“Where the hell have you been?” Matt snapped the minute I walked into the apartment. I took a long look at him before turning around and leaving again. I re-entered the room and held up a hand to forestall him from repeating his question.
“Hello, Matt. It’s good to be home. How are you?” I didn’t expect him to reply, but I had to let him know that he couldn’t treat me that way. To his credit, he backed down immediately.
“Sorry, Scar. I’m just going out of my mind. I shouldn’t take it out on you, though. How are you doing?” Matt allowed me to walk into the apartment and take off my shoes before we headed for the living room where we always had our confabs.
“Julia’s ex, Banana’s father, has AIDS,” I said without preamble. “Julia had to talk about it a bit, plus she wanted to know if I’d look after Banana this weekend. I said yes, of course.”
“That’s horrible,” Matt said, meaning it. “Of course we’ll look after Banana.” How like him to include himself in the promise even though he had nothing to do with it. What a guy. “Hey, Kayla wants us to go over. Did you talk to the cops?”
Shit. I had forgotten about the other messages on my voice mail. I checked it now, fast-forwarding through my sister’s command to call her. I knew my mother had made the rounds with my siblings, telling them what I had gotten myself into. Any time there was anything big happening in my life, Mel wanted to know about it because she got a vicarious thrill from living my life instead of her own Desperate Housewives situation. I shouldn’t snicker because she was perfectly content raising her rug-rats. Once in a while, however, she longed to be free again. That’s where I came in. We had this longstanding deal where I’d give her details of whatever adventure I happened to be experiencing in exchange for not hearing hourly updates on how Michael pooped his diapers or Tammy actually bobbed her head up and down. I liked my nieces and nephews, but I didn’t need to know the intricate workings of them.
“Ms. Hsu, this is Detective Martinez. I need you to call me as soon as possible. It is now two in the afternoon.” Barely perceptible pause. “You were right about the package.” Detective Martinez’s voice was decidedly neutral, as if he had to restrain himself from making additional comments.
“Ms. Hsu, this is Detective Daily. Call me or Detective Martinez right this very minute. Three-thirty. We have questions for you, and we must talk to you right away. No stalling, or we’ll send a squad car to pick you up and bring you back to the station.” Well, no attempt of neutrality on the part of the fair Detective Daily. She hated my guts, and she didn’t care if I knew it. Not a good sign. I had a flash of a petite Japanese American woman laughing with a tall, dark-haired man before it dissipated into the air.
“Ah, shit,” I sighed, hanging up my phone.
“What’s up?” Matt asked, looking at me with interest.
“I figured out why the female cop hates me so,” I said, leaning into Matt. I needed a solid shoulder to lean on, and it fit my head perfectly. “Her man cheated on her with a JAP. I hate those bitches.” Contrary to popular belief, JAP did not stand for Jewish Anglo-Saxon Princess, or whatever people thought it stood for. It stood for Japanese American Princess, which was infinitely worse. They were usually in their early twenties but acted as if they were twelve. They had the bodies to match, preferring to dress in cutesy clothes rather than clothing for grownups. They talked in high, sweet voices that made me grit my teeth, and they giggled in a way that made me want to slap them silly.
“So, what does that have to do with you?” Matt asked, stroking my hair. Despite the dire situation, my hormones started racing again. My body reminded me that it had been rudely interrupted the last time it tried to get some, and what was I going to do about it?
“I’m Asian. She thinks all Asians are sluts. Plus, she’s jealous because she’s not as pretty.” I turned to Matt, focusing on his lips.
“What are you doing?” Matt asked, amused at my antics. He knew me too well for me to try to subtly seduce him, so I was just blatant about it. I leaned forward to kiss him, savoring the taste of mint on his breath. He had a thing for Altoids, the wintergreen kind. I leaned into him, pressing my breasts into his chest. Matt was a confirmed tits man, and I knew exactly which buttons to press.
“Scar, we don’t have time,” Matt said hoarsely as he pulled back from me. Glancing down at his lap, I could see that he wanted to make the time, so I pushed it a bit by dropping my hand to his thigh. His nearly bare thigh as he was wearing shorts. I inched my fingers up his thigh, brushing against his erection. “Kayla wants us to go over—the cops want you to call them….” His voice trailed off as he reached for me, but the last words he said penetrated my lust-soaked brain.
“Shit, the cops,” I said, jerking away. I started fumbling for my cell phone as I explained. “Detective Daily said she’d have me picked up if I didn’t call. That was hours ago.”
“She was just bluffing,” Matt said, trying to feel my breast. I batted his hand away, feeling guilty as I did. After all, I was the one who started the flirtation. I had to call the cops, though—bad things happened when you ignored the men and women in blue.
“Martinez,” the voice on the other end barked. “Speak.” Feeling like a dog, I did.
“Detective Martinez? It’s Scar Hsu. You asked me to call you.”
“Hours ago!” Detective Martinez reminded me, but there was a hint of laughter in his voice. Or was it just wishful thinking? “Ms. Richardson got the package. Have you talked to her yet?”
“No, not yet.” I didn’t want to admit that I had put it off, but that’s exactly what I had done. Matt slid his hand under my shirt and bra, pinching my nipple as he did. I tried to remove his hand, but he had the advantage as I only had use of one hand.
“How did you know—look, I have to talk to you in person, and I’m meeting Ms. Richardson at her house in an hour. I’m sure she wants to talk to you, anyway, so how about meeting us there?” Although he phrased it in the form of a question, it really wasn’t. I agreed with a sigh, then hung up the phone.
“You jerk,” I said, attacking Matt hungrily. He had been fondling me while I was on the phone, and my pheromones were not to be denied. “We have an hour to get to Kayla’s house. Think we can make it?” It was a rhetorical question as we could be as fast or slow as we wanted to be. This time, we met the definition of a quickie and were on the road in half an hour.
“It took you long enough,” Kayla said crossly, yanking her door open. “What have you been…” Her voice trailed off and her eyes widened. Something feral in her was set off, and she scowled at us. “You’ve been fucking, haven’t you? You little shit.” She lunged at me but missed as her coordination was shot due to the coke. She tumbled to the ground, lying there stunned. “Fucking bitch thinks she’s better than me. Where the fuck is my shit?”
“Listen to me, Kayla,” I said softly, bending down so she could hear me. “You’ve been holding out on me, and I don’t like it. If you don’t tell me exactly what’s going on, I’m giving your stash to the cops.”
“I’ve told you everything,” Kayla said sullenly, not moving from her spot. She looked up at Matt who folded his arms across his chest and glared down at her.
“That’s not what your secret stash tells us, Kayla.” I prodded her lightly with my toe, not wanting to really hurt her. She shrieked, anyway, as if she’d been shot.
“Maaattt, are you going to let her do that to me?” Kayla began crying as Matt lost his patience with her, reaching down to haul her to her feet.
“Stop it, Kayla,” Matt said with exasperation. “Scar is right. You’re acting like you don’t want Danny to come home.”
“How dare you?” Kayla gasped, putting on her best injured voice. “I love my son. I’d do anything to make sure he’s safe.”
“Then why do you keep lying to us?” I snapped, reaching the limit of my patience. As she was about to speak, I added, “Why are you hiding things from us? And don’t say you aren’t. I doubt we have everything, even now.”
“I just want things to be the way they were,” Kayla sobbed, her knees buckling. Fortunately, Matt had a good grip on her arm and wouldn’t let her fall to the ground. “I thought if I pretended, things would go back to normal.” She was crying big, fakey tears by this time, which didn’t fool either Matt or me.
“Listen to me, bitch,” I said, grabbing her by the arms. I shook her none-too-gently, wanting to get through her self-induced fog. “Your son, Danny, is in deep trouble. Stop shitting us.”
“You’ll want to see the package,” Matt interjected, watching implacably as I roughed up his ex-girlfriend. I let go of Kayla, trying to get control of my emotions.
“Where is it?” I asked Kayla, not bothering to be nice.
“The cops took it,” Kayla sniffed, dashing her eyes with the back of her hand. She still looked beautiful, damn her. With her exceedingly ugly insides, you’d think some of it would leak to the outside. “I made a copy of the tape before they came. It’s in the living room.” Of course, she had ignored my advice not to open the package until she was with someone, the bitch. She fumbled around with the coffee table, knocking shit to the ground.
“Jesus Christ, Kayla,” Matt said in exasperation. He pulled the tape from under the debris and waved it in Kayla’s face. “Here’s the fucking tape. Go get your boom box.” I blinked twice. Kayla actually had a boom box with a tape player? That was a rarity these days. Kayla tripped off to her room, and I laid even odds that she’d make it back alive. I bet the under on the over/under that she’d have a quick snort for courage while in her bedroom. The same thought must have crossed Matt’s mind because he hurried after her. I followed him because, hell, I wasn’t going to miss out on the fun.
“Kayla, put that fucking shit down!” Matt bellowed as he muscled his way into Kayla’s room. Just as I had suspected, Kayla was crouched over her nightstand, her nose to the mirror. Matt knocked the stuff to the ground as he had the last time we were here. Right on cue, Kayla let out a howl.
“Maaaattt, this shit is expensive,” Kayla whined, beating her fists against Matt’s shoulder. “You just dumped a hundred dollars worth of cocaine on the floor.”
“Better there than up your nose,” Matt said, grabbing Kayla’s boom box and storming out the door. I went after him as I figured the show was done, and he had the tape and the box. He set it up in the living room, not bothering to wait for Kayla to return. He popped in the tape as I sat on the couch. He started to say something, but I waved him silent. I wanted to hear the tape without any preconceived notions.
“Hey, bitch,” a voice said without preamble. It was an androgynous voice with no accent. Or rather, it had a Midwest accent which sounded like no accent to my ears. “I have something you might want. Good things come in small packages, don’t they? Especially small, breathing, walking, crying packages. Say hello to your Mommy, Danny.” There is a silence followed by some muffled sounds followed by an unearthly wail.
“Mommy, Mommy, help me! Please, Mommy.” The anguish in that little boy’s voice was painful to hear, but I forced myself to listen. This may be the one thing to help us find Danny, and I would kick myself forever if I missed it because I was too squeamish to listen to the whole tape.
“Bitch, that’s your boy calling to you. Are you going to answer? Well, I think it’s only fair if I give you what you want, you give me what I want. I’ll call you soon to let you know where to make the drop off. You better fucking answer if you want to see your little package again.. Still don’t believe it’s him?” More muffled noises, then another loud scream. I flinched, but didn’t move otherwise.
“Mommy! I miss Reggie and Corkscrew and the rest of my piggies! Come save me!” His voice broke off as he started sobbing, and I could barely refrain from doing the same. By this time, Kayla had crept back into this world, her eyes glassy. I didn’t know how the sound of her son calling for her to save him made her feel, but it was making me want to find him my damn self. I knew part of the reason Matt wanted me to hear the tape was so I wouldn’t back out of helping Kayla, and it worked.
“Does that prove it, Kayla?” The voice emphasized Kayla’s name, making it sound ugly. “I will call you soon with further instructions. Hope you’re able to sleep at night.” With a vicious laugh, the voice cut the recording. The whole tape was less than five minutes, but it made me want to take a shower.
“Do you recognize the voice, Kayla?” I asked Kayla, startling her so she fell to the ground again. Shit, I wondered if she was this clumsy when she danced. I didn’t see how she’d get any tips if she kept falling over her damn feet, but she probably didn’t coke up to the gills before dancing. She probably saved that for afterwards as a way to get through all the fucking.
“I think it’s Alexander,” Kayla said, slowly getting to her feet. “Not sure, though. It could be anyone.” She shrugged her shoulders, giving Matt a hopeless look. She knew better than to try that shit on me, but she didn’t seem to be catching on that Matt was as disgusted with her as was I. Perhaps she was hoping that their former link would cause him to eventually soften, but I wouldn’t count on it if I were her. Matt wasn’t a prude, but he’d seen enough of his teammates fall prey to all sorts of drug abuse to want any part of that. One of them blew the team’s chance at going to the playoffs when he got kicked off the team for showing up high one time too often. Matt eventually forgave the guy, but it took years for him to get over it. By that time, the guy had gone into rehab and straightened out his life. I knew Matt had little tolerance for active drug users, which was what Kayla was. Besides, it was his fucking son, too.