"I don't give a damn about your stupid football team," Nita said. "Something strange is going on, and I want to get to the bottom of it."
"So sorry," replied Mary. She grabbed the remote off the coffee table and shut off the TV. "What's the matter? How did you find that book?"
Lewis sat back down on the couch without a word. Something was definitely bothering Nita, and it made him anxious. His head swam from standing and sitting so rapidly—he hadn't had this much to drink since before his nervous breakdown.
"I know you don't want to talk about it, Mary, and I hate to pry," began Nita as she pulled the armchair around the coffee table to face them both. "But, I need you to tell me about your trip to the BMV yesterday. I know there was a guy—or some people, I guess—who got on your nerves. Tell me about them."
"Why?" Mary was annoyed by the question. She hated when Nita got all schoolmarmish on her—especially since she was a year younger than Mary. "What business is it—"
"This is important," Nita interrupted. "Honestly, Mary—I wouldn't ask if it weren't."
"OK, fine—there was some guy in line that kept trying to talk to me. I tried to use that book as a prop—to keep myself looking busy so he'd leave me alone."
"But he didn't."
"No he didn't."
"I don't know … just an average white dude. He had light brown hair—kind of shaggy. He was about average height, a bit overweight, had a little beard under his lip … kind of a 90s throwback."
"Anything else you know about him?"
"Only that he was an idiot. Your stupid book gave him an opening to try and talk to me about aliens and Mayans and the end of the world. Clearly he'd been watching too much History Channel. What the hell is all this about, anyway?"
"I'm pretty sure I saw him tonight. He left this book behind after he and his girlfriend left."
"Yeah—a Russian woman. They were sitting at the table behind me while I was trying to work."
"Russian? Seriously?" Mary's eyes widened. "Kind of tall, with long black hair?"
"Yes," replied Nita. "You know her?"
"Yeah, I think so. Did she look like she belonged in a sporting goods catalog or modeling swimwear or something?"
"Yes, she was very pretty and in very good shape."
"She was behind me in line."
This time it was Nita's eyes that opened wide. She asked, "At the BMV, you mean?"
"Yeah—she tried to butt into the conversation. At first I was glad, because I figured she'd divert this guy's attention away from me."
"It must have worked."
"Well, I left before he did, so maybe he picked her up instead. Except … no."
"No?" Nita arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I … I have a confession to make," stammered Mary. "When I called the BMV they said this guy had been asking about me after I left. He tried to get the clerk to give him my address."
"He didn't do it, though, right?"
"No, she didn't. But she said she saw him leave with a book. She didn't say anything about him leaving with anyone else."
"Maybe she didn't notice?"
"Well maybe not, but, about that—"
"What?" Nita twisted her mouth sideways in annoyance. "Out with it!"
"I thought maybe he would take the book to the library, so I called them."
"So you told me," said Nita. "But?"
"But, well, they told me he had been there with the book."
"What? But he clearly didn't turn it in, or—"
"No, he didn't," Mary interrupted. "The man at the library said that this guy had been there and that he was trying to use the book to track me down—well, you really, but he was tracking you in order to find me."
"So, are you telling me this guy has been stalking me in order to get to you?"
"I guess maybe … except the librarian said he didn't give this guy any information, and that the guy just took off with the book. So I don't know how he would have found you. Or why the Russian woman would be with him …" Mary trailed off.
Lewis sat up, voicing what none of them had dared say up to this point. "He didn't follow you here, did he?"
"No—I don't think so." Nita thought for a moment. "They left before I did. Unless he intentionally left the book for me to pick up? No, that wouldn't make any sense. He would have had to have already known who I am."
And just like that they were all standing. Nita rushed to the back door and looked out into the drive and at the garage. Lewis went to the front window and looked out at the street. Mary headed for the stairs and started looking through all the windows. After a few minutes of no one finding anything suspicious, they met again in the living room.
"You know," said Mary. "As crazy as it seems, your bumping into him might just have been a coincidence."
"I haven't told you the weirdest part yet," said Nita.
"Wait," Lewis asked. "It gets weirder?"
"Yes, Honey," began Nita. "You need to sit down for this part."
"Me? Why me? How does this involve me?"
"Just sit," Nita commanded. "Both of you, sit."
"OK," said Mary as they all sat again. "We're sitting."
"The Russian woman received a call during their conversation. It was from someone she called Gavrilo, and while she was talking to him I heard her whisper a name under her breath as though this Gavrilo was giving her contact information. The name was Celia Wright."
Lewis stood up again. "What? Surely, he couldn't have been—"
"Sit down, Honey." Lewis sat. "And at first I thought the same thing. But then, she mentioned Seattle."
"OK, Nita—" Lewis was starting to freak out. "I'm starting to freak out now," he said.
"Yeah, so did I, a little."
"So, wait," started Mary. "Let me get this straight. This guy and this Russian woman run into me at the BMV. The guy tries to track me down, and then you just happen to meet them at this café, where you hear them discussing Lewis's ex."
"That about sums it up."
"It sounds like they aren't trying to track me at all, then!" Mary stood up again and went for the bottle of Scotch. "It sounds to me like they're probably trying to track you two—or Lewis, anyway. Or maybe his ex-wife?"
"So, it seems."
Lewis was really losing it now. "What the hell? Why would they be tracking me or Celia? This makes no sense!"
"What do you mean," asked Mary, "… why not?"
"Because if they could find Celia, and if they knew anything about me, like who my girlfriend or roommates are, they would already know where to find me, wouldn't they?"
"Yeah," said Nita. "I guess they probably would."
"Then maybe they were just using us to find Celia, " added Mary. "But maybe they found her through a different channel."
"That doesn't make sense, either," replied Lewis. "I mean, it's not like Celia's in hiding, or anything. She wouldn't be that hard to find, if someone wanted to—I mean, I could just—" Lewis pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed his ex-wife's number. A familiar three tones played—followed by the recording announcing that the phone number had been changed and that no forwarding number was available.
"She probably just changed her number," said Nita. "I'm sure she and Izzy are fine."
Lewis was too confused to be completely panicked. "It just … doesn't make any sense," he said. "Why would anyone be tracking Celia? She's a child psychologist for Christ's sake! She's … never been involved in anything criminal."
"Maybe she analyzed the wrong kid?" Mary laughed, then after an angry look from Lewis added,"Sorry. I know I shouldn't joke. It's just that the whole thing seems so ridiculous."
"Yeah—ridiculous and frightening!" Lewis was pacing the floor between the front door and the kitchen now.
"As ridiculous as it seems, though," continued Mary, "it really might just be coincidence. Or maybe you misheard something, Nita?"
"I don't think I did."
"Look." Mary knew she had to be the calm and reasonable one here. "There's nothing to be done now. It's Sunday night. Lewis, why don't you see if you can reach Celia tomorrow. You probably still have some mutual friends you can use to get in touch with her, right?"
"Good," Mary went on. "Let's all just get some sleep … some of us have had a bit more to drink than we should have. I'm sure things will appear more clear in the morning."