(Another Byrne story I wrote for fun. Comments and free editorial suggestions welcome.)
Hoboken used to be a tough town filled with stevedores and working stiffs until a wave of New York real estate fetishists crossed the Hudson back in the 90’s and turned it into an oblast of Manhattan. As I walked down Washington Street and looked at the expensively dressed yuppies darting in and out of the fusion restaurants and trendy boutiques, I shook my head. It was like the town wasn’t even part of New Jersey anymore.
I found Brent Yeomans’ brownstone on 11th Street and rang the doorbell. Before the chimes faded the door swung open to reveal a thin man with thinning hair. About forty, his oval face was overwhelmed by a pair of thick black spectacles and he was wearing tight fitting chinos and a flannel shirt. I knew that was the look the young hipsters were cultivating that year, but this guy was too old to be one of them.
“Mr. Yeomans?” I asked. “I’m Pat Byrne.”
“Oh yes, Mr. Byrne,” he said. “Won’t you please come in?”
I entered the foyer where a large staircase took up half of the hallway. At one time the brownstone had probably been a tenement chopped up into three or four apartments. Now it was obviously a million dollar home for one guy. Yeomans led me into a parlor with a view of the street and pointed to an antique looking chair that looked too small to withstand my 6’2, two hundred pound frame, but I gave it a try anyway.
“Would you like anything, Mr. Byrne?” Yeomans said. “Water? Coffee?”
“I’m fine, Mr.Yeomans,” I said. “What can I do for you today?”
“I want you to find someone. A young woman.”
As I shifted in my uncomfortable chair, Yeomans told me he was rebounding from a recent divorce when had fallen head over heels for a 28-year-old girl named Melissa Stuart from the Upper East Side. According to him it was love at first sight but, after five months of hot sheet bliss, she had suddenly stopped taking his calls and had not shown up to her job for over a week.
“I’m worried sick,” Yeomans said. “I want you to find her.”
“Did you call the police?”
“No,” he said. “I didn’t want to embarrass her if this was all a misunderstanding. I thought that someone like you, something more discreet, was called for.”
“New York is not my usual beat,” I said. “It’s a lot of tolls, gas and aggravation. It’ll cost you.”
“What do you charge?”
“A thousand dollars a day, plus expenses. The expenses will be high.”
Yeomans waved his hands. “That’s no problem.”
I don’t know about you, but a thousand dollars is a lot of money for a guy like me. Judging from Yeomans’ digs however, to him it was probably comparative to buying a Happy Meal.
“I trust you will need a retainer,” he said. “Will five thousand be enough to start?
“When can you start?”
“How long do you think it will take to find her?”
I shrugged. “That depends on a lot of things, usually I can find people quickly.”
“Good,” Yeomans said, “Just wait here a moment.” Then he walked out of the parlor. When he returned he was holding a check and a manila envelope.
“This is your retainer,” he said. “And this envelope contains everything I know about Melissa: her picture, address, cell phone numbers and a few other things that might be important.” I took them.
“Do you have any thoughts as to why she disappeared?” I asked.
“She have any enemies that you know of? Someone that would want to hurt her?”
“None. Everybody likes Melissa,” Yeomans said. “She’s quite charming.”
I nodded. “How were things going between you two, before this?”
“She was withdrawing a little,” Yeomans said. “Asking for more ‘girl time’ and stuff like that. We had been going hot and heavy so I thought her need for space was normal, that our relationship was settling into a new phase.”
“No warnings that there might be trouble between you two?”
“None at all,” Yeomans said. “She said she loved being with me.”
Yeomans hadn’t called me because he feared something bad had happened to his girlfriend. If that were the case he would’ve called the cops. The only calamity he really feared was that he was in love with someone who didn’t love him.
“I hate to say this,” I said. “Is it possible she’s seeing another guy?”
Yeomans’ face crumpled. “That would kill me.”
I almost felt sorry for Yeomans because I recognized the look wrecking his face. He was at the age when men discover time is taking their youth and all the possibilities that go with it. Being with Melissa probably made him forget that. Youth is the drug of choice for many middle-aged men. Ah, the midlife crisis. I had one once, but that was because someone stabbed me.
“But if she’s seeing another guy,” Yeoman said, quietly. “Then yes. I want to know.”
“When you find her, call me immediately and tell me where she is.”
I shook my head. “I can’t do that.”
“We used to find lost loves and then tell the clients where they were,” I said. “Problem was, some of the clients occasionally killed them. So we had to change the rules.”
“I’ll give you more money.”
“No can do.”
“I can hire another detective.”
“And he’ll tell you the same thing. He won’t risk his license.”
Yeomans slumped into his seat. “Very well then,” he said. “Just find her as fast as you can.”
Leaving my client looking dejected in his designer duds, I retrieved my illegally parked car and drove back to my office.
Three days later I was walking through Midtown Manhattan towards the Carondelet Hotel. A hard rain was falling and I was enjoying it. I’ve always liked the rain; the smell of it, the sound of it, the feel of it on my skin. When I was a boy I used to imagine the sky was laundering the world. Now I was forty-four and knew the rain had an impossible job.
“Working, Byrne?” Hanley, the Carondelet’s burly doormen asked as he swung open the lobby door.
“Always,” I said, pressing a twenty into Hanley’s palm. “And you never saw me here.”
Hanley slipped the bill into the front pocket of his red uniform coat and nictitated an oblivious sheen over his blue eyes. “Welcome to the Carondelet, sir. Enjoy your stay.”
I’m not much of a New York person, but I liked the Carondelet and had entertained a few women here in my time. Walking across the lobby’s diamond patterned parquet floor, I took a moment to admire the old hotel’s magnificent Art Deco decor. The centerpiece of the lobby was a circular white confidante sofa flanked by two low-slung red leather couches. Chairs with stainless steel frames wrought to suggest rapid flight were carefully scattered about, subtly gleaming in the subdued light from the silver pedestal lamps and wall sconces artfully placed thoughout the lobby. I half expected people from the Thirties to suddenly materialize – women in long silver dresses waving around cigarette holders and talking to fedora capped men in a fast and witty patter that only happened in that era’s black and white movies. No one ever really talked like Nick and Nora Charles, but they should have.
On the right side of the lobby was a glass block wall with a revolving door that led to the hotel’s quiet and elegant bar. If you asked one of the white coated barman behind the zinc topped counter to make you a Gibson, he’d pour it with Zen like precision into a frosted martini glass and top it with three fat cocktail onions on a stainless steel cocktail skewer. Classy. I had to remind myself I was working and not to get one of those alcoholic snacks. If I did they’d turn into two or three and then my day would be shot. So I forced myself to walk over to one of the red couches where a thin Indian man was fiddling with an iPad.
“How’s it going, Sarad?” I asked, sitting next to him.
“Very well, Patrick,” Sarad Rajani said in a British accent so elegant that, if your eyes were closed, you’d think he was a white Oxford don. Fine featured and wearing an elegant blue Saville Row suit, you’d be hard pressed to believe that he had been a London police inspector for almost twenty years. Now he owned a private outfit that I sometimes called when one man wasn’t enough for a surveillance job in the city. “And how’s life in New Jersey?”
“The Turnpike still smells. So where is she?”
“Up in her room,” Sarad said, adjusting the razor crease of wool trousers. “She had lunch in the bar but went nowhere else.”
“One gentleman,” Sarad said, his mouth pursing in distaste. “At one o’clock. He left half an hour ago.”
I looked at my watch. It was now six. “Nothing like an afternoon romp.”
It took me all of two hours to find Melissa Stuart. For the price of rink side seats to a Ranger’s game, a guy I knew illegally pinged her cell phone and tracked her to the Carondelet. After a murderously congested drive through the Lincoln Tunnel and some well-placed bribes to Hanley and the front desk clerk, I had Melissa’s room number and a copy of her bill.
Contrary to what you see in the movies, it’s not easy to keep tabs on a guest in the fortresses high-end hotels have become. They are swathed in security cameras, you need a computerized key card to get anywhere and, if you spend too much time loitering in the lobby, a burly guy with a nameplate reading “Guest Services” will eventually have a chat with you. So I called Sarad and ordered a surveillance package. His firm consisted entirely of Indians and Bangladeshis who, posing as busboys, waiters, or housekeeping staff, could move about the hotel practically unnoticed. From the sounds of sexual congress coming out of Melissa’s room, Sarad’s men had determined she had entertained three different lovers in as many days.
I grinned at Sarad. “So why are you here? I’d thought one of your boys would be doing the grunt work.”
“Today’s man had to fly to Delhi for his father’s funeral,” Sarad said. “So I took his place. I do like to keep in practice.”
“Security didn’t hassle you?”
Sarad gave me a thin Brahmin smile. “I am rich. I look like I belong here.”
I nodded. “So do you have what I need?”
Sarad handed me an envelope. “That’s the master key card,” he said. “It will let you take the elevator up to her floor and open her door, but just for today.”
“How do you get your hands on this kind of stuff?”
Sarad shook his head. “I have to keep my secrets, old boy. I am sure you understand.”
“Sure,” I said, getting up. “Besides, I won’t be needing your people anymore, I’m going up to talk to her now.”
‘What will you tell her?”
“The hell if I know.”
“Did you tell your client about his paramour’s assignations?”
“Yeah. This morning.”
“How did he take it?”
“Love is a many splendored thing,” Sarad said, dryly. “I shall send you my bill on Monday.”
Sarad’s bill would be obscene, but hell, I wasn’t paying it. So I shook his hand, got on one of the elevators, inserted my fraudulent key, and then hit the button for the twenty-first floor. As the elevator pressed against my feet, I thought about my telephone call with Yeomans that morning. After his keening sobs had subsided, he had said,
“You still won’t tell me where she is?”
“I told you I couldn’t. I’m at my office now, but I can go see her this evening. What do you want me to tell her?
“Tell her that I forgive her,” Yeomans said. “That I love her and I want to be with her. I don’t care about the other men.”
When the elevator car reached its destination, I decided that the odds of Melissa running back into my client’s arms was about one in a hundred. But I was being well paid to try for that one percent. When I got to her room, I decided to be old fashioned and knocked.
‘Who is it?” a female voice said from behind the door.
“Ms. Stuart,” I said. ‘My name’s Patrick Byrne. I’m a private investigator. Brent Yeomans sent me to find you.”
I took a deep breath and fingered the key card in my pocket. I decided not to use it. For some reason, I had decided to take a gentler approach. “Listen,” I said. “Brent isn’t here and I’m not going to tell him where you are. I just want to talk to you.”
“I’m going to call security.”
“Ms. Stuart, it took me two hours to find you. I can find you again. Eventually you’ll have to talk to me. So why don’t you open the door and we can discuss the situation like adults. If you want hotel security to be here while I talk to you, be my guest.”
“Do you have any ID?” the voice asked. I took out my license and held it up to the peephole. After a few seconds I heard the safety lock click back and the door opened.
Melissa was a tall, athletic looking girl with long chestnut brown hair that fell to her shoulders. Wearing jeans and a man’s dress shirt, her face was blessed with high cheekbones, a perfect nose and generous lips. She had looked a bit stiff in pictures Yeomans had given me, but in the flesh her face was animated with an aura of sexual possibility that she couldn’t have turned off if she tried. Now I had some idea of what my client was going though.
“Come in,” she said. “We might as well get this over with.”
Melissa was staying in a suite that must have cost a cool six hundred dollars a night. As I walked into the elegantly appointed living room I looked around. Off to the right was a French door that led to the bedroom. It was half open and I could see the bed sheets were in a heap on the floor.
“Say what you have to say,” Melissa said, looking fairly nonplused that a strange man was in her room.
“Not much to say,” I said. “Brent says you went missing and he hired me to find you. He’s very worried.”
Melissa sat down on a divan and stretched out her long legs. She was barefoot and I could see her toenails were covered with clear polish. “Brent’s being melodramatic,” she said. “I just needed a break from everything so I took a little vacation.”
If it weren’t raining so hard, the windows in Melissa’s room would have had a commanding view of Midtown. In the distance the Empire State Building looked like it was having an unaccustomed bout of modesty, draping itself in swirls of fog.
“Well, you’re certainly vacationing in style,” I said. “This place is very expensive.”
Melissa smiled. “I can afford it. So what does Brent want?”
“This is the part where I tell you that Yeomans says he loves you. That he wants you back and that he will forgive you for seeing other people.”
Melissa’s brow furrowed. “Other people?”
“You’ve entertained three different men in this room over three days.”
Her eyes widened. “How do you know that?”
“Not to sound clichéd, but it’s my job to know.”
“’Did you take pictures or something?”
“No,” I said. “Nothing crazy. But it doesn’t take much to put two and two together.”
Melissa didn’t say anything. I stood there and waited, listening to the rain as it shattered against the windows.
“Brent’s pretty broken up about this,” I said, breaking the silence. “My job is just to ask you to talk to him.”
Melissa shook her head. “I’ve decided not to see Brent anymore. You can tell him that.”
I shifted my weight from my left foot to my right. I would’ve sat down, but it’s nice to be invited. “I know this stuff is hard,” I said. “But that’s something you should tell him in person.”
Melissa brushed back a lock of her hair. “You don’t know Brent. He’s very possessive.”
“Are you afraid of him?”
“No,” she said. “But he’ll make a scene and I don’t need that stuff in my life right now. He’s very needy – to the point of being overwhelming. Just tell him that it’s over.”
I produced a business card from my wallet and handed it to her. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll give him that message. But if you decide you want to talk to him, I can be there with you. Just call me.”
I began to turn and head for the door. “I’ll be going now.”
“Would you like a drink, Mr. Byrne?” Melissa said, suddenly. “You seem like a nice man and I could use one right now.” I didn’t know if she was talking about booze or me.
“Sure,” I said, thinking a drink might lower her inhibitions enough to talk to my client.
“Let me just freshen up.”
When Melissa emerged from the bedroom her face was expertly made up and she was wearing a low cut cashmere sweater and a black leather jacket. Still wearing her tight designer jeans, in her high heels she was almost my height. “Shall we go?” she asked cheerily.
After a silent elevator ride we walked into the Carondelet’s bar and asked to sit in one of the green leather booths. The waiter glided over and Melissa ordered a Basil Hayden on the rocks and I asked for a Gibson made with Plymouth Gin. When the drinks came I saw the fat onions in my martini glass and smiled.
“What shall we drink to?” Melissa said.
“To private eyes,” she said. “I’ve never met one before.” After we clinked glasses I sipped my drink. It was strong and cold. I love a good martini.
Melissa’s lips drew into a coy smile and I felt her leg brush up against mine.
“So how does one become a private eye?” she asked.
“Most of us are ex-cops who don’t know how to do anything else.”
“You were a policeman?”
“Across the river in Newark. Fifteen years.”
“I’ve never been to Newark,” she said. “Only the airport.”
I shrugged. “You’re not missing much.”
Melissa leaned towards me, making sure I had a clear line of sight into her cleavage. “Is your work dangerous?” she asked. I decided flirting was probably automatic for her.
“Occasionally,” I said, “But not often.”
“Are you carrying a gun?”
“Can I see it?”
“Some other time.”
“Most of the men in this town are wimps,” Melissa said. “You know, those sensitive evolved PC types with man bags. They’d pass out at the sight of a gun. You’re the tougher sort. I can tell.”
I shrugged again. “So what was Brent like?” I said. “Other than being possessive?”
“He was fun for a while,” she said. “But then he wanted something more. For me he was just a fling.”
“Did you tell him that?” I said. “Let him know what the deal was?”
“No. I thought he’d figure that out on his own.”
“By your withdrawing from him?”
“Yeah. He didn’t get the point.” Melissa tilted back her drink and finished it with two long swallows. The waiter silently reappeared.
“Do you want another?” Melissa asked, pointing to my still full glass.
“I’m gonna nurse mine for a while, thanks.”
The waiter returned with Melissa’s drink and two minutes later it was half gone, causing an alcoholic flush to color her cheeks.
“You know,” she said. “Brent should’ve known I was seeing other people. I never told him we were exclusive.”
I gently revolved my martini glass. “Some people think that the act of sex makes the relationship exclusive.”
“Not me,” Melissa said, talking into her drink. “I like sex too much.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” I said. “I just think you need to be having this conversation with Brent. He needs to move on.”
Melissa waved her hand dismissively. “Listen, I know this sounds immodest, but I’m a hot girl. And this city is filled with thousands of men, thousands of choices. Brent didn’t measure up.”
“So, you’re holding out for a supermodel?”
Melissa flashed me a perfect smile. “Yes! Why should I settle? I don’t have time to coddle losers like Brent.”
“Must be tough to find someone when there are so many choices out there,” I said.
Melissa took a long pull on her drink. “I never have trouble finding a man. The problem is they all have a tendency to fall in love with me. You know, I could have been married ten times over by now, but I’ve never been in love with any of them. Not once. I don’t have the romantic gene.”
“So what do you want?”
“To be an object of a man’s desire,” Melissa said, brightening. “When a guy will do anything to have you, to be the center of his world, it’s intoxicating. I love that feeling.”
“That’s usually how relationships start out,” I said. “But that kind of passion can’t last forever.”
“Yes,” she said. “And that’s the problem. I’ve done the whole living together thing. Ugh. The sex got awful.”
The waiter came and placed another bourbon on the table. I had the feeling the waiter was well acquainted with Melissa’s level of alcohol consumption.
“So you like that initial rush,” I said.
“Hell yes,” Melissa said. “You know what it’s like. You’re banging each other all the time, in restaurants, nightclubs, even alleys. I love it when a guy can’t keep his hands off me, when he fucks me from behind and pulls my hair. When they’re pumping me they think they’re possessing me, but it’s really me possessing them.”
Then Melissa giggled. “Did I just shock you?” I shook my head.
“I bet I did. Do you think I’m a slut?”
“Slut’s a very subjective term,” I said. “Means different things to different people.”
“And what, pray tell, what is your definition?” Melissa was drunk now.
“People who treat their sexual partners with craven disregard to their feelings.”
“Craven,” Melissa said, rolling the word on her tongue. “Is that what I am?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s been my experience that women just cover up their brutality a little differently.” Melissa’s reply was to suck on her drink.
“Are you going to tell Brent about the other men?” she said, after putting her glass down.
Melissa leaned back in her chair. “You know how most of my affairs end?” she said. “It usually ends with them saying, ‘I never want to see your face again.’ It’s always an awful scene. Brent will feel the same way and that’s good. Anger helps guys get over me.”
“When men say they never want to see your face again,” I said. “Part of you must like that too.”
Melissa blinked at me in surprise. “Well hello there, Sigmund Freud.”
I spread my hands. “If you do a thing over and over again, even if it’s unpleasant, it’s a good bet you’re getting something out of it.”
“You know what that thing is?”
Melissa’s leg started rubbing provocatively against mine. “You know what I think? I think you’re one of those guys who likes to play therapist. Get into a girl’s head, make her spill her guts and then screw her.”
“I’d be a lousy therapist,” I said. “But I’ve been around long enough to know that human beings fall into predictable patterns. And when people secretly hate themselves, they’ll look for someone to punish them.”
An almost feral carnality sprang into Melissa’s eyes. “Is that what you want to do, punish me?”
“Yeah you do,” she said. “You think I need to be put in my place. You know what? I want you try.” I had gotten under Melissa’s skin and now she was trying to reassert herself the only way she knew how. This, too, was predictable.
“I wish you had filmed me banging those guys in my room,” she said. “You’d see how good I am at it. Try and break me. I dare you.”
I said nothing and watched as the condensation ran down the stem of my martini glass.
“I’ll be the fuck of your middle aged life,” Melissa said. “Face it, when are you ever going to have a shot at a girl like me again?”
“I’ll take a pass.”
Her lustful gaze didn’t waver. “No one has ever turned me down and you won’t either. C’mon. Let’s go upstairs.”
I had seen enough women like Melissa to know how she’d end up. The prudent move would’ve been to say nothing, pay for the drinks and leave. But Melissa lived in an echo chamber filled with the voices of men who always wanted something from her. I might be the only person who’d ever tell her the hard truth.
“I don’t have sex with cripples,” I said. “You’re narcissistic, sex addicted and probably an alcoholic to boot. And I’m going to tell Brent he’s dodged the biggest bullet of his life.”
Melissa rocked back in her chair like she had been punched.
“This is how it’s going to go for you, honey,’ I continued, “You’re cute now, but eventually your looks will start to fade. Men won’t throw themselves at you like they’re doing now. Then, by the time you hit forty or so, you’ll panic and marry some guy so you won’t end up alone. But most of the good guys will be gone and those that are left will see that you’re damaged goods. So you’ll have to settle for someone who’s just as damaged as you. And he will hurt you.”
“So you’ve got me all figured out then?” Melissa said, her eyes brimming with anger. “Huh, Sigmund?”
“Get some help Melissa. Turn your life around.”
Melissa’s seductive façade cracked and a riot of expressions began to roil her face. I watched as a tear rolled off her cheek and disappeared into the blackness of her sweater. “You think I’m a wreck don’t you?” she said, sounding small. “A friend of mine thinks like you do. She told me that every time you sleep with someone, a little part of you dies.”
“If you think sex is about dying,” I said. “Then you have a problem.”
Melissa laughed crazily. “You may be right,” she said. “But if it’s true then I’m not long for this world.” Then she finished her third bourbon and her composure reappeared as quickly as it had left.
“Well, this had been real,” she said. “But I’ve got to go. You’ll pick up the tab?
“Sure. Brent is paying for it.”
Melissa got up and put on her coat. “I think I’m right about you,” she said. “You like getting into people’s heads so you can feel superior. Probably the only way you can hide from the fact you’re a loser.” Obviously, I didn’t agree.
“You know where I’m going now?” she said, “I’m going to meet a guy for dinner at Café Boulud and fuck his brains out afterwards. And when I’m done I will have forgotten all about you.” Then she turned on her heel and left.
Several men turned to watch Melissa’s backside as she walked out of the bar. Despite what I knew about her, it was hard to blame them. Then, just as I signaled the waiter for the check, two gunshots shattered the bar’s quiet elegance. Before I understood what was happening I was suddenly in the lobby, pointing my Glock at Brent Yeomans’ head.
Melissa was sprawled against the lobby’s circular sofa, clutching her throat as blood sprayed from between her fingers and onto the lobby’s parquet floor. The look on her face was the one everyone has when they’re shot – utter surprise. Yeomans was standing above her, smiling stupidly and holding a large stainless steel revolver that looked too big for his small hand. Then Melissa began to emit a liquid and terrible groan.
“Drop it Yeomans!” I said, adjusting my aim. “Drop it!”
Yeomans turned and looked at me. For a moment I thought he was going to say something. But he just grinned, stuck the revolver’s muzzle under his chin and blew his brains out.
At six the next morning I was in Sarad’s car heading back to New Jersey. After a night spent in windowless rooms talking with homicide dicks and assistant DAs, I was wiped out.
“Nothing you could have done, old man,” Sarad said. “They picked you up at your office and followed you using six cars – using radios and running parallels. Even I would not have been able to pick up a tail like that. They were very good.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better,” I said.
Sarad sighed. “I know the owner of the firm. He is very upset that his outfit was used to facilitate a murder-suicide. But he should have known something was queer about the whole thing. Who orders a rush surveillance job for twenty-thousand dollars?”
“Crazy people,” I said. “That’s who.”
“It will be in all the papers,” Sarad said. “It will be bad for him. For you too.”
As we drove though the rain down Route 3, I stared out the window of Sarad’s Mercedes and watched the thunderclouds boiling high above MetLife stadium. It was a dreary start to a new day, one that Melissa would never get to see.
“I must be slipping,” I said. “I should have known that Yeomans was unstable.”
“You took the usual precautions,” Sarad said. “You can’t help that he hired people follow you.”
“And now a twenty-eight year old woman is dead. A girl.”
Sarad’s manicured hands glided across the steering wheel as he drove onto the exit for my town. “From what you told me, she was living a dangerous life,” he said. “If it was not Yeomans, it would have been someone else eventually.”
“Sleeping around doesn’t merit a death sentence.”
“No, it does not,” Sarad said. “But it means a person will eventually run into the wrong sort of person. And in this girl’s case, she ran into the worst possible kind.”
I remembered how I told Melissa that someone would hurt her, though I never figured it would be so soon, or so total. I also felt bad that some of the last words she heard were less than kind. No one deserves that.
We pulled up to my building. I began to get out of the car and then stopped.
“Just before she got shot,” I said, “Melissa told me something she once heard, ‘Every time you sleep with someone, a little part of you dies.’ What do you think about that?”
Sarad sighed. “That has not been my experience, Patrick. But for broken people it may indeed be the truth. In their case promiscuity is a form of suicide.”
I said goodbye to Sarad and walked through the driving rain towards my apartment. As I wearily started up the stairway, I saw Melissa’s blood on my shirtsleeve and stopped to stare at it. It had dried hours ago, but now the rain was washing it off, dripping crimson reminders of her onto the ground.