CHAPTER 34

Silhouette of man swilling booze.

The phone was ringing when Lina let herself into her apartment at half-past eleven—another late-night call, she was sure, from Sergeant Baylor, who seemed to know exactly how long it took her to get home from work after getting off her shift. In the past two weeks since she started the swing shift and since she’d met her new supervisor, Baylor had called her seven times—twice her first week, just to check on her, he said, making sure Vaughn hadn’t come back around, and then five times over this past week. His calls were becoming a nightly occurrence now and getting more and more personal with each new call:

Did she have any hobbies? What was her favorite color? What did she do in her off-work hours? Was she dating anybody?

But worse than all the questions about her private life was his sharing with her the details of his, about his wife and their marriage, and about his growing dissatisfaction with them both.

Lina stood over the phone watching it ring, debating whether or not to answer. Baylor’s unsolicited calls, Lina felt, had become invasive and inappropriate, giving her a sense of creepiness that was now seeping into her work hours—working under him was becoming intolerably uncomfortable. Time to put a stop to this, she decided, and picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, there. It’s me, Sergeant Baylor. What took you so long to answer; I was getting worried. Is everything okay?”

“I was delayed getting home. Everything’s fine.”

“That’s good to hear. So…what are you doing?” he asked, slurring his words slightly.

“Nothing. Just getting ready for bed.”

A soft burp sounded in Lina’s ear. “Oh, sorry,” said Baylor. Through the receiver, Lina could hear men yelling and cursing in the background.

“Where are you?” she asked.

Baylor laughed. “Yeah, sorry for the noise. I stopped for a drink on the way home. The phone here is behind the bar and there’s a pretty lively crowd here tonight.”

“Yeah, I can hear that. Sounds like quite the party.”

“Say, why don’t you join me? I’m buying.”

“No thanks. Like I said, I was just getting ready for bed.”

“No? Are you sure? I could really use some company tonight.”

Baylor’s words were slurring more and more as the phone call progressed and Lina’s unease with him was growing by the minute.

“Sergeant Baylor, I want you to know that I’ve really appreciated the concern and support you’ve given me after Vaughn’s attempted break-in, but I’m fine now and you don’t have to keep calling to check up on me.”

“I don’t mind calling you.”

“I think it’s better if you don’t. You’re married and—”

“Is that what’s bothering you? I can tell you right now, my wife is nothing to worry about. Hell, we hardly speak to each other anymore. And forget about sex; she’s a frigid old bitch. Sex with her is like fucking Nanook of the North.”

Lina winced. The last thing she wanted to hear was the details of Baylor and his wife’s sex life. This conversation was going off the rails and it was time for Lina to be brutally honest with him.

“It’s not just that. You have kids and you’re, well…you’re too old for me.”

After a long pause, Baylor burped again into the receiver; silence followed, except for the rowdy patrons in the background.

“Are you still there?” asked Lina.

“I’m only forty-one.”

“I’m just not interested in you in that way. I’m sorry.”

“I’d leave my wife for you if I could, but she’s a hardcore Catholic girl and she’ll never give me a divorce—against her religion and all that bullshit.”

Baylor’s inebriation was becoming increasingly obvious, what with his slowed speech and the slurred words which he was now spitting into the phone. He was beginning to sound like a whiny, sloppy, and—now—crying drunk. “I’m falling in love with you! I didn’t want to—tried not to! But I just…just…couldn’t help it! You’re so beautiful…so…so beaut—” Another burp.

Baylor’s drunken confession of love so rattled Lina she nearly dropped the receiver. If her brutal honesty didn’t get through to him; perhaps a few sharp words of rejection would:

“I’m going to hang up now, Sergeant Baylor—”

“Jack, please, call me Jack…”

“—and I don’t want you to call me at home again. Ever. Do you hear me, Sergeant Baylor?

Dead silence followed—not so much as a whimper, or even a burp. Finally, Baylor replied, in a stone-cold sober voice: “Yes, I hear you. Loud and clear,” and then hung up.

Lina hung on the phone, listening to the dial tone before finally putting down the receiver. After setting the new apartment alarm her father had installed, she trudged to the bedroom, shed her clothes, and took herself to bed.

She dreaded this night, fearing Sergeant Baylor would visit her as she slept, but not by creeping around her patio slider, as had her would-be burglar, Vaughn; no, Sergeant Baylor, Jack, would no doubt invade her space in a far more insidious manner:

In her nightmares.

CHAPTER 33
CHAPTER 35
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