Tag Archives: Plaster of Paris

Plaster of Paris; chapter fifteen

“Tell us everything,” Lyle says eagerly as he leans forward to catch every detail.  It is three days after my ordeal, and Jimmy is in jail pending his bail hearing.  My mother, Lyle, and I are perched in Paris’s new hospital room as he’s been moved from the ICU to a regular room.  He is making tremendous progress, and can now speak in complete, full sentences.  This is the first opportunity we’ve all had to be together.  The Jensons have thoughtfully allowed us time alone and are in the cafeteria presumably converting some poor heathen soul.  I am elated that I have only the rope burns on my wrists to contend with, a few stitches in my forehead and a bruise from when Jimmy backhanded me—no hospital stay for me this time.  My back didn’t even bruise from all his prodding, so I consider myself in tip-top shape.

“What do you want to know?”  I ask coyly, laughing at the identical looks of dismay on their faces.

“Start with why,” Paris suggests, looking a hundred percent better already.  He can sit up for short periods of time and even eats solid food—if you call applesauce, mashed potatoes, Jell-O, and pudding solid food.

“Why is easiest,” I say.  “As you know, Jimmy wanted to run for mayor, and his platform was family values.  Good-old fashioned moral man, that’s our Jimmy.  Unfortunately for him, he had a harder time practicing than preaching.  He has been carrying on an affair with Ursula, on and off for over twenty years.”  I pause to drag out the tension.  The three of them have their eyes fixed on me, raptly following every word.  “That wasn’t a problem in and of itself since she would never divulge the affair for reasons of her own.”

“She liked being married,” Lyle breaks in, putting in his two-cents’ worth.  “And she liked that clandestine nature of their relationship.”  I resume the tale.

“So everything was going fine as long as they both knew where the affair stood.  The trouble started when Ursula dropped the bomb on Jimmy—whom she called Benny, by the way—that he was the father of illegitimate twins—Paris and Robin.”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter fourteen, part three

“I’m glad the bitch is dead,” Mr. Jenson shouts, spraying spit on Lyle’s face.

“You’re an evil man,” Lyle shouts back, his biceps bulging.  “She’s his mother, for god’s sake!”

“I’m his mother!”  Mrs. Jenson mewls, tears running down her face.  “I’m the one who raised him.”

“That’s right, Catherine,” my mother says soothingly.  “You’re his mother.”

“That bitch is nothing more than a baby maker,” Mr. Jenson says nastily.  “Put in a penis and out pops a kid.  Nothing but a whore.”

“Keep your voice down,” I say, furious at his histrionics.  “Do you want Paris to hear you?”

“I don’t give a good hot damn,” Mr. Jenson declares, pushing a finger in Lyle’s chest.  “She deserved what she got.”

“Listen, you,” Lyle sputters, making a grab for Mr. Jenson’s finger.

“Oh for god sake’s,” I sigh loudly, fed up with the whole scene.  “Mom, can I have the keys to your car?  I’m going to the gym to work out.”

“This late?”  My mother protests.  It’s nine-thirty, and it makes her nervous when I travel alone late at night—especially after the last few months.

“I gotta get out of here.  I want to check out the gym one more time, anyway.”  I pull my cell phone out of my duffel and wave it at my mother.  “Look, I’m armed and dangerous.”  I shove it in my jacket pocket so I have easy access.

“All right.”  She reluctantly hands me her keys.  “Be careful,” she warns.  I breeze out of the hospital and drive to the gym.  There are only two clients, both of whom are wearing headphones, and Jimmy is at the front desk.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter fourteen, part two

“We should go to the hospital,” I say urgently.  We gather our stuff, forgetting about our brainstorming session.  It’s more important we reach the Jensons and Paris before anyone else does.  As we’re rushing down the front steps, Inspector Robinson is walking up them.  She is wearing a taupe pantsuit that flatters her figure nicely.

“The Three Musketeers,” Inspector Robinson says, an edge to her voice.  “Just the trio I want to see.  Let’s go back up to your apartment, shall we?”  Despite being couched in question form, it is an order, and we all know it.  We shuffle upstairs without saying anything.

“Can I get you anything, Inspector?”  My mother asks as we enter the apartment.  Before Inspector Robinson can answer, my mom is up and in the kitchen.  Lyle and I look at the inspector, but she remains silent.  I realize that she is waiting for my mother to return, so I don’t start a conversation.  She will tell us what she wants to know, when she wants to tell us, and no amount of coercion will persuade her to do differently.  The silence is taut, but not uncomfortable.  Although the inspector is radiating anger, I don’t think it’s directed towards us.  Of course, I could be mistaken, in which case, we are in for a long night.  I look at Lyle who is staring at nothing in particular.  I look at Inspector Robinson who is perusing her notes.  I open my mouth to say something, then shut it quickly.  Now is not the time for me to be nosy or smart-assed or to use any of the  half-dozen of my usual responses.  There is one question I need to ask the inspector, however, and I voice it.

“Inspector Robinson?”  I make sure my voice isn’t tentative because I don’t want to sound like a beta dog rolling over to have my stomach scratched.  The inspector looks up at me and waits for me to continue.  “Do you think Paris is still in danger?”

“I do,” Inspector Robinson says immediately.  “Him, you, your mother, Mr. Kingston.  Possibly Ms. Meadows’ other children.  Less likely her husband or the Jensons.”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter fourteen, part one

I wake the next morning, Friday, feeling particularly refreshed.  I did not wake up screaming from a nightmare, nor did Lyle have to wake me up.  I am downright cheerful on my walk to work.  I have put on a green blouse and white slacks because I feel so good.  I even whistle a bit as I walk.  The weather is sunny with no wind for a change, so it seems as if even the heavens are smiling on me today.  At work, nobody is overtly friendly towards me, but no one pointedly ignores me, either.  I pour myself a cup of coffee before sitting down at my desk.  I drape my jacket on the coat rack, then power on my computer.  I like to execute the same movements every morning as my own little ritual.  I have emails from my sister and from Vashti as well as a voice mail message from Vashti.  There is nothing from Ursula, however, which surprises me a bit.  I decide to try to call her again during my lunch break.  I read the email from Libby.

Rayne, thank you again for the advice.  I appreciate your unique point of view.  Really, I do.  It’s so hard to do the right thing sometimes, isn’t it?  I know I love Wallace; I just wish I loved him more.  I haven’t made a decision yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

“Hey, Rayne!”  Jamal grins at me as he bounces around.  I am glad that he’s gotten over being mad at me as he’s my favorite kid.  He is munching a Snickers bar, and it’s probably not his first this morning.  “How’s your homey?”

“He’s awake, Jamal,” I say, grinning in return.  “He’s going to be just fine.”

“That’s great,” Jamal says softly, standing still for a minute.  He’s lost his grin, and there’s something wistful in his eyes.  “You lucky, you know?”  He waves at me with the Snickers before disappearing up the stairs.  I watch him fondly before turning back to my computer.  I’m immersed in my work for the rest of the morning.

“Hey, Rayne!”  Quinn McGowan, my coworker who used to be a quasi-friend until she started avoiding me like the plague because of the rash of murders I’ve been involved in.  She interrupts me just as I’m about to take my lunch break.

“Hey, Quinn,” I say pleasantly.  Even though she’s a basket case with more than a few issues, she’s still attractive.  Five-feet two with generous curves, pure green eyes and glossy dark brown hair cut pixie-style, she dresses to accentuate her positives.  Today she’s wearing a tight green sweater that matches her eyes and a short black skirt.  I’m cautious, however, as the last time she talked to me it was because she wanted me to have a threesome with her and her boyfriend.  “What’s up?”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter thirteen, part two

Lyle starts to say something, then stops.  I look at him inquiringly.  He reminds me that he talked to Ursula and Lois Wednesday morning.  That leaves them out of the running as Paris’s twin was attacked on Wednesday.  His news dismays me for a minute until I ask what time he saw them Wednesday morning.  When I find out it was eight or so in the morning and that Lyle had stayed there just over half an hour, that put them back in the running.  The assault happened around seven at night, so there would have been time for one of them to talk to Lyle in the morning, hop on a plane, do the dirty deed and be back in San Francisco before anyone was the wiser.  The boys might not even have known she was gone.  We are so engrossed in our discussion, I forget I was about to call Ursula’s sons.

Lyle wants to know to which she I am referring, and I shrug my shoulders.  It could have been either, though the timing is tight.  Even if they were in town, that doesn’t prove anything.  Either one of them could have hired someone to try to kill Robin.  In fact, that would probably be safer.  Lyle doesn’t agree.  He thinks paying someone else to kill Robin means there’s one more person who knows the secret and has the potential to blackmail the contractor.  Besides, he can’t see Ursula hiring a hit man, especially as she’s so high-profile.  Blackmailing her would be a cinch if she were stupid enough to hire a hit man.  Lyle does agree that either Ursula or Lois could have flown to Minneapolis and attacked Robin, but just barely.  Besides, if the assailant was a female, wouldn’t that have been mentioned?

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Plaster of Paris; chapter thirteen, part one

“What a day,” Lyle mutters, the first to break the silence.

“I say we don’t talk about it for the next hour at least,” my mother says firmly.  “Let’s talk about the inspector manufacturing excuses to see Rainbow, instead.”

“What?”  I exclaim indignantly, my cheeks flushing red.  “She came because Paris woke up.  She needs his statement.”

“Oh please, girlfriend,” Lyle says, rolling his eyes.  “Paris is in no shape to give a statement, and she knows it.  She just wanted an excuse to see you again before the night was through.

“Did you get a chance to talk to her, alone?”  My mom grins at me, her temporary fatigue forgotten.

“You guys!”  I blush deeply, unable to control my reaction.

“Did you kiss her?”  My mother’s eyes are mischievous for the first time in a long time.

“Mom!”  I do not discuss my sex life with my mother.  Not that I’m ashamed of it, but I’m just not comfortable sharing the tidbits.  However, I am bursting with the news, and they are two of the people closest to me.  “I asked her to dinner once this case is over,” I confide, slyly grinning myself.

“You go, girl!”  Lyle crows as he and mom hi-five each other.  “Pay up!”  He holds his hand out to my mother who slaps a five dollar bill into it.

“What is that for?”  I ask, glaring at both of them impartially.

“We had a little bet,” Lyle explains, slipping the five in his pocket.  “I bet you’d ask the inspector out while the case was still ongoing while Songbird bet you’d ask after.  I should have bet more.”

“You guys are unbelievable,” I laugh, shaking my head.  Friends and family betting on my love life.  Well, I’m glad someone gets some enjoyment out of it.  “Did you bet on me breaking up with Vashti as well?  Perhaps the date?”

“No, honey,” my mother says, placing her arm around my shoulder.  “We wouldn’t bet on something like that.”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part four

“All right, that’s enough!”  My mother says loudly.  Everyone but me is so shocked, they immediately stop what they are doing and practically snap to attention.  “You are all acting like children.  Is this the image you want to present to Paris?”  The nurses continue on their way; the cop sits back down; Lyle slowly deflates; Mrs. Jenson’s shoulders sag; Mr. Jenson continues posturing.  “I have tried to be diplomatic, but I have failed.  Catherine, Douglas, you have the right to do what you want, of course, but I think it’s a crying shame that you want to banish one of the few people who loves Paris for who he is.  Why don’t you ask Paris what he wants or don’t you care?”  From within the room, we all hear a distinct if faint, “Want Lyle.”  Mrs. Jenson has the grace to blush while Mr. Jenson continues to scowl.

“May I go in now?”  Lyle asks, his head held high.  Mrs. Jenson nods her head slightly.  Lyle disappears into Paris’s room as my mother shepherds the rest of us back to our seats.  I wait for my mother to soothe things over, but she says nothing.  Her silence jolts me into understanding that this vigilance has taken a toll on her as well.  It’s unsettling news as I count on my mother to be my bedrock when all else fails.

“I think we all need some real sleep,” my mother finally says, the indignation stripped from her voice.  “We should be celebrating instead of fighting.  Paris is going to be fine.”  She isn’t her usual charismatic self, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one disappointed.

“Susannah, don’t think we’re not appreciative of your efforts,” Mrs. Jenson says stiffly, each word wrenched from her tightly-pursed lips.  “You, too, Rayne.  But this phase of Paris’s, it has to end.  See where it’s gotten him!”  Mr. Jenson is nodding his head like an ugly Greek chorus in the background.

“What happened to Paris has nothing to do with him being queer,” I say hotly, ignoring my mother’s warning looks.  I also ignore the throbbing of my jaw as I’m pissed off.  “Don’t turn this into a platform for your agenda.”

“If Paris hadn’t taken up with that Lyle, he wouldn’t have been hit,” Mrs. Jenson continues, pursuing her own line of reason.

“Lyle has nothing to do with this!  Paris being queer has nothing to do with this!”  My voice is rising despite my attempt to keep cool.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part three

He wasn’t able to find Billy Matthews, either, as the latter wasn’t at the gym today.  Lyle tried to get an address or a number, but couldn’t charm it out of anyone.  It’s a good thing, really, as it’s for the client’s protection; it just makes our task of hunting down Matthews a bit more difficult.  I think about how I’m going to find him, but I can’t come up with a better plan than to go to the gym again in the morning—or have Lyle do it—and repeat until we get our man.  Too bad I’m not V.I. Warshawski with her plethora of cunning ideas.  I put it firmly out of my mind because it’s just giving me a headache to think about the case.  I deserve a break after all the hard work I’ve been doing.  I reach for my sandwich again, suddenly famished.  We all gobble sandwiches as fast as we can.

After polishing off two sandwiches, I finally ask how Paris is.  I thought they would have brought it up by now, but they haven’t.  To be fair, they’ve been eating just as heartily as I have.  My mother tells me he’s great, that he actually spoke in sentences today.  Short ones, to be sure, but sentences, nonetheless.  I ask if he remembers anything, my pulse racing.  This could be the break we’re looking for.  Please, let him have seen who hit him.  To my disappointment, he didn’t.  He doesn’t remember anything about his accident and has to be told repeatedly that he’s in a hospital.  The cops haven’t been able to question him, either, which I’m sure is driving them crazy.  I don’t care, however, as nothing is as important as Paris’s recovery.

I’m eager to see Paris, so I stand up and stretch.  It seems like my life has been work, detecting, and the hospital.  My mother and Lyle want to go, too, of course, so we clean up and leave.  I ride with my mom to the hospital.  Neither of us speaks until we are halfway there, then my mother warns me that the Jensons are seriously considering bringing Paris back to Memphis, at least until he recovers.  I didn’t know they could do that without his consent.  My mother says they’ve been working on him.  She keeps reassuring the Jensons that Paris will be better off here with his friends, but they refuse to listen.  They’ve gotten it into their heads that this would never have happened if only Paris didn’t live in Sin City, which is ludicrous.  Even if they don’t know the background of the case, it’s silly to think that crime doesn’t happen outside the Bay Area.  They’ll take him over my dead body—there is no way I’m letting Paris go without a fight.

We are silent for a minute as I watch the scenery whiz by.  I remember the email Libby sent me and relay it to my mother.  My mother is pleased, but surprised that Libby emailed me about something so serious.  I tell her it surprised the hell out of me, too, that Little Miss Perfect is having second thoughts about being a trophy wife.  My mother sends me a withering look which immediately makes me contrite for my flippant statement.  I quickly amend my statement, saying I’m impressed that Libby has the guts to think about stopping the wedding, let alone write about it to me.  It must be killing her to admit she has doubts, especially at this late date.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part two

I dress with extra care the next morning and even apply a little makeup since my face looks wan from lack of sleep.  I don’t wear any of the five outfits I had in mind last night.  Instead, I pull on a silvery-gray skirt, black tights, a black blouse and whatever accoutrements I think will match.  I brush my hair until it shines, then peer at myself anxiously in the mirror.  I’m not usually self-conscious about my looks, knowing that I’m put together in a way that is pleasing to most eyes.  Short—five-two—curvy, with glossy black hair, dark brown eyes and full lips.  I turn heads when I walk down the street, unless I’m with Paris, of course, who is truly stunning.  Thinking about him brings me down to earth and away from my romantic aspirations.  My mother nods approvingly at my outfit as I gobble down my breakfast.  I am late for work, my sleep pattern being so erratic as of late.  I arrive just in time to be pointedly ignored by my colleagues.  I plunge into my work in order to not feel the shunning so deeply.  I have an email from Libby that is so unlike her normal self, I read it twice.


I don’t know why I’m writing this to you except that I have no one else to talk to about this.  If any of my friends knew, they would say I’m crazy.  Any girl would be lucky to have a fiancé as wonderful as Wallace.  He is gainfully-employed, remembers important dates, treats me as an equal, and has the same ambitions as do I.  He is also sinfully handsome.  In other words, everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a man.  I know, I can hear you saying, so what’s your problem, Lib, in that snotty tone of yours you use when you think you’re so superior. 

The problem is, I’m not sure I want to get married.  Certainly not now, and maybe not ever.  I look at Wallace and think, is this it?  I mean, I’m very happy with him—don’t get me wrong.  I just wonder if I’m too young.  He’s only my first serious boyfriend.  Rayne, I don’t know what to do.  The wedding is in three months.  The reason I’m e-mailing you is because you’ve always been so damn nontraditional—like Mom and Dad.  Everyone will hate me if I stop the wedding.  Help me.  Libby.

I stop reading and look around me.  The world is still spinning on its axis.  I am still persona non grata at work making shitty money for a shitty job.  Nothing has changed except my sister is asking for my help.  I think back, trying to remember the last time she asked me for anything.  I can’t recall it ever happening, though it must have at some time.  I tap my keyboard idly, thinking of what to say to her.  Wouldn’t she be surprised if she knew that my immediate reaction was, ‘Hold on to him and never let go.’  I want to tell her that when love comes, you have to make the most of it because you don’t know when it will come your way again.  I realize, however, that the rate at which I’ve lost people from my life in the last few months has skewed my perspective, and I don’t write any of what I’m thinking.  I think more carefully before coming up with a response.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part one

“Let’s go talk,” Lyle says, grabbing me by the arm.  With a wave at the others, he steers me to the cafeteria.

“Isn’t it great, Lyle?”  I say, a goofy smile on my face.

“I forgot to tell you about Ursula,” Lyle says as soon as we sit down.  Neither of us is hungry, but I grab a piece of chocolate pie anyway.  Lyle has a monster cookie which he is munching.  Both of us have coffee as well.

“Ursula?”  I look at him blankly.

“Paris’s birthmother,” Lyle prods my memory.  “I never told you about our talk.”              “Shit!  That’s right!  Dish,” I order.  Lyle spills all he knows.  As we guessed, Ursula tried to feint and dodge, but Lyle’s charm finally won her over.  To a certain extent.  She confessed that she had talked to Paris’s birthfather ‘once or twice’ since the blessed event, but refused to divulge his name or where he lived, saying it wasn’t relevant.  She admitted to discovering Paris months ago, but sat on the information because she was nervous about facing him.  Plus, she had a deadline for the book she was working on, and she couldn’t afford to let anything interfere with that.  Her husband was still out of town, or so she said.  Lyle couldn’t see any traces of him in the living room or the kitchen, the two rooms he actually saw.

“She was tense,” Lyle says, frowning as he sips his coffee.  “She tried to cover it up, but I could tell.  Everything was just a hair off.  You know, laugh a little too loud; gestures a little too broad—that kind of thing.”  I know exactly what he’s saying; it was the same way when we met her in Luna Park.  An actor in a play of her own making—Lyle and I are just bit players on her stage.  The spell she cast over me when we first met has long since dissipated.

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