Frustrated by his inability to dig up anything of further interest on Betsey Horton, Writer Extraordinaire, Andrew finds himself rapidly falling down a black hole of obsession. He decides to do something a little bit crazy: he hires a private investigator in Washington, D.C. to track down the real story. He specifically asks for information on her ex-boyfriends.
A few weeks later, the P.I. faxes over a copy of his report to the “office” above Bloody Mary’s and asks Andrew to call him back once he’s looked over the contents. Much to Andrew’s frustration, the same information he previously acquired appears. There are records of the schools she attended, the psychiatric hospital she stayed in, a list of places she was employed, and a picture of the house she grew up in. Again, the only thing listed in her legal report are a few minor traffic incidents. Otherwise, there is nothing. Andrew throws the file on his desk and calls up the P.I.
“I told you to find me something of interest!” he snaps.
“Sorry, Mr. Darling, but that’s all there is to find. I tried to get her private doctors to release their files on her visits with them, but they flat-out refused to cooperate with me. They said they can’t give me anything unless she committed a crime. Her last doctor straight-up told me she knew I was calling on behalf of one of Betsey’s batshit crazy ex-boyfriends and wasn’t going to help me. She told me to tell you that Betsey has been through enough and to leave her alone. Then she hung up on me.”
Andrew raises his eyebrow.
“Yikes,” he mutters under his breath. He clears his throat and straightens up again. “What about the other information I asked for? Were you able to figure out who the ex-boyfriends were?”
“It took some time, but yes, I was. So far I’ve found one who is still in the area. The others I’m going to need more time to find.”
“Who is still in the area?”
“The one she calls Merrick. His real name is [redacted]. He lives in [redacted] and works for [redacted]. It was hard to collect more information given the nature of his job and level of security clearance, but I was able to get you a phone number you can call.”
“Give it to me,” Andrew says, grabbing a pen and a piece of paper. He jots down the number, thanks the P.I., and hangs up the phone. He stares at the number for a long time before shoving it in his shorts and going back to down to the bar. It burns a hole in his pocket for several days. Finally, Andrew decides to suck it up and call it. The phone seems to ring for an eternity before someone finally answers it.
“Hi there,” says Andrew. “I’m looking for [redacted].”
“What is this regarding?”
“I’m looking for information on Betsey Horton, Writer Extraordinaire.”
The other end of the phone goes silent. For a moment, Andrew isn’t sure whether or not the other party is still there. Meanwhile, on the other end of the line, the young man hunched over his desk is staring at the phone like he has just seen a ghost. Finally, he speaks.
“Who is this?” he demands. “How did you get this number?”
“She calls me Andrew Darling. I’m calling to speak to the one she calls The Vampire Merrick.”
The young man on the other end of the line goes silent again. He always knew this day would come, but he wasn’t expecting it so soon. He hesitates for a moment while he debates slamming down the phone. Instead, he looks around his office suspiciously and lowers his voice into the phone.
“Listen,” Merrick says seriously. “I can’t talk to you about this here. They’re watching me. I can give you the information you seek on one condition.”
“You fly out to D.C. and meet with me in person.”
“Done!” Andrew exclaims, without even missing a beat. “Give me a time and a place.”
Merrick looks around his office suspiciously again.
“There’s a nightclub called Spellbound on L Street. I can meet you there at 10pm next Saturday night. Tell them my name at the door. Make sure you follow the dress code. It’s very strict.”
Andrew takes a deep breath as he scribbles the information down.
“I’ll be there,” he says.
“I’ll be looking forward to it.”
The end of the line goes dead. Andrew gets on his laptop, looks up the bar, and stares at the webpage in stunned silence.
“Strict dress code, huh?” he mutters, shaking his head.
He promptly buys himself a plane ticket for D.C. with his other credit card, comes up with an excuse to take a last-minute “business trip,” and gets his friend Jaimie to vouch for him. His wife knows he is full of shit, but she keeps her mouth shut and lets him go anyway. She tells herself this is the last time, but the truth is that the money is so good, she’ll just keep on letting it slide.
It is not until later, when she is going through her husband’s other, other email account, that she discovers the real reason for his trip is Betsey Horton, Writer Extraordinaire. Only then does she start to look around The Perfect HGTV Dream Home and ask herself if all of this is really worth it. She could tolerate his occasional dalliances before, but this was something different altogether. This wasn’t another stupid little girl at the bar. This was a full-blown obsession.
When Andrew finally leaves for his trip, she walks around the house in angry silence and fantasizes about watching it burn to the ground.
To be continued…