Rock And Nans


Grandparents weren’t born old and wise. In their prime,
they were likely markedly cooler than we are.

“Hi, this seat taken?” the man asked.

He was unnaturally handsome. His piercing blue eyes nearly took her breath away.

“Saving it for you,” the young lady responded coyly.

She absentmindedly straightened her airline-issue blue polyester skirt. The woman was objectively gorgeous in her own right.

“I’ll have what the lady’s having,” the man gestured to the bartender. “And get her another while you’re at it, brother. Thanks.”

In moments the barkeep returned with two glasses of ice water.

“The name’s Ricky,” the big man said, extending his hand. “You a pilot?”

She smiled. “I’m Nancy Frierson and don’t be silly. I’ve been a stewardess with Pan Am since ’47.” She studied him with an experienced eye. He was fit and hard, and he had the look.

“Europe or the Pacific?” she asked.

The man diverted his gaze to his glass, though the electric smile never left his face. “Europe,” he said.

“Yeah, me, too,” Nancy responded. “I was a nurse in France for 7 months. Afterward, I lost my enthusiasm for nursing, but I enjoyed the travel, so here we are. What did you do?”

“OSS. Know anything about that?” he asked flatly.

“Not really,” she answered. He obviously didn’t much want to talk about it. “How about now? What brings you to the airport in DC?”

“I still work for the government, though I’m based out of Chicago nowadays. I have a meeting this evening then I’m likely heading back tomorrow. You?” he asked.

“I’m deadheading to London in the morning. Pan Am puts us crew up in the Omni Shoreham when we’re stuck here overnight. I’m based out of Atlanta. We cycle through Paris, Stockholm, and Oslo before rotating back to London and heading home to the States. Repeat as necessary every other week. It’s a good job. I get to meet some interesting people.”

There was that smile again. She loved the way it made her feel.

Ricky and Nancy chatted for another half an hour, burning through the standard fodder about family, hobbies, and favorite places to eat on the continent. It was clear that he was as well-traveled as she was. Ricky suddenly glanced at his watch and frowned.

“I am truly sorry,” he said with sincere regret. “But I’m going to miss my meeting if I’m not careful. It has been a genuine pleasure meeting you, Nancy Frierson from Atlanta.” He dismounted the bar stool and hefted his canvas bag. The man took the woman’s hand and then leaned forward to kiss her softly on the forehead. She squeezed his hand back. As he walked away, she wondered what sort of man had a meeting at 7:30 on a Sunday night in Washington, D.C.

The unexpected knock startled her. Nancy set her mystery book aside and made her way to the door to her hotel room, checking that the chain was fastened and that her sweatshirt was presentable. She cracked the door and was shocked to see Ricky standing alone in the hallway.

“May I come in?” he asked.

Her first inclination was to say he most certainly could not, but there was something about his face. Though she struggled to place it, she had seen that look somewhere before. Against her better judgment, she closed the door, unfastened the chain, and opened it again. Ricky pressed inside without fanfare. She subconsciously checked the hallway. No one else was around.

The M-3A1 Grease Gun was designed with the espionage mission in mind.

As she turned around, the man dropped his heavy bag onto the bed and removed his long coat. She then noticed the sticky black wetness on his left upper arm. There was a small corresponding tear to the man’s pea coat that she had not seen previously. The bag was open this time, and the pistol grip of an M-3 Grease Gun protruded through the slash. The man retrieved a GI-issue battle dressing from the bag before sitting heavily on the room’s small sofa.

“I am truly sorry to barge in on you like this,” the man said, fatigue now heavy in his voice. “I really do work for the government, but what I do is best kept removed from the local police.”

He dropped his flannel shirt to expose a deep ugly gouge across his left deltoid. Nancy had seen enough gunshot wounds in France to recognize this one. Without really thinking, she soaked a towel in warm water and used it to clean the wound before dressing it properly. Ricky was pleased to see that she really did know what she was doing.

Rock and Nans were the best grandparents a guy could ever hope to have. They were married for 57 years. As far as we knew, Rock’s entire adult life was spent working for the railroad. We grandchildren loved going to work with him and climbing on the trains.

Everybody wonders how their grandparents first met. Rock didn’t admit the truth to me until three weeks before he died. That last operational mission had been to interdict a meet between a turncoat American nuclear scientist and a Russian agent in rural Virginia. Grandpa Rock said he personally set the Russian H-bomb back 5 years. However, after that evening in Nan’s room, he knew it was time to settle down. An assassin’s life was no way to raise a family.

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