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Ch. 11 All Tied Up
11:23am on Wednesday, July 30th, 2003. Ninety-seven minutes before I was supposed to meet Jane for lunch. After the cryptic phone call, I had been through three cups of coffee and two of my emergency cigarettes. Brian looked at me in horror when he caught me smoking. For a few moments, he looked back and forth between my haggardly face and the pack of smokes on the bar, and then he sat down next to me, pulled out a cigarette, and lit it from the burning stick in my mouth. It was one of those mornings.
Neither of us said anything for awhile. We sat idly at the bar in a classic trance of holding our heads in one hand and the coffee and cigarette in the other. The ominous, glowing clock on the microwave whittled down my minutes. 11:25. 11:29. 11: 43. What was I going to do? A heavy sigh from Brian caused me to notice that he was no longer sitting next to me and had moved around to the sink on the other side of the bar. He began violently soaping and washing his hands.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Trying to get out the smell of smoke on my hands. It stinks. It smells like guilt to me.”
“You English PhDs have the strangest comparisons. What is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not a PhD yet.”
“But you will be,” I said.
“Don’t jinx me,” he replied.
“Love you, too.”
“So what makes cigarettes smell like guilt?”
He returned to lathering his hands in soap and compulsively smelling them before he grew unsatisfied with them and began to repeat the process. “My parents caught me smoking once with Joe, but I didn’t know that they had seen me. When I got home, I denied having done it, so my dad asked me to breathe in his face. I reeked. The next time I smoked, I bought a pack of gum to get rid of the bad breath. Dad was rocking on the porch when I got home. He didn’t even bring it up when he saw me, but before I could pass through the front door, he grabbed my hand and drew in a long breath of its scent. He turned to me and said, ‘Smell your hand.’ I quietly muttered that I didn’t need to, and from then on, I thought that my hands smelled like shame and guilt from that encounter with my father. I hate that damn smell.”
I silently laughed to myself, deciding that it would be better not to antagonize him. These little obsessive tendencies he had only made me obsessively love him more. I took a sip of what had become cold coffee and tried to focus on being calm.
Brian dried his hands with some paper towels. Coming from behind me, he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and pressed his face against mine. I reached my left hand up, the one I hadn’t used to smoke, and stroked his cheek. We both sighed into each other, his chin resting on my shoulder and my head leaned into his.
“I can’t believe I’m getting so worked up over this,” I said, finally breaking the silence.
“I can. I don’t like this situation one bit.” He took my hand in his and walked us over into the living room. I took a seat and pulled him into a sitting position beside me with his head back on my shoulder and one of his long legs draped over mine. “I don’t want to let you go, Evan.”
“You won’t have to.”
“But this is crazy. All of this crazy. Jane sneaking around, trying to get into the apartment. Now she wants to meet you for lunch. And the weird phone call this morning. They can’t all be unrelated.”
“What am I supposed to do then? Not show up?”
“I just want you to be careful. Maybe I should come with you,” said Brian.
“No, I need this chance to talk to her alone. So much has happened, and she’s part of it, too—”
“I bet she has a bigger part in all this than we know.”
“Bri, this isn’t exactly helping.”
“Shit. I know, but I’m having a hard time thinking through this clearly, too. You yourself said that you thought that Jane might have had something to do with Laura ambushing us.”
“I know, but avoiding her doesn’t seem like the answer.”
“Works for me,” he said in a flat tone.
“We’re just going to have lunch. You’re the one who said that we’ll be out in public and there’s not much that she can do.”
We both seemed to give up at this point. We had gone back and forth with our opinions, changing our minds several times for the entire morning and in the end, I felt as though I had to go and make some sort of effort. Brian simply pulled me into his body and breathed deeply. I stared ahead into space and returned to counting the passing minutes.
My walk towards the park felt like some tunneled dream in which everything around me swirled and twisted as I passed by. I had put on a brave face for Brian, but the truth was that I was nervous about meeting Jane. At one point, I felt intensely dizzy and had to lean against a lamppost in order to steady myself. I inhaled deeply and tried to regain my composure.
I blinked once. I blinked twice more. And then I became aware of where I was again. I had stopped in front of a cart that was selling calendars and postcards. As luck would casino siteleri have it, they sold cigarettes as well. What cart in New York didn’t? I pulled out another cigarette, now lighting up my fourth of the day.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the postcards with Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” I looked at the large yellow-orange balls, and it reminded me of camping in the Pennsylvania woods when I was younger. Our group of scouts would trek into the trees, set up camp, and wait for night to fall. We would tell ghost stories, melt marshmallows, and late at night we would find a clearing, lay down our blankets and point up at the constellations that we could identify.
When I got home after that first weekend of camping, I couldn’t stop raving about what it was like to be stargazing out and away from the cloudy city. Night and day, I began to talk and bother Maria with it. My mother somehow found a reason to escape me most times. Maria, with all the patience that she had for me, decided that she couldn’t take my babbling anymore. She bought a bag of glow-in-the-dark stars and helped me stick them on the ceiling above my bed.
I invited Jane and Laura over to look at my new decoration. Laura and I were never exactly close, so she came into my room and left shortly after. I’m not sure if Jane was interested or not, but she pretended to be amused at least for my sake. I had arranged the stars to imitate commonly known constellations like the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt, until Jane suggested that we take them down and make patterns or write our names with them. Because I liked the realism, I said that her idea was silly and girly; she didn’t understand what I saw in it. We fought over it; one of the only times that we ever fought. I shouted at her so loudly that it brought our mothers and Laura and Maria to my bedroom door. In a moment of passion and rage, Jane clawed at my stars, tearing them off the ceiling. She stormed out of the room, rudely pushing her way past the crowd that had gathered at the door and leaving me on my bed kneeling in the pile of fallen stars…
“SHIT!” I said aloud.
I dropped my cigarette out of sheer surprise. That’s what that voice on the phone had said. She had been talking about that day. But who could have been on the phone? I didn’t have time to think about who it could have been. That was the day that Jane truly flipped out on me. And here it was happening again. I thought about going home. I probably should have gone home, but I still cared too much about Jane to let her go on like this. She was slowly going out of her mind, and it was my fault. I needed to get her some help. I took a look back in the direction of my apartment, and then I looked down the street towards the park. I inhaled deeply and started walking, almost running, briskly down the street.
I found Jane sitting near the arch, though I almost turned around in fear. But she saw me, too. She rose to greet me.
“It’s so good to see you, Evan,” she said warmly.
My heart was pounding in my ears. I didn’t know if I should try to confront her or simply play along with whatever game she had started.
“Good to see you, too,” I said, doing my best to not sound nervous.
“Well, I’m starved. Shall we?” she said.
We walked to a nearby café-like restaurant, but neither of us made any attempt at conversation. She seemed cheerful enough, singing to herself as we went along. My mouth was dry and frozen with fear. Only once we sat down at our table outside did she speak again.
“Evan, I’m so sorry that you’ve been through all this.”
Still trying to seem casual, I smiled and said, “It’s all fine. Just another bump in the road, but we’re managing.”
Jane ordered a glass of water from the waiter but declined any food. I asked for a salad and some water. My stomach was all tied up in knots, so I knew I couldn’t handle much food anyway.
“I think you’re right, babe. It is just another bump in the road, but it’ll all be fixed soon,” she said staring straight at me and smiling.
I nodded and tried to look pleasant.
Jane began laughing. “Oh Evan, you were always such a terrible liar. You don’t have to act like you don’t know what’s going on.”
“Well, to tell the truth, Jane, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why you’re doing this to me.”
The waiter brought our drinks, and Jane sipped her water before continuing the conversation.
“Out of curiosity, what was it that tipped you off?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I have to admit that there were several holes and slips in my plan. I was just curious as to when you finally figured things out.”
“If anything, it was a phone call I got this morning, but you trying to break into my apartment in the middle of the day wasn’t too subtle either.”
She sipped her water again. “So you did get the phone call? I knew that bitch would get in the way.”
“Who was it, Jane? Who was on the phone?”
She smiled a sinister smile that turned my stomach. “My mother. She canlı casino was trying to warn you, but I caught her on the phone. She won’t be bothering us anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
No response. The wind picked up a little, bringing the thick, heavy smell of New York in summertime to my nostrils. I felt like I was going to vomit.
After a pause, Jane said, “Well, she probably told you all you need to know.”
“Actually, no. I didn’t hear most of what she said.”
“Then I’m sure you know from all the other hints.”
“Jane, stop playing games and tell me what’s going on,” I was beginning to get frustrated with the secrecy when she was sitting across the table from me, capable of explaining everything.
“Then you truly don’t know, do you? This is going to be more interesting than I thought.”
“Know what!?” I cried.
“Shush, Evan,” she said kindly. “I brought you here so that you wouldn’t make a scene.”
“I don’t appreciate being toyed with. I simply want to know what this game is all about.”
“Oh, it’s certainly not a game, Evan. Our life together is anything but a game.”
“Jane, we don’t have a life together. My life, my heart, my very soul is with Brian. You know that. I don’t understand this.”
“That may be true, but once Brian is out of the picture, you’ll realize that you and I were meant to be together.”
“Amazing how you and your twin sound alike,” I said coldly.
“Oh, silly Laura. If you ask me, I’d say she deserves what she got for not listening to me. She was helping me with the plan for this, but then she had to go on with a crazy plan of her own. She thought that you were just gay and confused, but I knew better. I know you love Brian, and I’m glad you do. Love is a beautiful thing. But we were made for each other. Evan and Jane Alexander going through thick and thin till death do us part. That’s how it was always supposed to be. You just got a little sidetracked on your way to destiny.”
“Jane, what Brian and I have isn’t something that can be taken away.”
“I beg to differ. Noah is working on that as we speak.”
My entire body went numb for a moment. The waiter brought out my salad. I certainly didn’t have any appetite at all by this point.
I’m not entirely sure how I formed the words, but I came out with, “How do you know Noah?”
“He’s one of my favorite cousins. You see, I may not have met Brian until recently, but I have known of him for quite some time. And I must say that you have an amazing effect on people, Evan. It’s one of the reasons I love you so much.”
“What do you mean?”
“You see? You don’t even realize what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You strengthen the people around you.” She reached across the table and placed her hand on top of mine. I felt sick at her touch. That’s why I agreed to meet you out here. I needed to get you away from Brian. He’s so much stronger, so much more resistant to Noah when you’re around. Just like I’m so much stronger from loving you. Do you think that I, the quiet architect, could have the resolve to pull all of this off if it weren’t for you?”
The tears began to well up in my eyes, but I refused to cry. Not because of her. Not now. “You’re the one who stole the key to Brian’s apartment, aren’t you?”
“That time when you came over for dinner.”
“And you came in and left the sex tape in the couch.”
“Yes. Noah wasn’t too happy about that, but I assured him that it was necessary to drive you two apart. Much to my surprise, it didn’t work.”
“So where is Noah now?”
“Back at your apartment with Brian.” I made a move to stand and leave. “It’s in your best interest to stay here, Evan. Noah has already taken Brian by now, and the only way for you to see him again is to stay with me and do exactly what I ask of you. You don’t know where they’ve gone or how to find them without me.”
I tried my best to regain my composure, but it was no use. I couldn’t help but stare daggers at Jane across the table.
“Go on and eat your food,” she said in that kind tone.
“I’m hardly hungry,” I replied.
“Try to understand, Evan. Noah and I were just lonely cousins crying on each other’s shoulders because we wanted our boyfriends back.”
“Jane, there is no way that I’m ever going to understand this.”
“You will some day. You’ll see how good we are together.”
I didn’t respond. There were no words to explain how I felt, for it was certainly a new emotion for me. My best friend wanted to ruin my life and had been actively trying to sabotage my relationship with Brian, the one thing in the world that I felt I could count on.
“Well, if you’re not going to eat, then maybe we should go,” she suggested.
“To meet Noah and Brian. Where else would we go at a time like this?”
I hesitated to move. “Evan, if you don’t come with me now, I guarantee that you will never see Brian Davis alive again.”
She pulled a ten-dollar bill out of her purse kaçak casino and laid it on the table. She stood up from the table and gave me a look as if to say, “Well, are you coming?” I stood up and followed her onto the street.
She had parked a large white van in a parking garage a few blocks away. She opened the back double doors that led into the bare cargo area.
“Get in,” she said. “I know it will be uncomfortable, but I’ll drive slowly and try not to knock you around. It’s important that you don’t see where we’re going.”
Not having any other option, I climbed into the van and watched Jane with sullen eyes as she closed the doors behind me. The motor started, and the car began to vibrate beneath me. Then we were off.
I’m not sure how long we were on the road, but it was still day-time when Jane let me out of the van. I didn’t recognize the neighborhood, but we were clearly in a suburban area. She led me around to the back of a house with a separate shed for a garage. We stopped in front of the door as she reached into her purse and pulled out a remote. The door opened and I couldn’t help but let a gasp escape my lips.
Brian was in a drugged state, tied down to a chair. Noah lay on the cold floor, unmoving and lifeless.
Jane chuckled softly. “Everything went according to plan, then.”
I was too stunned to say anything, but I wasn’t too stunned to move. Without thinking about the consequences, I dashed to Brian’s side. His eyes were only half-open and he seemed to struggle to look at me.
“He should be stable enough to walk,” Jane said behind me. “Untie him and follow me.”
I turned around to say, “Jane, enough is enough,” but the gun she had pointed at me stopped my words.
“Untie him,” she repeated.
The knots weren’t too tightly done, probably because Brian was so out of it. I freed him and helped him to his feet. He leaned on me heavily as we staggered towards the door.
I stopped us in front of Jane. “What about him,” I asked, nodding towards Noah.
“He won’t be bothering us anymore,” said Jane.
“I’m really beginning to hate that phrase,” I muttered.
She continued as if she didn’t hear me. “It wasn’t too hard to overdose him on his medication. All I had to do was break up a few extra pills and drop them into his water.”
My ears shuddered at her words. Jane backed out of the garage, and I followed, leaving the poisoned Noah on the ground. She closed the door with the remote and showed us into the house.
Jane motioned us towards the stairs with her gun, and I had a difficult time maneuvering Brian. She followed us in silence.
“This door,” she said once we had reached the second floor, “on the left.”
I walked Brian into the room and laid him on the bed. It was a nice, well furnished room. It looked like it had been a child’s room once with its bright wallpaper and old toys. There was a bathroom that was attached as well.
“I may be madly in love, Evan, but I’m not cruel,” Jane said, standing in the doorway. “I know that you love him, and you need to get some feelings out of your system, so I’ll give you one last night with him. But I give you fair warning now. Don’t you come past this door, or I’ll be cross.”
“I didn’t want this to be so bloody,” she said after a pause. “But I know that as long as he’s alive, you’ll never fully give your heart to me.”
She left us there and closed the door behind her. It was an old house, and I heard her lock us in from the outside. I went back to worrying about Brian. His breathing was weak, and I couldn’t get him to really respond to my presence. After monitoring him for some time, he seemed to fall asleep. At first I thought that he may have been dead, but the slow rise of his chest let me know that my man was still alive.
I began trying to think of ways for us to escape. There were two windows, and we were only on the second floor of the house. No luck; they were welded shut. I tried the window in the bathroom and it was the same. The only way out was through the bedroom door, but Jane’s threat kept me wary of breaking through it with a chair or even my own foot. I knelt down and did my best to look under the door. All I could see were chair legs and Jane rhythmically tapping one of her feet against the floor. I knew that she would be waiting there all night with her pistol.
I gave up on trying to escape, hoping that Brian may have had a better idea when he woke up. Eventually, I crawled into the bed next to him and lay there stroking his face. As tired and exhausted as I was, I couldn’t fall asleep. It was dark outside before Brian finally began to come to his senses.
“Evan?” he mumbled.
“Brian? Are you alright? How do you feel?”
“I’m fine,” he said, “just a bit sleepy. What the hell happened?”
“I’m guessing Noah drugged you.”
He struggled to remember, but after a moment he said, “Yeah, he made me drink some water, and then I don’t really remember anything.”
I waited for Brian to wake up a little more, and then I told him everything that Jane had told me. I also included the details of the trip to the house and all that happened since we had arrived. Much to my surprise, Brian didn’t even flinch when I told him that Noah was dead.
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