Alva, Part Two Begins – The Report
All the Thanksgiving diners had gone. The waitresses and waiters had finished counting up tips and left for the night. Raoul was taking the last trays of food from the warming buffet while he and Alva talked and joked. They were like brother and sister, speaking in shorthand and laughing at the human condition as if looking at the world through the same eyes. Outside, standing in a shadowy doorway across the street, protected from the falling snow, Lonnie McSweeney watched and waited. In his pocket, his report was folded and stuffed into an envelope.
He looked at his watch and decided it was time to make his move. He crossed the street. A stiff wind caught him off guard. The flaps of his overcoat blew open and snow immediately covered the front of his trousers. He tilted his chin down against the wind and hurried across to the restaurant. He pushed the door open and inside the smells of the feast still hung in the warm air, while the open door let in a blast of cold that caught Raoul by surprise. Lonnie had a moment of regret that he had not gone in to enjoy the Thanksgiving meal. It had been many years since Lonnie had spent a holiday the way other people did.
“Well, lookie here who the cat dragged in on this cold night,” Raoul called out, a square aluminum pan heavy with sweet potatoes in his hands, the smell of it still rich and inviting.
Lonnie slid out of his coat and shook off the snow. He hung it on a coat tree next to the door.
“I got something for you,” Lonnie answered, looking at Alva. “Didn’t think you’d want it to wait.”
Alva hadn’t expected this tonight. She thought it might take months. She was prepared to wait. But this came as somewhat of a shock and her heart began to pound. Raoul came back from the kitchen to stand at her side.
“Well, come on over here and set down,” Alva said. “Have some coffee to warm you up? How long you been out there? Look like you made of snow.”
Lonnie sat at the nearest booth, sliding in against the wall. Raoul brought him a cup and saucer and went to get the coffee pot, which he hadn’t yet emptied. He thought about making a fresh pot but, what with the lateness of the hour and all the work he’d already done, he decided to use up what they had. By the time he came back holding the pot, Lonnie was opening a large envelope that he had folded in half to fit in his coat pocket.
“I gotta tell you, I was surprised at how easy it was to locate him,” Lonnie said. “Usually takes at least a month or so. But this here was like sliding down a greased ramp.” He unhooked the clasp of the envelope, which was a rather old-fashioned looking thing, a bit battered as if he’d used it many times before.
Alva sat across from him with her hands folded in front of her on the table. She wanted to grab the envelope from his hands and rip it open. Raoul poured the coffee. Lonnie stopped fiddling with the clasp and took a drink.
“Thanks,” he said. “I been out there waiting for everyone to leave. I should a maybe come in before.” He looked up at Alva trying to read her, trying to prepare himself for her reaction. He took another sip of coffee and then pulled out his report.