Chapter 2 – Amelia
The note in the cover of the book fluttered to the floor and I picked it up. The date on it was 24th July 2010. Yesterday. I flicked to the first entry and began to read.
15th January 2010
Something has happened that I’m very conflicted about. I’m ashamed yet liberated. There’s no-one I feel that I can talk to about this, so I thought I’d write it all down.
Sookie wouldn’t understand, Eric wouldn’t want to know and it would crush Bill if he ever found out.
Last week I went back to Hudson’s Rock. When I met Bill, I promised myself I would leave that life behind for the man I loved … maybe I don’t love him so much anymore?
My hand covered my mouth and Eric came over to take the book from my hands.
“What is it?”
“It looks like she fell out of love with Bill. She went to Hudson’s Rock … it’s a bar. A gay bar. Pam went there a lot in our first year of college, she liked to experiment.”
Eric smiled. “I’m sure she did.”
I chuckled and wondered if he’d ever have gone into business with her when she was a little wild. I met Pam on my first day at LSU Shreveport; we were both away from home for the first time and sharing a room with a stranger. We bonded over a bitching session about our respective room-mates and have been firm friends ever since, even though she was studying business and I was filling my time with psych. She met Bill in our last year there and I was surprised at how willing she was to settle down and put her dreams on the back burner for love and marriage. But she was happy and that was all that mattered.
I’d never forget the day she met Eric. She’d gone to a franchise expo in the convention centre and called me at the office where I was a receptionist. She had been trying to get Bill to partner with her in a bar since before their wedding but he had no interest. I think he was relieved when Pam and Eric went into business together because she wouldn’t harass him about it anymore.
“I don’t get it.” Eric closed the diary and leaned on the edge of Pam’s desk. “I thought she was happy with Bill. She never said anything bad about him and, like I said earlier, I was sure they were trying to start a family.”
My stomach growled loudly and Eric laughed as the blush rose on my cheeks. “I guess I should take care of that huh?”
“We’ll get take-out and go back to my place. That way we can read more of this.” He waved the diary at me and I nodded.
Eric lived a block away from Franklin’s. I waited in the car while he picked up some pizza and hot wings, staring at the coffee shop and feeling dizzy with the way everything had changed since we met there that morning. Eric’s apartment was spotless and had very little furniture; I couldn’t see anything in the open-plan living area that suggested he had personal belongings of any kind.
“Have you just moved in?” I asked as he pulled some napkins and glasses from a cupboard.
“No, I’ve lived here for five years.”
“Oh, it’s looks so shiny and new. My place has pictures and photos all over the walls, maybe I’m just too used to the clutter.”
“I don’t like clutter, I’m kind of OCD about keeping things tidy and symmetrical.”
I looked around and noticed that everything was symmetrical. The small area we sat in had two identical couches directly opposite each other and two identical dark wood tables directly opposite each other. The only difference was that a TV sat on one table and a stereo sat on the other. No DVD’s, no CD’s. It was freaky, to be honest, but I tried to relax and enjoy my dinner. I tried not to giggle at the thought that at some point Eric might get up and sit on the sofa opposite me so the symmetry would be right.
For the tiniest moment I had a distraction but then Pam’s diary caught my eye as it sat on the table, almost pleading with me to keep reading. We finished eating and Eric must have seen the way I was looking at the journal. He handed it to me, then cleaned away the boxes and napkins. I turned the book over in my hands, feeling the texture of the leather. There was no way Pam would go missing over a few simple nights out to her old haunt. There had to be something, or someone, more.
The first night at HR, I met a really hot woman. Yvetta, she called herself. I wasn’t really looking to cheat on B when I went there, but when I kissed Y it felt like something inside me woke up. The way she teased me with her tongue and her fingers made me realise what I was missing with B. When I stroked her wet pussy I wondered what the hell I ever gave it up for.
I felt the blush creep up my neck to my face as I read Pam’s secrets. I knew Pam was very forthright and always said what was on her mind, no matter how offensive, but I was truly shocked that her diary was just as direct and vulgar. Eric put a cup of coffee in front of me and raised an eyebrow at my flustered state.
“Did you find something?”
“Uh … not really.” I put the diary down and picked up the coffee, raising it to my lips and sipping, hoping that Eric wouldn’t ask me what I’d just read. “She cheated on Bill, rather graphically.”
His mouth made an ‘o’ shape as he picked up his own cup. “Do you think we should go to this Hudson place? We could take a photo of her and ask people if they’ve seen her.”
“That’s a good idea. Do you have a photo here?”
He took out his iphone and fiddled with it, finally holding up a snapshot of Pam. She wasn’t smiling in it, she very rarely smiled for pictures, but it was clear and looked recent enough for ID purposes. I nodded and we finished our drinks before I picked up the diary and stowed it away in my purse. I waited for Eric in the hallway as he closed and started to lock the door. He stopped suddenly, and unlocked the door again.
“Sorry, I forgot to wash out the cups. I won’t be long.”
I stood with my mouth gaping, he said he was OCD but I thought he was joking. While I waited I thought it would be a good idea to call my boss. It was Sunday night, but I knew under the circumstances Sam wouldn’t be too annoyed with me calling him. The conversation was brief and to the point. I had some personal days saved anyway. I hadn’t used any since I broke up with my boyfriend over a year ago. Eric came back out, looking sheepish as I returned my cell to my purse.
“If I left them it would have annoyed me.”
“It’s okay, I took the time to call my boss and arrange a few days off. What will you do with the bar, seeing as Pam isn’t here?”
Eric huffed out a breath and rubbed at the back of neck with his hand. “Well, Pam and I worked at different times. We took turns at watching the floor and paperwork and deliveries, so we had every second night off. Floor duty was from 6pm until 2am and office was from Midday until 8pm. I’ll call Clancy and ask him to take over from us on the floor and I’ll take on the paperwork on my own. That way we can search for her in the evenings.”
“Baldur’s is closed tomorrow right?”
Eric nodded and took out his cell while we got in my car again. I tried to ignore how exasperated Eric sounded as he spoke to his subordinate. He finally ended the call with a ‘just do what I’m telling you to fucking do Clancy’ and tossed his phone onto the dashboard.
“According to Clancy, Pam has been acting weird in the bar for weeks now. He said she seemed edgy and paranoid the last time he laid eyes on her.”
“Maybe she was worried someone would catch her cheating on Bill? Perhaps this Yvetta chick threatened to go to the bar and tell someone?”
Eric shrugged. “That seems kind of innocuous compared to the voicemails she left and that note in the diary. Is it okay If I read some more?”
I nodded and told him it was in my purse. He just looked at me like I was crazy.
“Eric, my purse is behind your seat, just reach back and get it.”
“I don’t want to root around in your purse.”
“It’s just a purse, there’s nothing weird in there like spare panties or a hundred tampons.”
He looked disgusted and I puffed my cheeks and sighed in frustration. I pulled over and reached back for my bag, grabbing the diary and throwing it in his lap. He made an ‘oof’ noise and doubled over, clutching his crotch.
“Oh I’m sorry!” I patted his shoulder but inside I was giggling.
“That hurt, Sookie!”
Eric’s voice was rough and breathless and I bit my lip, feeling guilty for being so petty. Obviously he had issues. Somewhere. About something. But I had no clue what they might be. It didn’t take us long to get to Hudson’s Rock but Eric had closed the diary very soon after opening.
“I take it you go to the part about Yvetta?”
He shifted in his seat and nodded. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea to be reading this.”
I sighed. “I know it’s … detailed but she left it there for someone – us, to find. She’s leaving a trail, don’t you see?”
“I know. I just don’t like reading about my friend’s sex life.”
“Well, we just need to detach ourselves. Everyone has sex Eric. Me, you, Pam … hell even your parents had sex!”
I got out of the car and closed the door harder than I needed to, stomping across the street and waiting on the sidewalk outside Hudson’s for Eric. I watched him slowly, emerge from my car and engaged the remote locking when he shut the door. He handed me Pam’s diary and I stuffed it back in my purse. The bouncer at the entrance to the bar smirked at us. I nodded and smiled, taking my wallet out and paying the cover charge for both of us. Eric caught my arm as we walked through an archway to the main area.
“You should have let me pay.”
“It’s not a date Eric!”
“I know but you’ve already paid out enough with all the gas we’ve used today. We’re in this together, Sookie.”
“Oh … yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Have you been here before?”
“Sure.” I shrugged, I’d come here with Pam a lot. You didn’t get hassle from drunken guys and the girls backed off when you told them you were straight. “I was never into … y’know … but I came here to drink and dance plenty when we were at college.”
One look at Eric’s face told me he hadn’t been here before. He looked very nervous. Fortunately, the alcove next to the restrooms was empty and I pulled him into it.
“Eric, the way you look, the guys in here are going to think it’s your first time cruising or you’re looking for drugs. That’s not the kind of attention we want. If someone propositions you, just tell them you’re not interested. We just need to get to the bar and speak to some of the staff, flash them Pam’s picture and get whatever we can out of them.”
He nodded, the lights of the bar catching the beads of sweat on his forehead. “Wait. Why didn’t you ask the bouncer on the way in?”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Yeah, because he’d let us in here after we grilled him. If people in this bar do know Pam and they might know what happened to her, they’re going to want to hide it.”
“Oh. You’re really good at this. You should be a PI.”
“Turns out all those years taking psych actually taught me something.”
We grinned at each other and stalked purposefully toward the bar. There was a very large, very scary, Native American standing behind it. I smiled at him and he came over and asked what we wanted to drink.
“Actually, I was wondering if you’d seen someone in here recently.” I nudged Eric and he held his phone out for the bartender to see. “Her name is Pam, does she look familiar?”
He nodded. “Yeah, but I ain’t seen her in a long time. She came here a few times a week for a couple of months early in the year. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.”
I chewed on my bottom lip for a moment when the idea came to me. “Is Yvetta here tonight?”
The bartender eyed me warily before pointing to one of the podiums at the other side of the dance floor. A very beautiful woman was gyrating a swinging around the pole, wearing nothing but a gold bikini and platform spike heels. I turned to Eric, expecting him to drinking in the scene but found him looking decidedly uncomfortable.
“Are you okay, Eric?”
“I’m fine, let’s just go talk to her and get out of here.”
We made our way across the crowded dance floor, trying not to brush up against the same sex couples practically dry humping to the primal beat. I slapped on the podium to get Yvetta’s attention and she looked down at me, a sly smile on her face as she flicked her eyes between Eric and me. Her movements were fluid as she took a final swing around the pole and slinked down the steps, all while swaying her hips to the music. She put an arm around each of us and led us to a booth at the very back of the bar.
Eric opened his mouth to speak but Yvetta placed a finger on his lips. “Shh … it’s okay. I know why you’re here.”
He lightly clasped his hand around her wrist and took her hand away, wiping his mouth with his other hand, a look of disgust on his face. “I don’t think you do.”
Yvetta laughed and shook her head. “There’s only one reason a cute couple like you two would come to me.”
“We’re not a couple but we are looking for someone.” I looked her in the eye as I spoke, trying to convey we were here about a serious matter and not to arrange a threesome. “When was the last time you saw Pam?”
She straightened in her seat instantly. “You know Pam? Do you know where she is? I miss her.” Yvetta’s head dropped down and she played with her nails. “I haven’t seen her in a few months, we had a lot of fun and then … I guess she found someone more fun.”
“Do you know who? Did she meet them here?” Eric was still standing, as if sitting in the booth would give Yvetta encouragement to touch him again.
She nodded and smiled sadly. “It’s my own damn fault really. I introduced her to Amelia. We had a lot of fun, the three of us.”
“Amelia?” I looked at Eric; it was obviously a name that he’d never heard before. That made two of us. “Is she here tonight?”
“No, Ames stopped coming in the same time as Pam.”
Eric hunkered down next to Yvetta. “Do you know any other places Amelia hangs out?”
Yvetta shook her head again. “She talked about some club, but it was invite only, no advertising, no walk-ins. I don’t even know what it’s called; she only ever called it ‘a private club’. If you guys are looking for Pam, I guess she’s gone AWOL huh?”
Eric and I both nodded and thanked Yvetta for her time. She gave me her number so we could call her and let her know how the search was going. When we walked away, I looked back. Yvetta didn’t make her way back to the podium, she slinked through a doorway wiping at her cheeks. She knew more than she told us, I was sure of it. We just had to ask the right questions.
I gave Eric a lift back to his apartment and went home. Lorena had left a message on my answering machine asking if we knew where Pam was. I called her and told her that we still had no idea. The police wouldn’t help in the search until Wednesday but if we could narrow down the places she could be by then it would be helpful. Despite all of the evidence that said otherwise, I held on to my hope that she had simply fallen in love and ran away with someone. It was the only way I could get to sleep that night.