Nola Rodgers the banker. Nola is happiest when things match. She finds mismatches, and then fixes them. For her, fixing them can mean nagging new people, or it can mean throwing out old files and forms. Fixing things can involve phone calls – she’s always loved the telephone, falling so nicely between the impersonal email and the personal speech. Loves phone calls. She’s torn though about whether she can figure out the problems to be fixed best in person, or over a computerized form. How lovely it is to decipher the meaning of someone’s handwriting, to understand their very selves through an external sign! So if Manda and Juan-Carlos and Maybelle had just brought her a beautifully filled in, correctly filled in, perfect form she’d have been delighted.
It hasn’t ever been her job (or her desire) to fill in the meaning behind the forms. The pristine paper, or pixels, now painted with clear facts, soothes, quiets, fulfills. The rage she has felt at people who harm her paper -crossing out letters, blotting the sides, dripping coffee: our villains do none of this. They are nothing if not neat. Nola would have happily let there papers through, giving them a new loan, permitting them any money at all, just so long as her papers were clear.
LouLou the husky. Despite the name, LouLou is male. He’s about 7, with clear dark eyes, bright white teeth, pointed ears. His eye-mask: gray, the rest of his face: creamy. Dorsal – black; ventral – cream. He saw the children and the misery of losing Grace began to recede. They weren’t Grace, no one would ever be his grace again; but they were lovely. They smelled just right. Grace ran him, Grace fed him. He was hungry and tired, and the girls needed him. He knew that. Once their mother appeared, he relaxed completely. She’d guard him, he’d guard her, the children would be fed.
Tricia the QA demon. Mother of two. Tired. Did I say tired? Did she? Oh so tired. And now, just when she’d hoped everything had been organized, called from the office. Accused of some sort of misery? The girls should’ve stayed home. Of course why had she ever expected that! Deep snow, easy access to the island. Oh of course, and now a dog. Tricia had gotten pregnant and aborted. She’d been very young. The father much older. The father, her teacher. The father long since gone.
Then, twenty years later, pregnant again, a daughter. And two years after, again. Another daughter. (Jonella and Makayla) How perfect. QA: organizing tests. What could be better? Deriving order from chaos. Just like at home. Organizing the insanity of dolls and stuffies and models and clothes.
And in the office, she carved out her niche, and led the developers gently to test themselves. She prided herself on agility. The pun brought out a smile. As always. Her jokes were tiny quivers that cleared corners, and then whole rooms. Once each room was clear, with open windows, she’d fill it with the furnishings of working software, of peaceful children. Her rooms, her jokes, her clarity.
And what had the girls found? A dog? A body?
What would the dog do in her clean rooms, her ordered home? How could a dog mess things up?
She had wanted a dog since before the girls were born. She’d wanted a dog since she’d been a girl herself. She’d dreamed of Lad. She’d imagined Flush as hers. Never wanted Robert Browning, but oh that spaniel Flush.
Here was a large dog, black, fierce, and yet, curled around her daughters. She’d never seen such a grin before. Apparently he’d adopted them. Her too. She saw the tail wag. The pink tongue emerged and licked a foot and then her daughter.
So much for some main characters. Back to an outline.
The landlords, having lost quite a lot (Madeoff? something different) losing their own home, have decided that the very best solution will be to turn their other building into a co-op and to renovate it. But Grace Stroud was stabilized. So they decided to kill her. They looked up murder in books. Manda decided that Maybelle would lure Grace somewhere, and Juan-Carlos would hit her with a stick And then they’d drop her off on Randall’s Island.
The way they’d manage the dog? Grace walked to a yoga class every day. She’d be away from the dog. Then, once they’d dumped her, they’d open the door to the apartment, the dog would be lost, they’d have no more trouble.
Well that might work. It might.
If not that: Grace took the dog for runs often. Maybe they could trip her and she’d fall.
If not that: surely Grace would drink a sample coffee?
Jonelle and Makayla. I’m renaming them, Right now. When I can think of something I like better than Pamela and Irene.
Ok, they’re 12 and 10. They’re smart. They love dogs. That’s why they’re going to adopt Lou-Lou. They have mostly gone to the same school, but won’t go to the same high schools. Jonelle who is now Irene, or even Reeny, is going to go to the Manhattan Center for Science and Technology. Pamela, who used to be Makayla, and may still be, is going to go to the High School For American Studies at Lehman College. Unless she goes to a different high school entirely. Maybe at NY Harbor School. I like that idea, marine biology.
So Jonelle is Reeny. She’s about to attend the Manhattan Center for Science and Technology, because she skipped a grade. Pam also skipped. In both cases this leaves them quite a bit younger than the other kids in their classes – Pam is in 6th grade, she’ll be 11 in July. Reeny is in 8th grade, she’ll be 13 in September. Right after she starts high school.
Nope got this wrong. Reeny is already at Hunter, where she’ll stay. Pam will end up at Harbor School. Leaving early early early in the morning. Begging her ma for a down town home.
That won’t happen.
Meanwhile our Lydia Stroud. Here’s the first part of the investigation.
Cop 1 She wasn’t a driver and she wasn’t even that old. Cop 2 Huh – how do you know? Cop 1: The non-driver’s license. She’s eighty-five. Cop 2: That’s old! Cop 1: No, it’s not. My grandmother is 85 and she’s no where like old. But have you looked her up yet? Cop 2: What’s the name again? Cop 1: Lydia Stroud. Cop 2: McCann! Look up Lydia Stroud Cop 1, who is now and forever Celli: Wilson, I asked you – not McCann.
Cop 2, who I suppose we are now calling Wilson: Yeah Yeah. McCann, found anything?
McCann lumbers back to the first two cops wearing a funny smile
“She has one arrest. June 28 1969. You’ll love this. Also some press on it. ” Wilson said “Why will I love this?
McCann laughed. “Because. Just, because. It’s really funny.” “McCann, Please just tell me. I haven’t got all day” Wilson sighed.
McCann: “I’ll give you hint. June 28, 1969. C’mon, parade duty! Don’t you remember? Last year?” Wilson: What the? She was arrested at Stonewall? McCann: Yeah. Apparently she was “The Littlest Lesbo” in the Post. Pretty girl.
Celli: Anything else McCann? You done leering at the corpse’s baby pictures? McCann sighed. “C’mon Celli, I’m not leering. This is legit, she wasn’t a babe, but she was kind of cute. No, she doesn’t have a record except this one drunk and disorderly. Interesting that she gave her real name though.”
“Yeah. Whatever. Anything else? Like an address?” Celli, looked down at the id. “Because I don’t trust this.”
Wilson: “You should. I did a lookup on the building on the id. 116th and Pleasant”
The cops eventually got to 116th and Pleasant. The building was in lousy shape, and looked abandoned. The lights were out in the hallway. One pane in the front door was shattered. Lydia Stroud’s apartment was a small two bedroom on the ground floor. One bedroom was a study, the other clearly a sanctuary of sorts.
There was a dog bowl in the kitchen, and a crate in the larger bedroom. There were dog beds in the living room and the smaller bedroom.
The walls varied. In living room, pale green with white trim. In the kitchen a golden yellow. One bedroom was lavender (“What’d’ya expect from the littlest lesbo?!”), the other blue. The bathroom had a bamboo wallpaper and a bowl of potpourri.
There was a file cabinet right by the desk. It was unlocked, there wasn’t much in it either.
One file: “landlords” Another: “Joanna” A third: “Lou-lou” The fourth: “Stuff”
“Stuff” contained a will, with a cover letter of sorts.
The letter: If you read this, I’m dead.
My executor, as named in the will is Jimmy Calletti. He’s a lawyer. The address is on the will. I don’t have much, my concern is Lou-lou.
Please don’t kill him. If you can’t find an adopter, give him to a no-kill shelter. The little I’ve got is for whoever gets him.
I don’t have parents or siblings. Joanna and I didn’t have children.
There’s just Lou-lou. Please don’t let him get hurt.