S.W.A.T. Headquarters – Morning –
Hondo hadn’t learned much from Nia about Herman Lauder; nothing like what Buck had insinuated in his files. Not even close. According to her Lauder was a successful businessman who’d learned to be resilient and determined under the watchful eye of his late father. The younger Lauder had spent a great deal of his time and money on philanthropic endeavors as well and was a large donor to several local charities.
He wasn’t sure why he would expect her to know more since she was still considered a newcomer to Los Angeles. He wanted desperately to prove that what Buck had left him was more than the mad ramblings of a worn-out heartbroken man on the brink of insanity.
Hondo had dodged Nia’s counter questions of why he was interested in Herman Lauder a man who had no known criminal record and was not suspected of breaking any laws. Hondo was cautious and never mentioned his suspicions or Buck’s files. If what Buck had suspected were true, then he needed to be careful not to put anyone else’s life in jeopardy.
Community Center –
It was good to be home and good to be back at work; the work that had given her both comfort and a sense of purpose and most recently, the community center had given her the distraction she needed to keep her mind off of Hondo.
The work that had been done while she was away was amazing and Sybil had done a good job keeping things on schedule. There was still a lot to do but at least now they had the money to take care of things…thanks to Hondo.
“Welcome back, boss lady!”
“Sybil, hey! It looks really good in here!”
“Does it look like what you envisioned?”
“That and more! Thank you, you did a great job!”
Sybil handed Nechelle one of the two mugs in her hand and the two headed toward the back office.
“So how was the trip?”
“It was amazing, just what I needed, you know? I met some amazing people doing the same things we’re trying to do here but bigger and better!”
Sybil watched the excitement dancing in her friend’s eyes; she also saw the sadness. Nechelle glanced at the stack of mail on the corner of her already cluttered desk. Hurriedly she began thumbing through it perhaps it would prevent Sybil from asking her the next obvious question. It didn’t.
“So…have you talked to Hondo?”
“No, I haven’t talked to Hondo.”
“No Sybil, Hondo and I are in two different places, we want different things…it’s just not a good time.”
“Then why do you look so miserable? Nechelle, that man really cares about you! He supported you, heck he hooked you up with a half million-dollar donation!”
“I don’t want to talk about Hondo. I appreciate everything he’s done and he’s a great guy but…”
“He’s not ready for a real relationship; a committed relationship and I don’t have time to play games without any hope for long-term.”
“Are you sure? Because it sounds like boss lady was looking for a reason to run.”
“That’s not fair.”
Sybil watched as Nechelle occupied herself with the mail. Suddenly one envelope in particular caught her attention as she dropped the others on her desk.
“This is odd. Someone sent a letter to Hondo.” Handing the envelope to Sybil.
“This doesn’t make any sense. Who would send Hondo something here?”
“I have no idea.”
Then Sybil remembered the handsome stranger from yesterday.
“I almost forgot, a man who said he knew you from college stopped by yesterday.”
“Laughlin…Langston…Lauder! Herman Lauder!”
“Whoa, this morning just gets stranger by the minute.”
S.W.A.T. Headquarters –
The day had started out with a bang, literally. The team had just returned from a call involving an attempted bank robbery. Seven employees and twelve customers had been held by a four-man team with a nervous trigger-happy leader who was trying to add bank robbery to his otherwise lack-luster list of petty crimes. His inexperience was his undoing and now he sat behind bars trying to figure out what went wrong. No one had lost their life and the only minor injury was suffered by the bank’s security guard. Hondo and his team had done what they do best; things that Buck had taught them still worked.
Hondo was surprised to see her number flash across his phone. He wanted to be hopeful; maybe she’d had a change of heart. He let it ring again before answering.
“Hey, are you back in town?”
“Yes, hi Hondo.”
“It’s good hearing your voice.”
“How are you?”
“Tired. I came straight to the community center from the airport.”
“Look, Nechelle, I was hoping…”
“Hondo, I just called to let you know that an envelope came here for you.”
“Yes, an envelope with the community center’s address.”
“Who would send you something here?”
“I don’t know. I’ll come by later to pick it up if it’s okay.”
“We’re just getting back from a case; I can be there in about an hour.”
Hondo heard the line go dead and his feelings of hope faded. She seemed so far away. Her trips out of town hadn’t changed anything it seemed. It was hard to imagine that they were over without so much as a conversation. Him not attending the awards ceremony shouldn’t have been enough to end what they had.
Lauder Development – Office of Herman Lauder, CEO –
Herman was happy that Nechelle had called. The two of them had been close in college and unfortunately had lost contact after graduation. Both had causes that they believed in and dreams that had taken them out of town and out of reach. It was good to know that they were in the same city again. He looked forward to catching up.
Secretly, Herman had kept up with Nechelle. In fact, he was well aware of her comings and goings. Not that he was a stalker or anything, but he was pleasantly surprised that the two of them had something or more accurately, someone in common. His friendship with Nechelle would prove useful and Herman always believed that everyone served a purpose. Nechelle would play an important role in his life soon. She had agreed to have lunch with him today and he couldn’t wait to see his old friend.
Community Center –
Hondo was impressed at the work that had been done since that last time he was here. Sybil was the first to see him and waved him inside. He was nervous, things hadn’t gotten well the last time he’d seen her.
“You must be here for the mail.”
“Yes, Nechelle called and said it would be okay to come by and…”
“Hi Hondo.” Nechelle interrupted.
“I’ll leave you two alone.”
“Good seeing you again Hondo.”
Sybil made a hasty retreat disappearing down the hall out of sight. Hondo eyed Nechelle wanting desperately to pull her into his arms but he’d lost that privileged several weeks ago, so he kept his hands to himself.
She was nervous as she handed the letter-sized envelope to him. He took it slowly, realizing that after he had it in his hands, there would be no reason for him to stay any longer.
“Thanks. I’m not sure why anyone would send me anything here. It doesn’t make sense.”
“I don’t know either. For someone to connect you to the community center…”
“Yeah, well I’ll straighten it out and make sure you don’t get any more of my mail here.”
They both spoke simultaneously. There was so much that needed to be said and neither of them knew where to begin. Before either of them could say another word, they were interrupted.
Herman was surprised to see that Nechelle had company. Until now he had never seen Hondo up close and he was quite pleased with his timing as he saw the questions swimming in the man’s eyes.
Herman gobbled the petite woman in his arms more for affect than anything else. It worked. Hondo watched even more confused than he was when the man first arrived. He suddenly felt invisible and as far as Lauder was concerned, that was the point in lavishing such a display of affection on Nechelle.
“Wow, just as beautiful as ever! I swear you have not changed!”
“I see you still have not gotten your eyes checked.”
“My vision is twenty-twenty, baby!”
The two chuckled. Hondo cleared his throat. He needed to escape and quickly. Nechelle blushed as she pulled from Herman’s embrace.
“I’m sorry. Uh, Herman, this is Hondo; Hondo this is my good friend from college, Herman Lauder.”
Hondo felt as if he’d been hit by a ton of bricks. This was the man that had been the subject of a private investigation that most likely cost Buck his life. Now it seemed he was front and center in his life.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Hondo.” Herman extended his hand. “I’m not interrupting anything am I?”
“No of course not, I was just leaving.” Then turning his attention to Nechelle. “Thanks for the mail.”
Before she could go on, Hondo turned to leave.
“It was good meeting you Hondo.” Then pulling Nechelle into his side. “We better leave too our reservations are for one o’clock.”
The three stepped out of the building and headed into two directions. Hondo watched Lauder attentively open the door for Nechelle. Lauder took his time aware that he was being watched. Needing a reason to stay a moment longer, Hondo absentmindedly opened the envelope and as Lauder made a U-turn and drove toward him, Hondo realized who had sent him the mail.
Lauder slowed down making sure to get Hondo’s eye watching them as they drove by. Hondo pulled the letter from the envelope while Herman smiled and winked before speeding off.
Hondo looked down at the letter again and felt his heart stop as he read the large print.
(photo credit: IMDb)