“If you’re not doing anything for dinner…” one of them continued.
“I’m sorry ladies, but my partner has a meeting,” said Wright. “I however, would be happy to escort any or all of you to dinner.”
“I have a meeting?” Andrews leaned over and asked.
“In the lobby.”
The lobby of the Grace Coolidge international building, though Spartan, was large. It took a minute for Andrews to find his appointment waiting by feet of the statue of Justice. He almost didn’t recognize Ep!phanee. She was dressed in faded jeans and a Nehi Blue Cream Soda tee shirt. Her hair was tucked up under a black military cap.
“Is somebody here with you?” he asked.
“Nope. I ditched the cops back at the hotel. Buy me a hotdog.”
“You shouldn’t be running around town without an escort.”
“Well I have one now. Besides, I just want a hotdog. There’s a hotdog cart just down on the corner. I saw it on the cab ride over here.”
She took him by the arm and led him to the glass enclosed front of the building, holding the door open for him. The hotdog vendor was stationed just where she had described, a chubby little woman with a striped shirt, a large stain covering most of the front.
“Two dogs,” Ep!phanee ordered, then turned to Andrews. “What do you want on yours?”
“I don’t know; whatever’s customary.”
“Haven’t you ever had a hotdog before?”
He shook his head. “German food’s not very popular in the enclaves.”
“Hotdogs are as American as apple pie. All right. Bacon, beans, avocado, catsup, and mayonnaise. Do you want jalapenos?”
“So you don’t have street food in the enclaves?”
“Sure. Tacos– usually fish tacos, but sometimes grilled shrimp.”
The vendor handed Piffy the hotdogs, already loaded with beans and avocado. Stepping to the end of the cart, she scooped on the jalapenos and then squirted on squiggly lines of red catsup and white mayonnaise. Handing one of the dogs to Andrews, she watched as he took a tentative bite. She then opened her mouth wide and shoved in about a third of hers.
“Good huh?” she asked, her mouth full.
He nodded and then took another bite. Ep!phanee began strolling down the sidewalk and even though she was moving slowly Andrews had to take a few quick steps to keep up. He was still eating his hotdog as they walked, being careful not to spill the condiments on his jacket. She finished first and dropped the little paper hotdog caddie in a trashcan beside the street.
“I should get you back to the hotel.”
“I’m staying in this hotel now.”
Andrews looked skyward to find that they were in front of the Palmer House. When he looked back down, Ep!phanee was already going through the revolving door. He stuffed the last bit of hotdog into his mouth and dropped the paper waste in a can beside the door, following her. The lobby was huge, with a tiled vaulted ceiling that looked like it belonged in a cathedral. Andrews felt self-conscious even walking on the rugs.
“Why are you staying here?”
“We have two more days in Chicago. I’ll go crazy if I’m cooped up with the girls the whole time.”
“You have two entire suites at the American. And it’s under complete police protection.”
“I’ve got my own suite here.” She twirled around a few times but kept on course for the elevator. “It’s the same one Ulysses S. Grant stayed in. He used to be on money, you know.”
She skipped into the elevator and he followed. An attendant, a small woman in a tight red uniform, was waiting inside.
“Twenty-fifth floor,” said Ep!phanee.
The attendant nodded, and then turned the lever sending the car gliding swiftly upwards.
“Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885,” said Andrews. “There weren’t any twenty-five story buildings in Chicago then.”
“I think I feel his presence though.”