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 décor. 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.”