“Shit. The cops think Kayla was taken,” Matt said the second I walked into the apartment. His hair was a mess, and it was clear that he’d had a beer or five. He had a fresh one in his hand, and he wasn’t just sipping it. I plucked it from his fingers and drank the rest of it in one gulp. “Hey, that was mine!”
“No more for you,” I said, shaking a finger in his face. Matt didn’t drink much so when he did, it went straight to his head. I knew he was under a great deal of stress, but this wasn’t the way to deal with his problems. “Tell me everything.”
Matt and I went into the living room and sat on the futon before he spilled his guts to me. It turned out that the hospital had called the cops when it discovered Kayla missing. The cops went over her room with a CSI kit and found traces of another person. Now, that wouldn’t be so unusual as it was a hospital, but they found pieces of skin, hair and fibers from a shirt—all indications of a struggle between Kayla and the person who took her. They were running tests on the samples found, but Martinez wasn’t too sanguine about the results.
“You talked to Martinez?” I asked, interrupting his recitation.
“Yup,” Matt said, smirking slightly. “I even got to see him. Jealous?” I punched him in the arm and indicated for him to continue. He didn’t have much else to say. The kidnapper hadn’t left a note this time, so the cops didn’t have many leads. They were also concerned because of her hit-and-run case, but there wasn’t much they could do about that.
“I don’t know, Matt,” I said slowly, trying to sort things out in my head. “I didn’t get the feeling she was being held against her will.”
“What are you saying? She left the hospital on her own accord? Why would she do that?” Matt’s voice was angry as if he didn’t want to think about the scenario I presented to him.
“I’m not saying she didn’t have help,” I protested, feeling the need to defend myself. “I’m just saying, perhaps she wasn’t as reluctant to leave the hospital as the cops think. Damn. We need to talk to Digger, and to Kayla’s dealer, if that’s possible.”
We agreed to not talk about anything that had to do with the case until after dinner. I was starving, but I couldn’t remember whose turn it was to cook. Neither of us felt like cooking, but we also didn’t want to go out. The other option was delivery, of course, but we just had pizza. I argued against Chinese because I was a real snob when it came to Chinese. I loathed bad Chinese food and ranked it slightly below dog food. We decided on a deli a few blocks down that made great egg salad sandwiches. We watched SportsCenter in the meantime to see what the up-and-down Yankees were doing. Knocking the stuffing out of my Twins, that’s what. I was disgruntled and happy to get the door when our sandwiches came. Even the news that the Chi-Sox had been beaten wasn’t enough to soothe the savage beast within.
“That was great,” Matt said, burping with satisfaction. He had decided on pastrami instead of egg salad, and he had finished his whole sandwich. I was still working on the second half of my humongous egg salad sandwich, so Matt watched me eat. “We going to the club tonight?” I nodded, my mouth wrapped around a luscious morsel of food. “What time?” I hesitated because I knew Matt had to get up early in the morning. Ideally, we would hold off going until the weekend so Matt didn’t have to go to work the next day, but we didn’t have the luxury of waiting.
“You sure you’re up to going?” I asked as soon as I swallowed. “I can go by myself, you know.”
“Hell, no,” Matt said firmly. “I’m going.” He glared at me, daring me to challenge him. I was no fool, so I didn’t bother.
“How about ten?” I asked, glancing at him. He kept his face admirably straight as he nodded his head. He had to know that we wouldn’t be getting back until after midnight, which meant he’d be hurting tomorrow. He had made the choice, however, so I didn’t argue with him. I finished my sandwich and indicated that I needed to get ready to go. It was only six o’clock, but I wanted to take a shower, do some surfing on the web, and see if I could conjure up another picture of Kayla and/or Danny. I had to admit that I cared more for the latter than the former, but I knew that the two were connected.
“I’ll be doing my nails while I wait for you,” Matt said, lounging on the futon and watching the game. I threw my napkin at him before leaving the room. He just didn’t understand what it took to be a girl sometimes—he should consider himself lucky.
I went into the bathroom and took a long shower. I didn’t really need to shower again, but it helped me relax. I had put on a shower cap so I wouldn’t get my hair wet, and I just luxuriated in the feeling of the water against my skin. The tensions of the day went down the drain as I scrubbed. When I stepped out of the shower, there was no more hot water, but I felt much better—rejuvenated. I loved the Pacific Ocean—I think it was the Asian in me—and lakes did nothing to satiate my need for the big, blue waters of the ocean. No, a shower didn’t alleviate the longings, either, but it at least kept them at bay. I wrapped a towel around my body and padded off to my room to find something to wear. I decided on shorts and t-shirt while surfing the internet. I’d change into something classier right before we left.
I couldn’t find anything about a drug dealer named Alexander online. I knew it would be a long shot, but I had to try. I tried every search combo I could think of, but nothing. I had more luck with Digger, a.k.a. Jamie Digs, a.k.a. Jimmy Daynes, a.k.a. Jerome Donaldson. He had been arrested in Illinois for being a pimp, in Florida for procuring dancers for private parties, in California for selling weed. I lifted my eyebrow at the last item as it didn’t seem to fit his M.O. Reading more about that case, it turned out that he also had a stable at the time, but hadn’t got caught pimping. So our boy had a long record of selling women. I wasn’t surprised to see a few mentions of him dabbling in the world of porn, either. I didn’t think he was the owner of the club, but if he was, he certainly didn’t put up the money. My bet would be Tosca put up the money and Digs was just the front man. I was going to try to rattle ‘Digger’ tonight, hoping he’d give away the game. I didn’t hold out much hope as he was a consummate pro at this—wait. Not true. If so, he wouldn’t keep getting caught.
That led me to another line of thought. If I could find out so much about Digger so easily, Tosca could—and would—do the same. Why would he use a royal fuck-up in such a prestigious position? Unless he wanted Digger to fail. Why would he? Perhaps the feds were already on Tosca’s tail, and he wanted to turn the scent onto someone else. In other words, setting up a fall guy. If that were true, how did Kayla fit into the picture? Maybe she found out about the plan. Maybe she tried to blackmail Tosca. Maybe Tosca thought murdering an employee and her child would be a good way to turn the heat on Digger. I didn’t think Tosca would do something so twisted unless he had a way to make it appear Digger was guilty. Guys like Tosca didn’t do a damn thing without having a guarantee that it would work. I had a hunch, though, that Tosca played an important role in what happened to Kayla and Danny. Which meant getting Digger to talk about Tosca.
I got up, glancing at my watch. An hour and a half had passed, which meant time to get ready for the club. I looked in my closet which was crammed with things I never wore. I went through phases where I tried to reshape my image. I went Goth for two months until I realized that I didn’t need to spend a fortune on different black outfits when they all looked the damn same. Besides, with my hair and my fair skin, I looked more witchy than Goth. Since I wanted to steer clear of that stereotype, I ditched the all-black look and moved to bright colors. That lasted a month before I started feeling like a SARK! painting. As I couldn’t stand the woman, I shed that image quickly. Next, I got it into my head that I wanted to dress monochromatically. Red for Monday; green for Tuesday; purple for Wednesday; orange for Thursday; blue for Friday; yellow for Saturday; orange for Sunday. Matt started calling me ‘Lifesavers’, so I quit that look.
After a year of searching, I came to the conclusion that my funky, but functional look suited me best and returned to it. I didn’t regret experimenting for a year, though, since I needed to try other things in order to appreciate my own unique look. As a result, however, I had a closet stuffed with passé ensembles. I also had a quandary. I wanted to look hot for the club, but not slutty. I wanted people to notice me, but not to think I belonged on the stage. I knew that me wearing clothes would be a novel sight for the men there, but it had to be more than that. I wanted to be classy in a way that underscored to the poor slobs that I was way out of their stratosphere. At the same time, I didn’t want to come off as snobby. That was a hell of a thing to ask from one outfit.
In the end, I picked a little black dress except it was red with spaghetti straps, a modestly-dipping neckline and a plunging vee in the back. The dress fell to my thighs in a gauzy film, nipping in at the waist before flaring out again. I pinned my hair atop my head with a few strands falling free. Next, I applied makeup. Casual, sexy, classy. That’s the look I wanted to achieve, and I concentrated on making sure I didn’t screw it up. I didn’t wear more than lipstick on a daily basis, and I didn’t have the necessary girl gene that automatically knew how to apply lip gloss with a wand. I inevitably applied it too thickly, looking as if I’d been punched in the mouth since I favored dark colors. I had to blot and reapply to make it look kissable, not laughable. I added a smoky kohl around my eyes and a brush of blush on my cheeks. Any more would be gilding the lily.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror and felt as if something was missing. I dipped my pinky in a pot of glitter and lightly dabbed my cleavage. The glitter shimmered in black light, but subtly. I added dangling gold earrings, a gold good-luck necklace on a red thread—Taiwanese charm—and some gold bracelets. All the gold was real which made me a little nervous, but it added authenticity to my classy look. I slipped on a pair of two-inch gold stilettos and studied myself once more. I critically examined every inch of my body I could see before finally nodding in satisfaction. Though it had taken me over an hour to dress, the results made my hard work worthwhile. I exited the bathroom and went to the living room to get Matt’s reaction. He was watching an Astros/Diamondbacks game, with the latter being up by one.
“Ahem,” I said, clearing my throat. I waited for Matt to look up, and when he finally did, the expression on his face was priceless. Lust, confusion, and shock fought for control of his features. I rarely dressed up because it’s a pain in the ass, but I looked damned good when I did. “Like what you see?” I asked archly, twirling around so he could get the maximum effect. I didn’t need to hear his reply as I could tell by glancing at his crotch that he most definitely liked what he saw. If I wasn’t careful, we would never make it out of the apartment.
“Uh, Scar, are you sure you should go to the club looking like that?” Matt asked, unable to take his eyes off me. He rose from the couch, almost reflexively. “I mean, I’m strong and all, but I’ll have to fight them off left and right. The girls in the club might get mad at you for stealing their thunder.”
“You know how to make a woman feel great, Matt,” I laughed, carefully tossing my head as I stepped closer to him. He watched me as a deer watched a hunter—scared of being prey. I stopped so he could get a real eyeful. “A little hint. Comparing a woman to a stripper doesn’t usually get you into her pants.”
“But you came out ahead,” Matt protested, still staring at me. More specifically, staring at my chest. Oh, the neckline didn’t plunge too far, but the construction of the dress pushed up my breasts so they appeared larger than usual. “Doesn’t that count?” He stood up, his eyes not moving an iota. It pleased me to garner such a reaction from him.
“Ok, Matt, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before,” I said, laughing some more. I placed one hand on his arm, caressing the flesh there. I had to admit that it was a head rush to tease him, which was why I was careful not to do it too often. I valued our friendship too much to put it in jeopardy by messing with his head.