Tag Archives: chapter four part two

Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter four, part two

“How was your day, dear?”  My mother greeted me as I knocked on the back door again.  Even though there were fewer reporters out front, I still didn’t want to deal with them.  I never understood people who talked to the media in the midst of a horrible tragedy.  The only thing I’d say to those vultures was, ‘Get the hell out of my face before I kill you’—otherwise known as, ‘no comment’.

“It was ok,” I said slowly, slipping inside.  I didn’t tell her about my strange conversation with Tommy as it would just worry her.

“Your Auntie Zelda called.  She’s worried about you.”  Zelda was my mother’s sister and an inveterate brooder.

“Of course she is,” I said, slipping off my shoes.  “Auntie Zelda worries about the depletion in the ozone layer, the deforestation of the world, the extinction of exotic species, just to name a few.  I’d be surprised if she wasn’t worried about me.”

“You know your cousin, Frieda, is a cop.  She told Zelda that the consensus in the department is that you were the real target.”  My mom followed me as I walked into the living room and turned on the television.  Taking the remote from my hand, she turned it off.  I refrained from sighing at her heavy-handedness and reminded myself that I was lucky she had taken me in.

“So, tell me something I don’t know,” I replied, plopping down in the recliner.  I pushed back so the feet section of the chair kicked out.

“This is not a joke, Beezus,” my mother said impatiently, squatting next to the recliner.  I waited to see if she could find a Ramona comparison but highly doubted it.  Murder was out of the realm of the Quimby family.  “Remember when Ramona got her own room and was afraid to sleep in it because of the gorilla book?”  I nodded, knowing that she wouldn’t go on until I had responded.  “This is the opposite of that.  You’re insisting on sleeping in the room even though there’s a live gorilla waiting for you.”  I rolled my eyes.  Even for my mother, that was stretching.  “I know you use humor as your defense, but this is serious business.”

“I know it is, Mom,” I said, closing my eyes.  “I just can’t think about it too much without freaking out.”  Before either of us could say anything else, there was a rap on the sliding doors.  Mom went to let in Rafe who looked about as tired as I felt.  His countenance brightened when he saw that I was in one piece.  He hurried over to kiss me on the cheek after inquiring how I felt.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter four, part two

“Geez, I can almost feel sorry for her,” Lyle mutters once we make it safely outside.  “Her whole fucking life is falling apart.”

“At least she has her husband,” I say lamely, pulling the phone out of my purse.  “God, I would give anything for a cigarette.”  Lyle silently pulls a pack out of his shirt pocket and hands it over.  I look at him in surprise.

“Paris’s.”  That’s all he says, but it’s enough to crack his façade.  The tears start flowing again.  I allow him to cry as I open the pack of cigarettes—American Spirits—which, thankfully, carries a lighter as well.  I pull out one and light it up gratefully, allowing the nicotine to enter my system.  I flick on Paris’s cell and stare at the number.  Lyle is still crying.

“Lyle, listen to me,” I say softly.  While I am sympathetic to his pain, I can’t have him falling apart on me.  “You want to find out who did this, right?”  Lyle nods his head, gulping back his sobs.  “Then help me.  Do you recognize this number?”  With those well-chosen words, Lyle sucks it up and stares at the phone’s display.  He shakes his head before holding out his hand.  I’m puzzled until I realize what he wants.  I light up a cigarette and hand it to him.  He falls upon it as a starving hyena would a carcass.  “I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I don’t.  Quit years ago.  Only once in a while.”  A social smoker like me.  I puff on my cigarette before dialing the number on the screen.

“Hello?”  A delightfully husky voice answers.

“Um, hi.”  I am at a loss, feeling like a telemarketer making a cold call.  “Ma’am, you don’t know me, but—”

“Are you going to sell me something?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You from a charity?”

“No, ma’am.”

“I just wanted to get that out of the way.  Proceed.”  She laughs exuberantly, her personality practically spilling through the phone lines.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter four, part two

I bring up Paris’s birthmother, something both of us have let slide.  She did call Paris the afternoon he was hit.  Is it merely a coincidence that on the day she calls, Paris is hit?  That’s too much to swallow, although coincidences do occur.  Lyle and I look at each other, thinking the same thing.  Where is Paris’s cell phone?  Lyle had assumed the doctors had it, but he isn’t sure.  We have to get the cell phone to find out if there is a record of Paris’s birthmother’s phone call.  I curse Paris silently for his love of drama.  If he had just told one of us who she was before he was hit, we wouldn’t have to waste time tracking her down.  Lyle and I both start shoveling in the our food as fast as possible, gabbing the whole time.

We are short in the way of suspects, and we start tossing things out into the air.  Lyle mentions that Jenna has been calling Paris on his cell lately, begging Paris to come back to her.  I am disconcerted as I thought she had finally gotten over Paris.  He hadn’t mentioned a thing to me about Jenna calling him, but it’s probably because he knew I’d give him hell for getting involved with her in the first place.  I can’t believe she’s calling him again.  They only dated for a month, and she’s acting as if they’re Romeo and Juliet.  Lyle is more sympathetic than I, however, remembering some of his own pathetic behavior at her age.  My face flushes as I recall a few of my own escapades.

Of course, Lyle can’t let it slide and wants to know why I’m reacting so dramatically.  I try to deflect him by returning to the suspect list, but he’s not having any of that.  With a flare of intuition, he guesses the story has something to do with Paris and crows in delight when I am not quick enough to come up with a plausible lie.  When I realize that he isn’t going to let it drop, I order him to finish his sandwich to give myself time to think.  I don’t like thinking about the incident, and I certainly don’t want to tell Lyle as it involves me, stupid behavior, and Paris.  I have a hunch Lyle won’t be happy to hear it once I’m through, but there’s nothing I can do about that since he insists.  Besides, maybe it’ll take his mind of Paris for a minute or two.

The tale isn’t pretty, nor is it particularly interesting.  When Paris and I were sophomores in college, I was desperately unhappy for many reasons and watching Paris date bimbos of both genders did nothing to cheer me up.  I decided I was in love with him and tried to seduce him.  It didn’t work, and I fled from the apartment, humiliated.  I slipped into a bar and proceeded to drink myself into a coma.  Some snake approached me and persuaded me to go home with him.  We were just about to leave when Paris showed up and prevented the snake from whisking me off.  Oh, I protested, but Paris simply slung me over his shoulder and brought me home.  When we got there, I promptly fell apart—as well as threw up—and Paris held me until I regained my sanity.  After reaffirming his love for me and the fact that we make better friends than lovers, he carried me off to my bed.

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Rainbow Connection; chapter four, part two

“Name’s Sharise.”  She pronounces it with a hard ‘ch” sound.  “I’m here because my man was killed during a robbery attempt.  He was the cop who caught the squeal.”  Her eyes fill with tears, but she steadies herself.  “Motherfucker fired on him ‘fore he even had a chance to draw his piece.  Been seven months now, but might as well been yesterday.”  The woman to her left squeezes her hand, garnering a venomous look from the Latina who had spoken earlier.  I am confused.  Sharise had talked about the community earlier, so I assumed she was gay.  Perhaps bi.  I, of all people, should not be making snap judgments about anyone’s sexual orientation.

“Tudd.”  A white woman in her late thirties with short hair and a stout neck barks out her name.  She is sitting on Sharise’s immediate right.  “Dad wanted a son to carry his name, Todd.  Got five girls instead.  I was the last one.”  She pauses her gray eyes going cold.  “Was raped on the way home from work.  Teacher.  Elementary school.  Three months ago.  Had to give up teaching for now.”  The anguish on her face is excruciating to watch.  “That’s all.”

“Jennifer,” the Latina with the wild hair, but prim lips spits out her name.  She is in her early twenties, but acts like she’s three decades older.  “Like Jennifer Lopez, only not such a whore.”  I shift my eyes and see the cross around her neck.  “I am here because, well, my father, uh, touched me until I left for college.  I didn’t even talk about it the first year I was at State.  When I did, the counselor recommended this group to me.”  She pauses before adding, “I have to repeat that I’m uncomfortable with lesbians.  It’s a sin.”  There is a collective groan in the room.

“Yeah, well we’re fucking uncomfortable with right-wing bigots like you!”  Ashley sneers.  Even though she is not next in line, she goes, anyway.  “Fuck, I’m Ashley.  Like, my school counselor practically ordered me to get some help, or he threatened to throw me out of school.  I don’t need this bullshit, though.  Three more months and I’m out of here.”  Counselor?  School?  She must still be in high school.

“Ashley, don’t forget to tell Rayne why you’re here,” Carol interjects gently.

“Like, fuck.  So my mother fucking died a couple months ago.  So fucking what?  The bitch hated me, anyway.”  Despite her tough words, tears gather in her eyes.  She lets out a stream of curses so creative, I look at her in admiration.  Everyone turns to look at the Latina sitting next to Jennifer as she is the next in line, but she stares resolutely at the floor.

“Rosie?”  Carol says softly.  “Please introduce yourself.”

“My name is Rosie,” she says with great difficulty.  “My son, he is dead.  Shot.  Gangbangers think he down with Surenos.  They down with Nortenos.  They no bother to talk—just shoot.”  She is a thirty-something year old woman already beaten down by life.  “Ten months ago, this happens.  I think about him every day.  My sister, she works here.  Tells me to come.  She makes me.”  She stops, her face wet with tears.  She sobs noiselessly as if she’s used to holding it in.  “My baby, he is only twelve.  No reason they must shoot him.”  I vaguely remember reading about the case; it happened not far from where I lived.  There is a moment of silence before the black woman next to her speaks.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter four, part two

“She give you a rough time?”  He asks as we get into his car.  For a moment, I can’t answer.

“Why didn’t you tell me you fucked Max?”  I blurt out.  I didn’t mean to ask him this way, but I can’t get it out of my mind.  The thought of him having sex with Max is just too repugnant to bear.

“What?”  Fortunately, Paris isn’t driving yet as he freezes at the wheel.  “Who told you that?  Did the inspector tell you that?  How did she know?”

“Apparently Max told her.”  Now that I’m working through the shock, I wonder why Max told the inspector in the first place.

Paris begins driving, and I prudently hold my tongue though I’m dying to jump down his throat for this one.  Put aside the ramifications concerning the murder, how could he not tell me?  Worse yet, how could he lie to me?  I feel like a spurned lover, as I’ve been completely honest about every exploit I’ve ever had.  How could he have held this back from me?  Paris struggles to explain that it was just one time early in their relationship before they both realized they were better off as friends.  Although he emphasizes that both of them made the decision, I have a feeling that Max would be more than willing to have a second round in the sack with Paris.  As I’m grappling with my emotions and trying not to feel too betrayed, the salient question pops into my head.  Why did the Max tell the cops about it if it really was just a one-night stand?  As I mull it over, I can’t escape the conclusion that Max is setting Paris up.

As usual, Paris blows his top when I suggest that perhaps Max doesn’t have his best interest in heart.  Despite everything he’s told me, there is definitely something going on between the two of them other than friendship.  Paris seems to have a blind spot about Max that even I cannot penetrate.  He accuses me of harping on her because I don’t like her.  While I admit my bias, I also point out that she’s the one who told the cops about them sleeping together.  She’s also the one who called him over to his place the night of the murder, perhaps to have him at the scene of the crime.  If the police are focusing on Paris as a suspect—and I think they are—it’s strictly Max’s fault.  By this time, we have reached our apartment, and Paris pulls up to the curb with a screech.  We don’t say anything else until we’re in the apartment.

“Rayne, you know I love you, but you are way out of line with this.  I don’t want to hear another word against Max.  She is not trying to frame me, and I’ll never forgive you if you tell that inspector this cockamamie theory of yours, understand?”  He glares at me, daring me to make one of my trademark flip responses.  I simply sigh and throw up my hands.

“I give up.  It’s on you.”  I walk into the kitchen to grab a beer from the fridge.  I don’t want to fight with Paris, but I think he’s been shortsighted about this.  I can’t promise I won’t mention my theory to the inspector if it seems appropriate.  I will not let Paris take the fall for something he didn’t do.

Paris does not take kindly to me walking away from him, and he follows me into the kitchen.  His voice is combative as he won’t let it go.  I’m more than prepared to stop talking about Max and how she’s out to get him, but Paris won’t drop the subject.  I rummage in the fridge so I won’t have to look at him as he rants, but he shuts the door firmly and turns me to face him.  He shakes his finger in my face as he admonishes me not to be bullheaded as I usually am and to think before I do anything.  I retaliate by telling him not to treat me as a child because I’m not one.  I walk back into the living room, my heart pounding.  Something about Max has him all turned around, and I have no idea what it is.  I hope whatever he has with her is worth losing his best friend over.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter four, part two

“Auntie!” Coral throws her arms around me and squeezes me hard. She’s still dressed in her black business suit, and I feel a flash of envy at her luxurious curls, which she inherited from my sister. Plus, she has a figure that makes grown men cry. “Come in, come in!”

“Auntie!” Michelle and Ing-wen (named for the First Lady and for the Taiwanese president, respectively. Ing-wen is called Ingrid by Americans), scream as they both tackle my knees. They are adorable, chubby, two-year-old twins with black curls and enormous brown eyes that tilt slightly at the edges. They have cocoa-colored skin that I could just eat up. They’re wearing matching jumpers, both dark blue, and they’re tugging at my hands. “Come play with us!”

“Girls, let Aunt Megan get in the house first.” Coral scolds her daughters, but lovingly. The girls back up and allow me to enter.

“Ms. Liang! Megan! So nice to see you. So sorry it’s for a sad reason.” Jamal Harrington fills the room as he enters. He’s a behemoth of a man, but all muscle. His dreads reach halfway down his back, and he fills his suit nicely. He also loves chess and has trounced me in it a few times.

“Good to see you again, Jamal.” I shake his hand before taking off my shoes. I follow the girls into the living room where they have two jigsaw puzzles for kids strewn across the floor. One is of kittens and one is of puppies. About half the pieces of each puzzle are filled in.

“Ooooh, I love puzzles!” I sit on the floor and study the pieces. Of course, I know where the pieces go, but I pretend to study them intently.

“Look!” Michelle picks up a piece and crams it into a space where it doesn’t belong.

“Not there, silly!” Ing-wen pries the piece out and puts it in the right place. Michelle immediately socks her in the arm, and Ing-wen starts crying.

“Girls.” Jamal folds his arms across his chest and looks sternly at his daughters. “We do not hit in this house.” This is directed at Michelle. “We also don’t make fun of others.” This is aimed at Ing-wen. Both girls mumble a ‘sorry’ before going back to their puzzles.

“Hey, girls. Does this piece go here?” I pick up a kitten piece and point at the puppy puzzle. Both girls burst into giggles, their spat forgotten.

“That’s not a puppy piece!” Michelle covers her mouth with her hand, but she can’t stop laughing.

“It’s a kitty piece!” Ing-wen claps her hand in glee.

“Oh, right! I think it goes here.” I make a great show of putting the piece in its right place before smiling at the girls. They smile back at me before returning to their puzzles. I look at them fondly, then see Jamal looking at me speculatively. Not in the, ‘I’d like to bed her way’, which would be flattering if not awkward, but in a ‘I’m not sure what to make of this woman’ kind of way. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’m good with his girls, but I don’t have kids of my own. Maybe I’ll tell him why one day. Maybe. The doorbell rings, so Coral goes to answer it. I’m sure it’s my sister, so I keep playing with the girls.

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Dogged Ma: Chapter four, part two

Chapter Four, Part Two

“Girl, you are so working that dress,” Ned said, snapping his fingers as he looked me up and down.  “I swear I must be gay because even the sight of you looking so luscious isn’t enough to get me hard.”

“Thanks, I think,” I said as I locked the door behind me.  “You look pretty hot yourself.”  He was wearing a custom-made tux which fit him perfectly.  His tie and cummerbund were silver, which I liked better than black.  “So, what have you decided?”

It turned out that he hadn’t, so we had to hash out the pros and cons the whole way to his parents’ house.  I suggested that we say he jumped the gun a little bit because he’d been thinking of proposing, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  Then I could say that I was the one who’d turned him down, therefore saving face for his parents in front of their guests.  Ned didn’t want to make me the bad guy, however, as it was his fault we were in this mess.  I didn’t mind taking the rap if it would make things easier for him.  He was determined to tell his parents the truth, but couldn’t decide if it was better before or after the get-together.  It was hard to say because either way, he was fucked.  Either way, his parents lost face.  We reluctantly agreed that the best thing to do was to go through with the party and tell his parents after.  Then they could tell their friends I’d dumped him or some such nonsense.

“You’re the best,” Ned said, squeezing my hand.  “That’s for you.”  He waved vaguely in the direction of the backseat, and I carefully undid my seatbelt so I could grab the package.  I turned back around and buckled up for safety—not that I really needed to—before opening the nicely-wrapped gift.  Inside was a Hermes scarf that was a luscious blend of silver and plum.

“Oh, Ned, it’s beautiful,” I sighed, holding it up to my neck and admiring myself in the mirror in my visor.  It didn’t match my dress so I didn’t put it on, but I mentally planned my outfit for Monday to include some purple so I could wear the scarf.  On second thought, scratch that.  It was too high-toned for where I worked.  “Why can’t straight men have your sense of fashion?”  I mourned, carefully packing the scarf away and stowing it under my seat.  “It’s just not fair.”

“We’re here,” Ned said tersely, both hands gripping the wheel.  I patted him on the knee to calm him down, but I didn’t think it helped.  He parked the car and rooted through his pocket, bringing out a small box.  “Put this on.”  He opened it, and a diamond ring sparkled within the box.  I gasped because I’d never seen a rock that big—except for on his mother’s hand, of course.

“Ned, you didn’t buy that, did you?”  I couldn’t even touch it for fear I’d break it or something.

“No, it’s my grandmother’s.  My mother gave it to me to give to you.”  Ned slipped the ring onto my third finger, and it fit me perfectly.  I couldn’t take my eyes off it; it was so shiny.  “I guess we have to go in.”  He walked around to my side of the car where I was ready and waiting.

“You’ll be fine,” I said softly as Ned helped me out of the car.  I normally didn’t go in for that girly shit, but something about wearing a formal dress brought out the genteel in me.  Not to mention a rock the size of Gibraltar. “You have God on your side, remember?”  Ned smiled wanly as he offered me his arm.  The ring on my finger felt heavy, though I knew it was just my imagination.  I wouldn’t breathe easily until I gave the ring back to Ned, which would be at the end of the evening, hopefully.

“Darling!  You look beautiful!”  Mrs. Chang air-kissed me, critically checking out my outfit.  She was a tall, languid woman with jet-black hair that came from a bottle these days.  It was pulled up in a severe chignon, and she was wearing a black dress that looked like a Vera Wang.  Knowing her, it was.  Big diamonds glittered from her neck and ears, as well as her wrists and fingers.  She was attractive only because she had the money to achieve a certain style.  “Edward, you look so handsome as well.”  Mrs. Chang fussed with Ned’s bow tie, though he had tied it perfectly.

“Margaret, so good to see you,” Mr. Chang boomed, engulfing me in a warm hug.  He was a good-looking man, also over six-feet tall.  It was easy to see where Ned had gotten his looks from.  Mr. Chang’s hand strayed south of the border for a nanosecond.  I still couldn’t get over this highly-religious man copping a feel every time he saw me, but I wasn’t going to make a fuss this time around.  There were more important things to think about, namely how to break it to Ned’s parents that he was gay.

“The ring looks perfect on your finger,” Mrs. Chang cooed, holding my hand up to the light.  “My mother would have been so happy.”  A tear showed up in the corner of her surgically-enhanced eye, but it didn’t dare fall.  “You two make such a striking couple.”

“It’s about time you two got married.  You’re getting on in years, Margaret.  You and Edward will want to start having children right away.  You’ll have them baptized at the Taiwanese church, of course.”  Mr. Chang still had his hand on my back as he guided me towards the living room.  I pressed my lips together so I wouldn’t say something inflammatory, such as that I was already pregnant with a child who needed no blessing.  Mr. Chang brought out the worst in me, and we’d had quite the rows in the past.  However, I kept repeating my mantra that nothing mattered except getting Ned through the night, and I was able to ignore Mr. Chang’s blathering.

“I was thinking of rose and ivory for your colors,” Mrs. Chang said to me, swooping on me from the other side.  Mr. Chang dropped back, presumably to exhort Ned to do his manly duty and procreate.  “I think you would look lovely in ivory.  We Asians have the perfect skin tone for it.  I know Vera Wang personally, and I think I could get her to whip up an original for you.  Wouldn’t that be grand?  What color do you think your mother will be wearing so I don’t clash with her?  She would look stunning in a dark blue whereas I look my best in black.  Oh, I know it’s considered taboo in some circles to wear black to a wedding, but it’s so slimming.”  She was skeletal, but that wasn’t the point, I guess.  I didn’t contribute to the conversation because I was having a difficult time not gagging.

“Tell them now,” a voice boomed in my head.  “Don’t let this farce go on any longer.”

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Trip on This: Chapter Four (Part Two)

Chapter Four (Part Two)

“Hello?”  I growl into my cell phone as I speed home.  If I was irritated or upset before, I’m furious now.

“Hey, it’s Roberto.  What’d you find out?”  He’s speaking in a low voice which means he’s at work and not on a break, naughty boy.

“The motherfucker rented the office from his lawyer for ten thousand for the day.”  I lay it on the line as I cut off an asshole SUV driver who thinks he’s hot shit.

“What the hell?”  Mowgli is understandably bewildered.

I explain the whole encounter from start to finish, not leaving out any details.  As I’m relating the story, my anger grows.  It has been a very long time since someone’s made a fool out of me on such a grand scale, and it’s leaving a sour taste in my mouth.  I pride myself on being on top of things—I have to be in my line of work.  Something like this slices to the guts of me.  It twists me up inside until all I can think about is how nice my hands will look wrapped around DiCalvo’s throat.  The satisfaction I’ll receive squeezing the life out of him as he begs for mercy.  By the time I’m through with him, he’ll think prison is the best idea he’s heard of in a very long time.  Mowgli patiently listens as I spew out the vitriol that is eating away the lining of my stomach.  He knows from experience not to interrupt when I’m on a roll.  Even when I’m finished talking, however, he remains silent.

“Say something,” I demand, giving the finger to the shit-head in the Jimmy who thinks it’s his god-given right to occupy two lanes simultaneously.

“I don’t like this, Del,” Mowgli says, his tone low, but firm.  “What’s your next step?”

“I’m going to find out more about the girl,” I say, cutting neatly in front of a Honda Civic who is timidly crawling along in the fucking left lane.  People, please, I’m begging you not to drive in the left lane if you’re not willing to speed.  I like the states on the East Coast where it’s mandated by law that the left lane is only for passing and you must immediately move back to the right once you’re through or be ticketed.  It’s a brilliant concept, and I don’t know why it’s not used everywhere.  “I want to know what she did to get herself fucking killed.”  Not that I care about the girl, but if she’s going to mess up my life, I have to find out why.

“What was her name?”

“Angelica Sylvian,” I say.  DiCalvo tried to rush past his slip, but

I have a good memory for names. In fact, I can be pretty sure this was a truth because he was pissed when he said the name. Good. One actual fact in a sea of lies.  “Looks like she was pretty once.  Long black curls, cat-green eyes.”  I frown as I picture her face.  “I think she had a mole on her lip like Marilyn Monroe.  She was wearing a white dress.”  Amazing what I can remember when I’m not in panic over possibly being arrested for murder.

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” Mowgli says.  “Do you have a lawyer?”

“What do I need a lawyer for when I got you?”

“Well, I know of one if you need her.”  Mowgli is not in the mood for jokes which is too bad because I am.  I could use some serious cheering up.  “Is there anything you want me to do?”

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