Back in the hotel room, Leslie powers up her computer and flips on the TV as well. She wants to see what the press is saying about the disappearance of Rose, if anything. On the face of it, one random disappearance doesn’t get much air play, especially if the victim isn’t a pretty young white girl. However, with Rose’s connection to Senator Robertson (however tangential), Leslie has a hunch that the local news will at least pay lip-service to the case. She is right. The news gives the bare bones of the situation and hint that the disappearance may be connected to the murder of Amy Robertson, daughter of Senator Robertson, roughly a year ago. None of them offer any evidence of such a connection, but nobody cares about facts these days. Ratings were all that mattered, and a senator’s daughter’s murder added ratings to any story.
“The chief,” Leslie murmurs to herself. She would like to follow him, but she knows better than that. Even though the Chicago players don’t know of her existence, they would be bound to notice an Asian woman paying close attention to them. Besides, Leslie does not think the chief is her top priority, so she shelves him for now. She focuses instead on Jonah Bronson. She has to admit it’s purely prejudicial as she hates child molesters with a passion. She knows it’s in large part to her own history, and she hates how her experiences with Mr. Liu has permanently marked her. Even in a healthy, loving relationship such as the one she has with John—had, she reminds herself sternly—she had not been completely free from her past.
“Oh, John. Fuck me harder!” Leslie gasped, grabbing John’s ass so she could pull him closer to her. She needed to fill every inch of his cock—and more—in order to stave away the demons. They had been swarming around her mind for days, and the best way to rid them was, well, to have sex.
“Like that, Leslie?” John thrust his cock in as far as he could, and then he pushed it in a bit further. Leslie gasped as he hit her sweet spot—one she hadn’t even known she had before John. “Is this what you want?” John grabbed Leslie’s shoulders in his hands so he could get better purchase. Instantly, Leslie froze as she flashed back to a time when Mr. Liu had done just that.
“This is the proper way to get fucked, Leslie,” Mr. Liu said, his fingers biting into Leslie’s slim shoulders. “Open your legs wider.”
“I can’t!” Leslie was crying, but that only seemed to excite Mr. Liu even more.
“Do it!” Mr. Liu shook Leslie by the shoulders until she forced her legs even wider apart. Mr. Liu wasn’t very big, thankfully, but it still hurt like hell every time he fucked her as he didn’t care too much about preparation.
“It hurts!” Leslie wailed as Mr. Liu paused in his movements.
“It’s supposed to, you little minx. That just makes it feel better for me.”
“Leslie, come back to me.” John was lying beside Leslie, cradling her in his arms. His eyes were gazing at her in concern when she snapped back to the present. To her surprise, her cheeks were wet with tears.
“Oh, John. I had a flashback. It was awful!” Leslie cried, burying her face in John’s chest. “I’m so sorry! I wish I could have stopped it. I hate being damaged goods.” John lifted Leslie’s face so he could stare into her eyes. He made sure she was looking at him before he spoke.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing. He does. What he did to you was despicable, and if I ever get my hands on him, I will make him sorry he ever hurt you.” John’s voice was angry, but not at Leslie. “You are not damaged goods. You are a beautiful, wonderful woman who has been hurt. That’s not your fault.” John gently kissed Leslie on the cheek, which caused her to cry harder.
“Make love to me, John,” Leslie whispered, turning her face up to John’s. “Please. I need you.”
Leslie wipes the tears from her eyes. John had spent a good ten minutes kissing and cuddling Leslie before he acceded to her request. He knew better than she what she needed—and she could trust him to put her needs before his own. By the time he put his hand between her legs, she was more than ready for him. He had been gentle with her at first so as to not trigger another flashback. Once things got more intense, he suggested that Leslie get on top. Then, he let her set the pace, and he let her move as she needed to. In other words, he let her be in control. It was exactly what she needed.
“Damn you, John,” Leslie whispers, dropping her head into her hands. Before John, she had been with Peter, but not really with him. She never loved him, not the way she loved John. She had gotten together with Peter because she was lonely, and he was cute, and he liked her. She had kept much of her real self hidden from him because he was much more conventional than she was.
It was different with John from the very start. She didn’t feel the need to hide her true self. Indeed, she couldn’t hide her true self from him. After a month with him, she knew that she wanted to be in a relationship. What’s more, she knew that she wanted to be in a relationship with him. What’s even more, she knew that she wanted to live with him. That, in itself, had been a shocker for her. She had felt Peter coerced her into allowing him to move in, and she had resented it. She had grown to love him as much as she could love anyone at the time, but she still wanted her own space. In the first few months they had dated, she had made him leave her house after they finished having sex. He complained about it, but she would not be deterred. Peter had never understood her need to be alone as he always wanted to be with her. Until he didn’t.
Leslie thinks back to what Rose had told her about John preparing to tell Leslie the truth about his past and then propose to her. She fiddles with her ring, wondering what kind of engagement ring John would have bought her. The problem is, she had been very vocal about her disdain for the tradition of women wearing engagement rings and men not wearing them (branding the woman as taken). John hadn’t liked it, but he could at least understand her point of view—unlike Peter. Peter had made noises about getting married a year after they started dating, and he wanted her to take his last name. Now, while Leslie can barely imagine getting married, there is no way in hell she would take someone else’s last name. Why the hell should she lose her identity just because she was getting married? Peter hadn’t like that; John hadn’t cared. In fact, he joked about taking her last name instead. Of course, now that Leslie knows John Smith isn’t his real name, it makes more sense.
He had been about to propose to her, if Rose is to be believed. Leslie ponders this in her mind. What would she have said? She can’t imagine saying yes, and yet, strangely enough, she can’t imagine saying no. In fact, this is so out of her realm of experiences, she is flummoxed as to what to think about it. Can she see herself as Mrs. John Smith? Or rather, Mrs. Freddy Amato? Leslie frowns. He is John to her, and he always will be. The last letter he had sent her, he’d sign it, “Your John,” so that is that.
Leslie sighs. She knows there is no point in thinking about what might have been because John is dead. He had not been able to tell her the truth, and he had not been able to propose to her. Now, she is alone, and she hates it with an intensity she never thought possible. She prides herself on being self-sufficient and needing no one. Even when she was with Peter, she knew that she would be fine without him. Did it hurt when he dumped her? Sure. However, a small part of her had been relieved as well because Peter had been putting more and more pressure on her to marry and have kids near the end of their relationship, and it had bugged her. While John might have been about to propose to her before he died, children had been completely out of the picture because of his vasectomy. John had loved children, but he had made his peace with not having any of his own. She is startled out of her brown study by the ringing of the hotel phone. She stares at the phone as it continues to ring. No one knows she’s here—except Mrs. Robertson. Who could be calling her? Maybe it is a wrong number. Leslie reluctantly picks up the phone and says hello.
“Get the hell back to Minneapolis if you value your life.” Leslie is faced with a dial tone before she can even respond. Then, the words sank into her brain, and she begins to shiver. The voice had been almost robotic, and Leslie is hard-pressed whether to say if the voice is female or male. It hadn’t really sounded like Mrs. Robertson, but Leslie can’t say for sure. She remembers that she had called Prosecutor Erickson on the phone as well, so she can’t rule out the idea that he had tracked her number, discovered that she was in Chicago, and had gotten spooked. It freaks Leslie out because it means that someone knows her real identity. That person, therefore, is dangerous to her. She can’t rule out that it’s one of the three suspects she has yet to investigate as they all know each other. At any rate, the reality of her situation sinks in. Up until this point, she had been focused on finding out the truth and getting revenge for John. No, not justice, but revenge. Now, she suddenly realizes that by poking around, she’s putting herself in danger as well. Sure, she had told Siobhan that she knew her ass is on the line, but this makes it very clear that she hasn’t been fooling everyone.
“Damn it.” Leslie stands up so she can walk around a bit. She is a bundle of nervous energy, and she needs to walk some off before she explodes. She has been cavalier about her life for the past thirty years because after what happened with Mr. Liu, she just hadn’t cared if she lived or died. Now, however, she discovers that she does want to live. Ideally, it would be with John, but even without him, Leslie does not want to die. This surprises her, and it’s not all-together a welcomed feeling. She picks up her cell and punches in Siobhan’s number.
“You ready to come home, Leslie?” Siobhan asks, her voice taut.
“No. I am here until I can get justice for John.” Leslie substitutes justice for vengeance because she has a hunch Siobhan will be more amenable to the former than to the latter. She hesitates, then adds, “I need a favor from you, Siobhan.”
“What is it?” Siobhan’s voice is still tense, but at least she’s talking to Leslie. Leslie glances at the clock on the nightstand before answering.
“I am going to call, text, or email you every two hours during the day until I go to sleep. I will let you know when I go to sleep, and I will email/call you when I wake up. I will not sleep for more than five hours at one time. If you don’t hear from me within three hours during any time I’m awake, call the cops. Um, not the Chicago ones, though. Damn. Call the press. Call someone. Make a stink. You’re good at that.”
“Leslie, please. This is ridiculous. I’m worried sick about you, and this isn’t doing anything to soothe my nerves.”
“Siobhan, I know I am asking a lot of you. Believe me. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.” Leslie lays it on the line as she has rarely done before. She knows the prudent thing would be to go home and try to pick up the pieces of her broken heart. She should grieve over John, heal, and then get on with her life. However, something inside her rebels against this. That voice says she needs to find out what happened to John, that she can’t properly grieve him without knowing what actually happened to him. And, she can’t know what happened to him until she figures out what happened to Amy. This means staying in Chicago and putting her neck on the line. “Siobhan, please.” That moves Siobhan because Leslie rarely asks for anything, and she never says please.
“OK, Leslie. I’ll do it,” Siobhan finally says. “If you get yourself killed, I will undead you just so I can kill you again. Got it?”
“Got it,” Leslie says softly. She pauses a second and adds, “Thank you, Siobhan.”