Friday, March 30, 2012

Chapter 3 page 2



A crew of investigators swooped 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 was disturbed by the breeze while he remained stoic. “Detective Putnam, Detective Fredericko,” Cecil addressed them politely with a slight bow of his head in acknowledgement. “I am assuming you have a warrant to occupy the premises.”

Elissa handed 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 raked along the document and nodded. He pulled a remote from his pocket and clicked 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 was normally housed within the third stall.” He looked up from the paper and eyed them both.

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



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

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

Cecil’s lip twitched 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 was said with more emotion than he had shown in the few encounters they previously had catching Elissa’s attention immediately.

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

“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 hissed the name. “You’ll most likely find that one near the pool.”

Elissa nodded and pointed towards the back, “That way I presume?”

Cecil looked at the other investigators as they swarmed the garage. Upon returning his attention to the detectives, his eyes met Elissa’s and he held her gaze for a moment of awkward silence before he spoke again, “I will show you the way.”



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

Hector quietly followed. His head still down while flipping through his notes and adding others. He stopped short when the others stopped and he looked up in time to see Travis Knight dive smoothly into the pool. The three of them waited as he swam 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 looked up at his audience and grinned with boyish charm. “Howdy.” He pulled 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 glanced over the two strangers, ignoring Cecil entirely. His tone body glimmered wetly in what sunshine was able to squeeze between the gray clouds looming above.



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

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

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

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

“Cecil?” Elissa piped in.

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



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

“Of course,” Cecil shot a warning glance at Travis that Travis ignored. His mind was too busy mentally undressing Elissa while he methodically rubbed the towel over his body. Cecil’s lip curled in disgust as he turned on his heel and continued on towards the rear entrance to the mansion.

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

“Six years.” Cecil responded without hesitation and -not for the first time - without elaborating.

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



“I was hired as the cook’s assistant.” Cecil opened the door and held it allowing for Elissa to enter first. She nodded her thanks and stepped over the threshold. Cecil followed her in and closed the door with a soft click. He walked toward the short hallway to his left and entered a small neat office. Plucking the rolodex off the desk, Cecil rifled through its contents.

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

He pulled a card from the files and stared blankly at her. “She retired five years ago.” Cecil crossed the room to her, his hand out holding the card for her to take.

Elissa took it and nodded her gratitude, “Thank you.” She didn’t look at the card, Elissa was watching Cecil. “How many people work in the Hamilton mansion?”

Cecil’s lip twitched. “One.”

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

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



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

----

“So, you and that partner…” Travis raised his eyebrows suggestively, his lips quirked into a grin. He dropped his trunks before wrapping the towel around his waist and tucked it into place.

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

Travis bent forward and scooped up his trunks. He walked to the side of the pool and squeezed the excess water from them. “Oh I dunno, about a year… two.” He eyed Hector with a small grin. “So is she seein’ someone?”

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

“A’right,” Travis chuckled walking to a table with a set of four padded chairs. He dropped his trunks on the table and allowed his long frame to collapse into one of the chairs.  Travis leaned back and rested one hand low over his bare midriff. One leg was bent, the other extended and his towel fell 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 hun'erd 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 tightened. “What is the nature of your relationship with Mrs. Hamilton?”

Travis’ hand slid 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 did his best not to watch Travis' movements too closely.  The man's hand rose up the inside of his thigh to disappear under the towel. Hector's mind immediately remembered the other man’s gifted anatomy.

“To put things as bluntly as possible so you don’t misinterpret things, Detective.” Travis suddenly sat forward with both hands gripping the arms of his chair. Travis' face was no longer grinning or relaxed. His emerald eyes were hard. “I clean the pool.”



Chapter 4

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chapter 3

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

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

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

The sudden thwack of his palm slamming her pen to the table made her jump. She looked 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 searched her face. “Are you okay?”

Elissa pulled her pen from under his hand, jabbed him with the point to move him off her paperwork and left a blue dot. She huffed at her partner, “I was until you scared about 5 years off my life.”

He pulled his hand away and smirked 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 scribbled 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 shrugged when she smirked at him. Hector theorized, “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 Central 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 stole a glance at Hector and closed her eyes tightly. “Hector?”



“Yes?” Hector frowned when he noted 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 by Evangeline's attitude. The detective 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 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, Evangeline walked away from the door and 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 gave him a strange look and he shook 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 widened a fraction, but his face staid neutral. His body stiffened as if he were punched in the gut. “Eva’s still with him?”



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

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

Elissa took 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 skipped past the more intimate details and description freely given to her by Evangeline. Her cheeks warmed in a furious blush at the memory of the other woman's 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 was more than Hector needed to hear at the moment. Staring blankly at the notepad Elissa straightened her back, strengthening her resolve. Hector needed her and Elissa needed to be there 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 scraped along the tiles as Hector pushed away from his desk shooting a glance at Elissa. He hesitated for a moment when their eyes met and he wasn’t sure what hurt more: his ex-wife was Peter Hamilton’s mistress, or his ex-girlfriend moving on, finding a man who could give her what he couldn’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 concealing 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.



Peter's 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, but his breathing was shallow and came faster as his anger rose. The blonde swallowed 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?” Peter shifted his head so his cheek was inches from Jenson’s jaw and inhaled deeply.  Peter's voice lowered ominously. “Mmm, I believe it is.”

----

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



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

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

“Kicking his ass and not being able to tell anyone was hard to take.” Jenson ran 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 frowned watching the muscle in Jenson’s jaw clench. The detective said, “You know he’s deceased.”



It was a statement, not a question yet Jenson nodded silently. “I saw it on the news this morning. Elissa told you about my meetings with Hamilton.” When Hector nodded, he dropped 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 raised his own cup to his lips still watching Jenson.

“No reason.” Jenson pushed 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 pulled something from his pocket, a small black velvet box and set it on the table. He stared at it for a long time before speaking again. “I guess now would be a bad time for me to give her this.”

Hector choked on his coffee. “Is that…”



“Ayup, bad timing, huh?” Jenson pushed his chair back, snatched the box off the table and stuffed it back in his pocket as he stood. He paused before walking off and told Hector, “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 stared down the cliff side. She was crouching by the edge and felt her stomach lurch when the soft soil gave way underfoot. “Careful, Lis!” His grip on her arm was tight, too tight. She winced and scowled at him. “Sorry, you scared me.” Hector released her arm looking down into the ravine in front of them. “What were you thinking?”

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



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

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

He had pulled his notepad out again and was flipping through his notes - a habitual action of his when avoiding eye contact with someone. “Her?”

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

Hector looked 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 smirked at Hector. “Where you intimate with the deceased?”

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

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

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

“Nothing much,” Elissa looked 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 raised a hand when she tried to object. “He’s your boyfriend, Elissa, you’re too close. Just let me do my job, okay?”

She frowned and looked 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 looked up hesitantly, “Do you…”

“No, it would be best if you aren’t around when I talk to him.” Hector turned 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 shrugged a shoulder, “I know next to nothing about vehicle care.”

“Sure, but it would be noticeable.” When she continued to stare blankly at him he chuckled and tried 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 finished her thought. “We need to find out who has access to his car. We also need to get into his garage.”

Elissa looked 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 pointed over his shoulder towards the estate.

“Sure, but how many sixteen year old girls know how to bleed brakes?” Elissa looked in the direction Hector was pointing.

Hector scoffed, “Ever heard of the internet…”

“You think a teen-aged girl would risk breaking a nail loosening a screw.” Elissa smirked at him as he rolled 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…”

“Or woman…” Hector tapped his notepad. “Tell her I’m sorry.”

Elissa shuddered at his words. The memory of listening to the replayed OnStar call was 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 paused reining in his thoughts. “Right, so we have the wife, son, daughter, butler, the hypothetical lover, Jenson…” Elissa looked away at the mention of Jenson. Hector glanced 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 glanced up when she got no response. She sighed softly, set the pen down on her desk, and 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 oozed from him yet Odette 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 new Will of his, but kept her opinion to herself.



----

“That is the last time you spoke with Mr. Hamilton?” Elissa was 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 remained passive, unblinking and neutral. She didn’t elaborate on her statements; she simply sat at her desk with her hands folded in front of her.



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

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

“Even if the client is deceased?” Elissa ran a finger along the seam 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 peered at the woman. Nothing on Odette’s features had changed nor had she 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 at the estate serving it and not here speaking with me.” Odette’s lip quirked in triumph noting the slight tension in Elissa’s gaze, “Hmmm, when the warrant is issued, I will meet you at the estate.” She rose 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 didn’t have to wait very long before the door was opened by a thin young man with a mop of auburn hair.  He was wearing black trousers and a crisp white oxford shirt. His young face was smooth; his expression was bland and emotionless. He eyed them both wearily before speaking, “Yes?”

Elissa pulled out her badge, showing it to the man before responding, “Detective Putnam, Detective Fredericko,” Hector nodded when introduced, “We’re with the 1st Division, Sunset Valley Police Department.” The only response to the one sided introduction was the young man’s eyebrow quirking momentarily, but his face remained impassive. Elissa pointedly glanced behind him into the house. “We need to speak with Mrs. Hamilton.”

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

The young man stepped back, allowing the detectives to enter the building. The foyer was a large open area, with a tile floor and high ceiling, extending to a grand staircase that went off in two directions. He ushered the pair to a cozy room off the foyer to the right, which had a small welcoming fire and was decorated in earthy tones.  Before stepping away, the young man announced, “I will inform Lady Zania of your presence.”

Elissa immediately crossed the small room and stood before the fireplace, allowing the warmth to thaw her extremities. She turned in a slow circle taking in the d├ęcor. It was tastefully done yet was oddly void of any personal affects. Hector crossed the room to a bookshelf filled with assorted leather bound books, many titles caught his attention for more than a second. Neither spoke, yet both looked up expectantly when the clack of stilettos drew near.


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

Elissa didn’t move away from the warmth of the fireplace and began speaking immediately, “There’s been an accident,” but quieted when Hector cleared his throat.

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

Zania stared wide eyed at Elissa until her name registered in her mind. She blinked and looked at Hector, her eyes searched his face frantically for a clue to what he was trying to impart to her, “Yes?” Her voice sounded 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 watched her reaction as he spoke. She nodded slowly with the same wide eyed look. Her hand slowly rose to her lips and she fumbled for something to hold on to with the other.

 “Yes, space gray metallic.” Zania looked at Elissa, her frantic eyes searching for answers. “Please, what happened?”


Hector cleared his throat pulling Zania's attention back to him. He spoke slowly to keep 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 tore from Hector and searched Elissa’s face. Elissa simply nodded and Zania let out a strangled gasp, “Huh.” She stared 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.  Now you’re telling me he is dead and I’m…” Her eyes shined with tears, her lip quirked up in a small relieved grin. “I’m free.”

A realization hit her and she winced. “The children; Tiana will be devastated.” She glanced behind her at the empty doorway. “Dennis…” She shook her head and sighed heavily. “He’ll be crushed.” A pained look crossed 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 looked uneasy and possibly queasy as well. He flipped through his notes, jotting a thing down here and there.

Elissa waited a beat before continuing on behalf of her partner, “Mrs. Hamilton, when was the last time you spoke with your husband?”

Zania blinked, pulling her gaze slowly back to Elissa. She bit her bottom 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 closed her eyes briefly before returning her gaze back to Hector. “He said he was going to Hidden Springs.” She dropped her gaze as a single tear slipped down her creamy smooth cheek. She stared at her folded hands on her lap.

----


Zania had 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 glanced at each other. Elissa cleared her throat and continued the questions. “A business trip?”

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

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

Zania laughed, a short burst of amused relief. “Half of Sunset Valley hated him, if not more.” She looked pointedly at Elissa when she said this, yet looked at Hector before she continued. “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 shrugged a shoulder. “He’s also a shrewd business man. He’s bought, blackmailed or ran out nearly all the competition.”

Zania rose from the sofa and weaved 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 scowled, “We aren’t through-”

“I have indulged your curiosity long enough.” Zania interrupted. “You’ve delivered the news of my… late… husband. And I thank you for your time. But we are done.” She pressed a button on the intercom. 

"Yes, ma'am." Came the voice from the young man who answered the door.

“Cecil, come show the detectives to the door.” Zania gripped the doorway as she spoke to the detectives, “If you have more questions; I suggest you contact my attorney, Odette London.”



Chapter 2

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 1


The windshield wipers swiped vainly at the endless torrent of water that streamed from the starless night. His eyes narrowed in concentration as expletives spew forth. Each was punctuated with a compression as his foot.  He stomped repeatedly on the brake pedal and gritted out, “Shit, shit, shit!” Quickly he turned the steering wheel into the spin while his car hydroplaned out of control. His headlights showed the mountains, railing, mountains and railing as his vehicle whirled. He knew what was lurking ahead; it was now or never. However, the brakes were not responding, the car did not slow and he stared ahead of him with disbelieving eyes. “Ah shit.”

It was as if time slowed. His motions felt labored and lethargic. The dark nothing beyond the rail beckoned him like a siren. The car had come to the hairpin turn.  It hit the guardrail, skidded along with sparks flying lighting up the inky sky. He felt the screech of metal against metal until the guardrail gave way; plunging him - vehicle and all - off the cliff.

He closed his eyes as his life danced before him prolonging the inevitable outcome; his demise, his death. There was a parade of memories flashing along for his viewing: first crush, first kiss, first love, first fuck, first heartache, his wedding, his kids, a parade of women, and a man.

His eyes flew open when OnStar blipped on and a voice rang throughout the car jarring his mind back to the present. “This is OnStar. We have a warning indication-”

“This is Peter Hamilton,” He interrupted immediately. Peter could see an outline of jagged rocks in the dimness his headlights.  With his last breath rushing past his lips, Peter instructed the woman, “Tell her I’m sorry.”



----

The OnStar employee stared wide eyed and unblinking at the console before her. She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until her lungs screamed at her for air.  She released her breath in a gasp of horror.  Only a moment past before her training kicked in and her fingers busily contacted the proper authorities.

“Emergency 911, what is the situation?”

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

----



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

He cleared his throat, “Elissa?”

Detective Elissa Putnam reluctantly pulled her attention back to the accident - the dismal, frigid possible crime scene - where her breath hung like puffs of white before her face. She stuffed her hands in her pockets as she stared out across the vale of Sunset Valley and asked, “What did they find?”

Her partner, Detective Hector Fredericko, was looking at his notepad and began his report, “The coroner found a wallet in his breast pocket identifying the body as 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 closed his notebook and gave her a look as if he were tempted to say more but thought better of it.

Elissa glanced below as the crane began 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 scratched his chin until she stared impatiently at him. He dropped his hand and gave a small shrug, “Sorry, it’s just that…” Hector looked over as the crane set the mangled car on the flatbed truck. “Elissa, that’s Peter fucking Hamilton…”

“I know,” Elissa frowned and crossed her arms in front of her with a sudden shiver.

----



The unmarked police car slowed to a stop and both occupants hesitated to exit. Elissa looked out the window towards the Hamilton estate. She opened the car door to step out just as Hector spoke, “Elissa…” She paused long enough to frown at him; her blue eyes stared blankly and he nodded in acquiescence, “Right, let’s go.”

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

They walked side by side in silence up the walkway towards the front door. Hector stopped at the bottom of the steps, looking around the grounds as Elissa rang the bell. It was still early; the sun hadn’t burned away the clouds yet and the view of Sunset Valley was already breathtaking.



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