[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 090
Chapter 17 (6 of 11): Interviews
“Anyway, her hair was very black and it was bobbed short. Sleek and glossy. And of course she had the typical high cheekbones and Oriental eyes. And a gorgeous mouth. I tell you, she took my breath away. It was hard to judge her height from her sitting position, but I guessed around five-two, which turned out to be more than a couple inches short; but she had a slight build, that willowy kind of elegance. Dusky eyebrows in a pale face, dark brown eyes, a stylish felt hat that was deep red and topped with an encircling brim.
“She just shakes her head at my question and can’t answer. She’s, like, overcome by another fit of weeping. I get up and fetch a glass of water from the counter. When I put it in front of her, she gulps it down and thanks me. After she gets herself together, she just says, ‘My boyfriend.’
“I look at her, and she can tell I haven’t put it all together from what she said. She tries a smile, and says, ‘I am sorry. I am bothering you.’ ‘Not at all,’ I say. ‘I just couldn’t help seeing you crying … ‘I know,’ she sighs. ‘I know.’ ‘Is there anything I can do?’ I ask.
“Pretty lame, huh?” he says to the detectives.
He goes on. “She shakes her head real slow, ‘No,’ she says, ‘no. There is nothing anyone can do now. It is finally over.’
“I took her to mean she and her boyfriend had decided to call it quits. I was right. I don’t know what passed between us, but for some reason she opened up to me right then and there and told me the story of her boyfriend, and of a large part of her life. By the time she finished, the place had started to fill up with dinner people.
“She and her boyfriend had had their last fight, which ended with a physical fight. She admitted she had slapped him first, and then he had slapped her. She breaks into tears again. It seems they’d been living together for about a half year, and since the start it had been nothing but problems: accusations of infidelity on both sides, jealousies, recriminations, reconciliations. After only a couple of months their arguments had started to turn physical, but it had never gotten beyond slaps in the face – most of them, she confessed, delivered by her to him. ‘Sometimes I’m such a bitch,’ she said.”
Phoebe interrupted. “This boyfriend, what do you know about him?” Everybody is eager to hear Fabian’s answer.
“Ah, that’s nothing. She told me later he went back to China, at the end of the semester, which is where he was from.”
“Did she ever tell you his name?”
“No. It was almost two years after they broke up that we got into it with each other in a serious … in a romantic way. By that time I didn’t care about guys in her past.”
Phoebe nods for him to continue.
“O.K., so by this time she’s calmed down and we’re just talking. She says she has to leave, and is going to stay with her parents for the next few days until things get sorted out. ‘You’ve been very kind to me,’ she says. And then she hesitates a minute and asks if she can call me and talk some more. I agree, of course, and give her my phone number, which she jots down on the inside cover of a book she had with her.
“I wasn’t sure if she ever would call me, but I sort of suspected she would.
“‘I’ll call you,’ she said. We shook hands, and I think we hung on just a beat too long. ‘By the way, I’m Trinh.’ ‘And I’m Fab, Trinh!’ She gave me the sweetest smile, enough to melt ice cubes.”
He pauses and surveys the room. “You really want me to tell you all this?”
“Yes, please. We want to know everything we can about this woman. You’re doing just fine.”
He shot his eyebrows and started in again.
“I admit I was fascinated by Trinh. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. But it wasn’t sexual, you know, at least not at first. Her story was kind of messy. Is this something I wanted to get involved in? I mean, I already had a boiling mess on my hands with Yukiko at that point. I needed another one? But that all did change, with time.
“Anyway, she did call me a few days after our first meeting, and we get to know each other pretty well. I know there was a strong mutual attraction between us that wasn’t entirely mental, or purely amicable either. She intrigued me, and she was an unusually interesting person. But she was … and these are her own words, ‘ … severely damaged goods.’ But we kept seeing each other, and she told me a lot about herself.
“Trinh was from Viet Nam, and had come to this country as a child of five in eight-four. She still spoke some Vietnamese, but felt American English was her native language – which she spoke without accent. She’d been found wandering the streets of Hué, an orphan, scrounging for food from trash cans, and a Catholic charity took her in, along with a lot of other kids.” He displayed an expression of disgust. “Fuckin’ war! Fuckin’ Kennedy! Johnson, Nixon, all of ‘em! Excuse me. The nuns took care of her for a couple of years, and eventually a Catholic adoption agency placed her with a well-off childless couple in America. Trinh always spoke kindly and lovingly of her adoptive parents, and it wasn’t just an ethnic thing, either. ‘God knows where I’d be if it hadn’t been for them,’ she told me on more than one occasion. Well, I think they loved her as much as they would have any kids of their own.
“She had a long history of not being able to form stable relationships. High school had been stormy, and she went through unhappy boys at an astonishing rate. The one she was with when I met her had been the longest so far, six months – and at that point, in early 2000, she was twenty years old.
“You’ve seen yourself, she was beautiful. But she was also some kind of genius. In junior high school it started to show she was something like a math prodigy, and this year, when she was only 25, she was finishing up her Ph.D. in mathematics. To hear her talk about mathematics and the abstractions and how it all affected her was to listen to genius examining itself with … with clarity and beauty. I’ve got a college degree, sure, but I don’t know much about math. Still she could get me wrapped up in her talk. But she was pretty much an idiot when it came to men and relationships and interacting with other people.”
Willard stopped writing in his notebook.
TO BE CONTINUED