A Hard Rain; chapter eleven, part two

Leslie feels grimy, so she goes to take a shower.  She puts her hair up in a bun before getting in so it’ll only get minimally wet, and then she steps into the steaming hot water.  She turns the nozzle to the ‘massage’ setting and lets the water beat on her aching back.  After she is done, she steps out and puts on a pair of jeans and an Obama sweatshirt.  She quickly dries her hair and then returns to the laptop.  She knows she should do more research, but she is burnt out.

“Break into the rose.”  Leslie stares at the words John had said in her dream.  “Rose, as in Rose Duffy?”  Of course!  John had prepared a packet of information to be sent to Leslie in case of his death, so logic tells Leslie that he probably sent one to Rose, too.  Jealousy flares inside Leslie, but she tamps it down.  This is not the time to get emotional—she will deal with all that shit later.  She picks up the hotel phone and calls her cabby.  It’s time for a spot of B&E.

“Stay here,” Leslie tells her cabby as she steps out of the taxi.  She had him park a block away, and he had asked no questions.  He nods and pulls out Dickens again.  The sun is nowhere to be seen, and there is a definite chill to the air.  Leslie walks towards the house and sees—no cops.  She blinks.  No cops?  What the hell?  They should be crawling all over the place, but no.  The yellow crime scene is up, but there are no cops in sight.  Leslie goes around the house to the back door.  She rattles it, and it’s locked.  However, the lock is a cheap one, and Leslie is able to open it with her credit card and a lot of jiggling.  She slips in and takes a quick look around.  The house is devoid of much of anything.  The walls are white, gray, and steel-blue.  There is a harshness to the atmosphere that is oppressive.  Leslie shrugs it off and heads for the stairs.  She knows she doesn’t have much time, and she has a hunch that anything Rose has is hidden on the second floor.

Upstairs is more of the same in terms of décor.  There is little furniture in any of the rooms, and no photographs.  No knickknacks, no mementos, no sign that anyone actually lives in the house.  Leslie shivers at the coldness.  Her own house is not very cozy, but at least she has a few personal touches.  And, she has Josephine.  Josephine.  A wave of homesickness rolls over Leslie, and it surprises her.  She is not someone who is very attached to any place, but she suddenly wishes she was at home in her living room, watching the news, and cuddling Josephine on her lap.  She pushes that thought to the back of her mind as heads to Rose’s bedroom.  Once inside, she stops and stares.  The room is done in mauve, dusty rose, and salmon pink.  The bed has red satin sheets on it.  There are yellow roses on the bedside table, along with a battered stuffed bear who looks like he has a tale or two to tell.  Apparently, all of Rose’s personality had been poured into her bedroom—her sanctuary.  Leslie is more sure than ever that whatever John had sent Rose is hidden in this room.

Leslie pulls on her leather gloves and starts searching the room.  She feels guilty for rifling through Rose’s belongings, but it has to be done.  Leslie’s frustration mounts as she searches dressers and drawers and closets.  She can’t find anything, and she is this close to screaming.  She thumps her hand on the bedside table, accidentally hitting the teddy bear sitting there.  She frowns because he is lumpy in a way that a bear should not be.  She picks him up, turns him around, and sees a thick seam in the back that does not match the rest of the stitching.  She laughs when she remembers that John had told her to ‘bear it in mind’.  He had always been one for a bad pun.  Leslie is about to try to undo it when she hears a noise below.  She freezes for a minute before stuffing the bear into her purse and rushing to the door.  She creeps outside and towards the stairs.  She hears a noise in the kitchen which is between her and the front door.  The back door, the one in which she came, however, is directly below the stairs.  If she is quick and quiet, she should be able to escape unnoticed.  She tiptoes down the stairs as fast as she can, thankful that she is not wearing heels.  She races out the back door and runs to the cab.


“Let’s go,” she says to the cabbie.  He throws the book onto the passenger seat and takes off.  Smart man, he goes in the opposite direction from which Leslie ran.  She has him take her to the hotel, and she hurries to her room.  Once inside, she grabs the bear from her purse and sets him on her desk.  She pokes him in the stomach, and she can definitely feel something that is not stuffing.  She rummages through her purse for her sewing scissors (thankfully, TSA hadn’t taken them from her), and she carefully snips the seam.  She can tell that this bear is much loved by Rose, and Leslie wants to damage him as little as possible.  When she has the seam completely undone, she gently parts the bear and reaches inside.  There is a folded manila envelope.  It’s addressed to Rose in John’s handwriting, which makes Leslie’s heart leap.  It also has a #1 on it, which Leslie presumes to mean there is another envelope.  Damn.  She’ll have to go back, but this will have to do for now.  She quickly texts Siobhan to let her know she’s OK.

Leslie sews the bear back up before carrying it and the envelope to the bed.  She sets the bear down on his face on the pillow and then sits down to open the envelope.  First, a note to Rose.  Leslie hesitates before reading it.  She knows how she would feel if someone read the note John had sent her, but she has to see if there is anything pertinent to John’s murder.  Leslie strokes the teddy bear to gather her courage, and then she read the letter.  Again, seeing John’s handwriting made her heart leap into her mouth.  When would she stop having that reaction?  A part of her hopes never.


Dear Rose,

            I am sending this to you for safe keeping.  This is the first of two.  I am on the trail of the killer, and I am afraid he knows it.  I think I’m being followed, but I can’t be sure.  I need you to keep this copy of the evidence I have so far for me.  If you find out I’m dead, then…shit.  Don’t give it to the cops.  They’re in on it.  Email my woman.  She’ll know what to do.  I know I am asking a lot of you, but I also know you can handle it.  Be safe.


Love, Freddy


Leslie’s face burns as she reads the letter.  It’s not as intimate as the one he wrote to her, but there is an unshakable bond there—that much Leslie cannot deny.  She wonders why he keeps calling her ‘my woman’ to Rose.  Is it because he wants to claim her?  Leslie dismisses that thought from her mind because John had been the least possessive guy she’d ever known.  So, why—of course.  He hadn’t wanted to tell Rose Leslie’s name because he was protecting both of them.  If Rose knew who Leslie was, then Rose could figure out Freddy’s new identity.  If she did that, then it could be tortured out of her by the murderer.  Granted, ‘Leslie’ is not that uncommon of a name, but still—John had done his best to protect Rose.  Another thought hits Leslie.  John had also been protecting her, Leslie, by not revealing her name.  Leslie is filled with gratitude that John had been so careful—she just wishes he had extended the same caution to himself.  Come to think of it, he had.  Then, how had he gotten caught?  Ah, the ‘old friend’.  He had put that in quotes when he texted her.  At least, that’s how Leslie remembers it.  She pulls out her phone and checks her messages.  Yes.  He had said he was meeting an ‘old friend’—which meant he was being ironical.  And, if Jenna Carmichaels is to be believed, the ‘old friend’ was an older woman who argued with John.  That could only mean Mrs. Robertson.  Leslie made a note on her laptop and mentally moved Mrs. Robertson up the accomplice list.  Then, she turned back to the envelope.

“What do we have here?”  Leslie pulls out a sheaf of Xeroxed papers.  The first batch are copies of emails between Senator Robertson and various muckety-mucks around Chicago.  Though he is careful in how he phrases it, it’s clear that Senator Robertson is offering his services to the highest bidders.  He is willing to vote yes or no on a bill, any bill, just as long as he’s getting paid for it.  Leslie cannot believe he would keep such incriminating emails, but perhaps he deleted them and though them gone forever.  There are also copies of his bank statements that have huge deposits that coincide with the eve of every big vote that happened in a five-year period.  And, what’s this?  Offshore accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and half a dozen island countries.  Senator Robertson has been a very naughty man, indeed.  There is also a list of people involved in the money scheme.  Leslie does not recognize any of the names other than Senator Robertson and…Judge Anthony.  So.  It’s true.  Judge Anthony is in on the embezzlement scheme.  Leslie is not surprised, but again, she’s not particularly convinced this would be the reason Judge Anthony killed Amy—if he was the murderer.  Leslie moves on.

Next are photocopies of pictures of Judge Anthony and Mrs. Robertson.  Some of them are innocuous, such as the ones where they are at a charity dinner.  Others, however, are not.  There are pictures of Judge Anthony and Mrs. Robertson having sex.  A few of them are grainy, as if they were taken with a cell phone, but the rest are higher-quality digital pictures.  Many pictures.  Leslie wonders how Amy took them, then decides it doesn’t really matter.  The important thing is that these photos are not photoshopped, as far as Leslie can tell.  There is a particularly clear shot of Mrs. Robertson on her hands and knees with the judge entering her from behind.  Leslie quickly flips through the rest of the pictures.  There is nothing of interest except that the judge is pretty large for his build.

The next pictures turn Leslie’s stomach.  They are of Senator Bronson with a girl around nine.  In the first, he is kissing her and has his hand under her skirt.  From the clothing they are wearing, it has to be a fairly recent picture—which means it’s most likely one of the three girls from his church who have said that Senator Bronson was abusing them.  The rest of the pictures are so vile, Leslie can barely look at them.  She speeds through them as fast as she can, only taking time to notice that there is a different girl in some of the pictures—and she looks a lot like the first girl.  So, most likely the sisters.

“Fucker!”  Leslie whips the photocopies around the room and pounds on the wall in frustration.  Her head is throbbing as the images of what she’d just seen loop endlessly in her mind.  Small vignettes starring Mr. Liu creep their way into the loop as well, and Leslie hits the wall a few more times so the physical pain will drive the pictures out of her head.  After five minutes of this, it works.  She’s able to stop thinking about the two poor girls in the pictures with Senator Bronson and about poor little Leslie who didn’t stand a chance against Mr. Liu thirty years ago.

Leslie takes a few slow, steady breaths before picking up the photocopies and stacking them neatly on her bed, facedown.  She stares at the pile as if it’s a viper, but she tries to tell herself that it can’t hurt her.  Still, she can’t stop the sick feeling in her stomach from twisting its way up her throat.  She tries to fight it back down, but she loses.  She races to the bathroom and starts dry-heaving.  Nothing comes out, but she can’t stop gagging.  Tears spring to her eyes and she angrily brushes them aside.  She is fucking sick and tired of this shit.  She wishes she could just be over it already, damn it.  It was so fucking long ago—why is she still reacting as if it had happened yesterday?  After she stops heaving, she drinks several glasses of water before returning to the room.  She sees that it’s 8:03:24 a.m., and she decides that she can call Mrs. Bronson now—after texting Siobhan.  She doesn’t really need to call Mrs. Bronson as she now has evidence that her husband is a pervert and an asshole, but Leslie is still curious as to what Mrs. Bronson will say.  Leslie looks at John’s list of numbers, and yes, Mrs. Bronson’s number is on the list.  Leslie silently thanks John for being so thorough as she calls Mrs. Bronson—from the hotel phone, of course.

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