INQUIRIES BY SIMON AND SIMON
*This story is similar to And The Angel Wore A Cowboy Hat, California Dreamin,’ and Ashes to Ashes, in that it’s up to the reader to decide if Rick is dreaming, or if he, on occasion, visits an alternate Simon universe. Though these types of stories are a bit unorthodox, I had fun stretching my writing imagination when I was penning them.
*Reference is made in this story to the aired episode, Firm Grasp Of Reality, in which Rick’s childhood imaginary friend, Captain Gully, is made mention of.
Six-year-old Rick Simon woke to the sound of a baby’s insistent cries. The little boy rolled away from the noise, curling under his blankets like a caterpillar wrapped in a cocoon. When that action failed to produce positive results, the boy burrowed his head underneath his pillow.
"A.J., go back to sleep," the boy mumbled.
Rick's little brother had no intention of going back to sleep. Somehow the twelve-month-old child seemed to know it was Saturday. Saturday meant Rick would be home all day and give A.J. his undivided attention.
When the baby’s cries failed to cease, Rick rolled over to face the crib. Through half open eyes he pleaded, "A.J., please go back to sleep."
"Ick, Ick," the baby hiccoughed Rick's name as best he could through his tears.
Through the dim light of dawn that blanketed the room, Rick could see that his little brother was standing up and reaching out to him over the railing of the crib.
I guess I'm gonna have to give in and go over to him, the first grader thought with disgust. Although Rick's mother didn't let him lift A.J. out of the crib, she always told Rick it was his job to comfort his little brother until she arrived.
Rick pushed back his blankets and started to rise, only to sag to the edge of his bed. "A.J.?" he whispered, eyes wide with shock.
The baby that was in the crib looked to be A.J.'s age, but the blond hair was gone, replaced instead by full, thick ringlets of auburn. The pajamas his little brother normally wore, the blue ones with the airplanes, had been replaced by a pink nightgown decorated with dancing bunnies. Several thick strands of the baby’s hair had been gathered up on top of its head and tied with a pink ribbon.
"Ick, Ick," the child called again with outstretched arms.
Young Rick rubbed his eyes. He was sure he was dreaming. When he opened his eyes again and this strange child still remained, he screwed up his face and squeezed his eyes shut.
I’ll count to ten. I’ll count to ten and A.J. will be back.
But counting to ten didn’t do any good either. Rick opened his eyes to mere slits, only to see this strange baby was still with him. Before Rick could decide what to do next the bedroom door opened.
"Rick, why didn't you go to your sister?” Rick’s mother scolded as she flicked on the light. “You know better than to leave her crying like that when she's calling for you."
Cecilia lifted her infant daughter out of the crib. "There's Mama's girl. No wonder you're crying, peanut. You're soaking wet." Cecilia turned to her son as she carried the baby to the bathroom. "Honey, please get the baby powder and put it on the changing table for me, please."
Cecilia returned from the bathroom a few moments later with a warm, damp washcloth in her hand. As she walked to the changing table she spotted her son still seated on the side of his bed, with his mouth hanging open. "Rick, quit your daydreaming and do as I asked. Please bring me the baby powder."
The bewildered Rick did as his mother requested. He walked to the baby’s dresser and grabbed the powder sitting on top of it. The boy padded barefoot across the floor, coming to a halt by the changing table. He watched, wide-eyed as his mother cleaned the little girl with the washcloth. Rick got up on his tiptoes, straining to see
the naked child.
She really is a girl!
Cecilia smiled at what she mistook for natural curiosity. "Now, Rick, don't stare like that. We've talked about the difference between girls and boys before. You're acting like you've never seen Felicia without a diaper on. What's wrong with you this morning? Don't you feel well?"
Cecilia reached a hand out and laid it on her son’s forehead.
"Honey, are you okay?"
The boy looked up at his mother with puzzlement. "Where’s A.J.?"
"Yeah, A.J. Where is he, Mommy?"
"Who's A.J., sweetheart?"
Cecilia laughed softly as she pulled a pink ruffled dress over her baby's head, combed Felicia's hair, and tied a fresh ribbon in it.
"Your imaginary brother you mean," she corrected her son.
Rick followed his mother and the infant down to the kitchen. "He's not imaginary, Mommy. He's real. He was in the crib last night when I fell asleep."
Cecilia strapped Felicia in her high chair, then handed the hungry child a bottle of milk before starting to prepare breakfast.
"Rick, Daddy and I have talked to you before about making up stories."
Rick looked from the curly headed infant in the high chair, to his busy mother. "I'm not making up stories. "
Cecilia decided to humor her son and his active imagination. "What's this A.J. look like?"
"Well, he's got white hair, an really big blue eyes, an’ when he smiles he’s got dimples, and he's about her age," Rick said while pointing to Felicia, "but he's a boy. He doesn't wear ribbons in his hair, or dresses either."
Now we're to the heart of the matter, Cecilia thought. She turned from the refrigerator and moved to sit down in a chair. The young mother gently pulled her six-year-old to her.
"Rick, we've talked about this before. Daddy and I couldn't promise you a brother when Felicia was born. I know how much you were hoping for one, but whether a baby is a girl or a boy is something only God controls. Even mommies and daddies don't have a say in that. Every baby is a surprise from Heaven."
"But, Mommy, I played with A.J. yesterday. We played with my soldiers, and he took a bath with me last night, and I--"
"Rick, it's okay to pretend, but it's not okay to make up stories that just aren't true," Cecilia scolded firmly. "Now, tell me the truth. A.J. isn't anymore real than Captain Gully, is he?"
"Yes, he is, Mommy. He is real," Rick stubbornly insisted. "Captain Gully is my make believe friend, but A.J. is my brother. Really, he is."
The hungry Felicia began fussing from her high chair. “Oh, Rick, I don't have time for your nonsense this morning," Cecilia dismissed as she rose to continue her breakfast preparations.
“That's enough, Richard. You don't want to be punished for lying, do you?"
Rick looked at the whining, baby whose face was screwed up with hunger.
"That's better. Now you run upstairs and get dressed. Breakfast will be ready when you come back down."
Before doing as his mother ordered, Rick walked over to the high chair. He reached out a tentative hand, and touched the baby's warm arm.
She is real.
The little girl stopped her fussing and curled her chubby right hand around Rick's fingers. "Ick," she smiled, eyes shining with love.
Cecilia turned from the stove. "See, Felicia loves her big brother. Now you wouldn't trade her for someone named A.J., would you?"
Because Rick knew he’d be in trouble if he gave any other answer than, "No, Mommy," that was all he said before heading up to his room.
Despite his mother’s words, the boy wasn't about to give up on his search for A.J. Hearing his father whistling in the bathroom, prompted Rick to conclude with sudden relief, I bet Daddy's playing one of his jokes on me. Felicia is somebody else's baby, and A.J.'s stayin' at Grandma's.
"Daddy!” Rick called, running down the hallway to the master bathroom. “Daddy!”
Jack Simon stood in front of the mirror with shaving cream lathering his face. "Morning, sport!"
Rick came to a halt at his father's elbow. "Daddy, where's A.J.?"
The preoccupied father tilted the left side of his face toward the light. "Who's A.J., buddy?"
"Come on, Daddy, you know who A.J. is. Please stop playing jokes on me."
Jack looked down at his six-year-old. "I think it's you who's playing jokes on me. You don't have a brother, you have a sister."
"No, I have a brother."
Just like Cecilia, Jack decided to humor his oldest. "I see," he said. "And is this brother older, or younger than you?"
"Younger. About the age of that other baby downstairs."
"And what’s this little brother's name?"
"Andrew Jackson, but we call him A.J. for short.
Jack smiled while wiping the remainder of the shaving cream off of his face with a towel. He was surprised that Rick remembered the name he and Cecilia had discussed for the baby had Felicia been a boy. Granted, they hadn't said anything about giving a boy the nickname of A.J., that must have come from Rick's own imagination, but Andrew Jackson had been the name they had picked out.
"I see, A.J. And what’s this A.J. look like?"
"Like you, Daddy."
Jack reached down and tousled Rick's dark locks. "Like me, huh?"
“Yeah. His eyes are blue, and he's got blond hair, and--"
"But he's not real, is he, Rick?"
"Yes, he is, Daddy. He's real. But I don't know where he is. What did you and Mommy do with him?"
Seeing that his son was becoming distressed for no good reason, the father crouched down so he could look the boy in the eyes. "Now, Rick, I think you're letting your imagination run wild. It’s okay to pretend you have a brother, but that’s only make believe. Felicia is our baby, and she's your little sister. Felicia Grace. Remember how we picked out her name together? Felicia because you, and Mommy, and I liked it, and Grace because that’s Mommy's middle name too?"
"Yeah, but we picked out Andrew Jackson, too. We all liked that name, and Andrew's your middle name, and--"
"Jack! Rick!" the call came from the kitchen, interrupting Rick's spiel. “Breakfast is ready!”
"Come on, son. If we're late for breakfast your mother's likely to let us go hungry," Jack said, forgetting all about the conversation he had been having with Rick as he ushered the boy down to the kitchen.
For months after that day, Rick Simon would periodically ask his parents where A.J. was. Cecilia would often overhear him playing with his imaginary brother as well, but didn't make an issue of it. When she had mentioned to their family doctor that Rick suddenly seemed obsessed with this make believe brother A.J., the man told her not to worry about it because most six-year-olds have active imaginations.
"It just goes to show you, Cecilia, that Rick's a bright and curious boy," was all Doctor Bolton had to say on the subject.
As time passed and Rick grew older, his imaginary brother seemed to fall by the wayside, at least to all outward appearances. He carried that little blond brother in his heart long after his parents thought Rick had forgotten him.
Through all the years of paper dolls and skipping rope with his little sister, Rick knew something was missing. For some odd reason, seemed to him that he was supposed to have a brother to roughhouse with, and not a sister who insisted on inviting him to tea parties, and who made him be the father of her dolls when he was coerced into playing house.
When Rick went off to Vietnam, it was hard leaving the beautiful young woman behind he called sister. Rick's father had died when he was fifteen and Felicia ten, and since that time the two had steadily grown closer. Rick hated the thought of being so far away just as his sister was headed off for her first year of college. He cautioned her to stay away from boys who were only after one thing from an attractive girl. In return for those words, Rick got a warm hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a tearful goodbye.
As nice as all that made Rick feel, he still knew something wasn't right. He looked out the window of the train as it pulled away from the station, and saw his tearful mother and sister huddled pitifully together, waving to him. His mind quickly changed that scene to one of a handsome, blond headed brother standing with a protective arm around their mother. Cecilia seemed to garner strength from her youngest son as she saw her oldest off to war. Going to Vietnam that time had been easier, because of the strength Rick knew his mother would find in his brother.
What am I sayin’? That time? I've never been to Vietnam before, Rick thought with confusion. He again looked out the window of the slowly moving train, seeing the scene that was correct for this world. His mother and sister had tears running down their cheeks as they waved goodbye.
Rick leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. The gentle rocking motion of the train lulled him to sleep. The dreams started soon after that, dreams that seemed so real. Dreams of a brother named A.J.
Rick Simon rushed into the office on Thursday morning.
"A.J. Hey, A.J.! You'll never guess what kinduva goofy dream I had last night."
Rick stopped. The room was empty, but a heavy odor of perfume lingered.
And what's with all this pink shit?
The detective looked around the office. The lower half of the walls were painted pale pink, while the upper half were wallpapered in a pattern of tiny flowers and vines in pale shades of green, blue, yellow and violet. Gone was A.J.'s weight machine. In its place stood a stationary bicycle. Rick's pinball machine was still in its familiar place - Thank God for small favors - but the leather couch and chair were gone too, replaced by a small cloth beige and pink loveseat and chair. Pink throw pillows sat on each end of the petite loveseat. Rick walked past the coffee table, seeing the usual Sports Illustrated and Baseball Digest sitting there, but added to that was Ladies Home Journal and Redbook.
As Rick sat at his desk, he caught sight of the black lettering on the door. INQUIRIES BY SIMON AND SIMON replaced the familiar words of SIMON AND SIMON INVESTIGATIONS.
"What the hell is goin’ on around here?"
"What do you mean, what’s going on around here?" a feminine voice inquired.
A tall, slim, attractive woman entered the office. Rick's heart would have started racing at the sight of this beauty, had it not been for the bad feeling that centered in the pit of his stomach. Her hair still held some of its natural curl from childhood, and now fell in soft waves to the woman's shoulders. One would still call it auburn, though Rick thought there were more red highlights than what used to there.
Maybe she colors it.
The beige suit jacket and skirt the woman wore were expensive, of that Rick had no doubt. The shoes on her feet matched the color of the suit, leading Rick to believe no expense had been spared there either. The royal blue silk blouse lay open at her throat, the entire ensemble being accented with a multicolored scarf tied at her throat.
The woman walked over to Rick's desk and began pulling things out of a paper bag. "You were late this morning," she scolded.
"Yeah...yeah, I had a busy night."
"Busy painting the town with Carlos no doubt."
"Hey, a guy's gotta have his fun," Rick replied, partly because it was the truth, and partly because he didn't want to say any more than necessary until he figured this situation out.
The manicured red nails sat a can of V-8 juice on Rick's desk. Next out of the bag was something wrapped in tissue paper, and a small pad of low fat margarine.
"What’s this stuff?" Rick asked, unwrapping the tissue paper.
"A bran muffin and vegetable juice. What does it look like?"
"Like something you'd feed an old man with no teeth and a heart condition," Rick replied as the woman sat down at A.J.'s desk.
"And a heart condition is exactly what you'll have if you don't start taking better care of yourself, big brother."
Big brother? Oh, no. I was afraid she was gonna say that.
"You can't go on eating like you're sixteen-years-old, Rick. It’s time you started taking better care of yourself. You need to exercise regularly, and—
"I get enough exercise," Rick debated with this woman as if she were A.J.
"Sex is not considered exercise."
Rick blushed, not used to being talked to this way by his...sister?
Felicia ignored the red twinge on Rick's face. "You need to start eating low fat foods, too. You eat entirely too much red meat and sugar. Mom and I were just discussing this the other day, Rick, and we think you--"
"You and Mom are always tryin' to take care of me, aren't you?"
Rick said the right words without knowing why they flowed so easily from his mouth.
Maybe this universe isn't so different from my own.
"Well, somebody's got to take care of you. You certainly don't take care of yourself."
Boy, she must be my sister. She sounds just like a feminine version of AJ. Well, if nothing else, this’ll be interesting.
Rick watched Felicia eat her breakfast. When his stomach growled, he shrugged his shoulders, wrinkled his nose with distaste, and took a big bite of his bran muffin.
Damn old man food. At least if A.J. was here, he woulda’ brought in doughnuts.
Rick twisted the cap off his V-8 juice and took a swallow.
Geez, this tastes like shit. A.J., I don’t know where you are, but I sure hope you show up by lunchtime.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Rick and his sister discussed a variety of cases - cases that seemed familiar to Rick, as if he'd worked them before, or was presently working on them in some other universe.
But how can that be? This seems so real, like everything is just as it oughta’ be. But if this is real, why does A.J. seem so real, too? And where is he? How does he fit into all of this?
Other things were different, too, Rick discovered as the day passed. Having a sister...well, that just wasn't quite like two guys being brothers. There were just certain things a guy couldn't say to his sister, things he couldn't share with a sister, the way he could share things with a brother, man to man.
An odd smell caused Rick to look up from his work late that afternoon.
"What are you doin'?"
"Polishing my nails. What does it look like?"
Rick watched as his sister touched up her long nails with red polish, then blew on them and waved them in the air to dry them.
She disappeared into the office's small bathroom, appearing a few minutes later in a snug fitting, low cut black dress. On any other woman of her beauty, Rick would have found this outfit appealing. But on his sister, no way.
"Where are you goin’?"
"I've got a date right after work. I told you that the other day, don't you remember?"
"Uh...no. I guess I don't. Are you sure you should be wearin' that?"
Felicia laughed. "Rick, for heaven's sake I'm thirty-nine years old. I think I can choose my own clothes."
“Maybe so, but isn’t it kinda...uncomfortable?”
“Yeah. You know...kinda tight? Isn’t it hard to breathe?”
Felicia looked down at her flat stomach. “No, it’s not hard to breathe.” She held out her arms and slowly turned around. “What’s the matter? Don’t you like it?”
"It’s not that I don’t like it, I guess. It’s just that it seems like only yesterday that you were wearin' little pink night gowns with dancing bunnies, and pink dresses with ruffles."
Felicia walked over to Rick, bent down, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"You're sweet, but I can assure you, big brother, I can take care of myself, no matter what I’m wearing. I don't need you chasing off my dates like you did when I was in high school."
Rick guessed at what the right response would be. "Some of those guys needed to be chased off."
Felicia just laughed again. "I'm lucky I ever had a date back then. Most of the boys in school were too scared to ask me for a date because of you. But tonight, you need not worry. I'm going out with a perfect gentleman. As a matter of fact, you'll get to meet him if you hang around. He's picking me up here in a few minutes. I think you'll really like him."
"Okay. I'll wait then."
Felicia walked to her desk and pulled a small black purse out of a bottom drawer. She reached inside the purse and retrieved a makeup bag. She sprayed a light mist of perfume around her neck, then touched up her blush and lipstick.
"I'd like us to plan a double date soon, big brother."
"Double date? Oh no. I hate double dates, if by ‘double date’ you mean a blind date."
"Ch, come on, you'll love who I have in mind. She's tall and slender, dark headed, pretty, and intelligent. Plus, she’s a detective, too, which means you two already have things in common."
“What kinda detective?”
“A police detective.”
With trepidation, Rick asked, "What’s her name?"
"Abby? As in Abigail Marsh? As in Lieutenant Abigail Marsh of the San Diego Police Department? Are you nuts? Why, I wouldn't date that woman if she were the last female on--”
Rick, you and Abby are perfect for each other. The only problem here is, neither of you has realized that yet."
"You sound just like Mom."
"Well, I am my mother's daughter, that’s true. But really, Rick, you and Abby would make a wonderful pair. Even Mom thinks so."
"That figures," Rick mumbled.
"Now here's what I think we should do," Felicia said, ignoring her brother's obvious discomfort at the thought of dating Abigail Marsh. "Next Saturday night--"
Rick gave a prayer of thanks when his sister's plans were interrupted by a knock on the closed office door.
Felicia walked to the door and let their visitor in. Rick stared open mouthed at the well-dressed blond man who had just entered the room.
"Rick, I'd like you to meet my date, A.J. Simmons. A.J. this is my brother, and my partner, Rick."
A.J. moved forward to shake Rick's hand.
This is too weird, Rick thought. This can't be happening! Can my brother really date my sister? Isn't she his sister, too?
Rick composed himself long enough to shake the offered hand and mumble a polite greeting.
As the couple moved toward the door, Rick stopped their progress.
"So, what are you two kids doing tonight?"
Felicia turned and gave her brother a warning look.
A.J. smiled politely. "We're going to dinner at a French restaurant I'm dying to have Felicia try, then we'll probably go back to my place for dessert. I have a vintage bottle of wine that should put a pleasant cap on our evening."
I just bet you do, fella. I haven't been your brother for thirty-nine years not to know what A.J. Simon, or Simmons, or whatever the hell your name is, means by dessert and a vintage bottle of wine. I know exactly what you have in mind. I can't let you do that with my sister. Hell, I think she's your sister too. This could really cause us trouble. I don't know how I'm gonna get this straightened out and get us back where we belong, but I can't let you two get in-between the sheets. That's just too kinky to think about.
Rick advanced on the blond man he knew so well.
"Look, buddy, if you think I'm gonna let you wine and dine my sister right into bed, you gotta another think comin'!"
"Rick!" came Felicia's embarrassed cry.
"Now I want you to get outta here right now!" Rick ordered, pushing the blond man into the hallway.
"Rick, stop it!"
"Get your hands off of me," A.J. demanded, pushing back at Rick.
The hot-tempered men scuffled in the hallway. A hard right hook caught Rick in the jaw, throwing him against wall. The enraged man shook his head to clear the stars, then slammed a fist into A.J.'s midsection. The fighters fell to the floor in a heap, rolling over and over while throwing punches.
it!” Felicia cried, as she tried to pull the men apart. “Stop it, you guys!
This is ridiculous! Now stop! Rick, A.J.
stop! I said stop! Stop! Stop! Stop--”
"Stop! Stop!" Rick Simon cried, while thrashing restlessly in his sleep. Stop!”
A.J. shook his brother's shoulder. "Rick! Rick, wake up! Rick!"
Rick flew to a sitting position, disoriented and panting for breath.
"Yeah, it’s me," a soft voice said in the darkness. A.J. reached up and turned on a lamp.
A bleary eyed Rick observed his surroundings. "What am I doin’ here?"
A.J. sat down on the coffee table. "Boy, you must have really been tired last night."
"Last night?" the confused Rick questioned. "What time is it?"
"Four-thirty in the morning."
"Rick, are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I guess I just don't know what I'm doin’ here."
"We came off of a thirty-six hour stake out of Clive's office building, remember? We got back here about four o'clock yesterday afternoon, and we were both so exhausted that I told you not to drive home. You crashed here on the couch."
Rick nodded, vaguely recalling the details now. He and A.J. hadn't even eaten dinner. Rick had dropped in an exhausted heap to the sofa. The last thing he could clearly remember was A.J. handing him a blanket and a pillow, then the blond man shuffling up the stairs to bed.
"Are you okay now?" A.J. asked. "You seemed to be having a nightmare."
"Yeah, I'm okay. And I wasn't having a nightmare. More of a... strange dream, I guess you'd call it."
"What was it about?"
Rick relaxed back against the couch, straightening the tangled blanket over his legs as he did so. "I had a sister," he replied succinctly.
“So? We do have a sister,” A.J. said, referring to their half-sister who lived in France. “Emily.”
Rick shook his head, "No, what I mean is, I had a sister in place of you. A little sister named Felicia. It was like the dream was in two parts. First I was a kid, then later an adult, but in both time periods I had this sister named Felicia."
"Nothing like conveniently blocking me out of your memory," A.J. teased.
Rick wasn't taking this issue as lightly as A.J. was. The dream had left him unnerved because it had been so real. "But I hadn't blocked you out of my memory, A.J. That was the scary part. I spent the entire dream wondering where you were. It was like I knew I had a brother somewhere named A.J., but I could never find him."
"Well, it was just a dream. You shouldn't get so upset over it. When I woke you up, you were rolling around like you were having a fight with someone."
"I was having a fight with someone," Rick acknowledged. "You."
"Yeah. You came by the office and--”
"Yeah, in the dream Felicia and I were P.I.'s, too. Anyway, you came by the office to pick her up for a date."
"A date?" A.J. questioned with a laugh.
"Yeah. But somehow I knew, without really knowing why, that you and I were brothers, and if we were brothers, that would somehow make you and Felicia brother and sister, so I couldn't let you go out with her. Especially when you said that after dinner you were bringing her to your house for dessert and a glass of wine. I knew what that meant."
"What do you mean, you knew what that meant?"
"Oh, come on, A.J. I haven't been your brother for this many years not to know how you like to spend the evening with an attractive, intelligent lady. And believe me, our sister was definitely both of the above. So anyway, you and I got in a fist-fight in office hallway. We were rollin' on the floor punching each other, when you woke me up."
A.J. shook his head in wonder. "Your mind works in some of the strangest ways, you know that?"
"But it was so real."
"Didn't I tell you yesterday afternoon when we stopped for lunch that you shouldn't load up on spicy food when you were so tired? Didn't I tell you that if it didn't keep you up all night with heartburn, then it would cause you to have weird dreams? Didn't I tell you that?"
"Oh for goodness sake, I've eaten plenty of spicy food in my life time, and it’s never caused me to have weird dreams before. Besides, this wasn't like a dream, it was just too real."
"Well, dream or reality, I'm going back to bed, big brother. I've got at least four or five more hours of sleep to catch up on."
"Yeah, go on back to bed," Rick dismissed. "I'm sorry I woke you."
A.J. rose from the coffee table while Rick rearranged his pillow and blanket.
"Are you sure you're okay now?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Go back to bed."
"Okay," A.J. replied, as he headed for the stairway.
"Good night, Felicia," Rick called to his brother's retreating back.
A.J. turned. "Very funny."
Rick stretched out on the couch, lacing his fingers behind his head. "You know, having a sister wasn't all bad. I didn't have to share a room with anyone, at least not once she was out of the crib, no one messed with my model airplanes, I didn't have to share the bathtub with some sticky fingered little kid, I didn't have--"
"Oh, come on now. I'm sure there were some draw backs.”
"Well, I did have to play house on several occasions and cut paper dolls, the office was way too feminine for my taste, and it smelled like perfume and hair spray. And, of course, then there’s the most important thing."
"I couldn't crash on my sister's couch in my underwear."
"I wish you wouldn't crash on my couch in your underwear, either. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to keep you from doing it."
"Ha, ha, A.J. You should appreciate me a little more. After all, in my dream, I was the only one who was concerned about you. Mom and Dad kept trying to convince me that you didn't exist."
"Well, I do," A.J. assured. "And now that I’ve found out you’re one heck of a little paper doll player, I’m going back to bed.”
Rick chucked. “Night, kid.”
Once A.J. had returned to the upper story of the house, Rick reach up and shut out the lamp. He turned on his side, brought the blanket up around his shoulders, and in five minutes time, was sound asleep.
Later that morning Rick and A.J. shared a big breakfast to make up for the supper they had missed the night before. Shortly after ten a.m., Rick left his brother's home. He stopped at his mother's in order to pick up Marlowe.
The big dog came loping around the corner of Cecilia Simon's home as soon as he heard the familiar truck engine. Marlowe enthusiastically greeted the master he hadn't seen for two days, then led Rick to the big back yard.
Cecilia was watering her flowerbed with the garden hose when Rick walked around the corner of the house.
Rick gave his mother a kiss on the cheek. "Hi, Mom."
"Did you and your brother get your job completed?"
"Yeah, thank God. We got back to A.J.'s about four o'clock yesterday afternoon. Sorry I didn't come get Marlowe. I intended to, but I was beat and A.J. wouldn't let me drive, so I crashed on his couch. You know how he is."
"Yes, I do,” Cecilia smiled. “But I'm glad you stayed there and got a good night's sleep. Your brother's right, you shouldn't be driving when you're that tired. I didn't mind keeping Marlowe. He's never any trouble. Did you and A.J. get caught up on your rest?"
"Yeah. We both got up around nine o'clock. We're sure glad it’s Saturday though."
"I bet you are. The two of you have been working entirely too hard these last three weeks. I'm glad this case is over."
"Yeah, Mom, me too," Rick agreed, watching as his mother sprayed her begonias. "Mom, what were you and Dad going to name A.J. if he was a girl?"
Cecilia looked up at her eldest, not sure she had heard him correctly. "Pardon me?"
"What were you and Dad going to name A.J. if he was a girl?"
"Goodness, Rick, I'd have to think about that for a moment. That was close to forty years ago, son. Why do you want to know?"
"Uh...no special reason, I guess. When you're on a thirty-six hour stake out, your mind wanders off down some pretty strange paths. I was just wonderin,’ that’s all."
"Well, let me think. I know I had the name Pamela picked out for you. Pamela Marie. I remember that because your father was overseas throughout my pregnancy, so he didn't have much input in the names I chose. I thought Pamela Marie was pretty, which was why it was a good thing you were a boy."
"Quite frankly, your father hated it. I wanted to name A.J. that if he was a girl, but Jack would have no part of it. "
"But Dad didn't mind what you picked out for me?" Rick asked, never having heard this story before.
"No. He knew I had been very close to my cousin Dick, when we were kids. Dick and I did everything together. I was such a tomboy. Your dad knew Dickie had been killed at Pearl Harbor, and he knew how much that had hurt me, so I don't think my choice of Richard came as a big surprise to him. Besides, he liked the nickname Rick."
"So what about A.J.? What were you gonna name him since Dad didn't like Pamela?"
"I'm still trying to remember," Cecilia stated as she rolled up the hose. "If I remember correctly, it was rather unusual - not a popular name for the times like Debra or Susan. It seems to me it was...Felicity? No. That’s not right.” Cecilia pursed her lips with concentration. “Felicia! Yes, that’s it. Felicia Grace. Your father thought it was a pretty name, and I did, too. Grace is my middle name, of course, and was my grandmother's first name. Your dad ran across the name Felicia in a book he was reading while I was pregnant with A.J."
“So, if A.J. had been a girl, I'd have a sister named Felicia."
"Well, yes, Rick, I guess you would. Is there some reason you want to trade your brother in for a sister? You tried to do that several times when you boys were young - whenever A.J. would get into your things. Has he been messing with your things again?"
Rick smiled at the teasing. "No, Mom. No. I was just wonderin,’ that’s all. There's nothing like a boring, thirty-six hour stake out, to make a man come up with some of the strangest questions."
"I'd say," Cecilia agreed.
Rick helped his mother finish rolling up the hose, and then kissed her goodbye. He whistled for Marlowe, and together the dog and his master walked to Rick’s truck. Marlowe jumped in the truck’s bed, while Rick climbed in behind the wheel. He started the vehicle and backed it onto the street, put it in drive, and headed toward the marina.
When Rick arrived at his houseboat he opened windows to allow some of the fresh, spring air in. The detective stripped his clothes off in the bedroom, took a shower, and redressed in clean jeans and a kahki work shirt. He gathered his dirty clothes up off the floor, and walked through the kitchen to the back hallway. He opened the bi-fold utility doors that were located in the hall, behind which was hidden his small washer and dryer. A basket of dirty clothes sat on the closed lid of the washing machine. Rick picked up the basket, lifted the hinged lid, and dumped the clothes inside the machine. He tossed in the dirty shirt he was holding, then began going through the pockets of the jeans he had taken off prior to his shower. He laid three dollars in change, a pocketknife, and a credit card receipt on top of the dryer. He didn't think he'd find anything in the back pockets, but stuck his hand in them for good measure. There was nothing in the left pocket, but in the right Rick’s fingers came in contact with a small, stiff card.
Rick drew out the business card and studied the words embossed on it.
INQUIRIES BY SIMON AND SIMON. Richard L. Simon, Felicia G. Simon, Private Investigators.
"What the heck?" Rick mumbled.
For a long time, Rick just stood there, staring down at the little card. He finally walked back through the kitchen and into his bedroom. He retrieved his wallet from the nightstand, where he had set it upon arriving home. Rick opened the billfold and dug out a handful of business cards.
"Simon and Simon Investigations," he read. "Richard L. Simon, Andrew J. Simon, Private Investigators."
Rick sunk to the bed dumbfounded, and stared down at the two very different cards.
"A.J. will never believe this."
Rick reached a decision then, and with one final look at the card listing himself and his phantom sister as private investigators, he opened the nightstand drawer and slid the card underneath a pile of clean handkerchiefs.
Rick looked around the bedroom, saying to whatever unseen forces might be listening, "Sorry, Felicia, in my world A.J. is reality, and you're not. I hope that wherever you are, things go well for you. You seemed like a nice kid. If I had a younger sister, you'd be the kind of woman I'd choose to be her. Oh, and by the way, don't set your big brother up with Abby. Take it from me, it’ll never work."
With that, Rick rose and went back to his dirty laundry. For several days thereafter, the elder Simon thought he could detect the faint smell of a familiar perfume in the office, but when he asked A.J. about it, Rick’s younger brother just looked at him as if he were nuts. If Rick had any doubts about what he was smelling, all he had to do was go home, dig through his nightstand drawer, and read again the little business card he had hidden away there. Eventually, Rick came to realize that was the only proof he would ever have about the existence of a woman named Felicia Grace Simon.