The bright red Fiat 1100 convertible drove through the lattice work of the Shinnecock canal bridge and then another hundred yards or so before turning into the horseshoe parking lot of the Canoe Place Inn. The car was not easy to come by, but the unobtrusive improvements under the hood had proven their worth on several occasions.
Dan Lorica parked the car, ran a quick comb through his hair, and walked towards the entrance as the western sky reddened into evening. The sign said “Dining and Dancing,” but he did not think he would get the chance. He was here on business, not to socialize.
He regretted that last thought as soon as he had crossed the lobby and entered the bar, because the redhead in the teal sheath dress, sitting alone at a table by the fireplace, was absolutely the type of woman he wanted to socialize with. Regret, however, quickly turned into intrigue when she turned to look at him and he spotted the tulip pin above her left breast. This was exactly what he was looking for, in more ways than one. He crossed to the table and smiled down at her.
“Mark Dalton,” he lied, taking the hand she offered him.
“Lydia Penny,” she replied. Lorica had no idea if she was lying as well, as Penny was a local name. In any case, it was the name he was told to expect.
Lydia used the handshake to pull herself out of the chair, smiled for a moment, and letting go of him, sat herself in the opposite chair. Lorica appreciated this, as the seat she gave him let him watch the door. He also appreciated that she had left a cigarette lighter in his hand.
“That’s for me?” asked Lorica.
A waiter came over; Lorica ordered a Manhattan and looked to Lydia, but she indicated that the glass of wine on the table was fine for now.
“Just a report from Montauk,” Lydia said in a low voice, after the waiter had left. She pulled a cigarette out of her purse. Lorica feigned pulling the lighter out of his suit jacket pocket, lit her cigarette, and then put the lighter in his pocket as if it belonged there.
“They think the new radar might have been compromised,” she continued. “They can’t be sure, nor can they be sure who might have done it, if it happened. The report gives you background on the four possible suspects. You are to report to the station’s public affairs officer – that’s what I said – posing as a reporter for UPI. He will direct you further. The station will be getting a new operator on Wednesday – a sergeant named Vorhees – who will conduct the technical research for you. He’s being assigned to the midnight shift so he can work undisturbed.”
“Very well. What’s your part of the operation?”
“I just did it,” Lydia answered, with a glance at his jacket pocket. “I am just the messenger.”
“And a pretty one at that,” said Lorica, with only a minimum of leer. “I hear the Larry Lang Trio playing somewhere. Fancy a dance before I push off?”
“I’ve heard worse ideas,” she responded, smiling. “But you should probably be on your way. Don’t want to impede the investigation. Besides, the music is from a private party in the ballroom – Lions holding a mixer.”
“Too bad. I bet you can dance. Anyhow… Oops!”
“Don’t turn around. A man just came into the bar, and if he means well, then I’m Eisenhower. He looked at us just a little too long. Please tell me he’s a jealous boyfriend.”
“Sorry, can’t. Don’t have any boyfriends just now. Certainly none that would be jealous.”
“He’s sitting at the bar now, conspicuously not looking at us. Could you have been followed?”
“Hardly. I spent last night upstairs. Been waiting for you.”
“Really? I only got the assignment at lunchtime. He must be in on our rendezvous. Or he followed me, but that would have been quite a trip. I passed this place an hour ago and worked my way back over a couple of dozen roads. Still, my car stands out a little. Poor spycraft, I know, but I really like that car.”
“So what’s your plan?”
“Still working on it.”
“I could invite you up to my room,” she suggested slyly.
“Don’t tempt me. Besides, I’m not sure this is that kind of place.”
“Yes, well, I was thinking that if the guy does follow us up, you could conk him on the head or something.”
“Risky. Besides, five will get you ten there’s another guy staking out the lobby.”
“Pity. It’s a nice room.”
“Yes. Hmm. Can’t go back to the car if there are two of them – too high a chance they’d win. Could have you slap me and scream for the bartender to call the police.”
“That sounds like fun!”
“But it is much too public. I’d end up flashing my badge at the cops and, all of a sudden, my quiet little investigation would have too much local color.”
“So, my darling messenger, I think it best that we push across the lobby quickly, into the ballroom, and tango straight across the dance floor. Once across, we split up. I’ll head for a fire exit and get to my car, maybe smacking the first guy who follows – probably this guy up at the bar. Meanwhile, you see if you can’t arrange to bump into any second follower, scream bloody murder that the guy grabbed you, and let the Lions turn him into hamburger. Then you get back to your room and stay there until your office can send you an escort.”
“Well, at least I’ll get a quick dance,” she said, stuffing out her cigarette. “Who says romance is dead.”
“Not me. I’m a real romantic guy, Lydia. So, ready to tango and tangle?”
They rose as one.
That is all just a story, of course. Not likely too many spies crossed paths at the Canoe Place Inn, although there was said to be a spy employed at the Oliver Twist Inn – why not the Canoe Place Inn? But this is just our story about the inn in our midst.
The rejuvenation of the Inn has people chatting about their time there, as well as retelling stories passed down from their families and friends from different eras. After all, having been an Inn site for over 300 years there are bound to be thousands of stories. Most of them are probably mostly true.
So what is your story?
We would like to hear it. Please share with us your stories about the Canoe Place Inn, events you attended, people you saw, music you heard, meals you devoured, photos you possess. Tell the world what you know about this place, the oldest continuous inn site in New York. The best stories will be published in the coming weeks – anonymously, if you request.