No house would have been big enough to hold Mary Jasmine's first birthday party. More than two hundred people gathered in a park, including a score of off-duty police officers and fifty Indian football fans, and there was not a one who was just as excited to celebrate the life of the mother and father.
Pat was happily telling Dr. Lily and Dr. Patel about the latest movie he and Tiffany had watched together. "The Maltese Ending is great. Bogie's great, Peter Lorre's great, and I thought the ending was great," he said. "I mean, when it turns out the Falcon's fake, it seems like a bad ending, because all those bad things happened for nothing. But that's really the lesson. They were so eager to get what they thought they wanted that they didn't think to make sure they knew what they were really after."
He put an arm around Tiffany. "Then that got me thinking, maybe there's a better kind of ending, only, you might need to tell the whole story differently to get there. Like, suppose it was Sam's girl who hired him, and he went along because he still had feelings for her, and he knows she came to him because she still feels the same. Then at the end, they realize that looking for the Falcon was just distracting them from what really matters, which is each other. So Bogie just throws the thing away, and they go off to talk, and maybe they get back together and maybe they don't, but the important thing is that they settle it, one way or another. Then here's what would make it really great: When they do that last shot of the Falcon, showing the lead where they cut up the resin, the camera zooms a little closer. Then you see that there's a nick in the lead, and under that, there's a bright, shiny jewel…"
Pat, Senior was holding his granddaughter in his lap when a burly, grizzly old cop sat down beside him. On introduction, the cop said, "Call me Jonny." After a pause, he said, "Beautiful baby girl."
"She got her mother's looks," the elder Pat said. "So, how about those Eagles…?"
After some jawing, Jonny said, "You know, not too long ago, we had a bit of a weird situation with Tiffy. A little over a year ago, she started coming by the station, which was great, except we could tell it was because something had got her upset. She kept asking if anyone had been talking about her first husband, Tommy, and she asked me about a couple things she seemed to think were really important. I didn't quite come out and say it, but there was nothin' there that everybody doesn't know 'bout Tommy, including the rookies who never met him. Still, it was enough to get us asking around among ourselves, and it came out that there was a guy who had been asking about Tommy, mostly in the sports bars. From what we found out, he really was trying to get the right bits and pieces without leaving an impression. He was pretty good at it, too. He would go up to two or three of our guys at a time, talk a bit about the Eagles, then ask a question or just mention something that get them talking. The only thing anyone really remembered was that he was old, sixty at least, and he wore an Eagles hat from way back in the day. Our people noticed the hat because it was pretty worn out, and he kept it pulled down."
"You don't say," the elder Pat said.
"Then there was one more thing, which was actually what really got us wondering if something was going on. 'Bout six months ago, there was a report that Tommy's grave was vandalized. But as far as we could tell, all that really happened was that somebody came in after hours and burned some papers in front of his headstone."
"Huh," said Pat, Sr. "Did you get anything off the papers?"
"Well, the guy who found them said that some were hand-written, and some were typed, not with a computer but a real type writer," Jonny said. "Apparently, they fell apart while he was putting out the fire."
"I see," Pat said. "Just as well, I suppose. Probably just a couple people, looking for closure." He adjusted his cap. The logo was an eagle with spread wings, not the new profile of the head, and the edge of the bill was mostly frayed cardboard. "So, what do you think of the draft picks this year?..."
Thanks to everyone for staying with me through this experiment. Feedback is welcome, and I would be especially interested in whether anyone guessed the ending(s) in advance. While I'm wrapping this up, I'll plug a few things for anybody who is interested in what I usually write: "Shoe Shopping" and "Thing Vs. Exotroopers", posted here at ; "Conversations With O'Cleary", a non-fiction piece I have posted in several places; and "Zed Fights A Girl!" on my "Exotroopers" blog, which represents a vignette for an all-original project idea that I felt jump-starting a bit while I was writing this story. Thanks again for reading!