|Primary Characters:||Lilly, Scotty|
|Description:||Their last case brought back bad memories for Lilly and Scotty. Maybe talking about it will help. Vera has a little trouble too.|
They spent most of the afternoon typing out their reports and sending requests for autopsies and DNA analyses. Around six, they were thinking about calling it a day, unusually early for Homicide detectives, when a stunning looking lady walked in, looking as if she was searching for someone.
Lilly was hoping that person wasn’t Scotty. She wasn’t exactly jealous of all his former dates, but she didn’t exactly like to see them either. Not that any of them had been around for quite a while. Unless this one was one of them.
Lilly got up and intercepted the woman before she strayed too far.
“Excuse me. Can I help you?”
“Is Nick Vera working here?”
Lilly looked around but couldn’t see Vera at the moment. She was hoping he was still around, so they could all satisfy their curiosity about his mystery visitor. This stunning lady was hardly someone you’d associate with their colleague Vera. She was tall, slender, elegantly dressed, heavily made up and wearing a scent which made Lilly’s nose itch.
Jeffries showed up before Lilly had to think of anything to say to the visitor. Behind Jeffries, Vera showed up, looking pink and slightly out of breath.
Lilly could tell that the lady had caught Jeffries’ eye. Apparently, she was to his taste. Now Vera too, had seen her and the astonished look on his face told Lilly two things. One – the lady was familiar to him, and two – he hadn’t expected to see her.
The visitor had seen him too and now she was waving rather more enthusiastically than Lilly thought was necessary.
“Hi, Lindsey. What are you doing here?”
“Can we talk?”
Vera looked around, rather uneasily, Lilly thought. He was uncomfortable meeting this person – this Lindsey, whoever she was – but since it wasn’t any of their business, Lilly decided that Vera could take care of himself.
“Yees. Come this way.”
Lindsey followed Vera into one of the interrogation rooms, leaving her heavy scent hanging in the air.
Jeffries whistled appreciatively.
“Holy – what a woman. Who would have guessed Nick knew someone like that?”
“He’s never mentioned her to you?”
Lilly found that hard to believe. Those two were so close, that any closer and they’d be married.
“No. Never. I wonder what’s up. Interesting.”
Lilly thought she knew what Jeffries found so interesting about the whole thing. She was more concerned with Vera. He’d looked a bit uncomfortable. She was hoping this wouldn’t mean trouble for her warmhearted colleague. Changing her mind about leaving, she sat down behind her desk again.
“What do you make of Vera’s visitor?”
Scotty looked as if he wasn’t really interested, which made Lilly smile contentedly. If Scotty didn’t get all worked up about that woman, she certainly wouldn’t complain.
“Oh. I don’t know. Surprising. She didn’t exactly seem Vera’s type. I mean, he’s such a nice guy and she seemed to be – I don’t know – up to something.”
Lilly decided not to remind Scotty of his dating spree not so long ago. As long as he didn’t miss those days, she wouldn’t set his mind thinking in that direction.
Fortunately, they didn’t have to wait long until Vera and his visitor emerged from the interrogation room and said their goodbyes. Lindsey kissed Vera on the cheek and waved exaggeratedly, then left.
Jeffries looked as if he’d been paralysed, a wide grin on his face.
“Vera, who was that?”
Vera still looked a little uncomfortable, but seemed willing enough to confide in his colleagues.
“Oh, that’s my half sister, Lindsey.”
“I didn’t know you had a half sister.”
“Long story. Anyway, she was in a bit of trouble and was hoping I’d help her out.”
“What sort of trouble?”
“She’s involved in a police investigation and she was hoping I could help her.”
“What sort of police investigation?”
“Oh, a fraud case.”
Lilly had an idea this was something that happened on a regular basis. Lindsey getting in trouble and her older brother bailing her out. She decided to ask.
“Does she often get in trouble?”
“All the time. Actually, I thought she’d changed. It’s been a while since the last time. She’s been in California, so maybe that’s it. Anyway, she’s back and I suppose I’d better find out what’s going on.”
Just as Lilly had expected.
“Don’t let her take advantage of you. If she keeps getting in trouble, maybe it’s time she learned to take the consequences for her own actions.”
Vera looked unhappy.
“No, I’ll have to try and help her. She’s had such bad luck growing up. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving her to sort things out on her own. She’s got no one else.”
There didn’t seem to be much else to say. Vera was an adult. He could make up his own mind whether he wanted to help this half sister or not.
Lilly and Scotty decided to go back to her place, but leaving together seemed like a bad idea, so after a wordless communication between them, Lilly got up and announced her intention of going out to do some shopping.
Scotty sat at his desk, pretending to be busy, while giving Lilly about fifteen minutes’ head start. After that, he got up, stretched and grabbed his coat.
“I think I’m going to get a beer. Would you like to come along?”
Jeffries and Vera cast him a longing glance, but since they still had paperwork up to their eyeballs, they had to turn Scotty’s offer down. He stayed five more minutes, chatting and commiserating with them about their workload, then walked down to his car. If he wasn’t mistaken, Lilly would be waiting outside the store.
That was where he found her, but before they had time to get inside, Scotty’s phone rang. He took the call, hoping it wouldn’t be some bad news about Elissa or another case. It was rare for their cold cases to blow up in their faces after work, but it happened. The voice at the other end of the line didn’t seem familiar at first, but the name was.
“This is mrs Henderson. Ryan’s mother.”
“Oh, how do you do, mrs Henderson. Has there been any change in Ryan’s condition?”
“Yes. That’s why I’m calling. Actually, he came to, about a month or so ago, but the doctors told me not to expect too much. Now, he’s doing so much better, they’re letting him come home. He’s out of danger. The doctors are saying he will make a full recovery. Isn’t it amazing? Of course he is young and was always very healthy, but this – it just seems like a miracle.”
“That’s wonderful news, mrs Henderson.”
“I just wanted to thank you and your lovely partner for what you did for us. Without your help -”
“We were just doing our job, mrs Henderson.”
“You’ve been so kind to my boy, detective Valens. Especially since – well, I couldn’t help noticing his feelings for you. You’ve been extremely patient, far more than could be expected under the circumstances.”
“Uh – right. I didn’t think you -”
“Oh, poor Ryan doesn’t want me to know, but I’m his mother. Of course I know he’s gay. Well, I just wanted to thank you and your partner. Perhaps you’d like to drop by some day and say hello. I’d like to offer you dinner or coffee or something to show my appreciation.”
“Well – coffee sounds nice. I’ll let my partner know and get back to you.”
He terminated the call and met Lilly’s gaze.
“Mrs Henderson? I guess that was about Ryan? Good news by the sound of it?”
“Yes. He came to. Well, actually, that was about a month ago, but the doctors didn’t want to give her any false expectations. Now they’re more sure of his condition. He’ll make a full recovery, apparently. Mrs Henderson wanted to invite us over for coffee some day. To thank us properly. I didn’t want to put her off. She was so happy.”
“I don’t mind, if you don’t. This really was wonderful news. I’m surprised, actually. Not that I’m an expert, but he did look as if he was dying.”
“I thought so too. Well, I guess it’s nice to be wrong sometimes. After all he’d been through, I’m really glad he’s going to get a chance to – enjoy life again.”
“There was just one thing. You know how he kept begging me not to tell his mother?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“He could have saved himself the effort. She knows. She told me I’d been especially kind to him under the circumstances.”
“Actually, I think so too. I imagine that in your position, I’d have been mortified to meet him again.”
“You know I was. I just couldn’t – leave him like that. After what he’d been through.”
“I love that. You’re so kind.”
“I don’t know. Remember how hard I’ve been on Elissa?”
“You know why you were acting that way. It’s only natural.”
Lilly reached up and kissed Scotty lightly on the lips.
“What was that for?”
“Do I really need a reason?”
“I guess not. Believe me, I’m not complaining.”
“You were just looking so cute, I couldn’t resist.”
“That face you made.”
“I don’t know. Cute? Do you really think so?”
“You prefer hot? Sexy? Handsome?”
“I mean, of course I know that women find me attractive, but I never really saw it myself. You’re serious?”
“Of course. I wasn’t making fun of you, if that’s what you think.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I just don’t see it, that’s all.”
“Of course you don’t. That’s what’s so sweet. Wait, I take that back, I know guys hate being called sweet.”
“Actually, coming from you, I think I can live with it. Besides, just for the record, I know the exact right word for you. Beautiful.”
“Beautiful? Oh, please. I know I look ok, but beautiful – isn’t that going a bit far?”
“No. It’s perfect. Just like you. Of course, hot and sexy are good words too.”
“Oh, hold it right there. You’re making me think you’ve done something wrong or – that you want something from me.”
“What do you think I want?”
He leaned over and whispered something in her ear. Lilly’s face took on a little color and for a second, he thought she was going to reprimand him, but then her features relaxed into a smile.
“I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t let you know right away, that I was going to let you have – that – even without the compliments.”
“That’s not why I said it, though. It’s all true. No flattery.”
He kissed her again, this time a little more intensely, making Lilly consider putting off the shopping for another day, but after a moment’s thought, she changed her mind. Since they were here, they might as well get it over with. Who knew if they’d have time tomorrow night?
Lilly hadn’t forgotten Scotty’s questions about her past and she was pretty sure he hadn’t forgotten hers, but somehow, neither one of them felt like discussing anything that serious. In the end, they just had dinner, watched some tv and went to bed quite early. For some reason, it just seemed that much more appealing, now that they weren’t sleeping alone.
Next day at work, Stillman called Lilly and Scotty into his office.
“Well done on the case with the dead baby. I just thought you’d like to know that after I read your reports, I contacted the Medical Examiner and now he’s suddenly almost 100 % sure the baby’s injuries happened after death. The pressure of the soil. Those newborns are so fragile. So I think we can assume your guy didn’t kill the baby. We’ll put it down as natural causes. Maybe that will help his case. With the raped, pregnant girlfriend, I’m guessing the jury will go easy on him, especially since he was a minor at the time. Can we make that recommendation?”
“I don’t mind.”
“No, I’m fine with that, sir.”
“Good. Then we’ll close both cases and move on to the next one. Oh, can I ask you something? About something unrelated?”
Scotty stared uneasily at his own feet, waiting for Stillmans next move. Lilly cast him a concerned glance, but contented herself with nodding in reply to Stillman’s question.
“I’ve been told Vera had a visitor yesterday. Did you see the person in question?”
“Yes. A rather – unlikely visitor to Vera, I think.”
“Exactly. It’s come to my attention that she’s a suspect in a fraud case and that apparently Vera has been – trying to influence the outcome of the case.”
“I can’t believe that, sir. All he said was he’d look into things and advise his sister about what her best course of action would be.”
“I must say I don’t really believe their version either. Do you know Kate Hinkley? She’s always got a bone to pick with just about everyone.”
“No, sir, but I’ve heard of her, of course. Is Vera in trouble?”
“I’ll do my best to – calm Hinkley down, but she’s been offended, and knowing her, I’m afraid she’ll make the most of it.”
“Sir, maybe I could talk to her?”
“I’m sure you mean well, Lil, but I really think that interfering with Hinkley could only make matters worse. She has a tendency to antagonize just about everyone she runs into, except -”
“Except what, sir?”
“Oh, one shouldn’t listen to gossip. No, leave it with me, and I’ll see what I can do. I’d better tell Vera to lie low for the time being.”
Back at their desks, Lilly looked around for Vera, but couldn’t see him or Jeffries anywhere. She had a feeling he was probably lying low somewhere, possibly focusing on doing interviews or looking at crime scenes, to stay away from the precinct for the time being.
Scotty watched Lilly, a thoughtful look on his face.
“What was that all about? The boss was – reluctant to say something. Do you know what he was hinting at?”
“I think so. He was being tactful around you. You see, it’s the talk of the entire department that Hinkley downstairs is extremely partial to – handsome young men.”
Scotty still looked puzzled, until suddenly Lilly’s meaning dawned on him. His face took on a decidedly cute color, Lilly thought.
“You mean he was thinking of me?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, no one’s saying you need to tackle the old dragon.”
“Old? How old is she?”
“Not really old, she just gives that impression. Maybe forty-five.”
“Oh. Do you think I should try to – work my charm on her?”
“No, absolutely not. She’ll get ideas and next thing you know, you won’t be able to go anywhere without her following. A couple of years ago, there was this kid who thought he could make his girlfriend’s traffic violations go away. He ended up asking for a transfer. She stuck to him like a leech. Everywhere he turned around, there she was, staring and flashing him her ghastly grin. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little, just to see you shake, but honestly, you don’t want to do that.”
“Ok, it was just a thought. Let’s hope the boss can help Vera out himself.”
“Yes, me too. Ok, shall we get started on the next case?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“I just thought we’d pull this Lindsey’s file and see what falls out. Maybe it’s just my spiteful personality, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this Lindsey is guilty. I’d hate to see Vera get his fingers burned.”
“Me too. Ok, I won’t say anything if you won’t.”
“Right, here we go. Shall we guess her last name is Vera?”
“No, I think she’s been married a couple of times. Try searching for any fraud cases from within the past – three weeks for starters.”
“Bingo. You were right. Lindsey Norris, age – 32 – well preserved, isn’t she? Plastic surgery. No doubt about it. Fraud. Embezzlement. Fraud. Theft. Armed robbery? No, aiding and abetting a bank robber. Well, well. Quite a record she has, this Lindsey. I wonder if Vera can be sure she’s actually his sister. How did they get in touch? Ok, that’s none of my business. It just seems to me that she’s probably a real bad guy. Hey, what’s this? An escort service.”
“She’s an escort? I’m not surprised. She looks the type.”
“No, she’s been involved in running one. I’ll bet Vera doesn’t know that.”
“Who’s going to tell him?”
“No one. It’s – not relevant.”
“Then who’s going to tell him it’s no use helping her out?”
“Wait a minute. Just because she’s been charged before doesn’t mean she’s guilty now. It just makes it look a bit suspicious, that’s all. We’ll need to know more before we make up our minds.”
“You think? Something tells me we’re going to moonlight as fraud investigators now.”
“How did you guess? Hm. If that escort service employs men, you might be able to go under cover and investigate them.”
Scotty’s face was a study in bafflement. Had Lilly really said what he thought she’d just said? Under cover again. As an escort? She couldn’t be serious. When he looked more closely, he realized that was it. She wasn’t serious. Her face split by a mocking grin.
“Of course I didn’t mean that. Don’t look so worried. I’m not letting you out of my sight from now on.”
“I – damn – you got me again. Why is it so funny? Me and – those women who seem to like me? I don’t find it amusing, so why do you?”
“You’re really upset, aren’t you? I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m just asking. What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. Ok, I’ll be honest. I – was jealous, ok? All those good looking women chasing you around. It made me feel – past it.”
Scotty’s face softened.
“You don’t have any reason to be jealous of them. If you knew how I felt about – all that, you wouldn’t even think twice about it.”
“Ok, from now on, no more teasing about those women. Deal?”
“Deal. And remember, I haven’t asked you about all those men in your past.”
“Hey. Who said anything about ‘all’ those men?”
“Ok, I’ll rephrase. I haven’t asked you about the men who might have been in your past.”
“That’s better. I appreciate that, Scotty. It’s all a pretty twisted mess. Not the sort of thing I want to dwell on. I will tell you, some day. Soon. I’ll just have to figure it all out first.”
“No pressure. If you want to talk, I’ll be here.”
“I could say the same thing to you.”
“I found a name. We could go and see this – Herbert Manning and check his version. That might give us a hint about Lindsey.”
“Ok. This should make a change from our usual work.”
“Yeah, less at stake, but the same amount of leg work. Ok, come on.”
They found mr Manning at an expensive gym. He was a personal coach. The gym turned out to be selling all kinds of health products, which seemed to be overpriced and on closer inspection, only contained water, coloring and a couple of herbs. If that was all there was to the scam, Lindsey might be guilty, but certainly not of any felony.
Even if she was convicted, Lilly doubted she’d serve more than a year, at the most. With a good lawyer maybe she’d get away completely and even if the lawyer slept on the job, she might get off with two or three months. Peanuts.
There had to be more to it than that, but their consciences struck them and they headed back to the precinct to check in with Stillman and to see if Vera and Jeffries were back yet.
They arrived back to find Vera being taken to an interrogation room by two guys from Internal Affairs. Stillman was talking rapidly on the phone and Jeffries was staring hostilely at the two suits.
“Hinkley’s got her panties in a twist. She’s accusing Nick of ‘unduly influencing the course of an ongoing investigation.’. It means she’s got nothing, but she can make life really unpleasant for Nick in the meantime.
“What’s Stillman doing about it?”
“He’s on the phone with the people upstairs. But you know how it is once those pit bulls get their teeth into something.”
Scotty spoke under his breath to Lilly, a concerned look on his face.
“Maybe I should go and talk to her.”
“No. You don’t have to. I just remembered something. There’s someone old Hinkley’s terrified of and I think I can sic him on her so she’ll forget about Vera. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”
She stood outside Stillman’s office and waited until he hung up. He looked up, caught sight of her and waved at her to come inside.
“Hello, Lil. I suppose you heard?”
“Yes. You know, it just occurred to me that this might be a case for our department shrink.”
“Dr Daley? Actually, I just thought of that. He’s on his way downstairs right now. I think detective Hinkley might find herself busy for the next week or two.”
“Good idea, sir. I’d hate to see Vera end up in trouble.”
“Me too, Lilly. Me too. He’s a good guy. I doubt if one could say the same about his sister, though.”
“No, sir. That’s the impression I had.”
“Vera’s going to be upset, but I think she’s going to trial this time. The jury will have to decide on her guilt.”
“Yes, sir. Well, I’ll just get back to work.”
“Work on your own case, this time, Lil?”
“I said, you do that.”
To her relief, Scotty was waiting by his desk, when she returned.
“Hinkley’s taken care of. Dr Daley’s on his way to her and you know what that means.”
A look of intense discomfort spread across Scotty’s features. He’d been dreading a visit from the psychiatrist ever since his transfer. When he still worked at Vice, the man had suggested to him that he had deep-rooted issues concerning his own sexuality which needed to be resolved, if he was going to continue working among prositutes. The fact that to some extent the man might have been right didn’t make Scotty feel any better.
Lilly read his expression correctly and sympathized. Her own run-ins with the man couldn’t be included among her happy memories. In fact, he’d told her she needed to work out her relationship with her mother and that she had a daddy’s girl complex which was making her take on too much work. Since Lilly had never had a father she didn’t see how she could be suffering from that type of complex, but as she had learned long ago, it was best never to argue with psychiatrists.
They dutifully focused on their next case and were able to get away from their desks around seven, which wasn’t too bad, considering. Since they’d done their shopping last night, they were able to go right back to Lilly’s place and fix dinner together.
Tonight, they both felt more willing to deal with their respective secrets, despite what they’d told each other earlier the same day. Somehow, the thought of facing a psychiatrist made an informal conversation with their partners seem that much more harmless.
“Scotty, I’ve been thinking and – maybe I do feel ready to talk about – those personal issues I mentioned earlier.”
“Ok. I’m listening.”
“You asked me before, if I’d been raped and I told you hadn’t. It’s true, but – we were also discussing women becoming pregnant as a result of rape. I’ve – been pregnant twice. The first time I was sixteen. I was involved with a guy about your age and – no one had explained anything about contraceptives to me, so – We weren’t that concerned about AIDS either. It was just the ‘gay plague’ back then. No one I’d heard of had ever been infected. We didn’t even know drug addicts could get it.”
“At least you didn’t get infected with anything.”
“No. Not that I saw it that way back then. Becoming pregnant was really the end of the world. The worst thing I could imagine. When my period skipped the first time, I told myself it was normal. It had happened before at times when things were a bit crazy. Then the second time, I began to get really worried. There just wasn’t anything I could think of doing. The third time – well, you won’t believe this, but I was even thinking about – doing something to terminate the pregnancy myself. You know – with a knitting needle or a coat hanger. Of course I was too scared. At school I’d heard the stories about how you bled out and died, so I couldn’t do it. In the end, I did nothing until my mom noticed something was wrong and – all hell broke loose.”
“I’m sorry. What about the father?”
“I told him. I guess I had this stupid little dream about him asking me to marry him and taking me away from – Guess what he did?”
“Did he give you money to – take care of it?”
“No. He said he knew what sort of girl I was and I could just try to pin it on one of my other lovers.”
By now, Lilly’s eyes were shiny with tears and Scotty was cursing himself for having made her relive this obviously traumatic memory. He put his arms around her and for a while, her head rested on his shoulder. Eventually, she pulled herself together and sat back, after quickly brushing away her tears with the back of her hand.
“Where was I? Oh, mom found out. She yelled at me so the neighbors banged on the walls and – well, in the end it was agreed that I’d give up my baby for adoption. And that’s how it happened. They never let me see my baby. I don’t even know if it was a girl or a boy. My mom said I could use the money to go to college, but I never got that much and anyway – she took most of it. I got to college anyway, but that’s another story.”
Scotty didn’t know what to say. This was so much worse than what he had imagined. Besides, he realized that there had to be much more to Lilly’s memories than this. He was afraid to ask what else there was, but he knew he’d already told her he’d be willing to listen. How could he go back on his word? Besides, considering how he’d felt when he’d shared his worst shame with her, she might even feel better afterwards.
“Well, aren’t you going to ask me?”
Lilly sounded defiant somehow, as if she was challenging Scotty to have some kind of opinion about what she’d just told him.
“About – all my other lovers.”
“Ok, did you see others while you were dating this – man?”
“No, not while I was dating him. Before and after. It was just that when I met him – he seemed so much cooler than the high school boys.”
“Ok. That was your motivation. I know what his must have been.”
“I do too, now. At that age, I just couldn’t see it. I’d been sexually active since I was thirteen and I felt I was – oh so grown up. Before that, all the guys would pull my hair and throw things at me and call me names. After all, I was just one of those kids who lived off welfare coupons, whose mom was drinking and – sleeping around. Not that I realized that until much later. I always thought her friends were so nice to us. They gave us money.”
“Did they -”
“No. It was just ‘Here, Lilly. Take your sister out for a snack. Go see a movie. Don’t come back too soon. I want to be alone with your mom.’ Of course we thought it was great. Mom could never afford to let us go to the movies.”
“The other kids – were they really that cruel?”
“You have no idea. Then it all stopped. Suddenly, I was the good time girl. After they figured out I actually had something they liked. It wasn’t until later that I found out what they were really saying about me.”
“Don’t be. It’s not your fault. I was stupid.”
“You were a kid.”
“I didn’t see it that way, but now, when I see thirteen-year-olds, to me, they’re children. Makes me feel about a hundred years old.”
“What a jerk that guy was. The older guy. It makes me feel so – furious.”
“It broke my heart. I thought he loved me, like I thought I loved him. Well, I guess we live and learn. Except I didn’t. At the Academy, I got pregnant again. We were going to get married. At least I thought so. Suddenly, he wasn’t even dating me anymore. Told me we had to see other people. And I – lost the baby. I had a miscarriage.”
Again, her eyes filled up with tears and as she began to shake with sobs, Scotty pulled her closer and held her. His own eyes misted over and he buried his face in her hair.
Eventually, Lilly pulled herself free, rubbed her eyes and sat back, seeking out Scotty’s gaze.
“I wanted that kid so much, even more than becoming a cop.”
Scotty nodded. He could understand that. A family was more than just a career, it was everything.
“I’ve always wanted a family of my own too. With Elissa – it just wasn’t possible.”
“I’m sorry. Do you think you could talk about – what’s been bothering you – about the case? About the baby or the gang rape or – what was it?”
“It all bothered me. What happened to that girl reminded me of – Elissa.”
“I thought it might. Poor girl. Poor Elissa.”
“It wasn’t just – being sick. Elissa was raped too. Gang raped, just like Lorraine. And I couldn’t protect her. They were – I don’t know – five or so. That night, I wasn’t there. Just like Billy I was away playing a game and – I’m not sure what happened. Elissa was never afraid of anything. She couldn’t have guessed what they were going to do. I think that’s what set it off. She never had any symptoms before. It was like she changed overnight. I felt that it was my fault. Her being raped and becoming sick. If I’d only been there for her, it wouldn’t have happened.”
“You don’t know that. Even if you’d been there, there were five of them. Could you have fought them all?”
“I don’t know. At least I would have tried.”
“Scotty, like you just told me, you were a kid. You were not responsible for what happened to Elissa. Those guys were, or maybe she would have become sick anyway. You don’t know what caused it. Some people are born with it.”
“She was all I had. I should have been there for her.”
“It wasn’t your fault. For all you knew, they might have picked that night because they knew you weren’t going to be there. Or maybe it was just rotten luck, her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can drive yourself insane, thinking what if. Believe me, I’ve been there. If I’d taken better care of myself the baby would have lived. If I’d been a better girlfriend, he would have married me. It doesn’t work that way. What happens, happens. I may not have learned much in all those years, but I did learn that.”
Scotty fixed his eyes on Lilly’s and allowed himself to be held by her gaze. Maybe she was right. He’d known for years that he couldn’t have done anything to help Elissa, he just couldn’t really believe it. Again, he nodded.
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Actually, the way you were acting around gay men – I kind of thought you might have been molested. You always seemed so – uptight.”
“Go ahead. You can say it. Homophobic. I was. They scared the hell out of me. Always did. Since – Actually, you weren’t far off. It wasn’t me though, it was my brother. He – the guy who did it – had assaulted him. That was why Tony tried to get away and fell and hit his head. Of course, I didn’t understand at the time. It was years later I overheard someone mentioning it. It made me remember that he – that bastard – had pulled his pants down. Even before I really understood what it meant, I had this fear of men who – were into boys and other men.”
“That’s only natural. It would have been terrifying for a little boy.”
“Maybe. But then some of them began to look at me like – they found me attractive. It made me feel sick. When – we were working on that case – when I met James Thorpe – when I – began to seek them out, of course I knew that being gay and being the kind of pervert who rapes little boys isn’t the same thing. I knew it, but I couldn’t really feel it. That’s why – I felt I was a pervert too. I hated who I had become. And since we’re on that topic, I always felt guilty about sleeping with all those girls too. I couldn’t sleep with Elissa. She was sick. It would have been – I just couldn’t. And I didn’t love those girls. In the end it made me feel – unclean.”
“Scotty, it’s ok to sleep with people you don’t love. That doesn’t make you a bastard. As long as you don’t treat them with disrespect.”
“But I did, didn’t I? Some of them, most of them, were hoping to have a relationship. That’s why – they were always showing up, hoping I’d ask them out again.”
“Ok, so you had different motivations. It happens all the time. That’s a risk you have to take when you get involved with someone. If you’re willing to risk it, you have to take the consequences. That’s why – I only dated maybe two guys before Kite, in all the years since the Academy.”
“I knew someone had hurt you, from the way you had a hard time trusting guys. I didn’t want to say anything about Kite, but it was obvious to me that he was just – interested in – He didn’t care about you, who you really are. All the guys are doing that. Talking about how they’d like to be the one who gets Homicide’s sexy female detective.”
“What? You have some kind of running bet on me? What are the odds? Did you make a killing?”
“Not me. I just heard them talking. Of course – I can’t deny that I was excited to finally meet you, but that’s all.”
“Hm. That had better be all. If I find out that you’ve been writing my name on the bathroom wall -”
“I didn’t do that even in high school. I bought Elissa a ring.”
“Did you take it back?”
“I couldn’t. She’d lost it during one of her – episodes. When she wandered off. But I wouldn’t have taken it back. It was hers. I mean, it wasn’t a wedding ring. She gave me back the engagement ring herself when she broke up with me.”
“I could tell you had a hard time trusting women too. You looked so – withdrawn.”
“I didn’t realize it was so obvious. But you’re right. I didn’t trust women. The woman you love could change into – a stranger overnight, and others -”
“Couldn’t get enough of you?”
“How could I know they really cared? Not that I wanted them to. That was the point.”
“I’m glad you broke free from that vicious circle.”
“I think – I hope – you’ve broken free of your vicious circle too. What do you think?”
“Maybe. Yes, I do feel – different somehow. As if – when I finally dared to take a chance, it didn’t hurt.”
“I’m glad. With you – it doesn’t hurt either.”
“In that case, I guess we’re good for each other.”
“I think you’re right about that.”
“I’m exhausted though. Let’s go to bed. Tomorrow, I’ve got to be up really early to write your name on the bathroom wall. And collect my winnings.”
Scotty couldn’t help laughing. No one else had ever treated him as if he was the girl and she was the guy. He had a feeling it might be interesting – to see it all from the other side. Some people might have said he already had, but that wasn’t how it had seemed to him.
“Ok. Then I’d better do my best or I guess my score will go down. I wouldn’t want to lose you all that money, just because I’m tired or depressed.”
“Tired or depressed? No. I think I can feel my strength returning, and how could I be depressed when I’m here with you?”
“For being so understanding about – my reputation.”
“If I met that bastard, I’d want to punch his face in. Besides, I seem to have a bit of a reputation myself. Thanks for not being put off by that.”
“That’s it, right there. You’ll get the top score just for being so sweet.”
“Mm. That was easy. I guess we could just go to sleep then. Instead of -”
“Not so fast. Get your butt over there right now or else.”
“That’s more like it.”
Lilly gently lifted first one cat, then the other off the bed and put them on the couch. It was going to be empty tonight anyway, so they’d be comfortable there. An amused grin made her face glow and Scotty couldn’t help smiling too. He hadn’t felt this – carefree and – happy – since high school. Since that night he’d found Elissa shaking all over, not even recognizing him. In a way, he’d never stopped hurting since then, but now, it was finally over.