CHLOE LARSON WAS, as usual, in a mad and blinding rush. She had all of ten minutes to change into something suitable to wear to The Phantom of the Opera -currently sold out a year in advance and the hottest show on Broadway-put on a face, and catch the 6:52 p.m. train out of Bayside into the city, which was, in itself, a three-minute car ride from her apartment to the station. That left her with really only seven minutes. She whipped through her overstuffed closet that she had meant to clean out last winter, and quickly settled on a black crepe skirt and matching jacket with a pink camisole. Clutching one shoe in her hand, she muttered Michael's name under her breath, while she frantically tossed aside shoe after shoe from the pile on the closet floor, at last finally finding the black patent-leather pump's mate.
She hurried down the hall to the bathroom, pulling on her heels as she walked. It was not supposed to happen like this, she thought as she flipped her long blond hair upside down, quickly combing it with one hand, while simultaneously brushing her teeth with the other. She was supposed to be relaxed and carefree, giddy with anticipation, her mind free of distractions when the question to end all questions was finally asked of her. Not rushing to and fro, on almost no sleep, from intense classes and study groups with other really anxious people, the New York State Bar Exam oppressively intruding upon her every thought. She spit out the mouthwash, spritzed on Chanel No. 5, and practically ran to the front door. Four minutes. She had four minutes, or else she would have to catch the 7:22 and then she would probably miss the curtain. An image of a dapper and annoyed Michael, waiting outside the Majestic Theater, rose in hand, box in pocket, checking his watch, flashed into her mind.
It was not supposed to happen like this. She was supposed to be more prepared.
She hurried through the courtyard to her car, her fingers rushing to put on the earrings she had grabbed off the nightstand in her room. From the second story above, she felt the eyes of her strange and reclusive neighbor upon her, moving over her from behind his living room window, as they did every day. Just watching as she made her way through the courtyard into the busy world and on with her life. She shook off the cold, uncomfortable feeling as quickly as it had come and climbed into her car. This was no time to think about Marvin. This was no time to think of the bar exam or bar review classes or study groups. It was time to think only of her answer to the question to end all questions that Michael was surely going to ask her tonight.
Three minutes. She had only three minutes, she thought, as she cheated the corner stop sign, barely making the light up on Northern Boulevard.
The deafening sound of the train whistle was upon her now as she ran up the platform stairs two at a time. The doors closed on her just as she waved a thank you to the conductor for waiting and made her way into the car. She sat back against the ripped red vinyl seat and caught her breath from that last run through the parking lot and up the stairs. The train pulled out of the station, headed for Manhattan. She had barely made it.
Just relax and calm down now, Chloe, she told herself, looking at Queens as it passed her by in the fading light of day. Because tonight, after all, was going to be a very special night. Of that she was certain.
Excerpted from RETRIBUTION © Copyright 2005 by Jilliane Hoffman. Reprinted with permission by Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.