The obnoxious guy in the crowded airline seat next to her wouldn’t shut up, keep his eyes off her legs, or quit drinking screwdrivers. Brook Best decided to give him a treat. Slowly, deliberately, she raised one tanned leg, allowing it to fall invitingly across the other. His eyes leaped. He nearly dropped his drink:
“God, those are beautiful!”
“You can get shit-faced on an airplane, but you can’t smoke a cigarette,” Brook murmured toward the window thinking: I want a Virginia Slim. I’d settle for a Salem. Three hours changing planes and now a lecher who can’t hold his booze.
“What? Oh, sorry! Did I spill some on you? Can I buy you a drink?”
“No, thank you.!” Brook replied audibly to the pest. “Feel free to have another one, yourself, though.”
“Oh, I will. Don’t have to drive. My honey’s picking me up at the airport so they won’t tow my car again.”
Brook’s curiosity overcame her better judgment. Lifting sunglasses to rest in her hair she asked: “Why would they tow your car?”
“Ever since that damned Trade Tower thing, everybody’s crazy!”
“Yes,” Brook agreed.
Drink sloshing the isle at the end of his gesture, Brook’s inebriated coach buddy explained: ” I parked my car in SeaTac lot–last week. Fly back–it’s gone. Passed a new law. Can’t park within 300 feet of the terminal. Why the hell did they let me park there? Twenty-nine cars they impounded. $130.00–plus thirty bucks a day–when I got back. Had to pay a cab to my place in Seattle. Got me a lawyer. Says I can sue. Get my money back.”
“Are you going to?”
“You damned right, I am! No signs. I get in at night. Car’s gone. Wasted two days getting it back. All my time and inconvenience! Can you believe it?”
“I can believe anything. Too many people are sue-happy. At least, you are entitled to your money though.”
“You a Lawyer?”
“I’m a broker.”
“Stock Broker! God, I’ve been losing my ass since September 11th! What’s your name? What brokerage you with?
“My name is Brooklyn Best. I’m a real estate broker. You want to buy a house?”
“Buy a house? Hell, no! Everybody’s selling! Half the people in my neighborhood are trying to sell. Poor bastards working at Boeing. 70,000 workers laid off. I might want to sell mine one of these days. You got a card?”
Brook opened the navy and white patent leather purse to remove her gold business card case with The Best monogrammed on its surface. Seeing its chance to escape, a well-used passport fluttered from her grasp to perch indecisively between her matching spectator pumps. The letch lunged for it. Brook never flinched when she felt his hopeful hand glide accidentally from her ankle up her calf to above her knee as he pretended to help.
Brook closed her eyes, considering her options. This jerk knows how to make the most of an opportunity. Still, he’s a potential client. This is as far as he goes, she decided. Sliding a business card from beneath the bar, Brook held a forced smile.
“Here is the card that you asked for.”
“Oh, thanks. Where’s your picture?”
“On my passport,” said Brook, her hand open.
“Oh, sure. Here ya go, doll.”
“Thank you.” Shit, she thought. He’s a real smooth talker, too.
“Brooklyn Best, huh. Port Orchards, Gig Harbor and All Washington State. Why don’t you have your picture on your card? A good looking lady like you should have a photo card.”
“I don’t need too. I’m not for sale,” Brook retorted.
Oblivious to his rebuff, the guy pressed on. “The Realtor who sold me my house has a picture on her card. Not as pretty as you, either.”
“Do you remember her name?”
“No,” the drunk admitted.
“You will remember me though, won’t you? I’m The Best!”
“I’ll bet you are, babe. Why won’t you let me buy you one drink? You look thirsty.”
“I don’t drink with potential clients.”
“Oh. Well, maybe you could pay me a finders fee if I get you some business.”
“In the State of Washington, that’s against the law. Only licensed agents can receive money as a result of a real estate transaction.”
“What will you give me, then?”
“Perhaps, an opportunity to buy me a drink–after I’ve sold a house!”
“Let me have a couple more of your cards, then! Oh, Stewardess? Bring me another Screwdriver, honey. Make it a double.”
Brook dispensed two more cards. She liked an honest man. Sometimes, she could even put up with a dishonest man, but not this one. She closed her card case, pulled her pinstriped skirt down to cover her kneecaps. This conversation was over. The new John Grisham novel would be more interesting. Lowering dark glasses from frequent rest on even darker hair, Brook Best reclined the seat to enjoy a good read.
The idea was to extend her vacation all the way back to SeaTac. The Boeing 737 hummed contentedly, seizing the blue above fluffy clouds.
I enjoy aircraft, Brook thought, remembering the pilot client who had invited her to join the ‘Mile High Club’. People on this flight seem uptight. Face it, my vacation is over, she conceded. Her credit cards had incurred more charges than she’d intended. It was time to think about doing some real estate business, again. Brook’s mind reluctantly embraced thoughts relevant to her world:
I didn’t even open that file old Ernie asked me to read on my vacation. It’s just HUD Housing programs, anyway. I should have a commission check waiting for me. I’ll need it. Buyers will be jumpy with this terrorist situation. I’ll work the For Sale By Owners–FSBOs.
Sellers will play hell getting any offers until things settle down. I’ll keep them listed long enough for this terrorist thing to cool off, Brook decided. When it does, I’ll have the best houses for sale inventory in Kitsop County. Maybe, in the whole Multiple Listing Service.
When her plane landed at SeaTac, Brook collected a baggage porter, her luggage, and, in practically no time, located her sediment-clad convertible in long-term parking. She drove directly to a car wash.
Removing her warm leather coat from the trunk, Brook lowered the convertible top, enjoyed the cold wind in her hair, the noises native only to Seattle. Whistles of young men, loud grins of more mature admirers, a car full of crew cuts, sharing their brand of music with anyone who wasn’t deaf–vibrations with those who were. It was good to almost be home.
Brook caught the Bremerton ferry across Puget Sound. Crossing took only forty-five minutes, barely enough time to raise the top, abandon the car, and have an Amaretto coffee above in the onboard lounge. The bartender acknowledged Brook’s new suntan. She asked him if he was ready to buy a house.
It was drizzling as Brook drove her clean car off the ferry. Dark billows dampened what might have been a beautiful sunset. A delivery van splashed fresh made mud on her driver’s side door before she made it out onto Bay Street. “So much for a clean car! Welcome back, Brook Best,” she muttered.
Brook’s condo was normally less than twelve minutes from the ferry landing. An intense squall doubled her drive time. On the Olympic Peninsula, a sprinkle became a deluge without warning. Leaving suitcases in the trunk, Brook sprinted the last thirty-five feet from her assigned parking space to the door. “Seaweed couldn’t get this wet,” she crabbed to the key.
So it wouldn’t appear she was away, Brook had left one living room light burning while on vacation. Shedding her soaked coat, she stopped at the thermostat to order some heat.
Something didn’t feel right. Curiously, she ventured into each room to see what was amiss. Nothing appeared to be out of place. Yet, Brook had a distinct feeling that someone had been in her home–while she’d been away. She decided that if it weren’t Ernie or Jack, she’d call a locksmith, re-key the deadbolt, and give them both new keys.