Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter seventeen, part two

“This way.”  He pushed me through a door, then we were turning this way and that.  Soon, we reached a door that was marked, ‘Jamie’s Office.”  He pushed open the door and shoved me inside.  Once we were past the door, he pulled the gun out of his pocket and showed it to me.  “Now, Miss Scarlett.  It would be a shame to have to shoot you and mess up that lovely suit of yours.  However, I can’t let you run free, either.”  Before I knew what he was doing, he spun me around so I was facing away from him.  He yanked my arms together behind me so hard, I cried out.  “Shut the fuck up.”  He was binding something around my hands.  If I’d had to guess, I’d say it was a tie.  Maybe stockings, though it didn’t feel filmy.  “This should keep you for the time being.”  He turned me back around, his eyes dark.  Staring at me, he abruptly crushed his lips to mine.  I struggled to get away, but he held my face tightly with one hand as he pushed his tongue into my mouth.  He grabbed my ass with his other hand which also held the gun.  I thought about kneeing him, but he was too close.

“You taste as good as you look.”  Jamie broke off the kiss and looked me up and down.  “Let’s see how much better you look.”  He pulled my jacket down as best he could with my arms bound behind me so that I was only wearing my camisole on top.  “Very nice.”  His pants were tenting, but I couldn’t believe he’d take time to cop a feel when he was obviously under so much pressure.  He shoved a handkerchief into my mouth and bound it with duct tape before I could protest.  “That’ll keep you.”  He squeezed my breasts from under my camisole before pushing me to the floor.  It hurt like hell because I couldn’t use my hands to break my fall.  I landed on my side, winded by the jolt.  “I’ll be back, Miss Scarlett.  Make yourself nice and ready for me.”  With a laugh, he left me there.  He also left my purse dangling from my arm.  My purse which contained my cell phone.  Fat lot of good that did me when I was trussed up like a turkey.

Even though I tried not to think about it, I could feel his hands and mouth on me.  My body burned with the shame, and I recoiled at the remembrance of his tongue in my mouth.  It had been unusually thick and felt out of place as it probed the inner cavity of my mouth.  I wanted to rinse my mouth and take a hot shower for as long as I could stand it, but I had to focus on getting the fuck out of here.  I had no idea what Jamie was doing, but I hoped it didn’t involve Matt.  I knew my best hope was to get my hands loose in order to reach my phone, so I worked on that no matter how desperately I wanted to free my mouth first.  I felt as if I couldn’t breathe which was ridiculous because Digger had left my nose alone.  It was psychological, but no less terrifying.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter seventeen, part one

“Ok, now spill.”  Matt ordered as soon as we were back in our apartment.  My mom and Banana were on their way to New York.  Matt and I had stayed with my dad for a bit because he’d felt a little lonely.  Now, we were in our living room, talking about the case.

“There’s not much to tell,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.  “I told Martinez what I saw, and that was it.”

“That wasn’t it,” Matt said shrewdly.  “I hope you were protected at least.”

“Matt!”  I glared at him, mostly because he’d come too close to the truth.  “We didn’t have sex.  Not in my old room.  You should know me better than that.”

“You and I’ve had sex there,” Matt noted, a devilish gleam in his eyes.  I fought to control my embarrassment, but I blushed, anyway.  It had been on Chinese New Year’s Eve a few years ago.  My parents had had a big bash, and Matt and I had had way too much to drink.  One thing led to another, and we were having sex before either of us really knew what was going on.  We didn’t use protection, either, which was the height of stupidity.  Fortunately, I didn’t get pregnant, and we were more careful in the future.

“That’s besides the point,” I said, furious at myself for letting him get to me.

“Yeah, it is,” Matt said, dropping the jocular tone.  “The point is that we know for sure who has Danny, so we have to do something about it.”

“That’s the cops’ job, Matt,” I protested, though I knew it wouldn’t do any good.

“What are they doing about it?”

“I don’t know—it’s not like Martinez would tell me.”

“Then it’s up to us.”  Matt stood up, a determined look on his face.  “Scar, I’m going to the club tonight whether you come with me or not.  What’s it going to be?”  There was no answer to that other than, ‘of course I’m going with you.’

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter sixteen, part two

“Ok, Scarlett.  I have one question for you—what exactly is your relationship with Mr. Reynolds?”  His question caught me off-guard.

“What?  Matt?  He’s one of my best friends.  I told you that.”  I evaded the question behind the question because I wanted Martinez to ask outright if there was something he wanted to know.  “Are you asking me professionally or personally?”

“Both,” Martinez said, his voice serious.

“Um, well, he’s one of my best friends,” I repeated uncomfortably.  I didn’t know where he was going with this line of questioning, but it couldn’t be anywhere I wanted to go.

“Please don’t take offense, but would you lie for him?”  Martinez was giving me his full attention, which made me feel even more uncomfortable.

“Lie for him?”  I tried to figure out if that was personal or professional.  I decided it didn’t matter because I didn’t lie.  At least, not about important things.  “No, I wouldn’t.”

“Are you attracted to him?”  The minute the question left Martinez’s mouth, he looked as if he’d like to snatch them back again.

“Now, I know that’s personal because I can’t see how it would have any bearing on the case.”  I infused my voice with as much indignation as I could muster, but I knew he had a right to ask.  Shit, I would be all over him if the situation was reversed, but I didn’t like the fact that he hadn’t waited until our date to ask me.  This was an investigation for God’s sake.

“You’re right.  It’s personal, and it’s been eating at me for the last few days.”  Martinez looked me in the eyes, his gaze not wavering.  I had to give him props for being forthright about it; I just wasn’t sure I was ready to answer.  To equivocate, however, would be doing him a disservice since he had a right to know.  As I had vowed that I wouldn’t keep anything from him in terms of the investigation, I now vowed that I would be honest with him about my personal life as well.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter sixteen, part one

“Wanna tell me what’s wrong?”  Matt whispered into my ear.  I shivered at his proximity, then scolded myself silently.  This was Matt, not some rock star or something.  There was no reason to get all gooey in the knees.  I wondered at my reaction to him.  Was I freaking out about Martinez?  Was that why I was focusing on Matt?  Was it some kind of weird transference thing?  “Scar!  Come back to earth.”

“Sorry, Matt,” I said, flashing a smile at him.  “There’s nothing wrong.  Really.”  Matt didn’t believe me, but he didn’t push me about it, either.  I was grateful as I didn’t have the wherewithal to make something up.  At least, I thought he wasn’t going to push me about it.  I was wrong, however, as he was just marshalling his forces.

“It’s us, isn’t it?”  By now, we had stopped in the front hall and had lost sight of Banana and my mother.  “You’re confused.”

“No, nothing of the sort.”  I still had the fake smile pasted on my face, and I wondered when I had started lying to Matt.  He was one of my best friend and had been for ten years.  Why couldn’t things be the way they always were?  “I’m just tired from all the excitement.  You know.  Banana woke me up early this morning and—”  I stopped because I didn’t want to lie.  “Matt, yes, it is us, but I really don’t think I can talk about it now.  Give me some time, ok?”  This time, the smile refused to come, but the tears returned.  Matt wiped one from my cheek which caused me to totally break down.

“There you are!”  My mother said, bustling into the hallway.  “Banana was wondering—”  She stopped short when she saw I was crying.  “Scarlett!  What’s wrong?”  She hurried to my side, peering up into my eyes.  “Did that detective do something to hurt you?  I knew you should have stuck with Matt.”

That made me cry all the harder, and I raced up the stairs to my old room and flung myself on my old bed.  My mother kept all our rooms as they were when we were home.  Not out of love for us or anything like that, but because it was cheaper than redesigning them.  I cried in earnest, unsure of why exactly I was crying.  All I knew was that it hurt when I thought of giving up Matt, but it hurt more when I imagined ending things with Martinez.  How ironic that I was a woman who couldn’t hold on to one man in my life, and now I had two.  I didn’t have more time to think as the door flew open and Matt came into the room.  I was thankful it wasn’t my mother, but I wasn’t sure I could handle Matt, either.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter fifteen, part two

“Martinez,” he said wearily.

“Hi, Carlos, it’s me.”  I figured if I kept repeating his name, I would get used to saying it.

“HI, Scarlett.  What’s up?”  His voice perked up, and I felt guilty for bagging on him, but it was an emergency.  “I’m looking forward to tonight.  We’re on for eight, right?”

“Actually, that’s why I called.”  I hurriedly explained the situation with Julia, Peter and Banana, then asked if I could take a rain check.  I held my breath because I didn’t know how he would react—especially to the part about Peter being gay.

“That’s terrible,” Martinez said softly.  “Of course you can take a rain check.  Your poor friend.  And that poor little girl!”  I had forgotten that Martinez had met Banana, and it warmed me to him even more that he’d remembered.  I could hear him riffling through some papers.  “Um, I can probably switch with someone.  Go in tonight and take tomorrow night off.  How about that?”

“That would be perfect,” I said, thankful all over again that I didn’t have a nine-to-five, Monday through Friday job.  The flexibility was one thing I loved best about this theater gig I had going.  Sure, it was tough and we barely had our heads above water, but it was utterly worth it.  Martinez and I made small talk before hanging up.  He didn’t even mention my withholding evidence from him, which demonstrated that he was a man of his word.  He’d forgiven me, so he saw no reason to rehash the point.

“Ok, gang.  Let’s go!”  I clapped my hand as I went back to the living room.  Matt and Banana had resumed watching their DVD, and Matt put up five fingers.  I assumed there was five more minutes in the episode and went to grab a pop from the fridge.  I normally didn’t drink pop, but I felt I deserved one.  It was diet, anyway, so I didn’t have to worry about the sugar or the calories.

“We’re done,” Matt said, holding onto Banana’s hand.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter fifteen, part one

“Gah!”  I woke up to find Banana sitting on the edge of my bed, watching me.  She wasn’t making any sound or moving; she was just watching me.  “Banana, honey.  You scared me.”  I smiled, trying to calm my rapidly beating heart.  “Have you been up long?”  I glanced at my clock and saw it was seven-thirty in the morning.  As I hadn’t gone to bed until after one, I was definitely hurting.

“I just got up, Auntie,” Banana said, hurrying to hug me.  “I’m hungry.”  She plopped herself back down, this time right by my face.  “Can you make me breakfast?”  She sounded so wistful, I didn’t have the heart to tell her to go away.

“Give me five minutes, love.”  I struggled to sit up, conscious of my nudity.  “Um, why don’t you go wake up Uncle Matt?  I’ll be right there.”

“Ok!”  Banana jumped off my bed and raced out the door.  I knew Matt would give me hell for telling her to wake him up, but that wasn’t my problem.  I got out of bed and threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, figuring it was enough to go get started on breakfast.  I trudged out the door, trying to wake myself up.  Banana was dragging Matt out of his room, and he stopped to glare at me.  I suppressed a smirk as I made my way to the kitchen.  If I had to be up, he had to be up.

I opened the fridge, hoping that there was something edible.  I saw some eggs and decided to scramble them.  I’d make whole wheat toast and some sausage patties and call it a day.  So it wasn’t the healthiest thing she could eat—it was homemade.  That had to count for something.  I went to work, making enough food for three.  I pulled out a carton of orange juice, sniffing it to make sure it wasn’t past its prime.  It was just fine.  Matt and Banana walked into the kitchen, watching as I cooked.  They knew better than to ask to help as I preferred cooking solo.  I started the coffee as well as I needed at least three cups.

“It smells good, Auntie,” Banana said, her eyes wide.  “Mommy doesn’t cook food like this.”  Of course not.  Julia wouldn’t sink so low.  She was strictly haute cuisine, and I was a meat and potatoes gal.  Could be why she liked fashion, and I liked sports.  “Is it ready yet?”

“Almost,” I said, waving my hand behind me.  Matt took the hint and herded Banana to the living room.  I could hear the television from the kitchen, which meant he had the volume too high.  I slugged down a cup of coffee almost raw while I was cooking just to jumpstart my brain.  When I went into the living room, Matt and Banana were rapt in the world of the Justice League.  Matt had the DVDs of the first season, and it was one of his favorites.  I wasn’t sure it was appropriate for someone Banana’s age, but she appeared to be enjoying it.

“Food!”  Banana jumped up and grabbed a plate from the tray I was carrying.  I set one down in front of Matt before grabbing the last plate for myself.  Matt and Banana thanked me before turning back to the television.  I kept one eye on what they were watching and one eye on Banana.  It was wearying to take care of a kid because you had to constantly make sure she didn’t come to any harm.  As she sat there eating, I envisioned the food going down the wrong way and getting stuck in her esophagus.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter fourteen, part three

I flicked on the television, but I couldn’t concentrate.  I knew no matter what he’d said that I’d fucked up.  Even though he hadn’t screamed at me, I could feel the wall between us.  Why the hell he was giving me another chance, I didn’t know.  I was grateful, of course, but I wondered if he would ever trust me again.  Hell, I wouldn’t trust me if I were him, so why should he?  It just fucking sucked because I haven’t been so attracted to someone in such a long time.  Maybe I subconsciously wanted to fuck things up because I didn’t feel I deserved someone as wonderful as Martinez.

“Hey, how’d it go?”  Matt asked, breaking in my reverie.  I hadn’t even heard him come in, which was how deep in thought I’d been.  Banana was sound asleep in his arms, and he had a Kowalski bag dangling from his hand.  “Banana ice cream,” he mouthed, holding up the bag.  My heart smote me.  I was the one who’d promised to get the ice cream, and Matt was the one who’d followed through.  What did I ever do to deserve such wonderful men in my life, and why didn’t I treat them better?

“Ice cream,” Banana said sleepily, stirring in Matt’s arms.  “Uncle Matt, I want ice cream.  You promised.”  Actually, I promised.

“Ok, doll, but then you have to go to bed, ok?”  Matt carried Banana to the kitchen, and I was right behind him.  He handed Banana over to me while he scooped up two balls of ice cream in a small bowl.  We went back into the living room so Banana could eat.  I turned off the television and watched in amusement as Banana struggled with her tiredness in order to eat her ice cream.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter fourteen, part two

“Can I get some of that?”  Matt asked sarcastically, pointing his chopsticks at the pork.  I pretended to think it over before reluctantly handing him the platter.

“Me, too, A-go,” Banana said, using the Taiwanese honorific for grandmother which my mother had taught to her.

“Sure, Banana,” Mom beamed, grabbing the platter from Matt before he was through.  My mother heaped a generous portion on Banana’s plate and handed her a fork.  Banana tried to use her chopsticks for a few minutes before giving up.  She was getting better, but some things were just beyond her ken.

“So, how is everything, Scarlett?”  My father asked between bites.  He didn’t ask just to be polite—oh, no, he really wanted to know.  Unfortunately, everything I wanted to talk about couldn’t be mentioned in front of Banana.

“Um, ok.  I’m sort of seeing someone,” I said cautiously, glancing at Matt.  He was too absorbed in eating as much food as fast as possible to pay the slightest bit of attention to me.

“Ma told me.  A detective?”  My father asked cheerfully.  “At least you’ll be safe with a police officer.”

“What about Uncle Matt?”  Banana asked, putting her fork down.  “I thought you lived with Uncle Matt!”  She looked from Matt to me and back again, and Matt indicated that it was my ballgame.

“We’re roommates, Banana,” I said gently, not wanting to add any more grief to her life.  “We’re really good friends.  We are not boyfriend and girlfriend.”

“Why not?  Don’t you love each other?”  Now Banana’s chin was trembling, and I knew she was seconds away from tears.  My father looked sorry he had said anything, though I was the one who’d brought up the date.

“I love him as a friend,” I explained, not sure how to put it so a three-year old would understand.  “Um, I met this other man who I like as something other than a friend.”

“Oh.”  Banana was quiet for a minute before turning to my mother.  “A-go, can I have some tea?”

“Sure, honey,” Mom said, relieved that the mini-storm was over.

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter fourteen, part one

“Scar, I’m going over to Kayla’s after work.  Wanna join me?  Give me a call.”  I found this note on the dining room table when I got up in the morning.  No apology, no nothing.  In a way, I was glad as the note was something Matt would normally write to me.  I had to be at Julia’s at one, and we had to be at Mom’s at six.  It would be cutting it short, and I wondered if we should go to Kayla’s after.  Then I remembered that we’d have Banana, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to be out after eight or nine.  Damn.  I called Matt.

“Matt Reynolds.”  Matt’s professional voice was much different from his normal one, and I almost didn’t recognize it.

“Hey, it’s me.  We have to be at my mom’s at six.  I have to be at Julia’s at one.  I’ll be bringing Banana with me, which means we can’t go to Kayla’s after Mom’s.”

“We’re going to your mother’s?”  Matt sounded puzzled, even though I had mentioned it to him last night.

“Yes, I told you when you got home.  Right before you hit on me the first time.  Can you get out of work by, say, four?”  I knew the gang would have a fit if I left that early, but some things superseded work.

“No can do.  I have a meeting with a juvie at four-thirty.”  Matt sounded frustrated, as he should.  “Shit.  What about tomorrow?  It’s Saturday.”

“Sure.  Let’s do it early.”  I hesitated before adding, “I have a date with Martinez at eight.”  I waited for the fallout, but it didn’t come.

“Does that mean you’re kicking me out of the apartment again,” Matt teased, all earlier signs of a snit gone.

“No, I’m going to his place this time.  He’s cooking for me.”

“As it should be.”

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Out of Sight, Into Mind; chapter thirteen, part three

We migrated to the living room where we hashed out everything we knew.  We both thought that the club should be the center of our focus, but we differed on the most likely candidate.  Matt insisted that Digger was involved, but that was his prejudice talking.  I thought we needed to talk to the girls in depth because who knew Kayla better than her coworkers?  Besides, with the way she was blackmailing some of them, more than one stripper had a reason for wanting to do her harm.  Then, of course, there was the drug dealer.  He had my money for being the one who’d taken Kayla and killed the other woman.  From Kayla’s description of him, he sounded like the most ruthless of the bunch.  If it was him, he wanted his coke back.  Where the fuck we’d find that, I didn’t know.  I mean, if Kayla hadn’t blown through it all.  It must be somewhere in her house, but wouldn’t the cops have found it?  Not if she hadn’t wanted it to be found.  I started when the doorbell rang, but I got up to let Martinez in.  To my dismay, Daily trailed behind him.

“Where is this alleged email,” she barked, doing away with pleasantries.  It was clear from the expression on her face that she thought I was making it up.  That, or she’d heard about Martinez’s date and wasn’t pleased about it.  The way she was glaring at me, I’d bet on the latter.

“This way,” Matt said, starting towards his room.

“You stay here,” Daily snarled at me as she trotted after Matt.  I caught Martinez by the arm before he could follow.

“How are you?”  I asked, keeping my voice low.  He looked about ten years older than he had a mere hour ago, so I assumed it hadn’t gone well.

“Not well,” Martinez said honestly, trying to smile.  “She was the only child of two elderly people whose lives centered around her.  The mother had to be sedated.”  I winced in sympathy, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.

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