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…” 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?”
“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.”