Control (Page 24)

Control (Songs of Submission #4)(24)
Author: C.D. Reiss

“We have to talk,” I said.

“About Jessica. What did she say?”

“About that, and—”

There was a loud knock on the door. The handle jiggled. “Monica,” Rhee called, “you in there?”

“Yes.”

“Bernie’s here.” Bernie was the guy who played after me.

“Out in a second.”

I hoisted my bag. Jonathan ran his fingers through his hair and took it from me. We got outside into the crisp, autumn night. The valet went for Jonathan’s car. Mine was parked on the street. He walked me to it, our fingers linked. “People are waiting at your house to sweep it for cameras and mikes.”

“This is so weird.”

He held my chin when we stopped by my car. “It’s probably nothing. We need to go there so you can let them in.” He put his arms around my waist. “You, darling, will gather clothes and things. Then I shall bring you back to my bed, and I will have you again. And maybe again.”

“We have to have an unpleasant conversation.”

“Do you believe I’m not spying on you?”

“Yes.”

“Did you f**k someone else?”

“God, no!”

“Are you leaving me because I interrupted your work?”

“No.”

“Are you leaving me at all?”

“No, Jonathan, really—”

“Then I fail to see the urgency. Let’s take care of business and let unpleasantness take care of itself.”

CHAPTER 18.

JONATHAN

I didn’t want to hear a word about what my ex-wife said. I didn’t want to navigate her labyrinth of lies and half-truths, and I didn’t want to explain anything to Monica while my mind was on Kevin and the cameras. We needed to hand off keys, pack her for the night, and get her into my bed. Then I would explain or f**k away whatever Jessica told her. Jessica was going to the mat. I couldn’t deal with her shit for another minute. Her worst nightmare was seeing me happy, apparently, because I hadn’t seen her as much in the past half year as I’d seen her in the past month.

I got to Echo Park first and parked across the street from Monica’s house. The green minivan was gone, replaced by a black van. Margie’s guys. I walked up to her chain-link gate. A man greeted me. Late twenties. Suit and tie. Pinkie ring. My eyes adjusted and I saw two others shaking the bushes.

“Jonathan Drazen?” he said, holding out his hand.

“The same.” I shook it.

“Name’s Will Santon. You look exactly like Margie.”

“Tell her she looks younger.”

He smiled at me. “This place yours?”

“Girlfriend.”

“We found a wireless minicam on the porch. Not the best, but good enough. Middle-class work.”

The porch. What had we done on the porch? Anything? My mind was a blank. I was blinded by the lights of a little black Honda tearing up the hill and into the driveway.

“Don’t tell her,” I said. “Let me take care of it.”

Monica got out, all legs and hair, looking like a force of nature, a wild animal entitled to her own sovereignty. Her sexuality wasn’t coy or cute. She wasn’t saucy; she was feral. Her very presence on the earth stirred me.

“Hi,” she said, smiling.

Santon smiled back at her. “Miss, is this your house?”

“I live here.”

“I’m Will Santon. I’m a licensed private investigator in the state of California.” He showed her an ID card. She looked at it, back at him, and back down to the card. “I’ve been hired by the law firm of Bode, Drazen, and Weinstein to check your house for surveillance devices. Do I have your permission to enter?”

She glanced at me. I nodded.

“Yes.” She flicked her keys and headed in. We followed her, a line of four suits. The other two fanned out, glancing at everything, as Santon gave Monica papers to sign. I stood behind her and prayed that whoever watched her did so only from the outside. If they got inside, I would have the strong urge to burn the place down.

Finished with Santon, Monica turned to me and whispered, “I’m uncomfortable.”

I kissed her forehead. “Go get your toothbrush and whatever, and we’ll get out of here.”

CHAPTER 19.

MONICA

I found a bag in the closet and threw it on the bed. My drawers were a mess. My closet was even worse. I took whatever I touched first and threw it on top of the bag. I needed work clothes and after-work clothes. Shoes. Underwear. Lacy Jonathan shit seemed absurd. Would his rule still stand? Garter belts and stockings felt frivolous and ridiculous with men in my house looking for cameras and microphones.

I threw both options on the bag. From the bathroom, I got makeup, a hairbrush, ties for braids, and my toothbrush. I was sure I was forgetting something, but I wanted out of there. I’d buy whatever else I needed.

I stuffed everything in the bag and picked it up. It had covered something: a manila envelope labeled Jonathan S Drazen III in Sharpie. One of Gabby’s files. Darren must have found it and left it for me. I picked it up. There was enough inside to give it some heft, but it wasn’t as big as the envelopes she’d created for people in the music industry. Twenty pages, tops. Probably a bunch of friends highlighted in orange and family in yellow. Jessica in pink. The corners were curled and the color faded. I almost slipped it in the bag. But no, I wouldn’t bring it to his house. That was crazy.

“How you coming?” Jonathan leaned in the doorway, his jacket falling on his shoulders in a perfect expression of some kind of victory over gravity. Over everything. If owning a doorway just by standing in it was possible, or beating the shit out of a space by existing within it, he did. His concern over what was happening in my house had a physical presence. It emanated from him in a dense aura of worry, making him seem bigger, more present, more powerful. I was suffocating under the weight of it.

I glanced down at the envelope. His name faced down. “Thirty seconds or less,” I said. He didn’t move, making me nervous. “Shoo. Girl stuff.”

He slipped out of the doorway, and I breathed again. I slipped the envelope into my top drawer, slung the bag over my shoulder, and walked out of my room with my head down.

CHAPTER 20.

MONICA

Telling him about my conversation with Jessica, and the song, weighed heavily on me. I couldn’t think about much else. I couldn’t do it in a neutral space. I couldn’t just tell him and walk out. It was late. My house was overrun.