I parked in the back lot of the restaurant. Hopefully, Philips had arrived and was parked in front. He had, since he was inside waiting for me. I'd given Julio, the owner, a head's-up and he made sure we were seated in the rear of the restaurant, well away from the large front windows. Ten minutes after arriving, we were in my car, heading to Ricky's. Very carefully. I took what evasive measures were needed to thwart anyone who might be tailing us.
When we got to Ricky's I pulled into the building's parking garage. Ricky had two spaces, one for him, and one for me that he rented from a tenant who didn't drive.
So far, so good. Philips was tense as we rode up in the elevator. I swear, he kept glancing over his shoulder even though it was just the two of us. Not that I could blame him. This was his first experience with trying to avoid the goons and company. Okay, the second one if you count the cab ride.
Ricky greeted us at the door to his apartment. After I introduced him to Philips—who asked him to call him Bailey—and vice versa, Ricky told us dinner would be ready soon and asked Philips what he'd like to drink.
"Wine, if you have it?" Philips said hesitantly before he went over to look at the books and the small art pieces on the shelves along one wall. "Is this what I think it is?" He touched a jade bowl, looking awed.
"Ming dynasty," Ricky replied as he poured a glass of wine and brought it to Philips. "A minor piece that my grandfather acquired during one of his forays overseas after the war."
"It's still a work of art." Philips smiled a bit. "If you ever considering selling it, I'd be happy to put you in touch with a collector I know." He chuckled, adding, "For a commission on my part of course."
Ricky laughed. "Of course. Walt? Beer or your usual?"
"Beer, thanks." I'd have loved my usual, which was scotch straight-up, but the day was catching up with me and I needed to keep a clear head if we were going to figure out what to do about Caiazzo's offer.
Ricky handed me a beer from the fridge behind the bar, took one for himself and then said he'd be right back. He needed to check on dinner. From the smell drifting from the kitchen I was betting it was his famous, at least to my way of thinking, Yankee pot roast.
As soon as he left the room Philips turned to me, asking, "Are you and he… more than just friends?"
"Why would you think that?" I said cautiously.
Philips nodded to a photo sitting on one of the shelves. It was of me and Ricky, taken when we'd celebrated our third anniversary together. We were leaning in and it was obvious that we were about to kiss. "Between that and the fact he asked if you wanted your regular… Well I'm no detective but even I can put together the clues. Don't worry, it doesn't bother me in the least if you're a couple. Although from what you said at one point, I was under the impression you had a house."
"He does," Ricky said dryly, coming back into the room. "Someday I'm going to convince him I'd be just a safe living with him as not. Until then…" he shot me a disgruntled look, "we commute."
Philips laughed. "I had a lady friend I did that with, until she decided the arrangement wasn't working for her. So I married her."
"Lucky man," Ricky said softly before announcing that dinner was ready. As we headed to the dining room, I stopped him long enough to give him a hug. He smiled up at me, murmuring, "Someday."
"I suspect so," I agreed. It wasn't that I didn't want us living together. It was just… I wanted him safe. Or as safe as possible considering we didn’t keep our… commuting… a big secret in the grand scheme of things.
When the three of us were seated, I told the others we weren't going to discuss why we were here until after dinner.
Ricky, being Ricky, immediately riposted with, "We can't talk about this wonderful meal?"
I shook my head in amusement and we did talk about it, and other general things, until we'd finished the peach cobbler he'd made for dessert. My man does like to cook when he gets the chance, and he's damned good at it.