Jessica eventually made it to Montreal, just a few days late. After spending a couple nights on my couch, she was looking forward to spending a few more days on Louisa's bed.
I was kind of surprised to hear Louisa talking about going to Montreal, but soon after I last saw her, the folks she was working for as a researcher had to make some tough decisions about how to allocate their visa sponsorships, and "Marie" was the odd one out. She did a good enough job that Parker's boss put in a good word for her with some people in Vancouver, but she didn't like it there. She put in a call to Jean-Michel, found out that André Trudeau had a new girl half his age and wasn't particularly concerned about Marie Desjardins any more. The coast being clear, she moved back to Montreal, and with recommendations from both Hollywood and Vancouver, was soon doing similar work there.
I imagine Jess and Louisa were happy to see each other; they became close on their road trip - I don't think Jessica would be nearly as open as she is now without Louisa. Jess was heading up north to do tourist stuff, so I was a little surprised when I saw her name pop up on my IM friends list, especially she immediately sent me a message: "Talk to Ashlyn. Now."
I texted back, saying I wasn't ready, and she said she didn't care. She sent me a couple of links to stories in the local papers, and said that being in a newspaper office myself, I could probably find more, and Lyn needed to know. As soon as I saw the first story, I knew she was right.
Jean-Michel Therriot is set to be tried for murder in late September.
Jean-Michel Therriot, for those who haven't been following the blog since the beginning, used to be Ashlyn Shelley, before she and Elizabeth Lee took a trip to the Trading Post Inn and... Well, it's all in the archives. We always knew he was involved in some shady things up up there - that's why the original Jean-Michel Therriot and Marie Desjardins were so hard to find, they opted to keep a very low profile lest some of their old lives came back to find them. Lyn used to keep in closer touch with him, but he's wrapped up in a lot of bad stuff - local mob boss André Trudeau on the one hand, Pygmalion on the other. Even if Lyn hadn't severed her ties with Pygmalion as much as we'd thought, she was staying away from that more.
I admit, I was still mad enough at Lyn that I didn't just drop everything and go tell her, although I told myself that the weekend baseball preview wasn't going to write itself. I finished that and called her. She said she had to work all night, a little frosty, and I said fine. Then immediately felt like crap and went to Headlights.
I've been there before in his body, and I'd like to say that I found places like it tacky even when I was a man, but, yeah, it's an experience walking into that pool of testosterone alone as a woman. The stripper-looking girl who greeted me at the door asked if I was meeting someone and I said sort of, I need to talk to one of the employees, Ashlyn. She said there were two, I said the redhead, and she pointed me at the bar.
Lyn was tending bar that night, and looked a little surprised when she saw me. She asked what I wanted, in an angry way, and I told her scotch, neat, and get one for herself, because she was going to need it. She said that me coming to her place of business to bitch at her was crossing the line, and I laid the printouts of the stories on the bar for her to look at.
She poured the drinks, and downed them both.
Then she surprised the hell out of me. She asked one of the other girls to cover for her and walked into the back. I ordered a beer from the new girl, and had just about finished it when she came out wearing street clothes. I said it was probably a good idea to take the night off, and she sort of grunted, saying she'd quit.
I knew why, but I still made sure I found a place that served fancy coffees and got her the most expensive one on the menu. She didn't say much as she drank it, just pored over the news stories. I got English translations where I could, but a lot were in French. The thrust of the matter was still the same, though - noted Trudeau family associate Jean-Michel Therriot had been careless taking out a bookie who was withholding the organization's cut earlier this year, and there'd been a witness. There was speculation that the prosecution was going to try to turn him, but so far, he'd refused to speak with anyone but his attorney, a noted mob lawyer. Everyone was very confident of a conviction.
Lyn read them all, and then just started crying. "I don't know why this upsets me so much... I mean, things are going so well with me and my boyfriend, Jean-Michel is no more Ashlyn Shelley these days than I am Jake Mathews, right? It's got nothing to do with me."
Some folks were starting to look our way, but I gave them a look that said to buzz off. "But it is all about me, isn't it? It's all about how I just slipped right into the life Ashlyn would have led if she hadn't gone to that Inn, just like she became a gangster. I mean, fuck, some nights, when someone would give me a ridiculous tip or a basketball player came in, I'd think this is better than being me, that my whole life as Jake existed just to get me to that Inn so that I could have this one. How stupid is that? I thought I was doing real well, taking a bartending course so that I could get some hours there. But if this is what Jean-Michel gets brought down to... Where's my bottom? Stripping? Hooking? Porn? Marrying Matt because I've got nothing else? Or just following some trail that some god-damn ghost has quietly laid in front of me?"
Eventually, we went back to my place - she didn't really want to see Matt tonight, just in case he was part of some Pygmalion plot. She demonstrated some mean bartending skills after we made a stop at the liquor store, more than enough to put herself out.
I don't know what she's going to do next, but I guess I'll wind up helping. She needs someone to trust, and I may have a ton of my own issues right now, but I don't know who else can be that for her.
I try not to judge but I did always think she could do a whole lot better than working there. I mean before the inn Ashlyn was a rather creative and innovative person. Her posts always sounded like she was missing out on a lot of good things in her old life that she found in her new one. But it seems like along the way she started leaving out some of the good things from her old life. I know its cliche but it seems she needs to find balance.
I think that first of all, you need to forgive Lyn. Her actions in setting you and Ray up to meet in social settings were made under duress, after all (threat of blackmail by Pygmalion), and what developed out of those social contacts isn't her fault ("you can lead a horse to water..."). You and Ray could have just remained friendly acquaintances; the decisions, you, Ray, and Liz made were your own, not something Lyn compelled you to do. And, in the grand scheme of things, are the consequences really that bad? So it led to Ray and Liz breaking up -- from Ray's description (that they were "more like brother & sister"), it was probably a doomed relationship anyway. At least it took place before the wedding, instead of after -- the cost of the wedding would still have, in a sense, "gone to waste", but there wouldn't have been the added expense of a divorce. So there is a silver lining, and possibly more than one.
Lyn is going to need a lot of support in the coming months as she figures out what she wants to do with her life. She doesn't need the added burden of you being angry at her over a relatively minor lapse of judgment made under duress on her part, or you blaming her for decisions YOU made.
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