H Is For Homicide Page 20

By the time I reached the ladies'room, she had entered one of the stalls. I stood at the mirror, fussing with my topknot until the toilet flushed and Bibianna emerged. She moved to the sink beside mine, glancing at me idly in the mirror. I sensed more than saw the little jolt of recognition. She said, ’’Hey.’’

I gave her a blank look.

’’Didn't you stop by this afternoon to ask about my place?’’

I looked over at her politely and then allowed myself the same double take. ’’Oh, hi! I didn't realize it was you. What a coincidence. That's amazing. How are you?’’

’’I'm fine. How'd the house hunting go? Did you find anything?’’

I made a face. ’’Not really. I got a line on an apartment about a block away from yours, but it isn't half as nice.’’ Bibianna took out her lipstick. She applied an arc of red to her lower lip, rubbing it against the upper lip until the color had spread uniformly across her mouth. I made a few little gestures of my own, imitating hers.

She capped the lipstick. ’’You ever been here before?’’

I shrugged. ’’Couple of times. Before this new management. It's kind of unnerving, isn't it? I don't appreciate guys grabbing my butt every time I make a move.’’

She studied me briefly. ’’Depends on what you're used to, I guess. Doesn't bother me.’’ She turned her attention from my reflection to hers, leaning forward to adjust the wisps of hair around her face. She checked her eye makeup for flaws, staring at herself gravely before she glanced back at me. ’’I hope you don't mind my saying this, but that hair and the getup are completely wrong.’’

’’They are?’’ I looked down at myself, a feeling of despair washing over me. What is it about me that invites this kind of comment? Here I think of myself as a kick-ass private eye when other people apparently see me as a waif in need of mothering.

’’Mind if I make a suggestion?’’ she asked.

’’Fine with me,’’ I said.

The next thing I knew, she'd whipped the rubber band out of my hair. She reached in her purse and took out some kind of bottled hair snot which she rubbed between her palms and then massaged through my hair. I felt like a dog being groomed, but I liked the effect. My tresses looked faintly wet now with just the suggestion of curl. The two of us checked my reflection in the mirror.

Bibianna's mouth pulled down judiciously. ’’Better,’’ she said. ’’You got a scarf on you anywhere?’’

I shook my head.

’’Let me see what I got.’’ She began to root around in her handbag, pulling out a joint in the process. ’’You want a smoke?’’ she asked idly.

I shook my head. ’’I already toked up out in the parking lot before I came in.’’

She tucked the dope away without further comment, intent on her search through the various compartments of her voluminous bag. ’’Here we go. How's this?’’ She pulled up a square of lime green silk and then made a face. ’’Eh, no good. Color's not right for you. Dump the earrings. That'll help.’’

How do women know these things? More important, how come I don't? I removed the gaudy baubles from my ears and massaged my lobes with relief.

Meanwhile, she'd managed to unearth a second scarf, this one hot pink. She held it near my face, squinting at it critically. I thought she was going to make me dampen it with spit so she could wash my face, but she did some kind of tricky fold and tied the thing around my neck. Immediately, my color seemed to improve.

’’That looks great. Now what?’’

’’You come on with me. I'll keep the worst of these shitheads away from you.’’


I FOLLOWED HER into the crowd like a rookie soldier into battle. Male eyes surveyed us from head to toe, grading us according to the size of our tits, how much butt we had hanging out, and how available we seemed. Bibianna netted a lot of mouth noises, a hand gesture, and some disgusting propositions which she seemed to find amusing, tossing casual insults at the guys most vocal in their appreciation. She was easygoing, good-natured, with a quick, infectious laugh.

The music started up again and she began to dance as she walked, snapping her fingers, working her way through the crowd with an occasional crotch-activating bump and grind. She was scanning faces and I wondered who she was looking for. It didn't take long to find out. Her animation kicked up a notch, like the sudden surge in electric current preceding a blackout. Her body seemed to suffuse with a palpable heat.

’’Stick around,’’ she said. ’’I'll be back.’’

A blond guy separated himself from the pack of studs at the bar. He was curly haired, with wire-rimmed glasses, a mustache, strong chin, a slight smile turning up the corners of his mouth. I found myself making note of his physical characteristics like a beat cop on patrol at the sight of a suspect. I knew the guy. He was of medium height, broad shoulders, narrow hips, dressed in jeans and a tight-fitting black Polo shut with short sleeves pushed up by well-developed biceps. Tate. Crazy Jimmy. How many years had it been since I'd seen him? He looked at Bibianna possessively, his thumbs tucked into his belt loops so that his hands seemed to bracket the bulge in the front of his pants. His manner was tempered with self-mocking, an irresistible blend of humor and awareness. I watched, as he moved in her direction, already engaging her in some kind of wordless foreplay. No one else seemed to be aware of them. They approached the dance floor from adjacent sides, meeting somewhere in the middle as if every move were choreographed. This was mating behavior.

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