The private envelope that Lydia hadn’t wanted Brian to see loomed large in my mind. Though what we had already gone through was interesting and cause for speculation to say the least, I had a hunch that what Lydia had kept from Brian was even juicier. It was logical to assume that the reason she hadn’t wanted him to see what was in that envelope was because what she had found had something to do with him. Suddenly, I had to get out of there and go through the private envelope. I made my excuses, gathered up the papers, placed them in the manila envelope before returning it to my purse and headed for the door. Rafe followed willingly, but Brian was complaining. He wanted more time to look over the information, and while I couldn’t blame him, I wasn’t leaving the papers with him, either. I didn’t trust him further than I could throw him. I promised him that I would let him know if we came up with anything else of importance, but my reassurances didn’t seem to ease his mind.
“What’s your hurry?” Rafe asked as he walked me to my mom’s car. I could tell he wasn’t mad at me any more, but I knew we’d still have to discuss my withholding information. I, for one, was glad to put it on hold for as long as possible.
“I want to see what’s in the ‘not for Brian’s eyes’ envelope,” I explained, clutching my purse. “The other stuff is interesting, but I have a feeling that we’ll find pay dirt with the private papers.”
“You just want to dish the dirt,” Rafe said knowingly, giving me a peck on the cheek. He knew that I liked to dig deep—the dirtier the better. It wasn’t the most attractive part of my personality, but I wasn’t ashamed of it, either.
“Meet you back at the parents’?” I asked, lifting an eyebrow. He nodded and veered off towards his car. Driving at a slower speed than usual, I was outpaced back to my parents’ house. They were nowhere to be seen, which was unusual for this time of day on a weekday. Rafe waited for me to open the door before he started pestering me to bring out the private stash. We went into the living room and snuggled on the couch. I pulled out the private envelope and opened it. There was a few pieces of paper plus a bunch of pictures. The first piece of paper was again addressed to me.
Bea, this is something that I don’t want Brian to see. I’m hoping that it’s you reading this and not Brian. You see, for the last month or so, I had a hunch that he was seeing someone else. You know how it is. First, the attention starts wandering, then the sex isn’t as frequent. I tried to tell myself that it was because of his work, but since I don’t know what the hell he does, it was hard to convince myself that was true. So I did what other suspicious women have done. I followed him.
He was sly about it. For the first few days, I didn’t catch him doing anything more suspect than go a different route to work. I began to doubt myself, to think I was making it up. You know how it is, Bea, you want to believe that it’s not true. I had almost talked myself into thinking that I had an overactive imagination, and I was going to give it up. I decided to follow him one more day, and oh, I wish I hadn’t. I wish I could have remained ignorant of what he was up to. But no. I had to snoop. Well, I got him but good. The fourth day I followed him, he did his usual veering off his route thing so I followed. The other times, he stopped at a supermarket or Home Depot or some place like that before returning to his apartment. This time, he stopped somewhere very familiar—my mother’s.
I can hear what you’re saying. Maybe there’s a good reason for him going to my mother’s—like she needed something fixed. I thought that was all it was, too. Still, there was a knot in my gut, so I decided to wait. Ten minutes later, mother’s car came out of the driveway with both of them in it. I followed them. They went to the Olive Garden and had dinner. Now, why would they have dinner together? I couldn’t go in without them spotting me, so I left and waited in the parking lot. It was hours before they came out again but when they did, I followed them again. To her place. Thus, the pictures. Oh, I know you think I’m still lying, but why would I? What possible reason could I have for fabricating such a story? Do me a favor, just take a look a the pictures and see if I’m telling the truth. Then read the next sheet of paper.
Rafe was reading over my shoulder, and I was sure that he felt the same jolt of shock and disgust that I did. The scum had been cheating on his girlfriend with her mother? That was lower than low. And Mrs. Rodriguez? How could she reconcile what she was doing with being a loving mother? If it were true, then everything either of them had told us was thrown into doubt in a big way. If it were true, then the relationship is another thing Lydia lied to me about. Or rather, misrepresented. I distinctly remember her telling me how she and Brian had spent his birthday having sex. Was that true? And if it were, why would she keep fucking a guy who was also fucking her mother? That was just gross.
“Let’s see the pictures,” he said grimly, his jaw set. Neither of us could fathom….I couldn’t even think about it, let alone picture it. I pulled out the photos, hoping that Lydia had been lying. Though it wouldn’t have said much for her state of mind, it would make me feel a lot better about her mother, not to mention Brian.
The first batch of pictures were innocuous enough. They depicted Brian and Mrs. Rodriguez in the zoo just strolling around and looking at animals. They weren’t holding hands or touching or anything. In fact, they were perfectly pleasant. A sliver of doubt entered my mind. What if they were all like that? What if Lydia had imagined something that hadn’t existed? Quite frankly, I’d be more than happy if that were the case. The next batch didn’t do much to change my mind. They showed Mrs. Rodriguez and Brian dressed up and dancing in a nightclub. Not one of those teeny-bopper meat markets, but more like a jazz club. Fancy. I didn’t even know we had any in Minnesota. Still, there wasn’t much in the pictures to support Lydia’s claim, and I was starting to feel voyeuristic to boot.
Granted, it wasn’t usual for a man to go dancing with his girlfriend’s mother. Also granted, said mother didn’t appear too seemly with the happy gleam in her eyes as she gazed at her daughter’s boyfriend, but there still wasn’t much to indicate more than a cozy relationship. I was beginning to have doubts about looking at the rest of the pictures. It felt like an invasion of Mrs. Rodriguez’s privacy, not to mention Brian’s. They obviously had no idea that they were being photographed, and I almost decided not to look through the rest of the pictures. What made me choose to go through with it, however, was the nagging thought—what if Lydia was right? What if they were having an affair? That was something I needed to know.
Firmly pushing my doubts aside, I pulled out the next set of pictures. The first couple just showed Mrs. Rodriguez and Brian hugging. Warmly hugging. With his hand on her ass. Ok, now it was starting to make me squeamish. I could tell by the look on Rafe’s face that he felt the same way. His lips were pressed together tightly as he quickly flipped through the pictures. He held them by one corner as if he couldn’t bear to touch them. The next had Mrs. Rodriguez standing on her tiptoes kissing Brian on the cheek. The one after that had her kissing him on the lips; the next showed them French-kissing.
“I do not like where this is going,” I muttered under my breath.
Some things were sacred—the mother-daughter relationship was one of them. I held my breath as I looked at the next set of pictures. Any illusion that there was nothing more than a slightly risqué flirtation between Brian and Lydia’s mother was shattered by leafing through this damning set. I didn’t know how Lydia managed it, but she had pictures of her mother and Brian fucking in a bedroom. In excruciating detail. It wasn’t digital pictures, either, which could be touched up somehow. No, these were old-fashioned pictures taking on film and developed, presumably, at Target or some place like that. She had used up a whole roll of thirty-six pictures on the fornication of her boyfriend and her mother. I didn’t know how she could stand watching them for more than two minutes without either getting sick or busting their heads open, but she had done it.
“I don’t fucking believe this,” Rafe exclaimed, quickly flipping through the nudie shots. Brian had something to be proud of in the cock department, though I was sure he wouldn’t appreciate me telling him so. Come to think of is, neither would Rafe. “How could he?”
“How could she?” I retorted. While I had no problem believing that a guy could cheat on his girlfriend—it was harder to believe he’d do so with her mother, but he did like older women as evidenced by his favorite female actors—I had a really difficult time understanding how a mother could sleep with her daughter’s boyfriend.
“This is just sick,” Rafe said, tossing the pictures on the coffee table. He refused to look at any more, though I leafed through the rest. There were pictures of Brian and Mrs. Rodriguez doing various other activities as well, though none quite as expressive as the fucking ones. It also cast their behavior the time we saw them together in an entirely different light.
“Do you think that Mrs. Rodriguez was lying when she emphasized how much Lydia lied? I mean, perhaps she was covering her own ass as well when she told us about Lydia lying.”
“I don’t think she knew Lydia knew,” Rafe returned. “I mean, do you think she’d honestly ask us to help out if she thought for a minute that we could discover her deep, dark secret?”
I conceded that he had a point. It would have been the height of stupidity—or arrogance as Rafe pointed out—for Mrs. Rodriguez to deliberately invite us to investigate Lydia’s death if she suspected that her well-guarded secret wasn’t so well-guarded. The question was, however, what, if anything, did this discovery have to do with Lydia’s death? The date told me that she had written the note the day of Brian’s birthday which was the day before she got killed. If either her mother or Brian had anything to do with her death—or both—that person would have had to found out literally the night before and planned to do something about it the next day.
Rafe and I discussed the affair as a motive for killing Lydia, but as much as I’d like to pin it on Brian—the lying, cheating scum—I couldn’t. If somebody was going to kill someone over the affair, it was more likely that Lydia would have killed her mother or Brian than vice-versa. While it would have been messy and ugly and emotional, it didn’t seem like a situation for murder. Then again, I didn’t consider many situations right for murder, but I was a conservative gal in those matters. Rafe and I agreed that while the pictures were morally damning, they probably weren’t anything other than that. After perusing all the pictures, I picked up the next letter from Lydia.
Bea, you’ve seen the pictures by now and are most likely disgusted by them as was I. An affair I could have handled. An affair with my mother? No, that was more than I could bear. The pictures of them making love fucking was taken a week ago. I decided to wait until after Brian’s birthday to confront him—I don’t know why. Most likely because of the shit at work that I’m dealing with. I don’t know if you know this, but there is a lot of shit going on there—underhanded dealings for sure! I don’t have enough evidence yet, but what I do have is in this envelope. When I find enough, I’ll go to the authorities, after talking about it with you, of course.
I’m scared, Bea. I get the feeling that someone at work is watching me, but I’m not sure who. That’s why I’m hiding this shit. In case someone tries to find it. Like I said, if I don’t make it, I’m counting on you to find out the truth. Your friend, Lydia.
“That’s it?” Rafe asked, rereading the note. “Couldn’t she have been any more specific than that?” He asked indignantly. “After all the trouble we went to find the stuff.” I refrained from pointing out that I was the one who did most of the work. That would start a fight over my not telling him about it earlier which was something I wanted to avoid. “By the way,” Rafe said, the look on his face letting me know that he had just remembered that he was mad at me. “Let’s talk about secrets of another sort.”
“What sort would that be?” I folded my arms and leaned back in the couch. I wasn’t going to make this easier on him if I could help it.
The following thirty minutes was one of the most uncomfortable times of my life. He had to list in excruciating details all the times I’ve detached from him and done my own thing. I reminded him that I wasn’t a kid and that he wasn’t my keeper. I was allowed to have an independent thought or two. He informed me that being part of a couple meant talking things over and making decisions that were best for both parties. That’s not my definition of a couple. I envisioned a couple as two people who had their own lives but who also liked to be together. I didn’t sign up to be fitted for a ball and chain, and I saw no reason why I had to tell him every move that I made. He countered that it was only courtesy and since we were working the case together, we should keep each other informed. I said that was his ego talking, and the gloves were off after that.
I ended up storming out of the room and up to my bedroom. I locked the door so he couldn’t come in, and I heard him leave the house five minutes later. Looking out my window, I saw him get in his car and race off, kicking up a metaphorical cloud of dirt in his path. I was slightly hurt that he hadn’t tried harder to talk to me, and I didn’t even care that I was being ridiculous. Sometimes I get into these moods where I just need to fight, and unfortunately, I usually aimed my anger at my partner. It was a side of me that I didn’t like, but it wasn’t easy to change. My mother used to do the same thing when I was a little girl. She would go off on my dad about something, and no matter what he did, she refused to be placated. He usually had to leave her alone for a few hours before she would cool down. I used to hate it when she did that to him—and it was only aimed at my father, never at my siblings nor me—but now, I seemed to be doing the same thing.
I picked up my phone and just as I was about to call Mrs. Rodriguez, it rang. I stared at it without doing anything for a minute because I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to anyone—socially, I meant. Come to think of it, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to talk to Mrs. Rodriguez. Why was I calling her? What would be gained by confronting her? Even if it were true—let’s say she was having an affair with her daughter’s boyfriend, what business was it of mine? If I didn’t believe that either Brian nor Mrs. Rodriguez killed Lydia to hide the affair—and I most emphatically did not—then perhaps it was better to keep it buried. I glanced at my cell and saw that it was Phillip. I groaned but picked up the phone. I did not want to talk to him at all.
“Hello?” I forced myself to be civil, but I couldn’t manage warmth. I gathered the papers and photos and went down to the den where my parents had a state-of-the-art copier.
“Bea? This is Phillip. Phillip Bates. I just wanted to call and see how you were doing.” He oozed sincerity right over the phone line. I had to fight the urge to towel off as he spoke.
“I’m fine,” I said cautiously, not giving anything away. I had no idea why he was being so nice to me unless he really did give a damn about the park employees. It was hard for me to accept that he was carrying on with FunLand for anything more than the profit and perhaps a sense of duty to his brother. I started copying everything while talking to him. It was hard as hell to keep the damn thing up with my good shoulder while struggling to work the copier with my good hand, but I managed.
“When do you think you’re going to be back?” Phillip asked. “Not that I’m trying to rush you or anything. A hurt shoulder is nothing to sneeze at. It’s just, we’re shorthanded and, uh, it would be great if you could come back Thursday.”
“I don’t think so,” I said firmly. The throbbing in my shoulder reminded me that it hurt like hell and that I should be popping some pills. “I’ll be back Friday perhaps.” I left the papers copying and went back upstairs to get my pills. I walked to the bathroom with pills in hand so I could get a glass of water. As soon as I popped one of those babies, I felt better. I returned to the den.
“OK, sure,” Phillip said hastily, obviously not wanting to upset me. “Friday is good.” He paused, and I waited for him to hang up. After all, what else was there to say? Still, he hung on. I could hear his breathing, and it creeped me out. “Um, so, did you remember anything else?” Phillip asked, his voice odd.
“No,” I said tersely, returning to my room. “It happened too fast.”
“Any idea why you were attacked?”
“No,” I repeated, not letting him know that I had been snooping into the park murders. I didn’t know him from Jack, and I’d be damned if I gave him any information if he was the killer. Admittedly, I couldn’t see any reason for him killing Lydia, but I certainly had a solid motive for him killing his brother. Maybe there were two killers—it was more than plausible.
“Well, let me know if you think of anything,” Phillip said. “I want to keep everything at the park under control.” I didn’t get a chance to answer as he hung up on me. I stared at the phone thoughtfully before shoving it in my pocket.