“They aren’t all like that,” Nikki sighed. “Some of them are more interesting, and you know it. You’ve just got to show them the brilliant gal that I know and occasionally have kinky sex with.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Kristina said. “I am pretty brilliant, and not all murders are straightforward. I want to do something that interests me, you know? I want to do something I’m good at. I want to get my doctorate. I want to be able to run my own museum. I want to have my life mean something, be something, you know?”
“I do,” she replied. “That’s why I’m a coroner. I get to help figure out whodunit, just like you want to. Really, how many mysteries can you get into running a museum?”
“Probably not as many as if I worked as a homicide detective,” Kristina admitted. “But I’ll talk to your chief about it later, if I want. I really can’t handle TAing, studying for my doctorate, and applying for a new job, all at the same time. Plus, isn’t detective work kind of a career thing that you have to put in several years as a cop first to get? I’m more about committing or enabling petty crime than stopping it. Can you imagine me as a police woman?”
“Are you trying to turn me on?” Nikki said with a grin. “You could get a pair of handcuffs, read me my rights, and then violate the hell out of them, and preferably me as well.”
“Is sex all you can think about?”
“No, sometimes I think about BDSM,” Nikki quipped. “And I think sometimes, you do too.”
“Maybe more than sometimes,” Kristina said. “Maybe a lot of times.” Nikki grabbed Kristina by the wrists and pinned them to her pillow. She crashed her mouth into Kristina’s and positioned herself on top of the other woman. Kristina suppressed a moan and wedged her foot against Nikki’s chest, kicking her off. Nikki fell backwards off the bed, which had no footboard, as she pulled Kristina with her. Kristina wrenched her wrists out of Nikki’s hands and grabbed her by the neck, crashing their mouths together again into a violent kiss. She rolled out of the bed and onto the floor, grabbing a pair of mostly clean jeans off the rug in front of the dresser. She tugged them on over her legs and buttoned them up before yanking the middle drawer open and grabbing a shirt. It was a dark maroon T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of some store whose name eluded Kristina, and it went rather nicely with the jeans, as far as Kristina knew about any of that stuff.
“You’re no fun,” Nikki moped as Kristina pulled the shirt over her head. “But I hope you enjoy yourself tonight.”
“Thanks,” Kristina replied as she smoothed out the wrinkles in the shirt as she grabbed her coat off the floor, closer to the exit. “I’ll probably be back around two AM. I can drive there myself. I’ll drive home too. I don’t plan on getting too crazy. I do have about twenty more papers to grade before Monday.” And with that, Kristina marched out the door to go out to the bars for the first time in months.
Kristina had never been out to the Dingy Den before. She’d heard of it – mostly because it would be impossible not to – and she’d always wanted to go, but all the other times, she’d come up with so many good excuses:
As she walked down the brightly lit street on the way to the bar, her hands curled around her keys. She didn’t expect to need a weapon, but in Morhurst, you never knew what to expect, and it was always good to be prepared. She took her hands out of the pockets of her peacoat, holding her car key between her pointer and middle fingers, again, just in case.
It was mid-November in Western New York, and the peacoat was essential at this point. Buffalo had gotten slammed with snow not a few days earlier, and if Buffalo was getting snow, Devlin couldn’t be too far behind. They’d already gotten a light dusting this month, but nothing that stayed. Still, it was an ill omen, and Kristina had lived in Devlin since she enrolled there at eighteen, almost a decade ago, so she knew what to expect by this point.
The Dingy Den looked pretty close to what she expected from Morhurst. It was a sturdy old building built of brick, nestled in between two others practically identical to it. The door was heavy and made of old oak, and the windows were made of some pretty impressively thick-looking glass. The sign was newly painted, and the words were scrawled on it in swirling blue letters on a black background. It had a very ethereal feel to it, which was weird for a bar.
At the door, Kristina produced her driver’s license for the bouncer, one of those gym rats who looked like they could bench press a car if they wanted. He took it, looked at the not-so-recent picture of the innocent sixteen-year-old girl with mousy brown hair and braces, and took a look at Kristina. She ran a hand through her pink hair and sighed, trying to cover her exasperation.
“I haven’t bothered to update my driver’s license photo in a long ass time,” she clarified. “It’s me though, I promise. I can show you my Devlin ID if you need more proof.”
“No, this should be okay,” he said, and handed her license back to her. “You’re not driving home right?”
“No, I’m meeting someone inside whose driving later,” she lied, and took her license back. “I’m pretty responsible.” That part, on the other hand, was probably true, or at least as true as a statement like that could be.
“Have fun,” he said, and waved her inside. The inside was decked out with old-fashioned LPs all over the walls, signed and hastily scribbled by various artists. Kristina doubted the authenticity of most of them, especially the most prominent one, the White Album, which hung above the bar. It was supposedly signed by all four Beatles, but Kristina didn’t believe for a second that a one of them had ventured into Devlin, not even for gas, but it was an amusing visual, so mission accomplished, she supposed.
The walls were also made of brick, and all along them were corkboards peppered with flyers, business cards, lost cat posters, and the like.