Chapter 19

By Anj (A.k.a. Azurenon)

Introduction: At the age of seventeen, Darby Jennings is once again running away from a very abusive home life. This time, however, she's dressed as a boy. Along her rather short journey she meets up with a "call girl" or "lady of the evening". This story follows the early trials and tribulations of their rather unique relationship, as well as, their struggles with the malevolent human forces attempting to tear them apart. It is part romance, part drama, with an attempt at suspense and/or mystery. This is NOT an Uber story. Although I love the daring duo (and written fan fiction with a partner, under the pseudonyms "Azurenon and Savanna Mac" posted on this very site) you won't find them here.

DISCLAIMERS: No copyright infringement is intended by the use of titles, artist's names and/or lyrics of the songs contained herein. These have merely been used for entertainment value and possible storyline continuity. All the characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.


Violence: This story contains scenes and/or references to physical, emotional and sexual violence.

Sex: It centers on an explicit sexual relationship between two women. It is intended for MATURE AUDIENCES. So if you're under age 18, this is illegal where you are or this just isn't your cup of tea, then you have been forewarned, please exit stage left. If you are mature enough and I've captured your attention, then moving right along here...

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Be it known the author has no firsthand knowledge concerning physical or sexual violence. Nor does she even pretend to know anything about "call girls" or "ladies of the evening". Therefore, I ask that the reader please forgive any mistakes and/or oversights. Especially so in the area of giving the healing process of such aforementioned experiences the in-depth attention they so richly deserve. This story is complete fiction, written merely for entertainment. In its entirety, it contains 23 chapters: at around 10 pgs per chapter.

Thanks go to all my friends for their support and encouragement over the years.

(Written 1993. Revised 2001)

        We were on our way home. She had found another note on the windshield, but would not let me read it, nor had she read it. She'd merely crumpled it up, as usual and put it in the pocket of the infamous tan jacket she'd purchased from Candy.

        The defroster was on, since it was cold and had rained that evening, which fogged up the windshield. She'd turned on the rear defroster, as well, but it hadn't cleared it yet, although the switch, which had an automatic timer on it, had went off.

        Anna switched it back on and the light didn't come on. She hit it again and the light glowed orange. We were in the middle of discussing whether we thought it was working or not and I was formulating a plan on how to get to the note, when a siren sounded behind us.

        Anna glanced up in the rearview mirror, saw the blue lights, then checked her speed. We were only going 45 in a 50 mph speed zone.

        "Must just want by," she said, then braked and pulled over to the side of the road to get out of his way.

        He fell in behind us.

        She watched him. "Wonder what the hell he wants," she said, coming to a full stop. "Hell, I couldn't have been speedin'."

        "Maybe you were weavin' a little, playin' with that thing."

        "I didn't think I was, but... damn, get my purse and... where the hell did I put that tag slip?"

        "It's in the visor thing up there, isn't it?"

        "Who knows." She turned on the small map light on the mirror, then flipped the visor down and began searching the compartments. "Here it is. Go on and get out my license, he's bound to want that."

        A short, round bodied man in a navy blue jacket and hat knocked on the window. She pressed the button and the window slid down smoothly.

        "Evening ma'am. Or should I say mornin'?" He directed his flashlight beam on her, then between us and quickly over to me.

        "Well, yeah I guess it is," Anna replied, glancing at the digital clock on the radio, which read 4:17. "What did I do, officer?"

        "You have no tail lights ma'am. And.. you were weavin' a bit back there." I could see the badge and insignia on his jacket and hat now. They both read Alviston Police Department.

        "Oh, I can explain that." She went on to tell him about the defroster switch. He seemed to be barely listening, his right hand on the door, as his left swung the flashlight around the interior of the truck.

        "But, I didn't know about the tail lights," she added.

        "Yes ma'am. But, I'm gonna have to write you a ticket. Can I see your driver's license and registration please."

        "Oh, yeah sure." She turned to me and his flashlight followed her.

        I handed her the license. She gave them both to him. He put them in his little notebook.

        "'Fraid I'm gonna have to ask you to step out of the car, ma'am. Need you to take this little test for me, since you were weavin'."

        "But, I told you about the..."

        "Won't take but a minute ma'am. Just doin' my job." He stepped back and she opened the door. She started to close it and he grabbed hold of it. "No, ma'am.... leave it open, I need to..." He directed his flashlight beam at the floorboard. "What's this?"

        The beam of light was spotlighting what appeared to be a small piece of rolled up paper with the end blackened, lying near the door.

        He glanced up at me, then back at her. He backed out of the door. "Ma'am, we're gonna have to search your truck." He motioned towards his own car and the door opened on the passenger side.

        "Anna what...?"

        He turned the flashlight on me. "Gonna have to ask you to get out, too, ma'am. My partner will need to search you."

        My door suddenly opened and a big, burly police officer stood before me. "Come on with me, ma'am." He reached out for my arm. I reached for her purse and intended to get mine. "Oh no. Leave that now. We gotta search the whole car."

        He more or less pulled me out, though not in a painful way. Then he steered me towards the side of the truck. "First we gonna have to search you. If you'll just place your hands upside the truck there and spread your feet apart."

        I looked through the side windows at Anna. She was already against the side of the car, her hands on the windows. It's a nightmare, I thought, I'm gonna wake up any minute and be back in our bed. I closed my eyes breathed deeply and tried to will myself awake.

        "Ma'am, I need you to cooperate with me, if not..."

        I opened my eyes, just in time to see the truck window coming at me very rapidly. I threw out my hands defensively then he pushed my feet apart. "Anna!"

        "It's alright, Darby," she called out. "Just... do what they say. I think she finally got even."

        "Barbara!" I hissed.

        The officer behind me started searching me and quickly realized that my shirt was unbuttoned, compliments of Anna's previous aggressive behavior. "Hmm," he said, as his hand slid inside the shirt.

        "Bingo," the officer with Anna announced.

        "That's not mine," I heard her tell him.

        "Got anything over there, Fred?"

        "Nah, she's clean, so far," the one searching me answered, disappointment in his voice, as he quickly began moving his hands over the rest of my body.

        "Got a bag of blow over here," the officer with Anna announced. "After I read'er her rights, take'em to the car and call it in. We gotta search the truck."

        This interruption caused the one behind me to discontinue his search. I was grateful for this, because if his hand had went any further up my skirt, he would have discovered I wasn't wearing any underwear. Those were back at the club in the garbage can.

        "Anna Rollins," the other officer began, "you are under arrest for the possession of an illegal substance. You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to give up this right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney....

        "Fuckin' nightmare," I said, listening to him rattle on.

        "Anna, where the hell did he find that coke?" I asked, when we were in the back of the cruiser, her wrists cuffed together.

        "In the inside pocket of my jacket."

        "Where the hell did it come from?"

        She shook her head. "I don't know, but I got a feelin'..." She stared at the tall officer who had just turned around, after calling his report in, and was now staring at us.

        "You run that strip joint back there a ways, don'cha?" he asked, looking her over.

        "Yeah. Why?"

        "Thought I recognized you." His eyes roamed over to me and down to the open shirt beneath my jacket. I quickly pulled the jacket closed. "Haven't been there in a while. You one of her dancers?"

        "No, she's a waitress," Anna answered. "And you got nothin' to hold her on."

        "Yeah, well, maybe not. But, she's gonna need a ride." He chuckled. "Can't very well leave her out here on the highway."

        "What are you gonna do with my truck?"

        "Oh, we'll take her in, give 'er a good wash and wax job, then give 'er back to you. We're real obligin' that way."

        "Smartass," Anna hissed.

        He spun around and came up off the seat, then threw his arm out, holding his hand in a threatening backhand position. "Don't get smart with me, whore!"

        Anna glared at him. His eyes roamed over to me again. "Waitress, huh?" His eyes perused me more carefully. "You real soft in all the right places," he said. "Felt real nice. You know, maybe I should just search you again. I think maybe you might have somethin' hidden up under that skirt, ya know. Kinda tucked inside them pan'yhose."

        "She ain't wearing pantyhose," Anna growled. "And if you touch her, you're gonna wish you hadn't."

        "Ooh mama, I'm shakin' in my boots." His hand suddenly came up and he backhanded her, just hard enough to sting, but not to leave a lasting impression.

        I reached out and grabbed his arm, which was a mistake. He grasped the collar of my jacket and snatched me towards him. "Oh yeah, we gonna search you again and then you're goin' in handcuffs for resistin' arrest."

        "Darby, don't do anything..."

        "Yeah, you listen to your whore friend over there. Don't do nothing." His other hand came towards me and went for the front of my shirt. "You just let me search you, hmm?" I felt like throwing up, as his hand cupped my left breast and squeezed. "Yeah, real soft. You was askin' for this, weren't ya, honey? Didn't even bother to button up your blouse. You been makin' it with some other guy back there 'fore ya'll left, hmm?"

        "Fred!" his partner exclaimed from the window. "What the hell..."

        "Think she needs searchin' again, Moultrie. Did ya know this here older one owns that strip joint over there, by that country nightclub and this here is one of her waitresses. And... uh well, she's been sittin' here showin' herself off, ya know and... I didn't check for anythin'... concealed, know what I mean?"

        "Yeah, I get the picture. And anybody else finds out and your name ain't worth mud, know what I mean?"

        "Chief ain't gonna believe two whores. Come on, Moultrie."

        "Goddamn rookie, let her go and come out here. We gotta search this truck."

        "Hell no, man, she grabbed my fuckin' arm. We put the cuffs on her, too."

        "Then put the goddamn cuffs on her and get out here!"

        He whipped out his handcuffs and snapped them on me. "I ain't through with you, yet. I just have to have a talk with him. I'll be back." He groped my right breast, then let me go.

        The two of them walked up to the truck, then the short one lit a cigarette and they talked for a moment. Then they began searching the truck.

        "Baby, you alright?" Anna asked.

        I didn't want to look at her, I felt dirty.

        "Darby..." She moved over closer and took hold of my cuffed hands. "You alright?"

        I nodded and the tears started, thinking of what a nightmare this was. I still wanted to wake up. But, knew I was already awake.

        "Goddamn him!" she hissed. "Cum'mere." She raised her hands. "Shit! Goddamn handcuffs."

        "It's... alright."

        "No, it ain't." She reached up and turned my face towards her. "Oh, baby. I'm sorry. I shoulda known she'd do somethin'. I didn't think she'd get you involved, though."

        "You think it's her?"

        "Darby, I don't do drugs. I haven't for a long time now. I don't even smoke grass and... honestly, baby, I don't think that roach he found was even in the truck when we got in. If it was, somebody planted it, just like the coke. I think the roach was just an excuse to search me."

        "What... are you... sayin'?"

        She sighed heavily and placed her left hand upside my face. "I'm not sure what I'm sayin'... just that I'm being set up for some reason." She stroked my face. "Cum'mere. Lay your head on my shoulder, hmm?" She pushed my head towards her. "I... need to feel you close, right now."

        I laid my head on her shoulder, the tears coming harder. She stroked my face for a moment, then lifted her arms up and over my head, placing them around me.

        "Anna, you can't..."

        "Ssh..." She kissed the top of my head. "I don't give a shit anymore, Darby. I'm... not sure what's gonna happen here and... I'm grabbin' what I can."

        "Anna, nothin's gonna..."

        "Ssh... listen to me now." She pulled me close. "I didn't tell you 'bout this, but I was busted once for drugs. Sellin'."


        "Be quiet and listen. Now... it ain't gonna look good for me, this time. And, I'm gonna need you to... be strong for me, hmm? There maybe some bad times ahead."

        "How bad can..."

        "Let me finish, baby." She kissed the top of my head again. "I don't know how bad. Probably however bad Barbara wants to make it. Or whoever did this. Anyway, I want you to know that... I... I love you, Darby. Never ever doubt that. Always... I'll always love you. No matter what happens."

        I raised my head and looked up at her. "You're... makin' this sound so... horrible. But... it can't be that bad, can it?"

        She hesitated. "No, no it's not, baby. But, how else was I supposed to get you close like this, hmm? And... honestly, it may be a while before we get to do this again. 'Specially if they find anything in the truck. Which I assume they will."

        I snuggled closer to her, burying my face in her neck and throwing one leg over hers without thinking, or caring anymore. Then I busted.

        My world had been shattered. And from somewhere within the sound of my sobs, there came the unmistakable tinkling of glass, as those broken pieces impacted upon the cold, hard ground of reality.

        Fred came back to the car in a foul mood; neither of us had any idea what had transpired between them, in the time they'd been gone, but Fred hadn't liked it one damn bit.

        "What the fuck you two doin' back there?" he growled.

        "What? You never saw a woman cry before?" Anna snapped. "You did it."

        "Shut up, bitch! And get your fuckin' arms out from around her. What are you some kind of queer or sump'um?"

        Moultrie entered the car. "Ah, leave'em alone, man. Shit! You can get'em apart when we get to the station."

        Anna was booked on a possession charge and I was let go. Bail could not be made until in the morning. They hadn't found anything in the truck, so Anna told me to go home and make some calls.

        I went home and called Candy. Rick answered the phone. I blubbered out the barest of details. "We'll be right over," he said, then hung up.

        They were both at the house within twenty minutes. I told them what happened. Rick paced the kitchen. Candy held me and babied me, telling me not to worry. They slept over in the guest bedroom and I lay awake in ours. It was the first time we'd ever spent a night apart. But, I had a feeling, from the way Anna had spoken, that it wouldn't be the last.

        Bail was set at ten thousand dollars, owing to the prior conviction of dealing. She had only been caught selling a dime bag of marijuana before and this time she was caught possessing an ounce of coke.

        She called a bail bondsman and put up the club as collateral. She was out by that evening.

        "How you gonna fight it, Anna?" Candy asked.

        "I don't know that I can. Who's gonna believe me, huh? I've got a prior conviction and they had me dead to rights with it in my jacket like that."

        "Damn!" Candy said. "How you think that got in your jacket?"

        "I've been thinkin' 'bout it a lot, turnin' it over in my mind, ya know and... my jacket was in my office all night. I suppose someone coulda slipped somethin' in it, but... that's takin' one hell of a chance gettin' caught back there."

        "One... of us?" Candy inquired, as if the mere words left a bitter taste in her mouth.

        "Nah, I don't think so. I trust everybody, ya know. I don't think they'd turn on me like that. Besides, what would they have to gain? Nah, I think... Moultrie did it all. His hand was on the door, which gave him the opportunity to drop the roach, ya know. Then, all he had to do was take that small bag of blow outta his pocket, conceal it in his hand and then pretend he got it outta my jacket."

        "Ooh..." Candy said, nodding. "So you think someone paid him to frame you."

        "Yeah. It seems the only logical conclusion. Why my tail lights don't work... well... I'll have to check on that, later."

        I kissed Anna on the cheek and nuzzled against her neck. My right leg was going numb from her sitting on my lap, in the hard kitchen chair, but I didn't care. All I wanted to do was hold her and never let her go.

        "You look tired," Candy noted, looking at my heavy lidded eyes. "I... I think I'd better get home now."

        "Thanks for... everything," I offered.

        "Don't mention it. If you need anything, Anna, or... you Darby, don't hesitate to call." We nodded and she left.

        Anna kissed the top of my head. "You get any sleep?"

        I shook my head. "The bed... was too big and empty without you." I held her tighter.

        "Come on, let's... get a shower and then... hit the sack, hmm? I ain't slept none, either."

        It was Monday morning when I awoke to the alarm clock blaring away. Anna was already up. I didn't want to go into work; I wanted to stay home with her. She wouldn't hear of it. I had a job to do and she had things to take care of. What, I wasn't sure.

        When I got home, she acted as if nothing had happened. She didn't even want to talk about it. She had dinner ready and we ate then watched a little TV in the den. Around eight, she got up, took me by the hand and led me upstairs, where we showered and crawled into bed.

        She was not her usual self, however; and nothing like she had been at the club on Saturday night. She seemed in no hurry to get to that ultimate destination, as if it were not on her itinerary at all. It felt like we were getting to know each other all over again.

        She kissed my eyes, my nose, my chin and each fingertip, though there was nothing overly erotic about it. This went far deeper than that and we both knew it. This was not the dance of arousal, but that of love. And it was a far slower and more intimate dance than any we'd ever done before. Not one word passed between us, for there was no need for them. Everything we thought or felt was in our eyes, reaching out to one another through that vision of love.

        I didn't cry out at that moment of ultimate release, but I did cry. And continued to do so, all the while taking her to the peak of that glorious mountaintop. I knew when she reached it and I knew what it felt like to take flight into that swirling, hazy world. How it caressed you with its softness and enchanted you with its uniqueness. How it eventually brought you back to earth yet did not leave you entirely. It lingered around you, its softness still caressing you, summoning the desire to share this wondrous feeling with the one who had led you there. It lived on in your memory, as well. Its enchantment luring you back for one more glimpse and one more flight, in the hopes that perhaps this time, you would fly higher and farther and linger longer in that most blissful of realms.

        Our tears mingled together, their salty taste converting to honey on our lips. The world outside and its reality was not with us, nor was it around us, we were in a whole other dimension; one of our own making. We were two, and yet only one. Two living, breathing, loving organisms, who for that small and oh so fleeting space of time, shared one heart, one mind and one soul. We existed in a world with no pain, no lies and no sorrow. We had touched, tasted and knew our own little slice of heaven.

        The fear of loss we had not foreseen had quickened us to one another. The fear of a world we could not control would soon drive us apart.

        A week passed. We did not celebrate Thanksgiving, that year. We each seemed to feel we had little to be thankful for.

        She would not hear of hiring a lawyer to defend herself. She "had no defense". She "could prove nothing". Someone had "set her up well". They'd tampered with her taillights, leaving behind telltale marks on the screws when they took them out, for she'd never had them worked on. The roach had merely been a plant to initiate the search, for the real goods, the coke. Someone had schemed well and bought off a police sergeant by the name of Everett Moultrie. And his sidekick Fred Gibbons had nearly blown it all away by trying to play macho man with me. She could "see it all, clearly, even the handwriting on the wall". Anna Rollins was "going to jail". And those were the "cold, hard facts".

        I was angry. I wanted her to do something, anything to fight back. But, her fight was gone. She'd been whipped and she knew it. Barbara had warned her that she'd have her "put under the jailhouse". But, she hadn't listened. Now, she would pay the price.

        What did bother her though, was what would happen to me, while she was away. I said that I'd survive and be here when she got out. And she said that she'd understand if I was gone before then, because things were going to be hard. I couldn't manage the store, the club and Dora's too. And I told her to "watch me".

        I watched and I waited for Barbara to show up at the club and gloat. Two weeks past and still she had not shown her face since the night she told me she wouldn't proposition me again. And her words, "You'll come to me" haunted me. She was right, I would come to her and I'd give her a piece of my mind in no uncertain terms.

        I slipped away on a Thursday night, feigning a headache and went out to the Curiosity. I found Pepper and called her over to a quiet corner.

        "I want to know Barbara's address," I said.

        Pepper feigned innocence. So, I laid it all out for her: the set up and the presumed jail sentence to come.

        "She wouldn't do that," came the reply. "Your barkin' up the wrong tree."

        "Oh, I've got the right tree. I can smell a skunk a mile away. Problem is how to shake her outta the tree, without gettin' sprayed."

        Pepper stared at me and smirked. "Skunks don't climb trees."

        "Ain't many spotted skunks 'round here, huh? Well, I know of one. A real big one. 'Bout five foot seven, I'd say."

        Pepper stared at me again. I could tell she was thinking over that spotted skunk business. Then she said, "I'll pass along your message. It's the best I can do."

        "Alright. My message is... " I paused, not really knowing exactly what message to pass along, since I had so many things I wanted to say. "Tell her... Thanks, we're closer now than we've ever been before. And, we'll survive this."

        I walked out, knowing that I'd told only a half-truth. We had been, for that brief time, closer than I ever thought we could be. But, since then we had fought about the lawyer, about her taking this lying down and about whether I could hold out managing it all, while she was away. Matter of fact, it was getting to where we fought about everything. It was almost as if she wanted to drive me away.

        When I went back to pick her up, she asked about my headache, then noticed the stamp on my hand. She blew up at me, when I explained. We drove home in silence and nearly slept in separate beds. I finally apologized for losing my head and doing something stupid. She pulled back the covers, I crawled in, but she turned her back to me.

        "Do me one favor," she said.

        "What's that, sweetheart?"

        "Don't leave, until... I'm in prison, hmm. It'll be easier that way.

        "Fuck you, Anna."

        She glanced over her shoulder. "No, fuck you if you can't wait another month before you go crawlin' to her on hands and..."

        I raised up in the bed and straddled her side, then rolled her over on her back, pinning her arms to the mattress. "Shut up, goddammit! Just shut the fuck up!" I growled. Her eyes were wide, as if she were frightened. "Kiss me, damn you." I covered her mouth with mine.

        "Darby... don't... not... like this."

        "I will... and I am." I started down her neck. "Does this look like I want her, huh?"

        "Darby, don't... do this."

        "Why not?" I raised up and faced her. "How else am I supposed to prove to you that I don't give a good goddamn about that bitch? Huh? I want you, you, you!" I said, pushing down on her hands with every word, making the bedsprings squeak. "I don't want anyone else... but you, Anna." I calmed down and put my forehead against hers. "Only you. Always you." I stretched out between her legs and kissed her tenderly. "No one else... will ever do. The... perfect fit... remember?"

        She broke down into real gut wrenching sobs for the first time since it had happened. She'd shed only silent tears that special night, which now seemed so long ago.

        "I'm not going anywhere, Anna. I swear. I'll love you till the day I die. I promise." When I heard these words spoken aloud, I knew what I had to do. "Anna, will... will you marry me?"

        She cried that much harder, holding onto me for dear life.

        Neither one of us had mentioned getting married, since the night of the raid, except to say, only once, that we'd do it when we were back on our feet again, financially. Our feet right now, financially and otherwise, were very close to being swept out from under us, altogether. But, I felt we could use this to keep our emotional balance in the future.

        For a brief moment, after she'd calmed down and answered yes to my proposal, we visited that other dimension again: that wondrous realm, where you're neither here nor there, but everywhere at the same time.

        She curled up in my arms and I went to sleep to the sound of her soft exhalations, as I had nearly every night since I'd met her. No one would come between us now, I thought. We'd seal our love with a vow.

        "You wanna do what?" Rick replied, when we told him about it.

        Tiny, Candy and Jasmine had all agreed to come and participate. Even Lucky hadn't been too put off by it.

        "Well, hell, if this is what you want then... Yeah, I'll be your best man, I guess," he finally said.

        We set the wedding for the next weekend. Saturday night, before the club opened, we'd be married. It would be a small ceremony, only four of our closest friends, perhaps five, if Lucky decided to join us. Yet, we felt it would add more permanency to the relationship. And remove some of her fears, I hoped.

        That night, we celebrated my birthday at the club. It wasn't the occasion it had been the year before and I hadn't expected it to be. We needed to save every dime we could get our hands on. She gave me a card that she herself had made. The verse was her own and actually quite good. I'd never known she was poetic.

        When I inquired about this, she said, "I wanted to put something of myself into it. And believe me, that little verse took a hell of a lot a thought. It didn't come easy."

        I cherished it, as if it were the greatest gift in the world. Which, in essence it was. It showed her love for me, and that was worth more than all the money in the world.

        Friday, I got a call from Pepper at the store.

        "Darby, she didn't do it," she said. "She... seemed very hurt that you accused her. And... I believe her. I've never known Barbara to be that vindictive. And... she wants to meet with you. She says she might be able to help."

        "Help... oh, she's helped alright."

        "I really believe her, Darby. She was shocked and hurt. I don't think even Barbara is that good of an actress."

        "Oh come on, Pepper. Who else would want to hurt Anna?"

        "I... don't know. But, I think you're accusing the wrong person. If I were you, honey... I'd hear her out. I'm not sure if she can help or not, but if she says she can, I believe her."

        I fell silent considering this. If Barbara wanted to help, it was more than likely for selfish reasons, but I should hear her out, if for nothing more than to slap the shit out of her.


        "Here... Saturday around eight."

        "I can't. I'm... getting married that day."

        "Married? To who?"

        "Anna, who else." I paused, weighing whether I should ask her to come or not. After all, she hadn't done anything to me. "Wanna come?"

        "Well, is this gonna be a fancy affair?"

        "No, small and casual."

        "Oh. Okay, yeah... we'll be there. Umm... mind if I ask a few friends from the club? We always enjoy family weddings."

        "Umm... well, we... don't have enough champagne for a large..."

        "Oh sure. I see, I see. Okay, well, I appreciate you asking me and... what time should we be there?"

        "Around eight-thirty."

        "What about Barbara?"

        "No, don't bring her with you, for god's sake!"

        "No, no, I meant meeting with her?"

        "Oh... I... I don't know. Anna can't know. Ummm... I can drop by there on my way home from work today or... sometime next week."

        "You work tomorrow?"


        "Okay, I'll tell her. And Darby... hang in there, honey."

        Pepper called back two hours later. Barbara wanted to meet that afternoon. I said I'd be there at four thirty.

        The bar was quiet when I walked in. Not a soul was stirring. I glanced around the partition. Barbara was sitting at a table in the corner, smoking a cigarette. Her hair was loose and flowing over her shoulders, her dress was casual, blue jeans and black sweatshirt; the latter bearing the insignia GEORGIA BULLDOGS.

        I walked over. She glanced up, smiled, and even though it was not smug, I still wanted to slap it right off her face. The smile vanished quickly, however, and she stabbed out her cigarette, getting up out of her chair. She pulled out the one beside her and made a gesture for me to sit down. I took the one across from her. I wanted to be no closer than I had to be.

        "You really and truly believe I did this?" she asked, easing back in her chair.

        "It reeks of well placed money."

        She arched one light brown eyebrow. "Well, it wasn't mine. Now tell me about it."

        "Why? You already know."

        "Only what I got from Pepper and that was sketchy at best."

        But of course, she'd say that, I thought, she's very, very smooth.

        I stared at her, but told her anyway, while watching for a slip in her veneer.

        "So, she feels the cop dropped a roach on her, in order to search her? Then planted the coke in her jacket, is that it?" she asked, lighting another cigarette.

        "Yeah." I never took my eyes off her.

        She eased forward, putting her elbows on the table. "You're right, well placed money could buy something like this, but... it wasn't mine." She paused, staring at me. "It could be mine that gets her out, though. You understand my meaning?"

        I sat back and crossed my arms. Oh, I understood all right. The picture was becoming very clear: nearly crystal. "One day, you'll come to me, because you want to" rang in my ears. The purpose for this had not been to put Anna in jail, but to maneuver me into a position so that I would do anything in order to keep her out. And here I sat, doing just what she wanted.

        "This is sick, you know that!" I growled. "Really sick!"

        "What is?" She took a drag off her cigarette and looked away.

        "What do you want to keep her out of jail, huh? An hour, a day, a week or... maybe you wanna go for the whole enchilada, hmm, leave her entirely?"

        "I didn't say anything like that, but... now that you mention it..."

        "Bitch!" I shouted, getting up rather quickly. "You sick, selfish, fuckin' bitch!" I leaned across the space between us and slapped her.

        Her head reeled sideways, but she quickly regained her composure and came up out of the chair, her hand coming up and making contact with my face. The slap rang out in the empty room, along with her voice.

        "I didn't do it!" she shouted. Before I could regain my composure, she was around the table and had a hold of both arms. "But, who cares, right?" she asked, a bit more calmly. "I am in a position to help you out. And yes... I do want something from you, now. I didn't make this damn situation, but I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. If this is the only way I can get you, then so be it."

        "You'll never get me!" I growled and spat in her face, though very little spittle came out.

        She shook me. "Oh, no? Listen up, love. I can spring the bitch, you hear me? No evidence, no charge... you get my drift?" She shoved me away from her, then wiped at her face.

        "I get your fuckin' drift. What the hell do you want from me?"

        She sat down again, stabbed out the cigarette she'd dropped, which had singed a small place in the tabletop, then reached for another.

        "What the fuck am I doing standin' here?" I hissed at myself. "Fuck you and your offer, too." I spun around, storming away.

        "One night," she called after me. "No, make that twelve little hours."

        "Did ya hear that Pepper?" I called out. "And you believe she didn't set this up? Ha!"

        "Keep this in mind, love. I didn't call you, you called me."

        I spun around at the door. "Only because you were waitin' for me to come to you. You knew I would sooner or later, if nothing but to tell you off. Well, fuck you, bitch! I hope you rot in hell!" I slammed the door behind me.

Continued in Chapter 20

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