Bosco made a rude noise with his mouth then turned his body towards me, propping his knee on the centre console.

“Audrey’s feeding you well. You’re growing a double chin, my Friend.”

He folded his arms tight across his chest and leaned back against the car door. In the light reflected from the street lamp, his face looked more like an axe blade than usual. “Tell me what’s going on. You’ll feel better.” Oh, boy. Bosco was going all Reid Interrogation Technique on me.

“Huh?”

I could keep trying to fake him out, but that had about as much chance of success as me getting him to do a line of blow or an Aqua Velva shooter. And if I really pushed back, he’d punch me in the mouth and make me walk back to the office without my coat. “Just say it.”

“Hanging around with Audrey and Kenora has made you soft.”

“And whatever’s got your globes all shrunk up has got you so confused you don’t know whether to crap or wind your watch. Quit deflecting.”

“I wish I still smoked.”

“No you don’t. Audrey’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Kenora’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Admit it.”

“Ok.” Thinking about Kenora made my neck hot and the crotch of my pants tight. I stretched out my legs and re-positioned my torso.

He waggled his brows and grinned his cobra smile. “Just okay? I know you better than your mama ever did, Jake Barclay. Quit fuckin’ around. What gives?”

“It’s real simple, Bos. I’m losing my edge.”

“What do you mean, ‘edge’?”

“When I played high school football and varsity hockey, they used to call me the ‘Cleaver’, because I could cut through anything got in my way. Now, it’s like I’m getting soft. Soggy. Maybe it’s an age thing.”

“Pecker dysfunction?” He said it all serious and leaned in with a Sigmund Freud stare, all thoughtful and frowning. Made me laugh out loud.

“Hell, no. You?”

“My hottie younger wife just had a kid who looks exactly like me. So, no. Backatcha.”

“I’m…You know what my life used to be like? Catching Sara-Jane in bed with Lloyd Schomberg after I helped put him away for that boiler-room operation in Woodbridge? Then she played with being a lipstick lesbian while I was at the FBI Academy? Her showing up in the office last week brought all that shit back. But the horsepucky about her sister’s asshole husband made it worse.”

“WGAF? She’s been out of your life for what? Six, seven years? Why the rebound jim-jams now?”

“Kenora’s determined to find that missing brother-in-law of hers. Got S-J to write a big retainer cheque.”

“So?”

“I don’t want her contaminated by… anything having to do with my ex-wife.”

“Why would she be? She’s a strong woman. Been through a lot.”

“God love her, but she’s so bloody-minded. And naïve. Thinks she can solve shit with some research and a smile.”

“She’s doing okay so far. You getting all Sir Lancelot for her?”

“I guess. She told me you guys had the ‘partner talk’. I never had a relationship with anyone I worked with before.”

“Me either.” He took his time pouring himself some coffee. Even with the heater on, the air was cold enough so that the hot brew steamed up the windows on the inside. “Is it kind of funky weird or does it make you horny all the time?” Before I could answer, he held up his hand. “Wait. Let me tell you what I see. When there’s more than three or four people around, no one who didn’t know you as well as I do or her, for that matter – they wouldn’t be able to tell something’s been going on. She’s deferential, you’re respectful. Most of the time, there’s not much direct eye contact beyond what’s necessary. But when it’s just the three of us, I’ll tell you, every once in a while, it’s like the two of you are connecting with some laser-beam thing. The room begins to feel real small and I get invisible. Then it’s gone.”

“I know.”

“When I told Audrey about it, she got all mooshy and had to blow her nose and then she started kissing me like my face was candy. I’ll be honest. I got wood.”

“Kenora does that to me.”

“You mean the wood?”

“Yeah. Sometimes. Feels like I’m 17 again. Watching her mouth when she talks… I mean, I want to hear what she says most of the time, but….”

“Most of the time, eh? You don’t want her to know how strongly you care? Bet I know what you’re thinking about the rest of the time.”

“True. What freaks me out is that it’s all so…undramatic. Even when she’s sassing me back or being argumentative for the sake of it. She’s easy to be around. Doesn’t expect anything.”

“A good thing in a woman.”

“I feel …completed. But she’s not, you know, doing anything to make that happen. It’s me. When that Mitch guy was stalking her…Some of the shit that went down was making me crazy. But she made me promise not to intervene.”

“And you left it alone.”

“Yes. And she dealt with it on her own. Luring him into that construction pit in the back lane was genius. I found out you were pulling some strings in the background. Thanks for that, by the way.”

“Nothing to it, Partner. I got your back: I got her back. You guys have mine. It is what it is. You remember the last time you were happy? Not sloppy, Oprah-happy. Deep in your guts.”

“After Kenora’s dad’s funeral, when she found out from Cousin Daniel why Markus stopped looking for her mother. At her house, after her ex had sent back all of the cards and pictures with her face cut out of them. Every day.”

“Why?”

“I could be there for her, even though she didn’t expect me to. She wants nothing from me.”

“Is it the bed-stuff?”

“Nah. Sure. I mean, it’s more than that. It’s the totality of it. Do you know what I mean, Bos?”

“Yup. I sure do. Thing is, you’re not acting like someone wallowing in joy, my man. What do you think it’s going to take for you to be happy, or at peace? Or to get there for the first time in your life?”

“That’s the problem. The more content I get, seems like there’s this thing that keeps standing in my way. I don’t know what it is. I do know that I have to get it figured out or I’ll screw up all of the good stuff in my life.”

“What’re you gonna do? Drop out? Get away from everything? Find an ashram? Go off to find yourself?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

“You gotta stop being afraid of success outside of work. Kenora’s steadfast. She won’t burn you, but you’d better be careful you don’t make her regret trusting you.”

“We done here? My butt’s gone numb.”

“Let it go, Pard. Stop over-analyzing. Learn to enjoy yourself.”