“Very interesting. What does it have to do with John’s death?” Leslie has a one-track mind, and she is impatient for Rose to get to the important part. After a pause, Rose continues with her narration.
“Damn. I’m late.” Freddy woke up with a start. He had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and he must have turned his alarm off instead of hitting snooze as he normally did. He jumped out of bed, forewent his shower, and quickly got dressed. He hopped online to read the daily news as he ate his bagel. The local headlines jumped out at him.
“Gruesome sex murder in Chicago! Political ties! Is the Mafia involved?” Freddy choked on his coffee as he saw the accompanying picture was of Amy. His Amy. His Amy who had just been at his place last night and very much alive. Freddy quickly skimmed the article and was disturbed to learn that Amy had been found tied to her bed, spread-eagle, and nude. There were signs of intercourse, but the police refused to elaborate further than that. She had been shot through the heart. The only other thing they would say was that Amy had been “under the influence of marijuana” when she was killed. Freddy went to Google to see what he could find out about the murder. What he discovered shocked the hell out of him. First of all, there was a description circulating of a man who visited Amy not two hours before her body was found. The description was of Freddy himself. Now, granted, he was a pretty nondescript guy, so the description could fit millions of other men, too. However, those millions of other men were not in a stormy relationship with Amy as was Freddy. Freddy felt ill as he continued reading.
“She was murdered?” Leslie is shocked to hear the news. This is not something she expected, and she doesn’t know what to do with the information.
“In cold blood.” Rose’s voice is somber.
“John didn’t do it,” Leslie blurts without thinking. “He simply is not that kind of guy.” Leslie dismisses the little voice in her head telling her that she obviously did not know John as well as she thought she did.
“No, he didn’t do it,” Rose agrees. She knows, too, what Freddy is and isn’t capable of. Murder falls into the latter category, especially the murder of a woman.
“He was set up.” Leslie states it as fact. She knows where this story is going, and she even knows why John changed his name.
“Yes. He was.”
“Open up! Police!” There’s a banging at Freddy’s door. He didn’t answer. He knew that they would break down the door, and he had no intention of being around to see it. Without thinking about it, he grabbed his keys, his laptop, his wallet, and went out the window. As he sneaked into his car and drove off, he began to formulate his plan. He thought back to his previous conversations with Amy and how she was sure that her new boyfriend would be the answer to her prayers. From what she had said, the boyfriend was a pretty important guy. That meant he had a lot to lose if Amy got it into her head to be difficult. Freddy knew firsthand just how difficult Amy could be, especially when she was in a manic phase. Freddy highly doubted that the big-shot boyfriend killed Amy himself. That meant that he had paid someone to do it for him.
Freddy was in a quandary. On the one hand, he believed in allowing the law to take care of justice. If we were each to take the law into our own hands, then total anarchy and chaos would ensue. On the other hand, if Amy’s new ‘boyfriend’ was, indeed, big and powerful, well let’s just say that justice wasn’t always blind. Freddy knew from bitter experience that the system was stacked—and not in his favor. He would rather avoid trial by a kangaroo court if he could help it. He had a feeling that the powers that be would be all-too-happy to pin this murder on him, and he knew that if he really wanted the case solved, he would have to do it himself.
His primary reason for snooping around would be to exonerate himself. However, a secondary reason was that no one deserved to die the way Amy had. No matter how fucked up in the head she was, she deserved better than that. Freddy may not have been able to live with her at the end of their relationship, but he never stopped loving her. He knew that if he stayed in Chicago, he would be railroaded into jail for a murder he didn’t commit. He had to get away and set up a new life before trying to investigate Amy’s murder. So, that’s what he did.
“It’s all a lie,” Leslie says numbly, her heart breaking into a million pieces. How like her that the one guy she completely trusts would turn out to be a fabrication.
“It’s not!” Rose’s voice is warm as she defends Freddy. “Freddy was able to be real with you in a way he couldn’t be with anyone else—not even me. The details don’t matter when the love is real.”
“How can you say he was real to me? Everything he told me about himself was a lie, including his name.” By now, Leslie is shouting. She can’t bear the pain she’s feeling, so she feels better inflicting some pain on someone else.
“He kept his lies to a strict minimum.” Rose is heated as well. “You tell me what he told you, and I’ll tell you if it’s true or not.”
“He said he was an only with no siblings.”
“He said that he was a firefighter once.”
“True. Here in Chicago before he switched jobs.”
“What did he switch to?” Leslie is diverted because she wants to find out any information about the real John that she can.
“Motivational speaker. He was really good at it.”
“I bet.” Leslie has to smile because motivational speaker is the perfect job for John. The smile dissipates, however, as she remembers her task at hand. “He told me that he graduated with a BA in poly sci.”
“He told me he broke his arm when he was eight by swinging too hard on a tire swing.”
“True.” Rose pauses before adding, “So, you see, he did his best not to lie to you. He just couldn’t tell you about Amy’s murder.”
“He could have told me about her and just said she was dead,” Leslie says softly, her anger completely drained. “He obviously loved her very much. She was important to him.”
“She entered his life at a vulnerable time. His grandmother had just died, and he was devastated by it as she was his only living relative. In addition, he wasn’t getting as many gigs as a motivational speaker due to the recession. He was starting to question what was his purpose in life.”
“Amy stepped into the void and was the answer to all his prayers.”
“Freddy met Amy just before she entered a manic phase. She was brilliant and charming and very much alive. You know how Freddie is a control freak—and I mean that in the best way possible. He loved the fact that Amy was so free-spirited.”
“Who is that girl?” Freddy nodded at a blond on the dance floor who was dancing by herself. She was wearing a red mini-dress that accented her slender curves, and she had legs that went on for miles. Freddy was a leg man, so he was immediately attracted to her last asset.
“She’s bad news, bro,” Linus replied, shaking his head three times in quick succession as he raised his Miller to his lips. “I mean, she’s hot as hell, yeah, but she’s a mess up here.” Linus pointed to his head and stared meaningfully at Freddy.
“Who is she?” Freddy repeated his question, more intrigued than ever. .
“Amy Robertson, daughter of Jack Robertson—Senator Jack Robertson.” Linus emphasized the title, waiting for Freddy to grasp the implications.
“Senator Jack Robertson? You mean, he of the Chicago Christian Conservatives? He who claims to be close, personal friends with President Bush the Younger? That Senator Jack Robertson?”
“Do you know of any other?” Linus’s tone was sardonic. He didn’t have much use for politics in general, and he certainly had no patience with the uptight prigs in the rightwing Christian party.
Jack Robertson was a senator in Chicago. This was his sixth term, and rumor had it that he was grooming his son, Jack Robertson Jr. as his successor. Jack Robertson Sr. had four daughters and one son—Jack Junior had been his fifth child. The daughters ranged from age thirty-one (Amy) to twenty-one (Jack Jr.). Jack Sr.’s much-beleaguered wife was rarely seen. All the pictures of her were old, and they showed only a blurred image of a rail-thin blond with an watery blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and a penchant for frowsy flowered dresses. She was an alcoholic with severe depression—which was only to be expected as she had to live with an abusive asshole like Jack Sr. Oh, he was too smart to leave bruises where anyone could actually see them, but it was a poorly-kept secret that Jack Sr. was liberal with his fists—the only way in which he was liberal. He believed that a man was the head of the household, and he ran his life accordingly. Of his children, he had the three younger daughters thoroughly obedient as well. Jack Jr. was well on his way to emulating the arrogant entitlement attitude held by his father. Amy, on the other hand, was the bane of Jack Sr.’s existence. No matter how he punished her when she disobeyed, she refused to listen. He threatened to cut off her monthly allowance, and she just laughed in his face. He had paid the down payment on the house in which she lived, but Amy was able to make her monthly mortgages, despite not holding down a steady job. She was out of control, and Jack Sr. blew up every time she made the papers—which, fortunately, wasn’t very often. And, her picture was usually blurry because she had the uncanny knack for turning her head away at the last minute.
“That’s Amy Robertson?” Freddy’s tone was incredulous. He followed politics pretty closely, and the woman on the dance floor did not look like Amy Robertson at all. “How can you tell?”
“Believe me, I know.” Linus’s shoulders sagged, and he suddenly looked twice his age. “I dated her for three months. Those were the worst three months of my life—and yet, she was also the best damn sex I ever had.”
“I’m going to talk to her.” Freddy stood up from his bar stool and set down his Bass. “Wish me luck.”
“He was in love with a Republican?” Somehow, Leslie finds this more disturbing than anything she has heard so far.
“Amy was apolitical. She hated politics, in part because she hated her father. She thought it was a hoot that Freddy was a progressive. Boy, didn’t she love to rub that in her father’s face.” Rose’s tone is bitter, as if she is remembering past arguments. She must have realized how she sounds because she adds, “Amy loved Freddy passionately—well, as much as Amy could love anyone other than herself. He gave her the stability she needed.”
“Freddy, promise me you won’t ever leave me.” Amy propped herself up on her elbow and looked down at Freddy who wore the smile of a man thoroughly fucked. It was a month after they had started dating, and Freddy couldn’t imagine his life without her.
“I won’t. You know I won’t leave you.” Freddy pulled Amy to him and kissed her passionately before breaking away. “You know the only thing that would make me change my mind is if you become a hardcore conservative Christian like your father.”
“Don’t mention that bastard to me,” Amy hissed, her face darkening. “I will never be like him. Never! He and Jonah Bronsan and all their cronies are evil.” Amy sat up again and pulled the sheets around her. “They act so pious when they are on camera, but it’s all a lie. Grifters, adulterers, and pedophiles—all of them!” Amy stopped abruptly, her face suddenly clearing up. “Let’s not spoil the mood by talking about those jerks.” Amy leaned down to kiss Freddy, and he savored the warmness of her body against his. She was so light, it was as if she weren’t even there.
“God, you make me so happy, Amy.” Freddy breathed in the flowery scent of Amy’s perfume, nuzzling the hollow of her neck as he did. He ran his hand over her skin, gently, because she was so delicate, she bruised at the slightest pressure.
“You are my everything, Freddy,” Amy passionately declared. She hesitated a moment before adding, “There are things about me you don’t know. I can’t talk about them yet, but you have to know that you mean the world to me, Freddy. You must!”
“I do,” Freddy said, a tinge of satisfaction in his voice. “You would do anything for me, wouldn’t you?”
“Anything I can,” Amy said before kissing Freddy again. That had led to another round of sweaty sex that left both of them exhausted.
The first two months of their relationship were idyllic. They spent most of their time in Amy’s house, fucking. Freddy was firmly besotted with Amy, and he didn’t listen to his friends who were concerned about him, especially Linus. Any time Linus began talking about Amy, Freddy would cut him off. Freddy knew all he needed to know about Amy, and his relationship with her was nothing like Linus’s. Linus was a good friend, but he had the emotional depth of a turnip. He was not comfortable around any genuine emotion, so of course his relationship with Amy had been difficult for him. Freddy, on the other hand, had been raised by a mother who encouraged him to talk about his feelings, no matter how messy or unmanly they were. As a result, Freddy was comfortable with sadness and happiness, only having difficulty with anger.
“Man, I’m telling you. She’s bad news.” Linus was resoundingly drunk as he tried to impart his words of wisdom to Freddy. “You don’t know the bullshit she pulled when we were together.” Linus had been harping on that theme all evening, only to be rebuffed by Freddy each time.
“Back off, Winters,” Freddy said, his voice cold. “Amy is my woman now. I don’t want to hear you trash-talking her.”
“But—” Linus stopped as Freddy walked away from him. “Pussywhipped,” Linus muttered to himself, not without sympathy. “She’s the devil.”
Over the next two years, Freddy would often berate himself for not listening to Linus. Freddy knew it was folly, however, because he was so besotted with Amy, he wouldn’t have listened to anything Linus had to say against her. Still, a heads up would have been welcomed; he wished he hadn’t been so damned stubborn and prideful in refusing to let Linus tell him about his relationship with Amy. The first time Amy had disappeared on Freddy, it had nearly killed him.