One thing was for sure—he wasn't going to figure it out tonight so he might as well just savor the stew the waitress placed in front of him. Maybe he would suggest to Eamonn that the chef at Boland's should consider adding barley to their lamb stew recipe. Maybe he should consider an entirely new career and enroll in culinary school. On second thought, for the sake of the dining public, probably not a good idea. Best to leave cooking to the pros. That's why he frequented Boland's Mill far more often than the Giant or Safeway.
Brick wasn't about to waste a slice of brown bread. He used it to soak up the last of the herb gravy on his plate.
"Another Guinness?" the waitress asked as she cleared the table.
"No thanks, just the check when you get a chance."
Brick took the long way back to his airbnb. Most of the shops were closed, but the bookstore was open for another half hour and he needed something to read for tomorrow's flight back to Washington. After browsing for a few minutes at a shelf displaying a number of books by contemporary Irish authors, he chose an autographed copy of The Guards by Galway-born Ken Bruen. Even though he had to leave the west coast of Ireland, at least he could be there vicariously by reading about it.
Casa Kavanagh. For the first time in three months, Brick woke up in his own bed. He had slept well, but figured that was as much a result of a long, tiring day of travel as it was being home. While he was away, Rory Boland had kept an eye on the place. In exchange, Brick gave him the club-level Nats tickets he wouldn't be using. Upon walking in the door, Brick knew Rory had done an outstanding job. The place looked neater than when he had left. His prized Madagascar Dragon Tree was thriving, and a philodendron appeared to have doubled in size. Still, this morning as Brick rubbed his eyes and looked around his bedroom, it felt oddly unfamiliar. He yawned and stretched before throwing back the covers and heading to the kitchen.
Stocking the fridge with breakfast food was a "welcome home" gesture Brick really appreciated. He poured a glass of orange juice and while he waited for two frozen waffles to finish toasting, he listened to the Local on the 8's weather report.
According to the calendar, there were still two weeks of summer, but with any luck, he had missed the hot, humid days that make most Washingtonians miserable. A forecast of eighty-three degrees with low humidity sounded good. Business casual would be appropriate for his afternoon appointment. When he finished breakfast, there was a stack of mail he needed to sort through and two suitcases to unpack.
On a scale of one to ten, Brick's enthusiasm for meeting with Professor Grace Alexander hovered around four. But since she had gone to the trouble of tracking him down, he was willing to hear what she had to say. The Uber dropped him at the front gate of Abraham Lincoln University. Set on a large tract of land in Northwest D.C., the campus of Lincoln U., as it was more commonly known, seemed to have a split personality. The modern glass and steel buildings on the eastern end of the campus contrasted sharply with the ivy-covered brick buildings on the western end. But that also spoke volumes about the success the university had achieved. Nobel Prize-winning chemistry professors and a men's basketball team that had made it to the Final Four several times went a long way toward raising money. It was a school that Brick's younger self wanted to attend instead of a community college and state university, but the tuition was prohibitive. All these years later, he would probably still be paying off student loans. He checked the directory and located the School of Public Affairs Building. On his way there he didn't pass many students, but the ones he did seemed totally preoccupied with whatever device they held in their hands.
After checking in with the security guard at the entrance to a modern building resembling those found on K Street filled with deep-pocketed lobbyists, he was directed to a bank of elevators. He got off on the third floor where a receptionist announced his arrival. Immediately, Grace Alexander emerged from her office. Brick guessed her to be in her early fifties, but when she stepped closer and greeted him with a warm smile and a firm handshake, he realized he was mistaken. Despite her silver, chin-length hair, she could easily be ten years younger.
"Let's talk in the conference room. Would you like coffee, tea, water?"
Brick followed the professor into a room with a view of the soccer field. As he settled into a leather chair that probably cost more than all the furniture in his apartment combined, the receptionist arrived with a bottle of Fiji water and a glass filled with ice.