The Green Veil
Bill Martine squinted as the Denver Police cars’ lights flashed in his face. He pulled up behind one and shifted into park. As he stepped out, Jack Meadows called out “Bill, over here,” and waved him over.
“What’s going on?” Bill asked as he walked over to the detective.
“Murder/suicide; She’s in the apartment, he’s up the block in the Metro. It’s a damned shame, she was a looker,” he said as he turned to the apartments. There, a group of police, EMTs, and a neighbor stood around a door with a shotgun blast through it.
“Dead girl, dead guy . . . you seem to have things in hand. How can I help?”
“Well, Bill, I don’t need the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on this, but I need to know what that’s doing here.” Jack pointed across the street to a red 1967 Chevelle SS parked in front of the police car. “Isn’t that your friend, Roman Shade’s car? I need to know how he’s involved in this.”
* * *
Bill waited at the Jetway at Denver International Airport as passengers walked out.
Roman stepped through the door, bag in hand, and looked up, causing him to raise an eyebrow. “Why, hello Bill. What brings you out to the airport?”
“Roman, I need to talk to you for a minute,” Bill said as he waved toward a bar across the hall.
Roman looked up the hall and said, “Sure, Bill, but can it wait for just a couple of minutes, I’ve got a friend picking me up and . . .”
“Is it Cristina Brooks… ?”
Roman froze in his tracks, his head snapped around and eyes narrowed as he turned back.
“She’s not coming, Roman.”
* * *
“So, how did you know, her?” Bill asked as they drove from the airport.
“I met her at The Club. . .”
“What were you doing there?”
“I was working a case. Doc sent me there to work on my real detective skills.”
“Yeah, I talked to Doc Weisman after they found your car.”
“This time, it was a girl reported as a runaway; wasn’t. Sometimes girls have reasons for getting the hell out. This was one of those.”
“I’ve seen some of those, myself.”
“Afterwards I sat down to have a drink and Cristina came onto the stage. She caught my eye and somehow, I caught hers. Just lucky I guess. . .” Roman’s gaze turned out the window and he fell silent.
* * *
Bill pulled up to the apartment house and shifted the car into park. The cops were gone, leaving only yellow tape to mark their passing. He turned to his friend as Roman wiped tears from his cheeks. “I was able to pick these up, “he opened a small yellow ‘Evidence’ envelope and handed Roman his car keys. “They were inside . . .”
“Can I . . .” Roman turned to the door with a longing look on his face.
“No! You’re going to stay out of there. Nothing there you’d want to see. She’s gone, Roman.”
“Maybe to you,” Roman said as he stepped out of the car and walked toward the apartment.
Bill jumped out and ran after his friend, grabbed his shoulder, spun him around.
Roman was breathing hard, deep inhalations followed by long exhales. His eyes seemed glazed over, more so than the tears and grief explained. Roman spun out of Bill’s grip, ran up in front of the door, and shouted out “Cris!”
Bill had seen Roman doing this before at crime scenes or while holding some piece of evidence and once when Roman had spoken to a ghost. Bill had been more than skeptical the first time Roman had brought him ‘Metaphysical Evidence’. After witnessing Roman’s ability for the first time, Bill had a long talk with his priest. It hadn’t helped much.
Now, Bill watched Roman as he looked about. He turned up the street and down, straining his eyes, looking for some sign of his lost love. He shouted out “Cristina!” one last time and fell to his knees, covered his face, but could not hide his tears.
A neighbor’s light flashed on, Bill helped Roman to his feet and walked him toward his car. “Come on, Roman. Let’s get out of here.”
“She’s gone, Bill. I couldn’t find her.”
“I know you had to try . . . Come on.” He led Roman over to his car and handed him his keys.
Roman had owned the car ever since his dad had passed away. With the money he was making now, he was able to treat it right. He’d painted it twice before, but last year he did a full body-off restoration. The paint had suffered from the stretch of gravel road that led to his cabin, but the drive-train didn’t seem to mind.
Roman reached for the turn signal lever and found it missing. He glanced about and found it on the dash. “What happened here?” he said as he picked it up. His face got a worried look for a second and then he said, “Oh, she broke it off.” He smiled faintly as he worked the chromed lever in his hand. “She was trying to hit the Brights.”
“Are you going to be OK to drive? If not, we’ll come back tomorrow.”
Roman wiped his eyes and lifted his head. “I’ll be all right, Bill.”
“Well then, head on up to your place in the hills. I’ll tell Jack you have a good alibi; Doc Weisman told me where you were. If Jack needs more, he can get a’hold of the Dallas Police. What were you doing for them, anyway?”
“Missing little girl; just a run-away.”
“I’ll explain it to Jack. You be careful driving home.”
Bill got into his car and followed Roman onto the highway. As he was about to turn south, he saw Roman’s car turn south also, when he should have turned north. Bill decided to follow.
* * *
Roman drove west, along I-70, his mind caught in the ‘I could have saved her’ loop. Again and again asking himself, ‘How did I miss it?’
He glanced at the rearview mirror and it needed adjustment. He reached up, then had a sudden flash of a blue Metro receding in the distance as his car raced away. He could feel her joy driving his car that night. He shook his head, looked again at the here and now. He smiled at the memory of her that night, behind the wheel. His own memories of that night rushed back to him. He rubbed the steering wheel and promised himself, “Later.”
He switched on the radio for distraction. He’d paid good money for it. Despite its sixties vintage look, it had an MP3 input. A combination of button presses later and it began to scan. Roman recognized twelve-string guitar riffs from the Led Zeppelin tune.
It was in the darkest depths of Mordor I knew a girl so fair.
But Gollum and the Evil One crept up and slipped away with her . . . Er . . . Er
And there ain’t nothing I can do about it.
Roman’s fist smashed into the faceplate, then again and again until it fell silent. He looked up to see his exit onto I-225 to US 36 and the path home. He went on to I-25 and the road south.
* * *
Roman walked to the door of The Club.
Steve the doorman saw the look on his face and lowered his eyes. “Mr. Shade, good evening sir. I’m so sorry to hear what happened to Crystal. She was a wonderful girl and we are all saddened by her passing. It’s a damned dirty shame.”
“Thanks, Steve,” Roman replied as he shook the offered hand.
“You go on in, sir. It’s almost last-call.”
Roman turned and saw Bill walking up behind him. “This is my friend, Bill Martine. He’s with me.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Steve said with a slight salute. “Go on in.”
Roman walked to the back of the room as the crowd was thinning out. Cindy, a waitress walked up and put a hand on his shoulder. “Hello, Mr. Shade. I heard about Crystal, I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks, Cindy. I just wish that . . .”
“I know, Mr. Shade, sometimes we all wish things could have been different. She was a nice girl. We’ll all miss her.” Cindy put on her hostess smile again. “Last-call, Mr. Shade, can I get you anything?”
“Yes, I’ll have a JD on the rocks, make it a double.”
“That’s not your usual.”
“No, Cindy, tonight I want a real drink.”
“Are you sure, Mr. Shade? The cops watch . . .”
“I’ve got a friend in the business,” Roman said as he turned to Bill. “What will you have, Bill?”
“Just a Coke for me, Miss.”
Moments later they sat next to one of the small stages, Shade cupped his drink in his hands and grew lost in thought. He tried to think of anything but Cristina, here in a place that filled his mind with memories of her.
The DJ gave his closing-time rap. Around them customers were mostly gathering up their things. The Club had male dancers as well as the girls on Saturday nights, so there were a lot of women in the house. A few women fended off last-minute advances. Some paired up with guys, some with other women, some waited for dancers to finish their final set. Roman remained blind to it all, lost in his memories.
“Roman . . . Roman!” One of the dancers called from a stage ten feet away. “Hey Roman, is anyone home in there?” The last of ‘Blue on Black’ faded away; her last patron threw a dollar on the stage and picked up his coat.
She was thin and without the breast implants that were too common with dancers. Her brown hair hung just past her shoulders. She wore a G-string and wrapped a green veil around her chest. She left her stage as the last of her set finished up, walked over and hugged Roman from behind.
“Hi, Jackie,” Roman said as he turned to her.
“I’m so sorry about Cristina . . .”
“I know . . . Everybody is.” He embraced the dancer and kissed her lightly on the cheek. “I just wish that I had been there . . . been able to do something about . . .”
“I knew about Max, but she thought she could let him down easy, get him to go back home . . .”
“Why . . .?”
“The girls here generally have some history, Roman. Most don’t share much information about their lives. It goes beyond the dancer’s persona and stage name. Cristina talked more than most of the girls here.” Jackie stooped low and looked into his eyes. “She thought she had it under control.”
“I could have . . .”
“Roman, he waited until you were gone.”
“Damn it! I could have . . .”
“No, Roman, you couldn’t have prevented this.” She looked into Roman’s eyes and shook her head.
“Now she’s gone. I have nothing from her, not a picture, nothing . . .”
“Maybe I can help with that. They told us about Cristina when we came in today. I guess they opened her locker and threw her stuff into the costume box. I grabbed this,” she said as she held out the green veil. “It’s not like her folks are likely to want them back. I think they have a promo shot of her as Crystal. I’ll ask Mike for one.”
“Who’s your friend?” She smiled to Bill as she stood up.
“This is Bill Martine; he’s with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He’s been a good friend, helped me out some over the years, steered some business to Doc and me.”
“Always pleased to tease our men in uniform,” she said with a smile and a slinky shake.
“I wear a suit.” Bill smiled back.
“I’ll give you a break anyway. Anything for a friend of our ‘Psychic Detective’.” Jackie turned back to Roman and placed a hand on his shoulder, stepping close as a customer wandered past.
“So, he’s told you about . . .?”
“Told, us? Guy, he’s been hanging out with Cristina a lot over the last few weeks. We’d get together at The Tiger after-hours. He’d take things from the girls and start telling them stuff.”
“Really? That’s not like Roman,” he said with a slight shake of his head.
“He took a bracelet from Amber one night and went all silent on her. She pressed him, he whispered something into her ear and she hasn’t said a word to him since.”
Bill raised an eyebrow and gave a knowing nod.
“He gave me a demonstration here, the first night that . . .” She bent low and pointed to Roman.
He reached up and placed an arm around her waist. As his hand touched the green veil, his expression went blank for a second, then his hand grabbed the veil and pulled it toward him. For a moment, a look of annoyance passed over him, then a look of shocked surprise and his fingers worked the fabric between them.
“Oh shit,” Jackie said as she tried to pull the veil from Roman’s grip.
* * *
Roman was back in The Club, talking to Alice, a waitress whom he had tracked down for Doc Weisman, but he saw himself, handing her a business card. The music was fading and as he looked down at the scattered ones at his feet. He turned his head, in the reflection from the mirror-covered walls and there stood Cristina.
Alice looked up to Roman and asked, “Psychic Detective?”
“Doc had the idea of the Psychic Detective title.”
Jackie walked up with a curious look on her face, wiping away the defensive look from a second before. “Is this gentleman giving you a problem, Alice?”
“No, just someone Billy sent looking for me. I set him straight.” She showed Jackie the card.
“A psychic detective eh,” she said with a smile. She pointed her right index finger to her temple. “Well, what am I thinking?”
“Roman waved his hands in denial. “No, no, I’m not that kind of psychic. I’m a psychrometrist.”
“I have to touch things . . .”
“Right, you have to touch things.” She slowly slid her hands along her sides and cupped her breast. “Yeah, Right.”
“Oh yeah,” she said as she reached down and slipped out of her black thong, revealing a white G-string underneath. She wadded up the thong and tossed it to Roman. “What can you tell me from that?”
Roman caught the scrap of spandex and smiled at the dancer. He rubbed the fabric between his fingers and closed his eyes.
Jackie watched and wondered if he was serious, or just some kind of perv. Then she saw his eyelids move as his eyes darted about under them. A strangely familiar smile came to his face. Then he opened his eyes and tossed them back to Jackie.
“Your roommate is a very fortunate girl,” he said with a different grin.
“You’re guessing!” Jackie said with hands on her hips.
“Black girl, not quite as thin as you, judging from her hands, taller too, to look over your shoulder and reach into those.” He looked up, with blushing cheeks, to see Jackie staring open-mouthed.
She turned to a passing bouncer and said, “Mike, throw this guy out!”
“Why?” The heavy-set man replied.
“He knows what we’re thinking when we’re on-stage. If people find out, we’ll go broke!”
Everyone nearby broke into laughter, but Cristina’s gaze rose over Roman and her co-workers, to see Max standing by the door. Her eyes turned slowly to Roman and she softly said, “Detective.”
* * *
“Damn!” Jackie reached for the cloth, but his grip tightened at the first hint of her snatching it away. His face grew dark as his eyes opened and he looked up at Jackie. “I’m sorry Roman. I didn’t think about it.” She relaxed her grip on the cloth and spun out of the veil, leaving her nearly nude. She cupped her breast in her hands, then looked around her and shrugged it off.
“It’s hers. . . How?”
“I’m sorry, Roman.” She watched as he rubbed the cloth in his hands, his eyes closing his mind slipping away to events in the past. “You can still feel her on it, can’t you?”
Roman’s eyes opened. “Yes.”
“Please keep it, Roman. I’m sorry, sorry for what happened to Cristina, for you and for putting that in your hands. I didn’t think about your . . . your ability” She looked up to see Roman’s eyes close and he drifted back into the world of private visions.
“You’ve seen him do this before?” Jackie said to Bill as she watched Roman.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve known him for years now. When I’m really stumped on a case, I sometimes ask him for his insight, though Roman still calls it his curse. What others call it is psychometry, the ability to divine facts about events by touching an object. Roman Shade has it, has it bad.
“Though his abilities have given him some peace of mind about the afterlife, it plays hell with Roman’s day-to-day life, beyond the ever-present gloves or giving away change rather than touching it. Hell, I’ve seen him go off on some vision, acting out a long-ago event through the eyes of a victim or worse yet through the eyes of the killer.”
“Is he going to be OK?” She asked as she watched Roman.
“He’s been through worse than this. The memories of someone else’s crimes nearly drove him insane before he knew what was happening to him. Some good friends helped him through it, but they’ve moved up to Seattle. Later on, I steered Roman to Doc Weisman. The old man is serious about using science to investigate the spiritual. Together, Weisman and Shade formed ‘Metaphysical Evidence’. They help police and more than a few worried parents across the country.”
“He really solves criminal cases?”
“What Roman sees in his visions means nothing, but sometimes, the visions will lead to real evidence that could be presented in court. All too often though, the cases he works lead to a grim end, but a few times he has saved lives and once while I watched, justifiably took a life.”
“He killed someone?” Her eyes grew wide.
“He stopped a rapist from killing a girl. It was more than justifiable and I could never have made that shot. Roman came prepared and practiced.”
Roman ignored their conversation. He held the veil between his fingers, rubbing at one spot. . .
* * *
Cristina quickly gathered her things and tips then went into the changing room. There she saw Amber getting ready for her set.
“Amber, do you go to stage three, next set?”
“Yeah, why?” the strawberry blond replied as she adjusted her top.
“Trade you for stage two,” Cristina said as she passed ten ones over. “There’s a guy there I’d like to know.”
“You mean in the biblical sense, right?” Amber smiled up to ‘Crystal’. “Is it that guy in the red car we saw pull up? You are just too crazy for those old cars, girl”
“Maybe,” Cristina said as she opened her locker and looked over her selection of costumes. She decided on the harem-girl outfit and pulled a CD from the back of the locker. She slipped into the outfit, checked her hair as she walked out the door and over to the DJ’s booth.
“Harry, I’d like to make a request,” she said as she held out the CD.
“This old thing? The other girls are gonna bitch.”
Cristina opened her top and did a seductive shake. “Please!”
Harry contorted his face and then gave a nod. “OK. You always have fun with that one.”
Cristina turned as the girl on that stage finished her set. Then she saw the detective finish his drink. She hurried to the stage and as ‘Stop Stop Stop all the Dancing’ by the Hollies began she marched onto the stage with a high-pitched “Weeeee!”
She managed two quick back-flips across the tiny stage and landed in the splits in front of her target audience. He looked up and a smile slowly came to his face as he checked her out. She returned the smile and rose to continue her routine. She’d learned the song from her dad’s record collection in her youth. As a teen, she’d danced in pajamas to its lighthearted tune. After she’d come to Denver, she used it for her audition at the club. Now she watched ‘Crystal’ in the mirrored walls, checking her form as she danced.
She delayed collecting the ones as they fell at the edge of the stage. She paused in a pirouette to see the detective watching her. From time to time, stealing a glance to the front of the club where Max sat a table, glaring at her.
“Watch out for that one, Crystal, he knows what you’re thinking!” Jackie said as she walked by, leading some customer off for a lap-dance.
Cristina smiled to Roman and said, “I don’t care, I want his car!”
“Hey, we can work something out,” Roman smiled up to her.
“No, you’d want it back later.”
“Well, yeah, but until then it could be fun.”
“You’d let me drive your car?” She paused in her dance and stole another glance at Max.
“Sure,” Roman replied with a broad grin.
“You’re on. I get off at two.” She spun in place, unwrapped the green veil from her chest and dropped it on the stage.
* * *
Jackie stood up and then went to the changing room. Moments later, she emerged in street clothes with the rest of Crystal’s costumes, but Roman wasn’t at his table. He’d moved over to the stage she’d just quit. His hands were held out in front of him, just over the carpet that edged the stage. Sometimes only barely touching the surface, sometimes digging at the carpet, or rubbing it in tight circling movements, sometimes jerking back his hands as they touched unwanted memories from others.
“Poor bastard,” Jackie said softly to herself.
“He must’ve really fallen for that girl,” Bill said as he watched.
“You’d be surprised at what men will do for the gorgeous redhead.”
“No, I wouldn’t. I carry a badge,” Bill said with a nod and a wink.
“Yeah, he’s in love. . .” she said as they watched Roman. She put chin in hand and pouted. “Back before I started dancing for a living, I was a very bad girl. I did some things to some guys that . . . that deserved better.
I so had the act down. I walked men into love, through love and out again, with a lot of cash in their wake. . . I never knew the kind of love he and Cristina shared. Look at him, Bill. That man loved that girl, though they only knew each other for a few weeks.”
“Roman could have used a good woman in his life. It’s too bad.” Bill shook his head. “Now I’ve got to take his car keys away.”
Jackie walked over and put an arm on Roman’s shoulder. “Roman, give me your car keys,” she said softly. His only reaction was a fumbling hand reaching into his pocket and bringing out his key ring.
* * *
Cristina pulled the key from the dash and opened the door of Roman’s Chevelle. Roman was off to Dallas on a job and she had the muscle car for the weekend. She thought of a long drive through the mountains as she walked to her apartment.
Suddenly, Max stepped from behind a corner and quickly walked to her. “Cristina!”
She glanced to the side and said, “Hello, Max. What do you want?”
He raised a hand and stepped in front of her. “I need to talk to you, Chris.”
“Then talk.” She stopped and her hands went to her hips.
“Can I come inside?” he waved toward her door.
“I think you can say it right here,” she said as she moved her hands behind her. She worked the keys between her fingers into a brass knuckle-like grip the guy at the self-defense class had taught her.
“Damn it, Chris,” Max swung at the air and raised his hands to the heavens. “Can’t you . . .”
“No, Max, I can’t trust you. That’s why I moved out. I told you, you can’t beat me and keep me.” She slowly shook her head. “I won’t be alone with you again.”
“Chris I’ve . . . got to go back home.” He turned away and shook his head.
“So? Go! You can’t find a job with your fist, Max. Punching out your boss will hang over you for a long time.”
“God damn it, don’t you think I know that? I can’t find a job for love nor money in this town. One mistake shouldn’t hang over your head for six fucking months. I was working with bums, fucking homeless street people! Besides, he had it coming. Nobody talks to me like that, nobody!”
“That’s your problem, Max, nobody can talk to you, can’t tell you you’re out of line. You can’t work with the homeless? What are you now, living in your car? Go home, Max.”
Max held up his hands. “I can’t go home. What will I tell our friends?”
“Tell them we broke up. Shit happens, Max.”
“I can’t lose you, Chris,” he said as he shook his head. “I can’t!”
“Find someone else, back home. Judy never forgave me for stealing you away. She’s still single,” she said with a shrug.
Max raised an indignant finger. “Fuck Judy!”
“Well it might do you some good, but I’ll bet your attitude will need to improve.”
Max swung his arms wide. “Damn it, Chris. What will I tell your folks?”
“Tell them the same thing I did. I’ve got a job and I’m doing OK.”
“Do I tell them where you’re working? What you do?”
“They know, Max.” She shook her head. “I’m not doing anything I’m ashamed of.”
“No, I guess there’s not much you’re ashamed of, anymore.”
“Damn it, Max, why should I be ashamed? With this hair and my looks, I’ve had men starring at me since I was a kid. Now I pay the rent because men will pay to stare at me. I don’t have to fuck them to do it either. Don’t shame me for taking a job you drove me to.
For months, I served burgers to men who abused me worse than they do now when I’m stripping. Then I got this job, paid the rent when you couldn’t and you beat me for it!” She turned, fumbled with her keys and threw her door open. “Go to hell, Max! Go wherever you want, but get the hell out of my life!” She slammed the door in his face and turned to dump her purse onto the kitchen table.
“Chris, please!” Max yelled through the door, followed by his fist banging at it.
She picked up the phone and pressed 911, but never pressed send. “Hello, I need the police,” she said loud enough to be heard through the door. Then she heard Max storm away. “Good,” she said to herself and started picking up clutter from the table. Moments later, she heard Max back at the door. She stepped toward the door, dropping the keys in her hand . . .
* * *
“No, Chris! Nooo!” Roman yelled as his eyes opened. He looked around the room, shook his head and dug at the carpet with his fingers again.
Jackie tucked his keys into her G-string and told Bill, “I’ll get him home all right.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” She gave him a determined grin and patted him on his shoulder.
Bill gave her a nod and picked up his coat.
Jackie walked back to the DJ’s booth and scanned the disks. She pulled out a Bob Seger CD and looked over the label, then punched up a track that was redlined. The intro rift from a guitar began followed by Seger’s whisky rough voice.
I remember standing on the corner at midnight, trying to get my courage up.
There was this long lovely dancer in a little club downtown
Used to watch her do her stuff.”
When Jackie turned back, she saw a bouncer heading for the stage and Roman. He was kneeling on the stage, holding the green veil in his hands, searching for invisible spots as he pulled the gossamer cloth through his fingers.
“Bob! He’s OK. Leave him alone.”
“He’s on the stage.” He pointed and shrugged.
“We’re closed. It’ll be all right. He was Crystal’s boyfriend.
“Oh. . .” he said with a sad shake of his head “Keep an eye on him. If I see him head for his car I’ll have to put the cops on him.”
“I will, I don’t even think he’s that drunk, it’s just . . .” She turned to Roman and lowered her head.
“I know. . . I’d have taken it hard too.” He turned back to Roman. “What the hell is he doing?
Jackie sat on the edge of the stage and scooted closer to Roman. “Looking for lost memories. He has a gift.”
“If he pukes on that stage, you get to mop it up.”
“He’ll be all right. He just needs some new memories, some hope. Cristina always said I should give a good man a try. Right now, I don’t think she’d mind if it was hers.” Jackie said as she patted Roman on the shoulder and Bob Seager
“Down on Main Street . . . Down on Main Street.”