Burton scanned the hushed room. “You really want to discuss it here, out in public?”
He had a point. Did I want the whole staff listening in on my private conversation? He probably wanted to discuss Sammy, who was no one else’s business.
“Let’s go outside,” I agreed. Head down, I followed him past a leering Hank, feeling like a naughty kid going to the principal’s office.
Nathan entered the newsroom, a camera slung over his shoulder, stopping to stare at Burton. “Jazz, is everything jake?”
“Everything’s berries.” I smiled to pacify him but, I admit, I had the jitters.
“I remember him. Your boyfriend?” Burton seemed amused.
“He’s the staff photographer.” I ignored his crack. “And a good friend.”
Outside, I felt safe among the throng of people and automobiles passing by in a rush. The hustle and bustle of the streets and sidewalks seemed almost comforting. I looked around for Golliwog, our resident stray cat, but she must have been making her daily rounds for scraps.
“How was lunch?” In broad daylight, Burton didn’t seem quite as menacing or intimidating. Besides, a group of hard-boiled reporters peered out the newsroom, spying on us.
“Fine.” I covered my growling stomach. “What brings you here?”
“Sorry to barge in that way.” He smiled, tugging on his hat. “But I had to get your attention. You wouldn’t give me the time of day the other night.”
“Can you blame me? A raid isn’t exactly the best way to meet new people.”
“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, jingling some change. “Perhaps we can talk over dinner, instead of standing out here on the sidewalk?”
“Dinner?” Was he serious? “Just like that?” I snapped my fingers. “You waltz in as if you owned the place—like you did at the Oasis—and expect me to dine out with you, a total stranger, because of your badge? You’ve got a lot of nerve, mister.”
“I wouldn’t be a Prohibition agent if I didn’t.” He looked smug. “How about tonight?”
“Tonight? I usually work late.” I admit, I was curious. What did he really want?
“Every night?” He raised his brows. “Don’t they let you off for good behavior?”
“For starters, I don’t even know you and what I do know, I don’t like at all.” I squinted in the sun. “And I don’t appreciate the way you bullied us at the Oasis. I thought people were innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.” I wasn’t usually so bold and blunt with strangers, especially lawmen. Maybe it was his youth, or maybe I’d finally found my moxie.
“You must mean Sammy. Fair enough.” He held up his hands. “If it makes you feel any better, my gun wasn’t loaded that night.”
“Small comfort now, after you scared everyone half to death.” So it was all an act?
Burton looked down at his boots, as if reconsidering his options. “I hoped you could get to know me over dinner, but how about a quick bite now? I haven’t eaten.”
“Why not?” I nodded, not wanting to let on that I was famished.
Burton stopped at a sandwich vendor on the corner, and tried to pay for my lunch and Nehi, but I pulled out a quarter before he did. It wasn’t a date!
“Where can we talk, in private?” He motioned towards the newsroom. “Away from prying eyes and ears.”
Anxious, I led him towards a city park and we sat on opposite ends of a bench, my clutch bag like a barricade, keeping my distance.
“So what’s the emergency? Why did you come by today, out of the blue? I hope I’m not under arrest!” I half-joked.