“What a day,” Lyle mutters, the first to break the silence.
“I say we don’t talk about it for the next hour at least,” my mother says firmly. “Let’s talk about the inspector manufacturing excuses to see Rainbow, instead.”
“What?” I exclaim indignantly, my cheeks flushing red. “She came because Paris woke up. She needs his statement.”
“Oh please, girlfriend,” Lyle says, rolling his eyes. “Paris is in no shape to give a statement, and she knows it. She just wanted an excuse to see you again before the night was through.
“Did you get a chance to talk to her, alone?” My mom grins at me, her temporary fatigue forgotten.
“You guys!” I blush deeply, unable to control my reaction.
“Did you kiss her?” My mother’s eyes are mischievous for the first time in a long time.
“Mom!” I do not discuss my sex life with my mother. Not that I’m ashamed of it, but I’m just not comfortable sharing the tidbits. However, I am bursting with the news, and they are two of the people closest to me. “I asked her to dinner once this case is over,” I confide, slyly grinning myself.
“You go, girl!” Lyle crows as he and mom hi-five each other. “Pay up!” He holds his hand out to my mother who slaps a five dollar bill into it.
“What is that for?” I ask, glaring at both of them impartially.
“We had a little bet,” Lyle explains, slipping the five in his pocket. “I bet you’d ask the inspector out while the case was still ongoing while Songbird bet you’d ask after. I should have bet more.”
“You guys are unbelievable,” I laugh, shaking my head. Friends and family betting on my love life. Well, I’m glad someone gets some enjoyment out of it. “Did you bet on me breaking up with Vashti as well? Perhaps the date?”
“No, honey,” my mother says, placing her arm around my shoulder. “We wouldn’t bet on something like that.”
“I want to see him one more time,” I say softly. Neither of them say anything as I slip away.
“No more fighting, hear?” The cop says good-naturedly as I walk by him. I wave and continue walking.
“Paris? It’s Rayne. Your best friend.” I claim my usual spot and take his hand. He gives me the barest of squeezes but does not open his eyes.
“So noisy,” he whispers, his breath rattling around in his chest.
“Yeah, sorry about that. Your mom and stepfather wanted to keep Lyle from seeing you. Needless to say, Lyle had something to say about that.”
“Love Lyle,” Paris gasps, his eyes flying open. There are tears there as well as fear. “Need Lyle!”
“I know,” I say, patting his hand. “My mom and I are making sure he gets to stay. The inspector, too.” I pause before adding, “We’re having dinner after we find out who tried to hurt you.”
“Eggs,” Paris says, nodding his head.
“Eggs are good,” I reply, not wanting to contradict him. “Roger at the gym misses you, Paris. I bet Billy doesn’t, though. Remember Billy?”
“Steroids,” Paris says, making a face. “Billy mad.” I almost weep at his childlike statements. While I’m ecstatic that he’s out of the coma, I wonder how long it’s going to take him to recover completely. It’s painful to listen to him struggle to speak such simple sentences.
“Is he the one who hit you, Paris?” I ask, though I know he doesn’t remember.
“Car no,” Paris says helplessly.
“The car? You recognize the car?” I ask, my heart picking up. That would be a positive, for sure.
“Billy not.” The words are costing him and his hand is softening in mine.
“It’s not Billy car?” I ask eagerly. Every suspect erased is a step in the right direction.
“Billy license not.” Paris labors over every word, trying valiantly to pull out a complete sentence.
“He doesn’t have a driving license?” I am rewarded with a nod from Paris, but the news is not encouraging. Just because he doesn’t have a license doesn’t mean he’s not driving.
“He’s too short to be the driver?” My ears perk up as Paris nods. Then I realize that almost every other suspect is taller than Billy Bob. I open my mouth to ask more questions, but one look at Paris tells me he’s tiring, so I start reminiscing instead. I stroke his hand as I talk, not wanting to agitate him more than necessary. After twenty minutes of this, I stand up to leave.
“Ursula here?” Paris asks hopefully. The ache in his voice hurts.
“We thought it’d be best if she wasn’t,” I say hesitantly. “Your mother wasn’t very happy about me talking to her.”
“Want Ursula,” Paris says stubbornly, his heart speeding up.
“Ok, Paris, I’ll call her tomorrow.” I need to talk to her again, anyway. I’ll call her in the morning and set up an appointment for after work. I won’t take no this time; it’s too important. “You take it easy, and I’ll see you later, ok?” I brush a kiss on his forehead before walking out of the room. “He wants to see Ursula,” I inform Lyle and my mother. “I’ll call her tomorrow.” I have my doubts about allowing that woman to visit Paris, but if he wants her, he gets her. I return to the waiting room to fill in my mother and Lyle about what Paris has said, including the elimination of Matthews.
The next few hours drag. We’re hungry, but we don’t want to leave Paris alone. Lyle and I make a cafeteria run, returning with sandwiches, fries, and sodas. We eat in companionable silence as I survey the waiting room around me. Paris is most likely going to be moved to a regular room tomorrow, which means another waiting room. I’ll be glad in a way because I’m bored with this one. There is a family of two parents and two kids—one boy and one girl sitting in seats not far from us. The father, a thin, reedy male with a receding hairline, is pacing across the room while the mother, an anorexic-looking brunette, is huddled in a chair, weeping. The girl, about twelve with long blond plaits and braces on her teeth, is staring at the wall across from her. The boy, about ten, wearing a baseball cap and coveralls, is kicking at the floor in front of him. Every so often, he punches his sister in the leg. Neither of the parents make a move to stop him even though the girl winces in pain.
“Stop that,” I say to him finally. “Be nice to your sister.”
“Leave me alone!” The little boy’s voice is high and sweet, unlike his behavior. “My grandma is dying.”
“I’m sorry,” I say soberly. “You shouldn’t hurt your sister, though.”
“Gran likes her best,” the boy mutters. “’Cause she’s named after Gran. Mercy. Isn’t that a stupid name?”
“It’s better than Charity!” Mercy retorts. “Talk about your stupid names!” Charity? The boy’s name is Charity? It hits me in the solar plexus.
“What’s wrong, Rayne?” My mother asks. “You have the strangest look on your face.”
“She’s a girl,” I say to myself. “Why can’t she be a female? Robbie. Robbie. Damn, the name sounds familiar.” I wish I had read the will more carefully. “I have to check on something at home. Who’s coming with me?”
“You go, Lyle,” my mother says firmly, not bothering to ask me what I was talking about. “You need the sleep.” Lyle doesn’t argue, but walks with me to the parking lot.
“What’s your thought,” Lyle finally asks as we climb into his truck.”
“Ursula said the other twin’s name is Robbie,” I say, buckling my seatbelt.
“Yeah, so?” Lyle pulls out into the street, not sounding too impressed by my pronouncement.
“I assumed Robbie was a boy. What if it’s a girl?”
“I never thought of it, but I repeat, yeah, so?”
“The name sounds familiar, Lyle. Like I’ve heard it recently. Or seen it. I need to check the will.” That’s all I’ll say until I see the will. Once Lyle parks, we race into the apartment. I pull out our copy of the will and flip to the page about benefactors. “Look! Here it is!” I jab at the name. “Robin Richards.”
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but yeah, so?” Lyle asks, scanning the rest of the will.
“Robin Richards, Robin Richards, Robin Richards.” I had heard that name lately, but where? I run to my room and boot up the computer. Once it’s running, I go to Google and plug in her name in quotes. It’s fairly common, of course, but I come up with a hit in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune website which faintly rings a bell. I click on the link and wait impatiently to be transported. When the article finally finishes loading, I scan it eagerly. Lyle has slipped into the room behind me, but is still reading the will. “That’s it! Shit, Lyle, read this!” Lyle does, losing a bit of color as he reads.
“She was strangled?” Lyle ask incredulously. “She’s in intensive care?”
“On Wednesday. I saw it on the news while I was at Vashti’s!” We look at each other in disbelief. We scan the article, finding out that Robin had been strangled, which I knew already. She’s still in a coma, but at least she’s alive. Nobody has stepped forward with any leads, and there are no suspects at the moment. “That fucking bitch,” I seethe, my fury focused on one target—Ursula. “She lied to me again. She let me believe that the other twin was a boy as well.”
“Does it really matter? The gender?” Lyle asks. “I mean, whether the other twin was a boy or girl?”
“I don’t know, but why did she lie about it?” I rail, my heart pounding. I’m going kill that bitch when I get my hands on her. “She sat there talking about Paris’s twin so calmly and all this time, she’s been assaulted, like Paris!”
“What if she didn’t know?” Lyle asks. “That Robin was attacked, I mean.” I am silent for a minute. Lyle adds, “This would-be assassin doesn’t seem to be too good at it, does he?”
“No, he doesn’t. Though with Robin, it was more luck than anything,” I say absently. “Shit, Lyle, you’re probably right.” Thoughts are racing through my mind at lightning speed. Did whoever hit Paris mean to try again? Did it matter what order the twins were killed in? If so, does the fact that the twins didn’t die mess up the killer’s plan? Was the plan only to incapacitate the twins and not kill them? If the killer is one of Ursula’s children, are the other two in danger? Or is the killer one of the children such as the luscious Lois, but someone who views the twins as outsiders, therefore the ‘real’ siblings are safe? There are too many questions surrounding the attempted murders that I just can’t answer. The only thing I can say for certain is that they have something to do with Ursula. I am so sick of her lies and subterfuge, I jab her number on my cell phone before I even glance at a clock. I normally don’t call people after nine o’clock, but I’m willing to make an exception. I get no answer on her cell, and I don’t want to leave a message. I call her home phone.
“Hello?” A boy’s voice answers. I immediately deduce that this is one of the two sons.
“May I speak to your mother please?” I ask politely, keeping a cap on my anger. After all, it’s not this kid’s fault that his mother is a manipulative liar.
“She can’t come to the phone right now,” the voice says, just as politely. I wish I could remember the names of Ursula’s sons, but I can’t. I know they have something to do with James Bond, but that’s the extent of my memory. “May I take a message?” The words are carefully enunciated, and I have no doubt that the boy has pen in hand ready to jot down my message word for word.
“Please tell her that Rayne Liang, that’s R-A-Y-N-E L-I-A-N-G called and that it’s imperative, uh, urgent that she get back to me as soon as possible.” I force myself to speak calmly.
“Yes, Ms. Liang,” the boy’s voice says softly, hovering somewhere between man and boy. “You have a nice night.”
“She’s not answering her cell,” I inform Lyle who is still scanning the web for more information of Robin’s attack, I presume. I read the rest of the article, but there isn’t much. The police are following up leads, if anyone saw anything, etc. The usual things the cops say when they have no idea what happened.
“Let’s go back to the living room and brainstorm,” Lyle suggests, shutting down my computer. I detour into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea and to grab a beer for Lyle. We are sipping our respective beverages on the couch as we think.
“Would you agree that Ursula is the center of this somehow?” I ask, taking a long drink of tea. There are so many pieces slipping through my fingers; I’m frustrated that I can’t hold on to any tangible facts. “That we can cut out your ex, Paris’s ex, and Billy from the gym?”
“Yes,” Lyle nods, drinking his beer. “I would say that Ursula or Lois is the logical suspect. If I had to bet, I’d put my money on Lois with Ursula covering for her.”
“I agree that Lois is the best suspect,” I say slowly. I frown, looking at my cup of tea. There’s something I’m not grasping, something shimmering just out of my reach. “She has the motive; she has the means, but did she have the opportunity?”
“I wonder if there’s any way to find out if either Lois or Ursula has been out of state the last couple days?” Lyle tosses back the rest of his beer then sets the bottle on the coffee table.
“Maybe if I talk to the kid again. Make up some story,” I suggest. “If only I could remember what the boys’ names were.” Damn my stupid memory.
“Desmond and Sean,” Lyle says immediately. At my look of surprise, he adds with a grin, “I’m a Bond freak.”
“I guess somebody has to be,” I shrug. “So what reason can I give one of her sons for wanting to know if either his mom or sister were out of town Wednesday?”