“You’re next,” Inspector Robinson breaks into my reverie and nods at me. I hop up with a start, nearly choking on my water. I set down the glass and follow her, leaving a dejected Max to grapple with Officer Clark. We settle on couches opposite each other, and she pulls out a notebook. “What is your full name?”
“Rayne Liang. R-a-y-n-e L-i-a-n-g,” I say, then remember that it’s not exactly true. “Um, that’s not my full name. It’s what I go by. Is that good enough?”
“Full name, including middle,” Inspector Robinson repeats, tapping her pen against the notebook.
“Rainbow Freedom Liang,” I say reluctantly, cursing my mother as I do any time I have to divulge my name. I wait for the comment that inevitably follows my revelation—‘Your parents must have been hippies!’—but it doesn’t come. Inspector Robinson writes it down before continuing with her questioning. After receiving mundane details such as my address and age, she starts asking more substantive questions.
“How long have you known Ms. Bowers?” Inspector Robinson asks, her eyes trained on my face. I have the uneasy feeling that I have a glob of toothpaste in the corner of my mouth, but I resist the urge to lick it to see if it’s true.
“I met her at the party tonight,” I say. I open my mouth to add something, but don’t. Just answer the questions and nothing more. That’s what I’ve heard to do when talking to the police.
“Your friend, what is his name?” Inspector Robinson waits. She has a habit of sitting completely still, which is distracting.
“Paris Frantz. F-r-a-n-t-z. No middle name.” Surely, this will get a rise out of her. I am wrong again.
“Mr. Frantz is friends with Ms. Bowers, then.” It takes me a few seconds to realize that she’s asking, not telling.
“Not exactly friends,” I hedge. “He’s her personal trainer.”
“Where?” Inspector Robinson’s voice is brisk, but not hurried.
“‘N Sound Shape on Valencia.” I make a face as I say the name. I catch a glimpse of a similar reaction on Inspector Robinson’s face before she can mask it. “I know, I know, horrible name, but a great place to work out. The owner really care about you.” Jimmy Benedict, the owner, is a fixture in the Mission District, one of the many characters. Easy on the eyes, too. He’s in his forties, but could pass for early thirties.
“It doesn’t sound like her kind of place,” Inspector Robinson frowns, looking at her notes. “Why would Ms. Bowers frequent a health club not up to her standards?”
“I don’t know,” I stare at Inspector Robinson with respect. She actually knows ‘N Sound Shape, which means she probably uses it herself as it’s not well-known. “Maybe she likes to support locally-owned businesses.”
“There’s a Starbucks mug in the kitchen,” Inspector Robinson says with a hint of a smile. “I don’t think Ms. Bowers has much difficult patronizing chains.” Is that a joke? I wonder if I can let my guard down. “Ms. Liang, why did you accompany Mr. Frantz here?” Her tone is deceptively mild, but I can sense the quickening of her interest.
“He asked me to,” I reply simply.
“Do you do everything he asks?”
“Do you have a best friend?” I don’t wait for an answer. “He’s done so many things for me. It was the least I could do.”
“Are you two lovers?” The question comes out of left-field, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m used to people questioning my relationship with Paris.
“No. We’re just friends.”
“What was your relationship with the deceased, Ms. Liang?” The inspector switches gears easily, as if she’s tired of the previous subject.
“I met her tonight. I have no relationship with her.” I decide not to mention the modeling offer because I don’t want to complicate the situation. More honestly, I don’t want to give her any ammunition to turn her sights on me.
“Then why did she have this in her bra?” The inspector pulls something out of her pocket and shows it to me. It is Moira’s business card with my name and number on it. Busted. Fuck. I had forgotten about that. I wish I had taken it from Moira when I looked at her earlier, but there is no way I could have touched her cold body. I repress a shudder and turn back to the inspector. I cannot think of a plausible lie, so I tell the truth.
“She wanted to sculpt me. I gave her my number.” That is the bare-bones truth—I don’t tell the inspector how Moira made me want to do unspeakable acts with her. Some things are too private to mention, and in this case, discretion is most certainly the better part of valor.
“That’s it?” Inspector Robinson lifts an eyebrow. It is eerie to see my own trick mimicked back at me, even if she doesn’t know I can do it, too. “Ms. Bowers seems to think that you were trying to seduce Ms. Kelley.” Inspector Robinson flips back a couple pages in her notebook and quotes, “That fucking bitch threw herself at my girlfriend. She practically undressed her right before my eyes. I could barely keep myself from knocking the snot out of her.” Inspector Robinson flips back to the current page and looks at me expectantly. “Except for the confusion of pronouns, it’s perfectly clear what she meant. Well?”
“Well, what?” I counter. Damn Max, anyway. Why did she bring that up for? She has to know that it doesn’t make me look good which was probably her intention. It wasn’t even true! Her girlfriend was all over me, not the other way around. Besides, I could take Max, easily.
“Did you throw yourself at Ms. Kelley?” The inspector is good, not displaying any show of temper no matter how obstructive I try to be.
“No!” I hadn’t wanted to talk about it, but it’s unavoidable. “She’s the one who put the moves on me.”
The inspector puts me through my paces, trying to glean more information from my porous memory. I can’t tell her exactly what Moira had said to make me think she was hitting on me—Moira had been more subtle than that. Inspector Robinson asks me three more times in slightly different ways, but the results are the same. She moves on to when I had noticed Moira missing. I know it was just after midnight because I had checked my watch to see if it was late enough for me to pull of forcing Paris to leave the party. I make the mistake of saying that nobody had known where Moira was, and the inspector wastes several minutes prodding me to discover who, exactly, comprised the ‘nobody’ in that statement.
I mention Paris, of course, and that other people were milling about. I remember that Emil-something was there and unfortunately mention that he seemed to have hated Moira. The inspector couldn’t let that statement remain as it was, of course, so I reluctantly told her what Emil had told me about Max, Moira, and Moira’s affairs. I gloss over the more damning things such as the venom in Emil’s voice as he talked about Moira. I don’t think she needs to hear something that is merely speculation on my part. The whole time I’m talking, I’m delicately sniffing the air. The good inspector is wearing a fragrance that I can’t identify. No surprise, really, as I never wear perfume. It’s light, and it suits her; I wonder what it is. I’m thinking so hard about her perfume that I almost miss her next question.
“Why did Ms. Bowers tell you about missing Ms. Kelley? I mean, the two of you weren’t exactly friends.” Inspector Robinson tosses out this question negligently.
“Paris and I were leaving. Max wanted Moira to say good-bye.” I am getting used to her questioning style, and I relax a fraction. I vow not to be sidetracked again by speculation about Inspector Robinson’s personal being, tempting though it may be.
“You saw the body.” This is a statement, not a question, and it catches me off-guard.
“Um, yes. I did. I didn’t touch anything, though.” That is almost true, and I don’t feel terribly guilty for the little lie.
“Nothing at all?” Inspector Robinson’s voice holds a hint of disbelief. She erases it as she issues her next command. “Tell me if there was anything odd about the scene.” Besides the body? I want to ask, but manage to restrain myself.
“Um, not really,” I say hesitantly. What would be odd to a homicide inspector? I couldn’t think of anything that would be out of place at a homicide scene. Of course, I’ve never been at such a scene before, so I don’t really have a basis for comparison.
“What time did you view the body, Ms. Liang?” I want to ask her to call me Rayne, but it doesn’t seem appropriate.
“Um, maybe half an hour before you got here?” I’m not sure about the time, and I don’t want to unintentionally mislead her.
“Did Mr. Frantz spend any time alone with the body after you viewed it?” Her tone is mechanical, as if she is asking the time of day. It reminds me that she does this all day long and probably doesn’t think anything more of it than pouring a bowl of cereal.
“Paris? No.” I stop. I am not so sure. I can’t quite remember what happened after I left the room. I’m pretty sure he left before I did, but I am not certain.
“What about Ms. Bowers?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
“She was alone inside when I came to the house.” The inspector stares at me for an intense moment. I lean back, trying to put distance between us. The questions are becoming more uncomfortable for me to answer. I don’t want to put anyone in a tight spot, but I also want to take the heat off me.
“Um, well, yeah. Paris and I were smoking a cigarette.” Something compels me to add, “I’m not a smoker. I only do once in awhile, usually in moments of great stress.”
“Did you go out at the same time?” She asks the question casually, but I can hear the intensity behind it.
“Um, I don’t remember.” I cringe at how the answer comes out. I have never been a good liar because I sound too hesitant. Sometimes, I sound that way even when I’m telling the truth. Inspector Robinson sighs and sets her notebook carefully on her lap. She closes her eyes for a brief minute before opening them again. This time, when she speaks, her voice is terse.
“Ms. Liang. This is a murder investigation. I am a homicide inspector. I do not like being lied to. Rethink your answer to my last question.” She is glaring directly in my eyes. I am properly intimidated, but also somewhat aroused by her gaze. I do not want to tell her the truth. I do not want to get Paris in trouble. I cannot lie to her, though.
“I went out before Paris did,” I say reluctantly. I silently beg Paris to forgive me.
“It was only for a minute or two while he convinced her to call the cops.”
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She flashes me a quick smile which transforms her weary features into something beautiful. I don’t tell her it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in a while. “That will be all for now. I will expect you and Mr. Frantz to come to the station tomorrow so we can type up your statement and fingerprint you.”
“Fingerprint me?” I ask blankly. “What for?”
“For fingerprints,” Inspector Robinson says sharply. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I can go?” I am hopeful. That wasn’t too bad.
Just as I’m about to leave, Inspector Robinson pulls out a baggie from her pocket. It contains the note which had been lying on the pillow next to Moira’s head. I deny seeing the note which causes the inspector to lift one eyebrow in skepticism. She baits me by saying we shouldn’t find my fingerprints on it, then, but I’m not willing to be the mouse to her cat. I had worn gloves when I handled the note, so I know there is no chance in hell my fingerprints will be on the damn thing. She wonders out loud why I haven’t asked what it is. Her tone is innocent, but I know her intentions are to trick me. I shrug, telling her I assumed she’d tell me if she wanted me to know, and she swallows that lie without difficulty.
She asks me to describe the body, proving that the interview isn’t over. It had been damn smart of her to put me off my guard before asking more questions, but I am too canny to fall into that trap. I think a minute, not wanting to be inaccurate. I describe how Moira had been tied to the bed, spread-eagle, with her eyes open and her mouth gagged. I try not to remember Moira like that, but it’s impossible to stop the picture from flooding into my brain. I swallow and add that Moira had been shot in the chest; that is all I remember.
Of course, Inspector Robinson has me go over the details again and again. She asks if I’m sure Moira’s mouth had been gagged. Inspector Robinson starts tapping her pen against the notebook again. I don’t know if she’s impatient by nature or if I’m getting on her nerves, but I want her to stop tapping. Yes, Moira’s mouth had been gagged. With a black scarf, probably silk. Am I sure her eyes were open? Yes, She had been staring at the ceiling. I wouldn’t soon forget the sight of poor Moira trussed up like that. Nobody should die in such an ignominious manner. I hope that someone is mourning her passage; she deserves that much.
“Let me recap, Ms. Liang.” Again, the inspector’s voice is icy. I snap to attention, not wanting to be taken unaware again. “You can recount the position of the body. You can recount details such as her opened eyes and the gag in her mouth. How am I doing so far?”
“Yes, well, it’s not every day you see a dead body,” I say somewhat archly. Remembering that I’m talking to a Homicide Inspector, I add, “At least, I don’t.” I frown as the picture of Moira’s body comes to mind again. “Wait! There was a rose on her body, too. A beautiful, fully-bloomed deep red rose. It was gorgeous. On her stomach. The thorns were pricking her skin.” I have a feminine appreciation for flowers which even death cannot diminish.
“I wondered if you’d remember,” Inspector Robinson mutters, scribbling something in her notebook. When she is done, she looks up at me. “As I was saying, you notice all these things, and you didn’t even notice the note on her pillow right by her head?” Her tone is incredulous. She pierces me with her stare. I want to look away, but I can’t. “Convince me how this can be, Ms. Liang.”
“I don’t know,” I shrug helplessly. “It just is. I didn’t see the note.” I don’t know why I’m lying. What difference does it matter if she knows that I read it? Now that I’ve lied, though, I can’t take it back. It would seem suspicious if I recant my story one more time.
“You are trying my patience,” Inspector Robinson says softly. “I have been at the station since eight in the morning. I am not in the mood for games. Now, are you going to tell me the truth?” She stops there, but it’s enough. I cave. I don’t want to hamper her investigation, even though I can’t see how much difference this little fact might make.
“All right, I read the note,” I admit, my face flushing. “I have no idea what it means, though.”
“So we should find your fingerprints on it, right?” Her eyes tell me she knows the answer before I say a word.
“No, you won’t.” I don’t want to finish the thought, but I know she won’t let it go. “I was wearing gloves.” She pointedly looks at my hands which are glove-free. “I borrowed a pair from Max, damn it! I didn’t want to get my prints on the paper.”
“I hate it when civilians get in the way,” she says, her face flushing. “I really wish you hadn’t read it, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I warn you, though, Ms. Liang, if I read about the note in the paper, I’m coming after you. You have to keep it to yourself. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Inspector Robinson,” I say meekly, using her name for the first time. I don’t bother telling her that Paris knows what it says as well. She has to some of the detecting on her own. I hope that is all the scolding I’m going to receive for the night.
“That’s it for now. I may contact you if I have further questions. Here’s my card. Call me if you think of anything. Send in Mr. Frantz.” She bends over her notebook after handing me her card, clearly dismissing me from her mind as well as the room. I curse myself all the way back to the kitchen for making such a bad impression on her.
“Paris, you’re up.” I nod at him reassuringly, then take my place at the kitchen table. Max is looking worse for the wear, which is saying a lot as she hadn’t look good in the first place. Officer Clark is still on duty and still scowling. I wonder if he has any other expression. I prop my chin on my hand and prepare myself for a long wait.
Moira. I have tried to avoid thinking about her, partly because I felt guilty about lusting for her while she was being killed. It wasn’t fair that I wouldn’t have the pleasure of her company just because someone was insane enough to kill her. Those eyes. I frown. I know I’ve seen those eyes before, but I cannot remember where or when. It’s hard to believe that someone so full of life could have it taken away from her that easily. It must have been a man to capture her like that as it would take a lot of strength to tie someone down. Unless she had consented. Perhaps she was having a tryst right under Max’s nose in which case the perpetrator was female. At least, I assume so. I have yet to hear of her finding men attractive. She must have trusted her killer, or she never would have gone into the bedroom alone with the person. Unless the perp held a gun or knife to her without anyone at the party seeing. That strains credulity, especially mine. It’s more likely that she voluntarily went into the bedroom with the perp, in which case, it was probably a lover. Unless it was one of her protégés who was falling apart and desperately needed to talk to her—like that boy who was looking for her.
I shift positions, tucking my left leg under me. I glance over at Max who looks like she’s either falling asleep or she’s shell-shocked. My guess would be the latter. The enormity of the situation should be hitting her about now. Despite my enmity for her, I can’t help but feel sorry for her now that Moira is dead. I try to imagine how I would feel if Paris or any of my other good friends were killed, and I can’t do it. The thought is too horrific to even imagine. I shut my eyes and try to calm my thoughts. I do not belong to any organized religion, but I believe that there is a greater spirit out there than us pathetic human beings. I send out a message to this spirit to hold us in its comforting arms; I immediately feel better. I also say a quick prayer for Moira’s soul. There can’t be too many good vibes in this world of ours. I like to send some out whenever I can.
I sneak a peek at Officer Clark to see if I can catch him napping, but he’s wide awake and glaring at me. For some reason, he seems to hold a special grudge against me. I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything to him. I indulge in some fantasies about what has made him such a jackass. Perhaps he has an Asian fetish, but my sisters are too smart to be taken in by him. Maybe the love of his life was Asian, and she spat in his face. I like that theory. Whatever the reason, and I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with my ethnicity, it is getting on my nerves. I make a face at Officer Clark, which only makes him scowl more. I see him mouth something I can’t quite make out, but it seems to be ‘diet’. Diet? Is he telling me I need to lose weight? I glance down at my body. I’m not skinny like most Asian women, but I’m not fat either. Besides, he’s quite the tub of lard himself, so he shouldn’t be throwing stones.
It chew over the word in my head. It takes me a second to work it out. ‘Dyke’. He called me a dyke. That’s why he doesn’t like me. He thinks I’m a dyke. I wonder if I should bother correcting him, but figure that the truth would make him angrier than he already is. Why doesn’t he hate Max, then, if it’s my supposed orientation that is bothering him? I watch him carefully as he turns his gaze on Max. A look of revulsion crosses his face as he stares at her. I make a mental note of it and wonder if I should tell the inspector that one of her officers is having such difficulty with the suspects involved. I become exceedingly nervous around such blatant bigotry, especially the way this man loves his gun. I have a feeling that he has a quick trigger-finger and vow not to do anything to upset him. It’s somewhat comforting to realize that he hates Max, Paris, and me indiscriminately and that it’s not personal. I dismiss him from my mind.