He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way.
The Untouchables - 1987 film
It was a beautiful early September evening; Chicago's sweltering dog days had faded and autumn was in the offing. In a landmark building that'd housed a vaudeville theater one hundred years earlier, ABC7's Eyewitness News anchor team was almost ready to begin its six o'clock newscast. The street-level studio overlooked State and Lake Streets and allowed anyone interested to peer into expansive windows to see a working television studio and watch the news personalities in action.
Even though pedestrian and vehicular traffic was past its rush-hour peak, the area was still very active. Chicago might not be "the city that never sleeps," but it was close enough to qualify - with an added almost to the moniker. At the corner, a CTA train full of commuters screeched and rumbled along its rails on the 'El', while faint ubiquitous sirens wailed in the distance. Across the street, buyers were lined up at the Chicago Theater box office to buy tickets for that night's final Kathy Griffin performance. The iconic Chicago sign and marquee wattage, with hundreds of twinkling, golden-hued bulbs and neon, was in constant motion. To the north, beyond the elevated 'El' tracks, young professionals flowed in and out of the currently hot Wit Hotel. The rooftop lounge was the see-and-be-seen spot in the Loop - a meat market for A-list heteros and guppies where you had to be U.S.D.A. Choice, at least. With weather at its prime, the outside rooftop deck was where the moveable feast of singles flocked.
Rob Cooke patted his co-anchor Wendy Cité on the shoulder as he eased into his chair, clipped the small microphone to his tie and inserted his earpiece. They'd reviewed the rundown at the editorial meeting with the producer, and each felt at ease with the broadcast coming up. The unknown X-factor was the chance of a late-breaking news story; remote crews were always on standby. That early evening's newscast would begin with Wendy and the lead story concerning a double-murder on the South Side with an on-the-scene update by one of their key reporters. Rob would then transition with an upbeat new jobs forecast for Chicagoland. Hit 'em with some blood and guts - if it bleeds, it leads - followed by a feel-good piece. That was Eyewitness News.
Scheduled in the mid-part of the broadcast was a special feature that updated the money trail of fallen political kingmaker, Anthony Revson. Rob had developed the story with major help from NewWord reporter John Kess. The Word was a popular weekly alternative paper - a mishmash of entertainment highlights, local interest commentary and an occasional exposé that showed muckraking wasn't a lost art in Chicago.
Kess, rebounding at the Word after his demise from a Sun-Times downsizing, loved digging the dirt in Chicago's political gardens and Anthony Revson was one of his prize blossoms. Revson's tentacles and financial sleight-of-hand had touched the President and most of the current Illinois politicians including a few former governors, several congressmen and a gaggle of Chicago aldermen. Two years earlier the jury had convicted Revson of wire and mail fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting bribery. Kess's reporting had started the ball rolling on that story.
The first twist in this aging saga was that federal authorities had indefinitely delayed the sentencing and Tony the gangsta - one of the more affectionate nicknames he'd acquired by bloggers - was secretly stashed away. However, a new angle had developed based on John Kess's digging: Anthony's younger brother Marvin seemed to be following in the family footsteps. And the kicker was that Marvin was apparently in cahoots with someone 'close to the mayor.' No name could be used because nailing the proof had been like meandering in a rabbit warren. Pinning the tail on the bunny wasn't yet a done deal and Kess couldn't go connection until they had two sources; at this point, he only had one. However, Kess had confidentially tagged Sean O'Reilly, the mayor's second cousin, as the other person.
When Kess had mentioned the pending story over a casual drink a week earlier, Rob had come up with an idea. "What if I did a tight two or three minute teaser the night before your story breaks?" He'd asked John. "I could dig into Anthony's past, and bullet-point Marv and 'an unidentified third party' coziness in your investigation as it rolls out in the next day's paper? It would be great P.R. for your story and punch up the middle part of our newscast." It also gave Rob a little street cred, ABC7 appeared to be playing the serious journalism game, and the scrappy NewWord got a potential circulation boost. It was a win-win situation and Kess had agreed.
'Just the facts, Ma'am. Like that old Dragnet show eons ago. Man, it musta been weird doing news in black and white back then.' Rob visually scanned the studio and looked beyond to the world outside. Sometimes it felt like they were in a glass cage. In fact, he had jokingly suggested at a staff meeting they should put up a sign in the window that said, "Don't feed the news people." Everyone chuckled except for the news director.
Rob couldn't resist one more peek at the small mirror on the desk to make sure that every blond, highlighted hair was in place and there were no shiny spots on his face. 'If people only knew how much time it took to create that natural look.' Close-ups could be cruel - HDTV was unforgiving - even for a thirty-five year old guy who'd just been named 'News Hunk of the Year' by a local gay newspaper. As he spoke a few words for a sound-check, Rob randomly looked out the window and scanned the street scene.
Most people were busily scurrying by, but a few curious onlookers were watching the studio activity as the LED clock counted down; when it was 5:59:30 the set was lit. In the corner of the window was a face of a cute guy who Rob recognized as a repeat visitor from over the past couple of weeks. The young man had brownish hair just long enough to be spiked and shaped into a studied messiness. He wore a preppy Henley shirt that fit snuggly to a taut torso and faded desert camo fatigue pants bunched nicely in the right places. Rounding out the look were Doc Martens and a backpack. He stared back with an intensity that combined curiosity, skepticism and flirtatiousness.
This twenty-or-so guy was most likely a student, Rob decided, who was into the current look while not looking too spiffy. Long lashes and gray eyes softened the scruffy but stylish three or four-day growth of a light but noticeable beard. With a slightly raised eyebrow and a slow lick of the upper lip, the window dude winked.
Rob noticed the eyelid twitch, smiled and nodded before looking at Camera One for the countdown. 'Cute…very doable, in my humble opinion.'
"That hunk award in the gay rag has helped your fan base," Wendy said through her fixed smile and brightened teeth. "All I get are a few bag ladies." Her glossed lips barely moved.
"Less complicated…you don't have to contemplate buying those gals a drink." Rob had decided to come out to Wendy after she'd run into his partner Rick Cole and him at dinner on two separate occasions. 'Good thing she's cool about everything.'
"With this stud muffin outside, you might want to check his I.D. first." Wendy's snickered with a guttural verve. "But what would Rick have to say about you entertaining stray lads on the sly?"
"Goes under the heading, what you don't know won't hurt you. We have an understanding." Rob shrugged as he thought about his best friend and partner of almost ten years. 'Blissful and enduring.'
"Damn," Wendy snorted, "If I'd taken that approach, maybe my marriage woulda worked."
"Maybe. Certainly works for us."
What worked was a quasi-open relationship. Rick Cole and Rob had decided several years earlier that a little safe messing around on the side - and discrete as in 'mum's the word' to each other - was a big factor in making their union an enduring one. Just a little added spice to an otherwise perfect broth.
The red camera light flashed and the floor manager was readied to cue.
Rob set the smile to sincere mode, listened to the Eyewitness News music intro and waited until the hand cue pointed his way. The prompter started its crawl.
"Good evening, Chicago. I'm Rob Cooke."
"And I'm Wendy Cité. Hear now ABC7's Eyewitness News at Six."
The window dude was Kris Lamacki, who'd just begun his second year at DePaul's downtown campus majoring in Communication and Media - fancy words for journalism school. When the weather was decent, he'd gotten into the habit of walking northbound to his River North loft each evening via State Street. It was a good way to check out other guys on his way home and to watch live newscasts - both at CBS2's new broadcast center and a block away at ABC7 - at their street-side studios. At the ripe age of twenty-one, seeking a career in electronic journalism had become a given.
Watching the real deal in action, without the hassle of taking studio tours, allowed him to absorb the mechanics of a broadcast in small snippets for future reference. But he was also hedging his bets: Kris was intent on cramming in as much computer science as his noggin could handle. The way the 'net was taking over and realizing it was the way most people of his generation got their news, he was determined to go with the flow. 'With the iPad and whatever else is coming down the pike such as BlackBerry PlayBook or Samsung's Galaxy tablet, it's only a matter of a few years before newspapers in print form are dead…as deadwood. God only knows when the network nightly newscasts will crap out.' He was pretty sure that Katie Couric would be the first to go.
The way Kris figured it, the Internet - blogs, information news links, and the whole ball of wax - was now the undisputed king of the road; cable, the networks and local stations had hooked their wagons to this shooting star for survival. And so had the print media. He wanted to be on board that star - to play on every platform in the digital world.
The bonus point at the ABC7 window was daddy eye-candy in the form of co-anchor Rob Cooke and Kris was pretty sure they both played on the same team. Rumor had it that, like a couple of cable news star reporters, local boy Cooke was in the glass closet. However, he always skirted the homo issue - neither denying nor verifying innuendos - and the blogging gossipers had finally given up. Unlike the entertainment world, it was one of those needed wink-wink things to keep right-wing loonies at bay, viewers in abundance and advertisers very happy. For Kris, this combination of feeding professional curiosity and fantasizing about a hot older man couldn't get any better. It bordered on jerk-off material. 'But not here on State Street.' When his and Rob's eyes came in contact, Kris winked and was rewarded with a nod from the blond newscaster. 'Wonder if his carpet matches the drapes? Wouldn't mind finding out.'
The red light of Camera One blinked on and Kris listened to the lead story unfold from the outside speakers as delivered by Wendy Cité. 'Okay,' he judged, 'but no sizzle.' When Cooke reported on slowly improving employment numbers, Kris was more interested in the presentation than the substance. The way Cooke effortlessly read from the teleprompter and made love to the camera. The effortless way he oozed a sexy openness. That wanna do it look while pulling off an almost-innocent image. "Probably only in his mid-thirties," he said to himself. "Cool. Somewhere between a brother and someone's old man."
Kris's genetic 'old man' had divorced his mom five years earlier for the latest wife off the trophy assembly line and had not contested the division of assets. There was enough to go around and the parents didn't get all nasty or creeped out with each other. The first Mrs. Lamacki kept the family home in Winnetka and had custody of Kris, while Mr. Lamacki settled into a high-rise condo near Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Kris, sixteen-years old at the time, was initially pissed at what had happened to his family but decided there was not much he could do about it. Over half of his eleventh grade classmates were also missing one parent and most seemed to survive the ordeal. Beth, his older sister, was away at college and more stoic and rational - which was easy to do since she wasn't affected on a day-to-day basis.
Beth had said, "What Dad did was crappy, but he cares for us and pays our bills. My advice, little brother, is to go with the flow."
And he did. Living with Mom, seeing Dad on weekends, going to school, studying, hanging with his buds, and the usual duty dates with gals. The kind of a date where you gave the girl a quick peck on the lips and split. Kris was sure he was the only guy in the world who hadn't had his cherry busted, although there'd been several opportunities in the past couple of years. It was simple: he liked getting off by himself - something he did quite well and very often since he'd figured out what his dick could do - and couldn't imagine doing it with a girl. Nothing icky, just a non-starter. At the beginning of his final year in high school, he and a pal ventured into those muddied waters when two horny males with hard-ons become curious. The first encounter, after a study session at his friend's house, seemed innocent enough. But by the time the sexual dividend became a weekly occurrence, Kris knew this twist was a defining moment on his march to manhood.
Small snapshots of his past, and what they really meant, popped up in his head. The secret thrill of camping out with his scout friends, the anticipation of being with the guys in the school locker room, and a special interest in his hunky seventh-grade history teacher - maybe even a crush. The way Kris couldn't keep his eyes from roaming amongst the Speedo-clad swimmers at a meet and checking out bulges behind the Nylon and Lycra material. His interest in wrestling matches. It suddenly all made sense.
After a series of bathroom mirror debates, he came out to the 'rents - first at home with his mother, and later in a rare joint parental meeting on neutral turf at a crab restaurant that'd been a family fave. Turned out that Mom had long suspected that Kris was gay and Dad, being mostly a libertarian, had a live-and-let-live attitude. Later, Sis was a little put out because there would now be pressure for her to have kids down the road.
After the big outing, time with Dad took on a more casual attitude - friendly for sure, but now with a grown-up flavor. A shorthand father-son relationship. It might be a Bears game, box seats at Wrigley Field or a front row position watching the Blackhawks gut it out on the ice - with a steak dinner afterwards. The younger man, in his fleeting teen years, was about to leave the nest and the dad held a supportive safety net.
Kris had always been encouraged to be a curious and independent thinker. So when he proposed a year's break between high school and college to take a 'gap year' in the U.K. and Europe, both parents were supportive. The end result was a home-stay-and-study summer with an Oxford English family, followed by nine months in an intensive Spanish language program with a school in Madrid. Not only did Kris become fluent in modern Spanish, the nineteen-year-old was more comfortable with his gay orientation by the time he returned to Chicago and college. Living near the Chueca district in Madrid had been a plus for occasional bar-hopping and he had a slew of hunky Facebook pals with whom he kept in touch - writing on each other's walls in Spanish.
A year later, another unexpected life bonus came in the form of a promise made by Mr. Lamacki. If Kris did well in his freshman year at college and achieved a 3.5 GPA, he'd be rewarded with his own apartment. Bingo. The final score was a 3.8. This past June, Dad bought a one-bedroom loft condo for his scholarly son in a converted factory building and tossed in a shopping allowance at Room and Board to furnish the raw space. With the help of a studly and very friendly salesman, the condo was furnished in a contemporary style that looked somewhere between functional and cool…and all within budget. Not shabby for a guy who'd just hit twenty-one.
'Also cool is Rob Cooke,' Kris decided while watching the newscast. He and Rob had made eye contact a few more times before the weather guy started talking about some front coming in from the Dakotas. On an impulse, Kris took out a legal pad from his backpack and wrote his cell phone number with a Sharpie in big block numerals. He casually waited until Rob's head turned his way and lifted the pad.
Rob smiled, reached for a pen, scribbled on his copy page and mouthed "Later" to Kris.
The Revson segment was over and they went to commercial. Rob knew there'd be a lot of chatter about the story in the morning in what used to be referred to as water cooler conversation. 'Will Marv Revson's people be calling management at the station and the Trib tomorrow morning?' Rob wondered while reaching for his iPhone. He thumbed in the mystery dude's telephone number, saved it as 'window' and typed a text message: hi ;) u like news?
Moments later came his reply: news & u :) go 2 j school dpaul. kris.
He turned and looked at the face through the window. 'Goodlooking guy and very sure of himself.'
The 'good' Rob said, 'Forget the kid…he's a little on the twinkish side.'
But the 'bad' Rob retorted, 'He is a hot dude or legal tender and is obviously trolling for you.'
Rob looked at the clock and half-listened to the sports reporter rattle off baseball scores. 'What the hell.' He typed a reply: c u frog pond on hubbard 6:45 talk shop
He hoped Kris understood the message and knew The Frog Pond restaurant and where it was located. 'Am I being a little too forward? Naw, just a little horny.' Being served a tasty morsel on a silver platter was too tempting. But he would also handle this rendezvous somewhat cautiously. A little playtime was one thing; getting mixed up with some sort of star-fucker or stalker was another. Even in the TV news business there was a touch of celebrity to consider.
He watched Kris read the message and nodded when the guy smiled and pointed his finger north to indicate he understood. Rob lifted up a quick thumbs-up sign and returned to his copy to review the final minutes of the show.
This was a different twist on the game that he and Rick had mastered. For years they'd individually played according to time-honored rules, and assorted variations on the theme, as the hunter and the huntee. In fact, it was the way they'd met ten summers earlier at the yuppyfied Southport City Saloon beer garden on a hot, sticky Sunday afternoon in August. Rob was then a general assignment reporter for NBC5 and Rick was a junior trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor. At 4:00 p.m., after several passes of eyeing each other, Rick strolled over to Rob at the bar and they went through the mundanity of squeezing out basic info on each other. Twenty questions…or maybe it was a few less…established whether or not it was wise to proceed to and beyond the let-me-buy-you-a-drink stage.
Two Buds later, and after a double order of Buffalo chicken wings, critical mass was realized. Five o'clock or thereabouts, Rick asked Rob if he'd like to come home and…well, the rest of the spiel contained familiar lines that Rob himself had successfully used in the past. After a little expected hemming and hawing to establish that Rob wasn't a complete garden-variety slut, they departed.
Rob really loved sex with a hot guy - quality over quantity - and Rick fit that bill. However, at Rick's studio apartment, they decided to limit their first encounter to exploring and oral examinations; it was obvious to both, from the moment they first stood butt-naked in a puddle of clothing before any action, that this might be more than a one night stand. Ironically, the intense session of touching, groping, tonguing, licking, slobbering, nibbling and going down on each other, made them realize that it was much more than just sex. A series of phone conversations the following week led up to an official date on Saturday evening. Pizza, a movie - the Gladiators - and back to Rick's place for step two. Compatibility in the sack was not an issue because Rick loved being the bottom and Rob enjoyed working over a man's ass. At his first glance at what he had to work with, Rob shivered with excitement as he rolled on the Trojan.
By late September, the guys were dating each other exclusively; snippets here and there because each other's hours were a little goofy. Rick was up early to work the commodity trading floor and Rob's assignments frequently kept him scheduled in the evening for the 10:00 p.m. newscast. In November, Rob's straight roommate moved out and Rick moved in. At Christmas, Rick introduced Rob to his mom, younger brother and sister; and the rest, as they say, was history. Mrs. Cole was very accepting and ditto the sister and her fiancé. Brother Mike, who lived in L.A., had brought home his boyfriend - Dave Swenson, a certifiable stud - and it became a very gay holiday season.
In year three of their partnership, Rick brought up the subject of developing an open relationship - the permission for either man to move in on a little nooky if the opportunity presented itself. "Nothing crazy or anything like that…just saying a little sniff around the bicycle seat once in a while might be fun."
Rob's swallow blasted out an audible gulp at that revelation and he wondered if all was not well between them. He considered their sex to be pretty good, with just enough romance to keep it interesting. 'Maybe 'pretty good' isn't good enough,' he thought, and asked the obvious question - "Are you getting tired of me?"
"Absolutely not," Rick replied emphatically. "I love you more each day. It's just that I sometimes let my dick lead me around, and…think it occasionally might be good to release the steam. That's all."
"Uh-huh," was all that Rob said in reply. He knew that Rick had a more energetic libido than he did and wondered if their usual two or three times a week were not enough. On the other hand, Rob admitted to himself that he would occasionally be curious about what some specific guy might be like in the sack.
Rick kissed Rob lightly on the neck below the earlobe and added, "Like last summer when we met Patrice in the Tiergarten…it was just sex with a nice guy."
"Yeah, a nice guy with a dick of death," Rob replied.
"That proceeded to pop out of its uncut turtleneck and grow…and grow."
"A vision from the gods." Rob turned his lips in a slight smile as he remembered them running into this hot, hung Frenchman the previous summer in Berlin. They all clicked and spent the remainder of their vacation together. A throuple. Sightseeing, driving, dining, sucking and fucking through Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary. 'It was pretty hot,' he remembered, 'and we were still numero uno for each other.' The following year, Patrice decided to visit Chicago and Rob had wondered if Patrice would crank Rick and him up again. Could they be the consummate hosts? 'Yes,' Rob remembered, 'he lit our fire and we took very good care of our houseguest.' Hot crème brûlée for a week straight.
"So…you're saying we should be doing three-ways as S.O.P.? Patrice was a vacation fling and I don't know if I want to share you with other dudes." Rob thought the throuple thing was very DDO - did it, done it, over it.
"Naw, we agreed screwing around together en mass is history. I'm thinking about that very occasional moment when I want to walk the wild side. Well, not exactly the wild side. The dude would obviously be PLU and whatever happens would always be safe," Rick replied.
PLU - people like us - meant attractive guys, from a broad racial spectrum, who were fairly vanilla guppies like Rick and Rob.
"Plus, our home would be off limits. Further, we should probably keep these little escapades to ourselves. I know I wouldn't want a blow-by-blow account of what you did on a one-night stand…and vice versa."
"Blow-by-blow ain't the half of it," Rob said with a leer. "You mean it would kinda be our private version of don't ask; don't tell?" He was warming up to the idea. 'I've definitely checked out a few hotties from time to time who I wouldn't have minded messing around with.' But the most important thing was to keep his man happy. 'This is a pretty reasonable request if it does that.'
Rick was very specific that the primary relationship - their partnership - would always take precedence. He emphasized that it was only about sex and any emotional involvement would be verboten. "I think the biggest benefit of being open is that I'll appreciate you even more."
After a few more points were discussed, including the not-more-than-once-with-the-same-guy rule, Rob decided to give it a shot. And what a shot it was - as in being messy with some stud on occasion, and as a shot in the arm of their committed love life. Another advantage of the arrangement was that both partners discovered new techniques to try out on each other. They were happy and committed campers.
Tonight could be another adventure, partially because Kris and his ballsy approach intrigued Rob. 'The guy is cute and sexy in an almost innocent way.' And it certainly was an ego boost for a young stud puppy to be coming on so strong to him. 'Jeez, is fifteen years difference too much? Naw, we're both grown-ups.' He remembered a great line from a recent movie that rationalized an occasional fling to, 'a break in my normal life - a parenthesis.'
In his IFB earpiece, Rob was told by the director to 86 the 'kicker' - the offbeat warm and fuzzy final story of the newscast and go right to the weather re-cap. The sports segment was running long and there'd be nasty calls if the Sox and the Cubs didn't get equal coverage. He lined through the copy and said to Wendy, "So I'll throw it to Stormy for the weather and you'll do the closing tag. Right?"
"Yep, sweetie, whatever the boss wants."
"That'd be good ratings and getting outta here on time." Rob smiled at the way they both tossed out a few suck-up lines to the director for good measure. 'Never hurts.'
Wendy looked over at the window, covered her mike and added, "Well, well, well. Looks like you have one audience member in heat…from the steam forming on the glass. I gotta admit he's cute."
"Don't read too much into our number one fan tonight," Rob replied with a chuckle. "He probably just likes the production value."
"Right…and I believe in Santa Claus. I saw the kid flash his cell number and you two have been texting like two dogs in heat ever since."
"Dogs? Boy, are you being the drama queen. That reminds me of a recent study that says the most used sexual position for married couples is the doggie position." Rob flipped on an evil grin and added, "The husband sits up and begs, and the wife rolls over and plays dead."
"Ha, the only thing you missed was a rim-shot." Wendy grinned and kicked Rob's leg.
"Just call me Shecky Cooke."
"I must admit you got the begging part right, but he always brings a bone." Wendy heard the sports segment wrapping up and checked her makeup. "What the heck, Rover, go for it. My lips are sealed."
"Good advice, mother. Woof, woof."
They simultaneously sat up straighter and waited for their cues.
Rob smiled into Camera Two, which was positioned for the usual wide shot of the anchor desk. The camera's red light flashed on and he cheerfully said, "Thank you, Chuck. It's been another good day for our home teams. And before we leave you, here's Stormy Kloud with a final look at Chicagoland's weather."
As soon as they finished the newscast, Rob noticed his iPhone was blinking. 'Can't imagine who's calling,' he thought as he unclipped his lapel microphone. 'No reason to let any snooping ears listen in.' However, when he looked at the screen Rick's name was displayed. 'Gotta take care of the home fires first.' He gave Wendy a so-long-until-later wave, stood up and walked away from the desk. He noticed Kris was gone.
"Hey, Mr. Cole…you home?"
"With pizza in the oven and sipping a frosty Modelo Negro. Good job on the Revson story. That should stir up some shit at City Hall."
"Yeah…I'm sure I'll get a call from someone in the morning."
"That little tidbit about the mystery man close to the mayor…and Marv Revson being the silent partner…is strong stuff. By the way, who's the dude you didn't name?"
"Sean O'Reilly…but getting verifiable proof is still in the works so I can't use his name. Anyway, it's mostly John Kess's story that I'm coattailing on. And there's more shit coming down the pike over the next couple of weeks…mostly carefully worded speculation unless he nails the proof. But O'Reilly's only a second cousin to the Mayor…so who knows if anything will actually stick. How was your day, Babe?"
"Same old, same old. I gotta get up early and study our position on oil futures…so I'll probably be snoozing when you get home. How about you?"
"It's been a rather slow news day, so I'm goin' to grab a bite with some student from DePaul's communication school. He wants some pointers from an old fart like me." Rob was tempted to joke a little about 'pointers' but decided to take a pass. "Then back for the ten o'clock. I may stop off at the Green Mill and listen to some jazz before I come home."
"Man, if you're an old fart at thirty-five, me being three years senior must be like having one foot in a crypt."
"Maybe I'll join you in that crypt," Rob said with a chuckle. "We could do the True Blood thing and stalk humans for their blood at midnight."
"If vampires were like those hunks on TV or in the movies, I'd give it a shot. In the meantime, provided we don't cross each other's paths during a pee-break tonight, why don't we meet at the club for a late lunch tomorrow and get caught up? I should be able to shake loose around one-thirty."
"That'd be fun. I haven't been there in several months." Rob enjoyed all the pomp at The University Club. Rick had been given a membership when he'd been promoted to partner in a Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading firm a few years earlier. "In the meantime, gotta run. Love ya, Hon."
Back at his desk in the newsroom, Rob noticed his phone extension had taken several messages. 'I'll deal with that tomorrow.' He dialed the producer's extension to leave a message about taking a dinner break off-site. Tonight would be a two-phase event. Meeting at The Frog Pond was primarily to lay groundwork for playtime later on - after the ten o'clock news - if this Kris dude was legit and they were tuned in to each other.
The restaurant billed itself as having 'four-star food at one-star prices' and had been around a long time. 'Some famous French chef opened it,' he remembered. In fact, the Lamacki family used to frequent this place. But that was several years ago when everything was still intact between his mom and dad.
For a Monday night, the place was doing good business. Kris had secured a small table in the bar area of the faux French brasserie and figured that Rob could take things from there. 'Maybe we'll grab a bite and find out what's what. Who knows, maybe he'll be a complete asshole and that'll be that.' But a little voice in his head told him things were going to be just fine.
Kris was licking off a cappuccino moustache when Rob walked through the front door. The off-camera Rob was a combination of post-preppy and business guy, and the tortoiseshell glasses did a nice job of making his TV face not so noticeable. He wore his loosened, knotted tie askew and the pale blue, button-down dress shirt was only partially tucked into a pair of snug-fitting 501s. It occurred to Kris he probably didn't wear anything special in the pants department because he was only seen waist-up from behind a desk. 'It'd be hawt if he just worked in a pair of tighty-whities' He snickered as he waved and stood up. 'That would be quite a sight on YouTube and some of the gay blogs.'
"Nice to meet the determined Kris," Rob said. He extended his hand and gave Kris an extra squeeze and didn't release the grip right away.
"Cuz I normally don't get such attention from the audience…and I usually keep to business." Rob grinned, sat down and flagged a waiter. "But there are always exceptions. And anytime I get the chance to meet a good looking man, well…"
"Then I feel honored," Kris replied. 'Oh yeah, this is goin' to be awesome. The dude just made the first move.' He leaned in and said in a low voice, "I think you're awfully good looking, Rob."
"Guess that answers one of my questions. But first, you want some food? This is my dinner break…unless the shit hits the fan and I'm paged."
"Um, okay. I remember they have a bad steak sandwich and fries…I mean pommes frites…here," Kris said.
"Bad…as in good?"
"As in fab."
Rob smiled with a knowing expression and straightened up when the waiter approached. "My friend will have the burger…medium rare." He waited for Kris to nod approval and then continued, "I'll have the onion soup and some iced tea. Oh, you want another cappuccino?"
"Maybe I'll join you with the iced tea. Don't want to get too big of a caffeine high." Kris winked and added, "Gotta get my zees, dontcha know ?"
The waiter brought back the iced teas and Rob got the cliff notes version of Kris. Without being too specific on coming out, Rob did the same and casually mentioned he was in a great relationship of ten years. Kris hadn't thought that far about any complications, but he certainly wasn't looking for marriage material. Just a little wham-bam-thank-you-sir tumble without complications. 'Is this goin' to happen with Rob working tonight?' That question was hanging in the air when their food arrived.
"Here's the deal," Rob said as he punctured the cheesy crust of the soup. "I need to return to the studio and update any late breaking news in about a half hour. What I'm thinking is that we meet somewhere around eleven and really get to know each other…if you get my drift. FYI, my place is off limits."
"I like the 'really' part." Kris cut his burger in half and took a bite. After a few chews, he said, "Um, I've got a small loft apartment not too far from here. Why not come over from the studio and we'll take it from there?"
Rob turned on his Eyewitness smile and replied, "Like I said, you're a determined man and I like that."
With the details settled, the two men proceeded to enjoy dinner and talk shop. Kris knew this was going to be a very successful evening in gathering professional knowledge and feasting on an intimate dessert later on. A banana split with lots of whipped cream came to mind. Espontáneo.
Something told him Rob might become some sort of solid friend down the road. 'And it would be cool to have an older brother-type to bounce ideas off of.' But first things first.