Chapter Three; Part One
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I know, I’m being gently shaken awake. I stubbornly cling to the remnants of my lovely dream where I am having sex with a very alive Moira in so many creative positions. I am just making her come for the third time when I finally emerge from my dream. I am cross at having to abandon Moira, but I struggle to wake up when I see Paris’s face staring down at me. His mouth is set and his eyes are grim, but he tries to force a smile to his lips when he sees that I’m awake. Max is hovering behind him, her own mouth pursed. Officer Clark is somewhere in the periphery, scowling as usual. I have an impulse to tell him that it’s not catching, that he’ll still be as manly when he leaves as he was before he ever met us. Somehow, I don’t think that will reassure him. I stand up and stretch, trying to work out the kinks in my back. I wince as my back cracks. I am only twenty-eight, but I feel at least fifty.
“Let’s get out of here.” Paris says through gritted teeth. He directs a malevolent glare at Officer Clark who returns the favor.
“Where’s Inspector Robinson?” I ask, hoping to get one more glimpse of her.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Paris spits out the answer, grabbing me by the arm.
“What am I supposed to do?” Max cries out, grabbing Paris’s arm. “I can’t stay here alone.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” Paris snaps, tugging free from Max. I glance at him in surprise. I haven’t seen him this upset in quite some time.
“Can I stay with you?” Max asks piteously. She clutches at Paris’s arm again, hanging on with all her might.
“No, Max,” Paris says, his tone slightly softened. It clear that his sense of responsibility toward her has ended. “You’ll have to call someone else.”
“Fine!” Max’s tone hardens. “And I’ll have to tell the inspector what I know.” I don’t like the look in her voice or the tone of her voice as she says this. I don’t think she knows anything, but she’s more than capable of stirring up trouble.
“You do that, Max.” Paris starts dragging me toward the front door. “I’m leaving. I’ll talk to you later.” Neither of us say anything as he roars away from the curb. It isn’t until we’re well on our way home that I dare to speak.
“Are you ok?” I ask timidly. Paris rarely loses his temper but when he does, he scares me.
“No, I’m not fucking ok,” Paris seethes, his hands clutching the wheel. “That bitch actually thinks I killed Moira!” I wince at his use of the word, ‘bitch’, but I chalk it up to his bad mood. “She kept insinuating that Moira and I had a thing going.”
“Moira’s gay, isn’t she?”
“Yes! She’s never been with a man, but that didn’t stop Miss Inspector from questioning our sexual history.”
“What possible motive could she pin on you?” I wonder. “It’s not like you really knew Moira that well.”
“She did come to the gym once in a while, but that’s it! The inspector made it sound like I was porking Moira on a daily basis.” Paris’s tone was bitter, so unlike his usual self.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean it,” I try to comfort Paris. “Besides, Moira isn’t your type even if she did do guys.” You would have thought I had said Paris was a serial killer the way he reacted. Wanting to know what I mean by that, his tone is less than cordial. “She was too brilliant for you, Paris. And I don’t mean brains, so don’t get huffy with me. You need someone who will play second fiddle to your shining star. No way she plays second fiddle to anybody.”
“Are you saying I’m egotistical?” Paris demands, indignant at what I’ve said. I should have known better than to bring it up, even though I was only trying to take his mind off the interrogation. He’s sensitive about things like this.
“You like the spotlight,” I counter. “That’s not necessarily egotistical, but there can’t be two stars in a relationship. One has to take the backseat to the other. That’s why I’d be perfect for you.” I try to use humor to lighten the situation, but he’s not buying.
“You?” He hoots derisively. “You’re about as retiring as a meteor shower. You’re nobody’s second-fiddle yourself.”
“What?” I am more upset by what he’s said than I thought possible. “That is so unfair, Paris. I don’t want to be in the spotlight at all! You know I’d rather listen than talk. I melt right into the background.”
“That’s ludicrous. One, you’re not the retiring type. Two, you’re a fucking knockout. Three, you’re often the only Asian woman in the joint. There’s no way you won’t stick out.”
“You think I’m a knockout?” I’m temporarily distracted by the compliment, which I think is his intention.
“You know you are. You may not say it, but you know all eyes zip to you when you’re in a room.” Paris has mellowed as well. He shuts off the engine and we exit the vehicle. We don’t talk until we’re in the safety of our apartment.
“Unless I’m with you.” I pick up the thread of the conversation easily. Even though it’s nearly five in the morning, I’m not at all tired. “Then I might as well be Miss Invisible.”
“Look, we can argue about who’s more attractive some other time.” Paris abruptly drops the subject and motions me to the living room. We sit on the couch and snuggle as we rehash what each of use went through with Inspector Robinson. With Paris, she zeroed in on those few minutes I was out smoking a cigarette before he joined me. What was he doing? Why didn’t he just go out with me right away? Things like that. Inspector Robinson also wanted to know what he heard at the party about Moira. Unlike me, he was able to recount numerous conversations that touched on her.
“Shit!” I sit up, remembering something important. Paris looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to explain myself. “Some girl was talking about her affair with Moira. The girl really thought Moira would leave Max for her.” I struggle to remember the rest of the conversation. I have a feeling there is an important part I’m missing. I can’t recall, so I let it go. “There were two other girls talking about Moira. Seems one had slept with her and one wanted to. Or something like that.” I curse my imperfect memory. It would have really impressed Inspector Robinson if I could have remembered these conversations. “Do you think I should call the inspector with this information?”
“Do it tomorrow,” Paris advises. “It’s not like you have anything concrete. Can you even remember any of their names?” I shake my head in discouragement. I really should buy Ginkoba tablets for my memory, but I’d probably forget to take them.
“Did you tell her about copying the note?” I ask anxiously. It’s the only thing I had held back from the inspector, at least knowingly, and I don’t want her to find out. Paris shakes his head, which eases the feeling in my gut. Technically, I have done nothing wrong, but I doubt the inspector would see it that way.
“She didn’t ask, so I didn’t tell,” Paris says grimly. “Isn’t that supposed to be how it works?” We talk about our respective interrogations a bit more, but learn nothing of importance.
“It would be cool if we could solve the case,” I say idly, leaning against Paris. He has the most comfortable chest of any person I know, bar none. I could rest against him all night long. “Think of the publicity.” I am joking, but it has entered my mind. If I solved the case, I would definitely get my name in the paper. Then maybe some agent would spot me and decide that I am the new ‘It’ girl whom he simply must put in pictures. I sit up, infused with energy. “This could be it, Paris. This could get my name on the front page!”
“Why would you want that? It’s just one step from being in the tabloids.” Paris looks at me scornfully. I’ve told him before that I wouldn’t mind being famous, which he thinks is shallow. It surprises him that someone like me would give a damn about something like that.
“Easy for you to say.” As a model, he is instantly recognizable from the half-dozen ads and posters he’s done over the years. Sure, his name might not be known, but he gets stopped for autographs by giggly girls—and gawky boys—on a weekly basis. I think I could come to appreciate that kind of attention.
“This could really be it!” I am starting to get excited by the thought of snooping around and solving Moira’s murder. “I mean, how many Asian female inspectors do you know of?” There are a few in mysteries, but only two that I know of which are actually written by Asian women. Give it up for Sujata Massey and Laura Joh Rowland. I stop. Is Laura Joh Rowland Asian? I just assumed that she is, but I don’t know for sure. The Joh sounds Asian, but maybe she made up that part. Sujata Massey. She’s Indian. That sorta counts as Asian, though it’s not exactly what I am looking for. It’s better than those two pretenders, Leslie Glass and S.J. Rozan, neither of whom I can stand. Hm. What if they are Asian? I am pretty sure that Leslie Glass isn’t, but maybe S.J. Rozan? Somehow, I doubt it. I hate April Woo and her stereotypical mom. I don’t remember which one writes the April Woo books because I only read half a book before throwing it across the room in disgust.
“Hello? Earth to Rayne?” Paris waves a hand in front of my face, trying to get my attention.
“Think of it, Paris!” I am beginning to get excited. “I’ll be the Lone Ranger and you can be my Tonto! No, no! Better yet, I’m Sherlock Holmes and you’re Watson!” I beam at Paris, waiting for him to share my elation. He is not so sanguine.
“Are you nuts, Rayne?” Paris stares at me in disbelief. “Neither of us knows the first thing about detecting!”
“Speak for yourself,” I say tartly. I have read tons of mysteries, and I solve them ninety percent of the time before the protagonist does. Somehow, I don’t think Paris will be impressed by that. “Paris, we can do it. I know we can.”
“Rayne, this isn’t one of your mystery novels where everything ties up neatly at the end.” Paris is indignant that I would even want to try to solve this mystery. “This is real fucking life. It won’t be as easy as it is in those books of yours.”
“I don’t expect it to be easy,” I say hotly. “If it were, then it wouldn’t be worth doing, now would it?” A fine piece of logic, if I do say so myself.
“I can’t stand this.” Paris stands up abruptly, toppling me over. Fortunately, the couch is soft, so it doesn’t hurt when I hit my head. “I’m going to bed.” He doesn’t even say goodnight as he marches from the room. I watch his ass on his way out. I lie on the couch, thinking I should get up and go to bed. I don’t want to, however, though I should. I have a meeting tomorrow night. Technically, tonight, and I’m going to be hurting if I don’t get some sleep. I stumble to the bedroom and try to sleep. I fall asleep within minutes.
“Morning,” I yawn as I trudge into the bathroom. It’s actually afternoon, but so what? Paris is just finishing, but doesn’t bother saying anything. “We still not talking?”
“You still thinking of investigating?” He shoots back, his tone snippy.
“Maybe,” I say, splashing water on my face.
“Then we’re still not talking.” He stalks out of the bathroom with an injured air. I roll my eyes. He can be so damn melodramatic. I want to tell him to take the stick out of his ass, but he has already disappeared. I finish my ablutions, then wander into the kitchen to see what I can rustle up. Usually, Paris cooks breakfast on Sunday mornings, but I don’t expect him to in his current state. The smell of eggs scrambling greets my nose. My mouth waters.
“Did you make enough for me?” I ask without hope. Paris nods silently. When he is done cooking, he fixes two plates. He has made scrambled eggs with ham, broccoli and cheese, as well as toast, sausage links, and freshly-squeezed orange juice. I would marry this boy for his cooking skills alone.
“Eat while it’s hot.” Even when he’s angry at me, he cannot resist nurturing; it’s in his genes.
“The eggs are fabulous, Paris,” I say, gobbling down my food. I am hungry from the ordeal last night, and I eat like there’s no tomorrow.
“It’s the basil,” Paris says, thawing just a bit. He is proud of his cooking, justifiably so, and I’m his best consumer. “A pinch of basil goes a long way.”
“What are your plans for today?” I ask, more to make amends than because I have a burning interest.
“Work. Got a few clients at the gym.” That reminds me of what Inspector Robinson had said, and I ask Paris why Max attends that particular gym as it’s out of her neighborhood. Seems the inspector asked him that very question, and he answered her the same as he answers me. “I have no idea.” Well, there really is no reason he should know. The only one who could say for sure is Max, and she probably isn’t saying. “What about you?”
“Got the girls tonight.” I say it with a grin, knowing how Paris will respond.
“Asian women with attitude? They’re not coming here, are they?” He is alarmed at the thought.
“No, silly. It’s at Lisa’s house tonight.” I am amused by his reaction, though it is the same every time.
I found the girls, as I ironically call them, by placing an ad a year ago on craigslist.com in the general activities section that ran, “Are you Asian? Are you female? Are you sick of being asked where are you from? Are you sick of being told how exotic you are? Are you tired of talking about politics all the time and just want to have some fun? Answer this ad, then, but only if you have a wicked sense of humor and a love of adventure.” Ten women responded. Three were clearly men posing as women, and I deleted their responses. One was a lunatic who raved about the government conspiracy to impregnate ‘our people’ with alien babies—needless to say, I didn’t answer her email, either. The other six and I met, with two deciding the group wasn’t for them. The remaining five of us meet once or twice a month, depending on our schedules, and have done so for the past year. We do everything from going to the movies to clubbing to making dinner. Tonight is going to be low-key. Potluck dinner at Lisa’s because, God forbid, Asians have a dinner and not make it potluck, then whatever else we feel like doing.
“When you guys get together, I tremble for the rest of mankind!” Paris shudders theatrically. He is exaggerating, but he does have a point. The five of us can be fierce when we get on a roll. We barely evaded incarceration once, but that was just a misunderstanding. It wasn’t our fault, really, that sporting venues don’t have enough bathrooms for women. We were careful never to let that happen again.
What I like about the girls is that I don’t have to put on a front with them. Even with Paris, I alter myself slightly so I’m not ‘too Asian’. I can’t even tell you what I mean by that, but the rest of the girls know exactly what I mean without me explaining. There is a comfort zone with them that doesn’t exist elsewhere. I don’t have to censor myself or pretend to be something I’m not. I have spent much of my life surrounded by white people, so I know how to act around them. Most of the time, I’m not even aware that I’m altering my behavior until I’m in a situation when I don’t feel compelled to do so. It’s the nights with the girls that teach me how much I’ve hidden from the world at large for fear of being too vulnerable. I don’t begrudge that I have to do something that most people do not—but don’t take my girls away from me or I will get ballistic on your ass. Paris doesn’t completely understand it, but he can halfway make a connection to how I feel about my girls to how he feels about a queer men’s group that he attends once in a while. That’s the closest he can get.
“What are you bringing to this fete?” Paris has been to enough Asian events with me to know that it’s always communal cooking. He also knows that I am not the best of cooks nor do I like cooking. I do, however, enjoy baking so I usually end up bringing dessert.
“Triple chocolate cake.” It’s one of my favorites and my own recipe, but I haven’t made it lately because my last lover couldn’t stand chocolate anything. One of the reasons we didn’t make it as a couple.
“Yum!” Paris’s eyes light up. “Save me a piece or two, ok?”
“If you’re good, I might actually make two.” I am glad that we are not fighting any longer as I hate being on the outs with Paris.
“I should be going.” Paris rises and stretches, showing off some stomach. He has a washboard stomach, and I never get tired of looking at it. He catches me staring and pulls down his shirt. I stick out my tongue at him, and he kindly returns the favor. I watch his ass on the way out, more out of habit than out of lust. I kid him about hooking up, but I know better than he that we would not make a good couple. A big reason is because I prefer to have long-term relationships with women while he prefers to have them with men. The reasons he mentioned are valid as well. Plus, we are both just too damn stubborn. We have gone for hours not talking because of some perceived slight or because he put the toilet paper roll on the spindle the wrong way. It’s good-natured fun between friends, but it would become something bigger between lovers. I don’t know why that is or if it should be that way, but I know that’s what would happen.