Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter fourteen, part one

“Father, please be with Linda as she makes her journey back home.”  The priest was droning on and on, and it was obvious that he hadn’t known Lydia as he spoke about her in the most generic terms possible.  Besides, she wasn’t a Christian, so I doubted that God would be guiding her anywhere.  Even if God were, perchance, to waive the Christian-only requirement, it was way too late to accompany her.  Her soul was wherever it had been going by now as she’d been dead for over a week.

The day was gloomy, which I felt appropriate for a funeral.  The sky was drizzly, and there were clouds covering the sun.  FunLand had been closed for the day out of respect for Lydia, and several of the employees were present at the funeral.  Phillip, of course, with Antoinette at his side.  It hadn’t taken her very long to switch her allegiances.  By the way she was clutching his hand, I’d say that she had found herself another sugar daddy.  Delia was there, too, which was sweet of her considering that Lydia hadn’t been very nice to her.  Stephen was there as well, but Tommy, of course, was not.  I didn’t know why I said of course as he was out on bail.  Turned out that he had important connections who had expedited his release.  He wasn’t allowed to return to FunLand, obviously, and I would have been exceedingly surprised if he’d shown up to the funeral.  There were also others whom I didn’t know.  I spotted the detectives trying to blend into the background, but they weren’t doing a very good job of it.

“You ok, Bet?”  Rafe asked under his breath as the preacher kept preaching.  I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.  I scanned the crowd again, spotting Brian and Mrs. Rodriguez in the front row.  While he was comporting himself beautifully, Mrs. Rodriguez was sobbing into a dainty hankie while clutching Brian’s arm.  I couldn’t help but notice how lovely she looked in her mourning dress—black, demure, but fitted—even in her state of extreme distress.  She was a beautiful woman, no two ways about it.  She made me feel positively dowdy in my own mourning black.  Even though I was wearing my best non-cocktail dress which was similar to Mrs. Rodriguez’s, I simply didn’t have the elegance she did in order to carry it off.  At least I wasn’t wearing the stupid sling any more.  I had one and a half functioning arms now, which was fifty percent better than what I had before.  Being free of the sling made me feel better about not being as attractive as Mrs. Rodriguez, though I still felt frumpy.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter thirteen, part two

“What the hell was that about?  Did he think we were that stupid?  No fucking way I’m going to be his patsy.”

“Chill, Bet,” Rafe said, patting my knee before zooming out of his parking spot.  “If he doesn’t tell the cops, we will.  Simple like that.”

“I have a feeling we should have taken the note with us,” I said uneasily.  I couldn’t get over my feeling that Brian was trying to snow us.  To what purpose, I couldn’t begin to fathom, but I would have felt better if the money and the note were in my possession.

“It would have been stealing,” Rafe pointed out as he swung into traffic.  “He could have had us arrested if we tried something like that.”

“I hate it when you make sense,” I sighed, settling back into the seat.  I shut my eyes, but they immediately popped open as I was too ramped up to sleep.  “What else do you think he’s hiding?”

“I don’t know,” Rafe shrugged.  “I’ll tell you what, though.  I don’t think he killed Lydia, as much as I’d like to pin it on him.”

“I don’t think he did, either,” I replied sadly.  It would have been nice and neat if he had been the killer, but I just couldn’t fit him in the role.  If he had been found dead, I would have suspected it was Lydia who had killed him, but he really had no reason to kill her.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter thirteen, part one

“Goddamn it,” I mumbled, the phone breaking through the fog in my head.  I squinted at the clock and saw that it was eight in the morning.  Normally, that wouldn’t be too early, but Rafe and I hadn’t gone to sleep until one-thirty.  “This better be fucking important,” I mumbled into the receiver without even checking to see who it was.  Rafe turned onto his side, but didn’t waken.  I envied him his slumber.

“Oh, Bea, I’m sorry.  Did I wake you?”  It was Brian sounding disgustingly awake, but not in a good mood.

“Yes, you did,” I said.  “You better be dying.”

“Um, no.  I, ah, just wanted to talk to you.  And Rafe, of course.”  His voice took on a pleading note which didn’t do much to move me.

“Call me at a civilized hour, and we’ll talk,” I snapped, hanging up the phone.  I switched it to vibrate before burrowing my head under the pillow.  Minutes later, I was back asleep.

“Wake up, Bet,” Rafe murmured in my ear.  It seemed like seconds later, but a glance at my clock told me it was ten.  I grabbed my cell and checked messages.  Sure enough, Brian had left a few.  It was urgent to talk to me.  Blah blah blah.  He’d like to meet me after work.  Seven at his place.  Whatever.  I supposed I’d see him tonight.  I had learned my lesson, however, and I told Rafe about it this time.  “We have other things to do first,” Rafe said, an impish gleam in his eyes.  He reached for me and for the next hour, we were strictly incommunicado.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter twelve, part three

“The first time I met Brian, something zinged through me.  I could tell by the look in his eyes that he felt the same way.”  A faraway look came into her eyes and despite the serious circumstances, a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.  “After that, we made excuses not to spend time together, but Linda insisted.  She wanted me and Brian to get to know each other, so we gave in for her sake.  Every time I saw him, I felt the same pull.”  Mrs. Rodriguez stopped.

“This is starting to sound like a romance novel,” I muttered under my breath.  Even though I wasn’t as pissed at her, I had to keep up my role.  “Can you fast-forward to the sex part?”

“One time, he came over because Linda knew that my furnace wasn’t working right.  He’s a whiz at those kind of things, and Linda insisted that he see to it.  I have no sons, you see, to do that kind of thing for me.  She thought she was doing me a favor.”  This time, the smile Mrs. Rodriguez produced was mirthless.

“When was this?”  I interrupted, wanting a timeline.

“Four months ago,” Mrs. Rodriguez said, clearly irritated that I kept interrupting.

“Can I take it that your furnace remained broken?”  I asked archly, baring my teeth.  It was amazing how easy it was to rile this woman, and I watched in amusement as she flushed.

“It got fixed,” Mrs. Rodriguez said through gritted teeth.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter twelve, part two

“Bea?  This is Brian.  I just wanted to let you know that the service will be on Sunday.”  He gave me the details, and I assured him I’d be there.  It was difficult for me to talk to him knowing what I knew, but I managed to hide my disdain. In the corner of my eye, I could see Owen and Sidney leaving, so I waved to them before refocusing my attention on Brian.

“I’ll see you there,” I said, eager to get off the phone.  Apparently, Brian didn’t share my sentiments because he held on, saying nothing.  Finally, he broke the silence.

“Hey, you never told me what was in the other envelope,” he said casually. “Did you happen to look?” I was immediately suspicious at his innocence.  I had given the photos to the cops, and I would bet my life savings that they would have interviewed Brian by now.  Was he trying to pump me to find out what I knew?  I decided to turn the tables on him.

“Why are you asking me?  Didn’t the cops talk to you about it?”  I asked bluntly, too tired to be more tactful.

“I’m seeing them in the morning,” Brian said glumly.  “How about that?  Just what I need—more time with the cops.”  My mind raced.  So he didn’t know what was in the envelope.  Did Mrs. Rodriguez?  I had to guess no since I would think she’d tell Brian if she knew.  Unless she was planning on hanging him out to dry.

“It was personal,” I said, hedging my bets.  Lydia had marked it not for his eyes, which made it personal in my book.  “It’s not something I can talk about with you,” I added, trying not to be too rude.  I guess it didn’t work because he got snippy with me.

“Fine.  It’s not like I was her boyfriend or anything like that.  It’s not like she was the most important person in my life—oh no.  I’m just some Joe Schmo down the street.  Why bother telling me anything?”  No, asshole.  You were the Joe Schmo who was fucking his girlfriend’s mother.  That’s pretty abominable in my book.

“Look, Brian, I’m just honoring Lydia’s wishes.  You want me to do that, don’t you?”  Oh, how mean of me to play the ‘respect your dead girlfriend’ card, but how satisfying.  There was no way he could say disagree without sounding like a total jerk.  I waited with bated breath to hear his response.  He mumbled something less that complimentary under his breath before saying in a forced jocular tone, “No, of course you’re doing what you think is right.”  He didn’t sound like he meant it, though.  Telling me that he’ll see me on Sunday—and not sounding too happy about that, either, he hung up the phone.  Rafe and I said our goodnights and went up to my room for some after party fun.

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Duck Duck Dead Duck; chapter twelve, part one

“Happy birthday, Raphael!”  My mother said, beaming at Rafe.  We were at Tiburon’s admiring the fish in the aquarium they had in the middle of the room.  I liked the mood lighting and the subtle atmosphere.  We were the first ones there, and the server graciously led us to our table so we could wait for the rest of the clan.

“Rafe!  Happy birthday, man.”  It was Hank, and he had a woman with him.  The woman from the picture.  Beth.  She must have cancelled whatever other plans she had.  “We’re keeping presents until after at the parents’ house, right?”  His date waited patiently for him to introduce her, and I took the opportunity to discreetly look her over.  She was more beautiful in person than in her picture, which was saying a lot.  She had on a green dress that accented her red hair nicely, and a warm smile that was aimed at everyone.  “Guys, this is Beth.  Beth, this is my family.”  He went around the table and introduced us as he and Beth sat next to our parents.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Beth said in a pleasant contralto.  “Hank talks about you all the time.”

“Does he?”  I murmured.  I was grateful that he had introduced me as Trish and not as Dodo or Beezus or Beatrice.

“Oh yes.  I am an only child, so I love to hear his stories of growing up with three siblings.”  Her eyes rested on my sling, but she was much too well-bred to say anything.  Hank leaned over and whispered something in her ear that made her look sharply at me.  I smiled, and she reluctantly smiled in return.  The chatter was light as we waited for the rest of the family.  Next was Mona and Michele.  They were wearing matching red dresses which looked great on both of  them, but too precious.  I hated it when couples dressed alike—I thought it was tacky.  Though come to think of it, I was wearing my little black dress and Rafe was dressed in black slacks and a black shirt, so I shouldn’t talk.

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Duck Duck Dead Duck; chapter eleven, part two

“Let’s go through it one more time,” Detective Bradley said, sounding bored.  We were running through what had happened when I went out to the car and almost got shot, and this was the fourth time I had told the tale.  I didn’t know what else he wanted me to say because it wasn’t that dramatic.  At least Detective Sands hadn’t come, which made me happy.

“I opened the door and stepped outside,” I said snidely, not bothering to check my tone.  I was tired and achy and hungry as Detective Bradley had interrupted my breakfast which did not endear him to me.  “Just as I was closing the door, I heard something whiz by my head.  When I realized it was a bullet, I hurried back inside, but not before a second shot was fired.”

“Why were you going outside?”  Detective Bradley asked, as if he hadn’t already asked a hundred times before.

“I had bought my boyfriend some birthday presents, but left them in the car.  I went to go get them so I could wrap them.”

“Where is your boyfriend?”  Detective Bradley asked, taking a new tack.  He caught me off-guard with the question so it took me a minute to respond.

“We don’t live together, Detective.  He was, is, at his apartment.”  I hope, I added in my mind.

“Where was he last night?”  Detective Bradley continue, ignoring my tone.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, careful not to dislodge my arm from the sling.  “Not here.”

“Any problems between the two of you?”

“Nope,” I said.  “Except that he doesn’t think I should be traipsing off on my own.”

“I would agree with that, Ms. Chen,” Detective Bradley said, scratching his jowl.  “So, you had words?”

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Duck Duck Dead Duck; chapter eleven, part one

After all that build up, it was anticlimactic that he wasn’t at home.  I called his cell, but he wasn’t answering that, either.  Briefly, I wondered where he was, but realized that I wasn’t in the position to query as I was the one who had insisted on my autonomy.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I guess, though I really wanted to know where he was.  I left him a message requesting him to call me no matter how late he got home.  Hey, I didn’t have to work in the morning, so what did I care?  I was a night owl by preference, anyway, so being woken up once in a while was no big deal.

“Have you made up with Raphael?”  My mother poked her head into my room just as I was hanging up my phone.

“Couldn’t get a hold of him,” I said tersely, not wanting to discuss it any further.

“Well, make sure you make up with him before tomorrow night,” my mother reproved me.  “It’s his birthday.”  Shit.  I had forgotten.  Thankfully, I had bought his gifts, though I had left them in the car.  I went to retrieve them, leaving my phone in my room.

Just as I was stepping out of the house, I heard a crack, then something whizzed by my ear.  It took me a few seconds to realize that someone was shooting at me and I better get out of the way, damn it.  It took a few more seconds for the command to travel from my brain to my limbs and for me to respond.  Once I realized the danger I was in, I fumbled with the door and pushed it open.  Diving back inside, I heard another crack, but didn’t feel any pain, so I assumed that I hadn’t been hit.  I slammed the door behind me and locked it.  My heart was pounding as I sat on the floor, waiting to see what would happen next.  It wasn’t until there was a minute of silence that I thought it might be a good idea to peek out the window and see who had shot at me.  Of course, that would make me a sitting target, and I was pretty attached to my head.  I would hate to have it get blown off.  I waited another minute for good measure before risking a peek.  Nothing.  It was only after the adrenalin started fading that I realized I had banged my shoulder pretty good in my attempt not to get shot.  It hurt like hell.

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Duck Duck Dead Duck; chapter ten, part four

I decided to check my email as I hadn’t bothered for the past few days.  I wasn’t one of those people who compulsively checked her email several times a day, feeling blue if nobody sent me anything.  I viewed it more as a nuisance than anything else—a necessary evil, if you will.  I sat at my mom’s computer and powered up.  It was slow going only using one hand, but I did the best I could.  I accessed my Yahoo! account and noticed that I had fifteen new emails.  Most of them were advertisements from Yahoo! which I promptly deleted.  There was a few emails from Liza who liked to email me during her workday when she got bored.  I opened them up and saw that they were forwarded joke emails.  She knew I hated forwarded emails, but she sent them to me, anyway.  I deleted them without even looking.

“What’s this?”  I had an email from someone who’s username I didn’t immediately recognize.  I hesitated, then opened it.

Bitch, do you think I’ve forgotten you?  Not a chance in hell.  You fucking ruined my life, and I’ll get you back if it take me the rest of my life.  You better watch your back, bitch.  I’m coming for you soon.

Ah, the gentle tone of Shannon.  There were two more from her, but I deleted them unread.  I knew they would be of the same ilk, and I had no desire to read any more of her ranting claptrap.  I didn’t think she was the one who stabbed me, but it was just a gut feeling.  I had nothing concrete to go on.  There was also an email from Aaron.  I debated about deleting it unread, but my curiosity was too strong.  Was it just the usual, ‘I want to fuck you’ note, or did he have something more important to say?  I opened it.

Trish, how are you doing?  It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  I just wanted to let you know that I’ve heard from Shannon, and she’s serious about getting you back.  You might say she’s obsessed.  She’s already slashed the tires on my car and trashed the front of my house.  Be careful, girl.  I don’t want her to get you.  P.S.  How about getting together for old times’ sake?

I tapped my finger against my lip.  She slashed his tires?  Trashed his house?  It sounded like she was serious.  I wondered if I should tell the cops about her.  I knew that I should show them the note I had received with my courtesy stabbing, but I didn’t believe that it would do any good.  It was the generic kind of crap I got from time to time and for no other reason than I was a flashy Asian chick in a staid Scandinavian town.   It was hard for me to believe that in this day and age, there were still people who judged me on the color of my skin and not on my merit.  I had a hunch the police would take it more seriously than did I, but I still was reluctant to show it to them.  I had an irrational dislike of the cops which dictated that I stay away from them as much as possible.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter ten, part three

The private envelope that Lydia hadn’t wanted Brian to see loomed large in my mind.  Though what we had already gone through was interesting and cause for speculation to say the least, I had a hunch that what Lydia had kept from Brian was even juicier.  It was logical to assume that the reason she hadn’t wanted him to see what was in that envelope was because what she had found had something to do with him.  Suddenly, I had to get out of there and go through the private envelope.  I made my excuses, gathered up the papers, placed them in the manila envelope before returning it to my purse and headed for the door.  Rafe followed willingly, but Brian was complaining.  He wanted more time to look over the information, and while I couldn’t blame him, I wasn’t leaving the papers with him, either.  I didn’t trust him further than I could throw him.  I promised him that I would let him know if we came up with anything else of importance, but my reassurances didn’t seem to ease his mind.

“What’s your hurry?”  Rafe asked as he walked me to my mom’s car.  I could tell he wasn’t mad at me any more, but I knew we’d still have to discuss my withholding information.  I, for one, was glad to put it on hold for as long as possible.

“I want to see what’s in the ‘not for Brian’s eyes’ envelope,” I explained, clutching my purse.  “The other stuff is interesting, but I have a feeling that we’ll find pay dirt with the private papers.”

“You just want to dish the dirt,” Rafe said knowingly, giving me a peck on the cheek.  He knew that I liked to dig deep—the dirtier the better.  It wasn’t the most attractive part of my personality, but I wasn’t ashamed of it, either.

“Meet you back at the parents’?”  I asked, lifting an eyebrow.  He nodded and veered off towards his car.  Driving at a slower speed than usual, I was outpaced back to my parents’ house.  They were nowhere to be seen, which was unusual for this time of day on a weekday.  Rafe waited for me to open the door before he started pestering me to bring out the private stash.  We went into the living room and snuggled on the couch.  I pulled out the private envelope and opened it.  There was a few pieces of paper plus a bunch of pictures.  The first piece of paper was again addressed to me.

Bea, this is something that I don’t want Brian to see.  I’m hoping that it’s you reading this and not Brian.  You see, for the last month or so, I had a hunch that he was seeing someone else.  You know how it is.  First, the attention starts wandering, then the sex isn’t as frequent.  I tried to tell myself that it was because of his work, but since I don’t know what the hell he does, it was hard to convince myself that was true.  So I did what other suspicious women have done.  I followed him.

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