An hour and one uncomfortably awkward cab ride later I was standing outside Sam’s house, beating down her front door.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was in actuality only a few seconds, Sam opened the door, giving me a wild eyed once over,
“So listen, I was wondering if I could borrow twenty dollars,” I said, cutting off any vulgar remarks that had undoubtedly already formed in her agile brain.
She blinked a couple of times, snapped her mouth closed and furrowed her brow in utter confusion. Of all the things she had imagined I was going to say, apparently that wasn’t one of them.
“What the hell…,” she began.
“I’ll explain everything,” I said in exasperation, “but first I need to get rid of Lewis over there before he thinks of anymore inventive methods in which I can pay my fare.”
I pointed a thumb over my shoulder, indicating the waiting taxi sitting at the curb.
She looked around me to see what the hell I was motioning too.
The cabbie, Lewis (or in this case L-EWWW-is) was a middle aged white guy who, pretty safe to say, had never been attractive a day in his life. He looked like the human version of a bullmastiff, large jowls and drool included. He had a large pot belly barely covered by a once white t-shirt stained from countless meals eaten behind the wheel of his cab. Poor Santa Clause would need two more bowls of jelly to equate to this guy.
He stood outside the cab, watching my exchange with Sam with a grotesque leer as he ran his hands through the tangled mess of his overly long comb-over strands that had more grease then the cab’s engine. It was that same leer I had been avoiding for the past forty minutes.
Lewis, your friendly neighborhood pervert, had been more than willing to pick up a topless and bare foot me, but it had come at a high price. His eyes had remained glued to the girls (at least what he could see with a blanket wrapped tightly around them) via his rearview mirror the entire ride. What should have only taken fifteen minutes had turned into a forty minute peep show with me as the night’s entertainment. We had circled the same blocks countless times, but I hadn’t been in much position to argue. The less questions the better, even if I felt like I needed a dozen showers afterwards just to begin to feel clean again.
For the first time in her life I think Sam was shocked speechless. For a woman who had seen me at my worse, (well, what I had always assumed was my worse at that time) she usually took everything in stride, probably because it was pretty expected of me. Showing up half naked with Chester the Molester as my ride had clearly taken the cake.
“Uh…yeah,” she said wearily, and did a quick about face into her house, and reappeared seconds later with a twenty clutched in her hand.
“Thanks,” I said, snatching the money.
I walked back towards Lewis who continued to leer openly at my chest. His panting increased with each bouncy step I made.
“Thanks for the ride. Keep the change,” I said quickly, tossing the money in his direction before pivoting on my heels and running back to the safety of Sam’s house.
She moved aside quickly as I came barreling through, slamming the door behind her. The wondrous sound of the deadbolt clicking into place echoed in the narrow foyer.
She stared out of the peephole for a few seconds before turning back to me.
“He’s gone,” she said with a disgusted shiver.
“Thank God,” I almost yelled and melted onto her couch.
I threw an arm over my eyes and breathed in my first breath of freedom, fighting the sudden urge to once again fall into a state of blissfully ignorant sleep.
“Excuse me,” Sam said next to me, “but would you care to explain? I mean seriously, what the hell?!”
I didn’t have the strength to lift my arm.
“Do you want the long version or the short version?”
She was quiet too long so I finally peeked at her from beneath my arm.
She stood there with a stupefied look on her face, which I admit I found hilarious because it was something I never saw on Sam.
“The long version it is,” I said with a sigh as I hauled myself into a seated position.
She nodded. “Yeah, let’s start there.”
I stood and threw off the blanket that now reeked of perverted cabbies.
It was then that I actually got a good look at her.
Sam is always stunning, but when she’s determined to go all out, watch out. Clearly she had been getting ready for a date based on the painted on jeans and low cut, deep plunge purple halter top she was wearing. Hanging from her ample cleavage that put me to shame was the costume jewelry I had given her a few months ago. Well, “given” probably wasn’t the right word. I sort of re-gifted it, but she didn’t need to really know.
Sean had been feeling bad about blowing me off for my birthday a few months ago and had given me the necklace as an apology gift. While I have nothing against costume jewelry, it had been a little too gaudy for my taste. It was a nice piece. A long silver chain with a large (half dollar size) raindrop made of cubic zirconia and small silver disks welded into the long chain. I preferred more simple, understated jewelry, but I knew Sam would love it.
With Sam’s bra size and the one size too small shirt she was clearly failing to squeeze her boobs into, you couldn’t help but notice the chain and sparkling stone nicely sandwiched between the girls, which brought attention directly where she wanted it. It was a win win.
It also meant she had someone on the line and she was trying to reel him in.
“Oh shit! I forgot you had plans with Jill and Stacey,” I replied suddenly.
She gave me a funny look.
“You just showed up here like a fugitive stripper and you’re worried you’re interrupting my plans? Can we focus here? I repeat. What the hell?”
“Okay. But I’m going to need something to drink. Something preferably strong that will get me drunk before I finish the glass,” I replied, walking toward her kitchen.
I stopped mid-stride and changed course down her narrow hallway.
“But first, I need a quick shower. Preferably twenty. Do you have any lighter fluid?” I asked, heading into her bathroom.
There was a pause before she asked slowly, “Why?”
“So I can burn what little clothes I have. After that cab ride, no amount of bleach will ever make them, or me, clean again.”
“Jesus Addison! We need to call the police!” Sam yelled, jumping up from the couch and pacing the room back and forth. Her sudden jump had been so unexpected that I nearly toppled off the couch in surprise.
It had been an almost an hour since I had beaten down her door and commandeered her shower. I had spent a solid thirty minutes in the shower alone just scrubbing off as many layers of skin as possible before the hot water gave out. After my cab ride with Lewis (emphasis on the EWWW) I knew no amount of hot water, soap, bleach or industrial disinfectant would ever make me feel clean again. Thank God she and I were close in size. Those cabbie infected clothes were heading to the nearest incinerator as soon as possible.
I spent the second half of that hour reliving, in painstaking detail, the events of the afternoon. Everything from Deathly Blond down to Kade’s less than private call with Caller Unknown. It felt like an eternity since I had run and I was barely keeping myself upright. My body had never been so exhausted and physically drained before. Sadly Sam reminded me that it had only been a couple of hours since she and I had spoken last. How in the hell was it possible that my life had completely derailed in only a couple of hours?
Sam had listened intently to everything I said, interrupting every now and again only to get clarification on something. Based on the numerous facial expressions that passed over her face during that time, I could tell she was concerned. And much to my added relief, she believed everything that I had just told her. The fact that Sam wasn’t questioning the validity of my crazy story was a relief, but it also worried me at the same time.
I was extremely grateful that she believed me. I couldn’t say that I would have been as understanding if the tables were turned. But even as understanding as she was, I was still bothered by the fact that apparently my life was such a hot mess that would-be-assassins and murder-for-hire plots didn’t seem to be out of the realm of believable when it came to dealing with me.
“We can’t call the police,” I replied, following her back and forth pacing until my neck started to stiffen. “Kade saved my life. I owe him. Calling the police on him doesn’t exactly convey the right thank you message.”
She stopped mid-stride and gave me look that clearly asked if I was in full command of my senses.
“Seriously? That’s your logic on why you shouldn’t call the police? Because Kade (Question Mark) saved your ass and you don’t want to get him thrown into prison for killing some guy who was probably paid to kill you first?”
I tried to process her remark, but as usual, my brain cells weren’t necessarily firing on all cylinders at the moment.
“Yes, I believe that’s what I am saying,” I said a little unsure.
“Come on Addison! The guy just happens to be present the two times you’re attacked in your home. He kills one guy, or at least claims he did, in order to save your life but then goes home and calls some unknown person and alleges to a much bigger plot against you. At some point, you have to come to the obvious conclusion here.”
“What obvious conclusion?” I asked in confusion.
“That he’s part of it! Hell, he’s sitting two floors below you. He’s probably the frigging master mind. He’s probably getting his rocks off watching everything from the sidelines.”
I waved her off.
“No,” I said confidently. “If he was involved, he wouldn’t have helped me. I’m only alive because of him. If he was hell bent on having me killed, then why would he screw that all up?”
“If you’re so confident he’s not part of this, then why did you run?”
She did have me there.
“I don’t know. It was a natural reaction. What I heard freaked me the hell out. I didn’t know what to think.”
Sam stopped pacing and sat next to me on the couch, throwing her arm around my shoulder and giving it a tight squeeze.
“Thank God you’re all right,” she said calmly.
I leaned my head on her shoulder and sighed.
“What the hell is happening to me?” I asked quietly.
She shook her head beside me, her blond ringlets tickling my cheek.
“I don’t know. But whatever it is, we’ll figure it out.”
“Cagney and Lacey we are not,” I said quietly.
She laughed. “True. More Lucy and Ethel.”
That made me laugh, and damn if it didn’t feel good.
I got up and walked into the kitchen, fetching two cans of Diet Coke. I walked back out into the living room and handed one to Sam before falling back onto the couch.
“Do you think he’s looking for you?” she asked after her first sip.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Though I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he already knows where I am. The man seems to have super powers.”
“So what now?” Sam asked, fidgeting with her can.
I had never seen Sam frazzled before. She was always the cool, calm and collected one. That didn’t bode well for me. Being the mature and logical one in this relationship was not a burden I could handle on top of everything else.
“No idea,” I said, slumping back on the couch. “Having someone try to kill me is a whole new experience. I’m not exactly sure what is expected of someone in my predicament.”
There was a pregnant pause as we both tried to figure out what to do.
“Do you think I should call Kade?” I asked meekly.
I already knew how well that was going to go over so I prepared myself for a stern talking to.
Surprisingly, she shrugged.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m not exactly sure what the hell you do either.”
She got up and started pacing again.
“Addison, someone is trying to kill you. Hell, they damn near succeeded. I don’t know what the hell we do. I don’t know if Kade’s a friend or the enemy. Do you really trust this man enough to take that risk?”
I digested what she said.
“Logically? I don’t know,” I said at last. “I know nothing about him, about who he is, or why the hell he always seems to have this divine sense of being there when I need him.”
I sighed and chewed my lip.
“What I do know,” I said quietly, “is that good or bad, he saved my life. I don’t know all the details of that call. I don’t know who he was talking to. Hell, I can’t even be certain of what exactly I heard. But something, call it instinct, common sense, intuition, whatever, tells me yes I can trust him.”
She sighed and rubbed her hands over her face.
“Okay,” she sighed, running her hands through her hair. “Let’s call him.”
I nodded, getting up from the couch and grabbing the phone off the counter.
I hit the Talk button, and stared at the lit screen as it counted down the seconds of the undialed call.
“What’s the matter?” Sam asked, coming up beside me.
I looked at her as I hit the End button.
Double mental forehead slap.
“I don’t know his number.”
“What do we do now?” she asked, once again nervously pacing. “If you can’t call him, how do we get a hold of him? It’s not safe to go back to your apartment.”
I chewed my lip again.
“What do you know about Partridge Manor?”