When we saw Carlile Stevens at the altar, we all felt so betrayed.”
“Then a couple of weeks ago, Moe announced that you’d been found, and had planned to travel to Maryland in a short while to ‘renew old acquaintances’. Renew old acquaintances, Bob ? Moe and I loved you like a son. And all you wanted was to renew old acquaintances ? Are you daft lad ? Have you any idea how much emotional carnage you left in your wake? Have you no idea how many lives were all but destroyed when you left ?
“Look Ed, just up and leaving like that was cruel and thoughtless, I’ll admit. I had no idea of the pain and anguish I had caused all of you. It was a simple case of immaturity. After all, I had just turned 32 at the time. I mean, I had never had a girlfriend who gave two hoots about me. Ed, I can’t change the past. But knowing what I know now, I can change the future. I will call and visit as often as possible.”
“Look Ed, bottom line, I’m begging you to call off your dogs with the Hibernians. Please, please, just drop the motion to oust Moe from the Hibernians. If he gets barred from the Hibernians, he’ll be dead in a week. He’d sooner pluck his eyes out with a red-hot pitch fork. I know you two have been at loggerheads for a long time. But, I’m begging you to take one for the team.”
Flanagan began to well up, his lips quivering. Between being with Bob again and Bob’s impassioned speech to have mercy on Collins were enough to sway his conscience. He agreed to rescind the motion.
After a few more drinks and the regaling of old times, Bob and Flanagan took their leave. It was but 2:00 PM; five hours before his scheduled visit with Trish and Carlile. He returned to his hotel to relax. He called Moe Collins to tell him the news that Flanagan had agreed to drop the expulsion motions. He suggested Collins give Flanagan a phone call. Collins made no promises.
CHAPTER TWELVE: LESKO VISITS TRISH AND CARLILE
Lesko arrived at the Stevens/Collins Compound a few minutes before 7:00 PM. The staff butler answered the door chime. “Hi, I’m Bob Lesko, and I have an appointment with Trish and Carlile.” The officious butler showed him in, and led him to Trish’s study.
He entered the study and found Trish dressed in a peasant blouse with a pleated skirt, a string of pearls, and a pair of beige pumps.
She rose to greet him. They hugged, in a completely platonic sort of way, and sat facing each other on matching red-leather divans. Bob was encouraged.
“Can I get you a slice of toast?, Trish inquired. “No, thank you,” Bob politely declined. Trish had a lifelong practice of offering every visitor a piece of toast upon arrival.
Before we start talking about the more important things, let’s just sort of catch up. You know, small talk.”
“OK, responded Trish. I suppose that means that you still don’t intend to marry me?”
“That’s right,” responded Bob, in an brusque sort of manner. Fumbling for something to say to break the ice, Bob asked, “Do you still have your Zamboni? Do you still drive it? Take it to work?”
“You bet, runs like a top. My mother and I just took it to Florida. Took just a little more than month, one way. I’ve had it for 10 years now. It’s still my pride and joy. I mean, how many people drive a Zamboni as their regular car? Not many, I’d wager.”
“Of course, I still remember the day you bought it. I think you’re still the only person to use a Zamboni as an everyday vehicle,” said Bob.”
“Are you still taking accordion lessons?”, asked Bob.
“Of course, I would never give up the accordion. It’s such an important part of my life, my being. The accordion defines me. Been taken lessons for going on twenty years now, and I can play the Beer-Barrel Polka by heart. I’m now studying under Dr. Miroslav Pienczykowski, considered one of the preeminent accordionists on Earth. He charges $1,000 an hour for intense one-on-one instruction. It’s worth every penny of it.”
“Wow, that’s a steal,” said Bob, turning his head while rolling his eyes.
“Well, tell me, Trish, what’s been going on for the last 10 years?”
“Well, after you up and left me without so much as a hastily scribbled note, I began deep psychological therapy. You know, the works—Freudian, existential, Jungian, transformative, clinical, and Gestalt. Even tried yoga and all sorts of mysticism. Fasting, chanting, and every form of transformative meditation and self-denial. Same with my parents and brother Seamus, who thought of you as a brother. I’ve been on every anti-depressant under the sun. And as soon as they tell me I’m making progress, I lapse right back into the same state of morbidity. I just can’t stand it anymore.”
“Look, Trish, what we once had is now history. I know you’ve been carrying a torch for me for much too long—and I haven’t reciprocated. I left you because there was no hope for us, and I just couldn’t summon the courage to tell you. Carlile is perfect for you. He loves you dearly, he’s a self-made man, he would never do you wrong. He’s a kind and decent and chivalrous man who would never hurt you. I mean how much cooler can it get than to be married to the inventor of The Clapper? Just think about that for a moment if you can, I mean, if you can summon the brain-power.”
“You’re so right, Bob. I still think you’re still the smartest person on Earth.”
“So I’ve heard. It’s a gift.”
Trish led Bob to a second-floor sitting room where Carlile was anxiously awaiting to see them. Bob and Carlile warmly shook hands and did a brief guy-hug. Carlile said, “So I finally get to meet the most beloved person in the world.”
Replied Bob, “Yes, and I get to meet the inventor of the Clapper, a self-made billionaire, and the only person in the world that can make Trish happy.”
Bob wished the happy couple a warm and lusty evening. He returned to his lodgings happy to inform Moe Collins and The Stoke that all was well. Mission accomplished. He would return to New York $2,000,000 richer.
Bob and The Stoke awoke early to collect their due from Moe Collins. Collins was happier than a pig in s**t to see them and more than happy to give them their handsome and well-deserved payoff. Moe was simply giddy. After the short meeting with Moe, Bob and The Stoke took the 10:10 AM Amtrak out of BWI to return to New York. They were completely exhausted and slept soundly through the whole trip. They awoke in Hartford, Connecticut, and had to take the train back south to New York.
The Stoke had fallen head-over-heels for Sheila McGillicutty. The feelings were mutual. She was to visit New York the following weekend. The Stoke was walking on air. He had never been so happy. They would be married ten years later.
As for Bob, he planned on looking up with Maggie Dunmore, the woman he had met at Dingleberry’s a while back. He loved the fact that she was so averse to marriage. “On second thought, he mused, that’s exactly what I didn’t like about her. I realize that 42 is awfully young to think about marriage, but it may be time to give it a thought.
As Trish slowly began to move on from Bob, she and Carlile got down to the business of being married. Trish slowly accepted the fact that Carlile Stevens, and not Bob Lesko, was her husband and her future. They consummated their marriage about a year later. Trish made it clear to Carlile that such activities would be few and far between. Carlile respected her decision as he went on singing the Clapper theme song.
After deducting the 20% cut for The Stoke as promised, Lesko returned to New York $1,600,000 wealthier. Moreover, Collins also gave Lesko a lifelong line-of-credit should he decide to go into business for himself. Bob immediately began mulling the countless opportunities that now beckoned. None bore fruit.