Eight Years Later
The passing years had been kind to Steven. He was as fit and trim as ever, though his hair revealed a lot of silver threading through the brown. He was on the phone with Rosemaria in the squad room when Lyle came in and slapped a copy of the LA Times on his desk. “Remember her?”
Steven glanced at the front-page picture and held up his forefinger. “Gotta go, kiddo. Do well on the exam. See you on Saturday.” He hung up and studied the picture of Helen Sandusky, just as beautiful as she had been eight years ago.
Lyle, his red hair almost gone and carrying a few extra pounds around his midriff, hung his coat on the back of his chair. “How’s UCLA treating your daughter? Still all work and no play as always?”
Steven answered absently, “Yeah, nose to the grindstone.” He read the article that accompanied the picture of Helen Sandusky. “She’s come up in the world. Marrying a state senator. I wonder if she’d still be too scared to testify against her ex-husband?”
“Anything she knows or ever knew is hidden deeper than Jimmy Hoffa’s cement covered corpse. Her new husband may be able to protect her, but she’s not digging up that dirt again. It’s not good politics.” Lyle paused, then said, “Speaking of politics—Farber’s being promoted to captain, and the word is one of us is in line for his job.”
Steven shook his head. “You’re welcome to it. I’m not getting tied to a desk issuing orders. If I can’t be out on the streets investigating, I’m not a cop anymore—I’m a den mother.”
“Just askin’ in case they come to me and beg.”
“I’ll celebrate mightily if you want it and get it. No hard feelings, believe me.”
“Good to know.”
Steven went back to the newspaper article. “Sandusky got away with murder and we all know it. It pisses me off that we couldn’t touch that sleazeball. Now he’s richer than God and acts like he’s citizen of the year.”
“Somebody talking about Sandusky?” Farber was walking in their direction. The lines in his face had deepened and his formerly thick hair had thinned to the point that he was now paying a lot of attention to hair-transplant commercials.
Steven held up the paper. “We were just reading about his ex-wife marrying Senator Worthington.”
“Ah yes, the woman of many secrets.” Farber held up the paper and scowled. “She could have helped solve that case for us. She’ll never talk now.”
He laid the paper back down on the desk. “I got a call from on high that I’m supposed to send somebody to check out the old Camden office building on 3rd Street that’s just been sold to a developer. The owner is worried that people are breaking in and stealing fixtures before he gets bids on the contract to turn the place into lofts or condos or whatever they call crappy apartments in depressed areas. He wants somebody to check it out.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Lyle asked. “That’s for patrol.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not sending the two of you. I know you’ve got more important things on your plate. The thing is Sandusky is one of the people putting in a bid on the remodel contract.”
“I’m sure everything he does now is on the up and up, especially when it comes to a rinky-dink job like this,” Steven offered.
“Crooks sometimes just can’t help themselves, ya know.” Farber gave a backward wave on his way to his office.
“Why would Sandusky be willing to do a small-time job like that?” Lyle mused. “Doesn’t make sense.” He shrugged. “Let’s go to lunch. I didn’t have any breakfast.”
Steven grabbed his jacket. “Now that Rosemaria is living in the dorms, I never bother with breakfast anymore.”
“There’s a stack of pancakes in our future.”
“Let’s do it.”
Rosemaria, completely unaware of the beautiful young woman she had become and brushing off compliments as irrelevant, sat impatiently at her desk, waiting for the period to be over. She had finished her exam in record time. The questions had been so easy that she’d almost fluffed a couple of answers by not paying close enough attention. She was sure she’d aced it. Political science was her favorite course; trigonometry her least favorite. Actually, she hated it, but in order to graduate with honors she had to do well.
Her roommate had dropped out of school after four weeks, and it was heaven having the whole dorm room to herself with no distractions. She could study as much as she wanted with no one playing annoying music or talking nonsense about their boyfriends. She made time for workouts at the gym, jogging around the campus, and shooting hoops with friends but that was about it for amusements. She usually saw her dad on Saturdays. They would have dinner; he would ask about school, and she would ask him about work. Life was pretty boring at the moment, but that was okay. Her real life wouldn’t start until after she graduated, and she decided what the heck she wanted to do with her life. Law school or the police academy? Plenty of time to figure that out.
Fifteen more minutes to go until the end of class. She grimaced, dug her trig book out of her backpack, and proceeded to force some of the material into a brain that just did not care.
Steven pulled into his driveway, exhausted. He and Lyle had been interviewing potential witnesses in a fatal hit-and-run, but no one had seen a thing. A couple of obvious liars had been pulled in and questioned at the precinct to no avail. No one, not even people who had been standing near the point of impact had noticed anything unusual. One elderly lady said she saw a blue sedan speeding down her block as she was walking home from the store and then noticed a body lying in the middle of the street. But that’s all she saw. When it came to gang-related hits, people still didn’t want to get involved. It had been a cliché for a long time but a reality, nonetheless.
Every time Steven walked into the house, he felt the absence of Rosemaria. She had been such a strong presence in his everyday life. After Olivia died, his daughter had always seemed more concerned about his wellbeing than about herself. Although only ten years old at the time, she seemed to have separated herself from her mother long before Olivia died from coronary thrombosis. Rosemaria had given up, turned the corner, and had become emotionally unavailable to everyone but him. When he had told her that Carol Clayton had a friend who was willing to adopt Yvette, Rosemaria had immediately agreed. He knew she cared for Yvette, but it seemed she wanted nothing to do with anything that reminded her of her mother.
He opened the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of beer off the shelf and then sank into his easy chair in the living room. He couldn’t help being worried about his daughter. She had no social life and was oblivious to the affect her beauty had on men. She went out on a date every once in a while, but any attempt on the young man’s part to turn the relationship into anything meaningful was doomed to fail. She was focused on her schoolwork. And Steven had no intention of interfering in her personal life. He was in no position to offer advice. He had gone out with maybe a total of five women since Oliva had died, but none of them came close to evoking the strong feelings he had for Olivia. His work and his daughter were all he needed to be happy. Why invite an unknown variable into his life that could cause problems? He was content to keep things exactly as they were.
He was startled to hear the landline ring. Few people used the number, except for Rosemaria when she couldn’t get him at the office or on his cell. He dragged himself up from his chair and into the kitchen to pick up the receiver. “Yes, Sergeant Baker here.”
He heard a quivering, whispering voice. “Sergeant Baker, this is Helen Worthington.”
For a moment he was taken aback. Had he heard correctly? “Helen Worthington?”
“Yes. Used to be Helen Sandusky. You investigated my husband for the murder of Sam Clemente.”
“How did you get this number?”
“It was on your card you gave me years ago. I kept it.”
The shock of hearing her voice wore off. “Why are you calling me now, eight years later? It would have been extremely helpful if you’d talked to us then.”
“I’m sorry. Can you meet with me tonight?”
That surprised him. “Tonight?”
“Yes. It’s urgent that I talk to you.”
“Where are you wanting to meet?”
“I’ll come to where you are. There’s a restaurant called Hal’s in Simi. No cameras cover the parking lot. I drive a black Lexus. We can talk in the car.”
“All right. What time?”
“In one hour.” She hung up.
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