“Just open the door. It doesn’t matter anymore,” he grumbles.
Inside, I walk to the bedroom to change, not bothering to close the door. The wet winter clothes peel off my body. Putting on sweat pants, I enter the living room. His eyes lock onto my bare flesh and a smile changes to a frown as I pull a t-shirt over my head.
“Are you staying for dinner again?”
I know what the answer will be, so I grab the pots and pans for pasta and meatballs. Men will eat anything as long as they don’t have to cook. I notice him arranging my books in alphabetical order. Sighing, I turn my attention back to cooking.
“You look very pretty.”
I turn my head and stick my tongue out at him. “I’m wearing sweatpants, wise guy.”
“You’re barefoot and cooking me dinner.” He winks.
Men. “Forget that. You still haven’t told me what you think of my novel. You read it, right?”
“I read a few pages but couldn’t go on. How can I read a book that doesn’t have a title?”
“I don’t need a title yet. It’s a work in progress.”
“Make the title reflect the story.” He walks over and leans against the counter, watching me stir the pasta. “In other words, what’s this novel about?”
“The rise of women.”
Chuckling, he opens a bottle of wine and avoids looking at me. “Nobody wants to read about that. People want to escape reality.”
“What should I write about, fucking vampires that sparkle?” I accentuate each word by slamming the spatula on the end of the skillet.
“I don’t know. Sex and violence usually do the trick. That’s all I can say. After all, I’m a cop, not a writer.”
“That, I know.”
Despite my anger, I put an extra helping of meatballs on his plate. We sit and begin to eat, watching each other and drinking wine. He finishes and I get up to make him another plate when he breaks the silence.
“I must ask you one more question about that night.”
I slam my palm on the table, spilling wine on the tablecloth. Neither of us moves, and for a span of minutes, the ticking of my wall clock serves as the only sound in the room. I’m not going to talk about this with him. No. Not again.
“Why can’t you let this go? It’s been six months. You have asked me the same questions a hundred different ways. Why must you obsess over it?”
“Because a man died!”
“A man that three witnesses testified to seeing assault and rape me…”
He cuts me off. “Yes, but…”
I cut him off, too. “Roger, there are no ifs or buts. A man assaulted me. I killed him. The end.”
“There are…inconsistencies in your statements,” he says, measuring his words.
“I spent five years locked in a nut house, and you’re surprised there are inconsistencies in my statement? And they say I’m crazy.” My body trembles and my heart races.
He laughs, but his eyes probe me with unsaid questions and commentary. He pours another glass of wine, returning to his plate of pasta. His chewing slows and I feel his eyes on me. I can almost detect the sparks inside his mind—ideas churning in that cop orb that won’t let me out. My hand grips the bread knife, and the powerful urge to ram it into his neck comes over me.
“The part I don’t understand…” He stops to finish chewing.
I’m freaking out as I wait for doom, but I just listen.
“Where did all the money go?”
Money? What money is he talking about? He knows I have no money. Gulping the wine, I watch him for any clue. “What?” The word cracks in my throat.
“And why do you have men following you?”
“You should be able to answer that better than I can,” I murmur, sliding the knife off the table and into my lap. Can I reach him before he can react?
“One man seems to be a professional, though not a cop. The other one is…”
I try to speak, but my voice fails me.
“The FBI.” A wide smile rises on his fat cheeks.
“I haven’t noticed anyone following me.” I try to slow my breathing, the pace of my heart clouding my thoughts.
“You’d be the last to know.”
I wince. This cop logic seems sound, but what does he really know? What does he want me to say? After gathering my courage, I blurt out the only thing on my mind. “Tell me about the money.”
He taps his fingers on the table in drum roll imitation as I squirm in my seat, ready to leap at him. My phone vibrates with a new text message from an unknown number. As I grab the phone, Roger puts down his fork.
“Millions left to you have gone missing.” He shoots a sharp glance toward me.
“What? I don’t have millions of anything, let alone dollars.” I shake my head.
When I try to read the message on my phone, Roger’s eyes follow.
“All accounts are dated on the day of your eighteenth birthday.”
This can’t be true. Am I rich? But Roger has nothing to gain from lying. Why would he make this up?
“Tell me what’s in the FBI file.”
A wide grin spreads over his face when he opens the file. He appears proud to have this power over me.
“5’ 5”, eyes pale blue, hair blonde, skin like porcelain. Very attractive, could be a model, and uses her sexual attraction as a weapon. Quite intelligent. Prone to lying and manipulation to achieve goals. No moral or societal boundaries apply in her mind. Abused by father for years, guilty of patricide. Molested by the--”
Bolting out of my seat, I grab his arm and put my hand over his mouth. I clench my teeth. “Do. Not. Finish. That. Sentence.” If you do, it will be your last mistake.
Although he appears shocked, he remains still.
Shaking my head, I take my hand off of his mouth and finally read the text message on my phone.
Get out of the house. Do not tell him anything. Walk to the end of your street. Run through the woods to lose him. There will be a blue ‘74 Firebird waiting in the abandoned parking lot next to the car dealership. Keys are in the ignition. Drive to 555 Holden Avenue in Newtown, Connecticut.
I fall back into my seat and freeze. There are people watching. I feel my face flush, but before I can let the information settle in my head, the phone buzzes with another text.
DO NOT KILL HIM. HE IS WIRED. GET OUT NOW!
I slam the chair back against the refrigerator and bolt up. Walking straight to the entryway, I throw on wool socks, boots, and a winter jacket. His expression switches from shock to curiosity. I suppose this isn’t how he thought I’d react to his secrets.
Ignoring the advice of the text, I take the time to pack my writing materials, a computer tablet, and an extra phone charger. Roger continues drinking at the table. Maybe he doesn’t notice or care that I’m getting ready to leave. Pulling a knit cap over my hair, I exit the apartment without a word.