“You alive?” I asked, poking Matt in the stomach. He was sprawled out on my bed and appeared to be dead to the world after a rousing round of sex. “Hey, do I need to call 9-1-1? You did say you wanted to die in the saddle.”
“Water,” Matt croaked, his arms and legs splayed to the side. “Must have water. Please, have mercy on a dying man.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said, lying on my side so I could properly observe him. He was a man unconscious, in more ways than one. I noticed that his cock was hardening again, which was good news for me. I decided to see what I could do to help the situation, but he swatted my hand away.
“It’s after midnight,” Matt groaned, rolling over to face me. “Some of us have to get up tomorrow morning.”
“Some of us have a date tomorrow night,” I blurted out, wanting to get it over with. I realized it wasn’t the most appropriate time, and it just slipped out. I had already mentioned it, but I didn’t know if he remembered with everything that’d happened since. “Do you think you could make yourself scarce tomorrow night….” I trailed off at the amused look on Matt’s face. “What?” I asked defensively.
“Only you would have the balls to mention a date post-coitus,” Matt smirked, swatting me on the ass. “Not a prob. I’ll do anything to help you get in the good detective’s pants.”
“How do you know it’s him?” I retorted. It wouldn’t do for Matt to get too cocky.
“Who else you been mooning around lately? It has to be Martinez. You ain’t the only one with the sight.” Matt reached over to stroke my breast, causing me to moan.
“Don’t tease me,” I said hoarsely, pushing his hand away. “If you’re not going to play, then you can’t touch.” I felt the tingling between my legs, and it took every ounce of willpower I possessed not to jump on top of him.
“Who says I’m teasing?” Matt said, but he kept his distance.
After I wrangled a promise from him to find somewhere to be tomorrow night until I gave him a ring—and after I pushed away the feelings of guilt I had that I’d be costing him a good night’s rest two nights in a row—I kicked him out of my bed. I knew we’d have to talk about Kayla at some point, but, well, I just couldn’t at this moment. Besides, it was the cops’ job to find her—not ours. I knew Matt probably felt guilty about her disappearing, but I didn’t really give a damn. She had been nothing but a pain in the ass, and she’d lied to us the whole time. I knew, however, that Matt still had some lingering feelings of affection for her, though I wasn’t sure why. I quickly got ready for bed because I was exhausted. Sleep came easily, thought it wasn’t kind to me.
Dark shadows infiltrated my mind that night. Formless figures hovered around me, smothering me with their pervasive presence. Every time I tried to run, one of them would wrap its arms? around me and not let go. They were silently laughing as I tried to escape. When I opened my mouth to scream, one of them would flick its tongue? into my mouth to silence me. Not a human tongue, no, but a thick, slimy, never-ending tongue. I felt as if the tentacles of these things could reach the innermost of my soul, tainting me beyond redemption. I moaned, but no sound emerged from my blocked mouth. My head was growing so heavy. I felt something shaking me, and I tried to fight back. I was dimly aware of a voice in my head. What? I didn’t dream sounds. What the—I awoke with a start to see Matt leaning over me, shaking me vigorously. I opened my mouth to make a snide comment when it registered in my fogged brain that he was crying.
“They found her, Scar,” Matt kept saying over and over again. It took me a moment to understand what he was saying but when I did, I bolted up in my bed.
“Oh, Matt, please tell me she’s alive.” I held my breath as the look in his eyes told me what he seemed reluctant to say.
“She was tor-tor-tortured before being—” Matt choked up, and I waited for him to get a hold of himself. “Beaten up, then shot in the head. Her face was pretty beat up from what I heard.” The tears were streaming down his face, and I wanted nothing more than to bring comfort to him. Wordlessly, I held my arms out to him, and he collapsed into them. I pulled him onto the bed, and we just cuddled.
“How did you find out?” I asked quietly, not wanting to intrude on his grief.
“A cop buddy of mine called,” Matt admitted, his eyes locking with mine. “They found her body inside her house, and the door hadn’t been forced.” That didn’t mean anything as the kidnapper probably just lifted the keys from Kayla.
“What else did your source say?” I asked, rubbing his back. I wondered what time it was, but I didn’t think it an opportune time to ask.
“Nothing. I’ll try to find out more when I go to work.” Matt looked at his watch and stood up. “It’s seven-thirty. Go back to sleep.” Kissing me on the forehead, he left and gently shut the door. I closed my eyes, but sleep was elusive. Even though I hadn’t gotten my full eight hours, I knew there was no way I could sleep any longer. Besides, I had to talk to Julia. I reached for my phone and dialed. I knew she’d be up because Banana got up at the break of dawn.
“Hey, what’s up?” Julia asked, her voice strained. She didn’t sound anything like her usual self. I knew she was having a difficult time and I hesitated to add to her sorrow. I knew, however, I had to talk about it with someone other than Matt.
“Got a second?” I asked casually, not wanting to start if it was a bad time. Receiving her assent, I spilled my guts, not leaving out a single detail. By the time I came to Kayla’s murder, Julia had fell completely silent. After I finished my story, I waited to see what she had to say about it. Her first words took me completely by surprise.
“You have to stop, Scar. It’s insane of you to keep nosing about.”
“Excuse me?” I said, my voice incredulous. I felt a surge of anger that she was chastising me for trying to help out a friend. “What the hell do you mean?” Ok, that wasn’t the most diplomatic thing I could have said, but I was at the end of my rope.
“This is not a game, Scar. You could be in danger. I don’t know what I’d do if I—” She bit off the end of her sentence, but I had a pretty shrewd idea what she’d been about to say.
“I’m not going to die, Jay,” I said, softening my tone. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.” I waited for her laugh, but I waited in vain. The next thing I knew, she was crying again.
“I can’t do this, Scar, I just can’t. I talked to Peter last night, and he had to make an emergency trip to the hospital. I’m going to go crazy if I have to think about you in trouble while I’m in New York. Please. For my sake. Plus, Banana will be with you! Maybe I should have her stay with someone else.”
“Jay, please, calm down,” I said helplessly. What could I say that would comfort her? I would never do anything to put Banana in danger, but I also couldn’t promise that I would drop this investigation. With Kayla dead, Danny needed me more than ever. Something tugged in my chest at the thought of that poor little boy; then, a cold hand grabbed me by the throat and squeezed. If the kidnappers had disposed of Kayla, what need would they have of Danny? Oh, God, that meant they’d probably kill him as well. I didn’t know what Matt would do if that happened. I wished I hadn’t told him about Danny. I mean, what good did it do for him to know he has a son if that son was taken away from him right away?
“Calm down?” It was Julia’s turn to sound incredulous. “You’re putting yourself in harm’s way, and you’re telling me to calm down? Scarlett! This isn’t a game. You’re not in one of your goddamn mystery books. This is real life, and you’re not invincible. Please, promise me you’ll stop investigating, at least while you have Banana.”
“Jay, I promise you that I won’t do any investigating with Banana around.” That was all I could promise her, however, as I was more determined than ever to get Danny back.
“Ok, well, then I’ll see you at one.” That was the time we usually met unless we were having one of our potlucks, which meant I had plenty of time to get some work down before the meeting. Julia didn’t seem to notice that I’d danced around her demand, most likely because she was preoccupied with thoughts of Peter. The old Julia would have noticed and called me on it right away.
After I showered, I ate a light breakfast consisting of an orange and a piece of whole wheat toast. I wasn’t very hungry, not after the unsettling dream I’d had and Matt’s grim news. After I rinsed my plate, I picked up my cell phones and started calling. I managed to get in touch with Yee, and he promised that he would do our show, as usual. It was a good thing I’d called, though, because he’d had another offer for that time that he had been pondering. I felt one-hundred percent better to have secured our stage manager as I knew from experience how hellish it was without an experienced stage manager around. In one show we’d done, the stage manager had gotten pneumonia the second night of the show. Having to go through the rest of that night without him was one of the most difficult things I’d ever had to do. I pulled up my list on my computer and heavily blacked out ‘secure Yee’ from my list of things to do.
I felt proud of myself for coming up with an audition schedule as well. I did a few other tasks that kept me well occupied until I had to go to Julia’s, and I managed not to think about Kayla’s murder more than a dozen times. Of course, I looked it up on the internet and found a few stories about it in the local papers. One only gave the bare bones, little more than what Matt had told me. The other went on to speculate the reasons for Kayla’s murder and even went so far as to speculate who might have done it. There was nothing I hadn’t already known, however, so I didn’t bother looking into it any more.
“Well, what’s the news?” Jet asked waspishly as soon as I walked into the dining room. The others didn’t look any happier, and I glanced down at my watch to make sure I wasn’t late. I had made a point to be on time, and I was. Still, everyone else was there before me, and everybody looked disgruntled. Even Anu looked rattled, which took some doing.
“I got Yee,” I said without preamble. I knew that the best defense was a good offense, so I had thrown my best card on the table. “Also, here.” I pulled out the schedules I had made and passed them around. Everybody nodded in unison and looked marginally happier than a scant minute ago.
“Hey, did you hear about that stripper being kidnapped and executed?” Bobby asked, his voice salacious. “It was on the local news. There’s some speculation as to whether she’d been raped or not.” He didn’t know, he couldn’t have known I was working the case, but he shouldn’t have talked that way in any case. It was positively loathsome the way he was dying to be the bearer of bad news, and I curled my lip at him in disdain. That didn’t stop him from blundering on, however. “Her son was kidnapped last weekend, and now she’s bought it. Her name was Kayla, but she was born Carol. Not surprising she’d change it. Probably thought it was more exotic.” Bobby rattled on, not aware that I was glaring at him. “Too bad she bought it—what a total waste of a great body.”
“Shut the fuck up, Lee,” I said, my voice fierce. “Do you even know what the fuck you’re talking about? You can’t, not even you can be that much of a filthy, disgusting pig.”
“What?” Bobby said, his eyes narrowing. “What the fuck you getting so uptight about? She was just a hooker. It wasn’t like she mattered or anything. It was probably just a trick gone wrong. Hazard of the occupation.”
“You’re fucking sick, Bobby,” Julia said, her voice indignant. “Nobody deserves to be kidnapped and murdered—nobody!”
“Come on,” Bobby said, rolling his eyes. “You women-libbers are all alike. I’m not saying she deserved to die, but it’s not really that great of a loss, is it?”
“Fucking asshole,” I spat, standing up so quickly, I knocked my chair over. “God, I can’t believe—” I walked out of the room before I said something I really regretted. I was moving towards the front door when a small voice from behind me stopped me.