Desert Rains Ch. 3



                  I knew she was upset by the way she had done things that I knew she would normally never do.               &nb...


                I knew she was upset by the way she had done things that I knew she would normally never do. 

                We both lay in the dark, neither one of us sleeping.  Silence was marred only by the spatter of rain on the windows and the occasional squeal of brakes.  We were both staring at the ceiling, breathing in unison that strange, strained breath where we both felt there was something that had to be said but neither knowing what.

                I was off in my estimation.  When I arrived home both bottles of wine were sitting on the table, uncorked.  I found her pacing back and forth in the kitchen, hair completely undone.  When I stepped in she didn’t say a word but grabbed me by the collar and the rest is a kind of carnal blur.  Now, the aftermath seemed to be lasting forever.  Not in that bad way, but as a kind of steady tension, as if one is asleep but not quite…time passes but not in the way one things.  Seconds seem like hours and hours seem like minutes…

                “I slept with someone.”

                I said, “Okay.”

                I felt her face to turn to me.  “While you were gone.  I slept with someone.”      


                “Is that all you can say?”

                “You didn’t know when or if I’d be coming back.  I can’t blame you any more than myself.”

`               She propped herself up on an elbow.  “What does that mean?”

                “It means that I can’t--“

                “Did you too?”

                I sighed.  “Ships that pass in the night, I think it goes.”

                “It’s never a simple yes or no with you, is it.”     

                “Look, we’re both fighting a war.  We didn’t even have to come here together, but we did.  I didn’t have to leave for three weeks, but I did.  There’s no going back, there’s no changing it, and when things happen in times like this no one is to blame.”

                “Is there anything you care about?  Any one person?”

                I finally turned to look at her.  I though my eyes had accustomed to the dark by then but her expression was inscrutable.  “Are you kidding?”

                “I think you should go to your own room.”

                I had to look around a moment to verify which room I was actually in, then picked myself up and left for sheets that were just as cold.

At sunrise the idea of coffee was turning my stomach into knots.  Downstairs, the wine bottles were still untouched and the TV set was still off.  I briefly considered turning it on, but instead opted to put on a hat, grab my laptop and take a long walk.

The rain had washed away everything I thought it would have.  The smell of traffic and dirt had been muted into the background, and the rains had given new life to the corners of the desert that crept into the city limits. 

I found myself wishing I had been astute enough to determine where the body had been found by the tourists, but there was no way Detective Perry or anyone else would have been forthcoming with that sort of information.  Besides, Gary/Gayla had washed up in the gulley, who knows from how far?  The forensics team,  that’s who.  But would they be forthcoming with that?  Not to me.

I checked my watch.  It was still early.  There was plenty of time before the bar was to be open.  I angled myself in the direction of Kevin Tan’s apartment complex.  This might very well be the only way I was to get any answers…

…it was not as if I was used to spending the night in Lacey’s bed.  In fact, the night before the murder had been the first time it had ever happened.  We had moved into the condo under the premise of being roommates.  Eventually, nature did take its course over the proceeding months, but I had always woken up in my bed and she in hers.  There was never any morning after kiss, no shared showers, no coy glances.  We lived and worked under the same roofs.  A shared experience brought us closer than most.  It was something we never had discussed…

…in our previous lives, we had our flings, but kept each other at arms length for the most part.  She had her dalliances and I mine, and we made appropriate fun of each other when the situation warranted.  I had never given it much more thought than that, and assumed the same of her.  Granted, being in Witness Protection had changed a lot of that…

…I wasn’t bothered at all by the idea of her sleeping with someone else in my absence.  Not in the least.  I had never considered her mine in any way.  She had her own life to live.  We just happened to be in each other’s circles.  Hell, the whole point of this program was for us to find and build lives separate from our pasts and, realistically, holding onto that path wasn’t making this any easier…

I stopped in my tracks and turned around. I had overshot Kevin’s apartment complex by half a block.  I walked up to the stoop and knocked on the door.

Kevin was much upright, functional, and welcoming.  Only one who had known him well would have seen the slight swelling under his eyes and a faint redness to his cornea.  I told him I had a few questions, and that they were pertaining to the business that Gary/Gayla had built.

“I know it’ll be tough,” I said.

Kevin shook his head.  “Right now the worst has happened.  I appreciate the company.  I don’t know, even just talking about him might help.  I don’t know right now, Harper, if anything would possibly hurt more.”     He took a deep sigh as he selected a teabag from an assortment of herbals.  He closed his eyes for a second, took  another breath, then gestured for me to ask away.

“Tell me about the companies that wanted to buy up the land,” I started.

Asian interests, he told me.  Korean, he thought.  They had bought up an entire block three years ago, then one bit at a time evicted the tenants.  There was a big uproar, but the proposal that the company had to the city was far too great an offer for them to pass up; brand new buildings, evoking a classic western style, bringing in flavours of the southwestern desert combined with the rising interests in artisanal products, all but guaranteed to turn a profit in a town that had seen economic troubles this past decade.

The lot, I pointed out, had been empty for a year. 

“I don’t know about that,” Kevin said.  “I hear three things from every two people in the know.”

“Why look to buy when you haven’t proven your original asset anyway?”

Kevin shook his head as he poured the tea.  He brought the tray over, set it before us, and sat down.  He set his head in his hands, talking through them as he worked through several long grieving sighs.  “Gayla always said, she’d die before she’d sell to anyone.  I’m sure she said it in some of those meetings.  She loved that place so much.  It was her entire life.”  His eyes, still dry, lifted above his fingertips.  “Is that what you think, Harper?  That they killed her to get to the property?”

“It’s an old story,” I said, “but I can’t say.  I can’t imagine anyone else with a motive.”

“Of course not,” Kevin said.  He stared at the teacup on the tray in front of him, as if it were a window to the past.  “Everybody loved him.  He was deep and complicated and dark, oh there was such a darkness there.  But he put that into his work.  He put that into his plays.  He was strong and powerful and beautiful every time he smiled.  I miss his smile—“ tears fell.  Kevin fell.  I held onto him, holding him up as he let loose again. 

I wept alongside him.  I wept for the love that was lost but not dead, for the life that had been torn away, for the soul that had been crushed, leaving the shaking shell that was in my arms, the lost mind and hurting body that suffered needlessly at the hands of indiscriminant evil.

A knock shook the door.  The official knock that law enforcement carry in their fists.

Kevin wiped his eyes and staggered to the door.

Detective Perry stood in front of him, badge and paperwork in plain sight.  “Mr. Kevin Tan, you have been declared a person of interest in our investigation into the murder of Gary Hartnett.”


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