“Hey, Martinez,” I said, leaning on the doorframe once he buzzed me up. His eyes popped out of his head when he saw what I was wearing.
“I can’t believe you didn’t get accosted on the street looking as hot as that.”
“I can take care of myself,” I shrugged, checking him out. He looked damn good in a blue shirt and black slacks. We matched! “You gonna let me in, or shall we have the date out here in the hall?”
“Come on in. Your mother is a great cook, by the way.” Martinez stood back and let me enter. I cased out the joint as I took off my shoes. He was wearing his, but he didn’t seem to care that I took mine off. If he strongly objected, I would wear them, of course, but I really couldn’t get comfortable in a house if I had to wear shoes.
“Nice décor,” I said, glancing at his walls which seemed to be filled with abstract paintings. I didn’t recognize any of them, but they gave the apartment a warm feeling.
“Reminds me of home,” Martinez said with a smile. “They’re my mother’s work.” I gave them a second glance, appreciating them more now that I knew they were personally connected with Martinez. “Come to the dining room; it’s almost ready.”
I followed him to the dining room where the food was already on the table. Everything smelled wonderful, and I wondered how he found time to cook with the case being as convoluted as it was. I supposed, though, that it was just an average day in the life of a homicide detective. I wondered how he was able to stay sane when he had to face so many atrocities on a daily basis. Speaking of Daily, I wondered if she’d gotten over my stealing her man yet. Somehow, I doubted that she and I would ever be bosom buddies, but it’d be nice if we didn’t have to go to war every time we met, either.
“This is great,” I said, inhaling the food. I had eaten a light lunch in anticipation of the spicy goodness I’d be feasting on for dinner. “This bread is out of this world.”
“Fry bread, from my Indian side. Pure fat, of course, but it tastes so good.” Martinez ripped off a hunk and scooped up some beans with it.
“You are a magician in the kitchen,” I said, barely stopping to breath, let alone talk. He had made chili rellenos which were burning my mouth but in a good way. There was also a chicken mole which was splendid in its subtlety. There was a bunch of other things as well, but I didn’t catch the name of half the things.
“You have a healthy appetite,” Martinez commented, matching me bite for bite. “I like that in a woman. Not like those American women who know every calorie they intake. And those stick figures! How can any man like holding onto that?” Martinez made a face.
“I’m so glad you come from a culture that appreciates real women,” I said with a grin. “Now, if you could just do something about that machismo thing, then we’d be copasetic.”
We ate in amicable silence, only stopping to take a break now and then. I knew I shouldn’t eat any more, but everything tasted so good. Martinez warned me to save room for dessert, which was Ancho Chile Fudge Pie. I didn’t know what the hell that was, but it had fudge so it was good enough for me. Martinez assured me that it was an authentic Mexican dessert; I took his word as I didn’t know authentic from fake when it came to Mexican food. One bite of the pie with its rich chocolate, walnuts, Mexican vanilla, and something else, and I didn’t care if it was real or not. Mix that with a cup of strong Mexican coffee, and I was in heaven. Martinez suggested that we take our desserts and coffee into the living room so we could relax. I didn’t want to stop eating, but getting comfortable sounded good to me.
“You can cook for me, any time,” I exulted, stifling my impulse to lick the plate.
“You have some chocolate on your mouth—there.” Martinez leaned forward to kiss me, effectively removing the chocolate from my mouth. I grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him close to me until I was sitting in his lap. We broke off the kiss, looking at each other in surprise. I scrambled off his lap, finding my place on the couch. He straightened his clothes, trying to hide his erection. Just as I was contemplating kissing him again, a blinding headache overtook me. Dimly, I could hear Martinez saying something, but I couldn’t focus on the words. I clutched my head, waiting for the picture I knew was about to form. There was no way to battle one of these headaches except by gracefully giving in.
When the proverbial smoke cleared, I saw Kayla with a man—Alexander. They were, where? Not in Minnesota. No, some place with more black folk. Detroit? No. Chicago? No. Ah, Martinez’s hometown—Philly. The two of them were walking on the streets, holding hands. It didn’t seem as if Kayla was under any duress, save for the black eye she was sporting. She had a blissed-out look to her which didn’t bode well for her sobriety. Alexander was gazing speculatively at her, as if she were a specimen under the microscope. They had left Minnesota when it became clear that Alexander’s ruse with the other dead woman hadn’t worked. Then a shock—Kayla had been in on the murder. In fact, she was the one who suggested it. Seemed she thought if the cops believed her dead, they would leave her alone. Sometime during her captivity, she had been converted into the willing.
How could she think Matt wouldn’t recognize her? To give credit where credit was due, the two women did look somewhat alike. The dead woman’s face had been battered so if I hadn’t known the dead woman wasn’t Kayla, perhaps Matt would have identified her thusly. It seemed slip-shod to me, however, and I couldn’t see a man like Alexander hinging his plan on something so iffy. Then again, maybe he was a user as well as a dealer which would impair his judgment. Or maybe he’d ‘fallen in love’ with Kayla and would do whatever it took to keep her. That made no sense, though, because they could have just been together without all the dramatics. Somehow, I thought Kayla liked the dramatics—that’s what got her in trouble in the first place. Also, if the cops truly believed she was dead, that would take care of that pesky hit-and-run charge.
I had a hunch that she chose to do this because it got her away from Danny without actually having to face him. That angered me as nothing else because that boy had gone through so much. Now, his mother had chosen her drug-dealer of a boyfriend who’d put her in the hospital, for God’s sake—if what she’d told us was true—over her own son. It pissed me off to no end, and it made me want to hunt her down and do some serious damage. It also bothered me that people gave me grief for not having children when there were so many unfit parents in the world. At least with my decision, I wasn’t doing anybody else any harm. What was Kayla’s excuse?
“Scarlett, come back to me now,” Martinez said in a low voice. He had his hand on my arm, waiting patiently for me to return. I popped out of my trance, not having a clue where I was.
“God, it’s really not fair that you’re so good-looking,” I said dreamily, smiling up at Martinez. “You must have been quite the chick magnet in high school. I was an outsider, you know. A brainy Asian chick doesn’t get much play in suburban Minnesota. At least, not when I was a teenager. Now we’re all the vogue.” What the fuck was I rambling about? I shut my mouth as Martinez looked at me in concern.
“You had another vision, didn’t you?” He gathered me in his arms, and I snuggled against his chest. I liked the clean scent of him—unadulterated by cologne or any such crap. I couldn’t stand scents, and I had broken up with one guy because he doused himself with Polo and refused to stop when I requested it of him.
“Yeah,” I said, still somewhat out of it. I gathered my wits enough to tell Martinez what I’d seen. I tried to remember every detail as I knew he would be a better judge of what was important and what wasn’t. Even though his face didn’t change, I could tell that he was shifting into professional mode. “You have to go, don’t you?” I asked unhappily. I tried to be matter-of-fact about it, but I didn’t manage to pull it off. Martinez hesitated a long time before responding.
“We had a phone call this afternoon. Supposedly from someone who knew her, asking us to stop looking for her. This person said it was a misunderstanding, that Kayla was happy. The informant said she wasn’t in Minnesota any more, but the person never mentioned Philadelphia. The informant hung up when we tried to ask about the other woman.”
“Why didn’t you tell me right away?” I exclaimed, indignant that he’d held something back from me. I pulled away from him so I could glare at him properly.
“Scarlett, it’s not for public knowledge. I shouldn’t even be telling you now, but, what with your vision, I thought you should know.” Martinez pulled me to him again. “It’s good to have a city, but it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t do anything more tonight.” He leaned down to kiss me. I wanted to fight some more, but his lips obliterated that thought from my mind.
“Do you have a bedroom?” I murmured, aware that I was changing the equation. If I went into his bedroom, I wasn’t coming out for some time.
“Of course,” Martinez said, his voice jagged. I was glad that he wasn’t jumping on my suggestion like a dog in heat. I could tell he was as uncertain as I, but it didn’t stop me from getting up from the couch and holding out my hand.
“I’ve been tested in the last six months and am disease-free,” I said bluntly, preferring to get it out of the way. “I have condoms in case you don’t.” I knew this was a sticky area for us, but I figured it was better to know now than to discover just as we were about to have sex that he didn’t believe in contraceptives.
“I, too, am disease-free,” Martinez said, holding my gaze. “I, too, have condoms.” In response to my quizzical look, he added, “I am Catholic, but I don’t agree with all the tenets. I think it’s a far worse sin to bring an unwanted child into the world than to be protected. Besides, if I’m going to have sex outside a marriage, I’m sinning anyway, right?” He smiled as he took my hand, hauling himself off the couch. He led me into his bedroom which was sparse but warm. Although I couldn’t say why, it had a definite masculine feel to it. Everything was utilitarian, but there were more of the paintings on the wall which added a touch of hominess to the room.
“It’s over, isn’t it?” I asked, breaking free from Martinez’s grip. I had to settle business before I allowed the personal to go any further. “Kayla, I mean.”
“No, not from a police point of view. There’s still the murder of the other woman and Kayla’s hit-and-run,” Martinez reminded me, making me feel like a heel. He hesitated before adding, “From your point of view, yes, it is.” I nodded my head once before hugging him again. As I predicted, it was a long time before I left his room.