“Okay, let me get this straight. We agree to go and look for the guy in the blue car and this decision is based on you not wanting to go to work, Ruby being able to look after herself, the police being unable to do anything, and the guy possibly being hot?”, Tina asked.
“Absolutely”, Rochelle replied, sternly. They eyed each other, Tina trying to break Rochelle’s serious facade, Rochelle trying hard to repel. She can hold it no longer and bursts into laughter. Tina one; Rochelle, nil.
“Not yet but I’m taking you with me.”
“You have no idea if he’s even your age or available.”
“Who cares? All the other reasons still stand. This makes no difference.”
“Well, how are we going to find him?”
Rochelle held up the paper with the contact details of those who knew too much as of 6 PM that evening. “We might have his details here if it’s him.”
“You want to call him?”, Tina asked, flabbergasted.
“Shit, no! What am I gonna say? ‘Excuse me, what do you know that you’re not supposed to know about a briefcase that I don’t own but am supposed to be watching?’ How can we call him and not look weird? It might not be the same guy. We need to make sure of that first. Nah, we have to stake out his place, see if it’s the right one, then see what he does. But we better get there early, before he leaves.”
“How early? Seven?”
“Yeah, should do. Means we have to get your car and get over there by seven. Better get some sleep, babe.”
“No kidding. Good night”, and Tina rolled over away from Rochelle, who began setting the alarm on her phone.
* * *
Rochelle’s phone woke them at 5 AM. The girls grunted and groaned their way to a coherent state of mind over the next 20 minutes, called a cab and headed back to Tina’s place where they cautiously entered and checked the place for more signs of intruders who may have left more instructions, demands, or anything at all. After a quick but thorough search they found nothing.
“Seeing as we’re not going to work can we get some more comfortable clothes?”, Rochelle asked.
“I thought we were in a hurry.”
“We are, so hurry up.”
Tina sighed, went to her room, followed by Rochelle and they found some casual gear suitable for stalking. They quickly changed, went out to the carport and climbed in the car. They looked at each other expectantly.
“How do we find the address?” asked Rochelle.
“I don’t have a GPS. Can you read a Melway? You know, the street directory?”
“Only if we’re travelling north, you know, up the page. If I have to turn the map around I get all confused”, Rochelle confessed.
“You’re joking? You’re hopeless, woman.” Tina grabbed her street directory and began looking up the address of the guy on Rochelle’s list.
“No, give me the map, I can do this. You’re driving so I’ll navigate. What? Trust me! Look, if this is where we’re going… hang on, let me find where we are now…”
Tina waited patiently, but without any expectation, while Rochelle fumbled her way through the book to find a route to their destination. The only sound being that of the idling engine and the rapid flipping of pages. Tina turned the radio on, adding some morning radio banter to the mix.
“Okay, let’s go”, Rochelle commanded. “Turn right…”
* * *
Tina pulled up beside the curb across from number 38 where they could see the driveway of number 34. “I can’t believe you got us here without getting lost!”
“Ha”, Rochelle blew on her knuckles and mock-polished them on her jacket. “And this is the place I was at last night, by the way.”
“So now we wait?”
“Now we wait.”
It was approaching 7:30 AM. The girls figured the guy might leave for work before eight to be in the city by nine-ish, assuming he worked in the city.
There was no sign of anyone leaving the house at number 34 by 7:45. Besides singing along to the radio and watching the house, the girls did nothing. Tina piped up during an ad break on the radio. “How long do you wanna sit here before we give up and say we missed him?”
Rochelle checked the time. “I dunno, say 8:30. I’m not knocking on his door, before you ask. Remember he has no idea we know anything about him. If he hasn’t come out by 8:30 we’ll go get some retail therapy. I’m in the mood for it today!”
The 8 AM news came and went. Rochelle had an ear out for anything remotely related to the happenings of the last day. She’s wasn’t at all surprised to hear nothing. More music, more silly radio games, more ads. Rochelle received another urgent SMS reminder to get the briefcase and keep it with her at exactly the same time Tina received a text reminding her not to let Rochelle know she’s in on it. Tina showed it to Rochelle. “They obviously don’t know we’re together right now”, she observed. There was no movement at the house.
The 8:30 news was an exact repeat of the 8 o’clock news. When the news concluded, Rochelle pounced. “Okay, that’s it. Let’s hit the shops. I need to get myself a dress!” Rochelle actually had another idea but decided not to share it with Tina in case she talked her out of it.
“Thought you’d never ask”, Tina smiled. “But first let me text work so say I’m extremely unwell and stuck in bed for the day.”
“Shit, yes. I’ll have to call them. They don’t accept texts as notification of sick days off.” As Tina texted her boss, Rochelle called her supervisor. “Hi David, it’s Rochelle. How are you?”
“Fine, thank you, Rochelle. And you?”
“I’m fine, I’m just letting you know I won’t be in today because I’ve got a small family emergency to deal with. I’m sorry.”
“Okay, but do you think you’ll be in tomorrow? We suddenly got a new case I’d like you to start on. If not I’ll have to shuffle some tasks around.”
A new case? Why does the word case have to come with flashing lights and alarm bells? Geez, Roche, stop being so paranoid! “Um, yes, I should be back in tomorrow, See you then!” She ended the call before David could talk her into coming in today after all. “Okay babe, lets go.”
* * *
For nearly three hours Rochelle and Tina did almost the ultimate shopping marathon. At least in terms of shops visited. They didn’t buy a thing. Tina had no interest in buying, only browsing and trying on. Rochelle pretended to look for a dress for Saturday night but in fact had other ideas.
“You know what, babe? After all this running around trying on everything there’s nothing here I like for Saturday.”
“What about that short blue one we saw in the very first shop? I could tell you loved it the second you came out of the change room.”
Damn her, she’s right. It was spectacular. “Nah, it was bit too showy. I haven’t met this guy yet. I don’t wanna be too out there on the first date.”
Tina paused before answering. Something wasn’t right. “I disagree”, she said and realised Rochelle wasn’t going to budge. “But it’s up to you, hun.”
“You know what? I really like the dress I saw yesterday in the city. Nothing I’ve seen here beats that.”
“I’m not driving into the city, we’ll never get a park at lunch time.”
“Fine, We’ll get the train. Coming?”
* * *
Tina thought she knew what Rochelle was up but bit her tongue. She couldn’t bite her tongue at the contradiction she was witnessing. It was almost twenty-four hours to the minute since Rochelle was running away from this exact place. They stood outside the shop window gazing in at the same short red dress Rochelle admired the previous day, Rochelle expression said, “How fantastic is that dress!” Tina’s was, “You tart!”
“So, what do you think?”
“I like it. You’ll knock him dead in that. Is that what you want?” Tina said despite her conflicting thoughts.
“I don’t care. I want that dress!” Rochelle took Tina’s hand and led her into the shop. Even though Rochelle had been scanning the surrounding area thoroughly, Tina didn’t notice. Likewise Neither of them noticed the man who was scanning the area outside the shop from across the street.
A store attendant quickly noticed that Rochelle and Tina were not just browsing and immediately came over to offer assistance. “Can I help you, ladies?”
“Yes, that red dress in the window, Can I try on a ten and a twelve, please?”, Rochelle asked.
“Certainly, won’t be a moment”, the attendant replied and went out back to find the sizes.
Tina grabbed Rochelle’s arm. “You are so not a twelve!”
“I fluctuate, Come on, we all do. Tens are sometimes a bit unflattering on me. It depends on when.”
“I still say you’re not a twelve.”
“Shh, she’s back.”
“Here you are, a ten and a twelve. I think the ten will be perfect, just quietly.”
Tina looked smugly at Rochelle. Rochelle shot her a mock greasy before thanking the shop attendant and walking towards the fitting rooms. When she came out wearing the size ten dress, even Tina’s eyes bulged at what she saw.
“You’re gonna need tape, babe, when you wear that without the bra.”
“I know. Sexy, huh?”
“Asking for trouble”, Tina said, smiling.
“And you’re right, I don’t think I need the twelve.”
Tina didn’t bother answering, just smiled. Tina had never seen her friend in anything bigger than a ten. Never.
Rochelle changed back into her normal clothes and told the sales attendant she’d take the dress in a ten and made her way to the counter, finalised the purchase and left the store. Stepping out onto the busy footpath, Rochelle realised a man was standing still just outside the shop. A very hot looking man. The suit did it. Not to mention the lines of his frame tapering down from his shoulders, his height, his hair, his jaw… and his eyes. The smiling eyes were looking directly at her. With a gasp she realised she’d seen him before but couldn’t immediately place him.
“Rochelle?”, he seemed certain of her name but allowed some doubt for politeness’ sake.
Then it clicked. Her hunch had been correct. Yesterday, same time, same place. She had barely looked at him. She was too stressed about the briefcase and of all the people who appeared to be watching her. Is he the same guy who was parked at her place last night? She couldn’t be sure because the light was dim but he must be. Who else could be involved? And obviously he took the briefcase after she ran off and with no other information other than the tag, which he must have memorised, tried to bring it back to her. What a sweety! And there she was running away from the hunk. Idiot!