Chorus Verse Chorus (2)

Here’s the second part of the old story I found and cleaned up. Part one is here, part 3 here.

An hour later, a freshly showered but still red-eyed Roxanne sat in her own penthouse apartment, twenty floors up, furnished in black and chrome with bare hardwood floors. In place of a coffee table was a full-size, knee-high xylophone with great cast bronze keys; a wooden mallet and a square black porcelain tray holding some kind of fizzy drink sat atop the keys. Next to Roxanne sat an entertainment lawyer who appeared to have been molded out of the finest synthetic human skin and hair. He didn’t move at all. Roxanne alternately leaned forward to sip her drink and sat back to clutch at the stuffed elephant in her lap.

The lawyer cleared his throat. “I think we can all agree,” he said mellifluously, “that Ms. Stein had nothing to do with this horrible deed. She was merely–”

Roxanne cut him off. “Relax, Tyler.” Her gaze passed over Mustapha and onto Diana. “Look, what I meant was that I brought her into this crazy world. She wouldn’t be in Atlanta if it weren’t for me. I didn’t kill her. God. She was the only link I had to reality.”

Diana smiled back. “You have to understand that we need to clear you as a suspect. Let’s say we did catch the person who killed your friend. His lawyer’s going to point out that you had a key to the apartment and you found the body. So we have to rule you out.”

Roxanne looked at Tyler, who nodded. “Okay,” she said. “What do you need?”

Mustapha said, “We need to know where you were this afternoon. Maybe you can give us a rundown of what happened today.”

She frowned. “I might not be able to help. Today was my free day. I spent most of the morning sleeping in, then I did yoga for a while, took a nap, then played the piano for a long time. Then I went down to see Cathy before I had to get ready for going out tonight.”

“And nobody saw you this whole time?”

“Maybe if someone was looking out the windows through a telescope.” At Mustapha’s eyeroll, she sat up. “You would not believe what happens. The fucking paparazzi: they’ll do anything. But I’m pretty careful about what little free time I have.”

“There wasn’t anyone up here all day?”

“No.” She sighed. “Look, I made my own lunch, okay? I like making my own lunch. I’m a big girl: I can spend a day by myself. I’d go crazy if I couldn’t.”

“But you have to admit,” said Diana, “that it doesn’t help much.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t. But I didn’t kill Cathy. Have you talked to her boyfriend?”

“Who is he?”

“Peter. Peter Du-something or other. He’s a wedding photographer.” She looked as if she’d tasted something dreadful.

“Not a fan of his?”

“… No. Well, not really.” She took a big sip of her drink, then stifled a belch. “Sorry. He was too good to be true, was what I thought.”

Diana said, “Too good for your only friend?”

“Yeah. I guess that does sound weird. But you saw Cathy. She’s not the kind of girl boys hang out with, or even really notice. It had been like four or five years said she had anyone calling her at all. Then out of the blue, this fancy guy, with a great body and a great look, comes out of nowhere? One half of me was jumping up and down and cheering; the other half was wondering what the real story was, and then feeling bad about it because of what it meant I thought about Cathy.”

“So you thought he was after her money?”

“Maybe. But the thing is, she didn’t have any real money, to speak of. And she was all about how into her she was he was, how the sex was so good. So I was still figuring out if I should do, or say, anything.” She finished her drink and shrugged. “Maybe she was the one he wanted to settle down with.” Now her eyes teared up again. “I don’t even know.”

Mustapha said quietly, “What about her roommate?”

Roxanne’s hand slipped on the empty glass. “Roommate? Oh, you mean Ellie. I thought she moved out. Oh, man. Has she been back?”

“There’s enough stuff left in the spare bedroom, you’d think she’d come back for it. How did they know each other?”

“They didn’t. Cathy wanted help with the mortgage. I think she put an ad in Creative Loafing. Ellie showed up about a week later. Depresso indie rock girl.” Roxanne smiled. “But nice, and cool with Cathy. She thought it was funny that Cathy’s best friend is this famous pop star that she herself wouldn’t listen to if you put a gun to her head. She gave me a hard time the first couple of times we met, but then it turned out we were both learning to knit, so she decided I was okay after all.”

“Where is she now?”

Roxanne shrugged. “She was going to move in with her own boyfriend. Somewhere… I really don’t know. Where the kids who only listen to bands they’ve never heard of hang out.”

“How did Ellie and Peter get along?”

“Um. They were okay. She was into taking pictures, so he would show her stuff.” She put the empty glass on the black tray and stood up. “I just realized I have pictures,” she said, and padded barefoot from the room. For the two or three minutes she was gone, Tyler the lawyer didn’t move at all. Diana was fairly certain he didn’t even blink.

Roxanne came back with an old shoebox full of photos. “Here we go.” She searched through the photos until she found several. “Here’s Cathy with Ellie. Here’s Ellie by herself. Here’s Peter with Cathy.” She handed the photos to Diana. Cathy in life had a nice smile, but not much else going for her. Peter was a big strapping fellow with muscles, a tank top and a well trimmed mustache; this made him look like half of the tens of thousands of gay men in Midtown. Ellie was about Roxanne’s size, and thus dwarfed by both Peter and Cathy: she had long, stringy dark hair, black-rimmed cat-eye glasses, and a T-shirt that said Dismemberment Plan under a thrift store cardigan with jeans and black Chuck Taylors.

A flunky poked a very styled head into the door. “Roxanne?”

“I’ll be there in five.” Roxanne turned to Diana. “Anything else, let me give you my private line.”

Mustapha said, “You’re going out?”

Roxanne sighed, looking ten years older. “Like I said, there are other people’s careers on the line. Tomorrow, I’m staying here by myself all day, to try to mourn Cathy properly.”

Continue to part three

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  1. Chorus Verse Chorus (1) | Julian Cage

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