The cab came to a stop in front of the Briar Apartments just after 1am. Sharp walked up the path to the front door and keyed herself in. Her body ached and her swollen lip and cheek hung numbly off the side of her face. As she stepped into the elevator, she decided she would sleep right through the rest of the night and the next day. But, as it turned out, she wouldn’t be the one making that decision.
The third-floor elevator door slid open. Sharp stepped out and started down the hallway to the door of her apartment. She’d only made a few strides when she heard a click. Suddenly Mrs. Carson’s door shot open and the woman herself, Sharp’s neighbour in apartment 307, leaned into the hallway and gave her the once over.
Mrs Carson’s hand shot up over her mouth. “Oh my, are you all right? They told me to leave — said you’d be sleeping for a while.” Mrs Carson peered at Sharp’s purple cheek. “Let me see your face. Say, that looks pretty bad.” She twisted the neck of her brown sweater in one hand and clutched the door handle with the other. Sharp knew that Mrs Carson was a widow and that she worked for the government. She didn’t talk about her work and neither did Sharp. She was a good neighbour.
“How do you know — what happened?” Sharp asked thickly.
“Why, I heard it!” her eyes shot open and her forehead creased, alarmed. “I heard them banging around in your place and then when they left, I popped my head in. You were lying there on the floor — not out cold but groggy enough. I got you up and to my car and took you over to Wellesley Hospital,” she explained.
“Wellesley? But that’s clear across the city . . . ?”
“You said you wanted to go there. Something about a nurse,” she pursed her lips and cast her eyes away.
Sharp made a note to speak to her over-active subconscious later. “Thanks — for your help,” she said.
Mrs. Carson waved away the thanks as if it were common for neighbours to drive each other, bleeding and wounded, across the city.
Sharp smiled as well as she could and thanked Mrs Carson again.
“Take care of yourself.” she said, then vanished behind her door.
Sharp walked on to her apartment. She unlocked the door and pushed it open as her mind raced around, trying to put half-formed memories of the past four hours back into order.
Just then, she realized what Mrs Carson had meant when she had said, “I heard them banging around in your place.” They’d been banging, all right. The sofa was upturned, chairs turned over, books pulled off the shelves and scattered across the floor. Amid the debris, the ficus plant stood, untouched, in the corner. Sharp cracked a smile, even though it hurt.
She walked through to the kitchen and on to the bedroom. Drawers hung open and various pieces of clothing lay strewn about, as if they’d been searching for something. They, thought Sharp. Who were they?
Her mind ran back to Meg’s phone call, getting dressed to go out, and then the knock at the door. She looked at the front door. She’d walked over and pulled it open without looking through the peep hole —she’d thought it was Kevin Lee. But it wasn’t. Two men stood there. She remember a goatee and a flash of something gold.
The door creaked open.
Sharp spun around, “No!” she cried, covering her face, then brought down her arm when she recognized her visitors.
Lee and Minetta stood in her living room looking around.
“What the heck happened here?” Minetta asked, half grinning.
“Just — trying to figure that out,” Sharp answered.
“You’ll have to do your figuring on the way downtown,” Lee said wearily, then gestured with his chin for Sharp to come along.
“Huh? What did I do?” Sharp’s forehead creased in dismay and her mouth fell open. “I told you everything! I was at Claire’s apartment, I stayed the night! My hands were on the headboard! I fell in love with her and now she’s dead and I had nothing to do with it.”
Lee stared hard at her impassively, and then said, “That’s not why we’re here.”
“We have a witness who saw you breaking into an apartment on Fulgrove Avenue, and he’s got this idea that you’re the East End Burglar."
Sharp smiled as widely as her frozen lip let her. “Look, I can explain all that — .”
“Downtown,” Lee said firmly. The muscles around his mouth were flexed tautly. He meant it.
“Kevin, I am not the East End Burglar! And Fulgrove’s in the west end. You’ve got the whole thing wrong. I’m on your side, remember?” Sharp pleaded.
“We’ll talk about it downtown,” Lee bent his head in the direction of the door.
Minetta pulled open the door and stood aside. He grinned at her as she walked passed him.
In the hallway, Sharp locked her apartment door and the trio walked towards the elevators — Sharp sandwiched between Lee in the front and Minetta in the rear. As they passed 307, Sharp heard the click of Mrs Carson’s door. It opened a crack. Minetta noticed it, too.
“Open up,” he said loudly at her door.
Mrs. Carson pulled the door open wide, recoiling at the sight of two men leading away her neighbour.
Minetta flapped his badge in front of her eyes.
“Police,” he said. “For the record, her face was a mess before we took her in. You’re our witness. Got that?"
“Of course. I know that. It was two different men that hurt Sidney."
Lee turned back to Sharp. “Huh?”
“Long story,” Sharp shook her head.
Mrs Carson opened her mouth to speak.
“Move along!” Minetta barked in Sharp’s ear and the trio pushed forward to the elevators and, in a moment, was gone.
Lee’s gray Dodge drove through the darkened city streets, then pulled up in the small parking lot next to Division B of the Toronto Police Services at Dundas and Chestnut. Minetta opened the door for Sharp, and when she climbed out, he hooked his hand under her armpit. Sharp recoiled, and her body stiffened in opposition to his touch. He pulled her easily forwards towards the front door, chuckling to himself at her discomfort.
Inside the building, banks of fluorescent lights buzzed above the reception area. Uniformed policemen and a few plained-clothed ones glanced up at the trio as they entered. At the sight of Minetta, a chorus of greetings filled the air.
“Will you look who it is?”
“Tony baby . . .”
“What about that coffee you promised me, huh?”
“Where you been all my life?”
Minetta blew a kiss across the room.
“I’ll handle this,” Lee said, suddenly fed up with the bonhomie that Minetta’s presence aroused in the other officers. Minetta released Sharp’s arm and shrugged. “If you say so.”
Lee led Sharp down the hall and around the corner to a hallway lined with doors. Each one had a small window in it. He opened the first one.
“Wait in here,” he said, as if she had a choice.
Sharp entered and Lee shut the door behind her.
Sharp sat down on the only chair and did her best to ignore the panic that was rising in her stomach. She had broken into that apartment. The first floor tenant had seen her — even talked to her. She’d lied about the government cheque just to get by him. She wouldn’t be able to get out of this one. Not even Lee could help her. In fact, she’d been causing him so much trouble lately, he’d probably be glad to see her behind bars.
Sharp closed her eyes and rocked back in her chair, wishing that she’d picked the small engine repair career option on the pack of matches, instead of the private investigator one. Wish I’d never picked up the matches in the first place! She shifted her weight, and the chair clunked forward so that all four feet were now on the floor.
Sharp looked up as the door opened and Lee walked in.
“You were right. I should have been a cop,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Too late, Sid. You’re a criminal, now.” Lee leaned against a steel table, the only other piece of furniture in the room.
“Pardon?” Sharp swallowed.
“We have a witness that’s id’d you breaking into 141 Fulgrove Avenue. Want to tell me what you were doing?”
Sharp bit her lip.
“Look — it was for a case,” she said quietly.
Lee winced. “So . . . you admit it.” It wasn’t a question.
“Kevin, I’m not a criminal, I’m trying to solve a case.” Sharp looked up at him. He was her best friend from high school, but she felt worlds apart from him now.
“Do I have to remind you that breaking into apartments is a crime?”
“Only one apartment. Singular.”
Lee abruptly stood up. “I’m sorry, Sid, I’m placing you under arrest for breaking and entering.”
Sharp’s eyes shot wide.
“You’ll have to wait in a holding cell while I sort out the paper work.”
Sharp shrunk back into her chair but Lee was already pulling open the door.
Minetta stood outside, dangling a pair of handcuffs from a beefy hand.
Sharp looked up at him. Even he wasn’t smiling.