When he first met Scarlett he had been dragged along to a fundraiser by friends who thought he should get away from his typewriter and meet a few people who weren’t fictional and likely to shoot, stab or generally maim anyone.
He enjoyed getting dressed up but on that particular evening he was there because he could not come up with an excuse quickly enough to get out of it.
In the past, these occasions had worn a bit thin.
The women were usually beautiful, well dressed and vacuous.
The men tried too hard to be amusing and wore Sam out with conversations about money and football.
Sam would not have minded if these chaps had watched the games from the outer instead of a private box that cost more than most people spent on rent for a small house.
They didn’t follow football because they liked it, they were at the games because it was good for business. They all had a matched set of personalise golf clubs as well.
Sam hated golf.
“It’s not a bloody sport if you don’t get to knock someone over occasionally, and the balls you play it with need to be larger than you own.”
Just as he was about to pass out from a mixture of expensive booze and boredom someone elegant said it was time to eat.
Food seemed like a good idea so Sam moved somewhat unsteadily towards the dining area.
It took him a few moments to find his place-card.
He was ‘stag’ so he knew that he could expect to be seated next to some homely spinster who either did not converse or would not shut up
The person on his right was deep in conversation with a bloke who looked like he may have invented electricity and as he looked to his left he was pleasantly surprised to find a woman who could be described as gorgeous.
Not in a cheap or meaningless manner but in a ‘I would rather not take my eyes off you manner’.
She wasn’t speaking to anyone at that moment so Sam thought he would try his luck.
Surely this beautiful creature would not have been given multiple talents by the Almighty.
“The food looks good.” Sam said and immediately wished he had thought of something less banal to say.
“Yes it does.” Scarlett looked up from her plate to see a reasonably tall [as best she could tell as he was sitting down] reasonably handsome man in a reasonably good Tux. He had reasonably good hair too but would he live up to his reasonably good overall appearance?
“It’s basic tucker for one of these Do’s but I’m a big fan of ‘basic’ when it comes to food.” Sam figured that he had very little to lose at this stage so he just kept going. “My mother used to cook basic tucker and it never did me any harm.”
“That remains to be seen.” Scarlett was not sure why she had said that but the man she had just said it to seemed to like it.
Sam smiled —- this one’s got a bit of spunk.
“Do you know much about food, little lady?” Sam was taking a chance referring to her petite appearance but she didn’t flinch.
“I know that if you have one food of every colour on your plate you cannot go wrong.” Scarlett’s nursing training was beginning to show.
Sam was no longer falling asleep.
This was worth staying awake for.
“Are you at this shindig with anyone?” Sam was moving rather fast but he might as well know right now.
Women this interesting were invariable taken or in a crappy relationship with some guy too busy to notice how cool his wife is.
It was best to clear the air.
The conversation was going to be quite different based on her answer.
“No. All alone. I came along to support Jane. She’s your host. She’s the one who puts in all the hard work and I like to support my friends.”
“Your dress is a stunner. I’ll bet you had to save your pennies to afford that.”
This was where Scarlett had to make a quick decision. If she mentioned that she had no idea how much the dress cost, things would change.
They always did.
“A nurse’s salary does not go very far so I guess it took many months, but i’m very careful with my money and I only buy the best when I can afford it.”
Which was all true.
So far, so good.
“A nurse. That’s cool. You must show me your uniform some time.”
“A big healthy man like you has probably never seen the inside of a hospital.”
“That wasn’t what I meant but, I have. I had my tonsils out when I was six.”
“I’ll bet they were very cute tonsils, too.”
This was getting interesting.
She didn’t miss a beat and she was matching him comment for comment.
He was getting cheeky but she didn’t seem fazed.
“They were very cute tonsils and I didn’t give them up without a fight. I kicked the doctor several times when they were trying to put me under.”
“Anesthetist.” Said Scarlett. “The chap who was trying to put you under is known as an Anesthetist.”
“I have no idea what religion he was but I know I gave him a good kicking.”
Scarlett tried not to smile but a small one leaked out despite her resolve.
“And what do you do for a living apart from kicking poor innocent doctors?”
“Anesthetist”. Said Sam.
“God bless you.” Said Scarlett, “But that’s not answering the question.”
“On pieces of paper, then we stitch the pieces of paper together, slap a cover on them and put them in book stores and wait and see if anyone will buy them.”
“And, do they?”
“Sometimes. But not as often as I would like.” Sam conveniently left out the private detective bit. No sense frightening the horses at this early stage.
The conversation went quiet for a time while both Sam and Scarlett digested what had just happened.
It all seemed so comfortable and easy.
They were evenly matched and evenly interested.
When the eating part of the occasion was over some handsome bloke, who Scarlett seemed to know, asked her to dance. She excused herself and it was a long time before Sam got to talk to her again.
The next time he saw her she had gone back to the table to collect her things and some friends of hers were talking to her about where they were going next.
“Not on duty tomorrow?” Sam just needed something to say to her before she left but her answer was to come in handy.
“No, I’m not on duty again until Monday. A rare weekend off. Doesn’t happen often. It was good to meet you Sam.”
She had remembered his name.
This seemed like a good sign to Sam.
Scarlett breezed away with her attractive friends and Sam was left to wonder if he should have said anything else. Maybe he should have asked her if she wanted to go somewhere?
His instincts told him that she was special and not pushing his luck was a good idea.
Maybe he would call her, but what the hell was her surname?
Sam almost panicked but then he remembered he was a detective. He would track her down by asking his host.
His host smiled and gave him the information he needed which he wrote on a napkin, which made him think of Hemingway.
She was a woman who Hemingway would have fallen for.
The smile on his host’s face was a kind of ‘you are wasting your time’ smile, but Sam simply smiled back and said, “Thank you, I had an excellent evening and I hope you raised a heap of money for……”
The host helped out, “Homeless youth”
“For homeless youth, of course.”
“It went very well and I would like to thank you for your generous donation.”
The host quickly lost interest in Sam and moved away to talk to other guests.
Sam was too wired to go straight home.
He drove around for quite a while before parking by the bay.
“Life is about to get very interesting indeed.” he said to no one in particular.