Authors: R.D. Zimmerman
Tags: #Mystery, #detective, #Edgar Award, #Gay, #gay mystery, #Lambda Award, #transgender
“Whatsamatta, doll face?” asked Travis, dressed fully in chef drag, replete with the tall hat, as he used a pastry bag to squirt a dollop of artichoke mousse on a line of five-dozen toast points. “You look all red. Listen, there's no way in hell you can get sick, too, but if you are, you go down through that door over there. You go into the basement where we got all our extra dishes and you puke down there. Am I clear?”
Kris nodded. “I'm fine.”
“Good. Then don't just stand there, get these frigging toast points out of here.”
She reached for them.
“No!” screamed Travis. “Get yourself a new doily, Kris! That one's all greasy! And put some parsley in the middle, for Christ's sake!”
Jan, red-haired and voluptuously plump, whooshed in with her empty tray, saying, “Travis, Judge Hawkins loves the phyllo triangles. Got any more?”
“Oh, fuck!” Travis raced to the stove, threw open the door, and pulled out two cookie sheets of spinach-and-feta appetizers, the phyllo darkly browned but not burnt. “Thank God!”
There was no space let alone time to linger in here, so Kris loaded up her tray again, then headed out. Entering the dining room, she scanned the chamber. Flowers, tall and lush and colorful, stood in a vase on the long dinner table. Scattered about on mirrored trays were blanched asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, imported cheeses, delicate crackers, and turkey tartlets.
And on a sideboard sat huge silver coffee servers, rotund and steaming.
But he was not about.
Relieved, Kris continued with the job at hand, passing the artichoke mousse on toast points, which—considering this moneyed crowd—were seized with unsophisticated glee. Kris made it only midway into the living room before her fare was gone. She glanced through a group of people, saw the piano player lifting both hands from the keyboard and blowing her a schmaltzy kiss. No one, though, seemed to notice his broadcasted affection or, for that matter, the pause in music, since you could barely hear anything above the din of conversation. Only another hour and a half, thought Kris, and this would be over. These fancy folk would go back to their world, and she would retreat to hers.
When she turned to head back to the kitchen, however, there he was. Kris's heart skipped along like a rock on water, then sank into heavy pounding. He stood in what could only be superficial conversation with a much older man in a double-breasted navy blue blazer and a gray-haired woman dripping with gold bangles and rock-sized jewels. Oh, shit, thought Kris. She'd always been attracted to older guys, but that had never meant someone over thirty. Yet here was this guy and he was, she swore, the most attractive man she'd ever seen. And when their eyes locked again, this time so briefly, she knew in a flash that they'd both been transported to the same lustful fantasy. Nearly paralyzed, Kris watched as he broke away from his conversation and started toward her, her flushed body telling her mind exactly what she didn't want to hear: Yes, he really wants you.
Forget it, she told herself. Stop it. Not long ago she'd sought her future in California, but instead had discovered trouble, the big kind, when she'd spread her legs for a hot guy. And this, she sensed, was no good, too much the same. She spun the other way, heading not toward the kitchen and another load of canapés, but away from him and out the other end of the packed living room. As she made her way up the two steps, she saw him following. Oh, no. Please. The cumbersome tray in hand, she darted past the judgmental eyes of Mr. Major-Domo by the front door, past the library, down a narrow hall, and to a staircase that curled downward. She glanced back, thought she'd lost him. Just to make sure, though, she descended, following the wooden steps down and into an old entertainment room, which in this grand house had a huge fireplace, wrought-iron light fixtures, dark-oak woodwork, and a billiard table in the middle. Perhaps, thought Kris, she'd be able to hide here until the party was over.
But, no. Footsteps, heavy and sure, on the stairs sounded the alarm. Tossing her silver tray like a Frisbee onto the billiard table, she darted toward a door, pulled it open, and entered a dark, unfinished basement. Kris passed beneath old pipes, dangling wires, while overhead, just atop those heavy beams, the party continued, footsteps clomping, voices laughing, and somewhere—broadcast better down here via vibration—the piano. She came around a corner, entered a workroom filled with old screen windows, a dusty air conditioner, and proceeded to a long workbench covered with a mound of tools and household supplies. She, Kris told herself as she leaned against the bench, was going to get her life in order. That was why she'd fled Los Angeles and returned home. It was about getting away from the dark shadow of that cop and his toxic brother, about healing, about getting her life in order. She deserved to be happy, damn it all. And she deserved a good man.
She froze when she heard his steps glide across the concrete floor.
With a husky tone, he called across the dank room, saying, “You're the most beautiful young woman I've ever seen.”
She wanted to cry right then and there, unable to believe that he was seeing her as such. Oh, God, you're not supposed to believe in this kind of guy. The perfect kind, the Prince Charming stud. But he was just that, wasn't he, or shouldn't she at least find out? No, she should bolt away. He had to be like the one back in L.A., nothing but a hurricane of problems. There was another way out of here, wasn't there? A staircase that would lead up to the kitchen?
Yet Kris didn't move. Her back to him, she clutched the edge of the grimy bench and stood there in her tight black waitress uniform, her blond hair flopping into her eyes. As his feet shuffled closer, Kris closed her eyes, bit her bottom lip. She wasn't a whore. She just wanted love. Someone who'd wrap his arms around her and tell her that all the pain she'd already experienced in this short life of hers was done. Over. No more.
And he did just that. He came up behind her—she counted the steps. Five. Kris tensed as if she were about to be attacked, then felt his arms slip around her trim waist and pull her against his strong, warm body.
She started trembling, shaking all over. What was happening here? Couldn't he read her? Didn't he realize that it was she who was the black hole of chaos?
He said, “It's okay.”
And by the way he said it she understood that he didn't mean, It's okay, I won't hurt you. No, he meant, From now on everything's going to be fine.
Kris swooned, yet he held her steady. She wanted to stand like this forever, facing a sea of chaos with this mountain of security embracing her from behind. But of course that was impossible, because through their layers of clothing she felt the strength of his erection rise and press up against her ass. In one swift whirl, she spun around, lifted her mouth to him, and they were kissing, her full lips pressing hard against his thin ones. Their tongues exploded and intertwined, and Kris reached beneath his suit coat and clawed at his back, used all the strength her thin arms could muster to pull him closer, closer, closer. She let herself be gobbled up, ran her moist lips over his clean-shaven cheek, drank in his cologne, felt his mouth on her ear. Above the flagrant lust it flashed in Kris's mind: This is it, this is him, this is what I want. He reached down, caressed her tomboyish chest, then leaned over, kissed her neck. And of course, then he reached down, ran his meaty hand down her flat stomach, lower, lower, lower.
She grabbed his hand, said, “No.”
“Oh, my God, you're so beautiful.” A moment of sanity prodded him. “How old are you?”
With that his fingers crept down an inch. She clutched his hand more tightly.
“I'm having my period,” she pleaded, hoping she wouldn't have to tell him something like she bled a lot. “Please.”
His hand was firm and unflinching, but Kris was experienced in these matters, she knew how to do this, knew how to handle the situation, send it careening off in another direction. And so she reached down, felt the hard metal of his belt buckle, felt the fine, thin wool of his pants, felt him rigid and determined. She stroked him once lightly, and he moaned from his gut, shook as if he'd never been touched. Cornered against the bench, Kris slid down. With one hand she rubbed his crotch as lightly as she could, then with the other reached up and popped open his buckle. With one quick tug she ripped out his blue shirt, shoved up his white undershirt, then lunged forward, rubbing her buttery soft cheek against the fur of his stomach.
“Oh, Jesus,” he moaned, his hands clawing through her hair.
With one definitive strike, she ripped down his zipper, shoved down his pants, then grabbed at his red plaid boxers and nearly tore them away. He sprang out, and at first she knelt there in awe. Recalling something she'd glimpsed atop the workbench, she reached with her left hand for a jar of petroleum jelly. Yes, she thought as she awkwardly popped open the container and smeared one of her fingers. She was going to take him somewhere he'd probably never been before, somewhere he'd certainly never forget.
“Oh, God,” he begged, his voice barely audible, “suck me.”
She opened her mouth and drank him up as slowly, as luxuriantly as if she were partaking of the finest Armagnac. Her right hand embraced the base of his shaft, while the other reached down between his legs and crept toward his ass, and all at once he fell forward, bracing himself with both hands on the workbench. He groaned and cried, but then stiffened as he realized the direction of her wayward finger.
“Wh-what are you …”
Pulling him out of her mouth, she said, “Do you want to ride the naughty pony?” When it was clear he didn't understand, she added, “I just want to tickle your walnut.”
He laughed nervously. “My … my what?”
“What? How do—”
Her voice all velvet, Kris asked, “Come on, you saw
Last Tango in Paris
, didn't you?”
She glanced up, saw the look of fear, even disgust, but went ahead before he could protest. First she sucked him back up. Next she just did it, she penetrated him. At first he tensed, horribly so, but when she reached her nut-size target it was as if he'd been struck by some erotic lightning bolt. Of course he'd never been taken like this, touched in this hidden corner of delight, that much was clear by the veins bursting in his neck, the deep scarlet color of his face, and his groans, which grew more animallike with each thrust.
And when she was through with him just a few minutes later, after she'd blown him to the moon and sucked him back again, she pulled herself up. The party was still going full force overhead, and he lifted his shorts and pants, then pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and handed it to her.
Watching as he made a feeble attempt at tucking in his shirt, Kris wiped her hands and wondered if she'd ever see him again, this dream. Or had that been it, a shot in the dark, so to speak?
“My name's Kris,” she volunteered. “What's yours?”
Suddenly the very boyish side of him spread over his face. “You don't know?”
“No. Why should I?”
“Because I'm hosting this party. My name's Stuart. Stuart Hawkins.”
Kris tried to speak but couldn't, for there was no way she could tell him. She stared at him, the lust and love and fantasy she'd felt for this most manly man now totally zapped. And then she burst into tears. This dream of a guy was Judge Stuart Hawkins?
She darted to the side, outran his reach.
“Hey!” he shouted.
Kris wouldn't be stopped. She ran out of that dank workroom, charged into the hall where Douglas Simms was now searching for his boss. He spied her through his thick glasses, and his serious face turned all the graver, for he was no dummy, he knew at once what was going on down here.
“Come back!” snapped the aide.
Kris spun around, darted the other way, tore through another door, into another room where Jan and several other servers were down getting more glassware.
“Kris, you okay?” gasped Jan.
Dan, one of the guys, asked, “What happened?”
She saw the bathroom, a little yellow room with a ratty old toilet and sink. She ran in there, slammed and locked the door behind her. Oh, Jesus Christ! She turned and bent over the sink, sobbing as she never had done before.
Dear God in heaven, the most prominent judge in the state, the man who very well might be the next governor of Minnesota, would kill her if he ever found out her deepest secrets, not simply that she'd been castrated in a freak accident, but that her real name wasn't Kris, but Chris. As in Christopher.
In the following days
the headlines would brag how the savage summer storm had descended upon the murder, the city's fortieth of the year, and wreaked havoc upon brutality. But, of course, beyond the chance of a thunderstorm, Todd knew none of what was to come.
It did occur to him that for once the weather guys weren't going to screw up, that the midsummer heat and humidity were about to be doused with rain. As he parked his Jeep Grand Cherokee on the edge of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, Todd, wearing black jeans and a freshly pressed blue shirt, glanced out the windshield at the skies now looming so dark over the river and to the northwest. It was going to pour, there was no doubt about that. On a hot July night like this it was usually light until nine-thirty or ten—the long days one of the few payoffs these northern parts offered after the long winters—but not tonight. As predicted, something was blowing in from the westerly plains, clouds so black and virulent that they not only blotted out the setting sun, but sucked up whatever light was left of the day. Even as Todd sat there, the streetlights flashed on, and he glanced at the clock on the dashboard, saw that it was seven twenty-five. He just hoped that this guy would be on time, that whatever he had to say would be quick, that this furtive meeting would be over before the skies slit open.