Plaster of Paris; chapter fourteen, part two

“We should go to the hospital,” I say urgently.  We gather our stuff, forgetting about our brainstorming session.  It’s more important we reach the Jensons and Paris before anyone else does.  As we’re rushing down the front steps, Inspector Robinson is walking up them.  She is wearing a taupe pantsuit that flatters her figure nicely.

“The Three Musketeers,” Inspector Robinson says, an edge to her voice.  “Just the trio I want to see.  Let’s go back up to your apartment, shall we?”  Despite being couched in question form, it is an order, and we all know it.  We shuffle upstairs without saying anything.

“Can I get you anything, Inspector?”  My mother asks as we enter the apartment.  Before Inspector Robinson can answer, my mom is up and in the kitchen.  Lyle and I look at the inspector, but she remains silent.  I realize that she is waiting for my mother to return, so I don’t start a conversation.  She will tell us what she wants to know, when she wants to tell us, and no amount of coercion will persuade her to do differently.  The silence is taut, but not uncomfortable.  Although the inspector is radiating anger, I don’t think it’s directed towards us.  Of course, I could be mistaken, in which case, we are in for a long night.  I look at Lyle who is staring at nothing in particular.  I look at Inspector Robinson who is perusing her notes.  I open my mouth to say something, then shut it quickly.  Now is not the time for me to be nosy or smart-assed or to use any of the  half-dozen of my usual responses.  There is one question I need to ask the inspector, however, and I voice it.

“Inspector Robinson?”  I make sure my voice isn’t tentative because I don’t want to sound like a beta dog rolling over to have my stomach scratched.  The inspector looks up at me and waits for me to continue.  “Do you think Paris is still in danger?”

“I do,” Inspector Robinson says immediately.  “Him, you, your mother, Mr. Kingston.  Possibly Ms. Meadows’ other children.  Less likely her husband or the Jensons.”

“I was thinking there might be two different killers,” I offer, not sure how she would take my theory.  To her credit, she doesn’t even smirk.

“I’ve thought of it, too,” she says slowly.  “It’s possible, but not very probable.”  She doesn’t expand any further than that, and I subside as well.  The three of us sit in silence until my mother returns with a tray laden with goodies, even though she, Lyle and I have just ate.  Tea, coffee, juice, milk, cookies, sandwiches—egg salad, fruit.  She sets the tray on the coffee table, and we all take an assortment of refreshments so the inspector won’t feel out of place.  Only when we are settled in does the inspector speak.

“As you know, Ms. Meadows was killed late last night.  Her body was found in her driveway by her son, Sean.  I know you have been unofficially snooping around, and I need you to tell me everything you’ve found out.”  She looks from one to the other of us, staring hard at each in turn.  Each of us hold her gaze in return as we’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.  We haven’t hindered her investigation, nor have we pissed anybody off.  Except Mrs. and Mr. Jenson, and that has nothing to do with our investigation.

I start, recapping various conversations I’ve had over the past few days to the best of my ability.  I tell her about Jenna and my impression that she’s pining after Paris and wants him alive because she’s laboring under the delusion that they are soul mates.  I tell her about Billy and his steroid use, his argument with Paris, and our belief that while Billy most likely wouldn’t grieve if Paris died, there is no evidence that he had anything to do with Paris’s hit-and-run.  Besides, if taken the hypothesis that the murder and the two assaults are related, then Billy is out as a suspect.  Jenna as well.  There is no way to stretch the facts to form a theory where one or the other killed Ursula and harmed Robin, and tried to kill Paris as well.  I inform the inspector that the three of us have eliminated the husband and the two younger kids as suspects as well.  The Jensons—here we differ.  At least one of us thinks that Mrs. Jenson might have killed Ursula—same for Mr. Jenson.  We also differ on our feelings about Mr. Jenson as Paris’s attempted killer.  In fact, Ursula was our strongest suspect until she was killed herself, leaving Lois as our next likely.  Unless Ursula tried to kill Paris and Robin, then was killed by person unknown.  The inspector contemplates my narrative for a minute before responding.

“How did you know about Robin Richards?  That she was Paris’s twin, I mean?”  There is no surprise in Inspector Robinson’s voice, which leads me to surmise that she already knew Robin was Paris’s twin.

“A series of coincidences,” I say mirthlessly.  “I saw a national news broadcast about her attack on Wednesday while I was at—out, but didn’t think anything of it.  I talked to Ursula last night and asked about the other twin.  I just assumed it was a boy, and she didn’t try to correct my impression.  She even called the twin Robbie to misguide me.  I only figured out it could be a female—well, let’s say it came to me.  I came home to check the will, and there was her name.  I looked her up on the net and found out that it was Robin Richards I saw on the news as having been strangled.”  I stop my recollection, looking at the inspector.  “I suppose it’s a pretty common name.”  I fix an inquiring look on my face.

“It’s her,” Inspector Robinson says shortly.  “I’m cooperating with the police there.”  The look on Inspector Robinson’s face makes me wonder if perhaps the communication isn’t a two-way street.  “What else do you know?”  Lyle, my mother and I look at each other.  It is my mother who takes pity on the inspector.

“Honestly, not much.  The only other suspect we can think of is Paris’s birthfather, and we don’t know much about him.”  My mother shrugs apologetically that she doesn’t have more to give the good inspector.

“Tell me what you do know,” Inspector Robinson says briskly, flipping to a new page of her notebook.

The three of us look at each other again.  What do we know?  In a cacophony of noise, we start spilling what we know.  Or at least, what Ursula told Lyle and me.  She met him while she was in high school, through a girl she knew.  He was tall, dark and handsome.  Better yet, he paid attention to her.  It was a one-night stand.  He took her virginity, then refused to have anything to do with her.  She called him Benny, which fit with the name on the birth certificate.  After telling Lyle and me that she hadn’t seen or talked to him again after that night, indeed, that she couldn’t remember his name, she later admitted that she had talked to him ‘once or twice’ since moving to San Francisco.  If she had talked to him at all in the last few years, she would certainly have known what his name was.  Why didn’t she tell us?  Was she protecting him?  We don’t know.

“She was having an affair with him,” my mother says firmly.  “She didn’t want her husband to know.”

“I think we’re going off-tangent,” Lyle objects.  “I still think it’s Lois, for the insurance money.  She doesn’t consider Paris or Robin her real siblings and doesn’t think they should inherit.  She knocks them off and then knocks off Mom whom she hates for the money.”

“But she didn’t succeed,” I protest.  “The twins are still alive.”

“Maybe she needed money by a certain time,” Lyle says enthusiastically.  “She tried to kill them both, then decided to rush to Mama when she bungled her attempt to kill the twins.”

“Wills take time to go through probate,” I argue.  “If she needs money ASAP, she’s too late.”

“Whomever she owes might be satisfied with the prospective of her inheriting millions,” Inspector Robinson jumps in unexpectedly.  We look at her in surprise.  “Just speculating with you.”  She smiles thinly, then returns to taking notes.

“I still think one or both of the Jensons have something to do with at least one of the murders,” I toss my theory into the ring.  “We don’t know they didn’t know about Robin.  Maybe they found out about her and decided to eliminate her as well as Ursula.”

“They would never attack Paris,” my mother disagrees, shaking her head emphatically.

“That’s where my two-killer theory comes in,” I say with increasing enthusiasm.  “Lois for Paris and perhaps even Robin, and the Jensons for Ursula and maybe Robin.”  Lyle, my mother and I turn to look at Inspector Robinson who is frowning at her notebook.  After an interminable period of time, she shuts it with a snap.

“Thank you for your input,” she says, standing up slowly.  “By the way, I need your alibis for last night.”

“Lyle and I were here, sleeping,” I say immediately.  “My mother was in the hospital.”  The inspector sighs, but dutifully scratches it down.

“I suppose someone saw you at the hospital, Mrs. Liang?”  The inspector asks my mother who nods.  “I’ll be in touch.”  She leaves swiftly.

“I guess we’re no longer on the ‘A’ list,” I say, remembering the first time Inspector Robinson grilled me—this was a cakewalk in comparison.

“I don’t think she seriously ever suspected any of us,” my mom says dismissively.  She is an optimist who likes to look on the bright side of things—funny how her expectations are often met.

“She most certainly did,” Lyle exclaims.  “She interrogated me quite thoroughly.”  He scowls at the memory.  I decide I want to go to the gym after visiting Paris, so I throw some gear into my duffel bag before we leave.  As usual, we take both vehicles to the hospital.  Mrs. Jenson is in with Paris while Mr. Jenson is nowhere to be seen.  An audible sigh of relief escapes from Lyle as we find the waiting room empty of Mr. Jenson’s dour visage.  I am relieved as well.  It’s not fun watching the two of them play gladiators or trying to mediate between them.  In ten minutes, Mrs. Jenson comes bustling out into the waiting room.  She frowns at the sight of Lyle, but keeps any derogatory comments to herself.

“He’s staying awake for longer periods of time,” Mrs. Jenson says excitedly, unable to keep the good news to herself.  “He looked me right in the eyes and told me that he loved me.”  Her eyes are brimming with tears.  Her face mirrors the exhaustion—and hope—that the rest of us are feeling.

“My turn!”  I holler before anyone else can claim dibs.  I race down the hallway, eager to see Paris.  Though it’s only been six days since he’s been hurt—it feels like much longer.  I vaguely wonder how many more crises we’re going to go through, but comfort myself that it doesn’t matter because we’ll be fine as long as we have each other.

“Good evening, ma’am,” the cop smiles broadly at me as I enter Paris’s room.  I am so used to his presence, it doesn’t even register it as a blip in my mind.

“Paris, it’s me, Rayne.  Your best friend.”  I sit in my usual place and caress his hand.

“Rainbow,” he says faintly, smiling up at me.  “Over the.”

“You better not start singing,” I joke, trying to hide how thrilled I am that he’s speaking coherently.  At least, I hope he is.  “How are you feeling?”

“Head hurts,” Paris groans.  “Tired.  Play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

“Oh, very funny,” I say sarcastically.  “I suppose you want me to call you Mr. President?”

“Abe,” he says quickly, a hint of smile lingering on his lips.  Impulsively, I lean forward and peck him on the lips.  “Nice,” he says.  “Lyle jeaaaalous.”  We both laugh.  I never would have pegged Lyle as the jealous type, but it does seem like his eyes turn green rather easily.

“Paris, I don’t want to upset you, but can you talk about what happened at all?”  I squeeze his hand reassuringly.  “You don’t have to talk about it if it bothers you too much.”

“Robinson asked.  Not remember.”  It bothers him, I can tell, that he has temporary amnesia even though it’s common in cases such as his.

“Nothing?  The fight with Lyle?  Walking into the street?”  I push gently because I don’t want to risk him relapsing.

“Lyle jealous.  Lois.  Not my type!  Leave.  Hit.”  Paris spits out the words one by one, clearly fatigued by the effort.  I say nothing because I sense that there is nothing more to be said.  To my surprise, he speaks again.  “Why?  Hates me?”

“Who, Paris?”  I ask urgently.  “Who hates you?”

“Don’t know,” he says again, frustrated.  “Mad at me.”

“Paris, who was mad at you?  Who hates you?  Who hit you?”  My voice rises despite my best intentions.

“Don’t know!”  Paris says, his voice rising as well.  “Can’t remember!  Don’t know!  Can’t remember!”  He is gasping by the end of his statement which alarms me.

“Ok, Paris, ok.  Calm down,” I try to soothe him, squeezing his hand again.  “Just rest, don’t talk.  The important thing is that you get better.”

“Work?  When?”

“Not sure.”

“Job there?”  He’s worried about his job.

“I’m going there tonight.  I’ll ask Jimmy if I see him.”  Paris twitches, but accepts that and calms down.  I pat his hand, wishing he didn’t look so frail.  I decide to change the subject.  “I told you about dinner with the inspector, right?  That should be fun.  I’m leaving my job, Paris, as soon as they find a replacement.”

“Crazy-making,” Paris says clearly.  “Glad.”

“I’m pretty glad to go as well,” I agree.  “That nut Quinn came to me today with news about Ur—”  Just in time, I remember that the news she told me is not something I want Paris to know.  “Um, with work news.  After ignoring me for weeks!”

“Crazy girl,” Paris says, making a face.  “No good.”  He has a faraway look on his face.  “Ursula come?”  I wince.  I know that we’ll have to tell him sooner or later, but I prefer it to be later.

“Not right now, Paris.”  I don’t like to lie to him, so I hope he’ll let it go.

“Lois come?”  Paris asks innocently.  How am I going to tell him about her?  God, this is a mess.

“Not right now,” I repeat, hoping he’ll let this one go, too.

“Ok, Rayne,” he says obediently, closing his eyes.  “I’m tired.”  I’m about to say something when I hear a commotion outside the door.

“Rest, Paris.  I’ll be back later.”  I peck him on the cheek and hurry outside to see what’s happening.  Mr. Jenson and Lyle are in the hallway, nose-to-nose again.  The cop is dancing around them, trying to separate them without using excessive force.

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