Category Archives: Murder Mystery

Rainbow Connection; epilogue

“It’s good to be home!”  It’s the Friday after the attack, and I’m back home.  The doctors wanted to keep me a few more days, but I insisted.  By some miracle, nothing is broken but my pride.  My face is a cornucopia of bruises and welts; I can’t see out of my left eye because it’s so swollen; my stomach has a fist-sized bruise; I ache all over.  Other than that, I’m fit as a fiddle.

“You sit down,” my mom says, bustling to the kitchen.  She hasn’t left my side since the attack, and neither has Paris or Lyle.  When we are all comfortably ensconced in the living room with tea and brownies, the three of them look at me expectantly.  The inspector had visited me in the hospital today and filled me in on the details she gleaned from Carol.  Seems Carol is proud of her crimes and couldn’t wait to spill the beans.

“I figured it out too late, of course,” I begin, biting into a dense brownie.  I close my eyes to savor the nutty goodness.  My teeth hurt, but it’s a price I’ll willingly pay for something this good.  “When she had a gun pr—” I stop myself in time.  I haven’t given too many details about the actually attack because there is no reason for them to have nightmares, too.  “When we were locked in her office together.”  I give them a brief rundown of what I had deduced.

“What about Ashley?”  My mother asks soberly.  “Why kill her?”

“There’s a few reasons,” I say slowly, feeling a twinge of guilt.  How easy it had been to forget about Ashley and her death, especially after Carol tried to turn the attention to Rosie’s death.  “One, Ashley found out about Carol’s affair with her father.”

“What?”  The three of them chorus, clearly surprised.

“Carol had a brief fling with Mr. Stevenson.  Ashley found out.  Mr. Stevenson was having affairs with many women, and Rosie found out about the one he got pregnant.  Two different women.”  My thoughts are scattered, but I try to order them.

“How did they meet?”  Lyle ask curiously.

“At a bar,” I shrug.  “That in and of itself isn’t a big deal.  Embarrassing, but certainly not illegal.  However, Carol had her little fling with Mr. Stevenson while Mrs. Stevenson was dying.  That’s what pissed Ashley off.  She liked Carol.  She trusted Carol.  Carol betrayed her.”

“That’s why Carol killed that girl?”  Mom asks incredulously.  “Because of a little adultery?”

“No, not nearly,” I sigh.  “Carol has a diploma from Boston College on her wall.  Rosie did a little research and found out Carol never graduated from Boston College.  She never graduated from any of the programs.  She faked the papers.”

“That’s awfully risky,” Paris objects.  “Anyone could have unearthed the deception.”

“It’s quite low-risk,” I say.  “Who looks closely at diplomas, especially when they’re high up on the wall?  Anyway, Ashley was getting suspicious about Carol.  For what reason, I don’t know, but Ashley did a little internet research and found out the same thing Rosie knew—that Carol isn’t an actual therapist.  Ashley, remember, is still mad about the adultery and in no need of money.”

“I can’t believe you went into Carol’s office with her,” Paris interrupts, his brow wrinkling.  “What were you thinking?”

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Rainbow Connection; chapter fourteen

“Change of plans,” Paris says cheerfully.  “We’re walking you to group, having a cup of coffee or a beer at some Mission dive, then we’ll pick you up at nine sharp.”  I want to argue, but it’s not worth the effort.  I simply nod, and we’re off.

“How was the funeral?”  I ask, needing to get my mind off the murders.

“It was hard,” Paris says, his shoulders drooping.  “The casket was so tiny!  It looked like a shoe box.  My mom started wailing the moment she laid eyes on it and wouldn’t let up.”  His face twists in remembrance.  Lyle squeezes his hand on one side while I do the same on the other side.  “Douglas kept shushing her.  He was fucking embarrassed!  Told her she was making a scene.”  Paris sneers as he utters the last word.  “I finally had to tell him to leave her alone.”  Lyle puts his hand on Paris’s back and rubs.  We walk in silence, reaching A Ray of Hope in fifteen minutes.  Paris and I smoke just to have something to do.  When it’s time, I give each of them a brief hug.

“Call when the meeting’s done!”  Paris orders.  Before I can respond, he and Lyle are gone.  I shake my head in mock exasperation.  I take a minute to look for the police, but I can’t spot them—they are that good.  I go inside where the atmosphere is glum.  The women are huddled in their chairs, not looking at each other.  Sharise isn’t there, and I have a feeling that the group is going to disintegrate very soon regardless of what happens tonight.  Jennifer is rocking back and forth and mouthing something, most likely a rosary.

“Good evening,” Carol says, her professional smile in place.  “I know this is a difficult time for all of us, so I’d like to open the floor up to anyone who wants to speak.”

“Dis has gotta stop,” Maria bursts out, her eyes flashing.  “First, Ashley.  Den, Rosie, now her kid.  Who’s gonna be next?”  She throws back her head, but her voice is trembling.  She can’t cover the fear in her eyes.

“Why were you on television again?”  I ask, bringing up the question foremost in my mind.  It has nothing to do with the murders, but I have to ask.

“I know it may seem cold-blooded,” Carol says carefully, looking at each of us in the eyes.  Only Astarte and I return her look.  “I want to help as many people as possible with their pain!  This is a good opportunity to spread the word.  I hate the fact that it’s death that gives me the chance to promote the clinic and my book, but I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation.”

“I won’t be coming any more,” Jennifer says, still rocking.  “I can’t be a part of this.  That girl, she was just a child.”

“Listen, please.”  Carol raises her voice slightly, the smile no longer on her face.  “This is the time when a group such as this is needed, when in the middle of a crisis.  If you quit now, you may regress.  Besides, Mariah’s death proves that the murders have nothing to do with the group.  You’re all safe.”

“I don’t know about that,” I say demurely.  “Maybe Mariah knew something about her mother’s death, and that’s why she was killed.  Maybe she read her mother’s notebooks.”  The silence is sudden and chilling; I have everyone’s undivided attention.  For once, Carol isn’t scribbling in her own damn notebook.

“What notebooks?”  Carol asks, her voice neutral.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter thirteen, part three

Rosie stole things from her employers, just as I surmised.  Usually silver or jewelry, but once in a while, she’d have a sheaf of papers and wouldn’t tell Derek what they were.  When I open my mouth to interrupt, Derek hurries on over my questions.  The last time he saw her, he tried to find out obliquely if she was still stealing things.  She just laughed at him and said that was penny-ante compared to what she had going on now.  When Derek asked what she meant, she explained her newest venture to him.  Venture.  He makes it sound like she was an entrepreneur or a small-business owner, not the blackmailer she really was.  She regaled him with stories of her clientele without revealing their identities.  She said one had killed her husband; one had embezzled some money; one didn’t have the credentials she said she did; one was running an apartment scam.  Things like that.

I couldn’t believe he hadn’t gone to the police, and I tell him so in no uncertain terms.  I mean, we’re talking about blackmail.  Derek doesn’t see it that way.  In his eyes, all her clients deserved it because they are all liars and cheats and thieves, not to mention a killer.  I look at him in disgust.  This is the same man who works with juvenile delinquents, trying to rehab them.  Does his attitude mean that he thinks they deserve whatever happens to them?  I don’t ask because he’s still talking.  He says the fact that Rosie’s clients live in Marin is a blackmailable offense.  By now, he’s slurring his words which means I should get as much information out of him as quickly as possible and save my indignation for later.  Besides, I’m hoping at some point he’ll realize if he had stopped her from continuing her ‘venture’, she’d still be alive.

“What else?”  I massage my forehead, feeling the stirrings of a headache.

“Um, well,” Derek stalls again, refusing to meet my eyes.  Suddenly, I get it and heave a big sigh.

“Derek, I don’t care if you slept with her,” I say earnestly, though Greta might care.  A lot.  “As long as it has nothing to do with her death.”

“No!  It’s just, um, well, we had both drank a bit, and um, I invited her back to my place, just to reminisce some more.  One thing led to another.”  I look at him in exasperation.  That is the lamest excuse in my book.  One thing doesn’t lead to another, not without help.  I don’t debate his statement, however, as it isn’t the point.

“So, when exactly did this happen?”

“The day before she was killed,” Derek says glumly.  “I can’t believe she’s dead!  We spent all afternoon in my bed talking and having sex.  She told me one of her clients would be upping her payment.  She was in such a good mood.  When she left, she told me she’d call me after the deal went through.  To celebrate.  I waited all the next night for that call.”  A call that never came.  I have a ton of questions, most of them irrelevant to the case.  I also remember the day in question at work—Derek had called in sick after taking off to see the counselor at the other agency.

“Has the police talked to you yet?”

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Rainbow Connection; chapter thirteen, part two

“The last day is especially interesting, don’t you think?”  Leticia asks, her eyes watering.

“Yes.”  I hesitate, then ask the question.  “Do you think they’re related?”

“Yes,” Leticia says firmly.  “That means the killer is in your group.”  Her eyes widen as she looks at me.  From the speculative gleam in her eyes, I can tell what she’s thinking.

“I didn’t kill your sister, Leticia,” I say wearily.  It’s never pleasant to be thought of as a murder suspect, but I’m used to it.

“I didn’t think you did,” Leticia says immediately, the flash of fear gone.  I pick up the accounts notebook and thumb through it again.  A.T., C.R., C.T., L.P., M.S.  I stop reading in disgust.  It’s no use.  If she had added some identifying markers to each name, such as what she’s blackmailing them for, then perhaps I could use the information.  Something niggles at me.  I open the diary and read the last entry again.

“Leticia, look at this!”  I show the entry to Leticia.

“I’ve read it already,” she says impatiently, not glancing at the page.  I don’t have time for attitude, so I read it out loud.

“This one, is very special.  I play right, I no have to work rest of my life.  Ten thousand dollars for first increased payment.  Is fair for a life.”  I pause dramatically, but Leticia’s eyes don’t flicker.  “Don’t you get it?  First increased payment.  That means she was already blackmailing the killer!”  I grab the accounts notebook and open it again.  “One of these fifteen initials is the killer!”  Ok, not the greatest grammar, but I got the point across.

“Madre de Dios!”  Leticia gasps, scanning the initials.  “Do you recognize any?”

“It’s hard,” I say slowly, my mind churning.  “I only know the first name of the women in the group.”

“I could probably find the last names at the clinic,” Leticia says eagerly.

“A.T., M.S., T.R,” I recite.  “Those are the possibilities.  I am relieved not to see a R.L., as irrational as that is.

“I’ll ask Carol tomorrow,” Leticia says briskly.

“Can you find out some other way?”  I ask slowly.  There is no C.S., so she’s not a suspect.  Still, I would feel better if Leticia didn’t talk about this with Carol.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Leticia says, energized to have something to do.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter thirteen, part one

There is very little to be gleaned from my conversation with Derek other than Rosie’s strong sense of morality which only makes sense in the case of her murder if her belief system was her excuse for carrying out blackmail.  Asking for money from people she didn’t approve of to care for her child might have seemed like some sort of poetic justice to her.  Derek and I part, and I meander home.  My head is pounding from too much information and not enough evidence.  How I wish I had Paris here to bounce ideas off him—him and Lyle.  Speaking of Paris, there is a message from him on my cell phone which I have forgotten to turn on.  He is put out because he had to find out about Mariah’s death from the news.  I call him when I reach home.

“What the hell is going on over there?”  Paris’s voice has regained some of the vigor it had earlier lost.  “Who’s going to be next?  It better not be you!  Tell me everything.”  I tell him about Mariah’s death and what little information I have gathered about it.  I still don’t tell him about the second attempt on my life or the threatening note in my pocket because there’s nothing he can do about it from Memphis, and the last thing he needs is to be worried about me.

“Enough of that.  What about you?  How are you?”  I want to think about something other than the murders for a little bit even though I’d love to get Paris’s take on it.  It’s clear, however, that his mind is focused on the situation with his family, and I want to be a good friend and support him.

He is at his wit’s end.  His mother is wigging out.  Last night, she started screaming and couldn’t stop.  She kept saying it was her punishment for lying to Paris about being adopted.  She started pulling out her hair, and her husband had to pin her arms behind her back to keep her from making herself bald.  I ask about Lyle, hoping to take Paris’s mind off a difficult subject, but apparently, that is a touchy area as well.  Lyle is trying to be supportive, but understandably, is under tremendous strain as well.  He is spending the day alone because he needs some space.  While Paris can understand the need, it still makes him panic.  Any whiff of abandonment throws him into a tizzy, and they had a fight about it before Lyle took off.  Paris isn’t sure he can come back Wednesday after all with his mom in such bad shape and Mr. Jenson not being any use at all.  He just sits around, scowling, exhorting his wife to pull herself together.  I vaguely remember Mr. Jenson from when the Jensons lived in Oakland, but that was years ago.  He was very phlegmatic; I remember that much.  Seems he’s crossed the line into asshole-ness.

“I don’t mean to be flippant, Paris, but what about your mother’s deep relationship with God?  Isn’t that helping her at all?”  I am not a Christian, but I admire the faith that devout Christians have.  I wish I were that certain of a benevolent force having a positive interest in me.

“That’s the worst part, Rayne!  She’s renounced God.  She spent a half an hour calling Him every filthy name in the book.  I never thought I’d see the day when I wished she would spout Bible verses at me.”  Paris stops.  I hear a distinct sniffle.  “I don’t understand how someone’s faith can collapse like that.  It’s as if she thought because she believed in God, she was protected from bad things.”  I wonder if that’s why Rosie quit church as well.  Her son’s death certainly seems like a catalyst for the catastrophic events to follow.  I shake my head to remind myself that Ashley had been killed first.  I have a gut feeling, however, that Rosie’s blackmailing hobby plays a large part in this whole mess.  What if she found out something about Mr. Stevenson and tried to extort money out of Ashley?  A glimmer of something niggles at my brain, but I can’t force it to the forefront.  I let it simmer, hoping it’ll develop on its own.

“People deal with their grief in different ways, Paris,” I say soothingly, but honesty compels me to add, “Though I’m sure it’s not good to pull out your own hair.  Have you talked to her about seeing a therapist?”

“We are not people who resort to therapist,” Paris says in a sing-song voice, obviously imitating his mother.  Or perhaps his stepfather.  “We take care of our own problems, thank you very much.”  I restrain a sigh.  That is such a prevalent feeling, even in this day and age, and it’s so destructive.  I’m not advocating therapy for everyone or for every situation, and I balked at entering it myself, but at least I intellectually realize that there are some problems I can’t solve on my own and it’s not a weakness to seek out help.  “I almost punched my stepfather when he said he’d take care of my mother himself.  He’s doing a shitty job of it so far.”

“Maybe you should check out therapists yourself,” I suggest.  I don’t want to widen the rift between Paris and his stepfather, but it’s clear that his mother is not coping well at all.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter twelve, part two

My coworkers talk of Mariah’s death for the rest of the day.  Obsessively.  They are so consumed with it, they don’t realize that I’m not contributing anything to the conversations.  I have several reasons for this.  One, I still don’t want people to know my connection with the murders.  Two, I’m disgusted with the avarice in their eyes as they babble about it.  Three, I want to find out as much as I can which is better accomplished by listening than by talking.  Four, it’s depressing.  I also harbor a faint hope that by me not talking about it, others will follow my example.  Fat chance.  It’s all I hear about when I pass people huddled in conversation.  Some of my coworkers are uncomfortable talking about it around me because of my past experiences with murder, but most pay me scant mind as they dish the dirt.  Nothing will do but for them to dissect the latest murder from every angle until I’m ready to smack them all in the mouths.

Even the kids are talking about it and how whack it is to kill a shorty like that.  They keep saying how someone that young couldn’t have dissed anybody bad enough to warrant death.  It disturbs me that many of them believe death is a perfectly logical retaliation for disrespect, but it’s not my place to preach at them.  They like me because I joke with them and give them a jovial hard time, but I don’t discipline them.  I’m like the crazy aunt who brings cool presents from exotic places, but who disappears before the family can get too sick of her.  The kids also like to try to wheedle treats out of me on the days I bring candy to the office.  I usually let them; it’s why I bring the candy in the first place.  No, the kids won’t be the reason I leave this job when I finally go.

“She was shot whereas her mother was strangled.  I think that’s significant.”  Alicia is talking in her solemn, counselor voice to Derek, one of the other counselors, in the hallway by her office.  Alicia is one of those grandmotherly-looking woman, comfortably plump with gray hair worn up in a bun.  The kids love being mothered by her so much, they keep returning even after they graduate.  Not my idea of successful counseling, but nobody is paying me to have an opinion.  Her office is down the hall approximately ten feet behind my desk, and she doesn’t bother to lower her voice.  I’m an inanimate object to her; she sees no reason to dissimulate.  “It denotes a great amount of rage towards the mother, thus the hands-on killing, whereas the daughter was more of a clinical kill.”  I roll my eyes, hoping she doesn’t catch me.  “He enjoyed killing the mother; he had to kill the daughter.”  I pause.  As much as I want to dismiss what she’s saying, she has a point.  The contrast between the mother’s death and the daughter’s indicates differing motives for each.  Rosie, strangled and dump in a dumpster like trash.  Mariah, laid out respectfully with a rosary in her hand.  Night and day.

“What about the first murder?”  Derek asks skeptically.  “How does that fit in your theory?”  Derek has pushed for a significant raise every year he’s worked at the agency, legend has it.  He’s been turned down every time, leaving him slightly bitter.  Who can blame him?  He’s been faithful to the agency for ten years and has had to watch the director pad his bank account while Derek’s has been depleted.

“I think it’s something completely different,” Alicia says pompously.  “The police want the two deaths to be connected because it makes it easier for them.  The latest death proves they’re not.”  I don’t agree that it would be easier for the cops if the first two deaths are connected, but it’s possible there is no link between Ashley’s death and Rosie’s.  Just because they’re in the same therapy group doesn’t mean the same person killed them both.  It’s hard to believe, though, that this isn’t the case.  The links between Rosie and Ashley run deeper than just group, and given Rosie’s emerging reputation, it makes perfect sense that she knew something about Ashley’s murder and instead of going to the police like she should have, she tried to blackmail the person in question.

“I wonder who’ll be next?”  Alicia muses out loud.  I can’t see Derek, but I assume he’s bored out of his mind.  I am, and I’m only half-listening to Alicia.

“Can’t tell you.  It better not be me, though.”

“Why would it be you?”

“I dated Rosie for a bit,” Derek confesses, lowering his voice.  Fortunately, I have excellent hearing so I am able to catch every word.  “What if it’s some maniac killing people who knew her?”

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Rainbow Connection; chapter twelve, part one

The next morning, I awake with a start.  I impulsively call out to my mother before remembering that she had returned home the night before after delivering the edict that I was to call her if anything untoward happens.  I had retorted that everything in my life these days was untoward so I would be calling her continuously.  This morning, I awake with my heart pounding.  I had another one of those nightmares where I can’t remember anything that happened, but I can still feel the aftermath.  I stumble out of bed to get ready for work, feeling less enthusiastic about it than usual.  I start thinking about changing my job.  I’m almost thirty and have been a receptionist at one place or another since I graduated from college.  Now, it’s fine to be a receptionist at my age if in your spare time, you’re a struggling writer or painter or musician, but not if you’re just a lazy ass who has no direction in life.

I used to derive some satisfaction for a job well done, but no longer.  Each day is excruciatingly long, and my coworkers are really getting on my nerves.  I see the director of the agency sit on his fat ass all day long, doing nothing more important that decide where to go for lunch.  My immediate boss works hard, but she only puts in five to six hours a day.  Of course, Alicia, the wonder counselor strolls into work late and is among the first to leave.  It bothers me that I’m the hardest working person in the place.  I know that nobody is getting paid much money, but supposedly, we’re working for a greater cause.  Some of the counselors and teachers have been there for years doing the same thing year after year, sliding by.  In some ways, it’s a cushy job without much pressure to improve on performance.  There are no concrete objectives other than to graduate kids out of the program, which is subjectively decided, anyway.  If it weren’t for the kids, I’d find the job intolerable.

I sigh.  The idea of scouring the classifieds or surfing mega-job sites depresses me.  That’s one of the reasons I haven’t quit my job—inertia.  As frustrating as my current position is, it’s the poison I know.  There’s no guarantee that a new job will be free of the corrosive office politics found at my current place of employment.  Most days, this argument is enough to keep me, not happy, but complacent.  I trudge to work, hunkered inside my coat.  I hate San Francisco weather, though the Mission is better than the rest of the truly windy city.  Other people scurry by, grim looks on their faces.  San Francisco is more laid-back than NYC, but it’s slowly growing more uptight.  Another reason I like the Mission—it still retains some residual funk.  One such funkster holds his hand out to me, boldly staring in my eyes.

“You are truly a vision of beauty,” he beams, his dark brown eyes glowing.  His frame is gaunt with his walnut-colored skin stretched tightly over his bones, as if he hasn’t eaten in days.  I have a bagel in one hand, a cup of untouched coffee in the other.  I thrust both at him, and he doffs his hat at me before accepting.  “God will show mercy on your soul, beautiful lady,” he laughs, taking a bite out of the onion bagel smeared with cream cheese.  He closes his eyes in delight as he washes down the bite with a sip of coffee.  I hurry away, not wanting to be the target of his fulsome praise.  I make it to work with a minute to spare.

“Did you read this?”  Quinn asks, tossing the Chronicle on my desk.  She hasn’t darkened my foyer since her futile attempt to procure me as a present for her ‘roommate’ but appears determined to make up for lost time.  I glance at the front page, disconcerted to see Mariah’s face splashed across it.

“Second-generation Death,” the headline runs.  I frown.  They really need better headlines to grab people’s attention.  Although, the picture of a dead Mariah clutching a rosary is more than enough to turn my stomach.  I skim the beginning of the article which seems to be asking the question if death can run in a family, much like blue eyes or fat stomachs.  I wrinkle my nose in disgust.  There’s nothing new in the article, and it’s clear they are just capitalizing on the tragedy.  I’m about to toss the paper back at Quinn when something else catches my eye—a sidebar interviewing Carol.  She offers her condolences but takes pains to add that she thinks the latest death indicates there is absolutely no connection between the therapy group and the murders.  She goes on in this vein for some time before sliding in the obligatory mention of her book.  My mouth tightens.  I can’t believe she’s done it again.

“It’s that maid’s daughter,” Quinn explains, her eyes round.  I snap back to the present, pushing Carol’s comments to the back of my mind.  I make a note to myself to ask Carol about the article at the next meeting and not to let her off the hook.  Then I let it go.  “Remember I told you about my friend who was blackmailed by that maid!”  I vaguely remember the story.  I wonder if Quinn has any more useful information.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter eleven, part two

We decide to go to the movies that afternoon.  I want to take my mind off the murders, Paris, and anything else depressing.  We choose to see Lord of the Rings part deux at the Metreon, which is a mistake.  Not the movie itself which is truly epic in scope and nature, but attending the Metreon where all the beautiful people hang out intermingled with the tourists.  The prices are jacked up even higher than normal.  There are too many people milling around for my comfort.  I am painfully aware during the entire movie that the large man sitting next to me has his meaty arm invading my personal space.  To say nothing of his body odor which is pungent.  I munch away from an enormous bucket of popcorn until I am sick to my stomach.

Even though I enjoy the movie in all its fantastical glory, I begin to get antsy two-thirds of the way through.  I look around the theater and think I see Maria from group.  I blink twice, but it’s hard to tell in the dark.  I shake my head.  Even if it is her, so what?  It doesn’t mean she’s following me or that she’s the one who tapped me with her car.  I’m just being paranoid, I decide and snuggle further in my seat to avoid looking at the supposed Maria.  It’s no use, however; my concentration is shot.  I can’t focus on the movie, not even on the scrumptious Orlando Bloom as he does his super-fairy act, because my thoughts keep drifting to the death of Mariah.  Of the three murders, hers seems the most senseless to me.  I know all lives are created equal and all that blather, but there’s something about the death of a child that really appalls me.  It’s presumed that someone cannot do anything to ‘earn’ being murdered in so short a time, therefore her death is a particular tragedy.  I don’t know if I agree with that, but the picture of her sticks in my mind.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that she must have overheard something or seen something pertaining to either her mother’s murder or Ashley’s murder.  A horrible thought strikes me—what if it’s Leticia or Sergio who killed Rosie, and Mariah discovered something in her aunt’s house that would indict either Leticia or Sergio?  That person would have no choice but to eliminate Mariah.  I hate being so suspicious, but nearly seventy percent of all murders are committed by someone close to the victim.  Who’s closer to Mariah than her aunt and uncle?  After a few minutes thought, however,  I dismiss the idea.  If they wanted to kill their niece, they wouldn’t do it with such a fanfare.  They had plenty of opportunities to kill her quietly and make it look natural.  It couldn’t be to their benefit to have her death be so publicized—I am relieved to be able to strike their names from my mental suspect list.

“Rainbow, time to go!”  I start at the sound of my mother’s voice.  The movie is over, and I have missed the last half hour of it.  The man next to me is staring at me in disapproval, as if he knows I drifted at the end.  My mother and I make our way out of the Metreon and onto the BART.  As we near the Mission, I am able to breathe.  These are my people—not those poseurs at the Metreon.  I smile at everybody rushing by out of sheer gratitude.

“Watch it!”  Someone shouts at me as someone, gender unknown but feels like a man, brushes by and tries to snatch my purse.  Unfortunately for the would-be mugger, I am one of those women who crosses the strap over my chest so he fails in his aim.  Cursing under his breath, the person sprints away.  This happens so fast, all I can do is stare at the retreating back.

“Stop that man!”  I finally shout, though it’s futile to do so.  My attacker is out of sight by the time I gather my wits.  I should have added ‘or woman’, but that’s irrelevant now.

“Are you all right?”  My mother asks me, patting me on the shoulders, chest, and torso.  She’s checking to see if I’m hurt, but I pull away.

“Fine.”  I am upset that I didn’t see the person coming—leaving me totally vulnerable to his assault.  I open my purse to make sure there’s nothing missing.  There isn’t.  I shove my hands in my pockets, trying to warm them.  There’s something added to my right pocket—a note.  I pull it out and unfold it.  It says, ‘Stay the fuck away or you won’t be so lucky next time.  This is your final warning.’  I quickly fold the note and shove it back into my pocket, struggling to maintain the neutral look on my face.

“What is it?”  My mom asks, ever alert to the changes in my expression.  She had been looking around for the attacker, but manages to turn around in time to see me frown.

“Nothing.”  I make up my mind not to mention the note to her as it would only make her worry more.  I don’t fancy hearing again the list of reasons why I should quit the therapy group.  “I’m just a little rattled that someone tried to steal my purse.”  What bothers me the most is that the mugger took such care to make it appear as if he was trying to snatch my purse down to the cursing after ‘missing’.  That spoke of premeditation, as if I couldn’t already discern that from the note.

“We’re going home,” my mother says firmly, tucking her arm through mine.  I don’t protest as I’m feeling worn.  When we get there, she makes some ginger tea to refresh my spirits.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter eleven, part one

“You look luscious, my darling.”  Vashti smiles at me, her dark hair flowing around her voluptuous body.  She is nude—uncovering that body I so missed.  Her skin is the color of mahogany or cherry wood, or perhaps, chocolate ice cream.  She has no shame at showing me her body, all of it.  Her breasts are heavy with longing, her nipples dark with anticipation.  She has one hand coyly covering her pubic area, but there is a smirk on her face at the same time.  I am nude as well, and I am wet in anticipation.  I reach for her, but she stays my hand.  We are in a forest with only the barest sliver of a moon to guide us.  She is dark on dark—a nymph whom I worship.  I bow down to press kisses upon her polished toes, which she consents to graciously.  As I straighten up, she takes my hand in hers and clamps it to her breast.

I slip my hand between her legs and find her wet.  My entire hand slides inside her with no problem.  She plucks my hand out of her and sucks my thumb before letting go.  Without a word, we start walking hand in hand as the night grows darker.  Suddenly, the moon disappears completely.  I clutch her hand nervously as the peaceful woods turn spooky in the blink of an eye.  It is no longer comforting to be surrounded by darkness.  Vashti and I press against each other as the darkness closes around us.  We are gripping each other’s hand so tightly, our hands fuse together.  There is no separating us now, even if we so desire.  We are no longer walking as we are rooted to the spot.  My mouth is full of thorns which are pricking a thousand miniscule holes in my tongue.  I try not to swallow them as I do not want a hole in my stomach as well.  There is a howl in the distance that causes Vashti and me to cling to each other.

“Help me,” I whisper, but Vashti doesn’t hear me, so deep in her own fright is she.  Without warning, a pterodactyl swoops out of the sky and rips Vashti out of my arms.  I feel a searing pain in my hand as our grasp is severed, leaving me with a jagged wound where my hand used to be.  Vashti is moving her lips, but I cannot hear what she’s saying.  “Don’t leave me,” I moan, reaching out for her with my bloodied hand.  She reaches out her stump as well, but the pterodactyl has her firmly in his mouth and is flying away.  “Don’t leave me!”  I scream, panic flooding my body.  What will I do if Vashti is taken from my sight?  I try to run to keep up with her, but my feet are molded to the ground.  They are turning into mud as I watch Vashti fly further and further away from me.  “No!  Don’t go!”  I wave frantically, but she soon disappears.

“Wake up, Rainbow,” she says sharply, shaking me.

“What, huh?”  I jerk awake, my heart thumping.

“You were dreaming again.”  My mother has stayed with me for the week and into the weekend.  My body has pretty much healed except for remaining bruises, but my mind has become fragile again.  Mom  is looking down at me with rounded eyes.  There is concern, but also fear in them.  She’s spent enough nights by my bedside the last time around to know I had a nightmare.  When she catches me looking at her, she smoothes the worry out of her face.  “Want to talk about it?”  Mutely, I shake my head.

“What time is it?”  I whisper, snuggling under my covers.  I always feel vulnerable after a nightmare, and this time is no exception.

“Five-thirty,” my mother replies, holding out a glass of water to me.  “Sunday morning.  February.”  She knows the drill as well as Paris does.  I sit up and drink obediently, knowing that it’s a good idea to hydrate before trying to sleep again.  “Go back to sleep, Rainbow.  I’ll hold your hand until you do.”  I give her the glass before lying down again.  I slip my hand into hers, feeling a safeness I haven’t felt in years.  I close my eyes, comforted by her presence.  Soon, I fall into a dreamless sleep.  This time when I awake, I feel refreshed despite the earlier nightmare.  After performing my morning ritual, in slippers and robe, I pad my way to the kitchen.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter ten, part three

Ashley was agitated about her father, calling him a shithead in sheep’s clothing.  When Melissa pointed out that her father was well-known for his contributions to the community, Ashley openly sneered.  She told them they were idiots if they believed everything they saw or heard.  Her father was a first-class prick who had a mistress while her mother was dying of cancer.  This mistress wasn’t the first one, neither, but that’s only to be expected from a bigwig executive like him.  Her father was careful not to expose his wife to his peccadilloes, but she knew.  Everyone in town knew, and her so-called ‘friends’ were always the first ones to tell Janice something, ‘for her own good.’  Ashley vacillated between thinking her mother was a saint for putting up with her father’s behavior and thinking she was an idiot.

That wasn’t the worst part, however.  Ashley was in her father’s den one day, snooping for evidence of his infidelities.  Even though her mother was dead, Ashley still felt the need to protect her.  Ashley found a letter from a lover to her father asking for money because she was pregnant.  She was asking for fifty-thousand dollars for the abortion and for ‘emotional damages’, threatening to go to the media if he didn’t pay.  This was his last warning, the letter read, to do the right thing by her.  Ashley didn’t know who the woman because her father walked in before she could read the whole letter.  Her father freaked, ripping the letter out of her hands and screaming at her for spying on him.  Of course, she gave it right back to him for being a hypocrite before storming off to group.  Her father had caught her by surprise, coming home early like that.  Ashley had thought she was safe because her father normally didn’t come home before nine at night.

Ashley’s agitation that day is starting to make sense.  According to Maria, Ashley already suspected that her father was having an affair before then, but that piece of hard evidence would be impossible to ignore.  I wonder if she had started searching in hopes that she wouldn’t find anything to verify her vague suspicions.  When she first saw the letter, what was running through her mind?  Was she planning on confronting her father?  Or would she have kept it to herself, letting it simmer?  Knowing her even as little as I had, I knew there was no way she would have kept that information to herself.  Most likely, she would have tried to find the letter again to read the whole thing.  I would be surprised if Mr. Stevenson kept it after Ashley found it, however.  In fact, I’m surprised he kept it at all.  I also wonder what the mystery woman would have done if Mr. Stevenson hadn’t paid.  Would she have taken him to court?  Tried him in the media?  Infidelity is not a crime, but it could prove awfully embarrassing for him to be caught up in a nasty situation like that.  Then there’s the question of, is the mystery woman the same person as the one Ashley said she was becoming suspicious of?  If so, someone in group?  I shake my head.  This speculation is getting me nowhere.

The women are still talking about Ashley.  She felt betrayed by her father who was always her idol.  What if Mr. Stevenson killed his daughter to keep her from telling anyone about the letter?  I dismiss the possibility because he would have done it immediately after she read the letter if he did at all for that reason.  It makes no sense that he would have waited a day and a half before killing her.  I miss part of the conversation, but the women are only rehashing what they’ve already said.  My mind is drifting, so I almost miss it when Melissa comments that Ashley said she was going to make her father tell her everything.  When I pressed Melissa what Ashley meant by that, she shook her head regretfully.  She and Jean hadn’t wanted to push Ashley too hard because she seemed so distraught; now, Melissa wishes they had.  It’s mean of me, but I can’t help thinking that the only reason they wanted to know more was so they could have the inside scoop.  Many people crave fame and attention, and these women are no exception.

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