Stormy Monday was inspired by the aired episode, The List.
Rick Simon entered the office he shared with his brother ten minutes before nine on a sunny July morning. He pocketed his key, turned on the lights, and walked over to start a pot of coffee.
For the sixth time in the past two weeks, Rick took note of A.J.'s absence. Usually his younger brother arrived at the office between eight and eight-thirty, using that time to do the mundane things Rick hated, like balancing the checkbook or putting together quarterly tax reports. It was so out-of- character for A.J. to arrive after eight-thirty, that the first morning Rick came in to find his brother absent he was immediately alarmed. He feared A.J. had been in a traffic accident, or had been delayed due to some type of injury or illness. But, that hadn’t been the case, and now it was becoming a habit. Not that it bothered Rick any. He had been after A.J. for years to slow down a bit. Rick would be happy to discover A.J. was taking his advice and curbing some of his workaholic tendencies. For reasons Rick couldn't put his finger on, however, he didn't think that's what was happening.
At exactly nine a.m. the office door opened again and a smiling A.J. breezed in.
"Morning," the blond greeted his older brother.
Rick was seated at his desk, reading the paper. He glanced up.
Rick made a production of looking at his watch. "Just barely made it in on time again. I see. I think I'm gonna have to start making you punch a clock."
A.J. rolled his eyes at his brother's teasing as he crossed to the coffee pot. "This from the man who used to show up for work at noon and act like he was three hours early."
"Yeah, but you gotta admit, I've changed my ways over the years. Looks like you're pickin' up some of my bad habits, though."
A.J. took his cup of coffee and moved to sit at his desk.
"I haven't been late. I'm always in by nine," the blond man defended himself with a touch of resentment to his tone.
Rick quickly made amends for the teasing.
"I know you have. I was just givin' you a hard time. It's just not like you to change your spots, so to speak. I'm used to you bein' here before I get in. I was a little concerned something had happened to you last Monday when you didn't show up until nine."
A.J.'s expression was immediately guarded. He did, however, offer, "Sorry. I should have called you that morning to let you know I wasn't coming in early."
Rick shrugged. "It really wasn't necessary. I was just kinda worried when you weren't here. I don't remember a time since we opened Simon and Simon that you haven’t been at the office by eight-thirty. But hey, who am I to call ya' on it? You're right, there was a time when I wasn't exactly the most punctual guy. And I'm glad you're slowin' down a bit. You don't need to come in early all the time."
A.J. gave his brother a sheepish grin. With a wave of his hand he indicated toward the pile of manila folders on his desk.
"Yes, I do. Or at least I should on occasion. If I don't get these things caught up today I'll have to take some of this stuff home with me tonight and I'd really rather not."
"Ah, don't worry about it. I'll help you get caught up. We only have one appointment, and that's not until three-thirty. Just don't make me balance the checkbook. I had a hard enough time with that while you were on vacation."
"Believe me, I won't. You had it so screwed up it took me a week to get it straightened out."
"Uh...speaking of straightening out checkbooks, could I stop by the house sometime and have you look at mine? Maybe tonight? I've got a little problem somewhere that I can't find. The bank will help me out, but they charge twenty-five bucks an hour."
A.J. was used to this request. It came his way three or four times every year.
"Rick, I thought we had this all squared away the last time. I told you what to do in order to keep it in balance. It's not that difficult. Just enter the checks every time you write one, and record the deposits each time you make one. I don't know why that's such a hard concept for you to follow."
"It's not. And I really meant to do it, A.J. I really did. See, the last time after you helped me straighten it out, I started datin' Shelia, my personal banker. If that relationship woulda’ gone somewhere, I wouldn't be in the fix I am now. Shelia was willin' to balance my checkbook for free, only by the time I needed someone's help again she'd broken it off with me. I promise, this will be the last time."
"You've said that every time we've done this over the past five years. What are you going to do, date every personal banker down at the bank until you find one that sticks with you long enough to straighten out your finances?"
"I've given it some serious thought."
A.J. shook his head in disbelief, muttering under his breath, "Only my brother." He sighed in resignation. "Okay, okay, get all your stuff together - the statements, the checks, the deposit tickets, and whatever else you have, then bring them over. But not tonight. I've got plans."
"Whatta ya' doin'?"
A.J. hesitated for a moment before answering. A hesitation he hoped Rick didn't pick up on. "Just...having dinner with an old friend."
“An old friend?” Rick’s eyebrows arched. “As in a former lady friend?"
"If you must know, yes, as in a former lady friend."
"Janet. Are you having dinner with Janet?"
Having run out of names of A.J.'s past girlfriends that immediately came to mind, Rick was struck with a horrible thought. "Oh, God, please don't tell me you're having dinner with the dragon lady."
"The dragon lady."
An exasperated A.J. looked up from the folders he was sorting through. "I don't have time for twenty questions today. Who the hell is the dragon lady?"
Rick smiled. "Liz."
"Rick," A.J. shook his head in way of scolding. "Liz was not nearly as bad as you make her out to be. She had her...redeeming qualities."
"Name one," Rick challenged.
"She found you to be a pain in the ass...much like I do on some days."
"Yeah, right," Rick tossed flippantly. "You know, AJ, the only thing I could ever figure about your relationship with Liz is that she musta' been good in bed. That had to be what kept you goin' back for more of her shit."
A.J. gave his brother a sly grin. "True, that was one of her redeeming qualities. There were others, however. If you two had just gotten to know each other, you might have actually become friends."
Recalling all his encounters with the formidable and demanding Liz, Rick muttered, "Don't bet on it."
"Well, it's not an issue anyway. I'm not having dinner with Liz."
Rick looked Heavenward. "Thank you, Lord."
A.J. rolled his eyes again and returned to his work, hoping his brother would let the subject drop. The blond didn’t get that lucky, however.
"So, who is she?"
"Who we've been talking about for the last five minutes. The woman you're going to dinner with."
"Nobody you know. Just an old...friend."
If Rick noticed that A.J. immediately changed the subject by asking several questions pertaining to a case they'd been working on, he didn't mention it. The blond man was relieved that the topic of his dinner date wasn't brought up again.
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Later that evening Rick parked the Powerwagon in a shopping plaza. He stopped in a video store and rented two movies, before walking down to a take-out rib joint. Loaded with his treasures, Rick headed back to the truck. He was looking forward to a relaxing evening of good food and good movies.
Rick slowly drove the truck through the busy parking lot. He stopped behind a long line of cars, waiting his turn to exit onto the congested highway. He glanced off to his right, looked away, then looked back when he realized who he had seen walking out of a restaurant.
The detective was too far away to hail his brother, and beeping his horn would produce no results since the sound would be lost in the passing traffic. Rick couldn't help but stare, though. He was curious as to who his brother's mystery woman was.
Rick got lucky. The couple was moving closer. They stopped beside a gray sports coupe just a few cars down from where the Powerwagon was stopped.
Rick watched as A.J. and the lady leaned against the car talking. The woman threw her head back, laughing at whatever his brother had said. Something about the way the woman laughed, about the way she carried herself, was familiar to Rick. Yet for the life of him, he couldn't place her.
She was a tall, willowy, attractive blond. Her hairstyle reminded Rick of the little Dutch boy's on the paint can. While the style would have looked silly on some women, on her it was becoming. The form fitting white leggings she wore emphasized her long, slim legs. Her pink silk blouse was open at the throat, the thin gold chain around her throat glistened in the setting sunlight.
As the couple stood there, A.J. reached for the woman's hand. He leaned forward, kissing her gently on the lips.
This lady seems to be quite an important old friend, Rick thought with amusement while watching the love struck couple. By the way the woman returned A.J.'s kiss, and gently ran her hand down the side of his face, Rick knew A.J.'s feelings were being returned in kind.
Any thoughts Rick had harbored regarding parking the truck, walking up to his brother, and letting his presence be known, left him. It was obvious the couple didn't need a pesky older brother around. Rick had a feeling they'd be leaving soon and moving on to...other things.
A car horn blared behind Rick. He tore his gaze away from his brother, seeing that the light had changed and the traffic ahead of him was now moving.
Rick glanced in his rearview mirror as he pulled out of the parking lot. He saw A.J. and the lady exchange another kiss.
I bet he shows up at the office with a smile on his face again tomorrow morning. Now I know what all these late mornings have been about.
Rick got his last look at the couple as he turned on to a
near-by side street. Again, the detective was struck at how familiar the woman seemed to him.
I know I've never met her before. I'd remember a knockout beauty like that. But damn, she sure does look familiar. Wonder who she is? Someone from his college days maybe? Oh well, I suppose I'll find out sooner or later.
Fifteen minutes later Rick arrived back at the marina. Once he became involved with his movies and his spare ribs, he forgot all about A.J. and his mystery date.
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Two evenings later Rick used his key to enter his mother's home.
"Hi, Rick! I'm in the kitchen!"
Rick let his nose lead him to the kitchen. He began lifting lids on simmering pans.
"Mmmmm, everything smells great."
Cecilia smiled. "You say that every Thursday evening."
"That's 'cause it's true."
Cecilia handed her son plates and silverware. "Would you mind setting the table for me, honey? I'm running a little behind tonight."
Rick headed for the dining room. "No problem."
"No, Rick. Not the dining room. You can set the kitchen table. Since it's just going to be you and me tonight, we don't need the bigger table."
It was then that Rick noticed his mother had only handed him two dinner plates. "Whatta ya’ mean, it's just going to be you and me?"
Cecilia turned from the stove. "Don't you know?"
"A.J. called me a few hours ago and told me he couldn't make it this evening. Said something about an old friend being in town that he wanted to spend time with. I assumed you knew his plans had changed."
"No, I didn't. But, then again, I only saw him for a few minutes in the office this morning. We've got three cases goin' right now so we went our separate ways about nine-thirty. I haven't been back at the office since then."
"He must have run across an old friend then sometime today."
"I don't think so. He mentioned he was having dinner with an old friend the other day, and he's been late to work more days than he hasn't been the past couple a’ weeks. Late for A.J., that is."
Cecilia's eyebrows rose. "Sounds like this old friend might be of the female sex?"
"Mom, you should be a detective, too,” Rick chuckled. “You're very perceptive."
"Where my sons are concerned, I am. Who is this woman? Has A.J. said?"
Rick picked up a carrot stick and began munching on it.
"No. He hasn't said anything about her. At first I was afraid he had taken up with Liz again, but thank God I was wrong about that."
"Rick, Liz was a nice girl. Granted, she and A.J. did have their difficulties at times, but she had some redeeming qualities."
Rick's eyes twinkled. "Yeah, A.J. did mention that the other day."
"By the look on your face, I can tell the redeeming qualities your brother told you of aren't quite the same ones he's shared with me," Cecilia stated dryly.
"You mean like she was good in bed?" Rick teased.
"That was one he left out."
Rick laughed at his mother and her dry wit. "Regardless, we don't have to worry about Liz. That's not the old friend he's seeing."
"I told A.J. he and his friend were welcome to come by here for dinner, but he declined, saying they wanted to spend time alone talking over old times - things like that. I wonder who she is?"
"Don't know, Mom. But he's being awfully secretive about the whole thing."
"Maybe he just wants some privacy, honey. You know, you boys spend a lot of time together. Maybe A.J. isn't ready to share this part of his life with you just yet. Or maybe this woman is just an old friend, and that's all there is to it."
"I could be wrong, but I don't think that's all there is to it."
Cecilia carried a casserole dish to the table.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Tuesday evening I was down at the strip mall on fifth and Hudson getting myself dinner and renting a couple a’ movies. I saw A.J. and this woman coming out of the Red Rose restaurant. By the way they held hands and kissed, I'd say this is a little more than a platonic relationship."
"And you didn't recognize her?"
"No. I have no idea who she is, and A.J. hasn't so much as mentioned her name. It's weird though. She seems really familiar to me, as if I've met her before."
"Maybe you have. Maybe she's an old girlfriend from high school or college. It wasn't Anita, was it?"
"No. I'd know Anita if I saw her. This woman was way too tall to be Anita - and a blond."
"Maybe she's an old client then. Someone you boys have done work for."
Rick shrugged as he and his mother took their places at the table.
"I suppose she could be. We've been in business a long time now, done work for a lot of people. She could be someone he did some work for when I was on vacation or something. It's just...I feel like I know her, but for the life of me I can't figure out why."
"Oh well, I'm sure if this relationship is serious, A.J. will introduce us to her sooner or later," was where Cecilia let the subject drop.
Rick buttered a dinner roll, agreeing with his mother before the conversation turned to other matters.
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The following Monday afternoon Rick was alone in the office. A.J. was at a client's home, going over some information he had regarding the man's divorce suit.
Rick was standing in front of an open cabinet, filing the pile of manila folders that had been on A.J.'s desk. He sang along to the oldies station he had tuned in on the radio.
"It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog. It's been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log. But then I get home to you, and find the things that you do, make me feel all right. You know I work all day..."
Rick's singing came to an abrupt end as he ran across a file in the cabinet. For a reason he wasn't quite sure of, he pulled the old file and walked over to his desk with it. He sat down and opened the file. He glanced through the various pages of notes he and A.J. had made regarding the case, then came across the five-by-seven black and white photos that were tucked behind the notes. Rick leafed through the old photographs, stopping when he came to the last one. For a long time the detective sat staring at the woman in that photograph. Suddenly, it dawned on him as to where he'd seen the woman recently.
"Damn! Oh damn it. Why in the hell is she putting him through all this again?"
When the office door opened Rick slammed the folder shut before the person entering could see what he was looking at.
A.J. walked over and turned the radio down. "It sounds like a Friday night sock hop in here. The music's so loud I can hear it down the hallway."
"Oh, uh. . .sorry."
A.J. looked up from the mail he had carried in. "Since when do you apologize for having the radio cranked up?"
"Uh...since now, I guess," the preoccupied Rick offered. The older man rose to discreetly return the folder to the filing cabinet.
"Still working on that filing?" A.J. questioned.
"Yeah...yeah, I'm almost done though. I'll be finishing up here in a few minutes."
A.J. began telling his brother about the meeting he'd just had with their client. Rick's mind was on other things as A.J. talked, but for good measure he did manage to throw in several "Uh huhs,” and "Okays," at what seemed like the appropriate times.
A.J. finished his narrative just as Rick finished his filing. It was almost five o'clock. The time prompted Rick to ask innocently, "You got any plans for tonight?"
"Yes, I do."
When A.J. didn't elaborate any further Rick lied, "Oh, well I was gonna see if you wanted to stop somewhere for dinner, but I guess if you've got plans I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow," was all A.J. said as the brothers locked up the office and headed for their respective vehicles.
A.J. exited the parking lot, turning in the direction of home. Rick exited in the opposite direction, heading to see his friend Carlos.
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Long after dark that evening Rick Simon was hunkered down behind the dashboard of a Ford Escort. The car's interior was too small for the long legged Rick. The detective had to keep shifting positions in order to keep his leg muscles from cramping.
Rick kept his eye on the townhouse he'd seen his brother enter shortly after seven.
Staring at the red Camaro parked in the drive, Rick muttered, "God help me if A.J. catches me doing this. I never thought I'd be staking out my own brother, but damn it, it's for his own good. He's riskin' too much here. He's gotta know that."
Recalling how much A.J. had loved the woman caused Rick's tone to turn gentle. "Oh hell, he probably doesn't know it. He probably hasn't even thought about it. Damn it, kid, I'm so sorry. But I gotta do this. You're not leavin' me any choice here."
At two that morning the sound of a car engine starting caught the bleary eyed Rick's attention. Rick laid down flat in the front seat of his borrowed vehicle as the Camaro backed out of the drive.
The red car disappeared down the street, turning a corner at the intersection. Rick waited ten minutes for good measure, just to make sure A.J. wasn't returning for some reason. When he felt it was safe to do so, Rick exited the car, stretched his legs for a moment, then quietly crossed the street.
Lights were on in the townhouse yet, in what Rick guessed to be the kitchen and a bedroom. The blinds pulled at the windows prevented him from seeing inside.
A familiar female voice answered Rick's knock. "A.J. is that you? Don't tell me, let me guess, you left that suit here you said you were going to take home with you tonight. I just ran across it in the closet a few minut--"
"Sorry,” Rick said as the door was opened. “It won't do me any good. A.J. and I aren't the same size. His pants are too short for me."
Amanda pulled her robe closed, belting it. Not before Rick had caught a glimpse of the short satin teddy underneath it, however.
"Can I come in?"
Amanda pressed her lips together, but nodded her consent and stepped back out of the doorway.
Rick entered the kitchen, closing the door behind him. Amanda’s arms crossed over her chest.
"You were spying on us, weren't you? What's the matter, Rick, are you bored? Did you feel the need to fill your idle hours by doing a little surveillance on your brother?"
Rick didn't allow himself to be baited by the woman's anger. Calmly, he stated, "No, normally I don't. At least not until I realized it was you A.J. was seein' again."
"And just how did you come to that conclusion?"
"I saw the two of you coming out of the Red Rose last week and--"
"So you have been spying on us!"
"No, I haven't been. I was in that area renting some movies and getting supper. I just happened to see you and A.J. walking to your car. I didn't even know who you were that night. I only knew you looked familiar. I couldn't place you, though. The haircut's changed your looks. Is that courtesy of the Feds?"
"Yes. But regardless of that, if you haven't been spying, how did you figure out it was me?"
"Believe it or not, by accident. I ran across the Hy Elton file in a drawer. I really can't tell you what made me pull it out and look through it. When I came to your picture, I knew exactly who the woman was that I had seen with A.J. last week."
Amanda moved to sit at the kitchen table. "Oh."
When she offered no more than that. Rick moved to join her.
you doing back here?"
"That's none of your business, Rick Simon."
"It is my business if your presence endangers my brother's life. I thought you were in the witness protection program."
"I am. The government set me up in a new city, got me a new job, gave me a new name, a new look - the whole shot. But I'm not a prisoner, Rick. I'm free to go where I want to. No one can stop me. It was my choice to come back here to San Diego."
"Because I was lonely where I was at. Because I love this city. Because I have friends here. Because...because I love A.J. and have spent the past five years thinking about him day and night."
"If you really love him, you’d know this can't be. You'd know how dangerous it is for both of you."
"I know it's dangerous. So does A.J. It's a chance we're both willing to take."
"And what happens next, Amanda? Do you two get married and live happily ever after? Do you get a wood paneled station wagon, and a dog, and have two point five kids and a house with a white picket fence? If that's what you're thinkin', lady, you're dead wrong. The people that would have liked nothing more than to silence you five years ago are still in this city. If I figured out who you are, it'll only be a matter of time before they do, too. Hell, for all we know they already have, and they're just waiting for the right time to make their move."
"No, Rick, it's not going to--"
Rick slammed his hand down on the table. "Don't tell me it's not going to happen because I know it will!"
The two sat in silence after Rick's outburst. When the detective had control of himself once again he asked, "So what's next, Amanda? What kind of plans have you and A.J. made?"
“None,” Amanda shook her head. "We're just taking it day by day for now, enjoying being with each other again. That's why A.J. wouldn't tell you, Rick. He didn't want to risk putting you, or your mother, in danger. I don't know if he ever planned to tell you or not."
"So what was gonna happen? Was he just gonna disappear with you some day? Was he just gonna leave a note that said, ‘Dear Rick, I've got to get away for a while. Don't be concerned if I never come back.’"
Amanda looked down at the table, fingering a place mat. "I don't know. He hasn't said. No, I don't honestly think he'd leave San Diego. I don't think he'd leave you and your mother. Certainly not without talking it over with both of you first."
"Oh, well that's nice to hear. At least he'll let Mom know he's leaving, even though she'll never be able to visit him or see her future grandchildren. That's nice a’ the two of you."
"You make it sound so wrong.” Amanda looked over at Rick. “It's not wrong."
"In your opinion. And I happen to think your opinion is a little one-sided, lady."
"It doesn't matter anyway. A.J. and I haven't really talked about any of that yet."
Again, there was a long silence that Rick finally broke.
"Amanda, I'm gonna tell you something I think you need to hear. If you care as much about my brother as you say you do, you'll listen to me very carefully.
"I've seen what the mob does to people. I've seen the results of people shot execution style with a gun put to the back of their skulls. Did you know that the entire back of a person's head is blown away when they're shot in that manner? Most of their brains are blown out and end up splattered all over the walls and floor. Now you just sit here and picture my mother finding A.J. like that someday in his living room.
"And that's the way they murder when they're bein' nice. If they're tryin' to get information out of someone, it's a different story. I've heard the cops talk about corpses that they've found with all the fingers missing. They cut the person's fingers off one by one, Amanda, until they get the information they want. Downtown Brown once talked of finding a guy whose face had been cut up with a butcher knife. The guy didn't die. They just kept hacking at his face until they got what they wanted outta him. Town told me the guy's face was so scarred up it looked like a road map. Is that what you want to have happen to A.J.?"
"I'm not finished yet," Rick interrupted. "And then I heard of a guy they castrated. No special reason really. He had already given them the information they wanted. The cops said it was just for kicks. The guy ended up committing suicide sometime later."
Amanda held up her hand. "Stop. That's enough."
"What's wrong, Amanda? It's not about love songs and moonlight anymore, is that it? You're right, it's not. It's about real people, vengeful people, and what they'd do to my brother if they thought they could get information out of him regarding your whereabouts. But, of course, you and I both know A.J. would never talk. No matter what they did to him, how badly they hurt him, A.J. wouldn't say a word, would he? He'd protect you to his dying breath."
"Enough, Rick! That's enough! I don't want to hear anymore!"
Rick reached over, roughly shagging Amanda's arm. "Why? Because it's ugly? It may be ugly, Amanda, but it's true. Every single word is true. If you really love A.J., you'll see that."
Amanda pulled away from Rick's hold. She stood, backing away from the table. "I have...I have to think. I have to...I need to be alone. Leave. Please leave."
Rick rose as well. Genuine sorrow replaced the anger in his eyes.
"Amanda, I'm sorry. I really am. I wish I hadn't had to do this. But I didn’t have a choice. I hope you understand that. You and A.J. – well, neither one of you is seeing how dangerous this is. What a threat it is to both of you."
Tears began to stream down Amanda's face. "What can I do?"
Gently, Rick asked, "What do you think you can do?"
"I...I...I'll have to leave here again. I won't be able to tell him goodbye. I'll have to start all over. I...I...I never meant to hurt him. I just love him so much. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me. But I'll never be able to live with myself if something happens to him. If they hurt him. And he'll never be able to live with himself if they hurt me...or hurt you or your mother. That would kill him. I know it would. I don't have a choice. I...I can see that now. I'll have to go as soon as possible."
Rick approached the sobbing woman. He gently enfolded her in his arms. "I'm so sorry. I really am. Given another time, another place, you would have been the perfect woman for A.J."
Amanda looked up into Rick's eyes. "Just promise me you'll take care of him. Promise me you'll be there for him when he finds out I'm gone."
"I will," Rick nodded. Thinking of another time five years earlier when he'd been there for A.J. he added, "I always am."
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My Dearest Andrew,
How sorry I am that it's come to this once again. I must leave, A.J. I have no choice. I fear that by staying I will be putting you in a position of great danger. I couldn't live with myself if you were hurt or killed because of me. I think of your mother and Rick, too. I know how much you love them. I worry that my being here may bring harm upon them, as well. I can't bear the thought of what that would do to you.
Neither one of us was thinking clearly when we attempted to take up where we left off five years ago. We both let love songs and moonlight cloud our better judgment.
I'm sorry that my return to San Diego has only brought you further pain. I never meant for it to turn out this way. I really thought this time was forever. Unfortunately, reality has come home to roost on my doorstep.
No matter how far from San Diego I must go, I'll always carry your memory in my heart, Andrew Jackson Simon. I'll never forget our Stormy Mondays.
All My Love,
A.J. Simon sat on his living room sofa, idly fingering the pale blue stationary he held in his hand. The blond stared at the fireplace. Gone was the urgency from earlier to run out and tear the city apart until he found her. Rick's words from long ago kept echoing in his head.
"Look, if I wanted to find a missing person real quick, you're the guy I'd come to. You may be the best there is. And if you decide to do it, I'll help you. We can do it. We can find her. But what about the guys that are after her? They're not as good as you are, or they'd have found her by now. Not even the government's gonna be able to build a screen that will keep you out. You'll find a way through it. A door, a crack, something, and you'll find her. But now you stop and think about the guys that are gonna be followin' us. A.J., the sooner you find her, the sooner they're gonna kill her...I'm sorry, kid.*
A.J.'s sorrow and many regrets weighed so heavily on his mind that he didn't hear the key turn in the lock of the kitchen
Rick quietly entered the dim house. He shook his head as he took in the sight of the defeated A.J. slumped on the sofa.
It took A.J. a moment to register the fact that his brother had entered his home, and was now sitting on the coffee table in front of him.
"Hi," Rick offered softly.
"What are you doing here?"
"A friend of yours called me this evening and said you might be in need of some company."
"A friend of mine?"
A.J. dropped his gaze to the sofa. "Oh. So you know."
Rick wasn't foolish enough to let on as to how long he had known, or how he had found out. He simply said, "Yeah, I know."
"What'd she tell you?"
"Just that she had been foolish and thought it was safe to come back to San Diego and contact you. Then...something made her realize you two were putting yourselves in a position of grave danger, and that it had all been a mistake on her part. She said she should have never come back. She was concerned with how you might be taking things tonight."
A.J. looked up at his brother. "How the hell does she think I'm taking them? How the hell am I supposed to take them?"
With regret, Rick said, "I don't know, A.J. I just don't know."
A.J. sighed heavily. His anger from moments before evaporated.
"I've read her note about twenty times. The sad part of it is, every word makes sense. She's right. Neither one of us was thinking clearly."
"Love can do that to a person," Rick nodded.
A.J. couldn't help but smile. "You'd know."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I was thinking of the Adriana incident from a couple of years back."
"Well...yeah, it's like I just said, love can cloud a person's thought processes."
"Being dunked in a bubble bath with all your clothes on in an adult motel by your mother can do that to a person, too," A.J. couldn't resist adding.
"Ha, ha. Let's get off that subject please. I came
over here to see how you were doin'."
"I'm okay. Or as okay as I can be, considering the circumstances. To be honest with you, I think I knew all along that it was too good to last. There were too many dangers involved, too many things Amanda and I ignored for the sake of being together again. As hard as it is for me to say it, it was destined to fail. I knew she couldn't stay here, and she knew I'd never leave. That's probably why we didn't talk about it much, but rather, just enjoyed the time we had together."
"There's nothing wrong with that, A.J. Sometimes a man and a woman just need to enjoy their time together without lookin' too far into the future."
"To be honest with ya,’ when Amanda called me I fully expected to come over here and find that you'd drowned your sorrows in a bottle of Jack Daniels."
A.J. shrugged. "I didn't help the last time. I thought then, that if I drank enough I'd forget. It didn't work that way though. It only seemed to make the memories stronger. Then the next day, when I was so hung-over I could hardly move, I still couldn't forget. I honestly thought I'd be too sick to remember. I wanted to be too sick to remember, but it didn't work that way either. So, if nothing else, I'd like to think that tonight I'm a little wiser than I was five years ago. There's no use to drink myself into oblivion, because oblivion will never arrive."
"It never seems to when you need it to the most," Rick agreed.
The brothers fell silent for a few minutes before A.J. said, "Go ahead. You might as well get it over with and lay it on me while you're here."
Rick's eyebrows knitted together. "Lay what on you?"
"The lecture about what a stupid chance I took seeing Amanda again. The lecture about how the whole thing could have never gone anywhere. The lecture about how I was only setting myself up to take a hard fall again."
"It sounds like you've already been sittin' here lecturing yourself. I don't think I really need to add my two cents worth, do you?"
A.J. slowly shook his head. "No. I've done a pretty good job of it on my own."
"Look, A.J., I didn't come here to lecture you anyway. I just came here to...be with you. To see if you were okay. To see if you needed some company, or a sounding board, or a...drinking partner."
A.J. smiled at that last. "I guess just the company will do."
"Good, 'cause I do that real well."
"Yeah, and given my past experience with you, you usually overstay your welcome. If I remember correctly, you were only coming for the weekend to 'keep me company' when you parked the Hole In The Water in my yard. It was four years before you left."
"Yeah, well you were datin' Liz back then. You were in need of my company."
"I don't have any idea as to what that remark's supposed to mean. And what do you have against Liz anyway?"
"We'd better not go into that right now. I'm liable to be here another four years if we do."
"Okay. I'll second that. Let's not go into it."
Rick chuckled, clapping his brother on the knee as he rose from the sofa. He was pleased at how well A.J. was dealing with Amanda's sudden departure. It gave Rick a strong clue as to how much A.J. really had thought over his and Amanda's renewed relationship in recent weeks. Rick had a feeling A.J. had known right from the start that it couldn't last.
Rick walked into the kitchen and reached up into a cupboard, pulling down two wine glasses. A.J. turned to see what his sibling was doing. The blond man didn't voice any objection when he saw one of his most expensive bottles of wine emerge from the cabinet.
Rick filled the glasses. He reentered the living room, handing one to his brother. The lanky man sat on the coffee table once again. He held his glass in the air.
"To the women who have passed through our lives and touched us in very special ways."
A.J. smiled softly, clinking his glass with Rick's.
"To all our stormy Mondays. Even they hold precious memories that aren't meant to be forgotten."
“That they do, kid,” Rick nodded, as he took another long sip of wine. “That they do.”
Because it was dark outside, and because the glow from the living room lamp reflected off the French doors, the brothers didn’t see the woman step down from the deck and slip quietly into the night. The engine of the gray sports coupe started with barely a sound. By the first light of dawn Amanda was far way from San Diego with all her memories of a man named Andrew Simon, and all her Stormy Mondays, hidden deep in her heart.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
*Italicized verbiage from the Aired Episode – The List