I was on my way to L.A.
With me was a list of names provided by Russell Baker. On the list were three names: Caesar Marquez's trainer, cut-man and manager, all three of which would have been in Caesar's locker room prior to the fight. And prior was key here.
After all, something had happened to Caesar before the fight, something that had directly led to his death. What it was remained to be seen.
As I followed behind an endless sea of red brake lights, my cell rang for perhaps the dozenth time that day. And for the dozenth time that day, I saw that it was Kingsley Fulcrum. This time, as the phone rang, a text message appeared. Virtually simultaneously. I guess the big oaf could multi-task.
The text message read: Sam, please pick up.
I thought about ignoring him again, until I realized the hairy bastard would just keep calling me...and since I wasn't in any kind of mood to see him face to face, I thought I might as well hear what he had to say.
The phone rang again and, when it was about to go to voicemail, I picked up.
"It's your dime," I said flippantly.
"Oh, Sam! I was just about to hang up."
"That was valuable information to have. Thank you for sharing."
"Don't be this way, Sam."
"What way?" I asked. "Hurt? Betrayed? How would you suggest I be instead, Kingsley? Ecstatic that a man I was falling in love with fucked another woman?"
"Sam, we need to talk."
"Not like this. Not over the phone."
"Perhaps in your bed where you fucked her?"
I waited. I had broken out in a sweat. Many of my human functions had stopped altogether, but sweating was not one of them. I sweated with the best of them, especially in a warm minivan on a long drive to L.A., and dealing with this.
I shook my head, swearing silently. Kingsley and I had been dating over eight months now. I had just started feeling the love again. Had just started letting him in, had just started getting over the pain of my cheating ex.
"Sam," he tried again. "How did you know?"
"Does it matter?"
He must have thought hard about that because he paused good and long. "No. I guess not."
But I knew it was eating at him. Good.
We were silent some more. Traffic on the 5 Freeway was sick. It was midday and I had already made plans for Mary Lou to pick up the kids. I had made special plans to be with Tammy tonight. So had Mary Lou. We were going to have a girl's night out, so to speak. No boys allowed.
"Who was she?" I asked.
"I don't honestly know."
"What do you mean?"
"She just...appeared in the office. Wanted to make an appointment. Flirted with me endlessly. Caught me as I was leaving work for the day. Walked with me out to my car. Laughed at everything I said. Touched me, asked me questions. Then asked if I wanted to get a drink with her."
"And you said yes."
"Yes," said Kingsley. "I did."
"You didn't have to say yes."
"I know, Sam."
"But you did."
There was a lot of silence on his end. I could hear him breathing, each breath pouring over the receiver as if he were in a sporadic windstorm.
"I don't know why, Sam."
"Yes you do. Why?"
"She gave me a lot of attention."
"Lots of women give you attention."
"She was different."
"Prettier than me."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to. So at what point did you fuck her?"
"Sam, how do you know this? Did you plant her?"
And that's when I hung up on him, nearly crushing my cell phone in the process. He cheats on me...and turns it around? The fucker. The piece of shit.
And as I drove into the afternoon sun, feeling eternally exhausted and too hurt for tears, I realized that Kingsley had been partially right.
He had been set up. Just not by me.