Chapter 33

What the…I wriggled out from under the New England Patriots blanket I kept on the back of the couch. Hmm…soft, warm. I could lay here for…oh shit! What time is it? What day is it? I’m asking like there’s someone here to answer me. G zus.

Ow! How many times do I have to stub my toe on that damned coffee table! Coffee. Need it. There’d better be some in the cupboard. Bingo! Laughing, I couldn’t help myself. I started singing the old commercial – “Maxwell House, Good to the last…” oh shit! Roger! I forgot about him completely!

Where’d I put my phone? I hate when I leave stuff in strange places…where?…found it. Under the couch pillow. Exactly where I intentionally put it. Yeah, right. I really need to spend more time here. Then, I’d have some routines and I’d automatically know where I might have put stuff.

I stared at the phone. Thought for sure there would be at least one message from Roger. I gave him my number before we left his office. I’m certain of it….

And why do I think he should be calling me? Who hires a PD, takes him to her sister’s house, the scene of an apparent kidnapping, has a knock down, drag out with the cop dispatched to the scene and then runs out of the house, effectively stranding the guy without warning?! Wow. Saying it out loud, it does sound bad. Rude. And…odd. Better call him.

How am I going to explain why Bobby showing up yesterday was kind of weird? How do I tell him what I didn’t tell him but should have? How do I tell him I found Jenn’s journal. By accident. I found it, read it and…well, there’s stuff in there I’m still digesting. Stuff about Bobby. Her Bobby. My Bobby. Nope, he’s not going to like this one bit. Withholding evidence. Brilliant. What was I thinking?

Come on Roger. Pick up. ring, ring, ring… I know this guy didn’t have a hot date last night. Come on, pick up the damn phone! Do not make me leave a voice mail.

“Hello?”

“Roger. It’s Janice. We need to talk. Now. Take down this address.”

“Uh, Janice? You know what time it is? Wait! Not really asking you. It’s freaking 6:00 am!”

“Duh, Rog. I know. I told you. We need to talk. Stop off on your way, pick up some eggs, milk and bread and I’ll tell you over breakfast. And butter. I need some butter.”

“You’re kidding, right? Tell me I’m dreaming. Tell me my latest client didn’t just order me to do her grocery shopping and make a home delivery all before 7:00 am the morning after she ditched me at her missing sister’s house.”

“See you in an hour big guy.”

Just as I looked at the clock, I heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway around back. Not 5 minutes later, a knock on the door.

“A little after 7:00 am. Pretty good PI Guy. You made it in just over an hour. And you got real butter! Wait…what are these?”

“Like we say in the biz, it’s your dime payin’ for the time. These, my dear, are scones. Surprised you don’t know that. You being a fancy, jet setting attorney and all.”

“Hmph. They look different from the ones I’ve had. In England.” I grinned widely.

Roger looked up, smiled. He can take it like he can dish it. Good. He’s going to get an earful as soon as breakfast gets underway. Hell, why wait…”Listen, Roger. I mentioned there was something I needed to tell you.”

“And you will, but not before you tell me where you keep your cooking utensils – saute pans and…plates. Plates would be good.”

“You’re cooking breakfast?” I asked incredulously.

“I didn’t buy this fancy spread hoping you knew how to cook Ms. DiFranco. I know I can cook. So yeah, in answer to your question, I’m cooking breakfast. Now step aside before I put you aside.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 32…

In the annals of romantic imagery, I’m sure many a poet has made reference to that most seldom- seen and  yet most highly coveted of all; the classically sculpted feminine hand cast against a field of azure blue, flipping the bird out of a car window as it drives off into the sunset… was it Sandburg, or Robert Frost? Not exactly Venus on the clamshell, but pretty damned romantic for North Smithfield.

Actually, I have always aligned myself with the lunatic fringe that claims it to have been a scallop shell, and not a clamshell at all. What Greco- Roman female would be seen arising from a clam, or given the local fauna, a quahog, for God’s sake. Any respectable chowder chef would attest to the inherent difficulties, and to several pertinent related facts; clam chowder is made from quahogs, not clams; Venus insisted on a scallop shell, being much lighter, easier to work with, and much more iridescent. Many lesser-known Greco- Roman models conceded to working with quahogs, mainly because Venus’ lawyer quickly filed a patent on the use of the scallop shell image.

He is also part owner of George’s and a few day boats out of Galilee. This is widely known as synchronicity.

I had the place to myself. My client and the investigating detective both drove off in different directions, swept up in what appeared to be truly spectacular hissy fits. He almost forgot that he had a couple of uniform guys with him, and they barely made it back to the cruiser before Fucking Bobby pulled away. Too bad. I might have shared a cab with them, maybe found out some about Bobby’s recent activities. But for now… I stood in the middle of Jenn’s house, wondering if this were actually a crime scene or not.

I decided to take another look for cameras, and hopefully find what I really needed…a computer that would have the IP address that I needed to access the playback software.

I found a desktop in her daughter’s bedroom, and spent a nervous half-hour trying commonly used passwords. Jenn12345 did the trick. I got the IP address, and called a cab. I locked the front door behind me, hoping that whoever came along next had a key. There had already been more people in and out of here today than Port Authority. I had found a total of six cameras, strategically placed so that most of the house traffic would be accounted for. I considered wiping some prints on the way out, but thought it would be better to have to explain why I was there rather than lose all the other prints that would be found along with mine.

And finally, back to the office, after paying for the cabbie’s kids’ first year of Brown University. We don’t need no stinking scholarships. Roland had apparently taken no messages, opting instead to sleep the morning away with his head stuck under his forepaw. I wished again that I could do that myself, but anatomy simply does not allow for it.

I had time in the cab to ponder some extremely odd phenomena, like why my client had bolted, where she may have gone, and why the local cop was acting so very strangely. And where the hell had he gone, leaving someone unattended in Jenn’s house?

He had really shown little interest in the missing sister, and I realized after the fact… he had not shown any interest in the physical setting whatsoever, as if he already knew the layout of the premises. Second nature. I had obviously wandered into the middle of some ugly, messy road- kill personal stuff… but I was invited. Actually, hired is the correct term. But again…who hires a PD and then takes off like that? I often quip that I’ve seen everything, but this was just weird. And she did have Jenn’s phone… I would really liked to have seen the call records. Why didn’t she show me that first?

Maybe I’ll ask her about that, once I ever find her again.

From my perspective, I suddenly realized that maybe I had two missing sisters on my hands?

The software loaded slowly, as it always does. Several error messages about bad addresses per usual, and then…voila. Not just six… ten cameras. Jenn had this place covered like it really was Port Authority.

Three weeks of back footage, and the only area that didn’t have any coverage was the bathroom. Thank God for small favors.

Time to put on the tea kettle and make a call to see if Caserta’s delivers. I hoped that this would turn out to be a very boring movie. For the most part.

Roland the Professional Lap Cat assumed the position, Caserta’s was twenty minutes out, and I pitched in to it.

 

 

Chapter 31

It felt like someone was holding me under water. My lungs screamed wildly for air, my last breath washed away under a wave of emotional turbulance. I felt the panic rising. Reaching desperately for the front door, I grabbed the handle. One turn, one push… returned to the banks of of the sane. Or so I hoped.

It felt good to get out of the house. Away from a crime scene, the crime scene. Did I really just say that? Life sure can get fucked up fast. Bobby… arrogant, secretive and at times, God help me, scary. How could I forget so quickly?

Half running, half walking, I got into the car just as Bobby swung open the front door. Please don’t let him follow me! Fumbling in my purse, I pulled the keys out and had the engine running just as he came sprinting down the driveway. I gave him the finger, as a visual to go with the sound of screeching tires.

Shifting gears, my brain fixated on the odds, that of all the cops on the N. Smithfield police force, Bobby would answer Roger’s 911 call. Did one of his cop buddies at the station recognize the address and call him?

They say good habits die hard. I feel bad I left Roger stranded, but it’s better to be the driver than the driven. Delia, tells me I’m a control freak. Maybe she’s right, but there’s nothing wrong with being able to leave a place when you want to leave. And right now, I was in a hurry to hit the highway.

The sky was quickly turning a toasty, burnt orange. If traffic’s not too heavy, I can make it to Narragansett in an hour. All I want right now is to… oh man, haven’t heard this song in forever… “gonna take a freight train down to the station, don’t care where it goes… gonna climb a mountain, jump off nobody gonna know, … can’t you see”…  I reached over, turned it up.

295 South stretched out before me. The right music, open road – better than all the hooch in the world. I’m always grateful when I get the opportunity to drive to business meetings. It doesn’t happen often. Record labels, their attorneys, their clients, not the most patient people when it comes to negotiating and signing contracts.

Feeling the home stretch. Just a few more miles. Instead of taking the highway, I decided to take the scenic, coastal route. Hanging a left at the Tower, the Hannah Robinson Tower, I shifted the car into neutral and let gravity wind me down Bridgetown Road.

Less than five minutes later I was on Rt. 1A. Driving parallel to the coast, it was now a straight shot to Narragansett and Ocean Road. The sun had long since set when I pulled in to the crushed shell driveway. I parked around back. In this neighborhood, appearances are everything. Opening the car door, the smell of ocean and salt and seaweed filled my nostrils. I breathed in deeply. The tide was going out.

 

Chapter 29

Really, Bobby? What is wrong with you?”

“I need to know. Who was she seeing? I know she was seeing someone.”

“And how do you know that? And why do you want to know? Tell me Bobby”

“Uh, gee, Miss “my shit don’t stink”, I happen to be conducting an investigation. As part of that investigation, I ask questions. Just trying to put a picture together. It wouldn’t be the first time an ex-lover went over the edge.”

“Then you’d better not take yourself out of the running”.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know what it means Bobby. It means you never got over Jenn. You couldn’t stand that she shot you down. Not once but twice! Then, to put a little icing on the cake, her little sister turned around one day and did the same thing.”

“Don’t flatter yourself Jan. I got over you faster than a one night stand.”

“Classy, Bobby. Real classy. Should we take it outside? Huh? Away from curious co-workers, my private detective? Who, by the way, is upstairs no doubt doing all the things you should be doing.”

“I get it. Now I’m the total loser, bad guy. Watch many romance movies Janice? What’s next? You fall in love with the private dick, go off into the sunset and live happily ever after?”

“Get over yourself Bobby. I just want to find out what happened to my sister. I want to find Jenn. I want everything back to the way it was. You and me….we can do this some other time. How “bout you man up and we figure this shit out?”

“God, you could always piss me off Jan!”

“And stop calling me “Jan”. You know I never liked you calling me “Jan”.”

“Fine. Let’s call it a truce. I just want to go over it one more time. Give me the timeline from when you last saw Jenn to when you discovered her missing, her car in the driveway, the guy in the grey hoodie…the whole kittenkaboodle. Tell me when and how you contacted Roger and what the two of you have come up with so far. Anything and everything. I have to know it all.”

“You always were a tenacious son of a bitch Bobby. Got to give you that.”

Chapter 28…

“Gee, no I didn’t, Sherlock. I was just asking her why her bag was ringing when I called Jenn’s cell.’ Course, that could totally be a coincidence. Maybe you didn’t hear that while you were upstairs destroying the integrity of a potential crime scene. And you want to know what, now? About her love life? Really, Bob? There’s a direct threat to Jenn written on Jenn’s own bedroom wall, and you’re going to focus on what? How about this, Bob…you stay here and harass her little sister, and I’ll just go have a look upstairs. Maybe take a photo or two. Be back in a flash.”

The message had been scrawled in what looked like a sort of hurried fashion. Well, yeah…what did I expect? Calligraphy? In some sort of reddish lipstick…the letters all slanted upwards to the right, so almost certainly right- handed. So possibly there’s a tube-like container around, and it just might have a good fingerprint on it.

“Hey, guys, anyone spot something like a lipstick tube around the floor here, maybe? This doesn’t look like a marker or a Sharpie or anything.”

” Yeah, there was a tube of lipstick under the bed table. Bobby picked it up.”

Of course he did.

“Is it in evidence now?”

” No, we’ve just been poking around. Don’t really know what to call this yet.”

So someone scrawls the message, and drops the tube when they’re done? Maybe they were upset or agitated, and didn’t realize how dumb that was. Or maybe just the opposite. Or maybe just a big diversion. I would bet that the hoodie guy probably wrote this, which means he’s very directly involved…and if he had been interrupted when we pulled up, what the hell else had been going on?

” Has anyone checked the rest of the house? This may not be all there is.”

” Yeah, we’re just going to. Kind of a strange morning here.”

They went down the hallway toward the other upstairs rooms.

I stood looking at the message, and shot five or six photos on the phone. By stepping back, I realized that the guy who wrote this was probably about my height. There was a kind of evenness to the color of the lettering. He didn’t have to reach too far up or down to do it. A little frantic, but effortless.

I could hear voices coming up from the stairwell. Bobby was being aggressive again, and Janice’s voice seemed strained. Whatever was going on there…it sounded like it was completely between them. It didn’t have a tone that was about this missing sister thing at all. It was miles away from this…but could still be part of it. But the detective wasn’t acting much like one, and the concerned sister wasn’t acting all that concerned. Or, closer to the truth…very overly concerned…about something.

And Bobby probably grabbed the lipstick tube. Some kind of detective there.

I walked towards the top of the stairs, and the conversation changed from diffracted tonality to actual words.

And as I stood there deciding if I would give in to eavesdrop or not ( yes I would ), I  noticed something up in the corner of the living room.

Son of a bitch. A  tiny little security camera.

I had to smile. Even though I hadn’t talked to her in years, leopards don’t ever change their spots. Jenn was a tequila- drinking ninety- mile-an- hour rock and roll girl, but also a dedicated mom and absolute stone cold professional. And she might be in trouble right now, maybe in real danger, maybe even dead.

But she would leave a trail of bread crumbs. Hell, Jenn would leave a trail of club sandwich quarters by comparison. You just had to learn where to look. And if I had accidentally discovered one camera, there were almost certainly others.

I decided that I would certainly not mention this to Bobby. He showed every sign of being a terminal idiot, and did not deserve to know. I just couldn’t trust him. And he obviously didn’t know they were there, or he wouldn’t be downstairs right know trying to beat the stuffing out of Jenn’s sister. Figuratively, I hoped. Be she sounded like she was getting mad.

I found another camera discretely hidden behind two pair of sunglasses hanging on the corner of the dresser mirror. And I knew that I didn’t necessarily have to find all of them; I just had to trace one back to where they recorded to.

And yes, that was definitely an agitated and angry female voice wafting up the stairs.

 

 

 

Chapter 27

I don’t want to open my eyes. This is nice. I still hear Roger’s voice. In the distance. Damn, that man can talk. Think I’ll just lay here for a bit. He probably thinks I’m passed out. Who am I to disappoint? His voice gradually took on the quality of white noise. Relaxation…like the gentle ebb and flow of ocean waves upon the ….

I felt the breeze off the ocean, damp from the sea mist. My hair was a mess. All wind blown. We’d met about an hour before dusk. I owned a small condo one street over from the beach. A weekend getaway… A knock at the door. In minutes we were walking

It was late August. And the time of day for holdouts. Snuggled deep in their blankets, dreading the departure from a lazy day at the shore. You’ve spent hours sitting on the sand, walking the waterline, bodysurfing the waves…yeah, that’s what it’s about.

Neither one of us wanted to be the first to talk. As yet unspoken “breakup” was in the air. In spite of it, tonight there was something different.  We were lighter together. Peaceful and relaxed, we walked the entire length of the beach. We held hands off and on. Teased each other like first time lovers. So obvious. The end was near. But not tonight.

This night was about reminiscing. We talked about everything. We ventured to places we never explored. But it didn’t matter. Not now. Now we were walking the walk of dissolution. The walk of reflection and acceptance. Me and Bobby? Done. Over and out. Sometimes, it’s just not right.

“I dare you to walk down this beach, all the way back… topless”.

I laughed. “You’re funny, you know?” I pulled the sleeveless lavender tank top over my head.

“You mean like this?”

Bobby smiled. A smile so wide I had to reach over and touch his face. I looked into his eyes. Why could I never quite break through?

……

“What?! After the night we just had? What the fuck do you mean you think we should go our separate ways? What the fuck does that mean?!

“Calm down Bobby. You heard me. How can I be any clearer?”

“Any clearer?! Are you listening to yourself Janice? You do realize we’re not in a Courtroom, right?”

“Fuck you Bobby. Fuck you. Maybe you ought to get used to feeling like you’re in a Courtroom ‘cuz the way it looks to me, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in one.” 

“Is that what this is all about? You’re pissed because I didn’t tell you about the investigation?”

“Damn right I’m pissed. Internal Affairs is conducting an investigation of brutality charges against my boyfriend and gee, that’s something I wouldn’t want to know about?! I shouldn’t be pissed because the man I’ve been sleeping with for the last year is keeping secrets from me?! Big secrets. You didn’t think I ought to know about that!? What else haven’t you told me Bobby?”

“I don’t need this shit. I don’t need it from IA and I sure as hell don’t need it from you Janice. I’m outta here. Have a nice….”

 “I don’t need your shit, Roger. That’s what I’m asking you. Did you or didn’t you ask her about Jenn’s love life?”

“What? What did you say Bobby? You asking about my love life?” I opened my eyes reluctantly.

 

 

 

Chapter 26…

The Patron did just the trick. Hopefully, she was picturing herself on a tropical beach somewhere, hopefully with a guy who didn’t make her look like she actually ate a tennis ball. She was relaxed.

Good. Gives me some time to think. Really really need that. Time to assess what we’ve got so far.

a) Jenn supposedly missing, sister Janice goes looking for a private detective…not the police.

b) Sister not exactly forthcoming with information. And yet hired me. Why hedge stuff from the guy who’s on your side?

c) In a world where even little kids have phones, no one in this thing has called anyone else in this thing. That’s Jenn, her sister, her daughter, her ex- husband, several ex- boyfriends….and not to omit good old Bobby. Who used to be involved with Jenn. And apparently Janice too. Hence all the tennis ball references. Great… a family tree with no freaking branches on it.

d) Did Janice know about Jenn, et cetera? Talk about motive. Everybody in this thing has a motive. Going to have to look at all of them.

e) So that means that the cop at the top of the stairs is the probable bad guy, so far. If that’s true, then he’s likely ruining evidence as he goes along. And the prophetic writing on the wall… left by the hoodie guy who just ran out?… the one who the investigating detective seems totally disinterested in? Or maybe someone who was here much earlier…Janice? Ex-husband? Good Old Bobby? Maybe even Jenn, for all I know. Maybe even daughter Kendra, before she went to school this morning. What the hell is really going on here?

I have the sinking feeling that I’m being used as a cover by someone. Probably Janice. But why?

Time to think outside the box a little. Time to climb out of the box altogether.

Time to make something unexpected happen. Poke around a little.

I called Jenn’s old cell number, still in my list from years ago. Maybe we can find Jenn by just asking her where the hell she is.

And just then…wouldn’t you know? Another phone started ringing. It was coming from Janice’s little black patent-leather handbag.

Really?

Chapter 25

Like the sound of a fog horn in the distance, I could hear Bobby barking orders to his men – “dammit O’Malley! don’t be movin’ the furniture until DiMartini’s taken all his pictures!” And just like the swell of sea fog spreading over deserted beach, his voice receded as I realized I was being gently led downstairs.

“If memory serves me correctly young lady, your sister has a fairly decent stash of hooch somewhere in…bingo!”

Still lingering and lost in a haze of shock and disbelief at the scene upstairs, I watched PI Guy reach into a cabinet in the corner of Jenn’s dining room and pull out a silver bottle. I found my way to the couch in the living room, sat down. Feeling the oversized cushions reaching for my back, I suddenly felt really tired. The kind of tired you feel after driving an 800 mile marathon road trip with only one stop. No. No resistance. I gave in to the comfort of those cushions and let my body ease back into their soft embrace, eyes closing.

“This will do quite nicely.” Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. Roger was standing over me, silver bottle in one hand, shot glass in the other. “Nothing like a good shot of tequila to clear the cobwebs, right? Am I right?”

Was he doing his best to lighten the mood? Distract me? Prisoner to the moment, I semi-smiled and said “Sure”.

Noticing the bottle he was holding and watching him expertly fill the glass, my smile grew a little bigger. Jenn’s parties were legendary. Everything top shelf, liquor not withstanding. It was all or nothing with my sister. “Live for today!” she’d say. “It’s all that matters!”

This day was getting way too surreal. I hadn’t even noticed Roger was still talking. “…and did you know Patrón has nine different lines of tequila? They’ve even got a tequila-chocolate-coffee blend, Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa. Wild, isn’t it?” I shook my head slowly, side to side, up and down, as if I’d already had a few shots under my belt.

“Hm….think I’ve heard something about it….”

The first one went down without protest. A little surprising considering it was early afternoon and the “any time is a good time” days are long time residents in the “memory motel” of my youth. Who in God’s name invited Mr. Dali to this party….

Roger’s voice was a buzzing in the background. What was really keeping my attention was the rumble and commotion upstairs. Of policmen looking for clues and tagging evidence. As much as I tried, I couldn’t pretend it was the sound of pre-teen girls practicing the latest dance moves. In spite of impending and certain inebriation, hell, maybe because of it, my brain went to my niece Kendra’s 13th birthday party.

My niece had begged her mom to let her do something big.  “You only turn 13 once Mom!”, she’d say. Jenn had feigned serious contemplation over her daughter’s request for weeks. In the end? Kendra invited 20 of her “closest friends” to a weekend long slumber/dance party. Damn. I never had a party even come close to that. Hell, never even had a 13th birthday party.

(this is some kinda smooth tequila) My private revery continued…I’d been working in London the 3 months prior to Kendra’s birthday. Business being business, it became pretty clear it wouldn’t be concluded before the big day. Contracts and negotiations don’t recognize milestone life events. Publicity appearances don’t wait for a more convenient time. But I didn’t want to, nor would I, miss my niece celebrate her official first day as a teenager. I took the red eye out of London, surprised the crap out of everyone and had the best time I can remember with Jenn, Kendra and 20 of Kendra’s “closest friends”.

“Hey, History Man. I love that you’re so knowledgable about what we’re drinking and all, but can you give me a minute? You know. To chill?”

I extended my arm. “Hit me again big man. Hit me again”.

 

 

Chapter 24

Finally, a return on all those BodyCombat classes I took at my Gold’s Gym. I’m not talking Shaun T here, just your regular old, mixed martial arts kinda workout. It’s what got me up the stairs twice as fast as my PI Guy. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

As I hung a quick left at the top of the stairs, barely dodging an ill placed laundry basket of humongous proportions (Sis is no Martha Stewart in the homekeeping department) I stopped dead in my tracks just outside of Jenn’s bedroom. Fuck. Yeah…no kidding we needed to see this. What sick ass motherfucker….?! Amazing what a little adrenalin will do for one’s vocabulary. As if on cue, Roger just as vehemently vocalized pretty much what I was thinking. Just as he finished…

“What the hell did I tell you! You two were supposed to stay downstairs. Not up here contaminating evidence, messing with my crime scene.”

“Excuse me Bobby?! Your crime scene? Jenn’s my sister and in case you forgot this is my private investigator. I have every right to be here. (I refrained from adding “you pompous ass”) In fact, we were here first. We’re the ones who called you!  Why don’t you take it down a notch and try not to get your panties in a bunch.”

“Don’t start with me Janice. Don’t start.”

“Yo! Bob. Don’t mean to interrupt your love fest, but we got some serious shit to deal with. Why don’t you and Janice save it for a late night dinner or something. Me, I want to find out who the hell did this. The sooner we do that, the sooner we find Jenn.”

The “this” was huge, red lettering scrawled at eye level across Jenn’s vanilla colored walls. It read:

WHORES AT HEART ARE HATEFUL BITCHES. SINS OF THE MOTHER ARE SINS OF THE DAUGHTER.

I looked at Bobby who was looking at me with his cop’s eye. Sad. He and I had a thing once. Close. Now? I wasn’t feeling the connection. The one that had always been there. Had he changed? Or maybe it was me. Maybe I had changed. Where did the trust go? Does all the good of the past eventually get eaten by the mediocrity of the day to day?

Suddenly, I was feeling it. The weight of the pressure. Of waking up to the day when my sister’s past became my present. It was almost unbearable. Almost. For all the outward Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club, on the inside I was Linda Hamilton in Terminator. Building her arsenal. There’s never been anyone I could truly lean on. Never been anyone to see, really see when I needed a shoulder. Fuck it. It is what it is.

“Um… Janice? What’s going on in there?”  Roger. My newly hired well meaning, self serving, funny, smartass private detective was now standing 2 inches from my face. “You good? Listen. I need you to take a closer look at this. Maybe you recognize the writing? Is there anyone you can think of capable of doing this? Anyone who might have a reason to do this? A jilted ex lover of Jenn’s with a few screws loose?  I really need you to think.”

“Yeah, and I need a drink.”

Chapter 22

Oh boy…just my luck…

“Bobby! It’s been a long time man. How’s it going?”

I stood frozen, hoping my jaw wasn’t really hanging open. You know the saying “its’ a small world?” I watched Bobby Giancarlo stride up the driveway. All 6′ 2″.  3  years later, he was still gorgeous, still giving me those butterfly feelings in the pit of my stomach. Just a little, but damn! they were there just the same. Only now, my ex lover is here, at Jenn’s house, on official business. Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought that would or could ever happen.

Roger already had his hand extended – guys don’t hug – and was shaking Bobby’s hand.

“Roger. Been good. Can’t complain. You know, same ole same ole.”

“Janice”. He said my name. Not as a question, as a statement. Almost curtly. And definitely not in the way I was once used to him saying my name. In his soft baritone. In his “after sex” voice – commanding and gentle, playful and affectionate all at the same time. In the afterglow, when the both of us would  lay there thinking “let’s just lie here tangled up in a world that’s all good”….No, no afterglow happening here.

“Hi Bobby”.

Bobby turned to the other detectives and gave them instructions to go through the house room by room. I couldn’t ignore the sudden flash of arousal. Damn bad timing, shake it off! This is serious shit. And no doubt going to get worse before it gets better. I resisted the urge to hit speedial on my phone. Resisted the urge to call my attorney to come rescue me. Besides, I knew Delia was in LA. No help there.

“So who wants to go first?” Roger and I looked at each other. I could see lingering surprise in his face after he realized that I also knew Bobby. And I’m pretty sure he could tell that it hadn’t been in a casual kind of way. You didn’t need to be a private detective to figure that one out.

“Janice is missing Bobby. I hired Roger to help me find her.”

“Why didn’t you call the police if you thought she was missing?” So Bobby. Get right to the point Bobby. Don’t beat around the bush Bobby. And why not. He was just doing his job.

Go figure – one of those well avoided moments of truth, had pulled up to 735 Leona Dr. and stepped out of a black Crown Vic (thanks a lot Karma, thanks a lot). Now my PI was most likely going to hear a tale that on face value is a little on the, shall we say, dramatic side. The Spenster is no doubt going to get an earful. He’ll hear a story and think “uh, oh. DQ”. Which is so not me. Was never me until I met Bobby. Let her rip Karma. Let her rip.

Shifting my feet as much as my eyes, I realized a part of me was hoping not to scare away my newly acquired, and now, not so Private Investigator. I don’t know exactly why, but I didn’t want Roger to leave with a bad taste in his mouth. Not before he heard the whole story. My story. A story he was now apparently waiting for me to begin. Except the part I know he’s waiting for is the part of the story that will come out after we find Jenn. The part that really matters. The part that will come “later”. If there is a “later”. Right now I had to recount everything that happened up until and since I realized my sister had gone missing.

“Is that everything Janice? You haven’t left anything out? Do you have any idea why someone would trash Jenn’s house? Why someone would steal her car? Do you know if she was into anything illegal? Did she piss someone off? Did she hook up with the wrong guy? A criminal? There. There it was. I could hear it in Bobby’s voice. The accusation, the distrust. They call it “transference” in shrinkspeak. When you unconsciously, almost accusingly, attribute qualities of one person to someone else. Without cause or justification, without being based on fact. Bobby was surely “transferring” a whole lot of shit right now and only I knew where it was coming from.

This is going to be one long-assed day.