Nominated for the International Frankfurt Award and EPPIE Finalist
ISBN 1-59279-899-3 (Paperback)
ISBN 1-059279-137-9 (Electronic)
Chicago jazz pianist Joe Barbarello, on the night of his greatest success at Chicago’s Ravinia, spots a beautiful woman in the audience and can’t look away. He goes home with her and stays for three days and nights. After he comes up for air he discovers that this woman, Zoey Bauer, is the prime suspect in the brutal knife slaying of her former lover—a murder committed five days before Joe met her. But Chicago detectives working this case don’t believe Joe met her only three days ago.
Enter a roster of colorful characters who want in the worst way to help solve the mystery of who killed Jay DaVolo. Every person Joe meets in Zoey’s Gold Coast world had a good reason to kill DaVolo. They’re all filthy rich, greedy for more, and involved in a multi-million dollar double-scam that has encircled the globe. Joe has to outwit this crew to prove his own innocence, and the innocence of the enigmatic woman with whom he becomes so sexually obsessed that he might lose his freedom—or his life.
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“A vibrant, gritty novel evoking the sights and sounds of Chicago’s music scene and the Gold Coast lifestyle of the rich. Joe’s sarcastic, self-deprecating voice casually invites readers in, only to plunge them into a relentless maelstrom of music and mystery that forces us to keep turning pages straight through until the end. Ms. Anderson writes with a savvy, compelling style reminiscent of Robert B. Parker that will have mystery fans clamoring for more…” -Melissa Bradley, Rendezvous Review Magazine
“Highly Recommended! What a great mystery from Beth Anderson, blending romance and humor into a highly enjoyable story full of twists and turns, lively characters, a dead body, and a gorgeous woman accused of murder I laughed from beginning to end at Joe’s dilemma, his relationships, and his insights. A great read from start to finish that takes you away to that nightclub in Chicago where the music is steaming and the company is even hotter…” -Aimee McLeod for: All About Murder, WordWeaving, Under the Covers, and Midwest Book Reviews
“Anderson includes a secondary story line of Joe’s band and their struggle to make it big. Joe cannot ignore his desire to win the contract nor his obligation to the band. It becomes one of Joe’s driving forces to find the killer fast so he won’t miss out on the music opportunity of a lifetime. Both story lines fit together beautifully and create a novel that you will love. Beth Anderson’s Night Sounds gets five stars…” -Shari Brennan, Midnight Scribe Reviews and SimeGen.com
“Anderson has pulled out all stops with this thriller. She is to be highly credited for her in-depth research in both dramatic characterization and the literary framework of a great mystery, not to mention the sub-plot of the music industry, and all with her own special brand of humour. They all blend together like the perfect tune to make a highly entertaining read that will stay on the reader’s shelf as a classic to be read again and again….” -J.B. Scott for Sharpwriter
“The reader doesn’t know who’s telling the truth in the story and the author gives just the right amount of suspicion all around. Truly a great read for those who enjoy first person and a good opportunity for those who don’t to see it done well…” -Craig Maclachlan for AMysteryFanatic.com
“In the midst of the devastation that is now Joe’s life, Anderson will lighten the scene with Joe’s overprotective and know-it-all mother. I found her character hilarious and so entertaining, I could have read a whole book just about her. Night Sounds will keep you guessing till Anderson decides to tell you just who it is. I found the entire story gripping and exciting. The surprising twist at the end of the book is so startling that you’ll catch your breath in surprise…” -Stacey Bucholtz for AllAboutMurder
“Beth Anderson has written a wonderful murder mystery chock full of quirky characters. The identity of the killer took me totally by surprise. I look forward to reading more of Beth’s work…” -About.com
“This is a fast-paced, boiling hot novel with an intriguing cast of characters and a plot as complicated and confusing as the mind of the murderer. NIGHT SOUNDS is an excellent entry in Beth Anderson’s resume…” -Angie Dixon, Reviewer
“Set amidst the stunning Chicago music scene, NIGHT SOUNDS is a remarkable mystery that will have the reader hooked from the first page. Quirky characters, gritty dialogue and a fast pace create a harrowing story of corruption and murder that takes the reader to the dark depths of the greedy and powerful…” -Tracy Farnsworth, ebooknook.com and The Romance Readers Connection.
“Anderson immerses the reader deep in the haunting rhythms of music, lust and greed with classic style. She creates memorable characters and explores the dark corridors of their psyches with deft strokes and smooth prose. You can almost hear a tenor saxophone moaning in the satiny folds of the night as you turn the pages. Night Sounds hits all the right notes…” -Howard Hopkins, Author, for Allaboutmurder.com
“This story was a page turner, well written, strong script, strong characters, and will keep you guessing right up to the very end. A mix of happy and sad, this story was EXCELLENT! FIVE STARS…” -Beverly Bangemann, Huntress Reviews
“I enjoyed the witty dialogue and lush descriptions of Chicago and, as a musician, appreciated the rush of the recording session. This is a must-read for anyone who loves mysteries and jazz. I highly recommend this book…” -Lyn Morgan, Author, for AllAboutMurder.com
“Beth Anderson strikes another suspenseful chord in the world of a jazz musician caught in the gap between money and big business, and his impoverished wish to succeed at his art while he protects his love. The passion and innocence of Joe will win every woman’s heart…” -Nancy B. Leake, Wicked Company
“Beth Anderson’s Night Sounds is surprising, poignant, fast-paced, and brilliant. It’s a hard-driving mystery novel and a lovely romance. Anderson has a knack for lovable, quirky characters and machine-gun dialog. She also can tell a great story. Look forward to more from Beth Anderson…” -Rickey R. Mallory, Painted Rock Reviews
“Night Sounds is a must read for its clear wonderful description and its larger than life characters: Beautiful rich Zoey, who believes her money will keep her out of jail, and has no idea of the danger she and Joe are in. And Joe, who loves his woman and his music, and believes they can solve the crime and live happily ever after. Night Sounds will capture your imagination and your heart…” -Shadoe Simmons, Author, for AllAboutMurder Reviews
“Get ready for the time of your life because Beth Anderson takes you for a ride you won’t soon forget. Look out Jackie Collins, Beth Anderson is on her way, and she isn’t slowing down…” -Sue Hartigan for AllAboutMurder Reviews
“Rat a tat tat…rat a tat tat…Move over Mike Hammer. The dialog in this novel is as fast paced and machine gun rapid as any Mickey Spillane novel, and the plot just as complicated and intriguing. Let me warn you up front that Anderson didn’t write the formula novel. The reader plummets slapdash through one logical clue after another and ends up being totally foiled…” -Jonathan Masters, Booktrees.com
“NIGHT SOUNDS engages the reader from the first passionate page to the last with vitality and energy. Beth Anderson’s voice mesmerizes the reader, drawing one deeper into this dangerous world. The intensity of Anderson’s novel is extraordinary, from the imagery of Chicago’s music scene to the Gold Coast lifestyle of the rich. NIGHT SOUNDS is a hot, bluesy novel told with stark self-honesty, where the characters are both realistic and flawed, and the atmosphere rolls with the bitter wisdom gained by experience. If you love novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you’ll love Beth Anderson…” -Cindy Penn, Senior Editor, Word Weaving
I was twenty-eight years old, running keyboard at Ravinia with the group I’d formed after years of struggling on my own when I saw Zoey for the first time. This gig was only one night at the Summer Festival, and only one set, but it was finally, after all this time, Ravinia. It was also one of those clear Chicago summer nights that sprays music over the countryside like a ton of rampaging Fourth of July fireworks and seduces a guy into believing all his dreams will come true right now and from now on. For me, Joe Barbarello, this night had been a long time coming.
We had just finished an original number we called “Scramblin” and slid into our version of Ramsey Lewis’s “Wade in the River,” which always got the crowd going, when I peered into the audience, trying to savor this moment enough to keep it forever, trying to embed all the sounds and colors and feelings coming at us in rolling waves into my memory. But halfway through the second number my eyes stopped working the crowd because I spotted her sitting alone in the front row and I couldn’t look away. Yeah, fate has a way of running all over you sometimes no matter what you do to stop it, but who wanted to stop it? Not me. I was onstage having the best night of my life, and she was only thirty feet or so away, sitting in the audience.
Streaks of red blended into purple as the sun took its final bow of the evening, shooting its summer brilliance one last time through the open-air walls of the Pavilion. Lights embedded in the ceiling sparkled like a million stars overhead and a spotlight bounced over the front row, landing on her hair and turning it into more shades of gold than I’d ever seen before on anyone. I lost four beats while I was looking at that hair. She was wearing a pair of shorts that looked like they’d been poured on, a white v-necked sleeveless T-shirt that definitely had been poured on, and my glance swept over her legs–there went another four beats–and up into eyes that reminded me of the ocean off the beaches of Italy where my dad was born and we used to visit every summer until the year he died.
She never took those eyes off me. The only movement they made was up and down, back up again. It reminded me of the hookers in some of the bars I’d played in who were forever trying to decide whether I’d be worth a freebie or not. But these eyes and the way they moved over me were different. This woman wasn’t about to say no to anything.
By the time we reached our last song I’d been doing some major fantasizing while my hands slid over the keyboard and my mind slid over her. We were ending our set with my original composition, a smooth, rolling thirty-two bar tune I called “Dustrollers,” and Fuzz and I were swapping fours on the last chorus, trying our damnedest to outdo each other while Pinky and Dave strutted around onstage the way they always did, generating screams from the females in the audience. The crowd was digging it as much as we were, and I knew there were people from major recording studios in the audience. Columbia, Sony, Vibrant.
I couldn’t afford to foul this up. I’d waited too many years, played in too many bars where the tips were bad and the booze was worse, spent too many nights in my apartment playing the same chord over and over until I either got it right or Fuzz pounded on the wall and screamed at me to quit making that noise or he’d kill me. So I tried not to look, but sitting there in the front row was all that hair and those eyes and those legs, and I was only eight months past my divorce. I probably should have stopped looking, but you know what they say about hindsight and foresight. I had no idea of the danger and disruption to my life that would come because of my immediate and total obsession with her. We never do. That’s God’s way of having fun with us.
And even if I had known, could I, at that moment, have looked away and never glanced back? I don’t think so. The pull between us was already too strong; it was making a boiling hot mess of my insides and we hadn’t spoken a word. A tiny voice over my shoulder told me to look away and pay attention to what I was doing, but another voice, not much more than a seductive whisper, filtered through the music loud and clear in spite of its softness, telling me I’d been avoiding women long enough.
You know which voice won. By the time we’d finished “Dustrollers” the crowd was in a frenzy and so was I. I kicked my stool away before anyone could stop me, grabbed my charts, and headed for the front row.
* * * *
“So, you want to get married, or what?” I said by way of introduction, trying to ignore the teenagers crowding around asking for autographs.
“Married?” She gave a soft chuckle. “We might as well just live together, don’t you think? Save a lot of lawyer’s fees that way.”
“Oh,” I said, wishing I could ignore the little brunette who was waving an autograph book in my face, “a woman with a positive attitude.”
She laughed. “The only thing I’m positive about is that I have an attitude.”
“That’s pretty clear, even to me.” I patted my pockets to see if I had a pen so I could sign the autographs and leave with her. Only too aware that the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen was watching me, I tried to look as though autographing was an everyday occurrence and I might have carried it off if I’d had a pen handy. But I never carried a pen, and apparently none of the autographees did either. One of them stood with her shirt pulled up, laughing and waiting for me to sign her bra. Yeah, today’s kids. All guts, no glory.
Zoey reached into her purse and handed me a gold pen. “This will work on fabric,” she said in an offhand voice. She stood back with her lips curled in a half-smile while I signed everything, including the bra.
They finally got enough autographs and left. I opened my mouth to try and outdo my first line when I spotted the guys in the band heading our way, so I grabbed her arm instead. “Let’s go,” I said, half-swearing inside because I couldn’t think of anything more original. Her perfume was making me crazy. I wanted more of it. I wanted to bury myself in it and inhale until there was nothing left of it. But I just took her arm and tried to steer her toward the exit.
She glared at me and dug her heels in the grass, slowing us both down. “You really are an idiot, you know that? You weren’t even carrying a pen. What was that, your first autograph?”
I glanced at her, laughing inside at her fire. “No, it wasn’t my first one, but thank you so much for asking. Actually, I’ve signed lots of them.”
“Careful now,” I said, loving every word of her half-insults. “You’re speaking to an almost-famous musician here. I signed my first autograph a long time ago, if you want to know.”
“Famous, my ass. Who’d you sign it for, your mother?”
She had me there, and I laughed. “As a matter of fact, it was. She brought ten of her poker pals to my first gig, a little place over on 95th street, and broke me in good.”
“And how long ago was that?”
I thought back. “At least seven, maybe eight years ago.”
“Oh, big deal,” she said, tossing her hair back. “One autograph, eight years ago. No wonder you’re so crappy at it.”
“It was more than one,” I protested, wanting to scream with laughter at this beautiful female giving me the business. “It was all eleven of them. I didn’t think that was so bad for my first time out, especially since there were only thirty five people in the whole place.”
She sniffed. “They must have all been drunk.”
“They were,” I said. “Every last one of them was blitzed to the eyebrows on cheap beer, even my mother.”
“So? My mother does martinis.”
“Yes, but my mother never drank before that night. However, when she decides to go all out there’s no stopping her. They must’ve had five or six each, then they all started trying to sing along with my music, which they couldn’t because I was playing fusion jazz at the time, but hey, did that stop them?”
“It wouldn’t have stopped me.”
“Then you’re going to love my mother,” I said. “You would have loved her that night, anyhow. Every one of those amateur lushes marched over to the piano slobbering all over me and telling me how wonderful I was. I couldn’t decide whether to sink under the piano or kill them all.”
“So how come you weren’t playing a piano tonight?”
“Because we can carry a keyboard,” I explained. “You can’t go lugging a piano around unless your name’s Liberace and you have a gazillion dollars and roadies to handle the transport. We don’t have that yet. Notice I said ‘yet.’ And you can do a lot more with a keyboard, sound-wise.”
“Do you have a piano at home?”
I nodded. “It’s just an old upright, though. All I could afford at the time.”
“And now?” She glanced sideways at me.
I laughed out loud. “It’s still all I can afford.”
“You don’t make any money at this?” she asked, pointing back at the Pavilion.
“I can see you don’t know anything about struggling musicians,” I answered. I looked straight at her. “Want to change your mind? It’s not too late, you know.” It was too late. We both knew it.
We were moving fast now, and her hair bounced on her shoulders. “You might as well forget about outdoing Liberace, Barbarello. I can see you’re never going to have to worry about gazillions.”
I chuckled. “I don’t worry about it, if you want the truth, but I could buy a candelabra if that would help.”
“It won’t help, you might as well stick to the keyboard. And anyhow, I have a big piano. You’ll see it later.” She glanced at me again. “If you want to.”
I wanted to. I was trying to steer her toward the parking lot and not doing very well at it because she was not an easy woman to steer. “By the way,” I said to change the subject, “you just called me Barbarello. My first name’s Joe, if you’re interested.”
“What makes you think I’m interested?”
“Just a crazy idea I had.” I glanced back to see if the guys were following us, and they were. Fuzz was gesturing for me to come back, shouting something that I couldn’t hear, but I ignored him and kept right on moving.
“I already knew your first name,” she said, raising her voice so she could be heard over the crowd. “I’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to. You’re all over the place. I drove past the Prudential Building on the way here tonight half-expecting to see your face plastered all over the side, but fortunately for Chicago, it wasn’t.”
“So what’s wrong with my face?” I asked, trying not to smile. I was winning; she was letting me lead her now.
“Nothing a jar of Noxzema or six straight weeks of sex wouldn’t clear up,” she shot back at me.
I found my hand rubbing the patch of zits that had broken out that afternoon on my cheek, thanks to the chocolate cake my mother had forced on me the night before. “Since I have a choice, I should tell you I already tried Noxzema. I guess I’ll just have to take the six weeks of sex, since you so kindly offered.” I allowed myself another grin and steered her past a row of moving cars.
She laughed under her breath, narrowly dodging a decrepit Ford pickup that billowed smoke into the atmosphere as it lumbered past us. “I don’t recall offering sex; I was just making a comment.”
I snorted. “Ah. A politically correct comment, or casual cocktail conversation? Which?”
She surprised me by laughing out loud. It was the first time I’d heard her laugh like that, amused and challenging, the excited laugh of a beautiful woman who knows without question that the man she’s talking to wants her, and she was so right. “It can’t qualify as cocktail conversation since we’re not drinking at the moment. Although I suppose you think that’s where we’re heading.”
“I don’t know what I think,” I said truthfully, because I was almost too far gone to think at all. “I see you sitting out there, you’re staring at me, I’m staring back at you, I’m thinking we ought to get to know each other. That’s about all I’m thinking at the moment.” We plowed past six more rows of cars before I took another look behind us. The guys were nowhere to be seen now, so I began to relax and slowed my pace a little.
“Look,” I said, “I apologize if I was a little edgy back there, but I had to ditch the rest of the guys, otherwise we’d be stuck with them all night.”
She considered my apology while she bent down to retie her shoelace. Something flickered in her eyes when she looked back up at me. Apprehension, fear; there was definitely something not right about that look. “I apologize, too, for being rude,” she said. “I can see you have no idea who I am.”
“Trust me,” I said, “I don’t. If you want to tell me, fine. If you don’t, fine. Either way I’m taking you to dinner, so you might as well let me call you something. What’ll it be?”
She rose and stuck out her hand. “Zoey. Zoey Bauer.” Her eyes darkened and flickered again, as if she might be waiting for me to say something.
I took her hand, trying to be formal, but my mind was playing David Copperfield tricks on me because of the way her hand felt, soft as a pup’s butt and cold as an iceberg. “Much as I hate to admit it, I don’t recognize the name at all, unless you’re related to the Buick guy. Are you?”
She shook her head no, still watching me closely. I remember feeling creepy at that moment when I think about it now, but I wasn’t aware of it then. I was too aware of the scent of her skin.
“So what’s the big deal? Did you rob a bank on the way out here or what? Do I have to call 911 before I’ve even had a chance to feed you, or can we eat first?”
She gave a half-laugh. “I haven’t had time for bank heists lately.”
“You and me both,” I said. “I’ve been spending all of my time working on my music. I’ve barely taken enough time to eat.”
It occurred to me at that moment that I couldn’t take her home with me because this was my week to sleep on the sofa. Fuzz and I only had one bedroom and this was his week to entertain. His type of entertaining, you only needed a bedroom.
Something else occurred to me, too. “I hope you have a car around here somewhere. I rode here with the guys in the band.”
She laughed. “Over there.” She waved her hand in the general direction of the exit, where hundreds of cars were all trying to leave at the same time. That’s one of the bad things about the outdoor venues in Chicago, especially Ravinia. Getting there’s not so bad, but going home is a nightmare, and this wasn’t going to be any different.
It took us twenty minutes to find her BMW. A half-hour later we were finally out of the parking lot, heading into Chicago on the Edens Expressway.
* * * *
I took her to Harmani’s, a small place on the north side famous for its Italian food. Harmani’s is a warm place with dark mahogany paneling and framed Italian posters everywhere, one very good Old World print on the wall behind each wine leather booth, and burning Italian music that can make you cry if you’re in the right mood.
“I always come here whenever I have the chance,” I told her as we made our way through the bar toward the only empty booth in the place. “It reminds me of my dad.”
She slid into her seat opposite me. “Are your parents divorced?”
I shook my head no. “He died when I was eleven, three years after my big brother got killed.”
“How did he die?” she asked after we got settled.
“Heart attack.” I picked up the menu and looked at her over the top. “It’s weird. I come here because of him, then I spend all my time trying not to remember the way he kept attempting to teach my mother how to make lasagna the right way when I was a kid.”
“The right way?”
“The Italian way.” I looked down and fingered the sugar bowl, visualizing my fingers moving over her. “If you can imagine lasagna made Jamaican style, that’s the kind of food I grew up on. My mother’s half-Jamaican, in case you were wondering.”
“The other half?” She looked at me curiously, which I could understand because it’s almost impossible to tell what nationality I am.
“French. Dad was pure Italian.”
She nodded. “I thought something like that.” She didn’t seem too concerned about the slight color difference between us, so I went on.
“Unfortunately, my mother comes up with some spicy combinations they never even heard of in Jamaica, and sometimes they make me nauseous. But try telling her that, if you dare.”
Her eyebrows rose, forming little question marks above those incredible eyes. “Should I be afraid of her?”
I smiled. “Only if you have a weak stomach.” I waited until Ernesto, my favorite waiter, had poured us both a glass of Bolo, then sat back and took a good long look at her. Up close in the muted light of the restaurant, I noticed for the first time the deep shadows under her eyes, as though she hadn’t slept for a week.
“Is something bothering you?” I asked.
“Nothing you need to worry about right now,” she said.
“Okay.” I studied her high cheekbones, curving down toward lips that were spare on top, unbelievably lush and full on the bottom. “You must have spent hours on your makeup.”
She picked up her napkin and placed it on her lap, then looked up at me and smiled. “And where did you get that idea?”
“Because I can’t tell whether you’re wearing any or not. I know how that goes. I remember the procedure from watching my ex.”
I nodded. My eyes were fixated on her lower lip. I couldn’t wait to find out how they tasted. I was getting more ravenous by the minute.
“How did she become your ex-wife?”
I smiled. “The real question is, how did she become my wife?”
“Well, how did she?” She leaned back, waiting for my answer.
“Same Lit class in college,” I said. “Her boarding house was my boarding house. Her hormones and my testosterone fought a while and eventually beat out any common sense we might have had, and whammo. Bored engineer turned musician, versus married man. Oil and water. Bad mix.”
She nodded. “Me either. So here we are. Life’s full of surprises, isn’t it?” She was watching me with her eyes partially closed. I half-shivered in the muted darkness under the intensity of that look.
I tried not to look any lower than her neck while she was watching, but base instinct won over party manners and I found myself taking a good long look. I couldn’t help myself. Her skin swelled into perfect ovals under her white shirt as if Mother Nature had said O-O, emphasizing both syllables. Her breasts looked so soft and so firm at the same time that I wondered how they could possibly have grown like that on their own, and my last thought, only seconds before I fell in love with their owner, was she really should insure them for a million dollars with Lloyds of London.
She drained half of her Bolo in one long gulp and sat the glass down, looking straight at me. “Yes,” she said.
I gulped. “Pardon me?” I could feel my forehead getting warm again.
She looked me straight in the eye. “We’re going to bed together, you know it and I know it. I just thought I’d cut through all of the verbal foreplay.”
For once in my life I didn’t know what to say. I had never, even with my ex, had anyone come on to me in exactly that way. Not that hard, that direct. That confident.
“Well,” I heard the words coming from somewhere, certainly not from vast experience, “it sounds to me as though we’d better order dinner fast then, don’t you think?”
She laughed and picked up the menu. Cool. She was real cool. Quietly amused, as if this cute little boy had just handed her a fistful of dandelions or something. I, on the other hand, could barely focus on the menu.
The waiter came and we ordered spaghetti for me, antipasto for her. “You’re letting me off easy,” I remarked after he left.
She laughed again. I was beginning to like that laugh. In fact, my mind was racing a hundred miles an hour trying to think up ways to make her do it again. “You might not think so,” she said, “when I order the rest.”
“What else are you having?” My mind raced back to the menu, thinking she was probably going to order something drenched in imported champagne and wipe out my life savings, all of which was in my pocket.
She leaned forward, halfway across the table. “A triple serving of Joe Barbarello. Maybe more.”
When she said that I was ready to toss a wad of bills on the table like they do in the movies and drag her out of Harmani’s. I wasn’t thinking about dinner, or music, or recording conglomerates. None of that existed. There was only the two of us. The rest of the world had disappeared, and the thought of what was almost certainly going to happen between us consumed me.
I don’t know how I finished dinner. I don’t know if I did. She, on the other hand, had no problem eating, as if this particular antipasto consumed her entire existence, and there was nothing more important going on in her life than nibbling provolone cheese and olives and little half-moon pepperoni slices drenched in olive oil that hovered on her bottom lip in little droplets. At one point she reached over and helped herself to a piece of bread I had just buttered and was about to eat. I didn’t care, I handed it to her without a word. She could have had anything she wanted. She could have had my soul at that moment. In fact, she did.
On the way to the car I told her about my unorthodox living arrangements, thinking we were going to have to go to a motel and painfully aware that I probably didn’t have enough money on me.
“That’s no problem,” she said, “we’ll go to my condo. I live alone. Nobody can bother us there, you’ll see what I mean in a few minutes.”
* * * *
I saw what she meant in a few minutes when she pulled into an underground parking lot of one of those high-rises on Lake Shore Drive that everyone would like to have but not many people actually get to see. We took an elevator up to the twenty first floor, carefully avoiding looking at each other. For my part, I was afraid to speak or look at her. I had no idea what she was thinking but she was totally casual, as only the very rich can be while taking their own private elevator up to a six million dollar condo on Lake Shore Drive.
Her condo was like something out of a fairy tale. Taupe plush carpeting and white overstuffed furniture that fitted exactly into a sunken space in front of a fireplace as if it had been made for it, which I didn’t doubt for a minute. Glass topped tables were everywhere. She even had a glass armoire full of small Oriental statues in red and gold, placed just so. I could tell they were worth a lot of money, and I’d never seen anything like them before. My pad had only the bare necessities, so you can imagine how I felt at that moment. I was out of my league, way out of it and I knew it, but I didn’t care. Then I spotted her piano.
It nestled in the corner, away from the fireplace and ceiling-high windows, shining slick and white like a lighthouse beckoning to a drowning man. I’d never been that close to an expensive baby grand before, and she took my hand, leading me over to it. “Play something just for me,” she whispered. “I love good music. Anything you want, whatever, just play for me.”
I sat on the wide white bench and she slid beside me and put her hand on my leg with her eyes closed. “How about Chopin,” she said. “I love Chopin. My parents always wanted me to learn, but I never really did. I guess I just never wanted to take the time to practice, but my grandmother left me this baby grand anyhow.” Her voice drifted off as I started playing “Fantaisie Impromptu,” one of my favorites, one I’d played many times before and always got lost in, but not this time. I was too aware of her hand on my leg, moving softly in time with the tempo. We sat there for almost an hour while I played. Zoey barely opened her eyes, just listened to the music and smiled. I could feel her relaxing.
Finally I stopped and she opened her eyes. “Let’s go out on the balcony,” she said. “I want you to see the view.”
It was almost midnight. The scene below us looked like someone had poured a thousand jewels out onto a carpet of black, then dotted it with tiny street lights. You could barely see Lake Michigan except right where the shoreline hit. The wind had come up in the past hour or so and whitecaps were flying, smashing against the breakwaters offshore and throwing themselves onto the shore. They looked like I felt, savage, almost out of control. Nothing could have stopped them and nothing could have stopped what had been happening all evening, what was happening now. This was my moment of choice. I could have backed out right then and none of the rest would have happened, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t want to know anything else. There was only Zoey. That was all that mattered.
She came up behind me and put her arms around me, leaning her head against my back, and I turned around, surprised to see that while I’d been staring out at the city like a dork, she had been peeling off her clothes. They lay in a heap behind us on the balcony floor.
She began unbuttoning my shirt. In the darkness I could still see her lips curl into a smile as she undid the last button. I let her peel me out of it and watched her fingers expertly unbuckle my belt, pulling it out of the loops and tossing it on the floor by my shirt with one hand while her other hand began slowly destroying what was left of my mind.
We stayed out on the terrace with the wind blowing around us and the damp night air surrounding us and the sounds of the city below us muffling our noise. We were very noisy. Both of us were the whole three days we were there. I don’t remember ever screaming like that when I climaxed when I was with my ex, or getting the bed so sweaty we had to keep getting up just to change the sheets. I know for sure I never spread chunky peanut butter on my ex’s nipples and nibbled it off one chunk at a time. I never even thought of it, but I did with Zoey.
We did everything I could think of and a lot more I’d never heard of for the next three days. At one point I remember thinking that at least half of the things we were doing had to be illegal, or should have been. But that didn’t stop us. Nothing could have done that.
We never left the condo. In fact, we barely made it out of bed. I’d get up and heat a couple of TV dinners, she’d get up and make jelly toast. I’d make coffee, she’d pour beer. We didn’t need anything else. Nothing in the world was wrong inside or outside of that high-rise bedroom. Or so I thought.
* * * *
Early Tuesday morning she poked me and woke me up. “Time to go,” she said. She sat on the side of the bed pulling on a pair of pantyhose.
“Go? Where?” I reached for her in my half-sleep. “What time is it?”
“Six thirty, I’m running late.” She ducked away from me and grabbed a dress I would never have believed she’d buy, much less wear, a long, thin, forties thing, brown, with some gray curly designs in the material. Drab, very drab. It completely changed her appearance.
“Where are you going?” I asked, trying to shake the sleep out of my head.
“You live in a place like this and you have a job?” I could hear my voice rising as it often does when I’m baffled.
“Yes, of course I have a job, or did you think I was just one of those spoiled rich girls? Come on, it’s time for you to leave. You can’t stay here.”
I swung out of bed and looked around for my clothes; I hadn’t seen them the whole time I was here. “Where do you work?” I asked as I spied my shoes and socks and reached for them, feeling under the bed for the rest of my clothes.
“Your stuff’s hanging in the closet,” she said, “and I’m not telling you where I work. I won’t be there much longer anyhow, so what’s the difference?”
“The difference is, I want to know where to reach you.” I headed for the closet. “The difference is, I might want to call you and tell you I love you.” I stopped dead in my tracks. I hadn’t said that to her the whole weekend, not in so many words anyhow. I couldn’t believe I was saying it now, even though I realized to my astonishment it was true.
She was standing in front of her mirror and her reflection peered back at me. “You don’t mean that. At least I hope you don’t.”
I stared at her, dumfounded. It was almost as though I was looking at a whole different person. Her hair was pulled back into a sedate French twist. The dress made her look twenty years older. “Why?” I asked. “Is there some major problem all of a sudden that wasn’t there yesterday? If there is, I sure as hell don’t know anything about it. I thought we were okay. I thought we were a lot more than okay.”
“There are things about me that you don’t know.” She picked up her purse and flicked an imaginary piece of lint from the shoulder straps, looking everywhere but at me.
I felt suddenly strangled, as if my air was being cut off. “I thought I did know you,” I said, although I had begun to realize it was far from true.
“You don’t, and you can’t,” she said with finality. “I don’t want you involved, can you understand that?”
“Involved in what? What are you talking about? How could you have changed overnight like this? Is it because I don’t have a lot of money, is that the problem? Or is it because my skin’s a little darker than yours? It’s no darker now than it was Friday night.”
She stopped and turned back. “That’s definitely not the problem, and I’ve got enough money to last us both a lifetime and then some, that’s not the problem either. It’s just that everything’s so messed up right now. I’m astonished you weren’t aware of it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, “but I wish you’d tell me so we could straighten this out.”
She shook her head. “Look, Joe, I’m sorry. We had this weekend and it was great, but it’s over. We have to say good-bye.”
“Just like that?”
She nodded. “Just like that. Let yourself out when you’re ready, but don’t hang around here. Now I really have to leave.”
“Can I call you tonight so we can talk?”
She glanced at her watch and inched toward the door. “You’re welcome to give it a try, but I might not be here.”
I just stared at her, wondering whether she had a twin sister and they were playing some monstrous joke on me.
She paused and turned back toward me. “Joe, you have to forget about me. Just go, get out while you still can. Please.” I could see a glimmer of regret in her eyes. “You’re a nice guy and I don’t want to mess up your life.” She opened the door and walked out without looking back, closing the door firmly behind her.
* * * *
I called Fuzz to come pick me up, which I don’t ordinarily like to do because he’s the world’s worst driver and I hate to get in a car with him. But you have to admit this was an emergency. As soon as I got in the car, though, I regretted having called him. He was pissed, and a pissed Fuzz is a Fuzz you don’t want to be around if you can help it, especially when you’re the pissor. And you sure don’t want to get into a car with him.
“What the hell made you take off like that, man? Where have you been? I’ve been calling all over town looking for you!” He shot the car into gear and tore off from the curb.
I yawned. “Any particular reason?”
“Of course there’s a reason.” He beat on the horn to wake up the driver of the car in front of us. In addition to his other attributes, Fuzz has all the patience of a newborn without a wet nurse. Traffic started moving again and he turned to look at me, missing out on a chance to cream one of Chicago’s yellow cabs by a hair. “There was this guy at Ravinia Friday night, name’s Jericho. He says he can get us in with Vibrant. I tried to call you back, but you ignored me and took off like a bat outta hell. And come to think of it, what were you doing up on Lake Shore Drive, casing the place?”
“Actually,” I said, “I was busy having great sex. Best I ever had.”
He whistled and glanced at me in admiration, almost running a red light in the process. “The blonde?”
I nodded. I was almost too weak to talk.
“What’s her name?”
“Zoey Bauer,” I managed to say. My eyes were getting very heavy.
He jammed on the brakes and almost threw me into the windshield. “Say again?” he asked quietly, ignoring the honks and screaming from the cars behind us.
“Zoey. Zoey Bauer.” I settled back into the seat and closed my eyes, then noticed the dead silence in the car and opened my eyes again. “What’s the matter now?” I asked. Cars were screeching, shooting around us, and angry drivers were jabbing their middle fingers at us. As we all know, Chicago drivers are not known for their presence of mind.
“You know,” he said, as if this were an ordinary everyday conversation, “if I didn’t know better I’d think maybe you left your brains somewhere. In fact, if that’s who I think it is, you’re damn lucky you didn’t leave ’em back there in that high-rise.”
“What are you talking about?” I slurred. I could barely keep my eyes open. Continuous sex does tend to wear you out, even when you’re only twenty-eight.
“Haven’t you been listening to the news? No, forget that,” he said, obviously disgusted. “It’s obvious you haven’t.”
I sat up straighter at his tone. “So lay it on me.”
“My friend, unless I’m very wrong, you’ve just spent three days with a woman who happens to be the prime suspect in an extremely nasty murder that just happened last week.” He put the car back in gear and pulled away, acing out three cars that were trying to pass us. “I think it was last Monday,” he said conversationally, as if he hadn’t just dropped a Boeing 747 on my head. “Apparently this–” He glanced at me and caught the look on my face. “Okay, this woman, says she woke up and found her long-time jocker very, very dead in bed beside her.”
“Dead how?” I could feel the skin crawling on the back of my neck.
He snorted. “About fifteen stab wounds. She says she has no idea how it happened, like a seagull with a killer streak flew up there and did it. That’s what she wants everybody to believe, anyway. They’re about to arrest her any minute, or it sounded like any minute on the news last night. I’m only surprised they didn’t haul you in with her.”
“Where did this happen?” I asked, dreading his answer. We were three blocks from our place and all I could think of was leaning my head over the john and heaving my guts out.
“Hell, man, where do you think?” He careened around a corner, bumping up over the curb and swearing under his breath. “I never even thought about it when I picked you up, but the papers said ‘high rise on Lake Shore Drive.’ Didn’t she say anything?”
“Not a word,” I said. “Not about that, anyhow.” I was wide-awake at that point. I’d never been more awake in my life.
“For cryin’ out loud, didn’t you see any blood or anything? Jesus,” he muttered under his breath, “I can’t believe this. Three straight days in bed with a killer.” He turned and looked at me, grinning in spite of his obvious concern, but the look on my face must’ve stopped him. If I looked as green as I felt it was no wonder he shut up.
“How do you know she’s the killer? If she says she didn’t do it, she didn’t.” I sounded a lot more confident than I felt, remembering the way she’d sounded when she walked out of that condo.
He was silent for a minute while he pulled up to the curb in front of our place. “What did you just say?” he asked, watching me carefully.
“Never mind,” he interrupted. “I heard you, and you know what’s the matter with you, pal?”
I shook my head again.
“You are one hundred percent, certified, freakin’ insane. She’s got you bad, hasn’t she?”
I couldn’t shake my head yes; it was a physical impossibility, and I didn’t want to hurl in his car, I’d never hear the end of it.
“Well, pal,” he glanced at the rear view mirror, “It looks to me like you’ve got more of a problem than you think.”
I couldn’t imagine how, but I asked anyway.
“Look behind us,” he said, nodding toward the back of the car. “We have company. I mean you have company. This has to be your party; they weren’t following me until I picked you up and they’ve been behind us, more or less, ever since. I wasn’t paying much attention because of the conversation we were having, otherwise I’d have said something.”
I had this horrible feeling I knew who was there before I looked back, and sure enough, I was right. I watched while two of Chicago’s Finest climbed out of their car and headed straight for my side of Fuzz’s Chevy.
One thing about Chicago cops, they never look happy, at least not while they’re on duty. And it was abundantly clear to me at that moment that both of these cops were definitely on duty.
The scenes in this document are copyrighted by Beth Anderson and may not be reproduced anywhere for any reason without express permission from the author.