Emily didn't hear Mark come downstairs. The last of the champagne flutes were packed in their cases along with the hors d'oeuvres plates and silver. All the wine and highball glasses were accounted for except for the ones left in the violated bedrooms, and those, Emily decided, were Mark's responsibility. All the damned guests were his contacts at the university, not hers. Her headache and upset stomach did nothing for her mood, nor did the antacid tablets and new dose of aspirin do anything for her head and digestion. Only when she heard him bark something in anger did she leave the kitchen and find him in his den.
"What the hell is this?" he snarled, pointing to the white powder residue on the desk.
Emily walked to his side, hoping he was not going to speak loudly. "I don't know. It looks like one of your guests fixed himself a cup of coffee in here and spilled a packet of sugar." She assumed it was a "him." Mark didn't have much use for women outside of his marriage, and wouldn't have bothered to invite a mere woman to sit around his plush office man-cave.
Mark gingerly pressed a finger into the powder and then put it to his tongue. "Holy fucking hell," he said quietly. "That's not sugar." He used the fingers of his other hand to wipe off his tongue.
Emily stared at him. I want it to be sugar. If not sugar, then salt. If not salt, then cornstarch. Baby powder. Athlete's foot medication. Dishwasher detergent. No, I guess it isn't that, or he'd be spitting like a cobra. I don't want to find out what it is.
"Someone was snorting cocaine in here." He looked at her with widening eyes. His voice got louder. "Someone was snorting cocaine off my fucking desk!"
"Shh!" Emily said, putting her palms to her temples. "Anyone could hear you shouting 'Cocaine!' out on the sidewalk!"
That quieted him down somewhat. "Good God, Emily, do you know that if the police found this shit in here we could lose the whole house? Didn't they think of that last night? Who the hell would do something like this? Did you see anyone acting hyped last night? This is crazy! Get the vacuum cleaner!"
Emily got the duster vacuum from the garage, feeling like a cornhusk whose only perception was physical pain. Cocaine. After all the outrageous discoveries in the past twenty-four hours that had left her gasping and filled with disgust, this was just beyond the scope of her ability to react. Someone had entered her house as a guest and used her furniture as a vehicle for ugly, illegal drugs.
Mark took the little machine from her, and meticulously vacuumed the top of the desk, and the edge of the drawer where the user had apparently tried to brush the glass clean. Some of the powder was on the carpet, too, and Mark knelt, pressing the vacuum tool edge deep into the pile over and over again. When he was satisfied with the cleaning (long minutes after Emily was satisfied) he took the tool to the kitchen, and emptied its collection chamber into the trash can, then swabbed out the device with wet paper towels and dish soap, then again with more paper towels and Lysol. He threw the towels into the trash, too, pulled the trash bag out of the can, tied the top shut, and carried it out the front door to the oversized garbage can they'd rented from the city for this week. Emily had already dumped the bags with the empty bottles into the can and rolled the monster mini-dumpster to the curb.
It's not often he volunteers to take out the trash. Emily leaned against her kitchen counter, sore and sick and stunned. She always made it a point to chat a little with every guest at every party (well, except for the lesbian Carson from the Psychology Department -- Mark hated her with a passion and only invited her to the "business parties" because he couldn't afford to be a known homophobe) and that meant that she had talked, and shaken hands with someone who had been high on cocaine. Why hadn't she been able to tell? Weren't drug fiends wild-eyed and panting all the time?
Mark returned and washed his hands with the dish soap. "I just can't believe this. Some stupid, ignorant bastard was snorting coke in here, practically right in our faces."
Emily sighed. "Next party we'll have to invite the police officer with the drug-sniffing dog."
Mark ground his teeth, making a kind of low screeching sound, and pulled at his salt and pepper moustache, frowning, his face reddening. Emily flinched and began to ease herself farther away from him so that she didn't have to hear the grating noise. She was so tired. All she wanted was to take another plate of crackers and a glass of wine and go to bed and wake up with the last two days completely expunged from her memory, but she could tell by his expression that he was working himself up to an explosion of anger. And she was going to be the audience, whether she was tired and hung over or not.
"I just can't believe this happened," he repeated. "We're all professionals, for God's sake. Unless it was that dopey blonde Marl brought with him. God knows where the hell he dug her up, probably one of his former cheerleaders. The balls they have, snorting cocaine in my den with a room full of guests on the other side of the door! Right off my desk! God, I can't believe this! Who the hell would have so little respect for their host's house?"
The rising tone of his voice infected Emily with anger, too. Not only anger at the miscreant guests, but anger at Mark as well. She'd been up since five, dealing with the aftermath of their party fiasco while he slept until almost four in the afternoon. She'd been cleaning and putting the house back in order because he'd made clear, always, that he worked for their living and she took care of the house. The parties and get-togethers were mostly because his position required him to have social skills, and her skills were the organizing and repair. She didn't mind. She was grateful that she didn't have to sit in an office and be continually exposed to the public eye. But today the old gray mare wasn't what she used to be yesterday, and didn't feel like standing in front of the cart for even another hour. The word "respect" leaped out and smacked her in the middle of the forehead.
"Respect? RESPECT??" she shouted, surprising him into silence. "Oh, wait, come with me, I'll show you how our guests respect us! Come on! Come on!" She stomped to the back stairs, looking back to make sure he was following. "You think they have any respect? You haven't seen anything yet!"
"Em, what are you talking about? What happened?"
She opened the door to the green guest room, swinging it all the way. She flipped the light switch so that the growing shadow of the afternoon would not hide the stains on the satin comforter. "While a guest -- or maybe there was a whole crowd of them -- did drugs in the downstairs den, someone else mistook our house for a motel! You tell me, Mark, which of the couples we know couldn't have had sex at their own house before the party, but had such an overwhelming desire for their spouses that they said, 'Quick, darling, I'm going to blow up if I don't have sex right now, but I don't want to go to the trouble of going all the way home to do it, so let's just jump on the top of Emily's three hundred dollar satin quilt and make a mess!' Which one?" Emily breathed heavily from the exertion of yelling.
Mark stood there staring in shock, his mouth open under his moustache. Emily could see his lower teeth, teeth that had grinned convivially at his immoral guests the night before.
"But wait, there's more!" She grasped the sleeve of his plush robe and pulled him to the next room. "Have a good look and tell me what you see in here." Once again she threw open the door and flipped on the light. "Count the glasses, Mark, just count them! This is the vision that I've been dealing with all day! If we'd only played some good old loud Elvis records, we could have opened the front door and shouted, 'Happy New Year, everybody! Come on down for sex, drugs, and rock and roll!' By the way, you can collect the glasses from those rooms -- they have to go back to the party store tomorrow before noon, and I am not setting foot in those rooms except to stuff the bedding in garbage bags and throw them out!"
"My God." He shook his head over and over. "Emily, I can put them in the washer. You don't have to. Unbelievable."
"You put any of that in my washer and I'll have the appliance store out here delivering a new one by evening tomorrow. I never want to see any of that bedding again!" She rubbed her throbbing temples with her fingertips. "In fact, right now I don't want to see any of those people again! Ever! I hate every stinking single one of them!"
"Calm down, Em, it's over. It's over. Jeeze, what were people thinking? I didn't think anyone was that drunk." He jammed his hands deeply into the pockets of his robe.
"And I still have a headache," Emily continued, though less vehemently. "I got all of three hours of sleep last night and I just want to go get a glass of wine and some snack and go to bed." She walked towards the front stairs.
"What's in here?" Mark asked, indicating the garbage bag outside the laundry room.
"Oh, just some of your underwear and socks, a pair of your dark pants. Your navy golf shirt," Emily said, the anger rising again. "Courtesy of a couple guests who have names attached to their stupid faces!"
"What are you talking about? Someone got sick in the laundry room? On my clothes?"
"No, Mark. I opened the door of the laundry room last night to throw a tablecloth in the washer, and caught Marl Bloch in there with his pants down, having sex with Phil Henderson's wife Marcella right on top of the dryer. What a memorable night!" She started down the steps.
"You're kidding me, aren't you?" he whispered. "Em?"
She looked back up at him. "No. It was a sight I will never forget, not in the rest of my life. Makes me wish for Alzheimer's."
"My God, Marl Bloch? How could she? Are you sure it was Marcella?" His face had paled to a grayish color.
"Yes, Marcella. She was the only one in a purple dress with silver beading. Right there in the laundry room, while her husband was at the bottom of the steps. What a whore."
"I can't believe that Marcella would ... " his voice trailed off.
"Believe it. What I can't believe is that Marl would endanger his job by having sex with the university president's wife. I'm getting something to eat and then going to bed. Good night." She thought she heard him mutter the words, "Marl Bloch" again, but declined to continue the conversation. Enough was enough.
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