Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter twelve, part one

Chapter Twelve; Part One

“That was incredible,” I sigh after we have thoroughly explored each other’s bodies.  She is by far the best lover I’ve had in a long time.  We are lying on my bed, both satiated, our sweaty bodies pressing lightly against each other.  She has her arm casually draped under my neck, and it feels right to be lying by her side.  We lie in compatible silence for a few minutes until Vashti reluctantly sits up.

“I should be going.  Work and all.”  She quickly dresses.

I am secretly relieved that she is leaving.  I have difficulty sleeping next to someone I don’t know well, and despite the activities we just engaged in, I definitely don’t know her well enough yet. Vashti pecks me on the lips and pushes me back into bed when I make a move to get up.  I elude her hands, grab my robe and get up.  I note that Paris hasn’t come home yet, which means he most likely slept with Jenna.  I walk to Vashti to the front door where we kiss deeply before she leaves.  There is a smile on my face as I lean on the door.  To my surprise, the door starts rattling.

“Hello?”

“Rayne?  It’s me.”  Paris’s voice is muffled, but recognizable.  I let him in.

“How was your date?”  I smile at him knowingly, hoping to get a rise out of him.

“It wasn’t a date,” Paris sighs, staggering into the living room.  I follow, eager for the details.  He plops down onto the couch, exhaling loudly as he does.

“Well?”  I have a feeling this is going to be juicier than a soap opera.

It started nicely with dinner, though Paris was wary because Jenna had gotten all dolled up which is unlike her.  She even curled her hair which was definitely a first.  They ate at a Middle Eastern restaurant on Valencia, but things started to unravel after they returned to Jenna’s apartment.  She put on an Ella Fitzgerald CD and started swaying to the music.  Before Paris could react, she reached up and unzipped her dress.  That’s when Paris knew he couldn’t put it off any longer and gently told her that he didn’t want to see her any more.  Instantly, she flipped.  Started bawling and begging him not to leave her.  When that had no impression on him, she started throwing things at him and ended up threatening to throw herself out the window.

“It would have been more impressive if she didn’t live on the ground floor.”  Paris says with a straight face.  We look at each other then simultaneously burst into laughter.

“So what did you do tonight?”  Paris asks once he can talk again, his eyelids fluttering.

“Vashti,” I say casually, watching his face closely for his response.  I don’t have long to wait.

“What?”  His eyes fly open, and he pops up from the couch.  His whole body screams disbelief.  “You didn’t!”

“I did!”  I shoot out my hand, and he high-fives me.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter eleven, part three

Chapter Eleven; Part Three

“Hello?”  Vashti’s voice is soothing to my ears.

“Vashti?  This is Rayne.  How would you like to go the Wild West with me tonight?”  She agrees and says she’ll be over in a half hour.  It gives me enough time to change.  I wriggle into a slim black skirt that reaches my ankles.  I pull on a low-cut, snug-fitting bright red shirt with long sleeves.  I brush my hair until it shines and give myself a little wink.  I wish I could do something about the cut on my neck, but I’m not sweating it.  I’m wearing my best set of underwear—all lace and very little fabric.  I don’t know if I’ll be spending the night at Vashti’s, but I want to be prepared.  I slip in a pair of black twisty earrings, black nylons, and black heels.  I look in the mirror with satisfaction.  I clean up good when I want to.  I grab my little black purse and hurry to the living room to wait for Vashti.  She is precisely on time which makes me question her heritage.  She is definitely not running on CP time.

“You look beautiful,” Vashti compliments me as I slide into her car.

“So do you.”  She is wearing black jeans and a white t-shirt with a black leather jacket.  Her hair is cut short and slicked back.  “You cut your hair!”  I reach over to touch it, then pull back.  “It looks good.”

“I thought it was time for a change,” Vashti shrugs.  “It was getting too heavy.”    She roars off into the night.  We chitchat as she drives, not wanting to get too serious just yet.  I tell her about the email I sent to Libby, and she heartily approves.  She tells me that she hates doing administrative work and wants to get back to her kids, but her supervisor won’t budge until the murders are solved.  I repeat that she should retain a lawyer, but I don’t push it.  It’s her life, and I don’t know what the answer is.  I just know what I would do if I were in her shoes.  I tell her about Paris breaking up with his newest paramour.  She tells me about Dylan’s newest girlfriend.  We reach the Wild Side West in record time.

At first glance, it doesn’t appear that Billie is there.  She is not working.  There’s some cheerful BBW handling the bartending duties.  I look over to the pool table, but no Billie.  I wonder if it’s worth waiting then decide we might as well drink while we’re there.  We snag a table near the pool table, and Vashti gets the drinks.  Rum and coke for me, Rolling Rock for her.  She is definitely in butch mode tonight as she doesn’t even ask me what I want to drink.  I don’t mind once in awhile as long as she doesn’t make a habit of it.  We sit and drink in silence as we watch the pool game going on.  A cute blond is hustling a dour-looking brunette.  Every time the brunette makes like she’s going to walk away, the blond kisses her on the cheek until she repents.

I want to talk to Vashti about Paris’s adoption, but I know it’s not my place.  Besides the fact that they don’t like each other, it’s really Paris’s decision who should know and who shouldn’t.  I don’t want to talk about the murders, not tonight, but I also want to solve them.  I wish this was just a date and that the biggest thing on my mind was wondering if I’d be getting laid by the end of the night.  Instead, here I am waiting for surly butch dyke who is bitter towards the world and delusional about Moira Kelley.  However, said dyke might also have more information that she’s willing to share if I find the right way to ask her.  I have a hunch wearing a tight shirt and leaning over a lot will help my cause.  She already respects my pool-playing abilities.  Now, if she would just show up.  I can take care of business, then go home with Vashti.  Or not.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter eleven, part two

I shut my eyes and try to think about what I know so far.  However, my mind keeps returning to this information about Paris.  Adopted.  I try to put myself in my shoes and imagine how I’d feel if I realized that the people I thought were my parents weren’t, and that they’d been lying to me all my life.  That would mean Libby isn’t my sister—a thought guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.  It probably also would mean that Rayne isn’t my real name—another cheerful thought.  Maybe this adoption thing wouldn’t be as bad as I imagined.  Then I think about my father and something hits me in the gut.  Not being his real daughter?  Hell, no.  That would kill me to find out.  Even though Paris is not close to his mother and fairly hated his father before his father died, he must still be shocked by the news—especially finding out in this manner.

I stare at the blank television for some time.  My mind is racing with no real thoughts, just more glimmers of this and that.  I am tempted to call Paris’s mother back and cuss her out for not telling him the truth sooner.  I don’t know what she was thinking, despite my attempt at defending her.  She must have known that she couldn’t keep it from him forever, and yet, she never told him.  I wonder what her motivation was for keeping it a secret.  I pick up the phone, ready to hit the redial button.  I hang up without doing so.  Another call by me to her will be counterproductive.  There is nothing more that she’ll be willing to tell me at this point.  Better to wait and let it stew in her mind for a bit.

The phone rings, but I’m in no mood to answer it.  If I try to make chitchat right now, I’ll go out of my mind.  I can only focus on the stunning revelation that Paris just laid on me.  I don’t know how to react.  No matter how supportive I am of Paris and what he’s going through, a part of me is repulsed by the idea of Max being his mother.  Not just because I don’t like the woman and think she’s a blight to humankind.  If it’s true, she knowingly had sex with Paris—no, she seduced him!—knowing that he’s her son.  What kind of fucked-up, twisted mind would think of doing such a thing?  Then throwing it in his face.  It’s almost as if she is punishing him for something that only she understands.  If it’s true, I will never forgive her for pulling that kind of cruel trick on Paris.  If it’s not true, then I curse her for making him sweat and for forcing him to discover his adoptive roots in such a manner.  I don’t know what her game was, but I don’t like it any more than I like her.

I wait.  I don’t bother turning on the television as there isn’t anything I want to watch.  I glance at my watch periodically to make sure that I don’t fall asleep.  I want to check in on Paris exactly an hour after he went into his room.  I don’t think he’ll do anything stupid, but I’m not positive.  I slump down on the couch, unable to sit still.  I want to be a good friend to Paris, but I don’t know what he needs at this time.  I mean, what would I want if I just found out I was adopted?  It’s so far out of my realm of possibilities that I can’t even think what would be my reaction.  My mind races to the emails that Libby sent me earlier.  I have to make a decision by tomorrow what I’m going to tell her.  Truthfully, I’d like to skip the whole sordid event, but I’m afraid that we will never talk to each other again if I don’t agree to go.  There is no way I’m giving in on every point, however.  If I don’t make a stand now, she’ll just keep chipping away until I’m a carbon copy of her.  I resolve to email her stating my case gently, but firmly.

The next time I check my watch, I notice that over an hour has gone by.  I stand up and stretch, feeling as if I’ve aged ten years in the last hour.  I walk to Paris’s room, curiously reluctant to interfere with his emotions.  There are some things that even a best friend shouldn’t be privy to, and this is one of them.  This kind of news is best left revealed by the one to whom the news most affects, in this case, Paris.  Unfortunately, given the circumstances, we don’t have time to play by the conventional rules.  We need the information fast, and we need it unvarnished.  That means that Paris doesn’t have the luxury of sulking over it or hoarding it to himself.  Like it or not, he has to share what he knows with the good inspector as soon as possible.  It falls upon my shoulders to convince him of this.  Squaring my shoulders, I knock on Paris’s door.  Without waiting for a reply, I go on in.  Paris is curled up on his bed, staring at the wall.  I know he’s not looking at his drawings or anything else.  He is simply staring blankly at the wall.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter eleven, part one

Chapter Eleven; Part One

“Hello?”  I sing into the receiver.  I’m sure it’s Vashti, so I’m doubly shocked when it’s the inspector.

“Hello, Ms. Liang.  Sorry to bother you on a Sunday, but I have a few more questions I’d like to ask Mr. Frantz.  Please put him on the line.”  Her tone is cool to the point of frosty.

“Paris, it’s the inspector,” I mouth as I hand over the phone.  Paris’s countenance tightens up as he wipes his lips.  He takes the phone and walks out of the room.  I am tempted to follow him, but decide to give him privacy.  I hear his voice rising in the living room, but I don’t dare go comfort him.  Instead, I sit down to finish my omelet.  By the time I’m done, Paris still hasn’t returned.  I start in on the dishes, wondering what Inspector Robinson has to say that is upsetting Paris so much.  As I am placing my cup in the dishwasher, Paris bursts back into the kitchen.  He is so irate, his face is red.  He cannot speak as he gesticulates wildly.  It takes him several minutes to get himself under control.

“That bitch!”  He yells when he finally can speak again.  “I cannot fucking believe her.”

“What’s up?”  I eye him cautiously, hoping he’ll calm down.  When Paris loses his temper, everyone is made to feel his pain.  “What did the good inspector have to say for herself?”

“Let’s see.”  Paris pauses to rearrange his thoughts.  When he’s ready, he unloads.  It seems the inspector found out that Max had given up a child nearly thirty years ago; Inspector Robinson wondered if perhaps Paris was that child.  When Paris retorted that he could get his birth certificate from his mother if need be, she switched tracks.  He was asked if Max ever confided to him about Moira’s affairs.  When he said no, the inspector switched subjects again.  Apparently her M.O. was to keep throwing accusations out there and seeing what stuck.  She asked again about the last time Paris saw Max, what they did, can you please repeat that in excruciating detail?  The coup de grace, however, was her parting shot.  It turned out that Max was two months pregnant.  Apparently, she had skipped a day or two of her pill.  What would Paris happen to know about that?  Perhaps he was the father?  By the time Paris hung up the phone, he felt as if he’d had three shots of tequila with no lime and salt to ease the transition.

“She was pregnant?”  My mouth drops open.  I thought that was a literary convention, but it actually happens.  “She’s older than God!”

“She’s only forty-three.  She’s not that old.”  Paris is still defending that woman, damn him.  “Max told me she was on the pill.”

Max was fifteen when she had her illegitimate child.  My mind is boggling with this new information.  Not so much that she gave up a child for adoption, but that she was two months pregnant when she died.  That means that Moira wasn’t the only one fooling around at the time of her death.  I can tell by the look on Paris’s face that he appreciates the situation as well.  I cautiously ask if he knew about either, and it saddens me to have to ask.  Just last night I was marveling at how well we knew each other, how we had no major secrets.  Now, I’m not so sure.  He says he didn’t, and the weariness of his tone convinces me more than anything.  If he had known, he would have sounded defensive or guileless.  His eyes fill with tears as he confides that he wishes he had known because perhaps she’d still be alive.  To my consternation, he won’t accept my comfort.  He is beyond placation as he anguishes over why Max had been killed.  He hugs himself, a forlorn look on his face as he keeps repeating, “Why would someone kill her?  Why?”  His pain is palpable, and I can’t stand it any longer.  I need to get to the truth about his relationship with Max.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter ten, part two

Chapter Ten; Part Two

“Dunno.”  I shrug indifferently.  I am concentrating on eating the popover as fast as I can so it won’t get away from me.  “I don’t get the fuss of weddings, anyway.  It’s just one day.  Why spend so much time and effort on one day?  From what I’ve heard, the bride and groom don’t remember anything about the day, anyway.”

“I am knowing someone who spent close to a hundred thousand on her wedding.”  I almost drop my fork at this astounding information.

“How, what?”  I am so amazed, I stutter.  “What could you possibly buy that would add up to that much?”

“Ice sculptures in the punch, real flowers decorating every table, thousand dollar bridesmaid dresses.  The bride’s dress was twenty thousand alone.  Vera Wang, of course.”  Vashti swirls her ice cream around, not eating any of it.  “She is thinking to have the biggest event of the year.  Two years later, she divorces the man because he is cheating on her.  Her father is out a hundred grand, and she is out a husband.”  She scoops up a bit of ice cream and licks it slowly.

“That’s insane.”  I shovel in the rest of my dessert with deplorable haste.  “Marriage is such a fallacy.”

“I know that Harry wanted Max back,” Vashti says calmly, as if she’s not importing big news.  “He never wanted to separate from her in the first place, but felt he had to because his pride was hurting.  He is not wanting to be the cuckolded husband.”

“How like a man,” I sigh in contentment.  “It’s fine for him to mess around but not for her.  The old double standard.”  I make sure there are no remnants of the dessert on my plate before pushing it away.

“I have more,” Vashti offers, her eyes crinkling in amusement.  “If you are still hungry.”

“I’m stuffed.  It was just so good, I want more.”  I pat my stomach and let loose with a small belch.  It doesn’t faze Vashti.  We retire to the living room with cups of fresh tea.

“Harry made a play for Max at the party.”  Vashti continues our conversation as if we never stopped.  “She laughed in his face.”  I wince at the image of Max gloating over her hapless ex.  If he were serious about wooing her back, he would be a prime candidate for Moira’s demise.  Unfortunately, I don’t see how Max’s death fits in this particular scenario unless she threatened to go to the police with her knowledge, and Harry panicked.  I frown.  If I remember correctly, Max was going to confront a female.  At least, I think that’s what Paris said.  I decide to call him to make sure.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter ten, part one

Chapter Ten; Part One

The Friday before the party, the day in question when Mrs. Curtis saw Vashti livid outside of Moira’s house, started out like any other day.  Vashti went into work thinking of the five thousand things she had to do that day, and how she was going to do it all in eight hours.  She didn’t even have enough time to pour herself a cup of coffee before her supervisor pulled her into his office, a grave expression on his face.  Vashti thought of the million things he might want to talk to her about, but couldn’t find anything about her job performance that would have put him in such a solemn mood.  They had their differences, sure, but he respected the work she did with the kids; Vashti was certain of that.  She sat in the chair across from his desk and waited for him to speak.  She knew from experience that he liked to take control of a meeting and things would proceed more smoothly if she allowed him to speak first.

“Vashti, we’ve had a complaint about you,” he said slowly, looking at her from over the top of his bifocals.  He was a slight, nervous man who was constantly popping Tums because of his ulcer.  He wasn’t cut out to be in a supervisory position, but he wasn’t good with kids, either.  The board figured he’d do less damage as a supervisor than as a counselor.  Still, Vashti didn’t speak.  She had a hunch that she would want to reserve her words until Mr. Benson finished with his speech.  “A woman called up this morning.  Said she is thinking of pressing charges against you.”

“What?”  Vashti couldn’t help interrupting.  “Who?  A mother?”

“No, not a mother.”  Mr. Benson’s eyes shifted away from hers so he was gazing at a point just above her left shoulder.  He picked up his pen and started fiddling with it.  He was one of those men who had to have something to do with his hands even if it’s only to jingle the coins in his pocket.  He took a deep breath and let it out explosively.

“Who, then, Mr. Benson?”  Vashti was careful to keep the impatience out of her voice, but she wanted him to just tell her.  She had been on the job for less than a year and was still considered the new kid on the block.  This was exactly what she didn’t need to feel more confident doing her job.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter nine, part two

Chapter Nine; Part Three

“Mrs. Curtis, you’ve been very helpful.  Can you tell me if you saw anything else suspicious next door the last week or so?”  I frown at how I worded that, but it can’t be helped.  I don’t think Mrs. Curtis will notice, anyway.  Besides being batty, she’s draining her glass of lemonade until there’s nothing left.  She looks at it wistfully before setting it down on the tray.  I can tell she wants to pour another glass, but she won’t in front of me.

“I’ve seen girls go in and out at all hours of the day,” Mrs. Curtis says, primming up her mouth; I don’t think it’s from the lemonade.  “Sluts, all of them.”

“Do you remember a week ago Friday?  The day before Moira and Max’s party?  Did you see anything unusual then?”  I don’t know why I’m even asking.  If this woman talks to fairies, how is she supposed to remember mundane events like a party next door?  She surprises me, however, with a factual answer.

“During the day, a girl came to the house.  She looked very upset.  She was crying when she left.”  Mrs. Curtis looks at me triumphantly, proud that she is able to remember this tidbit.

“What did she look like, Mrs. Curtis?”  I am patient, digging for information I’m not even sure will be of any use.

“White, young, raggedy,” Mrs. Curtis shrugs.  “Thin and really upset.”  It could be any of Moira’s students, but I would bet it was Annie.  That put her at the scene of the crime a day before it happened.  I am liking her more and more.

“Thank you, Mrs. Curtis.”  I shut my notebook and beam at Mrs. Curtis.  She may be talking to the fairies, but she also knows what’s going on.  I start standing up in preparation of leaving.

“Wait, don’t you want to know about the other girl?”  Mrs. Curtis reaches out and grabs my wrist.  She has a surprisingly strong grip for someone her age and size.  “The dark one who was angry when she went over that very same day?”  Mrs. Curtis smiles like a cat, pleased to hold back this bit of information until I am about to leave.

“What, when, huh?”  I ask inelegantly.  Finding out about Annie was more than I had hoped for.  I am lost as to what she is trying to say.

“A dark girl, Arabian or something like that with long black hair and flashing brown eyes.  She had a pierced nose.  She slammed her car door so hard, it shook.”  Mrs. Curtis tells these details with relish.  I slowly sink back into the couch as what she says hits me.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter nine, part one

Chapter Nine: Part One

“Rise and shine, Rayne!”  I hear a voice from a distance and desperately try to block it out.  I lie very still, rationalizing if I act dead, it may leave me alone.  “Come on.”  The tone turns from cheerful to cajoling.  “It’s after twelve, Rayne!  Time to get your lazy ass out of bed.”  It’s Paris, of course, and he’s standing over me.  When I do not respond, he reaches down and rips the covers off me.  I let out a shriek as a) I’m naked and b) it’s freezing.

“Paris Frantz!  You give me back my covers!”  I curl into a ball as I wait for him to comply.  Instead, he hands me a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt while waiting for me to get up.  When I realize that he’s a) not going away and b) eyeing my naked body, I quickly slip into the sweats.  Once I am covered, I fall back into bed and ignore Paris.

“Vashti called.  She wants to see you tonight.”  Paris frowns as I make no movement to get up.  “I’ll make you pancakes if you get up this very minute.”

“Chocolate chip pancakes?”  I ask, my voice muffled from the pillow I have placed over my head.

“Yes, Ms. Sweet Tooth,” Paris sighs loudly.  “Now get your ass out of bed.”

“Why are you so mean to me?”  I emerge from under my pillow to gaze dolefully at Paris.  “Why do you never show me any love?”

“I tried the other night,” Paris quips.  “You rebuffed me, remember?”  He waits until I sit up before slipping out of the room.  I yawn as I contemplate going back to bed.  I don’t understand why Paris has such a thing about me sleeping past noon.  He considers it a great failing of mine that I like to sleep in.  At least he didn’t shake his head sadly this time.  I would have had to clock him one, pancakes or no pancakes.  I shuffle out of bed and head to the bathroom.  I take a shower, brush my teeth, the usual things.  I wash my wound and put more gauze on it, best I can.  It isn’t red or weeping, so I assume it’ll heal.  I slip the sweats back on and go to the kitchen.  It’s only Paris, so there’s no need to look my best.  Besides, he’s wearing sweats, too, only his are gray and mine are black.

“Smells good.”  The fragrance of the chocolate chip pancakes perks me up.  There are few odors I like better than baked goods.  Especially ones with chocolate in them.

“Pancakes a la Paris, coming right up.  How’s the neck?”

“Come take a bite and find out,” I reply with a wink.  Paris laughs, but stays focused on his cooking.  I decide to call Vashti while he’s doing his thing and hunt down my cell phone.

“Hello?”  As usual, her voice makes me think of molasses and honey, with blindfolds and gags thrown in for good measures.

“Vashti?  It’s Rayne.  Glad that you called me back.  Sorry we’ve been playing phone tag.  Can you believe it about Max?”

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter eight, part two

Chapter Eight; Part Two

“I’m not really sure.”  He still won’t look at me.  “She wouldn’t talk to me after that.  I assume Moira told Annie I confronted her.”  The truth, but not all of it.  He is sweating again, so I push the issue.

“What did you talk to Moira about the night before the party?”  I have definitely caught him off-guard.  There is a look of panic on his face, and I haven’t even asked him about the supposed attempted rape.

“Who told you I talked to her then?”  The words tumble out of his mouth before he can stop them.  “The bitch!  I wouldn’t have thought she’d have the nerve to tell anyone.”  So it is true.  I look at him expectantly, hoping he’ll fill in the blanks.  It’s a well-known trick of the cop trade to stay silent, forcing the perp to talk.  It works.  “It wasn’t enough that she seduced my daughter, oh no.  She couldn’t be satisfied with just that, could she?  No, she had to do more.  Moira did cocaine once in a while.  Crack.  I bet you didn’t know that.”  I didn’t, but I keep quiet.  Now that he’s finally talking, I don’t want to do anything to stop the flow.  “She only did it recreationally.  I think she thought it made her cool or something.”  I see where this is going, but I want to hear him say it.  “She gave some to my Annie.  Imagine that!  The girl is only twenty-three, and this barracuda gets her hooked on crack.  ‘Just try it,’ she says.  ‘It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.’  So my Annie, my innocent daughter who is so in love with Moira, does what she is told.  Before she knows it, she’s shooting up daily.”

“How did she get that kind of money?”  I ask.  Crack, while cheaper than its glamorous cousin, cocaine, is still not cheap if being done every day.

“My ex gave it to her before she realized what Annie was doing with it.  Once it became clear that Annie was using, Ginny—my ex—refused to give her any more money.”  A font of information up to this point, Emil stops.  He doesn’t want to tell me anything else, but I wait him out.  There’s no contest, and he breaks.  “Annie started hooking to make the money to feed her crack habit.”  It is what I’m expecting to hear, but saddens me, nonetheless.  Any residual good feelings I had for Moira drain away; I’m glad I never went on that date with her.

Emil hadn’t been able to put Moira’s treachery out of his mind which is why he met with Moira the night before the party.  He had been brooding about his daughter almost nonstop for three months, and he couldn’t take it any more.  His work was suffering from his lack of concentration; he was having difficulties sleeping at night; he’d lost ten pounds because he couldn’t eat.  It was one reason he was taking a sabbatical next year.  He had to talk to Moira again, if only to give him peace of mind that he’d done everything he possibly could to help his daughter.  He said Moira wasn’t so high-and-mighty when Emil threatened to tell the department about her conquests.  In fact, she looked absolutely panicked until she realized that she had something to threaten him with, too.  She told him she’d turn Annie in to the cops if Emil ratted on her.  Emil’s nostrils flare as he starts breathing harder.  His skin is ashen, and he is panting slightly.  I worry that he will have a heart attack in front of my eyes.  I won’t be able to handle the guilt if I send this man into cardiac arrest.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter eight, part one

Chapter Eight; Part Three

“Let’s go,” he says when he appears, forty-five minutes later.  He is looking straight ahead, his lips set in a thin line.  I buckle myself in as he takes off with a screech.  Paris is a good driver, but when he’s angry, he becomes more aggressive.  I wisely keep my mouth shut as I do not want to aggravate him further.  Most of the time, I can jolly him out of a mood, but even I know my limits.  Neither of us speak the entire way home.

When we reach our place, he shuts his door with a slam and marches up the steps to our apartment in silence.  I follow him meekly, not wanting to set him off.  Inside, I head for the fridge and grab two Molson Ices.  I pop the tops and hand one to him.  He strides into the living room and sits on the couch, flicking on the television and rummaging through the channels.  He presses angrily on the remote at the rate of three clicks per second.  I sit next to him, but abandon any hope of actually watching anything.  We sit in silence, drinking our beers.  I sneak glances at him, wondering if I should say something.  I want to be supportive, but I also don’t want to get into his business if he would rather I butt out.  We have been friends long enough for me to know that talking things out is not always the best thing to do with him.  Sometimes he needs to brood before he feels able to discuss the problem.  I let him ruminate all he wants, giving him a wide berth.

“You know what pisses me off?”  Paris finally says, settling on MTV where there is some asinine reality show on.  “The assumption that I took advantage of a lonely older woman, that I’m nothing more than a gigolo.  That damn inspector actually thinks I tried to swindle Max out of her money!”  Paris’s eyes reflect the hurt he’s feeling.  An easygoing guy, he really gets steamed when his niceness is called into question.  Because he is so impossibly good-looking, people have a hard time believing that he could be interested in someone less than gorgeous-looking her/himself.  It’s a stereotype Paris has had to fight all his life, and it ticks him off every time.  The fact that it’s true for the most part doesn’t make it hurt any less.

“Did she say that?”  I ask cautiously. I  don’t want Paris to think I’m questioning his interpretation of events.

“Over and over.  She asked if I was in Max’s will, if I thought I should be, if I was angling to get put into Max’s will, if I knew the contents of Max’s will.  The way she was harping on the will, you’d have thought I wrote the damn thing.”

“It’s her job,” I counsel, wanting to calm Paris down.  I glance at the VCR clock and see that it’s seven-thirty.  “Shit!  I promised Emil I’d go over to his place at eight.”  I jump up from the couch and hurry into the kitchen.  I’m starving, and I want to eat something before I skedaddle.  I grab a Tupperware and open it.  Paris made fajitas for lunch, and there are two left over.  I heat them up, then scarf them down.

“You have one hour,” Paris says sternly as I pass by the living room.  “If I don’t hear from you in an hour, I’m coming after you.  Understand?”

“Are you ok, Paris?”  I ask, pausing.  I hate to leave him while he’s in such a state, but I need to talk to Emil.

“Go,” Paris orders me.  “Now.”

“Let me give you Emil’s address,” I sigh.  I scribble it down along with Emil’s number in case Paris threw away the number and hand the scrap of paper to Paris.

“One hour,” he reminds me, shaking a finger in my face.  I give him a look that tells him what he can do with that finger.  It’s a fifteen-minute walk to Emil’s place, and I savor the night.  Some people refuse to walk in the Mission District by themselves at night, but I relish it.  I like seeing the diverse population that roams the streets—so different from the increasingly homogeneous crowd that litters the Mission during the day.  The tourists still haven’t infiltrated the Mission, but unfortunately, the yuppies have.  However, the Mexicans are loud and proud as well.  I hope they keep the upper hand, but I am doubtful that they will be able to live in peace.  I make it to Emil’s place with five minutes to spare.

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