The Broken Line, 59: Trained Monkeys

Missed the last chapter? Go to 58: Green Warrant)

AS I DROVE TO Rolfe’s office, I worked on a plan. My first idea was to walk in, kick him in the nuts, and tell him John could shove the trust fund up his ass.

I spent a few happy moments contemplating that scenario, but there was one flaw: if I came on strong, I might never find out where they’d taken Dorothy.

John thought my entire family was his property, did he? I pounded the steering wheel with my fist, which gave me a bruise, but no relief. I fought the urge to pull into the nearest bar. Just a couple of drinks to calm down. But then I might not be able to hear the voices. Whatever they were, I needed all the help I could get. Read more »

The Broken Line, 58: Green Warrant

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 57: Paranoia Will Destroya)

THE LOBBY looked like it had been decorated in the 1980s—none of the ostentatious perfection that I was beginning to associate with them. I never thought I’d be this happy to see acoustic ceiling tiles and puffy pastel couches.

The receptionist, a hipster with horned rim glasses and a brown cotton dress, put down her biology text and gave me a friendly smile, but when I told her I wanted to see Bill Huang, her smile faded.

“I’m sorry. He’s out on leave.”

“Leave? Where?”

The receptionist lifted her eyebrows. “May I ask your business with Mr. Huang?” Read more »

The Broken Line, 57: Paranoia Will Destroya

I NEARED RICHMOND at five in the morning. I took the long way around to the Southside to check on Dad and Dorothy’s houses. I didn’t really expect to find them there, but I needed to see for myself. I couldn’t fully trust my own memories. Too many of them had been tampered with by John and his pets.

John’s claim that he needed to sell the houses on Birch Street to rescue me from Dad’s debt had never rung true. Despite his recent mood swings, Dad had always been responsible to a fault. Now, there was no doubt in my mind that his debt had been another elaborately constructed lie.
Read more »

The Broken Line, 56: Psychopath

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 55: Meltdown.)

I DROVE UNTIL I found myself at Warrick. It was about three a.m., but I didn’t need to explain anything to Zora. The sight of me was enough.

“Jesus, Lacy.” She pulled me into a warm hug. I felt a few tears trickle down my face. I think I might have just stood there, dripping tears and swaying until my legs gave out, if Zora hadn’t steered me to a small bedroom with an iron bed and a patterned quilt.

“I’m not here!” I mumbled as I fell against the pillow.

Read more »

The Broken Line, 55: Meltdown

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 54: Ride the Red Horse)

I SHOVED MY way through the dense and—it seemed to me—hostile crowd around the dance pool. Stalled behind two pasty-skinned guys who were about as wide as they were tall, I saw Branson turn and slide an iridescent silver card through an access slot. He opened the door that lead to the secured areas of UrgePool.

Ducking under one guy’s arm, and sideways around a protruding gut, I hurtled the last ten feet toward him.

“Branson!”

His head snapped around to face me, eyes widening. Next to him, a tall brunette in a black mini-dress and boots put her hand lightly on his arm. It’s what I would have done if some wild-eyed woman had burst in on an intimate conversation I was having with my date. Read more »

The Broken Line, 54: Ride the Red Horse

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 53: Bad Wifey)

I FOUND MYSELF sprawled on my back, on the hood of the red mustang, staring up at the milky spray of stars above. It was strange. I’d been hit by a car, but neither the initial impact nor the impact of my fall had felt like more than a dull thud.

Maybe I’m in shock, I thought. If so, shock was a rather peaceful state. Time seemed to have slowed down too, because the car was still rolling along with me plastered to the hood, like one of the wooden women who used to adorn ships’ prows. The though struck me a hilarious.

As the car stopped, I slid halfway off, catching myself with my feet. The driver, a stocky man in blue work clothes jumped out. “God! Miss, are you all right?” He had a thick Brooklyn accent and a patch on his shirt that said Humphrey.

As I tested my legs, Humphrey hovered over me, arms outstretched in case I fell. “Maybe you shouldn’t move. I can call an ambulance … should I call an ambulance?” Read more »

The Broken Line, 53: Bad Wifey

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 52: Liar Interuptus)

John mutters phrases I can barely hear and understand even less. “Plant the six gifts. Eat the six. Eat for long life. The flower of the sixth.” The words sound familiar—a memory edging closer, filling me with fear.

I try to pull away, but he holds me tightly with his left hand. With the other, he pulls my dress up, so hard it tears. He fumbles with his zipper.

“Stop!” Read more »

The Broken Line, 52: Liar Interuptus

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 51: Voices in the Rain.

Feeling festive, I choose a strapless peach sheath that highlights my new tan, and a matching, embroidered half jacket. I stare at myself in the mirror. It’s like I’m wearing a costume. Lacy Strong, starring as The Socialite’s Wife. I have to admit I look good, though. It’s like I’ve taken on the reflected sheen of this beautiful life, glowing like an actress seen through a soft focus lens.

As I descend the stairs, I find John waiting, elegant in a light gray suit, the same color his eyes. He grins and hands me a jewelers box.

“What’s this?”

“I got it for Valentine’s Day, but … well, I’ve been waiting for the right time.”

The box contains a diamond teardrop necklace, easily three carats. “John, is this real?”

“Of course.” He looks a bit offended.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t believe … It’s gorgeous! Thank you.”

“Get used to it,” John turns me around to fasten the necklace. I feel the cold weight of the diamond against my chest. He buries his nose into my hair. “You are the most intoxicating creature I’ve ever known.”

I turn to kiss him on the cheek, but John swivels his head and our lips met. Instinctively, I pull back. Read more »

The Broken Line, 51: Voices in the Rain

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 50: Fertility Fetish)

JOHN STARES OUT the window. “What the hell?”

Maybe it isn’t just me. Maybe John hears it, too—the illusion of voices in the rain.

“What is that doing there?”

I strain to see through the misty, shifting blur. “I can’t see anything.”

John reaches out and picks something up off the windowsill, then opens his hand to show me a pale blue pill with a lightening bolt imprinted into it.

“I … I don’t know. I’m sure I took it this morning.”

“You’re positive?” John’s voice, disapproving and paternal. I felt the splitting sensation again—two Lacys, two Johns. Read more »

The Broken Line, 50: Fertility Fetish

(missed the last chapter? Go to 49: Snake in the Garden)

I’VE BEEN LYING in the sun only a few moments, it seems, when I hear the voices.

“… amazing recovery … looks twenty years younger.” A man, vaguely familiar.

“But she’s gone the other way. Or so I hear.” A woman. Smug.

“Maybe he stole the years from her.”

“Ooh, succubus.”

“He can suck my bus anytime.”

Laughter.

I yank myself up, suddenly sure they’re talking about John and me.

“Hello?” I call out.

No reply.

“Hello!” I make my voice cheerful. “It’s Lacy, your neighbor.” I cast about for faces to match the voices. “I fell asleep. Wondering if you know what time it is?”

The wind has picked up. Rustling through the oak leaves like distant laughter. I spy a knothole in the fence and peer through. I see a flash of white, like the tail of man’s shirt, darting away. Read more »