Wake Up Maggie(11)

By: Beth Yarnall

Had I jumped so quickly into bed with Super Agent to make myself feel sexy and desirable again, or were my feelings for him real? I couldn’t be sure. It was all so tangled and twisted.

A knock at my door startled me. I tossed the magazine I wasn’t reading aside and went to the door. Super Agent looked small and ordinary through the peephole, nothing like he was in reality.

He knocked again. “Maggie. Let me in. I need to talk to you about something.”

I hesitated, my hand hovering over the knob.

“Maggie, please. It’s important.”

I pulled open the door, and we stared at each other for a moment, neither really sure of where we stood or what effort to put forth.

“Can I come in?”

I stepped back and he slid past me into the room, giving me a wide berth. I closed the door but kept my hand on the doorknob.

“That tip from your friend paid off. We think we’ve found the real identity of the senator’s killer.”

He didn’t say her name. I gave him points for that.

“I have a photo I want you to look at.” That was when I noticed the manila envelope he was holding. “It’s a little grainy.” He slid out an eight-by-ten photo and extended it to me.

Hesitant and uncertain, I stepped closer and took the picture from him. Our gazes locked. I could tell he wanted to tell me something. He looked pointedly at the photo. Whatever he had to say would wait.

The image in the photograph was as confusing and unexpected as everything else that had happened to me over the past few weeks. “It’s a man.”

“Look closely.”

I studied the features, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the mole under his right eye. The mole. Bringing it closer, my nose nearly touching it, I went over the features again.

“Oh my god. Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod.” I dropped the photo and backed away from it, wrapping my arms tightly around myself.

Super Agent picked it up and slid it back into the envelope out of my sight. “His name is Thai Dinh, a Vietnamese national. He’s been on our watch list for a couple of years. Professional hits, terrorist activities—you name it, he’s had his hands in it.”

“He had boobs.”

“Those can be faked.”

“They didn’t look strapped on.”

“Were you really studying his boobs that closely?”

He had a point. I’d been more focused on the fact that she…he…whatever had been riding Chuck Puckett than I’d been on whether or not all his parts had been real. A few of the puzzle pieces slid into place, forcing me to look at my life with Chuck Puckett as a whole. I’d been his beard. I’d been arm candy he could parade before voters saying: Accept me. I’m just like you—white, straight and electable.

I was such an idiot.

“Maggie, look at me.”

I tried, but he was all swimmy, blurring in and out.

Next thing I knew he had his arms around me, gathering me against him. “I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this. He was an asshole to do this to you.”

“No, he wasn’t. He just couldn’t be who he really was.”

And that was the thing. I didn’t blame Chuck Puckett. I didn’t hate him. I couldn’t even muster a fraction of the anger I’d felt for him. He was the tragic figure here, not me. I felt sorry for him. Society had made him who he was. We’d dictated his life for him. He could have the only thing he ever wanted if he broke off a chunk of himself and lived with that gaping wound. He’d only ever wanted to serve. To do right. But he’d gone about it all wrong.

And I had to look at my part in all this. I’d wanted the illusion. I’d helped perpetuate it, ignoring the small voice at the back of my brain that told me something was rotten in Boyfriendville. All the parties, the glamour and status of being a senator’s girlfriend, I’d wanted it, encouraged it. I was just as culpable as anyone else.

I wasn’t crying for myself. I was crying for him. Finally grieving the loss of the man I knew and the man I wished I’d known.

“Do you think I could see his grave?” I asked.

“If you want.”

I nodded. I’d missed his funeral and my chance to say goodbye to one of the best friends I’d ever had. I couldn’t let him rest until I told him how very much I’d loved him. And how very, very sorry I was.