Eastbank Killer: Chapter Eight

Eastbank

The Eastbank Killer – A Serial Novella

Attorney Donna Bosque finds her life turned upside down when an attractive associate at her firm becomes convinced the Eastbank Killer, who has been terrifying Portland, is directly linked to their law firm.

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Chapter eight

Astrid Merington held the back of Donna’s head in her hand, holding Donna’s gaze with her eyes.

“Did he touch you?” Merington asked.

“No.”

“Did someone touch you?”

“No.”

“Donna, I need you to be honest with me.”

Her first name sounded strange on Merington’s lips.  Donna always referred to Astrid Merington as “Ms. Merington.” The beautiful associate had always called her…Donna couldn’t remember. Her mind felt fuzzy, as though she were looking through clouded glasses, only the glasses were on the inside.

She realized Donna had asked her another question. Perhaps she had asked her several.

“I’m sorry,” Donna said. “What did you say?”

“Donna, has someone raped you?”

“I just need my keys to get back into the office.”

“If someone raped you, we need to get you to a hospital and do a rape kit.” Merington’s voice was so gentle, the words sounded almost innocuous.  “But if that didn’t happen, I need to get you into a warm shower. You’ve gotten too cold.”

Donna’s teeth were chattering, and the more she tried to control the shivering, the more it felt like her body was not her own but a branch shaken by an unseen hand.

“No one…no one did anything to me. I’m fine.”

“You’re not. I used to lead wilderness expeditions.” Merington flashed her wry smile. “Snow camp your way to sobriety.” Her face grew serious. “You’re too cold. I know the signs. Don’t fight me on this.” Her tone left no room for protest.

She helped Donna to her feet and led her to the back of the flat. Merington’s bedroom was decorated in olive green and gold, managing to look both masculine and sensual at the same time. A king-sized bed took up most of the room, made—but loosely—as though Merington might fall back into the sumptuous green covers at any moment. Despite the cold in her bones, Donna blushed.

Merington took her jacket.

“Will you be okay if I leave you alone? I’ll set towels out and something for you to wear.”

Donna nodded.

When Donna emerged from the shower, she did feel better. She had stopped shaking, and her mind felt clear again.

Merington had closed the bedroom door and set a garment on the bed.  Clutching her towel with one hand, Donna lifted the item: cream-colored pajamas made of a fabric as supple as silk but textured like fine suede.

She dressed and stepped out of the bedroom, the words, “Thank you, but I can’t wear this back to the office” on her lips.

She stopped.

The apartment was dark. Fear raced through her like a current in water.

“What…?”

“Over here,” Merington said softly. She was standing by the window, a pair of binoculars in her hand. She beckoned. “He’s still there.”

Donna looked. From her office window she could see the lights in Merington’s apartment, but the angle of the buildings precluded much more. Merington, with the vantage of height, could look directly into the offices of Pesher, Andrews, and Bosque. Merington handed Donna the binoculars.

Jerry Pesher was indeed in the office, pacing from room to room as though looking for an important file.

“He called for you again after you left,” Merington said. “I told him you’d gone home.”

“That’s bizarre.” Donna lowered the binoculars.

The flat was lit only by the city around it.  Merington’s eyes were very dark.

“Please don’t go back there tonight,” she said.

“I can’t stay here,” Donna said reflexively, but as she said it, she touched Merington’s side, just a fleeting gesture. Nothing really. Just enough to feel the soft warmth of Merington’s body beneath the black silk.

Donna walked past Merington and sat down on the sofa.

“You were just kidding when you said all of the Eastbank Killer cases were connected to our firm, right?”

She said it casually, almost disapprovingly, but deep inside she felt a flutter of excitement. If Merington’s story was true, then anything could be true.

“Do you drink red?” Merington asked, moving confidently through the darkened apartment. “May I pour you a glass?”

Donna felt the air shift. Was it possible that Merington had been flirting with her these past months?  Had been flirting because she meant it, not simply because it unsettled Donna and Merington liked to unbalance the power in a room? Donna touched the lush fabric of the pajamas she wore. It reminded her of something…of someone she had once been. Before Pesher, Andrews, and Bosque. Before law school. Before she realized the price of success was everything.

Now with the city lights casting their odd, diffuse, orange glow throughout the flat, Donna thought why not? What sacred trust said she couldn’t date her associate? It wasn’t even in their contract; it was just decorum and what was decorum compared to Astrid Merington reaching for a glass on the top shelf, her body stretching, her breasts lifting, the black silk outlining everything it hid.

***

Next installment: Jan. 9, 2013.

For more fiction by Karelia click here.

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