Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chapter 16

I got into my car and Paul got into his truck. We caravanned back over Laurel Canyon, down to my building on Crescent Heights and into the residents’ garage. Since our relationship had blossomed, I had gotten brave and given Paul his own parking space. Pretty bold move there, Pushkin. Whatever – he doesn’t have keys to my condo yet. We met at the elevators and Paul grabbed my hand and held it. Not resisting temptation, he began caressing my neck with his lips.
He was so warm and smelled like a freshly bathed newborn babe – all musky and sweet. Paul’s behavior was changing as quickly as the weather in the Northwest. All day long, just wait 5 minutes, and he was in a different mood. Or maybe he had just calmed down on the drive over. If the motion of a car could calm down a baby, maybe it had the same effect on adults as well. Paul certainly needed it. The life drama was causing him to be increasingly affectionate at what seemed to me an awkward time. Maybe he was in shock? Post traumatic stress disorder. Was I suffering from that as well? I would have to ask Harshy. She would give me an objective

As we walked down the hall toward my front doors, I could hear fresh, open sobbing and urgent murmuring. When I opened the door, Paul and I walked in on Trevor curled up in a fetal position in my living room. He was wailing and clutching the bouillon fringe of my huge ottoman. Brian paced behind the couch quietly beseeching Trevor to ‘shut up!’ I almost laughed, but caught myself when Brian turned our way. He threw up his hands in frustration and pointed to Trevor.

“Thank you, Brian,” I said as I walked over to him. I hugged Brian and told him he could chill outside while we talked to Trevor.

“Thank God! This guy is wack. Good luck,” said Brian as he passed through the slider. I watched the cushions of the couch pop up as he flopped into it and clicked the TV.

Paul walked over to Trevor and squatted down next to him. When Trevor paused for breath, he opened his red puffy eyes, saw Paul, and shrieked, “What is he doing here!”

Paul abruptly stood up and stared down at Trevor, while crossing his arms over his chest. Trevor was like a badger in a hole, teeth barred and snarling, eyes shifting from Paul to me and back to Paul. Tears were running down his red stained cheeks and his breath was ragged from all of his wailing. Paul watched and waited. I went over and knelt beside Trevor.

I began riddling him with questions. “Trevor, what are you doing here? What’s going on? Where have you been? Do you know the police are looking for you? What did you do?” I riddled him with questions.

Trevor sat up, clinging to me so hard I almost fell over into the sofa cushions. At this vantage point I could see Kashmew hiding up on top of my TV armoire behind my plants. He was glaring at me with his golden eyes and his tail was abruptly flicking back and forth. I groaned and pulled Trevor up onto the sofa and I sat on the ottoman. Holding his hands, I shook them so that he would focus and look at me. He was a wreck and, boy, did he smell! Cigarettes, booze, dance club, BO, and vomit?

“Trevor! Answer me.”

Wiping his mouth, Trevor looked at me through his wispy eyebrows and then slid that look over to Paul. I followed his eyes, understanding the gesture. “He’s OK, Trevor. Paul won’t hurt you. Why would you think he’d hurt you?”

“’Cause he’s threatened to before. He hates me!” snarled Trevor, reaching for a cigarette out of his polo shirt pocket. Lighting it, he resumed, “They all hate me. They always have. Well, I don’t care! I may have ripped Faraday off, but I certainly didn’t kill him.”

“What are you talking about? Where’ve you been?” I asked again.

He looked at me and blew smoke into my face. “Why do you care, bitch?”

I stood up. “Don’t pull that shit with me, bucko! You’re the one who came to my place looking for me. You’re on my turf now.” My Mohawk was back for a moment.

Trevor stared at the floor. Eventually, he lifted his head and stared hard at me. “For as much of a cunt as you were to me, you’re the only one I thought would even listen to what I had to say. I didn’t know that that fucker would be here.” He gestured at Paul who moved over to Trevor, possibly to smack him to the ground. I motioned with my hand to leave off.

“So what do you have to say, Trevor, because you’re really trying our patience,” I asked, glaring at him. I had never been a cunt to him. A bitch, yes, but never a cunt. He wasn’t worth that amount of effort.

Trevor settled up against the sofa, the ash of his cigarette one inch long and threatening my ottoman. I motioned to Paul that I needed an ashtray from the kitchen. Kashmew meowed and wrinkled his nose against the smoke, swishing his tail harder against my plants. I glared at him too. I sat down on the ottoman when Paul returned with the ashtray. Trevor angrily flicked his ash into the glass bowl, sending sparks onto my pants, ottoman, and Persian carpet. I sighed, exhausted with this problem already. We hadn’t even gotten decent questions answered.

Trevor spoke in a quivering voice. “The police are after me. They think I killed Faraday, even though they’re calling it a suicide.”

“And did you?”

“No! Fuck. I did not. The reason they think I did is because of Bruce, that sausage prick.” Trevor blew out defiant smoke rings.

“Go on,” I prodded. This was going to be interesting and, I hoped, highly revealing, especially as I was tired of being the one insulted.

Trevor began to glare at me again, but then resigned the look in his eyes with surrender. “Bruce found out I was stealing money and stuff from Faraday.” He quietly confessed and then stared down at the floor for comfort.

I sat straight up on the ottoman and gave Trevor the once over. Little prick. Had to be to screw up a cush job at the Faraday estate. Trevor was small, slight, be-speckled, and freckled. Must be tough getting the hotties to go for him as a sex toy. Napoleon complex – always compensating. Must have needed the money to “buy” himself a new image to be a contender.

“Trevor, where have you been for a whole week?” I asked. Paul and I hadn’t seen him since my last day at the estate, last Friday.

“I’ve been staying at the Rage Club in West Hollywood off of Santa Monica Boulevard. I used to work there as a server’s assistant. My old boss let me crash there for a few days,” explained Trevor.

I was confused. I looked over at Paul. “Server’s assistant?”

Paul laughed. “That’s fancy lingo for someone who busses tables in a restaurant.”

Trevor glared at Paul and gave him the finger. Paul acted all frightened and ran hid behind the kitchen island.

I turned back to Trevor. “Wouldn’t the police have gone looking for you there?”

Trevor laughed, “Yeah, the LAPD goes into a flaming gay bar. Right. I knew that it would be a few days before they turned over that chore to the West Hollywood police. That’s why I’m here. My time was up. They questioned my old boss yesterday.”

I thought this over. I looked over at Paul. He shrugged his shoulders. Another great shrugger in my life. Brian was still out on the patio watching TV. I looked back over at Trevor who was watching expectantly.

“What do you want me to do Trevor? I still don’t understand why you would come to me. We’re not exactly friends.”

Trevor finished his cigarette and stubbed it out into the ashtray I was still holding in my hand. “I don’t know. I knew where you lived because eventually I was going to trash your pool because you were such a bitch to me at the estate.” I raised my eyebrows to him and he shook his head like that idea was a millennium ago.

“When I was ‘escaping’ from the Rage, I just started walking down Santa Monica boulevard and eventually found myself at Crescent Heights. As I wondered where to go, I remembered that you lived up the street somewhere near the base of the canyon. I thought I could sneak onto the roof of your building and hide out in your pool house until I could figure out what else to do.” Trevor narrowed his eyes at the patio, at Brian. “Little did I know that you lived in the pool house and that you had a young, over-eager security guard.”

“I thought Brian let you in through the front door?” I asked. He had thrown me for a loop. I was shocked by this man’s continued callousness towards me. I don’t know why I kept feeling that way. After a year, one would think that I would be used to it.

“He did, eventually. He saw me scaling your fire escape first and rushed me. I almost fell to my death!” He glared towards the patio again. Lighting another cigarette, he continued. “I climbed down and hid out in your lobby for awhile before I decided to call you on your building call box. Stupid kid answered that, too. I almost hung up, but when I told him my name he said to wait there in the lobby. He was going to call you to see what to do now. Guess he didn’t know I was the same person.”

Trevor paused, thinking, and then looked up at me, anger contorting his already pinched features. “Why would he do that? Why would he ask me to wait so he could ask you what to do next? What did you do, Pushkin? Do the police know I’m here? Did you set me up?”

He began yelling and jumped up, looking around wildly for the police to come storming from my bedroom or my bathroom. “How did you know I would be here? Did the police have a tail on me because of you, Bitch? I knew you had it in for me. Bruce put you up to this, didn’t he?”

Like I had any better relationship with Bruce Hansen. Trevor was hysterical. I burst out laughing so hard, I almost fell off the ottoman and spilled the ashtray. Trevor lunged at me in a maniacal, faggy-way: screeching with hands like bird claws, spittle flying from his lips, eyes wild behind the major corrective lenses. Paul scooped me up before Trevor could do any cosmetic or fashion damage and held me behind his body. Regardless, I was still in fits. I couldn’t help myself. Exhaustion and stress had taken over my body. I was becoming hysterical.

Trevor fell across the ottoman, sobbing loudly, wailing with crocodile tears streaming from his face. Paul hauled him up, scaring him silent, and placed him on the sofa. Trevor whimpered and kept his eyes closed, resigned to the feeling of cuffs on his wrists as they sat parallel and rigid in his lap. I had calmed down to a reasonable facsimile of myself, too.

“Trevor,” I began quietly. I was kinda scared of him at this point. Trevor wouldn’t open his eyes. “Trevor, the police aren’t here. No one is here to get you. No one knows you’re here except us.”

Trevor opened one eye and looked at me, warily. “Then how did that kid know who I was? Why would he ask me to wait, pending instructions from you?”

Now it was my turn for some questions. “If Brian asked you to wait in the foyer, how did you get up here?”

Trevor answered, “I snuck in after some people entered. Said I was visiting you. They were very chatty; had nothing but wonderful things to say about you.” He sneered. “I scanned the tenant board for your condo number. Nice place you got here, Ms. Modesty Mouse. Your boy here let me in after I banged on the front doors forever.”

“From what he tells me, Trevor, you were a basket case, so leave off with the attitude. Obviously, you were desperate for help from anyone who had no idea what you’d done.” I held his eyes with mine until recognition bloomed on his face.

“I told you I didn’t kill Faraday!” screamed Trevor.

“I’m not talking about that, Trevor. I’m talking about all the other crimes you’ve committed that you just brought to our attention,” I reminded him.

“Oh, that, yeah. Well, you still haven’t explained how you knew I would be at your place.”
Trevor shot back.

“Trevor, call it a ‘psychic message’.” I looked over at him. “I just had a feeling in the back of my brain. When I get these feelings, I test them out so I told Brian that if, for some remote chance you or Bruce did call here, that he was to call me. Also, the police told me that they were looking for you.”

“Bitch,” Trevor hissed under his breath.

“OK, I have had about enough of your attitude, you little prick,” announced Paul, storming over to where Trevor sat. Trevor immediately curled up in a ball, covering his face with his arms. I did nothing. I had had enough as well. Paul picked up Trevor, who uncoiled like a potato bug, flung him across his shoulders, fireman style, and headed for my bedroom, where he flung Trevor onto my bed and slammed the door shut. “Now stay in there until we figure out what to do with your skinny, freckled, casper-white ass!”

I slumped into the couch. Paul came and sat with me, holding me in his arms. I sighed, listening to Trevor bawling like a baby in my bedroom. He’d better not get snot on my sheets. Or anything else for that matter.

“What are you thinking?” asked Paul.

“I’m thinking we need more information from him,” I replied. “We need to know exactly what he stole from Faraday and why the police suspect him as the killer.”

“Hmmmph. Good luck with that,” answered Paul. “Anyway, we need to keep the police away from here until we can get any information out of him.”

I had an idea. “Call your house voicemail and also your neighbor on the corner. See if the police have been by or left you a message,” I told him.

Paul walked outside to make his calls. I lit another cigarette and reached into the fridge for a beer. As I screwed off the cap, I watched Paul come back in. “You have to quit smoking.”

“Very funny, old man. You and my cat must have mind-meleded,” I replied, exhaling smoke rings around my beer. “Well?” I took another drag and exhaled. My nerves were starting to steady and I felt buoyant on the balls of my toes. Like a boxer dancing around the ring with controlled rhythm waiting for the next round.

“They called my house and left a message. The neighbor says a patrol car has been by a couple of times,” explained Paul. “I guess they’re looking for me.”

“I wonder if they have an APB out on you?” I asked, more to myself than to Paul.

“Who are you - Jack Friday? ‘APB?’ You watch way too much TV.”

“No, really, I had another thought.” I headed to the slider and opened it. “Brian, can you drive?”

Brian popped his head up. “Yeah, but I ain’t driving your piece of shit to no store.”

“Very funny, asshole. We may need you to drive Paul’s truck somewhere,” I told him.

“Cool.” Brian grinned and laid back down.

“What are you doing? I am not letting that punk kid drive my rig!” exclaimed Paul, looking at me like I was crazy Linda Hamilton from Terminator Two.

“I just thought we could send Brian out in your truck to drive back over around your house and then lead the police on a little goose chase through the canyons. That would give us time to quiz Trevor before we take him down to the police station to turn him in,” I explained.

“Fine. OK. That does sound like a good idea. Let’s do it, but if that kid fucks up my truck…” Paul trailed off emphasizing his warning.

“We should do what?” asked Trevor. Both Paul and I loOKed around at the sound of his voice. He was leaning against the entry wall of the hallway, face all blotchy from his crying jag.

“Sit down, Trevor, we have to talk,” I ordered him to the couch once again.

Trevor sauntered over to the couch, fragile confidence propelling him forward. Paul sat on the opposing couch, keeping an eye on him. Trevor looked at us like we were about to betray him. I went out on the patio and spoke to Brian about our little ruse. He was thrilled. I could see Paul watching us, squirming at the thought. I told Brian to be very careful and do the best casual, slow-speed chase driving he could manage. I told him to be back here inside of an hour. We went back into the living room where Paul stood up and gave up his coat, cap, and keys to Brian. Brian inspected the inside of the hat and sniffed at the coat. Paul berated him for it and told Brian to just get the hell out. I shook my head at the two of them, acting more like father and son then they would ever want me to say.

Trevor had been watching us the whole time. “What the hell is going on? Why won’t anyone tell me? This is my life we’re talking about, people. I need to know, who is my Judas?”

“Oh, cut the crap, Trevor. No one is playing your Judas, no matter how tempting!” I yelled at him. “Now listen to what we have to tell you.”

Trevor relaxed a little bit, brushing his wispy hair off of his forehead and straightening his glasses. He looked right at me. “Now, Trevor, we have not called the police, but we are going to be taking you in.”

Trevor’s weak jaw dropped, “Fucking Assholes! I knew you’d fuck me over.”

“Oh, just shut up, you little prick, and listen to what Lois has to say!’” boomed Paul. This caused Trevor to scramble into a ball on the couch again.

“Thank you, babe,” I said turning from him back to Trevor. “We want to talk to you. And we don’t want you to turn yourself over to the police until we know that you won’t try the same little stunt Bruce did and point your finger at us to save yourself.”

“Like, why wouldn’t I do that?” scoffed Trevor.

I held my breath for a second. “You don’t have to help us at all. But we’re helping you, and we could help you further if you were on our side. We know you don’t like Bruce because he put the police onto you. If you don’t help us, you side with Bruce in our minds and, frankly, you don’t want to piss me off.”

Trevor knew Bruce better than we did and I thought that for our best defense, the more Trevor told us about what we were up against, the less threatened we would be by both him and Bruce. Trevor studied me and Paul. He looked to his clasped hands and then brought them to his face. After a few pensive moments, he butterflied his hands down to his knees and began spilling.

“OK, fine. First, I didn’t kill Faraday. “And I don’t know who did.” He paused and we waited again. “Second, it’s true that Bruce has evidence that I’ve been “borrowing” from the estate. I had a lot of debt when I started there, so I pawned some items and also stole some checks from the assistants’ check book. I swear, I was going to pay back the money and get the stuff back, but, well, it was so easy - so much money flew around there daily and Faraday was gone a lot, so I just kinda let it all slide.”

Paul muttered under his breath, “Bastard.”

Trevor scowled at Paul and then let himself fall back into the couch cushions. “Fuck you. You had it made, asshole. Faraday gave you whatever you wanted, no questions asked. You didn’t realize how good you had it and you weren’t even his meat puppet.”

Paul leaped up from the couch and lunged at Trevor who dug into the cushions, shrieking. I grabbed Paul’s arm and cautioned him to stay back. He shook off my hand and left the room, fuming. Temper, temper. That touched a nerve. Was Faraday gay? Would Jasmine have been that clueless? Or maybe that kinky? No. I’d have to resolve that question with Paul later.

Trevor continued, “I overheard Bruce on the phone speaking to Faraday’s accountant. They were setting up a meeting to go over the books and estate inventory to get all of their ducks in a row. They were going to present information to Faraday to prove that I was stealing. That was Tuesday during the day, the day of the night that Faraday died. You can ask my friends where I was that day. I had already packed and left the estate.”

“So, Trevor,” I said slowly, “you say you didn’t kill Faraday, and you don’t know who did. Do you know how he was killed?”

“What do you mean,” he answered, “ ‘how’ he was killed? You mean murder or suicide?”

“No, I mean, do you know if it was a gun, knife, strangulation...?”

“Oh no, I don’t know a thing.”

“Do you think Bruce could’ve killed him?”

Trevor looked thoughtfully at me. “I wish, but he was too much in love with Faraday and too afraid of him to even think about killing him.”

I was taken back. “Did Faraday know about this ‘love’?”

Trevor laughed. “Yes, and the one delicious thing about working for that jack-ass was how he toyed with Bruce because of what he knew of his feelings.”

I looked at Trevor, stunned by this tidbit. Motive for murder? Jealous love? But why in the new bathroom? And how was he killed? We still didn’t know that detail. We would need to know that for any of this to make sense.

Trevor interrupted my silent commune, “Hey, bitch, my life’s in your hands. What’s the deal?”

Before I could answer, my cell phone rang. “Lois Pushkin,” I said. I watched Paul returning to the living room, a cup of tea in one hand and another cup in his other. He offered one cup to Trevor, who had the smarts to accept it for the truce it was.

“Hey, Lois, it’s Brian. I’ve been stopped by the cops. They’re harassing me about being in Paul’s truck and want to talk to him. They think I stole it,” snickered Brian.

I held the cell phone to my chest and turned to Paul. “It’s Brian. The police have pulled him over, and now they want to talk to you.” I extended the phone to him.

“Hello?” Paul said. “Yes, officer, this is Paul Atkinson. Yes, I know Brian. He’s helping me out with some work today.” A pause. “Yes, he has permission to drive my truck. No, I didn’t know that I was wanted for questioning downtown.” Another pause. “You were tailing me? Is that legal?”

I looked at Paul and he was smiling incredulously at me. “You need me to come down to the police station today? Well, I’ll need my truck, so if you could send Brian back my way. Oh yeah, I’ll need to talk to him again. Thank you for your time, officer.” Paul told Brian to come straight back to my condo and then flipped the phone closed.

We were all going to the Police Station with Trevor in tow. Brian would stay at my place to keep an eye on things. The day had been hell. As we headed toward downtown Los Angeles, I was not looking forward to our evening.

Chapter 15

I drove over Laurel Canyon heading back towards Studio City and Paul’s place. As I crossed over Mulholland Drive, I looked left down the road and down the hillside toward Faraday’s estate. I shuddered involuntarily. That was weird. That was where I had always turned at least once a day for the past year. Would I - could I - ever drive down that road again?

Arriving at Paul’s, I parked behind his truck and walked over to the stucco front porch with its cheery orange door and wrought-iron peep window. I tapped on the front door and waited for him. Minutes went by and I tapped again. Standing on my tiptoes, I finally took a look through the little window in the door. No movement. I tried the latch. It gave way easily, and I crept inside and silently closed the door. Still no Paul. I tiptoed into the living room. Paul was in his leather chair with his feet up, snoring like a puppy. I knelt down beside him and pinched his nose closed with my fingers. He snorted and then swatted my hand away. Bringing his hand to his eyes, he woke up.

“Lois?” he asked the air above him.


Paul turned in my direction and finally recognized his situation. Sitting up, he pulled himself up from the chair, pulling me up at the same time. He embraced me and rooted his nose and chin into my shoulder for comfort. I patted him on the back and rubbed his ass.

“It’ll be OK, babe,” I soothed him. “They’ll find out what happened to Faraday.”

Paul pulled back from me and looked me in the eye. “No, we’ll figure out what happened to Faraday,” he stated firmly.

“Really? How are we supposed to do that?” I asked. “What can we do?”

Paul sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. The police aren’t going to tell us much as long as we’re ‘persons of interest’. I don’t know if we can even get back into the estate. I have no idea where Bruce is and what his status is at the estate now. According to the police, Trevor’s on the run.” He threw up his hands in frustration.

How did he know Trevor’s status? Had the police actually called back? That would explain why he was out of bed. “Did the police call you while I was out?”

“Yeah, ‘clarifying information’ they called it. Detective Patrick told me about Trevor. He said they may not be considering this a suicide anymore.” Paul informed me. “That’s why we have to do something, Lo. “I can’t sit around if someone murdered Kip.”

I paused and wondered how to tell him that I’d already engaged the services of Guy, PI. I bit the bullet. “Would you be interested in the work of a private investigator?”

“Who, Colombo?” joked Paul, in a not funny way. “Is Paul Drake still available? Maybe Perry Mason could be our legal counsel.”

Was he making fun of Perry? I’d have to let that slide ‘til later. “Very not funny. You know, I have a friend. You’ve met him, Guy from the Formosa. Well, he’s a private investigator.”

Paul spun my way, his face full of disbelief. “You mean the geek who is always at the Formosa ogling Harshy like she would even give it a thought? The one who does work for the insurance company?”

Well, that was rude, but given Guy’s similar response not so long ago, apparently typical for men. Yeah, Guy was a bit of nerd, but that was a little uncalled for. I paused and let Paul calm down before I said, carefully, “Yeah, Guy, the one with the crush on Harshy. (As if?) He’s actually a very nice man and very professional. He only does the insurance work because he’s not well established as an independent PI yet and can’t get the big celebrity divorce scandal cases that get all of the publicity.”

Paul snorted, “So where does he fit in, Ms. Lois? Is this his big celebrity case that will shoot him to fame and fortune?”

I didn’t like Paul’s tone, but I continued just to get it all off of my chest. “I asked Guy to look into Faraday’s death. I figured he might have some outside contacts that we didn’t have. Plus he would have easier access to police and insurance information. He’s doing this because I’m his friend. And by helping me out, he’s helping us.”

Paul stared at me before speaking, his eyes crinkled. “Thanks. That was very smart of you. I’m sorry for being an ass.”

He sat down on his leather ottoman and cradled his capless head in his beautiful hands. I loved those hands. They created such beauty out of the rawest of materials. I reached for them and cradled them in my own. I looked at his ring finger and imagined a thick, hammered platinum band on the slender, tanned finger. Good God, what am I thinking? Step off, Pushkin, you’re moving way too fast for yourself.

Paul caught me looking at his hands, “What are you thinking about?”

“Something that would definitely get me in trouble,” I replied with a smirk on my face.

Paul cocked his head and managed a “melting Lois” smile, “Like what?”

“Nothing. Never you mind. We’ll talk about it much later. So, are we cool with Guy checking out the – um - situation?” I asked.

“Yeah, at least it’s something. I don’t like waiting, but what else can we do?”

“I’m sorry babe, but I guess nothing,” I offered.

Paul stood up, grasped my right hand firmly, and led me down the hall to his bedroom. I stood in the doorway to the room and hung back. “Do you really want to do this right now?” I asked. Memories of our perfect weekend were still fresh in my mind.

Paul led me to the bed, “I just need to sleep. And I want you here with me.”

I hugged him. “Sure,” I replied. I pulled back his ivory colored, waffle weave comforter and slid in. Paul slid in right up next to me. I wrapped an arm around his broad chest and rested my head against it. Paul’s arms enveloped me and he kissed my hair. Lifting my chin, he lightly kissed my lips. I kissed him back a little harder and he responded in kind ‘til we are making out like horny teenagers. After a breath of air, Paul lay back and closed his eyes.

“You’re killing me, babe.”

“You invited me here.” I reminded him.

“I need to sleep.” he murmured.

“So sleep, babe.”

With that, we settled into a much-needed late morning nap. Paul occasionally cried out in his sleep and somewhere off in the house the phone rang a couple of times. After a while, I became aware that the sun was shining through the slats of the wood blinds onto my closed eyelids. I opened them, groggy and disoriented. Slowly, I realized that it was mid-afternoon. I looked over at Paul who was still sound asleep. Staring at the ceiling and sun lit window, I willed myself to stay awake. Carefully extracting myself from the bed, I padded out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.

I quietly opened cabinet doors and made myself some Earl Grey tea in a thick coffee mug from The Spot. Wandering around in the quiet of Paul’s little bungalow, I looked at all of his framed pictures, inspected his CD rack, snooped through his mail and rummaged through his magazines. That day’s newspaper was on the sofa. I could work on the daily crossword to distract my cluttered mind. We were in a holding pattern now and could only wait for something to happen.

I rummaged in my purse for a pen (I lived dangerously) and I picked up my cell phone as well. As I sat back on his big, comfy, leather sofa, I checked my cell phone. Three messages. I reviewed the ‘missed calls’. They were all from my house.Quickly dialing the myriad of numbers to retrieve cell phone messages, I got to the first one. It was from Brian.

“Lois, hey, it’s Brian. I wasn’t going to answer your phone, but then I thought about those dudes you told me about and one of them being a fugitive and all or maybe I just thought that, but whatever. Anyway, so I picked up your call and it was him and he said he had to talk to you, that they’ve got it all wrong or whatever. So anyway, I told him you weren’t home, but I’d let you know he called. Then the fucker told me to fuck off. Man, that ain’t right. So there, there’s your message. Thanks for the leftovers. Peace.”

I erased that message and went on to the next message. “Lois, it’s Brian again. Same dude called back, totally fucking hysterical! Call me OK?! I can’t take the bad mojo. Peace.”

I raised my eyebrows at that message, erased it and went on to the last one. “Lois, Lois come on! Pick up your goddamn phone. Ooops! Maybe you’re having sex – sorry. Anyway, that dude, Trevor, is here at your condo, and he’s pacing around the pool like a crazy wack. I can’t take it. Come home! Call me or whatever. Peace.”

I erased that message and called my house. Brian picked it up on the first ring.


“Brian, it’s Lois.”

“Hey, you have to get over here now! This guy is driving me fucking bonkers and I would leave and all, but I’m freakin’ that he’ll drown himself in your pool or jump over the side of the building and I know how you hate complicated messes – ‘zero tolerance’ and all.” Brian was being sent over the edge himself. I would never intentionally inflict Trevor on anyone as I had to work with him weekly for the past nine months and knew that horror.

“Thanks for the favor, Brian. You’re a sweetheart,” I replied. “We’ll be over as soon as we can. Keep Trevor there. Let him know we’re on our way. There’s some Valium in my bathroom medicine cabinet.”

“Will do, boss lady. Hurry! He’s making my brain hurt,” pleaded Brian. He may be from Chino, but I didn’t know how much longer he could stand to be around the bitchy, little fag.

I hung up the cell, tossed the crossword to the couch, and walked back to the bedroom. Paul had rolled onto his side and was snoring softly. I knelt down at the side of the bed. “Paul, babe. Paul, wake up. We gotta go now.”

“What?” Paul put his hands to his eyes and then propped himself up on one elbow. Pushing his hair up off his face, he squinted at me. “What’s going on?”

“Trevor is at my place and he’s freaking Brian out,” I explained. “We have to go back to my place now.”

“Shit!” Paul swung his legs out to the side and sat up. “Fuck, yes, come on, let’s go! Little Prick! I want to have some words with him. Um, why the hell is he at your place?”

I pushed him back to reality. “Hey, calm yourself. I don’t know why he’s there. We don’t even know if Trevor had anything to do with this. He’s at my place for some reason, and I would rather pump him for information than use him for boxing practice.”

Paul visibly relaxed and then took my hand. “You’re right. OK. All right. I get it. I’ll behave. How does he know where you live?”

“Thank you. I don’t know how he knows where I live. It’s kinda freakin’ me out.”
I shuddered at the thought of Trevor watching me through my windows or following me around in my neighborhood, spying on my every move, my friends, my dates. Oh, shit. I wonder if he’s known about Paul and me all along? I guess we’d find out soon enough.

“Probably the same way you found out where I lived.” I pointed an accusatory finger at him.

“Ah, yeah, right. Well, let’s go, then,” said Paul, changing the subject.

Chapter 14

As soon as the lock clicked shut, the phone began to ring. I paused, hesitating to re-open the door. No, I’ll pick up my messages from the office. I turned and walked down the hall to the elevator. The phone died as I pushed the button. Then it began again seconds later. I looked down the hall toward my condo. The elevator arrived and the doors opened. As I stepped inside, the phone was still ringing. The doors closed and the elevator descended to the parking garage.

The past Labor Day weekend had been a fantasy. Paul and I made love bathed in the bright glow of the full moon outside our hotel bedroom window every night. Our shadows on the wall copied our every rythym and stroke. The heaviness of the ochre moon reflected our passion and intimacy. The ebb and flow of the tides echoed our lust and love. No room or surface in our suite was off limits to us. Paul and I ordered room service constantly. We left the room only to run el commando to the ocean to engage ourselves in the warm, salty womb of the sea. As our energy waned, we held each other through much-welcomed naps. Early morning hours was time spent revealing our closest-held secrets. I began to believe that the phenomenon of this second harvest moon was full of kinetic energy. That was the only way I could’ve been the kind of lover I had never been before. Our connection was so beautiful. I knew that I would never forget how Paul looked at me the glow of the moonlight. I would never forget how our bodies felt or what our shadows revealed in its presence.

That day I was feeling pretty sore, the side-effects of what my mother used to warn me about: “honeymoon sex”. She had always made it seem like it was supposed to be a bad thing. Why, at my age, did I still hold on to what my mother had told me from my youth? My mother would never know the good of anything that was pleasurable. I started to sing ‘There’s a Hole in My Bucket’ to get my mother’s words out of my head. (Works every time; I am not making this up.)
Entering the main lobby of the Wiltern, I waved to Joe at the desk, retrieved my mail and picked up a business journal. Thumbing through the latter, looking for possible leads, I waited for the elevator to return to the lobby. When I got off on my floor, I could hear phones ringing. No, not phones, one phone. As I neared my office, I realized that it was my phone. I dropped my mail and bag to the floor. Hurriedly, I turned the key in the lock, pushed the door open, and lunged for the phone on the desk. It had rung its last ring.

“Hello?!” I answered, out of breath. Then I cleared my throat and continued,
“ ‘Pushkin Atelier’.” I really needed an assistant.

“Lois, is that you?” came Paul’s voice, tight and hushed. He sounded like he was under a duvet. Maybe I had drained him to the point where he had become incapacitated and couldn’t leave his bed. I’d have to check on him later to make sure he could still walk.

Relaxing, I went around my desk and flopped into my chair, “Oh, it’s you. I have been plagued with ringing phones all morning. What’s up?”

“Lois, are you sitting down?” Paul asked.

I sat up straighter in my chair, pulling my body towards the desk. “Yes.”

What was this all about? Did he have a big announcement to make? Surely he wouldn’t do it over the phone.

“Lois, Kip was found dead this morning in his bathroom,” Paul revealed quietly. “The police think it was a suicide.”

I stood up quickly, sending my chair slamming into the wall and yelled into the phone, “What? What the hell! Faraday is dead?” I started pacing the length of the phone cord, back and forth across my office. A brain cramp surged over me. I suddenly felt faint. I steadied myself against the desk as gas began filling my intestines. Fight or flight. I used to feel this way every time my mom would call me. It was never a good thing.

“Faraday wouldn’t kill himself, Paul.” I calmly and firmly stated this as a fact.

“Yeah, I know. I think that too, Lo. I think he was murdered,” he added after a weighted pause.

“Where are you now?” I hoped he wasn’t at the estate. Had he found the body? I had to get to him first before anyone started questioning him. He shouldn’t be harassed so soon.

“I’m at home. I hadn’t even left for work yet when I got the call,” said Paul.

“Who called you?” I asked, picking my bags up and slinging them over my shoulder. I shoved the mail inside my office and under my desk with my feet. My mail addiction had instantly gone into recovery.

“Bruce,” he replied.

“I’m coming right over. Don’t go anywhere and don’t answer the phone,” I said and hung up. I stood at my desk, arms crossed over my chest and stared out the window. Faraday was dead, really dead. Dead as a doornail. Gone. Poof! What day was today? Tuesday? What did it mean to die at the beginning of the week, or for that matter, what did it say about someone’s death? Were suicides weekday events and homicides for the weekends and holidays? Had Faraday died during the day or night? Oh, had he died last night? I had forgotten to ask Paul. Maybe he had died over the weekend while we were out of town? That suddenly put a wet blanket on our glorious weekend.

Shit, had Faraday been on the toilet? Oooh, like Elvis. Then it hit me. Oh, oh, oh, my bathroom, my lovely bathroom. I imagined all of the fixtures covered in blood. Or worse, smashed and destroyed. Paul hadn’t mentioned how Faraday had died. Damn it, Lois, forget your bathroom – a man is dead! Does that mean my privacy contract with him is void? Oh, shut the fuck up, Pushkin.

I mechanically locked up my office, my thoughts going all over the place and a mile a minute. I exited the building, habit guiding me, and drove over Laurel Canyon to Paul's bungalow. I was still in shock over the news, slowly absorbing it into my brain as I drove as fast as I could. I had to call Harshy.

“This is J’Neene,” she answered.

“Hey, Harsh, it’s Lois.” I spoke quietly into the phone.


“Lois, Harshy, Lois,” I said louder as I rolled up my window to block out the traffic noise in the canyon.

“Oh, hey, what’s up?” Harshy asked.

“Harshy, are you sitting down?”

“What the hell?”

“Girl, Faraday is dead,” I told her, flat out. I was running out of time as I was nearing Studio City.

“No fucking way!’ she yelled into the phone. I knew that she was standing at that point, Janet Jackson head piece in her ear.

“It’s true. He was found in my bathroom. My newly finished, designer bathroom. We think it was murder,” I explained. “The police are putting it up as a suicide.”

“What do you mean ‘your’ bathroom? Was Faraday at your condo?” asked Harshy. “Did Brian kill him? I always thought that kid was wack.”

“No, no,” I backtracked, “Faraday was killed at his estate in the new bathroom that I designed for him.”

“Oh, well, that makes more sense then.”

Rocket science. “I’m on my way over to Paul’s and he’s a wreck. I want to be there with him when the police talk to him.” I told her.

“Who do you think did it?” Harshy asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything at this point. Paul is freaking and I really have to be with him right now,” I explained. “I just wanted to call you before you found out from anyone else.”

“Cool beans, lady,” said Harshy. “I’m here for you, so call if you need anything. This place can suffer without me.”

Cool beans? Who says cool beans? I know I know someone who says that, but their face is just on the cusp of my brain. “Thanks, lady. I’ll talk to you later, ‘kay?”

“Sure. Call me the minute you know anything more,” and Harshy said and hung up.

I made it to Paul’s seconds later, parked behind his truck, and ran to his front door. I rang the door bell like it was a Vegas slot machine. Slowly, Paul opened the door. His eyes were rimmed red, his hair was a mess (and with no baseball cap on), and his face was ashen. I took him into my arms. He rooted his face into my shoulder and held me tightly. Gradually, I pulled away and led us over to his couch.

“So, tell me what you know,” I asked him, searching his eyes, stroking his face. His stubble was fierce.

Paul ran his hand through his hair, rubbed his eyes and composed himself as best he could. “It was Bruce. Bruce called me. He was hysterical! I think I spent ten minutes trying to calm him down and decipher what he was telling me,” Paul told me. “When he thought I understood, he hung up. Then I called you.”

“Go on,” I encouraged him, holding his hands and stroking his fingers.

“That’s all I know. Apparently the police were at the estate investigating the scene, taking notes, taking photographs, getting everyone’s names and promising to call them for interviews. According to Bruce, they didn’t seem to care too much about Faraday himself. Bruce believed the police thought that it was another “celebrity” suicide.”

Paul hung his head and shook it back and forth in disbelief, studying my hands. There had been a rash of suicides and overdoses in the city lately. Mostly drug overdosed, B-List actors and actresses. Fodder for Fox News.

“Why do you think its murder, Paul?” I asked, stroking his jaw so that he lifted his head.

“Faraday wouldn’t kill himself. You said so yourself. Besides, he had enemies. All powerful people do,” explained Paul.

“Business enemies?” I asked.

“Any type. Business, personal, lovers, whoever, whatever. Faraday lived all aspects of life and affected and influenced a lot of people everyday. Anybody could’ve killed him!” Paul exploded.
“Even you, Lois.”

I pulled back, eyeballing Paul for sincerity. He held my hands firmly, weighing the seconds and measuring this new idea, wanting to truly know if I was capable of killing Faraday. I believed that he really only wanted to know if he could trust me completely with everything that was him at this precise moment in his life. He knew that I trusted him completely as I had worked through the idea that, yes, he could actually love me for who I was. Now it was his turn to trust me with his soul.

“I did not kill Faraday, Paul,” I assured him. “It is against my company policy to knock off my best-paying clients.”

“Bad joke, babe.” Paul looked away and then looked back at me. “This isn’t funny, Lois. A man was murdered.”

I pulled my hands out of his grip and laid back into the couch. This was going to be a
long day and after an already exhausting weekend. “Then don’t accuse me of killing him. Why do you care so much, Paul? Yes, your best, long-time, wealthy client is dead, and that’s a shame for you and your business, and yes, you suspect murder, but why care so much beyond that and basic human empathy? Let the police investigate and do their job.”

Paul was quiet for a long time. He looked into the fireplace, looking far away. I got up. He grabbed my hand. “I’m just going to make us some drinks,” I assured him. I came back with some gin and tonics and slid close to Paul, offering him a glass.

After taking a sip and letting the cool briskness calm him, he began to talk, quietly, “I worked for Faraday for many, many years. I started working for him as part of a construction crew in high school. When I started at UCLA, I left the crew, but Faraday still called me to do small jobs for him at his various estates. I don’t know why he remembered me out of the whole crew, but he apparently liked me and the money helped with tuition.” Paul paused, remembering. “When I graduated, Faraday asked me to work for him full time. I had said no. I had some ideas I wanted to follow career wise. He asked me if I would still do handyman jobs for him and I agreed. Long story short, construction became my full-time career and Faraday my best and most loyal client. I don’t owe the man anything, but for all of his faults and plethora of screwed-up relationships, he was a good man at heart and a true friend to me, always. I feel obligated to take an interest in his death as his friend. I owe him that.”

I sat, stunned. Revelation bloomed slowly over my brain. This was like Paul losing a brother or even a father. With this history, no wonder he had had a direct connection to Faraday over Bruce and Trevor. This explained his free run of the estate and autonomy for all projects. This train of thought quickly jumped me to my next thought.

I blurted out, “Did you kill Faraday, Paul?”

Shocked, Paul looked me in the eyes for sincerity. “No,” he finally said, quietly. “No, no, no, of course not, no.”

His eyes drifted to the void in the fireplace again. I grasped his thigh and put my arm around his shoulders. Sighing, he turned back around and slumped against me, chin on the back of the sofa, staring into the morning sky. I stroked his hair and tugged at his ears. After a while, Paul told me that the police had called when I was on my way over. Damn! He had given the police my name because I had worked at the estate and let me know that they’d be calling. Paul hadn’t mentioned our relationship to them, figuring that would come out later, as need be. I told him not to worry about me and that he should probably go upstairs to sleep. I would join him later after I made some phone calls and cleared my appointments for the next few days. I wanted to stay with him during that time and help him through these next difficult days.

When I heard his bedroom door close, I sat on the couch, phone in hand, staring at the same fireplace void and wondered what the hell was going on. How could I handle this? My first great, well-paying client turns up dead. Bad kharma? Perhaps the kinetic energy of the harvest moon was both good and evil. Yin and yang. As my rubber band was expanding, had Faraday’s snapped? What had he done that would make someone feel so passionately as to want to kill him? Or was it really the passion of suicide, as the police suspected? Was there passion with the desire to kill one’s self or was it a lack of passion? I would never suspect Faraday to be without passion. I was beginning to feel more comfortable with my belief that Faraday had indeed been murdered.

I also believed in Paul. I could believe Faraday was murdered, but by whom? And why? Why? By a guy? Guy! I could call Guy. Should I? I thought about this for a long time before I
finally dialed his number. The phone rang a good while, and I was about to hang up when a breathless voice answered.



A throat cleared and then there was a pause. “Yes, this is Guy Arbuckle, Private Investigator. How may I help you?”

“Guy, it’s me, Lois Pushkin.”

“Lois! How’s it going? Long time, no hear. Miss ya at the Formosa. See Harshy a bit, we talk some. Well, I talk more than her really. Anyway, what’s up?” asked Guy.

“Guy, I’m calling about something serious.” I paused, rethinking my decision to retain him.

“Guy, I don’t know how much information is already out, but I must have your word for discretion now.”

“Sure, of course. Are we entering a PI-client relationship over the phone now?”

“I need to know if I’m doing you a favor as a friend or if you are a paying client. Defines my scope of work,” explained Guy.

“Yes, then we are entering a client/PI relationship as of now. I need your professional service,” I said, “as a friend.”

“Way to complicate it,” replied Guy. “So, Friend, what can I do you for? Someone stalking you?”

“No, nothing like that. This is bigger than me. Guy, do you remember my client, Kip Faraday?” I asked.

“Yeah, the wack job on Mulholland Drive. The one with the goofy contractor you had to work with,” he confirmed. “Harshy told me that job was finally over. Bet you’re glad you don’t have to deal with that bozo anymore.”

Well, this was news. Goofy? Bozo? Who the hell did he think he was? George Clooney? Who was he calling a bozo – Faraday or Paul?

“Yes, well, anyway, we found out this morning that he’s dead. We think it was murder,” I revealed.

“Oh shit!” yelled Guy. “Freaky Faraday is dead, murdered? Holy crap!”

“He’s dead, Guy,” I affirmed, “but we’re the ones speculating that it’s murder. The police are calling it a suicide right now.”

Guy was suddenly quiet. “Who is ‘we’? Is Harshy with you? The two of you aren’t sticking your noses in this, are you?”

Oh shit, I thought. So much has happened and so much time has gone by that Guy doesn’t really know about Paul and me. He would naturally assume it was Harshy and Me.

“No, no, ‘we’ is Paul, and me. Paul is – was- Faraday’s ‘goofy’ contractor. We’re, um, actually dating now.”

“Oh, ho! So he got his apartment re-designed, did he? He could afford your rates?” sneered Guy.

I was quietly debating whether to hang up. The line was dead silent for a time.

“I’m sorry, Lois. That was low and uncalled for. I’m sorry.”

“And none of your business,” I added stonily.

“Touché. I am sorry.”

"Apology accepted. I’m sorry you had to find out this way,” I said. “I didn’t know you felt that way.”

“Ah, you weren’t my type anyway. So okay, I’m serious now. Let’s let bygones be bygones. You called me. How can I help you?” asked Guy, trying to redeem himself and stifle his bruised and embarrassed ego.

“Could you do some research for me on Faraday? Find out who could’ve wanted to kill him?” I asked. “I haven’t told Paul that I’m asking you to look into this. I don’t even know if I can afford your rates. Especially when I don’t know the status of my career if I become a person of interest to the police. But I knew this would pique your interest. Maybe if you’re successful this would give you some publicity to start your own firm. I know you have that goal.”

I was desperate to find any hook to get him to take on the job. I needed to know and keep track of what happened in the bathroom, how the murder took place, and what direction the police investigation was going.

“Yeah, that sounds doable. Hadn’t thought of the marketing angle,” replied Guy. ”If I needed it, do you think you could introduce me to people from the estate I think could provide me with information? I would also need my expenses paid as they’re incurred at the least.”

“No problem on the expenses. As far as introductions go, I’ll try. But I’m still a newbie in this billionaire circle, so I don’t know how many useful people I would know. I think you’ll have to be resourceful and creative. Plus, we’ll have to watch each others backs. Everything involving that estate is part of an inane three-ring circus.”

Guy laughed. “Yeah, I know how you are. I’ll be watching my own back.”

“Very funny. So you’ll help?” For my peace of mind, I needed to know right then. I didn’t know what else at that point. I wanted to show Paul that I took his concerns seriously and that I was with him in this all the way.

“Of course. Let me snoop around and I’ll call you if I find out anything,” agreed Guy.

“Thanks, man. This really means a lot to me.”

“No problem. Talk to you soon.”

I hung up the phone and stared at it, trying to remember my office number. My day was mentally shot. As I started to dial, Paul’s cell phone rang. More ringing phones. I almost dropped it to the floor as I answered it.

“Hello?” I said, fumbling to get it set to my ear.

“Mr. Atkinson, please,” a man’s voice inquired.

“He’s not available right now. Who’s calling please?” I answered in my receptionist voice.

“This is Dectective Patrick from the Los Angeles Police Department, Downtown Division. Who is this?” the voice came back.

“This is Lois Pushkin. What can I do for you, officer?”

“Oh, OK. Well, I actually need to talk with you as well. I’m calling regarding the Faraday suicide,” explained Detective Patrick.

“Suicide? Was it really suicide?” I was completely taken aback by his matter-of-fact statement. Had the case been closed already? That was quick for the LAPD.

Detective Patrick cleared his throat and adjusted his receiver on his phone. I could hear muffling and then he was back on. “Well, no ma’am. It hasn’t been officially declared a suicide. I apologize for that. It is officially still an open case, but we’re pretty convinced that that was the situation.”

I propped myself up on the couch with pillows for what I could tell would be another trying phone call for me today. “Okay, so why do you want to talk to me? What could I possibly tell you that’s any different from what you already know?”

“Just procedure, ma’am. I’ll just need to ask you some general questions. Are you ready?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“How long did you know Kip Faraday?”

“Almost a year,” I answered.

“What was your relationship?” asked Detective Patrick.

“I am, I mean, I was his interior designer. I designed the remodel of his executive bathroom…”

He briskly interrupted, “Could you please repeat that?”

“I’m an interior designer…”

“No, the part about the bathroom. You were closely involved with the bathroom remodel construction?” inquired Detective Patrick more aggressively.

“Yes, I was. I worked with Mr. Faraday’s general contractor, Mr. Atkinson,” I offered.

“Interesting,” he murmured and I could hear the clicking of his keyboard over the phone.

“Detective, I know Faraday was found dead in the bathroom and…”

He cut me off again. “Where were you Monday night, Ms. Pushkin?”

I relayed my whereabouts and he noted my alibi. I was back in my condo by Monday
night. “Do you know where Mr. Atkinson was?”

“Monday? No.” I lied.

The detective suddenly changed his line of questioning. “Do you know Trevor Gerard?”

“Trevor? Yes, I know Trevor. He was one of Mr. Faraday’s assistants,” I acknowledged.

“Have you had any contact with this man or do you know of his whereabouts since Monday night?” Detective Patrick inquired further.

“Trevor? No, I’m not his mother.” I wanted in no way to have any association with Trevor.

“And what was your relationship with Bruce Hansen?” he asked, going down another road.

“We had no relationship other than a working one. He was Mr. Faraday’s first-tier assistant and I typically communicated with Mr. Faraday through him,” I explained.

“Have you had any contact with this man or do you know of his whereabouts since Monday night?” Detective Patrick asked about the time again.

“No, neither.”

“Thank you for your time, Ms. Pushkin. Please remain available to us should we need to contact you for further questioning,” concluded Detective Patrick. “Is this a number we can reach you at?”

“No. You can reach me at my office.” I gave him that number.

“Ms. Pushkin, I appreciate your cooperation with our investigation. One more thing if you don’t mind. Why are you answering Mr. Atkinson’s phone?”

As I had been talking to him, I was hoping that he’d forget that he had called me at Paul’s. “Mr. Atkinson was using the facilities and couldn’t come to the phone.”

“That doesn’t explain why you’re at his house.”

Good point. I bullshited my response as any inkling of Paul and I’s relationship would surely spark further interest in our relationship with Mr. Faraday. “Mr Atkinson and I were going through project files to close out Mr. Faraday’s project. Tuesdays were our standing project meeting days.”

“I see. All right. Is Mr. Atkinson available now?” he asked.

“No, Paul’s still in the bathroom.”

“I see. All right. Please have Mr. Atkinson call me as soon as he is available. I have follow-up questions from my interview with him this morning.” Detective Patrick left me his direct number and told me he would be calling back if he hadn’t heard from Paul in the next hour.

I hung up the phone for the third time this morning. Standing up, I stretched my fingers as high as they could go and stood on my tippy toes. The police can just leave messages. Paul and I don’t need to be bothered right now. Not that the police are that adept anyway. I doubted Detective Patrick would call back. He didn’t even verify if it was actually me on the phone. I could’ve been the murderer. Could a woman have killed Faraday? How was he killed anyway?

I tiptoed down the hall and went into Paul’s bedroom. I whispered in his ear that I was going over to my place to get some clothes and overnight things. I definitely didn’t want him to be alone for the next few days. He murmured something in recognition. Gathering my bags, I left.

All the way home, I blasted Sleater-Kinney trying to drown out the hamster wheel of speculation in my mind. The up and down cadence of Laurel Canyon road relaxed my body like a lullaby relaxed a baby. At home, it was quiet in the parking garage and my ears rang from the music. I slumped out of the elevator at the top floor, trudged down the hall, and melted at my front door. Kashmew wasn’t waiting for me when I opened the door, but came racing out from my bedroom, startled by my untimely return. I petted him, laid my stuff on the counter, and went straight to my bedroom.

I changed into my Donna Karan sweats and a Gap tank. Then I returned to the kitchen for a light snack of apples, cheese, and chocolates to stabilize my blood sugar and calm my brain. Setting the plate on the island, I reached for the phone. I’d forgotten to check my messages and clear my calendar. God, I needed an assistant right then. I also needed to call Harshy.

With the line ringing, I heard a tap on my slider. I looked over, phone in the crook of my neck, and saw Brian. He waved. I waved back and then pointed to the phone. He motioned to the TV. I flashed the OK sign. No new messages. I called my appointments and postponed them all until the following week. It was really no biggy. Fall was my slowest time of year, and people were so busy with the pending holidays that many were glad to have the reprieve. I usually used the down time to entertain clients, do my marketing, and clean and organize my office. My stomach growled menacingly. I obeyed and inhaled my snack followed by a cold, Starbuck’s bottled coffee chaser.

Stomach and brain sated, I walked across the living room to the slider. Kashmew caught up with me and hopped out onto the warm patio as I slid the door open. Brian popped his messy blonde head up from the couch. Had he gotten highlights? Lois, get real.

“Is something wrong? Why are you home now? Are you sick? I don’t want to catch nothing, no offense,” he said.

“Hello to you, too.” I flopped down onto the couch next to his stretched-out body. I looked at him a while before I spoke again. “Faraday was found dead in his bathroom Tuesday morning.”

Brian stared at me. “What?! The bathroom you just finished? Did he off himself on the john?”

Such tact. “That’s nice, Brian. Actually, no one really knows, but Paul and I think he was murdered.”

“That’s heavy,” opined Brian. “Are you OK?” He straightened up and turned toward me.

“Yeah, I’m dealing. Sort of. I’m really just shocked and overwhelmed. Plus, my curiosity to know what really happened is driving me nuts. I can’t sit still. I feel like I’m vibrating all over inside, like a meth head.” I leaned my head back into the couch cushions.

“So what are you going to do?”

“Nothing. Right now, I’m going back over to Paul’s. Don’t expect me home tonight or for the next few nights. If it gets cold, you can sleep in the guest room. I’ll leave the slider unlocked. I need you to feed Kashmew, ‘kay?” I said.

“Cool.” grinned Brian in spite of himself. “Yeah, sure, no problem.”

“If anyone calls here looking for me, tell them I’m unavailable ‘til tomorrow.” I was thinking about Detective Patrick and his innuendos.

“I am not answering your phone,” countered Brian.

“Cool. Whatever.” I got up and walked back inside to get my things for Paul’s place. I suddenly had a thought that perhaps it would be prudent to contact a lawyer. But why, Lois, if the police think it’s suicide? Because you know it’s murder. And the police will find out it’s murder and they’ll want to question you. Better to have a plan before it gets to that point.

The only lawyer I’d ever known was an old boyfriend of my mother’s in Portland, Oregon. I looked him up on the Internet and dialed the number, leaning over my kitchen island picking chocolate-covered pistachios out of my aunt’s 1920’s silver candy dish. After a grilling by his personal secretary, the old lawyer came on the line. I explained who I was and he remembered me. Course, what he remembered most was the pink Mohawk and the safety pin through my ear. I told him where I was living and what I was doing for work before I told him about Faraday’s death. After I explained to him my relationship to the situation, he advised me to contact colleagues of his in Los Angeles, The law offices were in Westwood. That gave me confidence. He told me to call his colleagues if the police came to question me in person or hauled me down to the district precinct. He advised me to also give them my new lawyer’s card at the onset of any interviews.

I thanked him for his advice and hoped he wouldn’t be sending me a bill. My mother dumped the man because he was a miser. Always made her go dutch with him. You can bet I was writing this off as a business expense if I did get invoiced. Someone died in one of my design projects – I’d call that business related. Especially if my business was now going to be compromised because of it and police-related activity.

My thoughts drifted to Detective Patrick and to what he had said to me. I returned to the patio and got Brian’s attention.

“If, for some bizarre one-in-a-million chance a guy named Trevor or Bruce calls here or comes by, call me on my cell immediately. The number’s posted on the bulletin board next to the fridge. Check the caller ID at least if you’re not going to answer the phone. It could be me as well.”

“Will do, boss lady.” Brian saluted me stiffly. I frowned, he smirked, and I left.