A Hard Rain; chapter nine, part part three

“Damn it, Reynolds, tell me what the fuck is going on with the Robertson case, and tell me now.”  Chief Matthews bellowed at Detective Reynolds, a twenty-year veteran who still had a thirst for justice, despite his years on the force.

“I had officers canvass the area.  It seems that there were three strange cars that were seen at Ms. Robertson’s house the day she was murdered.”  Detective Reynolds was in his late forties, but he was still in good shape.  He prided himself on the fact that he had his full head of thick brown hair and that his eyesight was still as keen as ever.  He glanced at his notes before continuing.  “As we know, one of them was Amato.”  Detective Reynolds paused, looking momentarily uncomfortable.

“Who are the other two, Reynolds?”  Chief Matthews asked, his dark eyes boring into Detective Reynolds’ blue ones.  Detective Reynolds remained silent for a minute longer before reluctantly answering.

“Michael Erickson and Jonah Bronson.”  A murmur swelled among the other cops present; the chief was friends with both of the men.

“State Prosecutor Erickson and Senator Bronson?”  Chief Matthews asked, emphasizing the titles unconsciously.

“Yes.”  Detective Reynolds folded his arms across his chest and rocked back and forth on his heels.  He looked as if he wished he could be anywhere but where he was.  “The next door neighbors had a habit of keeping track of Ms. Robertson’s companions.  They knew who she was, of course.”  Of course.  Any fool with access to the internet knew who Amy Robertson was, and in these days of celebrity-gawking, of course the neighbors would have an unhealthy interest in the comings and goings of the daughter of an august senator such as Senator Robertson.  “They recognized both Senator Bronson and State Prosecutor Erickson on sight.”  The former was there in the afternoon for roughly an hour whereas the latter was there in the evening, but no one is sure for how long.”

“Reynolds,” Chief Matthews began, his eyes glowering.  Before he could say anything else, his phone rang.  “Matthews!”  The expression on Chief Matthews face turned from exasperation to…something else.  No one in the room had ever seen the chief look like that before.  He didn’t say anything other than, “Yes.”  “I see.”  “All right.” After he hung up the phone, he said to the room, “Everyone but Reynolds get out.”  The cops all began to protest in unison.  They had been on the case from the beginning, and they felt they had the right to know what was going on.  “Out.”  Chief Matthews didn’t need to raise his voice to get his point across.  Though the muttering continued, everyone but Reynolds filed out the door; Chief Matthews closed it after the last straggler had left.

“Chief Matthews handled the case after that—alone.”  Rex chomps his burger, his forehead furrowed.  Leslie suddenly remembers that Mrs. Robertson had told her Chief Matthews had pulled Amy for driving while drunk an hour before Amy’s murder.  She decides to mention it, but how?  She’s not supposed to know anything about the case.  She thinks for a minute.

“Chief Matthews knew Amy, I think.  I remember her mentioning him a time or two.”

“He knows her father,” Rex corrects Leslie.  “Everybody knows Senator Robertson.”

“Did he know her personally?”

“Yeah, sure.  I mean, like I said, he knew her father.”

“Was he the one to contact Senator Robertson about Amy’s death?”  Leslie holds her breath because she is venturing into questionable territory for a friend of Amy’s.

“No.  The chief was out of town.  Phoenix, I think.  His wife has family there.  He was supposed to be on vacation for two weeks, but he flew back the day after Amy’s murder.”  Rex throws a few calamari down his maw as Leslie regretfully crosses the chief off her list of suspects.  Then she brightens because eliminating a suspect means she only has three others to investigate.  If John’s information is true.  Leslie glances at her watch and sees that it’s nearly two hours since she called Siobhan.

“Excuse me.”  Leslie hurries to the bathroom, sits in a stall, types a text, and waits until it’s exactly two hours to the second from the time she had glanced at the clock in the hotel room and presses send.  She takes a minute to think about what Rex had told her.  Not all the evidence points to John—she sags in relief.  Then, she straightens in anger.  If what Rex said is true, then Chief Matthews is guilty of at least falsifying evidence, but there is no way he could have committed the murder.  Unless he was lying about being in Phoenix, but that seems too Machiavellian to Leslie.  The phone call has to be from either the murderer or someone who has something to hide, even if it’s short of murder.  This person calls Chief Matthews and begs/orders the chief to get him (generic him) off the hook.  Chief Matthews does this by taking over the case and pointing all the evidence at Freddy.  He concealed the fact that both Senator Bronson and Prosecutor Erickson had been at Amy’s house the day she was murdered.  Leslie decides to call Prosecutor Erickson again, and she shelves thinking about Chief Matthews for now.  She doesn’t want to make Rex suspicious by staying in the bathroom too long.  She decides to use the toilet while she’s there, then she washes her hands and returns to the table.  Rex has finished his calamari and three-fourths of his burger.  Leslie’s stomach hurt as she watched him eat.  How could any one human being pack away that much food?  She shakes her head and sits down again.  She picks at her brownie, suddenly no longer in the mood for it.

“You going to finish that?”  Rex asks, hungrily eyeing the remains of the brownie.  As Leslie hasn’t even eaten a fourth, she shakes her head and pushes the dish towards Rex.

“Look, I need to go.  You all set here?”  Leslie glances at the decimated remains of the food in amazement.

“Yes.”  Rex hesitates before quickly adding, “You going to be in town long?  I thought maybe I could take you out to dinner and show you the town.”  Leslie is stunned.  Did he just ask her on a date?  Apparently, he had.

“I’m flying back to Los Angeles tonight,” Leslie says, smiling apologetically.  “I pretty much put my real life on hold to fly to France.  I have to get it back in order.”

“No problem.  Thanks for lunch.”  Rex waves at Leslie, and she nods at him.

“Thank you for your help.  I really appreciate it.”  Leslie pays the bill on her way out, leaving a generous tip.  Once outside, she hails a cab and goes to the courthouse.

“Can you believe that Senator Bronson?”  The cabby, an older white guy asks jovially as he drives.  “How sick do you have to be to molest little girls?”

“Pretty sick,” Leslie says softly, her stomach cramping.  “But I thought it hasn’t been proven yet.”

“Of course not, what with him being a senator and all.  But, you know, this isn’t the first time he’s been accused.  Where there’s smoke, etc., etc.”  The cabbie waves a hand in indignation as he glances back at Leslie.  She stifles the impulse to tell him to focus on the road because she knows that most cabbies do not appreciate backseat drivers.

“How’s he been as a senator?”  Leslie asks, mostly out of curiosity.

“Horseshit,” the cabby says bluntly.  “All he cares about is money for the rich and money for the church.  He doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.”

“Do you think he’ll go to jail?”

“I hope so.  Jerk deserves it for doing that shit, don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes,” Leslie says fervently.  “I don’t think it’ll happen, though.  He’s rich and powerful.  He can buy his way out of prison time.”

“Nope.  Not this time.  You from around here?”  The last question is a non sequitur, but Leslie answers, anyway.

“No.  Los Angeles.”

“A year ago, the daughter of another senator got killed.  Rumor has it Bronson diddled her, too, when she was a kid.”

“But it’s only a rumor.”  Leslie has learned that the cabbie will speak with little prodding, so she’s careful to direct him in the direction she wants to go.

“Well, I heard that the girl kept evidence from what he did back then, kept it all this time!  That’s why he murdered her—to keep her from telling what she knew.”

“I thought she was killed by her boyfriend,” Leslie says, offering a silent apology to John’s spirit.

“Oh, sure.  That’s what the cops wanted us to believe.  They said—hey, wait.  How did you know about the boyfriend?”  The cabbie turns his head to look at Leslie again, narrowly missing a car that was veering too close to the center line.

“I’ve read about the case.  The only suspect mentioned was her boyfriend.”

“Freddy Amato.”  The cabbie pronounces the name and snorts.  “He was just the scapegoat.  You notice how all the evidence pointed towards him?  That never happens for real.  You mark my words—it’s that Bronson guy who did it.  She had evidence of him being a sack of shit, and he couldn’t risk her exposing him.   So, he killed her.  Well, here we are.”  Leslie pays up and leaves the cab.  She thinks about what the cabbie had told her.  The only bit of possibly interesting information was that Amy had evidence of Senator Bronson molesting her when she was a kid.  Leslie highly doubts it’s true, but if it is, it gives Senator Bronson a big motive for killing her.  At any rate, Leslie needs to find out more about him.

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