The Whore Of Babylon, A Memoir Part 7

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"That's Chevy. That girl's got more troubles than Carter's got pills. Her mother was a prost.i.tute and both of them lived on the streets. I don't think she ever did one thing for Chevy. She died of a drug overdose two years ago. Chevy was left to either stay with her mom's abusive on and off boyfriend or fend for herself. She's sixteen now. She tends to mother the younger ones."

"Morning, Sister," Chevy says as she approaches.

"How you doing today?" Sister Margaret says to the girls, giving each of them a sandwich.

Chevy tucks her long, black hair behind her ears and then attacks her sandwich.

"Pretty good," she says between mouthfuls. "This here is Bambi," Chevy says of the girl on her left, "and this is Destiny," pointing to the young girl on her right.



"Nice to meet both of you," says Sister Margaret.

Bambi and Destiny murmur nearly inaudible greetings.

"This is Margot," Sister Margaret says with a toss of her head in my direction as she shows Robyn's pictures to the three girls. "And this is Robyn."

"Any of you seen her?"

Bambi and Destiny barely look at the photo. But Chevy's large black doe eyes consider Robyn's picture for several seconds. It is then that I see it. A flicker of recognition skims across Chevy's face. I'm certain of it. I step forward and seize Chevy's arm.

"Please," I say. "Do you know where my daughter is?"

Chevy wrenches free, giving me a scowl.

"Hey!"

"It's okay, Chevy. Margot's just worried about her daughter, that's all," says Sister Margaret.

I grab a bottle of water and offer it to Chevy. "I want to help you," I say. "Will you help me?"

Chevy considers me a moment before relieving me of the bottled water.

"Yeah, maybe I seen her around. Maybe Maybe."

"Just let her know her mom is worried about her, that's all," says Sister Margaret.

"Yeah, whatever," says Chevy. She bats her eyelashes at us and turns on her heels. "Come on, let's go," she says to her companions. As the girls leave, Chevy gives me a backward glance, meeting my gaze and then nods her head once, as if acknowledging there is some sort of a connection between us.

Desire propels me forward, but Sister Margaret's firm grip stops me.

"You cannot go where they're going."

Arrested, I blink away the tears. "I want my daughter."

Sister Margaret steps between me and the three retreating girls, looking up at me with those ebullient gray eyes. She smiles.

"Tell me dear, don't you have any faith?"

September 2, 2002.

"Look, I'm not trying to be a b.i.t.c.h here, but the Labor Day weekend is coming up and we're still waiting on your final accounts payable reports so we can finish the July financials," Carmelita says, frowning as she talks. She leans forward, hands folded tightly in front of her, elbows planted firmly on her desk regarding me a moment.

I stare down at the dregs of coffee in my cup, which rests in my lap. The foment in the pit of my stomach could momentarily be staunched if only I took a sip, but I can't.

"This isn't like you, Margot. You've always been such a super achiever. Connie in Accounts Receivable says you even dropped out of the advanced Excel cla.s.s you were taking at Los Medanos. I know you want to get out of doing just A/P work and I'd like to b.u.mp you up to a.s.sistant bookkeeper, but you don't show up for work. You don't return my phone calls."

It's only eleven twenty in the morning but I attempt to picture myself on my lunch hour, gazing contentedly at the magazine rack at Long's, letting my mind meander across outrageous headlines of the glossy covers, but I can't do that either. A single tear falls from my cheek.

"Robyn has run away," I say, sc.r.a.ping the tear from my face. There. I've said it. Acknowledged it publicly to my outside world. At once it feels terrifying.

Carmelita's jaw drops. Her perfectly manicured eyebrows rise in shock. I relate the abbreviated version of events to her, keeping as much emotion out of my voice as I can.

"The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has faxed her picture to police all over the country. Also to airports and bus stations."

"My G.o.d, Margot, I had no idea." Carmelita sits back in her chair. Her hands fall to her lap and her shoulders drop. "Is there anything I can-we can do from here?"

I shake my head. I share the suspicion that Robyn might be living somewhere in San Francisco, but omit the notion that she might be prost.i.tuting herself, or worse, being pimped out by BLU BOY.

"Since she's still considered a runaway, the F.B.I.'s CASKU unit won't get involved."

"CASKU?"

"Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit," I say in a barely audible tone.

"My G.o.d," Carmelita's hand rises involuntarily to her mouth. She looks as if she will be sick. Her eyes dart from me to the framed picture of her son and daughter at the corner of her desk.

"Everybody's been interviewed. Teachers, her friends at school. Jenny's been called into the police station twice, but the only thing she's repeatedly stated is that she got a phone call from Robyn telling her that she's okay and living in San Francisco."

I close my eyes, letting the fingers of one hand press against the flames battering my gut. In my mind's eye I picture the foil wrapper of the Rolaids I left on the desk in my office.

"The police checked something called the LUDS on Jenny's phone in order to find the origination of Robyn's call. They traced it to a payphone on O'Farrell Street." I skip the part about the pay phone being located inside the O'Fallell Theatre, which features live strip shows.

Carmelita begins gathering the sheaf of papers on her desk, as if she were brus.h.i.+ng a pile of leaves together.

"Don't worry about this," she says of the reports. "Connie can fill in for you and get these-"

Just then, Belinda, the secretary pokes her head in the door.

"Sorry to interrupt," she says to Carmelita and then angles her gaze towards me.

"Your husband Rob's on the phone. He says it's urgent."

I stand up before I remember the cold cup of coffee in my lap. It plashes to the carpet, making mottled, toothy stains. I s.n.a.t.c.h up the receiver of Carmelita's phone and jab the flas.h.i.+ng b.u.t.ton.

"Rob?"

"She called!" he says. The hope in his voice makes my heart nearly lurch from my chest.

"Where are you?"

"At home," he says.

My mind refuses to understand the sequence of events. It's eleven-thirty on a Thursday morning. How can Rob be home? How can Robyn have called him and not me?

"What are you doing at home?"

"She wants to be picked up," he says. "Come home. Let's go get our daughter."

The blaze searing my stomach is exceeded only by the summer heat of Pittsburg trapped inside the old Corsica. Beads of sweat blanket Rob's forehead as he drives.

I steal a Rolaids from my purse and pop it into my mouth. Rob notices from the corner of his eye but doesn't say anything. He rakes the back of his hand across his forehead and then glares at the dashboard. The air conditioner sprays out tricklets of lukewarm air. He angrily fidgets with the k.n.o.b.

"d.a.m.n this thing!" he says finally. "Friggin' thing's broken," he says, striking the dashboard with the meaty heel of his hand.

"Never mind that," I say. "Let's just get there. It'll be cooler in the City."

"Yeah," he says under his breath.

The car accelerates as we fly along the Eastsh.o.r.e freeway, approaching the MacArthur Maze.

"Where did she say she was again?" I ask, glancing vacantly at the industrial wasteland of Oakland speeding past my window. Up ahead I see the Bay Bridge. I sit forward slightly in my seat; a futile effort at getting to Robyn more quickly.

"Some place called the Bread and b.u.t.ter," he replies. "She said it's a restaurant slash supermarket thing."

I nod. The Bread and b.u.t.ter Market is across the street from the O'Farrell Theatre strip club, the same place that the police traced Robyn's calls to Jenny. Anxiety stokes the already burning fire in the pit of my stomach. I pull another Rolaids from my purse.

"Those things aren't candy, you know," Rob says, keeping his eyes on the road.

I cross my arms in front of me.

"Let's just get there," I say.

Rob combs his fingers through his hair, pressing on the accelerator. The silence between us feels heavy, oppressive.

"Thompson at work said he saw the TV spot," he says referring to yesterday's airing of our home video taken of Robyn a little over a year ago by KTVU."

"They should have aired more of the video," I say.

"Criminy, can't you just be happy it was aired?" he snaps.

"Please, Rob, let's not get started."

"I'm not starting anything...just pointing out that nothing is ever good enough for you."

Alternating bands of sunlight and shadow bathe the car as we pa.s.s the steel cables of the Bay Bridge.

I swallow down my irritation at his comment.

"Just please don't start nagging Robyn the minute you see her," he says.

Flames of rage suddenly billow up my cheeks.

"Nag?" I spew out, incredulous. "What choice do I have? I feel like I'm all alone sometimes!"

"What the h.e.l.l does that mean?"

"You know exactly what it means. You're never home! And when you are home, it's always 'tell Robyn this' or 'tell Robyn that'; jees Rob, you could stand to do some disciplining once in a while too."

Suddenly, an ambulance is screaming past us on my right. Irrationally, I think it must be heading for the same destination.

"I feel like a single mother sometimes, that's all," I say, resigned.

Rob grimaces; he huffs out a disgusted breath.

I close my eyes to a vague perception that I smell alcohol on his breath. Or do I? It doesn't matter. I don't want to think about that right now.

Rob shoots me an angry look. "You're a piece of work, you know that? I work my a.s.s off to provide for this family, and what are the thanks I get? Huh?" He jabs his palm into the air in my direction.

I close my eyes letting waves of anger wash over me.

"I work too," I say. A silent, involuntary burp scorches my esophagus. I purse my lips; push my tongue back against my throat.

The Corsica feels as if it's careening out of control along Highway 80 towards the James Lick Skyway.

"That's right, I forgot," he says in a sarcastic voice. "You're the only martyr allowed in this family.

"Take Bryant," I reply, ignoring his taunt. "We can take Seventh Street all the way up to Leavenworth. "O'Farrell's a one-way so you'll only be able to turn right."

I roll my window down halfway as Rob maneuvers the car along Seventh, past Market Street and onto Leavenworth. A froth of chilly San Francisco air chuffs into the car. I inhale deeply, as if the cold air will quash the blistering fire gurging in my abdomen.

"Here's O'Farrell," I say.

My eyes scan every female I see walking the sidewalk or sitting at bus stops along the way, hoping against fruitless hope that I might see my beloved daughter. I spot an address on a storefront.

"We've gone too far," I tell Rob. "We'll have to double back. Make a left up here at Stockton."

Rob steers the car onto Stockton Street and I notice he too, scans any female he sees on the street as he pa.s.ses.

"Another left onto Geary, then Franklin and then left again back on O'Farrell."

"I know that," he snaps, though I have serious doubts about that.

Rob noses the Corsica forward as directed, managing to get stuck behind a large white delivery truck that double parks in front of a Chinese restaurant just as we make our way onto O'Farrell Street.

"Oh Christ," he mutters, jutting around the truck, nearly getting sideswiped by a pa.s.sing black Mercedes. The driver of the Mercedes honks.

"Up yours," Rob growls beneath his breath, flipping his finger in the direction of the departing Mercedes.

The Whore Of Babylon, A Memoir Part 7

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The Whore Of Babylon, A Memoir Part 7 summary

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