I thought about Rita Gofski and her impending delivery. I knew that Janetti was not capable of impregnating her. Or at least, I thought that’s how it worked. I didn’t think they had figured out a way to engineer sperm, otherwise why would most women need a man at
I headed back to my apartment, by now it was around ten and I was beat. When I got there, I saw Charlie’s car parked in the lot. I crossed my fingers hoping that he wouldn’t hear me come in. While I was unlocking my door, I noticed a note taped to my door. I grabbed it and stepped inside. It was from Charlie. The note said that he was going to go ahead and get some sleep but that he would come over in the morning so that we could talk. Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about faking my way through mediocre sex tonight.
I went to the refrigerator and grabbed a piece of cold pizza from earlier. Why the hell did I eat like this? I opened a can of beer and sat down on my couch reaching over my shoulder to push the button on the answering machine. After a beep, the machine said, “You have four new messages.”
The first was from Norm. He said that he had found a Jeep for me and that he wanted me to come over and check it out tomorrow if I had a chance. The second was a call from someone who had decided that breathing was enough to fill the space. The third was from Detective Waylen asking if I had learned anything new since we spoke earlier. I thought to myself, “What a prick!” I wasn’t sure why, it just popped into my head and stuck there.
The last message was from Delvecchio. He was calling to make sure that I was okay. “I was worried about you after we talked,” he said,
“I wanted to make sure you got home okay.” How sweet. He went on to say that he would check in with me tomorrow.
There was nothing there that needed my immediate attention. I ate my pizza and sipped the cold beer. I was flipping through the channels on the television when I heard a knock at my door. “Shit,” I thought as I got up to see who it was. I was sure it was Charlie and so, I had little enthusiasm in my voice as I said, “Who is it?”
“It’s Norm,” he said, “You up?”
I opened the door and said, “No, I’m asleep, I always answer the door when I’m sleeping.” I stepped back and allowed him to enter.
He took off his hat as he walked in. He had some papers with him and he laid them on the kitchen table.
“Want a beer?” I asked. “Sure,” he said, “Sounds good.”
“What’s up?” I asked.
“I brought some information for you on that guy you asked about,” he said, “the one that came to the lot the other day.”
“Oh, yeah, what do you have?” I asked. We sat down at the table and he started shuffling through his papers. I saw that he had some photocopies of official looking documents along with some pictures of a vehicle.
“I brought some pictures of the jeep, too,” he said, as though he were reading my mind. “I can get this one for you for two thousand.” I looked at the picture. It was a gold Jeep Grand Cherokee with leather interior and a fairly clean interior. “Cool,” I said, “How’s it run?”
“No problems that I could hear, but I can have the boys in the shop look it over and fix anything that comes up,” he said.
“That’s great,” I said, “Are you sure you only need two grand for
“I wouldn’t ask you for that much but I gotta pay the title fees and other stuff,” he said.
“You have to charge me something, Norm, you’re running a business,” I said, “This is great, I couldn’t ask for a better deal.” I leaned over to kiss him on the cheek as I said, “Thanks for this.” He blushed a little and looked down at the table and then back up at me. He was smiling shyly and I felt like something was wrong. He seemed almost sad. I reached over and took his hand and gave it a little shake. “Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” he said, “I just had a bad day.”
“You have bad days every once in a while, but I’ve never seen you this way,” I said, “And the drinking the other night, it’s not like you to drink more than a couple of drinks. What’s going on?” He looked up at the ceiling and let out a sigh. He looked at me and said, “Rona, I really don’t know how to say this.” He put his hands over his face and rubbed his eyes before saying, “Lately, all I do is think about you.” I felt the bottom of my stomach drop out. What did he say?
“Hmmm?” I said, “You think about me?”
“Well, yeah,” he said. “We’ve been hanging around each other for a while and I guess the thought of someone being after you has me a little messed up.”
“You didn’t seem that concerned when we talked the other day,” I said. Why was I being so bitchy? He had just told me something that I’m sure was very difficult for him to say given the context.
“I wasn’t concerned for myself, but I sat there all day thinking I should call and make sure no one was bothering you,” he said. “I was just kicking myself for not staying with you the night we got chased.”
“What do you mean, staying with me?” I asked.
“I should have come home with you and made sure no one followed you here,” he said.
“Norm, I don’t need you to protect me,” I said; though the idea did give me a warm feeling inside. “I’m capable of taking care of myself.”
“Now see, that’s what I mean,” he said, “you were so busy making sure no one hurt me and I wussed out and let you drop me off and leave by yourself. Dammit, I’m supposed to be a man.”
“Norm,” I said, patting his hand again, “You are a man, I just don’t need a man to protect me, it’s nothing against you.”
“Rona, I know I joke with you all of the time, but I would really be messed up if something happened to you,” he said. He was getting a little choked up.
“Nothing’s going to happen to me, Norm,” I said, “That’s why I live here where there’s security.”
“I still can’t help worrying about you,” he said.
“Listen,” I said, “If it’ll make you feel better, you can stay here tonight.”
“Actually,” he said, “I was hoping you’d say that.”
“On the couch, Norm,” I said, “On the couch.”
I got up to get some blankets from the closet. I put them on the couch and he got up to help. As I put them down on one of the end tables, Norm took hold of my wrist and pulled my hand up to his mouth. He looked in my eyes and lightly kissed my hand.
“Thank you, Rona,” he said.
I was looking at him and I felt my heart do a little skip. I had always seen Norm as a good friend and had only toyed with the idea of ever being more than that with him. But this concern he was showing
was almost overpowering as an aphrodisiac. I wasn’t used to people caring about me this way. I didn’t pull my hand away from him. Instead, I laid my hand on his cheek and then let my fingers brush his hair back from his eyes. I leaned in and kissed him gently on the mouth. He responded by putting his hands on my face and kissing me back. We walked around the couch and plopped down together,
“We don’t have to do anything,” he said, “we can just sit here together.”
“Okay,” I said. I kicked off my shoes and curled into him laying my head on his shoulder. He put his arm around me and kissed the top of my head. A movie was just starting and we both sat together watching in silence as he held onto me. This felt good. I hadn’t felt this kind of warmth in a long time. I fell asleep there and when I woke in the morning, I saw that he had covered us both with a blanket. I looked up at him, listening to him breathe. He didn’t snore. That was another plus. As I thought about the things we could do to each other, another thought came into my head.
“Dammit,” I said, shushing myself so I wouldn’t wake him. Charlie would be coming over this morning. I really didn’t want to throw Norm out to make room for Charlie. This was going to be tough. I slipped off of the couch and covered Norm with the blanket as I tiptoed into my room and messed up the bed. I figured if I couldn’t get Norm to leave before Charlie got here, at least it would look like we had slept in separate rooms so that I wouldn’t have to get into some big thing with Charlie over it. He had said we wouldn’t need to take our little fling seriously, but I knew that was only half-true. Men were just as bad as women about these things. They got just as pissed when they thought someone was invading their territory. I put on a pot of coffee and opened my door to reach out for the paper. When I opened the door, Charlie was standing there with a box of donuts in one hand and the paper in the other. He kissed my cheek and said, “Good morning, sweetheart.” He pushed his way in and set the donuts on the counter. It took him a minute to see that someone was sleeping on the couch. He looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “Who’s this?”
“That’s my friend, Norm,” I said, innocently, “He needed someplace
to crash last night.” It wasn’t actually a lie.
“I see,” he said. I could feel the temperature go from warm and fuzzy to cool in less than five seconds.
“What do you mean, you see?” I said, “He’s a friend who slept on my couch last night, is there a problem?”
He chucked me under the chin and smiled, “No problem, I just didn’t expect there to be anyone here. I brought extra donuts so he’s welcome to some.”
“I’ll let him know when he wakes up,” I said.
“So, how was your night?” he asked.
“Same as usual,” I said.
“Working on your case?” he asked.
“That’s about the size of it,” I answered. This was stupid. If he was going to be bitchy, I didn’t have time for it.
“So, how’s it going?” he asked, trying to sound interested. “This guy, Delvecchio, he isn’t dangerous is he?
Now wait a minute. I hadn’t discussed the case in that much detail with Charlie. I was sure I hadn’t said a client’s name. How the hell did he know it was Delvecchio?
“I don’t think he is,” I answered, playing along, “Do you know something I don’t?”
He fidgeted nervously in his chair as though he just realized he had given something away. “Nah, I just know that some of these clients you have can be a little unsavory.”
“Not all of them,” I said.
“Yeah, but I read the papers,” he said, “I’ve seen your name in the police report section a few times of the last year. You’re not dealing with school children here.”
I pondered this. “Well, I do get some jerks from time to time.” We stopped talking as Norm shifted on the couch. He stretched out and went back to sleep, apparently not noticing that I was talking to someone in the kitchen. I prayed that he would sleep until I could get Charlie to leave. For someone who doesn’t follow an organized religion, I pray a lot.
“Well, you need to be careful,” Charlie was saying. “You do carry a piece, right?”
I thought about this and decided to hold some information back,
“Not all of the time. There isn’t really a need to have it all of the time.”
He shook his head and gave me a look of concern. He put his hand on mine and said, “Look, I’m not gonna continue to lecture you. You’re a big girl. I’m sure you can take care of yourself.”
“Thanks,” I said. I was thinking to myself, “What a prick! Why did
I ever let myself get tangled up with this idiot?”
“Well, I have to go. I’ve got a client to meet this morning and another one tonight. I’ll be gone all day again,” he said. “Me, too,” I said. “After Norm leaves, I have to get back to the office and make some calls.” I wasn’t really heading anywhere; I just wanted him to think I was.
“So, I’ll catch up with you later,” he said. He looked disappointed that I didn’t suggest meeting up for dinner in between his meetings.
Too bad. I was trying to find a way to distance myself from him.
Especially now that I knew I wanted someone else.
“Great,” I said, “See you later.” I got up and walked to the door to let him out. He lingered at the table for a minute and then stood up and walked over to me. He paused at the door and instead of kissing me, he put a hand on my shoulder and gave it a little pat before saying goodbye. I locked the door behind him and looked through the peephole to see if he was gone. He stood outside my door for a minute shaking his head. He seemed to move closer to the door as if he were listening for something. I held my breath. After a moment, he turned and walked down the hall towards his apartment. “What a weirdo,” I said to myself.
I walked over to the couch where Norm was still curled up. I sat down beside him and put my hand on his face. The roughness of his beard felt good to touch. Though it was only one day’s growth, something about it made me feel safe. I laid down beside him and wrapped my arms around him. He moved a little as if to give me more room and then he put his arm around me. I felt him kiss my forehead as I nuzzled into him and went back to sleep. I couldn’t think of anything more important than this was right now.