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Depraved Heart: a crime novel

Chapter Fifteen – Masochism

Back at home the newly feisty Persian cat had left a thank-you string of giblets draped across the doorstep like wild valentines; “This way to the crime scene.”

It was Spike’s turn to cook.

“What are we having?” I asked Spike. Everyone has a specialty. Mine hasn’t been figured out yet.

“Squid dogs,” says Spike.

“I’m allergic to calamari,” warned Jake.

He’s not. He just hates those little feeler things.

“It’s because you’re an octothorp,” I told him. Jake stuck his tongue out at me, but he needn’t have worried. “Squid dogs” turned out to be crab-stuffed manicotti. They were good, too. Add a bagged salad and some chunks of bread and cheese and you’ve got yourself a meal.

According to the wine book we had two bottles of Cuvėe Emile Peynaud to go with it, plus a Le Pin, a Trotanoy, and a Cheval Blanc, “for the ladies”, said Trevor. Ladies subsisting on white wine is a cherished illusion of Trevor’s. I’m partial to Southern Comfort and tequila when I can get it, and in this case, the ladies drank everything.

Once again we layered the table with chintz and Limoges; once again candlelight stained the hurricane glass, once again the company effervesced.

“Colleen would have been so proud,” said Shelley.

But would she? As so often throughout history, the writer was the only one pierced by the ironies. If it had been up to me, we’d have dined in front of the TV like the Clampetts.

Craig lectured us on the death penalty and the innocence project and how often it had been conclusively proven by DNA that juries sentence the wrong guy.

Shelley wasn’t eating. “Food just makes you fat,” she said sadly, clutching tight her glass of wine. Shelley can’t eat when she’s upset. I’m made of sterner stuff. I need to last a long time, not just till I’m thirty.

That evening Craig got really drunk. Not since Trevor on the night of my graduation party have I seen anyone so determined to get loaded. At first I thought he was celebrating because even Court TV said he made the prosecution look like a bunch of lame-footed idiots, but during one of his frequent bathroom breaks Mina told us,
“He’s depressed about Pring.”

“Well, what’s the matter with Pring?” we all wanted to know.

“He won’t say what we want him to say. He loves critiquing the police; that’s his specialty; he’ll say anything about them. He’s shakier on manner of death. He’ll say it could have been an accident, but he won’t say it was consistent with accident.”

“That’s fine,” Jake said. “Could have been an accident is all we need. Get their minds off of murder.”

Trevor gave his brother his “watch the fetal alcohol syndrome” look.

“It wasn’t murder, Jake,” wailed Shelley.

“I’m not saying it was murder,’ said Jake, “But if the jury decides that it was, then we need to prove someone other than Oz could have done it. That’s what I’m saying.”

“The defense isn’t supposed to have to prove anything,” said Mina. “Also the forensic animator says he can’t be ready in time and Craig says cartoons are all this crowd understands.”

Craig reeled out of the powder room with his shirttail zipped into his fly, stretched out on the dining room love-seat and began snoring.

Mina glanced at him, then said calmly, “I’m trying to talk him into getting a synchronicity expert.”
“A synchronicity expert?” demanded Trevor in his “how-much-is-this-going-to-cost voice. “What’s that?”

“An expert in coincidences. We have to explain this other case somehow, and the truth is, coincidences are a lot more common than people think. You only notice them because they’re so noticeable. Link recognition is the basic component of human reasoning.”

“How totally ad hoc,” said Trevor.

“You can only declare a coincidence in hindsight,” said Jake. “That’s messed up.”

Spike said, “I had a friend who slammed his car into the exact same tree his brother hit ten years before. They both died.”

“Wow,” said Jake, “what are the chances of that?”

Craig, blowing like a whale, rolled off the sofa and hit the floor with a crash. And that was the end of that party.

“Bedtime for Bonzo,” said Trevor.

Spike hoisted Craig in a fireman’s carry. “I’ve got him,” he said. “Here we go, Jefe.”

Dessert, since it came on a stick, could be eaten in front of Court TV. Trevor abstained.

“Harridan watch,” he said, dismissing that cross-eyed pit-bull of a woman he particularly hates.

She was introducing a clip of Ira McWhiggin interviewed on the steps of the courthouse to make him look taller.

“I just can’t see Oz with that dwarf,” I said. Of course I’m prejudiced against short people.
“No accounting for tastes,” said Trevor. “Oz has a low boredom threshold.”

“And variety is the spice of life,” sighed Shelley. Was Jake getting restless already? Shelley probably wouldn’t object if he asked her to wear a sheep costume.

“It’s all just role-playing,” said Jake, “You know Dad’s never been interested in kids. He was just messing around. The dwarf thing is tame. Hell, bestiality is legal in Sweden.”

“The jury isn’t sequestered,” Mina said, holding a stack of plates and standing in the doorway. “You know they’re glued to this.”

“They swore they wouldn’t watch it.” That was me. Still naïve after all these years.

She shrugged. “People lie. Everyone lies.”

“Then we should be able to expose them.” Writers want to expose everybody. It’s in our blood.
“They lie without even knowing they’re lying.”

A particularly unflattering picture of me, looking like I’d been eating red-hots, flashed across the screen. I shuddered.

“Trevor, may I dye my hair black? Please?”

“Over my dead body,” said Trevor. He turned away toward the kitchen, and I followed like a puppy expecting a treat.

I was willing to start coffee but determined to avoid garbage detail. When Trevor and I get our apartment, I thought, we’ll have only chopsticks. And we’ll only eat takeout.
Spike came whistling down the stairs, shooting back his sleeves like a man who’s completed a difficult task.

“I was getting worried,” said Mina. “I know he can be a handful and I know you have this need to beat people up.”

Did Spike have a need to beat people up? Was that why they hired him? I regarded him with fresh interest.

Spike chuckled. “Naw. He was a pussycat. I just made sure he said his prayers.”

“Bet I know what he prayed for,” said Mina.

Unwilling to let this rich fantasy go, I asked Spike, “You beat people up?”

He smiled at me lazily. “Say the word.”

I told him I’d think about it. There are so many people who deserve a thumping.

Jake and Shelley loaded the dishwasher with Colleen’s fine wash-by-hand china, and then Jake said,
“Shelley and I are going to make out at a French porn movie. Want to watch?”

Trevor almost spilled his coffee. “You’re going out?” he asked as incredulously as if his brother had announced plans to escape from Alcatraz.

“Don’t worry. Spike will drive us. They can’t see into the limo anyway.”

“Evasive driving 101,” said Spike, spinning an invisible wheel.

Mina slammed cabinets. “Pick up some dish detergent,” she said. “The greaseless kind.” Who knew ham leaves a ghostly memory?

“Please don’t go out in public. Not tonight.”

I’d never actually seen Trevor beg his brother for anything. I don’t think that’s a good way to manage Jake. It wasn’t in this case. Jake just smiled and shrugged.

“It’s just a porn movie. Everyone’s anonymous, everyone’s “absolutely elsewhere”. No trial rats, that’s for certain. They’re writing up their blogs. And hey, if I spot a member of the jury, we can do business.”

“And we’re going to wear disguises,” piped Shelley. “Like a costume party.”
See what I said about the sheep costume? I knew it was coming. That’s Jake for you. He loves costume parties. His Nazi Nun was the hit of the 2008 party season. I was congratulating myself for not falling into his trap. It’s so hard being rejected as “not quite enough.”

“You come, too,” Shelley pleaded. Lonely.

But Trevor said, “I don’t come in groups.”

I thought, but didn’t say, that wasn’t what I heard.

“Nah,” I thanked her. I don’t need to make out with Trevor in public. “You can see the same thing on the Playboy channel.”

We had almost finished cleaning the kitchen – I got sucked in after all — when Shelley came down the stairs holding hands with another girl. The girl was Jake. He spun around while we whistled and catcalled. I recognized the wig from Colleen’s collection.

“Am I hot?” asked Jake in his unsettlingly masculine voice. “Am I hot or what?”

“Finally a real sister,” said Trevor. “My life is complete.”

Spike began singing Lady Marmalade. “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?”

Spike! Speaking French! It was like those talent shows in high school where the silent kid shows up with a boombox and a pair of chainsaws.

“You’re too pretty to be a guy, Jake,” I told him. ”Are those eyelashes real?”

“All mine,” said Jake. Shelley did my makeup. I admit the boobs are fake. See my garters? I’m going to toss them to the crowd.”

“Isn’t he gorgeous?” said Shelley. “Look at his legs! He shaved.”

“Wow, and he didn’t even have to!” I exclaimed. “So men are the masochistic ones after all.”

“I did have to,” said Jake. “I’m wearing hose.”

“Attention to detail,” said Trevor and,
“La Vida Loca, baby,” said Jake.

Spike announced, “Your chariot is at the door. It’s been fun but it’s time to blow this dive.”
“I like your French,” said Mina.

Spike smiled his trout in the milk smile. “I’ve often been complimented on my Frenching.”
He did look as if he knew his way around a tongue lock.

“Then I’m coming too,” said Mina, spilling coffee in her haste.
Trevor called. “See you in the tabloids.”

Thank God Trevor and I were getting an apartment together. The old, stable married folks who like to be in bed by nine. I had already had it with dorm life.

In our honeymoon suite Trevor kissed me through my underpants.
“Leave them on,” he said.

Seems white cotton is his thing. Me wasting La Perla!
“Wow,” said I, “That’s one way to guarantee safe sex.”

“This sex is going to be unsafe at any speed,” he said, pulling off his shirt, “Brace yourself for the attack of the blue-gilled monster.”

But I was still thinking about today and Trevor was the only one I could ask.
“When you were four and your Mom was drinking so much, do you think it was because Oz was whipping her?”

Deflated the gills of the blue monster. Just a bit.
“Oz never “whipped” my mother,” said Trevor, speaking the word as if it was impossibly antiquated. “I’m sure of it.”

“How can you be sure? You were just a little kid.”

“Because he told me. OK. Time to lose the underpants.” Kicking Oz out of our bed, he lit the candles, fetched the citrus lotion. I guess it was my turn to be the buzzkill. That’s what a mutual relationship is all about. You get to play each other.

“But how do you know he wasn’t lying?”

“Because Oz never lies to me.”

I thought about the meaning of all this. It seemed unlikely. Oz cared too much what Trevor thought of him. But if Oz told Trevor everything…
“Then he did whip Colleen?”

“If Oz was whipping Colleen, it had to be sex play that slipped out of bounds. She forgot the safe word or something. You know, Colleen could be a problem.”

See what you can find out, sleeping in the corridors of power? “You don’t think he whipped her as a punishment? He beat you.”

Trevor gave up on rousing me.

“This is a little beyond your pay grade, Cherry Vanilla. And it’s hardly pillow talk, but you should know that if there’s buried hostility in a relationship, domination/submission is a dangerous game. She was threatening to get rid of Vermillion, saying we couldn’t afford to keep it up. She must have known how that would devastate him.”

“Oz had a whip collection, though. I saw it. Did he have them when you were little?”
He rolled me over and began lotioning my backside.

“Oz has always been a rider. He doesn’t like borrowed equipment. “ He looked at me with a spice of frustration. “You’re making me sorry the police took them all. Where’s a good whip when you need one?”

Oz’s major complaint about Vermillion is that by the time he bought the house all the land had been sold off piece by piece. Nowhere to keep horses. I was getting close to the secrets. I couldn’t give up, not even for Krakatoa.

“He and your mom fought, though. You told me that.”

Trevor sighed, his chest collapsing. Naked in the candlelight he looked eleven again. Maybe thirteen. “Whenever he got physical with my mom it was because she deserved it. She’d get drunk and out of control. He was trying to stop her from hurting either him or herself. He was in better physical shape and she was a couch potato. Res ipsit loquitor.”

Using Latin to push me away. Returning the lotion bottle he jostled a candle so that it squirted wax across his skin.

“Ouch,” I said, feeling the pain as if it had been mine.

Yet he watched calmly as it hardened. Then peeled it off.

“See?” he said. “There are advantages to experiencing pain.” He smacked my backside sharply. “I think you’re done. Don’t you?”

How could I be done? “Done” is impossible; it’s almost as bad as “away”. Besides, the definition of youth is we’re only getting started. Bowing to the sacred desire that can never be ignored, I slid face first between the pillows.

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