The night sounds and smells traveling on the air told April that it was truly summer in Mississippi. The traffic, just off the clinic grounds, told her it was highway 90 running there. It was the same as everything else at the clinic. The highway was the old version of highway 90. The one that wound it’s way through town, not the new one that by passed, the bypass. The heat and humidity were worse than any April remembered, but then it seemed to be like that every year.
April was 48 years old and for over half of her life, she was either a nurse, or learning how to be a better nurse. First she became an LPN because it was the only school she could afford. Then the US Army offered her a scholarship, if she agreed to serve three years after she graduated.
After her RN, and two tours in Afghanistan she saved some cash. The cash, and the proceeds of the new GI bill, she was able to get a masters degree in nursing. She could have done it in three years, but she went to the longer four year NP specialty. She did that for two reasons, she had the tuition money from the army, a part time job with a local urgent care clinic, and finally she had a cop boyfriend who was recently divorced.
It worked out really well until someone shot her cop. No it didn’t kill him, but it probably would have been better for her, if the gun thug had been better at his job. instead of killing him, it made him reassess his life’s direction. Of course when he did that his wife and child seemed more important that a piece of ass.
So here I am ten years later, and ten pounds heavier, she thought. She found herself still working for the clinic just outside Biloxi Mississippi. It was the clinic where she worked part time while she pursued her NP degree. She had worked at that clinic until the day she received her medical license in the mail.
She had more practical experience than any doctor in the area, which the clinic owners loved. They got someone who was trauma triage trained, for the salary of a Nurse practitioner. She had always planned to got to work somewhere else, but she just couldn’t seem to leave her boyfriend Brad. She had started on the night shift, and just stayed with it after Brad had gone home to his wife.
April dated several men, most of them were on the fringes of the Clinic’s orbit. Some were cops, some firemen, some military men, mostly they were men who weren’t likely to ask for a commitment. It just seemed to work best that way.
“I need some help here,” a black male about thirty said pushing his way through the line. April looked up and saw him almost dragging another black main into the clinic.
“Someone call an ambulance I will try to help him till they get here,” April said as one of the RNs on duty helped the man onto a gurney. They quickly rolled him into a cubicle and pulled the curtain.
“Don’t you call no one,” the man who brought his friend in said. “Anybody shows up and she dies. He said pointing the gun at April. He followed his friend and the two nurses into the curtained off treatment area.
“You can’t be in here,” April said to the man.
“I ain’t leaving my boy,” he said pulling a pistol from behind his back.
“You need to put that away right now, it makes me nervous, and I have work to do,” April said.
“If you don’t fix Bobo, this piece is gonna make you dead. Bobo dies, you die. You understand that bitch?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ll do what I can,” April said as she began to work on the young black man. To the RN she said, “Go get me a GSW tray stat.” She really hoped the gunman would let her out and then tjhat she would run like hell and take everyone else with her.
“If you are not back in two minutes, I kill the doc,” the man with the gun said.
The RN left the room. “You know if you kill me, he is for sure going to die,” April said that as she began exploring the wound and clamping off the worst bleeders. “He needs a surgeon. I have got him stable enough, so that he has a chance, if you let me call an ambulance. If you don’t he is going to die for sure.”
“Save him. He is a tough kid. He can walk out of here if you stop the bleeding,” the young man with the gun said.
“No he won’t. He needs a resection of his damaged artery. He is going to die, if not from the blood loss, it will be a blood clot to his brain. Only chance he has is a real hospital.” she repeated.
“If he goes to a hospital, we both are going to die,” the kid said. “You sure without a hospital he will die?”
“In about ten more minutes all kinds of bad shit is going to start happening. Why don’t you take to the woods out back, and we will get him to the hospital. Don’t go home, or to anyone you think is your friend. You can make it, if you run now.” She said all that as she hung a bag of universal O type plasma. She continued to soak up the blood making it look even worse than it was. She just threw the used swabs on the floor to heighten his sense of horror.
The RN came in with more instruments and took a look around at the carnage. The floor of the examining room looked worse than Saturday night in a West Virginia red neck bar, she thought.
April waited for the RN to say something stupid, but she kept her head down and pushed the fluids. April continued to clean up blood and make moves like she was doing more, but there was nothing more she could do without lots of blood. The kid needed surgery that she didn’t dare do on her own.
“He is crashing,” April said to the RN. She knew it was a lie, but her RN managed to look terrified. “You know the ambulance and the cops are on the way. You need to run, if you are going to have any chance at all.”
Without saying a word, it must have all finally struck him because the gun thug turned and ran out the door. April had half expected him to stop and shoot them all on the way out. “Call the paramedics and the police. Tell them we are going to transport a GSW to the ER in Biloxi. He is going to have some tissue damage due to a clamped artery, but that the second choice had been exsanguination,” April said to the RN.
After the patient headed for the Biloxi Regional Medical Center, April walked into the shower stall and washed the blood of her body. She wondered about the blood on her soul.
“You got a kid with a runny nose waiting to see you,” the RN said from the doorway.
“Okay break out the Benedryl,” April said before she followed the RN back into the clinic’s treatment room. The shift ended with a sprained ankle on a seriously drunk teenaged boy. April turned in her paperwork and walked out the clinic door.
She pushed her magic button and the car’s horn beeped and the lights flashed. Since the sun had been up for over an hour, she walked to the beep. She got into the ten year old car, then found the two year old mp3 player button. She started the car and player at the same time.
She exited the parking lot with the music playing at a mind numbing volume. Louis Armstrong was grinding out the soulful, ‘I went down to Saint James Infirmary’.
When April left the parking lot, after her latest near death experience, she drove straight to breakfast at a local mom and pop diner. She spent an hour over breakfast and a quick review of her present life. It was not at all what she had expected at her high school graduation.
After she graduated from Loyola in New Orleans with her Masters degree in nursing, she purchased a 1960 style concrete block people warehouse. She was familiar with the building, since she lived there while working at the clinic and attending classes ninety miles away. People called the ugly tourist trap a motel, until it was by passed by the new highway. When that happened, they called it a crime problem. Shortly after that designation became all too common, it went up for sale. Since she had recently made the commitment to stay with the Urgent Care Clinic, she bought it as an investment.
Her original intentions had been to move out and buy a house. Like a lot of things in here life, for one reason or another, it just never happened. She hated her time living in the warehouse, as a motel, so when she bought it, she turned two of the rooms into a small apartment for herself. One of the other things she did was to closed the leaky swimming pool, which lowered her insurance rates immediately.
Her people warehouse was located just far enough inland not to flood, when the average run of the mill tropical storm surges came along. It was still close enough to the Gulf to get the breeze and the smell of life that came from the Gulf. It was a great location for her, but not so much for tourist.
Since she and the manager had a falling out after a few months, April took a sudden change in direction. She began guiding the people warehouse toward an efficiency apartments concept. The move would allow her to employ a clerical type worker to act as manager. The first thing she had to do was clear all the short term room tenants. She had to do that before she could convert their rooms to longer term apartments.
After the changes had been underway for couple of months, the place was bringing in enough money to cover most of the cost of its operation and renovations. She had seen the shortfall in income drop to less than zero, even though it was under constant renovations. Even at the beginning of the changes, when there had been a couple of shortfall months, they had never been more than a thousand dollars. All in all, it had quickly become a pretty good investment. She was living rent free and accumulating equity.
She made the move to short term lease apartments one at a time, as the even shorter term residents left. She got rid of most of the former single room residents by just waiting for them to leave. The length of a motel room rental usually was a very short period of time. It was limited to the amount of time that an oil rig worker’s family could spend away from home.
After a breakfast at Eddie’s Breakfast house on old hwy90, it was only a short drive to her motel and home. When she entered the parking lot of her building. she saw that the kid’s playground was empty, so she wanted to get into bed quickly, before they started to show up. As she drove deeper into the parking lot. she noticed that Viv’s car wasn’t in the space where she normally parked it. April knew that she had to check on her, before she went to bed. If Viv didn’t show for work, the prospective tenant calls would be forwarded to her phone. Those calls about seeing the apartments would come all day on Saturdays. They would surely interfere with her sleep. April wasn’t all that worried since Viv had proved to be reliable. She was more curious than anything else.
April parked her car in front of the office while picturing Viv in her mind. Viv was an attractive woman, not more than five years younger than April’s forty eight years. She was attractive in an almost punk way. That in itself was strange for a woman her age, April thought. Even though she had tattoos and terrible taste in clothes, the worst thing had to be her barn red. The color was made popular by bad science fiction movies. April was also pretty sure Viv moonlighted as a hooker. She also thought that it was none of her business.
Night shift at an Urgent Care didn’t exactly bring one into contact with the country club types. April first met Viv at the clinic. She treated Viv for a mild skin infection created by a tattoo needle. Fortunately it responded to a topical antibiotic so she never came for the follow up appointment.
Two weeksafter that meeting, Viv applied for the apartment manager’s job. It took her several minutes to recognize April, but eventually did. It was the only thing she had going for her. She had hardly any references, but since there was no money for her to embezzle, it wasn’t much of a problem.
April said, “Viv, I would say this to anyone applying for an apartment here, and I hope you will as well. We don’t allow any illegal activities in the apartments. That includes things like drugs and prostitution. Do we understand each other?”
“I date a lot. Is that going to be a problem?” Viv asked after spending a moment thinking it over.
“If you date more than one guy at a time, or more than one a night. Then yeah, we will have a problem,” April explained. “If we agree, I will pay you minimum wage and deduct the rent on the apartment. You will get the manager’s apartment and it comes with a 50% discount.” Mostly Viv seemed to want a place to live, so the small pay wasn’t a problem.
“So, do I have to sit in the office all day?” Viv asked.
“You have to be in the office to take care of the place, so yes,” April stated.
“So, if I’m working weekends, because you do, when do I get time off?” Viv asked.
“I need you to work at least Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The rest of the time I can handle,” April said.
“Are you going to run a background check on me,” Viv asked.
“I am,” April replied.
“I don’t have any work history. Most of the job I’ve done were for cash,” Viv said.
“Anything criminal?” April asked again.
“One prostitution charge, years ago,” Viv said.
In fact there were three Prostitution and one domestic assault charge. In Mississippi it was hard to find people who would work part time jobs for the minimum wagesi. At least damn few who didn’t have at least some minor police record. In the end she was the best of a bad lot.
Viv arrived just as April prepared to go knock on her door. “Sorry boss lady but my boyfriend wanted one more bang before he left. It is Saturday you know.”
April turned to see the pickup leave the parking lot. Oil rig workers usually made up most of the Johns in the Gulf Coast area. Viv had proved to be a reliable employee, so April was hesitant to mention that Viv’s boyfriend had access to a hell of a lot of different cars. He also wore a lot of disguises. April had a feeling that Viv used the term boyfriend in the place of customer. Still she was inclined to ignore it. Yeah she knew Viv was a ticking time bomb, but she was also a lot of fun to have around. The tenants all loved her. April just hoped that they didn’t love her in the physical sense.
“You know there is a note in computer every time you log on and off,” April suggested.
“Yes Boss lady, you can dock my pay,” she said.
“Don’t worry I plan to do just that,” April said. Actually the office computer did keep track of Viv’s sign in and out times. Those were her official work hours for pay purposes. If she signed in late by mistake, she never complained. April knew that Viv had a good deal, and wasn’t planning to fuck it up over ten bucks.
“Be sure to turn on your white noise today. The contractor is working on unit eight,” Viv explained.
“I will, but they are supposed to be painting and laying new carpet. Michael promised me the real work was complete,” April said.
“If I hear so much as one bang of a hammer or one second of a compressor noise, I will be down there in a flash raising hell. I know my job,” Viv said.
“Okay, then I’m off to bed,” April replied.
April had showered at the clinic, so she fell right into bed, after barely taking time to remove her jeans and bra. She did that woman maneuver to remove her bra while leaving the cut off sweat shirt in place. Then fell into bed.
She never wore scrubs while traveling to or from the clinic, too many things could happen. If she were recognized as a nurse, no good could come from it. Nurses never had the kind of luck that normal people have. They were like cops in that respect, if a stranger spoke to her, it almost always meant trouble. She could always count on that, so she changed at work.
She was in a deep asleep when she heard the knock on the door. She struggled to remember if she was decent before she opened the door. She finally decided that she was decent, but only barely, since she had worn her panties and sweat shirt to bed.
“We got shit falling from the sky,” Viv said in a rush as April opened the door.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” April asked.
“The woman living in apartment three is dead,” Viv said.
“Are you sure she’s dead? What the hell happened?” April asked hurriedly.
“You are the big shot nurse. You want to go look and then tell me,” Viv replied.
“How do you know she is dead?” April asked sorry she had questioned Viv’s opinion.
“I looked in the door and there is a big ass puddle of blood. Trust me I know dead when I see it.”
“Did you call 911?” April asked.
“Yes the cops are on the way,” Viv said.
“Well there goes my sleep today,” April said. “Why did I ever buy this place?”
“Don’t ask me, I just work here,” Viv said.
“Well go back to the office and pull up her file. Have it ready when the cops ask for it. I’m exhausted I’m going to try to get some sleep, at least an hour or so while they do their CSI shit,” April suggested. When she her head hit the pillow she was almost asleep. It was a trick, sleeping under pressure, one she had learned in Kabul.
April had been able to put everything else out of her mind to sleep hard until the persistent knocking on the apartment door woke her. She staggered out of bed and to the door. She didn’t care that she was almost naked in her short sweatshirt and bikini panties. By the age of forty eight, she had pretty much lost all her false modesty.
“What?” she asked the two police officers almost angrily.
“Sorry to bother you miss, but the manager said you owned the apartment where she found the body?” the young black policeman asked.
“Yes, I own the whole building. Did she also tell you I worked a twelve hour shift last night and wasn’t here till almost 10am. I heard and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Now can I go back to sleep?” April asked.
“Have you ever met the lady,” the woman asked.
“Had,” April said. “It is had, if she is deceased, which I assume she is. And I only knew her as a tenant. I told Vivian, the weekend manager, to get the records for you. Those records are all I know about her. Now I’m going to close the door and return to bed. That is unless you plan to arrest me for sleeping.”
The two of them didn’t move so April closed the door in their faces. She walked though the archway which connected the two motel rooms. One room was her large bedroom and average sized bath. The second room had been converted to a small living room with kitchen and dining area.
The Bedroom had required minimal renovation while the living room required slightly more. Turning the bathroom into a galley kitchen, and the dressing area of the old bedroom, into a small dining area had been only slightly more work. All the apartments were going to be more or less the same.
April walked to her small refrigerator for a glass of chemical orange juice. The chemicals in the fake orange juice were probably less toxic than the orange juice grown with fertilizer and pesticides. She drank the fake juice as she swallowed four generic Ibuprofen tablets. Rather than heating coffee, she staggered back to bed.
In the summer most folks ran their air conditions wide open. April chose instead to open all the fancy new windows she had installed. Below each of the front thermal pane windows was a high efficiency heat pump. Fitted inside each of her smaller rear windows was a reversible fan. It was possible to create a wind tunnel effect in each room separately from the other. It was a good cooling system most days.
Since she was on the second floor with no fire escapes on the rear, the windows back there were fairly secure with just a good lock. At least in the winter months a lock was all that was needed, in the summer a cut off broom handle in each of their tracks secured them.
The windows on the front had light weight aluminum decorative faux iron shutters installed. It was possible to open the window, without opening the shutters. All of those features taken together made for a secure, effective ventilation system. Each of the units were going to have the faux iron shutters installed as they were converted to apartments.
April increased the air movement in her bedroom, then fell back into bed for even more sleep. She slept with only a light film of moisture accumulating on her skin and soaking into her sweat shirt. All in all she felt very good when she awoke.
I’m hungry as hell, but pretty well rested, she thought.
A quick look at her clock told her that if she wished an update on the body in the apartment, she would have to leave for the office immediately. Since she didn’t really know the woman in apartment three, she decided that she could wait until the next day for the update. Instead of running to the office, she checked her other email. Since there was nothing, she took a shower and dressed for work. If the truth be known, she showered then dressed for the drive to work.
It was no wonder April was hungry, she had slept through the traditional lunch hour. It was either go out, or fix her own lunch at 4pm. April chose to microwave a meal from her tiny chest freezer. She chose a very nice three cheese pasta gourmet dinner. It was really just a mac and cheese TV dinner. She also took a package of fancy rolls from the freezer. From the package she took only one. That she covered with real butter after toasting it in the oven of her almost barbie sized stove.
After ten minutes she sat down to eat her very simple, but fancy named frozen dinner. While she ate, she thought about how different things were in the rental units. They had the same heat pumps, but lacked the fancy fan systems. The rentals had the standard apartment sized refrigerators, stoves, and a small low wattage microwave, just like hers. They were not equipped with the small chest freezer That appliances were the smallest size made. She provided them to protect the circuits. Each apartment had it’s own circuit breakers, and with them came the individual power bills. April provided hot water, kitchen appliances. but nothing else. Okay that isn’t quite true the overhead fixtures came with light bulbs.
After she finished everything she had to do around the apartment, it was 6pm an hour after the time for Viv to have signed off the computer. April didn’t have time to do anything productive before work. She never did during her work weekend, she knew that and planned for it. For the next three days she was totally in work mode. Nothing would cause her to lose focus. It was the only way she knew how to function. It was also why Viv was so important to her lifestyle.
When she had finished her news update from the TV, she drove to the clinic. She arrived a few minutes early. “Jason are you about finished up?” April asked.
“Just need to get a patient on the way to Biloxi Regional,” he said. There was a rule at the clinic. A provider saw his or her patient to the end of his or her treatment. A provider was not allowed to hand off a patient to the oncoming provider. It was a liability issue. It also explained why there were three sniffles patients waiting.
The providers, at the Urgent Care, classified every ‘non trauma’ patient as a sniffles patient. Actually the first of the three was a skin rash from exposure to the sun. Then there was a referral to the eye clinic at Buloxi Regional. That was for a cataract surgery work up. Last but not least was a real case of the sniffles. April diagnosed the sniffles as summer pollen or grass allergies. First level of treatment was always over the counter drugs. That treatment kept her out of trouble with the government bean counters. Which is all the clinic administrator cared about.
Things quieted down after the allergy patient was send home with a hand full of generic over the counter antihistamines. It was 10pm so the cutting and shooting time of day hadn’t arrived. The ‘club violence’ as they called it, once started wouldn’t end till 3am. The providers could either order their delivery dinners before 10pm or after 3am.
The night passed with no gun shot wounds and no stabbings, so it was a good night. April left the clinic in her ten year old Jaguar xk8 convertible just after 7am. April had fallen in love with the five year old car, when she finished her classes in the Masters of Nursing program. The Jag became her graduation present to herself. She did wait for her NP certification, and the large salary boost at the urgent care clinic before making the purchase. For the next five years she tooled around in the car. Yes, she was almost fifty and might look a little absurd in the sports car, but she didn’t give a crap what anyone else thought.
Hers was probably the oldest car in the restaurant parking lot, even if it did have the most class and get the most attention it was still the oldest. After her breakfast, she drove immediately to the motel office. She still thought of it as a motel even though it was over fifty percent apartments by that time.
She was surprised to find Viv’s car parked in front of the office. She walked in to find her still visibly shaken. She was a complete bundle of nerves. “You aren’t on anything are you,” April asked.
“Of course not, I’m just nervous. I worry that poor Jessica’s killer might come back,” Viv said.
“So her name was Jessica. Do we have any idea what she did for a living,” April asked.
“The cops found a paycheck stub from the Diamond Club. She was either a bartender, cocktail waitress, or stripper,” Viv suggested.
“Or a little of each,” April suggested.
“She had next of kin on her credit application. The one we use to decide whether or not to rent to an applicant. She was married to a guy who works on the BP oil rig,” Viv explained.
“So the cops checked him out?” April asked.
“They had to call him on the rig. The company should have choppered him in today,” Viv answered.
“Well if he comes around let him in. Once the crime scene tape is down that is. I’m sure not going to ask him to pay to clean the place, but get in touch with that cleaning crew tomorrow. You stay with them to be sure nothing disappears.” April suggested.
“That cleaning service probably won’t be able to get the blood out of the carpet. Also we probably should wait till her husband comes and removes her stuff. I’m just thinking out loud, but since it was the living room, now would be a good time to put that laminate floor down. You know the stuff you have in your place,” Viv suggested.
“If we decide to redecorate, sure. Do give him a chance to clear the place out first. She is paid up till the end of the month, so we need to leave everything till then. That is unless her husband cleans it out before hand.” April said. “Now I’m going to bed. I have to work again tonight.”
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday without the police knocking on her door. April slept, showered and ate dinner just the same as she had on Saturday. When she left for work, it was early enough to check out the Diamond Gentleman’s Club. The club was located on a strip of hwy 90 across from the casinos. The casinos were on the beach front side of the highway and the other businesses were on the other side. Even being across from the beach, the real estate rental had to be a bitch. The symbol on the marque type sign for the Diamond Club was an ace of diamonds playing card. The marque also listed the names of the strippers. One of the names was Jessica Rabbit, which might explain the flaming red hair on the body Viv found on the living room floor of apartment three.
April was a little surprised that the parking lot was full at 6:30pm. She might have stopped if she weren’t on her way to work. She had always loved a good pole dance. Not really, she just told people that she did.
“Since the country lost its faith, Sunday is just another day in the shit,” Jason said.
“You mean it wasn’t always just another day?” April asked.
“Oh no, once upon a time there was no alcohol sold on Sundays, and no one ever had a domestic issue on Sunday. It just wasn’t done,” Jason replied.
“Too bad I missed those days,” April replied finishing her coffee.
It was one of those evening when the day shift doctor and the NP had time to chat while they waited for an ambulance to come pick up an injured survivor of a traffic accident on hwy 90. He had a couple of broken bones in his hand and a bump on is head that might be a concussion according the Doctor Jason.
Well here is the bus. At least I’m not leaving you with any sniffle patients tonight. You don’t get many of those on Sundays do you?” Jason asked.
“Mostly it’s is accident, and domestic violence victims,” April replied. “Speaking of which I have work to do.”
The doors opened automatically spilling a half dozen Spanish speaking people into the lobby. They were all trying to speak at once. For the thousandth time April kicked herself for not learning Spanish. “I do hope one of you can speak English and interpret for me?” She asked.
It took five minutes before she understood that one of the children had been throwing up all day. Her understanding began when the little boy threw up on her scrubs. That’s when the teenager began to make her understand the gibberish. Since she didn’t have the ability to run tests, she gave the boy’s mother a referral to the ER at Biloxi Regional.
In the meantime, she gave the boy an injection of Zofran and had him lie still for a while. If he got better, then he might just be in the vomit comet cycle. If he continued to throw up, he would need to go to the Biloxi ER immediately. Otherwise the mother could decide later what to do. She should know by then that they Urgent Care Clinic couldn’t help with the underlying cause because April didn’t know what it was.
Of course she had check for the obvious, easy to spot things and ruled them out. It was possibly something he had eaten, but more tests were needed. She didn’t know how to ask what he had eaten. So she just kept him under observation for a while before she sent him on his way.
She checked an illegal alien who was drunk and hit a gravel truck. What the gravel truck was doing out on a Sunday evening, she had no idea. Even though Jason hadn’t agreed. Sunday was still quieter than any other day of the week historically speaking anyway.
On a really slow night the staff took naps. On that Sunday night April being the boss, sort of, made the first attempt at a nap. It lasted for thirty minutes, until a patient come into the Clinic. After that patient left, there was time for the other two night shift workers to try to nap.
The RN named Priscilla, P for short ,and the CNA named Earl naturally called E gave it a shot. One at a time of course. They napped until a patient came into the lobby.
It was E’s job to log them in and announce their symptoms to April. If the clinic wasn’t busy April and P would treat them. Often when they got busy April would begin treatment, then move to a second patient leaving P to continue the treatment and observation of the first patient.
In the event of a loud obnoxious drunk, E would often be forced to man handle them. E was a large black man whose job partly was to protect April and P. If it was really raining blood, he could hold a towel on an open wound or observe a patient.
That night passed quietly as most Sunday nights did. When 7am came, the three person night shift walked out the door and headed to breakfast. It had become a tradition that they ate breakfast together on Monday morning. April being the highest paid member of the night shift, always paid.
When Mordecai and his partner came into Eddie’s, the three from the clinic had finished breakfast and two cups of coffee. It was almost 8am. Mordecai was April’s form cop lover. He was also in her opinion an all round bastard. That, she thought, was Mordecai Abraham Goldburg. Yes Mordecai was a good Jewish cop working ninety miles from New Orleans Louisianan.
“I thought I might find you here,” Malicia remarked sitting at the table next to Aprils.
“Hello Mordecai, so who is your partner dejour,” April asked.
“Play nice April,” P said quietly.
“Earl, how you been? Is that brother of your behaving himself?” Mordecai asked.
“Yeah he is detective,” E said sullenly. He probably didn’t like to be reminded of his gangsta brother.
“I’m Lois,” the much younger female partner replied.
“Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way,” Mordecai began.
“Those were the pleasantries?” April asked sarcastically.
“More than the discussion of Jessica your dead tenant,” Mordecai warned her.
“Is this where you read me my rights?” April asked almost angrily. There was still a lot of resentment there she realized.
“Well I think me and Earl should be leaving about now,” P said. “E it is your turn to leave the tip.”
When the two of them had gone the Junior partner was the first to speak, “The patrol officers thought you might know more than you were sharing.”
“Did they really, well as usual the Biloxi cops were wrong. I own the building in which she lived. All her paperwork was made available to the officers on the scene, so this meeting wouldn’t take place.”
“Did you know she was a stripper?” Mordecai asked.
“No, but that is none of my business. Strippers need a place to live like anybody else. As long as she pays her rent and doesn’t cause any trouble in the apartment, I could care less,” April stated for the record.
“We found coke in the apartment,” Mordecai informed her.
“Oh, what kind of weight?” April asked.
“Not dealer weight,” Mordecai replied while his partner looked at him as if he had screwed up giving out the information.
“Next you will be telling me cops don’t do drugs,” April said.
“They shouldn’t,” The partner said.
“Neither should tenants, but shit happens,” April said.
Her husband will be taking care of the apartment today. I thought you might want to know, so you could keep an eye on him.” Mordecai suggested.
“I’m going home to crash for a few hours. If he comes during my sleep time Viv can take care of him. Is there anything else?” she asked.
“No, anything you want to talk about,” he asked.
“Not unless you left your wife,” April said it to be sure their relationship was obvious to his new partner, if it hadn’t been before.
“No, we are still happily living together. The girls are finished college now, so we are looking toward retirement.” he suggested.
“You might want to move out of town. Surely there are bad guys who don’t like you. Hell Mordecai there are good guys who don’t like you much either. Not to mention old lovers by the dozen,” April commented standing to leave.
“If I get shot on a weekend after 7pm, don’t take me to the approved urgent care center. Take me directly to the hospital ER and I’ll pay the penalty,” Mordecai said.
“That would most likely be a good idea,” Lois said. “Do you think she was telling the truth?”
“About not know what Jessica did in the apartment, sure. April is one cold bitch. She doesn’t cares about anyone but April.”
“It appeared her feelings about you were pretty far from cold,” Lois commented.
“That was then, this is now,” he said with a smile.
“I do like that car,” Lois said looking out the window as April drove away. “Did she have it when you would screwing her?”
“She drove a Ford,” Mordecai said waving a waitress over.
While Mordecai had breakfast, April drove home to the motel. She stopped at the office to inform Viv that the husband would be coming to make arrangements about Jessica’s things.
“Boss lady you don’t seem yourself this morning.” Viv said.
“I’m fine, I just saw a ghost at breakfast. Now I’m going to bed and have a nightmare,” April said with gallows humor dripping from her voice.
“I will try not to wake you,” Viv said.
When she got into bed images of Mordecai ran through her mind. The five foot eleven inch dark man looked much smaller on a hospital gurney. She saw him after the shooting in the hallway as they wheeled him from surgery. Since he was separated, he wore a dog tag around his neck with April’s name and phone number on it. The Admitting nurse had called April while she was in a class at Tulane to notify about Mordecai’s shooting.
She made the ninety mile driver to the Biloxi Regional Hospital in just over an hour and a half. That began her weekend bouncing from one emotion to another. He was still in the recovery room when she had to leave for her twelve hour shift at the Urgent Care Clinic. She was just an RN at the time, but it was still impossible to get a replacement on such short notice.
“Would you call me when Mordecai is moved to a room?” she asked the recovery nurse. “As a professional courtesy.”
“You know I’m not supposed to, right?” the nurse asked.
“Yes, I know,” April said.
“Okay, I’ll call but nothing else,” the slightly younger RN said.
April nodded. She knew that the nurse meant she would not give her an update on his condition, that would be a clear violation of policy.
At the clinic, while she worried about Mordecai, She and the semi retired Doctor Jason worked their way through the victims of a one car traffic accident. Mostly it was a lot of blood. April spent the evening on an emotional roller coaster. She heard from the nurse as she was stitching up a gaping wound on a young oil rig worker’s arm. It wasn’t an on the job accident, it was a bar fight.
After work the next morning she went to the hospital. When she met with Mordecai he was pretty much drugged so she slept in a chair in his room. Cops with gunshot wounds seemed to rate one of the older private rooms. Most of the rooms in the hospital had been converted to semi-private or four bed wards by that time.
When Mordecai’s estranged wife arrived, April thought it was an ideal time to go home for a nap before work. After she left Mordecai and his wife appeared to have somehow reconcile. April was hurt beyond belief by his dumping of her, but worse by far was the fact that he did it by phone. He probably would have done it by Email, if he could have been sure April wouldn’t make a fuss at the hospital with his estranged wife present.
After that phone call he made it clear that he wanted to sever all ties with her. “You can be fucking sure that you won’t be hearing from me again, you lying prick,” she shouted into the phone then broke the connection. The rest of the week she got updates from the floor nurses, but he never knew.
That morning over breakfast, he had looked much more than five years older. She knew he was fifty three years old give or take a year. She also knew he either had thirty years in or was damn close. She wished he would retire so she never had to see him again even accidentally.
Sure she felt that way but she couldn’t help remembering the good times. She went to sleep that night with pressure building in her body. What she felt that it was a physical need, not unlike what she believed a man felt while walking around with an erection. If she still felt the same when she awoke, she would take care of it in the shower, she promised herself.
After her shower at 4pm, April felt much more relaxed and ready to tackle her domestic chores. First she had to see Viv and get the low down on Jessica Rabbit. No, that wasn’t her real name or maybe it was. She and her husband had listed their previous address as a small town in West Virginia. The lease was signed by her husband Thomas Black.
“So Viv,” April began. “Did Mr Black show?”
“Not yet, but he did call,” Viv said.
“Well, if he shows between now and five have him show you his ID before you let him in. He may not stop here, which is fine. We can check the place tomorrow and every day until it is empty,” April stated.
“Yes Ma’am. I just love it when you get all Domme,” Viv said.
“Sure,” April said. “I’m going to do my laundry and try to get back in the apartment manager mind set. Call me on the cell if Thomas shows before you leave.”
April spent an hour over the industrial washer and dryer in the motel’s utility room. Back in the day, It was the place where the sheets and other linens were washed. At that time each apartment resident had a key to the laundry room. The residents all shared it on a first come first served basis. Viv had suggested that April remove all the tables from the room, to prevent people from getting too comfortable. She had also suggested the ‘one load per day’ signs. Since April agreed, they hung them around the laundry room immediately. In smaller print the signs informed the residents that the first violation would result in a warning. The a second offense would result in the termination of their lease. Also that the room was monitored by closed circuit TV in order to avoid any disputes.
It was the only fair way to operate the free laundry room. Plans were in the works to convert the laundry room to a coin operated laundromat. If or when the existing machines had to be replaced it would happen. The building was in constant state of flux, turmoil was normal in her life. April could only hope the changes were always for the better.
April went to dinner after she finished her laundry. Since she was not a big seafood fan, she went to a family steak house. One of those places where the customer went through a line picking up a salad and desert then placing his or her order for the steak of their choice. The steak would be cooked to order then brought to the table by the waitress. It wasn’t fancy, but it was good food at a reasonable price. April didn’t waste money, even though she was making plenty of it. For her everything was about convenience and product quality versus the cost.
After dinner she went back to the motel and to her computer terminal. She found a phone message from Thomas Black. He wanted to make an appointment to come by for a chat, and to pick up Jessica’s things. He was staying in the company provided motel room, even though he had an apartment in April’s building.
She dialed the number, “Mr. Black this is April Smythe the owner of the apartment you called about. Let me say first that I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, could you tell me what happened?” he asked.
“Mr. Black to protect you and me, I need to be sure that you are who you say you are. Could you meet me tomorrow and bring some form of ID. You could also empty out the apartment at that time.” April said.
“I don’t want anything from the apartment. I might have a box full of clothes and some pictures otherwise I don’t want anything,” he informed April.
“We can talk about that all tomorrow, so what time can you make it?” she asked.
“I’ll try to make it around lunch time.” He said.
“I close the office from twelve till one for lunch, otherwise I’ll be there all day,” April said.
It was a quiet night for April as she made the necessary moves to switch her sleep schedule. They included no naps during the evening, and staying awake until 2am. When she finally did sleep, she slept until 7am. For one used to sleeping for short periods at odd times, it was enough to get her though the day.
Thomas Black showed up at 11am, “Miss Smythe, I’m Thomas Black, I decided I want to look through Jess’s things after all.”
“Good, I would like to get everything taken care of today so I can get a cleaning crew in tomorrow. I’m going to have to keep your cleaning deposit, but I won’t pursue you for the additional cleaning expense.
Now I really am curious, since it happened here. I am not going to feel safe till I understand why. You can understand that can’t you?” she asked.
“Yes I suppose so. I really don’t have any idea what happened. Jess was tending bar at a club on the strip is all I know. Maybe someone from there followed her home and stabbed her,” Thomas said.
He might not have known it, but he gave April information she didn’t have before. For one thing, he didn’t seem to know that she was dancing. April also hadn’t known that Jessica was stabbed. She thought so, but it had been possible that she had been shot and no one heard the noise.
“Did the police say whether she had been drugged or not. It occurred to me that someone might have slipped something into her drink.” April knew people wanted to believe certain things and Thomas wanted to believe that Jessica was a simple bartender. To April it appeared likely she was dancing to support a drug habit or something just as nefarious, otherwise he would have known what she had been up to.
“That is probably what happened,” he said looking less distressed than he had earlier. “The cops said she had a sedative show up on the blood test. They thought she was abusing prescription drugs, but I think you are right, someone slipped it in her drink. I told her not to take that job, but it was the only job she could find,” Thomas said.
“Okay, are you ready to clean out the place?” April asked.
“Okay, you are coming with me aren’t you. You know just in case we find something,” Thomas asked before April could suggest the same thing.
“Okay, but the cops did a pretty thorough search,” April said leading the way to apartment number three located on the ground floor. There were ten motel rooms on each floor so there would be ten apartments, when it was completed. There would be five upstairs and five downstairs.
Number three was right in the middle of the building on the first floor. April used her master key to open the room. Since the cops had kept it all closed up, it smelled pretty bad. There was the smell of blood and feces in the air.
Once Thomas entered the room, he turned to run out the door and onto the lawn. It was most likely programmed into our human DNA to react to the smell of death by retching. April never got used to the sound of retching and then there was the smell of death. It made her nauseous. She was able to stop herself from vomiting with a high degree of self control.
“You okay,” She asked Thomas when he had finished retching.
“Yes, would you clean out her personal items for me. I can’t go in there,” he said.
“Tell me what you want, and I’ll bring it to the parking lot outside the office,” April suggested.
“Her jewelry box and any picture or letters you find lying about,” Thomas said. “There might be some of my clothes as well.”
“Okay,” April agreed then went inside the apartment. The smell reminded her of Afghanistan. More exactly, It reminded her of the tent where they had stored the bodies waiting to be embalmed. She sorted through the living room/kitchen first. There was no computer, if jessicam owned one, the cops had taken it. April found a plastic recipe box in a kitchen cabinet. Since it was not a perishable item, she put it to one side to take to Thomas. Then she checked the two supermarket tabloids. There were no marks or papers inside.
April moved to the bedroom. The bed had been striped of it’s linens. The cops probably were going to keep them as evidence and hope to match some dna. There were plenty of shoes and skimpy dresses in her closet. At first April thought they were dance costumes, then she realized Jessica Rabbit surely wore no more than parts of a bikini while pole dancing. Jessica must have worn the sexy clothes when she went out. April found a photo of her on the pole. She was torn about delivering it to Thomas Black. In the end she decided to turn it over. She packed all her skimpy dresses and her personal items from the bathroom in a garbage bag. She added some jeans that most likely belonged to Thomas, then left the apartment.
“Here you go,” April said to him as she stood by his pickup truck.
He sorted through the things and looked totally bewildered. “Shit it looks as though she was a whore,” he said. April chose to ignore it. Thomas walked over and threw the loaded bag from the apartment into the trash can. “You can have what ever is left, I just want to forget all this shit.” Less than a minute later he was pulling out of the parking lot.
April went back inside to answer the phone for a half hour before lunch. She had lunch at her apartment where she sat trying to see the inconsistencies. It was how she had been trained to observe the human body and it’s abnormalities.
Okay everything pointed to Jessica Rabbit being a party girl. Well everything but the recipe box. That pointed to Jessica the happy home maker. On the way back to the office she passed the trash can Thomas had used to dispose of her memory. From the can she salvaged the black bag.
Once inside the office she began to go through it carefully. On the rear of a Chocolate Pie recipe card she found something. She found an email address and the script Bluebird12. She put it aside and continued to check the box. She found three other sites and what appeared to be passwords.
April guessed that Jessica was one of those people who didn’t really understand computers, but used them just the same. She probably didn’t use it often and needed a reminder in case she got locked out. April was sure the police had unlocked and followed her online trail.
She wasn’t really withholding evidence, since they had the computer. She was sure they knew one hell of a lot more than she would ever be able to find out about Jessica Rabbit.
What was she thinking, she asked herself. Was she really going to run some kind of amateur investigation. If she was, why the fuck was she going to do it. That part was simple, to rub Mordecai Goodman’s nose in it of course. “That piece of shit needs to be taken down a notch,” she said to the empty room.
April put off looking at Jessica’s Email, and the websites in her recipe box until after her frozen dinner and chemical iced tea had been consumed. After her chemically laced dinner, she moved from the small dinning table to the built in desk on the wall of entertainment devices. Finally April pulled up Jessica’s email account, but only after she checked her own email.
It surprised her that Jessica had a generic email, rather than one of those name brand models. From Experience April knew that too many failed attempts to enter the account would lock it. She need not have worried because if opened on the first attempt. It could be that the cop’s plan was to leave it open in order to track her future emails, April thought. She reminded herself again to be careful not to leave any obvious trails on the site. It was possible to leave a trail should she try to delete anything. She didn’t see any problems ahead, as she did not plan to delete anything. Not even Jessica’s negative comments to her husband about April and Viv.
As April read Jessica’s Email it was obvious that she and her husband were arguing often. Her first complaint was that although she had access to their joint bank accounts, he had lowered the amount of the automatic deposits.
He claimed that the money was going into their retirement account. His defense was that she needed to spend less money, or get a job.
Later there were Email by Jessica explaining that she had a job working for a private club on the strip. She even gave him the name of the club in case of emergency. She also explained that she would be using the name Jessica Rabbit as an alias while at work. That was so that he could ask for her by that name should he need to call.
Then came a series of Email consisting of her time spent waiting for the apartment approval. Almost all her email was harmless and was addressed to her husband. It all seemed very much like the emails of a normal couple until about two months before her death. At that time she began seriously bitching about the smaller bank account. It was pretty easy to pinpoint the time when the money shortage began.
April hadn’t realized that Jessica occupied the second apartment she had converted. Since Jessica told her husband about the noise and confusion in the parking lot while the worker were constantly converting apartments. April was able to use that image to fit the Emails into the time line of what was going on at the motel. Jessica almost never mentioned the club.
Thomas hadn’t mentioned to April that he had taken his last leave from the drilling platform at the apartment. Viv would have had more contact with the two of them than April. She might know more about his stay at the apartment.
According to an email three weeks before her death, Thomas had taken her to work while on his break from the rig. He obviously stayed to watch her dance, since he commented that he hoped none of his buddies from the rig ever saw her and recognized her as his wife. Her response was that she wore so much make up and with the red hair, her own mother wouldn’t recognize her. Obviously the red hair was new since her employment at the Diamond Club.
Now why had he been so quick to tell April that Jessica was a simple bartender, when he knew better. He was on the rig, so he had an air tight alibi. April considered it odd, as she was sure Goodman had. Could it possible be a murder for hire kind of thing.
She hadn’t realized how fast time was passing. It was almost midnight before she knew it. April had a problem estimating the passage of time, since her sleep patterns were so erratic.
After April removed her jeans and bra she climbed into the bed wearing only her fancy tee shirt and bikini panties. She lay in bed where she realized that her recent visit from Mordecai had her taking stock of herself. She was painfully honest in her evaluation. She was forty eight years old, and twenty pounds above her ideal weight. Actually she was carrying twenty five more pounds than she had carried in Afghanistan. She knew that she needed to lose weight. Because of the long hours in surgery over there, and then the long hours at Urgent Care had done a number on her knees she couldn’t run. She also knew that becoming a yuppie gym rat just wasn’t going to happen, so she would have to just live with her lack of exercise. She also wasn’t having much luck controlling her eating.
Shaking her head she continued with her honest appraisal. She had pretty average boobs, she thought. They were 36c on a good day and with a good bra. Even though she never had kids, they sagged some. She could use a natural boob lift. One of those where the tissue was tightened and the cavity filled with her own excess body fat. It was all the thing at the time. She also had the option to just buying better bras.
Almost all the excess twenty five pounds was in her hips. She had the saddlebag hips, not a bubble butt that men loved so much. If she dressed well, say for a meeting, or a date she could do some things to mitigate the flaws in her figure.
Her hair was another disaster. She had the cursed thin hair gene, which ran in her family. Even though she had it cut in a ragged punk, boy’s style, it was neither classy, nor fashionable. It was just a mess all the time. She had given up on it. She simply washed it with hand soap and towel dried it in the summer months. She saved her blow dryer for December thru February.
April fell asleep knowing that her lack of a man had nothing to do with her rather average looks. The depressing truth was it had everything to do with the fact that she valued her independence more than any man’s companionship. Especially a man like that dick head Mordecai Goldman. She just had never been willing to play the game. The one where a woman overlooked a man’s failings and accepted them.
April slept quite well even in her mild depression, or maybe because of it. It was 6:30am when she awoke. She was rested and ready for the day. She moved on autopilot as she showered and dressed for the day. She fried up some bacon from the week before and threw in an egg and some cheese. She made herself a hell of a bacon and egg bagel. The southern absorption of the bagel into their menu surprised no one. The Louisiana menu was filled with stolen recipes and adaption of them into something unique to the area.
She was finished with breakfast at 8am, so she knew she had time to run to the store for sodas. When she went out to the parking lot to start the Jag, it did nothing. She tried for several minutes with the same lack of success. She could not believe how bad her luck had become lately. She gave up and just bought a single soda from a vending machine. The machine was also left over from the motel days. She gave the concession to Viv, as long as she took care of it. Viv bought the soda, stocked the machine, and collected the money. There was an understanding that when the machine died, it would not be replaced. In the meantime it added a little to Viv’s take home.
April thought about that, as she walked across the parking lot. In the office she looked up her mechanic’s number in her online address book, then placed the call.
‘Gerard’s,” a heavily accented voice said.
“Is Gerard around?” April asked.
“He’s pretty busy,” the man’s voice replied.
“Tell him it’s the woman who saw him naked a month ago, and he still owes me,” she said with a silent laugh.
A few minutes later a voice said, “Cher how the hell are you.”
“Hello Gerard, I need your coon ass,” April said.
“Oh you missed me?” he asked.
“Yeah, but my Jag needs you this morning,” April said.
“I though you could do anything Cher. What is that piece of Brit shit up to now?” Gerard asked.
“That piece of Brit shit won’t do nothing. It has a new battery and I looked at the terminals. They look okay to me, but what do I know.”
“About that Jag you know a lot Cher, but I’m going to send Gerard Junior over with a tow bar. He will pull it back to the shop. I’ll give you a call tonight and let you know what’s what,” he said.
“Fair enough. It’s in the parking lot at the Motel,” she said. “The spare key is under the hood.”
“We be along shortly Cher,” Gerard said. April was sure he meant it, but it didn’t solve her immediate problem
April had always known the day would come when the Jag would no longer be dependable enough for her work. When that happened her options were few, or at least she had always thought.
Since it has 125,000 miles on it, the time might be now, she thought.
She had been flirting with the idea of purchasing the absolutely most dependable transportation. The lowest tech, and therefor most dependable vehicle, was a bicycle. It was also the cheapest and might even help her with her weight issues.
There was nothing to do at the office other than answer the phones, and wait for someone to walk in with a problem, she went on line to research bicycles. God know she was going to have nothing else to do, since she had decided the night before not to research Jessica’s online habits from the office computer. There was no sense making it too easy for Mordecai to bust her.
She had nothing else to do but research things on the web. It was either that or watch old tv shows on line, she chose to research bicycles.
After she read the news, she went all over the web checking on bicycles. She found brands listed which she had never heard and meant absolutely nothing to her. She found that there were basically three types of bicycles, racing bikes, mountain bikes, and cruisers. Her first decision had to be which one to buy. She was immediately drawn to the beach cruiser, since she lived close to the beach. They were also the most comfortable and least technically advanced, which is what she wanted.
She found an online chart, which helped her decide on the size to best fit her body. Then she checked the different brands and frame designs. After that it became a question of availability. She had to have one locally and ideally close enough to ride home from the store.
She had spent all morning doing her diligent research. When Viv stopped in around noon, she was still at it. “I didn’t see your car, I thought something was wrong,” Viv commented immediately upon entering the office.
“There is, my Jag is sick. Gerard, my mechanic, sent his son over to pull it to his shop,” April explained.
“So, if you need to go anywhere let me know. I’ll be happy to give you a lift,” Viv offered. April had always felt that Viv wanted them to be friends. She expected it might make her job even more secure.
“Thanks, I might need you to take me to the store to buy a bike, if Gerard is going to have the Jag a while. He keeps telling me that those things are a bear to work on.” April warned her.
“If you want a bike, you should go out to New World Pawn Shop. He always has a bunch out front,” Viv suggested.
“If you aren’t too busy would you give me lift there now,” April asked.
“Sure, just set the calls to forward to your cell,” Viv said.
“Yeah, I know,” April said. She knew Viv did that once in a while when she had a personal errand to run.
At the New World Pawn shop, April found a, made in china knock off of a name brand, beach cruiser bike. The pawn shop sold it to her brand new for a hundred bucks. The same bike with a different logo was two hundred at least. She really figured the one she had bought was going to be inferior, but she didn’t care.
She even rode the beast home. It certainly was better than walking the three miles, but she was passed by a couple of road bikes with skinny tires and even skinnier riders. It really didn’t bother her. Nothing seemed to bother her during her half hour ride.
She realized that she should have stopped for lunch while she was out. It didn’t really matter since her original plan had been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich anyway. She admired her bike in the parking lot as she ate her sandwich and drank he chemical tea. An hour later sitting at the computer, she found her muscles stiff. Even so there was no joint pain in her knees. In other words she got a painless workout, even if it was a too short one.
As she was prone to do April began to fantasize about all the things she could do with the bike. She also conceded that realistically her plans could amount to nothing.`
April spent the afternoon thinking about bicycles and doing research on the things she could buy to make her bicycle more useful. After hours of research, it was finally time to shut the office for the day. She went out to dinner on her new bike since she had not heard from Gerard. That and her pantry and freezer had just about run out of quick things to prepare.
April chose a local restaurant, which catered to men and women from the airbase just outside of town. The restaurant was located five miles farther from the beachfront than her motel, but it was worth the bike ride. The food was good, the prices reasonable. Not to mention she got a ten miles worth of exercise.
When she returned to the motel she wasn’t even tired. Her body was going to feel that ride later, she was sure. In the meantime her body was feeling pleasurably used for a change. It wasn’t as good as sex, but it wasn’t bad either.
After April poured herself a cup of coffee, she moved to her small built in desk. She sat at the computer to type in the first website address. She had known in advance that it was a web cam site from the address. Poledancers.com was the address she typed into the browser. April chose to begin with the website whose address was on the rear of a tuna casserole recipe. When she got to the website she worked her way through the Maze of seemingly endless pop up ads carefully. She wasn’t a computer genus but she knew enough to know that sites like the ones she was visiting, installed all kinds of malicious crap on computers. That knowledge was another reason she chose the home computer for her research. The corruption of the office computer could be seriously problematic. There would be less potential damage to her home computer. There was very little malware written for her version of the Linux operating system. She had come to think of Windows as a death trap on the web.
She finally made it over all the walls, under the fences and then through all the hoops. What she found at the end of the trail was a long list of women. The women seemed to be sub contractors, for lack of a better term. Accompanying each name was a picture. Most men probably chose by picture so the list wasn’t in any order. April scanned until she found Jessica.
A click on a woman’s picture did indeed link to a free video. The payment was having to sit through screen after screen of advertizements. The advertisers were pretty questionable websites, which no doubt were not free. April finally found a picture of Jessica Rabbit after at least a hundred other listings.
Jessica was wearing one of the small tight dresses which her husband had chosen to trash. Since there was no charge, April clicked on Jessica’s image. The pop up screens were relentless. Finally April arrived at a short recorded video of Jessica. In the video she appeared to be stimulating herself sexually. However she was fully dressed, even so it was still mildly erotic. The video also appeared to be shot from different angles and most likely to have been edited. In other words it was not a real web cam video. From the background April could tell it was made in Jessica’s apartment.
Jessica lowered the top of the tight dress to expose her very full bikini top. The audio was her voice, since it was synchronized to the video. It was delivered in a clean factual manner, but it was far less than an academy award performance. She didn’t appear drugged, just nervous as if she were doing it for the first time, which she could have been.
April had no interest in seeing Jessica masturbate, so she copied the links and moved on. The second website’s address was youngstuff.com. April expected it to be worse than it actually was. She had to search to find Jessica among the supposed teenaged girls. None of them looked like kids exactly, more like young women trying to look sixteen. Jessica for sure didn’t look sixteen, but her introduction video suggested that for five dollars one could see what Jessica and he ‘daddy’ did together. The thought of that seemed disgusting to April, but she felt that she should see it. If for no other reason than to see what Jessica’s so called daddy looked like.
April arranged a Paypal blind payment to Jessica’s account. The payment must have cleared quickly because the video was in her email almost instantly. There was a ten minute video of Jessica giving an older man oral sex. She seemed to be enjoying it, and also she seemed to be listening to someone off set directing her. Again the background was her apartment.
April couldn’t believe that Jessica was making pornographic tapes right under her nose. Not only that, she wasn’t just shooting web cam video, the quality was much better than web cam junk. April decided that for sure she now had a dog in the fight. She also decided that she for sure would continue looking into it.
She decided that, the first thing the next morning she would attempt to identify the older man in the video. She made a copy of one single frame of the video, then printed off a picture of it. “Got ya,” she said looking at the very clean older man about sixty.
Identifying him would be quicker, if she gave it to the police. Of course they might easily have a copy already. Then again maybe not, so she might still teach Goldman not to fuck with her.
The only odd thing was that Jessica had the punk looking red hair and wore no makeup in the video. She might have been able to pass for a sixteen year old runaway dressed and made up as she was. At least to some horny old men. It was all an illusion anyway. Everyone believed what they wanted to believe and see what they wanted to see, she supposed.
She began to concentrate on how they did it. How could they make not one, but several pornographic videos without her having the slightest clue. She knew that they could easily shoot the video and keep it from her. All they had to do was start after 7pm and finish before 7am. Even so someone had to know something, even if they didn’t know they knew.
April thought surely Jessica’s neighbors noticed something. She remembered that one of the rooms of her apartment shared a common with an empty motel room. It was empty while they waited for the room on the other side of it to vacate. The finished apartment on the other side of Jessica’s belonged to a piano player and singer, who worked in a casino lounge. He was probably gone or didn’t give a crap what went on next door. April remember that Viv complained about his keyboard music once and threatened to evict his ass. Point was Jessica was in a good spot to keep it hidden, especially since April had paid for extra sound proofing in all the apartments as the were renovated. She wanted to be sure everyone had as least some privacy. She also didn’t want to deal with noise complaints against any of her permanent residents.
While she was trying to figure her next move Gerard called, “Sorry Cher, there is big trouble with that foreign shit. It’s going to be a pain in the ass.”
“What is it, how much to fix it, and how long,” April asked shortly.
“Well it’s a head gasket. Fortunately you drive very little so it didn’t damage anything else. I have a gasket coming in from New Orleans by UPS. It should be here to tomorrow, but I’m going to be up to my ass in work. I’m trying to get my race car ready for Saturday night. So Cher, I can supervise Gerard Junior while he does the work, or you can wait a few days. I am Sorry,” Gerard Senior said.
“You turn every bolt on the car yourself. I can hitch rides, till you get it done. So tell me how much?” April asked.
“It will be under a thousand dollars, but not much. That piece of shit burns up the man hours,” he said.
“Do the best you can, but do it right,” April said hanging up on him. He had to know she was unhappy, but the decision was made.
April went back to the video of Jessica and the older man to look for some clue as to who he was. That time she ran the video to the end hoping for something in the credits but there were no credits. After all the illusion was that it was a web cam video. She ran it all the way to the end and found a trailer for Jessica with what was obviously a barely teenage boy. She didn’t buy a copy of it, since there were obviously several people who were going to need to be found. Besides she had a good head shot of the boy from a frame of the trailer.
April had one more day in the office, then she would have a day to rest before starting her clinic shift again. So she went to bed filled with questions. As before she slept in the tee shirt she had worn all day and her panties that she had likewise worn all day. Sleeping in her clothes was somehow comforting. It seemed to add some continuity to her life. That thought seemed strange even to her.
She was up at 6:30am the next morning. She quickly rolled the bike outside and rode it for an hour before she showered as the last of her bacon cooked. She scramble one of her last three eggs, while the toaster oven made quick work of the bagel. Two days in a row she had made a bagel with egg and bacon. How boring, she thought.
She left the bike inside her apartment while she went to the office to answer the phone. She also watched the morning news shows while she did her phone duty. After almost two hours, Mordecai Goldman showed up with his much younger partner Lois.
“Mind if we come in,” he asked.
“Yes, but you will probably find some reason to force me to cooperate, so come on in,” April said.
“Thanks,” Lois said. Mordecai just shook his head.
“So what it to be today rubber hose, or deadly charm?” April asked.
“Look you are piss at me, I get it. Why don’t you just look at it like you are helping Jessica not me,” Mordecai suggested.
“Because she is past help, it will just be helping you and I wouldn’t cross the street to save your ass from a falling building,” April said.
“God, you can hold a grudge,” the swarthy looking Lois commented.
“You heard his version, want to her mine?” April asked.
“No she doesn’t,” Mordecai said.
“That should tell you something Lois. Be careful who you invest in,” April said.
“Just tell us what happened when her husband came to pick up her shit,” he demanded.
“He came, he opened the door to the apartment, which had been closed for a couple of day, and then he threw up. I loaded all her shit up in a cardboard box, which he immediately threw in the trash. Now I’m waiting for a crew from that crime scene cleaner bunch to show up.” April said.
“What do you know about porno,” Lois asked.
“Why?” April asked as an answer.
Lois looked at Mordecai who shook his head.
“Just askin’,” Lois said.
“I don’t know a thing,” April lied. “So do you want to see her place again?”
“Yes please,” Lois said.
“Get everything you want out of there because the cleaner will be here this afternoon, and before he comes the thrift store will take everything out. They get the furniture and all her personal items for one flat rate so take what you need,” April advised the two detectives.
After they examined the apartment Lois brought the key back. “Please call me, we need to talk,” she said handing April her card.
“If you want to talk, you are going to have to take me to dinner. Somewhere nice,” April said.
“You gay?” Lois asked.
“Not yet,” April replied. Lois left looking confused.
If Lois turned out to be cool, April thought, I might just give her a heads up.
After the police detectives left, nothing happened all day. Viv didn’t even come around. April had already decided not to share any information with her. April was never completely comfortable with Viv’s lifestyle.
When she closed the office on Thursday, it was the end of her apartment manager chore. Well it was the end until the next Tuesday anyway, April thought. She had to shift her mind set into a new gear for her regular job at the clinic. Three straight twelve hour shifts beginning the next evening at 7pm. That thought filled her with a mild dread. Nobody liked those killer shifts.
As she walked back to her apartment she was acutely aware that she still hadn’t bought groceries, so it appeared that she would be eating out yet again. She knew that she had to do something about that. After considering her options all the way back to her apartment, she decided on take out tacos. She could manage that on the bike for sure.
She made the trip to the parking lot filled with food trucks just fine. That parking lot was just outside the main gate of the air base. April found the Mi Amigo taco truck was still on site and the window was open. The ride had been just long enough to get her heart rate up, so the taco truck had proved to be a good choice. The tacos, as she had known all along, were excellent as well.
April found not only was the taco truck in the parking lot, but there were also several other take out choices there. For instance next to the taco truck there was a Korean truck serving some kind of tightly wrapped veggie roll which was then deep fried. The sauce was fishy and hot as hell she knew from past experience. She filed that information away for future use.
After dinner in a family park near the motel, she rode to the grocery store nearest her apartment. April figured she could carry a maximum of two lightly loaded bags on the bike as it was presently configured. She also had a weight limit to deal with. Heavy bags would make steering difficult. With those restrictions in mind there were some hard choices to be made.
Since bacon was a staple in her kitchen, there was nothing going to replace it in the bag. Then she remembered that she was out of jelly. Chemical iced tea mix would have been high on the list, had her brand been available from that particular grocery store. Bagels and Dinner rolls made it into the bag. Even though she kept telling herself she could return later she picked up a few more things, which she felt couldn’t do without. She bought a two roll pack of toilet paper instead of the less expensive four roll giant family size. The second bag she planned to fill with frozen dinners. So she bought her favorite half dozen.
April really wanted a box of canned diet cokes, but there just wasn’t room for them on the soon to be overloaded bike. She bought two of those, almost, cloth shopping bags. She managed to get he load of groceries in them and even had a little room left over.
She walked out the store carrying the two bags, and began to fit them onto the bike. First she stepped through the frame of the heavy cruiser, Then hung one bags on each side of the handlebars. The arrangement make the bike unstable but she did manage to make it home in one piece. It was almost 7:30 when she arrived home.
It was strange to carry only two grocery bags up the stairs to her apartment. Putting away her groceries was done in just seconds, so she was back at work following Jessica’s trail in less than ten minutes of her arrival home.
She looked through the recipe box to be sure there were no more clues hidden inside it. After she came up empty she mused that the person who searched her apartment must have been a man. For a woman the recipe box to be in the refrigerator would have been a glaring error. Ergo since no flags had gone off in the searcher’s head, he had to be a man.
Jessica either only had time to make a few videos, or she wasn’t in high demand. April found a half dozen ‘webcam’ videos on each site. There was even a trailer for one movie length video. The trailer seemed to be scenes from several other videos. April based that assumption on the fact that it featured all the same people as those in her web videos.
April spent her evening printing picture of the men in the videos. There were six who had obviously been to her Jessica’s apartment. April had seen none of them hanging around the place.
April racked her brain but couldn’t remember what, if anything, Viv had said about how Jessica was dressed. It might have been a Webcam shoot gone wrong, April theorized.
She also wanted to know how much a stripper made and why Jessica needed money bad enough to slip into that life. If she wanted to take a look at any of the places where Jessica hung around, she needed to do it that very night. She was facing three long nights at the clinic during which time the case of Jessica Rabbit would advance without her. The problem was when she made that discovery it was already 10pm. She also didn’t have a car.
What she did have was Lois the detective’s card. She dialed the number and Lois picked up the phone. “Detective Rice,” she said in a very businesslike voice.
“This is April, buy me a drink sailor?” she asked.
“Are you coming on to me?” Lois asked with a laugh.
“Maybe or maybe I have something else to share. If you can keep the source of the information secret. I have no idea what kind of slippery slope we are headed down.” April admitted.
“I’ll buy you the drink regardless, but if this is some kind of vendetta, then I’m not interested,” Lois replied.
“Fair enough, we will just go where it takes us,” April said. “That’s all I ask.”
“There is no us, as far as work goes,” Lois said.
“Then save your money,” April replied.
“If you are withholding information in a murder investigation, I can have you arrested,” Lois said humorlessly.
“Good luck with that,” April said.
“Oh shit, I’ll meet you in front of the rental office in twenty minutes.” Lois said.
“At least you don’t drive a cop car on a date,” April said once she was inside the Italian econonbox.
“Is that some kind of compliment, or a veiled complaint,” Lois asked.
“Speaking of veiled, is your being assigned to Mordecai somebody’s idea of a joke?” April asked. “And how did you get named Lois rice?”
“What do you mean?” Lois asked.
“Inside what ethnic soil are your roots buried?” April asked.
“Are you a racist?” Lois asked with good humor.
“Honey, no matter what they told you in school, everyone is a racist,” April informed her.
“Yeah,” she replied then added, “Lebanese two generations back. My mom and dad are still Muslim. The Lois is a bastardized version of fifth century name. Rice is from an ex husband.”
“What are you, Jewish now?” April asked.
“No, I’m not that brave. I’m not a believer in anything at the moment, but that is subject to change.” she said.
“That is an honest answer,” April replied. “Do you know the U2 lounge?”
“Yeah, it’s some kind of military handout. Cheap booze and cheap whores,” Lois commented.
“Good, I see you know the place. We should fit right in. So lets go there to have that drink.” April suggested.
“So what has that got to do with Jessica’s murder,” Lois asked.
“I’m not sure, but I’m looking for someone who might know someone, who might know something. I do hope I’m your protected confidential informant,” April said.
“Yeah, I have you filed and coded to protect us both. But do know you haven’t given me anything.” Lois said.
“We are still talking about the case aren’t we?” April asked.
“Look, let’s get one thing straight. I’m no Les,” Lois said.
“Good, I’m not either yet,” April replied. “Okay I’ll give you something. I know you knew Jessica worked as an exotic dancer at the Diamond Club, Right?”
“Yeah we know that,” Lois replied.
“So is the diamond club connected to drugs and pornography?” April asked.
“Everybody is connected to drugs these days. As to porn, I hadn’t heard of anything.” Lois said.
April doubted that Lois didn’t know porn was involved in the case. They had arrived at the parking lot of the U2 private club before midnight. It was private only in that there was a two dollar charge to join. A hold over from the days of the old ABC laws.
April allowed Lois to pay for her both memberships. Both women walked into the dark noisy club hesitantly. It was natural for the prey to be cautious in the presence of so many predators. Some of them were dressed as clean men both older and very young. So were dressed as bikers but not dangerous looking bikers just play bikers. April could never put her finger on it but she knew the difference when she saw it.
“So why did you ask about the Diamond club, then bring me here?” Lois asked.
“Follow me here. Jessica is left behind in a motel while her husband is working on the rig. She is supposed to find and set up an apartment,” April said asking for verification.
“Yeah that seems to fit what we know,” Lois said.
She moves into my apartment building a couple of months ago. Right in the height of our remodeling. Lots of people coming and going. Even workers in the building at night.” April said.
“Okay, are you taking this somewhere?” Lois asked.
“Look, I know you know that she and her husband were fighting. He cut off her access to most of his paycheck. So she has less money to spend. She just needs a few bucks, so somehow she finds out that the Diamond Club is looking for a bartender. She applies and gets the job.” April stopped and looked at Lois.
“Yeah that fits in with what we know,” Lois agreed.
“Then it’s just a matter of which came first the drugs or the pole dancing. One of them led to the other almost guaranteed,” April said.
“I can’t discuss that,” Lois said.
“Then take me home,” April said.
“Okay, we found drugs in her system. The owners of the Diamond knew nothing of course, except that she danced the pole for tips and a small salary.
“That’s pretty much what I figured,” April said. “So Did you know that Jessica was making pornography?”
“No, but I wouldn’t be surprised everybody is these days. So how is she doing it,” Lois asked.
“I think she was using the renovations to cover the coming and going of the crew. I don’t have any idea how far this goes, but here are the two sites that brokered her videos,” April said. “She made them right in the apartment, but regardless of what they claimed she is not on a webcam. The images are too good.”
“Okay we didn’t know, so I’m glad to have the lead. So tell me why we are here?” Lois asked.
“I think Jessica was making a video the night she was killed. The workers were back working on a renovation and Jessica was high.” April said.
“So you think if we find the Porno maker, we find Jessica’s killer.” Lois asked.
“Yeah something like that,” April replied.
“Do you have any idea where to look for the person who killed Jessica,” Lois asked.
“Why right here of course,” April said smiling at Lois.
Lois looked around then asked, “Who?”
“Got me. I’m a nurse you are the cop,” April said.
“I don’t get it,” Lois said.
“The web cam stuff was just Jessica playing to the cam. Like you said everybody is doing it, so the market is flooded.
Jessica had branched out to hardcore by the time she was killed. Problem was it was still semi amatuer shit. She didn’t have any protections. You find these men,” April said placing the prints on the table. “And the trail will lead to the killer. You might even find a dirty cop along the way.”
“Like I said before, if this is a vendetta count me out,” Lois said.
“Like it or not you are in the jackpot honey. You aren’t the only one wearing a wire.” April took her hand and placed it over her breasts. She was sure Lois felt the lump. Lois didn’t need to know it was just four quarters attached to the inside of her bra. It was a gamble but April didn’t mind throwing the dice now and then.
“Who is on the other end,” she asked.
“Let’s say its federal, and leave it at that,” April said.
“Are they investigating me or Mordecai?” she asked.
“Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage,” April said. “There is our link to the whole thing. She is standing at the end of the bar.”
“Isn’t that your apartment manager,” Lois asked.
“It is indeed,” April admitted.
April got Viv’s attention by waving as soon as she entered. She invited Viv over with a come hither gesture, then motioned for her to sit.
“Viv you remember Detective Rice?” she asked.
“Sure,” Viv answered. “Are you two friends?”
“Oh I’m not sure just what April and I are,” Lois said.
“We are the kind of friends that two women who have screwed the same guy become,” April said. Before Lois could object she went on. “So are you out trolling?”
“Came in for a drink. I like men in uniform, even cops,” she said.
“How do you feel about corrections officers,” April asked.
“Is that supposed to mean something?” Viv asked a bit put off by the comment.
“Yeah, you are involved in Jessica’s murder. How deeply, I’m not sure yet. I am going to leave that to Lois to determine. I just know you are involved. It’s the only thing that answers all the questions. The thing that answers the questions usually is the truth. ” April replied.
“That makes no sense,” Viv said. “I hardly knew her.”
“Oh let me explain what I think happened. When her husband cut off her access to most of his money, Jessica had already moved into our place. His plan likely was to force her to get a job. You are the person that all the tenants love, so of course she cried on your shoulder. My guess is you sent her to the Diamond Club right away. Now that she knows, Lois here is going to lean on the club owner. He is going to roll over on you, because he had nothing to do with anything except maybe providing drugs to her. Giving her drugs is a long way from murder.”
“I might have provided her a name, and I might even had called to tell the owner to take it easy on her because she was a kid from the country.” Viv said.
“Yeah, I bet you did,” April said. “I bet when she came to explain she needed more money, you got her in the webcam and porno business. It had to be you running that end of her life. You are the one who knew my schedule, and even more important the schedule of the construction guys.
I have to tell you the cops can do some really good shit with a computer these days. Lois here is having your computer seized as we speak. They are also searching for the murder weapon. I don’t think they will find the weapon cause I don’t believe you stabbed her.
I viewed some of the video’s you helped Jessica make. All the male actors stand very straight and all are clean shaven guys. Even on the one of her with what is supposed to be a younger teenager. He is convening at being a sixteen year old nerd, but a real teenager wouldn’t look so clean, unless he was gay, not these days anyway. All the male actors had the same short haircuts, even the Daddy character. Kind of like that older man at the bar. My guess is the video daddy will turn out to be a sergeant in the Air Force.”
Vivian stood to leave.
“One more step and I arrest you. Right now is your one chance to help yourself,” Lois said. “You know we can prove all that April is suggesting. That kind of leaves you facing the charges alone. You get to take the full ride oh the murder train. Since she was killed while in the commission of a felony, that makes it capitol murder.”
“What felony we were making porn for God’s sake. The dumb bitch saw the black guy and refused to suck his dick. Some hillbilly prejudice thing, I guess. How the hell could a nineteen year old who as sucked have a dozen dicks refuse a guy just because he is black. She really was a shit about it as well. She didn’t just refuse, she was high and said a lot of pretty disgusting things. He was wired as well.”
“Before you go any further let me tell you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney and to have him present during all questioning. If you can not afford one, one will be appointed to you. So, do you understand each of these rights as I have explained them to you.”
“Yes,” Viv said.
Lois and April could see her head spinning. “Do you wish to talk to me?” Lois asked.
“I want to make a deal,” Viv said.
“What you got to trade? You know we have the pictures of the guys and we can identify the men involved.” Lois said. “Just more nails in your coffin.
April had to admit she had grasped the situation quickly. She also acted as if she had personally come up with April’s theory. Must be a cop thing, April thought remembering Mordecai.
“I can give you the name of the killer, testify for you, and I can give you the name of the man who set it all up.” Vivian replied.
“Were you there? I need to know what you can testify to, before I go to the DA.” Lois suggested.
“Yeah me and the man who set it all up. He also made the video we sold. It is his operation, I just got a cut of anything I brought him. Jessica needed her money up front, so we were the ones getting the proceeds from the sales. Jessica was just an employee,” Vivian said.
“So which one of you stabbed her,” Lois asked.
“I will give you that when there is an offer in writing for full immunity on anything relating to the porno charges.” Vivian said.
“Then there is going to be a night in jail in your immediate future,” Lois said.
“One night in jail is no big deal. You know April, I had a feeling it would be you who figured it out, but how did you do it?” Vivian said.
“Jessica might have been a dumb country girl, but she left the clue for her husband to find. He just didn’t have the stomach to look for it,” April said all mysterious and shit.
Lois used her cell phone to call a patrol car. She tucked Vivian into the back of it before she spoke, “So do you want to go watch me book her?”
“What, when I can go home and watch paint dry. No thanks just drop me at the apartment building.” April replied.
April awoke the next morning later than usual for a non work day. She had been out late, but not partying. She did feel remarkably pleased with herself for some reason.
When her phone rang April was having what seemed like extremely good coffee. She had found herself sitting inside a chrome and glass monstrosity. “April Smythe,” she said.
“Detective Lois Rice here. I need you to come down to the station. I’m afraid there are some questions coming your way,” Lois said.
“I’m not surprised. I told you Mordecai was a dickhead,” April said.
“No comment on the dickhead,” Lois said with a chuckle in her voice. “Just keep your head and play let’s make a deal.”
“It’s going to be around noon, unless you want to arrest me, for obstruction.” April said.
“No, the dickhead wants to keep it friendly,” Lois said. “Well as friendly as a threat can be.”
“Then noon it is. Tell him not to waste my lawyers time,” April said.
After her ride, her shower, and her breakfast, April called a realty management company. One of their representatives came to the apartment complex and worked out a one year management contract.
Noon found April sitting outside the detective’s office. They kept her waiting almost thirty minutes which was her maximum, before she decided to leave for a late lunch.
“Well you couldn’t help yourself could you?” Mordecai said catching her before she left the building. “Follow me.” He lead her into a small interrogation room.
“Mordecai I want a witness in the room, or you are going to have to restrain me. That I assure you will get nasty,” April said.
Mordecai looked up at the two way mirror. “Lois knock on the glass,” he said.
There was a polite tapping. “Now, what set you on Vivian’s trail?” Mordecai.
“Unlike you when I add two plus two, it comes out four,” April said.
“So you found a clue and didn’t share it with the police?” he asked.
“What do you think I was doing in the U2 lounge. I was sharing the clue with a cop. One I thought I could trust,” April said looking at the two way mirror. “And that is what my lawyer is going to say. She is also going to say, right or wrong, I didn’t feel I could trust you to do the right thing. That is why I went to the other detective on the case. If you are smart, you will suck it up and move on. If not, internal affairs will be checking your computer.”
“One more thing before I deliver this referral to the DA, Vivian is going to name the killer and take the full blame for the operation,” he said.
“So, she isn’t going to name the person who had the contacts to sell the shit?” April asked.
“That wasn’t part of her deal. The black airman/actor was on drugs that night and he stabbed her. It’s a shame, but there was no conspiracy. Sorry, I know you would he like for there to have been.”
“You are a dickhead, you always have been, and you always will be,” April said. “If you have anything else to say to me, call my lawyer. I’ll leave her name with Lois,” April said it as she walked out the door.
Lois caught up to her in the parking lot. “I’m sorry that is just how it works,” she said.
“Don’t be, I’m a big girl. I know how the system works. That is why I did what I did,” April said.