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

“Welcome back, Bea.  Long time, no see.”  Antoinette greeted me with a smirk on her face, her usual expression.  She fluttered her hand at me so I would notice the rock sitting on her finger.  It was a large garnet and looked like it’d be a bitch to wear.

“Nice ring,” I said offhandedly.

“Oh, this?”  Antoinette touched it, a pleased smile on her face.  “It was a little gift from me to me.  I’ve been so sad, you know, what with the deaths and all.  I thought it would cheer me up.  The garnet is my birthstone.  That’s January, you know.  Anyway….”  She flicked her hair back to show off the matching earrings.  Where the hell did she get that kind of money?  As far as I knew, she’s not a debutante or the inheritor of a trust fund.  I knew there was no way she could afford a ring like that on a salary like ours—unless Eddie was giving her one hell of a perk.

“Where’d you get the money?”  I asked, not able to think of a way to put it delicately.

“Ooooh, Phillip was nice enough to loan it to me.  Eddie left me a little something in his will, which should be probated in the upcoming weeks.  Isn’t Phillip just the sweetest man?”  She fluttered her fingers at me again, looking like the proverbial cat with the canary.  She hadn’t even asked how I was.  Bitch.  “By the way, Phillip would like to see you in his office ASAP.”  It figured that she would wait before giving me the message.  I sighed and got up to see Phillip.  Anything to prolong putting on that damned head.  I noticed that Maisie was back and ready for action, so I assumed that I would be returning to my old identity.

“Antoinette said you wanted to see me?”  I said, poking my head into the office.

“Bea!  Come in!  Sit down!”  Phillip jumped up from his chair and ushered me into the office.  As it was about the size of my bedroom, there wasn’t much room for ushering.  He gently deposited me into the chair across from his desk as if I were eight months pregnant before scurrying back to his side.  I didn’t know him very well, but it seemed to me that he was uneasy about something.  Before he sat down, I noticed that the zipper on his fly wasn’t quite zipped.  I wondered if I should point it out or just wait until he went to the bathroom and discovered it for himself.  I decided on the latter as I had a hunch that it would embarrass him terribly if I were to call attention to it.

“How are you?”  Phillip asked, his eyes blinking rapidly.  Even though he was as good-looking as ever, there was something vaguely ferret-like about him.  It diminished his appeal greatly.  “I mean, how are you really doing?  How’s the shoulder?”

“Fine,” I said briefly, not wanting to talk about my injury.  It was much better and didn’t hurt nearly as much, but I still had to take at least one pain pill a day to survive.

“Are you sure you didn’t catch sight of who did this to you?”  Phillip asked, leaning forward.  He tapped his pen on the desk, drawing attention to the journal sitting the top of the desk, half hidden.  He was unaware of what he was doing as he focused on my face.  I glanced at the papers and glimpsed something that puzzled me.  I didn’t read well upside down, but it looked somewhat familiar.

“I told you, it was a character, but that’s all I remember,” I said impatiently, my mind still on the journal.  Where had I seen that writing before?

“Look,” Phillip said, but stopped speaking when Antoinette poked her head into the door.  “What?”  Phillip barked, not sounding at all like his usual charming self.

“I need to talk to you,” Antoinette whined, sticking out her lower lip.

“Now?”  Phillip asked, his eyes staring at Antoinette.

“Yes, Phillip, now.”  There was steel in Antoinette’s voice and something I couldn’t quite discern.

“Excuse me a minute, Bea.  I’m sorry about this.”  Phillip stood up and hurried outside, a scowl on his face.  He shut the door behind him.  The minute he was gone, I leaned over to look at the journal.  To my shock, it was the original of the copies I had seen.  It was the accounting book, the fake one.  What was Phillip doing with it?  Granted, it was Eddie’s office, but why was it just sitting on the top of the desk plain as can be?  With a glance at the door, I looked through the papers on the desk as rapidly as I could.  I wished I could access the computer sitting on the desk, but I figured that would be pushing it.  Shit. I had no idea how long Phillip was going to be out of the room.  What I really needed was a good half hour to search when I knew I wouldn’t be interrupted.  I didn’t know how that was going to happen, though.

I sat back in my seat having found nothing else of interest and pondered the finding.  Did that mean that Phillip knew about the book?  Or maybe the cops told him about its existence, and he found it.  A horrible thought entered my mind.  What if he was the one who had killed his brother knowing that he would inherit the park?  I dismissed the thought because it was obvious that Phillip wasn’t the one who had cooked the books nor had any reason to kill Lydia, but the thought wouldn’t leave me that he knew more than he was letting on.  Why was he so eager to find out what I knew?  Why was he being so solicitous when I was nothing more than a lackey in the organization?  Why was he so nervous talking to me?

“Sorry about that,” Phillip said as he came back in.  The smile was fixed on his face but didn’t seem entirely genuine.  “Now, where were we?”

“I was just about to get back to work,” I said, a smile pasted on my own face.  There was something fishy about this man, but I wasn’t quite able to put my finger on it.

“Bea, please stay a minute.  I need to make sure that you are OK before allowing you to go back to work.  Wouldn’t want a lawsuit on my hands, now would I?”  He smiled his shark grin which didn’t put me at ease.  Did I really think this guy was attractive?  I no longer knew why I thought that, and I could definitely see the family resemblance now.  “Tell me exactly what happened.”

“What happened was that I got stabbed,” I exclaimed, pissed that he was wasting my time.  “Oh, and the police have s suspect in custody.”

“They do?  Who?”  Phillip asked excitedly.  “That’s great that they’ve found the culprit.”

“Well, don’t get too excited just yet,” I cautioned him.  “She’s not copping to anything.  It’s just someone from my past.”

“So you were the target all along,” Phillip murmured, leaning back in his chair.  “How about that?”  He beamed at me for no discernible reason before arranging his features into a semblance of a grave face.  “Ok, Bea, if you’re sure you’re all right, you may get back to work.”  I  resisted the urge to tug my forelocks and to bow and scrape on my way out.  I merely nodded and left his office quickly.  I was in the green room putting on my head when Stephen came up to me already outfitted in the duck.

“Bea, did you hear about Tommy?”  He asked, his voice tinged with malice.  “Turns out boy wonder was diddling little girls.”  As usual, Stephen was a day late and a dollar short when it came to the gossip.  I didn’t bother answering as I was too busy prepping for my first day back on the job.  “I always knew there was something wrong with that boy.  What a perv.  Though, the girl’s a looker, I’ll grant you that much.  If she had been a few years older, I might have shagged that tail myself.”

“Excuse me?”  I injected as much frost into my voice as I possibly could.  “Were you born stupid, or did you get your brain caught in your zipper?”  I stared at him, letting him know that his comments were not appreciated.  I didn’t have time to waste on a cretin like him, especially after nearly losing my life.  It sure put things in perspective and gave me a whole new set of priorities.

“Chill, Bea.  What crawled up your ass and died?”  Stephen asked belligerently.  “Don’t tell me you feel sorry for the asshole?”

I didn’t know how to explain to him in words he would understand that my distaste stemmed from his attitude towards women, not because he was dissing Tommy.  Although come to think of it, I did feel sorry for Tommy.  It was obvious that he needed help and never got it.  I didn’t think he was the predatory kind of pedophile who hovered around just waiting to pluck a ripe child who didn’t quite understand what the fuck was going on.  I think Tommy was a painfully shy boy who couldn’t function around women his own age and felt more comfortable with younger girls.  That didn’t excuse what he did, but it did make him an object of pity in my mind.  Not to mention what other cons did to child molesters.  Even the most heinous of monsters viewed child molesters as dirt.  There was a special room in hell for guys like Tommy, and it would turn him into a monster if it didn’t outright kill him.  I gave him one month in jail before he became someone’s bitch, if it even took that long.  When he was released from the system and back into the world, he’d be more warped than when he went in.  Not a cheery thought.  Then again, none of my thoughts have been very cheery lately.

“Forget it, Stephen,” I sighed.  I suddenly remembered Lydia’s note about Stephen, and it made sense.  He had been in the slammer on criminal sexual assault charges.  “I bet you like them older and unwilling,” I blurted, forgetting that it probably wasn’t wise to rile up someone like Stephen.

“What?”  Stephen asked, his muscles tensing.  Even though he was wearing his head, I could tell that he was about ready to go off.  “What the fuck you just say to me?”

“I said, I heard you liked to play rough.”  I watched him carefully, wishing he wasn’t wearing the damn head.  I wanted to see his expression.

“You shut your damn mouth,” Stephen hissed through clenched teeth.  “How the fuck?  That was expunged.  The cunt lied, anyway.  You better watch your fucking mouth.”

“Nice choice of words, Stephen,” I murmured.  There was no doubt in my mind that he’d forced a girl to have sex, but murder?  I couldn’t tell for sure.

“Fuck you, Bea,” Stephen said, flipping me off.  It was a bit disconcerting to get flipped off by a duck, but it didn’t bother me as it made him go away.

I thought about Stephen as I finished dressing.  Even before the incident, he had a thing against me.  I had no idea why, but he didn’t like me at all.  If Stephen turned out to be the killer, then I wouldn’t be at all surprise if I had been the target.  He was enough of a misogynist, and I thought he’d have little difficulty dusting someone off if that person enraged him enough.  Trouble was, I didn’t know him very well, so I didn’t know what would set him off.  In addition, he didn’t seem jumpy enough to be the killer.  Then again, if he were a psychopath, he wouldn’t feel any remorse.

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