April 26, Midnight
Let me tell you the way I remember it.
I worked the four-to-twelve shift at Prize's Thursday night, April 26.
Tahoe casinos stay open night and day, no matter how slow it gets, just in case some big loser might show up in the dead of night. I was glad to be working even if it meant looking busy when there was not much to be done.
The dealers silently handed out cards at the ten or twelve tables that had any players. They don't let us wear watches, but we all knew what time it was exactly, and exactly when the next shift would take over our stations so we could return home to our loving spouses.
By the Tonga Bar, a man with shiny brown boots and a cowboy string tie was watching me. He had caught me by the quarter slots earlier, but I'd seen something I needed to do across the room. This time, he moved in fast. My back was against the wall and these thin, hard lips started whispering about his room upstairs. I pushed him off me, spilling his house bourbon, and Security came to the rescue.
I remember thinking it was a good thing it wasn't Anthony behind the mirrors, watching. He blames me when I get cornered.
That night I was working swing, which I usually like. Swing shift I get home about one in the morning, so I have afternoons to do the shopping and errands around town, but that night I felt bad, and it showed. I decided to shine a bunch of smiles around in my last ten minutes to make up for the rest of the night, maybe up the tips a little, even though underneath I felt like hell.
The last few minutes of my shift that night took forever. When Brenda showed up about ten after twelve, a few minutes late the way she always is, I ran into the employee lounge. Off with the black satin Playboy-bunny knockoff, which I folded and put into my cubby, off with the mesh stockings and heels, which I stuffed into a canvas bag. I washed some of the junk off my face, and got into warm leggings and my down coat. The parking lot at Prize's is just down from the mountains at Heavenly. You can't imagine the wind and cold some nights.
A couple of inches of new snow covered the ground by the time I got to our house. It's in the Tahoe Keys and we have a piece of the lake with a little dock in the backyard. No boat, though. We can always use Rick's. Anthony doesn't like owning anything he can borrow. I could see into the picture window through the heavy flakes. Anthony wasn't lying on the blue couch, but the fire was bright.
"I wanna love you night and day/ You know my love'll not fade away." The CD player boomed out ancient Rolling Stones, and when I heard it, I almost drove away. That music meant he was awake, drunk, and waiting for me. I sat watching the dashboard ice over long enough to hear him start his favorite song up again.
Anthony had left the door unlocked, so I sneaked in quietly. When I got inside, I could only see firelight, a few candles burning, orange flickers on the wall and a lot of shadows. I didn't see him and that was a relief. I took off my parka and sat down on the couch to take my boots off. I pulled too hard, and knocked a plate and fork onto the floor. The bedroom door opened.
"You're late, Misty," Anthony said. His feet made the parquet tiles crackle when he walked. He pulled the tie belt into a knot on the maroon silk robe from China he had filched from somewhere and dug around in the pocket. His hand came out with a crumpled cigarette pack that he stuffed back inside. His hair stuck out, and his eyes were puffy and red-rimmed. He walked over to turn off the music.
"I'll get you a drink."
"Take it." He jammed a stiff Yukon Jack into my hand and I knocked it down fast, saying to myself oh, what the hell, holding the glass out for another, feeling my face heat up. It takes two to make me brave.
"Anthony, I've got to tell you something."
He took hold of my chin and yanked my head up so I had to look at him. "Hurry up, now. I got work for you in bed," he said, like he hadn't heard me. His mouth turned down. He felt sorry for himself about something. It was a mood I hated.
"I'm not sleepy yet." My voice sounded like it sounds at work, calm no matter what. I was hearing a rap song over and over that some fake had bleated all night from the lounge beside the gambling room. I drank down the second drink and pulled off my sock.
"I guess you didn't hear me, huh?" He spread his hands, palms open. The robe split open onto dark hair and shapes. I tried to look away.
"You go on," I said.
"I figured something out," Anthony said. He slid his hands down my neck, over my breasts, then grabbed my shoulders with thick, security guard's hands. "You don't care, do you, Misty? You just don't care. You'll never love me how I love you. You're givin' it away, and I don't even get to take your boots off."
"You're drunk," I said.
"Tell me you love me, then. Dance with me."
I couldn't help it. I know I flinched when he touched me. "I want out." That's all I said. He knew what I meant.
"You bitch!" He was trying to get me to stand up. I just went limp.
When he spoke again, he was real quiet. "All day long I waited for you, thinking about how to make you love me." The way he was holding me I knew I would be black-and-blue in the morning. "You want it over with me, maybe. But I'm not through with you. I'll never be through with you."
And then he started the ritual, our good night scene, this part just like we had done it a million times before. "Bedtime," he said. He lifted me up, holding my arms down. I smelled whiskey on his breath and was scraped by stubble on his jaw when he pressed me against him.
I let myself drift off into the dream where I was someplace else, where it didn't matter what he did to my body. This time it didn't work. I felt pain from his hard fingers. I smelled his unwashed skin. I knew better but I couldn't stop myself; I struggled to get free. It wasn't part of the ritual.
He set me down and, still gripping me with his left hand, he gave me a hard knock in the head. When I opened my eyes again, I could see him looking down at me, breathing hard.
He was smiling, enjoying it. Like always.
Without thinking I reached behind him. My right hand connected with a crude carving of a polar bear, made out of gray rock, very heavy. I hit him in the back of the skull just right, with a nice, loose wrist, as if I had trained for this moment, solid as when you bowl, hitting the pins just off dead center for the strike.
His eyes closed and he fell forward. Then I saw the blood coming down onto his neck. I tried to catch him going down, but I dropped the statue on the table. Glass shattered and I swear the sound of it tore something apart in my brain. I managed to get him onto the couch, scared shitless, in a bad movie, knowing things had changed forever, already thinking about what he would do to me for this. He was moaning. I was too.
I left him on the couch while I ran for the cordless phone. It wasn't in the kitchen where it should be. I heard a thud, as though he had slipped down to the floor.
And then, what? I was so tired that night, tired and scared of him and sick of my life. I remember heading back toward the living room, but I guess I found my way to the bedroom instead. I don't even remember my head touching the pillow.The clock radio said seven-thirty. My head was killing me and I was still dressed under the covers. I pulled on a pair of grubby socks I found under the bed and went into the kitchen.
Then I saw the cordless phone on the floor by the stove. I remembered hitting him. I ran into the living room, burning myself when the coffee went flying. He wasn't on the couch. I was thinking, is this some new sick game of his? Is he hiding in the hall, or behind a door, ready to pay me back for the night before? I was careful as I checked around. Not a sound.
Outside, blinding April sun on fresh snow, Lake Tahoe out back just blazing blue against the sky, but no sign of Anthony. The footprints from last night were buried in the snow.
Back in the house, glass on the rug from the coffee table. Blood on the couch pillows. No polar bear statue.
Excerpted from Motion to Suppress by Perri O'Shaughnessy. Copyright © 1996 by Perri O'Shaughnessy. Excerpted by permission of Island Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.