Outside the interrogation room in the back of the detective bureau, Rosemaria stood holding one Starbucks coffee and sipping another, waiting for Coleman to finish taking a robbery call at an empty desk that had come in a few minutes ago. An almost bare Christmas tree was visible in a nook between cubicles. Sergeant Marlon had brought it in and hung the lights that were twinkling on and off, but so far no one had found the time to decorate it. They had all decided that this year they would have a regular tree instead of the usual holiday battering ram hung with mostly broken ornaments that somebody had stored in a closet decades ago and got hauled out every year at Christmas. Maybe Rosemaria would throw on a few bits of tinsel before going home and wading through her law books tonight.
She had always loved Christmas and every Norman Rockwell cliché that came with it. But this year, with her father planning to be out of town for the holidays, she wouldn’t bother with her own tree. She felt a brief pang of longing for the illusive husband and child that was missing from that Rockwell painting and, as her biological clock ticked away, they seemed less and less likely to exist anywhere but in her fantasies. She had vowed as a small girl that she would never be the clinging vine her mother had been, depending on her husband to support her as she followed her illusive dreams. As a result, Rosemaria denied the part of her that hungered for home and family. She sighed a rare, self-pitying sigh and comforted herself with the fact that soon she would be able to fight for what she believed in in the courts instead of out in the streets with a gun and badge, which, more often than not, proved to be futile and frustrating. These days, any piece of garbage she risked life and limb to apprehend could be back on the streets before she finished her report. Not that risking life and limb was an everyday occurrence in Beverly Hills—not like downtown where she started or Hollywood. In a way, she did miss the stress and tension of being undercover. Strange. Sometimes even she couldn’t figure herself out.
Coleman came out of the cubicle and headed her way. He smiled when he saw the Starbucks she handed over. “Decaf, soy, mocha, as ordered.”
He took a deep sip. “You are too kind.”
“The robbery anything I should be concerned about?”
“I referred it to Marlon. It’s the same rich widow who always complains her gardener breaks in at night and steals her crystal. Then we find it in her refrigerator or some other strange place and she gets flustered and embarrassed. Probably Alzheimer’s. Marlon is good with that.”
“Oh, God, if I start doing things like that, I hope somebody shoots me.”
“Don’t look at me.”
“Why not? I’d do it for you.”
“Just make sure first, okay?”
Rosemaria nodded toward the interrogation room. “Sal is in here and Jennie in the one up front. Which one do you want?”
Coleman pretended to be shocked. “You’re giving me a choice, boss?”
“Don’t be a smartass. Jennie was drawn to you last time. Maybe she’ll open up to you when you’re by yourself.”
Coleman sipped. “Well, Sal is a Teamster, hardcore drug dealer, smuggler, and probably hates cops—sounds like he’d respond to some tough, macho, bullshit threats to scare the living daylights out of him—why don’t you do it?”
Rosemaria gave him a look that was intended to pierce his brain with hot rays, except that he was used to it by now.
“On the other hand,” he continued, “I think Jennie could use a little push from a less friendly type person who knows how to cut through her crap, while I convince Sal we’re just mellow Beverly Hills types who are used to celebrities who need a little blow now and then and we mean him no harm as long as he tells us the truth.”
Rosemaria considered all that for a couple of seconds. “Sounds good.” She headed down the hallway toward the interrogation room up front, where Jennie was waiting.
The girl was much calmer than the first time they had talked to her, but Jennie’s uneasiness convinced her that the lady was still hiding something.
“Thank you for coming in, Jennie, there’s just a few things I’d like to clear up. Would you like something to drink?”
Jennie shook her head impatiently. “Will this take long? I’m supposed to be at a recording session right now.”
Rosemaria brushed aside the question. “You said you met Stan at the studio. What made the two of you decide to take it further?”
“I…I don’t remember…Did I say that? We just hit it off like…it was easy to be with him. He seemed, I don’t know…lonely.” Jennie’s eyes threatened to well up and Rosemaria gave her a moment.
“And you went out on a date?”
“Not exactly a date. We agreed to meet at the restaurant next door to the studio after work.”
“Did he tell you he was married?”
“No, but I knew it anyway. We just didn’t talk about it.”
“Why, if you were just friends?”
Jennie’s eyes flashed with indignation. “That is all we were. But talking about his wife brought him down. She hated his smoking and drinking and nagged him about it constantly. He needed to unwind after all the stress he faced at the studio. She didn’t understand that. He was a very gregarious person. He liked hanging out with friends and she liked parties with the A list crowd. Ironic, considering her past.”
“She didn’t talk much about her childhood to Stan but I do know she was born and raised in Salinas dirt poor. He said she always became very upset when he asked about her family.”
“Why do you think he married her if they were so different?”
“You’ve seen her. What man wouldn’t want Lila?”
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