Murder in the Collective

Murder in the Collective by Barbara Wilson Read Free Book Online

Book: Murder in the Collective by Barbara Wilson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Wilson
Tags: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths
ahead of me tomorrow, guess I’d better…”
    “No, wait,” Fran said. “You think I’m getting drunk, but before you go I want to say something to you.”
    Elena reached out an unsteady, apprehensive hand. “Fran, maybe this should wait.”
    “Quiet,” Fran said majestically to her. “My dad was a logger, not a professor like yours. I can hold it. And I want to say just one thing to Pamela Nilsen, that I know exactly what she’s thinking when she looks at me, and when she looks at me and you. I know exactly what’s going through her mind, her thinking I’m a fat, bad-tempered old dyke, and what do me and Elena do anyways, Elena who doesn’t even look queer.” The couple next to us were whispering and staring; I felt paralyzed. It was true what she was saying, but it still was all wrong.
    “Pam probably thinks I beat up on you and maybe we’re into S&M or something.” Fran laughed loudly. “You know, whips and chains….”
    Elena was on her feet before me. “That’s enough, Fran. We’re going. You should go too, you know.” In spite of her obvious anger there was a certain pleading tone to her voice.
    “Forget it,” said Fran. “Go on, get out of here, traitor.”
    Elena and I headed for the door. Someone I knew called out, “Hi Pam,” but I ignored her. I wouldn’t be coming back here for a while.
    “Can you drop me by my house?” Elena asked when we got outside, adding miserably, “She’s not really like this.”
    I said nothing. I felt shocked and pitying. I steadied Elena’s shaking gait. She wasn’t anywhere near as drunk as Fran but she was definitely on the way.
    “She doesn’t beat me and we’re not into S&M,” Elena said. “She’s just trying to make me mad. We had kind of a fight earlier.”
    I wished I could believe her.
    We got into my car and I turned on the ignition. I repressed the urge to make her confess. “You know, Elena,” I said after a minute. “It doesn’t have anything to do with you, but I don’t think this is going to work, this merger thing.”
    Elena was sitting straight up with her hands in her lap, her hair a pale basket of flower petals in the refracted light from the street. I don’t think she heard me.
    “You should see her with my kids,” she said. “They love her.”
    I got home to find our roommates Sam and Jude and Penny and the resurrected Doug sitting around the dining room table, having ice cream with Amaretto. They were laughing and talking about going hiking the coming weekend if the good weather held. Sam and Jude, like the sporty Doug, were big on wilderness. Much as I generally enjoyed their company, tonight the sight of all four of them put me in even a worse temper than I was.
    Couples. Heterosexual couples. It was bad enough that we had to live with this happy pair, who’d been together for some outrageous length of time like ten years. But here was Penny with that creep Doug, planning to jump right back into the same maelstrom of love and hate as before.
    “You want to come with us this weekend?” Jude asked. She was the bookkeeper for a number of alternative ventures, an orderly and idealistic person. Next to Penny she was my oldest friend and I usually felt I never got to see nearly enough of her. But I certainly didn’t want to go traipsing off into the wilderness with all four of them.
    “No thanks,” I said, going past them into the kitchen and pulling the Swiss Almond Vanilla out of the freezer.
    “Where’ve you been tonight?” asked Sam in an overfriendly voice. There had been a significant pause before he spoke. I could sense them all looking at each other, wondering what was wrong with me. I didn’t care. I was still shivering over the scene in the Bar & Grill, but I was damned if I would tell them about it. I dumped two scoops into my bowl and then, judiciously, a third.
    “Consorting with the enemy,” I said, before Penny could. I came back through the dining room on my way to my solitary bedroom.
    “So

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