Turning around was no small feat. She had to crawl off the exit of the 134, crawl back on, and sit in rush hour traffic. Dinner with my favorite sister and attendant children was officially cancelled.
When I got to Monica’s house, she and her car were gone. I stood on the porch calculating my next move. She’d said something about a gig at Frontage, and I was tempted to go over there. I saw Dave pulling up the hill in his dually.
“Hey, Jon. The lady of the house home? I had a few more permits to pull.”
“Nope. What happened today?”
He leaned out his window and offered me a fry from a McDonald’s bag, which I refused. “What do you mean?”
“Did you say something about watching her?”
“No, man, I was watching, not telling.”
“When I said to keep an eye on her, it was a casual keeping an eye. Because she knows, and she’s pissed.”
“Sorry. I didn’t say anything. She did tag up that car with whipped cream. Don’t know what that was about.” He craned his neck to see the other side of the street. “Right there.”
I followed his gaze to a green minivan. I got a sinking feeling as I walked toward it. The whipped cream wasn’t just whipped cream. It was the kind from a can, and Monica was sending me a message.
I used my hankie to wipe the whipped cream away and saw a camera behind the glass.
Ah. She thought I did that. The thought had crossed my mind, but I did have boundaries.
And then the other question: who did it? Who wanted her watched?
I said good-bye to Dave and crawled back into the Bentley. “Lil, take me home.” I needed my car, and Lil had been driving all day. Monica would be trapped behind that piano. I could still make it.
“One song,” I said to Rhee. “The rest can be the same as we’ve always done.”
She chewed the inside of her lip, glancing around the room. It was already getting crowded. “What’s it sound like?”
“Like a woman on the piano,” I said. “Here are the lyrics.”
Asking permission to sing my own songs wasn’t something I would have accepted a month ago, but so much had happened, and I depended on the job at Frontage to keep Gabby’s memory alive.
The lyrics made me nervous, but I had to do it, just once. If I didn’t take opportunities when they presented themselves, they’d dry up.
“Little hardcore, sugar,” Rhee said. “Collar? Licking the floor?”
“I figured that.”
Of course she did. What woman would have to lay that out for a man literally?
“It’s important to me,” I said. “Someone’s coming to hear it. A producer and a record exec. And the composition, Gabby wrote it. I laid the lyrics over after…”
“Okay, okay.” She handed back the sheet. “You’re fine. Have fun. You deserve it.”
“Thanks, Rhee.” I dashed back to the dressing room. I’d played for Rhee earlier in the week to prove I could manage lyrics and music at the same time. I was only halfway into “Under My Skin” when she stopped me and told me I was fine to go back on my old schedule. I was happy for the distraction, but the feeling that Eugene Testarossa had been right, and Gabby had been redundant, nagged at the back of my mind. Some little guilt-inducing voice insisted that by playing her part, I was driving her deeper into the grave.
The dressing room was like a second home anymore, but it was lonely and my anger at Jonathan wasn’t good company. I put on my makeup and hummed my new song. When it was time to go into the dining room, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I hope you get carpal tunnel and a frog jumps down your throat.”
It wasn’t the same, but it was the best I had.
Nothing moved. The Jag was caught between a bus and a silver SUV. I should have brought the bike. I could have gone between the lanes and been there already. Even though I knew she wasn’t going anywhere, I wanted to see Monica right away. Had to. First, she was angry with me, and that fact bored a hole right through me. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to rush to her. Second, the surveillance equipment across the street just turned the dial up on my concern. That equipment wasn’t a joke. Someone was watching her. I didn’t know why, or who, but I could buy those answers with money and time. One, I had plenty of. The other, I’d have to manufacture.
“Margie,” I said when my oldest sister picked up her phone. She was fifteen years my senior and had been more of an aunt to me. Her law firm had a huge criminal litigation division and billed thousands of hours keeping celebrities from going to jail.
“Jonny, you never call anymore.”
“Because I don’t have any problems.”
“But tonight? You have a problem?”
“Are you sitting?” Western Avenue opened up just as I had to turn down Santa Monica Boulevard. Too bad all the money in the world wouldn’t buy me a flying f**king car.
“Sure, I’m sitting.”
“There’s a woman.”
“You just gave me a migraine. That poor girl. What did you do to her?”
I’d squirmed when she litigated my divorce and I had to tell her it was about sex; what kind of sex and how I’d been rebuffed. She needed details and received them only after I’d drunk half a bottle of scotch.
“It’s not that,” I said. “She and I, we’re good. It’s something else.”
“Where does one find a woman who likes—”
“Enough.” I knew all the wisecracks already. “I’m not in the mood, Margie. I found a camera outside her place. Temporary surveillance inside a car. I need her house swept for more. I think you might know someone who could do it.”
“Do you have access?”
“No, and irony of ironies, I just had new locks put in.”
“You’re not doing that controlling thing again, are you, Jonny?”
“Just round people up and I’ll get you access. Okay?”
“She might like it when you’re bossy—”
I hung up. My sisters knowing I had a kinky streak wasn’t easy. Another thing I could thank Jessica for.
I got Hank on the phone at the next red light.
“Did you burn those drawings?”
“Can you pack them up and have them to my Wilshire office tomorrow morning?” I asked.