Ace of Hearts

Portsborough, NY, 1981
Shevaughn left the precinct in her gold ’79 Audi 5000. On the expressway, she listened to the Whispers sing “Olivia”, one of her all time favorites while she waited for traffic to move. The song about a prostitute made her think of her life in contrast.
She had worked at the Twenty-Third Precinct for the past seven years during which time she had gone from rookie to detective. There was really not much else to note. At thirty-one, she had no children and no steady man. In fact, all her male friends were co-workers. Yes, she was lonely sometimes. Married to my job, she thought. What else did she have?
She wondered if her lack of boyfriends was due to her appearance. Hell, no! That’s not it. She frowned, thinking dear Lord, there must be at least one man out there waiting for me!
In her short dating experience, she’d only been with three men. She had been smitten with an attractive stranger while in her senior year of high school. She’d gone to a gymnastics exhibition and one of the athletes caught her attention. He had golden skin and green eyes. Well, his eye color depended on his mood or what color he wore. He was FINE.
She was ashamed to admit it, but she had done everything possible to get him to notice her and when he did, they had only dated for a couple of months. She gave him her virginity at the end of the second month, her anticipation not allowing her to wait any longer. The experience had been very disappointing. Obviously, he’d been working out the wrong muscles!
Then there was her first husband. What he lacked in the romance department, he made up in freakiness. He had taught her all she knew about sex. She had lived a whole year in a haze of sexual satisfaction until she found out he was giving the same lessons to two other women who lived right in their apartment building!
After the divorce, she waited three long years before falling for her next love. He was an older man, separated from his wife. Had she been as mature then as she was now, she would have known there was no future in it, but she had been so young and the sex had been so good. Before the sheets had cooled that man was back with his wife and Shevaughn was just a memory.
Memories depressed her and consequently, depression made her hungry. Shevaughn decided to treat herself to dinner and a little music. She wanted to check out this new jazz guitarist, Emily Remler, who was playing at “The Basement”, a tiny club in Asperia. She drove until she got to 21st and Finley and parked in a spot near the entrance.
She felt nothing as she walked down the long, dark stairwell to the club entrance. Fear was the least of her worries, especially since she was armed. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and soon she could see as clearly, as if it was daylight. Inside it was quiet, almost empty. She counted nine patrons other than herself.
The waiter seated her at a table for two near the stage and gave her a menu. She ordered their specialty shrimp salad and a glass of the house Chardonnay. She sipped her wine, looking at the empty chair. It was depressing as hell and only stood to serve as a reminder of how lonely she was.
The musicians moved methodically across the stage setting up equipment, which seemed to occupy her mind, until someone stepped into her view.
“Excuse me, are you waiting for someone?” His voice was deep and smooth.

She looked up and found herself speechless. Hell, this guy looked like he had stepped off the pages of GQ magazine!
“Uh… no,” she said at first, but upon further reflection added, “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to be alone.”
“That’s fine,” the handsome stranger responded, “Maybe we’ll talk later?”
Shevaughn watched him leave and was surprised at the lust she felt. That was the only way to explain it. Blaming it on her mood and the wine, she put her glass down as Emily Remler came on stage.
Emily introduced herself, announcing the spring release of her first album, “Firefly”, and began playing the title cut, a perky, upbeat number. The music was intoxicating and fun, enticing Shevaughn to order another glass of Chardonnay. The next song was a bossa nova that drew a few couples to the little dance floor, leaving Shevaughn to watch with envy.
Closing her eyes, she got lost in the music, listening to Emily play a cool guitar, imagining herself on the dance floor, letting the music take her away. When she opened her eyes, there he stood again!
He held out his hand and she took it, rising from the table to join him on the dance floor as if in a trance.
He led her to the center of the floor, where their bodies melted together, magically becoming one. It was hard to resist his sensuous magnetic pull. There was a tightening within as her groin pulsated with a rhythm of its own. Blood rushed to her head, erotic warmth filled her body. She hadn’t felt this hot in a long time.
Pumped with a mixture of exhilaration and adrenaline, Shevaughn felt sublime. What was it about him that turned her on so? She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was a sense of danger about him that made her feel a bit nervous. She was attracted to him — so much so she even thought about just saying, “C’mon, let me take you home.” She couldn’t believe she was actually contemplating her first one night stand!
Common sense quickly prevailed and not knowing this man from Adam, she reluctantly broke his hold. Despite her fierce attraction and burning loins, she decided to head home alone.
He was quite the gentleman, walking her to her car. After taking her keys and opening the car door for her, he snatched her up, like a rag doll, and kissed her slowly. It started innocently enough, just two lips slightly touching, when she threw caution to the wind and parted her lips. She felt the sweet sensation of surrender as his tongue softly touched hers, but he stopped and kissed the tip of her nose before allowing her to slip into her car.
She was half way home when she realized they had not exchanged names. She pondered the mystery and magnetism of this handsome stranger whose kiss lingered. It definitely ranked as one of the most intimate moments of her life and the feeling was so intense that even after sleep, she awoke with the memory of his kiss still on her lips. Smiling, she lay in bed for a while, relishing the sensation.
Shevaughn arrived at work by seven fifty-five, five minutes early, as usual. There were two incomplete case histories waiting on her desk. Like ‘cause I’m Black, I’m some kind of clean up woman? She refused to let it spoil her mood, for unlike most of her fellow officers, she really didn’t mind doing them. It gave her a chance to examine each file in detail. Sure, none of this was glamorous, but as long as she participated in the justice system, she was satisfied and felt important. Old cliché or not, keeping the neighborhood safe for the children and families she served, made her feel good, needed.
Shevaughn was on page three of the second report when she noticed a yellow Post-It note stuck under the cover. Tony O’Brien called. He wanted an appointment. Where had she heard that name before?
She rolled the name through her memory. Then it hit her. Tony O’Brien, the reporter. The same reporter who broke the police pension fund story, putting a spotlight and blemish on every man and woman in uniform. She had just begun her new tour as a detective, when the story broke about a group of higher echelon cops and their sticky fingers. It wasn’t their exemplary arrest and conviction record they became famous for, but stealing from the pockets and pensions of their brothers and sisters in blue. First, a rumor, then confirmed, they used the money to invest in stocks and a few get-rich quick schemes, none of which proved to be profitable. Tony broke the story in the Portsborough Journal and hit the jackpot, making a name for himself. However, cashing in made him persona non grata with the police force.
She thought about the note again. Calling Tony O’Brien, even on a good day, was the last thing she wanted to do.
Tony thought about calling Detective Shevaughn Robinson again. Every female officer he’d tried had ignored his calls. He was on a deadline and his editor-in-chief was very specific about what his next feature would be, “Women, The New Breed of Cop”.
Shevaughn Robinson was the first black female detective in the City of Portsborough, New York. A history-making event, it caused all kinds of backlash at first. He wanted to hear her side of the story. How did it feel to be working in the male dominated environment? How does it feel to be the only one? Maybe he would just drop by and speak with her in person. Turn on some of that old Irish-Italian charm.
Tony knew how to charm the women. Currently, he was juggling two, Ellen Goldberg and Natalie Martinez. If anyone asked, he would say Ellen was his lady. As for Natalie, well, she was his standby. He wasn’t in love with her, but they were close. Sometimes, when he needed companionship or the occasional sex partner, she was there for him. So far, his luck was holding, four months and they were non-the-wiser. Women were a lot easier to handle when they thought they were exclusive.
Deciding he would go see her, Tony went to the men’s room to check his appearance. He ran his hands through his curly brown hair as he looked in the mirror. Smiling, he pulled his shirt collar over his jacket collar and smoothed it out, wanting to look presentable. Whistling, he walked down the hall and out to the parking lot, ready to go meet Detective Robinson.
Shevaughn nearly starved while trying to make up her mind between Italian and Chinese for lunch. A knock interrupted her thoughts.
“Come in.”
She didn’t bother to look up, almost knowing that it was just one of the clerks dropping off more cases.
“Sit the files over there.”
She pointed with her head still buried in a menu.
“Uh, Hummm!”
She looked up.
“May I help you?” “Detective Robinson?”
“Yes, what can I do for you?”
Oooh, she thought, now that was a loaded question.
What could she do for this handsome, terribly delicious looking man? All of a sudden, she wasn’t hungry anymore.
“My name’s Tony O’Brien of NBS news.”
As he spoke, she checked him out. For some odd reason, she thought he would be short, since most news reporters she’d met were shorter in person. He looked to be about six feet tall, with an athletic, slender, but muscular build. She wondered if he’d played sports in his heyday. He had medium length curly brown hair with just a hint of auburn and brown eyes which seemed to show a hint of mischief — even when he smiled. He was clean-shaven with dimples and had a sexy cleft chin. His full lower lip just begged to be nibbled. Whoa, girl! Where did that come from?
Last night’s encounter definitely had her horns up! Dismissing the thought, she continued looking him over.
He was casually dressed in a tan suit with a camel and dark brown print shirt. He was a vision in brown.
“My station has decided to run a series on the new breed of cops — females and minorities.”
“And with me you figured you could kill two birds with one interview?”
Tony laughed.
She added a good sense of humor to his growing list of desirable attributes.
“The station did consider quite a few possibilities, but we decided you were one of the best candidates.”
“What happened, everyone else turned you down?” Shevaughn smiled.
“To be honest, yes.”
“Honesty in a reporter? How refreshing.”
“I’ve been called a lot of things, but that’s a first. Refreshing, huh? I think I like that!”
Just like that, the interview was on. She told him about her life and background. Things were going so smoothly, she hardly recognized that an entire hour had passed. That’s when her stomach growled so loud, they both laughed.
“Is something wrong,” he asked.
“No, I apologize. When you arrived, I was just about to order out and then we started talking and well, here I am or should I say, here we are.”
“Well, what did you have in mind? Because I never want to be known for being the one who kept you away from lunch.”
“Thoughtful, too! I’m leaning toward Chinese.”
“Fine with me,” he agreed. “But hey, no take out. I know a place just a few blocks away that makes the best sesame beef you have ever tasted.”
“That’s your opinion. I’ll reserve mine until after the meal,” she brashly responded.
As they walked the five blocks to China Garden, Shevaughn was wondering what was happening to her. First the stranger last night and now Tony. What the hell am I thinking? She had never had a relationship with a White man before, never even considered them romantically. In the 80’s, it was customary to stick to your own kind. People just didn’t approve of interracial relationships.
Now, here she was, walking with this hunk of a White man! Her luck (and obviously her taste in men) was definitely changing. Life was full of surprises.
Butterflies of apprehension fluttered in her stomach, almost replacing her hunger.
Tony resisted the urge to take her hand. Hell, they had just met! It was silly, but his attraction was real.
From the moment they first met, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. He guessed she was about 5’6” or 5’7” and built like a brick house. His mind had no problem calculating her dimensions. To his expert eye, she was about 36-30-38. She had a deep Godiva chocolate complexion, wide, dark brown doe eyes and full lips, the kind that made men want to cry. She was one hell of an attractive woman. He couldn’t ignore the fact that she was Black. He knew that people would consider anything between them taboo. Though he thought he believed in equality, dating a Black woman hadn’t been part of his dating history. All of a sudden, he was wondering why not.
They arrived at the restaurant, just missing the lunchtime crowd and the host seated them in a booth at the back. The lighting was low, and as far as Tony was concerned, a tad bit sexy. Even though he appreciated the atmosphere, this was supposed to be about work. Tony ordered a scotch and water and instantly regretted it when Shevaughn refused a cocktail because she was on duty. Mistake number one.
While he waited for the waiter to bring his drink, he began drumming the table with his fingers. Shevaughn shot him a look of annoyance. Mistake number two.
Tony took a sip of his drink and looked at a fish tank with one large, single fish that he’d spotted when they first walked in. He needed to be on safer ground.
“He needs a girlfriend,” he stated, nodding towards the fish tank.
“Excuse me?”
“The fish…” he pointed. “He needs a girlfriend.”
“The fish? Why do you say that?”
“Look at him, all alone in that tank. He needs someone to take care of him.”
“Oh. So does he need a mate or a maid?”
“So that’s what a girlfriend means to you?”
“Hold on, I wasn’t talking about me.”
“You read too much into that.”
“Did I?”
“Okay, let’s just say the poor fish needs a companion.”
“He may be very happy by himself.”
“Are you?”
“Am I what?
“Happy by yourself?”
“What makes you think I’m alone?”
“No wedding ring, no picture of a man in your office…”
“My, aren’t we the detective.”
Her attitude showed in her voice.
“Hey, no big deal. I’m not married either.”
“Is that a proposal?”
The scotch went down the wrong pipe and Tony choked, loudly.
“I didn’t realize the thought would be so upsetting.”
“No, no, I swear, I just choked.”
“Your timing was perfect.”
“Well, I can see you’re never going to believe me.”
“That you just happened to choke when I mentioned marriage? Like I may be considering it…, with you? You’re one egotistical idiot, aren’t you?”
“Now, don’t take it that way, it wasn’t like that.”
“That’s what it sounded like.”
“Okay, okay, can we start over? Hi, I’m Tony O’Brien of NBS News.”
“Is that your way of calling a truce?”
“I’ll think about it.”
He couldn’t hide the look of disappointment on his face.
“Truce,” she said smiling, raising her water glass. “I was just joking earlier, boy, are you sensitive.”
Good, she has a sense of humor. This woman was winning him over by the minute.
Tony was ready to dig deeper into her psyche, find out all he could about Miss Shevaughn Robinson, when the waiter interrupted with two piping hot platters of food.
He was pleased to see her use the chopsticks correctly and when she noticed him watching her, he smiled.
“Mother believed I should know a little of everything, you know jack-of-all-trades. So I got chopstick lessons when I was around nine.”
“Funny, my Mom did the same for me!”
Tony thought about his mother and her reaction to this new development in his life. They had never discussed their views on interracial relationships, but he knew she worried about him dating Ellen, who happened to be Jewish. It was somehow against her religion. He hadn’t told her about his dating Natalie, a Latina and at least she was Catholic! He rationalized it by telling himself you never tell your Mom everyone you’ve slept with. Now, look at him, actually thinking about a Black woman. God, he hoped his Mom didn’t give him a hard time about it.
He then wondered what else he and Shevaughn had in common. His instincts told him there would be a lot more. He hoped he was right. Tony found that he wanted to know everything about her and vowed to make this assignment last as long as possible.
He refused to let the intensity of his feelings show and quietly began eating his meal. The sesame beef was the best he’d ever tasted, but he found it couldn’t keep his mind off her. He wondered what she was thinking.
Shevaughn pretended to be into the meal, but kept sneaking quick glances at the handsome man across from her. This was all so new. She has always interacted well with White folks. Being in the system had given her more contact with them than most Blacks her age. She’d never felt so interested, so drawn. It was scary, but she had to admit, it was a little exciting.
Basking in their own reflections, they finished their meal in silence, oddly comfortable just being in each other’s presence.

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