“Hey, Robyn, heard you got arrested.”
“Hi Toby. Not arrested, just cited.”
“How long did he look at your boobs before he wrote the citation.”
“About a half hour. You want your regular?”
“Yeah. So, what’s next? I was worried they might shut you down.”
“Didn’t close me down yet, but I have to go to court in two weeks.”
Robyn had already taken her blouse off. Toby was a regular and paid by the month. Topless, she worked on his drink, facing him, a grande four shot Americano, heavy cream, made in his insulated mug.
“You got a lawyer?”
“Not yet. Don’t want to spend the money. Might represent myself.”
“I don’t advise it. Tried it in my divorce. Saved money on the lawyer but ended up with a bum deal on the property. One of those times it might be worth it.”
“Thanks Toby. Haven’t made a final decision yet.”
Standing still, front and center, shoulders back, she gave him the full view before handing him his drink. He took it and tendered a ten, waiving off the change.
“Good luck in court.”
As he drove away, she left her blouse off as a familiar truck pulled forward, also a regular on the monthly program. For a hundred a month, customers got topless service every visit.
“Hi Grant, your usual?”
“Yes, please. And, Robyn, don’t pick up the soap.”
“Grant, really? Do you think that’s the first time I’ve heard that this week?”
“Sorry. It’s the only prison joke I know.”
Still topless, she turned to make his drink. She had the espresso bar set up so customers could see her front when she made drinks, in this case, a tall three shot latte, extra cream and sugar. And, Grant liked the cream steamed.
“I get it, but I’m not planning on prison.”
“It’s so ridiculous. Really, a woman can’t show her rack in the privacy of her own business?”
“Most everyone feels that way except Barfo and his holy roller nut cakes.” Sheriff Warren Barlow was the lay leader of the local fundamentalist church, and leading advocate for the Christian right.
Robyn gave Grant the full frontal before handing him his drink.
“The girls are looking good today.”
“Maybe some of us should pay Barfo a midnight visit.”
“Please don’t. But, thanks for the thought. We’re going to work this out in court.”
“Thanks for the business, Grant.”
Robyn didn’t recognize the SUV next in line. As it pulled up to the window, she stepped behind her privacy screen and slipped on her blouse, snapping the critical button at her breasts.
A dark blue late model Volvo SUV pulled up to the window, a smiling older gentleman in his seventies behind the wheel.
“Hi, welcome to the Robyn’s Nest. What can I start for you?”
“Tall three shot Americano, black, please.”
“You got it.”
“The sign down the road says, ‘Espresso with a View’ and ‘Served the way you like it.’ How does that work?”
“For twenty bucks, I make and serve your drink topless.”
“Really? I’m good for that.”
She gave him her best smile, unsnapped the button, and slipped her blouse off. Standing straight, shoulders back, she gave him the full frontal before making the drink.
“Haven’t see you before. What’s your name?”
“Herb Mueller. Just passing through. Saw your signs and was curious. My career was marketing. Your signs are great. Two miles back, a mile back, and five hundred yards before. Nicely done. They got me in here.”
Pulling his shots, she stood tall facing him, letting him have the full view, and chatting comfortably. New customers were like gold even if they were passing through. They’d tell others and return if they were happy with the drink, conversation, and view.
“Thank you. I worked hard on those signs. Had them designed by an artist friend and built by a local carpenter. I wanted them to be subtle, tasteful, yet catch people’s attention. What did you like about them?”
“Your artist is very good. The design is pleasing. You don’t say anything about topless, but the message is nicely subliminal. I guessed that anyone who’d have signs like that probably takes pride in the espresso too. Do you want me to go on?”
“No, that’s great to hear from someone who knows the business.”
“And, then, you deliver. The view is spectacular, and I’m sure the espresso is good too. So, nice job.”
“Thank you.” She gave him the final front and center, his eyes burning into her breasts, before she handed him his drink. He gave her a twenty for the view, five for the drink, and a two dollar tip.
“Thanks so much for stopping. I hope you’ll return next time you’re passing through.”
“Wouldn’t miss it. Good luck with your business.”
She slipped her blouse on for the next car, a high school friend.
“Hi Katie. The usual?” Katie drank a tall caramel macchiato, extra hot.
“Yes, please. You ok, Robyn? I read the article. You get arrested?”
“Got a criminal citation. Have to go to court in a couple weeks.”
“Jesus. Really? Barfo doesn’t have anything better to do than harass small businesses?”
“What can he do?”
“From what I know, I could get fined, but I’m more worried about getting shut down. I’ve got a lot invested in this place. Hate to lose it.”
“Unbelievable. Anything I can do?”
“Know a good lawyer?”
“Guy who did my divorce, but I wouldn’t recommend him. I’ll ask around.”
Robyn served the drink and settled the tab, collecting a one dollar tip.
“Good luck Robyn.”
* * * *
The day passed without event, a beautiful fall Indian summer day up the Wenatchee River valley in north central Washington State. With thirty miles of the most fertile orchard country in the world, the valley produces apples, pears, cherries, apricots, and peaches. The western end of the valley, framed by the jagged snowcapped mountains of the Cascade range, is drained by the Wenatchee and Icicle Rivers.
The first point of civilization for both rivers is the picturesque town of Leavenworth.
Surrounded by dramatic peaks reminiscent of the Swiss Alps, the Leavenworth town fathers years ago adopted a Bavarian theme for the quaint village. The little town of two thousand residents now draws two million tourists a year. Dotting the surrounding hills are an ever increasing number of modern mansions built by Seattle’s young tech millionaires from Microsoft and Amazon, further complicating the conservative political climate of the orcharding community. Older tourists come for the autumn leaves, the Bavarian setting, and shopping Leavenworth’s shops. Youthful travelers come for eco-tourism, river rafting, rock climbing, hiking, and para gliding.
Five miles down the Wenatchee River is the orchard community of Peshastin, known for its former mill, the quality of its pears, and a beautiful setting in the upper valley. The Robyn’s Nest, situated between Peshastin and Leavenworth on a busy cross state highway, is located on road side property that previously hosted a fruit stand. Five miles below Peshastin is another former mill town, Cashmere, then finally, at the point where the Wenatchee drains into the Columbia, is Wenatchee, the county seat where Robyn would be appearing in court.
* * * *
Robyn had been in business five years and had built a loyal following. Word of mouth brought new customers, and the signage program accounted for the rest. She picked up the daily activity in the upper valley as well as traffic from the busy two lane cross state highway.
During the busy morning commute, she had an average of three or four cars in line at most times. But, even in late afternoon, business was steady, often several cars waiting. She wore extra cushioned tennis shoes on thick floor pads. Being on her feet all day was exhausting, and she went home at the end of each day spent. She worked hard six days a week, but was proud of her growing business.
And, she ran Robyn’s Nest like a business, keeping tight accounts. She now had sixty seven customers on the hundred dollar a month program. She was averaging twenty seven twenty dollar tips a day. On top of that, her average tip per drink was $1.67 times an average 94 customers a day. Finally, drink and food gross sales totaled about $9,000 per month. Expenses left her a net monthly income over $12,000. So, it was a good business, and it was growing.
But, this harassment from the sheriff had her on edge. Could the sheriff really close her down?
* * * *
It was late Saturday afternoon, the end of her week. She was looking forward to heading down to her place, pouring a cold beer, and watching the Wenatchee River flow by. Her closing protocol was the same every day. At three, when business was slowing a bit, she started close up chores. Precisely at four, she slipped out the door and put a closed for the day sign after the last car. Everyone in the parking lot by four got served.
She’d been watching the line that day and noticed a classy black off road Jeep Renegade parked next her vintage Willys Jeep. The Renegade, a favorite of the tech millionaire crowd, was a super cool top of the line late model rig, oversized wheels, roof rack for kayaks and skis, fog lights, winch, removable top and doors, the works. It looked good next to Willy, its great grandfather, the original World War II army workhorse.
It wasn’t unusual for cars to pull into her lot and park. She had a Sani can for distance travelers and a picnic table. She was actually inviting cars to stop for a break. Sometimes folks just pulled in to check a map, or make a phone call. But, she kept her eye on all cars spending any time in the lot. She was half naked and alone in the stand. The Renegade was sitting quietly with darkened windows so she couldn’t see the occupant. There was enough of a sinister presence to it that she checked the drawer where she kept her loaded handgun, and made sure the cameras, alarms, and strobe lights were at the ready. In her line of work, a darkened car waiting until she closed for the day was worth paying attention to.
At four, she stepped out the back door carrying her tent sign. Her heart quickened when she heard the Renegade start and slowly pull forward. She turned to see the window roll down. She stepped back to check it out. A very attractive guy stuck his head out the window, smiled, and asked if he could get in line. She offered a modest smile, waved him forward, and set the sign after his rig. She could feel his eyes on her as she walked up the stairs and entered. She locked the door and kept the gun drawer open.
She served the two cars in front and waited for him to pull forward, her blouse on. She hadn’t recognized him and was sure he’d never stopped before. She would have remembered him, a good looking stud in a hot off road rig. He pulled up with a big smile. Oh my God, he was so hot.
She flashed a guarded smile. She still didn’t know what he was up to. “What can I get started for you?”
“Don’t really want a drink, but I’ll get one if that’s what it takes to talk with you for a few minutes.”
He was so handsome, his smile was chemically altering her insides. Cute wasn’t the word. Handsome. A stud. Muscles. Rugged chiseled face, two day heavy beard, long straight white teeth, incredible blue eyes, black thick wavy hair, outdoor tan. She was working hard to process that, and he didn’t want a drink. Probably wanted the view. A long silence as she studied him. He seemed harmless but why was he hanging back in the parking lot. Why no drink? Why no twenty bucks? What did he want to talk about? Why was he making her nervous? Why were red flags waving? And, why was her body tingling in her private places? Jeez, get a grip girl.
“Why were you sitting back in the parking lot?”
“I wanted to be your last customer, hoping we might talk.”
“What’s up? You work for the sheriff?”
He laughed, his face astonishingly handsome, her stomach turning flips. “No, that’s funny.”
“Why is that funny?”
“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk about, but I’m not with the sheriff.”
“Who are you with?”
“Myself. I read the article in the paper. I thought I might be able to help.”
“How could you help?”
“I’m a lawyer.”
That caught Robyn completely off balance. She studied his face to see if he was kidding. No tells.
“You don’t look like a lawyer.”
“I’ve heard that before. What do I look like?”
“You look like trouble. Serious trouble.” But she said it with a light smirk and an eyebrow raise. He was the kind of guy better kept on the defensive.
That earned another hearty laugh. “Trouble?”
“Yes, you’re too handsome for your own good. And you know it. You look like a GQ model. You’re the guy who’s used to having women fall for your lines. And, right now, I’m guessing a lot of them regretted it.”
“Honest, I’m just a lawyer who may be in a position to help.”
“How are you any different than any other lawyer?”
“Do you know what the issue is in your case?”
Robyn stopped and thought about that for a minute. Hadn’t really thought about it and she didn’t know anything about the law.
“Yeah, the county has an ordinance against topless businesses and I run one.”
“Very good. Have you thought about what kind of legal defense you’d put up in court?”
“I’m not hurting anyone. It’s all voluntary. The county shouldn’t care. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The county should spend its money on real crime.”
“Very good. Those are good points, but they aren’t legal arguments.”
Robyn was tired. It was after four on Saturday. She should be home pouring that beer. But, the citation was the biggest thing in her life right now and this guy seemed to know something about it. She pulled up a stool and stared at Mr. Hot Stud Lawyer.
“What legal defense should I put up?”
“The county ordinance is valid on its face. The only way it’s not valid is if the ordinance is unconstitutional as applied to you. The constitutional provision is the First Amendment. Do you know much about the First Amendment?”
“Freedom of speech.”
“Yes, very good. But there are other rights in the First Amendment. The courts have interpreted it to also include freedom of expression. That’s the defense I recommend for you. The county ordinance is unconstitutional because, as applied to you, the ordinance violates your First Amendment right of free expression.”
Robyn sat stunned. She was being hypnotized by Mr. Hot Stud Lawyer, the combination of being tired, looking at his incredible face, and hearing the words that might set her free.
She reached her hand forward, “I’m Robyn Firman.”
He reached out of the car and took her hand, giving it a firm shake. “Dirk Osmandson.”
She burst into laughter.
“Yes, what’s so funny.”
“You look exactly like your name should be Dirk. That’s so funny. Are you sure you don’t want a drink?”
“I’d love a drink. But, not here. Can I buy you one somewhere? Give us a chance to talk more about your case.”
Robyn sat frozen. She was exhausted. But, it was Saturday night, her work week was over, a drop dead gorgeous man was inviting her out for a drink. She had nothing to do. She wasn’t seeing anyone right now. She desperately needed a lawyer. The hunk inviting her was a lawyer who wanted to help. Why was she frozen? She focused on his face. God, was she dreaming?
She tried to say something but was hit by a wave of heavy déjà vu. Suddenly, she saw her mother, and her father, and remembered her mother describing the first time she saw her father, “He was just so delicious, I couldn’t help myself.” Why were those words coming to her now? Why couldn’t she speak? He was studying her, waiting patiently for a response. That was it. He reminded her of a younger version of her father. Oh my God. She had to say something. She took a deep breath.
“Yes, I could use a drink. I’m also exhausted and sticky from working in this stand for ten hours. Can you give me an hour to put myself together and meet you somewhere?”
“Sure. Where’s your favorite place for a Saturday night drink?”
“Where do you live?”
“Up the Icicle.”
“Ok, then, Icicle Brewing at 5:30.”
“Perfect. See you there.”
Robyn watched him drive away. Oh my God. Why was her stomach upside down. Why were her lady parts tingling? What a stud. What did her father have to do with this? She had a date for Saturday night. Suddenly, she wasn’t so tired.
It only took fifteen minutes to close the stand. She jumped in Willy and gunned him down the road. Her place was only ten minutes away, and Icicle Brewing another ten minutes. What was going on?