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 décor, 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.”