A Hard Rain; chapter nine, part two

After saying goodbye, Leslie hangs up the phone.  She ponders what she should do next.  She writes down all the private cell phone numbers of the main suspects and family (including a few she doesn’t recognize.  Jill Brewster?  Tommy Legato?  Parker Young?  Who the fuck are these people?) from John’s files and stuffs the list in her purse.  She is not sure she’ll need them, but she would rather have them and not need them than vice-versa.  She decides a real disguise is in order.  She hails her cabbie (who offers to run a tab for her as long as she needs one), and he takes her to the nearest Target.  Leslie is boycotting Target since the CEO gave money to that batshitcrazy idiot, Tom Emmer, in his bid for governor of Minnesota, but this is an emergency.  She needs a wig, and she knows they have them.  She picks up a blonde “Marcia Brady” wig, some oversized sunglasses, a fitted gray sweater with nine buttons that she can wear under her jacket, and taupe jeans.  She buys some thermal unders so she can layer properly and stay warm.  She also purchases a pair of scissors so she can change in the bathroom.  It takes her fifteen minutes total, and then she is on her way to the cop shop—after convincing her cabbie that it really is her and not some blonde bimbo.

She knows it’s a long shot to think that she’ll learn anything of importance from the police, but she has to try.  For better or worse, they are the ones with the information on the case, which is ice cold by now.  Leslie knows she’ll have to do more research, but she’s burned out on it at the moment.  For now, she will hit the streets and pound the pavement and all those other stupid clichés.  It’s time for some action.  Once she reaches the police station, she dismisses her cabbie.  If she needs him, she can call him.  She intends to swing by the courthouse afterwards, so most of her afternoon is spoken for.  She can hail a cab on the street for that short jaunt.  Leslie pauses right outside the door so she can unzip her jacket and unbutton the top three buttons of her sweater.

“Can I help you?”  The officer at the front desk looks bored as if he would rather be anywhere than manning the front desk.  He is young—in his late twenties, and by the corn-fed looks of him, he hasn’t been on the job more than a couple of years. His name is Rex Parkinson, which Leslie duly notes.

“My name is Emily Dickinson.  I am an old, old friend of Amy Richardson’s.  I went by her house, but she’s not there.  No one can tell me what happened to her.  Do you know?”  Leslie gives the cop a wide-eyed look, making sure to keep her voice soft.  She learned at an early age that most men like to help out a woman, especially a woman who is asking for help so explicitly.

“She was murdered last year, ma’am,” Rex, the cop, says impassively.

“What?”  Leslie gasps, forcing tears to her eyes.  “You’re kidding me!”  Leslie fishes out a tissue from her purse and carefully dabs at her eyes.  “I have been out of the country for over a year, and this is the first chance I’ve had since I’ve been back to visit her.  I’m shocked!”

“Sorry for your loss, ma’am.”

“Who did it?  I demand to know!”  Leslie slams her palm on the cop’s desk, causing him to tense up.  She immediately backs off and makes herself small.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have done that.  I’m just so distraught.”  Leslie bursts into noisy sobs and bends forward slightly.  She pushes her breasts together to create an impressive cleavage, and Rex apparently appreciates the show.

“The investigation is ongoing, ma’am.  More than that, I cannot say.”  Rex’s voice is not as firm as it was previously, and Leslie quickly presses the point.

“It really would ease my mind if I knew more about her tragic death.  Maybe I could buy you a cup of coffee?”  Leslie is careful to keep her voice soft as she leans forward even more.

“Sure.  I have a break in ten.  Meet me at Union Park.  It’s a couple of blocks south from here.”  Rex nods abruptly before dropping his eyes. Leslie takes the hint and strolls out the door.  The wig is itchy, but she doesn’t dare scratch it.  She makes her way to Union Park and is nonplused to discover that it’s a restaurant and not a coffee shop.  She sits in a corner table, fuming, until Rex shows up.

“I’m hungry,” he says in response to Leslie’s glare.  “And, if you want info, you can spring for a burger and some fries.”

“Fine.”  Leslie is pissed at getting played, but she decides it’s a small price to pay for getting information on Amy’s murder.  She wants to hear the details right away, but Rex insists on ordering first.  Leslie looks at the menu and decides to get a Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie with chocolate ice cream.  She has already eaten lunch, but she can always make room for dessert.  Rex orders a Spicy Burger with a side order of Fried Calamari.  Once he is finished ordering, he’s ready to talk about the case.

“Mind you, it’s been awhile, and I wasn’t really working the case, so I’m not sure if what I have to tell you will be of any use.”  Rex cautions, gulping down his water.  Leslie bets he would prefer a beer, but not while he’s on duty.

“Anything you can tell me about it would be helpful,” Leslie coos, placing a hand on Rex’s nicely-muscled forearm.  “Amy and I go way back, and I am simply distraught that I didn’t know about this earlier.  That’s what I get for living in my bubble for the past year.”

“Where were you?”  Rex asks, his eyes fastened on Leslie’s.  She hesitates because the more she has to lie, the more she has to remember.  However, she knows that she has to tell the man something to keep him at ease with her.

“France.  I initially went there on a vacation, and then I met someone and fell in love.  It was a whirlwind romance, and it ended as all whirlwind romances do.”  Leslie winces at the triteness of her story, but she also knows it’s mundane enough to be believable—especially coming from a supposed old friend of Amy’s.

“Let me guess.  You found out he was already married,” Rex says, his eyes suddenly looking decades older.

“How very smart of you,” Leslie says in admiration before quickly dropping her tone.  “Yes.  I found out in not a very honorable way, either.  While he was showering after we were, ah, together, I went through his wallet.  He had a picture of his wife in it.  You’ll never guess what else.”

“He has children,” Rex says dryly.

“Yes!  That’s exactly right.  I was devastated when I saw the pictures.  When he came out of the shower, I gave him what-for, and then I flew back to the states the next day.”  Leslie peeks at Rex out of the corner of the eye.  He is buying her story wholesale, and she heaves a sigh of relief.  “How did you ever know?”

“It’s an old story.  One I see often.”  Rex presses his lips together for a minute before relaxing them into a smile.  “You would be surprised how many people lead double lives.”  No, she wouldn’t, but Leslie does not say this out loud.  She pastes an interested look on her face, one that invites Rex to share.  After a minute, he does.  He tells her a few stories, careful to change any distinguishing feature.  Leslie makes the appropriate noises.  Their food comes, and they pause long enough for Rex to make a dent in his burger and calamari.  Leslie swoons in delight over her brownie sundae.  After she eats several bites, she speaks.

“What happened to Freddy, Amy’s boyfriend?  He must be devastated by Amy’s death.”  Leslie has to struggle to keep her voice calm as she mentions John, but she manages it.  Barely.

“He disappeared,” Rex says briefly, barely pausing in the destruction of his burger.

“Disappeared?”  Leslie lifts an eyebrow.  “Why would he do that?”

“Because he’s the one who killed her,” Rex says bluntly, placing both hands flat on the table.  He holds Leslie’s eyes, but at the last second, his eyes slide away from hers.  Leslie gives a tiny nod, but doesn’t make an issue of it.  In a second, she gives a theatrical gasp and places her hand to her mouth.

“Freddy killed Amy?  No!  It can’t be true.  He worshiped the ground she walked upon.”  Again, Leslie feels a flash of pain as she speaks, but she shunts it to the side.  “I could see it every time I visited them.”

“Yeah, but she cheated on him,” Rex shrugs, picking up his burger again.  “She was pregnant by another guy.  That would be enough to piss off any boyfriend.”  He takes a big bite of his burger.  Leslie pretends to mull over what he’s told her, but she’s really thinking about how to continue.

“I knew she cheated on him,” Leslie says softly.  She forces the tears to her eyes by thinking of seeing John’s dead body so terribly still on the coroner’s slab.  She had been stoic up until the moment she viewed him, and then she had broken into loud, ugly sobs.  She would have thrown herself on John’s body if it weren’t for the detectives restraining her.  Even then she fought them until she ran out of gas—and tears.  “She used to be so ashamed after each episode.  She loved J-Freddy—she really did.”

“Sure had a shitty way of showing it,” Rex says, letting out a bark of a laugh.

“She had a messed-up childhood.  Plus, she grew up around very powerful men.  It was hard for her to turn away from that.”  Leslie is watching Rex closely, and she is satisfied to see him start.

“So that’s why the chief took over the case!”  Rex blurts out, and then looks as if he wishes he could take it back.  Leslie stares at him wide-eyed, giving him a hint of cleavage, and the story comes tumbling out of him.

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