I needed to rethink O'Day's impromptu visit. On the surface our meeting seemed to be all too logical. The suggestion of an alliance, albeit an uneasy one, made a lot sense.
However, I would need to be frugal with just how much information I gave him. Any mention in detail of the work in which Michael and Michelle were involved would have to be cryptic. If I had found it difficult to assimilate their research, O'Day would find it unfathomable.
His sincerity regarding Jimmy's death was in no way questionable, but the chance of him becoming a loose cannon gave me cause to worry. His experience under fire in the jungles of Southeast Asia and on the streets of Boston had steeled his demeanor into one of taking action first and asking questions later.
"Priorities," I said to myself. "One must have priorities." I approached the bedroom door which was standing slightly ajar and slipped inside. The last time I had entered that room when it was dark I had been witness to the spectacle of her nude body, a silhouette against the blinds back lit by filtered sunlight. No such vision greeted my eyes this time. The only other light in the room was escaping from beneath the bathroom door.
"As you were," I said to myself wishing to recapture that moment before Michelle had walked in on us. I began stripping and in my haste nearly fell twice trying to get my feet out of my pants. I strutted like a rooster toward a hen house and pushed the bathroom door open.
Susan was standing before the sink brushing her hair in the mirror. She was still naked from the waist up but had put on a pair of slacks in my absence. Our eyes met via our reflections in the mirror. She turned to face me, a scowl on her face.
"Ben, what are you doing? Why aren't you dressed?" she asked placing her hands on her hips.
I suddenly felt like one of the actors in that commercial; you know, the one where the narrator says, 'Want to get away?'
"I was listening at the door. We need to get started working on that list the sergeant gave you," she lectured. She let her eyes travel from my head and come to rest at my shorts. She grinned, "I hardly think that outfit would be conducive to walking around out there in the streets of Boston." She turned back to face the mirror and resumed brushing her hair.
I stood frozen for a moment, not certain whether I should be surprised, stunned, disappointed, rejected, angry or all of the above. Not one to be passive, I inched up behind her and slipped my hands around her waist. I moved them over her bare abdomen until her breasts were cupped in my palms.
She spoke not a word but turned away and retrieved her bra which had been hanging from the door knob. Slipping her arms through the straps and fitting herself into the inverted cupolas, she offered her back to me and ordered, "Fasten me."
I tried, but her hands pressed against the front of the bra prevented my hands from gaining access beneath the material. I sighed and complied to her command. "Susan," I said in attempt to rekindle the flames that been burning less than a half an hour earlier, "What happened to girl I left here wanting do nothing ... but get laid?"
She reached for and opened the topmost of several vanity drawers. She removed something from within and held it aloft. "Sometimes, even a woman has to take matters into her own hands," she said winking before dropping the object into my hand.
"A vibrator?" I blubbered.
She giggled and said, "How do I spell relief? D-i-l-d-o!" She was taking delight in the kaleidoscope of changing emotions upon my face. She shrugged her shoulders and added to my tormented ego, "There were no batteries in it, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do."
I mumbled mainly to myself, "No ... batteries?"
Her giggles turned to laughter as she took it from my hand and positioned it suggestively near the front of her slacks, "Why Ben Bering ... you don't honestly think that without batteries it can't be put to good use anyway?"
I shook my head and tried to hide my flushed cheeks, "No, you're quite resourceful." I moved to the glass stall and said, "I need a shower."
She slid in front of me and leaned against the glass door. She winked as she placed a finger inside the waistband of my shorts. Her forehead brushing against my chest she pulled the waistband away from my abdomen and peered into the exposed area. She pulled her finger back until the waistband let go and slapped hard against my skin. She looked up into my eyes and announced, "You better make it a cold shower!"
Twenty minutes later I was seated at the dinette table watching Susan shuffle about in the small galley kitchen. It should not have come as a surprise, but it didn't escape my attention that she was able to turn the simple task of preparing coffee into a sensual display. Casting aside the thought of the word sensual and any of its implications, I realized that as close as we had become in such a relatively short passage of time, I knew absolutely nothing about her.
I waited until she was sitting across from me and asked, "So tell me Susan, are you from around here? Do you have family close by?"
She blew across the rim of the cup of hot coffee and replied, "Let's see, to your first question, yes and no." She took a sip from the cup and added, "And to your second question, yes and no."
"I see," I commented with a sardonic frown. "The less I know, the better?"
I could detect a trace of sadness in her voice as she answered, "No, that's not it, Ben. It's just that there's not a lot to tell because there's not a lot I know." She lifted the cup to her lips and swallowed some of the hot liquid. She wiped the corners of her mouth with a napkin and shifted in the chair until she was more comfortable. "I didn't know my parents ... my mother died when I was an infant ... and my father ... he put me up for adoption. I don't even know who he is, or where he is."
I reached across the table and took her hand in mine, "I'm sorry. Did you ever try to locate him?"
She nodded, "Yes, when I was fifteen. Nothing! It seemed that all my attempts were blocked. I assume that anyone who would go to all that trouble not be found, must be rich and have a lot of connections in high places." Running her fingers through her tresses she sighed and continued with her story, "You know, I can't even find out my mother's name!"
The reporter in me began to dominate my personality, "What about the birth certificate? Surely that would have your mother's name recorded upon it."
She wiped a tear that had been forming in her eye and shook her head, "Of course there was. The birth certificate lists my mother's name as none other than Jane Doe."
The poor thing, I thought to myself. "I'm sorry that I asked about things you'd rather not discuss. I didn't know ..."
"Ben, there's no need to apologize. How could you have known?" She formed a brave smile and said, "Until I was eighteen I moved around from the orphanage and foster home to foster home. From a small trust fund, I was able to find a place to live and get into college."
"A trust fund, you say?" I asked. "Surely there was the name of a benefactor or the executor..."
She shrugged her shoulders again, "Nope. My access to the fund was all done through a P.O. box, to an anonymous lawyer I assume."
I narrowed my eyes and posed, "A blind trust? Set up by your ... father?"
"I think so. I have felt for some time that he has actually been a part of my life all along, but from behind a dark cloak of secrecy."
"Susan, when this thing with Michelle and Michael is cleared up, I'd like to help you find the answers to those questions."
She shook her head, "I don't know if I really want to know at this point in my life, Ben. I've survived just fine this long without knowing."
"If you insist. However, the offer stands," I answered. I stood up and stretched my arms. "I think it's time to change the subject, don't you?" She nodded as I removed the paper Sgt. O'Day had given me from my pocket and spread it on the table.
Susan got up and moved next me. She looked upon the list. Placing a finger on the document she traced a path from the top of the page to the bottom and back to the top. "That's funny. Did you notice that ... it's not on the list?" she asked.
"The Portland Street warehouse? Nice observation, Susan. Yes, I did notice that," I stated. "I wonder why?"
"Maybe there's nothing there of importance?" she suggested.
"Perhaps," I said. "Or maybe, it has been omitted deliberately to throw me off the trail."
Susan looked at me, curiosity pursing her lips, "Are you suggesting that they know you have that list?"
I ignored her question and pointed at one of the addresses and said, "Will you look at that? It's the same address as the old Check Mate Lounge!"
A broad smile appeared on her face, "It's where we met eight years ago. How romantic, no? I wonder what's there now." I placed my finger beneath the address on the list and Susan read aloud, "Neural Integration & Mental Holography? Ben, look at the initials."
"Interesting." I offered, "N.I.M.H."
(To be continued in part 21 on Friday 2/6, with The Secret of N.I.M.H..)