For most of Wobbly Banyan's second set, Leo Agrolkin, fifty and graying, had been more than peripherally aware of the woman eying him from a table near the window. The distraction had an interesting side effect: his sax work was freer than usual. Which might explain why the crowd in this FW Diner was more engaged than those at the others the jazz band had played.
When they were finished, the manager thanked the musicians and invited the crowd to place their dinner orders. Leo, bowing to distraction, set his instrument down and slowly approached her. As he did, she laced her fingers on the table and smiled up at him.
"I take it you enjoyed the performance," he said easily.
A subtle nod. "Yes. And the music was good, too. Care to join me for dinner? I'm buying."
Leo chuckled. It wasn't often that an attractive woman came on to him while he was working. But then, tonight he wasn't wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit like the server who just walked past. "I would. Thanks. Miss...?"
"Sheila Markof. And it really is 'Miss', though I'd prefer it if you'd call me Shem."
He slid into the chair opposite her. "As you wish, Shem. But tell me something. Did you come here for the music, the food, or um..." he glanced at the fake plastic bars on the window behind her "the cartoon prison chow hall atmosphere?"
"That's easy. It's the music. After all, there aren't many places you can hear a jazz riff on old unionist songs from the comfort of a 'cartoon prison chow hall', as you put it. Besides, I needed a place to vent."
"Oh? Delicate family matter? Workplace bully?"
Shem closed her eyes and sighed. "Neither. Government harassment. Have you ever heard of a guy called the Bank Shot Blogger? He was accused of being a terrorist a while back."
"John Frachetti? Sure. What's going on? Did the three-letter goons who threatened him at the FW I work at come after him again?"
"Whoa. Back up a minute, Leonard!"
"It's Leovar, actually. Leo for short. The sign on the door's wrong."
"Leo, then. But you know him?"
"Sure. And I gotta say, those two government cretins who followed him in picked the wrong place to make their threat. The whole crowd, staff and customers alike, rose to protect him. And we didn't even know who he was at the time. So what's happened now? Last I heard, John was out on the road somewhere."
The yellow-clad server who had walked past earlier returned to take their orders. When she'd gone, Shem resumed the conversation. "Well, if it's those two you saw, they're not very bright. A story was 'leaked' to the government's unofficial propaganda outlets that some unnamed experts in our glorious anti-terrorism agencies were trying to shut down the Bank Shot Blogger before he could issue what they called 'a rallying call to chaos'. The way they talk, you'd think he was the leader of a rogue empire or something."