"What's wrong, Peter?" asked Elizabeth.
Her date groaned audibly. "I don't have my wallet," he admitted mortified. "Wait, maybe they'll take my IOU if I show them my identification." Peter reached for his FBI badge; his face a study in misery.
With shoulders shaking, his lovely companion put her head into her hands.
Now it was utter humiliation. Peter Burke had made Elizabeth Roth cry.
Elizabeth shook with renewed emotion. Hold on, he thought, she isn't crying she's laughing.
"This happened to me once," she remarked. "Don't worry. I have my charge card with me."
Elizabeth wiped at her eyes and reached across the table to hold his hand. "I've had a wonderful and remarkable evening tonight, Agent Burke. And you can repay me for the meal some other time."
The assistant manager and the federal agent smiled at each other across the table.
Peter sat back in his chair and braced himself for the waiter's insolent return.
There was a moment of silence in the apartment. Neal and Mozzie looked at each other.
"Ah….," Mozzie began but failed to complete his sentence. He had to choose his remarks carefully. After all the fed might have a concealed weapon.
Putting down his wine glass and looking pensive, Neal shifted to the edge of his chair. He hesitated to reveal his thoughts.
"Peter, are you telling us that on your first date with Elizabeth, you gave her a Hallmark pen and made her pay for the dinner?"
"Wait," interjected Neal's eccentric compatriot, "I want to get this straight first." He cocked his head and peered directly at the agent. "This is the same Elizabeth that I met at your house. This is the same Elizabeth that you married."
"That's right," replied Peter.
"Okay, just checking."
Neal let Peter off the hook. Leaning back in his chair and looking bemused he remarked, "Unusual emotional ploy for sympathy. Brave but dangerous technique."
Mozzie agreed, "This could be a Lifetime movie…"
After leaving the restaurant, Peter drove his date to a pier near the Hudson River. There was a favorite trail he often wandered when he needed time for personal reflection. He was anxious to show the area to Elizabeth. The couple strolled hand in hand along a scenic, well-lit pathway. The evening was remarkably warm and the stars were slightly visible in the night sky.
The granite-paved walkway allowed public access to the river. There were spectacular views of the water and a visible panorama of beautiful landscaping. The area was lined with stone walls, stunning gardens and strategically placed benches. Situated nearby was a flowing fountain that locals used for a meeting place.
"Elizabeth," Peter said softly, "tell me more about your plans to become an entrepreneur."
Elizabeth pulled the young man over to a park bench. They both sat down while she gathered her thoughts.
She hesitated to detail her future profession. In the past, her dates, work associates, and even friends had responded with skepticism or scant interest when she shared her aspirations.
"I am going to be a special event coordinator and create my own business catering to corporations," she proudly remarked. "Right now I'm getting experience with in-house events for the gallery. I've already run several fundraisers and receptions which were quite successful." Elizabeth laughed. "I'm networking and creating a small clientele."
"Peter," Elizabeth continued, "I know I have a long way to go in the field but first I plan to work part-time with an established event consulting firm. People will get to know me if I offer excellent service and creativity."
Brushing the hair out of her eyes, she enthusiastically exclaimed, "I've been taking night classes at City Tech in event planning and I'll have my certification soon. The program emphasizes organization and communication skills. It's been teaching me how to conduct research, create designs, select the right vendors, everything! The program even covers trends in the industry."
Elizabeth hesitated, "You see, I'm covering all the bases."
Peter motioned for her to continue.
"I know I can do it," Elizabeth asserted. "It'll just take time, perseverance and maybe a little luck. Some people work from home, at first, until they build up the capital to rent office space. I may try that."
"Don't you see how exciting the whole prospect will be?" she asked him. Elizabeth carefully observed Peter for his reaction. "What do you think?" Elizabeth's voice was anxious.
Peter's smile was understanding- -he recognized Elizabeth's passion. It was so reminiscent of his enthusiasm and fervor for the bureau. He felt a kinship with her zeal.
"I think you're amazing," he replied as he reached up and lightly stroked her cheek. Elizabeth smiled as she felt his warm touch. Peter had attentively listened to her whole speech.
"Don't give up on your passion," he counseled. "or limit your dream. I'm looking forward to seeing your name on some prominent firm in New York City."
Peter felt blessed as he gently kissed the woman with whom he was becoming enamored. He had finally met someone who made him want to become more intimate. Was this the woman who would share in his own aspirations and dreams? Was this the woman he would not only come to love but cherish?
Maybe tonight was the start of a new life…
Back at the apartment, Neal began to pick up the night's debris. He stacked the empty liquor bottles and threw away the trash.
He smiled as his glance traveled over to the sofa where a federal agent and an aloof rebel snored peacefully together. It had been quite the evening for disclosure.
Tomorrow would be soon enough to research the RMA theft. His boss would be hung over and quite apprehensive in the morning. Nervous about what he may have revealed, Peter Burke would probably be a bear to work with all day. Neal wasn't particularly bothered by the supposition.
He slowly turned off each individual light in his apartment.