Tangled Threads, Tangled Strings
by Michael J A Tyzuk
Table of Contents|
Part 4 appeared
in issue 149.
Tamara Tomson, detective extraordinaire of Acheron City, has had a few successes in the recent past, but they have been earned at the cost of some terrible losses. Now, she awakens every morning a mess, not sure how many bottles of wine she drank the night before. Her dissolving life must be put on hold, though, when a set of simultaneous murder sprees occur throughout the City.
Tamara is assigned to the case along with her partner, Jeremy, who may care a bit more for Tamara than he does for the case. As the connections between these murders become tangled like a puppetmaster’s strings, Tamara realizes that while her problems may have been suppressed, they can come back to haunt her.
part 5 of 11
* * *
Gerald hailed a cab and went home. On impulse Tamara invited Jeremy back to her place for a drink, and he accepted.
When they got to her place Tamara made sure that Jeremy knew where the liquor cabinet was and excused herself to change clothes. She had originally intended to change into her traditional lounging sweat suit, but something made her change her mind. She rifled through her closet for something to wear and finally settled upon a short floral print dress that she hadn’t worn in ages and a pair of black tights. She brushed out her long auburn hair and let it fall free around her shoulders, took a moment to freshen up her makeup. Then she went back downstairs to tend to her quest.
Jeremy was seated on the couch nursing what appeared to be a scotch rocks. He looked up as Tamara entered the room and his eyes went wide, a slow smile spread across his face. Tamara stood in the middle of the living room and did a slow twirl, let him take a good long look before stepping over to the couch to stand over him with her hands propped on her hips. “You like?” she asked, grinning.
Jeremy nodded. “Yeah, I like,” he answered. “You look fantastic.”
Tamara dropped onto the couch beside Jeremy, leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you,” she said as she rested her head on his shoulder. Jeremy curled his arm around her shoulders, brushed her auburn hair aside and started gently tickling her neck. She smiled a contented little smile and closed her eyes. After a long moment she started to purr.
This was a familiar pattern for Tamara and Jeremy. They would come here after work and Tamara’s emotional problems would start to overwhelm her. Jeremy had tried numerous times to get her to talk to him about what was happening to her, but she just wasn’t ready to do that yet and Jeremy knew that if he tried to force her he would only make things worse. All he could do was ride out these little emotional storms with her. As her friend and her partner he could do nothing less. And, truth be told, he really didn’t mind doing this for her. Actually, he quite enjoyed it.
Tonight was going to be different though.
Tamara lay there with Jeremy’s arm around her for a long moment. Almost on impulse she turned her head and looked up at him, smiled a sweetly affectionate smile. When Jeremy smiled back at her she leaned up and kissed him. It started off as a simple affectionate kiss, the kind that old, dear friends would share. But then the kiss picked up speed. Tamara climbed up onto her knees and pushed Jeremy back into the corner of the couch. She wrapped her arms around Jeremy’s shoulders and opened her mouth to him. When she felt Jeremy respond in kind she reached out with her tongue and began an intimate exploration.
Jeremy was sufficiently shocked that he let this go on for several minutes. Then he remembered who he was and what he was dealing with and everything that Tamara had been through over the last year and he put on the brakes. He gently pushed Tamara away until there was an arms length of space separating them and struggled to clear his head. Tamara was breathing heavily and there was a wild look in her eyes. “Is that why you wore the dress,” Jeremy wondered breathlessly, “because you wanted to seduce me?”
Tamara tried to lean closer but Jeremy kept her at arms length. A faint glimmer of disappointment flashed through her eyes. “Don’t you want me?” she demanded.
Jeremy squirmed away from Tamara and crossed to the other side of the living room. He leaned his back against the wall and struggled to slow his breathing. Tamara realized that her advances were being rejected and she sat back down on the couch, leaned forward and buried her face in her hands.
“Jesus Christ, Tammy,” Jeremy said when he got his breath back. “What the hell was that all about?”
Tamara shook her head. “Nothing,” she answered. “It wasn’t about anything.”
“Like hell it wasn’t,” Jeremy countered. “Tammy, you don’t just grab a guy and start driving your tongue down his throat and say it’s nothing, okay. There’s definitely something going on here.”
Tamara looked up at Jeremy, a flash of anger in her eyes. “Maybe I just wanted to share a few moments of pleasure with someone I care about,” she said bitterly. “Would that have been too much to ask for?”
Jeremy shook his head and sat down on the couch beside Tamara, who promptly left the couch and moved to the armchair. She tucked her legs under her and hugged herself with her arms. Silent tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes. Jeremy moved to the end of the couch closest to the armchair. “Tamara,” he said, “I’m your friend and I’m your partner, and you need to start trusting me.”
“I trusted you enough to take you to bed a minute ago,” Tamara snapped back.
Jeremy had to admit that Tamara had a point there. “Okay, yeah, you got me with that one,” he said. “But you still don’t trust me enough to talk to me. I wouldn’t mind so much if you were at least talking to someone, but you’re not. You keep all this darkness bottled up inside you, and that’s not a healthy thing. Tammy girl, you have to start trusting people. You have to let down your guard and let someone in.”
“Maybe I’d rather just escape,” Tamara said softly. She curled herself into a ball and tried to retreat deeper into the cushions of the chair.
That’s when Jeremy felt the proverbial light bulb flash into life in his brain. He leaned back into the couch cushions. “Oh, hell,” he breathed. “That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why you’ve been drinking so much lately. That’s why you’ve been so affectionate. That’s why you just tried to take me to bed. You’re looking to escape. But what is it that you’re looking to escape from, I wonder?”
Tamara shook her head. “Nothing,” she answered. “I’m not trying to escape from anything.”
Jeremy stood up and moved to sit on the arm of Tamara’s chair. She turned and grabbed hold of him, clung to him for dear life. Jeremy brushed his fingers through her hair, leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “You know,” he began, “the very first time I saw you I thought to myself that is one incredibly beautiful young girl, and she’d be even prettier if she weren’t so troubled. You remember that day, don’t you? The day you found Tanya Brown dead in your bed?”
Tamara sniffed back tears. “I remember.”
“I had heard about you, and I had heard about what happened to Alan,” Jeremy continued. “Everyone in the department knew that the two of you were lovers, and they saw what it did to you when he died. You know, there’s not a single person in the detective’s division who wouldn’t take your pain for you if they could, if in doing so they could get the old Tamara back. They care about you that much. But you and I both know that just taking your pain away isn’t going to do any good. You have to come to grips with your pain, learn to accept the things that have happened to you. That’s the way it was for me when my wife died.”
Tamara sniffed again and looked up at Jeremy. Her eyes were red rimmed and puffy. “You were married?” Tamara asked. “I didn’t know that.”
“I never told you, Tammy girl,” Jeremy responded with a smile. “Colleen and I were together for almost ten years. I had just been promoted to detective and I was serving a hitch with the organized crime unit. We had a line on a fellow who we believed was responsible for a lot of the goings on in and around the downtown core. I had done a lot of groundwork towards getting this guy, so my lieutenant put me in charge of the investigative effort. Well, I guess that this wonderful specimen of humanity decided that I was getting too close and he needed to warn me off, because when I came home from work one day I found little bits of Colleen in six good sized boxes lined up on our living room couch.”
Tamara breathed in and hugged Jeremy for all she was worth, burying her face in his chest. “Oh, My God,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Jeremy kissed the top of her head and returned her hug. “It was a long time ago, sweetheart.”
Tamara looked up at Jeremy, her eyes inquisitive. “What did you do when you found her?” she asked.
Jeremy shrugged. “I did what any sane and rational man would do,” he said. “I dropped to my knees and curled myself into a ball and wept, and I didn’t stop for a long time. When I did stop, though, it occurred to me that this arrogant little swine needed killing in a big had way, and it also occurred to me that I was in a unique position to be able to provide the human race with exactly that service. I probably would have gotten away with it too, given what that bastard had just done to my wife. I picked myself up off of the floor, made sure I had my pistol with me, climbed into my speeder and drove to his headquarters.”
Jeremy shuddered as he remembered what happened. “I shot the two guys guarding the door between the eyes, blew the lock apart with my third shot, and stormed his house. I killed anyone who got in my way, one at a time, until I was in the upstairs bedroom and the only person left alive was this bastard gangster with my wife’s blood on his hands. I raised my pistol and sighted down the barrel until I was looking into his eyes. And then I just stood there and watched him. He knew I had the upper hand. Sure, he could try to make a grab for a weapon of his own, but I would kill him before he got there and he knew it. He saw images of his own death flashing before his eyes, and when that happened he just broke. He dropped to his knees and burst into tears, begged me not to kill him. He even soiled his trousers. I took aim again and was just about to pull the trigger, but the police arrived just in time to stop me.”
“What happened to you?” Tamara wanted to know.
“Well, my division lieutenant wasn’t all that happy with me,” Jeremy answered. “He went up one side of me and down the other, told me in no uncertain terms what a failure I was and made it abundantly clear to me that I would never return to the force. Then he suspended me until a disciplinary hearing could be convened. The hearing ruled that I was not in my right mind at the time. I was put on the inactive list and ordered to submit for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. I spent the next five years getting better.”
Jeremy brushed a lock of auburn hair off of Tamara’s brow and tucked it behind her ear. “I know what it’s like to lose someone who means everything to you,” he said. “I know you blame yourself for what happened to him, just the same as I blamed myself for what happened to Colleen. In a lot of ways I still do, sometimes. But that was a long time ago, and by blaming myself for what happened to Colleen I was actually absolving that gangster wannabe of his responsibility for her murder. Even that realization, as profound as it was at the time, wasn’t enough by itself to bring me back from the brink of the abyss, though. I had to let go of Colleen. I had to let the man that I had been die with her and put together a new Jeremy Bennett in his place. But in order to do that I had to break down and trust my doctors. I had to open up to them in a very real way, and it took me a long time to realize that.
“You remind me so much of the way that I was,” Jeremy continued. “But there are two very important differences here. First, you’re a lot cuter than I’ll ever be, even on a good day.” Tamara smiled a wan little smile. “And second, you’re a lot smarter than I’ll ever be, but you have a tendency to listen to your heart more than you listen to your head, and that’s not necessarily a good thing when your hearts been broken.”
Tamara closed her eyes and rested her head on Jeremy’s thigh. “Was your next partner as kind and patient with you as you’re being with me?” she wondered.
Jeremy shrugged. “I don’t know,” he answered. “I like to think that she would be, but she kind of has her own problems right now, so it’s hard to tell.”
Surprised, Tamara looked up at Jeremy. “I’m your first partner after your recovery?”
Jeremy nodded. “No one in my old unit wanted to work with me when I came back. Can’t hardly blame them, really, but it was still a bit of a shock. I was transferred to homicide, but I wasn’t given a partner because there wasn’t anyone available. Five minutes after I reported for duty for the very first time I got the call to come here and investigate Tanya Brown’s death.”
“And we’ve been together ever since,” Tamara finished. She rested her head on Jeremy’s leg again. “I’m sorry I haven’t been a better partner.”
Jeremy smiled. “Tammy girl, you don’t have anything to apologize for,” he told her. “It’s tough when you’re trying to figure out all over again who and what you are. It’ll be a long time before you get all your mental furniture straightened out again, but you can make it easier on yourself if you’ll just trust someone and open up to them. I went through hell trying to put myself back together because I didn’t start confiding in people when I should have. I thought that I could solve my problems on my own. Boy was I wrong. I just don’t want to see you make the same mistakes that I did, is all. You’re better than that, Tammy girl. You’re smarter than that.”
Tamara and Jeremy held onto each other for a long moment. Finally Tamara rose from the chair and moved to the couch, tucked her legs underneath her. She motioned for Jeremy to sit beside her. She took a deep breath when he sat down, blew it out slowly. “Okay,” she said. “Here goes. I’ve been having nightmares.”
Inside Jeremy was jumping for joy, not because Tamara was having nightmares, but because she was finally opening up to him. He forced himself to simply nod. “Okay,” he said. “Tell me about these nightmares. What are you seeing?”
Tamara laced her fingers in her lap and stared down contemplatively at her hands for a moment before answering. “I’ve been seeing Alan in my dreams,” she admitted.
Jeremy arched his brow and cocked his head. “You’ve been seeing Alan,” he repeated. “Have you been reliving his death?”
Tamara shook her head. “No, nothing like that,” she said. “Leastwise, I don’t think so. The memory kind of fades a little bit after I wake up but I see a clear image of Alan standing before me, reaching for me.”
Jeremy leaned back against the couch and nodded thoughtfully. “Okay. I can see why that kind of image can be more than a little disturbing, given what happened the last time the two of you were together. What do you think it means?”
Tamara shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “All I know is that it scares me.”
“Okay. Why does it scare you?”
Another shrug. “I guess I just keep wondering if Alan blames me for not being able to save him.”
Jeremy reached out and curled his finger beneath Tamara’s chin, gently raised her head until he could look into her eyes. “Why would Alan blame you for not being able to save him?” he asked gently.
“I don’t know,” Tamara answered. “I guess that I’m afraid to find out.”
“Do you blame yourself for not being able to save him?” Jeremy pressed.
Tamara rocked back a little bit as Jeremy’s question registered in her head. Her eyes dropped back down to her lap. “I think that I do.”
“You think that you do, or you know that you do?”
Tamara slumped a little bit. “I know that I do,” she whispered.
“Why do you blame yourself?” he asked.
Tamara shrugged. “Alan and I, from the beginning we promised each other that neither of us would ever let something bad happen to the other one. We made that promise as soon as we realized that we were starting to love each other. Alan was always there to help me whenever I got into a bind, and when the time came for me to do the same for him I failed miserably.”
“Who says you failed him?” Jeremy wondered. “Maybe you saved him.”
“Saved him?” Tamara repeated incredulously. “Jeremy, I killed him. How could I kill him and save him at the same time? The idea makes no sense.”
Copyright © 2005 by Michael J A Tyzuk