With This Ring, I Thee Wed
It was a rainy February afternoon in 1989. The Simon brothers were seated at their respective desks in their office, excelling at what they do best. Arguing.
"Rick, no. No way," A.J. announced firmly. "There's no way that I'm going to dance at some...some...some strip joint, just so we can make a few extra bucks."
"It's not a strip joint. It's a supper club," Rick corrected. "It's very classy. Just the kind of place you like."
voice shot up several octaves.
"The kind of place I like? I don't frequent the kinds of
places where men take off their clothes and dance around in their birthday
suits while a bunch of over-aged, undersexed women ogle them and pat their bare
"That's not all they pat." Rick snickered under his breath before bring his voice back to full volume. "I wasn’t implying that you frequent those types of clubs, little brother. If you did, I'd have reason to worry about ya.’ What I meant, is that this is a very chic establishment. The service is good. The food is great. And the entertainment is...lively. Or so I've been told."
"I don't care what you've been told. I'm not doing it!"
"A.J., come on. Think of the money we stand to make on this job. Dana's offered to pay us eight hundred bucks a night to catch the person who's been threatening her dancers. That's eight hundred bucks for only a few hours work. Not to mention the tips you're sure to bring in."
"Yes, and speaking of that, why did you tell Dana that I'd be a dancer and you'd be a waiter? I think that you should do the dirty work for a change."
Rick ignored his brother’s suggestion. "Look, just come with me to talk to her. Okay? Let's just hear what she has to say."
"Rick, I don't want to talk to her. Whenever we see that woman she spends the entire time we're with her staring at my..." A.J. let the end of that sentence trail off unfinished.
Rick's lips curled into a mischievous smile. "Staring at your what?"
"At places she shouldn't be, let's just leave it at that. What kind of a woman, who has to be Mom’s age if she’s a day, does something like that?"
"A woman who's made a very lucrative living off of an all- male dance club, that's what kind," Rick offered. "Come on, A.J. It won't hurt to hear what she has to say. We can always turn her down."
"No, Rick. Forget it," A.J. declared. "If you want to take this job solo, be my guest. But there is no way that I'm going to take my clothes off and do a bump and grind for the enjoyment of half the female population of San Diego."
"Sounds very interesting. And though it's not exactly something I'd like to see, let me know when this event is gonna take place. I'm sure Temple would like to be there with a camera crew. I bet I can arrange a live on-the-spot interview, though if you guys want my advice, I think you'd better prepare your mother for this one ahead of time."
A.J. swiveled around in his chair to face the door. A smile of delight lit his face. "Town!"
Rick's own surprised echo of, "Towner!" followed his brother's as he rose to greet their old friend.
Town shook the hand Rick offered, then, pulled the detective into a bear hug. When Rick was released, A.J., who had come to stand beside the two men, was given the same treatment.
When the initial greetings had come to an end A.J. indicated for the policeman to have a seat across from his desk. Rick parked his lanky frame in the chair that resided next to the one Town had taken.
A.J. walked around his desk and reseated himself in his own chair. “So, what brings you to San Diego in the middle of the work week?"
Marcel Proust Brown was now head of the Homicide Division for the Los Angeles Police Department. Because of this demanding position, the Simons only saw their old friend a couple of times a year when the trio made an effort to get together for a long planned fishing or camping trip.
"I took a few days off. I had some business to take care of down here."
When Town didn't elaborate, Rick said, "Nothing serious I hope."
smiled. "No, no. Nothing like that." The black man looked from one brother to the
other. "Guys...I'm getting
"To Temple?" Rick asked.
"Of course to Temple! Who did you think, you idiot?"
"I was only kidding you, Towner." Rick laughed while reaching over and squeezing his friend's upper arm. "Hey, man, that's great. Congratulations. It's about time you two tied the knot."
A.J. extended his right hand across his desk. He gave Town's hand firm shake. "Ignore my brother, Town. His ill-manners are showing as usual. Congratulations. I couldn't be happier for both of you."
Rick rose and walked around to the little refrigerator that was in the corner behind A.J.'s desk. He opened it and squatted down to peer inside. "Well, there's no bubbly in here, so I guess we can't have a proper celebration, but I can offer everyone a cold soda. Name your poison, Town, A.J."
"I'll have a Coke," Town requested.
"I'll have the same," A.J. said.
Rick handed out the cold cans while retrieving one for himself. He retook his seat, popped the top on the soda, then held it aloft. "To Town and Temple. May you have a long and happy life together."
"Here, here," A.J. agreed as the three soda cans gently touched before each man took a drink.
"Thanks, guys," Town smiled.
"So, Towner, when's the big day?" Rick asked.
"A little over four months from now. Saturday, the 17th of June."
"Wow," A.J. commented. “That soon, huh?"
"Yeah. When I finally got around to popping the question Temple didn't want to wait," Town confessed sheepishly. "I think she was afraid I'd back out on her if I had too much time to think about it."
Rick laughed. "Happens to the best of us, man."
"Yeah, well Temple's bound and determined it isn't going to happen to me. But, in all seriousness, I'm ready. We've been seeing each other for over six years now. I guess it was past time I made a commitment to her. Or so my mother kept telling me."
"Yes, mothers have a way of doing that," A.J. agreed. "So, give us all the details. Where's this event going to take place?"
"At Temple's boss's home."
"At Pierson's place on the ocean?" Rick asked with awe.
Gifford Pierson owned San Diego's independent Channel 3 where Temple Hill had been employed ever since she was a college student majoring in mass media communications. Pierson was, by far, one of San Diego's wealthiest citizens. Through Temple's recommendation the Simons had provided security over the years for various parties Gifford Pierson and his wife had held at their luxurious mansion that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.
A.J. nodded with admiration. "That's quite a place."
"Yeah, it is. Gif and Florence offered their home and grounds the day we set the date. I was a little concerned that we'd be imposing on them, but Temple was afraid their feelings would be hurt if we said no. Besides, she's had her heart set on a sunset wedding by the ocean side ever since she was a little girl. Or so she tells me anyway."
"They all have a story like that."
A.J. shot his brother a dirty look for that cynical remark. Turning his attention to Town he smiled, "I suppose you two are busy making all the arrangements then."
"Yeah. That's what I came down here for. We've just been to the caterer's and settled on the food. Tomorrow we have to go pick out invitations and tuxedos. To tell you guys the truth, I'll be glad when this is all over. It's a pain in the butt. Temple asks my opinion, but then she does what she wants to anyway. I might as well have stayed in L.A. and gone to work."
Rick gave Town a playful pat on the arm. "Well, old buddy, that's what married life is all about. You'd better get used to it. In another four months life as you know it and love it will have come to an end. Hell, me an' A.J. will probably have to ask Temple's permission the next time we want you to go on a fishing trip with us."
"Hey, Rick, now just shut up," A.J. warned. "If you talk Town out of this marriage you're the one who's going to answer to Temple, not me. And to Towner's mother."
"And to your own mother," Town emphasized. "Temple's over there right now giving her the news."
Rick held up his hands in defeat. "Okay, okay. I've heard enough. Not another word from me."
"Will miracles never cease?" A.J. asked the heavens before looking at the black man. "When are you headed back to L.A.?"
"The day after tomorrow. We should have everything wrapped up by then. Or at least everything wrapped up that I need to be a part of. We're trying to keep the whole thing relatively small. With all the people Temple knows, and all the people I know, we quickly came to realize that this affair could get way out of hand. We're taking a three week honeymoon trip to Europe, so I keep reminding Temple that we can't afford to spend an exorbitant amount on the wedding. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but we're attempting to limit it to a few close friends, relatives, the folks she works with at Channel 3, my department from the L.A.P.D., and a handful of the folks from the department here in San Diego that I've kept in contact with."
"Sounds like a good idea to me," A.J. said. "Temple will love Europe."
"Yeah. She's always wanted to go there. She never has forgiven me for that trip I took to Paris with you guys a few years back."
"Well, you can tell her for me that the three of us didn't have nearly as much fun on that trip as you and she are going to have on this one," Rick offered.
Town laughed. "I'll be sure to mention that."
"What are you two going to do after you're married?" A.J. asked. "I mean, in regards to where you're going to live?"
"Temple's got a job lined up at KNBC in L.A."
Rick whistled. "Big time station. Good for her."
Town nodded. "Yeah, I'm happy to see her get a job with a network affiliate. Especially since it's going to be hard for her to leave Channel 3. She's been there eighteen years. We discussed the possibility of her keeping her job here and commuting to L.A. on weekends, but then decided it just wouldn't work. Trying to maintain a long distance romance these past two and a half years has been difficult enough."
The three men moved on to other subjects, the Simons catching Town up on the most recent news from the San Diego Police Department and happenings concerning mutual friends. After more than two hours of reminiscing, joking, and laughing, Town looked at his watch.
"Hey, guys. I gotta get going. I promised Temple I'd pick her up at your mother's house at four o'clock."
"All right. But you come back and see us if you're down this way again before the wedding," Rick instructed. "And we are expecting invitations to this shindig."
"Rick," A.J. scolded at his brother's presumptuousness.
"Don't worry about it, A.J.," Town chuckled. "Of course you guys are invited to the wedding. Your mother, as well. You should know that without asking. But...uh...before I go I do need to ask both of you something."
"What is it?" Rick inquired.
Suddenly nervous, Town stammered, "Well...I...I...I did come by here for a specific reason this afternoon. Other than to just shoot the bull with you guys, I mean."
When Town didn't go on, A.J. prompted gently, "So, Town, what is it? What do you need?"
Town looked from one brother to the other. "Well...I came by to ask if you...if both of you...if both of you would be my best man." Town shook his head and quickly amended, "Best men."
A slow grin spread across Rick's face. "Me and A.J.?"
"Both of us?" A.J. questioned with pleasure.
"Yes, both of you," Town acknowledged. "Heck, I'm smart enough to know that if I just picked one of you I'd never hear the end of it from the other one. And besides, then the two of you would spend my entire wedding day fighting with one another, and probably ruin everything, and then I'd not only have to deal with Temple's mother, but with two pain-in-the ass white guys besides, and then--"
Rick and A.J. ignored the black man's tirade that was nothing more than a cover-up for the strong bond of friendship that existed between the three of them.
A.J. brought an end to Town's ravings. "But why us, Town? Why not Marcus?"
Marcus was Town's only brother. He was a popular and successful high school teacher and football coach in a small Ohio city. A.J. and Rick had spent time with the man on several occasions and knew him fairly well.
"He and his wife, Chandra, are expecting their first child. Actually children. After twelve years of marriage and ten years of trying, my little brother's going to become the proud papa of twins."
"Good for him," Rick congratulated.
"Give him and his wife our best," A.J. instructed.
"Thanks. I'll do that. But anyway, the babies are due just a few days before our wedding. There's a possibility that they'll have to do a C-section on my sister-in-law, so with everything up in the air as it stands now, Mark isn't planning to fly out here for the ceremony."
"That's too bad," A.J. sympathized. "I can't speak for Rick, but I'm honored that you think enough of me to ask me to stand in Mark's place."
Rick rolled his eyes. "Geez, Mom really did a number on you, didn't she, Mr. Polite?" Rick turned and smiled at his old friend. "Sure, Towner, I'll be happy to be your best man."
"You and A.J. both," Town reminded.
"Yeah, whatever." A look of distaste crossed Rick's features. "I suppose this means I'll have to wear one of them damn monkey suits though, doesn't it?"
"Yes, you will. Like I already told you, Temple and I are going to pick them out tomorrow. I'll stop by before I leave town to let you guys know what I've chosen, and where I'm getting it from, so you can go get yours fitted as well."
"Sounds fine, Town," A.J. agreed.
Town looked at A.J. while indicating to Rick with his thumb. "I'm putting you in charge of making sure Mr. Fashion Plate over here shows up at my wedding dressed respectably. Temple specifically said that means no cowboy boots or hat."
Over Rick's protests A.J. assured, "You won't even recognize the cowboy, Towner. He'll look like a new man."
Rick suddenly thought of something else. "Hey, speaking of tuxedos, and weddings, and looking like a new man, if both A.J. and I are your best man...men, which one of us gets to hand you the ring?"
Town exchanged glances with the blond half of Simon and Simon. "Well, I...I think A.J. should do it."
"A.J.?" Rick protested. "Why him? Why not
Town had to think fast. "Well...because...because he's shorter than you are."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Rick wanted to know.
"Yeah, what does that have to do with anything?" an offended A.J. echoed. "And besides, I'm not that short."
"No, but...it’s like this. When the three of us are up there standing together at the ceremony people won't be able to see A.J. as well if he's standing behind you and me, Rick. So I think he should be standing in-between us. And if he's standing in-between us, then it only makes sense that he should be the one to give me Temple's ring."
"Bull?” the black man echoed. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"You're just sayin' that 'cause you think I'll lose the ring. 'Cause everyone always thinks A.J.'s the responsible one."
A.J. smiled with smug satisfaction. "I am."
"You are not! Not always. I'm responsible too."
Town was suddenly seized by a fit of uncontrollable coughs.
"Well, I am," Rick insisted in Town's direction. "And I wanna hand you the ring."
Town looked at A.J. with a, ‘give me some help here,’ expression on his face. A.J. gave a subtle shrug of his shoulders in return.
The policeman turned his attention to Rick. "Okay, okay. You can hand me the ring. But I'm warning you right now, Rick Simon, I bought Temple a very expensive wedding band. If anything happens to it, the guests are gonna be wondering who the bald white guy is that's decorating the top of the cake."
"Don't worry about it," Rick dismissed. "Nothing will happen to it. I'll take care of it as if I were going to give it to my own bride."
At that, A.J. was the one seized by an uncontrollable coughing spasm.
Once that argument was settled, Town had to rush off to pick up his fiancé. In the act of shaking hands with A.J. he pulled the blond man close and whispered, "Please don't let him ruin my wedding. Temple will kill me if anything happens to that ring."
take care of it," A.J. promised.
"I'm gonna hold you personally responsible if your older brother screws this up," was Town's last warning.
"He won't. Everything will go off without a hitch. Stop worrying, Town."
"Yeah, stop worryin', Towner. There's nothing to this marriage stuff."
That remark earned Rick two looks of disbelief.
"Or so I've been told,” the bald detective swiftly amended.
Time passed quickly that winter and spring. It didn’t seem possible that Town and Temple's wedding day was at hand, but June had arrived and the wedding preparations were in full swing. A.J. had been in contact with Town twice since the black man's visit in February - once to assure the policeman that both he and Rick had been fitted for their tuxedos, and once to confirm the time and date of the rehearsal.
The rehearsal was conducted with no challenges. It was held in the large backyard of Gifford Pierson, just like the wedding would be the next evening. Florence Pierson, who loved nothing more than to plan a party, had worked closely with Temple regarding all the arrangements. The Piersons' yard was a multicolored blanket of beauty. Brightly colored flowers and greenery lined every well-trimmed path and walkway. That beauty would be added to when seven hundred dollars worth of additional flowers arrived the next afternoon to be strategically placed in hanging bouquets along the aisle the bride would walk down, and to decorate the white gazebo the wedding party would stand in during the ceremony.
The Piersons' backyard ended in a sudden drop off of rocky cliffs that bordered the Pacific Ocean. An unhampered view of the Pacific was easily had from the mammoth gazebo.
Freshly painted white wooden chairs had already been delivered and stored in the large garage. On Saturday afternoon they would be set up in rows for the guests that were due to arrive at six-thirty that evening.
The caterer would arrive sometime late on Saturday afternoon with plenty of assistants to help set up banquet tables and serve a full meal, from hors d'oeuvres to wedding cake, to the one hundred and thirty guests that were expected to attend the event. Try as he might, Town hadn't been able to keep the guest list as small as he would have liked.
A six member string and woodwind orchestra would round off the entertainment, playing quietly in the background after the wedding for the enjoyment of the guests.
If, by the off chance, rain would think to hamper the upcoming day for the nuptials, the big event would be moved into the Piersons' expansive, elegant home. As Rick commented to A.J., "Hey, they've got the room to hold a hundred and thirty people. I swear their living room is as big as our high school gymnasium was. And a lot classier too."
But the Channel 3 weatherman had promised Temple a beautiful day as his wedding gift to her, and as it got later on the evening of the 16th, it appeared the man would make good on his vow. The forecast was calling for Saturday, the 17th, to be clear and sunny with a high temperature of eighty-eight degrees. Temple knew that meant that with the wedding set to begin at seven-thirty, and with the breeze off the ocean, her guests would be pleasantly comfortable in temperatures around seventy-five. She couldn't ask for a more perfect wedding day. She knew she deserved it. She'd waited long enough for Brown to ask her.
The night of the rehearsal the bride found her groom standing in a far corner of Florence Pierson's kitchen with the Simon brothers. An informal buffet dinner had been set up in the Piersons' kitchen and dining room for the members of the wedding party and their families that had to attend the rehearsal.
As Rick set his plate on the ceramic counter top, Town asked, "Aren't you going to finish that?"
"No, I'm full."
"Hey, man, this dinner is costing me five hundred bucks. Now clean your plate!"
Rick looked at his brother, who shrugged, then sheepishly picked his plate back up and polished off the last few bites he had left on it.
"That's better," Town nodded. "And don't leave anything tomorrow night either. That dinner's costing me five grand."
Temple came up behind her betrothed and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Oh, Brown, quit complaining. This is a once in a lifetime occurrence. Indulge me just a bit, please."
Town couldn't help but smile as his lovely lady nestled into his side. "You bet this is a once in a lifetime occurrence. I'm not dishin' out this kind of dough for any woman ever again."
Temple gave the teasing Downtown Brown's arm a playful swat. "I should certainly hope not!"
"Hey, if this big lug doesn't treat you right, Temple, you just let me and A.J. know. We'll be more than happy to straighten him out," Rick promised.
Temple laughed. She moved away from Town and walked over to stand on her tiptoes and place a kiss on the cheek of each Simon brother. "Thanks, guys. I'll hold you to that."
The lovely newswoman was beckoned away from the three men by a young niece in need of her attention. "Aunt Temple! Aunt Temple! Come here! I have a secret to tell you!"
All three men eyed the retreating woman with unconcealed appreciation.
"I don't know how you did it, Town, but you managed to snag yourself one of the most beautiful and talented women in San Diego. You're a lucky man."
"Thanks, A.J. I know," Town acknowledged while reaching into the pocket of his sport coat. He retrieved a small blue velvet box that he held out to Rick. "Here's the ring. Don't lose it."
"I'm not gonna lose it," Rick assured, taking the box from Town. The detective couldn't resist opening it to sneak a peek at the gold wedding band it contained. Rick gave an appreciative whistle. "Whoa, Towner, you spent a bundle on this baby."
Rick turned the box so A.J. could catch a look at the prize it contained.
A.J. quickly counted the six diamonds that were encrusted in the band. The blond man couldn't resist teasing his friend.
"For a guy who has done nothing but complain about how much this wedding is costing him, he certainly spared no expense on the ring that will be placed on his lovely lady's finger tomorrow night."
Town flushed as if an embarrassing secret had just been revealed to a roomful of people. "Yeah...well...you know, she deserves the best. She's gonna have to put up with a lot of crap being married to a cop and all. A hint of nervousness crept into the black man's tone. "I just hope she realizes that."
"She does, Towner. She does," Rick assured. "Now don't go gettin' cold feet on us,
you hear? If you don't show up and I'm
left standin' at the alter with your beautiful bride, I just might marry her
won't get cold feet," Town declared.
"You just worry about being here with that ring."
Rick put the ring box deep in the right side pocket of his field jacket. Unlike all the other men in attendance this evening, Rick had foregone the formality of a sport coat and tie in favor of clean jeans, a new shirt, and a freshly laundered field jacket.
Rick patted the outside of the pocket. "Don't you worry, Town. This little baby will be safe right here until I get home. Then I'm gonna put it in the pocket of the tuxedo jacket so it'll be ready for tomorrow night."
"You make sure you do that," Town ordered.
A.J. and Rick stayed on at the Piersons' home another half hour, then bid everyone in attendance good night before walking out to A.J.'s Camaro. It was eleven when A.J. dropped his brother off at the marina, then headed home for his own bed.
A.J. picked the phone up in his kitchen on the first ring at eight thirty-five the next morning.
"Yo, A.J., it's me," Rick's voice sounded over the telephone line. "What ya' doin'?"
"Drinking a glass of juice. I just came in from running."
"Listen, I just got a call from Gene. He wanted to know if we had time to stake out the warehouse for him today. I told him we'd be by in a little while."
"Rick, today's Town and Temple's wedding!" A.J. reminded in-between swigs of orange juice.
"I know it is. But we don't have to be there until six o'clock. This will only take a few hours. Gene's got a feeling something's goin’ down today."
"Gene's had that feeling every day for the past week."
"Yeah, I know. But give the guy a break. He's just upset by all these thefts. Besides, he's an old buddy from high school. I can't hardly tell him no, now can I?"
A.J. sighed. "I suppose not."
"Good. I'll be over to pick you up in a few minutes."
"Make it an hour. I haven't had any breakfast yet and I need to take a shower."
"We'll get breakfast at McDonald’s, and make it a quick shower. I'm on my way."
A.J. listened to the dial tone buzz in his ear for a moment before shaking his head in exasperation at his sibling.
Twenty minutes later, over the sound of running water, A.J. could faintly hear someone rummaging around in his bedroom. Since he knew all the doors were locked when he had come upstairs to shower the perpetrator could only be one person.
"Yeah, A.J., it's me!"
A.J. shut the water off and stepped from the tub. As he dried himself he heard the rustling of a plastic bag coming from the other room. He wrapped the bath towel around his hips and went to observe from the doorway.
"What are you doing?"
Rick poked his head out from A.J.'s closet. "Hangin' my tuxedo in here next to yours."
"So that when we get done at Gene's today we can just come back here. This way I won't have to drop you off here so you can get ready, then drive home to the boat so I can get ready, only to have you end up drivin' to the marina to pick me up. My neighbor, Clarissa, is takin’ care of Rex today, so there’s no need for me to go home. I didn't figure you'd mind if I shower here."
A.J. moved back into the bathroom to comb his hair, shave, and get dressed. "I don't. I just hope this doesn't mean that you plan on us pushing this job to the wire so that we end up arriving late to the wedding."
"Oh, no. I'm not that stupid. Town would kill us. Besides, I plan on getting’ back here in plenty of time to sack out on your couch for a couple of hours before we have to leave."
"Sounds like I'm in for a fun afternoon," came the dry mumbling from the bathroom.
"What was that?"
"I said it sounds fine."
Rick smiled. "That's what I thought you said."
After a quick run through a McDonald’s drive-up for breakfast, the brothers drove to the northern boundaries of San Diego. Rick's old friend from high school owned a large auto parts store in this end of the city. Several miles away from the store, in an industrial park, the man owned a small factory and warehouse where the majority of those parts were made and stored.
Gene Linville had been having problems with break-ins occurring in the warehouse behind the factory on and off for the past three months. A security system had been installed recently to thwart the efforts of the thieves, only to have it easily bypassed. Gene had come to see the Simons two weeks ago in regards to hiring them. When he explained the situation he found himself with, Rick and A.J. suspected that the man was either being robbed by one of his own employees, or possibly one of his employees was unwittingly passing information on to a thief.
The brothers had two other cases they were working on at the present time, but had squeezed Gene in because of his past friendship with Rick. With the exception of the previous evening, the Simons had spent every night for the past two weeks staking out the warehouse to no avail. Either someone knew they were there, or the thief simply had other plans on the nights Rick and A.J. were present.
As Rick parked his pickup next to Gene's car outside the factory's office A.J. reminded, "I told you on Thursday night that I think staking this place out any longer is an effort in futility. One of us is going to have to go undercover in the factory and see if we can get a line on what's going on."
The brothers exited the truck and walked toward the building, Rick agreeing, "I know. I've been thinking about that, and I guess you're right. I'll talk to Gene about it. Maybe I can go undercover in the factory and he can somehow get you in the office."
A.J. wrinkled his nose. "Don't you think that will be a bit of a coincidence if the two of us show up on the same day?"
"We can space your arrival out a few days after mine. I was thinkin’ of having Gene tell his employees that you're a safety inspector from OSHA. Gene told me once that all factories are inspected by the government for their safety procedures a couple of times a year."
A.J. nodded as Rick rapped loudly with his truck key on the glass of the locked entrance doors. "That might work."
"But, even though I agree with you that probably nothing's going to come of us staking out the warehouse today, let's just humor Gene, okay? He's real upset by all of this."
Reluctantly, A.J. agreed, "Okay."
Clad in blue jeans and a work shirt that bore the logo of his auto parts store, the sandy haired Gene Linville smiled as he unlocked the doors and allowed Rick and A.J. to enter. Gene was the only person on the premises. His assembly line didn't operate on Saturdays.
The three men had coffee in Gene's office while bringing one another abreast of the latest details surrounding the case. Rick brought up what he and A.J. had discussed outside. Gene was open to that suggestion, and agreed to meet the Simons at their office at ten o'clock on Monday morning to work out the details. In the meantime, Rick promised that they'd stake out the warehouse for a few hours, explaining that he and A.J. wouldn't be able to stay long as they were both standing up in a wedding later that day.
Gene nodded his understanding. The three men exited the office soon thereafter. Gene locked the building then walked with the brothers toward the parked vehicles. Rick was going to move his truck to the empty lot of an abandoned factory several blocks down so its presence wouldn’t arouse any suspicions. Gene's auto parts store was open on Saturday's and he was headed over there to put in a full day of work. The three men parted company at that point, the Simon brothers driving off in one direction, while Gene drove off in another.
The brothers spent the next four hours being bored. They had walked around the vast auto parts warehouse more times than A.J. could count. The blond man had been told to, "Shut up and listen" by his brother more times than he could count. Whatever Rick had thought he had heard at various times had always proven to be nothing.
Just when Rick was threatening to nod off in the chair he was sitting in, A.J. pushed himself up off the floor and brushed off the seat of his blue jeans. He walked over and nudged the toe of his brother's boot with his tennis shoe.
"Come on, Rick. Let's go. Nothing's going to happen here today. It's already two-thirty. I'd like to get some lunch and then head home."
"Okay, okay. I suppose it’s..." Rick sat straight up in his chair, head cocked to the side.
"What the heck is wrong with--"
"Shhh," Rick shushed his brother. "Just shut up a minute and listen."
"Rick, I don't hear anything. I haven't heard anything all day! I really think you need to have your hearing checked."
Rick rose from the chair and headed for the closed door. "A.J., button your lip for a minute. I know I heard something."
A.J. rolled his eyes and impatiently awaited his brother's return.
When two full minutes had passed and Rick hadn't reappeared, the blond man headed for the door. "If he took off for the truck and left me here he'll pay for this," A.J. muttered to himself. It wasn't unusual for his brother to move the truck on A.J., hide somewhere, and laugh while watching A.J. try to locate it. Rick always claimed this sophomoric game helped break up the tediousness of a boring stake out.
Just as the blond reached the threshold of the door two men appeared dragging Rick's unconscious body between them.
The men and A.J. looked at each other with wide-eyed surprise.
In a rush of nervous words the larger of the two men ordered, "Take five steps back there, blondie. Get away from the door or I'll hit your partner again."
Not knowing what Rick had been hit with, or how seriously he was injured, A.J. did as he was told. He quickly looked his brother over from where Rick still hung suspended between the two men. A.J. didn't see any blood, which he hoped was a good sign.
The smaller of the two men looked at his partner. "Wha...wha...wha...what are we ga...ga...ga...gonna do now, Tate?"
"Shut up, Wellington!" the man snarled. "How many times do I have to tell you not to use my name when we're on one of these jobs?"
The man with the dark crew cut bowed his head contritely. "Sa...sa...sa...sa...sorry, Tate."
"Geez, Wellington. Will you ever learn?" Tate spat. Tate indicated toward A.J. with a nod of his head. "Check that one out and see if he's packin' a piece like his partner here was."
"Pa...pa...pa packin' a piece?"
"Carryin' a gun, stupid! See if he's got a gun on 'im."
"Bu...bu...but, Tate, I don't like guns. I already told you that. Firearms is dangerous."
"Geez, do I have to do everything myself?" Tate muttered with disgust. "Hang onto Sleeping Beauty then, while I go search Snow White over there," the man ordered as he let go of Rick's arm and stomped over to A.J.
Tate struggled trying to get Rick's Magnum out of the waistband of his jeans. The gun was caught between the snug material and the man's immense stomach.
"Be...be...be...be careful, Tate," Wellington advised. "You da...da...da...da...don't want to accidentally shoot your wee--"
Tate scowled at his partner. "Shut up!"
After considerable effort, Tate finally managed to pull the gun free.
"Reach for the ceiling, blondie!" the man ordered.
A.J. rolled his eyes. "You might want to turn that around."
The man looked down to see that he had the gun aimed at his own abdomen. He juggled it around to a more desirable position.
"Now, like I said, blondie. Reach for the ceiling."
A.J. felt he had no choice but to do as he was instructed. People who weren't familiar with, and didn't know how to properly handle guns, tended to make the detective more apprehensive than those who did.
A large hand patted up and down both sides of A.J.'s body in an unskilled imitation of the searches Tate had seen T.V. cops do. The detective was quickly stripped of the Smith and Wesson that was holstered on his belt.
"So...so...so...now that you got their guns," Wellington stammered, "What are we ga...ga...ga...ga...gonna do with 'em?"
Looking down at Rick, Tate answered, "First of all, let's dump that sack of potatoes."
With that, Wellington let go of Rick's arm.
"I didn't mean drop him, you stooge! We don't wanna hurt him anymore than he already is." Tate stuffed both guns back into his waistband, then walked over and hooked a beefy hand under Rick's left armpit. "Come on, help me with him. Let's drag him over there by blondie."
The unaware Rick was brought to lie at A.J.'s feet. When the blond man bent down to check his brother's pulse, he was confronted with a sturdy looking baseball bat.
Making a feeble attempt at ferocity. Wellington stuttered, "Da, da, da, da...don't move."
Calmly, A.J. informed the man, "I just want to make sure he's all right."
Wellington looked to Tate, who nodded his permission and said, "Okay. But make it fast."
Cradling Rick's head, A.J. gently turned his brother over onto his back. He didn't see any visible signs of injury until he encountered round red welts on either side of Rick's jaw. He came to the conclusion that first one man had punched his brother on one side of his face, then the other man had done the same to the other side of Rick's face. A.J. wondered if Rick had been clipped in the head with the bat as well. He carefully ran his hands over every inch of Rick's skull, and not finding any bumps or blood, came to the relieved conclusion that Rick was not suffering from any kind of head injury.
"Okay, blondie. Sit down next to Dagwood there."
For just a moment A.J. thought of rushing the two men. Although the one called Tate was a good three inches taller than the detective and probably outweighed him by seventy pounds, it was quite apparent that as far as intellect went, these two weren't working with much. A.J. thought he just might have a chance against both of them. What stopped him from attempting such a feat, however, was Rick. While A.J. hesitated in doing what he had been ordered, Wellington danced nervously over the supine Rick, waving the club dangerously close to the detective’s forehead. A.J. was afraid that if he tried anything, the first thing the man would do was bash that club against Rick's skull.
With a heavy sigh A.J. finally gave in. He sat down on the concrete floor as he was ordered.
Tate tried to hand A.J.'s gun to his partner. "You guard them while I get some rope."
"Na...na...na...not with that gun I won't. I already told you, I do...do...don't like guns. Lee...lee...lee...leave the guns in the truck, Tate. Lee...lee...leave 'em in the truck or...or...or...or I won't help you today. I...I...I don't want no one gettin' hurt."
"Oh, all right," Tate grumbled, stomping out the door to retrieve several sturdy lengths of horse-hair rope.
The club wielding Wellington was left to guard the two detectives.
"Wha...wha...wha...what are you two guys doin' here on a Sa...Sa...Sa...Saturday anyway?"
A.J. looked up at the jittery little man. "Same thing you are. Me and my partner were gonna rob the place."
"Really? Tha...tha...tha...that's really what you was here for?"
"Hey, Tate! These two boys was gonna rob this joint jus...jus..just like us."
"Wellington, would ya' shut yer trap?" Tate ordered when he returned with the ropes.
"Hey, maybe they ca...ca...ca...can work with us!"
"No, they can't work with us," Tate negated. "You just guard baby face there while I sit this big lug up."
Tate brought the still unconscious Rick to a sitting position, then did a very professional job of trussing the two brothers securely together back to back.
Of all the skills this idiot would have to possess, it would have to be Rope Tying 101, A,J. thought with chagrin as the rope bit tightly into his wrists.
A.J. had no choice but to sit and watch as the two men proceeded to pull auto parts off shelves and carry them to a pickup truck that was parked just outside the open door.
Wellington turned and grinned at the blond like a child in a candy store. "Me and Tate's ga...ga...ga...gonna build us a caddylac."
"What do you mean?"
"From scratch. We're buildin' us a...a...a...a...caddylac right in Tate's garage with all these parts here. I've always wanted me a long shiny caddylac. We been buildin' and buildin' for months on end, and every time we run out of pa...pa...parts we come here to Mr. Linville's warehouse."
"Wellington, shut up," Tate ordered. "Quit talkin' to the prisoner."
"Okay, Tate. If you sa...sa...sa...say so."
When Tate left the warehouse to put more parts in the truck, Wellington bent close to A.J.'s ear and whispered, "I'm sorry Tate called you a pa...pa...pa...prisoner. You and your pa...pa...pa...partner just had a streak a bad luck gettin' caught here by us and all. Are you two buildin' yourselves a caddylac, like me and Tate is?"
A.J. nodded wearily. "Something like that."
"Wellington, get away from him! Come on! We're done here. Let's go!"
Wellington gave a last look in Rick and A.J.'s direction. "Ca...ca...ca...can we untie them now, Tate? They don't look very comfortable."
"No, we can't untie them! You don't want them to follow us, do you? These two aren't like us. They're just a couple of no good rotten thieves. I can see it in blondie's baby blues there. They'll follow us and steal our car for sure. You don't want them to ruin all our hard work now, do you?" Tate finished as he turned on his heel and headed for the truck.
"No...no we won't do that. Just untie us," A.J.
begged in an effort to gain his and Rick's freedom. "Untie us and we'll pretend we never saw you,"
Wellington shook his head. "Sa...sa...sorry. Tate says I can't do that. Otherwise I would, mister. Really. You seem like a nice guy. Ga...ga...ga...good luck to you and your partner with building your caddylac. Maybe we'll see you around again some time."
"Yeah, sure," A.J. groaned as the door swung shut and a truck engine roared to life.
An hour later Rick began to moan softly and pull at the bonds that held him and his brother together.
"Rick! Rick, can you hear me? Rick, stop it! Every time you move like that the ropes cut into our wrists."
"Wha...what ropes?" the disoriented Rick muttered. The detective came awake enough to look down at himself, then over his shoulder at his sibling. "Oh, those ropes. What the hell happened?"
"You know that two hour nap you wanted to take before Town and Temple's wedding?"
"Well, you've just had it."
been out for two hours?"
"Yes, give or take a few minutes one way or the other."
Rick attempted to work the kinks out of his neck and body without hurting his brother. "I repeat, what the hell hap...forget it. I remember. You didn't believe me when I said I heard something outside."
"Of all things for you to remember after being out cold for two hours, it would have to be that, wouldn't it?"
"So, would you like to fill me in?" Rick prompted. "Or am I just supposed to guess?"
A.J. spent the next few minutes relaying all that had happened since Rick had been dragged into the warehouse two hours earlier.
"If they were so stupid why the hell didn't you rush them when you had the chance?" Rick scolded.
"Because one of them was standing over you with a baseball bat just waiting for the opportunity to play Dueling Banjos on your forehead. And while I was a bit tempted to let him knock some sense into you, I figured Mom would be upset if you showed up at Town's wedding with a skull fracture."
Properly chastised, Rick apologized for questioning his brother's judgment. "Sorry, A.J. I know you did what you thought was best considering the circumstances."
"Forget it. How's your jaw?"
Rick puckered his cheeks and worked his mouth in a variety of motions. "Kinda sore. But other than that, no permanent damage." He felt around inside his mouth with his tongue. "All the teeth are still in place. None of them seem to be loose."
"Thank God for small favors. At least our insurance rates won't get hiked over this fiasco."
Rick struggled for a few moments with his bonds. "I think it's time to put plan A in place."
"I already tried that. There's no way we're going to work ourselves out of these ropes. I think the one who did this to us ties up alligators for a living."
"All right. Then I guess it's time for plan B."
"Do we have to?" A.J. moaned. "I always feel so humiliated when we have to resort to plan B."
"Sorry, A.J. But unless you been readin' up on the solutions to Houdini's rope tricks, I don't think we have any choice. Ready?"
A.J. sighed. "I guess so."
"Okay. On three. One...two...three."
In unison the brothers yelled, "Help! Help! Somebody help us please!"
The persistent pair beckoned for assistance in this manner on and off for the next ten minutes. When the door swung open and two figures appeared in the threshold, Rick smiled.
"Well whatta ya’ know? For the first time in nine years it actually worked."
Two boys of about eleven years old, one white and the other black, entered the building.
"Hey, kids, are we glad to see you," Rick greeted. "Look around and find something to untie us with. There should be a knife, or some scissors, or something around this place. Check in those drawers of that desk over there."
The black boy crossed his arms over his chest and studied the two detectives. "And why should we let you loose? You might be murderers or something."
"Son, we're not murderers. We haven't done anything wrong." A.J. cajoled with a charming smile thrown in to boot. "Now come on, untie us."
"Well, if you're not murderers, and you haven't done anything wrong, how come you're tied up?" the white boy wanted to know.
"I swear, A.J., kids today watch too much television," Rick said out of the corner of his mouth. "They're too damn smart for their own good."
Ignoring his brother, A.J. said, "Look, kids, we'll pay you if you untie us."
"How much?" the black boy wanted to know.
"Five dollars a piece," A.J. offered.
"Five measly bucks? You've got to be joking, dude! Geez, you guys are old. Five bucks don't even get a kid in the movies now days."
A.J. lingered over rethinking his offer.
"A.J., at this point in time beggars can't be choosers," Rick reminded. "Up the ante."
"Okay, kid. Thirty bucks," A.J. conceded. "Fifteen bucks a piece."
The two boys looked at each other.
"What do you think, Travis?" the black boy asked of his friend. "You think fifteen bucks a piece is enough?"
"I guess so, Dexter. But how do we know they have it? What if they rip us off? Once we let 'em loose they could just go runnin' outta here without payin' up."
The black boy thought about that possibility for a moment. "Yeah." He turned to Rick and A.J. "How do we know you'll pay up?"
"We will,” Rick assured. “We promise."
"Prove it," Dexter challenged.
"My wallet's in my right hip pocket. Take the money first if that'll make you feel better," A.J. instructed.
"Aaaaaay Jaaaay," Rick said out of the corner of his mouth once again. "I don't think that's such a good idea."
A.J.'s tone was strained as he leaned over to the left as far as the ropes would allow in order to facilitate the removal of his wallet from his hip pocket. "If you've got a better one, I'm open to suggestions."
Dexter quickly rifled through the blond's billfold. "Wow, Trav, this guy is loaded!"
Travis snatched the wallet out of his friend's hand. "Let me see."
"Be careful with that, guys," A.J. warned. "Don't lose anything."
Travis looked at Dexter, his blue eyes lit with greed. "Geez, there must be a hundred dollars here!"
"Take it out and count it," Dexter instructed.
"Huh...guys, no," A.J. ordered firmly. "Just take out a twenty and a ten and leave the rest alone."
The boys ignored A.J. as they stripped his wallet of every piece of currency they could find, right down to the twenty dollar bill he kept folded up and hidden behind three credit cards. It took the boys two attempts to get an accurate count, but when all was said and done Dexter was holding two hundred and sixty two dollars in his hands.
The black boy looked at his friend and smiled. "Gee, this is more money than I've ever seen."
"Yeah, me too," Travis agreed.
Attempting to sound firm once again, A.J. instructed, "Okay now, put all of it back but the thirty dollars I promised you."
Dexter laughed. "You're a real turkey, you know that, mister? You're tied up there and you're tellin' us what to do? Man, you're a regular comedian."
"Look, you little smart ass, if you don't untie me and my brother right now, and give him back his money, I'll turn you over my knee and tan some of that cocky attitude right outta your behind," Rick vowed.
That threat only made Dexter laugh harder. "Hey, Travis, the skinny bald dude thinks I got a cocky 'tude. How da' ya' like that?"
Dexter walked over to Rick and bent down so they were eye to eye. "You know what? I really feel sorry for your mama. She's got a couple of big ole' dummies for sons."
Rick strained forward despite his bonds. "Why you little..." he growled, only to be laughed at once again.
A.J.'s money was quickly divided up between the two boys and stuffed deep in the pockets of their well-worn blue jeans. His wallet was then discarded on the warehouse floor, all interest in it forgotten.
Thank God for small favors, the blond thought. At least these two aren't old enough to realize the value of credit cards yet. I'd have a real mess to straighten out if they ran off with them.
"Okay, kids, you've had your fun," A.J. attempted to reason. "Now keep your part of the bargain and untie us."
"Boy, you must really think we're stupid, you pale turkey," Dexter scoffed. "If we untie you, you'll come after us."
"No, we won't," A.J. promised.
"Yes, we will," Rick countered.
"Rick," A.J. stage whispered, "Cool it. These kids are our only chance of getting loose."
The two boys ignored the conversation going on between the Simons. "Hey, Travis. Check out the pockets of the bald guy. If his brother's loaded, he probably is too."
Before Rick could protest the boys were efficiently running their hands over all his pockets.
"This one don't have a wallet," Travis reported. "His brother must carry all the money."
Rick was thankful that he'd put his wallet in the glove compartment of the truck when he and A.J. had exited it earlier in the day. He'd lost enough wallets on stake out jobs to long ago make this his habit.
Dexter was busy going through the pockets of Rick's field jacket. His fingers encountered a blue velvet box. "Hey, what's this?"
Travis craned his head to see what his friend had found. When the box was opened the gold band it contained glittered in the sunlight that was streaming in through the open door.
"Wow! Would you look at this, Trav! It's real gold. And it's got diamonds in it and everything! This thing must be worth a fortune!"
Because he was still bound and facing away from his brother, A.J. couldn't see what the boys had, but he could make an educated guess.
The blond man closed his eyes and grimaced. "Oh, no. No. Don't tell me. Please don't tell me you didn't put the ring in the pocket of your tuxedo jacket last night. Please don't tell me that."
"Uh...I wish I didn't have to tell you that, A.J.," Rick admitted sickly, "But...uh...that's about the size of it.
As mad as A.J. was at his brother right at that moment, he quickly formed a cohesive unit with Rick as they worked together to coerce the boys into returning the ring.
"Look, guys, that ring's not worth anything. It's fake. Now just put it back in my brother's pocket," A.J. requested. "You've already got my money. Put the ring back."
"Yeah, kid. Come on. Give me the ring back. Keep the box if you want. It's worth more than the stupid ring is anyway."
Dexter shook his head in disbelief. "Yeah, right. You two guys are a couple of first class bozos if you think me and Trav are so dumb that we'd fall for that line of baloney. This ring is worth a lot of money. I bet it's worth at least a thousand dollars."
"More like four thousand," A.J. muttered only loud enough for Rick to hear.
Dexter reached out and snared the front of his friend's shirt. "Come on, Trav, let's get out of here." He smiled down at Rick and A.J., giving them a crisp salute. "Adios, turkeys. It's been nice doin' business with you dudes."
"Hey, kid! Kid, get back here! Kid!"
"Rick, forget it. Save your breath. They're not coming back."
"Those little..." Rick grumbled. "When we get loose I'm gonna track those two little weasels down and--"
"Don't waste your time. In the first place, all we know is their first names. And in the second place, you'd be thrown in jail so quickly for threatening a minor that your head would spin."
"A.J., they've got your money and Temple's ring!"
"Yeah, and by the time we get out of here and find them my money will be long spent and Temple's ring will have been long traded off for whatever eleven-year-old thieves consider treasures now days. We'll have no chance of pinning anything on them."
"Man, Town's gonna kill me," Rick moaned. "Do you really think that ring was worth four thousand dollars?"
It had only been a few short years since A.J. had shopped for a wedding ring for Liz. And although it was still painful to recall the humiliation he felt when she refused his proposal, he well remembered the cost of diamond rings. "Give or take five hundred bucks either way, yes, I'd say four thousand is pretty close."
"I hope he's already had it insured."
"For your sake, I hope so too," A.J. agreed.
"What time is it?"
"I don't know," A.J. replied. "I can't see my watch. All I know is that it's getting late."
"Damn! Town and Temple are sure gonna be mad at us if we don't show up on time for the wedding."
"It's not Town and Temple's wrath I'm worried about. Mom's gonna kill us if we don't show up on time for the wedding," A.J. pointed out. "Town's having the ushers seat her in the front row next to his mother. which has pleased her to no end. She's been going on and on about all 'three' of her boys standing up in their tuxedos, and what a beautiful bride Temple's going to be, and how she wants to get some good pictures of you and me all dressed up, and how proud she is that Town asked both of us to be his best men, and how--"
"Don't tell me anymore," Rick pleaded. "It would be better if I just don't know."
"And speaking of the wedding, how could you have been so stupid as to leave the ring in your pocket?" A.J. berated. "You promised Town you were going to put it in the tuxedo jacket as soon as you got home last night! What happened?"
"I don't know! I guess I forgot. As soon as I got home Rex wanted to go out, and then I had to feed him, and then I went right to bed. Give me a break! I was tired. And besides, speaking of stupid, who's the one that volunteered his entire wallet to a no good for nothing little thief? And why were you carrying so much money in it anyway?"
"I didn't have a chance to get to the bank yesterday, okay?" A.J. defended himself.
"Well, I woulda' at least thought that you would have had enough sense to leave some of that cash at home in a dresser drawer or something. You know how easy it is to lose a wallet on a stake out."
A.J. strained against the ropes in a futile effort to turn around and have this argument with his brother face to face.
"I don't lose wallets! It's you who loses wallets. And how was I supposed to know we'd end up in this mess? I told you on the way over here that because it's Town and Temple's wedding day that we shouldn't commit to doing this stake out. But did you listen to me? No! Why would you? You never listen to me! Just once before I die I'd like to know what it feels like to have you heed my advice! Just once--"
The tendons in Rick's neck stood out as he ordered, "A.J., can it! I am not in the mood to be tied up with you and listen to you bitch at me like--"
"Bitch at you!" A.J. exclaimed, his face glowing red with anger. "You deserve to be bitched at! You just managed to have a four thousand dollar wedding ring stolen that we have no hope of replacing before the ceremony that we're probably not even going to get to! You promised Town you'd keep that ring safe. You told him you were responsible! Well, Mr. Responsibility, how are you going to explain this one?"
"Don't gloat! I hate it when you gloat like that! You always think that just because you don't lose things that makes you more responsible than me. Well, need I remind you that you just had two hundred and sixty bucks ripped off? Two hundred and sixty bucks you'll never get back! Not to mention the fact that some of that was the bonus money due me for that case we finished up on Thursday. Now, just how do you plan to make that up to me?"
"Make it up to you? I don't have to make it up to you! After all the crap I've put up with from you all these years you have the audacity to suggest that I make it up to you! Once again, Rick, you're out of your mind!"
Without realizing it, the Simon brothers had just put plan C into place. The brand new plan that went something like this; bicker and argue so loudly that eventually help arrives without the above mentioned siblings even being aware of it.
The voice from the doorway interrupted Rick and A.J.'s argument. Smiles of relief spread across both their faces.
"Gene, old buddy, old pal! Cut these ropes off us!"
Gene hurried to retrieve a sturdy utility knife from a desk drawer. "What the heck happened here?"
"It's a long story," Rick said as the man crouched down and began to carefully cut away at the ropes that bound the brothers together.
As Gene worked the Simons filled him in on all that had transpired that afternoon in the warehouse. They were taken by complete surprise when the man began to laugh.
Indignantly, Rick wanted to know, "What's so funny?"
"I can't believe I've been ripped off by Tate and Wellington. Those two guys are bone heads."
A.J. leaned forward so Gene had better access to the ropes. "You know them?"
"Sure I know them. They work in the factory for me. What a couple of bumbling idiots. I'm almost ashamed to have to admit that they're the ones stealing from me."
"Well, believe me, I'm not exactly proud to admit that they're the ones who tied Rick and me up this way."
When Gene finished getting the ropes undone, Rick and A.J. took turns using the warehouse’s small bathroom. They quickly went over with the man the best way to proceed in order to catch the two thieves in the act and press charges against them.
"I've got a plan that's guaranteed to catch those two, as well as gain me and A.J. some much deserved revenge, only I don't have time to go over it with you right now," Rick said as the blood painfully recirculated to all the parts of his body it had been cutoff from the past three and half hours. "You still come by our office Monday morning. We'll talk about it then. A.J. and I have got get going. We've got to be at that wedding at six."
Gene looked at his watch. "Did you say six?"
"Because it's six twenty-one now."
"Oh, shit!" Rick exclaimed.
A.J. grabbed his brother's arm and ran as best as his stiff legs would allow for the door, stopping only long enough to scoop up his wallet. "Thanks for cutting us loose, Gene!" the blond man called. "We'll see you Monday!"
"And don't you dare tell anyone what happened here today," Rick turned and warned. "If Carlos finds out about this, or I'm haunted by this memory at a class reunion someday, I'll know exactly who to come lookin' for!"
Before Gene could make a reply Rick was pulled out the door and urged to run for his truck as fast as his legs would carry him.
The Simon brothers were long gone by the time Eugene Linville had gotten his laughter under control.
It was six twenty-seven by the time the Simon brothers made it to Rick's truck. A.J. still had one foot out the door when the engine roared to life and Rick put the vehicle in gear. Barring heavy traffic it was a thirty minute ride from Gene's factory to A.J.'s house. From there, it was another forty-five minutes from A.J.'s out to the Piersons' estate. Rick told his brother he'd better pray there were no cops out and about hungry to issue speeding tickets, and that they'd better get lucky enough to hit green lights at every intersection if they had any hope at all of making the wedding on time.
Twenty minutes later the pickup truck came to a screeching halt in A.J.'s driveway. Both men hit the ground running. A.J. unlocked the kitchen door that was allowed to fly open and bang the wall behind it as the two men raced for the stairs.
"I'll grab the tuxedos and the shoes!" Rick yelled. "We'll have to change in your car."
A.J. stopped his progress on the stairs long enough to turn around and stare at his sibling in disbelief. "In my car?"
Rick pushed his brother from behind. "Yeah. Come on! Get a move on! We don't have time to waste."
"Rick, we both need to take a shower and--"
"Forget the showers! You took one this morning, and so did I. We can't possibly smell that bad. All we did all afternoon was sit in one place on a concrete floor. Now come on! Let's go!"
As Rick threw open A.J.'s closet doors and scooped up the tuxedos and shoes in one clean swoop, the blond man ran for the bathroom where he grabbed his battery operated razor, a comb, a can of deodorant, and a bottle of after-shave. If neither one of them was going to get a shower, A.J. hoped the toiletries would at least allow them to smell and appear presentable.
As quickly as they had raced in the house, the Simon brothers raced back out. They threw everything they were carrying in a heap in the freshly washed and waxed Camaro's back seat. Rick pushed his brother toward the passenger side.
"I'll drive to begin with! You get changed."
"Just do it, A.J. We don't have time to argue!"
Rick ran around to the driver's side of the car and gunned the engine. He didn't even look as he backed out of the driveway amid the squeal of the tires. This was one of those times that A.J. regretted ever having given Rick a set of keys to his car.
While Rick drove like a madman, A.J. leaned over the back seat and rummaged through the pile of clothes. In the small confines of the sports car it was no easy feat to divest himself of his polo shirt and replace it with the stiffly starched white shirt that went with the black tuxedo.
When that was accomplished A.J. once again turned to dig through the clothes in the back seat. "Did you bring socks?"
Without taking his eyes off the road Rick asked, "Whatta ya’ mean, did I bring socks? You're wearin' socks, aren't ya'?"
"Rick, I'm wearing blue socks! The tuxedo is black. I need black socks."
"A.J., blue socks, black socks, what's the difference? Nobody's gonna be lookin' at your socks anyway! Besides, until you sit down to eat no one will even be able to see your socks, and then your legs will be hidden underneath a table."
"But, Rick, you don't wear blue socks with a black suit! It's just not done!"
"Well, I don't mean to shock you, little brother, but I'll tell ya' a secret. I'm wearin' white socks."
"White socks! Rick! No! There's no way you can stand up in a wedding with white--"
"A.J., just shut up and finish getting dressed 'cause in five minutes we're switching places and if that means you're in nothing but your Fruit Of The Looms so be it. I guess we won't have to worry about people commenting on your socks then, will we?"
"Of all the stupid, asinine things I've let you talk me into, this has to take the cake," A.J. grumbled as he dug for his pants.
Getting those pants on within the tight confines of the Camaro proved to be even more of challenge than the shirt had been. When A.J. finally managed to wriggle out of his blue jeans he had no choice but to thrust his hips in the air in order get the tuxedo pants on and zipped. The blond was in such a rush to get the job completed that he paid no attention to the fact that they were stopped at a red light on a busy four lane highway.
The elderly woman in the car stopped alongside A.J.'s looked over and did a double take. Her scream of shock was muted by the fact that the windows on both cars were rolled up. Rick burst out laughing, however, at the expression on her face. She was frantically talking to the women riding with her, pointing and gesturing toward the blond man.
"A.J., I think you just gave those four old ladies over there the thrill of their lifetimes."
"Those women just got a nice view of you in your skivvies."
A.J. looked at the car parked next to them. He gave a weak smile and wave to the women who were staring at him. As Rick pulled away from the intersection the driver evidently felt it was safe to roll down her window.
"I've got your license number, young man! I'm going to call the police! You won't get away with that type of public display if we have anything to say about it! The Christian Women's League of San Diego will see that your crime does not go unpunished! May the wrath of God rain down upon you, pervert!"
Rick laughed. "Hear that, A.J. You're a pervert."
A.J. looked over at his brother and scowled. "Hardy, har, har, Rick. Very funny. Just what I need. The Christian Women's League is probably going to start ringing my doorbell and leaving pamphlets in my mail box. Make sure when I go through this entire procedure again, that we're not stopped next to those four old ladies."
"What do you mean, go through it again?"
"I mean that after all that rigmarole these aren't my pants. They're yours!"
Rick looked over and couldn't help but laugh again. Even in A.J.'s seated position, Rick could tell the legs of the pants he had on were two inches too long.
A.J. ransacked the back seat in an effort to locate his pants. As he was once again forced to thrust his hips into the air as he exchanged one pair of pants for the other he growled, "The only satisfaction I'm going to get out of this, is watching you go through the same procedure in about five minutes."
"Yeah, only I'm gonna make sure The Christian Women's League is nowhere around."
A.J. made quick work of getting the black bow tie placed at his throat, slipping on the black dress shoes that had come with the suit, fastening his cuff links, then running the razor over his face, combing his hair, and splashing on a handful of cologne.
As soon as he was able, Rick pulled over to the curb and the brothers switched places. A.J. shouldered into the tuxedo jacket as he ran from the passenger side to the driver's side.
Rick's longer legs and arms made getting dressed in the car even more difficult for him than it had been for his brother. At least he had the comfort of knowing that all the clothes that were left in the back seat were his, and he wouldn't have to change twice like A.J. had been forced to do.
Rick followed the same pattern in dressing A.J. had. He tried to get his tie fastened three times before giving up in anger. "I hate these damn things! I can never get them on right!"
A.J. took his eyes off the road long enough to spare his brother a glance. "Put it on the dashboard. I'll help you with it as soon as we get there. Just finish getting ready for now."
Rick did as he was told, fastening his cuff links, slipping his shoes on, then using the razor, comb, and after-shave as A.J. had done only minutes before.
As he tried to squirm his way into the formal jacket Rick pointed up ahead. "Pull over up there."
"Up there on the right by all those stores. How much money do you have on ya'?"
"Not much. I was cleaned out by two San Quentin inmates in the making, remember? I grabbed forty dollars out of my nightstand when we were at home. Why?"
"Where is it?"
"In the right front pocket of my blue jeans. I repeat, why?"
Rick leaned over the back seat and retrieved A.J.'s discarded jeans. In mere seconds he found the two twenty dollar bills in A.J.'s pocket.
"Just stop. I'll explain later."
"Rick, we don't have time to stop! It's seven-sixteen right now!"
"A.J., we don't have time not to stop!" Rick countered as he dug through his wallet and came up with ninety-seven dollars. "Now just pull over there by that pawn shop."
A.J. did as he was told, wondering what the heck his brother was doing as Rick sprinted for the run down old store. A.J. tapped impatiently on the steering wheel as he awaited his brother's return. Every precious second they lost now was going to make them one second later for the wedding.
In what seemed like three very long minutes to A.J., an out of breath Rick returned to the Camaro.
"Go! Go! Go!" Rick signaled as soon as his butt hit the seat.
The older detective was carrying a small blue velvet box, not unlike the one that had been taken from him hours earlier.
A.J. smiled in amazement. "Don't tell me. You actually
got lucky enough that those kids pawned the ring already?"
"Boy, don't I wish. But unfortunately, no. I picked up something that will hopefully get me and Town through the ceremony."
Rick opened the box so that A.J. could see the ring it contained. The plain gold band was tarnished and worn with age. It was devoid of any of the expensive diamonds that had adorned Temple's. The blond man kept one eye on the road as he reached over to remove the ring from its box. He examined it for a moment, the smirked at his brother.
"Did you see the engraving on the inside of this band?"
"Yeah. Do you think Temple will notice?"
A.J. shook his head in disbelief. "Yes, Rick, I think Temple will notice that this ring is inscribed with the words, ‘To Conchetta, May You Always Remember Our Wedding Day. March 2nd, 1910. Love, Ralph.’"
"Well, it's only temporary anyway," Rick defended himself. "Just to get us all through the ceremony. Town has insurance on the other ring and--"
"You hope Town has insurance on the other ring."
"Yeah...well...I'm sure he does. And he'll be able to get it replaced right after the honeymoon. So like I said, this is just to get us through the ceremony."
A.J. glanced down at the digital clock the Camaro contained. Seven twenty-eight the numbers declared brightly.
"We may not have to worry about making it through the ceremony, because at this point in time I have my doubts that we're going to make it to the ceremony."
"Quit yackin' at me then and drive," Rick commanded. He reached out and snatched the ring from his brother's hand and placed it in the pocket of his tuxedo jacket. Rick kept one hand on that ring at all times throughout the rest of the drive to the Piersons' estate.
For the tenth time in ten minutes, Cecilia Simon nervously bit her lip and turned in her seat. She strained, hoping to get a glimpse of her sons.
Eleanor Brown, Downtown's sixty-seven-year-old mother, reached over and gave Cecilia's hand a little pat. "I know it's difficult not to worry when your sons are running late. Especially with the kind of work they do. But please try not to, Cecilia. I'm sure they'll be here in a few minutes."
Cecilia turned, giving Mrs. Brown a brave smile. "I don't know whether I'm going to kill them when they get here, or hug them. I'm so embarrassed. The wedding should have started five minutes ago."
"The wedding will start when it starts," Mrs. Brown offered practically. "Marcel and Temple can wait a few more minutes. They have years ahead of them to live as husband and wife. Ten more minutes can't hurt one way or another. I know how important it is to Marcel that both Rick and A.J. stand up there with him this evening. He's as close to them as he is to his own brother."
Cecilia had tried to get a hold of both of her sons that morning by telephone. She didn't give it too much thought when neither one of them was home; knowing they both used Saturday's to run errands. She had plans to meet three girlfriends for lunch near the marina where Rick's boat was docked. On her way home from that luncheon, shortly after one-thirty, she had stopped by her Rick’s to say hi.
Rather than her oldest son, however, Cecilia had encountered his neighbor, Clarissa, in the act of letting Rex out for a run.
"Oh, Clarissa, hello," the surprised Cecilia greeted. "Is Rick gone for the day?"
The buxom young blond in the tight halter top and short shorts nodded. "Yes, Mrs. Simon, he is. He asked me to let Rex out a couple of times today, and to feed him tonight."
"I wonder where he is?" Cecilia asked out loud, not really expecting an answer from Clarissa.
"He said something about working a job with A.J. for a few hours, and then said that they both had to stand up in a wedding this evening."
"Yes, I'm aware of the wedding. I just didn't know they were working today," Cecilia said. "Well, thank you, Clarissa. Since Rick isn’t here I’ll head on home."
"Sure, Mrs. Simon. Bye now!"
Cecilia had then gone by A.J.'s house to see if her sons had returned from whatever job it was they were working on, but had found no one there either. She hadn't made plans to ride to the wedding with them because Rick and A.J., as members of the bridal party, had to be there a half hour earlier than the rest of the guests. Cecilia decided she wasn't going to worry about their whereabouts. She knew A.J. would make sure they were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be.
Now, over six hours later, Cecilia was beginning to wonder, and to worry, about the whereabouts of those two errant sons of hers. She mentally chastised herself for her concern, telling herself that their tardiness was probably due to nothing more than a flat tire, or the fact that Rick hadn't tried his tuxedo on until the last minute and now they were running around attempting to find an open formal wear shop so he could get the right size pants. In the back of Cecilia's mind, however, she kept conjuring up pictures of the two of them lying in an abandoned building somewhere seriously injured, or maybe even dead.
Town must have been able to read Cecilia's thoughts. He stepped down from the gazebo where he had been standing with the minister. He squatted down in front of Cecilia and laid a hand on top of hers. "I'm sure they'll be here in just a few minutes, Cecilia. Don't worry."
"Oh, Town, I'm not that worried," Cecilia lied. "I just don't want Temple's wedding day ruined. Please don't wait much longer. She had her heart set on a sunset wedding." Cecilia glanced at her watch to see that it was now seven-forty. "If they aren't here by seven forty-five, please go ahead and start without them."
"But they're my best men!" Town protested.
"Have someone else stand in their place. Can't Temple's brother do it?"
Temple's younger brother, Alistair, had been an usher along with one of Town's cousins. Therefore, Alistair was dressed in a black tuxedo as well.
"I guess he can," Town agreed. "But I'll wait a few more minutes. I'll have Alistair go in the house and tell Temple and her father what's going on. If Rick and A.J. aren't here by seven-fifty then we'll start the wedding and Al can stand in as my best man. That's not the way I want it though."
"I know," the older woman nodded. "But you may not have any choice."
Town squeezed Cecilia's hand once more, gave his mother a smile and wink, then walked down the aisle to where Temple's brother was standing behind the guests. The two men conferred for a minute before Alistair turned and walked into the house.
Town stretched things out as long as he could. With great reluctance at seven fifty-five, he nodded to the minister that he was ready to start the ceremony. The minister, in turn, nodded to the organist, Town's seventy-three-year-old aunt, who began to pump out the notes of the processional.
Slowly and regally the matron of honor, Temple's younger sister Shanell, walked up the aisle. The other honor attendant, Town's younger sister Marlena, followed a few paces behind. Both were beautiful women in their own right. Shanell was petite and fine-boned, like a pixie elf with skin the color of coffee and cream. Marlena was long legged and thin like both her brothers, and possessed a clear, unblemished ebony complexion.
The two women wore matching tea-length sleeveless dresses with scooped necklines in the palest of shades referred to by the designer as pink rose. The satin pumps they wore had been dyed to match, as had the formal gloves that stopped just above their elbows. Each woman's bare throat was encircled by a strand of delicate pearls that had been Temple's gifts to her two 'sisters,’ as she referred with much affection to both Shanell and Marlena.
Following the women came the young ring bearer, Town's nephew and Marlena's son, seven-year-old Donovan. Everyone in the family said young Donovan was the spitting image of his Uncle Town at that same age. The guests chuckled with amusement as the boy walked so straight and proud in the tuxedo that matched his uncle's. No case of nerves hampered this young man's performance. The big gap toothed grin, made by the baby teeth that had fallen out only a week earlier, never left his face much to the delight of all in attendance. When Donovan came to a stop on the top step of the gazebo as he had been instructed to do, he got a big smile and pat on the shoulder for a job well done from his Uncle Town.
The next attendants to walk the long aisle were the flower girls, Temple's four and five year old nieces, Anna and Joelle. One little girl was Shanell's daughter, while the other belonged to Alistair.
The girls' dresses were the same color and style as those of the bridesmaids. Rather than being tea length however, theirs came all the way to the ground. Additional material trailed along behind the children in three foot trains that would be bustled up after the ceremony to prevent dirt and grass from staining the expensive dresses. The small pink gloves they wore ended at their wrists. Cecilia thought the pair made a precious picture. Dressed as they were, they looked like little ladies from an era long gone by.
The little girls smiled shyly at the guests. They walked slowly in unison as they had been practicing for over a month now. Each girl carried a white wicker basket of scented rose petals. They'd dip their hands in their baskets as they walked, then toss out the petals only to have them flutter down delicately around them to create a nuptial path fitting for a bride as beautiful as their Aunt Temple.
Upon reaching their destination five-year-old Joelle came to a halt on the top step of the gazebo directly across from Donovan. With a bit of prompting from her mother, Shanell, four- year-old Anna remembered to stop on the step below her cousin. The trains of the girls' dresses trailed down the steps, billowing out gently on occasion with help from the soft ocean breeze. Shanell gave them both a smile and mouthed, "Good job," and they earned a wink and a grin from their soon-to-be Uncle Town.
Just as the organist began to pump up the volume in preparation for the bridal march, and just as Alistair was about to step up onto the gazebo and take his place as Town's stand-in best man, there was a commotion heard out in the front lawn.
Two car doors slammed loudly. In a voice one very embarrassed mother could clearly recognize came the shouted reminder of, "The tie! The tie! Don't forget the tie!"
"Oh, damn! That's right! I left the stupid tie on the dashboard!" were the next words heard by that same very embarrassed mother.
Town signaled to the minister, who in turn signaled to the organist. The skilled woman quickly put a halt to the beginning notes of Here Comes The Bride, and changed back to the processional she had been playing moments earlier. Temple's father, who was just about to step out of the French doors and onto the patio with his daughter on his arm, was left wondering what was going on. Alistair dashed in a wide arc around the guests' chairs and motioned wildly for his father to step back inside.
At that very moment Rick and A.J. came tearing around the corner of the house. Any thoughts they may have had in regards to making a discreet entrance, were shattered by the eyes of the one hundred and thirty guests that were upon them. Although it didn't seem to bother Rick any, A.J. had the good grace to blush self-consciously at their unorthodox arrival.
The two men ran around to the back of the gazebo, took the five stairs two at a time, and came to stand by Town.
"How ya' doin', Towner?" The panting Rick whispered with a smile.
"What the hell happened to you two?" Town whispered back.
A.J. leaned forward. "It's a long story. A very long story. We'll tell you later."
"Well, it had better be a good story," Town advised under his breath. "Otherwise, I know of several ladies in attendance this evening that will be waiting in line to take chunks out of your pale behinds. Your mother included."
A.J. ventured a glance in his mother's direction. He could tell she had been on the verge of tears - tears that were now rapidly turning to anger. He gave her a little wave and mouthed, "Hi, Mom," but got no response other than a tight-lipped glare. The blond had a feeling he and his brother were going to owe their mother a lot of favors for this little misadventure.
The African-American Baptist minister cleared his throat, leaned over to Town, and said in a low voice, "Are we finally ready to begin, Marcel?"
Town threw a dark glance in the direction of the Simon brothers. "Yes, sir, we're ready to begin."
"No more surprises up your sleeve?"
sir," the sheepish Town replied.
Using his thumb to indicate to Rick and A.J. he finished with, "These two jokers pretty much cover all
the surprises I have planned."
The preacher nodded. "Good. Then let us begin."
The minister turned and signaled to Town's aunt once more. The elderly woman looked over her glasses and said in a loud stern voice, "You’re certain you’re ready, Marcel?"
Town blushed amidst the laughter of the guests. "Yes, Aunt Bernice, I’m ready."
"Well, it's about time. I'm an old woman, you know. My fingers aren't as nimble as they used to be. I can't just sit here all night and play every song under the sun until you decide you're ready to get married."
Over the guests' laughter Town apologized, "No, ma'am, I know you can't. We're ready now."
As the first notes of Here Comes The Bride were pumped forth once more Town leaned toward the Simons. Without moving his lips he warned, "You two are gonna pay for this. Ohhhhhh, are you two gonna pay."
A.J. glared at Rick, who was in turn glared at by their mother as he looked out over the crowd.
All the threats and glares were soon cast aside as Temple, on the arm of her father, stepped off the patio and began her slow ascent up the aisle.
Marcel Proust Brown's heart skipped a beat at the radiant beauty of his dark eyed bride. Temple's ivory wedding dress was made of antique lace and satin, a designer original shipped from Paris. Town had no idea how much it had cost his bride-to-be, and if Temple had her way he never would.
Temple's gown ended at the top of her ivory shoes in the back. In the front the bride's very modern hemline scooped up dramatically on just one leg, showing off a shapely knee and giving her groom just the slightest glimpse of a mahogany thigh before it dropped back to the ground again completely covering the other leg. The bodice hugged Temple's thin form like a glove, coming to a halt just above her bust line, leaving her shoulders, throat, and back enticingly bare. Sparkling in the setting sun was the gold necklace Town had given the woman the night before at the rehearsal dinner. Unbeknownst to Temple, the diamond encrusted necklace was the perfect match to the wedding ring she had yet to see.
The bride's captivating face was covered by a petite ivory lace veil attached to a tiny hat that was pinned to the crown of her head. The short veil came to rest at the tip of her nose. Temple had decided to forego a traditional bouquet in favor of a spray of two dozen white roses cut from one of Florence Pierson's many beds. The thornless roses now lay in Temple's left arm like a baby, tied together with pink ribbons and lace.
The guests stood in honor of the bride. Temple's eyes were only on Downtown Brown as she glided up the aisle on her father's arm. Two tears of happiness slipped out from underneath the veil and fell softly upon the bride's dress. Temple's mother, Town's mother, and Cecilia had to dab at their own eyes with the hankies they each carried.
The evening was everything Temple had prayed for and more. She looked out beyond the gazebo to the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. The sun was just beginning to slowly sink in the western horizon. It glowed like an orange ball being bounced on the white-capped waves. The smell of ocean salt and sand mingled pleasantly with the scents of the many flowers.
Temple and her father walked up the steps past the children and came to a halt on the gazebo floor next to the adult members of the wedding party. Town took his place on the right side of his bride, while Temple's father remained on her left. Rick and A.J. fanned out behind Town, while Shanell and Marlena did the same behind the bride.
The guests took their seats as the minister began the ceremony. The man spoke clearly into the microphone with practiced ease so he could be heard over the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks below, and the screeching of the gulls coming from above.
Within a few short moments Temple's father had given his daughter away in marriage. The man gave his eldest child a kiss, and accepted her long hug and "I love you," in return before turning to walk down the gazebo steps. He took a seat in the front row next to his wife, and had to fumble in his pocket for a handkerchief with which to wipe his eyes.
The minister guided the bridal couple through exchanging the vows they had written themselves. He then moved on to the traditional part of the ceremony.
"Do you, Marcel Proust Brown, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold in sickness and in health till death do you both shall part?
Town gazed upon his bride and swallowed past the lump in his throat. "I do."
"And do you, Temple Austine Hill, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold in sickness and in health till death do you both shall part?"
Temple smiled softly through her tears. "I do."
The minister turned to Rick. "The ring please."
Rick looked from the expectant minister, to the expectant Town, to A.J. The blond man could do nothing more but shrug and indicate with a nod of his head that Rick might as well hand Town the ring.
The minister repeated with a bit more volume, "The ring please."
Rick slipped his hand into his pocket and grasped the band. He hesitated a moment longer, until Town forcefully thrust his hand out.
"Come on, man, give me the ring," the police lieutenant whispered.
"Uh...listen, Town," Rick whispered in return. "There's something I gotta tell--"
Town thrust his hand forward. "The ring, Rick."
Rick slowly withdrew the ring from his pocket. "Okay, but uh--"
Without further delay, Town reached out and snared the gold band from the detective. He glanced down at it, looked toward the minister and smiled, then did a double take. Town subtly inspected the ring closer.
Town had to remember to whisper when he said, "Simon, this isn't the ring I bought Temple!"
Rick nervously shifted from foot to foot. "I know. That's part of the long story A.J. was tellin' ya' about."
Town looked out at the guests, who had begun to whisper among themselves and shift restlessly as they wondered what was causing the delay. At Temple's sharp tug on his elbow, Town turned and gave her a brave smile, the wedding band hidden within his large palm.
The minister gained control of the ceremony once more. He talked for a brief minute on the symbolism of the wedding ring, then, instructed Town to slip the band on his bride's finger.
"Repeat after me, Marcel," the minister ordered. "With this ring, I thee wed."
Town gently held Temple's left hand and did as he was instructed. "With this ring, I thee wed."
Temple looked down at the ring, then looked again. Town quickly covered his bride's hand...and the ring, with his own.
Temple tried in vain to wriggle her hand out of Town's tight grasp. "Brown..." she whispered.
"I’ll explain later," the groom whispered back. He glanced over his shoulder at the Simon brothers. "On second thought, they'll explain later."
With a lot less disruption, Shanell handed Temple the wedding band she had purchased for her groom. Temple placed the gold band on Town's finger and repeated the words he had spoken just moments earlier.
"With this ring, I thee wed."
Everyone smiled when the minister ended the ceremony by saying loudly, "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. Marcel, you may kiss your bride."
The guests clapped and erupted into cheers as the couple locked themselves in a passionate embrace. Temple was laughing, and her veil was askew, when the new husband and wife finally broke apart. Arm and arm the pair turned and descended the steps. Rice showered upon the couple as they walked down the aisle past their clapping friends and relatives.
Rick held out an arm to Shanell, and A.J. did likewise to Marlena, as they followed the path the bride and groom had just walked. The children copied the adults, Donovan holding out his arms to the flower girls. The boy possessed a wide grin of self-satisfaction as he walked down the aisle with a pretty little girl on either side of him.
The bridal party was kept busy for the next half hour. They talked to and greeted each guest that passed through the receiving line.
Cecilia Simon gave both her sons a hug and a kiss when she went through the line, though that didn't stop her from telling them, "I'm so mad at you two. You embarrassed me to no end. I don't want to be seen with either one of you for the rest of the night."
"Mom, it wasn't our fault," A.J. said. “We—“
"Don't give me that, ‘it wasn't our fault,’ baby face," Cecilia admonished. "I know better. You two knew perfectly well what time this wedding started, and instead of being here when you were supposed to, you were goofing off somewhere on some
"Mom, it wasn't like that," Rick interrupted. "We got tied up. Literally."
It was then that Cecilia noticed the slight bruises on either side of Rick's face. Gently, she reached up and grasped his jaw, turning his head from side to side.
"Rick! What happened here? It looks like someone hit you."
Rick gently disentangled himself from his mother's grasp. "Someone did. And it's a long story. A.J. and I will fill you in later."
Cecilia looked from one son to the other. "But you're both okay?"
A.J. bent and kissed his mother's cheek. "Yes, Mom. We're fine."
"Well...all right. I'll talk to you about it later. And I want the whole story," Cecilia emphasized as she moved on to be received by the bride and groom. "And really, I thought I had raised you boys better. A.J., you know that you never wear blue socks with a black suit. And Rick! Well, I won't even bother to mention the fact that your socks are white."
"Yes, ma'am," Rick said.
"Yes, ma'am," A.J. echoed. To his brother he hissed, "And you said no one would notice."
"Mom's not no one. She's Mom. Of course she'd notice."
When the guests were through the receiving line and headed off to the buffet tables, the bridal party finally had a moment to pause and catch their breaths. Rick and A.J. moved to congratulate Town and Temple, and to collect their kisses from the bride.
It took the bride a moment to decide whether or not the Simon brothers deserved a kiss. She spent several minutes pretending to be angry, and bawled them out for almost ruining her wedding. If the truth was told, however, Temple Hill-Brown wasn't really angry at all. The day Town had told her he was going to ask Rick and A.J. to be his best men, was the day Temple had decided that she wasn't going to let anything ruin her wedding. The newswoman knew the Simon brothers well enough to know that with those two, any kind of a catastrophe was possible. Much like their mother, when Rick and A.J. had been late for the ceremony, Temple had been concerned that something might have happened to them. She was just glad that they had arrived safe and sound.
After much debate, the bride consented to giving the best men a kiss. First she grabbed the surprised A.J., bent him over backwards, and gave him long kiss on the lips. While Rick was busy laughing at his sibling's shocked expression, Temple did the same to him.
When Rick was finally allowed to come up for air he gasped, "Boy, Towner, I think she's got a heck of a night in store for you."
Temple planted her hands on her hips. "Now that you two have collected your kisses, I want to know just what the story is behind this." The bride held up her left hand and wiggled the finger the ring encircled.
"What story?" Rick asked innocently. "There's no story. That's the ring Town bought you."
Temple shot Rick a look of skepticism. She took the ring off her finger and read, "To Conchetta. May You Always Remember Our Wedding Day. March 2nd, 1910. Love, Ralph."
A.J. gave Town an innocent look. "Gee, Town, guess you really screwed up on the engraving, huh?"
Town waved his fist under A.J.'s nose. "I'm gonna really screw you two clowns up if you don't explain to my new bride, and to me, what has become of the ring I bought her."
With that, Rick and A.J. took turns telling all that had happened to them that afternoon, and how the ring had fallen out of their possession, and how they had come to be so late in arriving at the wedding. Accusations flew back and forth on the parts of both brothers, each claiming the other could have done something more to prevent Temple's ring from slipping away from them.
Before the entire situation could turn into a typical Simon brother disagreement, Town put an end to it by assuring the Simons, and his bride, that the ring had been fully insured and would be replaced as soon as possible. Temple ended up laughing over the entire matter, saying that every wedding should be an occasion to remember, and that hers certainly would be.
Years later, Town and Temple would have many fond memories surrounding the day they became man and wife. They'd laugh every time they looked at one picture in particular that the photographer had snapped. It was the one where Rick had just handed Town the bogus ring. The expression on Town's face was one of wide eyed surprise, while Rick was lifting a shoulder in a shrug of defeat that clearly said, ‘What's a guy to do?’ while A.J. was staring up at the gazebo's roof, his face the picture of innocence, obviously intent on not taking any part of the blame for his brother's latest mishap.
The bridal party took their turn in the buffet line that night. Everyone commented on how good the food was, and teased Town unmercifully about how much it was costing him. The cake had just been cut and served when the sound of sirens filled the air. Since close to half the guests were police officers there was a natural curiosity as to what was happening in the vicinity of the Piersons' estate.
Car doors slammed in the front of the house. Within seconds, Abigail Marsh appeared around the back with a rookie officer in tow.
Everyone, especially those guests employed by the San Diego Police Department, were shocked to see the woman and the uniformed officer. Although Town had never been formally introduced to Abby, he did know who she was. Since the circumstances surrounding his leaving the department weren't pleasant ones, Town had never had any desire to meet the woman who was his replacement.
approached Abby as the guests gathered in a subdued crowd behind him. "Lieutenant," he nodded in cool greeting. "May I help you?"
Abby rose on her tiptoes and scanned the crowd. "Yes, Lieutenant Brown, you can. I'm looking for Richard and Andrew Simon."
"Oh, well in that case," Town said as he stepped out of the way. The black man was just a little to eager to help as he pointed, "They're over there."
Abby walked up to the brothers, who were standing at the back of the crowd.
With puzzlement, A.J. greeted, "Hi, Abby."
Abby made quick work of handcuffing A.J. "Save your smile for the judge, pretty boy."
"Hey! What the...?" A.J. exclaimed. "Abby! What's this all about?"
"Abby, what are you doin'?" Rick intervened on his brother's behalf. "What's the big idea handcuffin' A.J. like that?"
Abby nodded to the rookie officer. The young man deftly spun Rick around and handcuffed him as well.
"Hey!" Rick protested. "What's goin' on here?"
Abby was all business. In a voice loud enough for all to hear she explained, "We have a report from The Christian Women's League of San Diego that you, Andrew Jackson Simon--"
A.J. closed his eyes and groaned. "Oh, no."
"Are guilty of indecent exposure. Were you, or were you not without your pants for all to see on the Pacific Coast Parkway this evening at approximately seven p.m.?"
"A.J.! No!" Cecilia exclaimed, her hand coming to rest over her heart. "No! Tell me it's not true."
Town's mother quickly moved to Cecilia's side and urged her to take a seat. "Someone get a glass of water. I think Mrs. Simon is going to faint."
"My wedding day!" came Temple's rage filled voice from somewhere in the crowd. "My wedding day has been ruined! Brown, I told you not to ask those two to be a part of it! I told you I didn't want those two Simon brothers to be anywhere near my wedding, but did you listen to--"
"And you, Richard Lawrence Simon," Abby continued as if the disturbances behind her had never occurred, "Were you or were you not driving the vehicle in which your brother was riding at the time of alleged crime?"
"Then I have no choice but to arrest both of you."
"On what charges?" A.J. demanded.
"Oh, A.J. A.J.!" Cecilia exclaimed. "I tried so hard. Where did I go wrong? Please tell me where I went wrong!"
A.J. turned anguished eyes on his mother. "Mom! Please! I can explain. It's really not as bad as it sounds."
"I knew this private investigation business would end in no good. I begged you boys. I begged you!" Cecilia wailed. "But would you listen to me? How many nights have I laid awake praying that something like this wouldn't happen? How can you boys do this to me?"
"Mom! Please!" Rick begged. "Just listen to A.J. for a minute."
Town's Aunt Bernice felt the need to throw in her two cents worth. "You boys are sinners! Repent now!"
"Amen, sister!" came the cry from the all the elderly women in attendance. "Repent sinners! Repent!"
Abby read the Simon brothers their rights amid the unsettling chatter of the confounded guests. As she and the rookie cop began to lead the brothers away, A.J. yelled over his shoulder, "Town?"
"Help us!" Rick insisted.
"I can't help you guys. This isn't my jurisdiction anymore. But listen, when Temple and I get back from Europe, I'll stop in at the jail and see you before I head home for L.A."
"Mom!" A.J. cried in another bid for help.
Cecilia had sunk too far into the depths of grief to be of any help to her sons. "Where did I go wrong, Eleanor?" she asked Town's mother over and over. "Please tell me where I went wrong. They're my only children. I tried to raise them right. I did the best I could."
"There, there, Cecilia," Eleanor Brown comforted with a pat on the shoulder. "They'll get the help they need in prison and come out new men. You just wait and see."
"Mom! Please! Calm down! I can explain!" A.J. yelled frantically from the front yard. "Please don't cry!"
"Town!" Rick called. "Towner, come on! Help us out here, man!"
The wedding guests listened to the sound of closing car doors. They then heard the sirens piercing the night that indicated the Simon brothers were being taken to a cell at the San Diego jail.
Town walked over to Cecilia with a big grin, wrapped his arms around her, and lifted her right off her feet. He planted a kiss on her cheek.
"That was a performance worthy of an Oscar, Cecilia."
The laughing Cecilia was gently placed back on her feet. "And yours was as well, Town." Cecilia looked around Town and smiled at Temple. "And yours too, Temple."
Temple laughed. "We really got those guys good."
"And they deserved every minute of it," Cecilia said. "What with worrying me like they did, then embarrassing me with their behavior when they finally arrived, and with losing the wedding ring - they deserve exactly what they got."
"How long do you think we should leave them in jail?" Town asked.
"Long enough for the photographer to get a picture of their ugly mugs behind bars," Cecilia laughed.
Later that evening several carloads of people, including Cecilia and the bride and groom, drove down to the San Diego police department. Abby, who was an instrumental part of the practical joke, had already had the two brothers fingerprinted, booked, and safely encased behind bars.
"Way to go, Rick," A.J. was saying. "Another stupid idea of yours has brought me nothing but trouble!"
Rick moved to join his brother by the cell's door. "What stupid idea?"
"It was your bright idea to change in the car. You were the one who told me to take my pants off!"
From a cell somewhere down the corridor came a male voice shouting, "You can take your pants off for me, cutey!"
"It'll be a cold day in hell, mister!" the irate A.J. shouted back.
growl was heard, and Rick advised, "I wouldn't entice these guys if I were
"Oh, shut up! The last thing I need is another piece of your rotten advice. Look where the last piece of your advice has landed me."
Rick turned to look at his brother. Both men were red faced with anger. "Hey! It's not my fault! I--"
And with that, a flash occurred, and the final memory was made for Town and Temple's wedding album.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The above story was inspired by a Current Case assignment in the December, 1994 issue of Wizard Works Press Simon and Simon letterzine, Brothers, Partners, and Friends. The writers were asked to write a story around what would happen if Rick was the best man in a wedding and given responsibility for the bride’s ring.