Someone recognized the woman. Someone was lying.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 13

Except for the Chevy that once sprouted out of the wall, Lincoln Avenue hadn’t changed much. Before the Academy, Georgia went to DePaul and lived on Seminary. Now, inching her way through rush hour traffic, she passed the same restaurants and stores, though some had been gentrified with fake gas lamps and wrought iron. But the front end of the Chevy had disappeared, along with the Blues place underneath. Too bad. A car dangling twenty feet above the sidewalk was way cooler than the Thai restaurant that replaced it.

She parked and stopped into Satchell’s, a hetero bar with polished oak, soft lights, and a dartboard in the back. She slid into a seat at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. The bartender, a beefy blond with a roving eye and a thick neck told her the bookstore had moved up to Foster and Clark years ago. Feeling suddenly old, she drained her glass.

She’d met Rabbi Altman at the synagogue at three. Although she’d been raised Catholic and went to parish school, she didn’t have much of a relationship with Christ.

In fact, she’d always thought Catholics had the corner on rules until she learned that observant Jews had over six hundred of their own. Today she and the rabbi had talked about giving up family traditions like Christmas and Easter. Georgia thought back to her Christmases as a child. Her parents would take her to Church, give her a few presents, and booze it up for the rest of the day. What was there to miss?

She looked up at the clock. Six-thirty. Enough time for another drink. She drummed her fingers on the bar, making sure each tapped the surface an equal number of times. Had to keep things even.

She thought she remembered a gay bar that used to be on Diversey. The Bullet Lounge. When she asked the bartender if it was still around, he tipped his head to the side.

“You too?”

She didn’t say anything.

He gave her the once-over, then sighed. “It’s a few blocks west.”

Georgia gathered her bag, dropped a twenty on the bar, and headed over.

It was still early, but The Bullet was in full swing. It wasn’t a big place, and at least a dozen couples, all of them women, were eating and drinking at tables and booths. A few single women sat at the bar. Georgia made her way to the far end, slipped between two empty stools, and ordered a glass of wine. The lights were low, and a jukebox blared out a Patsy Cline number.

She’d only had a few sips when someone climbed onto a stool beside her. Georgia snuck a glance. A slim attractive woman with curly black hair, she looked tall and vaguely exotic—a young version of Cher. The woman ordered a Goose Island longneck, and when it came, took a long pull. Then she set it down and turned to Georgia.

“You’re new here.”

Georgia nodded.

“I’m Clark. Clark Addison. Where you from?”

“Up north.”

Clark waited. When Georgia didn’t say anything more, she said, “Well, that clears things up.”

Georgia turned to her. “I’m not here—for pleasure.”

Clark looked her over. “Pleasure’s overrated.”

Georgia felt an uneasy twinge. “Uh… you don’t understand. I’m—I’m a cop.”

Clark looked puzzled for a moment. Then a smile came over her. “Everyone’s gotta start someplace.”

Georgia picked up her wine. “I’m on a job.”

Clark’s eyebrows went up, and she took another pull off her beer. “I see.” She looked over. “Too bad.”

Georgia flashed her a smile. “But thanks.”

Clark grunted. “So?”

“So what?”

“Why are you here?”

Georgia pulled out a picture of Julie Romano. “Do you recognize this woman?”

Clark studied the picture. “Can’t say that I do.” She called to the bartender. “Hannah, come on over a sec.”

Hannah, a large burly woman with short red hair lumbered over. “You know this woman?”

Georgia passed her the picture.

Hannah grunted. “Doesn’t look familiar.”

Clark put her arm around Georgia. “This here is—what did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t. I’m Georgia Davis.”

Clark grinned. “Sweet Georgia here is an officer of the law. She’s on a case. Needs to find this person.”

Hannah looked Georgia up and down. Georgia realized she’d never been eyeballed quite like this before—at least by women. Then Hannah pointed behind her. “Check with Donna over in that booth. She knows everybody.”

Georgia and Clark went over to a Hispanic woman eating a burger and fries. Another woman sat across from her working on a chopped salad. After Clark introduced them, Donna looked at the picture, shook her head, and shared the snapshot with her companion. Georgia saw a flicker of recognition on the companion’s face.

“Do you know her?”

The companion, whose cropped grey hair reminded Georgia of the sisters at St. Michael’s, looked up. “Sorry. Never saw her before.”

“Really? I thought—”

“I don’t know her,” the woman repeated.

Donna reached across and patted her hand. “That’s okay, honey.”

“What s your name?” Georgia asked.

“Why?”

“In case I need to talk to you again.”

“Brenda Hartman,” the woman said.

Georgia wrote it down. “You’re sure you don’t recognize this woman?”

“I’m sure.”

“Can I have your number?”

“Just call me.” Donna smiled at Brenda and recited a number. Georgia wrote it down. She dug out a card and asked them to call her if their memories cleared up.

She was about to leave when Clark tapped her on the shoulder. Georgia spun around. “Can I have one of those?”

Georgia eyed her suspiciously.

Clark threw up her palms. “A card.”

Georgia considered it. She handed one over.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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