“Here,” the returning detective grunted, tossing the towel across the table.
“Thanks,” Vanessa replied softly. Her handcuffs were attached to the table; reaching the towel was rather awkward and using it even more so. But she was genuinely grateful for his consideration. At least she could wipe her face, even if her clothes and hair were still soaked.
“Ugh.” She shuddered, not wanting to think about it. She’d finally triumphed over Donna, but her victory was as messy as it was spectacular. She was so desperate for a shower that going to prison to get one wasn’t at all unappealing.
And in prison she’d probably be safer from the mob that had gathered in front of the police station. Donna’s legions of fans were out for blood. They’d made it abundantly clear that, given the opportunity, they would make their vengeance painful, brutal, and excruciatingly slow.
In retrospect, that selfie had been a really bad idea.
Vanessa had taken a picture of herself flashing a dazzling smile to the camera while posing cheek to swollen cheek with a frighteningly overinflated Donna. Her face was so puffed up as to be unrecognizable, her skin pulled taut and flushing pink from the pressure she was straining to contain. But for anyone who knew her there was no mistaking Donna’s big beautiful blue eyes. In stark contrast to Vanessa’s elated expression, which betrayed no alarm at the peril of cozying up to a living bomb, Donna’s tearful, wide-eyed look of terror made it clear that she knew all too well how dangerously close she was to bursting.
Vanessa had used Donna’s phone to take the picture, so she was able to post it to the GrandenbergGirlDonna profile along with a message:
That picture went out to over three million followers. When Vanessa last checked, Donna’s newsfeed was host to a torrent of rage. News of Vanessa’s arrest spread quickly and it didn’t take long for protesters to start showing up at the police station. Among them was a group of fans who had arrived with truck full of hydrogen tanks and a flare gun.
Definitely not her best idea.
Detective Crowe turned on the video camera. “We’re recording. We can wait for your attorney to get here, if you’d like.”
Vanessa groaned. “The first thing Bennett’s going to do is tell me to keep my mouth shut. I’m not going to, so waiting for him is a waste of time.”
“You’re sure you want to proceed without the benefit of counsel?”
“I’m sure. We both know how this goes. Regardless of whether I talk, I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison. If I’m lucky.” A faint smile crept onto her lips. “But that doesn’t matter. It’s over. The one thing I have left to do is to make sure that the story is told.”
“Your story? That’s all you care about?”
“The story is all I ever cared about.”
Crowe opened the folder in front of him.
“Belladonna Matthews,” he said slowly.
“Her name — ” After twenty-seven years working for the LVPD, he thought he’d seen it all. But what Vanessa had done to that poor woman left him at a loss for words. There were dry, sterile, legal terms for Vanessa’s crimes, but they all seemed terribly inadequate. “That was her real name. I thought you might want to know.”
“Bullshit. You’re trying to humanize her, hoping to inspire feelings of guilt. But you and I and everyone else knew her as Donna, the Grandenberg Girl. And she was more a blow-up doll than she was a person.”
“But she was a person that you desperately wanted to be. That is why you were obsessed with her, isn’t it?” Crowe asked.
That stung. The flash of anger lingered on Vanessa’s face for a mere moment, but the detective caught it.
“She was a balloon. All balloons eventually shrivel away or burst.” Vanessa shrugged. “I just made the decision for for her.”
“We both know she was far more than that. The crowd outside is proof enough. Donna wasn’t just a person, she was an icon, beloved by millions.”
“Look at all the good it did her. In the end I won and she lost. So go ahead and throw a parade in honor of your icon. Hell, they should make today an official holiday. Every year on March thirty-first they can can dim the lights on the strip to honor Donna’s abrupt and unscheduled retirement. You can call it Donna’s Day. I’ll call it Vanessa’s Victory Day.”
“April first,” Crowe said.
“Today is April first, not March thirty-first.”
“No, that can’t be right. Are you sure?” Despair swept over Vanessa’s face, her voice barely a whimper.
“Yep,” he replied tapping the face of his phone.
“No!” Vanessa screamed, abruptly flying into a rage. “You have got to be shitting me! No, no, no!”
“What’s wrong, Vanessa?”
“What’s wrong? Everything! Everything is wrong! Every! Fucking! Thing!” She jumped to her feet, but quickly met the limits of her restraints. Pulled off balance, she fell back down.
“Whoah there, calm down.”
“Take these cuffs off me,” she said. “You have to let me go.”
“Sit down, Vanessa. That is not going to happen.”
An officer entered the interview room.
“Take those cuffs off her,” he said. “We have to let her go.”
“Wait, what?” Crowe sputtered. “On whose orders?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he replied. “You’ll wanna see this for yourself.”
A tall, blonde, and impossibly curvaceous woman stood waiting for Vanessa as Crowe led her from interview room. She was accompanied by three mountainous men in suits.
“Jiminy Christmas, you’re a mess!” Donna exclaimed. One of the mountains stepped forward and draped a blanket around Vanessa’s shoulders.
“Revenge is a messy business,” Vanessa grumbled, glaring at her nemesis.
“Well, as usual, your business is a bust.”
“So you’re here to mock me?”
“No, I’m here to bring you to Madame Dubois. She’d like to have a few words with you. Okay, and maybe to mock you a little bit.”
“Great. This day just keeps getting better.” Donna’s guards led her out behind the station where a limousine was waiting for them. “At least I didn’t get blown up this time.”
“Day’s not over yet,” Donna said cheerfully.