A Mask of Love
Chapter 20 For Angels Shall Have Charge Over You, To Keep You In Their Way.
Are you coming tonight?” Meg asked quietly. Things had been so awkward and strange these last few days that she was hesitant with the question.
Jessica looked at her girl and then said quietly. “Yeah, I’ll be there, Sugar-plum.”
Meg snorted, “Sugar-plum? What about Cindy-Lou?” she smiled, a cautious smile. Things still were not right.
Jessica smiled again, a little warmer this time, “Hey, dogs don’t play guitars, Kiddo.”
Andrew Thomas had indeed wet himself.
He had also cried, so much so that Kendra and Lia had to wipe his face with a rag. “You’re a disgusting piece of shit!” Lia had yelled at him, and he had cried some more. He had begged; even Kendra remarked that he was pitiful.
All the while Brown had glowered at Thomas and the intruders making as much grunting noise as he could, until Lia had Tasered him again, just to quiet him down. “Asshole,” she sneered at his now silent form.
Marcy tried Dan’s cell again; it still went to voice mail. She called Cerise to come in, even though it wasn’t her day. Where was the idiot? Well, this would just make her decision easier.
Now Andrew Thomas sat, looking into the camera, tears still leaking out of his eyes and running down his puffy, unshaven face.
“Ok, mother fucker, are you ready?” Lia asked, her dark eyes boring holes into Thomas’s face.
“Yeah, um, y-yeah, I’m, ah, r-ready, mmmm, M’am.”
“Fuck,” Lia said under her breath and gave Thomas the signal to start speaking. Kendra held the camera trained on the man’s face, and it then recorded as he admitted to Brown and himself hiring young girls for sex over the years. The two of them preferred native girls, and they liked them in their teens, with some as young as twelve.
They had also on occasion kidnapped girls. “How many?” Kendra had asked, keeping her voice calm while rage welled within her.
Thomas had thought for a while, clearing counting up, “s-seven, I think, or ay-eight”, had been his answer.
Then, and this sent a chill up both women’s spines, and sent Brown kicking on his chair, forcing Lia to Taser him again, after which he passed out; Thomas, with tears and mucous running down his face, admitted to the killing of three of the girls.
“Mmm-mebbe, f-four,” he had stuttered; their bodies were buried on the unsightly lot.
After taking some time to collect themselves and clean up the man, Kendra directed Thomas now to make an apology to Lillian.
“I’m sorry, y-young lady, L-l-lillian, ummmm, for what we done to you. We are a-animals. Animals. We, um, fuck, fuck, Goddamn, uhhhhh, we don’t, uh, d-deserve to live. We don’t. We don’t…” His voice had trailed off and he had hung his head. Kendra had collapsed onto the third and last chair in the room; numb, unable to speak or cry. She just sat. Lia stood, her eyes blazing, her mind working. She knew what needed to happen next.
Brown was awake again, but looking dazed, which was fine for the ladies. “We should get going, hey?” Kendra said quietly.
“You go. I just want to talk with these two for a minute, private-like.”
“Go, Kendra.” Lia stood straight and looked down at her friend. She was more menacing than she had been the night they had argued.
“Go Kendra. Let. Me. Be.”
Kendra stood uncertainly, considering. The she packed up the bag and walked out, carrying the camera as well and feeling like any minute she would faint; or vomit; or both, with Lia shadowing her all the way until she was out.
After a moment, Lia walked over and stood, looking down at the two men; not speaking, just looking at them. Brown rocked on his chair and Kendra punched him hard in the face; it actually hurt her hand, but his head snapped back and the man looked dazed again; blood was trickling from his nose and from under the tape.
“Shut the fuck up, you two motherfucking losers. This is it for you. For all those girls. I jus’ wish I could make it last, but I don’t have time…”
“Please. Please, please, please…” Thomas moaned, now rocking on his chair as well.
“Pitiful mother fuckers…” Lia sneered and walked over to the drawers, pulling them open to find the one that contained the meagre supply of utensils; there were two steak knives there, and she took them both out and went back to stand in front of the men.
Thomas simply began now to wail; Brown had an odd look in his eyes. Lia ripped the tape from his mouth, and then in a quick motion, drove one knife into his body, just below his sternum. She knew this would not kill him, at least not right away; she wanted him alive, for a few more minutes anyway.
Grabbing Thomas by his short, grey hair, Lia slashed his throat in one long, quick motion, blood spurting out to the right in an arch of red. Thomas stared up at Lia with a look of surprise, he hadn’t even cried out; then his eyes clouded. He coughed twice and then, as Lia released his hair, his head slumped down to his shoulder, blood now running down and soaking his shirt.
Lia turned back to Brown, her heart pounding, rage boiling within her. “You son of a bitch,” she yelled. “You fucking, useless, son of a fucking bitch.”
Brown’s lip began to curl into a sneer, before Lia plunged the second knife straight down into the man’s heart, so hard his chair toppled back and Brown crashed to the floor. His eyes were open, staring at the ceiling; blood was flowing from his opened mouth.
When Kendra, unable to stay outside any longer, came rushing back in, she found Lia at the sink, throwing up. Lia spun around and grabbed Kendra by the arm, forcing her back to the door and out.
“No,” Lia said, “No. Let’s go.” In her hand she carried Brown’s expensive camera; she had thought about taking his computer but left it; there was likely lots of incriminating stuff on it.
As if in a dream, the two stumbled out the door and down the stairs and to the fence where Lia pushed Kendra over again, and then followed. Clutching their stuff, they ran all the way to where the car was parked. They were oblivious to their surroundings but lucky, as no eyes witnessed their escape.
In a few minutes they were back on the road, heading to Winnipeg. They drove in silence, dazed, staring. After a while, Kendra put on the radio, thinking absently of when was the last time she had listened to a radio. It was a country music station, of sorts. Jason Isbell was singing, ‘Cover Me Up’; “…a heart on the run, keeps a hand on a gun, it can’t trust anyone…”
Meg paused before she picked up her guitar; it was time to head to the PB. Once again tonight she was to take her own car. She looked over at Jessica, who now came and placed her hand on Meg’s shoulder, then kissed her cheek, murmuring, “See ya’ later, babe.”
Impulsively, Meg put her arms around the woman and her face against the other’s cheek. From her vantage point, Meg could see out the window, into the distance. She whispered, “I love you.”
“You do, I know,” Jessica said, quietly, then asked, “For ever?” unhooking Meg’s arms to gaze at her; an odd look, to Meg’s mind, on her attractive face.
“I hope,” Meg said quietly, as Jessica turned away.
They had been on the road for an hour before Kendra spoke. “I’m guessing they’re both…dead?”
Lia, whose head was against the side of the car with her eyes closed remarked, “What difference does it make?”
Kendra cast a quick side-ways glance; Lia was not looking at her, “It makes a difference to me,” she said quietly.
Lia sat up and rubbed her face, “Whatever it is, it’s on me, girl. It’s all on me. You weren’t even in the house, so forget about it.”
They drove awhile before Kendra continued, “I don’t think the authorities would swallow that distinction.”
Lia’s head was back against the window; in time she mumbled, “Stop worrying, Kend. What’s done is done.”
Lana Martel printed off the forms. It was too late tonight to do anything, she would take the forms in herself in the morning.
In her room, Clarice Bey lay with her earbuds in. There was no point in trying to sleep; she would just lay and hope to drift off. Tomorrow could be insane; but she kept telling herself that she had done the right thing.
But, in the end, what was done, was done.
That night, as they finished their last song, Meg looked over at Jessica, against the window, and smiled. Jessica smiled too, albeit a small smile. Then she nodded.
Later, when Meg had packed away her guitar and got her bag together, she noticed again that Jessica had already left. She and Mary got their jackets and started out together. It was not surprising that Jessica’s car was gone; she often left before Meg got out.
“So, feel like some wine? Tea, maybe? Me, maybe, hmmmm?” Mary asked, giving Meg an elbow.
Meg chuckled, “Hang on.” She had her cell out and was texting her mistress.
“Hey, that’s fine. I’m heading home and you’re welcome to come over. Just let me know what your, um, friend, wants.” Mary winked and headed for her car. Meg stood and waited; sometimes it took Jessica a little longer to respond, depending on what she was up to. After several minutes, Meg decided to head home; she wasn’t certain why.
Kendra and Lia moved down the ramp toward their plane. Both had begun to feel their nerves, and looked around every now and then, half expecting the police to suddenly show up. Nothing happened of course and they entered the plane and found their seats; it was a smaller jet with only two rows, and they were seated side by side.
Once in the air both women order drinks; scotch for one and whiskey for the other. Since it was a late flight, the lights were dimmed and they sat in the semi-darkness. “I wasn’t sure what I’d do, Kendra. And when I decided, I didn’t want your consent, hey. This is on me, whatever you, like, think, hmmmm?” Lia said quietly.
Kendra turned to face the woman. She nodded. “I understand, Lia. I’m not sure what I would have done. Knocked them out? Don’t know.” She sipped her drink.
“That prick said they killed at least three girls, Kendra,” Lia said in a whisper.
Kendra nodded. “I know. God damn it. I know.”
Meg arrived home and found the house dark, and stood, uncertain of what to do. She went around, turning on lights, then headed down to Lillian’s room before suddenly remembering that the girl had gone somewhere. Winnipeg? Meg stopped on the stairs and headed back up them, then up the second set to the upstairs level and Jessica’s room.
Meg opened the door and flicked on the light, then stood. The closet was open and empty; stacked against the wall were several boxes. Meg, feeling a rising sense of panic, went to the dresser and opened drawers, finding them empty too. She sat on the bed, unable to make sense of this.
Meanwhile, in a bus headed for Milwaukee, Jessica sat in the darkened space and looked out her window. Sometimes, one needs to cut one’s losses; that was her thought. Right now, she just felt numb, and was trying not to think. She’d text Kendra in the morning. That was as far ahead as she was thinking; she could not allow herself to think of Meg.
She closed her eyes, letting the bus and the night take her away; “…a heart on the run, keeps a hand on a gun, it can’t trust anyone…”
Arriving home in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Kendra and Lia both headed for the showers, one up and one down, and both stayed under the water for a long, long while. It wasn’t until they had emerged and then dressed in their night clothes that they noticed how quiet the house was. Lillian was gone, obviously. There had been no word from Allie since she took off. Being Tuesday night, Meg would have been playing and likely Jessica would have gone to see her, but that was finished hours ago.
Kendra moved down the hall, and like Meg a couple of hours earlier, she opened Jessica’s door and looked in. She saw the same scene, and stood shaking her head slowly from side to side. So this was the deal, this was what Jessica had been building up to, what had been weighing on her and causing her sadness.
Feeling like she was walking in a dream, Kendra moved back down to the main level and the liquor cabinet, finding a bottle of Canadian Club; she needed something more than wine.
As she was pouring her glass, Lia came up and stood beside her, and Kendra poured her a glass, too. “Slum it tonight, Lia.” Kendra murmured, handing the glass to her friend, and then heading for a couch.
The two sat and drank. What was there to say? Where did one start? “They were both dead, right? You’re sure?” Kendra asked again, in a quiet voice; she knew the answer, she just needed to hear it. Lia simply nodded her head. “How?” Kendra asked, her voice flat, emotionless.
Lia looked over at her, “Why does that matter?”
Kendra returned the look, “Just tell me.”
After a pause, Lia recounted the scene, stating without doubt the two men were dead. “It could be weeks before anyone finds them,” she added.
Kendra just nodded. Her brain was not functioning well; she had not been drunk in a long while; tonight seemed like a good night for that. Suddenly her cell phone came to life, making both women jump. Looking down, Kendra gave a sigh of relief, seeing that it was Carol.
“Sorry, Mistress”, the text read, “hopefully this doesn’t wake you and you find it in the morning. Just needed you to know how much I miss being with you; the days are creeping by, but soon I will be home.”
Home, Kendra thought, what an idea. Home. This was her home, and she had had such plans. Would she be awakened in the morning by police officers, having spotted her rental car on a traffic cam and tracing it back to her?
Don’t be stupid, she told herself, heading over to refresh her glass. It was extremely unlikely that the murder of the two losers would ever be solved; but that didn’t stop the paranoia. Kendra was an honest person and this guilt was something that engulfed her, swallowed her. She needed to fight it, or it would consume her.
“What’s the deal with Jessica?” Lia’s voice brought Kendra back to reality.
“I think she’s gone. No, I know she’s gone.”
“Gone?” Lia asked, looking up. “Gone where? Why are you so calm? Gone, what the fuck?”
Kendra poured more whiskey into her glass and returned to the couch. “It’s been building for a while. She’s running away from her…feelings, herself, I guess; sounds dumb, I know.” Kendra shrugged.
What’s done is done, ricocheted in her mind.
Kendra heard the noise; it came into her dream. She was running, somewhere. Her father was reminding her to sit up straight. What did he care? Kendra thought, but the noise would not go away.
Waking, she looked over at her cell, which was making the noise. She had left it on vibrate; but now it stopped. Kendra just lay, noting there was sun behind her curtains; she picked up her cell to see it was past nine, when it chirped in her hand, indicating a message.
Sitting up, she opened it; it was from Jessica. “Sorry, I couldn’t face you. Just couldn’t. I’m away to who knows where as they say, but I’ll be back. Look after our house and my stuff, eh, Snooks?? And look after Meg. It’s what you do, Boss. I’m sure you’ll tell me someday what you and Lia were up to???
Thank you for being my friend; I love talking with you. I’ll miss that. I’ll really miss that. But, like Arnold said, I’ll be back. (Heart) J.”
Kendra sat, staring at her phone, feeling like her world was falling away in pieces.
With what seemed like a lump of something heavy within her, Kendra got up and went downstairs and made some coffee. She was eating scrambled eggs when Lia came in, and Kendra made her some, too. Lia ate hers as Kendra drank more coffee, and then Lia’s phone went off. Was it Jessica? Kendra thought.
Lia read the message and sat staring at the device so long that Kendra asked her what the hell was up? “I have to go in to the office today. Something’s come up. They want me there before noon.”
“It’s your day off,” Kendra remarked.
Kendra had just made her second pot of coffee when Meg came in the front door and up the four stairs. The two women looked at each other and then moved together and embraced. Again, in each other’s arms, they wept. Meg had received a text from Jessica as well.
“I’m here for you, Meg. Whatever that means, you can stay here for as long as you want; don’t worry about that,” Kendra whispered into the mass of auburn hair.
“Thanks, um…Kendra. I need to sit down and get myself together.”
“I know,” Kendra murmured, “I know.”
Half an hour later, Kendra’s cell actually rang with a call. Looking down, it was an unknown number. “Hello?” Kendra asked, a blade of fear stabbing her guts.
“Kend, it’s me, Lia.”
“Oh my God!” Kendra exploded. “Oh no.”
“Kendra! Kendra!” Lia exclaimed in a harsh whisper. “Get control. It’s not about…that. Listen. I need your help. I’ve…” There was a pause here as Lia collected herself, going on to explain that a girl had come forward with a complaint against her and her partner. The OPD had investigated and arrested both of them.
Kendra sat in numbed disbelief, afraid for a moment that she was going insane, then she rallied, and the practical lawyer part of her brain roared onto action. “Don’t say anything, Lia, do you hear me. Don’t. Say. Anything. I will get you a lawyer, today. Don’t say anything. Do you hear me?” Kendra had yelled into the cell phone. “Don’t say anything.”
As Kendra headed to the airport to pick up Carol (I can take a taxi; no, I want to come and get you, had been the conversation) her mind was spinning; it really hadn’t stopped spinning in the week since their…trip.
Kendra had scoured the news daily since, but there had been no mention of deaths in Kenora, and they were the kind of deaths that would spark a lot of interest. In Kendra’s mind, no news was good news, and she might have been able to relax, if not for the mess Lia was in.
The defense lawyer Kendra had secured was excellent, but Lia was guilty, so it wasn’t a case of proving guilt, it was a question of punishment and sentencing.
When Kendra had shared as much about Lia’s situation as she could with Lillian yesterday, upon the girl’s return, Lillian had considered and then remarked in her practical way. “What Lia did was wrong, eh, and I guess now she’ll pay, but she’s your bud. You should stand by her. It counts, yeah, to stand by your people, right?”
Kendra had agreed with Lillian’s blunt assessment, which was why she had hired a top lawyer despite the fact of Lia’s guilt. In her defense, Lia had cooperated fully with the justice system and Holly had ended up taking the heaviest blows as far as charges went, so far. “As she should,” Kendra had stated to Lia.
Now it was a matter of the trial and sentencing. Kendra refocused as she was approaching the airport; it would be good, very good, to have Carol home.
“So, what happens now?” Carol asked quietly. It was later in the evening and they were sitting in the living room; Kendra had spent some lovely time welcoming her ‘slave’ back.
Then they had dined together and now were just relaxing, both drinking wine; Kendra had given her ‘girl’ permission to ‘be herself’ at this point; no mistress/slave relationship.
Carol regarded the younger woman with a mixture of delight and wonder, but also concern. “You don’t think it wise to, well, distance yourself from all, this?” she murmured.
Kendra looked at Douglas, feeling a pleasant glow at the sight of her companion and the soothing sound of her voice; and she could understand why someone would think like she did. She sipped some wine and replied quietly, “No, can’t do that. Lia’s going to jail, I have no doubt, but there’s still a lot that can be done. I won’t desert her.”
Carol smiled. “I didn’t think so.” After a moment, she continued. “Oh, I bought a place in London, by the way.” Kendra raised her eyebrows, and Carol’s smile widened. “I realize this is not the best time to talk real estate and plans, but I just wanted you to know. When things settle down, it’s there. I know we talked about going to England for a visit, part of our travels, and our place will be waiting there, whenever you’re ready.”
Kendra smiled, thinking ‘our place’.
In spite of all this craziness, there was still hope; Carol Douglas continued to be a ray of sunshine in her life.
At that moment Lillian came striding into the room and stood, looking at the two other women. “So what’s up, gals?” she asked with a grin. She had been smiling since she returned from her visit, which was, in her words, ‘super cool’; and Charlie was a ‘super dude’.
“Sounds super,” Kendra had smiled.
“Ya’ gots it, Chief,” Lillian had said, slapping Kendra on the arm.
Lillian had already mentioned about going back to Winnipeg, and Kendra pondered that that could work, considering that she and Carol had plans to travel; Kendra just needed to know that Lia was looked after, and then people could get on with their lives.
Now later still, it was Kendra and Lillian sitting quietly; Kendra on the couch, the long-legged girl on the carpet. Lillian looked up, asking quietly. “Um, about Lia, eh, what did you guys do, out in Kenora?”
Kendra froze; how on earth could Lillian know anything? As if reading her mind, she said, “You need a better password for your rig, Mom,” Lillian smirked. “Your name, like backwards, eh? Shit, easy weezy, dudette,” she continued, still with her smirk.
“You, um, broke into my laptop?” Kendra asked, more in wonder than annoyance.
Lillian nodded; her face was serious. “I seen wudj’a was up to, right? I seen your, like, what…research, eh? Lettin’ me go to Winner-peg jus’ like that. Ha, you’re no good at the sneaky stuff, Mommsy.”
Kendra knew that already; but what was there to tell this girl? She did not want Lillian having to carry any secrets.
“I need to know what happened, Kend. I need ta’. I know you two did it for me, and it’s got nuthin’ to do with the shit Lia’s in, but it’s, um, connected-like. I gotta know.”
Kendra thought of the video she recorded from pathetic Andrew Thomas. She had intended to show it to Lillian all along, some day, but she hadn’t decided just when.
She got up quietly and moved to a locked drawer, opened it, took out the thumb drive and then retrieved her laptop, putting the drive in, she turned the screen to
Lillian and then started the device.
(End of Chapter 20)