Parental Deception; chapter eleven, part two

“Hey, babe.” Rembrandt materializes out of the blue, a huge yawn splitting his face. He’s wearing a robe, and he ties the belt before slipping an arm around me.

“Hey, boo.” I kiss him on the cheek and am surprised to find my cigarette has burned out. I light another one so I can have a few more puffs.

“You had a pensive look on your face when I came out. What’re you thinking about?” It’s a simple question, but I’m not sure how to answer. Do I give the safe answer of that I was thinking of that man? Or do I tell him about my feelings about us? I decide to start with the former and work my way to the latter; it feels safer that way.

“That man. The imposter. I can’t stop trying to figure out why he did what he did.” I take a draw on my cigarette so he won’t see my face. I’m not lying to him, exactly, but this isn’t the more pressing issue, if I’m to be honest. Rembrandt looks at me for several seconds before answering.

“You may never know,” he finally says. “He’s dead, and his wife seems pretty clueless.” He hesitates and adds, “What is really on your mind?” I don’t respond. Do I want to get into it with him or do I just want to shine him on? My impulse is to equivocate, but he deserves better than that.

“I want to go on a date,” I blurt out, blushing as soon as the words leave my mouth. It’s not how I wanted to phrase it, but it’s what I’m thinking, really. “Don’t get me wrong. I love that you cook for me, and I feel so spoiled by it. It’s just, we kind of went from dating to limited cohabitation very quickly. I know it’s been stressful and weird because of that psycho woman, but I want to date.”

“Let’s go on a date then,” Rembrandt says. “Saturday night? You pick the restaurant. I’ll come and pick you up and everything.” Irrationally, the fact that he’s being so sweet about it makes me feel even worse. Am I spoiling for a fight? Is that what’s going on here? I should be thrilled that I have a sweet, sensitive, talented, hot man who wants to be with me. Instead, I’m moping over stupid girly shit like going on a date. I am my own worst enemy, and I need to grow the fuck up.

“Sounds good!” I say, smiling up at Rembrandt. “Let me think where I want to go, and I’ll make reservations.”

“Nope. You tell me when you decide, and I’ll make the reservations. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it all the way.” Rembrandt puts an arm around my shoulders and squeeze.

“I’m feeling like sushi. Just to warn you.” I feel weird suggesting sushi because it’s not cheap, but it’s what I really want.

“I’ve never had sushi, but I’m game.” Rembrandt says. I pull away from him so I can stare at him in disbelief. Who the hell in the year 2017 has not had sushi?

“Are you fucking with me?” I ask, my voice incredulous. “How can you not have had sushi?”

“I just haven’t!” Rembrandt says defensively. He hunches his shoulder as if to ward off my next comment. I immediately temper my tone because I don’t want to make him feel bad.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to be a bitch about it. It’s just hard for me to believe.” I rub Rembrandt’s shoulders.

“I know. It’s not like I never wanted to try it, but I didn’t want to go alone, and I’ve never been able to find someone to go with me.” Rembrandt relaxes, and I’m relieved we’ve managed to avert a crisis.

“Well! I will be honored to be your sushi guide,” I say, beaming up at him. Sushi is one of my favorite foods, and while I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, I know my nigiri from my sashimi. “Let’s go to Fuji Ya. They have a wonton-wrapped salmon that is utterly amazing.”

“Sounds good to me!” Rembrandt says enthusiastically. He hesitates before asking, “Do I have to eat raw fish? I’m not sure I can do that.”

“No, you can have cooked fish, too. Raw fish is not a requirement.” I link my arm through Rembrandt’s and rest my head on his shoulder.

“Megan, I want this to work,” Rembrandt says, dropping a kiss on the top of my head. “If there’s anything you want, just ask.” I appreciate the sentiment, but I can’t help thinking that the one thing I wanted, to be open, he quickly shot down. I’m not mad at him about it, though, because he can’t help feeling the way he feels. I wouldn’t want him to agree to be open if it’s solely for my benefit. I used to read Dan Savage, and it would irritate me when he’d say a good partner, let’s say she, is someone who lets her partner find someone else if she finds his fetish distasteful. It took me some time to realize that Dan Savage was a sexual libertarian, and once I did, I couldn’t read him any longer. I don’t have any patience for libertarians, and especially ones who were as fat-shaming and biphobic as he was. Recently, I’ve been told he’s grown up some, but he’s still a chore for me to read. Quite frankly, I don’t have much in common with a rich white gay man, and I don’t want to waste my time on reading him. Anyway, my point is, I don’t want to blackmail Rembrandt into being open against his will.

We go back inside and head for the kitchen. I’m feeling a bit peckish, despite it only being ten. Sexing always makes me hungry, and I need to refuel. There’s still plenty of the chicken alfredo, but I have a weird quirk in that I don’t like to eat the same thing twice in one day unless it’s dessert. I root around some more, and he has everything I need to make a turkey sandwich. I add spinach, brown mustard, sliced cherry tomatoes, and gouda cheese. I heat it up in the microwave before taking it to the living room. Rembrandt is right behind me, and the cats follow in his wake. Rembrandt isn’t eating anything, but he sits by me on the couch as I chow down. I check my blog, and there are more comments about secrets and relationships.

ISezSo writes, “My mother was a slut who disappeared every weekend with a different man. My five sibs and I knew about it since we were old enough to understand what was happening. For me, that was around seven years old when she brought a man home, and I caught them fucking on the couch. My father knew. He had to know. But he pretended it wasn’t happening. If we asked him where Mama was, he’d say, “She’s out of town.” “She’s visiting her family.” Or, “Out.” By the time I turned ten, he simply refused to answer the question any longer. Because of this, I periodically sit down with my girlfriend and have it all out. At first, she was put off by it, but she’s come to appreciate our monthly talks.” TeddyBared says, “My ex-girlfriend was a pathological liar. I didn’t know that at the time, of course, but it became quickly evident. She lied about stupid things like not taking the last cookie and about serious things like not snooping through my emails. The last straw was in our third month together. The cops called, saying they arrested her for shoplifting at Macy’s. When I went to bail her out, she was strenuously denying she stole anything, even though the diamond necklace was in her fucking pocket. When she couldn’t wiggle her way out of it, she had the nerve to say it was my fault because I didn’t buy her one for our three month anniversary. That was it. I was done. I walked out of there without bailing her out and never talked to her again.”

This post has hit a nerve, which isn’t surprising, I guess. There are over fifty comments and counting, and I’m pleased that I’m able to put out high-quality posts on a consistent basis. I go back to the dossier Yuri had sent me, but there isn’t much more to it. The only thing that perks my interest is that Mr. Tsai has accounts in the Cayman Islands. Yuri wasn’t able to find out the total amount, but by his best guess, it’s more than ten million dollars. I raise an eyebrow and show the amount to Rembrandt. He whistles under his breath, and I have to agree with the sentiment. This is the money I was looking for, and I would bet anything that it includes the money he ripped off from his partners and investors. I would also bet that Mrs. Tsai doesn’t know about the accounts, and with this in mind, I call her. She answers on the third ring.

“Hello?” Her voice is dull and lifeless, and I can only imagine the hell she’s been through in the past few days.

“Mrs. Tsai, it’s me, Megan Liang. I have a few questions I’d like to ask you.” I keep my voice gentle because I don’t want to spook her. It doesn’t work, however, as she takes immediate offense.

“You! Don’t you think you’ve done enough to me?” Anger flavors her voice, which is an improvement over the zombie impersonation she’d been doing. “How dare you call me again?”

“I understand you’re upset, and I would be in your shoes as well.” I take a slow, smooth breath so I won’t snap back. I need her to talk to me, and calling her a stupid bitch isn’t going to get me anywhere. “But, I really need to ask you a question. Did you know about your husband’s Cayman Islands accounts?” Complete silence. I wonder if she hung up on me, but I can hear her breathing heavily, so I know she’s still with me. After several seconds, she answers.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You call me with a pack of lies about my husband…are you trying to desecrate my memory of him?” She bursts into tears, and I feel a flash of guilt at bringing her so much pain. I have to remind myself that it’s her husband who is the cause of her pain, not me.

“I know this is hard to hear, but your husband has money hidden in several Cayman Islands accounts. I’ll take it you didn’t know about it.” I pull up the dossier and scan the contents of Mr. Tsai’s will. The wording is careful, and it says, “I leave everything I have to my wife, Rowena Tsai.” If it holds up in court, I presume this means the money from the offshore accounts will be included. In other words, Mrs. Tsai is going to be a very rich woman. I instinctively decide not to tell her the amount. Why, I don’t know, but I keep it to myself.

“My George was a good man,” Mrs. Tsai says tearfully. “He might have been misguided in what he was doing, but he meant it with the best of intentions.” She’s deluded. I can feel myself tensing up, and Rembrandt must have sensed it because he rubs my back soothingly. Onyx and Jet press their wet noses against my arms, and I allow it even though I don’t normally care for it because I know they’re trying to comfort me.

“Be that as it may, he stole a million dollars from my sisters and me. He turned our lives upside down by telling a bald-faced lie. That is not the actions of a good man.” I have lost my temper, and, unfortunately, Mrs. Tsai is on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing. Once I start, I can’t stop. “You’re sitting there in your million dollar home, and you have no clue what your husband has been up to. Or rather, you don’t want to know. You’ve been deliberately ignorant, and—” Rembrandt takes the phone from my hand and starts talking. I’m so pissed, I can’t even hear what he’s saying. After several minutes, he hangs up and puts the phone on the coffee table. He waits for me to say something, but I have to wait for my ire to dissipate. It takes at least fifteen seconds before I’m able to speak. “Thank you. I was about to say something that would have been unforgivable.”

“You have every right to be pissed,” Rembrandt says, taking my hand in his. “I just didn’t want you to regret your words tomorrow morning.”

“I know. I tried to keep my temper, but when she said he had good intentions, I lost it. Good intentions? The man fucking stole our money and almost ruined our lives.” I can feel my face turning red, and I take several more slow, smooth breaths. I do not want to let that man take away my equilibrium, but I can’t help being pissed as hell at him. I know that’s letting him have the last word, so I try to let it go. I need to find out who killed him so I can just move on already. An idea hits me, and I quickly email Yuri asking him if he’d research Richard Liang for me as well as the investors of TAP. I insist on paying him because I am a firm believer in not giving away your talent for free. He emails back, agreeing to look into Richard and the investors, and he says he’ll take dinner the next time he’s in Minneapolis. I have a feeling I will not be able to move him from this suggestion, so I reluctantly agree.

“You can stop at any time,” Rembrandt reminds me, his eye worried. “I hate seeing you upset like this.”

“I hate feeling like this,” I reply, closing my eyes. “But I feel compelled to see it to the end.” I open my eyes and add, “If I can’t find out who killed him in the next few days, however, I may just walk.” I just sit and veg for the next twenty minutes as I wait for a response from Yuri. I don’t look at my social media, and I don’t do anything other than watch Onyx, Jet, and Ginger cavort around the living room. They have a catnip mouse, and they are batting it to each other. Rembrandt and I laugh as Jet sinks his fangs into the mouse, his eyes wildly darting back and forth. He races across the room with the girls in hot pursuit. He lets them catch up to him and tackle him, but the two of them cannot wrest the mouse from his panther-like jaws. After several seconds, he relents and opens his jaws. The girls dive for the mouse, and Ginger snags it first. She and Onyx start scrapping, but no claws are out, so Rembrandt and I just watch indulgently. After five minutes, they both tire and flop on the floor. They promptly fall asleep with the mouse between them, and Jet curls himself around Onyx’s back. He puts a paw on Ginger’s, and she pats at him before falling asleep. I lean against Rembrandt, and ten minutes later, I get an email from Yuri.

Richard Liang has been squeaky-clean since the incident with TAP. No hinky stuff. No shady business. No accounts in the Caymans. He pays his taxes and tithes at church. He has three children and four grandchildren, all who live in Minnesota. He’s a widower as his wife died six months ago. He’s worth nearly a half billion dollars, and he never was hurting for money, not even after the TAP debacle. The only weird thing Yuri has been able to find is that there’s a year missing from Richard’s life—a year-and-a-half after the TAP fiasco. Yuri says he couldn’t find anything about this missing year despite his best effort. I lift an eyebrow because from what I’ve seen, Yuri has mad skills. If he can’t find anything about that year, then there’s nothing to be found. I do a quick Google search, but I don’t find anything, of course. Not five minutes later, I get an email from Richard Liang saying he’d heard I was looking into him. He orders us to meet tomorrow night at his house in Richfield at seven. My eyebrows almost shoot off my face at his imperious tone—and the fact that he found me out so quickly. Suddenly chilled, I show the email to Rembrandt.

“You’re not going, are you?” Rembrandt asks, his voice alarmed.

“Of course I am,” I say indignantly. “He can tell me about that man. I need to hear what he has to say.”

“Megan. He might be the person who killed Mr. Tsai. Don’t be stup—rash.” I know he was about to call me stupid, and I bristle at the implication. I’m not stupid. Rash? Maybe, but not on the whole. “If you must meet him, at least do it in public.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” I say, quickly emailing Richard Liang back. He responds, saying it has to be his house as he does not leave his house unless absolutely necessary. I cock my head to the side. Is this big important man an agoraphobic? It certainly appears so. I tell myself not to make assumptions. He could be physically limited in some way, which might be the reason he doesn’t leave his house. “He won’t meet outside the house,” I inform Rembrandt, who is glowering at me. I understand why, but I’m still irritated. I don’t need a protector, but then again, he’s only being concerned about me. I don’t know Mr. Liang from Joe Blow, and he could very well possibly be a killer.

“I don’t like it,” Rembrandt says, his brows furrowed. I don’t like it, either, but I’m going to talk to Richard Liang, with or without Rembrandt’s blessing. I think about it a minute before offering a compromise.

“How about you come with me, but you stay in the car outside?” I’m rather pleased with the idea, and it appears that Rembrandt is amenable to it as his shoulders relax.

“I can do that. I want you to text me every ten minutes—otherwise, I’m going to storm the Bastille.”

“Deal.” I stick out my hand, and we shake. I email Mr. Liang, agreeing to meet him, then I check what Yuri has to say about the investors of TAP. He had given me the names before, and now, he provides me with even more detail. There were five major investors who donated between $1 million and $10 million each. Then, there were ten mid-tier people who invested between $500,000 and $1 million each. Then, there were twenty-five little fish who gave between $100,000 and $500,000 each. Those were the categories designated by the partners, not Yuri. My impulse is to say that the killer is from the first category, but $100,000 to a working class person may be his entire life saving, whereas $5 million to a billionaire is toilet paper. Of the first category of investors, only two are still alive—Benjamin Liu and Wilson “The Shark” Wu. He got the nickname by being a cutthroat businessman, and he now resides in Tampa Bay, whereas Benjamin is in Plymouth, Minnesota. I check to see if Wilson Wu had been in Minnesota recently, but it appears he hasn’t returned home in the last ten years. I cross him off the list, but keep Benjamin Liu on it. In the middle category, three are still living. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur and Connie Wang. They’re a couple who each gave a million dollars to TAP. They’re divorced, with Connie remarried and still living in Richfield. Arthur Wang now lives in Boston, so I cross him off the list, too. The third member of this group, Thomas Yang, is still in Richfield. He stays on the list as well.

I take a deep breath and check out the final group. Of the original twenty-five, only four are still alive. Three of them no longer live in Minnesota. I take note of the final one, Kyle Lee, who lives in Orono. Yuri has included a breakdown of their assets—I squirm because that had to be illegal for him to obtain. Benjamin Liu is worth over a hundred million dollars, so the ten million he gave to TAP is peanuts to him. Still. The more money a person has, the more he’s loath to lose it. I’m not willing to write him off entirely, but he falls down my list to the bottom. Connie Wang is a more interesting case. She and Arthur divorced three years after the TAP debacle, and part of the reason is because she talked him into investing in TAP. She knew George Tsai through work, and he convinced her to invest. It turned out that they had an affair, which is why she invested. My mouth drops, and I quickly Google George Tsai, Connie Wang, and affair. Nothing. How the hell did Yuri find out about it? He really is a sorcerer with hacking, and I will buy him the fanciest dinner he’s ever had if he makes it to Minneapolis. Arthur found out about the affair after George Tsai ran back to San Francisco with the money, and Arthur used it to keep his alimony payments to a mere $5,000 a month. It sounds like a lot of money, but he’s worth close to a hundred million and is earning money hand over fist every year, so it’s nothing to him. Mrs. Wang’s new husband is an artist who shows his work in small galleries around Minneapolis, so he’s basically living off Connie’s alimony. If anyone has a motive to kill George Tsai, it’s her. She zooms to the top of my list, and I turn to Thomas Yang. He is the youngest by far, being in his late fifties. He’s a tech innovator, which is how he was able to amass a small fortune by the age of forty. He had been friends with Scott Huang, which was why he gave a small amount of money to TAP. In other words, he was helping out a friend, and it doesn’t appear he’s missed the money at all. He and Mr. Huang stayed friends until the latter died. I put Thomas at the very bottom of my list. As for Mr. Liang, there doesn’t appear to be any reason for him to have killed George Tsai, but emotions aren’t rational. The fact that Mr. Tsai pulled one over on Mr. Liang might be reason enough.

I yawn, suddenly exhausted. I lean against Rembrandt who is lightly snoozing. The cats are still sacked out on the floor, only they’ve melted into one incoherent puddle. Onyx’s head is on Jet’s rump, and Ginger has her head on Onyx’s side. I smile at how easily they’ve taken to each other, and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to integrate our households somewhat seamlessly. I close my eyes, and soon, I’m dreaming about unicorns who literally shoot rainbows out of their asses. They’re deliriously happy as they romp through a field of four-leaf gold clovers. It’s unsettling, but also weirdly uplifting, and I want to join in their merry dance. My legs are bolted to the ground, however, and I can’t move them. I struggle to take a step, but I can’t. I’m jolted awake by something wet pressing against my cheek. It’s Onyx, and she’s standing on my thighs and meowing in my face. She’s the reason I felt as if I couldn’t move my legs, and I boop her on the nose, which makes her scowl at me.

“Why so loud, Onyx?” I ask, a yawn splitting my face. “You have so much to say.”

“Mrrrrreow!” Onyx bonks her head against my nose, and I flinch because it’s harder than I would like. She starts kneading my thighs, and I wince as her nails clip through my skin. She plumps down on my thighs and curls up into a tight ball while winding her tail around her face. I look around me, and I see Jet sprawled where Rembrandt used to be. I check my phone, and it’s one in the morning. My guess would be Rembrandt went to bed. I set Onyx on the couch next to her brother before going outside to smoke. I’m pensive about meeting Mr. Liang tomorrow night, in part because he was able to find me so easily. I hope Yuri is safe, but I trust that he’s able to do his business without leaving a digital trail behind him. Barring that, I hope he has plausible deniability. Once I’m done smoking, I go upstairs, Onyx and Jet following me. Ginger is nowhere to be seen, and I assume she’s in the bedroom with Rembrandt. I use my phone’s flashlight to see into the bedroom, and as I suspected, Rembrandt and Ginger are sacked out on the bed. Rembrandt is on his back with his limbs splayed, whereas Ginger is nestled on his stomach. Onyx and Jet join her by climbing on his chest and legs respectively. I move them to the bed because I don’t want Rembrandt to be smothered in his sleep. Onyx and Jet grumble, but they give in eventually and curl up together right by Rembrandt’s hip. I slide into bed next to them and mold myself around Rembrandt as best I can. I wait for sleep to claim me, and it’s a relief when it finally does.

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