Chapter Fourteen

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Vince is wrong. I sit with Gutheil for an unbearable two hours, trying to get on his good side by means of flattery and meekly ladylike, southern manners that would make my mother proud. I stop short of seduction, though, which may be my problem. But unbuttoning my blouse for a four-hundred-year-old man is not worth having the contents of Jane Doe's stomach released to me a couple of days early. Especially not when I'd also be unbuttoning in front of the very same dead girl.

"I couldn't do it," I tell Vince, pinching the bridge of my nose as I sit down in my desk.

He looks up from over his computer screen. "Do what?"

"I couldn't get him to like me." I move my fingers so that I can massage my temples. "I think I only made it worse. He says he'll have DNA results in a month, if we're lucky. And he's got some techs working on fingerprints and things, but that could take a couple of weeks."

Vince considers me, then hisses air out from between his teeth. "That fucking weasel. Here, I'm on hold with Missing Persons - they won't release the Samson girl's file -" he takes the phone from his ear and stretches it over to me, the spiral cord knocking over a weird knick knack on his desk, "You wait on them and I'll deal with Gutheil."

I lay the phone on my desk, on top of a coffee-stained manila folder. I can hear the elevator music from here, and I do not want it up close to my ears. "Good luck," I tell Vince as he opens the door to the stairwell.

"You too."

He's back in forty-five minutes, looking pleased, but aside from the hundredth repetition of the hold music nothing monumental has happened on my end. I frown. "You look happy." I try not to sound too displeased, but the combination of the music and the blandness of the day has started to settle heavily on me. That, and Petey's started to be a prick again. "It must've went well."

"I twisted his balls a little." Pride makes Vince's chest puff and he vaguely reminds me of a retired circus lion that's just discovered he can still jump up onto a pedestal. I'm not sure I like the look on him. "We'll have our results by the end of the week."

"Hooray for us." I don't have the energy to be excited, even though that's pretty much phenomenal news, because Petey is still giving me suggestive hand gestures from over Vince's shoulder. He's actually eerily in tempo with the hold music and it's started to make me feel oddly violated. I'm reminded of that goddamned clown...there's a resemblance between it and Peter Moore that I can only see now that I'm looking for it.

Vince coughs and says Still waiting? like he's repeating it for the fourth or fifth time.

"Huh? Yeah. Here." I shove the phone back over to his desk, taking care not to hit his little ceramic thing. I see now that it's a little polar bear in a top hat, suit, and monocle, like one of the characters that I see on peanut jars. It even has a little gray mustache underneath its nose. "I have to go and get some air or something."

"Or something?" One of his salt-and-pepper eyebrows lifts.

"I might also need some more coffee. So yes, or something," I snap. My voice has risen on its own accord and many of my co-workers turn to look at me.

Vince's hands go up in the universal "I surrender" gesture. "Okay. Jesus." Petey makes a time of the month joke and that seems to make it click somewhere in Vince's head; his expression softens. "Go," he tells me gently. "I'll tell you if I get a hit on the Samson girl. Maybe...maybe you should go home? You look kind of pale, McMurphy. Are you sure you're over that stomach bug?"

As much as I appreciate the out he's handing me, I don't think I can stay holed away with Levi for another full day. I'd have to explain why I'm home - why I'm home so early, because I didn't think to refuse giving him a rundown of my work schedule - and he'd smother me. "I just need a minute. I'll be fine." My hands are clenching into fists and unclenching, so tight that I'm repeatedly breaking the top layer of skin off of my palms.

"Alright. I know where to find you."

I walk down the street to a little vendor at a pushcart. He's got hot sandwiches, mostly paninis, and I fork over seven dollars for one. I've left my mittens on my desk back at the department, but I figure that the sandwich is enough to keep my hands warm on the way back. Then I'll probably give the chicken-cheese concoction to Vince, because I don't feel like eating.

Still, it smells good. Maybe I'll try it another day.

Petey is waiting outside for me when I return. He's leaning against the wall, chewing on something like he's the shit, and when I get close enough he spits it out. Whatever it is lands close to my feet, really too close for comfort, but I don't flinch away. Mostly because if it would have landed on me I could have filed for assault. "Having cravings?" He asks me, eyeing the sandwich.

"No."

"Heard you're just getting over a stomach bug."

"I - so what?" He's talking fast, too fast, and I know something is up. I do not like being blindsided like this. Maybe, somehow, he knows I was skipping. Maybe he's already told Moran. My heart starts to pound and I start to think of holes that I could poke in his story.

A thick grin surfaces in the pudgy flabs of Petey's face. His lips are really pink and wet. Revulsion coils up in my stomach and behind my shoulders, making me tense up. He smiles wider; he can see what he's doing to me. "You forget your morning-after pill somewhere along the way, McMurphy? Oh, no. You're Catholic, aren't you? You don't believe in that, right?"

The wind is knocked out of me. "What the fuck?" It comes out as a gasp - a guilty sounding gasp - and I feel my chest crack and dissolve, my knees go weak. I'm too angry to do anything but stand here and take this.

For now.

I hope Vince finds us before I lose it. Once I have control over my body, I could very well go ape-shit all over Petey Moore. And, what's scarier, I will be perfectly alright with whatever consequences follow.

I could last in prison.

"Thought you believed in abstinence too, yeah? But I guess that ship sailed a long time ago." Petey pops a mint into his mouth, as if that will somehow improve his boarish, meaty smell. "Tell me. Does it belong to one of the higher-ups? I guess it doesn't matter. You'll be off the job either way." He lets me fume for a minute, watching me smolder, and then grabs me, pulling me close so that I'm pressed up against him firmly enough to feel rolls of fat against my body - oh God oh God oh God - and whispers in my ear. "But I'm just curious. Does your boy-toy know that it might not be his? Is that why he's here?" Petey smiles, but I can't see it. No, I can feel his lips stretching wider against my ear, and that is how I know. Still, I am only concerned with one thing: Levi's here. It can't be anyone else.

That does it. I push Petey off of me and hiss, "Does this get you off?" I am shocked to discover that I'm actually crying, or maybe it's sweat, but I don't want to dwell on it. The pressing matter concerns Levi being here, right now.

Petey Moore owes Levi his life, because instead of finishing him right here, I run inside without looking back.

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