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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter three, part four

I leaned against the wall, thinking about Shannon and Aaron.  They had been a couple ever since they met at the U ten years ago.  He had been a philosophy major; she, a fine arts major.  They were one of those couples who simply belonged together.  You could tell it when you looked at them and you envied them for it, but you didn’t get in their way.  I met them a year ago at a cabaret.  I had been performing—it was an Asian event, and I did a piece on the role of Asian women in American cinema.  I was in my element, mimicking all the stereotypes foisted upon Asian women by aging white males with geisha-girl fetishes.

Aaron and Shannon approached me after the performance.  While Shannon gushed about the intricacies of my work and the implications on the dialogue between the East and the West, not to mention the Diaspora of Asians born in America who have no place to call home, Aaron stood slightly to the side and just smiled.  He caught my eye immediately as he was an intriguing mixture of African American, Cherokee Indian and Mexican.  He was over six feet tall with a tight body and even tighter mind.  His dark brown eyes, slanted cheekbones and full lips made him look like a model—which he was.  As much as I tried to ignore him, I was instantly attracted to him.  I could tell by the look in his eyes that he felt the same.

Shannon blathered on, oblivious to the growing tension between Aaron and me.  Far from stepping back, Aaron subtly egged me on.  He would smile slowly, revealing even, white teeth, then dip his head in a nod.  He was leaning against a railing, his arms casually crossed in front of him.  He was wearing a leather jacket, despite the heat.  He would interject a trenchant comment now and then whenever Shannon took a second to breathe, which was once every five minutes or so.  She paid no attention to the side dialogue that Aaron and I were carrying out, continuing to dissect my performance.  I was surprised that she didn’t throw in her thoughts on oppression and slavery while she was at it, not to mention the Chinese prostitution trade when Chinese men were first allowed in the country. I pegged her as one of those liberal white women who were fraught with guilt.  Not my kind of person, but she was nice enough.

We became friends of sort.  I saw them once a month or so for the next half year.  Every time, Shannon would shoulder the bulk of the conversational burden while Aaron and I communicated without words.  We never openly flirted with each other as that would be disrespectful, not to mention breaking my moral code.  Instead, we relied on heavy eye contact to do our talking for us.  Any time my hand accidentally brushed against his, a tremor ran its way up my arm and jolted my brain.  I found myself invented ways of brushing against him whenever I could.

How did this sordid little story end?  With Aaron and me in bed, fucking each other’s brains out, of course.  I wish I could say it was just once, that we were both drunk, and that we both felt horribly guilty after, but nothing would be further from the truth.  A month after I met Rafe, I panicked because things were going too well.  Deep down, I believed that if my life was going smoothly, something catastrophic was bound to happen.  With Rafe, we were so simpatico; I went bonkers and fucked Aaron.  I put the moves on him; I initiated the whole thing—not to say he wasn’t willing—and it snowballed from there.  Aaron was fantastic in the sack, and I kept coming back for more.  We had a torrid affair for two weeks before Shannon caught us, at my place of all things.  I didn’t know—and still don’t to this day—how she found out about us, but it was an ugly scene.

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Duck, Duck, Dead Duck; chapter three, part one

“What the fuck?”  Rafe jumped up from his chair and stared down at me.  “She was wearing your costume?”  He started pacing, keeping his eyes pinned to me.  “You sit there so calmly telling me about your coworker being murdered and don’t bother telling me until now that it could have been you?  What are you, out of your fucking mind?”  His voice had risen appreciably as he ranted.  I said nothing, knowing from experience that I had to let his machismo cool down a bit before attempting to have a rational dialogue.  I slipped on my inscrutable Asian face, folded my hands on top of the table and waited.

“Oh, no you don’t!”  Rafe growled, his face turning red.  “You’re not going to sit there and play Buddha babe with me, not now.  Talk!  Tell me how you could hold back such an important piece of information until now!  You could have been fucking killed!  Don’t you think I deserved to know that right away?”

“Rafe, please,” I sighed, my tone as even as I could make it.  “I realize that fact, believe me I do.  This reaction is the very reason I didn’t want to tell you.”

“Well excuse the fuck out of me if I’m a bit concerned that my girlfriend may be shot in the back while she’s dressed as an oversized mouse!  Why the hell would someone want to shoot you?  And did you tell the cops?”

“What?  Huh?”  Not an intelligent response, but I didn’t like it when Rafe yelled at me.  Come to think of it, I didn’t like it when anybody yelled at me.  “Why do you think someone tried to shoot me?  That’s crazy.  You watch too much Mystery! on PBS.”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter three, part one

Lyle and I move a bit away to an unoccupied couch.  Now that there’s nothing else to do, I can’t help but notice our surroundings.  There are people everywhere, with every kind of wound imaginable.  One woman has an angry gash from her collarbone to her belly.  A knife wound, by the indication of the shredded dress.  She is being talked to by a nurse who quickly hustles her behind a door.  There is a small boy blubbering as he watches blood dripping from his knee which is embedded with slivers of broken glass.  I avert my eyes from the human suffering that is happening around me.  I rather watch the nurses and doctors rushing from one place to the next, intense looks of concentration on their faces.  They don’t even acknowledge each other as they hurry on their way, intent on their next assignment.  The walls are a dingy white, as if tired of offering brightness and comfort.  There is an older man arguing with the intake nurse, the volume of their argument increasing by the word.  I shudder and shut my eyes to block out all the stimuli.  I hate the hospital—as I’m sure most people do.  It’s ironic that the place which is supposed to be for saving lives is loathed by so many.

The hours pass with monotonous regularity.  Sometime during the evening, the inspector returns to question Lyle.  It takes a half hour, which is twice the amount of time she talked to me.  Lyle doesn’t want to talk about it, so we go back to waiting.  We also take turns napping.  First me with my head on his lap.  Then him with his head on my lap.  Neither of us is able to sleep for more than half an hour at a time, which doesn’t make for very restful sleep.  Lyle tosses as he sleeps, moaning softly for Paris.  I stroke his forehead, not wanting to cause him more agitation.  It’s strange how this terrible circumstance has thrown us together.  I like Lyle tremendously, but I haven’t really spent much in-person time with him.  Most of our conversations have taken place over the phone when he and Paris were in Memphis for Paris’s sister’s funeral.  Now, we are going to be spending much of our time together over the next couple weeks whether we like it or not.  Fortunately, I like him because it would be even more hellish to spend this kind of time with him if I didn’t.

The hospital isn’t quiet—not even at four in the morning.  There are patients still streaming in the door.  It’s Saturday night, so many of the wounded are hopped up or drunk as well as injured.  My admiration for hospital personnel increases tenfold as I observe the business they have to do.  I know there is no way I could handle dealing with this kind of large-scale tragedy on a daily basis without flipping my lid.  I lean against the back of the couch and close my eyes, even though it’s my turn to stay awake.  I don’t know why Lyle and I decided that one of us needs to be awake at all times, but it suddenly seems ridiculous.  If the doctors have anything to say to us, they can wake us up.  Why are we keeping this vigil?  What good is it doing Paris?  I’m sending him good vibes, but what he really need is a miracle.  For the first time, I allow myself to think the unthinkable.  I open my eyes, suddenly shivering in fear.

Paris is more necessary to me than any of my appendages.  I’d rather lose all my limbs combined that lose Paris.  He is more important to me than any lover I’ve ever had, except perhaps, Claudette, the girl I partnered with for a year of my life in high school—the longest relationship I’d ever been in.  I was shattered the day she killed herself after tiring of her battle with anorexia, and it was Paris who patiently put me back together.  It’s been Paris holding my hands the last few months when the nightmares visit each night.  It’s Paris who has cooked me tempting dishes every day, hoping it’d coax my capricious appetite to spring to life.  It’s Paris who kept me from drowning after my father was killed by a drunk driver.  It was Paris who showed me what it meant to love someone unconditionally.

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

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I know, I’m being gently shaken awake.  I stubbornly cling to the remnants of my lovely dream where I am having sex with a very alive Moira in so many creative positions.  I am just making her come for the third time when I finally emerge from my dream.  I am cross at having to abandon Moira, but I struggle to wake up when I see Paris’s face staring down at me.  His mouth is set and his eyes are grim, but he tries to force a smile to his lips when he sees that I’m awake.  Max is hovering behind him, her own mouth pursed.  Officer Clark is somewhere in the periphery, scowling as usual.  I have an impulse to tell him that it’s not catching, that he’ll still be as manly when he leaves as he was before he ever met us.  Somehow, I don’t think that will reassure him.  I stand up and stretch, trying to work out the kinks in my back.  I wince as my back cracks.  I am only twenty-eight, but I feel at least fifty.

“Let’s get out of here.”  Paris says through gritted teeth.  He directs a malevolent glare at Officer Clark who returns the favor.

“Where’s Inspector Robinson?”  I ask, hoping to get one more glimpse of her.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Paris spits out the answer, grabbing me by the arm.

“What am I supposed to do?”  Max cries out, grabbing Paris’s arm.  “I can’t stay here alone.”

“What do you want me to do about it?”  Paris snaps, tugging free from Max.  I glance at him in surprise.  I haven’t seen him this upset in quite some time.

“Can I stay with you?”  Max asks piteously.  She clutches at Paris’s arm again, hanging on with all her might.

“No, Max,” Paris says, his tone slightly softened.  It clear that his sense of responsibility toward her has ended.  “You’ll have to call someone else.”

“Fine!”  Max’s tone hardens.  “And I’ll have to tell the inspector what I know.”  I don’t like the look in her voice or the tone of her voice as she says this.  I don’t think she knows anything, but she’s more than capable of stirring up trouble.

“You do that, Max.”  Paris starts dragging me toward the front door.  “I’m leaving.  I’ll talk to you later.”  Neither of us say anything as he roars away from the curb.  It isn’t until we’re well on our way home that I dare to speak.

“Are you ok?”  I ask timidly.  Paris rarely loses his temper but when he does, he scares me.

“No, I’m not fucking ok,” Paris seethes, his hands clutching the wheel.  “That bitch actually thinks I killed Moira!”  I wince at his use of the word, ‘bitch’, but I chalk it up to his bad mood.  “She kept insinuating that Moira and I had a thing going.”

“Moira’s gay, isn’t she?”

“Yes!  She’s never been with a man, but that didn’t stop Miss Inspector from questioning our sexual history.”

“What possible motive could she pin on you?”  I wonder.  “It’s not like you really knew Moira that well.”

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Parental Deception; chapter three, part one

“We’re going to Ginger’s!” I say to Onyx and Jet, keeping my voice cheery. They eye me in suspicion as I produce the carrier. Of course, they flee at the sight of it, so I have to do the song and dance of placing treats in it and then pretending not to pay attention. Jet saunters into the carrier and scarfs down the Temptations. Onyx peeks her head around the corner, and I place three Temptations a few feet from where she is. She inches forward and eats them. I repeat this pattern until she’s right in front of the carrier. She and Jet touch noses, and I gently push her inside the carrier. She howls as I shut the door, but settles down once I put more Temptations in the carrier. I’ve already put their favorite toy mice in there—but not the catnip ones. I grab my overnight bag, the carrier, and my purse before going to my car. I text Rembrandt to let him know I’m on my way, and he texts me back telling me to drive carefully. There are more people on the road than there were in the morning, so I have to pay more attention to my driving. I still make it in decent time, and Rembrandt and Ginger are at the door to greet me. Once I’m inside, I set down the carrier and release the beasts. They and Ginger sniff each other to everyone’s satisfaction before they tear down the hallway. I take off my shoes and line them up before giving Rembrandt a big kiss. He’s wearing black chinos and a forest green button down, and I’m tempted to have a shag before we start baking. However, I know if we do that, then he’ll fall asleep, which means we wouldn’t start baking for a few more hours. It’s better to get the work done first, then have fun later.

“Have you eaten yet?” Rembrandt asks, grabbing my hand as we walk into the kitchen.

“I had a sandwich an hour ago, but nothing much.” Suddenly, I’m aware that my stomach is grumbling, and all I can think about is eating.

“I have some leftover lasagna I made yesterday. I haven’t eaten yet, either.” He pulls out a covered pan with more than half a sausage lasagna in it, cuts two generous portions, and nukes them. The cats appear out of nowhere, probably because they can smell the sausage. They stare up at the microwave without blinking, and I pull out a bag of Greenies from a cupboard to divert them. They eat the Greenies, of course, but then go back to staring at the microwave. Most cats are very food-driven, and they are no exception.

“How was your day?” I ask Rembrandt after grabbing a Diet Coke from his fridge. He stocks them especially for me, which is considerate of him because he doesn’t drink much pop.

“Good! I think I’m finally getting my perspective back.” He smiles, and I smile back at him. “It’s not a hundred percent, but I’d say it’s roughly at ninety.”

“That’s terrific!” I beam at him, thrilled that his eyesight is so much better than it was right after the attack.

“I’m still thinking about opening a restaurant, though. I really enjoy cooking.”

“You can do both! It’d be a shame for you to give up your photography.” My mouth waters as Rembrandt pulls the lasagna out of the microwave. He grabs a loaf of garlic bread and cuts us each a big hunk. He arranges two plates, adding a small green salad to each plate. He drizzles a raspberry vinaigrette on the salads before handing the plates to me. I bring them to the dining room, and the cats follow me, meowing the whole way. I give them each a piece of sausage, and they meow for more. I shake my head because too much is not good for cats, but they don’t care.

“There’s plenty more if you’re still hungry after the first helping,” Rembrandt says as he comes into the dining room. He has a plate of cheeses and crackers in one hand, and a plate of fruits (grapes, orange slices, strawberries, and blueberries) in the other.

“I think this will be plenty,” I say, eying the feast. “Especially if there’s dessert.”

“There is. Dark chocolate gelato.” Rembrandt knows my weaknesses, and gelato is one of them. “How are you doing? What do you think about that man who’s claiming to be your father?”

“I’m meeting with him on Friday afternoon. He pestered me into it.” My voice is bitter, but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t help feeling as if he guilted me into meeting with him again, even if he didn’t directly pressure me. “I am pissed off that Jasmine invited him to Thanksgiving dinner, by the way. I don’t want to deal with him.”

“You’re not going to be rude to him, are you?” Rembrandt asks, his eyes trained on mine. I’m miffed that he asked me that, though it’s not an unreasonable question.

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Trip on This: Chapter Three (Part One)

Chapter Three (Part One)

“Ms. Wire, I’m going to get straight to the fucking point.”  The short, balding, sweaty man leans over his desk, planting his fists firmly on the papers slopping around on top of it.  A picture of the man with a pretty, anemic woman cringing under his arm and three equally washed-out children teeters precariously on the edge of the desk before tumbling to the ground.  The man ignores the picture and glares at Trip as if the difficult situation is her fault.  She stares back at him, not dropping her eyes deferentially as he expects.  She doesn’t let punks like him get to her because she knows he needs her and not vice-versa, especially since she just deposited the last of the money Harrington gave her.  It is quite a thrill to look at her bank statement and see that many zeroes.  Per usual, Trip doesn’t answer as the short man postures but waits impatiently for him to get straight to the fucking point.  She glances around his office as he blunders about.  It’s dark and masculine with his chair ratcheted up so he could lord over his minions beneath him.  A Napoleon complex, indeed.

“This is what you might call a delicate situation.”  The man, who still hasn’t introduced himself, spits out the cliché with a straight face.  Trip doesn’t bother telling him it always is.  “Name’s DiCalvo, by the way.”  She can’t tell if it’s his first or last name, then decides it doesn’t really matter.  “It involves a girl and some indiscretion.”  Of course it does.  Trip sighs loudly to convey her boredom, but DiCalvo ignores her as he continues talking in his rapid-fire manner.  “Some bitch who thinks she can get away with something.  You know the kind of bitch I mean?”  Trip gazes at him, but doesn’t answer.  “I hate nothing more than an uppity woman who thinks she can jack me around by the balls.”  He pauses to wipe his forehead with a handkerchief, then starts to rant again.  “That’s why I don’t fuck around on my wife.  With her, I know what I’m getting.  With those girls out there these days, well, who knows what kind of crazy stunts they’ll pull?”

“I don’t do injury,” Trip informs him, watching his anger with a jaundice eye.  There’s a studied quality to his ranting, as if he’s practiced the lines.  She has the feeling that he is doing it for her benefit, not because he really means it.  “If that’s what you want, I’m out of here.”

“Shit, no, that’s not what I want.  I want that, I got boys who can do that.  I wouldn’t use an amateur like you.”  The scorn in his voice is obvious. “I mean, shit, sending a broad to do that to another broad is some sick shit, you know?  No way is that what I’m going to have you do.  See, this bitch, she’s a real ballbuster.  She thinks she’s got a gold-plated one, you know what I mean?  God, I hate bitches like that.”

“What’s your problem?”  Trip breaks in, no longer willing to play his game.  She has already decided to turn him down, so it’s just a matter of hearing him out.

“My boss, you don’t need to know his name, got entangled with this bitch.  Angelica Sylvian.  Shit!” DiCalvo stops, an upset look on his face. “Forget her name. it’s not important. What’s important is she’s trying to blackmail him.  Letters.  Pictures.  You know the drill.  We want them back.”  DiCalvo is dripping sweat by this time, despite the air conditioning.

“Where?”  Trip asks laconically.  Might as well get all the details before having the pleasure of telling this dick to fuck off.

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