“Can I get some of that?” Matt asked sarcastically, pointing his chopsticks at the pork. I pretended to think it over before reluctantly handing him the platter.
“Me, too, A-go,” Banana said, using the Taiwanese honorific for grandmother which my mother had taught to her.
“Sure, Banana,” Mom beamed, grabbing the platter from Matt before he was through. My mother heaped a generous portion on Banana’s plate and handed her a fork. Banana tried to use her chopsticks for a few minutes before giving up. She was getting better, but some things were just beyond her ken.
“So, how is everything, Scarlett?” My father asked between bites. He didn’t ask just to be polite—oh, no, he really wanted to know. Unfortunately, everything I wanted to talk about couldn’t be mentioned in front of Banana.
“Um, ok. I’m sort of seeing someone,” I said cautiously, glancing at Matt. He was too absorbed in eating as much food as fast as possible to pay the slightest bit of attention to me.
“Ma told me. A detective?” My father asked cheerfully. “At least you’ll be safe with a police officer.”
“What about Uncle Matt?” Banana asked, putting her fork down. “I thought you lived with Uncle Matt!” She looked from Matt to me and back again, and Matt indicated that it was my ballgame.
“We’re roommates, Banana,” I said gently, not wanting to add any more grief to her life. “We’re really good friends. We are not boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Why not? Don’t you love each other?” Now Banana’s chin was trembling, and I knew she was seconds away from tears. My father looked sorry he had said anything, though I was the one who’d brought up the date.
“I love him as a friend,” I explained, not sure how to put it so a three-year old would understand. “Um, I met this other man who I like as something other than a friend.”
“Oh.” Banana was quiet for a minute before turning to my mother. “A-go, can I have some tea?”
“Sure, honey,” Mom said, relieved that the mini-storm was over.
We chatted of inconsequential things the rest of the meal. I watched Banana covertly, wanting to gauge how she was feeling. It seemed as if she was cheering up from being around my parents, which was exactly what the doctor had ordered. Matt looked much lighter as well, which made me happy. I knew that the last week had been harder on him than it had been on me, and I had felt bad because there was nothing I could do to help him. Well, there was one thing, but I couldn’t give him that right now. Matt caught my eye and smiled, a real smile.
After dinner, we retired to the living room where my mother had dumped a bunch of the toys my siblings and I had played with as children. Banana was delighted to see all the antiques, games with nary a battery in sight. She couldn’t believe we’d played with anything so primitive. She already grasped the basics of navigating a computer, such as pointing and clicking. She didn’t know what to do with board games, not that she could play many of them because she was too young. The deck of cards completely befuddled her, though she’d watched her mother play Solitaire on the computer more than once. My mother had a good time showing Banana all the different toys she had bought for my siblings and me. Suddenly, I knew I had to call Martinez right away. I excused myself and headed into the hall where my purse was. I dug out my cell phone and dialed Martinez’s number.
“Martinez,” he said, his voice low. He sounded as if he couldn’t even muster up enough energy to properly greet me.
“Hey, it’s me. I have something to tell you.” I took a deep breath and then spilled the vision I’d seen of Digger and the girl. I told him about being in touch with Danny again. I took a deeper breath and told him I had something to show him as well. When he asked what it was, I demurred. I said it’d be better if he saw what I had to show him without any preconceived notions. He said he’d be right over, and I had to tell him that I was at my parents’ house. I gave him the address and hurried back into the living room to let the others know I had to go. Predictably, there was a fuss.
“You’re leaving so soon?” My mother asked, her lips pursing in disapproval. If she had her way, I’d go over every Friday night and not leave until Sunday evening.
“Detective Martinez is coming to pick me up,” I said stiffly. “There is something I have to show him.” Matt looked up and stared at me, a question in his eyes. I nodded slightly, and he sighed. I knew he didn’t want me to show Kayla’s blackmail collection to Martinez, but I had to. I also knew he was put out because I had told Martinez about Digger, but this wasn’t a fucking game. Matt may think he and I were enough to find Kayla and Danny, but I wasn’t so vain.
“Is this the detective….” My father’s voice trailed off as he glanced in Banana’s direction. She was looking through the cards and not paying attention, but it was better safe than sorry. I nodded slightly, hoping that nobody would say anything. I was grateful that Banana was there because I knew that my parents and Matt would blast me with questions if she wasn’t.
We waited in uncomfortable silence for Martinez to arrive. Only Banana chatted on, oblivious to the strain. She was having a great time playing with the dolls and the board games and the wooden blocks. She couldn’t get over how the wooden blocks were just that. Wooden blocks with different letters of the alphabet painted on them in monochromatic colors. The blocks didn’t sing or change into anything else. They weren’t fuzzy, and they didn’t fit into another larger piece. They were just blocks, plain and simple. They charmed Banana as nothing else did, and she continued to play with them. Finally, the doorbell rang. I jumped up to get it, but everybody—including Banana, one block clutched in each hand—followed me to the door.
“Hello, Martinez,” I said, unable to call him Carlos in front of my parents.
“Hello, Scarlett,” Martinez said, nodding at me. His face didn’t change when he saw three faces looking over my shoulder, but it did twitch just the slightest when he caught sight of Banana peering out from behind my legs.
“Mar—Detective Martinez, this is my mother and father, my best friend’s daughter, Banana, and you know Matt.” I nodded as I introduced the people huddling around me, feeling like a cruise director or something similar.
“So. You’re the man dating my daughter.” My mother said as she stepped around me. I nearly choked at her blunt statement, but Martinez kept hold of his aplomb.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Hsu.” Martinez held out his hand, and my mother reluctantly shook it.
“I am Aaron Hsu,” my father said, holding his hand out to Martinez. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He beamed affably up at Martinez who smiled as he took my father’s hand.
“Nice to meet you, too, sir,” Martinez said, shaking my father’s hand. “Mr. Reynolds.” Martinez nodded at Matt who puffed out his chest in return. He looked for all the world like a dog pissing on his territory, and I wanted to yank his chain to get him to heel.
“I’m Banana,” Banana announced, holding out her hand as well after shifting the block to her left hand.
“I’m Carlos. Nice to meet you, Banana.” Martinez leaned down to shake Banana’s hand, and she seemed star-struck by him. I didn’t blame her as I was pretty awed by him myself.
“Are you the man my auntie likes as other than a friend?” Banana asked innocently, causing me to choke yet again. Martinez looked as if he wanted to laugh, but he kept his composure.
“Ok, I better be going,” I said before Martinez could respond. “I’ll see you back at the apartment, Matt. Don’t forget to bring Banana along.” I went with Martinez to his car, resisting the urge to look behind me. I knew they were standing there like a demented version of a Rockwell painting, but I didn’t need to see it.
“Sorry about that,” I said as soon as we were safely away from the house. “They can be a bit intense.”
“That’s nothing,” Martinez scoffed, waving a hand. “You should have met my mother in her prime. She would have put your mother to shame.” My heart leapt at his words, even though he had said it offhandedly and his mother was dead. Just the thought that he wanted me to meet her meant something, didn’t it?
I rehashed my visions on the way over to the apartment. Martinez told me that a few of his officers—including Johnson—were starting to believe that I wasn’t a total fraud. He didn’t say anything about Daily, but I knew it’d be a cold day in hell before she admitted that I had powers. Martinez refrained from asking what I was going to show him, which demonstrated admirable restraint on his part. It was a relaxed drive, and I realized that felt comfortable with him. I’d have to watch that.
“Ok, now that we’re here. What do you want to show me?” Even though Martinez used a professional tone, there was a hint of salaciousness to his words. I looked at him, but his face was bland.
“Would you like something to drink? Water? A beer? No, you can’t drink on duty.” Now that he was in my apartment, I was having second thoughts about showing him the blackmail envelope. Oh, I knew I had to show it to him, but I regretted that I hadn’t shown it to him earlier. How was I going to explain my lapse in judgment?
“Stop stalling, Scarlett,” Martinez said, placing his hand on my upper arm. I felt a zing go through my body at the contact, and I had to force myself to concentrate. “The sooner you show me whatever it is you need to show me, the sooner I can kiss you.”
“Why don’t you kiss me first?” I asked, stepping closer to him. I pressed my body against his, pleased to feel his immediate response.
“Business before pleasure,” Martinez replied, trying valiantly to resist my charms. He was no match for my breasts, however, and he succumbed to my kiss.
“Mmm, that was nice,” I breathed, my hormones running wildly. “Let’s skip the business and go right to the pleasure.” I leaned in to kiss him again, but he was able to control himself this time.
“Come on, Scarlett. I still have to go back to the office.” Martinez stroked my cheek once before letting me go. Despite his obvious arousal, he resumed his professional voice. “What is it you have to show me?” I contemplated trying to seduce him again, but I decided to face the music. After leading him to the living room and sitting him down, I went into my bedroom to get the envelope from Kayla’s place.
“Here,” I blurted out, handing him the envelope. “Uh, I found this at Kayla’s place.”
Martinez opened the envelope without comment and began sifting through the items. His face was granite as he pored over the contents. I was too jittery to sit next to him, so I just paced around the room. Martinez didn’t move a muscle other than to look at the photos, the notebook, and the papers. He spent so much time scrutinizing them, I started to wonder if he was seeing something I’d missed. I also worried that he was too pissed at me to say anything and was waiting to calm down before opening his mouth. In retrospect, I should have given it to him the minute I found it. He slid everything back into the envelope and just stared at it.
“I’m sorry,” I said in a small voice when I just couldn’t stand the silence any longer. “I know I fucked up by not giving this to you sooner.”
“Tell me everything you know,” Martinez finally said, his voice devoid of warmth. He could have been a robot for the amount of emotion he was showing. “Don’t leave out a single detail.” His voice softened a fraction as he added, “First, please sit. You look like you’re about to collapse.” Grateful for that modicum of kindness—which I didn’t deserve—I sank onto the futon beside him before I started. After arranging my thoughts, I began.
Martinez didn’t take his eyes off me as I related everything I knew. I had to backtrack and double back, of course, as the memory was a porous thing. I told him about tricking Kayla into thinking I was a witch in order to get her to spill her secrets. I divulged how I found the envelope in one of Danny’s stuffed pigs when Kayla invited me to get a feel for Danny’s room. I told him every little fact I could remember as well as my hypothesis. Now that I was finally telling him everything I knew, I didn’t want there to be anything held back—not even the smallest, stupidest thing. Martinez didn’t say a word as I stuttered, fumbled, and spilled. He sat so still, I wanted to poke him to make sure he was still breathing. I wondered if he’d learned any tai chi or meditation, but dismissed it as irrelevant. I couldn’t help thinking that it was probably the Indian in him that helped him stay so still. When I was through, he shifted slightly in his seat before letting me have it.
“You realize, don’t you, how much time we’ve wasted.” Martinez’s voice was so quiet, I couldn’t even tell he was yelling at me at first. “We have put countless man hours into this case, and if we’d only known half this shit—” Martinez got up abruptly, his hands clenched in fists. He walked around the room a few times to calm himself, and I watched miserably as he tried to get a hold of himself. I knew I deserved a severe scolding, and I wouldn’t interrupt him once he delivered it. After an interminable amount of time, he crossed over to the futon and sat down again. He looked me hard in the eyes, and I forced myself to meet his gaze. “Well, what’s done is done. Have you told me everything?” His voice was perfunctory, which hurt more than if he’d screamed at me.
“Yes, Carlos,” I said, using his first name for the first time. “I’ve told you everything.”
“I have to get back to work.” Martinez stood up, his hand clutching the envelope. I got up as well and touched him on the shoulder. At least he didn’t shake off my hand.
“Are you canceling our date for tomorrow?” What I wanted to ask was if I’d blown this, but I didn’t have the guts to ask that question.
“I’m a man of my word,” Martinez said, turning to face me. “What you did was shitty. I think it’s an aberration. I’m willing to let you prove it to me. I’ll see you tomorrow night.” He gravely kissed me on the cheek before walking away. Somehow, I felt worse than before.