Friday, March 30, 2012

Chapter 3 page 2



A crew of investigators swoops toward the garage of the Hamilton estate only to stop when confronted by a single thin young man wearing black trousers and a crisp white oxford shirt. His auburn hair is disturbed by the breeze while he remains stoic. “Detective Putnam, Detective Fredericko,” Cecil addresses them politely with a slight bow of his head in acknowledgement. “I am assuming you have a warrant to occupy the premises.”

Elissa hands him the document, “Yes, we have a warrant. Now if you’d be so kind as to move aside so we can get to work?”

Cecil’s eyes rake along the document and nods. He pulls a remote from his pocket and clicks it disabling the alarm and bringing the numerous doors automatically open, revealing a large ten-car garage currently housing eight cars. “Lady Zania is expected back within the hour. The automobile Sir Hamilton was last using is normally housed within the third stall.” He looks up from the paper and eyes them both.

“Can you tell me who has access to this garage?” Hector pulls out his notepad and searches his pockets for his pen.



“I can.” Cecil folds the warrant carefully along its seams.

Hector watches him expectantly for his response. Elissa sighs audibly. “Who has access to the garage?”

Cecil’s lip twitches with a hint of a grin. “All occupants of the manor have access as well as the gardener and pool boy.” The last word of his sentence is said with more emotion than he has shown in the few encounters catching Elissa’s attention immediately.

“I’ll need names of the gardening staff and this pool man.” She changes the description slightly watching Cecil closely mentally patting her self on the back when his eyes harden.

“I’ll get you the business card for the gardening company. The crew that tends these grounds is lead by Kingston Riley. They are here twice a week, Tuesday and Friday. As for the fool boy, his name is Travis Knight.” Cecil practically hisses the name. “You’ll most likely find that one near the pool.”

Elissa nods and points towards the back, “That way I presume?”

Cecil looks at the other investigators as they swarm the garage. Upon returning his attention to the detectives, his eyes meet Elissa’s and holds her gaze for a moment of awkward silence. “I will show you the way.”



“Thanks.” Elissa refuses to lower her gaze, lifting her chin a fraction in stubborn resistance. Cecil’s lip twitches once again and he turns on his heel leading the way around the house.

Hector quietly follows. His head still down flipping through notes and adding others. He stops short when the others stop and he looks up in time to see Travis Knight dive smoothly into the pool. The three of them wait as he swims beneath the surface to the other end of the pool.

Travis comes up for air with his head back, water slicking his thick red hair to his scalp. He looks up at his audience and grins with boyish charm. “Howdy.” He pulls himself from the water, running his fingers through his hair elongating his muscular torso with his trunks riding low on his hips. His sharp green eyes glance over the two strangers, ignoring Cecil. His tone body glimmers wetly in what sunshine is able to squeeze between the gray clouds looming above.



“Travis Knight?” Hector speaks up unsure of his partner’s sudden interest in the butler.

“Ayup, that’s what my Momma named me.” He flashes that grin of his again scooping up a towel from a lounge chair and begins elaborately drying his body careful to flex while doing so.

Hector pulls his badge and flashes it in Travis’ direction. “Detective Fredericko, my partner Detective Putnam, I need to ask you a few questions.”

Elissa watches with growing interest the unspoken tension between Cecil and Travis. Hector is looking at his notepad again. Travis rakes his eyes over Elissa with renewed interest before responding. “Shoot.” He chuckles deeply at his own joke. “Not really, but ask away.”

“Cecil?” Elissa pipes in.

“Detective…” Cecil’s cold gaze meets hers.



“You said you have a business card for the gardener?” Elissa’s features remains as neutral as possible.

“Of course,” Cecil shoots a warning glance at Travis that Travis ignores. His attention is busy undressing Elissa with his eyes while he rubs the towel over his body methodically. Cecil’s lip curls in disgust as he turns on his heel heading back towards the rear entrance to the mansion.

Elissa matches Cecil’s pace following him to the mansion. “How long have you worked for the Hamiltons?”

“Six years.” Cecil responds without hesitation and without elaborating.

“You’ve been their butler the whole time?” Elissa looks at his profile, her brows furrowed.



“I was hired as the cook’s assistant.” Cecil opens the door, holding it for Elissa to enter first. She nods and steps over the threshold. He follows her and closes the door with a soft click. He walks toward the short hallway to his left and enters a small neat office plucking the rolodex off the desk to rifle through its contents.

“Where is the cook?” Elissa leans against the door frame while her eyes do a quick yet thorough glance around the room. Much like the only other room she has been in, this one contains no personal items. No photographs, no cards, nothing to show ownership.

He pulls a card from the files and stares blankly at her. “She retired five years ago.” He crosses the room to her, his hand out holding the card for her.

Elissa takes it and nods, “Thank you.” She doesn’t look at the card, she is watching Cecil. “How many people work in the Hamilton mansion?”

Cecil’s lip twitches. “One.”

“That is a lot of responsibility for you and such a large home.” She instinctively looks towards the ceiling as if she can see the whole place from her vantage point.

“Yes,” Cecil takes a deep breath. “If there is nothing more, as you said, the manor is large and I have work to do.”



She pushes her body away from the door frame and raises a finger, “One last request, I need the name and number of Peter Hamilton’s mechanic.”

----

“So, you and that partner…” Travis raises his eyebrows suggestively, his lips quirks into a grin. He drops his trunks before wrapping the towel around his waist and tucks it in to place.

Hector frowns at the blatant disrespect and grips his pen more tightly. “How long have you worked for the Hamiltons?”

Travis bends forward and scoops up his trunks. He walks to the side of the pool and squeezes the excess water from them. “Oh I dunno, about a year… two.” He eyes him with a small grin. “So is she seein’ someone?”

“I’ll ask the questions.” Hector makes a note.

“A’right,” Travis chuckles walking to a table with a set of four padded chairs. He drops his trunks on the table and allows his long frame to collapse into one of the chairs, leaning back resting one hand low over his bare midriff. One leg is bent, the other extended and his towel falls open to show the length of his bare muscular leg all the way to his hip. “So what do you wanna know? I’m six-two, a hunerd and ninety, and clean. Zany… Mrs. Hamilton met me at a club. I’ve lived in the pool house ever since.”



Hector’s grip on his pen tightens. “What is the nature of your relationship with Mrs. Hamilton?”

Travis’ hand slides down his bare thigh, fingers arched, digging light red marks across his skin disturbing the dusting of blond hair. “Exactly what you think it is.”

“And what do I think it is?” Hector does his best not to watch his movements too closely as his hand rises caressing the inside of his thigh to disappear under the towel. His mind immediately remembering the man’s gifted anatomy.

“To put things as bluntly as possible so you don’t misinterpret things, Detective.” Travis suddenly sits forward and folds both hands on the table in front of him. His face no longer grinning or relaxed. His emerald eyes hard. “I clean the pool.”



Chapter 4

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chapter 3

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

The sound is a brain numbing distraction, her pen bounces off the desk in rapid succession.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

The sudden thwack of his palm slamming her pen to the table makes her jump. She looks up with wide eyes staring at him as if he grew a third eye. “What the hells, Hector?”



“I’m trying to get your attention. I called your name five times.” Hector searches her face. “Are you okay?”

Elissa pulls her pen from under his hand, jabbing him with the point to move him off her paperwork leaving a blue dot. “I was until you scared about 5 years off my life.”

He pulls his hand away and smirks at her before taking a seat at his desk. “How did it go with the Hamilton’s lawyer?”

“Exactly how you’d expect it to.” Elissa scribbles big circles on the paper, “I’m missing something. I don’t know what it is but I’m missing something… somewhere.”

“Labs aren’t in yet, we could be wrong, this could have been an accident.” He shrugs when she smirks at him. “It could be a huge conspiracy but for the life of me I can’t imagine why. Sure Hamilton is a big name in Sunset Valley but I doubt the rest of world gives a rat’s ass about him.”

“His last call was to the station, he was going to take the train. Kind of sweet if you think about it… a private box car for a long journey on the train to a romantic retreat…” She steals a glance at Hector and closes her eyes tightly. “Hector?”



“Yes?” He’s frowning now, noting her reluctance to speak.

----



The door flew open as if someone was expected, yet the disappointment on Evangeline Fredericko’s face clearly expressed that Elissa wasn’t who she wanted to see. Her eager smile turned to contempt and loathing, while her full lips curled into a sneer. “He doesn’t live here.” Evangeline’s words were cold and full of disdain. She folded her arms defensively across her ample bosom, thrusting her hip to the side as she shifted her weight.

“I know.” Elissa didn’t seem to be put out, stood her ground against the open hostility thrust at her. “I’m here to speak with you.” She flashed her badge and announced her intention, “I’ve come to ask you a few questions. We can do this here or you I can take you downtown in handcuffs. Your choice.”



Evangeline’s soft brown eyes narrowed and hardened. “You wouldn’t-”

Elissa flipped her identification back into her pocket and just as quick pulled her handcuffs. “Care to test me?”

With a huff, she walked away from the door, left it ajar as an unspoken invitation for Elissa to follow. Evangeline walked to the kitchen and grabbed her drink off the counter, purposefully not offering one to Elissa before she sat down at the kitchen table. “What do you want?”



“What is your current relationship with Peter Hamilton?” Elissa leaned back against the counter. Her face was without expression even though her insides were a coil of nerves anticipating Evangeline’s response.

----

“I spoke with the woman Peter Hamilton was allegedly going to Hidden Springs with…” She gives him a strange look and he shakes his head slowly not understanding or not wanting to understand. “I was looking at the numbers on his cellphone specifically at the ones the day before and the day of his death.”

Hector’s eyes widen a fraction but his face stays neutral. His body stiffens as if he were punched in the gut. “Eva’s still with him?”



“She was… still… yes.” Elissa bites her lip when he flinches. “I’m sorry.”

Hector tears his gaze from her and shrugs a shoulder. He looks at something, nothing, anything, but at Elissa. “Yes well, she’s an ex for a reason…” His voice is forced and unsure. He takes a deep breath running his fingers through his hair collecting his thoughts and reining them in. “So what did she have to say?”

Elissa takes a page from Hector’s book by turning her attention to her notes rather than looking at him. “Evangeline claims Peter Hamilton called her Thursday evening to set up a get away for the two of them. The details and location were to be a surprise.” Elissa skips past the more intimate details and description given to her by Evangeline. Her cheeks warm in a furious blush at the memory of her words, the tone of her voice and the contempt on her face. Evangeline claimed her directions were to drop everything and be ready to go, that she ‘won’t need clothes seeing how they won’t be leaving the bed’.

That is more than Hector needs to hear at the moment. Staring blankly at the notepad Elissa straightens her back, strengthening her resolve. He needs her and she needs to be here for him. “I really am sorry, Hector.”

“We’re past this. It is all history. Life moves on and I need to move on, too.” The legs of the chair scrape along the tiles as Hector pushes away from his desk shooting a glance at Elissa. He hesitates for a moment when their eyes meet and he isn’t sure what hurts more: his ex-wife is Peter Hamilton’s mistress, or his ex-girlfriend moving on, finding a man who can give her what he can’t.



Page 2

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chapter 2 - page 2

Their faces were mere inches apart. “No one steals from me and gets away with it.” His voice was a low grumble, barely concealed his veiled threat. “No one.”



Jenson McMillan trembled with rage and indignation. His words were forced from between clenched teeth. “It isn’t stealing if it is my idea, my work!”

Peter’s eyes flashed dangerously, “You work for me. I own you, I own your work.”

“You don’t own me. No one fucking owns me!” Jenson’s nostrils flared, his hands clenched into fists, his knuckles white with tension.



His voice lowered gaining a mocking tone. “You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you? I own this town and everyone in it.” Jenson didn’t respond. His breathing was shallow and came faster as his anger rose, swallowing hard past the lump in his throat. Peter noted the aggressive change in his stance and mocked him. “You wouldn’t dare.”

Jenson’s blue eyes grew ice cold. “Wouldn’t I?”



“You’d like to think you’re man enough, but we both know better. I’m Peter fucking Hamilton and you’re… nothing.” He spat the last word as if it were distasteful. Peter smirked and leaned closer. “Is that fear I smell?” He shifted his head his cheek inches from Jenson’s jaw inhaled deeply while his voice lowered ominously. “Mmm, I believe it is.”

----

Hector sips his coffee and sets the cup down slowly watching Jenson’s far off look. “So, did you?”



Jenson smirks bringing his attention back to the present. “Hit him? Hell yes.” He takes a drink of his coffee before elaborating. “I thought for sure I’d see jail time but for whatever reason…” Jenson stares in his cup and shrugs a shoulder. “I came up with an idea for our scientists. He took it, he made millions.”

“And you got nothing.” Hector whistles low. “That must have been hard to take.”

“Kicking his ass and not being able to tell anyone was hard to take.” Jenson runs his fingers through his sandy blond hair. “There apparently is a clause in my contract that I didn’t even notice. He was right. My work during my tenure with Hamilton Industries belongs to Hamilton Industries including any and all new work that I develop. In the end I was compensated. No where near the amount Hamilton made, but he ‘rewards employees’ to keep their loyalty.”

Hector frowns watching the muscle in Jenson’s jaw clench. “You know he’s deceased.”



It was a statement, not a question yet Jenson nods silently. “I saw it on the news this morning. Elissa told you about my meetings with Hamilton.” When Hector nods, he drops his gaze back to the cup in his hand. “I figured that’s why you’re here. How’s Elissa?”

“She’s fine, why wouldn’t she be?” Hector slowly raises his cup to his lips still watching Jenson.

“No reason.” Jenson pushes the spoon around in the cup staring at it, but not seeing it. “Her boyfriend is suddenly a suspect in one of her homicide investigations, I’d think she’d be remotely concerned but she hasn’t called me.” He pulls something from his pocket, a small black velvet box and sets it on the table. He stares at it for a long time before speaking again. “I guess now would be a bad time for me to give her this.”

Hector chokes on his coffee. “Is that…”



“Ayup, bad timing, huh?” Jenson pushes his chair back, snatching the box off the table and stuffing it back in his pocket. He pauses before walking off. “If you need me, I’ll be sticking around town. I watch enough cop shows, I know the drill.”

Chapter 3

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chapter 2

Elissa stares down the cliff side, crouching by the edge feeling her stomach lurch when the soft soil gives way underfoot. “Careful, Lis!” His grip on her arm is tight, too tight. She winces and scowls at him. “Sorry, you scared me.” Hector releases her arm looking down into the ravine in front of them. “What were you thinking?”

She smiles up at him, “I’m thinking it’s been a long time since you called me Lis.”



Hector grins sheepishly, “Yes, well, like I said, you scared me.”

“Did you notice anything odd about her behavior?” Elissa steals a glance at him changing the subject.

He has pulled his notepad out again and flips through his notes, a habitual action of his when avoiding eye contact with someone. “Her?”

“Zania Hamilton.” Elissa rolls her eyes at him.

Hector looks up from his notes with a confused frown. “Odd behavior, Zania Hamilton… what do you mean?”

“For instance she looked pointedly at me when she talked about enemies and you when she talked about affairs.” She smirks at Hector. “Where you intimate with the deceased?”

He snorts with his lip curled in a snarl and shakes his head. “I never met the man in person before.” His voice is harsher than intended. Hector closes the notepad with a snap of paper refusing to continue on that line of conversation. Elissa lets the matter drop, for now. “Are you trying to tell me you’re one of the enemies?”

“No,” She takes a steadying breath, “but I think I know who she was implying.”

“Elissa…” Hector’s brow furrows with concern. “What do you know?”

“Nothing much,” Elissa looks up the hill towards the Hamilton estate trying to focus her thoughts. “Jenson came by to see me once sporting some fresh bruises, wouldn’t say much about them other than he had a meeting with Peter Hamilton.”

“I’ll talk to him, you’re too close.” Hector raises a hand when she tries to object. “He’s your boyfriend, Elissa, you’re too close. Just let me do my job, okay?”

She frowns and looks down at her shoes, nodding slowly. “I just figured his phone number may show up on Hamilton’s phone records, thought I should say something now before someone asks.” Elissa looks up hesitantly, “Do you…”

“No, it would be best if you aren’t around when I talk to him.” Hector turns his attention back to the ravine. “Hamilton’s brakes were bled out. Now was that intentional or neglect?”

“Can brakes bleed out by neglect?” Elissa shrugs a shoulder, “I know next to nothing about vehicle care.”

“Sure, but it would be noticeable.” When she continues to stare blankly at him he chuckles and tries to explain. “Okay, say someone loosened the bleeder screw. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily a problem until someone applies the brake. That will cause brake fluid to come out, allowing air into the master cylinder. The more air in the master cylinder, the more you’d have to pump your brakes in order to stop.”

“Say it’s raining and you’re taking a turn too fast, you hydroplane and pump your brakes and…”

“You would effectively empty your master cylinder or empty it enough to cause brake failure.” Hector finishes her thought. “We need to find out who has access to his car. We also need to get into his garage.”

Elissa looks at Hector, “So far our suspect is Zania Hamilton and I’m thinking she has a lover of her own. No woman would put up with a cheating husband of his magnitude without one or a good reason to stay. We need to talk to that lawyer of hers. I’m thinking the missus signed a pre-nup.”

“Anyone that lives in that house has access to the garage.” Hector points over his shoulder towards the estate.

“Sure, but how many sixteen year old girls know how to bleed brakes?” Elissa looks where he is pointing.

Hector scoffs. “Internet…”

“You think a teen-aged girl would risk breaking a nail loosening a screw.” Elissa smirks at him as he rolls his eyes. “I’m not ruling out the daughter, I’m just saying it isn’t as likely to be her. I also don’t think Zania would do the work herself, she’d get that lover of hers to do it.”

“The hypothetical man-”

“Or woman…”

“Woman…” Hector taps his notepad. “Tell her I’m sorry.”

Elissa shudders at his words. The memory of listening to the On-Star call is vivid in her mind. Peter Hamilton’s voice was so resigned, desperate and final, “So which woman is ‘her’?”

“Any woman currently living in Sunset Valley could be ‘her’.” He pauses, reining in his thoughts. “Right, so we have the wife, son, daughter, butler, the hypothetical lover, Jenson…” Elissa looks away at the mention of Jenson. Hector glances at his notes. “Our suspect list just grew.”




----

Odette London tapped the pen against her chin eyes scanned the papers before her. “Hmm...” She marked a few things here and there as she read along, her shrewd eyes searched for errors. “I’d ask you to reconsider, but I’m sure my words will fall on deaf ears.” She glances up when she got no response and sighed softly set the pen down on her desk, folded her hands before her. “Mr. Hamilton, if you please...”



Peter winked at the secretary and made his way back to Odette’s desk. “Peter, I told you to call me Peter.”

“Yes you did, Mr. Hamilton and I explained that it would be highly unprofessional for me to do so.” She took a calming breath, struggled to keep her face neutral. “Are you sure you won’t reconsider these stipulations?”

“Listen, Od-”



“Ms. London...” Odette reminded him curtly.

Peter grinned, his charm oozes from him only she was unmoved. “Right, either way, my reasoning is clear. That is how it’s going to be handled.”

“I’m almost certain your wife will not approve. Therefore it is in your best interest to leave her a stipend in order for this to clear without her prior consent.” Odette felt uneasy about this will of his but kept her opinion to herself.



----

“That is the last time you spoke with Mr. Hamilton?” Elissa is looking calmly at Odette, sitting in the chair across from her.

“No, you asked me about the last time I saw him. Mr. Hamilton called the office twice a few weeks after that meeting and we spoke briefly on the phone each time.” Odette’s features remain passive, unblinking and neutral. She doesn’t elaborate on her statement, simply sits at her desk with her hands folded in front of her.



“I see,” Elissa takes a calming breath, crossing her legs. She sits seemingly relaxed in her chair. “Did Mrs. Hamilton sign a pre-nuptial agreement prior to their marriage?”

Still stoic, Odette’s voice remains calm and even. “I am not at liberty to discuss my client’s personal matters.”

“Even if the client is deceased?” Elissa runs a finger along the arm of the chair.

“Unless I have been misinformed, Mrs. Hamilton is not deceased. Therefore I am disinclined to discuss her private affairs with anyone she has not given prior consent to receive such information.”

Elissa peers at the woman. Nothing on Odette’s features has changed or shown a hint of emotion. “We have a warrant to search the Hamilton mansion. Mrs. Hamilton made it quite clear that we will have to go through you before attempting to contact her again.”

“You don’t have a warrant, Detective Putnam, or you’d be there serving it and not here speaking with me.” Odette’s lip quirks in triumph noting the slight tension in Elissa’s gaze, “Hmmm, when the warrant is issued, I will meet you at the estate.” She rises from her desk, stepping around to usher Elissa out of her office. “If you have further questions feel free to call on me.”



Page 2

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chapter 1 - page 2


They don’t have to wait very long before the door is opened by a thin young man with a mop of auburn hair, wearing black trousers and a crisp white oxford shirt. His young face is smooth; his expression is bland and emotionless. He eyes them both wearily before speaking, “Yes?”

Elissa pulls out her badge, showing it to the man before responding. “Detective Putnam, Detective Fredericko,” Hector nods at him, “We’re with the 1st Division, Sunset Valley Police Department.” The man’s eyebrow quirks but his face remains impassive. Elissa glances behind him into the house. “We need to speak with Mrs. Hamilton.”

“I see…” He stares unmoved for a moment longer and shakes his head as if pulling his thoughts back to the present. “Step this way.”

He steps back, allowing them to enter. The foyer is a large open area, with a tile floor, and high ceiling, extending to a grand staircase that goes off in two directions. The man ushers them to a cozy room to the right, with a small welcoming fire and earthy tones. “I will inform Lady Zania of your presence.”

Elissa immediately crosses the small room and stands before the fireplace, allowing the warmth to thaw her extremities. She turns taking in the d├ęcor, tastefully done yet void of any personal affects. Hector looks about the room where a bookshelf filled with assorted leather bound titles catches his attention for more than a second. Neither speaks, yet both look up expectantly when the clack of stilettos draws near.

Zania Hamilton swoops gracefully into the room, with a mask of calm that only her expressive hazel eyes belie. She eyes them both carefully before motioning towards the settee. “Good morning Detectives, I am Zania Hamilton. What can I do for you?”

Elissa doesn’t move away from the warmth of the fireplace. “There’s been an accident.” She quiets when Hector clears his throat.

Hector shoots Elissa a disappointed look before joining Zania on the sofa. “Mrs. Hamilton, you’re husband is Peter Hamilton, of Hamilton Industries?”

Zania stares wide eyed at Elissa until her name registers in her mind. She blinks and looks at Hector, her eyes lost, searching his face frantically. “Yes?” Her voice sounds unsure, hesitant. “Peter is my husband, what is this about an accident?”

“Your husband owns a dark metallic gray BMW, licence plate 3M TA3?” Hector watches her reaction as he speaks. She nods slowly with the same wide eyed look. Her hand slowly rises to her lips and she fumbles for something to hold on to.

Zania nods slowly, “Yes, space gray metallic.” She looks up at Elissa, her frantic eyes searching for answers. “Please, what happened?”

Hector clears his throat pulling her attention back to him, keeping her eyes focused on him. “Ma’am your husband’s car was found at the bottom of the cliff, ten miles south from here. I’m sorry, he didn’t survive.”

Zania’s eyes tear from Hector and search Elissa’s face. Elissa simply nods and Zania lets out a strangled gasp. “Huh.” She stares at the fire behind Elissa. “I’ve dreamt of this moment for twenty years. Each time I would feign my concern, conjure up false tears and now you’re telling me he is dead and I’m…” Her eyes shine with tears, her lip quirks. “I’m free.”

The realization hits her and she winces. “The children, Tiana will be devastated.” She glances behind her at the empty doorway. “Dennis…” She shakes her head and sighs heavily. “He’ll be crushed.” A pained look crosses her features. “I think I’m going to be ill.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Hamilton. While I realize these questions are going to be difficult, we need to ask them.” Hector looks uneasy and possibly queasy as well. He flips through his notes, jotting a thing down here and there.

Elissa waits a beat before continuing. “Mrs. Hamilton, when was the last time you spoke with your husband?”

Zania blinks, pulling her gaze slowly back to Elissa. She bites her lip in thought, “Last night, it was some time after ten. Tiana wanted to say good-night. She found him in his study working. He promised Tiana a new pair of earrings; he was going on another trip. I went to speak with him after she told me.” Zania closes her eyes briefly before returning her gaze back to Hector. “He said he was going to Hidden Springs.” She drops her gaze as a single tear slips down her creamy smooth cheek. She stares at her folded hands on her lap.

----

Zania burst into his study uninvited, arms folded with nostrils flaring in anger. Peter looked up at her sighing. He stared at his pen for a moment before he set it down. “I presume my daughter has informed you of my upcoming trip.” He pushed his chair back and walked over to the small bar along the wall. He poured a drink, not offering her anything. “While I’m gone I will be unavailable to you. I’ll be back for the board meeting next week.” He walked back to his desk, drink in hand.

Her eyes flashed with annoyance. “Which one of your-”

He raised his hand, putting a halt to her outburst. “Save it, Zane. I’m not fighting you on this.” He took a long drink, draining the contents. Peter stared at the remaining ice for a moment, “I really need a break.” He set the glass aside, sat back down at his desk and got back to work effectively ending any further conversation.



----

Elissa and Hector glance at each other. Elissa clears her throat and continues the questions. “A business trip?”

The look of disgust and utter contempt is quickly replaced by her calm mask before she responds. Zania’s voice drips disdain. “Not likely, though he didn’t say who he was meeting.”

“Did Mr. Hamilton have enemies?” Hector tries steering the conversation back on track, earning him a sharp glance from Elissa.

Zania laughs, a short burst of amused relief. “Half of Sunset Valley hated him, if not more.” She looks pointedly at Elissa when she says this, yet looks at Hector before she continues. “Peter was fucking them all in one way or another.”

“You’re saying that Mr. Hamilton-”

“Wouldn’t know fidelity if it slapped him in the face? Yes, that is what I’m saying, but it’s more than that. He’s not only cheating on me, he’s cheating on his mistress. How many and how many times, I have no idea and I’d rather not know.” Zania shrugs a shoulder. “He’s also a shrewd business man. He’s bought, blackmailed or ran out nearly all the competition.”

Zania rises from the sofa and weaves once, clutching her stomach. “I’ll have Cecil show you out. I need to see to my children. I don’t want them hearing about their father from the media.”

Elissa scowls, “We aren’t through-”

“I have indulged your curiosity long enough.” Zania interrupts. “You’ve delivered the news of my… late… husband. And I thank you for your time. But we are done now.” She presses a button on the intercom. “Cecil, come show the detectives to the door.” Zania grips the doorway. “If you have more questions, I suggest you contact my attorney, Odette London.”



Chapter 2

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 1


The windshield wipers swipe vainly at the endless torrent of water streaming from the starless night. His eyes narrow in concentration as expletives spew forth punctuated with each compression as his foot stomps repeatedly on the brake pedal. “Shit, shit, shit!” Quickly he turns the steering wheel into the spin while his car hydroplanes out of control. His headlights show mountain, railing, mountain and railing as he whirls. He knows what is lurking ahead, it is now or never. However, the brakes are not responding, the car is not slowing and he stares ahead of him with disbelieving eyes. “Ah shit.”

Time slows, his motions becoming labored and lethargic. The dark nothing beyond the rail beckons him. The car has come to the hairpin turn, hits the guardrail, skidding along with sparks flying, lighting up the inky sky. He can feel the screech of metal against metal, up until the guardrail gives way, plunging him, vehicle and all, off the cliff.

He closes his eyes as life dances before him prolonging the inevitable outcome, his demise, his death. A parade of memories flash for his viewing; first crush, first kiss, first fuck, first heartache, a parade of women in his life, and a man.

He can see an outline in the dimness of his headlights, rocks, jagged and dangerous just as the OnStar blips and her voice rings out through the car jarring his mind back to the present. He interrupts immediately with his last breath rushing past his lips, “This is Peter Hamilton, tell her I’m sorry.”



----

The On-Star employee stares wide eyed and unblinking at the console before her. She’s holding her breath and her lungs scream at her causing her to gasp in horror. Instinct kicks in and her fingers are busily contacting the proper authorities. “Emergency 911, what is the situation?”

“This is Linda Berg with On-Star, I…” Trembling she swallows with difficulty. “There’s been an accident, I lost contact with the customer…. I think it was fatal.”

----


The sun is yawning into a new day, lazily painting the area with sparse splashes of orange and yellow. The brisk wind whips at the blond tendrils framing her heart-shaped face, stinging her already rosy cheeks. Adjusting her collar for the umpteenth time, her mind drifts with warm thoughts of blazing fireplaces, hot cocoa with tiny little marshmallows, thick blankets, bear skin rugs-

He clears his throat, “Elissa?”

Detective Elissa Putnam reluctantly pulls her attention back to the accident; the dismal, frigid possible crime scene where her breath hangs like puffs of white before her face. Her hands are stuffed in her pockets as she stares out across the vale of Sunset Valley. “What did they find?”

Her partner, Detective Hector Fredericko, is looking at his notepad. “The coroner found a wallet in his breast pocket identifying the body as one Peter Hamilton: male, Caucasian, forty-two years old. Probable cause of death is from impact, he’ll know more after the autopsy. The vehicle is scraped along the passenger side and appears to have done this damage to the guardrail as the paint matches. The labs will run tests to confirm. The fire department says if it had not been raining we’d be looking at charred remains but most evidence will probably be compromised.” He closes his notebook and gives her a look as if he wishes to say more but thinks better of it.

Elissa glances below as the crane begins pulling the car up to street level. “Anything else?”


“A cell phone was found on the floorboard, passenger side, cracked, broken, but the sim card can give us some information…” Hector scratches his chin until she stares impatiently at him. “Sorry, it’s just that…” He looks over as the crane sets the car on the flatbed truck. “Elissa, that’s Peter fucking Hamilton…”

“I know.” Elissa frowns and crosses her arms in front of her with a sudden shiver.

----


The unmarked police car slows to a stop and both occupants hesitate to exit. Elissa looks out the window towards the Hamilton estate. She opens the car door to step out. “Elissa…” She pauses long enough to frown, her blue eyes staring blankly at him and he nods. “Right, let’s go.”

The moment the body was identified, they should have handed this case over to someone else. That is what Hector wanted to say but couldn’t. Who in Sunset Valley could take this case? Everyone is connected to this man some how. Peter Hamilton owned over half of the town and the people in it.

They walk side by side in silence up the walkway towards the front door. Hector stops at the bottom of the steps, looking around the grounds as Elissa rings the bell. It is still early, the sun hasn’t burned away the clouds yet and the view of Sunset Valley is already breathtaking.



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