|Primary Characters:||Lilly, Scotty|
|Description:||Scotty and Lilly are investigating a murder case. One of the suspects takes a liking to Scotty, which causes him some embarrassment. In the meantime, Scotty’s having some personal problems.|
Lilly Rush ran up the stairs. She’d overslept. One of the cats had knocked over her alarm clock and the batteries had fallen out. By the time she’d woken up, she had only had about half an hour until she was due at work. It felt embarrassing to arrive out of breath with her hair in tangle. Usually, she liked to arrive as one of the first on her shift. In her hurry, she’d only had time to grab a pair of jeans and t-shirt, making her feel about fifteen years old. She was sure Jeffries would get a good laugh at her, but all she could do about that was grin and bear it.
Fortunately, no one stared at her as she tried to walk calmly. For all the rest of the guys knew, she might have been out in connection with a case. As quietly as possible she sank down in her chair and began to tidy up her desk. The case she and Scotty were working right now, involved the killing of a wealthy elderly man. New evidence had shown up, indicating that what had passed as heart failure five years ago, was now offically a homicide. Today, she and her younger partner, Scotty Valens, would be interviewing witnesses.
The thought of Scotty made her realize that he wasn’t at his desk and his jacket wasn’t there either. Not even a used plastic coffee cup hinted that he’d been here and was somewhere in the building. Lilly frowned. It wasn’t like Scotty to be late for work. Just like her, he was eager to make a good impression. Not that he needed to overdo it. He was an excellent officer, who had been rising quickly in rank. His transfer to their department had been lucky for all of them. So where was Scotty?
She decided to risk drawing attention to herself by talking to Vera and Jeffries. Only Nick Vera was sitting at his desk. Apparently, his big friend was gone for the moment.
“Hey, Vera. Have you seen Scotty?”
“No. He wasn’t around when I got here. Ask Jeffries.”
Vera was staring at a point above Lilly’s head and she turned and looked into Will Jeffries’ eyes. There was an amused glint in them.
“Sleep well, Lil?”
“Yes, thank you. Have you seen Scotty?”
“No. Funny he should be late on the same day you are. Out late last night?”
“As a matter of fact, no. I just overslept.”
Jeffries didn’t feel concerned about Lilly’s partner. The kid was her problem, not his. He sat down at his desk, facing his old friend Vera’s.
Lilly couldn’t help feeling a stirring of concern about Scotty. This was so unlike him. What if he’d called in sick and she didn’t know about it? She decided to ask her boss, John Stillman.
When she walked over to Stillman’s office, she noticed that the door was closed and what little she could see through the window, told her he was busy on the phone. So she’d wait a while. Maybe that was for the best anyway. If Scotty, like her, had merely overslept, it was no use blowing the whistle on him.
In fact, before Stillman was off the phone, Scotty did walk in. Lilly noticed right away that there was something different about him. It wasn’t just the bruises on his face. He seemed to have had a shock and was looking dazed.
Worriedly, she got up to meet him.
“Scotty, what’s happened? Did you have an accident?”
Scotty stared at her as if he hadn’t quite heard her. He didn’t even seem to understand the question. Finally, he made an effort to pull himself together. It was obvious he was trying hard to sound unconcerned, but was failing.
“Yeah. I was clumsy. Slipped in the bathroom. No big deal. Sorry I’m late.”
“No problem. I overslept, so I haven’t been here for very long. Are you ok? Maybe I should go and see the witnesses and you can stay here and -”
“No. I’m fine. Let’s go.”
Lilly studied Scotty intently, then shrugged. There was no reason to believe anything was wrong. Even now, Scotty seemed to be getting back to normal. He was probably as embarrassed as she had been, for arriving late.
“Ok. I thought we’d check in with the widow first. She’s married again, since then. Carolyn Weeks.”
They found the widow in an expensive condo, uptown. Apparently, her new husband had the use of the entire top floor. Quite a luxurious suite. Lilly had hardly ever seen anything like it and she had a feeling Scotty hadn’t either. The widow herself was about fifty. It was a little hard to tell, because Lilly was sure she’d had several skillful face lifts. She had carefully dyed hair and was generously but discreetly made up. An expensive fragrance hung in the air. Lilly had no doubt men found it irresistible, but personally, she wouldn’t have minded an open window.
“Mrs Weeks? I’m Lilly Rush and this is my partner Scotty Valens. We’d like to ask you a few questions about your late husband, Howard Jennings.”
“Oh. Dear, dear Howard. Of course. I just don’t know what I could tell you. He had a weak heart and -”
“Mrs Weeks, I’m afraid there’s been some new evidence indicating your husband was in fact murdered.”
“Oh, that must be a mistake. Who would want to kill dear Howard?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
“This is so upsetting. I’m afraid I’ll have to sit down. You’ll excuse me.”
A little less drama and a little more cooperation would have been much preferable, Lilly thought, as she followed the lady over to the elegant settee she draped herself across.
“Who inherited Howard’s estate?”
“I did, and his children from an earlier marriage, and – his nephew James.”
It seemed the widow used a slightly different tone when she mentioned the nephew. Lilly made a note of that, but didn’t ask for clarification.
“I see. Can you think of anyone who might have wished mr Jennings dead?”
“Oh, no. He was such a dear, dear man. Of course, it might have been some business connection. I didn’t have anything to do with his work.”
“Do you remember the day mr Jennings passed away?”
“Of course. We’d been at the golf course and Howard felt tired. It had been unusually sunny for the time of year and the light bothered him. He went up to bed, while I went shopping with a friend. When I got back – ”
The lady’s eyes widened in horror as she recalled the discovery. Scotty couldn’t help thinking that since her husband had been in his late seventies at the time of his death, it couldn’t have come as such a great shock to her. Was she acting out a scene of profound grief or was she simply that theatrical? He didn’t think there was much more to learn here and he noticed that his partner felt the same way.
Next they spoke to a man named Graham Adams, the late mr Jennings business partner. He told them about a few people who might have had a grudge against the victim, but he seemed to find it highly unlikely, adding that it was nothing personal, just business. Since mr Adams himself had stood to lose a great deal from his partner’s demise, Lilly and Scotty determined that at the moment, mr Adams couldn’t be considered a suspect himself.
Lilly mentally reviewed the list of mr Jennings’ next-of-kin and recalled that there was a sister-in-law who had been close to the family, as well as the blood relations. No friends or neighbors appeared to be closely associated with the family, at least not to the extent that they might have any useful information. Unless no new evidence pointed in their direction, Lilly decided to focus on the sister-in-law and the family members.
“What do you say we check with this sister-in-law – Grace Jennings?”
“She lives not far from here, but more importantly, she’s got a store in the area. We’ll check there first, I think. The others live outside the center, so we might as well deal with them together. After lunch.”
“Yeah. That’s sounds like a good idea.”
Lilly couldn’t help thinking Scotty seemed different somehow. As if he was preoccupied. She considered asking him if he was ok, but decided against it. He didn’t look as if he’d welcome any personal questions right now. Those bruises really looked bad. Anyone other than that widow, now remarried, who was so full of herself she didn’t really look at other people, would have paid attention and stared. Lilly was hoping that wouldn’t cause him any embarrassment.
She really didn’t like the sister-in-law any better than the widow, Lilly concluded, about half an hour later as they were shown into the stylish interior decoration store. To Lilly, most of what was sold in there, seemed to be ridiculously expensive useless objects, meant to decorate even more stylish homes. The proprietor was just as chic as the establishment she ran.
She smiled professionally at them, seemingly not picking up on their being police officers. Her look seemed to indicate she believed they were a newly married couple come to pick up some trifles for their elegant home. Lilly thought that while Scotty might pass as a wealthy business man of some kind, she certainly didn’t fit his image very well, especially not today.
“Good morning. May I help you?”
Lilly pulled out her badge and showed it to the lady, dispelling any notion she might have of being about to make a lucrative transaction. It might have been Lilly’s imagination, but the lady looked decidedly thrown off balance.
“I’m Lilly Rush and this is Scotty Valens. We’d like to ask you a few questions about your late brother-in-law, Howard Jennings.”
Grace Jennings seemed to have recovered her poise and she gestured towards a door in the back.
“Certainly. Shall we? Marcia.”
A younger woman, with blonde hair, looking like a younger sister of the proprietor emerged from the office, if that was what the door led to, and without any questions or comments, she began to arrange some odd little objects on a shelf.
Grace Jennings walked ahead of the police officers into the room in the back.
“Now, what can I do to help you? This was – five years ago. I don’t really know what I can tell you.”
“It seems your brother-in-law was murdered. Anything you remember about the day he died would be a start.”
Lilly didn’t know what to make of Scotty’s rather brusque tone. Perhaps he didn’t even realize how he sounded.
“Well, I was at the country club with a few friends. In the evening, I realized someone had left messages on my answering machine. It was Howard’s wife, Carolyn. She was hysterical, saying something about Howard. It wasn’t until later I realized that he was – dead.”
“Do you know of anyone who might have wished Howard dead?”
Grace Jennings shot Lilly a challenging glance, then nodded, a spiteful look on her face.
“Carolyn, of course. She inherited much of his estate. Much of my husband’s estate too, as it happened. I don’t know how he did it, but Howard managed to lay his hands on most of what was left after their parents, and the business too.”
“You’ll have to talk to Howard’s business partner, Graham Adams. I didn’t have anything to do with the business.”
They continued the interview for another ten minutes or so, but it was obvious that the lady wasn’t going to offer any useful information, other than the fact that she’d possibly had a grudge against her brother-in-law. She might not have realized she gave that away, but if it was true that her husband had been cheated by his brother, then perhaps she had felt offended too.
Lilly made a note to herself to check up the financial details. It was getting to be about lunchtime and she thought she and Scotty might stop at a restaurant on the way to the luxurious mansion where the dead man’s son now made his home.
“How about lunch?”
It was obvious Scotty wasn’t paying attention.
“I said, what about lunch?”
“Oh, I’m not really hungry, but I guess if you are, we could -”
“No, that’s ok. We’ll grab something later. I guess we’d better go on out to the house. The crime scene.”
“Yes. Talk to the son.”
“Exactly. At least we’ll get to see the setting for the whole thing.”
The house really was tasteful, even Lilly had to admit that. Usually, she dismissed that type of house as pretentious, but this one was old and the architect hadn’t tried to overdo it. The lines of the building were beautiful without any exaggerated embellishments. Really nice. A neat, clean white, with no faux colonial additions. She guessed it had been built in the 1920’s. It reminded her of The Great Gatsby, but for all she knew, she might be way off in her guess.
The son turned out to be about his stepmother’s age, and he was married, with a grown daughter, who was away at college. At the time of his father’s death, he and his family had been living in New York, and according to the file, none of them had been in Philadelphia the week Howard Jennings had died.
Though the son, William, didn’t appear to be very fond of his former stepmother, he wasn’t bitter and he certainly didn’t seem to believe her guilty of murdering his father. He appeared to be genuinely astonished and distressed that his father had been murdered.
“Can you think of anyone who might have wished to harm your father?”
He paused to reflect. That might have given the impression he knew something, but Lilly had a feeling it was just part of his meticulous personality.
“No, I can’t say I have any idea. Are you sure my father was murdered? He had a heart condition and – I’m afraid no one was surprised about what happened.”
“Your aunt – your father’s sister-in-law, Grace Jennings – seemed to believe your father had cheated her husband out of a part of his parents’ estate and the business.”
WIlliam Jennings sighed.
“I know she thought so. My uncle might have felt that way as he grew older and none of his investments panned out. They were wrong. My father was the older brother. Uncle Henry had already received his share much earlier. What my father had was only his rightful share. Uncle Henry felt the same, except in his later years.”
“I see. Can you tell us anything about the day your father passed away?”
“My wife and daughter and I were away on vacation, in Cancun, and the phone lines were bad. We didn’t receive word until almost two days later. I understand Carolyn was quite upset, and had trouble reaching us.”
Further questioning didn’t reveal much of interest, and Lilly had the impression that while WIlliam Jennings had loved his father, he had become distant from him after his father’s new marriage. Perhaps the victim’s daughter might tell them more. Or the nephew. She had two addresses listed for him, but one of them was for a house not far from his uncle’s place. Apparently, he was the son of Howard’s and Henry’s sister.
Lilly considered who to visit first, the daughter or the nephew. She glanced anxiously at Scotty to see if he’d snapped out of his brooding. He looked about the same as before, and she decided to take charge.
“The daughter of the victim, Martha Owen, lives a couple of miles further out. What do you say? Shall we visit her first, or the nephew?”
“Oh, I don’t know. This mrs Owen, maybe.”
This really wasn’t like Scotty. Lilly was sure he had something on his mind, but she didn’t think it would be any use asking, so she just got into the car and drove off.
Fortunately, mrs Owen too was at home. Lilly wondered if the rich never went to work. It didn’t seem as if mrs Owen worked at all. She was a petite woman in her mid-forties, well brought up, polite, but seemed to lack much of a personality. Or perhaps she was merely good at keeping it in the background. Lilly knew she’d been married to the same man at the time of her father’s death, and she’d been at home, in the same house she was living now. Perhaps she knew more about her father’s death than her brother.
When Lilly posed the question to her, she appeared to find it a bit disconcerting. She paused as if in reflection, before replying.
“Well, I’m afraid I didn’t see as much of my father as I would have liked to. His wife Carolyn and I didn’t get along. There was no quarrel, but – we had absolutely nothing in common.”
Lilly was surprised this well-behaved woman even managed to say as much about her former stepmother.
“Can you think of anyone who might have wished to harm your father?”
“No. Absolutely not. My father was a good, kind man. I don’t understand how this could have happened. It must be some kind of mistake.”
“You, your brother, your cousin and mrs Weeks, your former stepmother, inherited from your father, didn’t you?”
If mrs Owen interpreted this as an accusation, she certainly didn’t give any indication of it.
“Yes. My mother passed away several years ago, and – we were his only living relatives. Bill, Jimmy – James Thorpe – and I – and Carolyn.”
It seemed she had difficulty considering her former stepmother as a relative of her father’s.
“Did your cousin, James Thorpe, have a good relationship with your father?”
“Yes. He was orphaned early so he practically grew up with me and Bill. Of course, Jimmy is so much younger than we are, he was always like a little brother. And he was delicate. We were all very fond of little Jimmy. Still are, but these days, of course, we don’t see much of him.”
The last sentence seemed to have been added very matter-of-factly, as if it should be obvious to the officers why they’d grown apart. Perhaps it was. With ‘little Jimmy’ now grown up, perhaps his cousins had moved on to live lives of their own.
The interview came to an end, with Lilly feeling as if she hadn’t really learned much that might be useful. Or course, you never knew. Seemingly irrelevant details might later take on new meaning, after new facts came to light.
“Ok, let’s go and see James Thorpe, before we go back to the station, ok?”
“I wonder what delicate means? Was he sick? A spoiled brat?”
“Maybe we’ll find out now.”
Out here, there were mainly large houses or pretentious manor house-like mansions, but the address they went to turned out to contain apartments. It was an old mansion which had been converted into separate residences, albeit much larger and luxurious than Lilly was used to. Again, the house was all white.
She walked ahead of Scotty and rang the doorbell. The door opened so quickly, she jumped to the conclusion that whoever was inside must have seen them through the window and was expecting them, or that he was on his way out. Both guesses turned out to be wrong. Before the young man had time to fully take in their appearance, he called out pleadingly.
“Please, leave me alone, Daniel.”
He stopped and stared, then, as he realized they weren’t Daniel, his face took on color.
“Excuse me. I – thought you were someone else.”
“Lilly Rush. This is my partner Scotty Valens. May we come in?”
The man, who was surprisingly young, considering how old his cousins were, glanced at Lilly, then moved on to look closely at Scotty. It seemed to Lilly that her partner made quite an impression on the young man. He was blond, slight and really looked delicate, as his cousin had said. That description must have primarily referred to his personality, not his physical health. Lilly wasn’t surprised he was afraid of whoever this Daniel might be. A boyfriend? Ex-boyfriend most likely.
“Of course. Is this about Daniel? About his harassment of me?”
“I’m afraid not. I don’t know anything about that. We’re here to ask you about your uncle’s death.”
The young man looked astonished.
“My uncle? But that was five years ago. Why are you asking questions about that now? Some uniformed officers came round, but – I thought that was all over and done with.”
“I’m afraid this may come as a shock to you, but your uncle was murdered.”
“Murdered? But that’s impossible. Who would have -”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
“Of course, but I really don’t know anything. I had just moved into my own place so I wasn’t even there when it happened.”
“I know, but it would help if you could try to recall anything to do with that time. Do you know of anyone who might have wished to harm your uncle?”
“No. He was so kind. Everyone liked him.”
“May I ask how old you were at the time?”
“I was 19. My mother passed away when I was 11 and my uncle gave me a home. He and my cousins raised me.”
“So we heard.”
Lilly recalled that there had seemed to be something odd about Martha Owen’s reference to James, so she decided to do a little fishing. If she was wrong, no harm done.
“I understand that you and your family had some kind of falling out.”
The result of her fishing produced a startling result. James’ face flushed a hot, vivid pink and his large, beautiful eyes, framed by thick lashes, fixed on her, pleadingly.
“That – was personal. Besides, it was just that my uncle was old-fashioned. My cousins didn’t have any problem with -”
“With what, James? What was it about?”
The questioned seemed to confuse him.
“I thought -”
“Tell me all about it. I’ll determine if this was something connected to the murder or not. Go on, James.”
“It was just that – I’d come out. I had met this guy and we were really happy and my uncle – objected. He was quite adamant about it. If I insisted on seeing that guy, he wouldn’t have me in his house. I – was shocked and devastated, but I – was hoping my uncle would change his mind – and anyway, I was in love. We moved in together, at his home. After a while, it seemed my uncle became less – opposed to us seeing each other. He knew my boyfriend’s parents and anyway, he thought it was just a phase.”
“I see. It must have hurt. Your father figure disowned you. Wasn’t that enough to hold a grudge against your uncle?”
Lilly glanced at Scotty, surprised at the harsh tone of voice. She’d had a vague hunch he wasn’t too keen on homosexual men, but she’d never been sure about it and there had never been a good enough reason to ask. If he was biased against gay men – Of course, it might simply be that he was having a bad day. As long as he wasn’t being rude to the witness, Lilly was inclined to let Scotty continue.
“I didn’t hold a grudge against him. I loved him. Of course it hurt, but he – it was a shock to him. I hated to disappoint him, but – after a while, he became less opposed to the idea and – You’re not saying I killed my uncle, are you?”
James stared pleadingly at Scotty, as if he couldn’t believe the man he so admired had turned on him. Lilly actually found it a little bit touching, though she doubted Scotty would feel the same way. It was clear that in the brief time the interview had lasted, James had developed a crush on Scotty. No harm in that, as long as Scotty didn’t take offense, but Lilly trusted her partner to be professional enough to rise above that kind of emotional reaction.
“I don’t know. Did you?”
“No. I don’t know how you can say that. Besides, I wasn’t even there.”
“Your uncle was poisoned. The poison could have been distributed at any time up to a week earlier. Where were you in the week leading up to the murder?”
“At my boyfriend’s house.”
“Will he confirm that?”
“I think so. We’re not seeing each other anymore, but he was the one who dumped me, so – And even if he doesn’t, his family will. Ask them.”
“Oh, we will. Don’t worry about that. Well, I think this is it, for now. We’ll get back to you if we have any further questions.”
“Ok. Oh, can I just ask if you know what your colleagues are doing about Daniel?”
Lilly didn’t want to give Scotty an excuse to raise his voice at the witness again.
“My ex-boyfriend. Not the one I was staying with when my uncle passed away. My latest boyfriend. I had to ask for a restraining order. He won’t accept it’s over. Last week he came over and banged on the door after midnight, three nights running. Before – before I broke up with him, he became increasingly violent.”
“That’s not our job, James, but if you like I’ll give the locals a call and find out. That sounds nasty. I hope you get things worked out.”
“Yes. Me too. He’s become so strange lately. Changed completely.”
“Perhaps it’s drug related?”
“I don’t think so. We never use drugs.”
“You never know. Anyway, we’ll let ourselves out. Thanks for your cooperation.”
No harm in being polite. Lilly didn’t think Scotty had any reason to be that hard on the kid. Unless – of course, he might have picked up on the way the guy was looking at him. She wouldn’t have guessed Scotty was that – vindictive – but she realized that she didn’t know as much about her partner as she thought.
“Weren’t you being a little hard on him?”
“What? Oh. Maybe. I’m sorry. It was just that – he was staring at me in such a creepy way. As if -”
“What are you afraid of? He wasn’t going to attack you.”
Scotty’s eyes bored into Lilly, and seeing that he wasn’t going to meet with any sympathy, he decided to back off.
“I know. I overreacted. Sorry.”
Lilly thought to herself that it was James Thorpe Scotty really ought to apologize to, not her, but she let the matter go. Just like she had thought, Scotty was having a bad day, that was all.
“I’m going to find out about that ex-boyfriend. Domestic violence is something I just can’t stand.”
“Domestic violence? Are you sure he’s not just playing for attention? The drama queen type.”
“No. I don’t think so. He was genuinely frightened. Ok, let’s go.”
Lilly didn’t like to talk about it, but in her past there had been a couple of abusive boyfriends, guys she’d much rather forget about, but James’ problem had reminded her. She was going to find out what was being done to keep him safe.
Back at the station, she typed out the report, to get that out of the way, then she made a few phone calls. She had a hard time concentrating, since she’d skipped lunch, but she forced herself to ignore it. If she got this work out of the way, she’d go for early dinner instead.
The information she got about James Thorpe’s ex-boyfriend, Daniel Roth, gave her food for thought. She was wondering if she could bring up a sensitive topic with Scotty, on such a difficult day, but decided to risk it.
“Elissa – you told me she’d been sick, right?”
His tone of voice was decidedly guarded.
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Because this ex-boyfriend of James’ has a history of mental illness. I’d say James had every reason to be afraid.”
She finally seemed to have Scotty’s full attention now.
“Oh. I didn’t realize it was that serious.”
“Do you think this Daniel Roth could be committed? Or would his consent be needed?”
“If he’s a danger to others – or himself, it sounds as if he definitely should be committed. You’ve probably heard of scizophrenics who have killed family members or basically anyone they have access to, because ‘the voices’ told them to, or some other reason, you or I couldn’t understand.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why I thought this was serious. Well, I should probably pass this information on to the locals and hopefully, they’ll act on it.”
“I’ll do it.”
Lilly stared at Scotty in surprise. For a guy who didn’t think much of gay men, he certainly seemed to have become more protective of their witness. Of course, it was clear that he knew more about the medical implications of the mental illness than she did.
“Thanks. You know, I do feel we should talk to William Jennings again and his sister. Possibly the widow. They might know more about this quarrel between James and his uncle.”
“Now, I think I’m going to have dinner.”
“I’m sorry about lunch. I just wasn’t in a mood to -”
“That’s ok. Will you be going home?”
“Ok, see you tomorrow.”
To Lilly’s surprise, Scotty didn’t come in at all the following day. He called in sick, even though she hadn’t thought he looked at all sick when she left him in the late afternoon. That was odd. Her concern for him increased. It might be time to ask him what was going on.
Lilly went back to the Jennings’ mansion and questioned the son again. He didn’t know anything about a quarrel between James and his uncle, not surprisingly, since he hadn’t been living in the house at the time. His sister didn’t know anything beyond the fact that James had moved out because his uncle disapproved of his homosexuality.
Lilly decided to put off interviewing the widow until the following day. She didn’t feel up to meeting her again so soon. The rest of the day, she went over the autopsy report, focused on tracing the poison that had been used and typed out her own report. She was hoping Scotty would be back soon.
The next day, he did come back to work. When he walked in, he really looked as if he wasn’t well. The bruises were beginning to fade, but he walked with a limp and he looked as if he was in pain. Lilly wasn’t sure what it was, because there were no bandages or casts, and no other visible injuries, except for the bruises on his face.
“How are you feeling?”
“I tripped on the stairs. Twisted my ankle. It’s ok. It’s not broken. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Shall we get back to work?”
He sounded so brusque, Lilly was sure he was hiding something. Looking back over the past couple of weeks, he had seemed different. She didn’t think it could be because of the case they had been working on a few months earlier. Though the case had brought back painful memories of his childhood, Lilly had a feeling it was something else that was bothering him.
She now recalled that sometimes, he’d had bruises or red marks on his face, as if someone had hit him. At the time, she’d wondered if it might be his ex-fiancee Elissa’s doing. There was no particular reason it should be, but who else would it be? Some other girlfriend?
Lilly had an impression Scotty was dating quite extensively. Wherever he went, there were young women following him around in droves. His reaction to their attitude towards him was a little hard to read, but Lilly found it hard to believe they’d follow him around if they got absolutely no encouragement.
“Ok. I was thinking we’d go back to the widow – Grace Jennings. She might know more about James Thorpe’s quarrel with his uncle. Yesterday, I also checked out the finances. I realized something we’d missed before. The sister-in-law was working as a secretary for the company. It looks as if some money went missing. Nothing was proven, but it seems the general idea is that she was responsible.”
Scotty got to his feet, awkwardly, as if he was in considerable pain. Lilly could see that it wasn’t the foot, even if he was favoring the injured leg. She was wondering if maybe he’d cracked a few ribs when he fell down the stairs.
“Hey, are you ok?”
“Yes. Of course. It’s nothing. Let’s go.”
His tone of voice didn’t encourage any more questioning, so Lilly decided to back off for the time being.
They went to see the widow, and now that they prompted her, she did recall the quarrel.
“Oh, now I remember. Howard usually didn’t raise his voice at all. Not with anyone. This was different though. That boy – I do feel Howard and his daughter had spoiled him rotten. It was always Jimmy this, Jimmy that. You know what I mean. Then suddenly, he – had formed an attachment to a young man. These days, I don’t know what young people are thinking. All this sexual experimentation is – well, don’t you think, it’s going a bit too far? Naturally, Howard was upset. Jimmy wouldn’t reconsider and he told Howard he was being unfair. Howard, who had treated him like his own son. That’s gratitude for you.”
“Did James threaten violence?”
“He threatened to kill himself, if I remember correctly. Of course he didn’t mean it. He was just trying to manipulate Howard. Howard wouldn’t have any of it and he told Jimmy to get out of his house. Not a day too soon, if you ask me. Jimmy didn’t like that. He was always one to sulk and whine. Howard cut off his allowance. Quite right, too. How would it have looked if Howard financed that boy’s – lifestyle?”
Lilly felt they’d found out as much as they were going to, so she thanked Carolyn Weeks and left her apartment. She didn’t like the look on Scotty’s face. He had to be in a lot of pain. In fact, though he was pale and tense, there was also a thin layer of sweat on his forehead.
“Scotty, I think we’d better get back to the station. Are you sure you’re well?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
He sounded so curt, Lilly left the matter for the time being, but she couldn’t help glancing at his face from time to time. When they got back, Scotty removed his jacket and went over to the water fountain, to get a glass of water. Lilly watched him anxiously as he bent over to fill the paper cup, and suddenly she caught sight of something that made her gasp. She got up and walked over to Scotty.
“Scotty, you’re bleeding.”
The shirt stuck to his back, and though the wound had to be quite small, there was a wet stain the size of dime.
“Your upper back. To the right.”
“Oh. I cut myself when I fell down the stairs. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll just – ”
He indicated the men’s restrooms. Lilly thought he’d be better off going to the men’s locker room, but decided to humor him for the time being. She wasn’t his mother. He wouldn’t appreciate her making a fuss.
The rest of that day, Lilly kept watching Scotty anxiously, while trying not to be too obvious about it. She could tell from the look on his face, that her questions and concern wouldn’t be welcome, so despite an increasingly bad feeling about the whole thing, she kept quiet.
They focused on following up on the dead man’s business connections all that day and the next. She hadn’t forgotten about the quarrel James Thorpe had had with his uncle, but at the moment, she didn’t feel that was reason enough to focus on him as the sole suspect. Lilly was more inclined to suspect the sister-in-law, though the widow too, appeared to have stood to gain by her husband’s death.
She thought Scotty still regarded James as the main suspect, but for the moment, he didn’t seem inclined to take any initiatives of his own.
Then one night, Lilly was woken up by the sound of the phone ringing. Anxiously, she picked up. It was her boss, John Stillman.
“Lilly, I have some news about Scott Valens.”
“About Scotty? What’s happened? He didn’t seem himself at work today. In fact, he hasn’t been for several days.”
“He’s in the hospital. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it’s something to do with his ex-fiancee, Elissa.”
“I’ll be right there.”
“I thought you’d want to know. Ok, I’ll meet you there.”
On her way to the hospital, Lilly kept turning the matter over and over in her mind. Had Elissa attacked Scotty? Was that what Scotty had been hiding from her? Well, she would soon know.
She arrived at the hospital before her boss, so she went inside, intent on finding out what had happened to her partner. It seemed difficult to get anyone to listen to her. Stillman walked in, and catching sight of her, he came over.
“I haven’t been able to find out anything yet.”
He walked over to the reception desk and flashed his badge at the nurse sitting behind the computer screen.
“I was told you have one of my men here. Scott Valens.”
“Hold on a moment. I’ll find out. Was he admitted tonight?”
“Right. The stab wound. He’s in surgery right now. If you’ll take a seat, the doctor will be with you shortly.”
“Can you tell me what happened? All I know is he was injured and he was taken here.”
“His girlfriend stabbed him. It seems she had a scizophrenic episode and attacked him. She’s upstairs in the mental ward, sedated. I hear she’s in a bad way. If you ask me, she’ll need to be hospitalized for a long time. Serious case.”
“I see. Thank you.”
Lilly was right behind Stillman, listening to the information he was given. Scotty was in surgery. She realized that while the nurse had gone on about how seriously ill Elissa was, she hadn’t mentioned Scotty’s condition at all.
“She didn’t say how bad it was.”
“No, I guess we just have to wait and see what the doctor has to say.”
Lilly noticed that the nurse was busy, dealing with a long line of patients or concerned relatives. It seemed to be a busy night, though the emergency ward was probably this busy almost every night.
She tried not to think of the possibility that Scotty wasn’t going to make it. In the time they’d been working together, she’d come to feel as close to him as she’d once thought she’d been to Sam. In this case, though, she knew she’d been the mentor. Of course, she was hoping Scotty didn’t see her as a mother. That would have been too wounding to her pride. Maybe he saw her as an older sister. She thought she could live with that. On the other hand, friends was good enough.
Lilly was a litte surprised and touched, that Stillman had turned up, this late at night, just because one of the men under his command had been injured, not in the line of duty, but in private. It occurred to her that perhaps the entire department felt a little protective of their prodigy. Just like they had treated her, when she first went to work there.
Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming towards them. She looked up to see a woman in surgical clothes, approaching. Lilly felt her breath catch in her throat.
“Are you mr Valens’ next-of-kin?”
“I’m his superior. John Stillman. This is Lilly Rush, his partner.”
Stillman once again pulled out his ID, and once again, it worked like a charm.
“Mr Valens is doing fine. The knife missed all the major arteries and he should make a full recovery. He’s coming out of the anasthesia now.”
“Would it be possible for us to see him?”
“One at a time, and not for long. He’ll need his rest.”
“Thank you, doctor.”
Once they knew the directions to Scotty’s room, Stillman strode along the corridor, leaving Lilly to catch up. This was how she spent most of her days, trying to keep up with the big boys, at least physically. In her line of work, no one stopped to check if you were able to keep up. But she had never asked for preferential treatment and she wasn’t complaining.
“I’ll just look in on him and then I’ll let you talk to him, if you like.”
It was amazing how quickly Scotty had gone from being the new boy, to being her partner. They worked well together and Lilly was beginning to think that they got along fine personally as well. She was hoping Scotty felt the same way. Working as partners was always special. You only had to look at Vera and Jeffries to see that. Mismatched as they were, they still wouldn’t have things any other way.
Stillman had been telling the truth. He was inside Scotty’s room a maximum of five minutes.
“He’s doing ok. I think he’s in a bit of shock, but they must have given him something. He’s a little dazed.”
“I see. Do you think he’s up for a visit?”
“He asked for you.”
Lilly couldn’t help feeling ridiculously pleased. Even now, she wasn’t sure of how Scotty felt about working with her, or about her personally. There were times when she thought perhaps he had feelings that were a little too warm, considering the nature of their relationship. Then again, she sometimes got the impression he didn’t want to let her in on anything private. Of course, he was like that with everyone.
While Stillman disappeared down the corridor, Lilly took a deep breath and went inside. Stillman’s words and the doctor’s reassurances had given her some idea of what to expect, but it was still a shock to see Scotty lying in bed, a saline drip in his arm and a bandage around his head. The doctor hadn’t mentioned that.
He avoided meeting her gaze, which told her he was feeling self-conscious, perhaps ashamed. As a man, he probably had trouble adjusting to the idea of being the victim of a physical attack from a woman. Lilly sympathized with him, but not to any extent. He might as well get used to living in the real world.
“How are you doing?”
“Like you were all those times I asked you? When you’d ‘fallen on the stairs’ or ‘tripped in the bathroom’ or when you just wouldn’t comment at all?”
Lilly hadn’t realized she was so irritated with they way he’d hid his problems from her. What were partners for anyway? Of course, she knew that deep down, she was just feeling light-headed with relief he wasn’t more badly injured. After something like this, he could as easily have been dead.
“I’m sorry. It was just – I didn’t want to sell Elissa out. She doesn’t mean to hurt me. It’s just the scizophrenia.”
“I know, but you could have told me.”
“I – guess I knew that. I was just feeling so stupid and – angry and -”
Angry? At the scizophrenia – or Elissa? It seemed Lilly had guessed correctly. To her alarm, Scotty’s eyes filled up with tears and he tried to turn over in bed, to hide it from her.
“I loved her so much and now – it’s not even her anymore. My Elissa is gone.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“We were going to get married and – now -”
Lilly felt so helpless. She patted his hand awkwardly.
“Now they won’t let me take care of her anymore. They’ll lock her up.”
“Was that why you didn’t have her committed a long time ago?”
“She hates it in there. We can’t afford any fancy rest home in the country. These state mental wards are a nightmare. You haven’t seen -”
“At least she’ll get proper care now. She’ll have a chance to get better. I know they can adjust her medication better if she’s hospitalized.”
“I know. I just wanted to take care of her myself.”
“I’m sure she appreciates it.”
“She doesn’t know me anymore. She thinks I’m the devil.”
“Not her. It’s the scizophrenia talking.”
Now Scotty had lost his struggle against the tears and he was sobbing openly. Like once before, not so long ago, Lilly felt an impulse to leave the room, to spare him the mortification of losing it in front of his partner. Then she felt a rising irritation. They were partners. Partners looked after each other. They not only watched each other’s backs on the street, they were there for each other through good times and bad. A bit like a married couple. Carried by the wave of resolution, she moved closer, bent over Scotty and gently touched his cheek.
He turned to face her, eyes burning with emotion. When she held him, he didn’t resist. She could feel him press into her shoulder, allowing her to comfort him. After a while, some of the tension left him and the sobs began to subside.
When the nurse looked in, Lilly guiltily flew to her feet, feeling like a school girl caught in the act with a boy. The expression on the nurse’s face didn’t offer any clue to her reaction, if she had any.
Lilly noted with concern that once Scotty was back at work, he never referred to Elissa again. As far as she knew, he never visited her at the hospital, and though she didn’t know if Elissa was allowed to have visitors, she suspected Scotty didn’t want to see her. She considered asking him about it, but decided to hold off for the time being.
The bandage on his head had covered nothing more serious than a shallow wound, which healed quickly, and a lump which didn’t seem to cause him any trouble.
If she had expected her partner to open up to her more, after what had happened, she was mistaken. Scotty seemed even more uncommunicative than before. Lilly watched him with concern, but didn’t notice anything immediately alarming in his behavior.
Stillman allowed Scotty to stay on active duty, after reassurances from his doctor. Even the stab wound was superficial and healed well. Lilly suspected that Stillman was bending the rules a little, to keep Scotty from staying cooped up at home, where everything would remind him of Elissa.
Lilly knew she’d neglected her work, but decided to make up for it by putting in some extra effort on the Jennings case. She knew that she was close now. If only she could ascertain the motive for the murder, she would see who was responsible.
It turned out the locals had informed James Thorpe about who to thank for his ex-boyfriend’s hospitalization. Lilly couldn’t help feeling amused by the young man’s reaction. What had been a simple physical attraction, had now turned into a full-scale infatuation. She knew she oughtn’t to be so amused, especially considering Scotty’s aversion to that sort of thing, but personally, she couldn’t help feeling it was rather sweet. It was clear that even James Thorpe wouldn’t go so far as to act on his feelings.
Lilly noticed that at least Scotty tried to keep his facial expression in check. If he’d shown his revulsion openly, Lilly would have thought less of him, despite recent events. She didn’t expect any further developments in that particular respect.
As part of her ongoing investigation Lilly had discovered further incriminating circumstances, pointing to the sister-in-law, as the killer. When the poison used to kill mr Jennings had been traced, Lilly was hoping it would lead her straight to the killer, whoever that was.
She waited for a phone call that finally arrived around ten thirty in the evening, and by that time, she was so tired, she went straight home to bed. Time enough to confront Grace Jennings in the morning, she thought.
When she walked in the following morning, she met Vera on his way to the coffee machine.
“Congratulations. It seems you got your killer.”
“What? I just -”
“Scotty’s in the box with him now. I should think he’s signing the confession as we speak.”
“Him? Wait a minute. Where did you say Scotty was?”
“Over there. Room five.”
Who was confessing to the murder? Had she been so completely off in her hunch about who the killer was? Even if she’d briefly considered the widow as the killer, she knew that Carolyn had neither the brains or the nerve to pull something like that off, and not give herself away. The only person connected to the case, who was capable of committing such a crime and – almost – get away with it, was Grace Jennings. There had to be some kind of mistake. Perhaps Vera was mixing this case up with some other open case they had been working on recently.
Lilly stopped outside the one-way screen and listened in on what was going on. Vera had been right about one thing. The supposed killer was writing down the confession, in silence, unless you counted the looks he fastened on Scotty. Lilly could almost read Scotty’s mind, and knew he was wincing at the attention, but he was doing his best to hide his true feelings.
This was all wrong. James Thorpe couldn’t possibly be the killer. From her own investigation, she knew that only Grace Jennings had had the means of getting her hands on the poison used to kill James’ uncle. She had to step in and put a stop to this nonsense, before it went too far, so she knocked on the door and walked in without waiting for a reply.
Scotty looked up, a look of relief on his face.
“Excuse me. Could I talk to you outside? Now?”
Scotty looked confused, but got up, after glancing uneasily at James Thorpe, who alternated between writing, and staring admiringly at him.
“Scotty, he didn’t do it. I know who killed Howard Jennings and it wasn’t his nephew.”
“But he walked right in and confessed. Why would he do that if he wasn’t guilty?”
Lilly hesitated, wondering how to tell Scotty her theory. Most likely, it would make him feel uncomfortable to say the least. She took a deep breath, bracing herself.
“Scotty, he’s doing it for you. To please you. You must have noticed how he – Anyway, he may be a bit overemotional, but he’s no killer. I’d better get in there and straighten him out. No pun intended. You don’t have to come.”
“But – ”
“Grace Jennings did it, and once I’ve dealt with this, we’ll go and pick her up. It was gain, pure and simple. She felt her husband had been cheated and she tried to take some of it back by embezzling from the company. Howard must have cut her some slack because of his dead brother, but she wasn’t satisfied with that.”
Lilly realized that she was rambling on, hoping to help Scotty over the embarrassment, and she forced herself to stop. She could see two small red spots appearing on Scotty’s cheeks as he took in the implications of what she’d told him.
“I’ll be right back. Take a look at the faxes in my desktop drawer. Top right.”
“Uh – ok.”
She opened the door and sat down, facing James Thorpe. He stared at her with such a look of disappointment, Lilly wanted to reach across the table and shake him. Where did he think this moronic move would get him, other than straight to jail? No matter how pleased Scotty would have been to close the case, it would hardly have brought them closer.
“Ok, Jimmy. The game’s up. I know what you’re trying to pull, but it’s not working. We know who the real killer is, so you can just tear up that piece of paper.”
James’ pallid features heated up and he tried to avoid her gaze. Lilly wouldn’t have any of that. In the end, he gave up the pretense.
“I just thought -”
“You thought you’d help the real killer get away? Because that was what was going to happen. Is that how much you care about your uncle?”
“No. I mean, I loved him. It just didn’t seem real. Who would kill him?”
“You’d be surprised what people will do for money. Never mind. We’ll forget about this and you’ll walk out of here. Deal?”
“Deal. But – what will he think?”
“Leave Detective Valens to me. Just get out of here. Consider yourself lucky we don’t charge you with obstruction. Like I said, I’ll try to forget about this. Go on.”
“Can I just thank Detective Valens for – getting my ex hospitalized?”
“I’ll tell him how grateful you are.”
“Are you two -”
“Go on. Scram. I’ve got a killer to catch.”
James got up, staring at the crumpled up piece of paper in his hand, then tossed it away and walked outside.
With any luck, Scotty would be out of sight.
Lilly couldn’t help smiling at the kid’s assumption she and Scotty were an item. Wasn’t the fact that they were partners – and maybe – friends – enough? She hoped so.
When she got back to her desk, Scotty was standing there, paper in hand, looking just as embarrassed as she’d feared. He didn’t refer to James’ feelings for him, instead focusing on the case.
“I – didn’t know you’d found this.”
“No, I got this so late last night, you’d gone home. Let’s go and pick up our killer.”
“Ok. So it was the money, huh? Oldest motive in the book.”
“As you say. I always suspected her. Something about her eyes. Ok, I guess you should never jump to conclusions, based on personal dislike, but call it a hunch or a gut feeling.”
Scotty seemed to take her comment as a criticism of his own willingness to suspect James Thorpe. He fidgeted uneasily.
“I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. It’s just that – the way he – ”
“I thought you were used to trailing admirers by the dozen behind you.”
“You mean – that’s not -”
“Never mind. You don’t owe me any explanations.”
“It’s just that with Elissa -”
Scotty broke off self-consciously, realizing he was about to tell Lilly something far too intimate. Quite apart from the fact that he didn’t want to expose his own weaknesses like that, he didn’t think Lilly would want to know anything about it.
“Never mind. You’re right. We should go and pick up Grace Jennings.”
All in all, it was a good conclusion to the case. As always, when they closed an old case, Lilly had the impression that the victim and the other suspects were watching, even if, like now, no one was present, other than the killer and the police officers who were processing her. Lilly almost felt she saw Howard Jennings nod approvingly as the cell door slammed shut behind his sister-in-law. Perhaps even his late brother was there, to see what had become of his wife.