Negative Reaction

by Julie Baker
© 2002


For disclaimers, see One


Chapter Four: You're Freakin' Me Out


Friday morning found Bess sitting on her bed with newspapers strewn all around her mixed in with the tangled sheets. While searching the Help Wanted ads she paused to read the day's headlines. Oh God, another mention of the freak murder from Tuesday night. Her gaze lingered on the photo of a very alive and smiling Veronica Benedict. What a terrible shame. I hope they hurry up and catch this sick creep. She shuddered when she read the sketchy details about the condition of the bodies. All right, that’s enough of that. If I read anymore I won’t sleep tonight. She tossed that section aside and went back to the classifieds. She scanned the different job options and dismissed the notion of handing out perfume samples at Bloomingdale's. She'd smell like a two bit whore with a roaring migraine headache from the stink. She spied an ad for a commercial photographer, and her thoughts immediately went to the blue eyed photographer who had failed to call her as she'd promised. I really thought we could become friends, I thought we connected on some level. She tossed the papers off the bed, and lay down with a sigh. Just shows that you can’t always trust your instincts.

Nancy had been fruitlessly trying, for hours upon hours, to reach Ernie. She finally remembered that he was in Central Park helping to coach the trials for the Special Olympics. She needed to pay her fine for an outstanding jaywalking ticket with a cashiers check or cash. She desperately wanted to go home after her near 38-hour stay in the 9th precinct. After searching her brain to think if there was anyone else she could call, she punched at a nearby bulletin board in frustration. There were no relatives in the city; her parents had passed away years ago. She couldn’t remember what precinct Randy worked at and would rather spend another 38 hours in holding than ask that old noodge Silvio for help.

After some more erratic pacing, an idea hit her. When the police took her personal belongs, they'd also taken Bess’ phone number out of her pants' pocket! She barely knew her but Nancy instinctively believed if she could get in touch with her she would certainly help her out. Although not in the habit of asking anyone for help, she decided it might be a good time to start. With Bess. From Beemerville.

Georgia was just ducking out the door on her way to work when the phone rang. "What?" she said with some irritation. The prospect of being late for work did nothing for the betterment of Georgia's manners.

An unfamiliar voice on the other end questioned warily, "Bess?"

"No, hang on, I’ll get her." She walked into Bess’ room carrying the cordless phone, and made a face both at the mess of newspapers lying around and at the sight of her sister sprawled listlessly on her bed. "Here, Bess, it’s for you." Just before she handed over the phone, she put her hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, "Who in the hell would call you at eight in the morning? Somebody with a death wish?"

Bess shrugged as she took the phone from her sister, clearing her voice before saying, "Hello?"

"Bess! It’s Nancy."

"Hello, Nancy," Bess answered frostily, pissed that she hadn’t called her the day before as promised. Not to mention that she'd call so early in the morning. Georgia, wrong about so many things, was absolutely right about that point.

Georgia, who was turning to leave, suddenly did an about face and peered interestedly in Bess' direction.

Nancy, so tired she was having trouble focusing, didn’t pick up on Bess' chilled tone of voice. Her brain was tapioca pudding and she just wanted to go home. "Bess, I need your help," she said with a choke, her voice plunging into a rough shaky whisper.

Bess immediately sat up, and her former irritation became instant concern. "Nancy? What’s wrong? Are you all right?"

Georgia snuck up closer to her sister in an attempt to hear what was going on. The look on her sister's face reflected worry, and when Bess worried, Georgia worried more. She sat down on the bed, and leaned in to eavesdrop on the conversation.

"No, I’m not all right," Nancy said wearily. She hesitated, internally groaning before she explained her embarrassing situation. Her words came out in a breathless rush. "I’m in jail and I can’t get out unless I pay my fine with a cashier’s check or cash. I can’t get hold of Ernie because he’s in Central Park. I wondered ... I wondered if you could go and find him. We share a checking account with the business and he can get a cashier's check for me." She took another shaky breath. "I'm sorry. But ... there's no one else I can call."

Dead silence reigned for a moment. The sisters eyed each other, and then Georgia winced. She knew how Bess reacted to surprises.

And this was not a good surprise.

"Jail? You’re in jail?! What in the HELL for?" Bess yelled rather loudly, and Georgia had to pull away, because it unloaded right in her nosey nearby ear.

More silence.

"Officially? Jaywalking." Nancy said, her voice low and her eardrum still reverberating from Bess' outburst. "But I’m pretty sure ... they think I’m the Freak Murderer."

The Asian woman woke slowly, trying to get her bearings. The dryness in her mouth gave her a pretty good idea of just how bad of a hangover she was going to have once she came to full consciousness. She opened her eyes and scanned the unfamiliar surroundings and attempted to remember what had happened the previous night.

A loud snore helped her notice the sleeping form next to her. What was his name? Having no luck in the memory department, she made a surreptitious move to get up and leave. Judging by the slight discomfort between her legs she assumed that she not only had sex with her anonymous bed mate but that it may have been a little on the rough side. The other occupant of the bed was disturbed only enough to roll over and claim the pillow she'd been sleeping on.

Mei gathered her clothes and went to find the bathroom and get dressed. The unmistakable smell of semen arising from her confirmed that bodily fluids were exchanged the night before.  While throwing her clothes on she raided the unknown host's fridge. After downing a couple of thirsty mouthfuls of orange juice straight out of the jug, she purposely cleared her throat and promptly spit a mouthful of phlegm into the container. "Fucking asshole," she murmured as she slipped out of the apartment. She wasn’t sure if her commentary was meant for her host ... or herself.

"I’m going with you," Georgia repeated. "Don’t even give me shit about it." She raised her hand up in a stern stop position just as Bess opened her mouth to protest. "Put yourself in my place and think about it. If it was me who just got a weird phone call like that from someone I met just two days ago, you’d be covering my ass like a guard dog, too."

Bess clamped her mouth shut instead of wasting her breath with a denial. She couldn’t argue with George's logic. She’d be out the door in a flash after her sister and they both knew it.

Georgia continued, "I trust your judgment" sort of "but this thing with Nancy in jail is pretty fucked up stuff" to put it mildly. "Besides," she grinned triumphantly, "I have sick days I've never used and I could use a day off." She folded her arms across her chest and waited for Bess' answer.

Bess reluctantly relented and headed for the door. She’s right, the circumstances are extreme. As they headed down the hallway, another thought came to mind, and it made her shudder. There's no way she could be the Freak Murderer, is there? She thought back to the day at Coney Island and how protective Nancy was of Ernie, and even teased Ernie endlessly about his being 'vertically challenged'. But the teasing was a mutual, consensual matter between two old friends who were allowed to take liberties with each other's egos. Nancy's true colors shone through when she'd told off a carnival worker who was particularly rude when he announced that Ernie was too short to ride The Cyclone.

Bess shook her head. No. No one that empathetic of a Little person could be the freak murderer.

Friedman carefully listened to the police force expert on serial killers, a perplexed frown pulling on his face. The man had been going on for the better part of an hour about the ins and outs of a serial killer's mind, what thrilled them, their varied and perverse motivations, how they tended to live and what kind of sick pleasures they obtained from the kill. The expert tended to get more animated with each detail he imparted and Friedman found him to be more than a little strange and off-putting.

He excused himself for a minute and went to get a fresh cup of old coffee and a roll of Tums out of his jacket pocket and ran into Quinn, another detective assigned to the case.

"How’s it going Friedman? Is 'ol Whack Job teaching you all about our twisted friend?"

Friedman took a tentative sip of his coffee and nodded in tacit agreement. "This guy likes his job way too much. No one should get that excited talking about a bunch of bloody friggin' murders. I had to get outta there - I was afraid if I let him go on like that much longer the guy was gonna get a full blown woody."

When Quinn recovered from laughing, he rasped, "Whaddya think, does our big girl add up to a Joel Rifkin type? We could dub her the 'Sister of Sam'."

This was a dark reference to the most recent and most notorious serial killers in the city. Joel Rifkin was a mild mannered, soft spoken man who slaughtered seventeen women before his capture. And Quinn's other allusion, to David Berkowitz, aka 'The Son of Sam' was responsible for the loss of six lives before he was caught. The Freak Murderer was already up to that body count and Friedman didn’t feel like he was any closer to an arrest than he was when the murders had started.  Even with a full blown task force under his command, who spent most of their time following up on endless phone calls from a well meaning but ultimately unhelpful public, the unit's members were feeling impotent. Although they didn't want to admit it out loud, they knew they'd come to yet another standstill in their investigation.  Maybe the next victim would supply the case solving clue. It was a terrible thought, but they knew it was true. The publicity was overwhelming, the pressure from the top brass unrelenting.   Friedman was terminally tired of defending his unit's inability to link any of the crime scene evidence to a real, live suspect. CSI, my ass.

"I dunno," Friedman sighed before turning to head back to listen to another earful of ulcer aggravating facts about warped minds. "I don’t know a lot about her yet - but I’m not sure she fits the profile. Not too many female serial killers around to base things on. Lizzie Borden. Aileen Wuornos." His face expressed an infrequent sly smile. "Xena, Warrior Princess."

"Xena was not a serial killer, and in the end, she redeemed herself many times over," Quinn stated quite solemnly before he switched gears back to their only viable suspect. "Did the search at Zoccoli's apartment turn up anything damning?"

Friedman blew a breath of frustration across the top of his steaming cup of bitter coffee. "Zip. But something about her just doesn't sit right with me. She has more books on freaky human oddities than I ever knew existed, but aside from that there wasn’t much. Nothing, really. But I did get fresh eggs and an Orangina from her neighbor."  He snickered at Quinn, who he knew had come away with a bag of homegrown tomatoes when he'd met Silvio.  "And to tell you the truth, this Nancy Zoccoli freaks me out a lot less than this so called expert I got sittin' in there waiting on me. But I did find out that she’s been spending a lot of time down at Sideshows by the Seashore photographing the performers around there. Veronica Benedict had a ticket stub from there on her body." He shook his head to try and clear out some of the cobwebs that were reforming. "I’m going to head out to the Sideshows this afternoon." He reached the doorknob, and held onto it a moment, then looked back at Quinn. "Talk about your protect and serve. I’ve got to go back in and swallow this shmendrek's ... enthusiasm as he gets off telling me more than I ever wanted to know about these sick serial fuckers."

As Friedman reentered, the expert inside couldn’t hide his renewed excitement. He jumped right in where he'd left off. "As I was saying, Detective, usually these killers are loners who have serious mental problems, but there have been times when they murdered for profit." His cheeks reddened as he found pleasure in discussing his favorite topic. "There was this partnership in Ireland where two men and their wives sold the bodies of murdered prostitutes to medical facilities as research cadavers." He eyed Friedman, and spoke with a purpose. "What we need to find out is this: What is the killer’s ... or killers’ ... fascination with physical deformities? Was this person maimed or deformed as a child? Or maybe they were traumatized by some one with a deformity as a child. Or maybe he or she thinks they are an affront to his vision of 'normalcy'." His eyes lit up like Times Square neon as this jarred something in his memory. His voice raised an octave, alive with possibility. "That reminds me of Hadan Clark. He was a serial killer who killed a six year old girl as revenge because his niece called him a name. Then there’s the case of……."

Friedman shivered as he plastered on a polite smile, and slid another antacid from the roll in his hand. Oh yeah, this particular freak likes his job way too much.

The sisters found Ernie without expending much brainpower. To say he was upset would be an understatement; he was immediately worried for Nancy for many reasons. Knowing how hard it was for her to reach out for help, it must have been extremely disheartening for her to ask Bess to come find him. It told him how scared his old friend must be. She'd always taken great pride in being able to take care of herself. She moved to the East Village before it was the trendy place to live. Fifteen years ago the name would immediately conjure up images of crack houses, drug deals, and TV’s run on power illegally siphoned from wires from streetlights. The adjacent neighborhood of Alphabet City used to resemble a set from the movie, ‘Escape from New York’.

Alphabet City remained a picture of urban blight until the beginning of the 1990’s. An ambitious ad campaign touting 'Avenue C is the place to be in the 90’s' didn’t have much to do with turning the neighborhood around. The most compelling reason for its renewal was the rapidly rising out-of-sight rents in The Village. The starving artistic types balked and looked elsewhere, finding Alphabet City as a revival option. Nancy moved in when it was still a rough, dangerous neighborhood. Ernie remembered walking with his friend late at night not long afterward, fearful for his life in these dismal surroundings. But Nancy never seemed the least bit intimidated by the iffy neighborhood; in fact she seemed to grow stronger, tougher and more confident. And this was the woman who Bess described as trying not to cry when she'd called this morning.

Yes, Ernie had every reason to feel worried.

Right now, he was a little afraid for his life, but for a purely New Yorker kind of reason. He was in the back of a taxi-cab, sandwiched between a fussing Bess and suspicious Georgia. The cabbie was apparently trying to break the land speed record as he raced across 58th Street. Bess was in her defensive 'crazy cab ride' hunch with both hands placed in a white knuckled grip on the ‘oh shit strap’ on the window above the door. Her eyes were tightly shut and her face was buried in her upraised arms, and Ernie could swear he heard her mumbling a continuous 'Our Father' into the crook of her elbows.

Georgia, on the other side of the cab, had a look on her face like she just bit into a sour pickle. "What in the hell is that smell?" she griped while trying in vain to roll down the window for some fresh air. The crank rotated, but the window wouldn’t budge. Just as the cab took a hair-raising turn onto Second Ave nearly tilting on two wheels, the music on the radio hit a volume that could scare the wax out of an impossibly plugged ear canal. Bess' older sister leaned into the open window in the divider between the driver and the passengers, and shouted with an impatient, "Hey, buddy? Can you turn that sucker down?" The cab driver responded with a quick "Sorry!" and touched the volume knob, but the noise level remained virtually the same.

Bess peeked out of her arms long enough take in the fact that she was close enough to the car next to them to reach out and adjust their side mirror if she were so inclined. She remembered a line from some inane nightclub comedian she'd gone to see. She repeated it under her breath to the two other captives in the careening cab. "He drives this cab like he’s stealing it!"

This lame joke actually lightened the mood for a moment as all three of them broke out in nervous laughter. The cabbie maintained his breakneck speed yet still craned his neck around in a misguided effort to get chatty with his passengers. "So! Are you just visiting the city?"

The trio cringed and then yelled out in panicked unison, "LOOK OUT!!" The cabbie turned back around and slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid a rear end collision with a city bus. This lurching motion sent Ernie sailing forward. Since his feet weren't grounded on the floor, he was at a bit of a disadvantage for bracing himself against the sudden stop. Luckily the divider window between the front and back seat was open or he would have been the recipient of one hell of a headache inspiring knock otherwise. Hanging halfway across the back of the front seat, nearly resting his head on the cabby’s shoulder, he thought he'd take this golden opportunity to restate Georgia’s earlier request. Nodding toward the radio, he asked with a strangled but polite groan, "Do you think you could turn that down now?"

"Sorry!" the unrepentant cabbie retorted, repeating his earlier move of touching the volume knob but not actually turning it down.

Regaining lost momentum, the cab sped through an intersection that had a bit of an incline, and once over the summit of it, they were airborne for a heart-stopping moment. This sudden feeling of weightlessness pulled Bess out of her turtled hunch just long enough to see the cabbie pull off a move worthy of a chase scene in 'The French Connection'. The oblivious cabbie zigzagged through a gridlocked intersection filled with pedestrians like he had it mapped out in advance. He's either the world's luckiest driver or he was thrown outta NASCAR competition for driving too fast.

With all the carefree zeal of a young and yet unbroken Evil Knievel, the cabbie attempted another maneuver that struck cold fear into the hearts of his fares. While keeping his left hand casually on the wheel, he bent and lay down across the length of the front seat in order to retrieve his two-way radio which had fallen on the floor during his prior frantic stop behind the bus. To an outside observer of the cab, it certainly might appear that no one was driving the speeding vehicle. He's the worst, Bess thought before returning to the questionable safety of her duck and cover cowering, definitely the worst. Bess’ anxiety level was so far over the top, she totally forgot what the serenity of feeling merely panic stricken felt like. The bagel she'd grabbed on her way out this morning was propelling upwards in her throat, the sudden stops and starts shifting her stomach down into her bowels and back again, the foul smell in the cab was curling her nose hairs into corkscrews and the thundering blare coming from the radio was giving her a permanent twitch above her right eye.

Bess' senses were on capacity overload, and finally she exploded in a desperate "HEY!!" She smacked the divider in front of her and shouted, "I'm warning you! For the last time, TURN DOWN the goddamn radio before I come up there and DO IT MYSELF!"

"Sorry," the cabbie replied once again, but actually turned the volume down when he touched the knob this time.

They finally arrived at the police station intact but severely shaken. One by one they piled out of the taxi feeling as though they'd just disembarked from a plane after a sixteen hour flight consisting of nothing but thunderstorms and turbulence. Bess tried to still her quaking knees, and weakly flapped her elbows upward in a feeble effort to air out her drenched armpits. She watched as Ernie paid the cabbie, glaring at the yellow vehicle as it sped off into traffic again.

She looked at the unmoving and stable cement below her feet, and wheezed out a breath of relief, "Jesus Christ! I’d kiss the ground --if it wasn’t so freakin' dirty."

Nancy had run the gamut of every single emotion she'd ever felt in the last 48 hours. Right now all she wanted was nothing more complex than to take a shower and crawl into her bed until the next millennium. She was stuck waiting in the holding room again. It was the fourth time since she’d been here, how many hours? She couldn’t recall. All sense of time was lost in repetitive seconds, minutes and hours.

She kicked her boots off to stretch out her aching toes and looked down, disgruntled, at her mismatched socks. One was black, one was blue. Sometimes she couldn’t tell the difference in her poorly lit apartment. I bet I have another pair just like this at home. She smiled at the memory of the silly joke her father used to say whenever his socks didn’t match. He was a quiet and shy man and his only child was the proud center of his existence. They were extremely close and according to Nancy’s mother she was definitely her father's daughter. Like Nancy, he let very few people into his heart but when he did he embraced them completely.

"Zoccoli!" The desk officer had come to retrieve her, "C'mon, you've been sprung. Your friends paid your fine."

Maybe it was the hours of repetitious questions or the recent melancholy memories of her dad, but something deep within her was touched at the simple 's' added to the end of the word friend. Friends. She liked the plural of that particular word. Some song writer once wrote that 'you've got to have friends'. She definitely agreed with that sentiment, right here, right now, as she pulled on her boots again and departed the holding room that was becoming way too familiar to her.

Mei stood in the tepid bath water and swiped the soapy washcloth between her legs one final time, hoping that this would remove the remnants of the previous night. She rinsed off and as she stepped out of the tub, she heard yelling in the hallway outside her apartment. After wrapping herself in a towel, she went to the door and opened it just enough to peek out. Across the hall from her a man was beating on her neighbor’s door and screaming in Mandarin. Mei wasn’t fluent in the language but she could make out the gist of the source of his anger. The mad thumper was not happy with the quality of drugs that he'd purchased from the person behind that door. After ranting for a few minutes, the livid man seemed to sense that someone was observing him and he turned to look directly at Mei. She couldn’t tell by looking at him that the drugs he'd ingested were of substandard fare. He was stoned out of his mind. Suddenly lunging at her doorway, she managed to get it slammed shut just as he threw his body up against it. Now his ranting was directed at her. Ignoring his taunts, she got dressed for the day.

As she opened the window to let the cat out, she peered down the fire escape and then back at her still vibrating front door. The screaming man was still in the hallway, voicing his displeasure with her and the hiding neighbor across the hall. With a sigh, she grabbed her keys and her book and climbed out the window. One look down the three flights to the alley below and she broke out into a slight sweat and started fuming. Fuck! I hate being afraid of heights. Keeping a tight grip on the rusted rail, she maneuvered her way down the precarious steps. Safely on the ground, she looked back up at the route she had just taken. Shaking her head, she took a deep cleansing breath only to be overpowered with the smell of dead fish. She looked at her cat who was happily picking at a discarded and rotting salmon head. At least one of us is having a good morning. After a scratch to his head, she headed out of the alley to start the rest of her day.


"Shut up, Ernie," Nancy droned, not a bit of spare energy left in her voice.

"They got to keep you for jaywalking?"

"Shut up, Ernie."

"What was it you once said? ’Nobody gets a jaywalking ticket, let alone pays it'." Ernie did his best to imitate Nancy's voice but instead he sounded like Bea Arthur with laryngitis.

"I said shut up, Ernie!" This time there was a definite spark of annoyance in Nancy's voice.

The trio freed Nancy with little fanfare and lots of uncomfortable silence, and now they were walking up Avenue D towards Nancy's apartment. The fresh air and feeling of freedom had abruptly changed Nancy's mood. She was no longer nearly as frightened, feeling sorry for herself or melancholy. She was pissed. Big Time Pissed. She wanted answers to all the confusing crap that had occurred earlier and she wanted those answers right now.

Her long legged strides had her pulling ahead of the others.

Bess, unable to keep up without jogging, decided it was useless, and fell in beside Ernie.

"What was that all about?" she asked, this day making no sense to her whatsoever.

"About two years ago we were going to Pride Fest in the Village and she darted across 8th St right in front of a cop," Ernie explained, glad to have a reasonable companion beside him instead of trying to get Nancy to quit her galloping up the street ahead of them.

Georgia broke free of her cautious perusal of Nancy long enough to scoot up and walk next to her sister. "So what's the big deal? Everyone in New York jaywalks!"

Ernie snorted a laugh. "That's what she said to the cop! Well, it was more along the lines of...'You've got to be kidding me? What are you, a rookie?'" They all laughed, and then he continued with the story. "Then when the cop handed her the ticket, she told him there was no way on God's green earth she was going to pay it and she threw it away. Right in front of him! I told her than that she should pay it. She flat out refused and said it again. 'Nobody gets a ticket for jaywalking, let alone pays it!'"

The threesome smiled, and then watched Nancy's butt moving farther away from them.

Then she stopped, and turned around, a frown on her face.

"You know," Nancy paced back to her friends, "with those bastards wasting their time investigating me, they're just gonna take time away from trying to find the real killer."

She strode off in front again, the lead goose with a puzzled and lost trailing flock.

Another half block was traveled before she turned and walked back to them again. "I mean, I get the feeling that the cops aren't done with me. Huh uh. I just got to go because they couldn't really hold me much longer." Again she sped up and left the trio in her wake.

They looked at each other, and then shook their heads, trying to decipher what the former jailbird was talking about.

Nancy came to a flat footed stop, and her entourage stopped too, somehow expecting something, anything, an epiphany or an outburst. They got both.

Nancy rolled on the balls of her feet, spun around and yelled, "THE GIRL!! I GOTTA FIND THAT GIRL!!"

Bess was particularly interested in this vehement statement. What girl?

"What girl?" Ernie finally said for the rest of them.

Nancy did a quick, bloodhound sniff of the air and took off again. "Before I do anything I need a shower," she said, the seeds of a plan taking root in her fertile, if sleep deprived febrile mind.

Once again, she turned and belted out a nonsensical query. "AND WHO THE HELL PUT CARDBOARD ON ME IN THE PARK?"

The threesome looked at her and back at each other with the same shared bewildered expression.

This time, Georgia had the honors. "What in God's name is she babbling about?"

Nancy saw she was getting closer to home. She scrunched up her face and ran her hand through her hair. After a glance at her hand she stated, "I really need a shower." She almost broke into a trot, but then finally remembered her manners, and slowed almost to a standstill so her friends could catch up.

Ernie ran ahead of the sisters to catch his rather confusing and confused friend. "Nancy, slow down and tell me who and what you’re talking about."

She smiled cagily at him. "I’ll fill you in after I shower. I’m a little ... overwhelmed with myself right now."

By now, Georgia was firmly convinced that this strange tall woman was just a tad off center. She pulled Bess aside and whispered, "She may, or may not be the murderer, but she is definitely just a few clowns short of a circus. C'mon. Let's go home."

Bess snorted and briefly considered her sister's suggestion, then blew it off.  Instead, she formed a plan of her own to get her negatively thinking sister back onto the right track.  She did what she always did, she played her. "A few clowns short of a circus? Ha!  I like that almost as much as 'one song short of a musical'."

"I’m serious Bess, get a grip here. Somebody has to! Her Slinky’s kinked. You’ve done the nice thing, the kind thing, the Bess thing. You went and found her friend." She eyed Nancy standing up ahead with Ernie, and dropped her voice even lower. "Now maybe he can get her the medication she needs."

Bess was laughing out loud now. "Her Slinky’s kinked!! My God. That’s funnier than saying her outlet isn’t grounded!"

"This isn’t funny, Bess, her clutch is slipping." But Georgia couldn't help but start giggling along with her tickled sister.

Bess was trying hard to get her breath. "Her clutch is slipping!! How about a few screams short of an orgasm?"

George was half kidding but mostly serious, even if it didn't come out that way. "Bess, she’s obviously knitting with only one needle!"

Bess held her hand up and wiped her eyes "You forgot a few. Like ... the fries are missing from her Happy Meal! Her belt didn’t go through all the loops! She doesn’t have all the dots on her dice! Wait, no, I’ve got it, she’s got a one way ticket on the Disoriented Express!"

Georgia completely lost what was left of her uptight composure and joined her sister in doubled over snorts of laughter, bringing them to Nancy and Ernie's confounded attention. Nancy barked, "C'mon, willya? If you were going any slower you’d be in reverse."

This brought on a renewed outburst of guffawing from the sisters.  After a few deep breaths Bess straightened up and cleared her throat, and wiped at her eyes. She turned to her still smiling sister, put both hands on her shoulders and looked her square in the eye. "Listen, George, give her a chance. Please? I know she doesn’t appear to be carrying a full set of clubs right now..."

They giggled some more. After a quick recovery Bess continued, "And I know I only spent one silly little day with her. I can't pretend that I could use that little bit of time to find her guilty or innocent of all of this ... craziness. I can only say that she was sweet ... and patient ... and she spent the entire day apologizing to a complete stranger - me - for something that was nothing more than an accident." Her tone turned serious and determined. "In my mind, these are not the demonic actions of a serial killer. I have to hear the story behind this and ... help if I can. You gotta admit it sure beats going back to the apartment and watching TVLand." When she saw the ghost of an argumental frown form on Georgia's face, she said with even more finality, "My other option for today was to go apply for a job where I would have to dress up as a wizard and greet kids when they come into a toy store. It’s up to you ...if you don’t want to come along, but ... I’m going with them."

Doubtful hazel eyes looked into sincere and steadfast green orbs. Georgia's penchant for argument fizzled away, at least for the time being. But she could be just as obstinate as her younger sister, and wanted to remind her of that. "I’m coming with you, but I want to be clear about a few things. I don’t have a good feeling about this, and I’m only going along to keep an eye on you. I don’t want to even begin to imagine the conversation I'd have to have with Daddy to explain this. How I could let you run around with ... a serial killer." Then she smirked. "Hey, I just want to see for myself that she doesn’t have a collection of body parts in her freezer."

Bess answered her sister's show of trust with a grateful grin of her own before she turned and started moving toward her new friends.

Georgia watched her walk away, and smiled to herself.  Once I get hold of Nancy, the interrogation the cops gave her is gonna seem like story time at the library.

Continued in Five

Feedback appreciated at Julie Baker

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