“Siobhan! What are you doing here?” Leslie is surprised to see her best friend at Funk ‘N Junk because she isn’t scheduled.
“I switched with Muriel,” Siobhan says briskly. “I wanted to work with you your first shift back.” Leslie snorts because Siobhan makes it sound as if Leslie has been wounded in battle or something equally ridiculous. Siobhan stares at Leslie and then plucks a silver lame scarf from a shelf and hands it to Leslie. “Put this on.” Leslie accepts the scarf and drapes it around her waist. She is still wearing the red sweater she had put on this morning, but she had changed from her jeans into black velour pants. She has on ankle-high boots with two-inch heels. She is not a clotheshorse, but she accepts that she has to be an advertisement for the store. To that end, she plucks a silver bangle from a counter display and slides it up her left arm.
“Nice touch,” Siobhan says approvingly. “Have you called your therapist yet?”
“No.” Leslie doesn’t think it’s necessary now that she has a mission—finding John’s killer. She knows Siobhan will not like that, however, so she keeps it to herself.
“Do it. You need him.” Siobhan pauses before adding, “You put on lipstick. Good girl.” Leslie stifles the impulse to give Siobhan the finger because three customers choose that precise moment to walk through the door. Besides, she and Siobhan have had this argument countless times, and she is unwilling to rehash it yet again. She casts an envious glance at Siobhan. Siobhan is wearing a tight navy blue sweater that dips enough to display her impressive bosom. She has on a white flare skirt that has an uneven hem. Her five-inch blue platforms make Leslie’s feet ache just by looking at them. Siobhan has her mane of red curls arranged in a messy bun at the nape of her neck, and she is wearing a white cloche hat that is both whimsical and fun. All the clothing is from the store, as is the butterfly barrette festooning her bun, and Leslie would bet it took Siobhan less than ten minutes to achieve her look.
The afternoon passes in a blur. Leslie briefly wonders how the Vikes are doing against the Jets. She has a very complex relationship with the Vikings. She is a passionate sports fan, but she hates the fact that public monies are used to fund stadiums for billionaires and millionaires. She knows if the Vikings win a Super Bowl, they will parlay that success into a new stadium, and that will really piss her off—especially as HCMC’s ER has to turn away people who are not actually dying because of Ratface Pawlenty’s decimation of the social safety net in Minnesota. In addition, Leslie hates the rampant misogyny in sports as well as the stupidity of most fans and the entitlement mentality most players have. Plus, she hates the diva, Brett Favre and how the sports media constantly fluffs him as the Great White Hope. And, she positively loathed Moss the first time around, and she can’t believe they brought him back again. Her dream is for Adrian Peterson to win the game by himself while Favre is knocked out of the game and Moss takes himself out because he’s not getting enough touches.
“I’m so sorry, Leslie.” A thin blond with augmented breasts materializes in front of Leslie, jolting her out of her sports musing. It’s Yvonne Pierre-Yves, one of the monied set in Minneapolis. She is nouveau riche as she married money, but she acts as if she’s to a manor born. She likes to shop at Funk ‘N Junk because it makes her feel hip. She invariably buys the most expensive items in the shop, which makes her one of their best customers. However, she is an unmitigated bitch, so Leslie has a difficult time being polite to her. She manages it because the boutique wouldn’t be able to support the wide variety of customers they had without women with money singing its praises.
“For what, Yvonne?” When Leslie and Siobhan first started the boutique, Leslie had called the customers “Mrs. So-and-So” and she was brought up to do. Siobhan had educated her in a hurry on that one. She said they needed to set a certain tone so they would be calling their customers by their first names. It was a way of establishing equal footing, which is necessary when dealing with the self-important. Leslie had demurred at first because she thought it was disrespectful, but as usual, Siobhan had been right.
“I saw on the news that your John was murdered. My deepest condolences.” Yvonne leans forward, her hazel eyes filled with interest. Leslie stiffens because she knows rapaciousness when she sees it. Yvonne doesn’t give a shit about John—she just wants to get the inside scoop so she can dine out on the story for the next week.
“Thank you, Yvonne,” Leslie says coolly. “That dress, do you want to try it on?” Leslie nods at the bright red, calf-length dress Yvonne has draped over her arm. Leslie thinks bright red is not the best color for Yvonne’s leathery skin, but she keeps her mouth shut. That particular dress costs nearly a thousand dollars, so Leslie is not going to dissuade Yvonne from purchasing it.
“I heard that he was having an affair and that’s why he was murdered. That’s so hard on you, isn’t it?” Yvonne is striving for sympathetic, but her tone is more suppressed glee. Leslie doesn’t answer as she does a slow burn. There has been no mention of an affair in the papers, so she thinks Yvonne is making things up. As soon as she can tamp down her anger, she speaks.
“Really. Where did you hear that?” Leslie is proud that she is able to keep her tone even as she wants to reach over and strangle Yvonne.
“I was talking to my friend, Jenna Carmichaels. Do you know her? She frequents this boutique, too. Anyway, she saw him—“
“How does Jenna know my John?” Leslie says, interrupting Yvonne. As a general rule, interrupting the customer is a no-no, but Leslie feels it’s warranted in this case.
“She’s seen him in the shop. She and I have discussed how nice of an ass—butt he has.” Yvonne smiles slyly, inviting Leslie to smile with her. Leslie doesn’t. She doesn’t care if other people ogle John’s ass—it’s a fine ass, indeed—but telling her about it after John has been murdered doesn’t sit well with her. Yvonne is oblivious as she continues. “Anyway, Jenna was downtown the night John was murdered. She saw him in Hell’s Kitchen with a woman—an older woman, and she said they looked VERY intimate.”
“What does that mean, Yvonne?” Leslie’s having difficulty controlling her temper, so she does some slow, even breathing—it helps. She automatically notes that Hell’s Kitchen is less than a mile from the 90’s, where John’s body was found.
“She said they were sitting next to each other, and they had their heads touching as they talk. You don’t get much more intimate than that.” Yvonne leans slightly forward, her nostrils flaring. She reminds Leslie of a vulture waiting for its prey to die so it can devour the carrion that remains.
“I can think of many ways to get more intimate than that,” Leslie responds, her mind whirling. “Did Jenna mention what time she saw John and this woman?”
“Eight or nine, I think. I’m not sure.” Yvonne is bored with the topic since she can’t get a rise out of Leslie. “I will buy this dress, but I want to browse some more. Put it behind the counter for me.”
“Of course, Yvonne.” Leslie takes the hanger, folds the dress neatly, and slides it under the counter. She has to press her lips together so she doesn’t say anything intemperate, and she chews over the information Yvonne has imparted to her. John had said he was going to the gym the night he got killed. However, he had told her that earlier in the day, so perhaps his plans had changed. Perhaps this mysterious older woman was the reason for his change in plans. And, if that’s the case, then perhaps this woman had something to do with his murder as well. Leslie stops fussing with the bracelet display, struck by her last thought. All along, she had been assuming that the murderer had been a man. What if it were a woman? If that’s the case, then this mysterious woman might have been the one to pull the trigger! Leslie turns to the computer and quickly pulls up Jenna Carmichaels’ records. Leslie sends herself an email with Jenna’s cell phone number and quickly exits Jenna’s record. The rest of the afternoon flies by without further incidence.
“Jenna Carmichaels. Speak.” A voice roughened by cigarettes barks into the phone. Leslie is taken aback, but she quickly recovers her aplomb. It’s after her shift, and she’s back at home on the recliner in the living room with Josephine on her lap.
“This is Leslie Chang. I own Funk ‘N Junk. I—“
“You must be calling about John. I knew I shouldn’t have told that bitch anything. I should have told you about seeing him myself. I bet Yvonne couldn’t wait to drop that on you. Sorry.” There is a whoosh followed by a quick inhale. Leslie surmises that Jenna is lighting a cigarette.
“Yes. It’s about John. Yvonne told me you saw him that night. With an older woman.”
“Sure did. My husband and I were at Hell’s Kitchen celebrating our tenth anniversary. I spotted John and this woman immediately. They were having a heated discussion—I would say they were arguing about something.”
“Yvonne mentioned that it looked as if John was intimate with this woman.” Leslie yanks the phone from her ear when she hears an explosive laugh.
“God, that bitch will say anything to dramatize a story. She tried to say the same shit to me, and I had to tell her she was full of it. I mean, I was there, not her, right? She got pissed at that, but I don’t care. No, John and this woman were not intimate, not at all. They were arguing, especially him. She was mostly drinking and scowling.”
“Did you get a good look at her? What did she look like?” Something niggles in Leslie’s mind, but she’s not quite sure what it is.
“Sorry, Leslie. All I could see was that she was older than John, she was skinny, and she drank like a fish. Derek and I left before they did.” Jenna pauses for a moment before she quickly adds, “I’m really sorry about John, Leslie. It’s awful to lose someone that way.” Murmuring her thanks, Leslie hangs up the phone. She remembers that she’s supposed to call Rose, so she does that next.
“Hello, Leslie. Have you learned anything more about Freddy’s murder?” Rose’s voice is raw as if she’s been crying for the last day—which she has. She had lived in the same state with Freddy for most of her life, and he’d been closer to her than anyone else. She didn’t know what she was going to do without him.
“I have.” Leslie summarizes what she’s learned, keeping her speculations to herself. Rose may have been John’s best friend, but Leslie doesn’t know her from Lily. “Oh, and I just learned that John was seen arguing with an older woman at a local restaurant a few hours before he was killed.”
“A woman?” Rose is astonished. “Are you saying that a woman did this?”
“No. I’m saying that this mysterious woman is possibly the last person to see John alive. I have to find her.”
“A woman.” Rose is hung up on the fact that the murderer might be a woman. “Does that mean that Amy was killed by a woman, too? But that doesn’t make any sense at all.”
“No, Rose. Listen to me. All it means is that John had an argument with a woman hours before he died. We can’t leap to any conclusions from that information.” Leslie struggles to keep the impatience out of her voice, but it’s difficult.
“You’re right. I’m being hasty.” Rose takes several deep breaths to calm herself down. “I have done a little digging of my own since Amy’s murder. Let me tell you what I know.”
Amy was notorious for her boy toys. She was constantly seen with them, and she had no qualms about flaunting them in her father’s face. In fact, she enjoyed nothing more than showing up to a political function with one of them on each arm. Her father would try to get her to leave, but she would refuse. She knew that he wouldn’t want to cause a scene, so he would put up with her ‘inappropriate behavior’ as he always called it. And, inappropriate behavior it was. She would wear a dress that barely covered her assets, and she would openly grope her boy toys in front of her father. She drank champagne until she was drunk off her ass, and her boy toys would have to drag her around because she couldn’t walk. Her father would be humiliated, and he would take it out on Mrs. Robertson after the event. It was assumed that Amy was having torrid affairs with these boy toys, and she did everything to fan the flames.
However, Rose had done some diligent research, and she discovered that every single one of these boy toys was gay. Every one. There had been eight in the past year, and not a one of them was even bi. Therefore, Rose had concluded that they were beards, of a sort, for whatever else Amy was doing—or whom. It was easy to figure out why Amy would have chosen this option as a way to cover her tracks—it was a sure fire way to piss off her father, and it would feed the gossip mill for hours. The media hadn’t care too much about who these boys were as they seemed interchangeable (lissome, dark green eyes, sandy blond hair, engaging conversational skills), so no one had ever realized that Amy had been perpetuating one big charade.
Once Rose figured out that Amy hadn’t been serious about the boy toys, her interest was piqued. She knew that Amy was having at least one affair, so it stood to reason that if she had gone to such elaborate lengths to hide with whom she was having the affair, she was protecting someone. With that in mind, Rose did some further digging. She noticed that Amy had a lifelong pattern of dating older men, ranging from five years older to fifteen. This was in direct contrast to all the boy toys she had thrown in her father’s face. Therefore, chances were great that her clandestine affair was with an older man. And, if it had to be clandestine, a married older man. Admittedly, the last was pure speculation, but it fit in neatly with the evidence. If Amy had gotten pregnant by a married man and she threatened to tell the wife, well, all bets were off on how the man had reacted.
Rose also found out that the investigation into Senator Robertson’s purported embezzlement was getting more serious. The senate committee was apparently getting ready to make an announcement on what it was going to do about him ahead of the legal verdict. Senator Robertson had spent his whole life in politics. He wouldn’t know what to do if he weren’t a senator, even if he didn’t end up in jail. On the surface, this didn’t seem to relate at all to Amy’s murder, but if she had threatened to give the FBI and/or senate committee evidence of Senator Robertson’s embezzlement, well, he might have snapped. This theory was pure speculation, but that is OK with Leslie as they are just brainstorming at this point.
Rose recounted that Jack Jr. had been rumored to have gotten into some kind of trouble at Wheaton where he was finishing his senior year. Girl trouble. Senator Robertson apparently took care of it. Jill, the fourth child of the Robertson’s, had just separated from her husband, claiming that he had cheated on her. Her father was relentlessly pushing her to reunite with him. Tina, the third child, didn’t appear to have any skeletons in her closet, nor did Candace. No, none of this related to Amy’s murder, but Rose just wanted to flesh out Amy’s background.
“Shit. I gotta crash. I’m exhausted.” Leslie has reached a wall, and she knows she has to sleep.
“When can you come out here?” Rose asks. “There’s something else, but it’s best to tell you about it in person.”
“I’ll check online for tickets and let you know. I’m aiming for tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. I have frequent flyer miles, so I’ll see what I can do. I’ll email you my schedule when I buy the ticket.” After hanging up the phone, Leslie moves to the couch and immediately passes out.