“You found it.” I looked up, startled by the sound of a voice. To my chagrin, Antoinette was standing in front of me with a gun in her hand. She was about six feet away from me, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t miss. She had an angry look in her eyes which was so unlike her usual vapid stare. She also looked as if she hadn’t slept in days. It made me wonder how much self-control it had taken her to get through the days while worrying about this hidden evidence at night. I remembered the pepper spray my dad had bought me which was sitting at the bottom of my purse as we spoke. I should have taken it as it would have come in handy, but too late for that now. “You couldn’t just let it go, could you? Fucking bitch.” Antoinette kept the gun trained on me, and there wasn’t a tremor to her hand. “Where did that asshole hide the shit?”
“In the filing cabinet,” I said numbly, my mind starting to shut down. I fought off the sense of terror, desperately trying to remain cognizant. It would do me no good to freak the hell out even though that’s what I felt like doing.
“Do you know how fucking gross it was to sleep with him?” Antoinette demanded, her eyes hard. “That tub of lard rubbing all over my body.” She shivered in remembered disgust, but didn’t move the gun.
“Why did you date him?” I asked, risking a question. I got the sense that she wanted to talk, and I wasn’t about to stop her. Hell, I’d encourage her to tell me her life story if it would keep me alive a few minutes longer.
“He said he’d promote me if I slept with him,” Antoinette replied. “I needed the extra money. It costs tons to go to school these days, even the U.”
“How did you meet Phillip?” I asked, throwing caution to the wind. I had a hunch that she would rather talk about Phillip than Eddie, and boy was I right.
“Eddie took me home to Thanksgiving dinner last year. I met Phillip then. We hit it off right away.” Antoinette’s eyes lit up as she talked about Phillip. I didn’t have it in me to tell her—especially when she had a gun pointed at me—that I thought he had seduced her just to manipulate her into embezzling from his brother. “He has this bitchy wife who doesn’t understand him at all. All she does is bitch at him to make more money, to be a successful man. She doesn’t even let him have sex with her but once a week if he’s lucky. Poor man.” Her face was flushed indignantly at the thought of poor, poor Phillip having to do without. I didn’t bother telling her that was an old ploy married men used to get sympathy from their mistresses. The wife doesn’t understand me. She won’t let me touch her. She makes me feel like a beast.
“So, what happened?” I tried not to let her see me scanning the room, gauging my options. Slim to none as by the time I picked up the phone, she’d have shot me dead. She was standing in the doorway which was across from the desk which meant that I couldn’t get past her.
“He was a perfect gentleman, but we got to talking while Eddie and Meredith, the bitch wife, watched football along with the rest of Eddie’s family. Phillip doesn’t care for football as he’s too refined for that.” Her tone made it clear that Phillip was the couth brother whereas Eddie was the big, fat dumbass. I didn’t think it possible, but I felt sorry for Eddie. “He’s such a sensitive soul. He really understands me.” Antoinette’s eyes were shining. For a minute, I felt a twinge of disgust for the men in this case who used the women in their lives so casually. Then, the terror overwhelmed me again. It didn’t seem like Antoinette wanted to kill me nor that she was in a hurry to do so, but I knew she was going to do it. I knew too much for her to let me live.
“How did you know I was here?” I asked. If I was going to die, I wanted my curiosity satisfied before I went. I thought she wasn’t going to answer the question, but she did.
“I followed you. I’ve been following you for days. On and off. I guess I was just lucky to catch you tonight.”
“You followed me?” I exclaimed before I could stop myself. Somehow, that unnerved me even more than this situation.
“I want to tell you about Lydia,” Antoinette said without preamble. She pulled up a chair and set it in front of the desk. It occurred to me that I liked this Antoinette much better than the breathy, insincere one. It’s too bad she’s going to kill me because we could have been friends.
Sorrow swept over me when I thought about my family, Liza, and Rafe. Especially Rafe. I missed him more than I could say. Why hadn’t I called him to let him know that I was coming here? Because he would have tried to talk me out of it. Like a normal person. Why hadn’t I seen until now how lucky I was to have a boyfriend like him? Sure there were things I didn’t know about him, but what I did know should have been enough to push me past my fear of commitment. I was a fucking idiot, and if I survived this, I would let Rafe know exactly how much I appreciated him.
“She saw me,” Antoinette said, crossing her legs. “One night I was here late working on the books. I usually wait until everyone is gone. No, I always wait. Unfortunately, I didn’t see her lurking. It seems she had a habit of that.” I remembered Tommy and had to agree. “She didn’t say anything to me at the time, but she snooped around when Eddie and I weren’t here and found evidence.”
“You kept it here? Why?” Even Antoinette couldn’t be that stupid. That’s one thing I couldn’t figure out. Why she would take the risk that Eddie would find it.
“No way Eddie would let the real book leave the office,” Antoinette explained. “I had to do the records here. I didn’t leave the other book here, but I forgot it one night. Lydia must have been waiting for me to make a mistake because she photocopied pages of both books. Once Eddie was dead, I didn’t see any reason not to keep both books here. Nobody gave a rat’s ass about the deaths except for you.”
“Did you stab me?” I asked, trying to assimilate what she was telling me. It was bizarre to see her sitting so calmly and relating this story like it was no big deal. I felt as if I were in the land of Oz.
“Let me tell it my way,” Antoinette said, her grip on the gun casual, but steady. “Lydia found out. She threatened to tell Eddie. I offered her money. She accepted, but I didn’t trust her. As long as she was alive, she’d be a threat to tell. She had to go.”
“It was your idea to switch costumes.” A statement, not a question.
“We had a little talk, and I innocently suggested that it would be fun to swap costumes. She pooh-poohed it with me, but I knew she’d suggest it to you. It had to look as if you were the target. That threw everybody off the trail. Then, when Eddie died, it was just assumed that he had seen something related to Lydia’s death and had to die for it. It was a brilliant plan if I do say so myself.” Antoinette looked pleased with herself, causing me to feel sick to my stomach. She paused before adding, “Yeah, I stabbed you. Had to make it look good for the cops.”
“What about shooting at me at my parents’ house?” I asked abruptly. I wanted to know everything. “Was that you?”
“What shooting?” Antoinette said, her brow furrowed.
“Damn that Shannon,” I cursed under my breath. She had to go making things complicated.
“What?” Antoinette asked, but didn’t bother letting me answer. “I can’t believe Eddie found out before he died. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Then, right before he died, he tells us that he hid evidence about our indiscretion. You can imagine how nuts that made us. Jerk.” I definitely was feeling sympathetic towards Eddie right about now.
“What’s going to happen with you and Phillip?” I asked, not because I cared but because I didn’t want her to stop talking. I figured that she wouldn’t shoot me as long as she was talking to me.
“Oh, he’ll divorce the bitch when their youngest children are in school, then we can be together.” Children? He has children besides the perv? God help us all. “Ok, Bea. I hate to do this, but you leave me no choice.”
My bowels wobbled and almost emptied themselves, but I managed to hold on. If I was going to die, I was not going to soil my pants doing it. At least not while I was conscious. I inhaled deeply, trying to calm myself. I did not want to die. I did not want them to get away with murdering three people. I did not want to leave my family and friends bereft. I didn’t know what to do, however, as my brain refused to think. I desperately scrabbled to think of something, anything, to delay the moment of my demise.
“Toss the packet and the book here,” Antoinette said, the gun never wavering. “I promise you I’ll make it quick. Not like Eddie. I’m a crack shot, don’t you worry.” That failed to comfort me as I was still trying to think of some way to stay alive. I picked up the packet and recalling my softball days, threw at Antoinette’s face as hard as I could. It smacked her in the nose causing her to yelp, flinch and drop the gun. I sprang to my feet and sprinted past her, thankful that she had sat down.
“You bitch!” I heard behind me. “Come back here!” I didn’t listen as I ran out of the green room and headed for my car. I fumbled with my keys, but finally managed to push the unlock button. I jumped in the car and locked the doors just as Antoinette appeared in the doorway of the green room, her gun pointed in front of her. I started the car as I pulled the cell phone out of my pocket. I roared out of the parking lot, the phone glued to my ear.
“9-1-1, how may I help you?” The operator’s voice was calm and soothing, though it wasn’t working on me.
“There’s a psycho bitch trying to kill me!” I screamed as I pressed on the gas. “She has a gun and she’s coming after me!”
“Ok, ma’am, calm down.” They must force the operators to say that as it made absolutely no sense. Calm the fuck down? What? And I had left the evidence behind. The only consolation was that Antoinette hadn’t had time to pick it up. She was right behind me and gaining. My mom’s Honda had better pick up than mine, but it still didn’t accelerate too quickly. Whatever Antoinette was driving was fast; I wondered if it was Phillip’s Jag. “Where are you?”
I gave her the details, trying to steer the car one-handed. My bad shoulder was throbbing, which wasn’t helping the situation. The operator wanted me to stay on the phone, but I needed to put it down. I screamed at her to get a hold of Detectives Bradley and Sands, but I didn’t know if she heard me before I tossed the phone on the seat besides me. It was starting to get dark out, which was a blessing. I didn’t want that psycho bitch seeing me any more than was necessary. I felt a jolt as she pushed into me. I had to get to the fucking freeway and fast, or she would run me off the road. I had told the operator I was heading for 35W, going northbound, and that’s what I did. Antoinette hit me again before I could reach the freeway, and I almost lost control of the car. Cursing under my breath, I grappled with the wheel in order to stay on the road.
As if that weren’t enough to worry about, the crazy bitch was rolling down her window so she could try to shoot at me while driving over seventy miles an hour and ramming into my car. The way things were going, it was more likely that she would kill herself than me if I could just keep the car on track. I paid no attention to the squawking noises coming from my phone—I had forgotten to turn it off—then I yelled that I was almost to 35W North just in case she could hear me. I flew onto the freeway, narrowly missing a car that was dawdling in the right lane. Some crazy person had made a mess of the on-ramp/off-ramps in Minnesota so the loony was going to exit in a bit. That didn’t excuse him going fifty fucking miles on the freeway, but it was the reason.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I merged into the traffic. I didn’t think even Antoinette would be crazy enough to try to kill me in this heavy traffic, but I figured wrong. As I was cruising in the left lane, I felt a bump on my tail. There was that crazy bitch again, trying to ram me off the road. The other cars around us gave us a wide berth for which I didn’t blame them. If I could have, I would have given us a wide berth as well. Because I couldn’t, I had to deal with Antoinette. Glancing in my mirrors, I slid over one lane to the right. I sent up a vague prayer that I wouldn’t hit an innocent bystander in my attempt to get away, but I had to do what I had to do.