Camille let the woman blue wall pet Puppy's head on her second trip to the police station. The policewoman sat in the back seat with her. The other officer drove the car.
"That's a cute dog," the policewoman said.
It was okay to pet, but Camille wouldn't let her take the dog in her arms. Just because she hadn't let Milicia in the building didn't mean she was all right. Camille was sure she was going to jail. She shivered uncontrollably. A vibration deep inside of her wouldn't let up. It was coming true, just like Milicia said.
Whenever Bouck wrapped her up tight, buckled the straps so she couldn't move, and put her in the room upstairs that was hers, he told her this would be her future if she didn't have him to protect her. He told her that where she'd go, other people would own her body. They could touch her all the time, any way they wanted. And she wouldn't be able to stop them.
Without Bouck to protect her, Camille was afraid even to breathe. Every time she inhaled, it felt like a gasp. Don't let it happen again."What's this, Milicia?" Camille was wearing their mother's long black velvet dress with the lace top. It had a funny smell--sour vomit, sweet perfume, powder. The dress was so long, it trailed on the floor. Milicia said she looked stupid. The lipstick on Camille's face was all crooked. She couldn't seem to get it right. Then she saw the Tampax on the dressing table and picked it up.Milicia laughed. "It's for the bleeding, stupid. Don't you know anything?"Camille examined it, feeling the thin paper over the hard cardboard tube. "What do you do with it?""Pull up that stupid dress and I'll show you.""But I don't have any blood.""You will."
* * *
The blood on the floor in Bouck's hall was a different color in the morning light. It had dried and didn't smear anymore when Camille touched it. That morning after the police sent Milicia away, Camille squatted on the floor for a long time, tracing the dark spatters on the stairway and the wall. Bouck didn't call. The vibration in her body made her sure he was dead, and she was starting to spin out of control.
He told her, "Guns are great." Sometimes he held one of them between his legs while he watched her put on her clothes. Girl Dressing While Artist Watches.
Just like a Renoir. He told her how to do it, sat in his chair with a gun on his lap, watching. Sometimes he groaned and made other noises, then said she was the one out of control. Made her take a pill, wrapped her up, and buckled her into herself so the furies were contained.
Then he went out late at night, heavily armed with his gun looking for a fight.
Camille could see a fight on the floor in the hallway. She could tell Bouck hadn't won. He told her bullets came in light loads and heavy loads. Sometimes he took them out of their boxes to show her. Different kinds of bullets made different kinds of holes in the human body. Sometimes he let her hold one of the guns, but never when it had bullets in: He was afraid she might shoot.
Guns weren't so great. She touched the dried blood on the floor again, trying to connect it with Bouck. She couldn't do it. The blood was like rust. It wasn't alive anymore.
* * *
The blue wall in the front seat talked to the blue wall sitting beside her and Puppy in the back seat. Then the one in the front talked on the radio like a taxi driver.
More storm clouds gathered in Camille's head. She didn't listen to what they were saying.
* * *
In the police station, a different blue wall told her she could sit down on the table.
"Do you want a cup of coffee, or tea, or something?"
Camille darted a quick look at her. She could see the precinct cancer microbes crawling up and down the woman's face. Big ones. She turned away, covering Puppy's muzzle with the edge of her blouse, then pulled her hair over her face to hide the enemy. Don't let it happen.
The door opened. Camille didn't move.
Camille didn't move. That was the first lie. It wasn't a good morning.
"How are you doing this morning?" She heard the scrape of a chair. "I'm Dr. Frank. We talked last night. Do you remember?"Don't let it happen
. Camille pressed her lips together so no words could get out.
"How's Puppy this morning?"
Camille parted the curtain of her hair and peeked out. Dr. Frank was playing with the buttons of the recorder on the table. "No," she said sharply.
He looked up. "It's just a tape recorder. It won't hurt you."
"No," she said. "No is no."
"It's just so we can remember what we talked about."
"I am accused of a crime," Camille said, the shrewdness returning to her face. "You didn't read me my rights."
"I'm not a policeman," the doctor said gently. "I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm here to help find out what the truth is."
"No one can know the truth. It's too late." She pushed her hair back and studied his face. "Did you know you have a mole on your face, right in the middle of your eyelid? A big black one. You can get cancer from that "
The doctor touched his face. "Can you see it?" he asked.
"No. But I know it's there."
"Well, thank you for warning me. Now, can you tell me your name and where you live?"
"I'm not stupid. I did that yesterday."
"I know you're not stupid. If you don't want to say your name, why don't you write it down for me and then sign it?" He drew a three-by-five file card out of his pocket and slid it across the table. Then he found a pen in another pocket, put it down on the table.
Camille picked it up. It was a nice pen, brown and black. She took the top off and tested it on the paper. Black ink, medium point. She wrote her name and address, then added her phone number. Her handwriting was big and loopy. When she was finished, she began to decorate the edges of the card with vines and flowers. She signed it and handed it back.
"You can keep it," she told him.
"Thank you." He sat back in his chair. He had a black and white notebook. It sat on his knee. He put the card in the notebook.
"Do you know where we are?" he asked after a minute.
"The police station."
"Do you know why we're here?"
Camille petted Puppy very gently. She didn't answer for a long time. Her breathing hurt. She mustn't breathe in. "Somebody got killed," she said finally.
Camille chewed on her lips.
"The police have some ideas about who could have done it."
"Me?" Camille said in a tiny voice.
The doctor looked right at her. He didn't try to hide his face. "Several people could have done it. They don't want to get the wrong person. They want to know which person really did it."
"I don't know." Camille covered her face with her hair again. "I don't want to get precinct cancer," she added.
"I don't either," the doctor said. "So let's get going."
Camille tried to inhale. Her breath made a funny noise. She didn't want to think about this, had spent her whole life not telling. Didn't want to tell now. "What do you want to know?"
"Camille, does anybody ever take Puppy out for walks?"
She laughed suddenly, feeling a lot better. "Like who?"
"Oh, anybody. How about Bouck? Does he?"
Camille laughed some more, pushing her hair back a little so she could look down at Puppy. Puppy was asleep. "No. He says she's a faggot dog."
"What does that mean?"
"A dog for a fag. He won't be seen with her."
"Bouck doesn't like fags?"
"Camille, does anybody ever wear your clothes?"
She started nibbling her lips again. "Like who?"
"Like anybody. You have a lot of clothes. Are they all yours, or does somebody else wear them sometimes?"
She turned toward the door, her body twitching. There was a mirror on one side of the room. She didn't want to see herself. The window in the door was wired so it wouldn't break. Her body vibrated dangerously. She wanted to break the window and get out.
"Is that a yes?"
"Sometimes I've thought somebody did..." She didn't finish.
"Who wears your clothes?"
"I think they disappear sometimes." She hesitated. "But I'm confused--I don't always know."
"Is it Bouck who wears your clothes?"
Camille stroked Puppy faster, holding her tight. "Can't you see he's too big? He wouldn't fit into them."
"Have you ever seen him try on anything of yours?"
"Okay." The doctor looked down at his notebook. "I want to get back to what you were saying yesterday about your sister. You said your sister's dog and your dog were alike, just like you and your sister were alike."
"Two peas in a pod," Camille murmured.
"You're like two peas in a pod?"
Camille nodded. "Same hair, same eyes. Same curls. Same everything. People get us confused."
"Do you really look that much alike?" he said doubtfully, as if he knew they didn't.
"We used to, before--you know--puberty." She closed her eyes against the long dress and the Tampax. It's for the blood. Don't tell or I'll wring your chicken neck.
"In what way did people confuse you, Camille? Did you have the same personality, act the same?"
Camille shook her head, sucking her lips into her mouth, making herself toothless. In her lap, Puppy woke up. "I can't explain," she murmured.
"Were you together all the time? Were you good friends?"
"We had the same birthday," she said quickly, pulling a safer thought from the air.
"You were both born on the same day?" he asked.
Camille laughed at his look of surprise. "No, but we only had one birthday anyway. It was easier that way. One cake, the same party dress. The same present."
"Hmmm. How did that work out?"
"I thought it was twice as good. I had company to share the celebration." Camille squeezed her face into a frown. She could feel her heart beating too fast for itself. She shook her head and her hair stung her eyes and skin as it whipped across her face. Milicia broke her own present. Then she took Camille's, and said Camille broke them both.
Puppy stood on her lap and pawed at her swinging hair, wanting play. Camille ignored her.
"She called me the she-devil for taking her birthday and her birthday present. I got punished," she said softly.
"How did that make you feel?"
"Every time something happened, I got punished. I had to get used to it."
"Did you get punished often?"
"I had to get used to it, or go straight to hell." Take a hint.
Camille cocked her head. She decided to study the cracks in the plaster on the wall. "We looked alike. We dressed alike. People thought it was me stealing things. Hurting the dolls. Teasing the ugly girls and getting in fights at school. The mothers used to call home and complain."
"But it wasn't you."Take a hint.
"No." Camille studied the cracks. One of them looked like the California earthquake. The big one, coming up any day now that would drown the whole state. "I wanted to be kind like Doctor Dolittle and talk to the animals."
"When there were these incidents, didn't your mother ever ask your side of the story?"
"She was deaf and blind," Camille said flatly.
"Really? She couldn't hear or see?"
"She said I took her best pearls, the ones Daddy bought her from Japan, and drank her vodka. She--hit me. Once she bit my cheek."
Camille's voice trailed off.
"Did you ever tell anyone what was going on?"
"No." Whom could she tell? And now she was in a police station. She could get stuck here; she could catch the cancer.
"Camille, do you know you're in trouble?"
Camille looked at the doctor. She tried to look into him, but couldn't see anything in there. He could be filled with ants and worms, for all she knew. She didn't want to think about it. But he was forcing her. The dead girls, Bouck's blood on the floor. Everything was making her remember.
"Yes," she said. Bouck was dead, and she knew she was in trouble.
The doctor's face changed. "I'm going to borrow Puppy for a few minutes," he told her. "She needs to go out. We'll bring her right back, I promise." He stood and reached for the dog. Camille was too upset to protest.
Excerpted from Hanging Time by Leslie Glass. Copyright © 1996 by Leslie Glass. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, 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.