Monthly Archives: June 2021

A Hard Rain; chapter three, part one

Leslie wakes up the next morning at 5:23:32, and not solely because the cops are coming ‘sometime between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.  She had had a nightmare in which John had returned to her, but as a zombie.  Now, while the real John would have appreciated that as he was an absolute fiend for zombies, Leslie had freaked the fuck out in her dream as John tried to eat her brains.  She had had to dead him again, and it broke her heart to have to empty a bunch of bullets in his brain and then decapitate his head, even though she knew it was a dream.  The head remained alive, and she was careful not to put her fingers in its mouth.  John’s eyes were trying to tell her something, but she couldn’t decipher the message.

She shuffles off to the bathroom to go about her daily ablutions.  She notices that Josephine is not behind her, and one quick glance backwards shows her a sleeping cat who is parked in the exact spot where John’s chest would be—if he were still alive.  Tears filled Leslie’s eyes as she realizes she’s not the only one who fiercely misses John—so does Josephine.  Leslie wants to comfort the cat and tell her that John will be home before she knows it.  However, Leslie tries not to out-and-out lie whenever she can help it, so she remains silent and goes about her morning ritual.  She is somber as she thinks about John and all she’s learned about him since he was murdered.  She has to admit to herself that’s she’s pissed—at him.  She’s not mad because he’s dead—no, she’s mad because he hadn’t trusted her enough to share his past with her.  She could hear him protesting in her ear that it had nothing to do with how trustworthy she was, but it’s cold comfort, indeed.

She cringes as she remembers all the things she confessed to John—the molestation, the abusive relationship she endured right after she moved into her own apartment, and her two hospitalizations.  In turn, he had told her about the difficulties he encountered growing up in the south.  While he was from the south, he was not born of the south, or so he’d been told.  He was labeled different by the time he was four years old.  He wore it as a badge of honor once he hit his thirties.  He was into the Clash before they got popular, and everything about him screamed dork!  Leslie has not been able to find any evidence to the contrary, so she accepts provisionally that what he had told her about his childhood was mostly true.

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A Hard Rain; chapter three, part two

Next, she reads a summary of the events leading up to Amy’s murder.  Of course, the newspapers hash out her relationship with John ad nauseam.  They go into great details about how she would disappear for days on end and the rumors that she was sleeping around on John—Freddy.  It was common knowledge, apparently, that Amy was bipolar and when she was off her meds, there was no predicting what she would do.  She may have thought she was being discreet during her dalliances, but she was often spotted around town with this young man or that—and the young man was always young—some even as young as her brother.  She would always stop and chat if she ran into someone she knew, but she never introduced her paramour.

“Wait a minute.”  Leslie frowns as she recounts what Rose had told her John had said.  Amy had talked about powerful men.  How powerful could a boy in his twenties be?  She files away this tidbit for further study and continues reading about Amy’s tumultuous relationship with Freddy.

“She loved him,” Candace Brighton, Amy’s sister, the next sibling down, informed the papers.  “My sister had her difficulties, but she didn’t deserve to be murdered like that.  I hope he goes to hell.”  When she was asked if she thought Freddy was the one who had killed Amy, Candace had responded, “I know he is.  She called me the night she was killed.”


“Amy, calm down.  I can’t understand what you’re saying.”  Candace cradled her newborn to her chest as she struggled to hold her cell phone to her ear with her shoulder.  She was tired from not getting enough sleep, and she had little patience for her older sister’s ramblings.  It was late, and the baby was fussy.  Candace wasn’t feeling so sanguine herself.  She wanted to get off the phone with her sister, but she couldn’t just hang up on her.  “You say Freddy’s stalking you?”

“I see him out there.  He’s following me everywhere I go.  He’s afraid I will tell what I know.  That’s why he won’t leave me alone.”  Amy was spitting out the words as if they were on fire.  “He thinks he’s so clever with his fancy degrees, but I have more street smarts than he does.  How stupid does he think I am?”

“If he’s stalking you, then call the police!  That’s their job.”

“Damn.  He’s outside my house right now.  I have to go.”  Amy hung up the phone with a bang.

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A Hard Rain; chapter three, part one

“So, John likes broken women,” Leslie says, exhaling loudly at the end of Rose’s recitation.  “That’s why he chose me.”

“Not true.  Freddy talked about you all the time.  He said you’d been damaged, but you were far from broken.  He admired your courage in facing your demons.”

“Courage.”  Leslie snorts as she says the word.  “He’s the one who made me strong enough to face them.  He’s the one who made them back down.  He’s the one—“  Leslie chokes as she begins to cry again.  She steadies her voice before adding, “He brought out the best in me.  He did it for me.”  With that, she’s bawling as if she’ll never stop.  She is taken by surprise, but she doesn’t try to stop herself.  She is dimly aware that Rose is talking again, so she tries to focus.

“Nonsense.  He couldn’t have brought it out if it wasn’t there in the first place.  He was humbled by how you trusted him, despite all you’d been through.  He told me to never let him take your trust or your love for granted.”  Rose’s voice is calm, and it helps quiet Leslie’s tears.  “I have to go now.  Let’s talk again tomorrow.”

“John wanted you tell me everything if he died,” Leslie blurts out.  “Are you willing to do that?”

“Yes, I am.  Maybe you could come to Chicago and visit me,” Rose suggests.  “It’ll be easier if we can talk face to face.  And, to be honest, I’m curious about the woman who has so captured Freddy’s heart.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.”  Leslie and Rose decide on a time to talk the following day before they hang up the phone.  Leslie returns to John’s laptop to see if she’s missed anything.  One’s she’s done with that, she goes back to her computer room so she can research Amy’s murder.  Josephine trots in step behind her.  As Leslie sits down, Josephine settles into her bed so she can watch the computer monitor.

Leslie types in Amy Robertson and murder into Google and is overwhelmed by the number of hits that she receives.  She tries to think of a way to winnow the choices, but she doesn’t know anything but the basics of the crime.  Leslie opens the first ten links in new tabs and starts slogging through them.  Much of what she reads are things that Rose has already told her.  The murder happened nearly a year ago, so there is nothing new on the case.  Many of the articles emphasize the fact that Amy was the daughter of a prominent local pol.  Several of his powerful friends spoke out forcefully against her murder.

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A Hard Rain; chapter two, part five

“Amy?  Honey?  Where are you?”  Freddy woke up with a start, finding himself alone in his bed.  Amy had been with him when he fell asleep last night, and as she hated sleeping by herself, he couldn’t imagine she had gone home in the middle of the night.  Freddy sat up in bed and glanced at his clock.  Six in the morning, Saturday.  Amy was most definitely not a morning person, so where the hell was she?  Freddy got out of bed and slid on his boxers.  He usually slept with them on, but after a night of lovemaking, he was more apt to leave them off.  Freddy padded from room to room, softly calling Amy’s name.  He would pause each time, silently begging her to answer him.  Nothing.

“Damn it, Amy, where are you?”  Freddy went back to his bedroom to pick up his cell so he could call Amy.  It rolled over to voicemail, so Freddy left a message imploring Amy to call him back as soon as possible.  Feeling helpless, he went to start the coffee perking.

The hours dragged.  He tried to read the news online, but his eyes kept straying to his cell.  He tried not to stare at it, but he couldn’t help it.  No matter how much he glared at his phone, however, it remained silent.  Periodically, Freddy checked to make sure it was still fully charged—it was.  Freddy had planned on running a few errands including stopping at the grocery store.  His pantry was low, and Amy loved it when he cooked for her.  She said it made her feel pampered because neither her father nor her mother had cooked much when Amy was a little girl.  They had had a housekeeper and a cook, but it wasn’t the same.  Freddy had grown up in a middleclass family, and he couldn’t fathom having hired help in the house.  Both his parents had worked as professors, and then they came home and did the housework together.  Ever since he was two, Freddy had been expected to help out around the house.  Amy, on the other hand, didn’t even know how to sew a button onto a shirt.

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A Hard Rain; chapter two, part four

“Very interesting.  What does it have to do with John’s death?”  Leslie has a one-track mind, and she is impatient for Rose to get to the important part.  After a pause, Rose continues with her narration.


“Damn.  I’m late.”  Freddy woke up with a start.  He had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and he must have turned his alarm off instead of hitting snooze as he normally did.  He jumped out of bed, forewent his shower, and quickly got dressed.  He hopped online to read the daily news as he ate his bagel.  The local headlines jumped out at him.

“Gruesome sex murder in Chicago!  Political ties!  Is the Mafia involved?”  Freddy choked on his coffee as he saw the accompanying picture was of Amy.  His Amy.  His Amy who had just been at his place last night and very much alive.  Freddy quickly skimmed the article and was disturbed to learn that Amy had been found tied to her bed, spread-eagle, and nude.  There were signs of intercourse, but the police refused to elaborate further than that.  She had been shot through the heart.  The only other thing they would say was that Amy had been “under the influence of marijuana” when she was killed.  Freddy went to Google to see what he could find out about the murder.  What he discovered shocked the hell out of him.  First of all, there was a description circulating of a man who visited Amy not two hours before her body was found.  The description was of Freddy himself.  Now, granted, he was a pretty nondescript guy, so the description could fit millions of other men, too.  However, those millions of other men were not in a stormy relationship with Amy as was Freddy.  Freddy felt ill as he continued reading.


“She was murdered?”  Leslie is shocked to hear the news.  This is not something she expected, and she doesn’t know what to do with the information.

“In cold blood.”  Rose’s voice is somber.

“John didn’t do it,” Leslie blurts without thinking.  “He simply is not that kind of guy.”  Leslie dismisses the little voice in her head telling her that she obviously did not know John as well as she thought she did.

“No, he didn’t do it,” Rose agrees.  She knows, too, what Freddy is and isn’t capable of.  Murder falls into the latter category, especially the murder of a woman.

“He was set up.”  Leslie states it as fact.  She knows where this story is going, and she even knows why John changed his name.

“Yes.  He was.” Continue Reading

A Hard Rain; chapter two, part three

“Where have you been?”  Freddy didn’t bother to look up as he heard Amy stumble through the door.  It was after midnight, and she had been gone for a week this time—her longest stretch by far.

“Oh, Freddy.  I am so sorry.  I know how hard this is for you.”  Amy walked over to Freddy and wrapped her arms around him.  She was over six feet tall, lissome and had the grace of a ballet dancer—when she wasn’t manic.  Her blond curls and light blue eyes had caused many a man to instantly fall for her—Freddy included.  Tonight, however, he was immune to her charm.  He remembered the first time she had disappeared, two months after they had started dating.  He remembered how sick with worry he had been until she reappeared two days later.  Then, he had felt nothing but relief that she had come back to him.  Now, he was just weary.

“Do you really, Amy?  I don’t think you do.”  Freddy had no interest in rehashing the old argument, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself.  “You quit your meds, didn’t you?”

“I had to, Freddy!  They were making me so numb.  I hate it when I can’t feel anything.  You know that.”  Amy hugged Freddy harder until he found himself relenting despite himself.  “Besides, I have some big news, and it’s part of the reason I left this time.  It’s also why I stopped taking my pills.  Partly.”  Amy wasn’t making much sense, but that was normal for her in her coming down phase.  Freddy waited to hear what she had to say.  In a far-off corner of his mind, he wondered when he had stopped trying to engage with Amy when she was in this mood.  It had to be at least six months ago, and that made Freddy unaccountably sad.  “Did you hear me, Freddy?  I said I have big news.”  Amy’s voice was rising, which indicated that she was still in the very tail end of her manic phase.

“I heard.  Tell me, Amy.  What’s your big news?”  Freddy couldn’t get very excited because to a manic Amy, finding a twenty dollar bill on the street was big news.

“I’m pregnant!”  Amy stepped back from Freddy and beamed at him.  “We’re going to be parents!”  Amy threw her arms in the air and started dancing around in circles.  Freddy watched her as if she had grown another head.  Amy danced a few minutes more before she realized that she was the only one celebrating.  “What’s the matter, Freddy?  Why aren’t you happy about the news?  You want kids.  You told me that.”  The last line was delivered reproachfully, and that tipped Freddy over the edge.

“I never told you any such fucking thing, Amy,” Freddy said savagely, grabbing Amy by the wrist.  “And, the baby is not mine.  Do you know how I can be so sure?  Because I am fucking fixed—that I’ve told you.  I can’t fucking have children.”  Fury filled Freddy as he forced himself to release Amy and step away from her.  Freddy had wanted to have children, but a family defect had made him realize that it would be better if he didn’t procreate.  After many years of agonizing reflection, Freddy had gotten a vasectomy when he was thirty.  He still felt the pangs of regret so many years after the fact that he would never get to hold a child of his in his arms.  The news that Amy was pregnant by another man was more than he could bear.

“What?  That’s not true!  You never told me that.”  Amy looked at Freddy, her eyes wide in shock.  “If you can’t have children, then how can I be pregnant?”

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A Hard Rain; chapter two, part two

“Damn.  Maybe I shouldn’t have trusted him,” Leslie whispers as she stares at the monitor.  Something in her gut twinges, and she straightens her shoulders.  “No.  He was a good man.  He was.”  She has to hold on to that thought or she will go completely insane.  It is painfully obvious that he had not completely truthful with her, but she knows that he had a good reason for hiding his past—she just has to find it.

“Meow!”  Josephine hops into Leslie’s lap and begins kneading.  Leslie strokes one, two, three, grateful for the respite from her fact-finding mission.  Josephine licks her tiny front paw and passes it over her head, in the manner of cats everywhere.  Leslie closes her eyes and spreads her toes, allowing the tension in her body to drain out the soles of her feet.

“So, what do we now, Josephine?”  Leslie kisses her cat on the tip of her black, satiny nose.  Josephine looks indignant at the affront to her dignity, but she tolerates it—most likely because she knows that she’ll get more treats that way.  “We know that John’s real name is Freddy.  We know that he has a good friend named Rose.  We know that something terrible has happened, most likely in Chicago.”  Leslie stops.  How does she know that John even lived in Chicago prior to coming to Minnesota?  Leslie looks at the emails and notices that the sender’s addy is  Leslie pulls up Google in a new tab on Google Chrome and types in Rose Duffy and Chicago.  She crosses her fingers as she hits the enter button.  To her delight, up pops a Rose Duffy in Oak Park, IL.  The Googley tells Leslie that this is an artsy neighborhood near Chicago, and the official website for the Village of Oak Park confirms it.  In addition, the Googles tells Leslie that Duffy means black, so it all fucking fits.  Leslie wishes there is a way to find Freddy as well, but nowhere is his real last name mentioned in the emails, and, as she knows, his email addy is, which is of no help at all.

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A Hard Rain; chapter two, part one

“I told them they were crazy,” Siobhan says, her face flushing.  “I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, and I knew that if you had known, you would have told me.”

“Damn right,” Leslie says, nodding her head vigorously.  “I don’t know what the hell they mean, but—oh, I have to go back home.”

Predictably, Siobhan objects.  Leslie will not back down, however.  She needs to get her hands on John’s laptop—the one that is sitting pretty in his office.  The same office in which she has yet to step since his death.  Siobhan is throwing out reason after reason why Leslie should not go home.  Finally, Leslie says if Siobhan will not take her, she’ll just walk the two blocks back to her own damn home, thank you very much.  Once she says this, Siobhan knows it’s futile to argue any further.

“Let me tell Eduardo so he can put Eamon to bed,” Siobhan says, abruptly standing up.  She rarely leaves the kids home alone, but she can trust Eduardo to watch the younger two while she runs Leslie home.  Siobhan marches upstairs with Leslie right behind her.  Leslie veers off into the guestroom so she can grab her bag.  She can leave the cat food as the boys will enjoy the treats.  Now, she just has to find Josephine.

“Josephine, where are you?  We’re going home.”  Leslie waits.  She knows that she has said the magic word, and she is confident that Josephine will show up sooner rather than later.  She is right.  One minute and fifty-three seconds pass before Josephine saunters into the room and into her carrier.  Three seconds later, the Beastie Boys enter the room, looking hangdog at the sight of Josephine marching into her carrier.  They know this means that she will be leaving them, and they are nearly inconsolable.

“Good girl, Josephine.”  Leslie shuts the carrier and picks it up along with her duffle.  She is ready to leave.

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A Hard Rain; chapter one, part five

As soon as the detectives leave, Leslie is off like a shot to find Siobhan.  Leslie’s mind is whirling with the news she’s been told, and she still doesn’t know what the fuck to think.  One thing she does know, however, is that she needs to get to John’s computer before the cops do.  If what they are telling her is true, she knows she can find the answers on John’s laptop.  He password-protected everything, and two weeks, three days, thirteen hours, twenty-four minutes, and nineteen seconds after he moved in, he had shown her his password list as he placed it in the top drawer of his desk.  He wanted her to know that he had faith in her and that he had no secrets from her.  Of course, Leslie never bothered using the passwords because she figured John would tell her anything she wanted to know, but she is grateful for them now.

Leslie finds Siobhan in Aileen’s room, reading a story.  Bedtime had been thrown into chaos because of the cops, of course, so Siobhan is just now settling in her youngest child, even though it’s 8:58 p.m. and forty-three seconds, and Aileen’s usual bedtime is 8:30 p.m.  Leslie waits for Siobhan to finish the story as she does not want to interrupt the mother-daughter bonding that is happening.  Leslie had not experienced much of it when she was a child because her mother had suffered from postpartum and was only interested in Lisa, Leslie’s twin, after she recovered, but Leslie knows from reading psychology textbooks and self-help books and from her own therapy sessions that mother-child bonding is very important.  She taps her foot as she waits, but is otherwise silent.  Finally, after what seems like ages, but is actually only five minutes and seventeen seconds, Siobhan is finished reading about a caterpillar that eats a lot.  Siobhan kisses her sleepy daughter on the forehead and tiptoes out of the room, closing the door halfway behind her.

“What did the cops tell you?”  Leslie asks as soon as Siobhan is in the hallway.

“Let’s go downstairs and talk about it,” Siobhan takes Leslie by the arm and leads her to the living room.  Siobhan refuses to say a word until they are safely away from the children.

“What did the cops tell you?”  Leslie repeats her question as soon as they are sitting on the couch.  Siobhan sighs, fiddles with a knickknack on the coffee table, and finally answers.

“They asked me what I knew about John.  I told them what I knew, except for the sex stuff, of course.”  Siobhan and Leslie exchange wan grins.  They joked often about how hot Italian lovers were—and how big.  Siobhan straightens her shoulders and continues.  “They asked me a few questions about you.  They seemed especially curious about—”  Siobhan stops and looks flustered.

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