Chapter 41 ~ Joe & Jody Meet
Joe and Sam waited in the baggage claim area near the bottom of the escalators at McCarran Airport. Limo drivers, searching the faces of arriving passengers, were holding iPads up with last names on them. Arriving passengers riding the descending escalators wore a similar look. Their faces glowed with the hope of a five year old child staring at the presents under the Christmas tree. Their eyes sparkled with anticipation.
Sam punched Joe on bicep, “There’s a good looking gal at the top of the escalator waving her arm like crazy. The one with the ball cap. Is that Jody?”
Joe forced a smile and waved, “Yes, and what did I tell you about hitting my arm?”
“Opps. She’s cuter than the first rose of springtime. All I kin see is her head, if the rest of her is as nice as her face, you got a winner.”
“Her blonde hair isn’t natural. I’m not sure about anything else, either.”
“My, my you can’t enjoy a woman who got all prettied up for you. You really need help, Joe. When we’re done with Joe Ritchie, maybe the Lord will direct me to lead you back to the world where a man kin look at a girl like that and fall head over heels in love.”
“Did you fall in love with her?” asked Joe watching Jody beaming at him as the escalator neared bottom.
“The first second I seen her. You’re already pre warned, pretty woman are naturally attracted to me.”
Joe took a quick glance at bowlegged, ruddy skinned, shaggy-haired, man. He admitted to himself Sam had a rugged look about him. He had the look of a man who could handle himself if need be and liked the outdoors. He tried to gauge his age. Joe hadn’t asked him how old he was. When they first met, Joe thought Sam was in his late sixties. Now, he wasn’t so sure. He was one of those guys that stopped aging. He shook the thought from his mind and stood off to the side of the descending escalator.
“Jody, welcome to beautiful Las Vegas. How was the trip?” asked Joe forcing a smile.
Jody stepped off the escalator, stepped to the side with her traveling suitcase behind her, She carried her backpack on her shoulders. She let go of the suitcase and threw her arms around Joe.
Sam stood back and smiled thinking, Joe, you got no chance, you might as well surrender. Look how she fit in those jeans. Perfect. Not to tight, just right, really just right. Oh my, oh my.
Jody stepped back and placed a hand on each of Joe’s shoulders, “You’ve only been gone two weeks and it seems like two years. It is good to see you, Joe. I really mean it. It is good to see you.”
Jody turned slightly to the right and caught Sam’s grin. Sam stuck out his hand, “I’m Sam. Joe’d be lost without me.” Sam laughed.
Jody started laughing an stuck out her hand, “Good to meet you, Sam. He needs somebody to take care of him. I’m happy he found you.”
Sam said, “Joe tried to describe you so’s I’d recognize you, but he didn’t do you justice. You’re prettier than the Rockies when the Aspen are all turning color. Let me carry your backpack and tug your suitcase for you.”
Jody squeezed Sam’s arm, “You are so sweet, Sam.”
Joe looked off in the distance and seemed to be asking, “Why me? Why me?”
Sam stepped to the side and let Jody pair up with Joe. He followed them as they walked to the short term parking garage. Jody started talking about the station’s rating being pulled down because Joe left. They caught up on station gossip and sports news coming out of Ohio State University.
When they packed Jody’s gear in the trunk, Sam held the passenger side door open for Jody. She thanked him and kissed him on the cheek. Sam slid in the rear seat. Joe said, “It’s too early for you to check in. You can freshen up in our room if you like then we can go for breakfast. Will that work?”
From the back seat, “Jody don’t need to freshen up. Open your eyes, Joe. She’s prettier than a sunrise on a perfect July morning.”
Jody half turned toward the backseat, “Are there anymore like you, Sam?”
“Fraid not, I’m an original, one of a kind. The good Lord threw away the mold when he made me.”
Jody turned and faced Joe. She put her hand on his shoulder, “Joe. We need to talk. The sooner the better. Is there a breakfast place nearby? I’m starving. I had a cup of coffee at the airport. I slept most of the way here.”
Sam chirped from the backseat, “Joe, let’s go to the pancake place near the Residence Inn. This time of day it’ll be a full menu.”
“Sounds perfect. I love pancakes,” Jody said. “Seriously, Joe. We need to talk. I don’t want to tell you the story now, but I’ll give you a teaser like we do on the six o’clock news and sports to get people to watch at eleven.”
Joe tilted his head at bit toward Jody as he turned onto Sunset Drive, “A teaser? What kind of teaser?”
“The reason I couldn’t find anything about Joe Ritchie for the past five years is because he changed his name. I was searching under marriage records. I was searching under criminal records. I searched under deaths and driver’s licenses. I didn’t think of checking beyond that.”
“What’s his name?” asked Joe.
“He changed it from Joe Ritchie to Joe Rich,” said Jody. “I’ve got a story for you, but I’m going to make peace with my appetite first.”