“Sorry,” he says when I nearly throw the mug in his face, I’m so startled. “I was coming up to see how she’s doing.”
“She’s asleep,” I say. “Don’t sneak up on people like that!”
“Sorry,” he says again. “Here, I can take that back to the kitchen.”
“No, I can do it.”
“Really,” he says. “I want to help.”
Except that he won’t help. He’ll just make a mess. Jordan doesn’t know where the trash is, nor has he ever rinsed out a mug in his life. He leaves every dish he’s ever touched for the maid or room service to clean up. He is so annoying. How did we date—let alone live together—for so many years?
“Fine, you can help,” I say with ill grace.
He follows me like a puppy back to the kitchen, then sits down at the table and does nothing as I put the tea bag in the trash and rinse out the mug.
“Where’s Cooper?” I ask, hyperconscious of his gaze on me.
“He’s taking a shower,” Jordan says. “Can I ask you some-thing?”
Oh great. I knew this was coming, but had been hoping to avoid it.
“Not right now,” I say, drying my hands on a dish towel. “I . . . I have to take the dog for a walk.”
“But it’s eleven o’clock at night,” Jordan says, looking shocked.
“I can’t help it,” I say. “When Lucy’s got to go, she’s got to go.” This is a complete fabrication. When Lucy has to go, she goes through the doggie door to the backyard. But I need some excuse to get away from Jordan.
“Baby just goes on a wee-wee pad,” he says, in a tone that suggests this in some way makes Tania’s dog superior to mine.
“Well,” I say, “good for Baby.”
“I don’t think you should walk the dog at this time of night when there is a deranged psychopath on the loose who might be watching the house and wants to kill my wife.”
“My not walking my dog when I normally do so at this time of night might tip the deranged psychopath off that your wife is here,” I counter.
Jordan considers this. “Can I still ask you one thing before you go?”
I realize I can’t avoid him forever, especially when we’re both living in the same house, and I have no intention of going outside with Gary Hall—injured as he might be—on the loose in the neighborhood. I pull out a kitchen chair and sink into it. “What is it, Jordan?”
“Is this guy who’s after Tania really her husband?”
Little Girl Rap
My little girl
Any boy pursues her
Ever tries to woo her
I will knock him dead
Boy, don’t mess with me
When she comes
Won’t be with no bums
Or end up in the slums
She’ll only ever come
Home to me
She got to be dressed
Only in the best
Never need to guess
Who her dad might be
Don’t know how I’m gonna make it
Beg, borrow, steal, or fake it
But I swear I’m gonna make her
Proud of me
“Little Girl Rap”
Performed by Jordan Cartwright
Written by Jordan Cartwright,
with thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein
Goin’ Solo album
“What makes you ask that, Jordan?”
I’m trying to keep my outward demeanor calm so that Jordan doesn’t suspect that inside I’m cursing to myself. How has he found out? Was he eavesdropping? But I could have sworn that Tania and I never once used the word “husband” or even “marriage.” How had Jordan guessed?
“A long time ago—well, maybe not that long—he sent me a letter,” Jordan says, pulling a folded piece of paper from the pocket of his robe. “I got it a few days before Tania and I were married.”
I take the paper from him. “Okay,” I say. “Go on.”
“Anyway, I didn’t think much of it. I get so much mail—not to brag or anything. I’m just stating a fact. My assistant, she only passes on what she thinks is important. Then I put it in one of three files—the Dad File, the Friends File, or the Crazy File. If it seems like it’s something that might come back to bite me on the ass, I send it to Dad to take care of. If it’s a girl who sends me a picture of her with her”—he glances at me—“well, then I usually forward it to all my friends. You know. Everything else goes in the Crazy File, which means I ignore it. Most crazy people are harmless, right? All they want is to let off a little steam, let their freak flag fly. And if I’m the target of their freak, well, okay, whatever. That’s cool. Long as they don’t hurt anyone.”
I unfold the letter. “Keep going.”
Cooper, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, a damp towel around his neck, appears in the kitchen. “What’s going on?” he asks curiously, seeing us sitting together.
“Jordan says he got a letter from Gary Hall a few days before he and Tania were married,” I say, numbly scanning the page in front of me. “If you don’t . . .” and “a million dollars . . .” and “I will . . .” jump out at me.
“You did?” His hand on the door handle of the refrigerator, Cooper is about to go for what he’s been calling lately one of his “midnight snacks,” a ridiculously large, insanely good sandwich that involves a great deal of mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, cheese, and lunch meat. Normally nothing can tear him away from one. Me either.
“Yeah,” Jordan says. “I thought it was a joke. If Tania was married, people would know about it, right? TMZ and Dad and stuff. So it couldn’t be true. It seemed crazy. So I put it in the Crazy File and ignored it.” He gives Cooper a worried smile. “Guess maybe I should have sent it to Dad, huh, bro?”
Cooper drops his hand away from the refrigerator door handle.
“What does the letter say?” he asks carefully.
I gaze at the neatly typewritten script.
“It says that unless Jordan pays Gary Hall a million dollars, Gary will go public with the information that he and Tania were once married,” I say, feeling a strange tightness in my throat, “and that they never divorced. He’ll also cause Tania ‘a world of hurt.’ ”
“Oh God,” Jordan says, burying his head in his hands. “Oh God, oh God. I knew I should have told you guys about this that night Bear got shot, when we saw you at those people’s apartment. I knew it. Then Jared never would have died, right? And this little girl today would never have been hurt. This is all my fault for not paying him. Oh God.”