Friday, October 25, 2013

Chapter Thirteen: FRISKY BUSINESS

Tuesday November 15, 5:39 am
I hardly slept a wink all night.  Thoughts of Derek and of my current case kept the sandman at bay, and when I did doze off, I dreamed that I was wearing handcuffs and a bridal gown and had just fallen off a cliff and was careening towards a valley floor covered with multi-coloured glass fragments.  No Freudian interpretation necessary for that nocturnal imagery.
Around quarter to six, even though the sun wasn’t up yet, I jumped in the shower.  I turned the water on as hot as I could stand it, and scrubbed myself from head to toe with freesia exfoliating body wash.  Then I turned the faucet to ice cold water and stuck my face right in the shower stream.  I was wide awake and smelling good within seconds.
            The street was dark and quiet as I did the short walk to Pape subway station.  I figured that if I wasn’t going to get any sleep anyway, I might as well go to my office and try to do something productive.  As I paced up and down the platform, I wondered when the Bloor-Danforth line would get some of the spiffy new trains like there were on the Yonge subway line.
The train showed up a moment later.  Even though it was just past the crack of dawn, the morning rush hour was already well underway, and of course I couldn’t get a seat.  I stood shoulder to shoulder with a crowd of other bleary-eyed people who hadn’t yet had enough coffee.  At Bloor, I transferred to the Yonge line, which was even more crowded, but at least I didn’t have to go very many stops. 
I spilled out of the train at King station and made a bee-line for the nearest Tim Hortons.  The line-up at the coffee shop was almost out the door.  I looked at the people around me and wondered who they were and what they did for a living.  None of them were smiling.  Once again, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t a nine to five office drone.
Armed with a take out coffee and bagel, I walked along Front Street to my office.  There was something kind of nice about being out and about as the city was just starting to wake up.
As I walked down the hall to my office, a very weird feeling came over me, sort of halfway between a déjà vu and a premonition.  I stood outside my door for a moment, trying to determine what was wrong.  The doorknob and key plate looked normal, with neither scratches nor scuff marks.  But as soon as I touched the door, it pushed open. 
Son of a bitch. 
My coffee fell right out of my hand, splashing hot java all over the floor and all over my shoes.  Some days you’re the pigeon, other days you’re the statue.
Double son of a bitch.
I knew I had I locked the door when I left.  Most definitely.
Who the hell had been in my office?
I did a quick visual inventory of the room.  On the upside, nothing appeared to have been stolen.  Same crappy desk.  Same crappy folding chairs.  Same low tech phone, fax, computer and printer.  Same grey filing cabinets.  I took a closer look at my filing cabinets.  Someone had definitely been rifling through them, but whoever it was had taken care to try to do so without being detected.  But for the fact they’d left my office door unlocked, I just might never have noticed.  A couple of the cardboard hanging files were off their grooves, random papers were sticking up out of their colour coded folders.  Although I’m not an over-the-top, O.C.D. neat freak, I generally keep my work records ordered and organized.  
I glanced over at my desk and was pissed to notice that the drawers were slightly open, and miscellaneous supplies on my desk were just a little out of place.  I put my stapler back in the corner where it belonged.  I was furious that an unknown someone had invaded my personal space.  What were they trying to find? 
I immediately shut down that line of thinking – it would only make me crazy.  I pulled out my smart phone and searched for the number for a twenty-four hour locksmith.  As luck would have it, the dispatcher said they had a guy in the area who was just finishing up a job and would come to my office right away.
Within an hour, I had a brand new deadbolt.

Tuesday 10:51 am
Kumar had called in sick today, but the school had a substitute driving instructor available.  The replacement teacher was a humourless middle-aged Polish woman with pale blue eyes, a hairy chin, and limited patience.  I guess word had worked its way back to the other instructors because Marzena told me right at the beginning of the lesson that we were only going to do residential streets.  That was fine with me because after the way my day had been unfolding thus far, I was more than a little preoccupied.
            We poked our way around Leaside, going around thirty kilometers an hour, up and down the winding, tree lined streets.  The houses around here were lovely, with good sized lots and lots of character, unlike so many of the cookie-cutter generic boxes being built these days in suburbia.  As we rolled along, I noticed that several homes were already feeling the Christmas spirit.  It struck me as odd to see Christmas decorations out front, since it was only mid-November, and there wasn’t any snow yet.  It’s a bit of a disconnect for me to see Santas, snowmen, and sleighs when there’s no white stuff on the ground.
            “Watch your speed.  This is a school zone,” Marzena said. 
The two story red brick building housed Al Purdy Elementary public school, named after one of Canada’s greatest poets. 
I glanced at the speedometer and noticed that I was doing a shade over forty.  I slowed down to twenty-five clicks while trying to remember the opening lines of Purdy’s Listening to Myself.  Something about staggering, blocks of wood, snow, and—
 “Look out!”  Marzena slammed on the pedal of the duplicate brakes on her side of the car.  Some kids were playing ball hockey in the school yard during their morning recess.  The ball had rolled onto the street, and an eager kid darted out after it.  The car lurched to a stop about a foot and a half from a boy holding a hockey stick.  From the look on his face, I’d bet that he’d limit his future sports involvement to yelling at the television. 
“Man, did you see that?” he yelled.
“Wow, that was close,” said the kid who had just grabbed the ball.
“Everybody’s okay?” I asked as I lowered the driver’s side window. 
The boys all nodded and trotted off.  Even though they were okay, I most certainly wasn’t.  The argument with Derek last night, plus the threatening phone call, and the break-in at my office were seriously messing with my head, plus I’d only had about two hours of sleep.
“That was truly terrible,” Marzena scolded.   She got out of the car and walked around to the driver’s side.  “Why don’t we call it a day?  Where can I drop you off?” 
I gave her Mick’s address. 

Tuesday 11:54 am
My fingertips were frozen when I hopped off Mick’s Harley in the parking lot behind Thunder Motorcycles, a big showroom just a few blocks away from the Rogers Centre.  Only a die-hard biker like Mick was still riding in mid-November, and only an idiot like me would forget to bring gloves.  At least today was sunny and clear again, if chilly.
“So, what’s the story again?” Mick asked after taking off his helmet.
“You’re my boyfriend,” I said.  For about a nanosecond, I kind of wished it were true.
“Not unless I get more life insurance, and name anybody but you as the beneficiary.”
“Play along.”
“All right, so I’m your boyfriend.  Allow me to compliment you on your exceptional taste in men,” he laughed.
Mick is indeed pretty easy on the eyes: tall and taut, with scruffy chestnut hair and perfect features.  When we were dating, the chemistry between us was in the stratosphere, but it never lasted.  It took me a long time to start thinking with my head instead of my heart, and every now and then I get a little pang when I remember how good it was when it was good.  I vowed to myself that I’d never go down that road again.  But pretending is okay...
“Also, pretend I’m a porn star,” I said.
“From your lips to God’s ears.”
“Not sure God’s a fan of dirty movies.  Anyhow, say I made some movies with Kitty.  Is my hair okay?”
“Muss it up a bit and undo the top button of your blouse.”
I did as I was told, and then dabbed on a smack of Cerise Surprise lipstick.
“I’ll pretend that Kitty told me about her boyfriend working here, and say that I want to buy a motorcycle of my own.”
“I’m not sure I can keep a straight face for that.”  I was glad I hadn’t said anything to Mick about the fact I had started taking driving lessons.  “It’s easier to believe you’re a porn star.  You’re a disaster with four wheels, let alone two.  Couldn’t we go shopping for a go-kart or a toboggan instead?”
“Knock it off.  I just want to scope out the ex-boyfriend.  Let him think I was friendly with Kitty.  Follow my lead.”
“Only if you walk in front of me and wiggle.” 
I swung my purse at him.  Hard.

The showroom fairly oozed testosterone.  I couldn’t imagine a guy walking into this place and not getting a hard on.  I was immediately drawn to a very sexy, shiny black Triumph Speedmaster.
“Not even in your dreams,” Mick said.  “You’re not a Triumph kind of a gal.” 
“But it’s in my price range,” I whined.
The tag said $9999, which was about ten thousand dollars more than I was actually willing to pay for a bike of my own.
“Forget the price.  That thing weighs way over 500 pounds.  You need something that you can shove off yourself when you wipe out.”
“I’m not going to wipe out.  Geez.  Have a little faith.”
“What about a nice little Suzuki?”
“I want something cool, like a Harley or a  Norton. Or something red.”
“People will only go so far with their suspension of disbelief.”  Mick steered me towards the Ducati displays. 
“This would suit you,” he said, eyeballing a Ducati Panigale.  “It only weighs about 360 pounds.  It probably wouldn’t totally crush you.”
“Can I help you?” A sales clerk finally moseyed over to us.  His name tag said Corey Findley.  Seems that Kitty had traded up from Sam, at least as far as looks were concerned.  Corey  was probably twenty-two or twenty-three, about six-one, muscular without looking like a fire hydrant, and had steely blue eyes with lots of lashes. He looked like he should have been wearing designer briefs on a billboard in Times Square. 
“Time for my girl to get her own bike,” Mick said, patting me on the head.  I elbowed him in the ribs.  Hard.  Then I giggled.
Corey ignored the playful joshing.  “The Duc’s a good choice.  Easy to handle.”
“Yeah, but it’s over $30,000,” I whined.  I spoke in a pitch higher than my normal voice so that Corey wouldn’t recognize me from my two previous – albeit brief - calls.  “I can’t spend that much.  Not for my first bike.  Maybe something in the $20,000 range?”
“Let me show you the Multistrada 1200.  It’s priced around there,” Corey said.
“What’s it weigh?” Mick asked.
“Four hundred and change.”
Mick started to say something and I subtly swatted him.  Again.  “Piece of cake,” I giggled.  “Let me see it.”
After about half an hour of asking dumb questions, and hopping on and off bikes, we’d narrowed it down to three or four models.  Turns out, I can be really fussy about fake potential purchases. 
“They all have to be ordered in, you know, based on whatever options you add,” Corey said.
 “What kind of window are we talking about once she orders it?” Mick asked.
 “Usually takes about eight weeks,” Corey said.
I giggled again.  “By the way, I hate to ask, but do you give discounts for friends of friends?”
“We can work something out.  Who referred you?”
“I worked with Kitty.” 
Corey’s face changed and his body tightened right up.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“My movie name’s Gigi Shazam, but my real name’s Reba McEntire.”  I giggled some more.
Mick rolled his eyes. 
“Yeah, well.  Kitty and I split up in the summer, a while before she was killed...”
“I didn’t realize that you guys had broke up.  I just remember Kitty kept talking about her boyfriend and motorcycles.” 
“I hate to rush you, but I’m due to go on lunch now.  I can’t throw the schedule out of whack, or the guy after me will be late for his break.”  He turned and walked quickly towards the back of the showroom.
 Mick and I strolled out of the shop. 
“So, Gigi, where to next?”
“That’s Ms. Shazam to you,” I said.
Mick chuckled.  “I’m jamming with Cole and the guys tonight.  Want to join us? The guys were just telling me how pumped they are to learn ‘The Night the Lights went out in Georgia.’  They want to add it to the next gig.”
My purse made a thwacking sound when it connected with his arm.
“By the way, Vicki Lawrence did the original,” I said.

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