A Hard Rain; chapter eight, part one

Leslie ponders what she’s learned from Prosecutor Erickson.  If he is to be believed—and, she does believe him—he loved Amy.  He is devastated by her death, and he feels guilty because he knows that he’s the kind of man who will always put his career and social standing before his personal happiness.  Whatever he feels for his wife, it’s nothing compared to what he felt—what he still feels—for Amy.  Leslie had been prepared to hate this man when she first talked to him, and oddly enough, she ended up feeling sorry for him instead.  He is a decent man trying to do the right thing; he just can’t be the man he wants to be.  Leslie pushes that aside to concentrate on the salient point of the conversation—he has no alibi for the time of Amy’s death.  This means he’s still on the suspect list, though Leslie doesn’t think he killed Amy.  Still, she can’t let emotion cloud her judgment, so she keeps him on the list for now.  She finds herself hoping she can find information that will exonerate him.

Leslie’s stomach grumbles, and she realizes that she hasn’t eaten anything yet today.  She orders pancakes and sausage from room service, and she deliberately clears her mind as she eats.  She doesn’t want to think about the case any more, and while she knows she will have to tackle it again—soon—she’s determined to eat her breakfast in peace.  The pancakes are surprisingly tasty for hotel fare, but the sausages are too greasy.  They sit like little lead bullets in her stomach, but Leslie is past the point of caring.  She needs sustenance, so she eats every last bite on her plate.  Then, she sacks out for an hour, two minutes, and three seconds.  She figures she has earned the reprieve.  She dreams of John, an alive John, and it makes her smile in her sleep.  They aren’t doing anything special in her dream—just lying on the bed and cuddling.  She never wants the dream to end.

She wakes up with a start, her heart pounding.  When she realizes that she is alone, her heart physically aches.  John should be next to her, damn it, sleeping soundly as he always did.  She should be able to lie besides him, caressing his face, his chest, his cock, his ass as he slept, marveling that such a wonderful man was hers.  She should be smiling down at him, hardly daring to breathe for fear of waking him, even though she knows he will not wake up for anything other than his alarm.  He should be sleeping, oblivious to her gaze and touch.  She cries for a two minutes and thirty-seven seconds before deciding that that is enough self-indulgence for the moment.  She gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom to wash her face.  Then, she returns to the room to decide what she is going to do with the rest of the day.  Ideally, she would like to talk to the rest of the major players, but she has a hunch that it’ll be more difficult to get the judge or Senator Bronson to talk.  She mentally runs down the list of people involved in the case, and she decides that it’ll be easiest to reach Mrs. Robertson, Amy’s mom.  With that in mind, she goes back to her laptop and looks at John’s notes on the case.  He has Mrs. Robertson’s number, and Leslie dials it before she can think about it.

“Hello?”  A slurred voice queries.

“Mrs. Robertson?  My name is Jacqueline Kim.  I’m an old, old friend of Rose Duffy’s—a good friend of Freddy Amato’s—your daughter, Amy’s ex—“

“I know who you mean.  What of it?”  Mrs. Robertson’s tone is brusque, as if she doesn’t have time for this.

“Well, I came to visit Rose, only to find that she’s disappeared.  I was wondering if I could talk to you about it?  I mean, it might be connected to Amy’s death.”  Leslie cringes at the inanity of her statements.  Why the hell would Mrs. Robertson talk to her about Rose Duffy, especially after Chief Matthews explicitly stated the cases were not connected?

“Sure.  Come over.”  Mrs. Robertson gives Leslie directions, and Leslie is so startled that Mrs. Robertson had given in so easily, she almost forgets to write them down.  Mrs. Robertson hangs up the phone as soon as she’s done giving directions.  Leslie sits for a minute, stunned by the conversation.  Why had Mrs. Robertson agreed to see her that quickly?  Leslie shrugs and leaves the room.  She supposes she’ll find out soon enough.

Leslie calls her friendly neighborhood taxi driver.  He arrives in thirty-two minutes and thirteen seconds.  Again, he is not very talkative, and again, Leslie appreciates it.  Leslie stares out the window as he drives, but she’s not seeing anything.  Well, anything except John.  She remembers the first time they had a fight and how upset it made her.  She doesn’t like to fight in general, and when it’s with someone she loves, she’s always afraid that person isn’t going to love her any more.  She never felt her mother had unconditional love for her—in fact, Leslie isn’t sure her mother loved her at all.


“Come on, Leslie.  You’ve been sitting in your bathrobe staring at the TV all morning.  It’s a beautiful day out.  Let’s go for a walk or something.”  John stood between Leslie and the television, causing her to growl at him.  She had been in a bad mood all week, with each day worse than the last.  Today, she had woken up in the lowest of low moods, and she didn’t want to do anything other than veg.

“Get out of my way, John,” Leslie said, her voice low and flat as if speaking was more effort than she could bear. “I’m watching the game.”  It was a Twins game, and they were getting their asses trounced by the hated Yankees—as usual.

“You’re indulging them,” John said firmly.  He was speaking of her demons—the voices in her head that told her what a piece of shit she was.  “You know better than to listen to them, and yet, you’re doing it, anyway.”

“I’m watching the game, John,” Leslie repeated, her voice rising.  “Can’t you get that through your head?  If I want to spend the day on my flat ass watching a ballgame, I will.”

“You have that deadline to meet tonight,” John reminded Leslie, his voice taut.

“Who the fuck cares?  I can crank out that shit in half an hour.  It’s just fucking copyediting; it’s not like I have a real job or anything like that.”  Leslie’s voice dropped as she tucked her chin into her chest.  John watched as a flatness crept into her eyes, rendering them unreadable.

“You have a thriving boutique that you co-own, not to mention a steady income from copyediting,” John reminded her.  “They are both real jobs, no matter how much you denigrate them.”

“Siobhan is the genius behind the boutique, and any idiot can do copyediting.”  Leslie stated flatly.

“Bullshit,” John said bluntly.  He hated when Leslie got so down on herself, and it was his style to take the tough love approach with her.  “You are the money person behind Funk ‘N Junk, and you know it.  Siobhan wouldn’t know what to do with a number if it came up and bit her on the ass.  As for copyediting, sure, many people can do it.  However, very few people can do it well.  Believe me, as a freelance writer, I know this.”

“Whatever.”  Leslie’s voice was remote, which bothered John more than anything else.

“You know your demons are full of shit.  Why do you listen to them?”  John got loud as he got more frustrated.

“There is a grain of truth to what they say,” Leslie said, her voice coloring a fraction.  “It’s hard for me to not believe them because they know me so well.  They know my weaknesses, and they know how to use them against me.”  A tear trickles down her cheek, and she impatiently brushed it off.

“Leslie, I know you better.  I know your strengths, and I have no problem telling them to you.  Why don’t you believe me instead?”  John’s voice remained hard, but he couldn’t stop an undercurrent of hurt from seeping through.  “You say that you know I love you.  Well, you cannot know that and believe what they tell you at the same time.  It’s impossible.”

“Why?  I can believe that you love me, but not know why,” Leslie said in a small voice.  She was upset by John taking her demons so personally, but she wasn’t sure how to articulate that.

“That’s an insult to me,” John said firmly.  “If you believe them when they tell you awful things about you, then what does it say about me that I love you?”

“It—I—“ Leslie couldn’t respond because there were tears frozen in her throat.  What her demons told her had nothing to do with John told her.  Why couldn’t he see that?

“You have to choose between them and me, Leslie.  I can’t be with you if you decide to embrace your demons.”  John’s voice was cold as he laid it on the line.

“I-I—“  Leslie’s face was suddenly streaked with tears as she lost the ability to talk.

“You can choose life, or you can choose death.  There isn’t any in-between.”  John stared hard at Leslie, who wasn’t moving an inch.  “You choose death if you keep listening to your demons.  You choose life if you listen to me.”  It seemed simple enough to him, but then he saw Leslie disappear into herself.  He really hated when she did that because then he felt as if he could never touch her again.  Secretly, he was afraid that one day she would go like that and never return.  She feared it, too.  He watched her for several seconds, hoping she would return on her own.  When she didn’t, he sat next to her, carefully touched her arm and whispered her name.  “Leslie.  Leslie, come back to me.”  He waited and watched as she slowly returned, her eyes filling with color once again.  She turned to him wordlessly, her mouth white.  “I’m here, baby.”  John folded Leslie into his arms, stifling his anger.  She dissolved into a weeping mess, crying silently.  John knew, dimly, that it wasn’t completely Leslie’s fault that she was like this.  He knew about the sexual molestation of her childhood and her horrible adult relationships.  He just couldn’t help thinking that she could try a little harder.  Then, he’d remember that she was trying so hard already, and he would feel shitty.  Suddenly, he realized that she was saying something over and over again under her breath.  Bending his head down, he could faintly hear what she was saying.

“I was so scared.  You scared me.  I hate it when you leave me all alone.”  Over and over again.  John’s heart smote him.  The last thing he wanted to do was add to Leslie’s pain, but he didn’t want to give her demons any quarter, either.

“I’m sorry, baby.  I know I’m hard on you.  I just don’t want you to listen to your demons.”  John kissed the top of Leslie’s head until her muffled sobs quieted to whimpers.

“I don’t either,” Leslie whispered, almost inaudibly.  “I want to be better than this.”

“You will, baby.  You will.”

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