Of Foxes and Wolves
by Jessica (la_belle_dame)
Emily would be hard-pressed to recall exactly when she had met Jess and Marisa. After college, that was for sure, but before she started working at the New York Public Records Office. They definitely all went out to Scott’s for drinks when Emily got her completely unexpected but not unwelcome promotion to junior manager of the filing department, and that was six months after she’d started as a 10 to 4 clerk. It wasn’t that she could remember meeting htem for the first time (at a mandatory Ethics in the Work Place work shop for all municipal employees), it was just that they clicked into their friendship so well, it was easy to forget they hadn’t known each other since they were kids.
While Emily couldn’t really describe a career as a keeper of public memory as thrilling, it was satisfying in its own way and steady. She had enough to pay the rent and her bills, and managed to have a little leftover at the end of the month. Her roommate, a quiet Korean girl who worked the graveyard at Mercy General, kept to herself and Emily enjoyed having the apartment to herself at night. It was on one such evening when Jess and Marisa had come over for take-out Thai and beers that Jess announced that Ed Green’s new partner, was a fox.
“Not just foxy,” she clarified twirling her empty bottle on Emily’s end table, “but a full-on fox.” Marisa rolled her eyes and mimed drinking at Emily while Jess frowned solemnly at the peeled-off label in her hand.
“I thought Lupo meant wolf,” said Emily, trying not to laugh at Marisa’s faux intoxication behind Jess’s back.
Jess blinked, wide-eyed and earnest. “A fox is actually a subspecies of wild dog, so technically it’s related to wolves.” Emily bit the inside of her cheek. Jess, the one-drink drunk. “It doesn’t matter, Em. He’s a fox and you should go out with him.”
Emily paused with a forkful of spring roll halfway to her mouth. “Whoa, me? I thought maybe you—”
Jess shook her head woozily. “Nope.”
“Uh-uh,” mouthed Marisa from around a mouthful of pad noodles. “We scare him.”
“Scare him?” Emily liked to think she kept up with the gossip that flowed out of the NYPD like a limitless stream of rumor and hearsay, but she’d heard nothing about Jess and Marisa either in or out of their post at the Medical Examiner’s lab. She’d been too busy following the exploits of Major Case’s new golden boy. Gorrett or something. Word was he was a wackjob. Brilliant detective, by all accounts, but a totally wackjob. She was a little out of the loop on the ME gossip.
“Make him nervous is more like it,” conceded Jess. “ ‘Snot used to our brand of humor.”
Marisa nodded, “Or our charming smiles.” She pulled a goofy grin, and Emily laughed and forgot all about Lupo the fox. At least until three weeks later when Marisa’s name showed up on Emily’s caller ID right after she’d finished putting away her dinner dishes.
“Okay, so you’re meeting Cyrus in two hours at Scott’s,” came Marisa’s voice in a rush.
“I’m doing what?” asked Emily.
“Meeting at Scott’s. Two hours.” Emily heard Jess in the background shouting something unintelligible. “Jess says wear something slinky.”
Emily stared longingly through the open bathroom door at her bath salts and the new copy of Newsweek. “Who is Cyrus?”
“Detective Cyrus Lupo.” Again Jess in the background. “The fox.”
Emily concentrated. Thai food. Couple weeks back. “The nervous one?”
“What? Oh, nervous. Yeah. Sorta. Listen, he tends to look kinda…kinda…I don’t want to say sloppy.” Jess said something and Marisa laughed.
“What?” asked Emily.
There were the sounds of scuffling and then Jess’s voice. “He’s all bed-heady and scruffy. Like he slept in his clothes. It’s awesome.”
More scuffling and Marisa. “Pretty much. Have fun. Be safe. All details tomorrow.” As she clicked off, Emily could hear Jess shouting something that sounded suspiciously like ‘slinky’before the dial tone cued up. Emily snapped her cell phone shut and opened her closet, determined to stay hell and away from her slinky black dress.
Getting a cab was a nightmare and Emily jogged into Scott’s a little late. The place was packed, even for a Friday. Emily made a beeline for the bar and thanked God her ex-band mate Joey was working tonight. He stowed her jacket behind the bar with a smile. As she scanned the room, Emily kept her friends’ description in mind. Nervous, unkempt, probably tired-looking if he was PD. “Hey Joey,” she called over the din. “D’you know a Detective Lupo?” Joey pointed toward a group at the far end of the bar. There was a string of guys near the coveted corner booth, two in trench coats with mixed drinks, a guy built like a wall nursing a long-neck, and a skinny guy in a black coat. The last guy’s brown hair was the textbook definition of messy, so Emily smoothed down her skirt and pushed her way down through the crowd of uniforms and suits.
“Detective Lupo?” she asked, tapping the black coat on the shoulder. He shook his head and jerked his chin. She glanced back to see the wall standing up and plucking a coat off the rack in the corner.
“That would be me,” the wall said as he shrugged on the wrinkled jacket and clapped the black coat on the back. “See ya ‘round, Carlisle.” She stuck close to Lupo as he shouldered his way toward the tables lit by the neon glow of the jukebox in the back. This was not what Emily had expected. Curly black hair, five o’clock shadow, broad as a truck without looking soft. Screw the whole Canidea family, this guy was a bear.
Lupo pulled out his badge and frowned down at a crowd of too-young kids holding up a table. “Police business, boys,” he intoned, mock stern. “Move it or lose it.” The kids scrambled to collect their backpacks and be off, but not before Lupo grabbed one’s ball cap and scrubbed his hand through the boy’s hair. “Go home, Sammy, and I won’t tell your mother you’ve had a run in with the police.” Sammy snatched his cap out of Lupo’s hand, grinned up at him, and vanished.
Luop must have caught Emily’s questioning look. He nodded after the boy. “Carlisle’s nephew. So how about a –”
Joey appeared at his elbow with a tray. “Here we are, courtesy of the ladies at the bar.” He set down two Blue Moons as Emily tried to figure out what ladies Joey was talking about. Carlisle was tailing little Sammy out of the bar, leaving the trench coats behind, one of whom appeared to be forcibly restraining the other from following. Then Emily noticed the wigs. They had to be wigs, there was simply no other explanation for it. One was long and red. Little Orphan Annie red. The other was a black, razor-cut bob. Both trench—women were wearing enormous bug-like sunglasses and staring after Carlisle. The fake red-head noticed Emily’s scrutiny and hunched over her drink with the bob cut close behind.
Lupo asked, “Friends of yours?”
Emily took a sip of her pint. “Never seen them before.” She was going to kill both of them for this. Slowly. Creatively. “How do you like the beer?” They talked about the pros and cons of imported beers until their chitchat fell into a rhythm. They covered most of the first date topics. Cyrus had a newly dead brother, had worked in the Middle East until six months ago, and was a Mets fan. Emily tried to steer the conversation towards baseball and away from terrorism and suicide.
When they’d finished their drinks, Lupo got up to buy the next round only to see Joey headed their way with another full tray. He shrugged as he set down the glasses and cleared the empties. “Guy from the front table sent ‘em. Said to look for a newbie cop and a blonde that’s too cute for him.” Emily blushed and Lupo rubbed at the back of his neck.
“Well, Carlisle got one part right,” he said as Joey bustled off. Emily stared at him until he smiled shyly and said, “I’ve been a cop for seven years.” Emily blushed hard and Lupo mercifully changed to subject to stories about his time as a rookie beat cop in the big bad city. She countered with tales of university marching band pranks and parties. Two rounds turned into three, and by the fourth Emily’s arm was comfortably butted up against Lupo’s and all was right with the world.
It was only when Joey was once again clearing their table that Emily realized neither of them had paid for a single drink all night. She checked the bar again out of the corner of her eye. The trenches were still parked on their stools. They’d lost the wigs, which lay on the floor like toy lapdogs with bad dye jobs. The sunglasses were still obscuring most of their faces, but judging by their drinks, Marisa’s neon green Appletini and Jess’s standard Tequila Sunrise, it was them alright. The surprise was that instead of Carlisle, someone else sat between her friends. A handsome, suave-looking black man with a close cut goatee was pointing Joey back over to their table, this time with two flutes of what looked like…
“Champagne?” asked Lupo, staring past Joey at the stranger with the girls.
Joey nodded. “From Mr. Green.”
Luop sighed. “Detective Green.”
Emily stopped staring daggers at the thumbs up her soon-to-be-deceased friends were flashing her. “Detective?”
Lupo had slumped down into his seat as Joey approached, like a guilty student trying to escape the teacher’s attention. “My partner.” A loud throat clearing came from the trio.
Emily glared at Joey, who looked far too amused to be of any help. “What?” she asked, annoyance and mild embarrassment struggling for dominance.
Joey smirked. “I’ve been instructed by the lovely ladies at the bar to inform you that this vintage pairs well with first date sex.” And embarrassment won out. By now, Lupo was all but puddle on the floor. He’d slouched so far into his coat, Emily could barely tell where the collar of the jacket ended and his hair started.
“Go for it, Em!” shouted Jess.
“No one does that anymore! It’s practically quaint!” added Marisa as Detective Green chortled into his Scotch. Emily snatched up her coat from where Joey dropped it for her and wondered how on Earth she was going to apologize to Lupo for this. She hadn’t planned any farther than ‘I’m so sorry’ when Lupo scooped up both glasses in one hand and tucked the other around Emily’s waist, smiling at their patrons.
“Ladies, Detective, thank you for an unexpected evening. And Joey.” He lifted the flutes as he guided Emily toward the door. “You’ll get your glassware back next time.”
Next time, thought Emily as she watched Lupo flag down a taxi with a glass of champagne. Next time, I’m wearing something slinky.