The machinery droned on, relentlessly filling the plant with oppressively hot, greasy air. Phillip, feeling a little worse for wear after a night of fine Scotch whiskey, could feel the sweat trickle down his back, sticking his khaki shirt to his body. His head was throbbing as he tried in vain to keep his mind on the task at hand. Enough was enough he thought as he made his way to the plant managers office to advise him that he was taking the rest of the day off. As he pulled out of the parking lot, the thought of going home and preparing lunch seemed too much trouble today. He would stop and pick up some take out food.
La Cucina was bustling, trying to keep up with the lunchtime crowd. A local eatery; what it lacked in opulence, it certainly made up for in fine Italian cuisine. Loryanne stared at Sam who was idly eyeing the lunchtime specials on the menu. She thought how handsome he looked sitting there in his impeccable suit. Her thoughts drifted back to childhood days and summer fun during school break. Sam loved to tease her with wild abandon, but she also knew how much he loved her; unconditionally. He had his Dad’s smile, but he had Mom’s pale blue eyes, his most striking feature; one that Loryanne was always secretly jealous of.
“ Hey! Are you going to order or sit there daydreaming all day? ”
Sam’s remarks brought Loryanne back to reality.
“ Well, I’m not really that hungry. Maybe I’ll just pick at whatever you’re having. ”
Sam frowned and Loryanne smiled as she knew how much Sam hated anyone touching his plate.
“ No way Jose! Order a soup or something, but you’re not getting any of mine! ”
“ You’re such a wussy Sam! ” Loryanne said as she returned her gaze to her menu.
Phillip could smell the pizza sauce and hot bread as he walked into La Cucina and made his way to the takeout counter. Idly looking up from her menu, Loryanne saw Phillip standing there in the corner. She let out a barely audible “ Oh shit ” as she quickly buried her face back into the menu.
Sam perked up in his seat, staring wide eyed at Loryanne with her face hidden behind the meal list, then turned slowly to see Phillip standing at the takeout counter.
“ A friend of yours LA? ”
Loryanne was in no mood for teasing just now.
“ Sam, just shut up and decide what you want. ”
Sam put on a playful pout.
“ Aw, but I would love to meet any friend of yours! ”
He was up and out of his seat in a flash, and making his way towards Phillip. Loryanne was quickly moving into a panic.
“ Sam, you get right back here this instant! ”
Her words came out as more of a hiss than a command. Sam, on the other hand, simply grinned over his shoulder as he continued to march towards Phillip, up till now, still ignorant of Loryanne’s presence in the restaurant.
“ Hello there! I’m Sam Banks. ”
Phillip swung around to see Sam with his hand outstretched.
“ I believe that you know my sister over there. ”
Phillip turned and stared into the enraged face of Loryanne. Shaking Sam’s hand, Phillip told him that, while yes, he had met her, they were not good friends. Sam had a disappointed look as he further inquired as to where they had met.
“ It was nothing really; just a cocktail party with some friends. ”
Sam’s look changed instantly from disappointment to bewilderment.
“ A cocktail party? Loryanne went to a cocktail party? ”
Sam’s face was now beaming with an unbridled smile.
“ It must have been at Alex McCulloch’s house. Right? I mean, Alex is the closest friend she has! ”
Phillip was growing very tired with Sam’s apparent inquisition.
“ No, it was another friends house. Now, if you will excuse me Sam, I would like to order and get home. ”
“ Tell you what, why don’t you join us for lunch? My treat! ”
Phillip was saved by the sound of the girl behind the counter asking him for his order.
“ Sorry Sam, perhaps another time? I have a killer headache and I really must get home. ”
Sam shook Phillips hand, wished him well, and made his way back to a livid looking Loryanne.
“ Sam, you have a hell of a nerve young man! How could you? Honestly, sometimes I could just smack you! ”
Sam was grinning like a guilty schoolboy as he took his seat.
“ So, a cocktail party eh? ”
Loryannes face flushed into a beet red.
“ What did he tell you? ”
Sam noticed a look of panic in Loryanne’s eyes.
“ Geez, calm down LA. He simply told me that he met you at a party at some friends’ house. What’s going on here Sis? What did you do? Is there something I should know? Did he try to get fresh with you? ”
“ Sam! Stop! No, he didn’t get fresh with me. This is none of your business! Stay out of it! Ok, I have lost my appetite. Order your lunch and I’ll just have some tea. ”
Sam fell back into his chair.
“ Ok, now I know something is terribly wrong here! I know that tone you’re using with me! You have me worried now LA. Who are these people that you’re having cocktails with? What are you hiding from me? ”
Loryanne burst into tears as she rose abruptly from her seat.
“ Sam! For Christ’s sake stop! I’m your sister! How dare you interrogate me. I asked you nicely, and I won’t tell you again! Stay the hell out of this! Eat your lunch on your own! I’m going home. And don’t call me LA again! ”
Sam sat dumbfounded and red faced as he realized that just about every patron and employee in La Cucina had just witnessed Loryanne’s outburst. Apart the soft sounds of recorded mandolin music, the restaurant was deathly quiet as Loryanne stormed out.
As Sam sat waiting for his food; one finger twirling the ice in his water glass; he came to the conclusion that he had learned three things today. One; something about that cocktail party last night pushed a button in Loryanne; BIG time. Two; this fellow Phillip was a part of it. And three; sometimes people need saving, in spite of themselves, and Loryanne had already had way too much sorrow in her young life. So, as her beloved brother, he would find out all he could about that soiree and who else was there. He was, after all, an FBI Agent.