Talessia grabbed a cup of coffee at the little service station two miles up the road from the motel and buttoned her blouse straight. She had become, perhaps, too familiar with these places. The broken neon of the Chateau Devane, the gas station, its two pumps and gravel parking lot, developing an affection for them. There were no cameras at either, no overdone security. They only accepted cash. The last, real, “no-tell motel.” Places that Finn new from having grown up in the suburbs of New Faith, a view of the city through the dusty lens of the farmland that surrounded it. Talessia dried tears for the second time that day.
She didn’t want to do this anymore. She wanted to go home. She wanted to lie down next to North, to have it be right again, to wake up in her own bed with her husband’s arms around her and know that she was safe, know that this was over, the distance between them finally gone. North had stayed with her after the Lundy case. She had understood it when he couldn’t wait for her, when he had needed someone who could be present with him when she was lost to herself, to the world. There wasn’t anything to do but forgive it even though it destroyed her all over again for a while. That’s what it’s like when you know, she thought. That is what it is like when you know that you have found that person and that there is no other person on earth that will ever be like that to you or with you. North was that person for her. You forgive, and you figure it out because the thought of not being with them or of losing another moment with them is worse than whatever it was that they did that hurt you. Because the good is more important than the bad. Because the fact that he had an affair didn’t mean anything compared to everything else that their life together was.
So, what was she doing with Finn?
North didn’t over complicate the world with the analyzing of the stirrings of his soul. He was often so quiet about things that she sometimes forgot how smart he was and that he was paying attention. What had happened with Demetri had opened her eyes again to the stark reality of human need, to want, to the realization that everything else was window dressing. He could have killed her. He could have taken her, made her into a vampire. What did it mean to lie down next to another human being? Trust? What could anyone really know about anyone else? How dependent on one another they all were in this need, in this want, to love and be loved and to feel comforted in that. Trust, to lie down next to someone and sleep easy in the darkness was all, for it is then that we are truly at the mercy of God, exposed in the vulnerability of our slumber to the possibilities of the chaotic whims of others. Was that why Demetri had bitten her as she slept? To open her eyes?
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” -Genesis, 3:7
“No.” Talessia said to herself out loud. Damn it. That was it. He wanted her to lose herself in wondering, to be seduced by it. To be taken in and consumed by it. “He’s a sociopath. He’s a psychopath. Demetri is a cold-blooded killer and that is all. There is nothing romantic about it.”
She didn’t bother to park up the street. Outside of Francine’s door there was dirt spilled on the welcome mat from a shriveled potted plant. It could have been a neighbor walking by, could have been a cat or a kid with a ball. Apartments were that way. Nonetheless, she noticed it.
The air inside the apartment was still and properly stale enough that she knew that no one had been in the place for a while. Spotless, right down to new garbage bags in the kitchen and bathroom cans, a thin layer of dust over everything making an inconspicuous search impossible. The refrigerator had been emptied of anything that would spoil. There were no open containers in the cabinets. No half-eaten box of corn flakes. The middle-sized bag was missing from a nesting set of luggage, a handful of empty hangers in the closet. No messages on the answering machine.
Francine complained that her mother was a nag who called incessantly though for certain every Monday. Francine wouldn’t have gone to her mother’s house, if she were going anywhere at all. There was something, she realized that she’d seen something out of the corner of her eye and what was it? Talessia turned around slowly, thinking that she’d seen it there in the kitchen or on the window sill in the bathroom, which is where she found it. An intricately carved gold band. Francine once said that she always took it off when she washed dishes or took a shower because it attracted too much “gunk.” Why hadn’t she put the ring back on? Talessia got down at eye level with the window ledge, trying to look inside the band without disturbing it, there was something engraved on it. She held it up to the light. Maybe Francine hadn’t been stupid after all. Talessia slipped the ring into her pocket.
Locking Francine’s door behind her as she left, she’d felt someone watching her. She looked again at the spilled dirt. She went down the concrete steps as fast as she could, rounded the corner, ducked behind the dumpster and decided to hop the fence. She landed funny on her ankle on the other side and kept going down the alley to where it emptied out onto a narrow side street. She rounded the back side of the apartment complex and looked up at Francine’s door in time to see a man go into the apartment. Talessia wasn’t much for games. She jimmied the pool gate and sat down on a chaise lounge and lit a cigarette, flicking the ashes into a coffee can half full of sand. Three cigarettes later she watched Russ Moreacker exit Francine Crouse’s apartment, down the same steps that she had used. He never looked at her.
The building across from The San Sebastian was The Arden Hotel. They had used it for surveillance more than once. They had used it for other things too, once, or twice. She hadn’t wanted it to be that way and couldn’t quite explain how it happened. The physical proximity to each other had proved too much. They didn’t talk about it. Somehow that had made it easier to pretend that it wasn’t happening. Of course, they’d just put an end to the denial at The Chateau Devane.
She flashed her badge at the manager at the front desk at The Arden and got a key. Seventeen stories up in a room that she knew, she looked out the window onto the roof of The San Sebastian and gasped. She used the phone in the room to dial the number that Finn had called from, whispering to herself for him to answer.
“Yeah, Tal?” he said. She could hear the flint rolling as he lit a cigarette.
“I’m at The Arden, looking out the window at a body that’s on the roof of The San Sebastian. I know the lines are hot. I just watched Moreacker leave Francine’s apartment. The place is clean. She hasn’t been there for a while.”
“Did you say that there’s a body on the roof of The San Sebastian? Tal, I’m calling Bruce. Do not go over there. Do you hear me? Talessia? Do not.” Finn said. He was already pulling his boots on.
“If I can get a picture with my phone, we’ll at least have that.” She thought that she could get a good one, despite the glare off the glass.
“No. Tal, no. Your phone is hot. Just stay there. It’s the middle of the afternoon, if there’s a body on the roof it isn’t going anywhere. Promise me that you are not going over there. Say it.” Finn said.
“But I’m right here. Finn, you said it yourself, it’s the middle of the afternoon. I can get there and secure the scene, at least. If Moreacker is back there, he’ll have to help lock it down.” She wanted to get over there, this was a gift.
“Goddamn it, wait!” Finn hung up on her.
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