“Paco ain’t no dog. You can’t just call him and he’ll come.”
Kat glared at the girl and then reached into her pocket, pulling out a twenty and holding it out to her.
“Will this help?”
“Maybe. You got another one?”
“No,” Kat replied, pulling it back before the girl could take it.
“Alright. Twenty will do.”
Kat held the bill back out toward her, and she took it, stuffing it into her overly abundant cleavage. She nodded toward the door to her right.
“Go in there. Last door on the right. Knock twice, cough, knock again.”
Kat followed her strange directions and soon found herself looking at a tall, lanky guy with a shock of orange-red hair and a beard to match. His eyes were red, from what was anyone’s guess.
“What’s your poison?” he said, looking around nervously.
“I don’t have one. I’m looking for my brother.”
“He ain’t here,” he said, already closing the door between them.
“Wait. Wait. Big Mike. I know you know him. I’m not here to cause trouble. I just want to find my brother.”
“Big Mike’s sis, huh?” he said, smiling. “He owes me money. I don’t deal to that fucker no more. You find him, you tell him I’m running out of patience.”
“When’s the last time you saw him?” she persisted.
“Man, I don’t know. Been months. Go talk to them boys on Fifth and Vine. They might know him. I ain’t got nothing for you but that message to him. Take it and get the fuck out of my doorway, bitch.”
He slammed the door, causing her to jump back to keep from getting hit in the face by it. She had to draw the line here. Fifth and Vine were in a neighborhood she wasn’t stepping foot into alone. It hadn’t been long enough to file a missing person’s report, which was her last resort anyway. Given what circumstance they might find him in, that might only bring him more trouble.
Back at home, she sat down and stared at the wall. She felt exhausted. After a few minutes, she got up and fished some leftovers out of the fridge, popping open a bottle of wine while the food heated in the microwave. What she needed was just to veg out for a while and try to focus on something besides Mike.
By her second bottle of wine, she felt much calmer. Drinking probably wasn’t the best way to unwind, but she didn’t really care. Right now, she just needed not to think so much, not worry so much. The phone buzzing stirred her from her thoughts. The display showed an unknown number.
“Yes?” she replied, not picking up on the voice immediately.
She wasn’t being coy. For a moment, she wasn’t picking up on the name. It had been a long day, and she’d had perhaps a little too much to drink.
“Travis. You know, you saw me today.”
“Oh, Travis. I’m sorry. Yes. What can I do for you?”
Her tone was formal as if she were taking a business call. He’d all but ignored her this morning; why should she act like anything more than a stranger to him tonight?
“Listen, I just wanted to apologize for earlier. You must have thought I was incredibly rude.”
“It’s fine. You were obviously occupied elsewhere.”
“I was, but not like you think.”
“Okay,” she said, not really interested in his explanation or sure why he felt she needed one.
“Listen, Kat. I think you and I got off on the wrong foot.”
“It’s fine, Travis. You have other things going on, and I understand that. I can take a hint.”
“The problem is, I wasn’t trying to give you any hints. I really enjoyed our time together and was looking forward to going out again.”
“It didn’t seem that way. You were very quick to say you were going to be busy, but I don’t blame you. I mean, I did pass out on our first date, and apparently, I have some issues that aren’t going to go away.”
“Oh, Kat. No. I don’t care about any of that stuff. I was just starting a new job today and wasn’t sure how my schedule was going to go. The woman I was getting in the car with is my boss. Seeing you today made me want to call you.”
Kat was quiet for a moment. She had made this all about her and never considered that he might have something going on that had nothing to do with anything between them. She felt so stupid now.
“I’m sorry. I—” she began, but he cut her off.
“Don’t apologize. I should have tried to be a bit clearer. Anyway, I’d really like to go out again, on a real date.
“I’d like that too,” she found herself saying.
“Good. Saturday? Pick you up at seven?”
So far, Travis’s job was not as glamorous or exciting as one might think. It consisted mostly of trailing around a spoiled rotten princess who, from what he could see, fancied herself in much more danger than she actually was. No one seemed to recognize her, and there seemed to be little cause for alarm.