“Ms. Liang,” the inspector nods at my mother, then frowns. There is the apparent problem of confusion of address with two Ms. Liangs in the room.
“You can call me Songbird,” my mother says helpfully, drawing a raised eyebrow from the inspector and a giggle from me. “Or Susannah,” my mother adds, anxious to make Inspector Robinson more comfortable.
“How about Mrs. Liang,” Inspector Robinson says cautiously. In this day and age, it’s more common than not to offend women by offering to call them ‘Mrs.’.
“That’s fine, too,” my mother says cheerfully. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Um, no, thank you, ma’am,” Inspector Robinson says, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. My mother has that effect on people. “Ms. Liang, would you please show me the mailbox??” Inspector Robinson is so bewitched by my mother that she doesn’t even protest when my mother trails behind us as we retreat downstairs again. I remember to lock the door.
“Here it is,” I say, stepping aside to let the good inspector view the remains of my mail box, which she probably saw on her way in. She keeps her hands in her pockets as she examines the box—there isn’t much to see.
“Did you touch anything?” She asks, her voice laced with weariness. My mother looks at her sympathetically, which doesn’t escape the inspector’s attention. There’s a rap on the door which startles my mother and me. “There’s the team. Why don’t you take your mother upstairs and wait for me there?”
“I didn’t touch anything,” I say rapidly. “But upstairs, the front door, there are scratches. I touched that, obviously.” She nods, smiles briefly, then goes to let her people in. I can hear one of them bitching loudly, probably raising his voice on purpose for my benefit.
“Christ, Inspector, this is fucking ridiculous. Why the special treatment? This chick your girlfriend or something?” Inspector Robinson’s response is immediate and scathing.
“If you object to doing your job, Donaldson, let me know, and I’ll be sure to inform your supervisor of your distaste.” Donaldson glowers at the inspector, but stops complaining.
“I like her,” my mother said admiringly as we reentered the apartment. I don’t bother to answer as I head for the coffee table where I keep the mail. I leaf through it, but don’t find anything other than bills and advertisements. “Do you think she’s a lesbian?” My mother continues speculating. “That comment her coworker made gives me hope.”