PINK LEMONADE

By Steven E. Belanger






I’d been summoned by an Assistant District Attorney in Boston, Massachusetts, a woman with long, thick blonde hair, a round face and a body so thin she looked like an attractive dandelion. 

She wanted me to follow a guy who had maybe raped a young woman. 

The alleged victim had told a story involving a pill, mai-tais, his apartment, and forced sex.  Late the next morning, she’d risen from a sprawled position on his couch. She’d had her shirt and bra pulled up, her jeans and panties pulled down.

He’d been sleeping on chair cushions, naked, beside her on the floor.  

She’d only barely known him.  A friend of a friend. 

She could not remember any significant beauty marks, moles, or anything else on him.  No memorable movements, habits or verbal expressions. 

Too late to do a rape kit, so the ADA had her checked out by a local doc. 

She’d definitely had sex, but not necessarily with our guy. The bruising wasn’t enough to scream rape. 

But it could have been. 

But it might not be. 

The ADA didn’t believe her. An overall feeling, she said, from having talked to a lot of real rape victims, and a lot of real liars. 

She hadn’t charged him yet. He knew nothing about it.

“You’re here, Mr. Foster, because I happened to mention this situation to Commander Farris, who said I should check you out,” she said, from her office chair beside her massive and shiny desk.  She swung one thin leg over the other.  She had legs like my neighbor’s greyhound, but I kept that to myself, my client list being what it was. And is. “He said you’re the best at this kind of thing.”

I’d been a patrolman. 

A four-year-old girl had been thrown out a window. 

I’d almost caught her. 

I had a breakdown. 

Farris threw me a bone when he could.

“The alleged victim told us he’s going to a Sox game tonight with another woman,” she said, swinging the other leg like a seated Rockette. Her blonde dandelion mane didn’t move. “Apparently it’s on the woman’s Facebook. Our alleged victim said he told her about the tickets, too. If she was nice, he’d take her. He never did, but that’s the way he does it, she says. 

“We’ll get you into Fenway. This is a simple profiling job. You know the drill. Nothing we’ll use in court. Don’t document anything. Get a feel for the guy. Watch what he does and how he does it. Draw reasonable conclusions. Follow him a couple of hours before the game. Observe him during it. Don’t let him walk out on you. Trail afterwards. If they go home, you go home.”

We compromised on my fee. I watched her fill out a voucher and scribble a check. I was an office expense. 

She handed me a blank white business envelope, self-adhesive but unsealed. 

The Sox were playing the Royals, so there’d be a few empty seats. A Yankees game would’ve been sold out, even the standing room. Me getting a free ticket to a Sox/Yanks game would be like Angelina Jolie knocking on my door.

So I followed them. 

We started at his apartment a few blocks from Fenway.  He met up with a thin blonde woman in front of the barriers blocking Yawkey Way.  They hugged briefly; exchanged pecks on the cheek.  She seemed honestly glad to see him.

It was just past 5:00. The game was due to start at 7:00.

I stayed about fifty feet behind them. 

Typical evening of an early October game: overcast, cold, windy and rainy, hard to discern things.  Everybody’s bundled up.  If it misted and sprinkled, the Fenway Faithful would fill themselves with beer to numb the cold.

We walked through the shuffling and shivering masses to an Unos near the Park. There was a long line. They waited over half an hour before being seated; I was alone, so I went to the bar and ordered a beer. I was in luck: they got a small table about twenty-five feet away, which I could watch without having to swivel. Sometimes life is good.

The blonde girl was very pretty. Tall and lean, thick black coat she wore, unbuttoned.  Long, curly hair. Bright white teeth; sparkling smile. Soft-looking lips, lips you want to kiss.  She twirled her hair with a slender index finger and peered across the table at the kid with her head tilted. Normally that would look ridiculous. From her it was so cute she transcended coquettishness and became beautiful. 

The alleged victim was tall and thin, with long blonde hair that curled at the bottom. 

Here was a duplicate.

Rapists often prefer a particular prey.  Specific age, look, build.  Something.

Still talking, she leaned across the table and removed his glasses from his face, and placed them beside his napkin. 

He was a mystery. Overachieving so much you could believe again. Shorter. Muscular in a lithe way. Round face, puffy cheeks. Short dirty blonde hair cut at an angle across his forehead. A loud laugh that became a hiccup. A smile that said, “Aw, shucks,” but not in a cute, straight-off-the-farm way. At times he would extend his neck to a length that didn’t seem possible, a combination of E.T. and Inspector Gadget.

The removal of the glasses didn’t make him Clark Kent, but the underachieving girl seemed to think it did.  She glowed at him and continued talking.  I couldn’t hear what she was saying over the hum of the crowd and the clinking of the glasses and silverware — but, whatever it was, she smiled as she said it, and he smiled as he heard it. 

So he wasn’t dumb. If you’re seriously overachieving, you have to know it, and you have to let the girl do what she wants. And what this girl wanted to do, apparently, was talk. A lot. So you listen and smile. You either become interested in what she’s saying, or you look like you are.

He succeeded at that. 

After awhile, as people will when they’re bored and comfortable, they let their eyes roam. 

She looked at angles, because of the head tilt. 

That struck me as a casualness a girl on a date wouldn’t have. Unless she’d already decided she didn’t want to impress the guy. Or have to. 

I didn’t blame her, but the behavior didn’t coincide with the earlier megawatt smile and energy, and her taking off his glasses meant she already liked him enough to try to improve him. It showed she was comfortable enough with him to reach over everything, remove his glasses while she spoke, and put them on the table.

It wasn’t the first time they’d gotten together.

The boy had allowed his eyes to veer from the girl’s face. 

I gave him credit for gazing up, over the girl’s head, and not down, below her neck.  Women of all ages hate that. Either he knew that, and was being good, or he simply didn’t want to look below her neck. 

I made a note to remember that. 

Because I’m a thorough investigator, I’d already looked below her neck, at the light purple shirt between the black coat, at the matching scarf that still hung there in a slight U, just beneath the medium V cut.  At the pale, smooth skin; at the small breasts that started their curve at both sides of the V. 

The young waiter had already looked.

The hefty, bearded guy next to their table, beside her, had snuck a few glimpses.

The guy he sat across from openly glanced at her a few times — I could tell from behind him: the slight turn of his head, the fake rubbing of the back of his neck so that he could turn fully towards her with an apparent reason. 

The guy at the bar next to me, wearing a red, short-sleeved Ortiz t-shirt, peered at her whenever his girlfriend talked to someone else or went to the bathroom. 

My bartender took a peek or two. 

The guy to my left swiveled blatantly and looked at her whenever his wife, still dressed in her professional suit, answered a call or texted frantically — or both, when she wore her Bluetooth.

And even this woman had taken a short look.

A few other women had, too, especially the small group of college-age girls, just out of the rain, who were seated two booths away.

Women, perhaps more than men, will notice a happy, pretty woman.

The alleged rapist was one of the few guys in her vicinity not appreciating her.

In fact, he was committing a dating faux pas by clearly watching the television that extended like an alien eye, above and behind her, from a thin metallic neck attached to the dusty red brick.  NESN’s talking heads were announcing, and re-announcing, the current rain delay. When Eckersley glared at the camera, it seemed like he was staring, fascinated, at the back of her neck. 

I wanted to tell the kid: You’re right not to glance at her chest like everyone else was.  But don’t watch the ballgame — or, even worse, the ballgame’s announcers — above her, either. If you’re with a girl that pretty, why look anyplace but her face?

You’ve got to really appreciate a woman who so clearly enjoys being with you.

I wasn’t getting that vibe from him. 

This was a mystery. What were these two doing? 

Profiling isn’t an exact science. It involves a lot of guesses and often unfair assumptions, but it’s important to stay in practice. I people-watch and profile all the time, even when I’m not getting paid. Often it’s the only amusement I get that day.

These two were not on a date. 

They seemed too comfortable. Neither was trying to impress the other. 

The boy seemed a bit effeminate in his movements; his body seemed to undulate like water, even when sitting. A former friend would’ve said this kid was gay because he was clearly listening to every word she was saying. 

This struck me as true, but not, at the same time.  No man appreciates or listens to his better half as much as he should. I certainly hadn’t. 

I was shocked out of this reverie when the bartender brought over my third Oktoberfest without asking. 

It is an unhappy transition from Summer Ale to Oktoberfest. I am wary of the descent of fall into winter.  My moods often decrease as the temperature and sunlight do, so I order Summer Ale long after most places have switched over, as if doing so will delay the darkness and cold. 

I also realized the beers were twenty-four ounces, so that three beers made six. 

I sipped.

The girl finished her chicken fingers and fries. The boy had finished his Caesar salad and fries a few minutes before. He hadn’t spoken as much as she had. Few would. 

I guessed her age as twenty, maybe nineteen: it was a Friday night and she sipped Sprite.  Some girls just don’t like alcohol, but in my line, you play the odds.  Sprite made her younger than twenty-one.  If not, she’d drink alcohol, though this one would have to show ID well into her twenties. I knew him to be twenty-one. 

Again, profiling isn’t an exact science, and it’s often unfair and stereotypical, but, still: she’d had the meat, he’d had the salad.

Another strike against them dating: a Friday night, and she was out with him, not drinking? 

But a rapist who serves pills to girls probably serves them booze, too.  The alleged victim had said he’d given her a pill in a mai tai. This girl got chicken fingers and Sprite. He could be playing up the innocence to sneak her a pill later, but it didn’t fit. 

Shady guys do consistently shady things. You’ll see them if you’re looking.

Well, hell, maybe she liked him. I often over-think things.

The boy laughed/hiccupped at something the girl said as the waiter placed the black leather billfold beside his glass of pink lemonade.

Wait. Time out.

Pink lemonade? 

I’d been looking at the girl too much, not at what was around her on the table. Even from that distance, you have to be covert when you’re profiling.  A creepy guy looking at you from the bar looks like a creepy guy looking at you from the bar. You have to study people at this job, but you can’t be caught studying them. 

And, again, you try not to make rash judgments. But he did have effeminate movements. He did not sneak lascivious looks at her. He’d consumed a salad and pink lemonade. 

Drinking pink lemonade doesn’t mean you’re gay. 

They could still, in the long run, be on a date. 

He still could’ve raped that girl, even if he was gay. 

He could’ve had other psychological problems, maybe, about his homosexuality, or whatever. 

Do gay men rape women? 

I didn’t know, and I still don’t, but I guess evil people of any persuasion can do any evil thing. 

But you play the odds. 

And the girl? Was she gay, too? 

I considered that as the rain fell, as Eckersley leered at the nape of her neck. 

My gay-dar isn’t infallible, but I concluded she wasn’t, he was. And she could’ve had an innocent, natural, flirty personality — with everybody. She had energy and verve. She had an aura. Charisma. She’d always have a comfortable, breezy time. 

Maybe he was spring training for her. 

Hope springs eternal.

They were friends.

The girl turned the check towards herself, opened it up, tossed a card inside. 

The boy said something once, without gusto, and the girl replied once. He inspected the check, leaving it in the book. Then he closed the cover and left it facing the table’s edge.

So the girl had paid.

Women sometimes pay for dates.

But, again, in my business you play the odds.

Soon they stood from the table. The girl walked in front of the boy, who did not open the Unos door for her as they left. 

I always open doors for women. And I always pay. A few women have had problems with this. I told one she didn’t have to take off her pants just because I paid for dinners and opened doors. But I’d said it just like that, which hadn’t helped my cause, whatever that had been. I’m often very confused. 

The rain delay lifted at ten, three hours after the game should’ve started. I lazied into Fenway fifteen minutes later. By that time, the tarp was back on the field and the rain fell again in windy sheets. I sat a section to their right, behind them, beside Pesky’s Pole, on blue seats wet from the wind-driven rain. Fenway was mostly empty. Another hour passed before the game was called.

We all went home. 

I submitted my report the next morning. 

Several days later the alleged victim recanted. 

She’d looked similar to the Unos girl because they were sisters, a couple of years apart. 

They’d befriended the boy at the same time, during high school. He’d preferred the company of her younger sister. The night in question, she’d gotten drunk at a local dive, went to the home of some sleaze, and woke up naked, sore, and disgusted with herself.

And angry.

At herself. At her sister. At the boy. And at the world.

She told her sister about her one-night stand. She told her the guy she’d had sex with was the guy who’d had salad and pink lemonade. 

After her sister pointed out his persuasion, the woman said he’d raped her.

The alleged victim got community service time, agreed to a fine, accepted counseling. 

Later that day, a woman who really had been raped entered the ADA’s office and told her story. 

At about the same time, I’d broken down earlier than usual and ordered that fall’s first Oktoberfest. With the chill and snows came the martinis and Dewar’s.

You do what you can. 

If you have pink lemons, you make pink lemonade.




STEVEN E. BELANGER waxes philosophic about mystery and crime novels, movies, and lots of other things at www.stevenebelanger.blogspot.com. His sales include some short stories, to Big Pulp, to OnThePremises.com and to Space and Time Magazine; a short piece about adopting his greyhound; and a poem.  He has been a Teacher of Secondary Education for the past 14 years.

His story, “Everything’s Connected” was published on omdb! in August, 2014.

 
Copyright 2015 Steven E. Belanger. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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