The characters and setting of ER are the property of NBC, Warner Bros., Amblin Entertainment and Constant C Television.
The characters and setting of Angel are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar, and Kuzui Productions.
The characters and setting of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the property of Joss Whedon, Twentieth Century Fox and Mutant Enemy.
TIME TO MOVE ON
1 The Whirling Pits
Nearly threw up in that goddamn elevator. Oh god I'm gonna now ... CRASH my left leg into the basin and again diving onto the floor. Am I gonna know about THAT inna morning. Just manage to keep it down until my head's over the ... Most of it, anyway. Don't care. Slapped the wall not the switch so it's dark and I doan haveta thing about it till morning. Yeah, Weaver's gorran alibi. Giddy now. Laughing? What the hell for? This ain't funny, it ain't funny at all. Nope. Pull yourself together. Get up. Gettup. Up. Getting up ow ow OW. Urrgh. Nope. Not till it's all gone. Catch my breath. Honey, you are so in the shit. Or the -
Must be a fair bit still in my bloodstream though my head's clearer now. That puts paid to analgesics for my leg. Tomorrow is going to be no fun. Or the day after, or the days after that, I can tell. Plus, factor in the hangover. It's enough to put a girl off whisky. Memo to self: Next time, try vodka, they say it's so pure you don't get hung over.
Right, Doctor Weaver, time to assess the situation. Get and up and lurch back to bed without Green Destiny, or crawl on my hands and knees, OK, knee? Much as I hate it, there really is only one option.
The hour of the wolf, they call it, that time around 3 and 4 AM when there isn't a living soul out and the night is coldest and darkest and when a patient who won't make it is most likely to die. It may be May tonight but you wouldn't know it. I am lying in my bed shivering with cold. Or fear. Because today I came out to Robert. Because today I realised there was no way to make things right with the woman I love. Because I delivered an ultimatum I can't follow through on. Because Adele may never walk again. Because we couldn't save them all. Because I still love her. Because I am lying here alone, motionless, in silence and darkness and yet I just know she is here, I can feel her, her scent, her voice, her warmth. Because she just has to be here. Because she doesn't love me. Because I am not going to start crying again, dammit. Because it's the hour of the wolf and I am still drunk and in a minute or so, I know I will fall into the whirling pits, when my bed will start spinning round and round and down and down, spiralling me into blackness, oblivion and terror.
Something small and hostile growing metallic fur has crawled into my head and died there. It's the decomposing rat mother of all hangovers. At least I took my lenses out. Thankfully it's my day off. I phone Brenda and tell her I'm going on vacation before half my accrued personal days expire. Use it or lose it, right? Off the top of my head I say, "I'm going to Africa".
I stare at the receiver after I hang up. Africa? Weaver, what were you thinking? Same as when you told Fred next door you were going to Africa: not a whole lot. Mind you, there are advantages: it's a big place. Someone says, "Funny, we must have been in Nairobi at the same time and never met", turns out I was in Johannesburg. So that's one lie I won't ever get called on. Five thousand miles and nine time zones away, County won't even try to get me on my cell. And it's true I've got nineteen days to burn. Nineteen whole days. That gives me plenty of time. Why, I can get my head round all of this, see how Kim reacts, get a flight at the last minute, go back and see all my old friends again, like Mlungisi ... errr, then again, maybe not.
Prioritise. Rehydration first. Then I need to get my head round all this. Assess the position. If she goes, I go. What does Kim want to do? She said she was tired of fighting. She might not want her old job back. If she goes, I go. Hell of an ultimatum, if she wants to leave County. If she goes, I go. Instant career suicide. You can't just walk and expect people to beat your door down with job offers. But she might want to sue for constructive dismissal. More grounds than I have. Mmmm, litigation, that well-known enhancer of employability. If. Might. I will take it to the County Board of Supervisors, the ACLU, the press, and anyone else who will listen ... The very thought of following through on that one. And what if it's my help she doesn't want? But I can't back down from Robert - that would just be slow career suicide. Maybe we could take Robert down with us. Or instead of us.
How many openly gay women do you know in hospital administration? Let's count. Grand total: one. Me. Which is just peachy.
Yesterday I was high on adrenalin when I threatened Robert. I thought that because we were right, we would win. Today - I'm not so sure. Today I can appreciate just how exposed my position is. If we had a strategy - if I had - well, in that case I'd know what Kim wanted. I have to speak to her to find that out. Plus - it's not as if Robert's a stranger to the double-cross. If he tells me he'd offered to reinstate Kim, I need to be able to corroborate it.
Regroup. Damage control. I go online to ensure my civil liberties numbers and contacts are up to date. I fire off some quick emails to the organisations I belong to. And to my lawyer. Then I start on something I've been putting off for months because I haven't had the nerve. I do a search for lesbian and gay sites.
I can't believe how many there are. I refine the search some more to remove the obvious duds (Man-O-Man - I rather think not), but it's still going to be a slow job to check them all out. Maybe if I allow myself a maximum two minutes a site? Brave new world be damned, it's a whole alternate universe. All this in Chicago? How come I never knew? I make a point of visiting a couple of online bookstores that Kim mentioned, but apparently there is no such book as Lesbianism for Dummies.
Maybe I need a mentor. Like I was supposed to be for Lucy Knight. I can't help shuddering, although I remind myself firmly that there's no such thing as an omen. A mentor. Yeah, and how many other lesbians do I know? It was always just Kim. Except that dinner ... that dinner from hell. Ask Christie and that other bitch for hel- ... advice. I'd rather deep-fry my own eyeballs.
Then I remember Maggie Doyle. Hmmm. I wonder ... I stare over the rim of a mug of cold tea and my mind drifts off somewhere else entirely.
Always just Kim. I pinch my nose, hard, and breathe out. Focus. I will not break down again. I will not give in. Back to searching, this time with a fresh pot of tea. Concentrate on the searching.
Kim's not picking up and she's kept her famous broken answering machine. De Raad tells me that Hell apparently broke loose in Psychology yesterday. I clamp my mouth, hard, after the day we had yesterday down in the ER. De Raad couldn't tell the difference between Hell and a chopped salad. He has no idea where Kim is, except she's not at home. He went round this morning on his way in to speak with her and she was long gone.
She can't have vanished. You can always find people.
Unless you're Sam Broder.
I need to find another private investigator in a hurry. Maybe Maggie Doyle could help me with that too.
Her parents tell me she went to California about eighteen months ago, moved in with her brother Francis. Now her late brother. I didn't know. I feel terrible, though I know they feel worse. You really need to work on those social skills, Weaver.
3 Hello Stranger
Maggie Doyle's case. The first time Robert's sexism had really come to my notice. I mean, as a policy of discrimination, not a series of casual repellent attitudes. Still the nearest we'd ever got to nailing him. In retrospect, I wonder how much it mattered that Maggie was a lesbian. Was that the real problem? Or was it a side issue? Another question to have to ask her, for her own sake, and for Kim's. And mine.
Of course, in the end Maggie got a good reference, I made sure of that, and now she's an attending in Sunnydale ER. But the deal was second best, and she shouldn't have had to settle for it. She had wanted to take Robert down. We could have had a chance too, if Elizabeth Corday hadn't withdrawn her support. And that made things awkward between us. We both knew I couldn't have done any more with the hand I'd been dealt, but we both wished I could have. Plus it was her career on the line.
And now it's mine. This time it's personal.
I make sure Sunnydale ER know I'm ER chief in County, and that means they transfer my call to Maggie through to the doctors' lounge without a murmur.
Gruesomely awkward small talk from both of us, then I go to business. I dangle the bait. A second chance to take Robert down. That gets her attention alright. I explain this time we won't be relying on Corday, and pretend not to hear her uncharitable remarks about straight women. How come nobody realises I was married, once? It's not like I pawned the ring.
I explain about Kim, and how Robert terminated her. I keep on explaining, right up to my ultimatum. She listens so hard I can practically hear her doing it. She interrupts, occasionally, to check a fact or clarify a detail. As I go on, her voice hardens with anger, which rekindles mine. I was so right to make this call. Then I explain that Kim has apparently vanished temporarily, so -
"Just one question, Maggie. Can you tell me how I go about finding her?"
"No problem. But not on the phone. We should keep this face to face. And my contacts are LA - based these days. Come burn up some vacation time out here."
I hesitate. Then -
"Sure. Why not? Uhh, I mean, thank you, I'd love that."
We fix the details. Then she asks -
"Just one question, Kerry. Can you tell me how come you're so involved with this?"
Oh sure, why not? I think savagely. Then it hits me. I might just have to follow through on the publicity threat, and if Maggie doesn't know right from the start, she'll be furious. And no help.
I take a deep breath. I've never done this from a cold start, nor over the phone. I'm not quite sure how you break news that will completely alter someone's opinion of you. Just casually announce the life-changing news that you're a lesbian. I stumble through the words, and the sentences, the receiver squirming in my ever more sweaty grip until, finally, blessedly, I can hang up.
What did she mean, "FINALLY!"?
4 Gimme the Silver Bullet
It's a two-hour drive to Los Angeles so I talk Maggie into breakfast before we start. There are still some independent coffee houses left in Sunnydale. The Espresso Hut is a giant leap up from Doc Magoo's. For one thing, it doesn't smell of burgers. Maggie's driving, so I let her order. On our table lies a paper, opened on a story about the trial of two punk kids somewhere in Germany accused of murder. Or maybe they're Goths. Randi would know. Maybe some cult. Anyway. They kidnapped a third kid and took him to some disused factory. Where they drank his blood. Allegedly. Then they sacrificed him to Satan by ripping his heart out. More or less. Their knowledge of gross anatomy was inaccurate, and they were using a drill. I stare at the blurred photos. They're just kids. Barely older than Mark Greene's daughter. Their defence is apparently that they carrying out the orders of their Master so they could become ...
" ... Vampires? Who's going to believe that? They should fire their attorneys if that's the best they can come up with."
Maggie sits down and hands me my coff - my drink. She shakes her head.
"Sunnydale's got a lot of vampires. Mostly late teens, but you get some older. They say the town is built over a Hellmouth - like some kind of mystical energy centre. Glastonbury without the Festival. So we get all sorts here: vampires, trolls, zombies, incubi, succubi. And the Slayer, of course. "
I raise an eyebrow as I stare at her over this month's fashionable insult to the Arabica bean.
"The Slayer. The Chosen One."
It's the other eyebrow's turn.
"My brother Francis says - said - the Slayer's the one girl in every generation born with the strength and skill to kill the vampires. And everything else, obviously. It's the Slayer who stands between human kind and the apocalypse. So she kinda saves the world. It's her destiny."
Uh-huh. "That it?"
"I don't think I've forgotten anything."
"Shouldn't you have started, Previously, On the X-Files?"
"Don't start on me with that Penn and Teller bullshit."
Time we got moving. Maggie's still driving a BMW. A different model, different year, this time with air-conditioning, leather seats, more safety features and less rust, but still from a police auction. It's immensely reassuring and easily comfortable enough for the longish drive. My leg isn't cheering at the prospect, but it settles for a token twinge of protest.
"I got some tapes in there", she sweeps a hand towards my side of the dash. I flip open the lid, flinching from the anticipated sight of her revolver. More than half afraid, even if I know Maggie. I can't face looking on a handgun so I just reach in to get the tapes, and
"Be careful, I got my st -"
I pull back my hand with an inch long splinter in my right middle finger. Maggie stops the car dead in little over twice its own length and sweeps everything else out to get at the first aid kit. I stare down into the foot well. The splinter came from a foot long piece of turned wood sharpened to a point. What the -?
"Sorry, it must have got damaged, you just can't get the real seasoned wood these days. It's only for emergencies really. Hey, no worries, it's not contaminated. I haven't used it yet."
"You use it?" What in hell can she use a broken chair leg for?
"Sure, it's more use than the gun around here."
"What! I mean, what for?"
"Against v- all sorts of things. Bad things. You know - Things."
I'm close to giving up. The best I can do for a differential diagnosis is: either this part of California is in the grip of collective psychosis strong enough to suck in the pragmatic daughter of a pig-headed cop; or one of her girlfriends involved Maggie too deeply into Dungeons and Dragons her own good; or she is playing a practical joke on me; or there's really bad acid in the water supply; or ... Or I don't know what is going on here. I ache to ask Kim about this, to know how she'd deal with it. Shit. More phantom-Kim pain.
The best I can offer is feeble sarcasm. "As in Things that go Bump in the Night?"
"Bogeymen? Not worth getting out of bed for. This is in case I meet up one dark night with the other kind of things, and by the time I've finished with my pointy friend here they ain't walking and talking no more."
Huh? People? "It's a weapon? You've used this to kill people? Maggie?"
"Not people, Kerry. Things. They may walking and talking but they aren't people. Not any more."
I don't like where this is heading. Especially after so many years in an ER. I shudder: Fossen. And Dean Rawlins before him, and others before him. People. Killing. Things. Ex-people. Things that used to be people. Killing is wrong, even killing ex-people. Oh dear lord. Now I'm being sucked in. Get a grip on reality, Weaver.
"We swore, Maggie, we swore: do no harm. There has to be another way."
"Bottom line, Kerry : some things you can't reason with. Some things you got to kill. And you might as well kill them sooner as later. Anyway. Stake through the heart. Pick a ventricle, any ventricle. Works every time. Dust to dust."
"You're a doctor, Maggie. A doctor. We don't kill. What line did you cross?" Silence. Maybe I should lighten my approach. " Or did we start working as extras in some Dracula movie that I'm not aware of ..."
"... Because I thought a stake through the heart was for killing vampires."
"You'd be surprised how many things a stake through the heart will kill."
5 Are We There Yet?
"They went out on a job. Relocation project, he called it. A rescue, really. There was this family .. .. They had to get away from the Scourge, or ... "
"Let me guess: some gang?" Not another nutcult; oh please, not another nutcult ...
"NO. No, you can't guess. And you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
So tell me, I will her. Most people will spill if you wait. More miles, more tarmac. I look out of the window at the freeway. Will those two women and their damn guitars never shut up. Must be twenty miles gone past.
"It was close: there was a fight, a booby trap. Oh they got out, the family, but Francis, he had to ... well, he didn't make it".
"I'm sorry, Maggie. You know, till I spoke to your parents I didn't know you had a brother. Were you close?"
"Yeah, we were. We were very close in lots of ways you wouldn't understand ..."
No, I wouldn't. Not having brothers or sisters. Not ones I know about, anyway. " I'm sorry, Maggie, I really -"
"No, don't. Look he's gone. It was over a year ago, and mom and dad and I, we gotta deal with it. And ... good did come out of it, y'know? His death .. Helped the.. Helped others to live."
It's the line we always use on families to persuade them to consent to organ
donation. I've never been this close to a family member before, never one with
the knowledge we have. It's slightly shaming to see how well it works, even
on one of us, and painful to see how Maggie has withdrawn into herself, looking
beaten as she talks about her brother.
"Maggie, we're ER doctors. What we see, every day ... if we let what we knew get to us, we'd never get out that door in the mornings. Wejust have to refuse to be victims."
I'm squirming inside from the lie. But Guess what: this isn't about you, Kerry.
"Ain't that the truth."
6 Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?
More tyre-on-tarmac noise. Plenty of road to go. I can't believe how matter of fact Maggie is about this stuff. I won't deny I'm intrigued. Maybe she's running two parallel belief systems at the same time. Many of the people I knew in Africa could do that: one western, one traditional. I know I ought to make conversation, since she doesn't have to do any of this, and since my social skills need developing. And anything, anything, to shut out her tapes.
Swish swish rumble swish ...
"Yeah, and I suppose, those two old guys found dead behind the dumpster in the meat-packing district over the winter covered in with bite marks - you're going to tell me it wasn't dogs that ate them."
"Werewolves don't normally go that far North"
Rumble swish swish swish ...
"NOT mammoths? You're telling me they really WERE giant vampiric woolly rats that lived underground? Died when they came into contact with direct sunlight? In Russia? That went extinct at the end of the Ice Age?"
"A sub-species clung on in Sumatra until the late nineteenth century."
Swish rumble swish swish ...
"Yeah, but in fairy stories, y'know, the frogs. Why is it always frogs that people turn into? I'll tell you why. It's pure literary symbolism. Frogs are the metamorphosis of choice because they're liminal creatures, living on land and in water, between ..."
"Nah. Primitive body structure, minimal preparation, short ritual. Frogs are just dead easy."
Swish swish swish rumble.
7 The Hyperion
Maggie drops me off outside the former Hyperion Hotel and pulls a slick U-turn. Four hours in a car before a shift, in this heat, even with air-conditioning. She's started back for Sunnydale before I can work out how to thank her properly.
Francis's former colleagues are standing around in the lobby, munching doughnuts while they figure out how to stuff unfeasible amounts of mediaeval weaponry into a large black leather holdall. It looks like Mary Poppins: Warrior Princess.
One look at the business-like edges and I can intuit the wounds. You might not be able to effect mass murder with a Chinese throwing star, but with this armoury you couldn't do much more damage shy of gunpowder by the barrel. Why would anyone reject gunpowder and lead in favour of wood and cold steel in this day and age? Is it some Californian recycling thing? Too late I realise how rude I'm being, as a female voice cuts across my appalled anatomising of potential victims, concluding,
" .. we help the hopeless."
"Which of you is - ?"
"I'm sorry he's not -" English accent.
"Albert Square ..."
"Can we help?"
"That's in London ..."
"If you're not too busy." Careful, Weaver.
"There was so much activity, the Watchers' ..."
"... London, England, it's ..."
"Can I give you a list of our fees, standard and by the hour?"
"Francis's sister Maggie recommended you."
"... a new Hellmouth." Great. It's not even a full moon.
"Francis?" the black guy sounds puzzled.
"Doyle", the others chorus.
I size them up. The operation comprises one girl in her mid-to-late twenties and two guys, one black, one white, obviously a couple. I noticed that without noticing I noticed. Though noticing now, that I had noticed then- completely throws me. Wow. Kim mentioned this. Gaydar. Heh. Well, mine works, sort of. Not much use if it only identifies men. I train it on the girl, just to see what I can pick up but -
"God, what was your childhood trauma?"
The guys mount a recovery operation. They must get a lot of practice. If Maggie hadn't sworn they could help ... The English guy shows me to an office for our interview. Some people just know how to do it right. There's tea for me, partly courtesy, partly displacement activity. His cup grows cold in front of him. He's playing this really well. It's easy for me to spell it out for him, who I'm looking for, why it's important that I find her. Because she could still have a job. Because we could take Robert down. And because we were involved.
I lay a photograph of Kim on his desk.
He looks at her. I could swear I saw a flash of recognition in his eyes. Then he looks at me. He picks up the photo for a closer look.
"It's a fairly recent one. About five months old. The most recent one I have." Unspoken is, "... where she has all her clothes on, and is wearing an expression, and is holding a pose, that anyone else is ever going to see."
He stands up holding the photo by one corner. " Kim Legaspi. And she left Chicago on May 17th. Let me consult my colleagues a moment."
He's gone a very long moment, even if you're charging by the hour. All three of them return. They've seen Kim alright.
"Dr Weaver, my associates and I have discussed -"
"You don't want to mess with this any further -"
"And I'm going to give you my - our - professional opinion."
"Give? What's wrong with charging? You know, exchange of goods and services for money? You remember money? The folding green paper stuff there hasn't been any of round here for too long? Hello?"
"There's nothing we can do to help you find Kim Legaspi."
"She don't want to find her!"
"Yes I do." My voice is tensing up.
"Don't you have a life to go back to in Chicago already?"
"It would be best if you didn't continue your search."
"On account of the extreme dead ladies and all."
" ... or maybe you could get one."
"Tell me where she is." Easy there, Weaver: they're not Malucci.
"It wouldn't do any good ... "
"I want to find her." Idiots. Why else would I be here.
"And do what? Besides die a painful death?"
"Kim would never hurt me."
"Don't bet the farm, 'cause your ex-girlfriend the shrink is waaay too in touch with her inner Carmilla."
"I don't think you quite appreciate the gravity of the situation. About a week ago, we heard that a woman whom, thanks to you, we can now identify as Kim Legaspi passed through LA. ... "
Huh? Kim here? No, been and gone. I'm too late. Is this going to be the story of my life?
"Bodies sucked dry of blood, necks chewed, heads bit off, that kind of heard."
"Not to mention the skull-splitting headaches bringing yummy vision goodness."
"See a neurologist." Definitely a bark.
" ... You never mentioned that she'd been ... Well, at some point after you last saw her, she must have been - well, she underwent some changes ..."
"That would be the crossing over to the dark side."
"Private practice isn't illegal or unethical." I could lose my patience soon.
"He means she got vamped."
"And see a psychiatrist while you're at it." That came out even colder than I intended, believe me.
"In short, the consequences could be dire. Not only is she very dangerous herself, there are even more dangerous people out there looking for her, on her side and on ours. The Slayer, for one. Whom, I should perhaps mention, we felt it was advisable to summon. It's not safe for you here. It would be very easy for people to misinterpret your interest: as a general rule there are no innocent bystanders in this sort of case. Whatever your previous feelings for Kim Legaspi, I urge you to forget your quest, Dr Weaver. She doesn't belong in your world any more. And you don't belong in hers."
"Unless you're looking to get bit yourself?"
"I can see you don't believe a word of that ..."
" 'And', ' the' ", I shrug.
" ... but please believe this. She was here. She left town. We don't know where she is now. You can't help her. It's too late for that now. We can't help you. Go home. Before you get hurt, maybe killed. Or worse."
8 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Attorney
I stomp out of the Hyperion knowing I could use a good fume over a coffee. There's a Starbucks nearby. What the hell. I can always get coffee later.
Kim passed through LA and the bastards won't tell me where she went. I have no idea why they're holding out on me. Actually, they warned me off. Call that rational behaviour for a so-called investigative agency? They make Sam Broder look like Sherlock Holmes's smarter brother. V.I. Warshawski, why aren't you real when I need you? And all that bullshit about Slayers, and vampires, and Hellmouths. Everyone apparently believes it, even Maggie. This is Earth calling Planet Zog, come in Maggie Doyle and your friends, Earth to Planet Zog ... Parallel belief systems was an over-generous interpretation. Yet another lifestyle I am so not interested in adopting. This is one state I am not relocating to if I have to leave County.
The red mist eventually disperses, a bit, and I have to concede that Maggie did talk sense when she was telling me I needed a Plan B. Now that conversation, that was real, that was rational. Daunting, but sane. Scary, intimidating, frightening, alarming, but sane. Shake it up how I will, I have no option but the Plan B that Maggie helped me devise when we weren't making small talk about crypto-zoology: make enquiries myself. Thank god she explained how. It means waiting for a couple of hours till the bars open.
All the way to the first one in the taxi I was scolding myself: it's just a bar, you've been in plenty of bars before, it's just a bar, you have to start looking for her somewhere, this is Los Angeles for god's sake, no-one is going to see you going in, well, no-one who knows you. Oh pull yourself together woman, it's just a bar, what if she's there? Pull. Yourself. Together. Let her be there. You can't expect to find her the first place you look. Please let her be there. You just have to make contacts, ask around, remember the lines Maggie taught you. It's just a bar. Yeah, that's right, it's just a LESBIAN bar and it's just full of LESBIANS. What, you're afraid if you go in you'll turn into a big old LESBIAN, Weaver?
Well, it's a bit late to start worrying about that.
And in the end it is just a bar. Except it's full of women, only women, no men. Which for some reason I hadn't expected, what it with it being a lesbian bar and all. Oh god, I am hopeless.
Don't ask me how I got to the bar or what I ordered. A surreptitious reality check proves I'm on a stool at a vacant section of the bar, Green Destiny is firmly propped against the counter, and I have a drink. EWWW. Vodka better not give people hangovers, because something has to make up for the taste. Or the black hole that eats taste-matter before turning my tongue into a supernova. I can't believe I ordered it straight up.
Stay on mission, I remind myself. I run over the script Maggie coached me in earlier, and I manage to get most of the lines out, more or less right. It's worse than lecturing. I even slide the money over reasonably unobtrusively. She's right: the woman behind the bar is impassive, non-committal, too obviously polite. And it probably won't work out. But you have to be thorough.
What Maggie hadn't told me was what to do next. The being in a gay bar part, not the making enquiries part. I guess she thought I knew.
Movement a few feet away attracts me. Brunette, hair just past her shoulders. Scarlet lipstick. Expensive suit, has the legs for the short skirt. Especially with those heels. Silk blouse, open quite low. You can catch a glimpse of her bra, ivory, lace trim, probably a C cup.
She turns my way. Oh my god did she notice me ... she must think I was ... I look away blushing furiously, and over in the far corner I spot a table, a blessedly empty table. Speed before comfort. It's mine. When I sit down, she's about two steps away. With what looks like a decent whisky, on the rocks. How in the world do I handle this? Without making it worse, that is. Before I can apologise she's sat down.
"I understand you're trying to get in touch with Kim Legaspi." That was fast.
"I might be." That was stupid.
"Come off it. So are we." That was direct.
She hands me a card with her name on it. My heart sinks. What is it with Kim
and lawyers? I try not to snort when I read her job title: Vice-President of
Special Projects. It sounds a bit too much like Chief Assistant to the Assistant
Chief for me to take her entirely seriously. I lay her card down on in front
of me. Is Shannon Wallace going to press charges after all?
"Is she in trouble?"
"No." Followed by an over-theatrical pause meant to frighten me by implying: but she could be. Ling Woo, she isn't. At this rate she wouldn't intimidate a medical leech. Weaver 1, Attorney 0.
"So what do you want with Kim?"
"The Senior Partners at the firm would like to offer Ms Legaspi a position."
" Dr Legaspi." Weaver 2, Attorney 0.
"A psychiatrist, I understand. Transferable skills. Very valuable. We have it on good authority that she's looking to leave psychiatry and change field."
My synapses try not to implode. Kim, not practising? Kim, not healing people, not caring? Kim, moving into the corporate world? Kim? I need to get regain the upper hand in this, but instead I hear a pathetic squeak,
"How do you know this?" Weaver 2, Attorney 1.
She smiles and gestures towards the other side of the bar, the movement straining the buttons on her blouse. Bad Weaver.
"From an ... associate... of Dr Legaspi."
Of course she means the most irritating girl in the bar, and very possibly on the planet, even up against this afternoon's competition. Young, blonde, generously curvy, practically performing an impromptu rhinectomy with her cigarette as she scores a light off a woman in leather. Vacuous little tramp. The pressure of Lilah's right hand on top of my left pulls me back to the here and now. Weaver 2, Attorney 2.
"The firm needs to deal with Dr Legaspi. She's a new player in town. Actually in San Francisco, so, OK, technically, in another town. Just a figure of speech. We would like her on our side. Team. Dr Legaspi is remarkable. Powerful, but - indiscreet. She brings herself to people's attention. Like that of our Senior Partners. But not everyone is as open minded about her, ah, talents as they are. It's a cut-throat world out there. She could find herself in big trouble soon. The faster we move, the better. You want to find her; we know where she is. Only we could use an introduction, an intermediary. I think, maybe you and me, we could help each other out. One condition: she has to tone things down. Otherwise -"
"That's not her style. Never was." I run my right index finger round the top of my empty glass. San Francisco. "She could have been the poster child for ..."
"You knew about this? You dated her knowing this? My, I underestimated you."
"I never said we dated."
She rolls her eyes. "You didn't have to." Weaver 2, Attorney 3.
"And you got out unscathed. I'm impressed."
"No, not exactly. I wouldn't call it unscathed."
She gives me a long look. The slight pressure from her hand increases, and her little finger curls underneath to caress my palm. "Mmmm. Another drink?"
9 Not Really A Morning Person After All
Mmmm hmmm ... oh yeah, that was ... mmmm ... coffee smell ... incredible ... yesss, incredible ... nothing beats it in the morning ... so hot, so intense, mmmm ... oh yeah, that was one hot night, lover ... bad Weaver ... she is so damned hot ... wow ... I just ... I mean, everything just ... last night we were strangers and this morning I'm here, in her bed ... one minute she was ... I couldn't even tell you how ... things just seemed to flow seamlessly ... and then, then, ... mmmm hmmm ... oh wow, we just ... how she ... before she ... and then I ... bad bad Weaver ... while she ... I didn't think anyone could do those two things at once, oh yesss, oh god ... not without a prehensile tail, anyway ... mmmm ... coffee...
We did, didn't we. My eyelids snap open as my hand flies to my mouth. Oh. My. God. We did THAT?
BAAAD bad Weaver.
At least I don't have a hangover.
Where the hell is Green Destiny?
And my lenses? And my bra? And my other shoe?
This wasn't supposed to happen. None of this was supposed to happen. I had a plan. A mission. I was supposed to stay focussed. Maintain my concentration. Look to the prize at the end. Blend in. Mingle. (Read: not be the usual social leper.) Make contacts. Heh. Oh, I think I can say that I made contact ok.
Oh god. Footsteps. Here comes room service.
She makes fantastic coffee, though I can't say I appreciate it properly, seeing as how the woman who made it - the woman I just spent the night with, doing unbelievable things that I can't, quite, remember fantasising about - well, not before - is sitting cross-legged on the bed, just out of arm's reach as I lean back on a mountain of pillows. I'm naked under the covers that I've pulled right up, and I wish I could either stop pinning them down with my arms or feeling over-dressed: I'm not fussy which. Because she looks supremely at ease, wearing only an over sized man's shirt with a single button done up, below her breasts. Her amazing breasts. And lower down, oh, lower down, where the shirt falls open, I can see the soft skin at the top of her thighs, and almost make out the line where shadow leaves off and dark curls begin ... Oh great. NOW I get to see why my husband had an erotic thing about me wearing his shirts? Please. Gross or what?
She smiles at me. "What are you thinking?"
"Errr ..." Even I know I can't tell her.
"Something wicked, if I know you ... do I?" She puts her hands behind her head and leans back in a stretch, which means that her breasts lift, her shirt pulls taut over their curve so that her nipples point the linen, and the shirt rides up so there's no shadow any more, only those dark curls where last night I ... In three heartbeats I've got hot and wet. She gives me a speculative smile that practically pins me to the headboard. "Oh yeah, I know you." I think I'm going to stroke out.
Then she leans in on me with a quizzical look on her face. Uh-oh, she's up to something. Of course, I could just make minor medical history and die of ventricular tachycardia first. A slight, amused shake of her head before she rests her hands on my shoulders. Then tucks them under the top of the covers, which one strong move pulls down past my thighs. Before I can do anything - like, resist, protest, cover myself with my hands or determine probable cause of death - she's kneeling astride me, and running her fingers right down my body, over my breasts, my stomach, my thighs, all over in fact, slowly and lightly. Too slowly and too lightly. There's hardly any pressure to her touch - it's the merest contact of her skin and mine. Any softer and it would be tickling. Or maybe any harder. I wish that analytical part of my brain would shut the hell up. And her fingertips scarcely seem to be moving at all, but they must have moved because I'm pretty sure that, in another geological age, they were setting fire to my nipples, whereas now they are circling, creeping, sneaking down over my lower abdomen, a fraction of a millimetre at a time. I add it to the list of erogenous zones I used to appreciate insufficiently. I can't take any more. I reach out to her greedily.
"Oh no you don't."
She seizes my hands, stretches my arms right out, and grins, confident she can hold me. Seeing as how I'm not really resisting, she does, easily. Then she lifts her body up and backwards away from my legs, simultaneously leaning in to kiss me. Our lips move but hardly touch: if I lean forward she pulls back. We play that game, long enough for me to pick up the scent that tells me she's almost as aroused as I am, so I start to plan my next move and then -
"Oh my god, Kerry, I'm sorry, you've got to get on, haven't you? And I've got a meeting. So it's a work morning for both of us. Damn. I am so sorry."
The high-speed switch from practised seductress to utter dork disarms me. I mean, I can manage the one without trying, but not the other. Not in this life. I stammer out a word-salad, vaguely apologetic but understanding and showing I appreciate her consideration at the same time. At least that's the intention. For once, I urge myself, do and say the adult, the mature, sophisticated things. And make that suspicious little worm of mistrust shut the fuck up while you're at it.
Of course, when I'm in her shower I have a good long scream into a folded towel before I ... well. It's either that or stress out over breakfast, which I did last time, and look where that got us.
When I come out of the shower, she calls me down into her kitchen. She's thoughtfully gathered all my top clothes and my missing shoe. She has my purse in her hand, which she closes and passes over to me. A second pile, of her clothes, is dumped in the laundry basket. Except her silk blouse from last night, which is ripped beyond repair. I feel insanely proud of that. She ruffles my hair and kisses my cheek, whispering in my ear, "Some scavenger hunt you left for me, tiger."
There's more coffee, toast but no bagels, thank god, and before I really know
it - a taxi pulling up outside. What
the -? I don't remember asking her to order one. Oh yeah, it's a work morning. Damn.
"I hate to ask ... but last night ... you said you had Kim's address?"
She looks at me levelly, all the fire gone out. Her pupils contract. I can feel her withdraw from me, and start pleading inwardly, Aw no, sweetie, don't .. . What's wrong? How could I have blown it before we've even finished breakfast? Boy, Weaver, this is a record even for you. Then it hits me. She thinks I'm using her.
"I'm so sorry, that came out all wrong, please, don't take it the wrong way ... please. You must think I'm awful."
"No Kerry, I think you're just human. Completely human." She looks at me with a flat melancholy that unnerves me. Then she hands me three envelopes.
"This is the address you want.. And ... and the phone numbers. If they don't work out, here's two all night bars you might want to check out. They won't be in any guide you can buy. Here's the reservation for your ticket on to San Francisco. Shh, honey: let's not make this harder than it already is. Tonight at The Palms at 9, ok? Promise me? You know I'm here for you."
Just before she opens the door for me, she pulls me close and kisses me goodbye, not particularly chastely. Nine at The Palms. Maybe I am doing this right, after all. I wave my goodbyes out of the side window, she gives me a tender smile, then a wink and then - I swear she blew me a kiss. Oh my. Only fourteen hours, thirty seven minutes, and sixteen seconds before 9 PM. My god. A date. I've got a date. A red-hot date.
Beep. My purse squeals at me. Beeep. The battery on my cell is about to run flat. Beeeeep. Odd. I'm sure I switched my cell off. I knew the battery was low. I always switch my cell off. How could it have got switched on? I have to go deep in the purse to haul it out, which starts to make me feel sick, because this is why I got a purse with compartments, so I wouldn't lose my cell, or my keys, or my cards, or the stuff for my contacts, or my diary ... Come on, how would you know? You weren't drunk last night, well, not that drunk, but your mind was on other things.
She wouldn't have. Surely to god she wouldn't have - ?
Christie would have.
Yeah, but she's not Christie. You wouldn't have done any of that with Christie.
But she is a lawyer.
10 Girl Talk
Kim has one of those old San Francisco townhouses, with wooden stairs, narrow and uneven, and not nearly enough lights. She buzzes me up to her living room on the top floor.
We don't embrace. Or touch. Instead we stand about ten feet apart feeling like geeks. Correction: I feel like a geek. No change there. Kim - I can't tell how she feels. But she looks contained. And different, somehow. The last couple of weeks must have been hard on her. She sprawls over a leather designer couch that faces a glass wall. You'd have a perfect view over the Bay, if the thick velvet drapes hadn't been pulled tight shut. She'd warned me on the way over about the photo-sensitivity. Typical pre-migraine symptom. Stress, I suppose. There's nowhere else, so I sit beside her. I called this meeting, I should start.
"What have you been up to?"
"Going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it."
I shiver as I recognise the words. My eyes are adjusting to the darkness. I'd grown used to the cluttered horrors that were her apartment and her office, although I never stopped teasing her about them. This place is decorated in better taste, but it's not better. Not Kim, somehow. It's - soulless. I never thought I'd miss that ghastly Pierrot she kept by the bed. We make small talk about her new house. How'd she move in here so fast? It doesn't look like her choice of furniture. She grins at me. There's something about it that makes me avert me eyes. Turns out the previous owner - yeah, another lesbian - moved out in a hurry. One hell of a hurry if she didn't have time to take her photos down and her coats off the hook in the hall. The flash car's hers too. Did they date? I've no right to ask.
The smooth wood floor is covered in a light snow of polaroid photos of Kim, head and shoulders, different hairstyles. She's not camera shy - but so many? They just look like mugshots. Why?
"Oh the polaroids, yeah, took me a while to figure that out. I'll probably go digital soon."
I notice that one of them is of the blonde girl that I saw in bar last night. Wait - several of them are. Make that lots. In some of them she's with Kim. Can't help a quick gloat that there are none of Lori. I'm too nervous so I should just shut up, but I look up at her and say it anyway.
"Do you really plan to leave these just lying around on the floor to get damaged?"
"Oh, gimme a break, Monica."
This isn't going well. We're barely connecting. I look down again. The atmosphere in the room is becoming oppressive, though it could be down to having the drapes and windows shut on a blue summer afternoon.
" What do you want, Kerry?"
"There's something I need to tell you. I know it may be too late, but I want you to know -"
"Jeez, haven't we already been through this once?"
"No, this is different." I lay out the whole situation, everything that happened on May 17th after I went up to the psych ward to see her. So hard to pitch it right. I don't want to plead with her, but I know that somewhere I'm doing this to please her as much as because it's right. And I remember what it felt like to have that kind of fire. Robert. Coming-out. Civil rights lawyers. Even publicity, even the press. Even my ultimatum. So -
"What do you want, Kim?"
"Not that." I just stare. Somehow I never considered this.
"I told you it was time to move on. Guess what, Kerry: I've moved on. I drove a couple of thousand miles to California, I am through with medicine, I am changing career, I have a new girlfriend. If you found me here, you'll have heard about the new lifestyle. You might say I'm a new woman. Maybe you should move on too."
But I have, I tell her, I have, I stood up to Robert, I came out to him for you, I put my career on the line here ...
"One man, once, in the men's room. The men's room. For fuck's sake. Where no-one could see or hear you. What does that amount to? Nothing. You haven't changed. If you were any deeper in the closet you'd be in Narnia. And you know what? I never asked you to get involved. Can't you get it into your head that means I didn't want you to?"
"No, you didn't ask me. I did it because it was right." I'm not handling this well, I know, but how do you handle being stuck in a furnace with the ghost of your ex-lover?
She laughs outright at that. This is getting worse.
"What is it you want from me?"
"I don't want anything, Kim."
"Of course you do. Everybody wants something. What's yours?"
I just can't win here. Has she swapped personalities with that blood-sucking lawyer friend of hers Christie? Grimly I swear to myself that I'm not going to help her cross over into the corporate world. I can't imagine how things could get worse. Too much like tempting fate. I can hardly hang on. I am running out of things to say. But still too stubborn to stop trying, I guess. Somehow I never imagined this. Kim's working up to a power-scowl. Her angelic face.
"Things have changed, Kerry. I've changed." Dismissive.
"So have I". It sounds like pleading, and she snorts with derision. "It's not funny". This time I take a deep breath and try to hold her gaze, to let her know I mean all the bad things I did, all the times I let her down. And myself. "Kim, I am so sorry."
"I'm not. What doesn't kill me makes me strong."
What kind of a monster has she become?
Her low designer leather couch became a complete bitch after ten minutes and now I finally have to get up and move. I make it across to the drapes and pull them open, Kim's photo-sensitivity or no. Roofs in the foreground, steeply swinging down to the Bay. Too late for boats, too early for street lights. The last rays of the sun strike deep into the apartment. I could do without the pathetic fallacy. I hear a low growl from the darkness behind me. I just stand with my forehead against her window, unable to move for pain. Bring it on. Whatever Kim has in mind for me, just bring it on.
Instead she sighs. "Look at you." She sounds almost exactly like my adoptive mother, exasperated because I haven't figured out how to stay clean while playing with mud pies. Another ghost to contend with. "Kerry. Why don't you just get it fixed. Let me fix it. I can fix it."
Despite my willpower, every muscle in my body, voluntary and involuntary, has gone rigid. Even the ones already stiff with pain. "Kim, you qualified ... you know."
"I know more now."
Finally. Here it is. Temptation. I can feel her eyes boring into my back. I can hear the leather squeak as she fidgets, while I look down over the Bay, over the roofs, through the window, where I can see the reflection of the couch. She has changed. How could I be so blind.
"There isn't a down side. Don't tell me you don't want it."
"This isn't about my -. That's not why I came to see you." Disgusting snivelly whisper. Touch and go whether I dissolve into a torrent of tears and snot. I'm not even going to contemplate flinging myself at her feet and begging her to -. I'm not.
"No? Ohhh. I see. It's about love, isn't it."
Now I'm so rigid, so tense, that I'm shaking. Is it pain? Or fear? Dread? Or love? What comes next? I think I can keep myself together. I think. Resist. I don't know. Resist. I doubt it. Temptation. What's she going to say now?
"C'mon Kerry. Don't forget, I read your letter. C'mon. You can have whatever you want, you know. Whoever you want. I mean you can have the one you really want. Kerry? Mmmm, sweetie, ask yourself: whose arms you really want about you? You know who you really want to hold you at night. To love. To love you back. Admit it. Who do you really want? This time don't lie to yourself. Follow your heart. Who do you really want to love you? There's only one, isn't there..."
The shaking has stopped. I can hold perfectly still. There is only one. There only ever has been one. How right she is.
"So stay here with me. I know you better than you know yourself."
She doesn't know me at all.
The last sunlight burns my escape route straight past the couch right to the door.
Twilight makes it a real bitch to get down the stairs out of her house. Two flights from the bottom I am shocked to find how few Swahili curses I remember. I make it down the stairs and fumble for almost ten minutes at the god-damned locks with one hand, because I need, I really need, to lean hard on my right.
I open the door on a blonde woman I've never seen before. Girl, really. Nineteen and change. Twenty, tops. This one's an athlete too, and achingly beautiful, if you can get past the chip of ice in her heart. And in an instant ...
... it's early spring, outside her steps in Chicago, in her neighbourhood, holding out a letter (was that when I knew?), back to Lori, no it's fine, I mean I'm fine, back to "are you Dr Legaspi", back to "you know what, I'm freezing out here", back to writing that letter in the airport lounge, (was that the moment?), back to watching her dry her hair wearing that pink kimono (was that it, was that when it was?), back to dumping Mike's card (was that when I really knew?), the sentiment, like she was going to mark an essay , back to Doc Magoo's (what was that if it wasn't ...) back to saying "I want you to stay" (maybe I knew then, god I should have known then), back to a train wreck, back to that sweet silly man saying to her, "this too will pass" ...
Only it hasn't.
All the times I went over it, the good thing we had, trying to work out what tiny thing I could have done differently, to reduce chaos to a different order, trying to remember the good times we had, going over it all in such minute detail I'm no longer sure what happened, and every time we became, in my mind we became, less and less to each other, and with or without the whisky I cried myself to sleep over and over again, hating myself because I buried both my parents with fewer tears and less pain, and because all this crying was washing away the good thing we had in salt and bitterness, and I have tried and tried and tried until now I can see no other ending to it.
I know when I'm beaten.
And I know what this is. She looks straight into me.
Her large black leather holdall clanks on the top step, loudly. It's too much for her, alone.
"Let me give you a hand with that."