“Day dreaming again?”
Cliff spun around. “No Joe. Just thinkin’”
“Okay, it looks serious. I leave you to it.”
Cliff was trying to figure out what to do next. That was Conrad. He was here to talk to Cecil about something big and Flanagan was relying on him to find out what it was. A current picture of Conrad would also score Cliff a few points. He had to think of something and he had to think of it fast. Something subtle or Cecil’s radar would be screaming blue murder. What to do?
“Joe, you busy.”
“Nah, what do you need?”
“Come with me. Don’t ask any questions and just follow my lead. Okay?”
Joe looked a little confused. “Sure Kemosabe.”
The two of them walked back out to Cecil, Conrad and the Austin Healy. “Sorry Mr. Russell, but I had to bring Joe out to see your car.”
Cecil glared at Cliff. Mr. Russell smiled and nodded his head.
Cliff began, “See Joe, isn’t she everything I told you?”
“Err, yeah, yeah, she sure is.”
Cliff continued, “And Mr. Russell says that everything is stock. Look at the chrome. Not a blemish. I’ll bet the top doesn’t have a tear or a fade. Original snaps probably.” Cliff was walking around the car as he spoke. “You could probably loosen those knock-offs with your fist.”
Joe was getting into it by now. “I’ll bet a days salary, all seven dollars of it, that you can even drive it for two days without having to re-tune the carbs.’
“Smart guy,” Cecil hissed.
“Just kidding boss. I know the government takes most of it.”
Mr. Russell even laughed at that one. Cliff saw his opening. “Say Joe, do you have your phone on you?”
“I would love to have my picture taken with this car. I’ll keep it in my wallet. I’ve got room if I take out the picture of my wife.”
“Watch it,” Joe chided. “Remember what I told you.”
“I remember,” Cliff answered. “Just take the picture.”
Cliff positioned himself on the top of the door. “Ready,” he said to Joe. “Make sure you get my good side.”
“Your good side?” Joe asked. “If we wanted your good side we would ask you to leave. You are taking away from the car.”
“Cecil was right,” Cliff shot back. “You are a smart ass. Just take the picture.”
Joe held up the camera in the phone and took a couple of pictures. “There, done.”
Cliff stood up and moved away from the car. He looked over at Cecil and his guest. “Would you two old friends like to have your picture with the car? After all you own it.”
“No,” Cecil answered quickly.
“Well if you’re nervous Cecil I can stand in the picture with you,” Cliff snickered. “Besides you are being rude. You didn’t let Mr. Russell answer. It’s his car.”
Cecil was about to say something when Cliff cut him off. “Well Mr. Russell? One picture on the house. Like I said, if you want company I would be happy to be in the picture with you.”
Mr. Russell smiled, hesitated and then said, “Why not.”
“Great,” Cliff said. “Come on Cecil, get in here.”
The three men lined up beside the car. “Okay Joe, whenever you are ready.”
“Ready, I’m already done!”
“Boy you’re fast. You are going to make a woman very happy someday.”
“Easy buddy,” Joe laughed. “I’ll bet Mary has a few stories to tell.”
Cecil was getting impatient. “You two clowns need to get back to work.”
Joe and Cliff looked at Cecil. “You are the boss,” they chimed.
Cliff thanked Mr. Russell for his patience and he and Joe walked back into the shop. When they got back to Cliff’s bench, Cliff took a deep breath.
“What was all that about?” Joe asked.
“I’ll tell you sometime. I need the memory card from your phone.”
Joe opened the slot and handed it over.
“Cecil may ask to see the pictures. I am sure that once he has the phone he will erase them and say it was an accident.”
Joe furrowed his brow. “Why would he do that?”
“He just might. Maybe not. Anyway don’t tell him that I have the card.”
“Cliff, what in the hell is going on?”
“Nothing, but you have been a big help.”
“Think nothing of it. I know I will.”
Cliff walked to the window to see where Cecil and Mr. Russell had gone. They were still standing by the car at the front of the shop. Cliff wondered how he could get close enough to eavesdrop on their conversation. If only they came inside, Cliff could come up with some reason to work within earshot. No matter how much he thought about it, he could not think of anything that would help. He watched Joe walk across the parking lot to a customers car. Just as he returned to the shop, Mr. Russell shook Cecil’s hand, got into his car and drove away. Cliff was still watching from the window as the Healy disappeared down the street.
Cecil walked back into the shop. “JOE!” he bellowed.
“Come here and lemme see those pictures.”
Cliff watched Joe head over towards Cecil’s office. Joe passed Cecil the phone. Cecil looked at each picture intently. As he was passing the phone back to Joe it dropped to the floor. Cecil’s large mass lunged toward the floor and scooped up the phone. It was almost graceful. A brief conversation followed and Joe headed back to the work area.
“You’re clairvoyant,” Joe said to Cliff.
“Cecil wanted to see the pictures, then he dropped the phone, erased them all and claimed it was an accident. How did you know?”
“Just a hunch.”
“Why do you need those pictures of the car?” Joe asked.
“I don’t need pictures of the car. What I really needed was to find out what they were talking about.”
“So why all the pictures if you wanted to eavesdrop?”
Cliff sighed, “I needed to find out what they were talking about. If I got a picture of Mr. Russell it was a bonus.”
“Hmmmmm, all sounds very cloak-and-dagger,” Joe snickered.
“Yeah, well, I wish I was a spy, maybe then I would be good at this.”
“Are you going to get a bad grade if you don’t bring an apple to your teacher?” Joe asked curiously.
“Not a bad grade, but they won’t be very happy that I wasn’t able to complete a simple task.”
“They are some people who are trying to help with Monica,” Cliff offered.
Joe looked at Cliff’s worried face. “Three cars coming in tomorrow. Mr. Russell’s company is going to handle the shipment to and from the shop.”
“That’s what I heard them talking about. Three cars – tomorrow.”
“When did you hear that?”
“When I walked out into the parking lot.”
“Joe, you are a genius.” Cliff grabbed him and gave him a huge bear hug. “That makes my day.”
Joe pushed Cliff away. “Go, Go and give this information to your handler.”
Cliff nodded and started walking out of the shop. He turned and looked at Joe, “Handler. What’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you sometime,” Joe laughed. “Go.”
Cliff headed out the door and towards the street. By the time he reached the sidewalk he could hear Cecil yelling his name. Cliff pulled the phone out of his pocket that Flanagan had given him and pushed the redial button. He was walking briskly waiting for the line to connect. Finally he heard Flanagan’s voice, “Get in!”
“Get in the van!”
Startled, Cliff glanced to his left. There was the van from the television station keeping pace with him. The side door slid open and a stranger motioned for him to jump in. Cliff grabbed the handle and swung himself inside. “Who are you?” he asked the man he had never seen before.
“Never mind”, Mrs. Flanagan said from the front seat., “you won’t see him again.”
“Too bad for you,” Cliff said looking at the stranger.
“What have you got?” Mrs. Flanagan wanted to know.
Cliff felt triumphant. “Well Conrad was by. I have pictures of him and found out what he is doing with Cecil.”
“What do you mean?” Cliff was confused.
“We know all that,” Mrs. Flanagan said impatiently. “What else did you learn?”
“What do you mean ‘we know all that’?” Cliff was getting angry. “You told me to go and find out what Conrad was up to and that you didn’t know what he looked like. I got you pictures and found out what you needed to know.”
“We took all the pictured we need and we heard the whole thing.”
“How did you do that?”
Mrs. Flanagan looked at Cliff and said slowly, “They were outside and he was driving a convertible. We took pictures and we listened in.”
Cliff stared back at Mrs. Flanagan. He felt a little foolish. “Oh,” was all he could manage. There was a brief pause. “So,” Cliff wondered, “now what?”
“Well my dear Cliff,” Mrs. Flanagan began, “it looks like tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for. Our ship has come in.”