“How was your day?” My mother asked when I walked into the house. One look at my face, though, told her all she needed to know.
“How’s Dad?” I asked instead of answering her. I had thought about my father all day, and I wanted to make sure he was ok.
“I’m fine,” Dad said as he emerged from the living room into the hallway. “You should see the fix-up job they did on our window.”
“I saw it from outside,” I replied, hanging up my coat. “Shouldn’t you be resting?”
“That’s what I’ve been doing all day,” Dad grumbled, pushing fretfully at his sling. I could sympathize after so recently being in one of my own. I was about to say something when my cell phone rang.
“Ms. Chen? It’s Detective Bradley. Ms. Drake still won’t talk. We’ve been interrogating her on and off for most of the morning, but she hasn’t said a thing.”
“Her lawyer allowed you to do that?” I asked in surprise. From what I’ve seen on Law & Order, the lawyer wouldn’t allow the cops to ask much of anything.
“She didn’t lawyer up after all,” Detective Bradley said, sighing deeply. “We started on her early in the morning, but she won’t say a word. I just wanted to let you know.” He hesitated before adding, “I shouldn’t be saying this, but I’m pretty sure she’s the one. When they won’t talk, it’s because they have something to hide. Most cons are eager to tell everyone how innocent they are and how they were set up. Her not saying a word is pretty damning.”
“She did get caught red-handed,” I pointed out. “There wasn’t much she could do about that.”
“Well, we’re pretty certain that we have our killer. I’ll call you as soon as we get her to confess.” I didn’t like the way he phrased that, but I couldn’t help but be grateful for his persistence. Idly, I wondered what it was that changed his mind about me, but I didn’t much care as long as it worked to my advantage.
“What did they have to say?” My dad said, his face looking drawn.
“She still won’t talk. Detective Bradley is pretty sure that she’s the one, though,” I said reassuringly. Even if I had my doubts, I wanted to spare my father from any more trauma. He had had more than his share. “Ba, I’m sorry,” I said hugging him gently, careful not to upset his bad arm. “This is all my fault.”
“Honey, the only person who should be sorry is that crazy woman,” my father said firmly, hugging me back. “You didn’t force her to shoot that gun at me.”
“If I hadn’t slept with her boyfriend,” I began, but my father cut me off.
“Someone like that is looking for an excuse to hurt someone,” Dad said, shaking his head. “Sane people don’t respond like that. You did a hurtful thing, but her reaction is way beyond normal. I’m glad that she’s behind bars.”
“You and me both,” I said with an exaggerated sigh.
I went up to my room to change, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the murders. As much as I wanted to believe that Shannon was the killer, I didn’t. There were too many questionable things at the park for me to believe that the murders happened at the park by mere coincidence. I could believe that Shannon had shot Lydia thinking it was me, but I couldn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, fathom why or how she killed Eddie. Even if he had seen something, how would he have known who she was? I seriously doubted that he had known Shannon outside the park as that would be way too much of a coincidence. Since I firmly believed that the two murders were linked, that put Shannon out of the running for Lydia’s murder.
Additionally, I didn’t think there was any way Shannon could have come up with a costume identical to the ones that the park employees wear. If we were masquerading as well-known figures such as the Disney crew, then I could buy that Shannon had rented or bought a duplicate costume. However, as the figures at FunLand were exclusive to that particular park, there was no way that Shannon could have found a similar costume unless she was friends with someone at the park. While that was more credible than the idea that she had known Eddie, I would think that someone would have came forward after my stabbing with information of loaning someone a costume if that were the case.
Sighing, I sifted through all the bits and pieces that I had gleaned over the last week or so about the case. I kept Shannon on the list simply because she was the one who shot my father, and I wouldn’t be surprise if she was the one who had shot at me as well a few days earlier, though I would have thought she would have bragged about it if that had been her handiwork. I bet that was what was so confusing about the case—the fact that there were two perps. Shannon for the latter shootings and threatening emails, and someone else for the actual murders and the stabbing of me.
I thought about Brian and Mrs. Rodriguez and whether they had motive to kill Lydia. Sure they were having an affair, but Lydia was Mrs. Rodriguez’s only child. I didn’t know much about being a mother, but I would think that the bond between mother and child would be extremely difficult to break. Oh, I knew there were mothers who mistreated their children, but Mrs. Rodriguez seemed to genuinely love her daughter and mourn her passing. Unless Mrs. Rodriguez was a psychopath or a damn good actress, I didn’t think she killed her daughter. Besides, Brian was the scoundrel, not she. I wasn’t excusing what she had done because it was heinous, but it was clear to me that she, at least, had deep feelings for Brian whereas he just seemed to have a thing for older women and she happened to be handy. Plus, I bet it was an added thrill to him that she was the mother of his girlfriend. What guy wouldn’t feel like a stud in a situation like that?
As much as I’d like him to be the killer, however, I just didn’t see it. He hadn’t known that Lydia had found about his ‘dalliance’ with her mother before she—Lydia—died, and even if he had, so what? What would be the worst thing to happen? Lydia dumped him and her mother found out what a jerk he was. He wouldn’t be that much worse off than before because he could always find another lonely older woman to fuck and another woman like Lydia to be his girlfriend. I shook my head as I remembered how Lydia had joked about him the day of her death. How could she do that when she knew what a fucker he was? I guess I hadn’t known her as well as I thought I had. Even so, I still wanted to figure out who killed her. And Eddie.
I frowned. Somehow, I kept forgetting about Eddie’s death. It fell off the radar. I wondered why that was. Was it simply because I couldn’t stand him and he was always trying to brush up against me without being too obvious about it? Or was it because I was egotistical and wanted to figure out Lydia’s death because it had a direct reflection on me? I had an uncomfortable feeling that it was the latter which didn’t speak well of my compassion. As much as I disliked Eddie, he still didn’t deserve to be killed that way. Nobody did. It was a shame how his death had been shunted under the rug in favor of Lydia’s and that nobody was really mourning his death—not even Antoinette who was supposedly sleeping with him. I stopped short and thought about that. Though I never really paid much attention to the rumor, I assumed it was true. If it was true, then what if Antoinette was the one who had cooked the books? As soon as I thought that, I remembered all the things that Antoinette had told me about Eddie, about Lydia, about FunLand. No one else had corroborated her statements, and I had just taken them as facts. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Just as immediately, I shot down my own theory. While I could see her kill Lydia with ease, I couldn’t picture her strangling Eddie. If he had been found shot or tied to his bed, then I could believe it. Otherwise, it would take a great deal of strength in order to pin him to his chair without his consent. However, Antoinette still had some explaining to do. I remembered that I had her on my list of people to talk to but that it had slipped my mind. To be honest, she was not my favorite person in the world, and I tried to communicate with her as little as possible. I didn’t know if I should talk to her now because of my suspicions—I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep my feelings off of my face.
What I needed to do was to search Eddie’s office for clues. Which meant scaling the gate and using the number pad for the front door of the green room, but what about the inner door? I’d have to do a little good old-fashioned picking. I had a friend—another performance artist—who had taught me how, and I still had the old set of lock picks he had given to me. If I was lucky, I should be able to get in and out of Eddie’s office in half an hour. There was no security so I didn’t have to worry about that. Eddie may have been proud of his park, but he hadn’t been about to put more money in it than he needed. So, a little B & E it would be. I should wait until it’s dark, however, to lessen my chances of getting caught. Was I really considering breaking and entering? Apparently, I was. I knew there had to be secrets in Eddie’s office, but I wasn’t certain enough to tell the police. I would assume they had searched it, but they might not have known what they were looking for.
“Beezus, time for dinner,” my mother called up to me. I went down, trying to act as normally as possible. “Where’s Raphael?” She asked, her face falling. I didn’t know whether she thought I had had him spirited away upstairs or if I was supposed to call him, but it irritated me either way. My father kept his eyes on his plate, trying to eat with only one good hand.
“We’re not joined at the hips, you know,” I said crossly, sitting at the table. It was definitely time for me to find my way home.
“I don’t understand you!” My mother exclaimed, dishing up the lasagna. “Before I met your father, I would have been thrilled to have an attentive boyfriend like Rafe. You treat him as if he’s an annoyance half the time. You’re almost thirty. Don’t you think it’s about time you settled down?”
“I’m not even twenty-eight yet,” I retorted, pouring myself a glass of water. “I have years to go before I’m considered an old maid and not marriage material.”
“You joke, but the years go by so fast. One day, you’ll look back and wonder where the time went. You know, you should have your first child before you’re thirty.” My mother nodded her head wisely. “I’m ready to be a grandmother.”
“Well, I’m not ready to be a mother,” I said impatiently, trying not to raise my voice. “And that’s not up to you, anyway.” That salvo went right over her head as she continued to harangue me.
“Bob, will you talk to your daughter, please?” My mother asked, appealing to my father. He just shook his head, wise man, wanted to stay out of the debate. My mother took up the gantlet again, apparently having a bone to pick with me. “Beezus, you’ve drifted in life up to this point. Is this really what you want to be doing with your life? Working as a rodent in an amusement for minimum wage and reduced benefits? You didn’t need to go to college to do this.”
“Can we not talk about this now?” I asked, shoveling in the lasagna. “Right now, I’m concentrating on not being dead. I think that’s enough for one day.” The lasagna was delicious, but I could barely taste it over my ire. I knew that if my mother persisted with this topic that I would have to leave before I blew up. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to eat as much possible so I could storm away on a full stomach.
“Yes, we have to talk about it now,” my mother said impatiently, neglecting her lasagna in favor of staring meaningfully into my eyes. “Beezus, you’re not a kid any more. It’s time you buckled down. Look at what your carelessness has cost your father!”
“Dot, that’s enough,” my father said suddenly, glaring at my mother as he set down his fork. “It is not Trish’s fault that that crazy girl shot me.”
“If Beezus hadn’t slept with that girl’s boyfriend, she wouldn’t have stalked her.” My mother’s pronouns were a bit muddy, but I knew exactly what she was saying. She was blaming me for my father’s injury, for which I couldn’t really blame her as I thought it was my own damn fault as well.
“As I told Trish, if it wasn’t that, it would have been something else. Normal people do not pick up a gun in an attempt to solve their problems,” my father lectured, his face pale. He was having a difficult time eating one-handed so my mother cut his lasagna into bite-size pieces for him.
“She needs to settle down,” my mother said firmly, her eyes on my father.
“Could you not talk about me as if I weren’t here?” I asked, throwing my napkin on my plate even though I wasn’t finished eating. I had had enough, and I rose from my chair.
“Where are you going?” My mother asked, her voice disturbed.
“Out.” I said, striding out of the dining room. Ok, it wasn’t the most mature response, but I was not going to put up with being insulted. My mom was usually cool about such things, but once in awhile, her traditional upbringing reared its ugly head.