Seven Suspects, Chapter 1

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In the third novel of the Bobbi Logan crime trilogy, success has made Bobbi a little arrogant and losing her lover has made her a trifle desperate and now someone who is angry and violent is stalking her with bad intentions.

 

For most transsexuals, the major turning point in your life is somewhere in your transition. But for me, that moment came when I decided to track down the twisted monster who beat my friend to death and got away with it. That's what led me to John Strand. He was rich and powerful and admired by everyone except the transgender women he brutalized and sometimes killed. The police wouldn't dream of investigating him, so I did. The consequences of that decision keep sprouting up in my life, like dandelions in a suburban lawn. The repercussions won't stop until I die. I just hope to God there's no afterlife.

 

 

1

 

 

Cecelia's call wakes me from a deep sleep. It takes three rings for me to realize where I am, and a fourth to notice the man lying next to me on my disheveled bed.

       "Good God," I groan to myself. I remember him, but I thought I was dreaming. And not in a good way. He's breathing through his mouth and he has horrible morning breath. He's also not very attractive, kind of average looks, receding hairline, a hairy beer belly. On the fifth ring, I'm still wondering what I could have been thinking to take this man home with me. The caller ID shows Cecelia's name. Against my better judgement, I pick up the phone and move into the living room so Casanova can get his beauty sleep.

       "Hi Honey," I greet Cecelia in a soft voice.

       "Did you pick that jerk up?" Cecelia scolds me. She was there when Lover Boy was making his moves on me. "He's lying there right now, isn't he?"

       "Good morning to you, too," I say.

       "He is, isn't he?"

       "He's in the vicinity."

       "God, Bobbi. What's gotten into you? You could have done better at a crack house."

       "He's not so bad," I say.

       "Not so bad?" she exclaims. "He's fat. He has smoker's breath. He dresses like a rag picker. And he has the intellect of a slug. Really, Bobbi, how could you?"

       "Damned if I know," I say. "Let's talk about something else."

       "You're overcompensating."

       "For being trans?" I ask.

       "For getting dumped by Phil." She's very forceful when she says this, like it's a bitch slap to get my attention. Phil was my dream lover, the perfect man, the kind of man who could never be interested in an over-sized transgender woman like me. Until he was. And then, he wasn't.

       "If you say so," I sigh. I don't want to get into it with her. The fact that she's right makes the tongue lashing completely unbearable. The man in my bed marks the third one-night stand I've had in the past month or so. Not like me, but at the time it seemed better than spending the night alone, crying my eyes out that the only man I've ever loved was ashamed of himself for loving me.

       "What's his name?" Cecelia is asking. She's referring to Lover Boy.

       I try to think if we exchanged names before we exchanged body fluids.

       "Bobbi!" she admonishes me. "You didn't even get his name?"

       "It seemed anti-climactic." I can't resist parrying Cecelia's scolding with a bad pun.

       At that moment, Lover Boy staggers into the room naked, his hair akimbo, his eyes half closed, his belly hanging out.

       "Hold on a sec, Cecelia," I say to her.

       I smile at Lover Boy. "Excuse me, I didn't get your name."

       He smiles a dumb smile and begins fondling himself. This is supposed to be lurid, but it makes me want to gag. I turn away.

       "Cecelia?" I say into the phone. "Let's finish this later. I've got work to do."

       Lover Boy has come over to me. I'm stark naked and he's putting his hands on me like he's a hot lover in an erotic movie. I have an overwhelming sense of personal shame that he's in my home and we've had sex together. The only thing worse than his sweaty body odor is his terrible breath. I push him away gently. He smiles and starts toward me when the phone rings again. I hold him at arm's length and answer.

       It's my ex-wife, Betsy.

       "I'm running early this morning," she says. "Can I drop Robbie in fifteen minutes?"

       "Can we make it twenty?" I ask. I want to get rid of Lover Boy and straighten up a little before she gets here. I don't need two sex lectures in the same morning.

       "Can you just leave the door unlocked and we'll come in?"

       "I'd rather just make it twenty minutes," I say, struggling a little to keep Lover Boy off me. He's gesturing to his fully erect penis with the kind of pride a patriot exhibits at the raising of the flag.

       "Do you have company?" she asks. I can hear the smile in her voice. She thinks its romance.

       "Yes."

       She pauses for just a moment, then gushes. "I'm so glad you found someone." She means it, which makes me feel even worse about being such a slut.

       "Okay," she says, that smile still in her voice. "Twenty minutes. Use a condom."

       She hangs up and I drop the phone as Lover Boy starts to grope me again. I stop him. "I have people coming," I say. "I have to get going and so do you."

       He puts is arms around me and tries to pull our bodies together. He also hits me with a blast of vile halitosis, a toxic blend of yesterday's cigarettes and the decaying remains of whatever he ate in the past twenty-four hours. "You know you want it," he says. He thinks he's being seductive, but he's just proving how desperate I was to shack up with him.

       "It's time to go," I say, pushing his hand away.

       He gropes me again, the crotch this time. Enough's enough. I grab his pubic hairs in one hand and pull. He screams. His erection deflates like melting ice cream.

       "No means no," I tell him. "Don't ruin a good thing. You were a great fuck, but now I need you to go."

       "You bitch!" He pulls away when I release his pubes and regards me from a safe distance. "You fucking cunt."

       He's trying to insult me, but I find his epithets validating. I've always wished people would see me as a woman, but even now, after years on hormones and expensive feminization surgeries, it's easy to tell I'm transsexual. I'm pretty and I have a nice body, but I'm tall and broad-shouldered and my attitude is colored by having lived in a testosterone-fueled body most of my life. I wish it weren't that way, especially the attitude. I wish I had grown up a girl and had normal girl feelings about the world and sex and love. But that's not how it is. How it is, is, if Lover Boy doesn't get moving, I will make him, and that will embarrass us both.

       "I'm sorry, Big Man," I tell him in my best pacifying voice. "You're a fabulous lay. You should go pro. Really. But, I need you to go now."

       It re-starts his male-ego engine. He gives me his Lover Boy look, making his eyes soft and pleading, and forming his lips into a little halo shape, like he was going to coo over a new born baby. He looks like a demented lawn ornament with a pot belly.

       "Another time," I say as I rush into the bedroom and get his clothes. There won't be another time, of course. Cecelia was right. I can't believe I had sex with this man. I should be more diplomatic, but I'm having a hard time looking at him. I bring his clothes to him and put them in his arms.

       "You have two minutes to get dressed and leave under your own power," I tell him. I don't spell out the threat. He gets it.

       "Like I'm really scared," he says, getting into his pants. He mutters a series of curses and invectives about me being a queer and a man with tits. It's like insulting a duck for swimming in cold water. I've heard it all before and all I want is for him to be out of here before Becky and Robbie get here.

       He buttons his shirt as he makes his way to the door. He opens it and turns to me. "Jack," he says. "My name is Jack Meoff." He smiles slyly, the way a dumb cartoon character would smile slyly, and leaves, slamming the door behind him. I'm left thinking that I used the "Jack Meoff" punchline when I was in junior high, and I must not have come very far in life if I have to get my jollies from a guy with a junior-high sense of humor.

       God, there must be a pill I can take to be more normal.

       Silence returns to my apartment. I take a deep breath to collect my thoughts before getting on with the day. The thought I can't get rid of is, I've just pissed off another person. It seems to happen a lot lately and Cecelia keeps warning me that one of these days, one of those people is going to seek retribution. Her nagging seems prophetic, somehow, and a chill runs through my body.

 

***

 

When I open the door, Betsy and Robbie sweep into the apartment as if a dam had broken and they are riding the front wave. Robbie makes for the third bedroom, which has been her room since she and Betsy lived with me. Betsy walks straight into my bedroom without so much as a howdy-do or a peck on the cheek. She's wearing her big sister smile and looking for evidence of last night's orgy. I blush before she says a word. They got here minutes after Lover Boy left, so the bed looks like a tornado hit it, and some of my clothes are still scattered around the floor.

       Betsy dangles some of my garments from one hand and nods toward the messy bed, smiling.

       "Is this Mr. Right?" she asks.

       I shake my head, no.

       "Are you going to be able to handle Robbie?" She's teasing, but she wants a straight answer.

       "I promise. No distractions." I mean it, too. I'm beyond serious about this child. My official status is doting aunt, but really, I'm more like a fairy god mother, and I don't mind if you emphasize the fairy part.

       Betsy remarried around the time I was transitioning. She and her husband went out of their way to support me, and Betsy and I re-bonded as sisters. From the time they conceived Robbie, I connected with her. I used to talk to her softly when she was growing in Betsy's womb, loving her as if she were my own child, wishing I could carry a child, too, so they could be life-long friends. When Robbie emerged into the world, she found my voice soothing and we connected from the start.

       The bond got stronger after Don was killed in a car accident and Betsy lost everything in the Great Recession. She and Robbie lived with me for a year while she got things back together. It was the greatest year of my life. For one great moment, I had it all. I was a girl. I had a successful business. I had a family I loved and a family that loved me back. I even had a leading man—someone I loved, not just a guy.

       "No wild parties, promise?"

       She's teasing me again, but I repeat my promise because she needs to hear it again. Robbie is staying with me while Betsy jets off to Paris with her new paramour, a guy named Alex who's a corporate big shot and appears nice enough, though he seems a little oily to me. Of course, I just bedded a slack-jawed idiot, so I don't rate as an expert in these matters.

       "If anything happens, you will be the one to explain it to my parents." Betsy says it with a grin. It's like a worst-thing-that-could-ever-happen joke. Her parents are, the polite expression is "social conservatives"—but really, they're middle-class, midwestern Nazis. They didn't like me when I was a man because I didn't hate anyone. You can't even imagine how they feel about me now, a transsexual woman.

       "I don't need an incentive to dote on my niece," I respond, "But that's a powerful one."

       I make coffee and we go over Betsy's itinerary and contact information, Robbie's doctor, the phone numbers for the school, and on and on. Betsy is an organizer and a mom. Nothing is left to chance, except for maybe Aunt Bobbi. Just kidding.

 

***

 

Robbie and I wave farewell to Betsy and watch her pull away. I put an arm around Robbie as we walk up the steps to the front door. She's a little weepy, I can hear it in her voice, but she's also a nine-year-old, a precocious nine, going on twenty-five, and isn't about to admit it. She pretends to tolerate my touch.

       Inside, she starts to head for her room, but I stop her. "What are you up for this afternoon?" I ask.

       "Nothing, really." She says it like a snotty teenager would. "I'd like to be alone for a while." She heads for her room.

       I follow. Before she can close the door, I step inside. It's a beautiful room done in pink and lavender with enough eggshell to keep it light. She's long since outgrown the little girl bed we had for her, and the new bed is adorned with linens and covers that bear no trace of the dolls and teddy bears and cartoon characters that were so much a part of her childhood. At least she let us get a frilly, girly bedspread and she's still partial to pink and lavender. I try not to push my issues on her, but truthfully, I experience these things with her as if I'm finally living the childhood I never had, the one where I was a girl with long hair and pretty dresses and slept in a cozy cotton nightie and was doted on by parents who loved me and thought I was cute.

       "I could do your hair and makeup and we could go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner," I offer. She's homesick for Mom already. I can see it. I don't want her being alone right now. She has always loved it when I do her hair. It makes her feel like a princess, which pleases us both. But it's not working right now.

       "I don't think so, Aunt Bobbi." She says it with a sort of royal poise that's shocking. It has only been a week or so since I last saw her and she was still a little girl then. She read a story to her dolls and we had a tea party. I was the big drinker, but she let me pantomime the consumption so I wouldn't have to pee all the time. She's waiting for me to leave the room.

       "Okay, then we're going for a walk." I say it with the energy and insistence of a school teacher. I'm not giving her a chance to say no. I offer her sun screen and a hat. She declines both, repeats that she doesn't want to go. I insist, and I insist that she put on sun screen. She refuses. I tickle her. She tries to be angry but her inner little girl comes out. We laugh for a minute.

       "Let's do hair and makeup and go to a fancy restaurant," she says. Moments like this—and there are many of them—make me think we're genetically linked. She's the me who would have been if fate had given me a body to go with my female brain.

 

 

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