As Marlo launched enthusiastically into his first cup of the delicious coffee, Boothby began to talk about her latest sleuthing efforts. “I think we need to talk to that stagehand,” she said, leaning over the table, her cup in both hands. “I was checking the surveillance again and I noticed one of them was outside but then he walked around and came in by another door.”
“I interviewed the stagehands,” Marlo said, wiping sugar off his cheek. “I know you want to help, but really, we’re moving along just fine. We have experience in these things.” He buried his nose in the coffee cup again and drank the last of it. “It’s very good,” he said, sitting up.
“I’ll get you another one.”
In a few moments she was back with another savory cup. He dove in at one. She kept on talking but he wasn’t paying attention any more. A strange warm energy was seeping all through him. He began to hum to himself. Licked the sides of the coffee cup, getting the last of the cream. “So good,” he said. “Soooo gooood!” He began to sing, at first softly, then building, until he suddenly stood up on his footstool and really aimed for the back row, as his choral teacher instructed.
“Ah, boss? You better sit down.”
“I need more coffee,” Marlo said swaying unsteadily from side to side.
“Sorry, buddy, you’re cut off.” Rick, the owner loomed up over Marlo and took his cup away. “Another Merculian who can’t hold his coffee,” he added disgustedly.
“If you give me more, I will hold it!” shouted Marlo. He fell back into the armchair and began to laugh.
“For God’s sake, Rick, do something!” cried Boothby. “He’s a Regulator!”
“Serve him right for raiding this place last month.”
“That wasn’t his unit. He’s homicide, or whatever they call it. Come on, Rick. Do something.”
“You mean hermacide, right?” He threw back his head and roared with laughter.
“Yeah, yeah. Very funny.”
“Well, I can give him my hangover treatment. It usually works on them but he’ll probably get a headache. Provided he’ll even drink it.”
“Just put whipped cream in it and he’ll drink anything,” she said, looking at Marlo worriedly.
“Let’s go to your place,” Marlo said suddenly. He winked.
“Oh God! That’s not a good idea.”
“Do you have any coffee at your place?”
“Listen, Rick is making you a nice new drink. After you drink it, we have to leave.”
“But I like it here!” Marlo jumped up, almost lost his balance, then began to sing again, but one foot slipped and Boothby managed to catch him just in time.
The body contact sobered Marlo a little. He straightened up, leaning one hand on the table. “So sorry, Boothby dear. You do smell good,” he added.
Rick came weaving his way back through the tables, a small glass heaped with whipped cream on a tray. “Here you go. Bottoms up, chai.”
“Just toss it back, boss.”
Marlo saw the whipped cream and did as he was told.