“Wanna tell me what’s wrong?” Matt whispered into my ear. I shivered at his proximity, then scolded myself silently. This was Matt, not some rock star or something. There was no reason to get all gooey in the knees. I wondered at my reaction to him. Was I freaking out about Martinez? Was that why I was focusing on Matt? Was it some kind of weird transference thing? “Scar! Come back to earth.”
“Sorry, Matt,” I said, flashing a smile at him. “There’s nothing wrong. Really.” Matt didn’t believe me, but he didn’t push me about it, either. I was grateful as I didn’t have the wherewithal to make something up. At least, I thought he wasn’t going to push me about it. I was wrong, however, as he was just marshalling his forces.
“It’s us, isn’t it?” By now, we had stopped in the front hall and had lost sight of Banana and my mother. “You’re confused.”
“No, nothing of the sort.” I still had the fake smile pasted on my face, and I wondered when I had started lying to Matt. He was one of my best friend and had been for ten years. Why couldn’t things be the way they always were? “I’m just tired from all the excitement. You know. Banana woke me up early this morning and—” I stopped because I didn’t want to lie. “Matt, yes, it is us, but I really don’t think I can talk about it now. Give me some time, ok?” This time, the smile refused to come, but the tears returned. Matt wiped one from my cheek which caused me to totally break down.
“There you are!” My mother said, bustling into the hallway. “Banana was wondering—” She stopped short when she saw I was crying. “Scarlett! What’s wrong?” She hurried to my side, peering up into my eyes. “Did that detective do something to hurt you? I knew you should have stuck with Matt.”
That made me cry all the harder, and I raced up the stairs to my old room and flung myself on my old bed. My mother kept all our rooms as they were when we were home. Not out of love for us or anything like that, but because it was cheaper than redesigning them. I cried in earnest, unsure of why exactly I was crying. All I knew was that it hurt when I thought of giving up Matt, but it hurt more when I imagined ending things with Martinez. How ironic that I was a woman who couldn’t hold on to one man in my life, and now I had two. I didn’t have more time to think as the door flew open and Matt came into the room. I was thankful it wasn’t my mother, but I wasn’t sure I could handle Matt, either.
“Scar, hon, it’s ok.” Matt sat on the bed besides me and rubbed my shoulder. I twitched said shoulder, certain that we shouldn’t be touching. “It’s all the shit that’s going on. Who wouldn’t be confused?” How sweet of him to give me an out, but I knew it wasn’t just the situation. I was about to say something when a blinding pain hit me behind the eyes. Before I could say anything, a picture came to mind. It was Digger, and there was a person with him. I couldn’t make out the gender, but I had the distinct feeling it was a female. When the person talked, I was sure.
“…rid of him…she’s gone…police!” The voice was oddly familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. It stood to reason, however, that if I recognized the voice and she was with Digger, I must have met her at the club.
“…be back…Alex…what she took….” Digger was gesticulating wildly as he talked, and I wished I could hear more of their conversation. His movements weren’t adding anything to the story. Suddenly, the picture switched. It was Danny, and he definitely was worse for the wear. I didn’t say anything as I watched him suck his thumb. He had his other hand in his pocket, and I assumed he was holding onto his pig. I was about to say something when I heard his voice.
“Auntie, I’m so scared.” His voice was coming in clearly this time.
“I know you are, baby. Can you tell me more about where you are?” Even though I ached for him, I couldn’t waste time comforting him. I needed information, and I needed it fast.
“Where’s my mommy? Why isn’t she coming for me?” The pain in his voice was heart-wrenching, but I took it stoically.
“She’s trying, Danny, but she needs you to tell me where you are.”
“Sparkle. I’m with Sparkle. And Uncle Jimmy. I think he called her Bren.” Danny’s face was scrunched up tightly as if he were concentrating. I noticed that they’d cleaned out the closet, which made me marginally grateful. I was still going to kick their asses when I got hold of them, but at least Danny no longer had to smell that stench. “Auntie, I’m scared. Please. I’m—”
The door to the closet flew open, and there was Digger, his eyes wild. He grabbed Danny and hauled him out of the closet. My vision followed them as Digger dragged Danny to the living room. It was a tiny, squalid room with no decorations that I could see. Bren was sitting on the couch, her eyes red. Digger threw Danny next to Bren who shrank away from the little boy as if he were diseased. Great, Danny was with two people who had no child skills whatsoever. He was going to need a lot of therapy when he got out of there. The picture faded despite my best effort to hold onto it.
“Scar, are you all right?” Matt had his face thrust into mine, and I had a feeling he’d been asking me that for quite some time. “You scared the shit out of me. Don’t do that!”
“I know who has Danny,” I said, closing my eyes. I was so tired, and I wanted nothing more than to sleep. Unfortunately, Matt wouldn’t let me. He pinched me on the arm quite hard to keep me awake. “Shit, Matt, don’t do that.” I sat up, however, as this was important. “I have to call Martinez.” Matt didn’t say anything but pulled out his phone and handed it to me before leaving the room. I dialed the number I knew by heart and waited impatiently for Martinez to answer.
“Martinez,” he said, his voice exhausted.
“You didn’t get five hours of sleep last night, did you?” I blurted out, concerned about his health.
“Hey, Scarlett, glad to know you care.” Martinez’s voice warmed at the sound of mine. “What can I do for you?” Thankfully, Matt disappeared to give me privacy. I told myself to thank him for it later.
“I had another vision. Want me to tell you over the phone?” I asked, struggling to stay awake. My visions always took so much out of me, but it was worth it if it brought Danny back.
“No, I want to hear it in person. I’ll come to you. Are you at home?”
“No, I’m at my mother’s.” I was about to give him the address when he stopped me.
“I remember. I’ll see you in fifteen minutes.” He hung up the phone without saying goodbye, but I was used to it by now. I went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face before going downstairs. I found Matt, Banana, my mother, and my father in the living room playing Monopoly. Banana was paired up with Matt, and they seemed to be acquiring properties at an alarming rate.
“Hi, Auntie. Wanna play? I’ll give you one of the railroads if you do.” Banana looked up at me from her perch in Matt’s lap. I felt another pang at how cozy the two were. Matt would make an excellent father, and it wasn’t right that Kayla hadn’t told him about Danny. I vowed again to bring Danny home so Matt could be a good father to him. Danny was certainly going to need it after experiencing this current ordeal. Just in time, I remembered that Banana had asked me a question.
“Sorry, Banana, I can’t. Detective Martinez is coming to talk to me. I’ll just cheer you on, ok?” I sat down by Matt, careful not to touch him. I handed his cell back to him because I’d forget if I waited. My mother looked at me questioningly, but she didn’t say anything. She may be an old-time pushy Asian mother, but she knew when to back off. I was grateful as I didn’t want to break down again.
“Me and Matt are going to win!” Banana beamed, her smile genuine. I was glad to see her more cheerful, and I made an effort to push aside my own gloom.
“I bet,” I said, nodding my head. “Matt is a regular Warren Buffett, and you seem to be following in his footsteps.”
“Who’s Warren Buffett?” Banana asked, looking at me quizzically.
“Never mind,” my mom said, rolling the dice. She landed on Oriental Avenue which was Banana’s property. “Banana! You are going to own everything.” My mother grumbled good-naturedly, but handed over the amount of money due.
The game was fast-paced, with Banana having extraordinary luck. I knew that my parents were not above cheating in favor of a child, but this was pure luck as it was pretty difficult to cheat at Monopoly. It seemed like Banana got whatever roll she needed, and she crowed in delight as she added Park Place to her holdings. She already had Boardwalk, and two of the greens on that side. She was threatening to have, indeed, a monopoly if my parents didn’t do something quick. Fortunately for the game, my father landed on Pennsylvania Avenue, the one green one that Banana didn’t have. My father snatched it up, much to Banana’s chagrin. She tried to cajole my father into letting her buy it or trade for it, but he stood fast. He knew that if he let her have Pennsylvania Avenue, the game was over.
“Nice going, Dad!” I said to him, giving him a high-five. He smiled at me in satisfaction as he was in second place. My poor mother was in last, perilously close to losing all her money. The doorbell rang, and I jumped up to answer it. I hurried to the door, but to no avail. The rest of the gang trailed behind me.
“Hello, Scarlett,” Martinez said as I opened the door. He was wearing a different suit, but he looked like hell. Sexy, but like hell. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Hsu. Mr. Reynolds, Banana.” I was impressed that he remembered everybody’s name and that he wasn’t wigging out with everyone staring at him.
“Detective,” my father said, holding his hand out to shake. Martinez shook it again, and I shook my head slightly. I didn’t need to go through this ritual every time Martinez came over, but at least he was getting to meet my parents in a situation that was less than typical.
“I like you,” Banana informed Martinez, looking up at him. She smiled as she held out her hand.
“I’m glad,” Martinez said solemnly, stooping so he could shake Banana’s hand. “I like you, too.”
“I guess it’s ok that Auntie like you better than Matt.” Banana nodded her head once, then leaned against Matt’s leg.
“You guys go back to your game,” I said, my face flushing. “I have to talk to Detective Martinez alone.”
“You must stay for dinner,” my mother said, a smile on her face. I knew it wasn’t completely genuine, but I was glad she was making an effort. “I bet you haven’t eaten a decent meal in the past twenty-four hours.”
“I can’t, Mrs. Hsu,” Martinez said, his voice filled with regret. “I have to get back to the station as soon as I talk to Scarlett. Hazards of the job, I’m afraid.”
“Well, I’ll just fix you something to go,” Mom said firmly. “I’ll be done by the time you’re ready to leave.”
“That’d be great, Mrs. Hsu. Thank you.” I was relieved that Martinez hadn’t argued too hard because it would have been a great insult to my mother if he hadn’t accepted something. Not many non-Asians understood this subtle etiquette, but I figured it was similar in the Indian culture, and probably the Latino one, too.
“Come on.” I led Martinez upstairs to my bedroom. No, I wasn’t trying to seduce him, but all the rooms downstairs were open, so there was no way we would have any privacy. Besides, I had my vision in my bedroom, so it would be better to rehash it there.
“Nice,” Martinez said, looking around my room. I had pictures of the 1987 and 1991 Twins on my walls, as well as pictures of the Vikings when their defense was nicknamed the Purple People Eaters. “I guess you really do like sports.”
“I wasn’t just trying to impress you,” I said with a smile, pulling out the chair from my desk. I sat on the bed, careful to keep some distance between us. I wanted to tell him my vision without being distracted, which meant that there had to be at least two feet of space between us.
“Tell me about your vision.” Martinez pulled out a notebook and a pen, ready to jot down what I said.
I paused to put my thoughts in order before I plunged in. I told him about Digger and Bren who had to be the woman who’d pulled Digger away from me at the club. I told him everything I could remember from the scene, no matter how trivial. I’d learned my lesson about holding out on him, and I never wanted to disappoint him like I did before. While I was talking to him, I realized that he was the one I wanted, not Matt. Life with Matt would be good, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want a default relationship which we both fell into because we didn’t have anyone else at the moment. This was the man I wanted to get to know, and I vowed to do what it took to show Martinez that I was willing to get to know him on his terms.
“Um, I think that’s it.” I kept my face straight as I finished my narrative. I didn’t want Martinez to know what I’d been thinking about, but I think he had an inkling.