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Plaster of Paris; chapter five, part three

“Ok, you two,” my mother says firmly.  “You need to rest.  Go home.”  Lyle and I begin to protest through our tears.  The last thing I want to do is leave Paris.  “Go!  You need real sleep—not an hour here and there.  Take Lyle’s truck and crash at Rainbow’s.  I’ll stay with Catherine.  I have my car if I need it.”  When my mother decides on a course of action, the best thing to do is to follow it.

“I’m not going,” Lyle says firmly, not having as much experience with my mother as I have.

“You are going,” my mother replies, leveling him with a stare.  I shudder at the memory of that well-timed look.  I’ve seen it rarely over the years, but the effect is emblazoned on my soul.  “Ideally, you’ll stay away until morning, but barring that, get at least five hours of sleep.  It’s seven-thirty now.  That means I don’t want to see you until after midnight.”  She lifts her chin, daring Lyle to defy her.  To his credit, he recognizes an immovable force when he sees one and simply nods his head.  The last thing I see as Lyle and I leave the cafeteria is my mother buying more food, presumably for Mrs. Jenson.  Lyle and I walk to the truck in silence.  We are well on our way home when Lyle finally speaks.

“You going to work tomorrow?”  He is gripping the steering wheel so tightly, his knuckles are white.

“I have to,” I say simply.  He knows better than most why.  I took a month’s leave of absence after the first murder case and pretty much exhausted my goodwill with the agency.  After the second murder case, I was made to feel guilty for taking a week off.  In addition, people were starting to looking askance at me at work.  I can tell they’re thinking, ‘What’s wrong with her that she’s been involved in two separate murder investigations?’  I’m not thrilled that there has now been a third attempt.  If I’m fortunate, however, it will be thought of as a simple hit-and-run.

“I’m closing shop for a few days,” Lyle says.  He is the owner of a novelty shop on Mission Street and sets his own hours.  “We should check the news when we get to your place.”  He is obviously thinking the same thing I am as far as to how the ‘accident’ is being reported.  When go inside my apartment, there are messages on the machine.  I zip through them quickly.  I’m half-listening, when the last message catches my attention.

“…lucky.  Next time, I won’t miss.”

“Lyle!  Come here!”  Lyle had gone into Paris’s room to find something to wear and comes hurrying into the living room.  He’s wearing a pair of Paris’s black jeans and one of his silver shirts as they are roughly the same size.  My heart twists just looking at him.

“What it is?”  Lyle’s eyes are troubled as he sees the look on my face.  It’s on the tip of my tongue to demand that he take off Paris’s clothes, but I swallow my comment.  I press play on the answering machine instead.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter five, part three

“It sucks,” Billie says hoarsely, slurping at her beer.  “She was my girlfriend, you know.”

“Really?  I thought she was found by her girlfriend,” I say innocently.  “Was that you?”  I line up for a long table shot and neatly sink the one.  The two is on the far rail with the seven in between.  I don’t think I can make it.

“That bitch wasn’t her girlfriend; I was.”  Billie folds her massive arms across her chest and glares at me.  “We just had to keep it quiet.  Moira didn’t want to tell anyone because she said it would cheapen what we had.”  Good God!  This woman who looks like a common thug has the heart of a bad romantic.  I try to imagine this goon in bed with Moira, and I have difficulty trying to repress a reflexive shudder.  Although, Billie would have the muscles to tie Moira down.  “I haven’t been able to stop crying since I found out.  I saw her just the night before, and she told me she was going to leave her gi—the bitch for me.  She was so happy when I saw her.  Then this.  I bet that bitch did it.  If I find out she did, I’m going to fucking kill her.”  Billie finishes her beer and glowers at me as I safety the next shot.  Billie marches to the table and without aiming, shoots.  She’s nowhere near the two so I have ball in hand.

“I read that the police have other suspects.  I wonder who?”  I haven’t read any such thing, but I’m counting on Billie’s grief to cloud her judgment.

“That fucking professor who had a crush on her and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”  Billie snorts, pulling a pack of cigarettes from her back pocket.  Catching the look of the bartender, she puts it away.  There is no smoking in bars in California any more, a fucking travesty if I’ve ever heard one.  Drinking and smoking go together like sex and, well, anything.

“What professor?”  My heart pounds slightly, not wanting her to realize that I am questioning her.  Fortunately, she’s too absorbed in her sorrow to wonder why I’m asking her so many questions.  Besides, she’s eager to talk about Moira and probably doesn’t have many close friends with whom to share her sad story.

“The one who acts like he’s from fucking Britain.  Something Banks.  God, I hated him!  The old fart didn’t know what to do after his wife left him.  Thought Moira was the answer to his dreams.  When she told him she wasn’t interested, he tried to rape her.  What a prick, and him acting so goddamn proper all the time.”  Her nostrils flare in disgust.  Her ill-temper is not helped by the fact that I am now up to the five and have a gimme shot.  I ponder her words for a minute.  She must be talking about Emil.

“Emil Banks?”  I throw the name at her, and she doesn’t even blink.

“That’s the asshole.  I should have sliced off his dick when I had the chance.”  It is clear that Billie is one of those dykes who hate men although it seems to me that she’s not too fond of women, either.  She a pure misanthrope, that’s what she is.  I have no idea what Moira saw in her, unless it was the stalker adoration this woman is emanating.  “Then there are her students.  Take, take, take.  They took, whatever they could from her, but never gave nothing in return.  They all got stupid little crushes on her, then turned hateful when she wouldn’t go out with them.  Maybe one of them did it.”

“Where were you that night?”  I hold my breath, ready for her to explode.  To my relief, she merely shrugged.

“I was here.  Playing pool.  You can ask anyone.”  She presses her lips together and begins fiddling with her cue.  It’s clear that this well of information is about to run dry, so I slip in one more question.

“How did you meet her?”

“Right here.  She came in with the bitch one night over a year ago.  The bitch had a headache and left early, but Moira stayed.  She help me close the bar that night.”  A smile breaks across Billie’s pudgy cheeks, transforming her from scary to almost beautiful.  She hesitates, then pulls out a thin gold chain from under her t-shirt.  “Moira gave me this.  Said it signified our true love.”  It’s a simple gold chain with a tiny heart pendant on it.  It’s completely out of character for Billie, which makes it that much more pathetic.

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Trip on This: Chapter Five (Part Three)

Chapter Five (Part Three)

After working out, Trip is no more settled than she had been beforehand, so she decides to pay her old friends a visit.  She showers and changes into black jeans and a black long-sleeved t-shirt before covering that with her black trench coat.  It’s her work outfit, and that’s what she’s doing tonight—working.  She stops at her bank and withdraws five hundred dollars, tucking it into her pocket.  If she needs more, the girls know she’s good for it.  She has to be if she wants them to continue talking to her.  She has her Bowie knife with her, which she carefully straps to her calf and pulls her jeans’ leg down over it.  It’s a beaut with a six-inch blade—a girl’s best friend.  Trip knows better than to go to the ‘Loin without protection, though truth to be told, she rarely goes anywhere without her knife.

“Looks who’s here, girls,” a skinny white skank named Snow sneers as she scratches her arm listlessly.  “It’s Suzie Wong herself.”  Trip hates being reminded of her working days, but lets it slide this once.

“Shut the fuck up, Snow,” Mona Lisa, the one who used to talk about the Louvre, snarls.  “You just mad because Trip made something of herself.”  She’s white trash, too, but better-looking than Sugar with her white-blond hair done in a retro-eighties style and lime-green micro-mini-skirt.  Her makeup is a riot of colors that no sane person would dare attempt.  Pink and green eye shadow, silver lipstick, black nail polish.  Trip wonders how much Mona Lisa Lisa is raking in these days.  She’s had better days, and she looks ridden hard and put away harder.  Despite it all, though, she still sticks up for Trip.  It’s one of her better qualities—her fierce loyalty.

“You better step,” Snow says, flipping her hand at Mona Lisa.  The other hookers are pretending not to notice the altercation as they scan the streets for possible johns.  “I’m tired of you flapping your big-ass mouth at me like you was somebody.”  Snow’s eyes are ugly as she juts out her hip.

“Listen up, bitch,” Mona Lisa hisses, stepping closer.

“Hey, Mona Lisa, let it go.”  Trip reluctantly gets between the two women.  She knows fighting is part of the life, but she needs information and she doesn’t want to have to scrape Mona Lisa off the street to get it.  Mona Lisa can hold her own, but Snow didn’t get her name because she likes to ski, and like many cokeheads, Snow doesn’t feel the pain until after her high wears off.  Since that’s never for her, Trip prefers to keep Mona Lisa separated from Snow.

“Trip, you’re getting soft.  You know how it is on the fucking streets.”  Mona Lisa is not backing down, and neither is Snow.

“Do it later, then.  I have to talk to you.  All the girls.”  Trip stares hard at Mona Lisa, then Snow.  “I need some information, and I need it fast.  I need to know if there’s any word on the street on someone talking about me.”

“Yeah, they be saying they miss that ass,” a girl calls out.  The other girls whoop it up.

“Then they get a piece of this,” a tiny, Asian girl slaps her nonexistent butt.  “They forget all about you.”

“Have you seen this girl?”  Trip pulls out a picture of Sylvian at which few of the girls even bother looking.

“Hey, it’s Angel!”  Mona Lisa says, blanching.  She grabs the picture and shoves it in her coat pocket before anyone else can get a good look.  “Come on.”  She grabs Trip and drags her to the Phoenix Hotel.  “We have to talk in private.  Can you front for a room?”  Trip nods.  It’s the least she can do since Mona Lisa won’t be working while she’s talking to Trip.  The room is $79, and Trip hands over two fifties and her credit card number to Candace, the smiling woman behind the counter.  To her credit, Candace doesn’t even smirk as she hands back $21.

“Have a nice stay,” Candace calls out as Mona Lisa hustles Trip to their designated room.

“Tell me,” Trip says the minute they step into the room.

“I gotta drink something to talk about this shit,” Mona Lisa announces.  “Mind?”  It’s not really a question, and Trip doesn’t bother answering.  She sits on a chair and waits for Mona Lisa to situate herself.  When Mona Lisa is well-oiled, she plops on the bed, spreading her legs.  It’s an unconscious decision, but it makes her look cheap.  “Trip, they been talking about you.”  She has one of those miniature bottles of alcohol in her hand, and she gulps it down in one swallow.  “They saying you heading for a fall.  ‘Course, the girls are jealous because you’ve got it good now.”  Her eyes stare at Trip.  “That Cocoa did right by you, didn’t she?”

“Yes, she did.”  Trip doesn’t feel guilty for getting out of the life nor for her new profession.  She works hard, pays her taxes like a good American—consultant work, only skims off twenty percent—and owes nobody except Cocoa anything.  And Mowgli.  She can never repay what she owes him.

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