so he couldnât see her red face.
âAnyway,â Mike continued, âLarry Leonard was actually named Michael Ransome, and he was my honorary uncle, a friend of my grandfatherâs, and I was named after him. Uncle Mike lived in a guesthouse on my fatherâs land in Colorado, and I spent a lot of time with him when I was a kid. We wereâ¦buddies,â he said softly.
Samantha stopped chewing when she heard the barely concealed pain in his voice, for she understood all too well how it felt to have people you loved die. Reaching out her hand to him, she pulled back before touching him.
Mike didnât seem to notice as he kept eating and talking. âWhen Uncle Mike died three years ago, he willed everything he owned to me. There wasnât any money, but there was his library of books on gangsters.â He smiled at her teasingly. âThe books youâve seen.â
âIâm sure theyâre your own taste in literature.â She speared a cherry tomato before he could take it.
âHe also left me work heâd done on a biography of a big-time gangster named Dr. Anthony Barrett.â
âThe man you think I know.â
Raising one eyebrow in praise of her memory, Mike didnât answer directly but made a stab at the last bite of steak, then just as he was about to eat it, offered it to her.
Samantha almost took it, but then shook her head. âI really wish you would finish this story and leave.â The intimacy of this shared meal was not something she wanted to continue.
Removing the last cover from the tray, Mike revealed a deep dish of chocolate mousse. Samantha started to refuse, but it looked so rich and dark and creamy that before she knew what she was doing, she had dipped her spoon in it at the same time that Mike dipped his.
âWhere was I?â he asked, leaning back, licking his spoon while Samantha watched him, wondering if he was always so at ease. âOh yes. The biography. I read what work Uncle Mike had done and became interested in this Tony Barrett. Iâd just finished the course work at school and I was at loose ends, so I thought I might continue what Uncle Mike started. So I decided to move to New York and continue researching. When I was moving Uncle Mikeâs books, I found the file folder.â
When he said no more, Samantha looked up at him. âIs that supposed to intrigue me? Am I now supposed to ask, âWhat file folder?â â
âI could stand a little interest on your part, yes. But I can see that Iâm not going to get it.â He filled his spoon with mousse. âThe folder was simply labeled âMaxieâ and inside was a newspaper photo of you, your grandmother, and your dog.â
Samantha put her spoon down with a clatter. âMy grandmother ran away when I was eight months old. There is no photo of the two of us.â
Leaning on his elbow, he looked at her intently, without blinking, as though trying to relay some message to her.
âOh,â Samantha said. â That picture.â It had taken her a while to remember, not that she remembered the incident, but her grandfather had told her what happened. âBrownie,â she said at last. âI was staying with my grandmother, and I crawled into a pipe in a ditch in the backyard.â
âAnd you got stuck, and your grandmother called the fire department.â
âAnd a bored newspaper reporter looking for a story happened to be at the station that day so he came with the firemen, but it was Brownie who saved me.â
âYour dog crawled into the pipe, bit into your soggy diaper, and pulled you out of that pipe. The reporter took a picture of you, your grandmother, and Brownie, the wire services picked the photo and story up and sent it around to papers all over the country, where it was seen by my uncle Michael Ransome as well as the rest of the world. Uncle Mike cut the photo out and wrote Maxie in the margin. All
Tiffanie Didonato, Rennie Dyball