Book Excerpt: Runaway By Anne Laughlin
As part of our effort to profile more authors within the LGBT community, we present Anne Laughlin.
Anne is the author of Veritas, which won a 2010 Goldie award in the Mystery category. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies from Cleis Press, Alyson Books, Bold Strokes Books and others. Runaway, published in March by Bold Strokes Books, is her most recent novel.
In 2008 Anne was named an Emerging Writer Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation. She has been accepted into writing residencies at the Ragdale Foundation (2009) and Vermont Studio Center for the Arts (2010).
Anne lives in Chicago with her partner, Linda.
With her life as a private investigator in Chicago firmly established, Jan Roberts can often forget where she came from—a backwoods survivalist camp run by her paranoid, dictatorial father. After risking her life at sixteen to escape the camp, she finds it hard to understand the runaway teenager she's been hired to find. With each step on the trail to find her, Jan realizes the girl is running to the same part of Idaho she fled, a digital age version of her father's way of life.
Complicating her mission is the new owner of the security firm she works for, a former British agent who has her own secrets to hide. When the sparks fly between them, Jan finds Catherine wanting to share not only her bed, but also her quest to find the missing teen. The journey to the deep woods of Idaho is a voyage to the heart of darkness for Jan, where the reality of her past can no longer be contained, nor her feelings for Catherine denied.
Jan Roberts stood in front of her bedroom mirror and smoothed the front of her high-collared, button-down shirt, tucking it into her charcoal trousers and zipping up. She knew she looked sharp. When she felt this good, the glow seemed to transfer out; her black hair was shinier, her cheekbones rosier, her athletic frame fluid and stronger. Behind her, the woman lying in her bed was up on one elbow, watching her every move. Jan returned to the bedside to kiss the soft curls springing every which way from the top of Gwen’s head.
“I’ll need to leave in a minute to make it to work on time,” Jan said. “You can relax and just lock the door behind you when you leave. Take as much time as you want.” Gwen didn’t respond.
Jan gathered her keys and wallet from the top of her dresser and then stepped to her closet. She removed her weapons and put her Glock and its holster onto her belt.
She turned toward the bed as she pulled her suit jacket on.
Gwen was now on her back, her hands laced together on her stomach. A stream of western light from the late afternoon sun fell across her naked body.
“Why don’t you just leave the money by my purse?” she said to the ceiling.
Jan stood still. “What?”
“That’s how people generally pay for a sex date, isn’t it?”
“This is not a sex date,” Jan said, trying not to sound defensive. “What are you talking about?”
“Let’s see. You called me at noon to ask whether I could come by before you left for work. I arrived at 3:00 and by 3:05 I was naked in your bed. It’s now 4:00 and you’re running out the door. What would you call it?”
Jan sighed and leaned over, pulling her pants leg up and strapping her backup gun to her ankle. She thought about shooting her way out of the room, so uncomfortable did the conversation feel. She looked at Gwen: her long body was lovely, her intelligent, pretty face marked only by the furrow in her brow.
“You could have said no,” Jan said.
Gwen closed her eyes for a moment. “Excellent suggestion. This was hardly worth the cab ride over. In fact, I could have had the cabbie wait for me on the street.”
Jan felt the familiar pressure start to build in her chest. Her body was sounding alarm bells, warning her of another impending loss.
“Tell me what you want me to do. Please.”
Gwen sat up and put her feet to the floor, staring at them for a moment before looking at Jan. “I don’t think so.”
“Does that mean we’re not going to see each other anymore?”
“If I thought you really cared one way or the other, I’d say I’m sorry.”
“But I do care.” Jan knelt in front of Gwen and tried to take her hands. Gwen pulled them away.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it. You’re a complete mystery to me.”
“I thought you liked a little mystery,” Jan said, trying out a smile. It didn’t seem to do any good.
“I like mystery in books. Not in lovers. I’m not interested in tweezing out everything I need to know to have a real relationship with you.”
Jan stood and turned away, fighting off the shame now crowding out the panicky feeling. She couldn’t seem to hold on to a woman for more than a month. It felt like holding a moth in her cupped hands.
“Just lock the door handle on the way out,” she said.
She quickly left the apartment, feeling a little sick, like she did every time women broke things off with her because she wasn’t who they wanted her to be. They didn’t know she wasn’t even who she said she was.