A Confidential Source

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Authors: Jan Brogan
like a pack animal, pushed her way up to the rail and slammed an enormous
     handbag into me. I caught it in my ribs.
    The woman apologized, calling herself “the clumsiest woman alive.” She leaned over the rail, beside me, pronounced the flames
     lovely and launched into a long explanation about how she’d wanted to put these shopping bags away in her car first, but her
     husband had taken off with the keys. This was what I liked about Rhode Island. With very little provocation, complete strangers
     were telling you the stories of their lives.
    “He’s just got to have it all his way, you know?”
    I thought of Matt Cavanaugh and nodded to indicate that I shared the universal female understanding of the shortcomings of
     men. She seemed pleased. “Better go find him, I guess.” She transferred her shopping bags to one arm and disappeared into
     the crowd. I stood there staring at all the couples and families strolling along the fire-lit river, lonely again.
    Then, as if to help me out, the music shifted. The melody was no longer aching with love lost, but marching forward with a
     warlike progression. Screw Matt Cavanaugh and the way he had of looking so intent. He was a nonstarter. A prosecutor. A future
     politician, for Christ’s sake. I pulled myself off the rail, away from the burning river with its ephemeral flames, toward
     the solid ground of the parking lot.

    I ’ D NEVER BEEN to Raphael’s Bistro, in the renovated Union Station, but I’d read about it in the paper. It was a fashionable place where
     the mayor liked to lunch with his top aides. Our living section had done an article on the restaurant’s decor, which was very
     Manhattan, and said it was the place to wear sleeveless black dresses and stiletto heels. I was wearing jeans and a cotton
    I got there a few minutes early. The restaurant, all blond maple and uncluttered retro, was packed and I had to make my way
     through a throng of people to find an empty place to stand at the far end of the bar. I ordered a club soda with lemon and
     scanned the room. Young couples mostly. A lot of sleek twenty-something women wearing Wilma Flintstone-type tank tops with
     only one shoulder. Their dates’ wardrobes varied, from casual to business suit, but all looked very Armani. I caught a drift
     of male cologne.
    Ten minutes passed painfully. I felt awkward at the bar, and tried for a moment to pretend I was back at Skipper’s Landing
     in Boston, a fish place on Rowes Wharf where I’d finally taken a job serving cocktails. Although the job was a disaster, at
     least I knew everyone, from the bouncers to the problem drinkers to the distributor who tried to sell us more Mount Gay rum.
    A man to my left looked at me as if I was getting in the way of his cigarette smoke. I stood on my toes to check the door
     so he would know I was waiting for someone. It was the life of a reporter to meet strange people in strange places, but I
     had a gnawing suspicion that Leonard wouldn’t show up. That I’d dreamed the phone call this morning.
    Directly to my right sat an older couple, a silver-haired man in a cardigan sweater and pleated corduroys who had a long,
     earnest face and looked vaguely familiar. His wife, sitting on a stool beside him, wore a full-length mink, despite the warm
     weather. She downed a martini and glanced at me with a dazed expression. For lack of anything better to do, I ate the lemon
     that had come in my club soda.
    “How can you do that without wincing?” the man asked. His voice, a clear bass, was kindly.
    I had to smile. “I like sour things.”
    “Then you’ll like us,” the wife said. She sounded drunk.
    “Marge,” the man said quietly, as if to steady her.
    His voice was familiar, too, but I couldn’t place him. I kept thinking he was someone’s grandfather or uncle, but I didn’t
     know anyone in Rhode Island well enough to have met a close relation like a grandfather or an uncle. “Do I know you

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