The beige K-car drove south on Sherbourne Street then pulled over to the curb just before the Gerrard Street intersection.
Sharp cut the engine.
She couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her but when she looked in the rear-view mirror, no one was there. No one was parked in the distance, watching her behind dark glasses. No shadowy figure leapt behind a tree to avoid detection.
But Sharp felt eyes on her just the same.
It must be in my head, she said, again, to herself, then rested her head back against the seat and tightly shut her eyes.
Eve’s face, then Claire’s identical face, flashed in front of her mind’s eye, then the faces of Rand Iverson, David Gill and Mark Taylor. Finally the landlord’s darkly grinning features leered at her.
Sharp flinched and her eyes shot open.
“The Iversons. The Iversons!” Sharp said out loud. Then her shoulders sagged and she leaned back, again, against the K-car’s headrest. She closed her eyes.
The swirling colours on the inside of her eyelids helped her concentrate. She ran the names of suspects, re-listened to what they’d said to her, re-observed their homes and reconsidered the puzzle of Claire’s murder. If she was lucky, the pieces might just fall into place.
But this time, she wasn’t lucky.
This time, after considering the people she’d met and the places she visited and the things that she’d seen and heard . . . she slipped into a light sleep.
“You don’t listen to me! Randy, I . . . look . . . I love you, man! It was a mistake. I’m sorry. I admit it! Oh fuck, come on, man? Doesn’t my love mean anything?”
“Huh?” Sharp shot up in her seat, rubbed her eyes and looked around. Across the sidewalk, a young man stood at an open-air pay phone. He was wearing bleached, tight 501s and an even tighter tank top that wrapped around his muscled arms and chest. It was cold outside but he was too preoccupied with his phone call to notice.
Sharp slid down in her seat.
“Randy wait? RANDY!?” he shouted, then listened in disbelief to the dial tone. He slammed down the receiver. “Fuck!” he said under his breath. He held his damp face in his hands for a moment, then drew them away and started down the street.
Sharp leaned up slowly from her slunk down position and watched him walk away.
Heartache is awful, she thought to herself, but gay heartache is unlike anything else. No wonder I drink. No wonder I’m single.
The man walked towards Gerrard Street then disappear around the corner. Sharp thought about the despair and anger he was feeling and what he might do with those feelings — what anyone might do to get their lover back.
Or, to get even.
A sick feeling fleetingly contorted her stomach.
At the intersection, the lights changed. A Metropolitan Toronto Police cruiser drove by. She eyed the vehicle, a Plymouth, and it’s double red stripe and crest across the driver’s door. The words, “To serve and protect” were written boldly across the side of the car.
A moment later, Sharp was standing at the pay phone with the receiver pressed against her ear. It was still damp with the sweat of rejection.
She pulled her wallet out of her jacket pocket, found a quarter in the change pocket and dropped it in the coin slot, dialed, then waited.
After a few minutes, the clipped voice of Detective Kevin Lee came through the line.
“Hi, it’s me. Look — ,” Sharp started.
“Later,” Lee said.
“But I need to talk to you!”
“I’m busy, Sid. Police business.”
“This is police business! Just give me a minute. I have an idea about the Iverson murder,” Sharp began but didn’t get much further.
“Call me tonight, ok?”
“Tonight could be too late. Tonight’s the next break-in, or worse!”
“Break-in? What are you talking about?” Lee said, exasperated.
Sharp pushed on, “And you never told me who dropped the charges.”
“Call me tonight! I have to go!” Lee hissed.
“But I need to talk now. See, I saw the guy that . . . Kevin? Are you there?”
Sharp heard a clunking sound, followed by the drone of a dial tone. “Kevin? Kevin!?” Sharp shouted, but the line was dead.
She hung up the receiver.
Instinctually, she glanced over her shoulder, hoping no one had heard her outburst. The street was still empty, except for a few pedestrians who were out of earshot and an old man riding a creaking, upright bicycle, but he was too absorbed by the uphill grade of the street to notice her.
Sharp was still holding her wallet. A piece of folded white paper stuck out from the billfold. She opened it and smiled.
Neal will listen to me, Sharp thought as she dialed Mowbray’s number. She held the receiver to her ear and listened to his phone ringing. And ringing.
She hung up the receiver with a sigh. She was still looking at the piece of paper where he’d written his number, and at the capped, jaunty letters spelling out his name. She quickly slipped the paper back in her wallet then grabbed the receiver again.
This time, she dialed 4-1-1.
“Operator,” a woman spoke softly into Sharp’s ear.
“Hi, yes, I’m looking for the address of a friend of mine,” Sharp said.
“We only give out phone numbers,” the operator replied.
“Yes, but maybe we can get to it, through the number? The last name is Iverson and my friend lives in The Beaches,” Sharp said just as softly, then added, “I really appreciate your help.”
“If you’re friends, how come you don’t know their address?” the operator asked with a smile in her voice.
“It’s — a long story.”
“I bet it is. Iverson, you say?” the operator asked.
“Yes, that’s right,” Sharp replied.
"Hmmm . . . ” the operator said to herself. “One minute, please.”
“Thank you so much,” Sharp said, then waited as silence filled the line between them.
“I have an Iverson on King Cross Road,” the voice in the receiver said. Then she added, coyly, “Come to think of it, I’m not sure if 3 King Cross Road is in The Beaches — or not.”
Sharp broke into a smile.
“I think it is. Thank you, you’ve been very helpful,” Sharp said quickly.
“You’re welcome,” the operator replied then added, “You know you have a nice voice. I can tell a lot about a person from their voice.”
“Is that so?”
“Uhuh. I bet you’re . . . pretty good looking,” she said.
“Ah, not really,” Sharp answered, blushing.
Oh please! Sharp thought, imagining a cartoon basset hound, paws over its face, saying, “Ah shucks.” The less I’m compared to a man or a dog, the better.
The operator was still talking.
“I listen to people day and night,” she said. “They ask me all sorts of questions, not just about telephone numbers. People just want to talk, you know?”
Sharp gathered that this woman certainly did.
“Maybe I’d like to ask a question or two myself, you know?” the operator’s voice purred down the line.
“All right. Ask away,” Sharp said, wincing.
“Well, let me see. Oh, I know! What do you do for a living? Something exciting, I bet, with a voice like that.”
Sharp said, “I’m a private detective.”
“Whoa,” she said, like the air had been knocked out of her. “Well, what do you know?”
“Thanks again for your help,” Sharp said, one half of her thinking she’d like to meet this woman. But the other half was thinking, just hang up. And fast.
“Anytime,” the operator replied then added, “Say, why don’t you try my direct line next time you need a number. Or anything else.”
Sharp made a mental note of the number as the operator read it out, then she brushed the perspiration off her forehead and hung up the receiver.
A storm was coming. Gray-black clouds blanketed the sky and gusts of wind blasted down the street and hissed around buildings.
Sharp turned the collar up on her jacket, glanced around quickly then slipped into her vehicle. She still felt like someone was watching her but she had other things to worry about now.
A few minutes later, Sharp’s beige K-car was heading east on Gerrard Street — in the direction of The Beaches.
(Image courtesy of DAJ/Amana/Thinkstock)