In my room, I halted before my closet, deciding to see if I could contact Danny again. I sat on my bed and closed my eyes, willing his image to come to me. I breathed deeply, knowing I couldn’t force anything. Danny had to be willing to have me in his head in the first place. Normally, he most likely wouldn’t have a problem with that, but these were not normal conditions. I let those thoughts float through my brain without attaching any importance to them whatsoever. I put my hands on my midsection, knowing that usually calmed me enough to focus on what I had to do. Suddenly, a picture of poor Danny in only his underwear popped into my mind. I stiffened, worried that his captors were taking things to a different level.
“Danny, can you hear me?” I kept my voice low so I wouldn’t freak Danny out too much. I didn’t want him to scream and alert someone that something was amiss. Instead, Danny smiled at the sound of my voice, looking happier than he had two seconds ago. There was a bruise around his right eye which suggested that his captors were getting frustrated. That didn’t bode well for his future.
“Auntie! You….back….scared….now!” Danny was on the floor of the closet, huddled in the corner. There was a strong stench pervading from the corner opposite, probably where Danny voided his bowels if his captors didn’t come in time to take him to the bathroom. Poor Danny, having to sit with that foul smell every day! They could at least clean it up from time to time.
“Danny, honey, listen to me. You have to be brave. Do you still have your piggy?” I hummed a bit to lull Danny’s fears. Danny scrambled to the corner of the room where there was now a blanket—opposite the odor—and pulled something from under the blanket. He held up his fist, opening it to show the little pig. He quickly closed his hand around it and shoved it back under the blanket again. Boy wasn’t stupid, even if he was only two. “Any time you get scared, you squeeze your pig, ok? Think of me giving you a big hug.” Maybe it would have been better to tell him to think it’s his mother, but I couldn’t.
“Sparkle….no longer….mean….bridge….man….mean….hurt….Auntie!” The voice faded out again.
“Baby, just hold on. Auntie is coming for you, you hear?” I hurried to get that last bit in before the connection broke completely. I fell over onto my bed once I was done. I was so fucking tired; I needed to sleep. I was out like a light when I had the uncomfortable feeling of being shaken. I could hear a rumbling from the distance, and I wondered if I’d died and gone to heaven. Or hell, more likely. I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t. They felt as if they were glued shut. They couldn’t be, though, could they? I mean, not if this was heaven.
“Scar! Wake up! What the fuck?” The voice sounded as if it was coming to me from under water. It sounded as if it were coming closer. It sounded like…Matt? What was he doing in heaven with me? Oh, no! Did he die, too? That would be terribly sad. Well, if it’s true, if we’re both really dead, then I hoped we died in the saddle as we’d planned. I felt a pain in my cheek which jolted me awake. I opened one eye cautiously, not sure I wanted to see St. Peter glaring down at me. Instead, I saw Matt’s face which was white.
“Hi, what you looking at?” That struck me as funny so I giggled.
“What the hell happened to you?” Matt said, dragging me into a sitting position, more or less. “Did you take something when you came in here?” I had no clue what he meant, but I shook my head, anyway. I could tell from the disapproval in his voice that whatever he had asked hadn’t been a good thing.
“I tried to connect with Danny again,” I sad slowly, rubbing my head. It ached from the concentration I’d just done. “Paper and pen?” Matt looked around my room, eventually spotting the archaic instruments. He handed them to me, and I scribbled what Danny had said. Not as much as last time, but there were some similarities if I remembered correctly. I stared at what I’d written, knowing I should call Detective Martinez. I handed the paper to Matt who frowned as he studied what I’d written.
“Stone Arch Bridge,” I blurted out, sitting up straight. As I was still weak from my endeavors, I toppled backwards onto the bed. Matt hauled me up again, prompting me to slap him on the arm.
“What do you mean?” Matt asked, wisely withdrawing his hand.
“Last time he said something about stone and water. This time he mentioned bridge. He must have went over the Stone Arch Bridge!” I was proud of my deduction until Matt dashed it into pieces.
“What good does that do us, even if it’s true?”
“At least we know he’s not in Minneapolis proper,” I snapped, annoyed that he’d be such a party-pooper.
“I don’t mean to burst your bubble,” Matt began, sounding as if he’d like to do nothing better. “However, the boy is two. He’s not going to know the Stone Arch Bridge from any other bridge. I don’t think we can put too much faith in the Stone Arch Bridge.”
“What about the other part, then?” I asked, determined not to let him bring me down. “Sparkle. That must mean something as he mentioned it before.”
“Sparkle. Sparkle. Sparkle.” Matt punctuated each Sparkle with a frown. “Why does that trigger a bell? Sparkle.” He murmured the word a few more times before giving up. “It’ll come to me.”
“I have to call Detective Martinez,” I said, reaching for my cell phone.
“Oh, sure you do,” Matt said teasingly, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I’m sure this is such a pressing matter for him.” I stuck out my tongue as I listened to the phone ring.
“Detective Martinez,” he answered, sounding official. I took a moment to shiver in sexual anticipation of our date Thursday night. Speaking of dates, I had to tell Matt so he’d make himself scarce. It was a longstanding rule that we were allowed to kick out the other person for a hot date as long as we called in the favor sparingly.
“Hi, Mart—Detective,” I said, blushing furiously. Matt eyed me with interest as I was not usually such a girl. I really had to stop calling him Martinez—it was disrespectful. “It’s Scar. Scar Hsu.
“Go ahead, call me Martinez,” Martinez said, laughing loudly. “I know you’re dying to do it.”
“You can call me Hsu if you like,” I offered, delighted that he’d been so casual with me. Matt was making kissy faces which was distracting me. I turned my back to him so I could continue my conversation in relative peace. I’d leave the room and go somewhere else, but it was my fucking room—he was the one who should leave.
“How about I just call you Scarlett?” Martinez asked, his voice low. I hated my name, but he made it sound so sexy—I just had to acquiesce. Then I remembered that I hadn’t called Martinez just so I could flirt with him; I had information.
When I told him, he got all business-like with me as he should. I liked him better the other way. He made me repeat it word for word as best I could. He didn’t get impatient with me when I backtracked, however, as if he instinctively knew that would be the fastest way to get me flustered. When I got to the part about the Stone Arch Bridge, Martinez was more receptive than Mr. Fucking Negativity sitting besides me—who was still making kissy noises at me. Shoving Matt in the face, I got up and left my own bedroom so I could have privacy. I knew that I was overreacting, but I was very private when it came to my romantic life because I didn’t deal well with being vulnerable. I wandered into the kitchen so I could rummage through the fridge at the same time. I was starved again from contacting Danny.
“Well, shit,” Martinez said, sounding as if he were exhausted. I wondered if he would take my advice and sleep at least five hours tonight. I doubted it. From the mysteries I read, cops didn’t sleep until a case was over. “Ok. This is good stuff. If there’s anything else, let me know.” I hesitated as I still wasn’t sure I wanted to turn over the things I found in Danny’s toy box. Oh, I knew I should, but I wanted to keep it for myself. I decided to give myself a little more time, at least until I could get the stuff copied.
“No, that’s it, Detective Martinez,” I said, feeling guilty about my subterfuge.
“All right then. I’ll try to be over to your place at eight Thursday night, but I’ll call if I’m going to be late. Looking forward to seeing you, Scarlett.” His voice softened as he uttered my name, and I could hear a trace of his native accent behind his carefully-bred bland tone. “My name is Carlos, by the way, if you feel uncomfortable calling me Martinez.”
“I’ll see you Thursday,” I echoed, blushing like a schoolgirl. “Carlos,” I added after he’d clicked off.
“Carlos, eh?” Matt said, making me jump as I hadn’t heard him sneak up behind me. “Aren’t you getting chummy with the detective. Is he going to cuff you and stuff you?”
“You’re foul, Reynolds,” I said, socking him in the arm. He stuck out his tongue at me and made a big deal of not rubbing his arm to show me how macho he was. “You need to be out of the apartment Thursday night.” I busied myself with the fridge, trying to make my voice as normal as possible. Alas, I couldn’t put anything past Matt.
“You have a date! With Carlos!” I could tell by his voice that he was crowing, which meant he was probably doing a little dance. I didn’t turn around as I didn’t need to see the White Man’s Overbite. “You go, girl.”
“Ah, shit,” I sighed, giving up on the fridge. We really had to go grocery shopping soon. “Wanna order a pizza?”
“Are we still doing the nightclub thing?” Matt asked, still shuffling his feet to an internal drum. I averted my eyes so I wouldn’t have to watch the travesty.
“Let’s do it tomorrow night,” I said, sagging against the fridge. “I’m exhausted.”
“Yeah, me, too.” Matt stopped dancing and drooped a little. We both were so tired from all our exertions that we didn’t have the energy to do anything other than watch TV.
We ordered a large pizza with everything on it from Papa John, then went into the living room to wait for it. I flicked on the television to see if there was a game on. We caught the tail end of the Angels and the Dodgers in L.A. It was the top of the ninth with the Angels ahead 5-4. This guaranteed at least another half-inning, which made me happy. I watched the crawl at the bottom of the screen tell me who else had won that night, and I was glad to see the Twins had pounded Cleveland 14-3. Matt cheered when he saw that his BoSox had slipped by the Yanks 3-2 with Schilling pitching eight strong innings. I closed my eyes as we waited for the pizza, not bothering to keep track of the game going on.
“Scar, wake up,” Matt said, shaking me lightly. Something smelled tantalizing, so I opened my eyes. There was the pizza, and I hadn’t even heard the buzzer ring. I should follow my own advice and get at least six hours of sleep tonight. That shouldn’t be a problem as I didn’t have to be at Julia’s until one.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked sleepily, pulling myself into a sitting position.
“Forget it,” Matt said, waving a hand with two cans of Diet Coke. He set the pizza box down on the coffee table before doing the same with the pop. “You can catch it next time.”
“Cool,” I said, flipping the top to the pizza box. One thing I liked about good friends was not having to keep track of every dime spent. It all evened out in the end, and I was more relaxed when I didn’t have to worry about the money. I pulled a piece of pizza from the box and bit into it, burning the roof of my mouth. Though I made the usual ‘I’m in distress, this is hot’ noises, I didn’t really mind. I loved food and drinks that burnt my mouth for some odd reason. Matt said it was because I was a masochist, and he should know. For the rest of the night, we ate pizza, watched games and SportsCenter and just chilled. It was a well-deserved break for both of us.