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.”

“Listen to me,” Rafe said carefully, sitting back down.  “It’s crazier to think someone just showed up at the park and said, ‘I think I’ll shoot someone today.’  That’s out-and-out nuts!  It must have been someone you know.”

“Rafe, come on.  Are you saying someone hates me enough to…you don’t mean that!”  I clutched my teacup in my hands and sipped, even though it was rapidly cooling.  I hate tepid tea, but I needed to drink something to wet my suddenly-dry throat.

“Use your head, querida!  This wasn’t a random thing.  Somebody was after you and happened to kill Lydia instead!”  The sentiment made me sick to my stomach, and I just made it to the bathroom in time.  I was on my knees getting rid of the dinner I had just ingested with Rafe hovering behind me.  “Oh, baby, I’m sorry.  I can be such an ass sometimes.”  He held my hair as I retched, then handed me a glass of water when I was through.

“Kill me,” I said numbly.  I had accepted that someone shot at Maisie the character, not at Lydia, but it never really sank in that I was the intended target.  “Somebody wanted to kill me.”  I allowed Rafe to lead me back to the dining room and even accepted another cup of tea.

“You did tell the cops, right?”  Rafe said, watching me sip my tea.  His eyes burned into my own, much like the eyes of the cops.

“I, ah, well, I’m sure someone did,” I said weakly.  “I didn’t really think it mattered,” I said defensively as Rafe continued to stare at me.

“This isn’t a game, baby.  You need to tell the police what you know.  I think we should go now.”  He stood up, but I placed a hand on his arm.

“I’ll do it tomorrow, ok?  They’ll probably be at the park.”  I tried to smile, but my lips wouldn’t cooperate.

“You’re not going to work tomorrow, are you?”  Rafe’s voice was getting heated again.

“I have to!  I need the money.”

“What good is money going to do you if you’re dead?”  Rafe said loudly, smacking his hand against the table in frustration.  I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t entirely convinced that the bullets had been intended for me.  Surely the person would have called out my name if it were that personal, wouldn’t he or she?  I certainly hoped so.  “Anything else you remember?  Did Lydia seemed troubled to you in any way?”

“No, I, not really.”  I cast my thoughts back.  “Why are you asking if you’re so sure I was the target?”

“Because I might be wrong,” Rafe said simply.  “I think it was meant for you, but I’m not sure.  Was there someone in the changing room when the two of you hatched your brilliant plan to switch costumes?”

“Sarcasm not appreciated,” I said sharply.  I thought about it before responding.  “No, I don’t think so.  Antoinette came in to taunt us, but neither of us really said anything to her.”

“Antoinette, isn’t she the one you don’t like?”

“Not the only one, but yeah.  I don’t like her.”  I told him what she had said and how Lydia had given her the finger, but we both agreed that wasn’t enough of a reason to kill someone.

“What if the shooter didn’t mean to kill her?”  Rafe asked, then immediately answered his own question.  “That’s stupid.  Even if he didn’t mean to kill her, there had to be a reason he wanted to kill her.  Or you.  Piss anybody off lately?”

“Not really,” I said in bewilderment.  “You know Eddie was mad because I’m always late, and there was that thing with my rent.”  I was late a few months in a row, and my landlord threatened to evict me.  “Other than that, though, not really.”  Something niggled the back of my brain, but I didn’t want to give voice to it.  Unfortunately, Rafe was scrutinizing my face and caught the moue I made.

“What?”  He leaned forward, staring at me hard.  “What did you just think of?”

“Nothing.”  I let my hair fall forward so it would cover my flushing face.  I sipped my tea, though it was cooling rapidly.

“Bet, what is it?”  Rafe folded his arms across his chest in such a way that his biceps bulged ominously.  Normally, I appreciated the show, but not at the moment.

“You’re not going to like it,” I sighed, setting down my teacup.  After composing myself, I told him the story.

A few months ago, I was invited to participate in Dykes ‘R’ Us, a variety night of sorts for queers.  Ellen Lightfoot, one of the prominent dykes in Minnesota started it two years ago in retaliation of all the PC crap that floated through the dyke world.  She’s a transwoman who hated all the rules and regulations that most dykes placed on their events.  Vegetarian, smoke-free, scent-free, drug-free, drink-free; she called them fun-free.  She loved performing, but she chafed at all the restrictions, so she decided to organize her own event.  It caught on like wildfire from the more outlandish queer girls who wanted to be able to smoke on stage or shove a dildo up their cunts—or someone else’s—without being castigated or ostracized.  And because Ellen believed in true freedom, she even allowed men to participate in her events, though each act had to have at least as many women as men.

Dykes ‘R’ Us occurred every other month in rotating venues.  There were stand-up comics, one-woman performances, musical acts, artists, vigilantes, vaudeville acts, guerrilla grrls, PPGs, living sculptures, and many other performances.  The last time I performed, I did a one-woman performance piece that had me stripping to the nude.  I like to combine political commentary with humor as well as grapple with identity issues, and that time was no exception.  I rocked the damn house as I performed the last two minutes of my ten-minute piece completely naked.  There wasn’t a sound in the theater except for me projecting to the last row.  When I was finished, the whole place rose to their feet and gave me a standing ovation.

I had to take my bows three times before the audience would subside, and even then, there were catcalls wanting me to return.  I went to the ‘green room’—really, just a tiny room where people changed—and transformed myself back to a normal person.  Once I’m done with a performance, I like to shed any vestige of that persona and not talk about it again.  I put so much prep time and energy into creating the persona and perfecting it, I am finished with it when I finally perform.  The magic is gone—given to the rapt audience.  It’s the reason acting was so addicting—the high was entirely fleeting.  People don’t understand and persist in talking to me about my past performances.  As I was removing my makeup, there was a knock on the door.  I opened it, and there’s this woman standing there, her eyes shining.

“Yes?”  I asked, tilting my head quizzically.  There was no security to speak of at events like these, not that security was ever needed.

“You are the one,” the woman said immediately, holding her arms out to me.  I stiffened, stepping back from her invitation.  She was a tall woman—approximately five-ten—but rail thin.  She had no curves, and the clothing she wore only emphasized her slenderness.  Black, ankle-length dress with long sleeves.  Not her best choice.  Her gingery hair was tied back in an untidy bun while her gold-flecked green eyes were covered by rectangular glasses.

“Excuse me?”  I regretted opening the door the minute she spoke.  Her voice was nasal and without inflection—she slurred her words just the slightest bit as well.

“God sent you to me, I can tell.  My name is Kylie Sorenson, and you are the chosen one.”  The woman’s eyes were shining as she continued to hold her arms out to me, advancing into the room.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” I said softly, careful to keep out of arm’s reach.  I looked behind her, relieved to see Ellen walking by.  I gestured to Ellen, who was over six feet herself, and she obediently came over.

“Is there a problem here?”  Ellen asked easily, her eyes sliding back and forth from the woman to me.  Ellen was a bouncer at Lucy’s, so she was well-experienced in throwing people out.

“I would like this woman to leave,” I said, keeping my voice even.  No reason to upset the woman.  “Would you be so kind as to show her the way, Ellen?”  Immediately, the smile on the woman’s face shifted to an anguished frown.

“I cannot leave you,” she said, tears streaming from her eyes.  “You are my goddess.”  She fell to her knees, lunging forward.  Caught off-guard, I was unable to step out of the way and ended up with her clutching my legs

“Come on,” Ellen said, effortlessly picking the woman up around the waist.  Unfortunately, the woman wouldn’t let go of me so I was nearly upended.  “Come on, love.  Let her go.”  Ellen called everyone love, but this woman seemed to take it personally.

“I am not your love,” she howled, her fingers reluctantly pried from my legs.  “I am her love.  No, I am her slave.”  She tried to break free from Ellen’s grasp, but Ellen held on.  With an apologetic look at me, Ellen marched the woman away.  I slammed the door shut, but couldn’t lock it because other performers had to use it.

“Yeah, so?”  Rafe cut into my recitation, impatient with my story.  “I mean, it sucks that you had a deranged fan, but you always do.  What’s one more?”  Rafe’s worshippers were all gorgeous, pouty-lipped women whose biggest quirks were that they wanted to spread chocolate all over his body and lick it off.  For some reason, I get the broken ones.  After one of my readings, a slim black man came up to me and thanked me for telling his story.  He burst into tears as he managed to tell me that he was a Christian Republican who couldn’t tell his adopted parents that he was gay.  I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t a therapist, but I just stood there and listened.

“That’s not all, Rafe,” I said, put out because he had interrupted me.

I put the incident out of my mind because as Rafe said, I get the delusional ones.  One woman actually prostrated herself in front of me after one of my performances and declared herself willing to do my bidding.  One transman wrote me a fan letter in care of the AAR telling me how much I’ve changed his life especially as he’s going through a rough time since his bisexual lover dumped him for a transwoman.  I had one guy want to lick my platform shoes and actually got down on the ground in order to do so.  So yes, I was used to the oddballs.

The following week, I had the uneasy feeling that someone was following me.  You know how the hairs on the back of your neck prickle, and you just know someone is watching you?  That was what I felt at odd times during the day.  Once, I was in Avalon and whirled quickly around when I got that feeling, catching a glimpse of a shadow hurrying out of the store.  I followed, but I couldn’t spot anybody suspicious.  At my next performance, I flubbed up three times because I was distracted by the possibility that someone was watching me, and not for the performance.  I took to varying my routine, but it didn’t stop the hunted feeling I was receiving.

The next time I saw Ellen a couple weeks later, she handed me a manila envelope crammed with notes, letters, poems and such.  All with the same handwriting.  All with the same perfume.  The handwriting was large, sloppy and scrawled.  The notes were repetitious—how I was a goddess and the reincarnation of Kali herself.  The poems were erotic tributes to my womanly assets—namely, my nurturing breasts.  Page after page of this ilk, repeated ad nauseam.  I asked Ellen who the culprit was, but she never saw who left the stuff.  Every piece had my full name on it in bold, black letters—all caps.  We both had a sinking feeling it was the woman Ellen escorted out of Dykes ‘R’ Us that fateful night.

There wasn’t much I could do about it.  I visited the police, but they confirmed my suspicions that unless the person who wrote them actually showed up or threatened me, they didn’t have much recourse.  I didn’t tell my family about it, of course, because they would just freak.  First of all, they didn’t approve of my performance art—though how they would know since they’ve never seen me perform, I couldn’t tell you—and they refused to talk about me being queer.  Somehow, it was OK that Mona was gay, but the fact that I ‘played for both teams’ as my mother so quaintly put it, didn’t sit as well with them.  The idea of a female stalker was quite simply, out of their grasp.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”  Rafe asked indignantly, his chest swelling up in size.  “What good am I as your boyfriend if I can’t even protect you from unwanted attention?”

“I didn’t think she was dangerous,” I said impatiently.  I was tired of him interrupting.  “It was just a pain in the ass.”

“Still, you should have told me, querida,” Rafe said, softening his tone.  Lucky for him or I would have had to take the argument to the next level.

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