Iron Angels – Snippet 28
Jasper slouched in the passenger seat eyes masked by sunglasses, sipping black coffee, and judging by the wrinkled nose hating every second of the burnt liquid. He glanced at Temple.
“I have no time to baby you,” she glanced back at him, “and by the way, nine a.m. is not early.”
“I suppose, but bearing foul coffee did nothing to improve upon the early call.” He slouched in his seat. “Where in the hell did you get this crap, anyway? And you know what?”
“I’m listening.” Temple grinned.
“You’re too made-up,” Jasper lifted his sunglasses, “and well, perky for this time of the morning.”
“Excuse me? Made. Up?” She didn’t bother looking at him, but kept her eyes on the road. “Stop your bitching and tell me which way I’m heading. This is your neck of the woods, not mine, remember? Oh, and by the way, you look like shit. Perky my rear end, never been accused of that once.”
“I’m trying to sleep back here, you two mind?” Vance protested from the back seat.
“From here on I foresee a productive morning with no arguments or strife.” Temple focused on the road, but Jasper sat up —
— put the passenger side window down and dumped the coffee she’d picked up for him.
“Such foul stuff,” Jasper said.
“Hey!” Vance cried from the back seat.
Jasper turned and looked at Vance who wiped at his face and hair frantically.
“You ass,” Vance said.
Jasper slumped and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Vance, really. I didn’t mean to splash the nastiness on you.”
“You should rush me to the burn unit — ”
“See, Vance? Now that comment was funny.” Jasper grinned.
“Put the window up,” Temple chided. “It’s like I’m driving a couple of arguing brats to school.”
“Yes, mother,” Jasper said, “but don’t you believe in air conditioning? I’m roasting.”
“Okay, so why aren’t you using it, then?” Jasper returned to the slouched position.
“It’s morning, and it’s not yet sweltering. And I’m cold.” She paused. “And I’m driving.”
“Fine, but I didn’t ask you to drive.”
“Yeah, but if I hadn’t picked you up, it would have been lunch time before you dragged yourself to the office.”
“It is the weekend still, you know. I was up even later trying to explain to my boss, Johnson, why he needed to get a team out to recover that body behind the shed. And then I received a phone call from ASAC Masters. Not happy, but they complied. I’m walking a tightrope with my executive management. Oh, and we’re lucky my contact agreed to meet with us.”
“Thanks for talking your office into assisting. Didn’t you say the contact lived near the campus?”
“Well, yeah,” Jasper said.
“So quit your bellyaching — you’re already up and might as well get into the spirit of things,” Temple said.
Jasper dialed her in and they made their way over to Chicago.
“You know, this area we’re driving through, Hyde Park, is sort of known for its cultural diversity. African-Americans are known to — ”
“Known to what?” Temple asked forcefully.
“Uh, live in this area? The Obamas lived here.”
“Nothing, I guess.”
“Hyde Park also at one time tried to keep black people out,” Temple said. “And I don’t want to hear about South Shore and Farrakhan either, that’s close by too, right? I’m a Christian, you know, so why would I give a damn about Farrakhan?”
“I never brought him up.” Jasper shrunk in his seat.
“Spare me the lessons in black history,” she said. “But it’s nice to see that apparently someone has been paying attention to the Bureau’s black history month.”
“Wiseass, and it’s African-American appreciation month.”
“Pfft. You really have been paying attention.” Temple laughed and smacked the steering wheel. “But how about this: Why don’t you tell me about this guy we’re meeting, this biochemist buddy of yours, before we get there. That’d be swell.”
Temple grinned, knowing Jasper would be thankful for the change of topic. Why did he think she’d care about Hyde Park, anyway? Simply because she was black? That’d be like her telling him something about backwoods rednecks while traipsing around the Ozarks.
Was she that sensitive to get upset over the Hyde Park nonsense? Not really, and even she had grown tired of the Bureau’s weak attempts at diversity awareness.
“Not much to tell,” Jasper said into the window. “He wasn’t exactly a buddy back then, but a professor of mine. We became friends later.”
“Oh? He an older man?”
“Why,” Jasper glanced over at Temple, “you have a thing for older men?”
“Oh, but she does,” Vance chimed in from the back seat. “Tell him about the old guy from HQ that — ”
“Vance?” Temple glared at him in the rearview mirror. “You’d do yourself a favor if you keep that trap of yours shut.”
“A pleasant start to the day,” Vance said. “Donuts, some chiding, and coffee — which I received in the face I might add.”
“I agree.” Jasper grinned. “So, back to my old professor. He’s become a friend over the years, especially since I got assigned to the Merrillville Residence Agency.”
“This old coot got a name?”
“Sounds like your standard crusty old white guy.”
Jasper snorted, and pushed himself up. “Ed isn’t all that old. Let’s see, he was in his early thirties when I met him. So he’d be in his mid to late forties now.”
“Oh,” Temple said, realizing at once how that sounded.
“Ah ha, so you do wish he were older. How interesting,” Jasper said.
Vance tapped on Jasper’s seat. “Oh, that’d be so perfect.”
“What?” Temple asked, annoyed.
“Black and White,” Vance said. “You see? Your name is Black, and his is — ”
“Yeah,” Temple said, “I get it. You’re a riot, now sit back and shut up.”
Jasper burst out laughing.
Temple shook her head. “I’m dealing with juveniles here. Okay, children. Not another word until we get there, and no uncouth or childish jokes please, we’re professionals.” Temple glanced in the rear view mirror. “And Vance? You’re not amusing.”
“All right, we’re almost there,” Jasper said. “Turn down this street right here and try to find a spot. It’s early enough and a weekend, so we shouldn’t have too much trouble. There he is, he’s waiting for us.”
“Where?” Temple asked.
Temple parked. Jasper hopped out and headed toward a middle-aged black man who was perched against a nearby fire hydrant. The man rose, smiling, and extended his hand to take Jasper’s.
“Ed, how in the hell are you? Still carrying that beat up old thermos, I see.”
Inside the car, Temple spent a few seconds silently cursing herself. Without ever thinking about it, she’d just assumed a biochemistry professor at the University of Chicago would be white.
She got out of the car and headed toward them, Vance trailing behind her. “This is Ed, I take it,” she said.
Jasper nodded. “Ed, these are my colleagues, Vance Ravel and Temple Black. And this is Edwin White, but as you can see, he is — ”
“Yeah, all right,” Temple said, “you got me. Ha ha.” Lord above, was that boy’s face one hundred percent full of smug right now.