Lessons

“You WHAT?”

“I dove behind the bar. Literally. Dove.”

I didn’t mean to laugh so hard at Mason, but that was funny. When he called me to come get him from Benny’s, I was just leaving Sabrina’s house. She loves me.

I got to the bar apologizing, thinking I kept him waiting too long. But he didn’t care, not after messing up so badly during the mission he and Yanni were on.

Only a non-professional would dive across a bar trying to keep his cover. He must not have been paying attention to Yanni when she was showing him how to do what we do.

I know I remember her telling Mason to always stay calm. That was Lesson # 1. Stay still. To be prepared for any and everything. Never panic. That’s what her and Alex taught me years ago. And I always listened closely.

I better stop laughing.

I didn’t want him to feel bad. “So, what happened after you dove over the bar?”

Mason sighed. “I stayed there when they came in, and waited for them to sit down before looking for a way to sneak out without them seeing me. But some idiot sat them near the bar, so I couldn’t move.”

Lesson #2—”When in doubt, sit it out.” That was straight from the stakeout handbook. Alex always drilled that into my head. I know Yanni told Mason that, too. Man, when she finds out she’s gonna be really angry. I’d better say something. “Well, at least you stayed still.”

“Yeah, until . . .”

“Until what? What happened, Mase?”

“Well, until I realized I’d left my phone on the bar top and tried to reach for it from behind the bar. A glass fell and broke and all hell broke loose. I was busted.”

“I thought I smelled alcohol.” That’s all I could say before the laughter erupted from my stomach. I swear, I didn’t mean to laugh, but Mason sounded so pathetic. He broke every rule in the book on his first mission. He was gonna have to go to Surveillance Summer School.

“Okay, stop laughing so hard!” he yelled. I stopped, but it was still funny. Even more funny because it reminded me of Rain, who messed up so badly when he tried to come with us on a mission, Yanni banned him from ever coming with us again. Good thing Rain is a great surgeon. Mason and Rain are just alike.

Mason went on, “I know. I suck at spying on people. I’m not built for that shit. That was my first and last mission. You guys can keep that shit. My beige ass is gonna go back to what I know—cutting grass. For real.”

Damn. He looked like he’d lost his best friend. But I know he didn’t, because I was sitting right next to him. “It’s okay, Mase. Everybody’s not good at everything. I mean, I will never be as good at cursing like you are. Or at making everything clear the toilet in one flush like you can. And your French toast is definitely better than anything Yanni’s ever made.”

“Okay,” Mason said, while staring out the window. “I got you, man. You’re right, but still. Shit! I ain’t used to failing. I’m Jackson Fucking Mason, Red. People look up to my ass. I’m good at every damn thing. I mean, how hard should it be for me to spy on niggas? All you gotta do is sit there and fucking watch.”

“Yeah, but you dove.”

“I KNOW! And fucked up big time. Shit don’t make no sense.”

“Mase, it’s all good,” I said, turning into Yanni’s driveway. “You are good at almost everything. You’ve taught me so much about women since you’ve been here. Sabrina’s in love with me just from the things I’ve been doing while listening to you.”

“So, that’s going good?” He turned from the window and faced me as we sat in the driveway.

“It is,” I replied, with a huge smile on my face. “In fact, I think I’ve found something I can help her with. She seems to like taking pictures. And of people we know, too. I saw a picture on her kitchen table of Starlet. I’m gonna ask her to take my picture tomorrow. I’ll be her model.”

“Pictures of Starlet? What the fuck?”

“I know. It seemed kinda strange to me, too. Especially when she tried to say it wasn’t her. I know what Starlet looks like. But I just figured she was as shy about her picture-taking skills as she is about her kissing skills.”

“She’s still being stingy with the kisses? Did you do what I told you?” Mason asked, now smiling.

“I did. I made sure I licked her nose and chin to make her feel comfortable enough to open her mouth.”

Mason was laughing hard for some reason. “Good for you, Red. I taught you well. Now, about those photos . . .”