Author's note: This was my first attempt at fanfic. It was actually my interpretation of what came next after the final paragraph of a TV tie-in novel "The Hit" written by Richard Deming. The main characters are the creation of Buddy Ruskin and the property of Spelling Entertainment. Inc. No infringement of copyrights is intended and no profit is to be made.
The heavy glass door that led out to the rear parking lot of Police headquarters swung open and Linc, Pete, and Julie descended the short cement staircase. They made their way across the parking lot, heading to their station wagon, which was parked approximately half the distance to the exit driveway at the rear of the lot. Walking three abreast, as usual, they came to the vehicle where they split up; Linc and Julie heading for the passenger side, Pete to the driver's. Linc opened the door for Julie and she slid in, followed by him as Pete climbed behind the wheel on the opposite side. He started the engine and backed out of the space, heading toward the exit driveway where he turned left and headed up the adjacent street. At the corner, he turned right and headed into the flow of traffic.
"Not bad," Linc said with a wide grin. "Three whole days off and with pay!"
"Yeah," Pete added. "Pretty cool, huh-especially for the captain."
"'For a job well done,'yet" Julie piped in. "I still can't believe that, considering his high standards and his tendency to criticize even our best efforts."
High praise indeed from Captain Greer for whom complements, let alone approval for successfully completed assignments, were few and far between. The stern Adam Greer was of the mindset that competent and swift solving of criminal cases were the bulwark of good police work and he expected nothing less from those who worked for him.
Linc, Julie and Pete were just beginning to savor their short vacation as they discussed the plans for the upcoming evening.
"Well, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth," Linc said dryly. "Three days off with pay is a reason to celebrate and I intend to take full advantage of his or the department's generosity."
"Starting tonight, huh," Pete said knowingly with a sly glance "Dinner with Adele Payton."
Linc glanced at Pete sharply then broke into a reluctant smile "You guessed it huh, buddy."
Pete grinned, "It's not hard to do, man. I've seen the girl and I've seen how you look when her name is mentioned. It ain't like trying to figure out Einstein's theory. Where are you planning to take her?"
"There's this soul food place down in Watts that I used to go to. Great food, and a friend runs it. Then after that I don't know, a movie maybe. It's not like I have to get up early for work the next day. None of us do," Linc replied. "Which reminds me," he added with a sly look of his own. "Where are you two going? " he asked, nodding at Julie, who up until then was quiet.
"Probably go out for pizza, then--" Julie started, breaking her silence but Pete cut her off.
"There's this place that an old prep school buddy of mine owns and runs off Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, " he said casually. Looking at Julie with a strange light in his eyes he added, "I was thinking considering that since we just finished working so hard, we could use a nice, quiet dinner. Pizza places are usually loud and crowded with kids, hardly a place to relax and unwind. Besides, you asked me to take you out so I figured you wouldn't mind if I took the liberty of choosing the place to take you."
Julie said a bit self-consciously. "I didn't mean for you to make any type of fuss. It's not like this is a first date for either of us. I mean it's not like we just met," she finished lamely.
Pete took his eyes off of the road for a moment to glance at her curiously. "Have you changed your mind? Don't you want to have dinner with me?" he asked in a mildly disappointed manner.
"Of course! It's just that you don't have to do anything special, that wasn't what I had in mind when I suggested you take me to dinner," Julie said defensively.
Mollified but slightly mystified by her attitude, Pete replied, "But you are special, Julie. Besides, wouldn't you like to go to a place where you can show off the new dress you said you bought when you went shopping last week."
"Yes, but-" she began but Pete spoke.
"It's settled then. Trust me, you'll really like this place. The food's great, the atmosphere is relaxing, and we won't have to yell at each other to make sure we're heard, " he said with finality.
Julie nodded meekly. Meanwhile, Linc who had been watching and listening to the exchange between his two friends and co-workers inwardly smiled. Lately he had been noticing a subtle change in the way Pete and Julie dealt with each other. Their friendship, always close, had become closer, more intimate. They seemed to spend more time together both on and off duty. As a matter of fact, Linc noticed when the three of them made plans to do something together and they either all met at Pete's or Julie's, one was usually found at the other's before he got there and vice versa. And when the undercover assignment the three of them worked on called for either of them to get close to members of the opposite sex who were germane to the case, both Pete and Julie exhibited mild to moderate jealousy. With all those coincidences happening more frequently, it was easy to see that something was developing between them. Linc was pleased because although they still dated other people, he knew that neither one was pursuing anyone else seriously and he always felt that they complemented each other. Although they came from vastly different backgrounds; Pete the son of a prominent millionaire businessman from Beverly Hills and Julie the illegitimate daughter of an ex-prostitute, both were deeply compassionate, empathic, sensitive, and caring people. He knew they both also wanted desperately to distance themselves from what they felt were the negative aspects of their roots.
Pete pulled the station wagon up to the driveway leading to Linc's apartment. He shifted the car to park and Linc extracted his long body from the front seat. He closed the door and leaned in the open window.
"And now for the evening festivities," he said airily. With a wink and a wicked grin he added, "Now don't you two do anything I wouldn't do."
Julie cocked an eyebrow at him, blushing. "And what is that supposed to mean?" she asked sharply while Pete shrugged his shoulders and looked innocent.
He said "Who us?" Then noticing Julie's blush he deftly changed the subject. "By the way how are you planning to get into Watts tonight when I'm taking the car?"
"No sweat, Adele's coming to get me, her brother's lending us his car. He insisted when he heard that we were going out tonight," Linc replied. "So go have a good time and don't worry about me."
"Okay," Pete answered. "Talk to you tomorrow." Linc turned and headed for his door. Pete shifted the station wagon into drive and pulled away. As he came to the stop sign at the corner, he glanced at Julie, noticing her discomfort and said solicitously, "You know, Julie, we don't have to go out tonight if you don't feel like it."
Becoming aware of his concern for her display of reluctance she reassured him. "Oh no Pete, I want to go out with you tonight. I just didn't want you to feel obligated to take me since I did put you on the spot."
Somewhat relieved Pete said convincingly, "Believe me, honey, outside of the job, I don't do anything that I don't want to. Nor do I feel obligated in anyway to participate in this evening. I'm just looking forward to spending the evening with a girl I don't have to impress or go through the hassle of trying to figure out if I'm compatible with her since," he finished with a fond smile, "that's already been established."
Julie returned his smile, "That's a very sweet thing to say."
Pete made a right turn and began the six mile trek to Julie's apartment. He grinned at her, "Why not? It happens to be the truth. Next to Linc, there isn't anyone else closer to me than you."
"Same here," Julie admitted. They exchanged smiles with each other and the small bit of tension that had been existing within the confines of the station wagon since they left headquarters finally eased. Deciding to get enthusiastic about the evening she asked Pete, "Who's this prep school buddy that owns this restaurant?"
Pete made a left turn. He explained, "It's not just a restaurant, it's a kind of club-restaurant combo. My buddy opened it about 11 months ago when he graduated from UCLA with a Master's degree in business administration. He did so well in school, his father gave him about 5 million in seed money to start his own business. He always wanted to open a place that was just the right spot to take a date that was like those basement blue light parties from high school. Soft background music, comfortable chairs, fireplace, and he even has a disc jockey who plays slow dance music from ten till about one thirty. Tom closes the place at two."
At the mention of that, the anxiety that had overwhelmed Julie before which had threatened what was sure to be a very pleasant evening tried to return but with determination, she squashed it. "You had basement parties in Beverly Hills?" Julie asked incredulously.
Pete laughed heartily at her surprised expression, "Sure we did. We weren't any different from any other sex-obsessed high school kids whose main goal in life was scoring with your girlfriend while your parents weren't around. Except instead of having the parties in the basement, they were held in pool houses, cabanas, atriums, solariums, or game rooms. And instead of parents sticking their heads in periodically through the evening, it was the servants, because the parents were usually out at the opera or at cocktail parties." This last comment was made with a twinge of bitterness.
Julie noticed the slight scowl that furrowed Pete's brow at the memory of his privileged but neglected childhood. Seeking to ease his bad humor, she asked, "What's your friend's name?
His expression softening, Pete answered, "Tom 'the Turk' Bradshaw. He was the best offensive guard on our varsity football team. He played on the strong side and opened up huge holes for me to run through. That year, because of the Turk, I was the highest scorer on the team"
"What position did you play?" she wanted to know.
"I was a halfback. I ran a four fifty five and my junior year we were All-City champs. I was able to score so much because of Tom. He blasted through defensive lines like he was shot from a cannon." Pete replied with a look of nostalgia on his face. He sighed, "Yeah, me and Tom were practically unstoppable."
"He sounds like he's a great guy. And it's cool that the two of you kept in touch after all these years," Julie said with a smile. "I take it that you've brought some of your dates to his place," she added archly.
"Actually I haven't," Pete rejoined matter-of-factly. "To be honest, I hadn't really gotten to a point with any of the chicks I've dated that has made me want to bring them there. You'll see what I mean when you see the place," he added with a mysterious twinkle in his eye.
They pulled up to the curb in front of the stairs that led to Julie's apartment.
Pete put the car in park, cut the engine and turned to face Julie. Consulting his watch he stated, "It's about four twenty five now. What do you say I come back to pick you up at eight?"
"Okay Pete," Julie agreed. "Eight sounds just right. Did you make reservations?"
"I don't have to. Tom told me when he opened the place that all I had to do if I came there was to ask for him and he would set my date and me up with a table. So we just go in and ask for Tom but I am going to call him to let him know we're coming."
"Okay," Julie said, opening the door to get out. Pete also opened his door in order to get out and walk her to the door, but Julie laid a gentle restraining hand on his arm. "That's not necessary, it's still daylight and I think I can get inside without incident," she assured him.
With a look of mild reluctance, he closed his door. "If you say so, honey, but I am still going to stay here and wait until you're in so you're just going to have to humor me. It's the cop in me," he added grinning.
"Suit yourself. I'll wave to let you know that all's well," Julie replied. "See you at eight." She got out, closed the car door and began ascending the stairs leading to her front door.
Pete sat back and afforded himself the view of Julie climbing up the stairs. He thoroughly enjoyed the sight of her gently rounded hips, barely concealed by the denim miniskirt she was wearing and her shapely legs, as she stepped lightly up the stairs. She got to the top and reached over to retrieve the daily mail from the mailbox, then using her key, opened the door of the apartment and stepped in. She turned and waved to let Pete know she was safely in and he waved back. He then started the station wagon and pulled slowly away.
The sunburst clock on the wall at Julie's apartment read six fifteen. Julie was sitting at her vanity, using a hand held dryer to dry her hair after taking a bath. She was stroking a natural bristled brush through the ash-blonde strands while holding the dryer away to ensure the hair would dry sufficiently without drying it out. The result was soft silky hair with a healthy sheen. The dress she was going to wear, that she splurged on was hanging on the bathroom door. It was a bra-less halter-top mini-dress with a cinched belt in petal pink chiffon. The skirt fell in soft pleats and the belt had a slim, silver buckle. It wasn't really a formal dress however, it could be used for that purpose but it definitely was an evening dress. Julie finished drying and brushing her hair, satisfied with its look and texture. Getting ready to apply makeup, she then carefully studied her visage in the mirror. To an objective observer, the reflection was one of understated, delicate beauty; even without the benefit of makeup but to Julie, who like most people who are overcritical of themselves, the image was a flawed one. The eyes were soft brown instead of preferred blue, the nose didn't turn up enough, and lips were too full. Julie shook her head disgustedly, wondering why she was carrying on like a high school sophomore going to the senior prom with the football captain. After all this was Pete, her friend and confidant Pete, who knew her about as well as anyone could. They've been working and hanging out together now for over two years, for goodness sake. So why the case of the jitters? Julie sat and frowned at herself in the mirror as she came up with the possible reason. Her friendship with Pete has been taking a deeper turn of late and even though she still tried to tell herself that there was no romance, the circumstances that existed between them proved that to be false or at least challenged. As she thought more about the situation it occurred to Julie that her feelings of ambivalence stemmed from her own feelings of inadequacy that were residual from her memories of her teens, when she was self conscious about her mother's occupation. The conversation with Pete in the car about his teen years, even though it centered on his friend Tom, had brought back painful memories she was trying to bury but which came to the surface when she least expected them to. Also, this date with Pete was reminding her how really different their backgrounds were. Working with him was one thing, but going out with him as his date outside of the job was another. It was common for the members of the Mod Squad to go out together socially, especially when they worked undercover, but this was the first time Linc wouldn't be with them or at least joining them later. Another factor was even though Pete had not lived in his parents' Beverly Hills mansion for some time now, he still carried a certain air of careless breeding so very prevalent with those born wealthy that admittedly sometimes put her ill at ease.
She thought back to those shame-filled days when everyone in the neighborhood knew who and what Connie Barnes was and the neighbors looked at Julie with revulsion and pity mixed. How the girls at school whispered and giggled when Julie walked down the hall and the boys leered at her or gazed at her speculatively, as if she were like her mother. For this reason she always felt an outcast, lonely and miserable. Julie was remembering how she spent all her time after school at the movies, wishing that her life were like the lives of the carefree teens portrayed on the screen. How she hated when the movie was over because that meant that she had to go back home and hear her mother entertaining her gentlemen friends. Sometimes, the men would try to approach Julie with their business cards, thinking that she was like her mother. She would react in an offended manner, sometimes running out of the house, even if the time was late. At those times, she wandered Market Street in San Francisco aimlessly, feeling lost and always alone. When she graduated high school, she sought escape by embracing the hippie lifestyle and spending all her time in the Haight-Ashbury section of town. She met a group of people who were heading down to L.A. so she saw her chance and went along. That was how she got in trouble with the police and met Captain Greer, who offered her a job as an undercover cop and subsequently introduced her to Linc Hayes and Pete Cochrane, who became her colleagues and her two best friends.
Julie was so intent in her reverie, she lost track of time. With a horrified gasp, she spied the time on the clock, which was at just ten minutes after seven. Pete was usually punctual, so she realized that she needed to hurry finishing dressing and applying her makeup. She reached over to where the dress was hanging, pulled it off the hanger and hurriedly put it on. She then sat down at the vanity again and began applying eye shadow, keeping one eye on the clock.
Meantime, Pete was at his apartment in his loft bedroom, putting on his white dress bucks, then he went to his dresser and opened a bottle of cologne. He splashed on the cologne frugally, because it really wasn't his style to overdo, but he applied more than he normally did because he definitely wanted to impress Julie, to show her a side of him she didn't usually see. He reached over to the bed and donned a navy blue dress jacket that was laid out there, putting a finishing touch to his dapper appearance. He went down to the bathroom and examined himself in the mirror closely. He was wearing an off white pair of dress slacks, a pale blue dress shirt, the top two buttons casually undone which revealed a strong neck and some of the wiry curls that covered his broad chest. He adjusted the collar of the shirt to rest on top of the lapels of the jacket in the style of the day and idly wondered if Julie would notice the care he took in getting dressed tonight. Pete also wondered if her uneasy attitude earlier was going to be the case tonight, and what it was that was making her so on edge. She had nothing to be afraid of, he thought, because in addition to being his date for the evening; she was one of his closest and best friends, second only to Linc. He fully intended to be a perfect gentleman as he always was with any girl he took out but Julie should know that in light of their exceptional closeness, with her, he would be especially so. So what was the problem? Pete pondered as he put his watch on. Startled as he noticed the time and realizing that he hadn't called Tom yet, he went over to the phone extension on his night table. He dialed the number.
The phone rang three times before Tom's voice answered, "Wisteria, may I help you?"
"Turk, man, how are you? " Pete said jovially.
"No way. Is this Peter the Flash, who I've been trying to get over here for the last eleven months?" Tom replied incredulously. "What's the matter, man, you finally learn how to use a telephone?" he added pseudo-sarcastically.
"Sorry, man I've been busy, " Pete apologized.
"Yeah, working for The Man can drain you. I still can't believe you're a cop," Tom said ironically. "Considering the way you used to bait the fuzz when we were kids with your wise guy mouth, and then stealing that car, I thought for sure you would've ended up at The Joint."
"Well, I almost did. How's the business doing?"
"Great, absolutely out of sight. This place is becoming the "in place" here in Beverly Hills, but it's not yet a celebrity hang out, thank God. I'm afraid when that happens, the tourists are going to take over the place," Tom replied. "Which reminds me, when are you going to bring your ugly mug in here?"
"That's the reason I'm calling, Turk. I'm planning to come tonight with a girl who happens to be very special. She's one of my best friends." Pete informed him.
"Best friend, huh? From the sound of your voice, it sounds like she's a bit more than that. Have you finally met "The Girl?" Tom questioned in a delighted manner.
"I don't know yet. But I do know this she's like nobody I have ever known. And I can talk to her about anything," Pete replied in a reverent tone, his thoughts on Julie.
"So what time are you planning on bringing her here?"
"Well, I'm picking her up at 8, so we should be there at about a quarter after or 8:30 at the latest" Pete speculated. "Is that going to be okay?"
"Sure. You remember what I told you when I opened this place. Just ask for me at the maitre d' stand. He'll come get me in my office," Tom stated.
"Okay. And Turk?"
"Try to behave yourself. This girl is strictly 'hands off' okay?" Pete warned.
"That hurts, Flash," Tom responded in a disappointed tone. "When have I ever bird-dogged you?"
"You want a list?" Pete asked sardonically.
"Hey pal, I couldn't help it, all the prettiest chicks always flocked around you, the touchdown king" Tom protested laughing, "But, all right, bud-hands off it is."
Pete checked his watch. It was about seven thirty and he suddenly realized there was a stop he wanted to make before he picked up Julie. "Listen Turk, I gotta split but I'll see you in about an hour."
"Okay Flash, see you then," Tom said as he hung up.
Pete rapidly descended the stairs from the loft and grabbed his car keys from his desk where he left them. He reached over to hit the light switch and left his apartment, closing the door firmly. He headed for the station wagon, got in it, started the engine and drove off. As he drove, Pete felt a sense of anticipation for the night; he was feeling more and more that this evening would be a beginning of sorts, for Julie and him. He knew that they were getting closer of late. When she saucily announced that she had no date that night and suggested he take her to dinner, he inwardly rejoiced, because the idea was there all along, he was just waiting for a right time to ask her to have dinner with him. He hoped that her uneasy attitude earlier was a momentary thing, because the last thing he wanted to do was push her; he wanted to move slowly with her, so she would relax with him. Pete could pick up her occasional nervousness when with him, and for the life of him he couldn't understand why she was so uncomfortable. The three of them, him, Linc, and Julie were almost inseparable, both on the job and off, usually hanging out together, talking and sharing into the wee hours on the weekends. But as close as they were, there were times that Pete could sense an almost imperceptible odd feeling from Julie, shown by her reticence at times. This didn't occur often but when it did, Julie would withdraw and wouldn't say anything, as if she felt out of place. This perplexed both him and Linc, so they would say or do something funny to make her laugh and feel at ease again. Pete knew that Julie's feelings came from the shame she still felt about her upbringing and at those times he wished with his whole heart that he could wipe out the pain from her past. Sometimes it seemed that she was so unaware of the exemplary person she was that she just would pull away. It was those times Pete yearned to tell her that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever known, both inside and out. Maybe tonight, if the opportunity presented itself, he would. Pete smiled, relishing the thought and hoping for the possibility.
The clock was showing the time to be seven fifty, and Julie was just finishing fastening the ankle straps on the sheer white sandals she decided to wear with the pink dress. She rose and walked to the full-length mirror on the bathroom door to inspect the finished product. The petal pink chiffon mini dress clung to her exceptional figure, soft pleats falling gracefully from her tiny waist, and the cinched belt made the picture complete. Her ash blonde hair, brushed to an almost silvery sheen, covered her bare back and her makeup subtly accentuated her pretty face. She nodded in a satisfied fashion and went back out to her vanity where she picked up the perfume to apply a dab behind her ears, and at her elbows. With a daring look, she dabbed perfume on her cleavage, revealed by the relatively deep neckline of her halter, thinking "Why not, this is a date isn't it?" She had just put the perfume down when there was a knock on her door. Startled, she glanced at the clock. It was exactly eight. As usual, Pete was on time. Julie scurried down the few stairs from her bedroom and with a final pat on her skirt went to open the door.
Julie greeted Pete with a welcoming smile "Hi Pete."
Pete returned the smile, "Hi, Julie." She motioned him to come in and his eyes widened appreciatively as he gazed upon her appearance. "Wow," he murmured in awe. "Do you mind if I say that you're breathtaking in that dress?"
Julie blushed and she smiled, pleased, "Thank you, kind sir. And you are quite dashing yourself."
He grinned at the compliment and then suddenly remembering something he said, "Before I forget," pulling his right hand from behind his back. "This is for you." He presented her with a perfectly flawless red rose bud; long stemmed, nestled in baby's breath and tied with a pink ribbon.
Julie gasped, totally surprised by his thoughtfulness. "It's just lovely, Pete. I'll have to put it right in some water so it can bloom. Do you mind?"
"No, go ahead," Pete replied. "I told Tom when I talked to him that we'd be there by eight thirty."
"Okay, it won't take long, I promise." Julie went into the kitchenette and started searching through the cabinets, looking for a vase. While she rooted around, Pete leaned against the counter separating the kitchenette from the living room watching her, his anticipation for the evening intensifying to eagerness. Julie found a fluted bud vase, filled it with warm water and put the rose and baby's breath in it. She set the vase on the counter and came up to Pete. Placing her hands lightly on his shoulders, she planted a butterfly kiss on his right cheek.
"Thank you so much, I love roses," she whispered, deeply touched.
"I knew you did. When I saw it, I knew that it was meant only for you," Pete replied huskily. His eyes glowing softly, he glanced at the clock. With a slightly disappointed sound he reminded her, "We'd better get moving, it's quarter past and I told Tom we'd be there by 8:30."
"Okay. I'll get my jacket." Julie went to the sofa and picked up her white silk jacket and her evening bag. Pete gently took her elbow and they went out, closing the door. They descended the stairs and walked over to the station wagon, where Pete opened the passenger side door for Julie to assist her into the car. He closed the car door and made his way around the front of the car to the driver's side and got in. He started the engine but before he pulled away he turned to Julie and asked, "Are you hungry?"
Julie shrugged her slender shoulders, "I'm getting there."
Pete turned the wheel to get into traffic. "Then you're in for a treat. Tom hired his chef from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and his place was rated four-star in the Sunday supplement in the Times," he stated matter-of-factly.
"You've really peaked my curiosity about this place, you ought to be their P.R. man" Julie rejoined. "And you say you've never been there," she added teasingly.
Pete grinned at her, "Not with a date, sweetheart. But just before he opened up, I went down to check it out and take it from me, the place is really something. He gutted out an old dance studio, put in a top-notch sound system, a stone fireplace, windows that reach to the ceiling, a spectacular kitchen, soft lighting. It's really a groovy place."
"Is it popular," Julie wanted to know.
"Not to the point that it's a tourist trap. But word is getting around and I'm sure it'll just be a matter of time," Pete replied with a sigh. "Then it will be a place that I will avoid because its purpose will have been defeated."
"Oh and what purpose is that?"
"To be a cozy and quiet place for couples to enjoy each other's company," Pete explained, "Outside of a private get together at someone's pad, most night clubs are noisy affairs where you can't even hear yourself think let alone someone else. Deep conversation is all but impossible."
"You're right. Most places I've gone to on a date are great if you just want to dance and have fun but it's quite difficult to get to know a person by talking. And they are usually way overcrowded," Julie said, wrinkling her pretty nose in distaste.
Pete chuckled genially, " Well, this place will probably be crowded too but it won't take away from the relaxing atmosphere. Believe me, if I know Tom, he's got the setup so perfectly laid out for just quiet conversation and slow dancing that the people who want the noise and action of a discotheque usually skip Tom's place altogether."
Pete entered Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills and drove down about 6 blocks. He then made a right turn down a side street and traveled about three quarters of the block until he came to a flat roofed white cinder block building with a long black awning street side leading to a dark glass façade. He turned right into a nearly full parking lot and found an empty parking place, right up against the building. The side had atrium like windows that covered three quarters of the length of the building. The other quarter, closest to the front had WISTERIA spelled across, in chrome bas-relief lettering, Art Deco style. The parking lot was well lit with large lighted poles and the cars parked in the lot were all late model expensive automobiles, indicating a very exclusive and well-to-do clientele. Julie tried not to be intimidated by the elegant appearance of the building or the cars parked in its lot, but she couldn't help being effected.
Pete turned off the car, cut the lights, and opened the door to get out. He rounded the rear of the station wagon, opened the passenger door and offered his hand to Julie to help her out of the car. Noticing her wide-eyed expression, he smiled indulgently, "If you think this is something, wait till you see the inside."
Holding her by the hand, he walked her over to the sidewalk, and then up the path under the awning to the door, where he opened the heavy glass door for her to proceed him.
When they got inside, Pete's declaration about the interior being superior to the exterior was proven correct. The foyer was covered in rich, dark walnut paneling, with wisteria vines creeping along the top and down the right side. On the left side, there was an oversized black velour couch, with lacquered end tables on each side. On each end table there was a tiffany styled lamp, the shades in blue and green stained glass, emitting soft light, giving an intimate, cozy feel to the surroundings. At the end of the foyer opposite the front door, there was a smoked glass lectern, with a brass reading lamp poised over the surface. Just past the maitre d' station the rest of the club appeared dimly lit and soft instrumental jazz wafted through the air. An open ledger was beneath the light, presumably for reservations and a black phone was located to the right of the ledger. A man about an inch shorter than Pete with average build but an aristocratic look was standing at the lectern. He smiled cordially at Pete and Julie.
"Good evening, sir, ma'am Welcome to Wisteria. Do you have a reservation?"
"Hello," Pete responded with a smile. "Not exactly. Is Mr. Bradshaw in?"
The man's smile faded slightly but he remained polite. "May I ask who it is who wishes to see him?"
"Just tell him it's Flash. He'll know who I am," Pete replied.
The man stepped from behind the lectern and went over about five feet to the left, where a door marked PRIVATE was located. He rapped lightly on the door, opened the door, stuck his head in for a moment, and closed the door. He strode over to where Pete and Julie stood. "He'll be right out. Please make yourselves comfortable." He indicated the black velour couch against the left wall of the foyer, then resumed his post at the lectern. Julie looked at Pete quizzically. He just shrugged and took her elbow to guide her to the couch where they sat to wait. About five minutes later, the door reopened and Tom "Turk" Bradshaw stepped out. He was a tall muscular man with sandy colored hair, dressed in a simple but expensive looking dark suit. He looked over to the couch were Pete and Julie sat, his handsome face breaking out into a delighted grin and he walked there with his arms outstretched. Pete got to his feet and was immediately engulfed in a bear hug by Tom who outweighed him by at least thirty pounds and who was about three inches taller. Julie observed the encounter with a mixture of astonishment and amusement. It was the first time she saw Pete act like a big kid, and it was touching to watch. The two men pulled apart and grinned delightedly at each other.
"Flash you dog, it's about time you came in here!" Tom bellowed good-naturedly. "You sure took your time getting your butt in here."
"I've been waiting for the right time, Turk, but you knew I'd be here sooner or later," Pete replied cheerfully. He looked around and said, "Man, it really does look great in here, like a party at a friend's."
"That's the idea, bud," Tom said with pride.
His eyes fell on Julie, who was still standing aside trying to take everything in. He gazed upon her with open admiration, and his pale blue eyes caressed her from top to bottom. Pete watched Tom's over enthusiastic attitude towards Julie and ever aware, especially when it came to Julie and her effect on men, put his arm about her waist possessively, sending a clear message. He eyed Tom with slight suspicion as he brought her forward to meet him.
"Turk, this is Julie Barnes, the girl I was telling you all about," Pete introduced in a friendly tone but with a slight look of warning in his eyes.
"So this is her, huh? Flash, man you always managed to find the most beautiful chicks, but this time, bud, you even outdid yourself. She's amazing, absolutely in-credible!" Tom said with awe. "Wow! No wonder you haven't been here, if I had a chick like this, I'd keep her under lock and key."
Julie smiled shyly. She held out her hand, "It's nice to meet you, Turk. Pete's told me all about you."
Tom took Julie's hand and held it in both of his in spite of the disapproving frown Pete shot at him. Tom replied, "The pleasure's all mine but you have it over me 'cause he didn't tell me much about you. But seeing you, I understand why."
Tom suddenly caught the dark look from Pete and reluctantly let go of Julie's hand. "Sorry pal, I lost my head," he said with a sheepish grin. He said to Julie, "Welcome to Wisteria, pretty lady. I hope you have a great time here 'cause you're with a great guy," he motioned to Pete who seemed to relax but remained a bit wary. "He's one of my oldest friends," he finished, glancing at Pete with a sincere look of apology for his behavior.
Tom went over to the maitre d' station and got two menus from the slots in the front of the lectern. He stepped toward the entrance to the main area. Pete took Julie's elbow and following Tom's lead went into the club. The club setup was unique in its resemblance to a spacious comfortable living room with thick wall-to-wall carpeting, a stone fireplace to the left, and large, wisteria covered windows to the right. In front of the fireplace, there were overstuffed love seats, placed strategically in a loose arc. A full bar with bartenders ran the length of the wall adjacent to the fireplace with several stools before it, all occupied. To the rear of the room, was the entrance and exit to the kitchen. The difference was in that to the exact right of the fireplace there was a highly polished dance floor of about 22' x 33'. Directly above the dance floor, a large ball hung, covered with tiny mirrors that caught the surrounding light and sent dots of reflected light shimmering across the room. A DJ's stand was located at the front of the dance floor, vacant but equipped with three turntables, a microphone, a soundboard, and the wall behind it had four shelves, stocked with LPs. Large speakers flanked the stand, suspended from the ceiling and two speakers were located at the back upper corners as well, encircling the room with soft music. At the bottom of the dance floor, there were three rows of tables for two, with fully stuffed chairs, where couples were at each table engaged in intimate conversation. The tables were covered with rich forest green linen and they all bore twin tapered candles and a bud vase with a red rose nestled in it. Tiffany shaded lights hung suspended above the tables in rows approximately five to six feet apart as well as over the bar and fireplace areas. However, at the far wall where the six windows that reached to the ceiling covered with wisteria vines were, there were tiffany shaded lights that dangled just above tables for two. These also with stuffed chairs, but the quality that set these seats apart as special was that each table was separated by smoked glass partitions with leafy designs etched on, creating a semi-closed off feeling of intimate privacy for each. The place was nearly full, with couples at each table, in the love seats, at the bar, and in the special tables by the windows, all except one. Tom led Pete and Julie behind the tables around the dance floor to the partitioned areas and guided them to the empty one closest to the DJ stand. Tom placed a menu on the table in front of each chair and then gallantly held Julie's chair for her to sit in. Pete went over to the opposite chair and seated himself with a side glance at Tom, whose attitude now was politely solicitous as the owner of the establishment.
"I'll send a waiter right over to get your orders. Have a great time." Tom said warmly. He looked at Pete with a conciliatory expression. "No hard feelings, Flash," he asked hopefully, offering his hand.
Pete grudgingly grinned and shook his hand, "No hard feelings, Turk."
"You're a lucky man, Flash," Tom said longingly. He looked at Julie once more and then turned back into the dim club to head back to his office.
Julie watched him as he left. With a look of consternation she asked, "Pete, why were you so suspicious towards him? I thought he was your buddy."
Pete answered, "He is. It's just a thing with us. He always tried to steal my girlfriends in school and even succeeded several times. It's a like a competition between us because the girls always came to me first and then he'd turn on the charm and they'd go to him. He's always been an extrovert with girls, whereas I'm more of an introvert."
"Were you afraid I'd succumb to his obvious charm and ditch you tonight," she chided.
"Not really." Pete grinned sheepishly. "But old habits die hard." "Besides," he added engagingly, "The way you look tonight, I can't blame the guy. Am I forgiven?"
"You are. By the way, what's this 'Flash' business?" Julie asked curiously
"That was my nickname on the football team. Turk would open the holes, the quarterback would hand me the ball, and I'd be gone 'in a flash', hence the name 'Flash,' Pete explained. "But I haven't gone by that name since prep school."
Julie grinned wickedly, "I wonder what Linc and the captain would think if they heard you called 'Flash."
Pete eyed her warningly. "They won't unless a little bird tells them. You won't tell them, will you, little bird?" he cautioned.
"Don't worry, Flash, your secret's safe with me," she winked conspiratorially, crossing her heart. "I promise." In a serious tone she said, "I feel the same way about my past. I don't want my rotten past to interfere with my promising present and when someone or something reminds me of it, I kind of return to there, if only for a moment," she added with a sigh.
"Is that why you seem to act like you still don't belong at times," Pete asked kindly.
Julie nodded glumly.
"Listen angel, the fact is that all of us have had it rough, one way or another," he said encouragingly. "For me it was my parents' disinterest in anything I did, unless I got in trouble. I was more of an inconvenience to them; an unpleasant interrupter of their busy social and professional lives. I mean, Julie, they didn't even bother to attend any of my varsity football games when I was the top scorer in the city. And when I turned 16, they went out and bought me a 6,000 Jag but didn't have the time or care to teach me to drive it, instead they sent me to a driving school to learn. I know that compared to the hell you went through with your mom, that doesn't sound like a bad life, but believe me, it hurt just as much, and made me feel as unwanted as you did," he finished sullenly.
Julie noted the shadow that had crossed Pete's eyes as he shared some of the pain he had felt and suddenly she was filled with the desire to make the cloud that had descended over them to disappear. She reached across the table and took one of his hands in both of hers. "I'm sorry to have put such a damper on this lovely evening you've taken such pains to plan. Why don't we change the subject?"
Pete smiled tenderly at her. "It's my fault too, sweetheart, I started out trying to encourage you and it turned into another tirade filled with self pity. So let's make a pact, that for the rest of the evening, we won't say or do anything to make ourselves or each other sad," he said decisively.
"Agreed," Julie said, "Let's order, I'm starving."
Pete called a waiter over and they made their selections. Julie ordered a Seafood Alfredo, a tossed salad with a light vinaigrette, and a glass of chilled white wine. Pete ordered a sirloin steak, baked potato, a tossed green salad with house dressing and a draft beer. While they waited for their order to arrive, they chatted about various things, making small talk about the soft music, the clientele, the cozy surroundings, the way two close friends talk. The sadness of before was gone and the secluded area that their table was located added to the feeling of intimacy that was growing between them. Occasionally, their hands would reach across the table and interlock in an affectionate manner, as they sought the comfort of each other's company. And it felt so easy, so natural, as if it was always meant to be. Pete found himself mesmerized by Julie, her voice, her eyes, everything causing his senses to reel as he lost all awareness of everything but her. And Julie in turn felt his rapt attention acutely making her feel more intensely feminine, like she were the only woman in the room. They had both insisted to themselves, prior to this evening, that there was no romantic feeling between them, but that was not true tonight, for they were both just beginning to realize the depth of the feelings that existed between them.
The food arrived, shaking both Pete and Julie out of their trances and back to reality. As they ate their meal, the closeness they were jointly feeling created a relaxation, as if they were all alone in the place, with no crowd milling about. They both possessed an ease with each other that created a pleasant camaraderie, and they were enjoying themselves immensely. As they finished their dinner, the conversation drifted in a more personal direction.
"Pete," Julie began.
"Uh huh," he responded with an inquiring look.
"Why is it that you've never brought any of your dates here? I mean weren't there any girls that you wanted to get to know more and let them get to know you?" she wanted to know.
"I suppose there were, but to be honest with you, I just didn't feel as comfortable with them. Not the way I've felt here, tonight with you," he replied, his eyes penetrating, glowing with a special light.
Julie pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes self-consciously. Boldly, she went on, "And what way is that?"
Pete leaned back in his chair, his eyes never leaving her face nor losing their intent, warm regard. "That there isn't any place else I would rather be. Or anyone else I'd rather be with," he finished, gently running his fingertips on the top of her hand. "Truthfully, Julie, you're like no other girl I've ever known. There's no pretense with you, no act, and I don't have to put on an act with you. Most of the other girls were, spoiled, pampered princesses, or if not that, game players who always had ulterior motives. But, you are totally unspoiled, unpretentious, and straightforward, besides being very beautiful. Don't you have any idea what an exceptional person you are?" he inquired with his penetrating gaze.
Julie lowered her eyes, unable to meet his steady ones. She also lowered her head slightly, as if afraid to answer his question or affirm his statements.
Pete reached over and took her chin in his fingers to raise her head so he could make direct eye contact. "Well, let me tell you. You feel and care for others even when they're in the wrong. You give willingly of yourself without holding back, even to the point of being sacrificial. The beauty that you are goes far deeper then your lovely face and figure. It's a beauty that radiates from a genuine, good heart. I know because I've been privileged to see it and even more privileged to experience it. It honors me to have you as an important part of my life," he declared earnestly, meaning every word.
Julie was silent for a moment. Then she barely whispered, "You make me want to cry, Pete."
He chuckled, "Wait a minute, I thought we made a pact not to make each other sad tonight. I just wanted you to know how others and I see you. Whatever pain you experienced in the past has made you a better person, angel, and those of us who are fortunate enough to have been touched by that person are better people ourselves because of you."
Julie smiled at him tremulously, unshed tears causing her eyes to glisten. "You're quite an exceptional person yourself, Pete. You are compassionate, caring and loyal. You stand up for your principles in an uncompromising way. And you're committed to helping others less fortunate. You seldom find anyone else, who was brought up with the advantages you had to be that way," she finished with alacrity.
She was about to say more when the conversation was interrupted by the screech of feedback through the enormous speakers above the DJ stand. Startled by the noise, both Julie and Pete glanced at the area and the stand was no longer vacant. A tall, lean black man in an iridescent dark blue shirt and close cropped Afro was there, selecting several LPs and adjusting the buttons on the soundboard. He pulled the microphone to his mouth.
"Sorry about that, folks, but momentarily you will be surrounded by the sounds of sweet, sexy, soul. And the music will move and groove y'all. So sit tight and soon you will experience true delight," he purred in a deep resonant voice.
A scattering of applause from the audience followed as soft jazz resumed playing through the speakers. Julie turned her attention back to Pete.
"What's that all about?" she wanted to know.
"You'll see," Pete said knowingly, his eyes twinkling.
As if on cue, the dance floor lit up with blue stage lights, shining down from the ceiling and the large mirrored ball began slowly rotating, showering the audience with a blizzard of light. The deejay's rich sultry baritone filled the room. "Welcome to Wisteria, folks, hope you're all having a great time. I'm Tony Jones, TJ your DJ spinning the wax to make you relax, the tunes to make you swoon, and the sounds to make your heart pound. So c'mon to the dance floor with your main squeeze and dig the music, if you'll please." He started one of the turntables and the song "Are You Ready" filled the room. The dance floor was suddenly filling up with couples coming in from the dark corners of the club.
Pete got to his feet and came over to Julie. "Dance with me?" he asked softly, offering his hand.
Julie nodded and placing her hand in his followed him to the dance floor. He put his arms about her, setting his hands on her waist, and she in turn encircled his neck with her slim arms as they gently swayed in time to the music. Their heads were side-by-side as they were immersed in the soft, slow paced sounds, conversation forgotten as they just savored the nearness of each other. Each lost in their own reverie, yet moving in tender unison, they were totally attuned to each other, like a singular unit. Julie closed her eyes, totally engrossed by the feel of Pete's strong arms, holding her close and his hands, caressing as he led her with sure but light steps. She could feel the curls on his chest against the skin on hers, revealed by her halter. Meantime, Pete was enjoying the feeling of the feathery ends of her hair brushing against his hands as they held on to her slender waist. He was so taken with the exquisite feel of her in his arms, his mind locked out everything but her; the scent of her perfume, the gossamer touch of her fingers, running through the unruly curls on the nape of his neck, the silken surface of her back.
Song after song drifted though the air, creating a scene of intimacy. As crowded as the dance floor was, the couples were so into each other, that they failed to notice anything but themselves. Pete and Julie were no different, completely oblivious to anyone or anything but each other. The Delfonics' "La, La Means I Love You " came on over the speakers and Julie allowed herself to be swept by the atmosphere of romance. She was no longer shy with Pete, trusting him completely, made secure by the way he danced with her, not pushing for more, or becoming aggressive as some of the men she dated did. They usually would try to put her in compromising situations, spoiling the evening. But not Pete, by the way he was holding her, was treating her as if she were something special and he appeared to be totally satisfied with just dancing and holding his cheek close to hers. Julie found herself wondering if he was this sweet and attentive with the other girls he had dated, and a tiny twinge of envy tickled at her stomach. She reproached herself silently, saying that it didn't matter if he had been, he was here with her tonight and that's all that mattered. She began to think about their working together and how they would be after tonight; obviously things at work weren't going to be the same. Captain Greer never dictated how she, Pete, and Linc should spend their free time or how they conducted their private lives but she pondered how he would accept it if she and Pete actually began a romantic relationship. He probably would say nothing, unless it interfered with their undercover police work.
While Julie was mulling over these thoughts, Pete was thinking in a similar vein, but his feelings were that he and Julie could handle the changes brought about by anything that was beginning between them. He knew that he wanted this closeness between the two of them to continue and grow, and that they would be professional enough in their roles at work to continue to be effective. It might even be easier, he reasoned to himself, because he admittedly felt jealousy whenever her undercover role called for her to get close to a potential suspect or someone else involved in the case and explaining those feelings was tough. He also knew that Julie's reaction when he had to get close to some attractive female in a case was a carbon copy, by the cool way she would treat him; the slightly disapproving looks she'd shoot at him periodically from her eyes. He admitted that he secretly enjoyed her envious behavior, and when alone wondered if it was because she had personal feelings about him that went beyond friendship. Now all of that was rapidly becoming a moot point, especially in lieu of the way they were acting toward each other tonight. Pete concluded beyond a shadow of any doubt in his mind, that he wanted Julie to be more than just his close friend. And the soft pliancy he felt as she leaned against him ever so lightly as they danced plainly showed him she returned that feeling and therefore solidified his decision.
They had no idea that so much time had past and the music ended for the dance floor emptied. Except Pete and Julie, who were still gently swaying in each other's arms. Julie suddenly realized that they were all alone on the deserted dance floor and she drew her head back to tell Pete.
"Pete," she began.
"Uh huh," he answered in a faraway voice.
"The music's stopped," she informed him
"Huh?" he asked, becoming more aware.
"The music's stopped," Julie said with a giggle.
"Oh yeah," he admitted sheepishly, suddenly noticing. "My mind was on something else. Sorry."
"It must be something," Julie remarked.
"What must be?" Pete inquired curiously.
"That place you were during the dance. Do me a favor, next time take me with you," she requested coyly.
Pete grinned lazily at her. "You're already there, angel. Believe me."
He took her elbow and guided her back to their table, held her chair for her to sit in and gently brushed his hands against her shoulders. She smiled sweetly at him, and when he sat back down she leaned forward.
"Thank you so much," she whispered gratefully.
"For what, honey?" he wanted to know
"For this," she indicated with a sweep of her hand to the surroundings. "For tonight, for the rose, for everything," she replied softly. "But mostly, for making me feel special."
Pete smiled affectionately at her. "I told you before, Julie, that you are special. Now you need to believe it yourself."
Julie reached over and squeezed his hand. "I really think I can, thanks to you. You're a remarkable man, Pete Cochrane," she said, her eyes glowing.
"And you are an extraordinary woman, Julie Barnes," he responded with a warm gaze of his own. He noticed that the crowd had thinned considerably and he looked at his watch. "It's after one thirty," he stated with a bit of regret. "I don't want this to end but it is getting late."
"Funny, but I'm not the least bit tired," Julie said.
"Neither am I but I know that Tom closes the place at two so we're going to have to split," Pete said reluctantly. "But we'll come back again soon, I promise."
He rose, reached for his wallet and placed several bills on the table. He came over to Julie's chair to help her with her jacket
"I wonder how Linc's evening with Adele went," Julie inquired as she stepped around the table to take Pete's offered hand.
"I don't know but if it went a fraction as well as mine did, he must be on top of the world. I know 'cause I am," Pete responded, squeezing Julie's hand.
"Let's go, okay, sweetheart?"
They made their way across the nearly empty club to the foyer. Tom was at the maitre d' station, going through the evening's receipts. He raised his head when Pete and Julie approached and grinned at them.
"Hi, guys. Have a good time tonight?" He wanted to know, his eyes twinkling knowingly.
Pete smiled easily, "Great, Turk, just terrific."
"I know. I saw you two on the dance floor. I thought I was going to have to turn a hose on you." He laughed heartily as Pete gave him a pained look and Julie blushed. "It's no big deal, people do that all the time. That's why I opened this place, so people can enjoy each other," he finished cheerfully.
"We had a lovely time, Turk," Julie said graciously. "Thank you for everything."
"You are very welcome, pretty Julie," he responded warmly. "I hope I see you in here again, soon."
"Don't worry Turk, we'll be back," Pete promised.
"Yeah, well I hope it won't be another eleven months before I see you again, Flash," Tom said shaking hands with Pete and clapping him on the shoulder.
"It won't be. I made a promise and I don't intend to break it." He gazed at Julie tenderly, and catching his eye, she smiled shyly.
"Bye, bye, then and be good," Tom said smiling, seeing their obvious feelings broadcast in their body language.
As they walked to the door, Pete and Julie's closeness was evident in the way he rested his hand on the small of her back as he opened the door for her. He slid his hand up to just about her shoulder as they walked into the nearly deserted parking lot.
They got to the station wagon and got in to drive home. As they cruised along the empty streets, heading toward Julie's apartment; conversation again was at a premium, because they appeared sated by the pleasant events of a most enjoyable evening. Pete had turned soft music on the radio, then reached over to take Julie's hand in his, squeezing it ever so gently. She slid over to sit closer to him, and he released her hand and put his right arm on the back of the car seat, resting his hand lightly on her shoulder. Outside, the nearly full moon in a clear sky sent its light dancing playfully on them as it shone through the windshield. They stayed in that cozy position until he pulled up to the curb in front of her apartment. Pete got out first, walked around the front of the car, and opened the passenger door. He offered his hand to Julie and helped her out of the car. Still holding Julie's hand, he led her to the foot of the stairs, and they began the short climb to her door where he halted and turned towards her.
"It's really a beautiful night," he commented, casting his eyes skyward. "You can even see some stars, in spite of the famous Los Angeles smog."
"Yes," she breathed. She retrieved her key from her evening bag and brought it toward the door. "Would you like to come in for coffee?" she added invitingly as she opened the door..
"I'm tempted, honey, but I think I'd better go," Pete replied regrettably. "Because feeling the way I'm feeling right now, I'm really not in the mood to just drink coffee and talk. If I spend any more time being close with you, I'm not going to ever leave. And I don't think we're quite ready for that," he added meaningfully, the implication of the definite probability of carrying their relationship to a more physically intimate one clear. "Not to say that I don't want it to happen, because believe me, when the time is right, I do."
"I guess you're right, " Julie said with a slight pout. "It certainly appears to be heading in that direction. No sense in pushing things too fast, 'cause that could complicate things. It's just that the evening has been so lovely, I'm hate to see it end."
"I do too," Pete replied. "But in the tradition of all good things, this night, as well has to end. So good night, angel."
He reached and gently took Julie's face in his hands as he brought his lips to hers in a tender good night kiss. She responded by wrapping her arms up and around his chest as she kissed him back, pressing herself against him. Passion began to build within both of them, and threatened to override their honorable intentions but mutual care and respect for each other made them draw apart, albeit reluctantly.
"I'll call you tomorrow," Pete said softly. "So sweet dreams."
"Good night, Pete," Julie replied softly. "And sweet dreams to you too."
Pete turned and descended the stairs. Julie stepped into her apartment and turned on the lamp near the door. She walked over to the counter where Pete's rose had begun to open and she breathed deeply its delicate fragrance. It was a metaphor for the evening itself, for she and Pete opened to each other this night and breathed of each other's fragrance. And as the rose held its promise, so did the evening. Julie smiled at the thought of what was to come. .