Fleur de Lis was hopping. The place was packed with the usual rabble. Rich people looking bored, eyeing other rich people and wondering who was richer. The maitre d’, Francois, oiled over. He did a bit of coughing in French.

"Got something caught in your throat?"

"No, monsieur."

"Fighting a cold?"

"No, monsieur. My cough merely meant you might consider patronizing some other dining establishment. Overjoyed as I am to see you, Fleur de Lis is not the place for you. Your clothing is not–how do we say?–not in harmony with the evening. Your shoes–oh, your shoes! I could write several depressing poems in the styling of Monsieur Camus about the existential problems posed by your shoes."

"Hey."

"You wish to speak, monsieur?"

"Yeah, get us a table now, or I’ll break your neck."

"Ah-ha! Monsieur is so jovial. His speech, while crude and provincial, is like a breath of–"

"I’ll crack it like a Chinese fortune cookie."

"Very good, monsieur. Right this way."

"Elegantly done," murmured Maura. "Crude and provincial, but elegant."

We ordered crab cakes, mussels in garlic, and clam chowder for appetizers. Then we moved on to a rib eye for me and what looked like an entire salmon for Maura. She’s always had a thing for fish and can pack it away like a linebacker, even though she’s as skinny as a runway model. We kept the waiters coming with the platters. For dessert, I had another rib eye and Maura had a slab of halibut smothered in creamed scallops.

The people at the tables near us weren’t impressed, but I wasn’t impressed with them. A fat man camping out under a hairpiece sneered at me. The blonde with him was wearing more square inches of diamonds than clothing. He was shoveling down a side of pork gussied up in something mysterious and French-looking. She picked at a salad in slow motion.

"What’s this place coming to?" he announced to no one in general. The blonde certainly wasn’t listening. She seemed to be having a mystical experience with the arugula. "They’ll let anyone in now."

"Pig," I said to him.

"What?"

"Pig. That’s pig you’re eating. Pig. You know, pig."

He turned red and pointed a stubby finger at me.

"Look here, my man. I’ll have you know that I’m Trevor Smithson-Smythe the Fourth, of the Hampton Smithson-Smythes, and–"

"The fourth?" said Maura, showing all her teeth in a smile. "Don’t you know that nasty things come in fours? The four horsemen of the apocalypse, the four kinds of poisonous Australian octopi, the four stooges–"

"Four?" spluttered the fat man. "There were only three!"

"The fourth one died, penniless and alone, choking on a ham sandwich."

"Is everything all right, Mesdames, Messieurs?" Francois materialized out of nowhere.

"Tell the cook my steak’s great," I said. "Now buzz off or I’ll thump your nose."

"Very good, Monsieur." He buzzed off.

All in all, it was a good dinner.

I dropped Maura off at her apartment at a respectable hour and beat it home for an early night. I had big plans for the next day. I needed my beauty sleep. But someone else had bigger plans.

I had my usual dream that always followed a big dinner of red meat. You know, the one with the troupe of clowns, the Waffen SS division, and Emily Post. It was getting to the good part, where Ms. Post begins her lecture on table settings. The clowns were getting restless and the SS were asking hard questions about salad forks. Of course, the phone started ringing at that moment. Ms. Post answered the phone.

I woke up. 5:36 a.m. The phone was ringing.