Ruin (Page 32)

Ruin (Songs of Corruption #2)(32)
Author: C.D. Reiss

—Why?—

It wasn’t like me to question Katrina, but I was half asleep, and I missed Antonio already. I should have been thankful that I was out of The Afidnes, but I wasn’t. I felt like I’d stepped out the door to find the stoop had disappeared and the sidewalk was open beneath me.

—Because you were a part-time script supervisor, and you’re half the team that put the half shots in order and I’m confused right now—

—Fine. Give me 20—

Otto waited outside.

“Do you ever see your wife?” I handed him a thermos of coffee.

“It’s the arrangement,” he replied. “She knows what I have to do, and she accepts.”

“She’s very generous.”

“She is.”

“I want to take my car. Can you follow to the post-production place?” I helped up two fingers. “No burgers, I promise.”

He agreed to follow close, and I let him, not making a move to lose him. I knew his proximity relaxed Antonio, and that was important to me.

“What’s up?” I asked Katrina when she opened the glass door.

“Nothing.” She wouldn’t look at me.

“Nothing? Describe ’nothing.’”

She walked a pace ahead, looking at the floor. “The type of nothing that’s just unpleasant.” She reached the door to her editing bay and put her hand on the knob.

“Katrina?”

“I didn’t have much in the way of choices,” she said. “I had wonky location permits and my financing was, you know, questionable.”

“You don’t need to review a shot list. That’s what I’m getting.”

“I hate my fucking life. Really.” She opened the door.

Daniel sat in the biggest chair, one leg crossed over the other at the ankle.

This was how a poor kid from Van Nuys got to be a mayoral candidate. First, he showed up where he wasn’t wanted, and he was ready. He was armed with information, and he had a plan. He surrounded himself with people who could help him, and he cut the rest of them loose. He was ruthless in his pursuit, hungry, careful, and above all, shrewd.

“Sorry, Tee,” Katrina said.

“It’s fine. I have this.”

This was how a poor kid from Carthay Circle became an award-winning director. First, she did what other people wanted, as long as they stayed out of her way. She understood the hierarchies of power as they related to her singular goal. She understood personalities and could make judgment calls about how to play them for and against each other. She apologized for it, and she never pushed far enough to make enemies, but she knew how precarious her situation was, and she protected the twelve inches of upper-floor ledge she stood on, because one wrong move, and she would have been in midair, calculating the hardness of her skull against the acceleration of gravity. And since she’d already fallen, and had to climb the building again, she was especially careful of her footing.

What kind of person can love two people like that?

The kind of person who could love a killer, I decided, as I sat in front of Daniel, and Katrina closed the door behind me. I was the kind of person who was rotten inside, whose very core was drawn to the ambitions of others, no matter its form.

“The last time you came to me, at WDE, you said it was my last chance,” I said.

“I did. And nice to see you, too.”

“I said I’d ruin you, Daniel, and I meant it.”

He smiled. I found myself disarmed by it. It wasn’t a political smile but something more genuine that I remembered from the very beginning of our relationship, when he was starting as a prosecutor. That was before he’d been beaten down and had to be built back up.

“No, actually, you didn’t mean it,” he said. “You and I, see, we’re in this tension. You got me in the palm of your hand, but I have you in my pocket.”

“Really? Interesting. Tell me.” I settled into the chair, swinging it so the back was to the computer screens. I betrayed nothing.

He said nothing immediately but looked at me up and down as if considering something he hadn’t seen before. “You look good.”

“Thank you.”

“Different.” He put his hand out, cupping me in space. “I noticed it last time, but I was so thrown by you showing up I couldn’t pin it down.”

“I’m the same. Maybe the eyes that see me are different.”

“No, not that, but maybe something else. You were always… I don’t know the word.”

“Do try,” I said. “We spent so much time talking about how you looked and how you came across, so now it’s my turn. I’m curious.”

“By outward appearance, you’re the same. Aloof. Ladylike. Perfect.”

“And inside?”

“Feral,” he said.

“If you’d known that earlier, things would have been a lot different.”

He shrugged. “No way to tell. But, things have changed. And I’m not looking forward to this conversation the way you looked forward to the one you brought to me at the club.”

“Oh, just get to it Daniel. Katrina needs her editing bay.”

He nodded decisively as if changing gears. “I was thrown by our last conversation; I admit it. But I know you, and even if you’ve changed, well, I don’t think you’ve changed that much. You’re very protective. I know exactly what you have on me and how much it will hurt me. But if you send me down the river, I have enough on your little sleazebag to put him away. And you don’t want that. I know he’s got you around his finger. How he did it, I don’t know. I thought you were with him to spite me, but I think I was wrong. He really has you.”

“You have nothing on him, or you would have charged him already.”

“I may. His accountant is running with Patalano now. If I catch Patalano, I have the accountant. Then I can get Spinelli. And guess what? He’ll tell me whatever I want about whatever I want, in order to save you.”

“Me?” I said.

“You.”

“What—?”

“The attempted murder of Scott Mabat. Did you forget that? Scott hasn’t. Because I traced the financing of this little picture right here.” He indicated the room, the computer, all Katrina’s work. “Big chunk led to him. So after we saw Katrina, we went to him. He didn’t look too good. And I have to say, once I heard him tell his story, I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t even want to think about it.”