“Let me see it again,” Rue murmured, flicking a finger to the man at the keyboard. A few taps and the screen replayed the video. Short and grainy, the clip didn’t reveal much but did manage to confirm most of what Rue had initially proposed about their mystery driver.
She was short, dark-skinned, petite – in spite of broad shoulders, wore latex gloves matching the pair found at the scene, and had incredibly long, black hair. She was also, in Rue’s private opinion, pretty darn ugly, a fact further exaggerated once they brought the sketch artist in to work what few details they could pick out of the ill-lit traffic cam footage into their working sketch of the suspect.
It was an improvement in their case’s chances, no doubt, and Rue had been overjoyed upon receiving the call from Mackey explaining that diligent combing of traffic cams had led to a break. He did, however, believe now that he policeman’s claims and expectations were vastly over-bright. Sure the driver appeared to match the description Rue had posited at the beginning of the week. But who was she? Drug dealer, ex-lover, rival gang member, or something they hadn’t even considered yet? Here, in a city of just under three million, could they hope to find this woman without knowing her walk of life, her potential connections to Dawayne.
Rue watched the footage again, not because he needed to – it really was poor quality footage, and from a near-useless angle – but rather because the alternative was returning to his office for the evening and participating in a séance with Millicent. The mere thought of the evening’s plans irked him and suddenly Rue found himself sick of the officers’ useless speculation and chatter, the general hum of a busy police station. Extracting himself from the group crowding the monitor, he congratulated the team and made a few empty assurances, making his escape mere moments later.
The offices of Millicent and Rue, Private Investigative Services Inc. smelled and looked like a damned New Age incense shop. At least, that’s what Rue Dobbs concluded as he entered the candlelit, fragrant, soft-music nightmare that normally housed his practical, no frills office. At least she kept it to the outer office, his eyes bulged, taking in the draped cloths and mystical bric-a-brac that filled Millicent’s secretarial spot.
Looking quite pleased with herself and radiantly calm, Millicent breezed over to the gawking PI as he entered the sanctuary. Her previous forays into beautifying their shared office space paled in comparison to the “improvements” Mrs. DeLange had now introduced and Rue suddenly felt uncomfortably as if he’d been had.
With a weak smile, the PI greeted his enthusiastic assistant and practically dove across the outer office into his own inner sanctum. There, secure at last in his manly clutter and taupe walls, he breathed deeply the unique perfume of cigarette smoke, cheap alcohol, and dust that pervaded the space. Rummaging the safe, his hand closed around the item they’d be using to (hopefully) call Dawayne’s spirit to them this night. Chicanery and superstition, he harrumphed, taking another long look at his whiteboard. And thus fortified, he slipped back into the other room where Millicent waited to perform the ceremony.
I wonder if I can pretend it’s a bar, Rue looked around the dimly lit room with its smoky haze, Though I guess it’d have to be a hookah bar. He struggled to adopt a look of patient attentiveness.
Flicking her wrists to force her multitude of glittering bangles back from her hands, Millicent reached across the desk, looking to Rue expectantly.
The PI had seen enough movies to know what was expected of him and gingerly took the medium’s hands. He tried not to look at the little roll of money that stood on the desk between their hands, the only thing he had connecting him to Dawayne and thus their unorthodox choice of communal element. Somehow the odd and admittedly inappropriate object made Rue Dobbs feel incredibly guilty and so he instead concentrated on Mrs. DeLange’s face.
Eyes closed, delicate nostrils flailing with each slow breath, Millicent did appear otherworldly. Rue would agree that, if anyone really could commune with the dead, this woman would be one. Watching the perfectly pink lips twitch in concentration, Rue wondered what role he’d be called to play or if he’d be allowed to remain alone with his thoughts. The low lighting and perfumed air did seem conducive to thinking. It reminded him of a woman he’d dated back at school. Five months of nirvana, the woman had captured his attention because she was exotic. Completely given up to the New Age trend, she’d convinced him to take up meditation, something he agreed to be carried along with it only for the promise of sex afterwards. He’d admittedly done some of his best thinking then – during the meditation, not the sex – though he’d been instructed to empty his mind, think of nothing. Something about that controlled calm alertness, both sharpening and dulling the senses…
Rue tensed, sensing the change that came over Millicent even before her next breath sharpened in confirmation.
“Oh, Dawayne, I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry,” she murmured, voice throaty and dark. “I’d love to do what we can for you. We can help you…” She paused, eyes unfixed, “Can you help us?”
Rue thought he felt a shift in the room, the candles flicker. The hair rose along the back of his neck. Somewhere down the hall, the soft click of a door closing revealed the source of the draft and he relaxed.
“Dear, dear Dawayne,” Millicent cooed. “Both Jennifer and little Preeta are fine. They’re fine.” Narrowing his eyes, Rue watched Millicent more intently. He didn’t think h’d told her the names of Ms. Mathewson’s family, for weak as it was, protective custody was still, after all, protective custody. Shaking his head, he concluded he must have said something. Must have.
“Dawayne, you were taken from us too early. Much too early, I know, honey. Yes,” the medium cooed, “So we don’t know as much as we’d like, as much as we’d need, in order to help you, help Jennifer, help Preeta.”
Another change of air currents in the room, another shift in the flicker of the candles. Millicent seemed frozen, her head cocked to the side as if listening to the non-corporeal forms that flitted unseen through the air. Grudging though it sometimes was, Rue’s acceptance of Millicent’s eccentricities – she really was a sweet lady with a heart of gold – he would have laughed at the comical and dramatic pause. Impatient for the charade to be done, Rue shifted in his chair and looked about the room. He regretted this waste of time, this namby-pamby hoopla. This–
“Who is Jack?” Millicent was looking at him now. Eyes shining, mind fully focused on the Here and Now, even Rue could tell she’d lost what connection to the spirit would she thought she’d had.
Blinking at the direct and unexpected question, Rue answered, “No idea. Why?”
The woman looked non-plussed, “Jack is who killed Dawayne.”