I sat in the darkness, welcoming the solitude. Matt was out with his college buddies at my insistence because I needed time alone. When they called right after the cops left, he had been reluctant to go out because of what was happening and because it was a Sunday night. When I impressed upon him that I really would like the place to myself, he left, albeit grudgingly. I couldn’t help sighing with relief after he was gone. I loved him dearly, but sometimes he was too close. I needed time to think about all that had happened, and to decide what—if anything—I wanted to do from here. Even though I had promised Matt that I would see this through, I was having second thoughts. Talking to the cops had reinforced my doubts, and I tended to agree with them that this was a case best left to the professionals.
I fucking hated wasting my time, and that’s what this endeavor seemed to be to me. Kayla wouldn’t know the truth if she fell into it or if it hit her over the head. Every instinct she had told her to lie, manipulate and connive her way out of a situation. I didn’t think she trusted anyone, including herself, so what motivation would she have to tell the truth? If my mom was right and Kayla didn’t even care if she got Danny back, well, then, all bets were off. Most mothers valued their children’s lives more than their own, but this mother seemed to be the exception. If Kayla couldn’t be prodded by the disappearance of her son, what would yank her chain? The only answer I could think of was endangerment to her livelihood or her freedom.
“That’s it,” I said, bolting upright. I had enough in my hands to fry Kayla if I wanted. I was sure the cops would be more than eager to read Kayla’s secret stash. In fact, the interview this afternoon didn’t end on the best note because dumpy Detective Daily had been convinced I was hiding something….
“You’re a psychic,” Detective Daily repeated, the scorn evident in her voice. They had been interrogating me for over an hour in my living room—Matt had been banished to his room—and there had been little variation in their patter. Neither could quite believe my claims, though I told them what I’d told Kayla. “You know what I think?” Detective Daily asked, leaning forward until she was in my face. She had frizzy brown hair that framed a dead-white chubby face. Her eyes were small and hard while her lips were thin. She had the singularly most unprepossessing face I’d ever seen in my life, and she did little to enhance it. “I think you’re a con who preys on people involved in tragedies. Psychic!” She almost spat out the last word, landing spittle on my cheek. I stared at her in distaste, wanting to tell her to polish her hard-ass act because she wasn’t impressing me.
“Daily,” Detective Martinez said, throwing his partner a warning look. It was obvious that he was the lead in this case which made me feel marginally better than if his harridan of a partner were in charge. “Ms. Hsu, it’s not that we don’t believe you, exactly. It’s just that it’s an unexplained phenomenon, and we have no proof that you can do what you claimed you can do. Yes, your hunches have been impressive so far, but what do they really amount to?”
“I don’t know,” I said wearily, hunched over on the futon. I was dead-tired from the activities of the past twenty-four hours, and I wanted nothing more than to take a nap. “But here’s my next prediction.” I had said it before, but it bore repeating. “Kayla will get a package tomorrow which will contain a cassette tape with Danny’s voice on it and his t-shirt. Will that convince you? The only way I could know that is if I’m what I say I am.”
“Or if you’re in on the kidnapping,” Detective Daily countered, still glaring at me. “You and Mr. Reynolds seem pretty cozy. Maybe you were jealous of his ongoing relationship with Ms. Richardson and decided to kidnap her son as a way to get her to back off.”
“Nope,” I said before pressing my lips shut. I knew better than to give the cops too much information, so I just waited.
“Maybe you thought it’d teach her a lesson, and it spiraled out of control,” Detective Daily continued, her voice hardening. I had the distinct feeling that this was personal to her, that she had a specific reason for being so pointed with me, but I couldn’t fathom what it might be. I didn’t bother answering since she hadn’t phrased it in the form of a question. “Maybe you wanted to hurt her the way she hurt you when she took Mr. Reynolds from you.” Even though I had sworn not show any emotion, I couldn’t help laughing out loud at that one which only pissed off Detective Daily more.
“What do you think you’re laughing about?” Detective Daily hissed, thrusting her face into mine again. I simply stared at her as I’d quickly learned this disconcerted her more than any verbal reply. I practiced yoga from time to time, so I knew the value of sitting still when there’s no need to move. I blinked and waited for Detective Daily to make her next move, no matter what it might be.
“No, you don’t,” she said, her hand going to her gun again. I eyed her curiously to see if she would actually point the thing at me. I wasn’t flush in funds, and a little extra coinage from the police wouldn’t hurt. “You will not sit there and play the inscrutable Buddha with me!”
“What did you just say?” I asked softly, lifting one eyebrow. These days, there was a pretty short rein for cops who had such blatant racist attitudes. I was surprised that even a rookie would let slip with such a comment when not on the mean streets of Minneapolis.
“Is there anything else you can add to your statement?” Detective Martinez asked, glaring at his colleague. She glared back before dropping her eyes, and I knew she’d be in for a royal reaming once they left my place.
“Nope.” I had considered giving them the stash I had confiscated from Danny’s toy box, but not after that crack from Detective Daily.
“She’s lying, Martinez,” Detective Daily said with heat. “I say we run her in and let her cool her jets in the station for a few hours. That will make her talk.”
“Thank you for your time, Ms. Hsu,” Detective Martinez said, standing up. “If we need to talk to you again, we’ll be in touch. In the meantime, if there is anything else that you’d like to tell us, give us a call.” He handed me a business card and practically hauled Detective Daily out of there, she protesting all the way. When I gave Matt the rundown of what had happened, he had been indignant at Detective Daily’s attitude towards me. I was more philosophical as I’d been stopped by the cops for being Asian before. It just came with the territory….
“I could threaten to go to the cops. That might make Kayla talk.” I was enamored with my theory but cautious to implement it until I’d have chance to talk it over with Matt. I was too impulsive, sometimes, and Matt provided a buffer for my madness. I picked up my cell to call him, but hesitated. It wasn’t fair for me to evict him from his home and then call him when I needed him. As I was hesitating, said cell rang in my hand, almost causing cardiac arrest.
“What?” I snapped, not happy to be caught off-guard like that.
“Well, someone is in a bitchy mood,” the voice on the other end snipped. It was Jet Li, one of the Fabulous Five trying to make this theater thing fly. No, it wasn’t that Jet Li, but this one refused to answer to anything else after seeing his first Jet Li movie. As we all had our little idiosyncrasies, we indulged his.
“Sorry, Jet. You caught me at a bad time.”
“Listen to this!” Jet said, barreling over my statement. He was a dear, dear friend, but he needed to be hammered over the head to pay attention to anything other than his own drama. Once you caught his attention, however, he gave you his all until something else came along. Then you were S.O.L. until the next time you smacked him upside his head. “Guess which Asian playwright might be enticed to come to an opening of his most famous play right here in the Mini-Apple?”
“Uh, David Hwang?” I asked, saying the first name off the top of my head.
“Spoilsport,” Jet pouted. “No fair using your powers for evil.”
“I didn’t, Jet. He’s the only famous male Asian playwright,” I laughed, settling back on the futon. It was a hoot talking to Jet, and I needed a dose of his flamboyancy after the grimness of the last twenty-four hours or so.
“Isn’t that faboo? I hear he might play for my team!” Jet cooed, his voice aflutter. Jet was six feet of lean, meaning, ass-kicking machine—yes, he started learning martial arts after viewing his first Jet Li movie—with gorgeous brown eyes and shiny black hair that fell into his eyes. Unfortunately for the female population, he was gayer than Quentin Crisp and just as proud of it. “I would just die!”
“Turn it down, Jet,” I said, rolling my eyes. “The only audience is me, and I already know you’re a flaming homo.”
“Bitch!” Jet spat before returning to his normal voice which was several pitches lower than the one he’d been employing. “Isn’t that great?” Jet was our talent extractor—meaning he got the famous people to contribute to our plays for very little pay. He was also our costume designer and choreographer in a pinch since we all had to wear more than one hat, but his primary job was to lure the big talent to our little, little stage.
“It’s righteous,” I agreed, nodding my head. “Good work, Joe.”
“Don’t call me that,” Jet said quickly, spitting to break the curse. Joe Lee was his given name, and he loathed it intensely.
“Sorry, Jet,” I said, sniggering to myself. I liked to rile Jet up, and I tried to do it at least once a conversation. “What time are we meeting tomorrow?”
“Noon,” Jet said, sighing loudly. I was notorious for running on Asian time whereas the rest of the group was pretty anal about such things—even Jet. “Potluck, of course.” Nothing said Asian gathering like a good potluck. “I’m bringing my famous bulgogi.” Despite his affinity for all boys Chinese, Jet was actually Korean—and his bulgogi was to die for.
“Mmm, make sure you bring some extra I can sneak some home,” I said, smacking my lips.
“What are you bringing?” Jet asked eagerly. I was the best cook of the bunch, and I always went all-out every Monday, which was our designated potluck day. It was a nice way to kick off the work week.
“I’m not sure,” I hedged. “I might have to stop at Udupi and just pick something up.” Udupi was my favorite Indian restaurant, and even though it was a little out of my way, it was worth it.
“No fair,” Jet protested. “That’s cheating! Besides, I’ve had a hankering for your dumplings all week. Don’t tell me you’re wussing out on me.”
I sighed. I could make the dumplings as I had the ingredients in my kitchen, but I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I gave Jet a brief sketch of what had been happening to me and while he was sympathetic, he emphatically wanted his dumplings. After some requisite grumbling, I gave in. I wouldn’t be happy buying something for the potluck, even though Anu and Bobby did it all the time. I rarely had a chance outside these weekly potlucks to hone my cooking skills, however, and I was loath to let them rust. Cooking for Matt didn’t count as he would eat anything I put in front of him.
I hung up with Jet so I could get started on the dumplings. Theoretically, I could get up early in the morning to make them, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. If I wanted to make them, I had to make them now. At least I had pre-made wrappers so I didn’t have to make them by hand as my mother was wont to do. She insisted the dumplings didn’t taste as good in the store-bought wrappers, and while she was right, I wasn’t going to extend myself that far. As I was wrapping the dumplings—thank God there weren’t any vegetarians in our bunch or, God forbid, vegans—the landline rang. I ran and grabbed the cordless before returning to the kitchen.
“Hello?” I barked, not pleased to be talking and cooking at the same time. However, I was physically unable to let a ringing phone ring, much to my chagrin. More than one salesperson had been on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing by me for interrupting whatever it was I had been doing. Anu Dosh, the finance person—including fundraising—in my theater group, screened her calls without fail, and while I admired her, there was no way I could emulate her. Bobby Lee, our PR person, on the other hand, started questioning the telemarketer the minute he picked up the phone which usually caused the caller to hang up first. Bobby derived great satisfaction from making a caller cry, something that happened with surprising regularity.