THE THIEF – PART II and conclusion.
For the beginning of Tracy’s story go to my last blog post (10 March). You remember that thieving Tracy has come down with the flu, or something.
At noon, I hear Bev’s car pull into the driveway. She comes into the house and clops downstairs.
“Tracy?” she calls. “Tracy? Are you there, dear?”
“I’m here,” I say. My voice has gone quavery, like an old woman’s.
She comes right into my room and steps up to the sofa where I’m lying like a lump of dough. She looks vibrant.“Poor thing,” she says, and puts her hand on my forehead. “You are not running a fever, are you? --No, it feels okay,” she says and withdraws her hand. I notice it’s nice and plump. The liver spots are gone. I close my eyes.
“Something embarrassing happened to me yesterday,” she says, and when I open my eyes again, she is holding up my wallet.
“I took this by mistake,” she says. “I don’t know how it happened. – I’m so sorry, Tracy,” she says, but she doesn’t look it.
I study her face. I haven’t noticed it before, but she looks a bit like me, like a crook. Wouldn’t that be something if she was a thief, too? Well, she won’t get much from me. I spend my money as fast as I can. I have nothing else she’d want.
The flu, or whatever it was, goes away overnight. I have a violent dream, a poltergeist kind of dream with noise going on upstairs, people walking back and forth, arguing in repressed tones, then silence. And in the morning I wake up feeling good.
Around ten, Bev goes off to do her shopping, but a little later I hear steps overhead. No, I must be mistaken, I think. Is the flu back? Do I have hallucinations? I hear someone coming down the stairs and turning into the laundry area. I’ve tacked up a blanket over my non-existing door, over the opening into the hallway – a privacy curtain. That means I can’t see who/what is coming downstairs, and I can’t tell: Am I dreaming? Or is Bev back already? I can’t stand it. I have to check. I go out into the hall. The light in the laundry area is on. There is someone in there loading the washing machine. A man.
He stops what he is doing and looks up. I feel his messianic presence. It’s Julian, tall, lanky, giving me his magnetic blue-eyed stare, macho in spite of the domestic chore of pushing dirty clothes into the washer. I notice his hair and beard are neatly trimmed.
“Julian!” I say. “What are you doing here?
“Fucking landlord locked me out. Had the place declared a safety hazard,” he says with his usual mixture of hot charm and profanity. “The inspector came in and found a couple of baggies. I’m up for possession next week.”
That explains his clean-cut looks. In prep for the court appearance the blonde mane and the scraggly beard had to go. But it doesn’t explain why he is here, in Bev’s house.
“You and Bev know each other?”
“She’s my mother,” he says.
“Yes!” he says. “Well, sort of.” He puts on his believe-it-or-not voice and tells me a story.
He was born at St. Mike’s Hospital, he says, when Bev was there for a hysterectomy. That’s twenty-eight years ago. When it was time for her to go home, she took him along. Kidnapped baby Julian and kept him in the attic for three months until the police tracked him down. Not that Julian’s mother was desperate to find her baby. She was a prostitute on crack, but the Children’s Aid Society kept the case going, and so Julian was found. Bev got off lightly because a psychiatrist testified on her behalf. He said she was clinically depressed, distraught after the hysterectomy, which signified the end of her womanhood, and so she went temporarily insane and took the baby. No harm had come to the child, he pointed out. In fact Bev had doted on him. The doctor who conducted the medical examination confirmed that the child was in excellent health, but noted two pin pricks, as if someone had poked Julian’s arm with a needle. The marks were never explained. Bev got off with a slap on the wrist: a hundred hours of community service and obligatory attendance in a counselling programme.
Julian ended up in a series of foster homes. When he was sixteen, he went to see Bev. He rang her door bell. She came out, eyed him, and said: “There you are!” He lived with her for the next two years.
“But life with Bev comes at a price,” he says to me. “You pay for everything you get.”
“What do you mean?”
“She takes it out of you. Those mysterious pinpricks they found on my arms when I was a baby? She sucked my blood.”
I’ve never heard Julian talk crap like that. He isn’t the superstitious kind.
“Come on, Julian,” I say. “That’s crazy.”
“You think so? Then how do you explain that she and I have the same DNA?” He had tests done, he says. He can prove it. “But when I confronted Bev with the results, she laughed and said: Well, that explains why I took you home with me. That’s all I managed to get out of her.”
It’s too weird. I change the topic. “So how long are you planning to stay?”
“Couple of weeks. Bev put me up on the top floor.”
“In the studio with the mobiles?”
“You’ve been scoping out the place. Snagged a few of her things? ”
I shrug my shoulders.
“Don’t. She’ll take something from you in exchange.”
“But I don’t have anything she’d want.”
“That’s what you think!” he says. “You do have something: youth.”
I laugh in his face. “Yeah, right. And she’s going to take that from me?”
Okay, so I promised Julian not to take any more of Bev’s stuff, but that doesn’t include looking at the files in her computer. I have so many questions about her now. Maybe the answers are in the files.
I go upstairs and turn on Bev’s computer. But you know what? The C-drive has been wiped. There isn’t a single file there. Julian must have worked on the machine and pitted his tech magic against Bev’s Wicca spells. Maybe she had a recipe collection of spells in her computer. Is there a tit-for-tat charm? You eat my food, baby, and I take your pristine blood? You take my money, Tracy, and I take your looks?
I go out into the hall and look up to the third floor landing. I see that Julian has put a lock on the studio door and taped up a piece of paper with an eye painted on it, one of those King Tut eyes, almond-shaped, black-rimmed, and unflinching.
I guess I’m safe for the time being, but maybe I’ll ask Julian to let me sleep with him in the studio, behind the locked door, until I find a new place.