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A Hard Rain; chapter three, part two

Leslie brushes away the tears as she kisses the ring on her finger.  She has worn it since John placed it on her finger, and now she knows she will wear it for the rest of her life.  She holds it up to the light and admires how the onyx shimmers and glows.  She presses another kiss on it as she caresses the box one last time and sets it on her nightstand table.  Then, she turns off the light and leaves the room.

Leslie waits for the cops to come.  She tidies up the house by dumping advertisements and magazines into the paper bag she uses to hold the products to be recycled.  She takes out the hand-held vacuum and sucks up free-floating cat hair.  For such a tiny, short-haired cat, Josephine sure sheds a lot.  Josephine trots from room to room with her human, tilting her head to watch Leslie clean.  Josephine is not afraid of the vacuum cleaner—little or big—but she does hate the washing machine with a passion.  Every once in a while as Leslie cleans, the light catches the ring just right, and she smiles, albeit wanly.  She waters the few scraggly plants in the living room.  She has a black thumb, but she periodically feels as if she should have plants in the house.  She buys the hardiest specimens, puts them in her living room and promptly forgets all about them.  When she does remember that she has living green things in her house, it’s too late.  The plants are beyond saving, but she can’t just toss them, so she sprinkles water on them from time to time and hope they’ll quietly expire.  The doorbell rings, causing her to pour water onto the carpet.  Sighing, she sets down the watering can and goes to answer the door.  As usual, Josephine is right on her heels.

“Good morning, Ms. Chang,” Detective Ricks says, nodding her head at Leslie.  Both she and Detective Stevenson look as if they haven’t slept in days, and it’s quite possible that they haven’t.

“Hello, Detectives,” Leslie says, nodding at them in return.  She notices that she has a death grip on the door, and she fights to relax her fingers.  She ushers the police inside.  “Would you like some coffee?  It’s Fair Trade; it’s dark; it’s good.”  Both cops shake their heads.

“We need to see Mr. Smith’s computer,” Detective Stevenson says.

“You haven’t figured out his real identity yet?”  Leslie asks curiously.

“No.”  Detective Stevenson’s voice is terse as if he loathes to admit that the cops had failed in some respect.  “We are hoping there is something on Mr. Smith’s computer that will help up.”

“Have you looked at Mr. Smith’s computer yourself since we talked last night, Ms. Chang?”  Dr. Ricks smoothly slips the question in, but she cannot hide the tenseness of her voice.

“No.  I couldn’t bear it.”  Leslie lies with no hesitation.  She is confident that she has covered her electronic footprints, and she sees no reason to tell the cops that she has been doing some detecting of her own.  That’s nobody’s business but her own.  “John’s office is this way.”  Leslie leads the detectives to John’s office with Josephine trailing the trio.  Leslie allows the cops to enter the room and is about to follow them in when Detective Ricks stops her.  “You will wait elsewhere.”  It is not even couched in a request, and Leslie bristles at the tone.  “How do I know you won’t mess anything up?”  Leslie asks, her tone hostile.

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