― Ernest Hemingway
I was betwixt and between―waiting for Beatrice to contact Garth Kane―waiting for him to be my deliverer.
But honestly, even though my anxiety cried Hurry! my heart knew deliverance would not be quick and certainly wouldn't be easy.
I was enduring a dark night of the soul and wandering in this desert of doubt, felt there would be no quick escape from my furnace of affliction.
I know it sounds poetic and perhaps even melodramatic, but if I learned anything from life's hard knocks, it's this―shit happens and you have to endure it.
I feel better now having said it.
Why does it always seem more real when you put things crudely? The answer to that one is simple―you either get tough, or lie down and get run over.
Well, there's another possibility as well―you can get run over by just lying in your bed. Yeah, forget about karma and cosmic nemesis, sometimes you're just the innocent bystander―I know, because it happened to me.
But that begs the question, how innocent can I be that my actions prompted someone to become an invisible enemy?
Uh huh, that's a primer on fairness and begs the eternal question, Why me?
And the answer of course is, why not? ...Because it can't always be someone else.
In the midst of this divagation, my cell rings and my heart leaps thinking it's Garth Kane, but when I spot the called ID, I see its Guinevere. What the hell can she want from me?
"Hey Ethan, I'm downstairs and want to talk to you, off the record of course. Can I come up?"
"Hey Gwen―didn't figure I'd hear from you again, but sure, c'mon up."
I hate myself for caving and being reasonable. Hell, the girl deserted me when I needed her, but curiosity is a fatal thing. It's probably why people open their doors to home invaders rather than let them keep knocking.
There's a slight rap on the door--no more than the scraping of a little mouse. I figure she'll be shy and contrite, but I figured wrong.
The girl sure knows how to make an entrance. I'll bet in any room, all lights dim when she walks in.
She's dressed dramatically in a black turtleneck and is wearing her hair down the way I like it―not that I told her that in so many words, but women instinctively know and Damn!....already I'm going down that road.
Men are so weak...let me rephrase that, I'm a wimp. Yep, no backbone at all.
She gives me a perfunctory hug and peck on the cheek and then her eyes grow huge.
"Oh my God! Ethan―I didn't figure you for a cat person."
I shrug. "I'm babysitting Gizmo for a friend, but I may adopt him."
"Always picking up strays...you haven't changed much have you?"
Ouch! That hurt. I could remind her of our relationship, but I won't. I don't need to one-up her. I'm just wondering what she needs. Yeah, that fatal curiosity thing...
"I hope you don't mind I gave Trish the okay to come see you and return some of your things. She didn't make a pass at you, did she?"
"Who, Trish? Not bloody likely―we weren't that close. We hardly socialized."
"So that's a yes then?" she smirks. "Well, I'll considered the question asked and answered and leave it at that. So, are you going to offer me a drink?"
Her eyes are huge and dark―so open and trusting I could fall in, but won't.
"What's your poison?"
"Should I ask for absinthe?"
Oh my God, shades of Trish. I give her an eye roll and pour scotch instead.
So, I take it Trish has told her everything. She sent her on ahead to spy and got nothing, so now she's handling things personally. Let her. I'm good to go, or so I think.
I feign nonchalance as I hand her a double on the rocks. "You say this visit is off the record, so I gather you don't want Greg to know?"
"Oh, Greg is too suspicious―if I told him I saw you, God only knows what he'd think."
So, if I can be blunt, to what do I owe this visit?"
"Oh, let's just say a little bird told me you were teaming up with Beatrice Fulton."
"You always had good intel, Gwen―so, why would my working with Beatrice be a problem?"
"To be frank, boy of mine, I wanted to tip you off because I knew she'd probably poison the wells against me. Beatrice and I go back a long way. Did she tell you we worked at Armitage?"
No, I didn't even know you two were acquainted."
"Well, we are and let me tell you, she has skeletons in her closet."
I was shocked at Gwen's disclosure but didn't want to show it.
"So you're telling me this because..."
"Because unlike her, I care about my reputation. Did she tell you about why she was let go at Armitage?"
"My understanding is she quit."
"Had to quit would be more accurate. The girl is a paranoid schizophrenic."
"How can you say that?" I glowered.
"I can say that beacuse the poor girl was remotely diagnosed by our firm's psychiatric assessment division. Armitage was an elite, full-service operation, Ethan, and every employee was assessed. Because of our exclusive clientele we couldn't risk expensive and embarrassing lawsuits. The girl was seriously delusional. I just thought you should know what kind of person you're dealing with."
I was taken aback by Gwen's direct accusations about Beatrice's mental competence and felt defensive because I saw no evidence of any pathology in her.
"I'm sorry, Gwen, but I just can't accept your word about such serious charges. I'll have to judge for myself."
Gwen got up to go and smiled sweetly. "I can understand, your wanting to assess things using your own judgment, Ethan. I just have one question―how is that working for you so far?"
My jaw dropped. It was a stunning and unexpected low blow, Before I could recover, she breezed out of the room and disappeared down the elevator.
I was shaken and trembling so much I had to sit down―I wasn't sure what I was feeling―shock or rage, or maybe fear. I had no idea.
I felt as if the rug had been pulled out beneath me and the woman I trusted for three years had turned into a spiteful serpent. But on the other hand, if what she was saying were true, then Beatrice was not as well put together as I thought.
Either way, my world was turned upside down again and I wasn't sure who or what to trust―I certainly couldn't rely on my own senses.