|Primary Characters:||Lilly, Scotty|
|Warning:||adult themes, murders, sex with minor hinted at|
|Description:||Shadows from the past return to haunt Lilly and Scotty.|
Stillman opened the door to his office and waved at his officers, Lilly Rush, Scotty Valens, Jeffries and Vera.
Lilly wondered at the expression on his face. She was hoping that nothing was wrong with his family. She’d been concerned about Stillman’s son, Matt. Ever since the troubles a couple of months back, she’d been watching her partner closely and dwelling miserably on how Stillman’s kid might react.
She wasn’t kept wondering for long. Stillman didn’t look particularly somber, but he always took his work seriously, so he wasn’t exactly laughing either. It was hard to guess, but when he began to speak, Lilly suddenly realized what was going on.
“I’ve been thinking and if you don’t mind, I’ll reassign you. Lil, could you partner with Vera? Before you say anything, Vera, Jeffries – I’ll still expect all of you to cooperate on most cases, but I thought it might be time for a change. Jeffries – could you partner with Scotty for a while? Just to see how it works out. If you feel it isn’t working, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”
“I felt it was a good idea to rotate you. In the past, I’ve cut the two of you some slack, but as you know, most other officers have to accept being assigned new partners once in a while.”
“I see. Well, I guess there’s nothing more to say. Are you coming, partner?”
Jeffries cast Scotty a steely glance. Scotty felt embarrassed. Of course he knew what was behind the reassigment. Stillman knew. That was the only explanation he could think of.
Lilly made eye contact with Vera, who had been staring unhappily from Jeffries to Stillman, then back again, until he shook himself and looked up.
“Sure, Lil. I hope you don’t think I -”
“Of course not. I guess we’ll just try to make the best of things, and see how it goes.”
Stillman wasn’t quite finished with them.
“Lilly, Vera, could you stay for a moment. How far along are your current cases?”
“Jeffries and I caught our bad guy last night and we were just typing in the report.”
“We’re not getting anywhere. In my opinion, that ‘new’ lead, was a dead end. Either the suspect rigged it somehow or it was just a mistake. I don’t think we’ll crack this one. Sorry. Thirty-three years is a little long.”
“I know. I’m not expecting any miracles. Put that on hold for the time being. This one’s more recent. Only two and a half years.”
“It was a former missing persons case, but last week, a body came to light, after some road work.”
“I could have let someone else handle it, since this isn’t officially a cold case. Not one of ours anyway, but I thought since you’ve had such a high success rate, I was hoping you could do something. Here. I got the file today.”
“Right. What do we have?”
“It’s all in there. A married woman going to put some flowers on a friend’s grave, then not returning home. Since there was no body, and no indication anyone had a reason to want her dead, it was treated as a missing persons case. Then this body came to light.”
“Oh. I see. We’ll get right on it, won’t we, Vera?”
Lilly grabbed the file and brought it back to her desk. Vera was looking helplessly at his desk right next to Jeffries’. It was sad, really. Vera didn’t seem to be able to handle working without Jeffries taking the lead. That would have to change. On the other hand, it felt humiliating that Stillman knew about her and Scotty. Still, she couldn’t let that stop her.
“You go and sit over there while I look through it. No need to move the desks around.”
Vera didn’t sit down. Instead, he went to get a coffee for Jeffries. The tall cop grinned and held out his hand for the cup. Lilly thought he’d grown used to taking Vera for granted. She was wondering if Scotty would be as compliant. It was hard to say. You never could tell how a guy was going to react while he was under the influence of the old boys’ club.
She quickly but efficiently scanned the file, for all the relevant info, then backed up again and stared at the bereaved husband’s name. Somehow it bothered her. It looked familiar. Of course, it was perfectly possible that it was just someone by a similar name, but – suddenly, she had a bad feeling about the case. If she was correct in her assumption, would she be able to deal with the case in an impartial and professional way?
Scotty noticed the frown and was immediately alerted to his lover’s changed mood.
“Is there a problem?”
“No. I hope not. It’s just that – never mind. I’ll soon know. When we get back, I’ll tell you if I was right. Will you be ok, working with Jeffries?”
“Sure. No problem. We got another case. No biggie. I think we’ll wrap this one up in just a few days. The suspect is back from hiding abroad. If there are no surprises, we might even have cracked it by tonight.”
“That sounds like a nice change. Ok, I’ll see you later.”
She waved at Vera, who reluctantly left. Jeffries looked more annoyed than distressed. What sort of friendship was it anyway?
The second she saw the husband of the dead woman, she felt transported back, more than fifteen years. For a moment, she felt as if she was a skinny, provocatively dressed kid, trying desperately to make her skimpy clothes cover her abdomen as she sat on the examination table in the doctor’s surgery. She could even remember the man’s impersonal voice telling her to go behind the screen to undress, then lie in that dreadful chair.
With an effort, she forced herself back to the present. She was a police officer. They were investigating a case. This guy had no power to make her feel like that poor kid again.
“Who wants to know?”
“I’m Detective Lilly Rush and this is my partner Nick Vera. Can we come in? We’re here to ask you some questions about your wife.”
“Oh. Come on in.”
The guy didn’t offer them a coffee or anything, but he did ask them to sit down. His behavior was a strange mix of arrogant and devastated. At first glance, Lilly would say that this guy didn’t have anything to do with his wife’s death. On the other hand, there was something that spoke of – what? Guilt? Did he have some idea of what had caused his wife’s death, but hadn’t had a hand in it himself?
She kept studying him out of the corner of her eye, but his gaze merely slid indifferently across her, as if he didn’t recognize her at all. Maybe he didn’t. She knew she’d changed in the years since they’d last met. Seventeen years were a very long time. Almost eighteen. Even so, it seemed impossible that he could have forgotten. Their encounters still stood out in her mind as clearly as they had all those years ago. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to forget.
Back at the precinct, Lilly had a hard time focusing on the case. On the way back, Vera had asked her if she was ok. She’d assured him she was, but she didn’t think he’d been taken in.
Just to take her mind off things, she decided to ask Vera out for lunch, since Scotty and Jeffries were nowhere to be seen. Probably still out on that case which was supposed to be so open and shot. Maybe they’d been wrong – or they were out celebrating.
After hesitating for a while, Vera accepted. Lilly was able to steer the conversation away from her preoccupation, but couldn’t avoid discussing the case. Judging by what they’d found out, the husband had something to hide, but Lilly still didn’t think he was guilty. She was stunned to realize that she almost wished he was. Bringing him in, reading him his rights, would feel so sweet, after the way he’d treated her.
They spent the afternoon following up on different leads, and already, the case was beginning to take shape. Lilly took comfort in being able to fall back on the familiar routines. This was something she knew how to do. Something she was good at. It helped a little.
By the time it got too late to continue anymore, Scotty was back, glancing at her, a look of concern on his face.
She looked up and smiled at her lover, but she knew the smile was pale and she didn’t fool him.
“Hey. How did your case go?”
“Great. I think we’ll be able to wrap it up in the morning. We’re just waiting for the results of an analysis. The lab will have them tomorrow.”
“Good. Well, I guess I should get going. I’m beat.”
“Wait. Would you like to go and have some beers?”
Lilly hesitated. She really was too tired and upset to enjoy a drink, but on the other hand, going out with Scotty might cheer her up. After everything they’d been through together, after all they’d shared, there was no reason why she shouldn’t let him know what had happened.
They went to a bar just around the block. It was a place many cops went to in their off-duty hours and it was nice. They’d been there before.
Scotty went to get his beer and Lilly’s mineral water and Lilly went to find a table. She noticed that some guy bumped into Scotty and a bit of an argument broke out. For a moment, she considered getting up to find out what was wrong and if necessary back Scotty up. But the guy, who didn’t look like a cop, seemed to apologize and Scotty shrugged and moved on.
He looked only a little irritated when he placed the tray on the table and sat down, facing Lilly.
“What was that all about?”
“Oh. That guy bumped into me and began to argue about it, then he sort of backed down and apologized. No harm done.”
“I guess not.”
She took her glass of water and had a sip. It seemed to taste a little off, but she knew that was only because she wasn’t in the mood to drink. To her surprise, Scotty seemed to find something wrong with his beer too.
“Oh, nothing. This stuff tastes a little stale, I think.”
“Take it back and ask for another one.”
“Nah. It’s not worth it. I guess they’re having some trouble with the refrigeration or something.”
“Are you going to explain what’s wrong?”
“It’s that obvious, huh?”
“Well, you look – sad.”
“Yeah. That pretty much covers it.”
“Is anything wrong with your family?”
“Oh. No, it’s nothing like that. I’m fine. It’s just that – the case, the one I’m working on now – It reminded me of one of the worst times in my life.”
Scotty placed his hand over hers and squeezed it reassuringly.
“Ok. Want to talk about it?”
“I guess so. Remember what I told you about – the time I was pregnant?”
“Yeah. Was this victim pregnant too?”
“No. It’s just that the husband – it’s that guy. Lenny Brent.”
“Lenny Brent? Sounds like a standup comedian.”
“Oh, I guess I never told you his name. It’s the guy who – the father of my baby.”
“That sick bastard who -”
“That’s the one.”
“Did he say something? Did he recognize you?”
“I don’t think so. He didn’t say anything about it.”
“What a creep.”
“I’ve changed since then. It’s been seventeen years, almost eighteen.”
“Yeah, it felt – I couldn’t believe it either. He was looking right past me, as if he’d never seen me before.”
“I’m sorry, Lil. Would you like me and Jeffries to take over? We’ll be done with our case in the morning so it’s no trouble.”
“No. I can handle it. Thanks.”
They finished their drinks in silence. Lilly thought her water had improved while she talked. It was as if Scotty’s sympathy had had an effect. A positive one. Scotty’s beer didn’t seem to have changed. Or at least not for the better. He made a face and left part of it unfinished. It wasn’t really late, but they decided to go home anyway. To his place. They’d agreed that they wouldn’t spend every night at her place, to avoid the risk of being found out.
Lilly hated to let her girls sleep alone, but she knew it was safer this way. The only other alternative was sleeping apart some nights of the week. She didn’t want that either.
On the way to the car, Scotty seemed to have trouble walking straight. Lilly was wondering if he’d been unusually tired and maybe the beer had affected him more than it should. In any case, it was just as well she was going to drive.
On the way back, she thought Scotty was acting a bit weird. Talking a little too loudly, and not making much sense. It occurred to her that he might be trying to joke and somehow cheer her up that way, but she was beginning to feel concerned. This wasn’t like him. From time to time, she stole a glance at him out of the corner of her eye and something just didn’t feel right. He seemed to be in a strange mood. Too upbeat. Too excited.
That didn’t seem to make sense. The mood earlier had been somber, but now he was in excellent spirits. His eyes looked – shiny – and she could have sworn he was more drunk than he should just from one beer. Or was it just lack of sleep? They had been working rather intensely on that other case. It wasn’t surprising if he was affected like this, because of stress. She seemed to recall that he had skipped lunch the day before and today, unless he and Jeffries had managed to squeeze in a stop for a meal. Judging by Jeffries’ physical appearance, he was rather fond of food.
Lilly parked the car, still concerned about her lover. Scotty didn’t come up the stairs with her. Instead, he found a basketball which was lying on the ground not far from his house. It looked beat-up and wouldn’t bounce, but he kept throwing it around, despite that. He tried to run and made a show of dribbling the ball, but even Lilly, who wasn’t really a basketball fan, could tell it wasn’t working.
“Scotty. Come on. It’s getting late.”
He didn’t seem to be hearing her. Suddenly, he stumbled and fell. Lilly couldn’t quite smother a scream. She ran to his side, and kneeled, a look of concern on her face. He’d hit his head on the ground and was bleeding from a few scratches on his forehead, but looked ok in other ways.
She did her best to get him onto his feet, but he wasn’t helping at all, and in fact, tried to trip her and get her to lie down on top of him. There was no doubt about his intentions now. This simply wasn’t like him. She was seriously beginning to worry about him now.
Eventually, after dodging his pawing hands, she was able to get him on his feet again. His arm hung over her shoulder, constantly straying down to her breasts, but eventually, she was able to drag him towards the house. Since she had a key, she unlocked the door and managed to shove him inside, then lock the door behind them.
In the hallway, he fell again, but with some effort she was able to get him up again. She steered him towards the bedroom, and pushed him onto the bed. He lay there, smiling, at nothing, seemingly content. Lilly was wondering if she ought to call an ambulance or if it might be better to wait and observe his condition first.
After dealing with the cuts and scratches, she felt for his pulse and wasn’t entirely surprised to find it racing. Again, he tried to pull her down on top of him, but she evaded his grip and put her hand on his forehead. She couldn’t tell if his temperature was normal or not. It was relatively hot in his room. The sun had been baking on the window all day.
After a while, he seemed to settle down, but just as she was thinking of lying down next to him, he began to scream. It was as if he was trying to defend himself from an invisible enemy. Lilly felt cold, as she imagined what it was he was seeing, that she didn’t.
His incoherent yells didn’t give her any clue as to what he was seeing, but whatever it was, it was bad enough to frighten him badly. She didn’t know if it was safe to do so or not, but she couldn’t leave him in such pain, so she pulled him into her arms and held him.
He began to weep, disconsolately and she rocked him back and forth, his head resting on her chest.
“It’s ok, baby. It’s ok. There’s no one here. Just you and me. Scotty. Take it easy.”
Throughout the night, she held him and spoke comfortingly to him and towards dawn, he began to seem more himself. At least the look in his eyes told her he was back. But he was still distressed and for a while, he was unable to voice his fears.
Eventually, he seemed to gather all his courage and, eyes wide, fixed on her face, he began to speak.
“Lilly? You don’t think -”
“Tonight – I saw – it wasn’t real. It can’t be, but – it looked so real. Do you think -”
It was another while before he could bring himself to speak again.
“This was how it started with Elissa. She saw things, things no one else could see and she was terrfied, of nothing. Do you think it might be schizophrenia?”
“How do you know? It looked exactly like one of her episodes.”
“No, I don’t think so. I’ve been wondering how this could have happened and – I have a theory. Remember how that beer seemed to taste odd?”
Scotty’s eyes kept roaming back and forth, but after a while, he began to settle down again.
“I think maybe someone spiked your drink. Your case – it’s something to do with organized crime, right?”
“Yes, but what does that -”
“What if that suspect you mentioned used this way of – getting to you? Now that I’ve had time to calm down a little, I think I recognize the symptoms. I’ve seen this before. Acid. LSD. Come on, you came to us from Vice. Don’t tell me you didn’t recognize it too.”
“Yeah, not very pure. Cut with, I don’t know – anything that can give you this kind of bad trip. You should talk to Stillman about it and go and see a doctor. A blood test -”
“You don’t think I’m going insane?”
“No. Why should that happen just like this? You’ve never had any of the typical symptoms before, right? Do you have any family history?”
“That doesn’t mean anything. Elissa didn’t either. It just happened.”
“Ok. How do you feel now? Hungover?”
Scotty thought about it, then nodded.
“Actually, yeah. But I don’t know how Elissa felt afterwards.”
“How did she seem?”
“It varied. Ok. I get your point. That guy – the one who bumped into me – maybe that’s when it happened. If someone did spike my beer. I guess I should tell Stillman. And go and see a doctor.”
“That’s probably a good idea. I guess I’ll have to go in to work and tell them you called in sick.”
“Yeah, I guess you’d better do that. I’ll be fine. No. Wait. I’ll call Stillman and tell him what I suspect happened. Then I’ll go and see the doctor. But you go on. Tell Jeffries – no, Stillman will tell him. Ok. Lilly -”
“Thanks. If this had happened when I was on my own, I don’t know what I -”
Again she pulled him into her arms and kissed him lightly. No need to tell him just how alarmed his condition had made her.
Lilly’s hunch about the case turned out to be true. The guy – Lenny – didn’t do it. Once she and Vera began to review the case as a homicide, the pieces fell into place. They got the perp into the interrogation room, and after a couple of hours of intense questioning, the guy broke and confessed. Case closed.
Except now Lilly had to go and tell the widower. If she’d asked Vera, she knew he would have informed the guy, but if she asked him, she’d also have to explain why, and she didn’t want to. It had been hard enough to tell Scotty, and he was her lover. Vera – even though he was a good friend, she just couldn’t bring herself to go into all that again.
In fact, just to prove to herself she had it in her, she told Vera he could go and have a late lunch with Jeffries. Scotty was still at the hospital, where they were running a series of tests on him, so she knew she was on her own.
For a second, her nerve broke and she considered telling Stillman all about it. What held her back was a realization that she couldn’t run to her metaphorical father figure every time something hurt. Stillman had been a good boss over the years and she knew he considered her a friend, just like she saw him as a good friend, but he wasn’t her father and it was time she grew up.
What was the worst Lenny could do to her anyway? If he even remembered and knew who she was. Not quite as sure of herself as normally, she got into the car and drove out to Lenny’s rather run-down house in the suburbs.
She stood outside the car, watching the house for a while. Maybe Lenny wouldn’t be in. The years had not treated him kindly. If his features hadn’t been so firmly imprinted in her memory, she doubted she would have recognized him. As it was, she still woke up from dreams of the way he’d looked as he’d taunted her, the day she came to him, to tell him she was pregnant. The second her immature dreams of a happy married life had shattered.
She hadn’t deserved that. At sixteen, she had still been a kid. Lenny had always been a bastard and if she hadn’t been as inexperienced as she was, she would have seen that sooner. It took that cruel awakening to bring it home to her. At least she’d learned her lesson then. Some women still had cruel insights about their men, even at her age.
Bracing herself, she began to walk up to the door. The paint was flaking and up close like this, she could see the weeds growing all over his front yard. Shutters kept the sunlight out of the dim rooms inside. She recalled the slight smell of damp, from the initial interview with Lenny. That wife must have had low expectations if all she wanted out of life was marriage to Lenny and a home like this.
Her hopes were crushed when she heard the sounds of footsteps from inside. Lenny opened the door, wearing a pair of baggy pants and a belt that wasn’t buckled yet. So she’d caught him in the process of getting ready. The smell of cheap cologne brought her back again, to the night he’d taken her to a motel room and told her she was special, the most beautiful girl he’d ever met and that he knew she’d be going places. Staring at Lenny’s paunch really made her appreciate being with Scotty.
Lenny flashed her an insolent grin, looking pleased she’d come without Vera. Lilly was beginning to regret her false bravado.
“Oh, it’s you. Come on in.”
“I’ll be right with you.”
When he returned he was wearing a shirt, but he hadn’t buttoned it yet, and he still looked seedy and old. In a way, it felt good to come back like this, knowing she looked ok, and he didn’t. But knowing how men like Lenny saw themselves, she had no hopes that the realization of how differently the years had treated them would hit him.
“So, what can I do for you?”
“I just came to inform you that we caught the man who killed your wife.”
“Oh. Thanks. Was it that bastard from her work? Kovac?”
“No, it was a man called Richter. Do you know him?”
“Richter? Yeah. It’s a colleague of mine. But why -”
“Apparently, your wife and mr Richter had an affair.”
“So that was it. Barbara, you slut. Oh, well. That’s how it goes. Richter makes twice as much as me. What do you know.”
“Well, that was all. I’m sure the DA will be in touch, but for now, our work is finished.”
“Right. Well, want to go for a drink?”
“Oh, don’t play hard to get with me, Lilly. Are you getting enough these days? I remember you used to need at least five or six guys to get your kicks. Getting old?”
Lilly didn’t know what to say. She got up and stood uncertainly by the door into the hallway. She should have known Lenny would spring something like that on her.
She stared at the guy who had made her pregnant almost eighteen years ago. He really hadn’t changed a bit, unless you counted the extra pounds and the hair loss. What a stupid little bimbo she’d been in those days.
“It was you who made me pregnant. You know you were the only one. And I was a minor. Since I got pregnant, I can prove you had sex with me before I was legally of age. If I wanted, I could still get you for constitutional rape.”
“Yeah, if you could prove to the judge that I knew you were sixteen. If he looks at even one photo of you from back then or asked a couple of witnesses, everyone will say that you looked at least eighteen. Some would say older. Like over twenty-one. So don’t pull that cop card on me. You of all people, a cop. That took some getting used to. Ok. Fine. You’re not in the mood. What’s the matter? PMS? Menopause? Don’t tell me you’re a lesbo. I won’t believe it. Remember when -”
Lilly muttered the word under her breath, but she could see that Lenny had heard her and he was laughing at her. Her eyes dimmed with tears and she turned to leave, wishing desperately she could think of a comeback. At the moment, she couldn’t make her mind work at all.
Her temper flared and she turned and faced Lenny, eyes flashing.
“That’s it. One more word out of you, and I’ll get you for obstruction of justice.”
“So you want to pull out the handcuffs and play? Ok. I’m shaking.”
Lenny held out his hands to her, as if encouraging her to cuff him. Damn. She never meant to let him bait her like this. If she brought him in, she’d need to explain why she’d been so offended. This wouldn’t work out.
“Just watch it. Oh, you may not have killed your wife, but as my partner and I looked into your financial affairs, we spotted a couple of irregularities. Naturally, we’re required to report that to the proper authorities. You should probably cancel any travel plans you might have. Someone will be knocking on your door any day now.”
Lenny opened his mouth and shut it again. It was as if it was finally dawning on him that she really was a police officer.
She even smiled on the way out. Even if she hadn’t been able to think of any smart reply, clearly his shady dealings were serious enough to worry him. At least that was something.
In the evening, Scotty came by, looking relieved but harassed. His day at the hospital must have been stressful.
She hugged him fiercely as much to comfort herself as to greet him. He kissed her and she sensed him beginning to relax.
“So how was your day?”
“Exhausting. Stillman was very understanding, as usual. Damn, I wish these things wouldn’t keep happening to me. Sooner or later, it will be something that Stillman can’t help me with.”
“This wasn’t your fault.”
“I know. Anyway, the blood tests proved that it was LSD. I’m suspended pending an investigation, but since Stillman believes me and you were there to witness the altercation when we think the drug was administered etc, I think I’ll be ok. But I had to let them test my hair to make sure I haven’t been doing drugs earlier. At least that’s something I’ve never been tempted by.”
“Oh, what about the other Vice staple?”
“You mean girls? Not working girls anyway. I don’t understand how any cop who’s seen how they work could ever be tempted.”
“They seemed to like you, though.”
“Can you blame them?”
At least he was able to joke about it, even if his smile soon faded.
“I had to keep in touch with my informers, that’s all.”
“So how was your day? You look – upset.”
“Yeah, that sick bastard. He should have been pleased you brought news about his case. He wasn’t?”
“I don’t know. He seemed to have gotten over his wife pretty fast. Asked me out for a drink.”
“Like he didn’t even know you?”
“No. He remembered me and he was rude about it too. I – lost my temper and confronted him and threatened to get him for constitutional rape. He just laughed and said then I’d need to prove he knew how old I was.”
“He did, didn’t he?”
“Of course. But – I didn’t look sixteen in those days. The way I was dressed and with the makeup I had on, most people thought I was old enough to get into clubs and bars. I usually managed to pass for twenty-one. So he’d probably get off. It’s been nearly eighteen years. No judge would prioritize a case like that anyway.”
“I’m sorry. I still want to punch him in the face.”
“I wish you could have, back then, but you would have been – what? Ten?”
“Something like that. But a strong ten-year-old. Besides, if I knew where to find him, I could have come back later, when I was a little older. But I meant today.”
“Believe me, i was tempted to cuff him and drag him away and throw him in a cell. Except I think he would have liked the cuffs too much.”
“Mm. Do you have them on you, right now?”
“Oh, you’d like to try them on too?”
“Well, I’m sure we can find some reason why I deserve to be punished.”
“If you want punishment, how about I cook for you?”
“No, I’ll cook for you. You go and sit on the couch and talk to the girls. I think you had a worse day than I did, all things considered.”
“You’re an angel. Why would anyone want to punish you?”
“Give me a minute and I’ll think of some excuse. I’ll get back to you.”
“You do that. If I’m still awake and alert enough, we’ll see.”
All in all, the day, that had progressed from bad to worse, actually ended a lot better than it had begun.
The following day, they were both given new cold cases to investigate and slowly, Lilly and Scotty began to get used to not being partners.
It was typical of Stillman not to give them a lecture. Instead, he merely assigned them new partners. If there was ever any criticism, at least they wouldn’t get in trouble. Serious trouble. Lilly could imagine that there would be endless talks about it, but eventually, she didn’t think anyone would be able to prove anything.
They were spending the night at Scotty’s place. Scotty and Lilly had been in the kitchen, preparing dinner together, when the phone rang. Wiping his hands on a towel, Scotty kept talking to her until he lifted the receiver.
“Hello. Oh, hi, mom. No, it’s fine. Yes, but I have it under control. So, how are you and dad? Ok. Good. Me too. Well, you know how it is. No change, I’m afraid. Mom, I’m not allowed to visit her. She can’t see anyone, ok? Yes. I see. Oh.Thank you for telling me.”
An absent look on his face, he hung up. Lilly could see that he’d had some bad news and he’d forgotten entirely about dinner. Just in case, she switched off the stove.
Scotty sank down onto a chair, face white and eyes filled with a look of pain. Lilly was wondering what sort of news could provoke such a reaction. Her first impression had been that his parents were fine. What else could be wrong?
She walked up to Scotty and placed a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and alarmingly, his eyes were filled with tears.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Oh. Sorry. I had some news about – oh, I’d better get that -”
He went to pull a pan off the heat. Nothing seemed to have been burnt, but he busied himself with the pots and pans for a while. When everything was set out, he sat down again, facing Lilly across the table.
“Anything you’d like to tell me about? Is your family ok?”
“Yes. It’s just that – the guy who killed my brother is due to be released in a couple of weeks’ time. So I guess this will stir up all those memories.”
Lilly knew that Scotty had been present when his brother’s body had been found. She also knew what impact the manner of his death had had on the surviving brother. Knowing from experience how family members of victims reacted when perpetrators were released from prison, she understood just how traumatic the next couple of weeks or months would be for Scotty and his parents.
“Yeah. It was a shock. I – usually never think about all that.”
She got up to put her arms around him and held him for a while. Then his polite manners reasserted themselves and he began to serve the food, before it cooled off too much. Neither of them had much appetite, and before long, they went to bed.
Since they didn’t work together anymore, it was a while until Lilly noticed the changes in Scotty. One day, about a week after the revelation that his brother’s killer would be out, Lilly noticed that Jeffries came back alone, from an interview.
“He had personal business to take care of. Where’s Nick?”
“He went to the men’s room.”
“Oh. I’ll be over here.”
Lilly was frowning. What personal business could this be? Of course, it could be anything, like a dentist’s appointment, but she had a feeling it might be something more serious. Had the hospital called about Elissa? Or – was this something to do with the killer being released?
Jeffries and Vera had a cup of coffee together, then Jeffries left again. Lilly asked Vera to go over some old files, while she waited for Scotty’s return. As usual, Vera did what she told him without questioning her reasons.
Scotty didn’t come in until late, so late that Lilly was beginning to think she’d need to go on ahead on her own.
“Hey. What’s up?”
Scotty hesitated, then decided to confide in Lilly. Out of all the people he knew, she was the one who just might understand.
“I managed to get my hands on his file. The killer. Roland Stancovic.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
Scotty didn’t reply. He opened the file and began to skim the pages. When he’d finished, he began to go over them again, in more detail. The look in his eyes spoke of distress, but also disbelief. At least that was how Lilly read him.
“The guy never confessed to – killing Tony. Just – molesting him. He claims Tony was alive when he left.”
“That’s not surprising. If he never meant to kill him, it might be too traumatic to admit to, even to himself.”
“I know, but – there seems to be a witness. A reliable witness who puts him miles away at the time of death.”
“What? How did the judge manage to get a conviction?”
“It says here they couldn’t find a more credible suspect and it was decided that the witness must have been mistaken about the time.”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re right, but this doesn’t feel good. I have to know for sure. Lil – I’m going to go and see that sick bastard and ask him to his face. He owes me the truth, after what he did to us.”
“No. Scotty, you’re not thinking straight. This is not a good idea. I can see that this must be really -”
“Yeah, but – don’t you see that I need to know? I’ll never have peace of mind if I don’t know. What if whoever did this to Tony is still out there?”
“Why would someone else have killed him? You told me that – the perpetrator had pulled down his pants. Was there signs of – physical traces -”
“No. Not on Tony’s body. They found traces of semen on the ground, a little distance away, but not actually on Tony.”
“I see. And the cause of death? You said it was a blow to the head?”
“A head injury. Apparently, Tony had fallen and hit his head on a rock.”
Lilly could almost the see the scene. The pathetic little body. His tormented parents and another little boy, his life being torn apart.
“Scotty, I can understand that you want to have closure but seeing that pervert is just going to stir things up again. Are you prepared to deal with that? At least think about it, before you do something that will hurt you again.”
“It’s too late for that. Anyway, I can’t do anything about it tonight. It will have to wait until the morning.”
“Ok. Let’s go home.”
He nodded absently and followed Lilly outside. The others had left already, so they didn’t need to put on any show about leaving separately.
Lilly didn’t really have any hope that Scotty would change his mind. She wasn’t surprised when he told her he’d be in later. Jeffries might have good reason to complain to Stillman, if Scotty didn’t take their working together more seriously. She said nothing to Scotty about that. She merely held him and kissed him before leaving for work.
Again, Jeffries subjected her to a knowing stare when she walked in.
She tried to look surprised, but hated the deception.
“He hasn’t been in touch with you?”
“Yes. He has. He said he’d be in later.”
Jeffries held her gaze for a while longer, then shrugged and turned back towards his desk. Lilly wasn’t surprised when Vera went off to fix his old friend a cup of coffee. At times she wanted to scream that Vera wasn’t Jeffries’ servant, but she knew their friendship went way back, and she didn’t have the right to interfere.
Throughout the day, she had a hard time focusing on her work. She was wondering what Scotty was up to. He walked in at around nine and left almost straight away, with an impatient-looking Jeffries. The two men had lunch together, and Vera joined them, so Lilly was left to have a quick snack on her own. At least she got a lot of work done this way.
Not until Scotty returned to the precinct around seven thirty did Lilly get a chance to talk to him in private.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m going to see that guy in prison, on Saturday.”
She made a face, but didn’t comment.
“I have to, Lil. I just have to know. What if the real killer is still out there, somewhere?”
“I understand. Want me to come with you?”
Scotty stared at her. Clearly he hadn’t expected that. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. In the end, he seemed to change his mind about something.
“Yes. If you would, I’d be grateful. It’s not something I’m looking forward to.”
“No, I can see that. Ok. No problem. I don’t think I’ll be doing much work on Saturday, anyway. What about you?”
“Jeffries is covering most of it, at the moment. I know – don’t tell me. I’ll need to focus more on work, and I will, once I get this out of the way. It’s just hard to get it out of my mind.”
“I know that. Are you done for today? Want to go home?”
“Yeah. All done, and yes – I can’t wait to go home.”
On Saturday morning, they left early, so they’d be back before nightfall. It was a long drive, to the prison where Roland Stancovic still occupied a cell. Lilly was surprised he’d been up for parole so soon. He had been convicted for a child killing. A sex offense. Could it be something to do with the iffy evidence?
In any case, they were admitted to the interview room without any trouble. Stancovic had a reputation for being quiet, unoffensive and well-behaved to the point of servility. Once the guard had escorted him into the room and made sure he sat down, they were left alone.
Stancovic regarded them both curiously, an odd half-smile on his face.
“Are you two from social services?”
Lilly was wondering if he never got any visitors otherwise. Scotty looked tense and caught up in his brooding. She might as well say something.
“Wrong again. We’re just here to ask you a few questions.”
Lilly looked inquiringly at Scotty. He hadn’t mentioned how he wanted to play this. Was he going to level with the guy or pretend this was just a routine matter?
Finally, Scotty appeared to collect himself enough to begin.
“You killed a little boy.”
“No. I’d never hurt a child.”
“Ok. So what happened? Tell me about it.”
“It was a very a long time ago.”
“I’m sure you remember everything.”
Stancovic leaned across the table to take a better look, then seemed to arrive at some sort of conclusion. Now he looked scared, more than puzzled.
“It’s you. The brother. I remember you. Playing in the garden. I’d been hoping to – see – both of you, but that day – it was just him. You must have been inside the house.”
Scotty’s face lost all trace of color. He looked as if the other man had just struck him. The sound of his indrawn breath made Lilly want to break up the interview. Just as she had known, this would be incredibly painful for Scotty.
“I see. So you do remember. Tell me about what you did to Tony.”
“I didn’t hurt him. I’d never hurt him. When I left, he was alive. He was sitting down. Not crying or anything. Just sitting.”
“What did you do?”
“I – talked to him. About toys. Cars. Airplanes. Action figures. What sort of candy he liked. About his little brother. You.”
Stancovic was sweating now. He was pale and overweight and looked as if he hadn’t taken very good care of his health. The smell of old cigarette smoke clung to his uniform and hair.
“I gave him some candy.”
Scotty got up and towered over the prisoner. Lilly moved about worriedly in her chair. If this went much further, she’d be forced to break in.
“That’s not all you gave him, right? You raped him.”
“No. It wasn’t like that.”
“Then what was it like? Tell me.”
Scotty grabbed Stancovic by the shoulders and pulled him from his chair. Before Lilly had a chance to react, Scotty had the prisoner pressed up against the wall and looked as if he was about to strike him across the face. Stancovic’s eyes filled with tears and he began to babble.
“I didn’t hurt him. I’d never hurt him. I never hurt them.”
“Then who did? He’s dead. If you didn’t do it, who did? Can you tell me that? You raped him and then you panicked and hit him over the head and -”
“No. I didn’t. I pulled his pants down and I – looked at him. That’s all. I didn’t touch him. I swear. I didn’t touch him. When I left, he was sitting down. Someone came and I – ran.”
At Lilly’s reminder, Scotty let go of Stancovic and returned to his seat.
“You heard someone coming. Right. Did you see this person?”
“Ok. Could you give me a description? Man? Woman? What?”
“It was – your father.”
“My father? What the hell do you know about my father?”
“I saw him. In the garden. With you. The two of you.”
Lilly placed a hand on Scotty’s arm and and squeezed it warningly. It was time to go. The guard would have heard the altercation. If they weren’t careful, they’d be in trouble.
To her relief, Scotty got up and walked towards the door. Lilly followed him. They knocked and the guard came to open the door.
“We’re done here.”
Stancovic was still sobbing and staring pleadingly after Scotty.
“I swear I never hurt him. I never hurt them. I’d never do that. You have to believe me. It wasn’t me. Please. I didn’t do it.”
They sat in the back of the car. Scotty was hunched over, his face buried in his hands. Lilly wanted him to calm down before they left.
“There’s no reason to believe him. He’d say anything. The second he recognized you, it was more or less to be taken for granted that he’d begin to defend himself. You saw him.”
“I know, but it makes sense. He’d never killed or hurt any kid. I read his file. What he described in there – that was his MO.”
“So? If Tony panicked and ran, it could have been an accident, but it’s still possible.”
“Yeah, but why would he panic? Would he understand why that bastard pulled his pants down and looked at him? The way I remembered him, he was almost grown up, but he was eight. Maybe he’d just find it odd.”
Lilly thought about it. An eight-year-old might find it strange that a grown up would pull his pants down, but if nothing more happened, then, yes, a panic reaction would be odd. If Stancovic had had a plausible explanation for his actions, Tony shouldn’t have found it so frightening.
“And if your dad had found Tony like that? What do you think his reaction would have been?”
“That’s just it. I don’t know. My first guess would be to bring him home. Or to run after whoever had taken him. But – what if he didn’t? What if he panicked and somehow frightened Tony? I just don’t know.”
“You don’t need to do anything about it. Stancovic is getting out anyway. Let sleeping dogs lie. Whatever happened -”
“No. I have to know the truth. I’ll need to talk to my dad and find out if he was there. If he saw Stancovic or if he might have found Tony before -”
“Are you sure about this? What if you found out – something you couldn’t live with?”
“I’d have to live with it. Knowing is better than being kept guessing.”
“Maybe. Ok. You know I’m with you, whatever you do. I’ll be here. Speaking of here. What do you say we get our of here? I can think of nicer places to stop.”
“Yeah, me too. Ok. I’ll call dad in the morning and – go and see him.”
As she drove home, Lilly couldn’t help wondering if Scotty was doing the right thing. If he learned the truth after all these years, would it help? Would it make the tragedy any more bearable? She didn’t think so, but she could understand his wish to find the truth at any cost.
On Sunday morning, Scotty got up so early, Lilly could hardly keep her eyes open. He called his parents, then left, promising he’d be in touch during the day. By late evening, he still hadn’t called and Lilly was beginning to feel concerned. If he’d found out something distressing, would he have made a detour and ended up in a bar somewhere? She remembered a time not so long ago, when Scotty had tried to seek consolation in drink – and other risky behavior. This time, it had better not be anything like that.
It wasn’t until past eleven in the evening he returned. When Lilly caught sight of him in the doorway, she gasped. His face was gray with fatigue and she could tell that he’d been crying. She hurriedly led him into the living room and made him sit down on the couch.
There was a bottle of Scotch in one of the high kitchen cupboards. Lilly poured a generous dose of it and made Scotty drink it all. After a while, his color returned to normal, but the haunted look in his eyes didn’t. It was beginning to scare her.
“What – did you find out?”
He began to sob again, leaning against her shoulder. She pulled him close and did her best to console him. Eventually, he calmed down enough to speak.
“It was true. My father – he did it. Tony was alive when that creep left. Dad found Tony like that, with his pants down and – jumped to conclusions. He – he said something about how he had trusted Tony and he couldn’t imagine his little man doing something like that. So he began to shake Tony, to try and make him tell him what had happened. Tony got scared and tried to get away. And he fell and hit his head.”
She knew how inadequate her words were. She could hardly imagine such a terrible loss, but she could sense Scotty’s distress and pulling him closer again, she did her best to ease the tension she could feel in his shoulders and all over.
“Dad – panicked and ran off, then returned later, with mom and – ‘found’ Tony. When I asked him, he got aggressive, but in the end, he admitted it. I think – I don’t know for sure – but I think he’d told mom about it later. She didn’t seem surprised.”
“Ok. Now what? Are you going to do something about it?”
“I already have. That’s why I was so late. I went to see Stillman and asked his advice. There will be a formal inquest now. The case will be officlally opened again. I had to. For Tony’s sake. Can you understand that?”
“Yes, of course I can. He was your brother.”
“I told dad I was going to do it and they – they more or less disowned me. They – went on about how I was more loyal to that piece of filth who molested Tony than to my own dad. But it’s not true. I don’t care about that pervert. It’s Tony I want to – I mean – he deserves justice. The truth has to come out.”
“Of course. You did the right thing. I’m sure your parents will see that eventually.”
“I don’t think so. They never cared as much about me as about Tony.”
“Hush. Don’t say that.”
“Why not? It’s true.”
“Come to bed now. You need to rest. Call in sick in the morning. If Jeffries wants more help with his case, I’ll let him have Vera back. I can manage.”
“Stillman told me to take the day off. Do you think he thinks I’m a traitor too?”
“No, I don’t, because you’re not a traitor. You’re being loyal to your brother. I’m sure he understands that.”
“He said -”
“He said I was doing the right thing.”
“There. You see. It will be ok. Don’t worry about it. You made sure Tony had justice. Now, let’s get you to bed.”
“I’ll make you a sandwich.”
When Lilly got back to the bedroom, she found Scotty stretched out on his side, hugging one of the cats, burying his face in the soft fur. All the way to the doorway, she could hear the loud, contented purring. Smiling, she tiptoed closer. At least the girls knew instinctively how to comfort someone. She thought Scotty was asleep, but when she got closer, he opened his eyes. To her relief, some of the distress she’d seen there earlier was gone.
“Hey. I got you this. If you don’t eat it, I’m going to assume it’s really yucky. No wonder.”
“I’m sure it’s ok.”
She got into bed beside him, and proceeded to more or less force-feed him the sandwich, one piece at a time. Once he’d finished, she gave him the glass of water she’d brought. He took two deep gulps, then put the glass down on the bedside table.
“Thanks. You’re the best. I don’t know how I’d manage without you. You keep showing up at the worst of times, and you save my life all over again.”
“Look who’s talking. You watch my back, I watch yours. That’s what partners are for. Except, I guess we’re not partners anymore.”
“Maybe not at work. Stillman is a sly old guy, isn’t he?”
“Oh, yeah. Nothing gets past him. So I guess he’s totally aware of where you are right now?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. Of course, the last thing he said was – go home. Home as in my place.”
“He would say that. I mean, it’s not as if he’d say – go over to Lilly’s place and get into bed with her.”
“No, I guess that would be expecting too much.”
“He’s great. I’m glad he’s our boss.”
“Me too. But – most of all I’m glad I met you. I’m on my own now.”
“I guess it’s just you and me, kid.”
“Hey, who are you calling a kid?”
“Figure of speech.”
“It had better be.”
“Listen, how are you getting on with Jeffries?”
“It’s like Vera can’t function without him. Those two really are close. Have you noticed how Vera’s constantly getting him coffee and Jeffries is always asking where he is, even if he’s just gone to the men’s room?”
“I guess those two are really close. They go way back. Jeffries keeps telling me all these anecdotes about cases they’ve worked together.”
“Oh. Vera’s just nervous about being away from Jeffries. He’s a good cop, but it’s like he thinks he can’t do anything on his own. I’ve been planning to sort of help build his self-esteem, but maybe I’m just wasting my time. No one can get between those two.”
“Now that you put it like that, it is a bit odd. I guess you’re right. Vera needs to learn to work on his own. Stillman’s a genius. I just hope he hasn’t figured out that stuff about me and – my ‘breakdown’.”
“Oh, your ‘breakdown’. Is that what you call it? Well, for what it’s worth, he hasn’t told me anything, but then he wouldn’t.”
“At least Jeffries isn’t still giving me a hard time about that guy who confessed just because he had a crush on me.”
“If Jeffries is giving you a hard time about anything, I’ll have a talk with him.”
“Oh, great. That will make him respect me a whole lot more.”
“I’m not sure that gaining his respect is something you should necessarily go for.”
“No? Oh, I guess not. He has some pretty old-fashioned ideas about women.”
“I was afraid of that. Just as long as he isn’t a bad influence on you, it’s his problem.”
“A bad influence? Nah. Don’t worry about it. You’re the only role model I need.”
“Oh, the boy knows exactly what to say. Is it the handcuffs you’re after again?”
“Damn, you know me too well.”
“We’ll see about those cuffs. Ok. Let’s just sleep now, ok? I have work to do in the morning.”
“Yeah. I love you, Lil.”
“I love you too.”
To her relief, Scotty really did relax and after a while, she could tell that he’d dozed off. Trying her best to block out all distressing thoughts, she prepared to do the same. But she couldn’t quite repress the memory of Stancovic’s words. He’d been hoping to catch both boys. What if Scotty had been the one to die? If she’d never met him at all?
She knew that after Kite, she would most likely never have met anyone again. Without Scotty, she’d have been all alone. At least he was here with her now, safe. She moved a little closer and rested her head on his shoulder. Listening to the sounds of his breathing, eventually she too dozed off.