“How am I supposed to know who Doyle is?” he says, sliding a beverage across the counter to a waiting customer.
“Doesn’t he come in here?” I ask.
“Sweetheart, do you know how many people come in here every day?” I glance around at the dinner crowd, people freshly clocked out of their jobs, stopping by for an espresso with their coworkers before they head home for supper. He eyes my clothes, the insecurity with which I cling to my backpack. “I don’t know where you’re from, but this is Seattle. We don’t know our neighbors.” I think about my neighbors, not nice, plaid-wearing folk, who make jam and bring you over a mason jar with a handmade label. My neighbors were druggies, thuggies, and murdering mothers. And their neighbor was me: a cold-blooded killer. Poor old country folk. I look at the pierced-lip barista and roll my eyes. We were a lot tougher than he thought. I don’t know where you’re from, but it sure ain’t the Bone.
I back away from the counter and go stand by the window, convinced that I’ve done the wrong thing by coming here to this proud, undeterred city. I’m already sick of that thought, the back and forth of my decision. Judah would tell me to own it. My eyes blur in and out of focus as I watch for Doyle, unable to accept the deception. It’s a mistake. I’m at the wrong coffee shop. He was held up by something: a car accident, a family emergency. I am willing to entertain anything but the sad, stinging truth that I was scammed. I handed twelve thousand dollars over to a stranger without so much as asking his last name. A naive girl with a wad of cash—an easy target. As the sky darkens, I watch the pedestrians, imagining the spaces they are going home to—the warm kitchens and the sofas facing the televisions. The children throwing themselves at their daddy’s legs, the mothers wiping their hands on dishtowels to come fetch a kiss on the lips.
I walk to the library and search for the ad on Craigslist with Doyle’s phone number. It’s gone; however, if my suspicions are correct, it shouldn’t be long before another pops up just like it. Probably with a new number that Doyle has acquired. A pay-by-the-minute phone bought at a gas station. There will be a new name on the ad. I find the number from the ad scrawled on a piece of paper in my wallet, but when I use my new phone to make the call, it rings and rings until I finally hang up. My situation becomes more discouraging as the library announces it will be closing in five minutes.
Back into the rain, back into the march of people who know where they’re going. I make my way toward the apartment building eight blocks away. The cold is locking into my joints, and I have a headache. When I realize that I haven’t eaten all day, I buy a bowl of noodles from a food truck and carry it with me to the apartment building where Doyle stole my money. I sit on a bench across the street and watch the entrance. The food falls to my belly, but I don’t taste it. This is what happens; everything becomes black and white. I see only injustice. The man who chose the moniker Doyle, who will continue to prey on the innocent, must be held accountable. The building looks different without the glow of hope around it, dingy and mean-looking. I walk to the front of the building and stare up at the oppressive, little windows. Doyle had opened the main door with a keycard that he pulled out of his wallet. He had access to the building, which means he either already lives here, or he had pulled his scam before and somehow managed to get keys to the empty apartments. He can be anything from a maintenance man, to a friend of the real owner’s. I sit for a while longer to look up at what was almost mine. It’s all right. I’ll wait. When the time is right, Doyle will repay me—one way or another.
THERE IS AN APARTMENT FOR RENT across the street from the building where I was supposed to live. The landlord takes me up four flights of stairs because the elevator is broken. The stairwell smells like piss, the rent is more expensive, the apartment more dingy, but the light is better. From my living room window, I have a straight on view of Doyle’s building. I take it. Not because I can afford it, but because I can’t afford not to have it. I can move in in a week. I sleep in my Jeep in the meantime, a sweatshirt rolled beneath my head, not wanting to waste money on a hotel. I sneak into a fitness center and use their shower a couple of times, promising myself that one day I’ll get a membership to make it up to them. During the day, I wander the streets of Seattle—Pike Place Market, the pier. I take the ferry to Bainbridge Island; I ride the elevator to the top of the Space Needle. I eat in a restaurant that has thousands of oysters piled into icy silver bins. When I pour the silver meat into my mouth, I can taste the ocean. I’m instantly hooked. I’ve never seen the ocean, but on the banks of the Sound and in the exotic, salty meat of an oyster, I can taste it. I sit on the bench outside of Doyle’s building and watch for him. I write everything I spend in a notebook, so I know how much I have left.
Loaf of bread and peanut butter: $4.76
Socks and shampoo: $7.40
Toilet wand: $3.49
Aspirin and milk: $6.89
This week I spent 137.50. Try to spend less next week! I write in the margin of the notebook.
I think of the places I’d take Judah if he were with me: to the market, and across the Sound on a ferry, a stroll on Bainbridge Island, a lunch at my favorite oyster bar. I call him once, but hang up when I hear his voice. I don’t know what to say to him, and I’m afraid he doesn’t miss me. When the day arrives for me to pick up my keys, I carry myself into the rental office, sure something will happen. They will decide I’m not good enough to live there, they’ll find out I killed a woman and burned her body, they’ll know what I am and send me to prison instead. When the landlord sees me, he exclaims, “It looks like you’re here to identify a body, not pick up your keys!” I laugh at the irony and relax. If he’s in this good of a mood, he’s not prepping to tell me that I won’t be moving in today. In the end, the landlord hands me my keys and shakes my hand, congratulating me on my new home.
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