Saturday, February 4, 2017

Face to Face, Part Four

Allison Gentry slouched at my kitchen table next to Rachel. Her face was red and blotchy, and her shoulders were still shaking as she tried to lift her coffee. “I don’t believe this. I just can’t . . .”
            Raymond was alive, after surgery. But Jamie was dead.
            Hours with the cops. Phone calls to Jamie’s family, and Raymond’s boyfriend. And none of us were ready to sleep yet. Maybe never.
            Allison didn’t want to go back to her hotel. She didn’t trust anyone, she said, except me. I didn’t point out that I might not be as safe as she wanted to think, since I’d been there during both of the stalker’s attacks—which the cops noticed and quizzed me about aggressively before apparently deciding I was too helpless to be any kind of threat.
            I kind of agreed with them.
            “I just can’t do it.” Allison gulped at her coffee. “I can’t do a concert after this. How could I do that now?” She grabbed at the tissue box in the middle of the table.
Rachel looked across the table at me as AG sobbed. “Why did you do that?”
I shrugged. My heart was still on overdrive, but at least Rachel didn’t seem too mad at me. “No one gets to say things like that to you. No one.”
Rachel kissed my cheek. “Okay. You’re an idiot, but . . .” She shrugged, “Can you not do anything like that ever again?”
“Well . . .” We’d been through this before. I’m basically a coward, but I have my limits. Rachel’s safety was at the top of the list, even though we’d argued about it way too much for my comfort. “Maybe.”
After a moment, Rachel scowled and gulped some coffee. ”What did the cops say about the lookalike?”
            I’d told them everything. Naturally they looked at me as if I’d been quoting Shakespeare in the original Klingon. “I think they’ll talk to Durr. If they can find him.” I desperately wanted a beer, but AG had been in and out of rehab at least twice, so I didn’t plan on putting one in front of her right now.
            But I needed to ask her some questions. “Ms. Gentry? I’m sorry, but—”
“Oh, for god’s sake, I’m just Ally.” She rubbed her eyes. “At least right now. What is it?”
“So what song do you think he was talking about?”
            “Huh?” She shoved her chair back, angry. “How would I know? I do 18 songs in my act, I’ve recorded probably a hundred, maybe more. It could be ‘Happy Birthday’ for all I know. God, this is a nightmare.”
            She stood up and began to pace the floor, every step careful and measured, as if she were practicing her moves on stage. One-two-three, one-two-three . . .
            I took out my phone and looked at the calendar. “You said the emails from BrandonX started three months ago? He was already dead by then—”
            “So what?” She spun around on one heel.
            “So I’m just wondering if anything happened around then that might have triggered Durr?”
            “I don’t . . .” She shook her head started pacing faster. “That was November, right? I did a couple of talk shows. I could maybe look up my tweets. I think that’s when I dropped a new song . . .”
            “Oh, wait!” Rachel jumped up and grabbed her phone. “I remember that! It was . . . wait a minute . . .” She punched up iTunes. “Siri, search ‘AG, teacher, song.’”
            Huh? When did Rachel get Siri on her phone? More important, when did she start following AG? “Wait, I thought you hated—” I shut up.
            “Here it is.” She hit the speaker function on her phone:

            It’s been a long long road
From the first year to the last
And I’ve been waiting
To make it to the end of the path
It’s all I wanted, you know it’s just what I want
Because you know, you have to know,
It’s just what I want
It’s all over soon

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah . . .

And I just I know, I bet
I get to be the teacher’s pet
Teacher’s pet

Teacher’s pet, teacher’s pet
I want to be the teacher’s pet, teacher’s pet . . .

“Turn it off!” For a moment I thought Allison was going to leap over my couch and grab the phone and hurl it throw the window. “It’s just a song! It’s not about—anything! Someone else wrote it, and I just sang it—”
“But I heard it in his head.” Rachel muted her phone. “It was like someone was playing on repeat, over and over again. I couldn’t do anything, I just . . .” She shuddered.
Allison sank down at the table, her head in her hands. “But I never did any of that! They all thought I was screwing all the teachers and the whole football team, but all I ever wanted to do was sing! I had a few boyfriends, but . . . but . . . why does everyone hate me?”
She sobbed. Rachel grabbed my hand and placed it on Allison’s arm. Then she held Allison’s hand as she cried.
We waited. Finally Allison sat up, wiping her eyes and grabbing for the last of the tissues. “I wanted to be a folk singer. Like Joan Baez, you know? Then I was on that stupid TV show, and then everything got out of control.” She slammed her hand on the table. “And I can’t even have a glass of wine anymore. Is that fair?”
“Of course not.” I’m not a psychologist, but sometimes in this job I have to act like one. “I’m sorry.”
She sighed. “Right.”
“So . . .” I stood up and started pacing myself. Maybe it was contagious. “Whether it was sexual or not, Ryan Durr had strong feelings for Brandon Toth. So maybe when Brandon died and the song came out, he snapped. Maybe he had a crush on you, and that was—confusing.”
“And he figured out how to change his face?” Allison frowned, puzzled. “I mean, I’m sorry, but how could he do that?”
I remembered my conversation with Brandon’s sister Bridget earlier today. Dungeons and Dragons books, which didn’t necessarily mean anything—I mean, I played some D&D in college. But also . . . “Brandon’s sister said Durr had books on magic at his house.”
“And some spells work like mathematical formulas.” Rachel reached again for her phone. “I’ll make some calls.” She looked at the time. 2:34 a.m. “Oops. Tomorrow, I guess.”
“And I should do the concert.” Allison looked across the table at the two of us. “Maybe we can draw him out. If I sing the song?”
My stomach flipped over a few times. “That could be dangerous for you.” And for other people. Like me. But I didn’t want to sound like a coward in front of her. And Rachel.
“And the rest of us. I know.” She stood up, crossed her arms, and started pacing some more. Suddenly she was AG again, tall and confident and, yeah, pretty hot. “But I can’t let him get away with this. And I can’t live like this! It’s on.” She pulled her phone out of her back pocket. Not that I was paying any attention to her butt. “Got to send some messages.”
      Rachel and I looked at each other. She rolled her eyes. “At least I finally get to see an AG concert.”

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