“I got a job offer.”
Vera having brokered the deal, Andrew found himself making nice in a fancy restaurant for the obligatory dinner celebrating Jesse’s culmination. He’d been introduced to and seated across from Jesse’s date, Angela. He was contemplating her neon red miniskirt with matching tube top, one inch nails and lip gloss, as she sat beside Jesse, who was looking at Vera, but very much speaking to Andrew.
“I didn’t realize that you had interviewed,” Andrew said, nor applied he thought. “Tell us about it.”
“The California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement wants me as a Special Agent.” Jesse glared at Andrew.
“Impressive,” Andrew chose the diplomatic route, ignoring the invitation to confront his son or doubt his veracity. “That sounds quite unusual, a state investigation agency hiring directly from a local academy.” Andrew turned to Angela and tried to control the tension by including her in the exchange. “How is your pasta?”
“Delicious thank you. I just love shrimp.”
Seated in a mahogany booth behind red velvet drapes, the foursome was elevated above the main dining room. Andrew loved the privacy afforded by the layout almost as much as the food at Hamilton’s, which featured steak. As the odor of garlic emanating from her plate made his eyes begin to water, Andrew’s doubts about Angela grew with each passing minute.
“I guess it would,” Jesse continued, ignoring the culinary review. “You know how LAPD runs that undercover program in the L.A. Unified School District?”
“I did when I worked there,” Andrew replied modestly, having once supervised it and personally run the training program for field officers.
“Well it has done so well they want to do something like it at State College.”
“Who are they?”
“The Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Team. It’s a task force,” he added, presumably for the women at the table.
Andrew let out a slow whistle. Vera smiled at first, then her face went blank when Andrew did’t speak. Andrew realized that being at State College, the largest public university, as well as the closest to South Hills, a private institution, meant that Jesse would be nearby. He wondered if he was the only one capable of understanding the danger involved.
“Let me be clear, Jesse. You are going undercover as a NARC on a campus with over 40,000 students, within walking distance from South Hills?”
“Is there a problem?”
“South Hills, where you just finished the police academy, where you went to high school, where Angela and God knows how many people know you…”
“Hey, hold up.”
“…Where any number of them know who I am.”
“What’s that have to do with me?”
“Andrew,” Vera tried, putting a hand on his arm.
“Jesse,” she added, looking very flustered.
“So I guess you didn’t calculate the likelihood that your cover could be blown with such a high probability of being recognized?”
Jesse looked at Vera, then Angela. He could only have seen what looked like obvious concern from both. He turned toward Andrew but his eyes were cast down at the table.
“So what are you saying, I can’t take the job?”
“No. I’m not telling you what you can or cannot do. What I will say is that I wonder how careful you can be, under the circumstances, when you bring the whole covert operation up, in casual conversation, at a restaurant.”
Jesse stood, set his napkin down and walked from the room. Angela swallowed some shrimp and scampered after him, touching Vera on the shoulder with one hand, as the other clawed the hemline of her skirt in a futile attempt at modesty. Vera turned and looked at Andrew with her mouth open.
“What?” He raised both hands, like a suspect being held at gunpoint, and waited.
Excerpt from The South Hills Conspiracy
“I got a job offer.”