Laughter roused Chelsea from sleep. She made sure she had pants on before stumbling out to the single room of the apartment, her dog on her heels.
Andy lounged on the couch, eye liner immaculate as always. “The sleeping ginger rises. Aurora Dawn and shit.”
Chelsea rubbed at her eyes and raised a middle finger with her other hand as Bentley bounded over to him for pets.
“Eloquent as always, I see.”
Amber laughed from the kitchen area. “I ordered dinner.”
“I thought you were making Bai Sach Chrouk.” Chelsea flounced over to the couch and snuggled up next to Andy.
“You almost said that right. And I was, but then I made an appointment with a tattoo artist.” Amber waved a hand at a series of torn pages on the wall. Each had a different version of an abstract image, irregular shapes made of soft curves and hard edges.
“Wait.” Chelsea sat up. “We’ve got that thing to look into, The Crying Lady.”
Andy looked between them. “You got a hunt without me?”
Amber shrugged. “I heard something at that shithole restaurant. I just didn’t act on it. Figured we could do some recon. See if there’s any there there.” She beamed at Chelsea. “You don’t need me for recon. You can sit in your car and talk to the dog. It’ll be like old times.”
“But…” Chelsea let her doubts out. “I wanted to be there when you got the tattoo.”
Amber giggled. “Oh, hell no. You’d drive the artist nuts. This man is my friend, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“Who is it?” Andy sat up. “You can whisper it to me.”
“Like you won’t tell her how to get there as soon as I leave. I swear you like her more than me or Jackson.”
“She’s nicer.” Andy shrugged. “And most hunters don’t do theater, opera, and art. Ya’ll are hopelessly pedestrian bitches.” He snugged an arm around Chelsea. “Speaking of those bitches, the Met—”
“When?” Chelsea cut him off with a huge grin. “And I want my ‘I heart NYC’ t-shirt.”
He rolled his eyes. “And I just called the others pedestrian.”
Amber shrugged on a heavy black jacket and grabbed the pages off the wall. “I’ll leave you two to your banter.”
Chelsea bounced off the couch and pulled the other woman close. “I can’t wait to see it.”
“I’m just getting the outline.” Amber laughed and planted a quick kiss on her lips. “I’ll get it colored in later.”
“Still…” Chelsea snaked her fingers into Amber’s hair. “This is a first for me and I… I can’t wait.”
“You said that already.” Amber pulled away with a grin. “Get me some good info on that crying lady, okay? I’m going to come home and lay on my stomach until the burning stops.” She flashed a middle finger at Andy and scratched Bentley’s ears before heading out the door.
Andy stood and stretched. “How about we do the Met this weekend? It’s free, but if we go early, it shouldn’t be bad.”
“Sounds great. But for now, a stake out awaits me. Can you grab dinner while I shower?” Chelsea kissed him on the cheek before heading to the shower.
She and Andy shared the Chinese food, leaving some leftovers for Amber. Then she and Bentley headed for Central Park and Amber’s haunted apartment building.
She flitted between the subway station and the actual park, watching the beautiful old building. Amber said the crying ghost made random appearances, so Chelsea kept moving. Which was nice considering the night’s chill and continual autumn rains.
As the sun lightened the sky, Chelsea headed for her car. She hadn’t seen anything other than a security guard and homeless people in the park.
Heart hammering with anticipation, she hurried back to Brooklyn. There was a grumpy bitch with a tattoo to coo over.
Chelsea opened the door expecting pancakes or Bobor Kreung. Amber usually had breakfast ready when she came in for the night.
But no bubbling rice porridge or frying batter scented the apartment. Everything was still and silent. The leftovers from the night before sat greasy on the table.
A shiver of foreboding came over her as she rushed to the bedroom. The bed sat empty. Chelsea threw open the closet to all Amber’s clothes.
Fear shivering down her spine, she called Andy. As soon as he picked up her breathless voice wavered out, thin and weak. “Tell me she’s with you.”
Andy sighed. “I’ll be right over.”
Her stomach dropped and her knees gave out. As soon as she collapsed to the floor, Bentley rushed over. She wrapped her arms around his neck and fought for calming deep breaths.
She was still sitting there when Andy showed up. He hunkered down beside her. “I take it you never looked at the fridge.” He waved a piece of paper at her.
She shook her head. “Read it to me.”
He leaned his head on her shoulder and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry to do this to you again, but I swear, it’s not the same. I love you. I do. And that’s the problem.
“Jackson will never believe it. I ruined that for myself. I’m not going to ruin anything else for you.
“Please, go be happy. And please believe that’s all I want for you and him. I’ll be okay. I have a mission and that’s all I’ve ever needed.” He wrapped his arms around her and Bentley. “She sent you on a snipe hunt. The crying lady is folklore with no legit sightings. I checked.”
She pulled away from him, anger tight in her chest. “If you had suspicions why didn’t you say something? I was out there for fucking hours.”
He leaned back on his hands. “Because I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. She was happy. I hadn’t seen her this happy… ever. Plenty of hunters check out urban legends, just in case.”
Her sudden anger grew into rage, and she threw herself to her feet. “I can’t believe her! This is bullshit!”
Bentley whimpered from her feet.
Chelsea took a deep breath. “I’m sorry Bent, but I’m not okay at the moment.” The raw need to move sent her to the front room. ““We were happy.” She paced off the distance between the door and the couch. “We had an opening with Jack”. Prowling back and forth, she tried to force everything to make sense. “All we needed was time. Why does she keep doing this?”
Andy sighed as he settled himself on the couch. “Some people don’t want to be happy. We don’t deserve it.”
She stopped, her anger poorly dammed behind curiosity. “We don’t?”
“Save your fishing expedition for another time. Deal with Amber right now.”
“Wish I could, but she took off on me. Again.”
“So you done with her then?”
“Who the fuck said that?”
His laughter was contagious and she found herself on the floor, clutching at her aching stomach, Bentley nearly in her lap. The tears came suddenly.
Andy was a warm and solid support, buffering her with Bentley. When she finally cried herself out, he helped her to her feet. “You can crash with me.”
She nodded. “For now.”
“Sure, for now.”
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