Okay guys…here it is. Hope this will stave off the razing for a minute at least.
After ushering Mrs. Brownings out, I hesitantly placed the check on Stellae’s desk for her to deposit. I knew the moment she confirmed we had a new client and the amount of the check indicating how much work they needed to have done, she’d want to be a part of it.
Unfortunately for me, Stellae saw herself as a budding actress. She thought that being a part of the scenarios would get her “street acting skills.” No where in that gelled head of hers had she considered what those skills really entailed or what they might end up costing her. I readied myself for her onslaught and I was not disappointed.
“Mo. I see we’ve got another client that needs the works,” she began off-handedly.
“Yes, we do.” I walked past her desk, intent on heading to my office.
“Hey, Mo,” she called, stopping me. “What does she need…I mean, I know you guys haven’t asked and you don’t seem to need my input…but I think I could make the scenes really interesting. You know…unique.” I saw the pleading look in her eyes.
“Did I tell you I had written a play?” she asked, knowing good and well she’d told me and even given me a copy of it. I nodded my affirmation. “Well the truth is, I really want to direct, not just act. I think that I’m a much better director than actor, anyway.” She bobbed her head, convincing herself. “I’m saying that I think you’re not using all the talent you have available to you. I’m good and I know you’ll like what I come up with,” she finished, hope all over her face.
I’d heard this before and something in me just wouldn’t allow her the chance. I knew she wasn’t ready for the real deal. It’s easy to fantasize about what we do in the field, it’s another thing, totally, to be where the action was. Even we’re afraid when things go differently than planned. Men don’t take well to being messed over by women, especially when it’s done in the name of the wife. The knowledge that if we messed up…we could very well be finished. Or dead, my mind chimed in, my body hitting subzero in a flash. A sense of déjà vu pushed at my skull. The memory close but…elusive. I rubbed my arms absently before shaking my head. “No, Stellae. You’re not ready,” I replied firmly.
“I can get ready. Just give me a chance to prove myself. That’s all.” Face still hopeful.
Much as I wanted to give her the chance, my mind wouldn’t allow me to do so at this moment. Resigned, I shook my head again. “Maybe later. After much training and classes. I can’t risk you right now.”
Her back slumped back in the seat. Defeated. “I see.”
I knew she didn’t, but there was nothing I was willing to do to put her at risk at this stage of the game. She was only twenty and a bullet or a bully could put her in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life or worse…six feet under. Without another word, I left the lobby and entered my office.
As I fixed another cup of coffee, Schi entered and closed the door quietly behind her. “I heard,” she stated plainly.
“Yeah.” I nodded back. “She been asking you about this?”
“Not straight out. Just hints.” Schi sat in the chenille covered chair in front of my desk. Leaning back, she pulled a long, dark cigarette from her pocket. One of those imported kinds that cost a few bucks each and had a plastic tip. She lit the end and drew in a long breath before continuing. “Do you think we should replace her? I don’t want her to start looking through the open files, deciding to help us without us knowing it.”
I hadn’t thought about that at all. Normally, when we finish a case, the file was shipped out to a security controlled storage facility for one year. When a year was up, they were automatically shredded. That ensured that if we had a break-in, no one obtained information they shouldn’t be privy to. It also kept our butts out of a sling.
While we do everything in a legal manner, we do tap-dance on the edge of breaking the law in some situations. Enough so that an irate husband could drum up some trouble and we would have to explain ourselves to the authorities. The next thing would be a search warrant. We weren’t looking for that at all. If we’re not anonymous and discreet, we’re finished.
“I don’t think we’ll have to do anything about it right now. We’ll just keep a close eye on her and double-check the locks on the file cabinets for now.” I took a sip of coffee. “Ready to get down to business?”
“Uh huh.” Schi inhaled a lung full of toxins. “I need to make a run across town.” A smile lurked in the corners of her mouth.
I had a good guess as to what this was about. That cat slick grin was always there when sex was on her brain. And it was always on her brain. “This a booty call?” I couldn’t help but ask.
She blew out a plume of smoke. “And you know this. Just a quick pick-me-up before we get started on the day.” Schi laughed.
“Why couldn’t y’all do that last night?” I inquired through my laughter.
“We did,” she squealed.
I shook my head at her antics. My smile slowly left my face as I wished fiercely that I could do the same thing.
“I know what you’re thinking, girl,” Schi said, seeing the change in my expression. “You know your condition isn’t a death sentence. If you’re up front with a guy and practice safe sex—”
“I know, Schi,” I cut her off midsentence. “I’m just not ready to…to…expose myself yet.”
“When are you going to be ready? When you’re sixty? When you’re sitting in a wheelchair? When?” Schi stood and leaned over the desk. “You’re not the only one with this problem. Other folks get out there and live with it everyday. They enjoy themselves. I can’t stand how you just let life pass you by. Do you think I’d let it stop me?”
“Probably not,” I admitted. “But I have it and you don’t, so it’s not the same, is it?” I finished.
“Maybe so. Maybe not. I just wish you’d try to do more than work these cases and go home and play with Millionaire and Billionaire,” she said, referring to my two Schnauzers. “That ain’t living.” Schi stubbed her cigarette out in an ashtray on the corner of my desk before standing.
“I know,” I replied quietly. “That ain’t living, it’s existing. And right now, I don’t know how to do anything else. I…I know I can’t take rejection at this point in my life or maybe never.”
“You might be surprised how many men won’t reject you. I don’t know what to tell you. If it were me, I’d read up on the new advances with this disease and figure out what I had to do to protect my partner.” Schi scratched at her head. “Hey. You know I read about an Internet service that’s for people with Herpes…”
I shook my head. I didn’t want to believe I had it, much less entertain the thought of sex with someone else who had it. If I wanted that, I could have stayed with Jontel.
“It was just a suggestion. Don’t rule it out. Yet. Hey, I’m out of here. I’ll be back in an hour or so. After I get back, I’ll work through lunch. So if you have pulled the preliminary stuff, we can map out the ‘big show’ for Mr. Bill.” Schi laughed.
“And a big show it will be,” I confirmed, waving her out. “Have a good time for me too, will you?”
“Now, if I’ve got to get yours and mine, I might have to take the rest of the day off.”
“On second thought, just have a good time for yourself. You need to get your butt on back here as soon as feasible.”
“Feasible is in the pants of the beholder. Adios.” She winked as she walked out of the door.
God! I’d give my left leg to be in her position! Why me? Why not someone else? But…who? Who else deserved to have Herpes? What if I’d never met Jontel, never given my love, my heart, my…body to him? Where would I be now? I had no answers to the questions still slinging out of my brain. My mind was jumbled with “what ifs?”
Somehow, I managed to refocus my attention on our “festivities” for tonight. I pulled the checklist to me before dialing up Mrs. Hatcher.