Rhea had been using paper to take notes ever since she got her first notepad from Strickland when she was sixteen, a terrified kid looking to him for hope on the darkest night of her life.
“…write down anything you remember.” He’d told her as he wrote his phone number on the pad, “Anything at all, then call me. Anytime.”
She wished she could call him now, she thought as she snuck past his apartment. She wished she could call and tell him how sorry she was for letting him down. He’d tell her “You can do better.” She’d try not to cry. He’d put a hand on her shoulder, careful not to hold her close. Then tomorrow they’d carry on, trying to make a dent in the booming business of child exploitation… and still trying to find who kidnapped her sister 22 years ago.
The door to apartment 112 opened.
“Rent was due yesterday, Rhea.” the 60 year old apartment manager wheezed at her.
“I paid you–” she started.
“Seven hundred. You owe nine fifty.” he finished.
She dug into her purse and gave him all the cash she had: eighty four bucks. “I’ll have the rest on Thursday.”
“plus the late fee.”
“Yes, Cubby, I know.”
She opened the door to 114 and went inside. Her studio was tiny. A sofa bed slammed up against the kitchen counter and a little desk in a corner filled the room. She got a beer out of the little half-fridge and opened a bag of Maui onion potato chips. She turned on her old Sony TV to PBS. A Huell Hauser rerun was on. Porto’s Bakery. An entire show about cake. Mango cheesecake. White chocolate raspberry mousse. Kiwi meringue torte. Grand Mariner with chocolate ganache. Lemon curd pound cake. Vanilla custard cake with pineapple filling… every single one reminded her of her sister.