Wednesday Night: October 23rd
“Where’s Tristan?” Ron asked as he poured two glasses of champagne.
“He met with Veronica earlier. But she seems pretty broken from the whole thing. Didn’t want to talk much.”
“Well no shit,” he passed her a glass, “her husband died. Not only that, but she was out of town when it happened.”
She took a couple sips. “I can’t imagine coming home from a business trip, to find my husband lying dead in my closet. Not just in the closet, anywhere. Finding Tristan dead anywhere would kill me.” Her eyes began to water.
Ron wrapped his arm around her waist. They sat together on the edge of the bed. “Poor Tristan. He’d miss out on being with such a beautiful woman for the rest of his life.”
She wiped her eyes with the back of hand. “You trying to make me wanna kiss you?” She smiled.
“Not really. I’m not trying to get you drunk either. Was never good at being subtle.” He chuckled. He tapped his glass against hers. “Cheers!”
“For whatever you want.” He drank the whole glass. Looking over, he watched her down her glass as well. They both laughed. He took out a container of tic tacs and popped one in his mouth. “Guess you could say I like minty things.” He leaned into her.
“Me too.” She leaned into him.
Their lips met as both of them dropped their glasses. They reclined onto their sides on the bed. Ron passed the tic tac from his mouth into Laura’s as their tongues touched. Laura let the tic tac melt in her mouth as Ron ran his fingers through her hair and began kissing her neck.
* * *
Laura awoke a couple hours later, sprawled on the bed, naked. The cable box clock read: 10:15.
“Fuck.” She slammed her palm against her forehead. When lowering her hand, she noticed a small mark in the center of her palm. She sat up and stared at her hand. She then looked at her other palm, which was also marked. Both of them were marker with asterisks.
“No, no!” She spit into both hands and rubbed them together. The ink was not smearing. “Who the fuck did this? Ron? Ron?” There was no answer. She grabbed her phone from the bedside table and dialed Ron’s number. As their phones were connecting through rings, Laura jumped off the bed and began to slip her dress and shoes back on that were at the foot of the bed.
“This is Veronica, I am not available right now, so please leave a message. Thank you.”
Laura pressed the end button. “Veronica?” She dialed the number again.
“This is Veron -”
She pressed the end button again and threw the phone onto the bed. She walked over to the night stand and picked up a white leather wallet.
“Ron must have left it here.”
She opened up the wallet and found Veronica and Robert’s wedding photo and Veronica’s driver’s license. Laura dropped the wallet. “They can’t be. They can’t be the same, the same -”
Her phone began to ring. It was Tristan. “Tristan, please come pick me up at the Holiday Inn. I will explain everything later. Just please take me to Veronica Jone’s house immediately.” She hung up the phone, grabbed the wallet and left the room.
* * *
“Should we just go in?” Crowne whispered as he reached for the front door.
“Is there another way in?” Laura walked along the front porch, peering into the windows, but the first floor was not lit.
Crowne shrugged his shoulders and turned the knob. It was unlocked. They stepped inside and Laura closed the door behind her.
“Veronica?” Crowne whispered. “It’s me, Detective Crowne.”
Laura swallowed hard. Her heartbeat grew heavy and slowly levitated to her throat. Every time she swallowed if felt like her Adam’s apple was getting bigger. “Maybe she’s not -”
The sound of heels clicking against hardwood came from above. The sound narrowed out as a figure appeared at the top of the stairs. The figure’s feet were hovering above the ground and their chin nestled in their chest; their arms were raised above their head, back was arched: body looked like a demented question mark. Coming down the stairs, the sound of clicking heels continued. As the figure approached, another set of legs – feet on the ground – became more visible as they walked down the stairs.
“Ver, Veronica?” Crowne’s voice cracked.
The two figures stood on the last step. An arm extended to the left and switched on a light. There, standing before Crowne and Laura, was Scarlett – nude with a beaten-in face. Her upper lip was marked with an asterisk. Threaded through the center of both palms to the back of her hands was white rope. The rope was stitched to her elbows and shoulders in a shoelace like braid. The excess rope was held above her head by another pair of hands. The puppeteer lowered Scarlett’s left arm and wrapped it around its neck.
“I was always better off dancing alone.” Ron smiled before ducking his head, dropping the ropes, letting Scarlett fall head-first at Laura and Crowne’s feet.
Crowne grabbed his cell phone and began to dial 911.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Ron sat at the bottom of the stairs. “I’m still a witness remember?” He crawled over to Scarlett and lifted her head up. Her jaw dropped slowly. “By the way,” he removed a small box that was resting on her tongue, “isn’t this yours?” He slid over a small pack of gum. “Thanks for the piece earlier.” He winked at Crowne.
“I-I, I never gave you gum.”
Ron removed his black beanie hat. Long locks of brunette hair that came down to Ron’s shoulders slipped out of the hat’s grip. He cleared his throat. “But you gave me gum.” The pitch of his voice increased. He sounded more like Veronica.
Laura’s jaw dropped. “But, but, you’re Ron.”
“Yes, in disguise I am Ron. I’ve been Ron ever since Robert told me he was no longer attracted to me anymore. Once he started fucking around with Adam.” She unzipped her jacket, revealing a white tube dress. “I didn’t want him to leave me. I loved him. So, in order to make him stay I told him I would change for him. I told him that I’d become a man.” She laughed. “How stupid of me. Here he was, getting everything he wanted from Adam, and I thought that he’d play with me. With this Ron that I created.” She looked at Laura and twitched her left eyebrow. “You seemed to fall for it though.”
Crowne lowered his head. “So that’s where you were.” He grabbed Laura’s hands. “That’s why you’re fucking marked! You could be confused as being a suspect, Laura! My God!” He dropped her hands which hit against her thighs.
“Don’t get mad at her, Crowne. You guys fell into my plan perfectly.” She smiled. “I knew she couldn’t resist kissing Ron and when I slipped the extra large tic tac into my mouth, she wouldn’t question it. Wouldn’t even realize it was a sleeping pill.” She touched Laura’s shoulder. “You were perfect my dear.”
“Don’t touch me.” Laura stepped away.
“Oh come on. Wait, let me just put my disguise back on. You’d love that wouldn’t you?” She leaned in and kissed Laura on the cheek and then whispered in her ear, “Ya know, Scarlett is such a fucking bimbo. I went out and bought my own sewing kit. I knew the bitch always carried one with her. Knew it was going to seem a bit suspicious. But when she misplaced her real one, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her and give her the true punishment she deserved!” She nestled her nose in Laura’s neck. “Mmmm…you smell like mint.”
Crowne grabbed Veronica by her shoulders and threw her against the stairs. “Explain the rest, you bitch! Where the fuck did you get Adam’s tattoo gun?”
Veronica laid on the stairs with her legs spread, breathing heavily. “Robert always wanted a tattoo. I knew Adam was planning to give him one when I left for New York, on account I found it hidden in Robert’s underwear drawer one day when I was putting away laundry. He even left some of his ink behind.”
“Did-did you actually leave for New York?” Laura asked.
“Of course I did. I mean, a little later than I wanted to. But I caught the midnight train.” She removed a car key from her jacket pocket. It was tipped with blood. They all stared at the key.
“I never forget my keys.” She swiped the key across her neck and crossed her eyes.