A Killer of a One Night Stand Ch. 05byMaxSebastian©
Mulray dropped him off at the door of his building, showing off her ability to drive on the pedestrianized quayside, since she was driving a police vehicle. Even if she did not mean it consciously, it was a nod to the power of her badge at a time when she was trying to persuade him to bring his own personal investigation into his brother's death to a halt.
"You've done your part," she was saying as they crawled along tiles meant only for walking, heading towards the base of the glass-fronted tower, 1 West India Quay. "You've shown us that it's worth investigating this website, and whether it's linked to these killings. Now leave the rest to us."
Jonah didn't want to lie to the beautiful dark-haired detective and tell her he'd stop pursuing the killer, but he really didn't want to comply with her demand to stop, either.
She looked at him a moment, switching off the engine once they'd drawn up outside the building front door. "It's dangerous, you know that?" she said, and her genuine concern warmed Jonah a little, stirring up his crush on her, though he knew he could not have her.
"If what you're saying about that website is true, then your use of it puts you right in the firing line for the Black Widow."
"I'd hope so," he said, his tone sounding brave, though in reality it was only so relaxed because he was accepting that DI Mulray was out of his reach, would forever remain merely a crush.
"Well, at least promise me one thing," she said.
"What would that be?"
"Don't go looking into Julian Foster's account on that website."
Jonah felt crushed. That was his only lead with any real potential.
Before he could answer, Mulray said quietly: "You realize as soon as I give that username and password to our IT team, they'll be all over it like a rash?"
"I'd hope so."
"But if you access that account, best case scenario you would just throw up a load of rogue evidence that somebody would have to spend time looking into," she said. "Worst case? Some try-hard DI would link you to Julian Foster, and even if you weren't suspected of murder, you might be charged with obstructing justice."
Jonah nodded. The implication, of course, was also there that if Jonah was charged with obstructing justice, Mulray herself could be disciplined for knowing about his meddling, and perhaps even for encouraging it, although her actions had been necessary to uncover the details of Julian Foster's website account.
He paused, not quite knowing what to say.
Mulray said softly: "Just give us a little time. If our detectives can't find anything through that account, maybe they'll be open to someone else taking a look..."
"I doubt that," he said, feeling defeated, frustrated, but finding it hard to be angry at Mulray for the pure logic of her request.
"I'll see what I can do - I'll see if there's any information I can get hold of from the account," she said, genuine concern in her face, and also perhaps a hint of appreciation that he was actively trying to assist the investigation.
Jonah nodded, accepting her deal.
He joked: "Hey, if you want my help getting information out of any of the other victims' wives, you just let me know."
"I might take you up on that offer, you know," she smiled. Then her attention was distracted. "Hey, who's the blonde?"
Jonah looked over to where she was looking, and could see Emma leaning against the wall by the door of his building, looking a trifle annoyed until she caught sight of him in the car, whereupon her whole demeanor brightened into a pretty smile.
"A friend," he said, trying not to visibly react to Emma's exceedingly short black skirt, which appeared to be made of netting or some kind, showing plenty of smooth thigh.
Nevertheless, Mulray raised her eyebrows suggestively.
Now it was Jonah's turn to sigh, thinking that she must think him the worst kind of rogue, though up until he'd started using the No Strings website, he'd been the next best thing to a monk.
"She's just helping me figure all this out," he said, then realized that particular explanation might refer to all manner of seedy things. He had to concede, however, that he had done all manner of seedy things recently. Probably not good for his crush to find out.
He said: "She's helping me with my... research."
"Helping you meddle," Mulray nodded, her judgmental tone appearing to be reserved more for his attempt at getting involved in the murder investigation than his associating with blondes in short skirts.
Jonah reached for the handle to open the car door, and as he pulled it, Mulray said: "Well, just be careful, Jonah. If you are going to continue with that website."
He paused, more than a little taken by her use of his Christian name.
"I can do that much," he said, offering her a parting smile before hauling himself out of the vehicle.
Emma hesitated a moment as Mulray drove slowly away, as though she was afraid she'd interrupted something. Then as Jonah turned to her, she suddenly rushed him, throwing herself at him as though it had been forever since she'd seen him. It had been a few days, sure enough, but still.
She said: "I've been calling you and texting - what the hell, mister?"
Jonah hugged her back, but slipped his hand in his pocket to retrieve his phone, which appeared to have long since run past its battery life. He showed her the dead piece of plastic, and she gave him a playful swat on the cheek.
"You have to keep in communicado," she said, now taking him by the hand to lead him inside the building. "What if you got in trouble, one of your dates turned out to actually be the killer?"
"I suppose so," he nodded, suitably chastised.
There was a cool early morning breeze blowing in off the river, and Jonah now ushered them inside to shelter from it. He was feeling seriously tired after the night's activity, and the trek across town at such an unholy hour.
"Who was she? From the website?" Emma asked. "She's pretty."
The young blonde led the way inside, past a concierge who seemed to find it difficult to cover up his interest in Emma's short skirt, and into the elevator.
"Police detective. I was... helping her, you know, answering a few questions about the case."
"And she gave you a lift home personally? Very nice," Emma's eyes flashed, but now the elevator doors opened, and Jonah simply stepped past her, inside.
"What are you even doing here this time of day?" Jonah demanded as they ascended to the 22nd floor. "I thought you were a student."
"What makes you think I'm a student?" She gave him a look of mock-offense.
"I guess I just got that impression when you were with your friends in the bar the other night."
She shrugged, "Well, I am a student. But we students don't sleep into the afternoons these days, you know, even at weekends. Not now we have to pay so much for tuition."
Jonah chuckled, "For some reason I can't picture you as a bookworm."
Having already been surprised at her appearance so early on a Saturday morning, Jonah was doubly surprised on the way up when she announced that she'd lined up a lunch meeting for him for that day.
"You did want some help speeding up your dating process, right?"
"Right. But a lunch meeting?"
In truth, Jonah was a little impressed that Emma had followed through on a declaration he thought had been mainly in jest. She truly did seem to want to be his personal assistant on this bizarre quest for justice. What was her motivation? Simply that it was fun to track down one night stands for him?
"You said you wanted married women," she said as they reached the 22nd floor. "I have found you married women - but this one wants a lunch date first."
Jonah paused before entering the code on the keypad to open the front door to Nate's flat, and Emma noticed his hesitation. She said: "You did say Nate had a preference for married - "
"I did," he interrupted her, and now tapped in the code. "I just don't much like the idea of actually... you know... getting involved in someone's marriage."
Emma said: "It's them that's taking the decision to step outside their marriage, you know. Nothing to do with you."
"But you don't have to worry about all that this time."
"And how is that?"
"Because this one says her husband wants her to sleep with other men."
"Kinky." Jonah felt his ears burn - this was just like Julian and Lily. Was this whole consensual infidelity thing that common? Jonah felt that it needed further investigation - if Nate did indeed have a preference for married women, there was a chance he'd been party to this kind of kink.
"Well, I figured you might not be comfortable wrecking someone's marriage this early in your online dating experience," Emma said, and Jonah supposed it made sense.
It was uncanny how he'd been finding out about just such an arrangement between Lily and her deceased husband, and now Emma was getting him involved in a similar set-up.
Jonah dropped his jacket on the coat stand as Emma dumped her backpack on one of the white couches, and felt instantly more relaxed being back in Nate's apartment. He was going to miss this place when that useless estate agent finally got it sold. For now, he felt the call of bed.
Emma followed him through to the bedroom, not questioning his need to pull off his clothes and collapse into the inviting warmth of the duvet. But she breezed on past him in a cloud of coconut-scented perfume, and into the bathroom.
"So what happened with you last night? You gonna tell me?" she asked him.
"Oh, yeah. I suppose." He wondered if he should keep Lilly's secrets to himself, but if Emma was going to help him on this investigation, there was no point in keeping her in the dark about anything. "I met one of the other relatives. The widow of one of the other murder victims, the one before Nate."
Emma walked out of the bathroom now wearing only a pair of turquoise lace panties, her bare nipples stiff in the chilled air, heading back to the main living room area of the apartment. Voice raised, she said: "And did she tell you her husband was using the same website as Nate?"
Jonah nodded, "Pretty much. She said she had a strong feeling he was."
"So why didn't she tell the police?"
"She's a journalist. She's worried the story'll get leaked to the press, and that will be the end of her reputation."
"They used to use the website - or one just like it - together. A few years ago."
"Hmm. Swingers, huh? So this woman you're seeing today, she's a bit like this woman you met last night, that what you're thinking?"
"Or something like it," Jonah said. "Though I'm not sure how it all fits in with how Julian - her husband - and my brother was killed."
Emma returned to the bedroom area with her laptop, firing it up as she approached the bed. "This woman you saw - did she have any idea what her husband's username and password might have been?"
Jonah shifted to make room for her on the bed. "She did. But I promised the detective I wouldn't try it out."
"You did what?"
He shrugged. "She said the police would now be crawling all over it - if I went snooping around in there, they'd spot my IP address, or the IP address where I accessed it. Even if they didn't think I was connected to the crime, she said it could still mess up the evidence if I try."
"That sucks. Could have told us a load of stuff to help our search."
Jonah smiled at her use of the word "our". It seemed that he hardly knew Emma, but with precious few friends in London, it was nice to have company - and a little assistance on his search for Nate's killer was wonderful.
He said: "You're pretty good at all this. Organizing things, I mean."
She smiled. "Maybe I want to be a personal assistant when I'm done getting a degree," she said.
"An actual personal assistant?"
She chuckled, "It's one option for bagging a rich husband, you know. That's my real aim in life."
Now it was Jonah's turn to laugh. "Well I assume you won't be hanging around me for long, then."
"For you, I'll make an exception," she said, laying her laptop down on the floor before turning back to him with fire in her eyes. "Especially the way you make me feel with that tongue of yours."
"So how does this get me closer to the murderer again?" he asked, as they walked out across the cobbled piazza of Covent Garden.
It was just gone 12.30pm, and thankfully the day had warmed up a little. The sun had broken through the overcast sky, and now bathed the tourists and market traders in a beneficial light.
"You wanted married women, didn't you? I got you a married woman."
He rolled his eyes. "A woman who wants to meet with a guy for lunch first, before she decides on a date - how is she the Black Widow?"
"Maybe she's just playing a role," Emma said. "Getting you off guard. Getting you to trust her so you'll let your guard down - and then she strikes. Didn't they say it was potentially a second date, these murders? Not a first date."
"I suppose so. I can always say 'no' to her. If it all seems pointless."
"So then. Plus - don't you think it's exciting? Something different." Emma gave him a wink, and he wasn't sure what aspect of it was exciting to her.
But then it was up to him to go on ahead. He walked up the stairs, having never even known there was a second floor to the Covent Garden market. Yet here it was, and a strangely elegant restaurant it housed, too. A concierge took his jacket and passed him on to a young waitress who escorted him out onto a terrace overlooking the piazza.
There was a lone female sitting at a table nicely apart from others - not that there were many diners in here at this time.
She was young - seemed too young to be married and already looking for extramarital excitement. Perhaps 23 or 24 at most. Pretty. Blue eyes, girlish freckles. Her dirty-blonde hair was tied back in a loose but high ponytail that gave her an air of confidence, with loose bangs draping over her forehead to be tucked behind her ears.
She was wearing a sleeveless white button-down blouse, of which the top few buttons were unfastened, revealing a little more pale flesh than perhaps she was used to showing.
It seemed clear to Jonah she was not as confident as her appearance on the surface might have suggested. Her eyes gave away her anxiety.
"Hello," he said. "I'm Robert."
"Uh... hi. Bethany."
She stood, and reached out to offer him an awkward hand to shake. Not knowing how formal to be. Jonah was slightly amused - this was a lunch date where the possibility of sleeping with this young woman was on the table. And she was shaking his hand as a greeting? Well, he didn't need to go through with this particular encounter. He felt it wasn't going to add much to the investigation.
It actually made him relax. She was pretty in a very girl-next-door kind of way, fresh, well-spoken. And her nervousness endeared her to him. He felt there was no need for any of this. It took a certain amount of the pressure off Jonah. But, as it turned out, she had an interesting story to tell, particularly in light of what he'd learned about Lily and Julian Foster.
Bethany had only recently learned of her husband's fantasies, that he imagined her sleeping with other men. It had shocked her massively, stumbling over his Internet browser history, finding all the erotic stories he'd been reading about guys sharing their wives.
"I thought I knew him better than he knew himself," she sighed, flashing a self-deprecating smile. She had a faint blush in her cheeks at talking about all this, which only enhanced her beauty.
"Everyone has their secrets," Jonah said, feeling the need to reassure her.
She nodded. It seemed she had a lot to get off her chest - but with something difficult like this, it was hardly something you could talk about with friends or family. Jonah was probably the first person she'd spoken with about any of this, other than her husband. Jonah suddenly felt a responsibility towards her wellbeing.
"I guess things cooled off for us in the bedroom," she said. "You know how it is - familiarity makes it all seem routine, and then add in a little stress at work, family commitments - we were too tired, like, all the time. And it just kind of faded."
"It happens a lot. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"You're not married?"
"No, I'm not. But I know plenty of people in your situation." Not 23 or 24, though, he thought.
Bethany nodded again, reassured. "I mean, I've thought about other men, you know, every now and then. But it's just fantasy, isn't it? The Twilight books, or the Vampire Academy books, or Jace from the Mortal Instrument books. They're just make-believe. And I guess there was a couple of guys I might have imagined being with, you know, having an affair. Just because it seemed like Richie hasn't been interested for a while."
Richie being the husband.
"And then I discover this fantasy of his - and it kind of blew me out of the water, you know? I mean he wants me to have sex with another man. Wow."
"It's not something society really talks about," Jonah said. "Women aren't supposed to sleep around - and husbands aren't supposed to allow their wives to sleep around."
"No. But I see women at work in boring marriages, or the ones going through messy divorce cases, and I think how unhappy I am that we don't have sex much at all any more, either. And I think - that could actually be me, you know?"
"But your husband is different."
"He is. But it doesn't make any sense."
Bethany paused as the waiter came over to take their order, and Jonah realized he'd been riveted to the spot by her tale. It was fascinating, hearing about these unconventional relationships. Almost made Jonah wish he was married, so he could experiment in an unconventional relationship himself.
He ordered a glass of red wine - well, he didn't have work to worry about - and a plate of lasagne. Bethany ordered an apple juice and a caesar salad.
As soon as the coast was clear again, she continued: "At first, I thought he was just suggesting this so I'd eventually let him have a threesome or something with another woman. But he said he's not interested in other women."
Jonah nodded. "There are guys who just get off on watching their loved ones taking pleasure in the arms of other people," he said. "But they remain completely monogamous themselves."
"It just seems completely crazy," Bethany said, her forehead wrinkling up as she expressed her bafflement at her husband's fantasy.
"But you are now contemplating... trying it out?" Jonah asked.
"I want to make him happy," she said. "And if this is his burning fantasy, I want to see if this is really what he wants to do in reality."
The waiter returned with their drinks, and in an attempt to present a perfectly ordinary picture of a first lunch date to the waiter, Jonah asked her about her job. She worked at a law firm in the City as a paralegal, as it happened. The waiter didn't seem bothered to listen in on the conversation.
"We talked a lot," she said as the waiter withdrew, "and I did a lot of reading on the Internet. There really are a lot of guys like this, you know."
"It's just weird - that he might get just as much sexual satisfaction from my encounters with other men as I do myself. And want me even more afterwards."
Jonah saw her blush deepen. He suspected she was open to the idea of sleeping with other men, if only her own guilt could be assuaged.
"You probably just need to take it really slowly," he advised her. "Baby steps. Make a little move forward - and then see if he's still happy about it all. Then you can afford to take another step forward. Don't jump in with two feet, straight into an affair."
Bethany nodded, and sighed, and seemed even to relax a little. Her eyes flickered as they trailed around his face, shuffled down to attempt a subtle assessment of his figure. The standard online dating review of the goods, he'd seen it all before.