The Thursday night of my third week working on Jingo Street, as I
rinsed mops in the commercial sink in the scrub room between the kitchen
and the delivery dock out back, I heard the tap of distinct footsteps
and someone whistling as he came down the alley. The clear sounds wafted
eerily through the screen door and I smiled at the medley of old tunes.
The whistler did a few bars of some of my mother’s favorites, which I
imagine she still played on her spinet back home. He drifted smoothly
from “Old Black Magic,” to “Moon River,” to “Bewitched, Bothered, and
Bewildered.” Surprised at remembering some of the words, I hummed a
little as I wrung and shook out the last mop.
in any hurry to take the mops outside to hang them on the line over the
dock and decided to wait until the whistler had passed, so I stalled a
couple of minutes longer, thinking about my mom.
sounds of trash cans being bumped and rearranged jarred me before I
realized the whistler must be Rosco. I didn’t know why he might have
walked around the block from the front door of the shelter to the alley,
but apparently he had. Emptying cans from the kitchen into the dumpster
and scrubbing them out was usually his last job of the day. That
realization struck me as odd since the musical sounds reflected a sweet,
sensitive side of Rosco I hadn’t imagined. I flattered myself to think
maybe his crush on me was exposing a soft inner man.
I hated to
interrupt, but it was getting close to nine and I needed to leave. I
always tried to clear the area before neighborhood mischief-makers got
out onto the streets in full force.
I banged mop handles against
the doorjamb intentionally to give the whistler fair warning that he was
no longer alone. Rosco was not a man you wanted to startle. But when I
stepped out the door, I was the one surprised. The man standing in the
alley below the dock handling trash cans was not Rosco.
there, stock still, staring up at me, was just about the best-looking
man I had ever seen. He had black curly hair, which he wore stylishly
long, and shadowed, almost sinister-looking eyes with dark, animated
brows. Muscular, expensively dressed––stunning actually––he looked
serious, almost threatening, like Rosco ready to throw one of his
tantrums, but that impression changed as a slow grin etched the fellow’s
He wore a white dress shirt with the sleeves
cuffed a couple of turns exposing exceptional forearms. His biceps
flexed beneath the fabric. He had secured his necktie between two
buttons on his dress shirt and he bent forward a little from the waist
in an obvious effort to keep his trousers clear of the cans. Other than
standing a little straighter, he didn’t change position as he spoke.
I stood gawking at him several beats before I could get my
act together enough to respond. “Hello.”
His eyes narrowed and he
looked me up and down. “You have got to be Annie.”
corrected. “Anne Krease.” I cleared my throat. “Ms. Krease. I’m a
His grin renewed and his eyes twinkled with a
mischievous glint. His large, white teeth appeared to spark in the glow
of the security light there on the dock. The teasing look hinted he was
making fun of me which spoiled a lovely moment and put me on the
His expression mocked me as he nodded. “Yeah. I
I turned around and set my full attention to hanging the
mops, but the stranger suddenly bounded up the steps and shouted. “Hold
He was behind me and getting close. Too close. I pivoted,
fully prepared to jam a wet mop in his very attractive face and run,
when one of his brawny arms came around me and carefully lifted a suit
coat off the line where he apparently had hung it earlier.
I’m sorry.” I stammered slightly. I wasn’t just apologizing for almost
hanging a dripping floor mop on his coat, but for being frightened, and
“Hey!” Rosco yelled as he burst through the
screen door, fire in his eyes, his fists clenched. I leaped in front of
the stranger, fully prepared to defend him, at least distract Rosco long
enough to give the guy a chance to run. But Rosco recognized the fellow
and when he did, the stormy expression flickered and became suspicious.
“What’re you doing here? With her?”
I glanced around to find the
stranger grinning playfully, looking from Rosco to me, then at my raised
mop poised to defend him. “Nothing.” He slanted me a teasing look. “I’m
not doing nothin’ with her, Rosco. Not yet, anyway.”
whirled to face me and he looked perplexed. “Anne, you didn’t tell me
you knew Max.”
“Oh, but I...” Suddenly the picture cleared. The
flirtatious stranger was Rosco’s brother, the contractor, Max Marcowitz.
That’s why he was here, why he looked vaguely familiar, why he was
dumping trash cans dressed in expensive clothes. Of course. He was
giving his brother a hand.
Max kept his eyes on me as his
irritating smirk became a genuine smile. I smiled back as I recovered.
“I thought you dressed awfully well for a garbage man.”
smiling. “So you’re the gal who’s got things topsy turvy around here.”
I didn’t like being called a gal, but I let it pass. “Rosco has
mentioned me, I take it.”
“Rosco? Yeah. And Lilly and Trish, who
work the corner, and every guy within a two-mile radius of the place.
What nimrod judge sent you down here?”
“Delmonica, huh? I thought the guy had better sense.”
“Yeah.” He gave a sardonic laugh. “I know most of the
people who work on the third and fourth floors at the courthouse.”
He meant the district attorney and judges’ offices, I supposed, and
wondered why a contractor would have reason to spend time with D.A.s and
judges. So, I asked. “Why does a contractor have business with the D.A.
His grin dimmed a little, then reemerged as he
arched his eyebrows. “Contractor? I guess someone’s been telling stories
about me, too, right? Have you been asking questions about me, Annie
The man obviously had an ego the size of Chicago. I saw
no reason to feed the monster. “Somebody.” I tried to look like I
couldn’t remember who or why anyone might have mentioned him.
flinched as he stepped forward briskly, caught the mop handle, and
pushed it to the side. “You’re dripping.” His eyes directed mine to the
tops of my shoes which were peppered with droplets.
I’ve ruined two good pairs of shoes doing that.”
brightened again as if he thought what I said was funny.
the mop up and over the line in one motion, keeping it as far from my
clothing as possible. When both mops were dangling from the clothesline,
a still-grinning Max opened the screen door and motioned me inside, then
he followed, handing the door to Rosco who fell into step behind us.