“It’s about time, girl!” Paris coos into the phone. “I was getting performance anxiety waiting for you to call.”
“Don’t flip out on me,” I caution him as I walk to the well-lit corner of the street.
“What? Oh my god, you’re hurt!” Paris screeches theatrically. He only turns on the camp when it’s the two of us as it is now. “Miss Thing is probably walking as we speak, ignoring what Sister Paris done told her.”
“Paris, I need you to pick me up.” I read him my street coordinates, not in any mood to joke. “Please hurry.”
“I’ll be right there.” Paris drops the act and clicks off the phone. As I wait for him, I keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. I’m afraid the car will come back to try to finish the job, but nothing happens. I’m able to relax by the time Paris comes barreling down the street towards me in his black Honda Accord.
“Hey,” I say as I drag myself into the car. I feel as if it ought to be three in the morning rather than nine-fifteen at night.
Of course, Paris wants to know what happened. I ask where Lyle is and am informed that he’s waiting at the apartment because Paris wanted alone time with me. He still hasn’t started the car, and I know he won’t move until I give him an explanation. I take several breaths before blurting out that someone tried to run me over. I quickly amend the statement, saying that perhaps the person was merely trying to scare me. Paris, who had started to pull away from the curb as soon as he saw I was going to speak, nearly runs into a lamppost. I implore him to keep his eyes on the road while I tell him my pitiful saga. The more I think about it, the angrier I get. Why is someone trying to run me over? It’s not like the last time when I actively took a part in the investigation. I’m trying to keep out of this investigation, but am being targeted just the same—first by the cops, then by the murderer, if that is who tried to run me over.
Paris is angry as well that I went back on my word to call him when the meeting was over. When I point out that I hadn’t exactly promised, I am greeted with frosty silence. When we arrive back to the apartment, Lyle asks if anyone wants a snack. Once he realizes that Paris and I are not talking to each other, he assumes a serious expression. He waits several seconds before asking what the hell is wrong with us. He says it pleasantly, but with a stern look for each of us. Of course, neither Paris nor I want to be the first one to speak as that would mean losing the battle, so minutes tick by with no one saying anything. Lyle has a look of bemusement on his face whereas I’m sure Paris and my face are duplicates of stubborn determination. Finally, Paris cracks.
“Somebody thinks she’s invincible and doesn’t need to display even a modicum of sense,” Paris hisses, flapping his hands at Lyle. Paris refuses to look at me which is fine by me.
“What is he talking about?” Lyle asks me. Evidently, he’s learned early that it does no good to talk to Paris when he’s in this kind of mood.
Sighing, I rehash the story one more time. Now that I’m out of danger, my hands begin to shake. I felt little more than indignation while it was happening, but now the terror hits me. Instead of scolding me as Paris had, Lyle clucks over me in concern. I am grateful as I couldn’t take a second ass-chewing. Paris interjects the part about the person trying to kill me, glaring at me as he talk. I know that he is so worked up to hide his fear, but I am not in the mood to put up with it. Lyle rebukes Paris, telling him the last thing I need is his diva act. I morosely wait for Paris to flip further into the act, but to my amazement, he calms down. He apologizes, wrapping his arms around me.
After a gratifying Kodak moment, the three of us sit down to talk about the ongoing investigation. Lyle hadn’t heard much about the two murders, so Paris and I tell him everything we know. I wonder what the link is between the two women and if it’s strong enough to convince the cops that the murders are related. I don’t want to go back to the group if it’s going to end up killing me. Paris muses about whether Ashley’s murder or Rosie’s murder is the primary one. It’s a good question, and something I hadn’t thought of. Lyle and I agree that Ashley’s murder has to be the primary one because otherwise, a link between the two just doesn’t make sense. It’s well past midnight when I call it a night.
“Thanks, boys, for helping me out.” I yawn, stretching as I stand up. “Night. Have some fun for me, ok?” After pecking both of them on the cheek, I go to bed. For the first time in a long time, I sleep through the night without having a nightmare. I wake up refreshed, hopeful that I might be finally leaving the last investigation behind.
I dress in nice black slacks and a blue blouse. I don’t normally dress up for work, but I’m in a good mood and I’m going out for a drink after work and who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and find someone who isn’t intimately involved with a murder investigation or laden with issues. I eat a bowl of cereal without throwing it up. Cookie Crisps. Optimistically, I drink a glass of orange juice which settles nicely as well. I wash up after myself and walk to work. I’m in such a good mood, I whistle. The air is chilly, but not too cold for this time of year. I make it to work early, which is a portent for a good day. Not that I am often late, but I am rarely early. I grab a cup of coffee, power up the computer, then check my email. I have an email from my sister, which I am hesitant to open. The subject is ‘Answering your email’ which doesn’t clue me in to what it contains. I finally click it open under the theory that I’m in too good a mood to be totally devastated if it’s the evil Libby showing her ass.
Rayne. Thanks for the communiqué, but I need more information. I need to know your flight info, where you are staying as I do not have room for you—I can suggest several excellent hotels nearby—if you’re planning on talking politics, will you be shaving your legs, etc. In other words, details! There isn’t enough time in the world to do what I need to do in order to be ready for the wedding and of course, Wallace isn’t much help at all. You know how guys are about these sort of things! Later, Libby.
Actually, I don’t know how guys are because most of the guys I hang out with are fabulous with wedding details. The email is, by Libby standards, mild, and I am optimistic that we can be cordial to each other. I email her back with the information requested without mentioning that I’m planning on asking Lyle to come. I speed through the rest of my emails which includes a personal salvo from Vashti. I hesitate a long time before opening it, emotions flooding me as I stare at her name. I have not talked to her since the last get-together with the girls, but I have been thinking of her. I open the email. It’s full of nothing but ramblings. Near the end, she tacks on a line about wanting to see me in person and alone so we can talk. I am not ready for this so I stash the email in her folder and resolve not to let it ruin my good mood.
The rest of the day goes swimmingly because I maintain my determination not to let anything bother me. When Alicia, the lead counselor, waddles over to my desk to inform me that I have to do something so terribly important for her right that very minute even though she has sat on it for a month, I smile sweetly at her and say it’s no problem. When I catch my supervisor and the director of the entire agency talking animatedly about the latest foreign flick they both just had to see when they should be working—as is their wont to do—I simply chuckle knowingly and go about my merry way. And when a fifteen-year old boy hits on me while asking for a dollar, I don’t even lose my cool as I turn him down on both accounts. I take it all in stride which makes me think I may have this trauma thing licked. Time whizzes by as I fill each moment with meaningful work. By the time four o’clock rolls around, I am satisfied with a job well-done. Quinn shows up at my desk exactly five minutes past the hour, beaming to beat the band. We decide to go to the Lex—perhaps I’ll get lucky.
The entire way there, she’s babbling about the guy she’s living with and how they are just ‘roommates with benefits’. She assures me that she’s still a lesbian, but just ‘taking a break’ from women. She looks like she’s lost five or ten pounds in the last month or two, pounds she can ill-afford. I don’t even have to ask if she’s still sticking her fingers down her throat after meals, when she bothers to eat at all; I can see the tell-tale signs. I shake my head and wonder what I’m doing out with this woman. She is irritating beyond belief and only periodically amusing. It’s her persistency that makes her difficult to put off. I don’t remember if she has brothers and sisters, but if she does, I’m sure that she’s the youngest. We order as soon as we get there and take our drinks to a nearby table. Quinn’s eyes are scanning the room as she continues to chat.
“I need this,” Quinn says as she drains her drink in one gulp.
“You eat today?” The question slips out of my lips before I can stop myself. She gives me a dirty look, but doesn’t answer.
“You know, that woman who died? The second one? The one who was murdered? The one in the group?” Quinn keeps elaborating even though I am well-aware of whom she is talking. She doesn’t even wait for me to nod before continuing. “I have a friend who lives in Marin County. That dead woman was her maid. My friend, Jessica, says she used to snoop all the time. The dead woman, what was her name?”
“Rosie,” I interject, unable to listen to Quinn say ‘the dead woman’ one more time. “I read it in the paper.”
“Rosie. Rosie used to snoop in her drawers. Jessica even thinks Rosie followed her sometimes because she’d see her in the grocery store. What would the maid be doing in Jessica’s grocery store? The maid lived in the Mission! Jessica said Rosie was a good maid, but because of the snooping, Jessica fired her.” Quinn giggles as she continues. “Jessica was having an affair, and Rosie found some letters from her lover. She was stupid enough to ask Jessica for a raise saying she’d tell Jessica’s husband about the letters. Jessica said to go ahead then fired her.”
“Rosie tried to blackmail your friend?” That puts things in a different light. The Rosie I knew didn’t seem like she had enough backbone to do something like that, but I would never have guessed that she was a snoop, either.
“Oh, she didn’t call it blackmail, but that’s what it was.” Quinn signals for the bartender to come over and orders another drink. I’m still working on the first. “Jessica talked to other friends of hers, some of whom actually gave the woman a raise.” Quinn shakes her head at the folly of people with secrets.
I let her babble, thinking about what she just told me. Rosie worked in Marin County. Ashley lived in Marin County. It’s not a stretch to think that Rosie worked for Ashley’s family and saw something she shouldn’t have, then tried to benefit from the situation. It might not necessarily have been the murder; I don’t think Rosie was stupid enough to try to blackmail a murderer, but who knows? If the scenario is true, then perhaps the deaths are connected, but have nothing to do with the group. That would certainly be a relief. I wonder how I can find out if Rosie actually worked for Ashley’s family. The papers didn’t mention anything about a maid. Not that they necessarily would have if she was irrelevant to the story. Maybe if I visited Ashley’s neighborhood and talked to her neighbors. I shake my head, wondering why I’m even thinking of becoming involved in this investigation more than I already am. Perhaps because someone tried to run me over. I take a dim view of things like that.
“Rayne! You’re doing it again!” Quinn raps on the table to get my attention. I sigh, but focus back on what she’s saying. “I don’t get Chet sometimes; I really don’t.” I refrain from rolling my eyes. She’s back on her roommate again, and I don’t have the patience to mollycoddle her about him. “He knows that we don’t have a relationship, and yet, he gets jealous if I talk about having a date. I don’t think it’s right, do you?”
How the hell did we end up back here again? It seems we can’t go ten minute without her blathering about dramas in her life that are totally of her own making. Personally, I think she gets off on knowing that she has this guy wrapped around her little finger. He’s her back-up plan—the one who keeps the home fires going while she frolics through the clientele of the Lex. I can tell by the smug face that she realizes this as well and just wants me to confirm her perspective. So, of course, being the contrary woman that I can sometimes be, I bluntly tell her to let Chet off the leash if she’s really his friend. Predictably, she sulks and calls me a prude. I don’t know how to get the message across that there’s nothing prudish about treating someone with respect, but I give it the old college try. As I imagine, she does not take kindly to the criticism and works herself into a snit. I tune her out again. I keep repeating for her to stop sleeping with him if it’s bothering her so much until she finally shuts up about it.
Then she starts talking about quitting her job. She’s tired of working with juvenile delinquents for little pay. She’s only been on the job for less than six months which doesn’t speak highly of her level of commitment. She doesn’t know what she wants to do instead; she just knows she wants to quit. She comments about finding a sugar mama who’ll support her in the manner to which she could easily become accustomed, and the sad thing is that I don’t know if she’s joking or not. She goes on to say that she’s not quitting yet, but that it’s a dead-end job. If she thinks program coordinating is a dead-end job, what must she think of mine? The more I get to know her, the more I see we have nothing in common. It seems to me that we would be better suited as colleagues than friends.
I wonder how much longer I have to listen to her burble about her dead-end job, her ‘roommate with benefits’, her ‘timeout’ from dating women, her desire to be a kept woman and all her other crap. The more I listen to her, the less I enjoy her company. I want to find a polite way to tell her to shut up, but there really isn’t one. Again, I curse myself for not standing firm behind my decision not to spend time with this woman outside of the agency. She isn’t paying attention to me, anyway. She is crossing and re-crossing her legs to show them off to anybody interested in looking. She tosses her hair behind her shoulders and does all the typically feminine things to show that she is available. Her blouse is unbuttoned enough to show a healthy amount of cleavage. I discreetly yawn as she continues to natter. In self defense, I begin looking around the room as well. There is one woman at the end of the bar who catches my eye—tall, lithe, black, Afro puffs and rounded ass—but she leaves on the arm of another woman. All the good ones are taken, damn it.
“Rayne, you have got to stop doing that.” Quinn pounds on the table again and stares at me. “You keep tuning me out!” I see that she has a fresh drink in her hand and if my guess is correct, she’s been drinking on an empty stomach. As she’s around five-feet two inches and under a hundred pounds, that means she’s quite drunk. The first time we went out to drink, I ended up taking her back to her place in a cab which I paid for. I do not want a repeat of that performance, but I am also not her keeper.
“I’ll stop tuning you out when you have something interesting to say,” I retort, suddenly fed up with the situation. I catch the bartender’s eye and point at my glass.
“What?” Quinn snorts in disbelief and almost spits up her drink.
“Quinn, for the past hour, all you’ve been talking about is the job, your boyfriend, and other things that have no interest to me. Try a new topic. How about the political situation with that goofball in office? Or, what about the increase of young gay males acting stupid because they believe AIDS is something you can live with now? Or even, what the hell was Sandra Bullock thinking with her last movie? Any of these topics could be the start of a fascinating conversation. Pick a topic that has nothing to do with you or tell me why I’m here.” I can be firm when I have to, which is usually when I’ve reached my limit for bullshit.
Suddenly, Quinn is finding the bottom of her glass extremely compelling as she cannot keep her eyes off it. The bartender, a cute, petite woman with a slender figure, dark brown curls and slanted green eyes, hurries over with my drink. She flashes me a warm smile before returning to her post. I barely look at her as I am watching Quinn turn an interesting shade of red. I am about to prod her when she opens her mouth. Seems Chet’s birthday is coming up, and his biggest fantasy is being with two women at one time. Quinn wonders if I would like to help her fulfill his fantasy. I sigh, wishing she hadn’t brought this up. Not only am I no longer attracted to her, I have no desire to be involved in the drama that is her love life. In addition, we are coworkers; this could be potentially embarrassing.
I gently let her down, using the ‘let’s not mix business with pleasure’ excuse so I don’t have to tell her that I have no desire to sleep with her. That would be unnecessarily cruel. Instead of letting it drop as she should, she pushes. She says all switch-hitters like orgies, which is ridiculous. It’s such an old stereotype, I’m surprised she’s trotted it out to try on me. I don’t know why the idea that all bisexuals will fuck anything that moves has persisted throughout the years, but it’s something I’ll argue passionately against when I’m in the right mood. Right now, however, I just want Quinn off my back. I’m beginning to get mad that she won’t be gracious about it and let it go. She must have seen something in my face because she finally stops trying to persuade me. By the time we’re done arguing, I’m exhausted.
“I’m heading out,” I say, pulling my jacket on. “You want me to walk you home?”
“I’m not going anywhere.” Quinn stares at me defiantly, her lips thin. “I’ll just have to find Chet another birthday present.”
“Have it your way.” I shrug. I’m relieved that she is miffed at me as perhaps she’ll leave me alone. “See you tomorrow.” I make my way into the night, thinking about what she told me. If Rosie saw something she shouldn’t have and tried to get money for it, who would know? Her sister, the one who was interviewed. I dimly remember something about Rosie finding out about the clinic from her sister who worked there. I wonder if it’s the same sister. I veer off course and make my way to the clinic. It’s after five o’clock, so I have little hope of finding the woman there, but maybe I can uncover some information about her.