By 10:13:15 p.m., Leslie is yawning nonstop. She has taken a break from the case because her mind is on overload. Now, she needs to sleep. She emails Siobhan with her most recent update, and then she heads to the bathroom to perform her ablutions. She is falling asleep as she brushes her teeth, so she decides to forego taking a shower—she can do it in the morning. She goes back to the bedroom, strips off her clothes, sets the alarm, and then lies down on the bed. She is out before she can even close her eyes.
Leslie is dreaming of John. He is healthy, happy, and oh, so handsome. She hugs him, kisses him, and he is hard. She slides her hand down his body, but he stops her with a gentle kiss.
“You are so beautiful, Leslie.” John presses a kiss so tender to Leslie’s lip, it takes her breath away. After breaking away, he presents a black rose to Leslie—a real, living black rose. “I need you to break into the rose. You will find me in the rose. Bear that in mind. Can you remember that after you wake up?”
“Yes, John,” Leslie whispers, pressing her cheek to John’s chest. She sheds a few tears as he closes his arms around her.
“I have to go now, baby.” John kisses Leslie on the top of her head.
“No!” Leslie is anguished as she looks up at John, tears in her eyes. “Don’t leave me again!”
“I’ll always be with you, Leslie. Always.” John hugs Leslie hard before letting her go. She watches as he evaporates into thin air. “Remember. Break into the rose. Bear that in mind.” With a start, Leslie wakes up.
“Damn.” Leslie looks at her watch. It’s 3:12:39 a.m., and Leslie is wide awake. She emails Siobhan to let her know, and then she returns to her laptop. She writes down what John had told her—something about breaking into a rose and bearing it in mind. Then, she takes a deep breath and starts researching Senator Bronson more thoroughly. Her earlier Google search had been cursory at best, but now is not time to be squeamish.
The information is grim. Over the last ten years, there have been thirteen cases of him being accused of molesting young girls. Up until the recent three, however, no case had ever gone beyond accusation. Leslie is haunted by the words of the girls—sisters, two of them—who were quoted as saying that they had trusted Brother Jonah with all their hearts and didn’t think he would do anything to hurt them. She can imagine the pain, sadness, fear, and self-disgust the girls are feeling. None of them would blame Senator Bronson at first because they had been brainwashed by him and their church to believe that he can do no wrong. So, if he’s doing this awful thing to them—it must be their fault. Leslie punches the wall and welcomes the pain as she hurts for these broken little girls. Even if they are to get therapy, and given the nature of their church, this is unlikely, their road back to being whole is a long and arduous one. Hell, Leslie is thirty years older than they are, and she still isn’t there herself. That makes Leslie sad for the little girl she had been when Mr. Liu took her innocence from her and for the fucked-up woman she’d been for twenty-plus years after.
Leslie reminds herself that Amy had been babysat by Senator Bronson when she was a little girl. She started running around doing weed and, if her mom is to be believed, sleeping around when she hit puberty at age thirteen. Amy is the classic profile of an molested girl, and Leslie knows this all-too-well. No way Amy had evidence of her abuse, but what if she had it for one of the other cases—maybe one of the current cases? Senator Bronson is an ambitious man, and new cases of child molestation, especially if there is any substance to them, will take him down fast. Leslie supposes she should be surprised that he would risk his career in such a manner, but she’s not. Men like him think they can do whatever they want, risk-free. That’s why they react so poorly when they are actually caught.
Leslie discovers that Senator Bronson’s alibi for the night of Amy’s murder is that he was home with his wife and kids. Not a sterling alibi, especially as his wife is known to back him no matter what he says. She’s one of those Stepford wives who want nothing more than to ride her husband’s coattails all the way to the top. How she reconciles that with her very fundamentalist Christian beliefs, Leslie has no idea—but she knows that many people hold cognitive dissonant views. At any rate, there is no way Mrs. Bronson is going to let her husband take a fall, not if she can help it. Then, Leslie remembers that Rex had told her Senator Bronson had visited Amy the afternoon of her murder. Leslie wants to know what Amy and Senator Bronson talked about that afternoon, but she doesn’t know how she’s going to get Senator Bronson to tell her. She has a hunch that he will not be as easy to crack as Prosecutor Erickson had been, and she wonders if she could get anything out of Mrs. Bronson instead. Leslie reaches for the phone before she remembers that it’s not an appropriate time to call anyone. She researches some more and notes that Senator Bronson has a juvie record. Sealed, but she would bet it had to do with forcing sexual activity on a girl. She puts him aside for the moment and moves onto Judge Anthony. Leslie had gotten a really nasty vibe off of the judge, so she struggles not to be prejudiced as she reads about him.
The first thing she researches is his affair with Mrs. Robertson. She compares schedules for the two of them for the last two years, and she notices that they have attended ninety-two percent of the same functions all year long. They are always at the same table, and they usually are sitting next to each other. Now, it’s not that unusual that they would be at some of the same events because they ran in the same circles, but ninety-two percent is too high for mere coincidence. Leslie also notices that sixty-three percent of the time, either Senator Robertson or Mrs. Anthony were not in attendance at the same event. Twenty-seven percent of the time, neither of them were there. During those last times, Mrs. Robertson and Judge Anthony had left the events together. In one dinky blog, there is a grainy picture of the two of them holding hands as they leave—or so it looks to Leslie. It’s hard to tell with the graininess of the picture, but Leslie is pretty sure. In her mind, this solidifies the rumor that Judge Anthony and Mrs. Robertson are having an affair.
Leslie frowns as she thinks about what Judge Anthony had said about Amy only having her looks and being very sexy. There had been a salacious undertone to his voice that had not been at all appropriate. In fact, the whole conversation had left Leslie nonplused because the judge had told her things that he would have best kept to himself. Yes, so had Prosecutor Erickson, but Leslie senses with him that he is burdened by what he did with Amy—truly, a fatal attraction—and that he had told Leslie as a sort of confession. Judge Anthony? No way in hell. He had talked to Leslie as if…as if she didn’t matter. Her breasts mattered to him, obviously, but she had not. Leslie doesn’t know if he bought that she was an aspiring reporter or not, but she would guess that he hadn’t. If that’s the case, why had he talked to her at all? Either he knew who she was despite her disguise—which truly freaked her out—or he had just dismissed her as a nonentity. That bothers her, but not as much as if Judge Anthony knows who she is and is toying with her.
Leslie shakes her head and focuses on Judge Anthony’s attitude towards Amy. When he had been talking about her, there was a proprietary edge to his tone. Leslie knows that tone all-too-well as many of the men she’d fucked in her past had taken it with her after fucking her. It had made her bristle, of course, and she dumped any guy who didn’t quit it after she told him to knock it off. Most of them weren’t great lovers, anyway, so it was no big loss. Leslie starts Googling like mad, and she keeps coming back to Mrs. Robertson’s DUI trial. Senator Robertson hadn’t appeared at the trial at all, but one newspaper notes that he made a visit to the judge’s chambers the day before sentencing.
“Bingo,” Leslie says softly. She tries to find out more information about this visit, but she cannot. What she does discover, however, are hints that the judge had been involved in the embezzlement scheme. Carefully couched and no hard evidence, but it’s enough of a rumor for the papers to speculate about it. Leslie makes a note of it, but she doesn’t dwell on it. If the judge is the murderer, then he didn’t do it because of the embezzlement—Leslie is sure of that. His disdain for women would be his reason for murdering Amy. It would have to be because she pissed him off personally. The affair with her mother? If Amy had proof of her mother’s affair with the judge, she would not hesitate to rub it in her mother’s face. Would she do the same to the judge? That’s a bit harder for Leslie to figure out. There is no doubt that Amy was a fucked-up woman and that she liked to play power games. She did love John in her own way, Leslie is sure of it. Or rather, she hopes it’s true—for John’s sake. In addition, Leslie has come to believe that Amy cared for Michael after a fashion as well. That seems to be the short list of the people Amy trusted. Leslie cannot find any mention of a close female friend, and that makes her sad for Amy. She herself didn’t have many—Siobhan, Sasha, and Priscilla are it—but she at least has them. John had washed his hands of Amy in the weeks before her murder, so that left Amy with just Michael—and he was married. Leslie remembers when she was in her early twenties—she had no friends at all. The only personal human contact she had was bringing home men (and the occasional woman) for the night.
“Enough.” Leslie banishes those dark thoughts to the back of her mind. Better to concentrate on the task at hand—which is digging up information on the judge. Leslie turns back to her old friend Google and gets a bit creative in her research. She discovers that the judge had been in town for Amy’s murder, and he didn’t have an alibi other than he was at home sleeping. His wife had been at home with him, but she takes sleeping pills that knock her out, so she wouldn’t have noticed if he’d left the house during the night.
“What’s this?” Leslie reads something interesting—the judge took the day off the day after Amy was killed. It doesn’t mean anything, of course, but Leslie makes a note of it, anyway. Leslie glances at her watch again, and notices that it’s 5:49:27 a.m. Is it too early to call Mrs. Bronson? Leslie is not quite sure. Her mother had raised her and her twin with the odd idea that you never called anyone if you could help it—regardless of time. However, if you did have to call someone, then it should be in the afternoon—the time when you were least likely to bother the other person. Leslie thinks hard about what time other people would call her—the problem is that she’s normally a night owl so her friends know not to call her before noon. But, most people had regular day jobs and such—though Mrs. Bronson did not. However, she is a very fundamentalist Christian, so she probably believes in early to bed and early to rise. Leslie decides that 8:00:00 a.m. is an OK time to call Mrs. Bronson.