Read April at the Antique Alley Online
Authors: Bill McGrath
I knew that Jill was going to have to call Jana Little, the owner of Uptown Treasures, at about six because we had arranged to meet with her for dinner. Keep in mind that Detective Samuels had twice warned me not to get involved with this case, and also keep in mind that it had been Jana who had suggested that we get together, so I was considering this a social gathering rather than a business meeting. I was, therefore, actually quite thrilled when Jill got off the phone and told me that we were having a quiet dinner here at the house with Jana.
Jill sent me on an errand. She told me to go by a grocery store and pick up some dessert as well as a handful of limes and some fresh strawberries, and also commanded that I stop by a liquor store to get a big bottle of rum. It was already 6:15 and she warned me that I better hurry because our guest would be arriving at seven. I tried to remember what all I had in the refrigerator that could possibly be whipped together and called dinner, but Jill told me she would take care of the meal. I had my doubts.
It is not that I am unsocial or anything, but too many times in the past I have found myself as a fifth wheel. I had gotten the impression from the friendly and comfortable way Jill had talked with Jana at her store, and the easy friendly phone conversation they had just shared, that Jana and Jill might grow to be really good friends and I sort of got the impression that I would be in the way. At six feet and three inches tall, and lesbian, I have grown accustomed to being an outsider, a misfit. I don’t at all mind, it just sort of paralyzes me in social settings. So I fully expected the fleeting feelings of annoyance I got while on my errand, but this time it was just a little less than familiar. It was more like I felt I was being set up to take some sort of fall. You know like being asked at the last minute by your boss to
attend some sort of meeting and then at the meeting being asked some questions about some project that you are not prepared to answer. I do not know where the feeling came from but I just couldn’t shake it.
I arrived back home bearing cake, and fruit, and liquor several minutes before seven. Jill had transformed the dining area of my kitchen into something oriental by simply placing a dragon-laced red and gold scarf on the table as a runner and placing several small candles in black bowls on the table. Lined up on the counter she had magically created an Asian feast and I was really wondering how she had produced such a spread in such a short time and from such limited ingredients when I saw the large paper sack advertising the “Dragon Wagon”
which is a really good Asian restaurant with quick deliveries.
Jill quickly assigned me the duty of quartering the limes while she attacked the strawberries. Within minutes she transformed the fruit and some ice, as well as way too much rum, into a large pitcher of frozen daiquiris. I was still dressed in my jeans and pull over. Jill had swapped her carpenter outfit for red and black silk pajamas.
Jana arrived just seven or eight minutes late. She had obviously spent part of the day at the salon because her hair was now a good deal shorter than it had been yesterday when we had met her. It was short, straight, black, almost boy-like but in a cute pixie sort of way. She was sporting silver framed glasses and draped in a short but shapeless army green dress. Had it been tan it would have looked a lot like a girl scout’s uniform. She held in her hand a rhinestone covered purse larger than my briefcase. Her bare toes stuck through the open-ended sandals she was wearing which did nothing to help her short five foot frame.
Jill greeted Jana with the familiarity of a dear longtime friend and shepherded her into the kitchen area. I trailed behind and soon found myself seated at the dining table next to Jana with a cold daiquiri in my hand. Jana and I chatted really briefly for a few minutes while Jill pretended to be busy finishing up the meal she had obviously worked so hard to prepare.
We quickly got a little business out of the way. Jana reported that the cops had showed up at her store and gone over the remaining pieces of furniture from the breakin two weeks earlier searching for prints. They had lifted dozens but who knew what clues the various prints might yield. They also had found a business card tucked in one of the desk drawers that advertised a local Salvation Army furniture store so they told Jana they would check to see if the furniture had been purchased at that store.
By the time we had gone through just that much conversation Jill had loaded mounds of good smelling food on the table. She insisted that we attack the meal using chop sticks. Bother!
Since Jana and I were the same age and both a half-dozen years senior to Jill, we had my favorite radio station dialed in but playing softly in the background. The food was delicious and somewhere near the second round of daiquiris I started feeling more like one of the girls and less like a target. Because of the chop sticks we did more laughing at each other than conversation.
After dinner Jill suggested we leave the mess where it was and settle on the back porch. Jana carried both her own glass as well as mine, and I refilled the pitcher for us. Jill was first to arrive on the porch so she snagged for herself the single comfortable chair which left the wicker love-seat for Jana and I. We talked a long, long time about movies and television shows and favorite musical acts. We could not hear the radio any longer but a good steady rain filled in background noise with a steady pitter pat, pitter pat.
It was dark on the back porch by now except that the hot tub had lights inside lighting up the water and bleeding the softest of blue hues into the surrounding air. It felt quite warm for such a lovely evening.
Jill stood up to pour Jana and I more slush and rather than sitting down she stood in front of us and politely asked our guest if she (Jana) would be offended if she (Jill) got into the hot tub.
Jana assured Jill that it would not bother her in the least so we both watched silently as little Jill shed her silk pajamas and dipped herself into the Jacuzzi.
Jana lifted her drink to her lips. It took only one single more sip and she begged my permission to join Jill.
After a nod of my head, Jana stood and kicked off her sandals. She took off her eye glasses and carefully folded them leaving them on the small table next to the chair Jill had been sitting in. She stood facing me just a foot or so away and slowly pulled the dress off over her head. She tossed the dress onto the love seat into the small space she had vacated.
Facing me now wearing only the briefest of thongs she slowly scratched her right side casually with her right hand. I had to admit that she was suddenly much more attractive without the shapeless dress and silently cursed myself for not having more light on the porch.
“Don’t be long” she whispered.
“I won’t” I answered.
She did an about face, then with her cute little bottom staring right at me she slid the thong down and kicked it to the side. Slowly she took the four or five steps across the room and climbed into the steaming water.
This girl knows better than to mix business with pleasure so I had to fight with myself a little to convince myself that Detective Samuels had forbidden me from working the case, so, technically, this was nothing but a social visit. Within a
minute or so I, too, was nude and up to my neck in hot water, and we each raised our daiquiri glasses in a toast to new friends.
Several minutes later Jana slithered across the surface to land on my lap facing me and straddling me. She started her nibbling at my right ear. Damn it felt nice. Jill silently stepped out of the tub and waved a wicked but silent “Good by.”
I woke up Tuesday morning after what had to be the best nights sleep I had gotten in months. It had been three months since my last girlfriend had left me and it had been a completely sexless three months. After the hot tub love Jana and I had somehow managed to get up to my bed before picking up right where we had left off. She had exhausted me, and when she was done, I had exhausted her. She was, however, nowhere to be found at the moment.
I found Jill sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. I poured myself a mug and sat down across from her.
“Where’s Jana?” I asked her.
Jill responded with “She left just a couple of minutes ago. She said she should get her store open today and wanted us to stop by later if we can fit it in.”
“Thanks for putting the dinner together last night” I offered.
“No problem” she parried.
“Thank you also,” I said trying to make it sound serious but losing the battle to giggle as I did “for tossing Jana to me like a gift.”
“What ever do you mean?” she said giggling herself and trying desperately to keep the newspaper from shaking.
“Come on! You set the whole thing up. You planned your work then very efficiently worked your plan. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate it, but why did you do it.”
“You really don’t know, do you?” she said being quite serious.
“What?” was my witty response.
“What is her store called?”
“Uptown Treasures” I reminded her.
“O.K.” she said. “Remember when we were at Uptown Treasures on Sunday and I spoke with her while you looked around her store and then just as we were leaving she asked if we could meet for dinner soon?”
“Yes” I answered trying to rerun the scene in my brain.
“Well, while Jana and I were talking she asked about you. Later, when we were at the Eagle she was there in the back and saw us there. Since she saw us in such a lesbian bar together she jumped to the conclusion that you and I were a couple, so yesterday morning while I was stuck at the motel waiting for you to
finish here, Jana called me on my cell phone to apologize for asking about you earlier. I cleared her up on our friendship and she and I have been planning this together ever since.”
Wow! That was a lot to take in.
Jill continued “Xara, you are a beautiful gay woman who fully deserves a little pleasure and joy in your life. I can’t believe you didn’t notice her lusting after you when we first met. You are all business all the time. I swear it would do you a lot of good to yank your head out once in a while.”
“Thanks, I think” I muttered.
“Besides” Jill purred, “With Jana’s net securely tossed over you that leaves the field clear for that big Adonis we met at Antiques of Dallas. What was his name?”
“You mean Donald Smith” I said.
“Ah yes” she sighed. “Donald Smith!!! Just think Xara, I could marry Mr.
Donald Smith and then we could hang a sign outside that says ‘Smith & Smith Discrete Investigations.’”
We both did a fake little high-school sigh and pine then giggled our asses off. I took my coffee mug up to my room with a good book pretending I was going to read for an hour before getting busy. I guess I was still a bit tired because Jill woke me six hours later.
“Where the hell have you been all day?” Detective Eric Samuels shouted into his end of the phone.
I am glad I was across town or I would have probably heard him without the phone. He had apparently called a couple of times during the day while I was getting my beauty sleep. He told me I was in a good deal of danger and requested that I get down to his office immediately.
Soon I found myself once again in the cramped little office occupied by Detective Eric Samuels of the Dallas PD sipping really bad coffee. I had met him back in January and he had become a good friend since, but sometimes it seemed like I spent half my time on his turf.
He started our meeting by shoving a printed list in front of me. I found my name fifth from the bottom. It was a printout from the address book the police had taken off of Lola Martin’s computer. My name being on the list had been the reason Samuels had called me into the case to begin with. The four names following my name had been the main thing that had cleared me from suspicion in her death.
“Read the last name on the list” he said to me.
“Shawana Blake” I said.
“Shawana Blake of Plano Texas” he read from his own notes. “Found dead in her house at 10:30 this morning when the mailman happened to see a large smear of blood on one of her windows. Cause of death; Satan’s Path.”
He looked at me silently for a few seconds.
“Read the second to last name” he said.
“BJ O’Riley” I whispered.
“Brenda Jane O’Riley of Dallas” Samuels read. “A neighbor who visits often for coffee and chit-chat found her door open this morning around eleven.
Brenda Jane was found dead. Cause of death; Satan’s Path. Also found dead was her husband one James O’Riley. Cause of death; a single gun shot to the head.”
He continued with “Found in the mud in front of the O’Riley house was a single tire track. The lab boys have not finished with it but it looked a lot like the track we got from your driveway, Xara.” He stopped his dissertation at this point to take out a large envelope for me. In it was a black and white photo of the tire track recovered at the O’Riley house. It had been quite muddy in their driveway and it was a good clean impression. In addition to the printed photo there was a computer disk. Samuels told me it contained several shots of the tire impression as well as a couple of shots of the tire track they had pulled from my own driveway. Samuels told me I could keep the photos so that I could look at them on my own computer if I wished.
“Read the third to last name” he said to me.
“I would rather not” I said.
“Edward Ferrel, also of Dallas, and his domestic partner paid for airline tickets to Orlando, Florida more than a month ago. The flight took off around seven this morning. Ed and his boyfriend were on the plane and they are safe but scared at Disney World right now.”
He continued on without asking me to read the fourth to last name. “Robin Cord, and her husband and two children of Addison, Texas are in police protective custody. Read the fifth to last name.”