Sally hovered, I remained on my chair, Bones scrambled to his feet across the table.
“You didn’t return my calls,” she said.
“We have nothing to say.”
I narrowed my eyes. “If I’m walking down the street and I see a madman on the corner draped in rags, unbathed, unshaven, unkempt, wild eyes, drooling, waving his arms at everyone, shouting the world’s coming to an end, I’m not going to argue with him. I know he’s wrong. I see no value in convincing him.”
“Is that how you see me? A madman?”
“It’s a metaphor.”
She rolled her eyes. “People who speak in metaphors are silly.”
Fuck you. “I have a serious question. I require an honest, candid answer.”
“Is there any way, even remotely, you could have given Dad gonorrhea?”
Sally bent quickly, wafting me with anisette and rum cake, her breath sweet like buttered honey. A whisper: “Harold has gonorrhea?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Quickly: “Your father has been through a terrible ordeal. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was with others, other than me. No. I’m fanatical about protecting myself from the plagues besetting the promiscuous.”
Plagues besetting the promiscuous.
She withdrew, once again looking down. “We need to talk. There are things you need understand.”
“I’m seeing a well-papered therapist, but thanks for the offer.”
She nodded with tight lips, my sarcasm lost in her hubris.
I offered an upturned hand behind me. “Sally, Bones. That’s his nick. Pre-med. Going to be a doctor.”
Their hands met. I thought Bones would ignite.
Bones made a lame pitch, Sally politely blew him off.
Finally to me: “You are too conservative, having an unrealistic view of morals. Discuss that with your therapist.”
I could reveal the silver blade, standing, coming up on Sally, the blade penetrating the soft tissue below her sternum, red polluting the white satin and virginal aura. She’d be dead before her head hit the floor.
My reason: because she was a Siren, inspiring men to do bad things, things they’d not do free of her influence, free of her spell.
How can you have had so much sex freely and still reek of virginity?
“I’ll be sure to do that.” Again, my sarcasm lost.
I watched the sway of hair teasing innocent shoulder blades flexing with her steps, the dance of the satin across her thighs, her perfect legs stilted, the turn of her ankles as she shrank away, finally consumed by gentry and ladies in fine clothes.
“Man, oh, man.”
I didn’t turn.
“Think she liked me?”
“You have her number?”
“I want to ask her out.”
“Circe turned men into pigs.”
I waved a hand at the air. “Got a pen? I’ll give you her work number.” You can go down the market and circle the store howling like a cat in heat.
Ink struggled on the back of my ticket, the pen dried out. “I thought you and Pallas were a thing?”
“How long you been seeing Pat?”
“Oh. It’s not like we’re married, you know.”
He narrowed his eyes. “We’ve been dating a long time, but we’re not really serious.”
I returned the narrow eyes. “Doesn’t put out, huh?”
“No wonder your face is so fucked up. With your mouth, you gotta get smacked a lot.”
I sat back, my opened hands on my chest. Melodramatically: “Oh, the pain to my heart, the daggers you sling make me suffer so!”
Duplicating my posture, his eyes stayed with me. “I have no idea why you piss me off so much.”
“I’d guess it’s something you bring with you and not me, per se.”
We watched each other.
“You don’t allow me to be me.”
With a deep breath, I nodded. “Gross errors with the language and sniffing at Sally’s panties is you being you? That’s what you want to be? Something you’re proud of?”
“I expect comments like yours from my mother –”
“Why should you lower expectations for yourself?”
He bit his lip. “You never have any fun, do you?”
“This is me having fun.”
“OK. Let me ask you: How about I tell Pat how you sweated Sally hard and asked me for her phone number?”
“You wouldn’t –”
“There’s the point. You know it’s wrong, yet say I’m some kinda bitch when I point it out.”
He gazed over my shoulder. “You’re young.” A shrug. “I like Pat OK. She’s cool and all. I’m pretty smart, so’s she.” Another shrug. “You can’t know what it’s like to hang with people that can’t understand you.”
“I can only imagine.”
Yet another shrug. “Can’t blame a guy for wanting to trade up.”
“God, do you have any idea how insensitive that sounds?”
I didn’t until now.
“Pat’s a unique person. I really love being around her. Hard to explain. She doesn’t let me in. I think she’s in love with her brother.”
“I feel we’re all unique people.” Some more than others. “How old is Pat?”
“Twenty. She doesn’t look it, huh?”
“I thought Snow was –”
“Twins. I thought you knew.”
I turned, looking across the room, the sea of people, figuratively watching Snow and Pallas, my mind racing. “Wow.”
The image of two fetuses floating in warm embryonic fluid hit me like chocolate ice cream in my mouth on a hot summer day. I blinked twice. “Wow.” To have another human being that close to me. Breathless: “Snow was born first.”
“He goes out of his way to make that point: big brother.”
“How could she not be in love with him?”
“That’s just sick.”
“I meant it rhetorically.”
Jack Stroman appeared from the blurred motion. “Lindsey.” He bowed slightly. “Would you come with me, please?”
Verbally dancing with Bones wasn’t as painful as dancing with Snow. I’d grown tired of trading barbs, Jack a welcome distraction. Like on a summer morning stroll, we moved through the herd, my attention on Jack, Jack’s on everything that moved.
Jack’s devotion sat on me like a cool damp towel to the forehead on a hot August day.
“Is it all just about the job?”
“All what, Lindsey?”
“What you do. How you attend me.”
“Does it matter?”
Jack glanced back over the floor, Dad off thirty feet, arguing with someone. Jack opened a door. “This way.”
I slipped from the auditorium, entering the darkened hallway. “He shouldn’t be here.”
“I thought he was –”
“Oh, he was, but his job was over hours ago.”
“I’d assume he got to drinking –”
“With you and the government.”
“That, young lady, was a long time ago.”
“I like a good story.”
“Promise to sit with me sometime, sip something cool and tell me the story anyway?”
“Where we going?”
The halls beyond the main auditorium opened like a labyrinth, the sconces high on the walls providing the only light.
“Not too much farther.”
“I should be dropping breadcrumbs.”
“Pete.” I nodded as he pushed the door open.
My foot crossed the threshold in the dimly lit conference room, two-dozen people, mostly old and mostly men crowded around a table.
No cigars and brandy?
I sensed Jack halted. I turreted, leaning forward on my cane. “Not coming?”
Pete pulled the door shut.
The mayor was speaking: “ – sure the locals can handle it.”
It, I gathered from the context, was the grief counseling.
“Doctor Bosch is most capable, very smart.”
Mabel’s presence did, and didn’t, surprise me.
“For her age.” A man next to Mr. Steinberg leaned on his elbows.
“For any age,” Mrs. McDougal objected.
“Now, dear, she is young.” Mr. McDougal patted his wife’s forearm.
“I think that’s settled, then.” The governor cut at the air, beckoning me forward. “Lindsey? Is that you luring in the shadows?”
I swallowed hard. Yes, sir, Mr. Governor. I thought I said it.
Somehow, Father Walker appeared at my side, taking my arm. “Let me help you, my child.” He whispered: “Good to see you again.”
Eyes watched, some people holding their breath. I tried to mask my discomfort. I tried to withhold my grunt when I hit the chair, failing.
“Lindsey – you like being called Lind?”
I nodded. “Yes, Mr. Governor.”
“I wanted to ask you – we wanted to ask you: How do you feel about the armed presence at the school?”
Why ask me?
I bit my lip, rolling my eyes. “I know it’s supposed to make us feel safe –”
“That’s the intent. Does it?”
“Honestly, it unnerves me –”
“If you’d like me finish a thought.” Maybe I glared.
The governor sat back, the room filling with laughter.
“Tommy’s an anomaly. If there were school shootings every day, I’d say call out the National Guard, not mercenaries.”
A stranger did glare, leaning toward me. “Private contractors.”
I rolled my eyes again. “You can call them guys with automatic weapons decked out in camouflage outfits kittens and they’d still not be cute and they’d still be mercenaries.”
The stranger straightened his back. I expected a well, I never!
“What Lindsey means to say is a military presence of any kind on U.S. soil can send the wrong message.” Mr. Steinberg tried a smile. “Isn’t that right, Lindsey?”
“Thanks, Mr. Steinberg, but I can speak for myself.”
He nodded, sitting back.
Mr. Riggins bobbed in agreement, pulling on his chin.
“Who wants to listen to this child, anyway?” someone asked.
I laughed, Mabel quick to join in.
I waved a hand at the air, as if shooing flies. “Them baby faces with automatic weapons scare the hell out of me. Even if something did jump off, you want them cutting their teeth taking down a fifteen-year-old?”
“They’re meant as a deterrent. With the armed presences, unlikely –”
I paid back the governor, cutting him off. “Tommy was an anomaly. It’s already unlikely there’ll be a repeat. You can’t prepare for and prevent all possible bad events. What? Shield all the schools from a meteorite strike? Require all people riding in cars to wear flame suits in case there’s a fire?”
Mabel: “Reasonable steps, Lindsey.”
“Like wearing seatbelts.”
“The likes of Pete and Mort.”
The governor pursed his lips. “Who?”
“My bodyguards.” The mayor indicated the door.
“Likeable guys in dark suits with sunglasses. I feel like I’m back in my mother’s womb with them around.”
The governor worked his pen on paper. “With that settled –”
“They’re not mercenaries.”
The governor glared. “With that settled: Detective Lewinsky.”
Moments melted together.
“Sorry, Mr. Governor. I didn’t hear the question.”
“Do you feel Detective Lewinsky should stay on as head of the task force?”
Why ask me?
“Without a doubt.”
“She’s not made any progress –”
“You haven’t seen the war room, have you?”
I pulled my back as straight as possible. “Of course.”
He blinked twice. “I’m not sure that’s appropriate, adds to what I’ve been thinking.”
“I’m the only living witness. Nothing’s more appropriate. I feel no one could do a better job than Kelley – Detective Lewinsky.”
“We’re not so sure about that.”
Auspiciously absent were Kelley, Ronnie, Pete, Mort and Jack. I knew some of the faces: the mayor, Mr. Riggins, Mr. Steinberg, Father Walker, Mabel and her husband. Most were new to me.
My breast puffed with hubris. “Kelley stays. With that settled –”
The governor laughed. “Nothing concerning you, mundane matters.”
“I want to talk about Madison –”
“Local New Age crackpot.” The mayor shrugged.
“He’s been the main local talking head on the TV –”
The governor pursed his lips. “Oh, that Madison.”
The mayor shrugged again. “Comedy relief.”
Shadow and light danced around me, the soft rubber thump of my cane joining the song of my hard-soled shoes.
Thump, clop, chop, thump, clop, clop.
My shadow jumped forward and fell back, competing light from the sconces.
I thought the halls should be carpeted.
Thump, clop, chop, thump, clop, clop.
Mr. Steinberg called to Jack. I assured Jack I knew my way back. I was wrong, getting turned around, music like a ghost coming from all directions and no direction.
“Hey!” No answer. I thought I heard footfalls.
I waited, listening with every muscle in my body.
I resisted the urge to whistle.
Stink, like burning bones, like scorched tofu, covered my mouth, an arm at my waist lifting me from the floor, dragging me through double doors, the doors snapping shut.
The darkness was rich, not complete, streetlights peeking through the distant windows. Released, I was relieved of my cane. Like a child’s top, I pin-balled off two tables and a chair on my way to the floor.
“Hi, Lindsey.” Crouching like a gargoyle, he exposed the blade from wood, snapped the cane shut, locking it. “Imagine my surprise when I heard you were alive.”
“Yeah, how about that?” I blinked through the dizziness, pushing the red pain away. “I’m a regular Energizer Bunny.” Leaning heavily on a chair, I pushed to my knees.
“I like your dress, very attractive.”
What the fuck?
“I know. From Jay.”
I repeat: What the fuck? “I really wanted to wear my three-inch sandals, but with what you did to me, you know.”
His face, lost in shadows, appeared a silhouette, nothing more than a cameo.
“Sorry. I thought you were dead. Really. I never meant for you to suffer like this.”
“I can never know what you think. I could never be that warped, sick, twisted and corrupt.”
He snickered. “No mirrors at home?”
“You’re wrong about me –”
“Then educate my discretion.”
“If I’d known you were so smart –”
“That, too. You were a mistake.”
“It’s all a mistake. These victims, these children aren’t possessed with evil you can drive out. It’s about your sickness, not them.”
“Where ever do you get these ideas?”
“You do exorcisms –”
His laugh was light, like a child seeing naked breasts in National Geographic. “I love the sound of Latin. I really got a kick out of you sending the task force on a wild goose chase.”
I blinked at the darkness. “Then. Why?”
The silhouette shrugged. “People.” Another chuckle. “People want to attach lofty meaning to everything. Knowing little or nothing, they make up material as if they know something. I’m sure you’ve seen the TV.”
I nodded. “Talking heads with their white noise.”
“Just the thought of you in the middle of the school shooting gives me a hard on.”
“You’ve been misinformed.” My involvement was kept from the press.
“Lindsey, Lindsey, Lindsey. You just don’t get it, do you? How’d that feel? His blood on your hands?” He revealed the blade, locking it down again. “I know you see his face when you close your eyes. Does it replace mine?”
“Sorry to disappoint you. I put you behind me ten minutes after I woke up in the hospital.”
“Really. There’s nothing you can say or do. What? You kill me now?”
“And, put you out of your misery? Nah. I was thinking of taking you home.”
“Sure, with this building hermetically locked down. Roll me up in a carpet and carry me out on your shoulder?”
I could hear him smile. “God, I miss that sarcasm. I’m sure you feel as alone as I do. We could team up.”
“A fairytale ending worthy of the Grimm Brothers.”
“I know his blood on your hands, the penetration, his squeal – I can see it – aroused you.”
“Aroused me? Worse.”
“I felt nothing.”
“We are so much alike. I should have seen it.”
“We’re nothing alike.”
“When I was young, I couldn’t feel anything. I just pushed harder and farther. That’s what you need to do, to feel anything.”
“It just so happens when my boyfriend kisses me, my bones melt.” I pushed to my feet, the silhouette ascending, two heads over me.
“Your boyfriend. Delusional. As if John Hopkins could feel anything for you other than fast track to a promotion. People are out for one thing: themselves.”
“Themselves is plural.”
“You said one thing.”
“Hide behind your imagined superiority. Doesn’t matter.”
“Nothing imagined about it. You took your best shot, here I stand.”
“I could kill you so easily.”
“You have, a thousand times. Don’t you get that? I’m beyond your reach. You can’t hurt me.”
“Just for one date? Try it? I know you’ll love it. It’s who you are.”
“Double fuck you.”
Again, the shadow shrugged. “John Hopkins, the love of your life who you think you’re going to marry is here tonight with his girlfriend.”
I held my breath.
“I believe you know her. Sally? Works with your father?”
“That can’t be –”
Laughter danced with the shadows. I wanted my cane, to draw the knife and end his life, his blood running down my arms.
I might not get aroused, but I would enjoy the experience.
With a tug, the chain holding Janet’s cross broke. I tipped a chair between us, stepped back, levered the table on its side, falling in the shadows behind it. As he danced, wrestling with the chair, I tossed the cross and chain as far as I could.
He bound toward the sound, tripping on another chair.
Certain I couldn’t outrun him, I made for the door, pulling hard on the fire alarm.
A geological age leaked by in less than sixty seconds, Kelley coming through the door following her gun.
I pointed. “He went that way.”
Kelley stepped between the back entrance and me, facing away. “No fire, call off the trucks. Lock down the building. Quietly.” She paused. “Yes. It’s him.”
Over her shoulder: “You OK?”
“Yeah. I got a present for you. His fingerprints on my cane.” I pushed up from my huddled position against the wall. “Too dark to tell what he was wearing. I could, however, tell he wasn’t in a tux.”
“Waiter? Kitchen help?”
“No. Street clothes. I got the idea he came looking for me and no other reason.”
“He wanted to have a conversation.”
“I’m not sure. I’m not fluent in crazy-talk. I can tell you this: If he wanted me dead, I’d be dead.”
“We’ll get you out of here.”
“I’d rather get back to my friends and the party.
“I don’t think –”
“He’s crazy, not stupid. He’s long-gone.”
Kelley holstered her gun, turning. “You’re bleeding.”
I touched my forehead. “Just a scratch. Musta bounced off the table.”
I rubbed water and soap on my face, footsteps echoing up behind me. I looked in the mirror. “You do know this is the lady’s room?”
“I really don’t care.” Jack presented a fistful of paper towels, which I accepted.
“I don’t need – want a bodyguard.”
“I really don’t care about that, either.”
“What I want is a gun, something I can handle easily with one hand. Doesn’t need to do a lot of damage. I’ll just pull the trigger a lot.”
“I have just the thing.”
“Figured you might.”
Turning from the sink, Jack dabbed at my face with a towel, produced a bandage strip, heavily applying it to my forehead. “Just a scratch.”
“That’s what I said.”
I found the ball as I left it, other than increased police presence on the doors. He couldn’t get near me, not dressed for the party, he’d stand out like a great blue heron against a spring sky. In deference to Snow, I’d left Mom’s phone on my dresser at home.
Snow stood. “I thought you bailed.”
“Unavoidable. Called away. Ran into an old friend.”
“What happened to your head?”
“Can you be just a bit more cryptic?”
“Would you like to come home with me?”
“Snow!” I blushed.
“I didn’t mean it that way! We’re done all the glad-handing. We can go back to our place, chill, talk. Pallas wants to try something.”
“Yeah, something nice.”
“Can you be a bit more cryptic?”
Again, I wondered about my sanity, my psychology, my humanity, my maladjustment. I should have been scared breathless, maybe crying uncontrollably into my hands.
I told Kelley I might have been wrong about seminary training, adding a caveat. “I don’t believe I am. One lesson’s come home again and again: Everyone lies to me.”
“Don’t be so bitter –”
“Tell you what: Pull John away from his girlfriend to come over my house and make out with me on my bed. Then we’ll have a conversation about people and lies.”
“It’s not like that –”
Tell me what it’s like, then. I waved her off, not wishing to be handled.
I was unable and unwilling to resist Snow’s attention, his rich humus iris with the tan ring raked me repeatedly like winter’s hint over a wheat field. I expected a sigh or moan. Not feeling self-conscience, I still thought I’d blush, warmed by his fire.
I felt pretty.
“Yeah, I’d like to hang with you guys.”
The crowd on the dance floor parted as if avoiding a leper, Dad finally spotted me, staggering in a bum-rush. Snow bounced to his feet, reeling, preparing for impact. I liked that about him.
Dad dropped to the floor ten feet from Snow, Jack on Dad’s back.
“Damn!” Snow’s mouth hung open.
I worked to my feet. “I’m ready, if you are.”
Snow crossed his eyes.
I nodded to Jack. “Friend of mine.”
I didn’t know what Dad had in mind. I thought he just wanted to say hi, to be important, seen as important.
Jack dragged Dad one way, we went the other.
“This’s going to sound funny.”
“One of many things, I’m sure.” Pallas gathered my hem. “Hope you’re not too shy.”
“Not too shy.”
The dress came up, my hands high toward the ceiling.
“I’m glad you have your own room.”
Pallas giggled. “We are bother and sister!”
“The way you guys talk.”
“And, look at each other.”
“We are in love. On your stomach.” She unfurled a blanket on the floor.
Sitting on my thighs, Pallas walked her thumbs up either side of my spine. “I looked at your x-rays. Hope you don’t mind.”
“I’m surprised my med files aren’t up on the Internet.”
“Deep breath, let it out slowly.”
As my lungs drained, Pallas’ palms pushed on my lower back, rocking her full weight.
“That good, huh? Again.”
I wept. I wept like a child with her first heartbreak. I wept like an adult with all secrets revealed and discovering nothing amazing. I wept like Demeter for her lost Persephone.
I was reborn.
In Pallas’ sweatshirt and jeans, I stood straighter than I stood since the event. “God, Pallas, I could run on the beach.”
“You should get a wheelchair. You need to rest, allow your body to heal. Moderate physical therapy. I’d suggest the only walking you do, you do in a swimming pool.”
“The docs said the more I walk, the quicker I’d recover.”
“Within reason. They obviously didn’t account for your obsessive personality – not that I’m a shrink. You are crazy-driven.”
I blushed. “Yeah, my Shakespearean fatal flaw.”
You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone applies to bad things, too.
“Can you see your house from here?”
I was going to say that, as a joke. I figured everyone standing on the balcony for the first time said the same thing.
“I was looking at the stars.”
Snow’s arms folded around me, him nuzzling the side of my head. “You said you have a boyfriend? Serious? I like the way you smell.”
“Ivory fresh. Yeah, my parents would call the cops on him if he weren’t a cop. He’s twenty-nine.”
“That’s way too old for you.”
“We could be, you know.”
“When we experience a trauma with extended recovery, it’s easy to fall for those taking care of us.” He snuggled.
I put my hands over his. “I’m well aware of that. It’s the other way around.”
He worked into my hair, kissing my ear. Softly: “I’ll listen.”
A sigh. “Yeah, I know.”
Leaning back, I snuggled in. “Lemon.”
“I like lemon. Shampoo, cologne.”
“Smells good on you. I’m fifteen.”
“I know – going on fifty.”
“Closer to sixty, but yeah, huh? I thought I’d remind you. How long’s Pallas going to be gone?”
“She didn’t say.”
“Bones says she doesn’t put out.”
He grumbled. “I wondered what you two talked about at the party.”
“Whose idea was it to jump up and down on my back?”
“Yeah. Like you.”
“I don’t believe you can be an objective observer.”
I rotated in his arms, looking up, our faces close. He wasn’t oppressively tall like most other people. His eyes drained me.
“Why do you say that?”
“I don’t believe you can separate me from Pallas.”
“I disagree. You’re similar with many, many differences.”
“Your voice is half an octave higher, your hair a touch darker, three inches longer. You have a double fold in your ear lobes, Pallas a single –”
“And, I can’t do this to Pallas.”
Soft fingers came under my chin, lifting my face, his arm pulling me up closer, flat on my lower back, his eyes penetrating mine.
Our lips meet, his kneading twice, his lower lip pushing between mine, his tongue following. I worked my arms around him, holding on, inviting his tongue deeper.
I liked Snow OK. My lips tingled and my cheeks got hot. My bones didn’t melt –
Until he moaned softly.
I don’t choose my lovers well.
John was a pseudo lover, me animated flesh for practice, learning to like himself, learning to be a human being. My father, though I didn’t choose him and he’s not really my lover, loved the dream of me, not me. To Tommy, I was masturbation help.
Tommy and I started out sweet, Tommy attending me with kind words and simple gifts like a flower or bag of Hershey Kisses. Once his penis came out to play and I demonstrated a willingness to help him masturbate, well – Janet had sex and pot.
I don’t care what the dictionary says. Helping someone masturbate is sex.
Even reverend-pastor Madison was driven by his love for me.
I don’t know how he related to the other girls. There, in the hall, in the ironic shadows, his voice attended me. He loves me, maybe in a way so twisted mere mortals can’t understand.
Is that any more twisted than John, Tommy, my father, Madison or Snow?
On the balcony, when Snow confessed a hard-on since he stood close on my porch, I knew I was in trouble.
Romantic, yeah, I know.
The rape wasn’t so bad, relatively. The rape didn’t involve a beating or objects larger than my fist. I tried to keep the borrowed pants on. My body too damaged, Snow too strong and determined.
He told me he loved me since before we met. “Soul mates.”
I was helpless against his frenzy. I knew he wanted to fuck me, was driven to fuck me, for at least seven years. I didn’t fool myself for a second. I knew he wanted to rape Pallas, not me.
I’d not been dilating, Dad not wanting to spend the money on the set of dilators.
Snow crammed his penis in my vaginal opening with the care of a butcher making sausage. A quart of petroleum jelly would have helped. I grunted against the white pain, refusing to cry, the tears coming anyway. With two mean-spirited thrusts, he attained full penetration and ejaculated.
I expected a I love you. What I got was a look of terror and an Oh-my-God. As he withdrew, I then got a lame apology as if he’d ordered the wrong topping for my pizza.
“How’s the back?” Pallas stood above me, me sitting on the curb in the horseshoe driveway of the high-rise.
She looked up, then back. “Leaving so soon?”
I shrugged. “He’s tired. Told him I’d find my way home.”
“You guys have a fight?”
“You’ve been crying again.”
“One of the few pleasures I got left.”
“Someone coming for you?”
I shrugged. My plan was to borrow a cell and call – someone.
“I’ll drop you off. Snow should have. He can’t be that tired or angry. Sometimes he’s insensitive.”
“Self-center, self-involved, I heard.”
“He’s just so smart, you know. His mind’s always racing on just about everything. If you’re into science, you should read some of his papers.”
Which is why I can never tell you. Working to my feet, I leaned on Pallas. “Appreciate the ride.”
“You going to see him again? I get so hot just thinking about you and him.”
No. “That’s kinda up in the air.”
“But you gotta love him, huh?”
“Yeah, I gotta love him.”
“He’s gaga over you. You gotta see that. Whatever he said to upset you must be a misunderstanding.”
“Been a long day. I’m always irritable.”
“I can understand that, having seen your med file.”
Mom was passed out, stale liquor stinging my nose. Covering her with the afghan, I left her on the sofa.
Kelley called, John called and Janet called. Mom wrote a short note: Dad was arrested, asking me to take care of it.
Pallas dropped to a chair at the dinning room table. “Return your calls, if you need to. I’m not in a hurry.”
“Just one. OK, two.”
I punched numbers. “I’m home.”
“I need to see you.”
Something in Janet’s voice. “I’ll make some hot chocolate.”
Two rings. “Hey, Kelley. Any luck?”
“No. Can you come in? I want to go over everything.”
“Maybe in the morning.”
“Dad’s in lock up.”
I watched Pallas watching me.
“Drunk and disorderly. I can make it go away.”
I rolled my eyes. “Can you keep him for a day or two?”
“Not without putting him in the system.”
“Put him in the system. It’s past time he learns there’s consequences.”
“That’ll mean –”
“I don’t care what it means.”
Returning the phone to the receiver, I turned on Pallas, her staring at my crotch.
“What? You too?”
“Huh? What? Oh, sorry, no. You’re bleeding.”
Bending forward, I lifted the sweatshirt, looking between my legs. Damn. “I’ll wash ‘em, get ‘em back to you.”
“It’s not that, Lindsey.” She crossed her eyes. “You’re not, I mean, weren’t a virgin.”
I didn’t feel like investing the time to explain. “Too much activity, old injuries come open sometimes. No big deal. I’ll change.”
She bit her lip. “The pain’s coming back?”
“I can see it on your face.”
“You don’t think I need a new hip?”
“You need rest. Your mother should tie you to the bed.”
“Who’d take care of them, then?”
She watched me, eyes more like mine than not, the history of womankind passing between us in a gnat’s breath.
The same stars watching down on my rape watched down on Pallas and me, standing by her car in the cool damp air of late spring. “I wish I had more time with you tonight.”
Pallas sighed. “Yeah, me too. Bones doesn’t like you much.”
“He doesn’t like you, much, either.”
“I think he loves me in his own way.”
“Not one bit.”
“He likes to talk like he’s available.”
“You’re safe, company, something warm against the cold. He’ll be out the door the second he can trade up.”
“That’s the phrase he used, and it’s really none of my business.”
I stepped closer, Pallas held fast.
“He’s got a lot on his mind. He talks the talk, postures a lot.”
I cupped her cheeks. A whisper: “Sounds like a guy.”
“Lindsey. What are you doing?”
She stared, my eyes danced.
“If you don’t pull away, I’m going to kiss you.”
She closed her eyes, rolling her lower lip, hands coming to my hips.
I placed my left foot between her legs, pressing my body against hers as our lips met. I did not close my eyes, working my lips on hers like we were lovers lost in a past life.
Her hands came flat to my shoulder blades.
Headlights washed over us, a car pulling to the curb behind hers.
Pallas blushed in the competing porch and street light, stepping back, opening her car door. “Lindsey, I –”
I tasted my lips. “Don’t. Your brother talks of meeting out beyond were words can go.”
A car door shut.
“I don’t know about calling Snow, but I’ll call you.”
“Oh-my-God!” Madison stopped short. “There’s two of you!”
I’m sure in the shallow light, we looked like identical twins.
Pallas produced a small spray canister, held at the ready.
Madison reeled back, obviously familiar with pepper spray. “I spoke with your mother earlier. Wanted to drop this by – for you.” He inched forward, arm extended, offering an envelope. “Whatever you may think, I act responsibly.” He eyed Pallas, then me, dropping his offering to the sidewalk, hurrying back to his car.
I unfurled the form, holding the paper to the porch light.
“What is it?”
“Lab report.” Madison’s tests were negative for S.T.D.’s.
“You got no idea.”
She put a palm to my face, soft smile. “Lind, I’m not gay.”
“Neither an I.”
She blushed. “Thanks.”
Janet and I brought the hot chocolate ceremony back from Farm Hands, rich, a treat and a comfort. We huddled at the kitchen table, the distance sink light painting our faces in shadows.
“You remember what I said about Bobby and me? I mean, he was my first, but really, hardly sex at all and only that once. I thought he was magnanimous, you know. Can you imagine? I dumped him without a second thought. David gave me that stupid grin, I dumped Bobby, just like that. I ignored the hundred plus messages Bobby left, as if Bobby wasn’t a human being. As if Bobby didn’t have feelings.
“Bobby came by the hospital – with flowers. He said he wanted to tell me how sorry he was I lost someone important to me. He said he knew the feeling.
“Can you imagine?
“Bobby let me suggest we get back together. I don’t know, Lind. You know. Tommy was going to kill me, shot me in the shoulder. I watched David die. You’re nuts over John. I love you and all, you know. Loved our kiss, by the way. It’s not like I think about you and play with myself.
“There’s Bobby, the only really stable thing in the universe and me, flapping in the wind. Bobby’s not on the Dean’s List, but he’s not riding the short bus, either. David could’ve ridden the short bus, you know.
“Oh, our kiss, you and me, Lind.
“I’m thinking here’s Bobby, come to save me from my life. He’s that knight you and me dreamed about, sitting on the bedroom rug. OK, maybe he’s a little shorter than I imagined, but just the same. He brought me flowers. He talked about taking me down the shore for a weekend. You know how much I love the shore.
“Long walks on the beach –
“The romance and everything David lacked.”
Janet slid the bag of frozen peas from her eye.
“My parent’s front tires hit the asphalt, Bobby smacked me – hard. Called me a cock-teaser and informed me I was going to get what was coming to me. He called it a grudge-fuck.”
The hot chocolate wasn’t the comfort we remembered.
Revenge never gets you even, often makes things worse. Get over yourself and on with your life.
I folded and placed a washcloth down my pants when I changed, hoping, praying the bleeding would stop. I should have never allowed myself to be alone with Snow. Maybe a bigger mistake was changing, wearing Pallas’ clothes. Events were predictable.
I felt Pallas’ rape inevitable, assuming Pallas not a willing participant. I also felt their family drama was none of my business.
Unlike Dad’s first arrest, we didn’t have the debt load hanging over the house, Mr. Steinberg my gracious benefactor melting away my outstanding medical bills like a spring snow. With the finances loosened up, Dad treated himself to beer and cigars. The cigars, when burned, smelled like rancid tofu wrapped in urine-soaked rags.
I’d bet the farm a female doctor wouldn’t have said I’d be able to experience normal sex.
I suggested to Janet we go to the hospital. She washed her clothes, showering for an hour, fearing her mother’s discovery. I didn’t have to ask Kelley. With no forensics other than a black eye and vaginal abrasions, rape would be a difficult sell. Janet and Bobby had a sexual history and she did invite him to her house, where she arraigned for them to be alone.
Thunder woke me, Janet moaning. “Like a dream.”
“Yeah. Better?” I snuggled.
“Let you know after a shower.”
“The bleeding stopped, but I’m spotting.”
I wasn’t hemorrhaging, but more than spotting.
“If there’s a god, it’s your period.”
“Rape always is.”
Janet gave me a crooked smile, standing close at the door. “I guess, you know, where you’ve been.” She rolled her eyes toward the living room where Mom lie comatose facedown in vomit, smeared with feces. I’d checked her pulse. “And, what you gotta face every day, my troubles are nothing.”
“I love you, Jay. Your troubles are everything.”
A blush. “The snuggling after sex is great.”
“You don’t have to get raped to spend the night. I think we should do it more often.”
“The snuggling afterwards is great.”
We kissed, like lovers kiss, not in lust or want and certainly not in a hurry, the rain freezing over the distance rooftops and the clock standing still. The birds sang as an airplane Dopplered to the horizon.
“Gotta get to school.” Janet took the steps three at a time, like when we were children.
“No school! It’s Sunday, silly!”
“Gotta do my homework!”
“I love you!”
Moving up the walk into the cleansing spring rain, she half-turned, half-waved. “Me, too!”
A whisper to the gray skies and my pansies: “Yes, Jay, I think we shall marry – someday.”
I called Dad’s work. “Dad’ll be out for a couple of days.”
“Is he sick?”
“Well, Ed, yeah.”
“He did well on this assignment.”
You don’t have to kiss-ass, Ed. “He’s developed a drinking problem, Ed. If it weren’t a disease, I’d be embarrassed.”
“That’s been brought to my attention.”
“Do you – I mean does your company support people in this disease or do you just flush the toilet?”
“It’s a simple question.”
“We work with people willing to do the work.”
“That’s all I could ask.”
I couldn’t get more than a long moan from Mom, so I left her on the sofa. With a bucket of hot soapy water and scrub brush, on my hands and knees, I went at the carpet, a place to start.
“You found her like this?”
“God, Jack! You scared me! I thought I locked the door!”
Jack leaned across, opening Mom’s eye. “You did. Drunk?”
I sat back painfully on my legs. “She drank all night.”
“That can kill a person.”
“I think that was the idea.”
He scooped Mom up like a large bag of cat litter. “I’ll give her a shower.”
I buckled in.
Jack set the car in motion. “She’ll be OK.”
“No, she won’t be fucking OK. She’ll never be OK again. What happened to me destroyed her life, her self and her soul.”
“I meant this bout with drinking won’t have lasting physical effects. Bad couple of days?”
“Yeah, thanks for taking Dad down at the party. Mom’s had it easy compared with him.”
Rain pelted the umbrella, Jack over my shoulder, the Smith & Wesson .22 revolver tucked neatly in my right hand, cupped by my left. The weapon felt like a toy, little recoil, hollow pops competing with the rain plopping, bark chipping from the nearby tree.
“Not what I expected.”
“Quiet, easy to handle. The choice of assassins the world over. Accurate twenty or thirty feet, deadly close in, no problem penetrating a skull at ten feet.”
“Won’t knock someone back ten feet or blow their head off?”
A snicker. “Only in the movies. For every action, we get an equal and opposite reaction.”
“I knew that – from school. Who knows?”
“Knows what, Lindsey?”
“You’re giving me this?”
“You and me.”
“Good. Keep it that way. He knew so much about my life, personal information, he’s gotta have a mole, made my skin crawl.”
“Or someone you know.”
“I’d know him.” I opened the chamber and dropped the casings to the grass. “Any bodies on this?”
Jack laughed. “Serial number’s removed. No bodies. It’s a clean gun.”
“Not that I’m worried about it. If I have to take someone out, my first call will be to Kelley. I’ll take my chances with the gun charge. I don’t want to get you in trouble.
“She’ll circle the wagons.”
Jack nodded. “She’ll circle the wagons.”
“He’s not in the system.” Kelley returned my cane.
I’d changed into a simple tank top with crepe broomstick skirt, my walking difficult again, the holster high on my thigh. I welcomed the benign wood in my palm.
“I’d guessed as much.”
“I want you to go over these photos.” She waved a hand over the stack of pictures, film gathered from attendees of the ball.
I glanced the war room, nodding to the faces, most I knew. “Can I get the room for a minute? John, stay.”
“I like that skirt. I missed you at the party, sorry. By the time I discovered you were there, you’d left –”
John’s puppy dog eyes begged. Nodding, he stepped toward me. “I figure we can have that dinner –”
Like a traffic cop, I showed him my palm, turning my head. “When a woman holds onto what was, playacting her youth, bitter, unable to rejoice in her greatness, wallowing in her losses blind to the gifts, she gets caught in a narcissistic spiral of self-diminishing, trapping herself forever as a girl-child, a half-adult, never really growing up.”
“I was talking to myself. Are you dating Sally?”
“We have things to talk about –”
“The question’s not difficult, even for you.”
“This isn’t the time or the place –”
“This is the perfect time and place for you to break my fucking heart.” I nodded toward my photo collage on the wall. “Pain hits a diminishing return.”
“It’s not like that. You and I have always been friends –”
“In my darkest imagination, my body bent, broken, disfigured, my womanhood hollowed out of me like pulp from a Halloween pumpkin, coming back wrong, this corrupted monster, a cruel joke on immortality and humanity –”
His eyes begged. “Lindsey, I –”
“Shut the fuck up. When my father couldn’t look at me and my mother wouldn’t. When what I’ve become burned Dad’s love on the pyre of my death, ripping his love from my heart destroying his soul, damaging mine, you, John, you alone became what gave me value, worth. Your pretend love for me.” I spit on the floor. “To think: I wanted to marry you. I dreamed of marrying you. I’d willing take the burning white pain of sex to please you, to be a woman, that you can be a man.”
I shook my head. “Are you and Sally a thing?”
He bit his lip, averted eyes, a subtle nod.
All the horrid things I could say ran across my mind like flames across flash paper.
I sat, retrieved the magnifying glass and examined the first crowd shot gathered from the ball attendees. “Get Kelley.”
“We need to talk –”
“All the talk we’re going to do has been talked.”
“No, it hasn’t.”
“Oh, John, yes it fucking has!”
My shout brought Kelly, Pete, Mort and others through the door.
I didn’t look up from the photograph. “Kelley, John’s off the taskforce.”
“That’s not your call.”
I smiled softy. “You know it is.” I traded pictures, narrowing my eyes. “You didn’t have too many supporters at the meeting last night.”
Kelley crossed her eyes.
Besides, with the way John sticks his tongue down my throat, I’m sure the pictures on the wall are his masturbation material.
“Revenge never gets you even, often makes things worse, get over yourself and on with your life.” I could insist on filing charges.
“I was talking to me. John’s out. Don’t make me make a phone call.”
Kelley released a long sigh through her teeth. “John, take the rest of the day, see Mike in the morning.”
“You’re kidding me!” John objected.
“Don’t make this any harder.”
“This isn’t the end of it!”
I knew John’s involvement with the taskforce was over. I’d been offered a chair at the big table and sat down. I was pleased with my creation, John, standing up for himself, not cowering. Before I entered his life, before I worked my magic, he’d shy away like a scolded puppy.
I pulled the third picture as the door shut behind John.
I leaned toward the computer screen. “And, I thought this would be easy, the end of it. Five-hundred pictures, he’s not in a single one.” I rifled through my handbag, holding my key ring in the air. “Someone’s gotta go to my house and sweep for bugs.”
“Sweep for bugs?”
“That’s the way they say it on TV.”
“OK, that’s the way to say it.” Kelley took the keys.
“He knew I borrowed the dress from Jay. He called her Jay, not Janet. No where in any of these reports did I see Jay called Jay.”
“Some of the transcripts of recorded conversations –”
“Sweep for bugs.”
Mort took the keys. “Aye, aye, my captain.”
With a flip of the wrist, I held up a folded paper between my fingers. “I need to know if this is authentic.”
“What is it?”
“Lab report. I figure they won’t give me the time of day. Pete, with a smile and his badge, can get the info.”
Kelley eyed the report. “This has nothing to do with the case.”
Pete snatched the paper. “On it, Captain.”
“This is my taskforce.” Kelley cocked an eyebrow, half-kidding.
“Yeah, I know. Now, will someone pull up the files with pictures of all department employees, male only if that’s possible, so I can eliminate them.”
A younger woman, the only person in the room uniformed, leaned over my shoulder, pecking at the keyboard. “If we assume he has access to our information, he might have an accomplice.”
“Or two. I thought of that. I don’t think so.”
Kelley bit her lip as I keyed through the files. “Why?”
“He’s lonely. More lonely than me, and that’s saying a lot.”
“My back hurts, I think my eyes are bleeding and I’m hungry. How about we order pizza or something?” I worked to my feet. “I’m heading down the tombs.”
“Doodles will escort you.”
“I know the way – Doodles?”
Kelley smirked. “Yeah, Doodles. You may think you’re a member of the taskforce, but you still need an escort in restricted areas.”
“Seen you around. Doodles? You’re the only uniform on the taskforce? You seem young.”
She was soft, her hair tight to her head, the same color as her light ocher flesh, eyes like coffee with too much cream. “I’m the gopher –”
“Go fer this, go fer that?”
“I guess the pizza gets delivered?”
“Yeah. It’s really an honor just to be on the taskforce, even if it’s carrying the shit bucket. The mayor is my mother’s uncle, which is how I got the appointment, so I’m not taken seriously. I get no respect.”
“Given what we’re up against, do you think you should be taken as seriously as everyone else on the force?”
“Not really. I understand my position, watch and learn.”
“I guess Doodles is better than Gopher.”
“Much.” The elevator door opened. “Gift from Dad.”
We passed the cages, I looked for Mathew, knowing he’d not be there.
“I only look like a girl. I mean, all my life, I felt like a boy.”
“I’m not sure what that means.”
She rolled her eyes. We signed the log.
“When I was a kid, I liked football and baseball, not dolls and ponies.”
“I’ve always been really smart, quick on the uptake. I made the nerds look stupid. That’s made me a pariah.”
“Set apart from others, not in a good way.”
“OK. Yeah. I could act like a girl, but the girls didn’t like me. I could play ball as good as any guy, but the guys didn’t like me.”
“Gotta love yourself.”
“When that’s the only one left, huh?”
“Dad. He wanted me to be a boy.”
“I heard this one before.”
“He liked I’d get dirty, beat up boys in school. Be tough. He said I can never be a real boy – a dude.”
I snickered. “Dude-ette?”
“Right, which became Doodles.”
“Much cuter than Dude-ette.”
“Kelley and them guys like it, because they think it demeaning.”
“I bet if Kelley were to let down her armor for three minutes, she could tell you a story of how she went through much like what you’re going through.”
Rebecca, aka Doodles, stood back, staying over my shoulder.
“Déjà vu all over again.”
Dad, sitting on the cot, looked up through the bars. “Thank God.”
“Don’t be so quick. Maybe I’ve come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
“If you weren’t so snot-nosed arrogant.”
“I’d be someone else, maybe someone you could love. If I weren’t so fucked up, then I’d be someone else. Maybe someone you could love.”
He put his face in his hands.
“I’ve had it.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for a man, a giant, a god, a knight in armor so gleaming, it’s blinding. I’m looking for the man who put my first two-wheeler together, staying up all night, Christmas Eve into Christmas morning. I know you lied when you said you cut your hand on a glass in the kitchen. I know you bled for me, putting my bike together.
“I’m looking for the man who chased me on the beach, my hair flowing like the waves on the ocean, the man laughing, pretending he couldn’t catch me.
“I’m looking for the man who cried when I went away to Farm Hands, the pain of our separation too much. Yeah, you tried to hide it, allergies, yeah, I was young, not stupid. God, Dad, how I love that man, that man who’s sick in love with me.
“That man who throws freight forty hours a week so I have food to eat and a warm bed to sleep in. That man who’d walk into Hell for me. That man who’d sell his soul to the Devil for my love. That man who’d take a bullet for me. That man who was defined by his creation:
“If I could see eternity, Dad, it’s because I stood on the shoulders of a giant – you.”
Rebecca sobbed behind me.
Dad came to the bars, taking fists full of steel, twisting, white-knuckling, looking down on me, eyes red from too much drinking, his breath stale and rancid from drunk sleep. “I’ve got nothing left for you. Don’t you think I miss that girl? That child I could amaze so easily? That child I could please simply putting a bike together? That child who’d laugh just running up the beach?
“What am I now? Just a meal ticket? I pay the bills. That’s my worth to you. I knew I’d lose you someday. I thought you’d be in your twenties, not fifteen. I wasn’t ready for my baby to die.”
“I’m not fucking dead!”
Cold, like a whisper from a grave: “You might as well be.”
“What is it you want?”
“All I want is to find moments in my day where it doesn’t hurt so much.”
“I guess drinking’s great, until you sober up.”
“Dad, I love the man I remember. I love him so much I think my heart will swell up and burst through my chest. This you’ve become, I can’t stomach.”
“And, you said you have no idea how I feel.”
There it was: Dad was my creation, too.
“When a woman holds onto what was –” I put Mom’s phone to my ear, watching Dad’s eyes, his eyes bulging with disgust. “Kelley. Make this go away.”
“If you’re sure.” A pause. “I’m not.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea at all, either. I can do this. It’s family.”
“I’ll give you a lecture on tough love –”
“No need. This is a Hail Mary.”
I tucked the phone away. “Dad, I spoke to Ed, told him you’d be out a couple of days – sick. I want you in a program.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“Many things I want aren’t going to happen.” I shrugged. “Evaluate. Soul-search. Make choices.”
“Maybe I have. Johnson digs me. We understand each other. You have no idea what I gave up to get married and have you.”
If I ever go on a shooting spree, that Johnson will be near the top of the list.
I sneered. “Too bad you need women for sex. We’re so much trouble, with our rules and wanting you to act like an adult.”
He put his nose through the bars, glaring at me. “Make it I don’t need sex with women.”
“Who are you? Plato now? The only good and honorable sex is with learned men of like mind? Sex with women is a necessary evil?”
He twisted his face. “Sounds about right to me.”
I backed away, Rebecca taking my arm. Speechless. Dad ranted on, his words degenerating into white noise. I thought of the good reverend-pastor Madison, wondering whether he’d perform an exorcism for me.
Rebecca put her phone to her ear as we exited the elevator. “Hi, Dad. Can I come to dinner tonight? Yeah, everything’s OK and Dad: I love you. Yeah, that’s all. See you tonight.”
I chased my cane through the squad room, into the war room.
“We need to talk, privately.” Kelley scanned the room.
I addressed the taskforce. “As you were.” To Kelley: “We have nothing to talk about. How about those leads, guys with clergy backgrounds? Let me see any files with pictures. I’ll knock ‘em down.”
Rebecca bounced in front of a computer. “Chronological or alphabetical?”
Four pieces of pizza and a Coke later, we ran out of suspects.
Mort called: no bugs, my mother alive, moving around.
Pete returned. “Good guess. It’s a fake. Unlike you thought, they didn’t open the files to my smile and badge. They did, however, confirm the pastor’d never been there.” He cocked an eyebrow. “My badge did get the assistant administrator to open the door and the files.”
Rebecca snatched the fake lab report from Pete, leaving the room.
Kelley bit her lip. “People. The room.”
Phones hung up, computers put to sleep, files closed, six people finding their feet, herding toward the door.
“Kelley, you’ve got nothing to explain.”
“Oh, Lind, I do.”
“John’s a gifted detective, on the fast track. He’s got a good heart and means well.”
“You working on his profile for a computer dating service?”
Kelley smiled. “I thought I’d state the obvious. You understand my job.”
“I care about you, Lind. I’ve grown immensely fond of you.”
“If I had a chance to pick a mom, I’d pick you.”
“I’m not a nurturer –”
“Maybe you mistake coddling for nurturing?”
“Maybe. John. That first day in the hospital. Remember?”
“Like it was yesterday. You were asking me if I was awake, then said not to try to talk. I remember thinking: Then stop asking me stupid questions.”
“I was anxious to get any information you might have. You are the only surviving vic.”
“Yeah, special me.”
Even with your eyes half-closed, you barely able to move your mouth, only mumbling, I knew if I stood between you and John, the electricity would kill me.”
“I knew, that day, that moment, John would be special to me, that we’d have a special relationship.”
“I encouraged John.”
“I know. So did I. I really, really thought we’d get married someday and have babies and live happily ever after. Even in the face of reality, I believed it, held onto it, nurtured it, let John kiss me like lovers kiss, hold me like lovers hold each other.
“We talked a lot, me and John. Mostly, I listened. That’s what John needed, someone non-threatening to listen to his story, to look as he pointed to the kinks in his armor, to nod when he gave voice to this self-doubts and insecurities. Dragged into the light of day, the horrid things we think about our selves aren’t so horrid after all. We recover, mend, heal the injuries done to us over the years.”
“I watched John grow.”
“Yeah, John grew, basting in my light like my pansies grow basting in the sunlight.”
“That’s a good thing.”
“I did like how he stood up to you when you told him to leave the room.”
“Yes. So un-John-like.”
“I took this lump of clay, a child, scared of his own shadow, scared of himself, that he’s a poser soon to be discovered as a pretender, not worthy of his friends or position. I freed him of the tethers to the past, the internalized harsh judgments, I get him to not just like himself, but love himself. I make him into a man who can truly love me, not just play dramas in childish playacting.
“Then, fixed, a human being fully fleshed out, trades up.”
Kelley’s eyes went wide. “I met her. He’s not trading up at all.”
“She’s beautiful. I bet butter doesn’t melt in her mouth. Like the goddess Artemis, she remains a virgin regardless how much sex she has. She’s fertile, any man’s true desire. But, like Artemis, she’s a huntress and what this goddess hunts are damaged men like my nemesis hunts pre-nubile girls.
“And, she has the same thing in mind.”
“She’ll destroy John like my nemesis tried to destroy me. She’ll leave him an empty shell, all my work undone. If, and only if he can survive running her gauntlet, will she have the lover, the mate she seeks. All her victims are setup to fail.”
“You think I’m speaking as a woman scorned? Sally chewed up my father and spit him out in three days. Go down the tombs and see what she made of him.”
I shrugged. “I’m OK, Kelley. I know what you did and why you did it. I’d cut my right hand off if it meant catching him. I already told you: If I were you, I’d have sent John after me, too.”
Kelley and I kept the room. I spent thirty minutes flipping through the electronic personal records of the kitchen and waiter staff assigned to the ball, cursory background checks already done.
I relayed Janet’s tale.
Kelley gnashed her teeth. “Grudge fuck.” She agreed with my assessment. “It’d be a hard sell in court. We could pick him up, sweat him, scare the hell out of him.”
“I’m not sure that would do any good. You go at him, even just to scare him and he’s not charged or convicted, it’d just validate what he did, as if he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Kelley opened a blank file on her computer screen. “He’s on my radar now. Let him jaywalk. Let him buy pot. Let him spit on the sidewalk. He’s going to learn the meaning of grudge fuck.”
I love you, Kelley.