Negative Reaction

by Julie Baker
© 2002

For disclaimers, see One


Chapter 5: Basic Instincts

Friedman leaned casually against the wall of The Freak Bar, watching the bartender fill a mug a beer for one of the patrons of the tiny establishment. After a long drag on his cigarette, he turned to look at the female recipient of the mug. With a practiced eye, he studied her wide expanse of exposed, decorated flesh. Not much of it was unmarked. Her torso was covered by a giant tattoo, and her face was pierced more times than Friedman could count. This walking painted canvas and pin cushion took a sip of beer and turned to look at him.

Used to being the subject of intense scrutiny, she gave him a knowing wink. "Want to come in for a closer look, honey?" Stunned to be caught examining her body, his embarrassment was short lived by the welcome arrival of Fred.

Fred and the tattooed lady exchanged wry grins, and then Fred straightened up and smirked at the detective. "Detective Friedman, I won't hazard a guess if this is pleasure trip for you - or business. So?"

Friedman had become a frequent visitor to the Sideshow several times since the investigation started. It was the most logical place in the city to gather information about the Freaks of old, and the new incarnations, too.  With the discovery of the Sideshow ticket stub on Veronica Benedict’s body, it appeared the policeman needed to get a very reluctant but in-depth education about human oddities.

Friedman flicked his cigarette out the open door and onto the street, and then pulled the picture of Veronica Benedict out of his pocket.  Handing it to Fred, he said, "It’s always nice to see you too, Fred."  He watched carefully as Fred studied the picture. "So, do you recognize her?"

Fred pulled idly at the piercing on his lip. "Sure I do. She was on the front page of 'The Post' this morning.  She’s the latest notch in The Freak Murderers belt, isn’t she?"  He frowned at the picture, shaking his head.

Friedman took the photo back and held it up in front of him. "Quit screwing around. Have you ever seen her around here?"

Fred flinched, and his tone was defensive. "You know what, Detective? You’ve been skulkin' around here every few weeks since this whole thing began. You tell me somethin'.  Are you really here to ask about this poor girl in the picture?" Fred countered, deflecting Friedman's question with another smile. "'Cause I’m startin' to think that you have a ... thing for Freaks."

Isn't there one human being on this whole goddamned island who doesn't act like a smart ass? "No, Fred," Fried replied dryly, rubbing his forehead, and giving him a seductive wink, "Not just ANY Freak, I’m saving myself for you, handsome."  He saw Fred start, then chuckled along with him. "Now, one more time, have you seen her around?" He held the picture up to Fred’s face again for emphasis.

Another twiddle with his lip ring and Fred sighed. "No, sorry. A young thing as fine as she is - I'd remember."

"Were you working all week?" Certainly Fred would take notice of everyone coming and going. His job was to gauge every person who walked by and personalize his pitch to attract that particular individual. As sole owner of Sideshows, there was none more practiced and attentive to his prospective clientele than he.  Certainly none of his performers could pull in and transfix a crowd the way he could.

"I only worked the day shows this week. We’ve been spending the evenings gettin' ready for the Mermaid Parade. It’s comin' up in a few weeks."  Fred couldn't resist trying to tease the not so easily embarrassed detective. "Are you gonna come and join the fun?" That question got him no more than a blank look, so he tried harder. "Come on, dude, you know you want to!  Just imagine - topless women in mermaid costumes parading up Surf Avenue. It’s more action than you’ll get staring at ladies here in The Freak Bar."

Fred’s consistent, I’ll give him that. A master at changing the subject, he decided to try another tack. "What can you tell me about ... Nancy Zoccoli?"

Fred's eyes widened, then he took a moment to roll his tongue piercing over his teeth before flashed a roguish grin. "Aahh, you got good taste, Friedman." He quite deliberately eyed the detective's crotch before he said sarcastically, "I hate to be the one to break your midde-aged, clogged arteries heart, Stud, but you’re packing a little too much down there to interest her. That girl in your picture there, she's really more her type than you are."

Friedman didn't react one way or the other; it wasn't his job to have feelings about his suspects or the victims.  "Yeah.  But have you ever seen Ms. Zoccoli hanging around here with a girl ... who looks like the one in this picture?"

"She’s usually just with her little buddy Ernie." A few more tugs on his lip ring seemed to jar his memory "But she did have a sweet little redhead with her the other day." He saw the interest form in the detective's eyes. "But from the looks she was throwing Nancy, I don’t think you’d have much luck with her either."

"Do you mind if I talk to some of the performers who were here on Tuesday night?"

"Nah, come on back, The Torture King’s back there now."

They walked to the stage area in time for Friedman to witness a man pushing a skewer under his tongue and through his lower jaw.

Fred nudged Friedman as he hooked his thumb toward the spectacle that was 'The Torture King'. "Now that’s entertainment!!"

Ernie, Georgia and Bess were sitting around Nancy’s small kitchen table when she finally returned from her extended shower. The always immodest Nancy was clad only in a towel, the piece of terrycloth covering her finer feminine attributes, but leaving the rest to the open air.

Bess took a long wondering look at all of that exposed smooth flesh. She inventoried Nancy's incredibly long legs, strong back and shoulders, toned arms, combed back wet dark hair, freshly scrubbed and glowing face and suddenly she was trying to remember the real reason they were all here. She chastised herself even as she stared. Come on, Bess get with the program, you’ve seen legs before. Yep, plenty of times. They may not have been that long or attached to a body as incredible as that but you’ve seem ‘em before. One more lingering look at Nancy's legs was too much of a temptation for her even to bother to try and resist. I wonder if climbing those legs could qualify as an Olympic Sport.  She thought about contacting the U.S. Olympic committee and volunteering to captain the team when she realized Nancy was speaking.

Bess couldn't think of a thing to say but, "Huh?"

Nancy cleared her throat, quite aware of what Bess had been doing, and she chose to ignore it while in mixed company, although internally, she was feeling very pleased. "I said, I think the first thing I need to do is go to the social club and see if anyone knows the name of that girl."

Ernie was concentrating on reading Nancy’s release papers, and without looking up he asked, "Who is this girl you keep talking about?" Then he looked up and cut her off before she could answer him. "Nancy!! Jeez, what is this, a peep show? Go put some clothes on! You’ve got company!"  He gave her the dirtiest look he could muster.  Someone had to maintain a sense of decorum around here, and he knew she'd never do it.

Nancy rolled her eyes and dismissed his order with a wave of her hand, and continued on her train of thought. "See, the other night I was talking with a girl ... okay, a woman at the Social Club. Then this Detective Friedman showed me a photo of a woman who looked a lot like her, but it wasn't her. He didn’t seem to believe me when I said it wasn’t her, it's hard to tell, but I’m sure the girl in the picture was in some kind of trouble. What I think I need to do is prove to him that I wasn’t talking to the girl, uh, woman in that photo."

Georgia’s rampant curiosity was getting the better of her. "Why would a photo of one woman 'in trouble' make you believe that they think you’re the Freaky Murderer?"

"Freak," Bess corrected her for the umpteenth time. "Not 'Freaky', George, Freak."  Then she looked to Nancy, and her eyes met Nancy's and asked the same question, but with more trust communicated.

Nancy perched on the arm of the nearby couch and crossed her legs. To the relief of everyone there, she managed to position them without pulling a 'Sharon Stone' moment. Although equally relieved, Bess' reaction was quite different than that of her sister and Ernie's. If she'd caught that particular revealing peek she knew she'd never live through the teasing she'd get from her sister for fainting dead away. I’ve never been much of an athlete but if I trained night and day, I could win a gold medal in the leg climbing event.

Any further impure thoughts were temporarily chased from Bess’ head when Nancy started to fill them in on the incessant questioning during her incarceration. She wound up the long tale of her jail time with, "So, I think if I can prove I was talking to a different girl, uh, woman and that I fell asleep in the park - they’ll leave me alone."

Georgia looked at her doubtfully, still immersed in suspicious mistrust. "How do you think the girl ties into all of this?"

Nancy didn't really know how to answer that, and ran her hand irritatedly through her damp hair. "I’m not sure, but I know I need to find out."

Bess suddenly had a flash of the morning headlines. She barely stopped herself from jumping out of her seat and into Nancy's inviting lap in her enthusiasm. "What did the woman look like?"

Nancy was confused. "Huh? Which one? The one in the photo or the one I was talking to?"

Bess took a deep breath, and tried to slow her heart. "Well, since you said they looked a lot alike ... I guess both."

The towel clad woman rubbed at her temples as she tried to remember. "Okay, lemme see." She closed her eyes, and got a mental picture. "The one in the picture. Huh. Short blonde hair, smallish build, I’d say 'cute' fit her more than 'pretty' would, younger than me, maybe mid to late twenties, sweet smile." She got a smile of her own as she recalled, "Blue-gray eyes. And the one in the bar kept ... touching my arm whenever she spoke to me." Cost me twenty dollars worth of liquor because I liked the way she touched me like that.

Bess at once hoped that Nancy had simply overreacted to the police’s line of questioning. She swallowed hard before she asked her next question. "Do you have today's Post?"

"No, why?"

"Just bear with me here, okay? Is it too late to get a copy?"

Nancy looked to Ernie. "We could probably get one from Randy if he’s home."

Ernie hopped up and was heading towards the door before she finished her statement. After a few minutes, the little man returned with the paper's owner in tow.

Randy was six feet three inches of testosterone made flesh. With light brown hair and blue eyes, he was built like a steroid enhanced professional wrestler. One appreciative look at the towel clad Nancy and his always active libido surfaced in a flash. "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy -- ya dressed up for me! I always told ya - when you’re ready to test the water on my side of the pond, I’d be first in line to help you swim, baby." His small smile segued quickly into a full out leer.  He dramatically opened his bulging arms to her. "Come on, baby, jump on in ... the waters fine."

Bess had to hold herself back from going over and personally swatting that leer off his face with the rolled up newspaper under his arm.

With a deep sigh and a roll of her eyes Nancy did what she usually did when the male of the species flirted with her. She ignored it like she did the dust bunnies under her couch. "It’s nice to see you, too, Randy," she said quite insincerely.

Shot down again, he replied, "What up with this crapola that Ernie was tellin' me about? You think you’re being investigated for the Freak Murders? Whatta load a hooey!  This may not be my precinct but I still think I would have heard about it if it was true."

Bess walked up to the mountainous man, and put out her hand. "May I see that?" She pointed to the paper.

He handed it to her after giving her a wolfish glance but then returned his attention to his comely neighbor. "I mean, c'mon, Nance. I think your artiste's wild imagination is running haywire on ya.  Ya should have listened to me months ago, remember when ya tried to get me to fix that jaywalking ticket?  'Just pay it' I said." Randy was a cop, and therefore possessed a cop's innate assuredness that he was right about everything.

Nancy hadn't heard anything he said. Bess had brought the paper over to her and pointed out the woman in the front page story. Nancy was staring at the headline: 'Double Trouble: Siamese Twin Freak Murders'.

With a shaking finger touching the familiar photo of Veronica Benedict, she said her next words so softly that Bess had to lean in close to make out what she was saying.  "Th…that’s the girl. That’s the picture they kept showing me."

Randy ceased his cocky smiling, and his face turned troubled. He moved carefully down next to her on the couch, and put a comforting arm around her bare shoulders. For the first time since she'd known him, he acted like a real and caring human being instead of a horny tomcat. "Nance, listen, I want you to tell me everything that’s been going on."


Mei unlocked the metal curtain on her little booth. As she raised it, she let out a startled yelp as two rats scurried out from under the curtain and ran down the gutter. She was just preparing to set out her wares when the neighborhood's unofficial legal eye stopped by. With a shake of his head and a thumbs down, he gave her the signal that the police were actually handing out fines and confiscating black market goods and knock-offs today. The men in blue usually turned a blind eye to the sale of fake Rolex’s, TAG, Movado and Swiss Army watches along with the bogus Coach, Prada, Kate Spade, Fendi bags and purses. One or twice a month, as a show of good faith to the legal manufacturers of these items, the police would do a quick sweep of the area and enforce the Copyright and Trademark laws. The next day it would be business as usual, and the vendors safely returned to their merchandising of illegal goods.

Many of the merchants wouldn't even bother to open on 'sweep' day. They would take advantage of the unexpected day off to run errands or relax in the park. Mei couldn't afford this luxury; she struggled from month to month to make the rent in her cramped apartment. With a sigh of consternation, she pulled out the junk wholesale products she carried for these kind of days, and arranged them on the shelves. Wind up frogs that swim in a tub of water went in the front of the booth. Next came the latest Power Puff Girls stickers, laser pointers, repackaged batteries, and generic name watches. The 3 for $10 souvenir t-shirts that usually survived only one washing before the stitching came out were hung up and Plastic Navy Seals men who crawled on their bellies when wound up went on one corner of the display. She put out her least favorite, the old stand by: imitation Barbie dolls. They were packaged to look just like the insanely popular doll with one small exception: 'Barbie" was spelled 'Barbi' and the quality fell far short of that of the original product. All of these shoddy items were available in Mei’s booth even when it wasn’t sweep day, but the sales generated from them would never come close to what she would make from the sale of her black market goods. She would be lucky if the sales today would approach triple digit figures. The odds were that she wouldn’t even make enough to cover the daily rent on her booth.

After getting set up, she settled in with her book, ‘Boomba the Jungle Boy in the Steaming Grotto.’ Bad book, bad day, perfect.

His stilted interviews with the various performers had not given Friedman much more to go on. Can I take the word of a man who has an ACTUAL forked tongue? Back in his cramped office, looking through the piles of research he felt a wave of discouragement creep through his battered psyche. Determined to make some headway on the jumbled notations in his worn pocket notebook, he began making a map of post it notes on his desk.

Six victims mutilated after they were murdered.

Each victim was murdered in a different way but died a quick death.

Suffocation caused the demise of # 1-3.

Victim #4 cause of death: twisted neck.

#5 and 6 were each stabbed in the heart: one from behind and the other from the front.

All of the victims each facially resembled the Freak that they were altered to physically resemble.

Friedman paused at this last note. It’s obvious that these people were not randomly chosen. The murderer knew before the murder what Freak he was going to emulate. Except that the girls were blonde and why not go after actual twins instead of trying to find two unrelated women who looked so alike? Not like twins are that easy to find in a hurry. He kicked off his tight shoes, and wiggled his sore toes, his corns relishing the release from the confines of leather.

The facts only brought about more questions for the weary Detective. There were a few things he knew without question:

The only suspect thus far has only circumstantial evidence against her.

The murders are happening closer and closer together.

Totally exhausted, his pugnacious mind refusing to give in, he made a separate pile of mental post it notes, and regarded them with some amusement.

The coffee I'm drinking tastes like it was filtered through my dirty socks.

It would take a twenty four hour, no, twenty four day nap to catch up on lost sleep.

Before today I've never seen anyone play the guitar with his legs behind his head.

He took a deep breath in, and added one more post it note, just for fun. He couldn't remember the last time he had fun.

My feet stink.

After quietly listening to the story, Randy left with the promise to find out as much as he could about the investigation. The newly organized amateur sleuths embarked on a quest to find the straight woman from the bar and the person who covered Nancy with cardboard in the park. Georgia announced that she and Bess should head for the park while the other two questioned the bartender. After lengthy argumentative discussion, she reluctantly admitted that since Nancy and Ernie were actually familiar with the neighborhood, they should split up and each take one of the sisters with them. Nancy was happy to take Bess as her partner, and Bess beamed her agreement. A brief and not so quiet bicker between the sisters ended up with Bess the victor; Georgia would accompany Ernie on the park trip. This was a perfectly logical approach once Nancy realized she might recognize someone in the bar. She was so tired when she'd fallen asleep in the park, it was doubtful she'd even recognize the bench she'd slept on.

Georgia was still openly skeptical of every damned bit of this weird situation, but she found her nerves eased by Ernie’s easy banter and his overall good nature. She decided to make the most of the short walk to the park as the perfect opportunity to get to know these two people who had so easily captivated her baby sister.

Walking along, Ernie finished telling her about his scheme to market panty hose with cotton soles built into the feet. His reasoning behind this merchandising brainfart, women’s feet wouldn’t sweat so much in dress shoes if their feet were swathed in absorbent cotton. His somewhat twisted logic was that some pantyhose have cotton crotches, so why not soles? Georgia, momentarily stunned by the strangeness of this idea, became uncustomarily tongue-tied and missed the golden opportunity to ask how he knew that women’s feet perspire when wearing hose. There were some things even she didn't need to know.

She thought it smarter to pursue her own agenda. "So ...  Ernie, tell me, how long have you and Nancy known each other?" She tried unsuccessfully to sound casual but Ernie hadn't missed how apprehensive and stand-offish she’d been most of the day. He decided to do what he could to make her feel more comfortable. He was pretty sure of the source of her uneasiness, Nancy.

"Well," he began, hoping to shed a more favorable light on his best friend, who he knew was very interested in his current companion's sister, "We met in college so I think it’s around eighteen years or so." He waited expectantly for her next query, knowing full well what it would be. It was the same thing every time, and Georgia proved to be no different.

"How did you two meet?"

It was one of Ernie’s most embarrassing moments on earth and one of Nancy’s favorite stories to tell. Thank God she’s not here. For once I can tell the truth and not her idiot version.

"She came into a bar where I was working ... as a 'special attraction'." He vainly hoped this vague statement would assuage her curiosity and she would let it drop.

Nope, not Georgia Jessica Fletcher. The vagueness only piqued her interest.  "A special attraction? What the heck does that mean?"

Ernie kicked at a crushed coffee cup on the sidewalk before he leaned down and picked it up. Well so much for trying to do the short version. Time to buck up and come clean.

He gave her the Reader's Digest version of the tale, in a purely Ernie kind of truth.

Ernie was new to The Village and was trying to earn extra cash during his freshman year at NYU. He took a job working one of the theme nights at one of the clubs surrounding the campus. This night, the club was having a special screening of The Wizard of Oz. Ernie was dressed as one of the Lollipop Kids, and his job was to go through the club and hand out lollipops. They also had drag queens dressed up for the roles of all the major characters. Just as he was trying to shake the image of a three hundred pound Glinda with a hairy back, he felt a thud to the back of his head. He reached back to discover that someone had thrown a wet lollipop at him and it stuck in his hair. He turned to see which shithead had thrown it when he was grabbed by the collar by an obviously inebriated young man. The drunk got right into his face and spouted, "Hey LITTLE lollipop, why don’t you SUCK ME instead?"

He was trying to force Ernie’s face into his groin when all at once he stopped and gasped for air. Ernie looked up to see a tall woman with her hand wrapped around his throat nearly lifting him right off the ground. "You better learn some manners and quick -- or you’re going to have the sweetest ass here ...  I’m gonna shove this lollipop straight up it until you scream!" The clod choked out an apology and Nancy released him. As he stumbled off she looked to Ernie and apologized, red-faced. "I’m sorry to jump in there like that, but I’ve been watching those asswipes all night and after they made Mrs. Gulch leave in tears, well, I decided I’d had enough". After quick introductions they decided that Ernie had more than earned his pay for the night and left the club. Over coffee they talked about their plans and silly dreams and found they had lots of things in common. They’d spent most of the eighteen years since hustling after their dreams. Those dreams were still a little beyond reach, but they had each other for encouragement, and that was good enough for them.

He looked to Georgia and got very serious and formal.  "It was an unusual start to an unusual friendship with an unusual person." After a short pause, he softy continued, "She’s the best friend I’ve ever had and I would do anything for her."

Doubtful as ever, Georgia was hesitant to believe. "Just like that, after one night and you two were best friends?"

"Yep, it’s like Nancy says, sometimes you just can’t stop to think about why things happen, some things, well, you just have to go with it."

Georgia nodded briefly and they continued on, lost in their own thoughts.

They turned the corner to the park and Georgia’s jaw dropped. "There’s so many of them."  Georgia was caught in a mild state of disbelief over the sheer numbers of homeless people who resided in Tompkins Park.

Ernie tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice, but they both knew it wasn't really directed at her. "Well, what did you think happened to them? You didn’t think they all just decided to clean up and get jobs because Guilianni ran them out of Times Square, did you?"

Her stomach was roiling at the mass of homeless humanity stretched out across the grass in front of her. "I don’t know," she said lamely," I guess I never thought about it. It just seemed that one day they were all gone from my neighborhood."

Ernie could tell that Georgia was truly shocked about what she was seeing, and said with a more gentle tone, "Well, don't kick yourself, come on. We’ve got our work cut out for us. This isn't going to be easy. If Nancy said she woke up covered in cardboard, it’s because one of these unfortunate souls was worried that she’d get cold. Some of 'em look out for each other. More than the Mayor of New York looks out for them." He laid a calming hand on her arm, and pulled her forward.  "Now all we have to do is find out who it was."

Ernie headed them toward a small cluster of park dwellers, and Georgia tried to concentrate on the matter at hand.  Sometimes you can’t think about it. You just have to go with it.

Mei opened the container of Chicken with Mangos and mixed it with her Chinese pickles. The food wasn’t the best that Chinatown had to offer but it was delivered hot to the booth by a fellow merchant. It saved her trusting the booth to someone else for any amount of time. In the past when she did that she always returned to find inventory missing. The booth sitter always insisted that no sales had been made. "Must have been stolen" was the phrase that she would hear each time she noticed something was missing when she returned to her booth.

She was taking her first hungry bite of her lunch when an irate woman approached. Only half hearing her, she listened to the story of how a leg fell off the two dollar doll that the woman had purchased from Mei just the day before. Mei lifted the chop sticks to her mouth and she nibbled the bit of chicken and then used the same sticks to point to the NO REFUNDS – NO EXCHANGES sign. The woman took this as a sign to scream at her and Mei, experienced with these kind of outbursts, turned a completely deaf ear and continued to read her book while she continued picking at her lunch. She never acknowledged the woman again and after a good amount of ranting the woman finally gave up. She grabbed her doll and as she stomped off, she warned Mei that she would never be back to patronize her booth again.

This was the best news Mei had heard in a long time.

Gee, go ahead, break my heart.

Nancy and Bess were walking to the social club each considering their own private thoughts.

Bess took the plunge to break the silence at the same time Nancy did.

"I wanted to tell you…"

"I wanted to thank you…" Nancy stopped and smiled at Bess "You go first."

Bess returned the smile. "I wanted to tell you how much I liked going to Coney Island with you. And, uh, Ernie. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun."

Nancy relaxed just a little. "Same here, I can’t remember the last time I actually rode an amusement park ride. I really had a nice time." She hesitated and went to continue at the same time that Bess started to speak.

"I really want to thank…"

"I was never so…."

This time Bess gave up the lead. "We keep doing that." She smiled a smile bright enough to light Alaska during the winter months. "Go quick, while you can. I’ll do my best to keep my mouth closed."

Nancy rushed her words, the ones that had been forming sentences in her head... "I wanted to thank you for dropping everything and finding Ernie for me. If you hadn’t I’m afraid I’d still be in the slammer." She shook a little as a chill traveled her spine. "I also wanted to thank you for trying to help with all this." She blinked her bleary eyes and stretched, a sheepish smile highlighting her face. "I’m so tired that I’m afraid I may not hear things in the right context."

"There’s no need to thank me, my other choices for the day paled in comparison, believe me, I’m happy to do it."

"Just the same, it’s really nice of you to help out like this."

The words they had wanted to say were out of the way, and now they weren't sure what to say next. But their arrival at the Social Club pre-empted any more social niceties. As Nancy pulled open the door, she quite unconsciously took her hand and placed it on Bess’ lower back to guide her in. Bess was nervously aware at just how pleasing that small controlled touch felt.

They questioned the bartender for the better part of an hour. Nancy found that more often than not she sat back and listened while Bess took on the role of Lead Junior Detective. Her questions were precise and well thought out. Cripes, it’s like I brought Christine Cagney with me. Cool.

After about an hour of sitting at the bar and drilling the bartender for ultimately useless information, Bess decided to stretch her legs. She took a fast trip to the ladies room and stopped in front of the bar's jukebox on her way back. She quickly flipped through the hip-hop and rap selections. She went through the top forty selections a little slower, but she still wasn’t coming across anything worthy of her dollar. Ah, jazz, that’s more like it. The selections were quite extensive and not knowing how much longer they were going to be she was finding it hard to narrow it down to just a few. She chose the fun ‘Oh Marie’ by Louie Prima, ‘Evening in Paris by Stan Getz, and ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ with Sarah Vaughn and Dizzy Gillespie. Then she spotted her final selection Oh Wow! I can’t believe they have this one.

Just as she finished punching in the numbers, two arms and a very solid body pinned her lightly to the jukebox from behind. Soft lips moved within a breath of her ear and a soft low voice rumbled, "Betty Carter’s, ‘Look What I’ve Got’. Excellent choice. I should have known you’d have good taste in music."

Bess made the mistake of inhaling deeply. Overwhelmed with the clean scent of the soap that Nancy had used in her recent shower, she swallowed hard and was slightly embarrassed to think Nancy may have actually been able to hear it. She gathered her courage and turned to face her. Nancy never budged, other than to accommodate Bess' turn. She kept both of her hands flat on the jukebox and bent slightly at the waist in order to bring her face down closer to the shorter woman.

Betty Carter's sweet voice drifted through the jukebox speakers and the gentle jangling of a piano soon followed it. Bess was caught breathless, held in the intensity of Nancy’s gaze. For a moment they did little more than breathe in the same air, adjusting to and appreciating each other's proximity. Warm bodies were gradually drawn and pressed tight against one another and chests were rising and falling in a struggle to cool rising temperatures.

Finally trying to get some control over the charged situation, Bess whispered, "Why…" her voice cracked, "Uh, why would you assume that I would have good taste in music?"

Nancy did the impossible and leaned in even closer without her lips coming into contact with Bess' flushed face. She shifted into full predator mode and closed the distance. She spoke her words with her lips lightly grazing those of the other woman. "Because I’m starting to believe that everything about you is good." Just as the last word left her mouth she closed the gap and kissed the smaller woman gently. First full on the mouth for long moments, then lightly pulling and sucking on first her upper and then lower lip. After a feather soft flick of her tongue, she pulled back, waiting while softly closed green eyes reopened and blinked at her. Nancy was going to lean even farther back to allow her to catch her bearings, but Bess reached up and placed her hands on either side of her face and with light but insistent hands, pulled her down to rejoin their lips. There was little gentleness in this meeting, the hesitant good manners of the first kiss were discarded, and they mutually pursued exactly what they wanted. Tongues invaded accepting open mouths, stroking and sucking with equal amounts of fervor. Lost in the immediacy, both women drew tighter into each other's arms, their bodies rejoicing at the returned softness of the other.

Taking a quick breath, Bess pulled her body back and softly bit Nancy’s lower lip as she simultaneously playfully poked her in the side. This maneuver caused Nancy to involuntarily drop her arms, giving Bess the opportunity to quickly switch positions so that she now had a very surprised Nancy solidly pinned to the jukebox.

With an unapologetic leer and a little grind of her hips, she leaned in and traced her words around Nancy’s mouth. "Trust me," she growled as she ran her tongue along Nancy’s upper lip, "I can be very good," as she nipped along the mesmerized woman’s lower lip. Nancy accepted the invitation and tried to entice Bess’ teasing tongue back into her mouth. But Bess leaned back, and looked her directly in the eye. "But I can also ... be very, very bad." With that she kissed Nancy on the nose and pulled completely away with a wink and a little wiggle of her hips. "Come on, Killer, we’ve got a murderer to find."

Nancy didn’t know if she should blame her lack of sleep or her highly aroused state, but for some reason she found herself obediently following Bess like a puppy on an invisible leash. The reality of the situation gradually became apparent to her, and she smiled, larger and larger, until she laughed in amazement. Bess had quite adroitly turned the tables on her and become the aggressor, and the photographer had never let anyone have the upper hand before. Chuckling again, she concluded she liked it. In fact she liked it a lot.


Continued in Chapter Six

Feedback appreciated at Julie Baker

Return to the Academy