Here is part one of chapter 8 of Marcello’s Revenge. A chapter I am not altogether satisfied with, to tell the truth. A necessary installment, but one I think rushes the narrative a bit. Though I am a bit undecided on how to edit and in an attempt to qualify Julie’s ease with Robin and her willingness to divulge information, I have attempted to rectify this, but feel more is needed, and perhaps a complete rewrite depending on the course of the narrative as it develops. I think it will eventually come down to it, but at this point am hesitant until I am more aware of the course it takes. But anyway, for those who enjoy long reads and have been following the story thus far, here is the first part. Hope you enjoy and thank you for reading.
Earlier installments can be found:
Julie was in the shadows, between the light that spilled out of the open bedroom door and that which filled the front room. There was a heavy awkwardness, her schuncy eyes staring at me and the highball glass I carried where the unserviceable remnants of ice cubes and the pimpled green skin of a lime wedge gleamed. “Good morning,” I said in an attempt to ease the uncomfortable tension.
“Morning,” She said hesitantly, looking around and noting the location of the front door. “Where am I?”
“And who are you?”
“My name is Robin Mentor. And you are Julie Stills, correct?”
“Yeah, that’s right. How did I get here?”
“Francine and I brought you. She is the one who took you from the party out to our car. Oh, it was also she who got you ready for bed when we got here. If you should have had any concerns.”
“Oh. And where is she?”
“At Church. But she should be returning momentarily. You must be hungry. Would you care for something to eat, and perhaps a cup of coffee?”
“Coffee sounds great,” she replied, her face softening.
I prepared a fresh pot, and made her a breakfast of pumpernickel toast and fruit, thinking that the chicken salad might be too heavy. Julie wandered about the dining room, looking outside through the sliding glass door, investigating pictures on the wall while I sliced up peaches and strawberries. When I brought her meal to the table, she took a seat, and scooped quite a few spoonfuls of sugar in her coffee, slathering the bread with a thick layer of butter. While she ate, I went and made another drink, and returning took the seat opposite her. She finished her meal quickly, saying no when I asked if she would like something else, and so I struck up a cigarette and offered her one which she accepted.
I like to think that it was my charisma which coaxed Julie’s account so freely from her. Nothing more than my easy-going nature that lulled her into a sense of security of which she was willing to impart information both personal and incriminating. But I think it was more of a shared experience, or even something more hidden, that let loose her lips to the simplest of questions.
“How much do you remember from last night?” I asked.
“A lot of it. But the last part is a little fuzzy and blank.”
“Would you like to call anyone?”
“No. I don’t have anyone to call.”
“What about your parents?” She shook her head. “Are you a student?”
“How old are you?”
“Where do you live?”
“At a shelter for the last few weeks. Before that I was living over at a house off Berkshire with some friends.”
“A shelter for what?”
“Troubled women. Like victims of abuse and rape, runaways, drug users, prostitutes. Those sorts of things.”
“And which do you fall under?”
“Everything but the prostitute.”
“What is the name of the shelter?”
“Advent Shelter for Women.”
“And where are they?”
“Downtown on 3rd and J. It’s that old mansion over there.” I knew the place she was talking about, though I was not aware it was a shelter. It was built sometime back in the 1800s by the mayor or someone of some importance. For a number of years, possibly decades, it was a park, but it was bought by a private company a few years ago and I suppose converted to a shelter. This was when the city was looking to raise some money during the economic downturn. They sold several properties that they had run as a means of getting revenue and cutting costs.
“Would you like to call them?”
“No. I’m not going back there.”
“Why don’t you want to go back there?” She shrugged, and we were both silent for a moment. “Where do you plan to go?”
“Maybe back to California.”
“Is that where you are from then? California?”
“Yeah. My parents still live out there, or at least I know my dad does. I left home when I was fifteen, running away from an abusive household and right into an abusive relationship. We spent three years together, crossed the country, and then I finally got the nerve to leave.”
“So you wouldn’t want to go back and live with your father then?”
“Hell no. But with everything that happened around here, it might be good to get as far away as possible. I have some friends out there that might help me out.”
“How did you know Matt?”
“I knew him from when I was staying over at the house on Berkshire with my friend, Mary. She, her boyfriend Danny, and another guy named Josh all rented the house, though there were a lot of people that were staying there on and off. I met Mary shortly after I made it out here, and she helped me get out of the situation I was in. She said I could stay at their place for a while. I found a job at nearby at Taco Bell, so it worked out good. Anyway, Matt would come over sometimes, and we got to know each other. And he was in the same rehab as I was.”
“He wasn’t part of the shelter though.”
“No. Of course not. But he was the one who told me about it. He said his mom or his dad had heard about it, and that it was supposed to be a great place. That they were offering to help you get a new start. You know, stuff like counseling, breaking the drug habit, getting an education. Start your life fresh.
“I was pretty desperate, and wanted to do something different. The house situation was terrible. They were always fucked up, you know. I mean I was too, sure, but really the place was chaotic. Nothing was being done. No one cleaned or anything. It was a mess. There were always people over, coming and going, staying for a few nights or a week or so, and then gone. And everyone was always freaked out. Danny was paranoid and violent, and even though he never hit me I never felt safe around him. Like sometimes he would just kick the shit out of someone. I mean he would just come up to someone and start wailing on them, really mess them up bad. No warning or explanation. Just BAM! And he would stand around all the time with his shifty eyes taking everything in, and with all of the drama was always going on, he always asking me if someone was talking about him, or if I heard anything. Of course they were. There was drama all over that house, and people were talking about everyone. But I would say that I didn’t hear anything, and try to just keep to myself.
“How big is the house?”
“About the same size of this place. It has three rooms, but I would sleep on the couch unless someone else got to it first, and then it would be the floor. But overall I was thankful. I mean, they were letting me stay there, not making me pay too much in rent, and I didn’t have any other place to go. I tried not to complain. But one night I was talking to Matt. I was just frustrated and venting, telling him about everything. How much I really wanted a change. And the next time I saw him he told me about Advent. So I called them and they said that they had room and would be happy to have me come in. I quit my job and took a bus downtown the next day.”
“Do you know how they managed to fund this service?”
“No. I didn’t care so I never asked. From what I gathered, though, it seems like they were funded by someone with a lot of money, or a foundation, or something.” This, of course, accounts for about one hundred percent of charity funding. But then again me asking her the question in the first place was absurd, so I let the matter drop. I could look into it myself if I cared to.
“And you didn’t ever go back to your friend’s house after that? Or see Mary?”
“No. I really hope she is doing well, though. She was a good friend.”
“But you did see Matt again. At rehab.”
“Yes. Advent sent us to a place, a hospital or more like a center, where they ran a rehab class. They had some people who were in the class from the center as well. Matt was one of them. He was sent there since his parents found out about his drug habit. That happened after they busted Danny.”
“What did they bust him for?”
“Drug dealing and trafficking. It happened, like, a couple of days after I left. Matt told me about it, and how he was at the house when the cops came. He was arrested too, but I guess his parents got him out of trouble. But he had to go to rehab.”
“How involved was he?”
“Pretty deep. I mean he didn’t just buy and use drugs. He sold them too. He would get them from Danny and sell them to people at school, or work, or wherever.”
“And getting arrested and going to rehab didn’t straighten him out much?”
She laughed. “No. Not really. He was still using and selling when he was in rehab. I don’t know who supplied him, but he wasn’t slowing down. He even tried getting some connections while we were in class. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.”
“Were you one?”
“No. I was pretty committed to stopping. Well, until last night.”
“Was Matt your boyfriend?”
“He told me he was. Well he said you were sort of his girlfriend.”
“When did he say that?”
“Yesterday. I saw him at the party. You left a wooded area near the lake, and I went down and found him there.”
“Well, I don’t know why he would say that. I slept with him, but that wasn’t until yesterday. And that doesn’t really mean anything.”
“No, I suppose it does not.”
The front door opened and Francine walked in, blowing into the dining room like a spring breeze, wispily placing a plastic bag full of clothing on the table in front of me. “Hello dearest. Sorry I am so late. Oh, hello!” she said to Julie. “I am glad to see you are awake. Feeling better?”.
“Francine Delacroix,” she said, shaking hands with Julie. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Julie Stills. I remember you. A little. It is not too clear, but you took me out to the lake last night.”
“Yes. That was me. The lady in the lake. Oh, love, there was a yard sale near the church that I had to check out. They had some of the most darling items. I picked up some things for my costumes, and there was a lovely chair that I simply had to buy. It is out in the car. I think it will look nice by the window in the spare room. What do you think? I mean, it is so drab in that room. When I was helping Julie to bed last night I thought that. How boring the room is. So I wanted to begin decorating it some. And then when I saw this chair I felt that it is perfect for the room. You will let me know what you think, won’t you? I believe we should paint it a nice yellow, like sunflowers or marigolds. I can’t stand that white rose color that it is. And the chair would be a splendid accompaniment. When you have a chance, would you mind getting it?”
“Great. If you will excuse me, I would like to change. Oh is that fresh coffee? Could you make me a cup? I will be back in just a moment.” I got up and made her a cup of coffee and put it on the table. Julie looked through the contents of the bag which I assured her was okay. Francine came back in a short while wearing blue jeans and a gorgeously tight t-shirt that had the words Save the Condor.
“So, what is going on?” she asked grabbing a cigarette. “Have you been talking about last night?”
“No, we have not really spoken about that yet,” I said.
“Well,” Francine said turning to Julie, “will you tell us what happened? You don’t know who it was that murdered Matt, do you?”