“Bea, you’re running late,” Antoinette said in a bossy tone as I dressed for work Monday morning. I ignored her as she was not the boss of me, no matter what she seemed to think.
A huge yawn escaped from me before I could swallow it. Rafe and I hadn’t gone to bed until well after two in the morning, and as it was now eight o’clock, I was bushed. Gone were the days when I could skate by on four or five hours of sleep. Now, if I didn’t get a solid seven hours, I was a basket case. It was worth it, though. A smile crept on my face as I recalled some of the more creative positions in which Rafe and I had found ourselves in last night. One of them gave me fierce cramps in both legs, but I had been past the point of caring by then. By the time we were through, we had each had four orgasms in two hours. Not bad for a night’s work.
“Phillip wants to talk to you at some point today,” Antoinette said, primping in the mirror.
“What for?” I asked sharply. I didn’t relish the new boss breathing down my neck, especially if he was anything like his dead brother.
“He wants to get to know his employees,” Antoinette said, her voice reproachful. “He’s a real hands-on type of guy.” I refrained from supplying the obvious retort and pulled on the giant duck head.
“Hey, where’s the mouse head?” I asked casually, trying to make it sound as if I were just making conversation. “I thought the police were returning it,” I added lightly.
“I thought so, too,” Antoinette said as she made a face in the mirror. “They left a message with Phillip saying that they had to keep it a few more days, but wouldn’t say why. Looks like you’re stuck with Daphne for now. I don’t know why they’re so interested in the head. It’s nothing special. I told them they better return it by the end of the day. The kids expect to see Maisie Mouse.” Antoinette was fiddling with a lipstick tube, a pout on her mouth. She was taking more than a passing interest in the workings of the park, and I had to ask myself why. She seemed to realize that her voice was too officious because she tried to soften it. “You must miss being Maisie.”
“Yeah, right,” I snorted, though it came out muffled through the head. One character was pretty much the same as another to me. I was thoroughly sick and tired of being any of them, period. It didn’t matter to me which head I donned. I waddled out of the green room after stashing my purse in a safe place.
“Mom! You promised I could have cotton candy!”
“Mommmmmy! Johnnnnnny hittttt me!”
“Dad, when will I get to see you again?”
“Mom, let’s get out of here. This sucks!”
Ah, the joys of the little ones running around the park, whining in their oh-so-winsome ways. If they only knew how adorable they were with snot running down their faces and chocolate ice cream staining their shirts. If they only realized how dulcet their tones as they whined at the top of their lungs. If they could only see themselves as they threw a tantrum because they thought they were going to see Mickey Mouse, not Marvin. What was it about kids, walking around, relentless heat and sugar? It was a lethal combination, let me tell you. The little darlings running around begging their parents to buy them outrageously expensive toys and souvenirs and food. It warmed the cockles of my heart, I’ll tell you that much.
“It’s Daphne Duck, honey,” a frazzled-looking mom in her mid-thirties said to her little girl who couldn’t have been more than two. The little girl looked at me with big, cornflower blue eyes and promptly burst into tears. She clung to her mother’s leg and wouldn’t let go no matter how soothingly I talked to her. What would possess a mother to bring a child that young to a crowded, noisy place like this? I waved at them and moved on, eager to escape the wailing tyke. I couldn’t wait for my break.
“Did you hear about Tommy?” Antoinette asked me eagerly in the green room. Unluckily, we were both taking our breaks at the same time, and she couldn’t wait to dish the dirt. “Phillip was telling me the details he got from the police.”
It seemed that the police had a little talk with Tommy after finding out—from me, needless to say—about his dalliance with the FunLand customer. At first, he denied he knew what they were talking about and insisted that he wasn’t that kind of guy. They had him at the station in one of those horrid interrogation rooms, but he hadn’t had the wisdom to lawyer up. The two detectives played good cop/bad cop with Tommy holding up under the pressure. It was only when they brought out the pictures that he broke. At first, when one of the detectives held out a picture, he made a grab for it, his face dead white. When he realized that the police had the pictures Lydia had taken, he sang like the proverbial canary.
The girl was thirteen years old, which Tommy knew full well. He informed the sneering cops that she was mature for her age, that she liked foreign films. The cops, as you can imagine, were not impressed by that. They hated grown men in their mid to late twenties playing around with girls that young, and they made no bones about it to a quaking Tommy. No matter what he said, they wouldn’t accept that it was consensual. Even if it were, by law, it was still statutory rape. Did he realize that? Showing an unexpected flash of acumen, Tommy pointed out that he hadn’t had intercourse with the girl, so there was no rape. That flummoxed the cop, but only for a short time since they had the picture of the girl giving him a blow job which was at least sexual assault.
At that point, Tommy stopped talking other than to say he wanted to lawyer up. He was smart enough to realize that he was in trouble, no matter how he tried to spin it. He also knew what would happen if he ended up in jail for his offense. Child molesters were the lowest of the low in prison—and often made to experience what they had put their victims through. Even though Tommy knew his situation was different, he wasn’t sure at all that the other inmates would see it that way. The cops fucked up. They spooked him before questioning him about Lydia, and he wouldn’t say another word until his lawyer appeared.
“Who would have guessed it of Tommy?” Antoinette said, her expression rapacious. “I mean, he was so nice and quiet. I guess that’s what everybody says, though.” She laughed a bit self-consciously, and I had to admit I wasn’t sure what she was intimating.
“What are you saying, Antoinette?” I stared at her, puzzled.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Tommy’s the killer! He killed Lydia to stop her from telling Eddie about the pictures. Only, he didn’t know that she had already told him. That’s why he had to kill Eddie as well.” Antoinette’s nostrils flared as she outlined her theory.
“Hold on,” I said, feeling as if she was going too fast. “You’re just speculating.”
“No, I’m not,” Antoinette protested, miffed that I would be questioning her integrity. “I talked to Eddie about it before he-before he died.” Her lip quivered as she spit out the last word. “He was going to fire Tommy for sure, and maybe even call the police. Can you believe that?” She batted her eyelashes at me, more from force of habit than because she actually thought it would influence me.
“I don’t know, Antoinette. It seems pretty thin to me. There’s got to be more to it than that.” I stood up and stuffed my head back on. “I’ll see you later, and I’d keep the speculation to yourself if I were you.”
My break was over, and I was eager to escape Antoinette so I could think about what she had told me. Even though I could understand her reasoning—that Tommy killed Lydia so she wouldn’t expose him, then killed Eddie so he wouldn’t be fired—there were too many unanswered questions. Such as, why hadn’t Tommy first secured the pictures before killing Lydia? Such as, how could Tommy be sure Lydia hadn’t told anybody other than Eddie? Such as, why kill her in such a public way? I didn’t think Tommy had the guts to plan something like that and carry it out.
As I trudged across the park, patting kids on the head as I walked, I thought more about Tommy. Despite the heinousness of what he’d done, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards him. He was just some gawky, painfully shy guy who didn’t know how to approach women his age. He’d never had a girlfriend in his twenty-some years, which of course, made him feel horribly inadequate. While I wasn’t excusing what he did, I could understand how a desperate man could be driven to desperate measures. Was it wrong? Yes. Should he be put in jail for it? I hesitated there. I thought he needed treatment and help—not incarceration. I wasn’t saying that because I was a flaming liberal, either—though I was. I detested sex crimes as most women do, and I thought most perps of sex crimes should be put away for life. However, Tommy wasn’t the usual perp. I hoped he had a good lawyer, that was all I could say.
“This is the park where the girl mouse was killed,” one bespectacled boy around ten years old informed his little sister who was looking at him with wide eyes. Their distracted mother was trying to buy hot dogs while keeping an eye on the baby in her arms. The little girl who was about four looked as if she was going to cry. The boy happily continued. “She was shot. Pow! Pow, pow!” He made a shooting motion with his finger, pointing it at his sister who screamed.
“Richie! Stop scaring your sister!” The mother shouted at her son who didn’t even have the grace to look ashamed. “I swear, you kids will be the death of me.” I hurried away from them as fast as possible. Someone brushed by me, but I wasn’t paying attention. All I got was the vague impression of a big head like mine. Another one of the characters fleeing from the children, that’s what I thought. A searing pain in my left shoulder stopped my musing. Looking down, I saw a knife sticking out of said shoulder, and a bright red stain growing around the hilt.
“Shit! Someone stabbed me!” I said in disbelief. Who the hell could it be? The person who had just walked by! I looked around me, but it was hopeless. There were people everywhere, and I couldn’t spot a single other character. I cursed myself for not paying closer attention to my surroundings. Attached to the knife was a note that read, Get the fuck out of the country, Chink. Why don’t you go back to where you belong? I had to read it twice before I could discern what it said. Realizing that I was quickly losing blood, I staggered back to the green room and grabbed my cell phone. I had to take off my head before I could use it, of course.
“Bea! What happened?” Delia showed up out of nowhere, an expression of horror on her face. I recoiled from her outstretched hand, not knowing what she meant to do.
“Stabbed, one of the characters,” I gasped as the pain started to flood my consciousness.
“God, you’re hurt! Let me get Phillip.” Before I could protest, she was off and running. If I had my druthers, I’d made sure no one knew about my injury or the note. At least I could comfort myself with the knowledge that Phillip couldn’t have anything to do with what happened to me because he wasn’t one of the characters. Somehow, that didn’t ease my mind. I stared at my cell phone, wondering what I was going to do with it. Oh yes, I was going to call 911. I didn’t see much reason for that and decided I could drive myself to the hospital. Chucking my head aside, I hurried out of there as fast as I could. Phillip would just have to wait.