This morning, while Morty was dressing after his early-bird appointment, Allison called from the lobby of April’s building. “April was supposed to meet me here at 10:30 and she’s not answering her door or her phone! Can I come over?”
I was wearing a towel when Allie arrived. “Talk to me while I shower,” I told her. Behind the shower curtain, I was trying to figure out how to remove some stray Astroglide from my bangs without getting my entire head wet — while listening to Allison’s latest news.
“She said she had the rest of the money! Well, I didn’t tell her I had her money because I figured I would just give it to her when we meet — I’ll tell her I changed my mind about selling the book.”
“So you were both planning on giving each other money? I hate to say it, Allie, but your life is turning into a bloody fable.”
Allison giggled nervously. “She thought I was bringing my book.”
Later in the day, April’s phone was still ringing busy. I decided to tell Jasmine about Allison’s abortive meeting with April. “Do you think she was really meeting Allison to give her the cash?” Jasmine asked.
I was wondering about that too, but for some reason I couldn’t get Jasmine to say any more.
Allison is spooked and so am I, by a fax tone on April’s line — and the fact that April hasn’t called anyone we know, including Milt. “It makes no sense,” I said to Allison. “If she decided not to buy your book, wouldn’t she ask for the money back?”
My session with Milt, yesterday afternoon, was the strangest ever. “I haven’t heard from her since the weekend,” Milt told me. “Why are you so worried? Not hearing from a person like that is good.”
I couldn’t tell him about the complications involving Allie’s client book — because nice working girls don’t talk about such things with johns. So, I shifted my attention to undoing his trousers. In the bedroom, while we went through our smorgasbord of positions, a horrible thought occurred to me. Could Milt be responsible in some awful way for April’s sudden silence?
While straddling his cock, I froze and he looked up — I recovered my rhythm just in time, but I was still, inside, unnerved. Terrifying to think of Milt — I can’t even bring myself to write it — but we all know what blackmailers are flirting with. When Milt finally came, I threw in a loud moan to compensate for my anxiety — figuring that, if he is capable of something so evil, I’d best play dumb. But I simply can’t believe it, now that he’s gone and I’m able to think it through. Yes, I know he’s probably ruthless in the office, but — Milt? Violent? With a woman?
Today, I bumped into Jasmine at the dry cleaners, and we walked back to her apartment for coffee. “You can outsource these problems,” Jasmine said, when I told her what I’d been thinking. “That’s what people do when they want to keep their hands clean. But Milt’s too straight to do anything like that. April was pushing the envelope, though — I’ll bet she’s got a lot of enemies. That type always does.”
“Do you think we should call the police?” I asked her.
“The what?” Jasmine demanded. “What for?”
“I know it’s not the done thing but — what if she’s dead? I know she’s a bitch but maybe she’s lying on her kitchen floor dead …” Jasmine was staring at me in horror. “… and maybe her family doesn’t even know it! Don’t they deserve to know?”
Trembling, she grabbed my wrist. “If you ever call the police about anything that concerns us, I don’t want to know you,” she said.
“Jasmine! I wasn’t really –”
“I’m serious!” she shouted at me. “I’d rather die than talk to the cops! What’s the matter with you?”
“Everything!” I shouted back at her. “Everything’s the matter and you’re making it worse with your crazy threats!”
Then I remembered what Jasmine had said about having April “permanently” removed from New York and I stopped shouting. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what Jasmine said about April a few weeks ago: “She doesn’t know what I’m capable of.”
But I do.
While I was on the stairmaster this morning, Randy — that young, bald trainer — was trying to get my attention. I gave him a curt nod, thinking: The only way to keep this testosterone bundle in his place is to play it cold. He stared oddly, frowned, then came right over. Atop the Stairmaster, I was gazing at Randy’s smooth scalp.
“There’s a guy in reception — are you expecting him?”
I stopped pedaling. “My boyfriend?”
“Do you have more than one?”
“Excuse me?” I said, rather tersely.
“It’s not — what’s his name? Matt. It’s not him — it’s some other guy.”
When he saw my look of alarm, he became decisive. “I’ll tell him you’re not here.”
Randy returned, looking as proud as a mini war hero. He had a hulking sort of walk — I’ll bet he’s never worn a suit in his life — and a territorial expression on his face.
“I got rid of that guy.” he informed me.
“Who did he –” ask for I almost said, but stopped myself.
“Are you OK?” Randy asked.
“Of course,” I said briskly. “Who’s this guy?”
“Never saw him before. He asked if you were here and I said I would check. When I told him you weren’t, he started asking a lot of nosy questions — how long you’ve been a member, do you have a trainer? That kind of thing.”
“What did you tell him?”
“What do you think I told him? I said it was none of his business. He had a weird attitude.”
“Well, for a stalker, he’s kind of …” Randy cleared his throat. “He doesn’t seem to be into girls. And when I stared him down, he stared right back — like he was entitled to be there. The last time I had to deal with a stalker, the guy acted more guilty. A gym is, like, the typical stalker’s paradise. A lot of girls have a set schedule at the gym … you know? A single woman can’t be too careful.”
Randy’s got a profiling system for stalkers? I couldn’t help being sort of intrigued by this new side of Randy — whom I’ve always dismissed as a dense teenager.
“Randy, are you sure he was looking for me? There are lots of Nancy’s here.”
“He asked for Nancy Chan — and he described you. He said to tell you he was looking for Suzy Layton — a friend of yours.”
I must have looked like I had seen a ghost. Hearing Randy using my working name shocked me.
“Sit down,” Randy said. “I’ll take you home in a few minutes.”
“I’ll be fine,” I protested. “You don’t have to.”
“Listen, if that creep’s hanging around outside, it’s better for him to see you with me. If he’s got any business asking nosy questions about single girls, he should show me his I.D. Right?”