Archive for the ‘Post: 10.1’ Category

Saturday, March 31, 11:18 a.m.

“No one’s after me,” I say.

Jack’s ice chip eyes make me shifty. I wish he’d drink more. When he’s drunk, the pale perception of his gaze is blinded. Does that make me a classic enabler to his alcoholism?

“Leo said the man in the green suit has a pattern,” Jack says.

He reaches into his jacket pocket and withdraws a reporter’s notebook. He flips it open and begins to read:

“Leo: ‘He’s after you, Jack. He didn’t expect you to hit him outside the bar. But when he finds out about her, he’s going to go after her instead. She’s perfect.’

“Me: ‘How is she perfect?’

“Leo: ‘She’s perfect to kill. To get you back. That’s how he does it. The fat guy, the lawyer, that 15-year-old girl this morning—they’re all people that someone else cared about.’

“Me: ‘So why would he want to kill Katherine?’

“Leo: ‘She’s your girlfriend or whatever, right?’

“Me: ‘What makes you think that?’

“Leo: ‘Oh gee, Jack, let me see—that photo of the two of you on your porch? All the texts you send each other every freakin’ day? All the phone calls? How she’s constantly carting your kid to school or the mall or your mother’s place? And then there’s the time the three of you went to church together, family style. Oh, and where are we right now? A motel room she paid for. Less than five miles from her house. For you both—’”

“Whoa, whoa! Hold on!” I blare loud enough to turn heads in every Celtic cranny of the pub. “Are you kidding me, Jack? What is this weird fantasy thing you’re reading?”

“Leo said I could take notes,” Jack says.

“Gimme here,” I say, as I snatch his reporter’s notebook from his hand.

I scan the pages, flipping from front to back. They’re filled with the pretending-to-write squiggles of a toddler.

I feel ill.

“Okay,” I say, dropping the skinny notebook on the table. “I’m leaving. You are not to contact me ever again. I’m serious. I have to go…”

“Look, Katherine, I have no control over what that little bastard said—”

“He didn’t say any of that!” I exclaim. “You made it up. Look!”

I shove the notebook at him.

“There are no notes! He never said any of it!” I say.

There’s an odd silence from Jack. I’ve had this kind of silence directed at me about a thousand times since I learned to talk. It pulls me up short, signaling incomprehension from my communicatee.

“You do realize this is shorthand?” he says slowly.

“What?” I say. “No—I mean…what?”

Nobody uses shorthand anymore. I’ve been accused of using it, but that’s because my handwriting is abominable. The last person—the only person—I knew who wrote in shorthand was my grandmother. A former 1950s secretary, she used it to take minutes during meetings of the secretive, quasi-Masonic women’s group she belonged to. She showed me her notes once. They were a tangle of toddler squiggles…

Shorthand

“Um…” I say. “I don’t know. I mean…”

“You tape all your interviews, right?” Jack says.

“No. Only our phone conversations,” I say.

“You take notes when you’re interviewing people for work?” Jack says.

“Yes.”

“So…show me yours,” he says.

I hesitate, then I fish my identical reporter’s notebook from my purse.

Reporter's Notebook

I hand it over. Jack flips it open and frowns.

“My God, your handwriting is horrible,” he says.

“No shit, Sherlock,” I snap before I reflect that it’s:

  1. Rude
  2. Unprofessional
  3. Profane

“You think you’re accurate?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say. “Pretty accurate.”

“But you think I’m not,” he says.

“I…I don’t know,” I say.

“Talk,” he says.

He flips my reporter’s notebook to a blank page, pulls a pen out of his jacket pocket and stares at me.

“Oh come on, Jack!” I say. “This is stupid. Will you just—quit writing, come on! Will you stop that!”

Jack ignores me, busily writing in my notebook.

“Look, I really think we should just go our separate ways and, you know, leave things the way they are…crap, I don’t know, Will you quit that writing, please!” I say.

He stops writing. He eyes me a moment, then reads aloud, “Oh come on, Jack. This is stupid. Will you just quit writing, come on. Will you stop that. Look, I really think we should go our separate ways and, you know, leave things the way they are. Crap, I don’t know. Will you quit that writing, please.”

“Oh, screw you, Truman Capote!” I snap. “Don’t write that down!”

Jack frowns at me. I glare at him.

Oh damn…I start to laugh.

“You are a jerk,” I giggle. “I hate you so much—will you stop writing! Do not read that back!”

For the first time since we met, Jack smiles.

“So…” he grins.

“So…” I giggle. “Man, we need to get you a real girlfriend. Everyone is desperate for you to have a woman in your life. Your editor, your daughter, your coroner buddy, your arch-enemy, even. Jeez, Jack, take a hint!”

Oh God, he’s so appealing when he looks at me like this. His smile gives me a heart-wrenching glimpse of the carefree man in the photo Lucy destroyed. This is the man who radiated pure joy as he bent his wife over, Hollywood style, before deeply kissing her. This is the man who took his wife and child on picnics to feed the ducks, never realizing they were at a slaughterhouse. This is the man who was blissfully oblivious that, as bad as life could be, there were vast continents of misery yet to be explored all alone…

Both of our faces fall in unison, like mirror images.

“Leo has a point, no matter how big a liar he is,” Jack says. “The man in the green suit would think you’re the perfect person to kill. It would destroy me.”

Way to kill the mood, O’Lies.

 

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