Rick and A.J. kept their distance from Mrs. Crenshaw and Mrs. Cohen as the widows together scattered the ashes of Rochel and Ira Cohen over the water of New York Harbor from the edge of Battery Park. Charles Van Dusky was also present, standing a few steps behind the ladies.
It was Mrs. Crenshaw who had suggested they bring Ira and Rochel together in this solemn ceremony, and Mrs. Cohen had picked the place. The brothers could see why Ira and Rochel Cohen had loved it here. You could catch a ferry to Ellis or Liberty Island, and if you felt like it, you could just sit back on a bench on the waterfront to watch the world go by.
"Wonder what Mrs. C's saying." Rick whispered.
"That she's happy Ira and Rochel are united once again and for good," speculated A.J.
"I never knew she had a soft side like this."
Mrs. Crenshaw had told the brothers she had purchased a plot next to her first husband's grave years before, and that Ira Cohen's heart had never belonged to her.
"What?" asked Rick when he noticed A.J. was looking at him with a peculiar expression on his face.
"Rick, until a couple of months ago, she only knew you as a fifth-grade hellion that would strike terror in her heart. The last thing she wanted in her classroom was to show you her soft side."
The two elderly women stood side by side, gazing beyond the sea in silence, their arms wrapped around each other. Van Dusky with his head bowed appeared to be saying a prayer.
After the short but touching ceremony, they walked back slowly to the bench that Rick and A.J. were occupying.
"Thank you again for inviting me and letting me say 'good-bye' to my old friend," Van Dusky told the widows.
He bade them farewell after praising the Simon brothers yet again for a job well done. Rick and A.J. took the urns from the ladies to carry for them getting ready to leave as well.
"It was a lovely ceremony, Martha," commented Mrs. Cohen. "I'm glad you've come up with the idea."
"So am I," said Mrs. Crenshaw. "But maybe it would have been even better if I'd read a poem…"
As they walked abreast, A.J. recited softly,
"Thou unknown hero sleeping by the sea
"In thy forgotten grave."
Mrs. Crenshaw cocked her head pondering. "Keats?"
"I think we dream so we don't have to be apart so long," Rick began to quote.
"What a lovely thought," commented Mrs. Cohen. "Who said that?"
"Hobbes in Calvin and Hobbes."
"Oh, Rick! Martha's right—you're an incorrigible kidder!" Mrs. Cohen could not help giggling.
"Regrettably, he's not kidding, Mrs. Cohen," said A.J. with a sigh. "He thinks Calvinism is a collection of quotes from Calvin and Hobbes."
They left the park to catch a cab back to their hotel. Despite the Simons', as well as Mrs. Cohen's, objection, Mrs. Crenshaw had booked their rooms at the Waldorf-Astoria. Its opulence was overwhelming and a bit daunting.
It was past four o'clock, and the afternoon was coming to a close. The brothers escorted the ladies to their room. They assumed the widows would like to take a nap or relax before dinner and tried to leave quickly, but Mrs. Crenshaw stopped them.
"Wait! I've got something for you two." She went to her bedside to pick up a large shopping bag.
"This is for you." She offered the bag to A.J. "I'm sorry, I didn't have time to have them wrapped."
Inside the bag were a huge stack of records and several books.
"I know you like books, and Mrs. Simon and Janet told me you're a music lover."
One of the books was wrapped carefully. A.J. took it out of the bag and began unwrapping. When he opened the book and took a look inside, he gasped and looked up sharply. "I can't take this, Mrs. Crenshaw!"
"Of course, you can."
"But this is James Joyce first edition!" His hands that held Ulysses first edition, first impression shook with excitement.
"Books are to be read, dear. I'd rather buy it for you than let some investor who doesn't like reading have it."
"Thank you, Mrs. Crenshaw. Thank you!" A.J. said hoarsely and—to his brother's horror—kissed her on the cheek, something Rick would never ever do, at least in front of someone he knew. He had the reputation to maintain.
A.J. carefully rewrapped his newly acquired treasure, placed back in the shopping bag and took out the vinyl records. They ranged from doo-wop to the Beach Boys, bebop to classical music to suit his eclectic taste in music.
He stopped going through the records when his eyes fell on one of the composition titles: Le roi malgré lui by Emmanuel Chabrier. A smile started to form on his lips.
"Oh, this is just perfect!"
Rick and Mrs. Crenshaw were puzzled when A.J.'s chuckle progressed into laughter.
"I guess he really likes what you got for him, Mrs. Crenshaw."
She nodded and said, "I'm glad to hear that. And like I said, I have something for you too."
"No, that's okay. You've done enough for me already." Rick said shaking his head.
Mrs. Crenshaw had 'loaned' her accountant to him to prepare and attend the IRS audit with him. Thanks to their assistance, he had come out of the dreaded audit with only a slap on the wrist.
"Oh, don't worry, Rick. This didn't cost me a penny." She reached down into her coat pocket and produced sheets of paper. "I've been meaning to give this to you ever since I learned that you work as an investigator."
"Do you recall that, at the end of school year, I asked my students to write an essay on their dream occupations?"
"May I have a look?" asked A.J. already reaching for it.
"No!" Rick snatched the essay from Mrs. Crenshaw's hand.
She smiled at Rick. "I'm so happy that your dream has come true, and the world is a better place because of it."
After a few more minutes of chatting, they agreed to have dinner together around seven, and Rick and A.J. took their leave.
When they reached their room on the same floor, A.J. unlocked the door and went in first. Rick followed and turned around to lock the door again.
"'When I grow up, I want to be a police officer or a private detective,' spelled D-E-T-E-C-T-A-V-E." Rick heard A.J. recite chuckling.
He whipped around on his heels, his hand on the jacket pocket. It was empty, and the essay Mrs. Crenshaw had given him was now in his brother's hand.
"Why, you little sneaky…" He went after him.
Rick reached out to get his brother, but he ducked, so in order to end this aggravation once and for all, he tackled him. They tumbled down on one of the beds. Although he was pinned down, A.J. was still laughing. Rick snatched the essay back from his brother and was ready to smack him.
"All right, all right! I'm sorry that I behaved the way I did. I truly am!" A.J. managed to say through giggles.
"You should be."
"I knew spending too much time with you would eventually rub off on me."
"That's the worst apology I've ever heard." Rick huffed, got off the bed, and sat down on the other one.
After a beat, A.J. asked, "So, what made you decide you wanted to be a private detective?"
Rick didn't answer. To show his brother he was shutting him out, he turned on the TV set.
"I'll find a way to get that information. I'm a detective," said A.J. sitting up.
"So am I," said Rick gruffly. "I know how to guard it."
"Or, I'll pester you till you beg me to have it."
Rick's face remained expressionless. He kept flipping the TV channels.
"Or, I'll ask Mrs. Crenshaw…"
"Don't you dare!" Rick threw A.J. a menacing glare tinged with panic. "That's blackmail!"
"Is it?" said A.J. with feigned innocence. Of course he knew Mrs. Crenshaw could recall not only what Rick had written in the essay but also a number of his indiscretions that even their mother didn't know about.
Rick muttered begrudgingly. A.J. smiled sensing a white flag going up.
Rick absent-mindedly picked up the essay he had written in fifth grade as if to jog his memory. "I thought about becoming a detective 'cause I solved my first missing persons case at a very young age."
"Really? Who went missing?"
Rick nodded his head. "Yup. You were not even two, and I must've been in second grade. One night, Mom and Dad went out for dinner and left us in a sitter's charge."
"Anybody I know?"
"I remember only her first name: Kelly. Or maybe Kelsey. Anyway, after supper and a bath, I was watching TV in my jammies, you were cuddling with her already half asleep, so she thought it was okay to let her guard down and called her boyfriend laying you down on the couch."
"And I disappeared?"
"Without a trace, poof, gone," confirmed Rick. "You were already sneaky when you were still in diapers."
"Where'd you find me?"
"If you shut up and stop interrupting me, I'll tell you." Rick sighed. "Naturally, Kelly flipped out. She opened every door, closet, cabinet, screaming your name at the top of her lungs. She searched every nook and cranny several times over. Still nothing."
Rick paused a few second to tease A.J. with suspense.
"She was bawling by then, ready to call the cops to report you missing, but I told her not to."
"One of the reasons was, all the doors were closed, and you were too little to open them, so I knew you were still somewhere inside. I also knew you liked snuggling and being tucked in when you were sleeping. You had tendencies to burrow under the covers. But you weren't in your bed, or anybody else's for that matter."
"And I wasn't in one of the closets either?"
"Nope." Rick grinned at his captive audience. "Remember our old house? And the laundry room's door never closed all the way?"
He could see A.J. had just had a light bulb moment and hurriedly told the rest of the story. "So I went there though Kelly swore you weren't there. But of course, I was right. I saw a tuft of hair sticking out of a pile of dirty clothes Mom had brought down from my room that afternoon."
"I was sleeping in a pile of dirty clothes?" A.J. said in disbelief. "Your dirty clothes?"
"I'm tellin' ya, it's all true."
"What did Kelly say? Did you get a treat or reward for it?"
"I was bribed not to tell Mom and Dad about what'd happened that night. In a way, it was my first paid case."
"How much did you get?"
"A dollar? A whole, American dollar?" A.J. asked sarcastically.
"Seemed like a lot of money back then." Rick sighed. "I spent every penny of it at a general store very next day though. I…"
A.J. shushed him when a news report on TV caught his attention. The anchorman was succinctly describing the genesis of the case Ira Cohen had been involved in.
Rick was also all ears, anxiously waiting to hear the latest.
"The jury selection for Salvatore DelVecchio case began today here in New York. This cold case has been placed on the fast-track after crucial evidence turned up mysteriously…"
"Yes!" Rick pumped his fist in the air.
He caught A.J. looking at him, smiling like a kid on his birthday. He smiled back. Why the heck not? He himself was feeling pretty darn good too.