Finding Elvis Ch. 08byWine_Maker©
Chapter Eight: Cementing the relationship
When I finally woke up the next day, I was alone, again. Gretchen must have slipped out while I slept. That woman was entirely too quiet.
I staggered into the bathroom and through a hot shower. When I was done, I found the new toothbrush left for me by the sink and finished my morning cleanup by making sure my breath didn't kill someone.
That thought brought back all the memories of the previous day.
I didn't have any clean clothes, so I slipped into a robe and made my way downstairs, looking for the kitchen. I needed coffee and I needed it now. Then I needed clothes and food, in that order.
When I finally found the kitchen, I saw that it was as ridiculously huge as the rest of the house. All I noticed was stainless steel appliances, large swathes of marble counter tops and gleaming floors. I doubted I'd find anything in here at Sears or Home Depot. I more than half expected to find Lurch there, but he was nowhere to be seen. Vanessa, however, was there, putting some spices in a rack. She looked up and smiled at me.
"Good morning, Hawk. Can I fix you something to eat?" she asked.
I sat down on the bar stool and shook my head. "Coffee, please. Black with two sugars. Where is everyone?"
She busied herself with putting some coffee in a single cup brewer. "Gretchen is in the gym. Or at least she was half an hour ago. Hans is still asleep. His doctor gave him something and told me that he would be out most of the day. I haven't seen Ted or Lisa today."
I looked at the microwave, and it told me that it was almost one in the afternoon. "While we wait for the coffee, would you mind if I asked you some questions?"
Vanessa set down the rag she was cleaning the counter with and nodded. She tapped her fingers on the counter top in a soft tattoo. "Sure. I assume you want to ask about what happened last night, but I don't know how I can help. Since you saw, I mean, since you were there, I'd think you'd already know more about it than I do."
I laughed to myself. Unlike what you saw on TV, most people just couldn't bring themselves to talk directly about murder, especially if it was someone they'd known. As always, I was going to have to be the one to bring it up. "How was Kat as a Mistress of the house?"
Vanessa shook her head. "I don't want to speak ill of the, well, of her."
"You were going to say 'speak ill of the dead,' weren't you?" I asked gently, "but how can that hurt Kat now? Look," I said more bluntly, "I know it's hard to talk about, but someone killed her last night. It wasn't Gretchen. So that means I need to know who else she offended. Would you rather save her name or give Kat the justice that even she deserves?"
Vanessa looked indecisive for a moment and then nodded. "Well, that was plainly said, and I guess I have to agree with you. All right, then: Kat was a terrible boss. When Hans was around, she would be mostly tolerable, even to the staff, but when he wasn't there, she was a royal bitch to everyone."
I nodded. "I guessed that much. She and Gretchen didn't get along, I know. Who else did Kat have less than cordial relations with?"
Vanessa took my cup from the brewer and mixed in the sugar before handing it to me. I sipped it and gave her time to think about my question. She picked the rag back up and bunched it in her hands.
"Well, she didn't get along with my father, but he didn't kill her," she blurted.
I nodded. "I don't get along with a lot of people yet I don't end up killing them. All I'm working on is a list of people with information, and I'll talk with your father in due time. What about Kat and Cartwright? Did they know each other well?"
She nodded. "The Senator was a frequent visitor out here when he was in office. Courting Hans and Kat for donations, I think. Hans would be able to tell you more."
"Did they spend much time together?" I asked.
"Like without Hans around. Was Kat sleeping with him?" I asked bluntly.
The lack of an immediate response told me the answer wasn't "no". After a moment, she shook her head and told me "no" anyway.
"Look," I said, "let me remind you that we aren't going to hurt her anymore by talking about her. I suspect Kat might not have always been loyal to Hans, just from her personality. If Hans knew about it and was okay with it, that's their business. I'm not making a moral judgment here. Even if you don't know it for a fact, do you think that she might have been friendlier with the Senator than Hans would approve of?"
She bit her fingernail and looked at the door worriedly, and then she nodded to me. "She might have been. The Senator had a way of putting his hands on women that he's been with, and he was pretty comfortable touching Kat."
Recalling how he groped Gretchen, I gritted my teeth and nodded. "I know he did, and I'll be looking into who might have wanted him dead, too. Either one of them might have been the target, after all. Anyone else get it on with her or get into it with her on occasion?"
Vanessa shrugged. "She spent a lot of her time out, so it's possible. Other people got into it with her on occasion, though it would be faster to list the people that didn't tangle with her than the ones who did. That woman was a viper."
"Ah, we must be talking about the dearly departed," Gretchen said from the door. Vanessa jumped and got busy with the counter again. "Don't worry, I won't tell. Vanessa, that coffee smells wonderful. Would you make me a cup?"
"Of course," Vanessa answered, getting another cup from the cabinet. She was obviously still embarrassed that Gretchen had overheard her final comment.
Gretchen was dressed in a robe just like mine. We'd both need to make a trip to the hotel to get some clothes.
I reached out and took her hand. "How do you feel today?" I asked quietly.
"Better," she admitted softly. With a glance at Vanessa, she said even more quietly, "Yesterday seems almost like a bad dream, Hawk, though I know it's all too damn real. I feel badly that I'm not the least bit sad she's dead, even though Daddy is hurting so terribly, but a really big part of me is genuinely happy to see her gone. Cartwright was an ass, but I'm a bit sorrier to see him dead than Kat."
"That's straight from the heart," I agreed, "but don't ever say that to anyone else. The police already are focused solely on you as it is. Now, their blind stupidity doesn't mean I won't find the person responsible and see that they take the fall for what they did. As of now, Elvis is officially on the back burner. The police won't be looking for someone else, so I damn well better be. Besides, even Kat and Cartwright deserve justice. After all, if being an asshole or bitch was reason enough to be killed, I'd have been dead a long time ago."
Vanessa set Gretchen's coffee on the bar and bustled out of the room.
Gretchen's face was momentarily haunted, but she visibly forced it off while taking a sip of her coffee. "I need to believe that the evidence will prove me innocent and that you'll find the person that did this. I have to believe that you'll save me, or I'll make myself crazy."
"I will," I assured her with a small smile, "but not dressed in a robe. We need our clothes."
"I already asked Ivan to go pick ours up," she said. "I expect he will be back in a little while."
I stared at her. "Ivan is handling my underwear? Ewwww! God knows what that pervert will do with them."
She laughed. "Ivan isn't a pervert! I don't know why you don't like him. He's a big teddy bear."
"He doesn't like me, and I don't like him. I think the two of us can work within those boundaries," I said. "You're obviously too accepting of some people, which is a good segue into another subject: you sleeping with people for money."
Gretchen rolled her eyes. "Be honest, Hawk. It's my sleeping with people you don't approve of for money."
I sighed, and then nodded. Never push an argument you know you can't win. "Okay, yes," I told her, "that's exactly what I mean. I don't want you sleeping with scum like Cartwright. You're my wife, right? I assume I do get some say in this?"
"Yes," she said, "you do get a say. As long as you don't lay a blanket statement on me, we can negotiate. Don't you know women are born negotiators? Toss anything out, and women will at least talk about it. So, lay it out and let's see what we can come up with."
I didn't expect to get into this so soon, but I turned in the stool and crossed my legs. I knew I'd have to pick my words carefully. "I think you know what I mean, Gretchen. I don't want you having sex without my agreement." I saw her face begin to cloud in anger, and I held up a hand. "That works in the reverse, too. You have a say on what I do there, as well."
Gretchen didn't appear entirely mollified, but she said gently, "I appreciate that you're willing to make this a two way street, honey, but there is a difference between who you sleep with and who I sleep with. The difference, Hawk, is that you know my sleeping with someone else is part of what I do for a living. And, I'll admit, I do it because I enjoy it. So, how about this for a compromise; if you say 'no,' it's no."
"Why can't it be, if I say 'yes', then it's okay?" I asked, almost petulantly. I sighed to myself. I knew I wasn't going to like the way this turned out, just like I knew I would accept it anyway.
"Because, that's you giving me permission and not just vetoing," Gretchen said patiently. She must have thought she saw something in my face because she said almost pleadingly, "I'm coming part way here, Hawk. Meet me. Please."
I opened my mouth to say something more, but closed it without a word. The outcome wasn't in doubt, so what made me want to prolong this? I threw up my hands. "Fine, but if it's someone you even think I might object to, you have to run it by me."
"Deal," Gretchen said with a smile. "Thank you, Hawk. Now, on yet another related subject, I'm sorry that I don't feel like consummating our marriage. I just don't feel like making love to anyone right now, but I've wanted you for a week, and even last night doesn't make that go away forever. I admit I'm highly sexed, and sex is comforting to me." She ran her knuckles across my cheek. "I suspect that sex with you will be so far beyond mere comfort, and after all this shit, I'll know that I need that. Not feeling like it, even with you - especially with you - is upsetting to me."
"Gretchen, honey, please don't worry about that. I want you, too," I admitted, "but the mood happens when the mood happens and not a minute sooner. Let's just strike when that moment hits us. If that's tonight, I'll be ready. If not, I won't be upset," I assured her.
"If I can interrupt, I have your clothes in your room," Lurch said from the door.
Gretchen seemed almost grateful for the interruption. She didn't like feeling vulnerable, and I could tell she wasn't entirely comfortable showing that vulnerability to me yet. "Thanks, Ivan," she said. "Come on, Hawk. We need to dress, get something to eat and then get busy. What's first? Who do we grill?"
I shook my head. I could see that my solitary, lone wolf days were long gone. I was surprised to find that it didn't bother me as much as I had thought it would. Still, there were appearances to keep, so, "I'd argue, but I know I'd lose," I told her. "I suppose we'll do this together, but it's under my rules. I grill who I like. I looked at Lurch, "and I like you right now, Ivan. I have some questions for you about last night."
"I have a number of things to do today," he said with a sniff. "However, I'll make time to allow you your questions."
"That's damn big of you, Sport." I said, climbing to my feet. "We'll be back down after we dress. We'll eat first and then come looking for you."
He gave me another sniff. "I can hardly wait," he said as he strode from the room.
"See?" I asked Gretchen. "He doesn't like me."
"Gosh, I can't imagine why," Gretchen said dryly. "Come on, let's go dress. I'm getting hungry, and we have things to do."
Those 'things to do' were turned on their head when we came back downstairs. Detective Sergeant Sweeny was standing in the hall scowling at us. I scowled right back.
"You again? Gretchen has nothing to say." I told him.
"You know, I have a real problem with some dyke bitch from Houston coming up here and sticking her nose into police business," he snarled.
"Oh? Too goddamned bad," I said airily. "You have me and that means it just sucks to be you."
"Hawk! Detective! Enough!" Gretchen snapped from the stairs. "Detective, you know I'm not answering any more questions, so why are you here?"
Sweeny scowled at me again before stepping around me. "I'm here because I have a problem, and you're part of it. If you'll call off your attack dog, I'll tell you what it is."
"You have a lot of nerve, coming in here and talking to me and my wife like that," Gretchen replied with some heat, coming to my defense. "You've got ten seconds either to change my mind, or to get out."
"Ten seconds? Okay. Yesterday I had you in cuffs, and I thought you were a killer. Today, I think that you didn't kill them. My problem is what I think today doesn't change a damned thing," he said.
"What?" Gretchen said.
"What?" I echoed, a bit more upset than Gretchen.
"Ain't it a bitch?" he asked Gretchen, ignoring my outrage. "So, do you want to hear it all, or shall I leave you two alone to do whatever carpet-munching, legally married women do?"
My outrage didn't like being ignored. "How about I just beat the hell out of you now, and we call it even?" I asked, yanking him around and balling up my fist.
Gretchen slipped between us and forced him back. "No! Jesus, you two! Can we please reduce the level of testosterone in the air?"
I let her push me back and just glared at Sweeny, who was glaring right back. Inside, I almost laughed. Gretchen was right. We did look like a couple of dogs who wanted nothing more than to piss on something to mark our territory. "Okay Gretchen," I said. "If he'll stop that 'bad cop' bullshit, then I won't stuff my fist down his throat."
Gretchen looked at him. "Can we lay off the offensive comments?"
"Fine, for now, but it doesn't change facts," he said with a shrug. "In any case, CSI told me that they didn't think the evidence supported you as the killer. They actually said the evidence supported Cartwright killing Werner before he was killed by someone else, but, that doesn't matter because the DA is ignoring the evidence and proceeding with the case."
"What?" Gretchen asked with a high-pitched voice. "Why would he do that?"
"Because you're his ticket into the Governor's office," I said from behind her. "He's a political animal and you're a once in a lifetime target. He couldn't ask for better media coverage. 'Rich hooker, married to lesbian, kills Senator and step-mother." I looked back at Sweeny. "So, what will the police do?"
"What can we do?" he retorted. "Charges have been made, the suspect arrested. That's it, unless the DA drops the charges. Will he win? Damned if I know. Juries are notoriously unpredictable. Officially, we have no choice but to continue to process the evidence and let the DA do his job."
Sweeny looked at me and gave me a crooked smile.
"By the way, Hawkins, the DA has an even lower opinion of you than I do. He's all bent out of shape from what I hear. He said he has proof that Judge Masters was paid off and is going to move to have him removed and have the bail revoked. He will be at the State Appeals Court first thing in the morning."
Gretchen looked at me. "Can he do that?"
"You'd have to ask your lawyer," I said, "but he can try. Your man will be there to contest it. I don't think the DA will have much luck."
I gave Sweeny a gimlet eye. "We'll never like one another, so why are you telling us this? What is Gretchen to you?"
"An innocent woman," he said after a moment. "That burnout comment of yours really stung, Hawkins. Maybe it's truer than I want to believe." He shrugged. "You're right. I don't like you any more than you like me. I don't like what the two of you stand for, or the mockery you're making of marriage, but even then I couldn't stand back and say nothing. I figured I had to at least give you a heads up before I get back on the clock." He got up in my face, although the aggression was toned down. "Make no mistake, though," he told me, "the DA is going to have me digging for more evidence that supports his conviction rate, so get used to seeing me around." He backed off, and in a more conversational tone, added, "Oh, and one other little bit of news to add to in the mix; even before all the guests were identified and released, the guest of honor wasn't among them. Our wannabe senator had already split before the house was sealed. Interesting, huh?"
Sweeney finally swaggered out a few minutes later, but not before he'd turned yet another day of our lives upside down. There's nothing quite like being told you were innocent, but still going to be prosecuted, to get you nice and mad, and Gretchen was really mad. She stormed up the stairs, crying. Somehow, I thought the tears just pissed her off even more. She really didn't like looking weak in front of anyone.
I expected her to go into the bedroom, but she went up to the third floor instead. The room she went into was a large office, very modern in appearance. Clean, bright and although I had no idea why, totally enraging to Gretchen.
"Goddamn that bitch! How the fuck could she do this to me?" She snatched up a little crystal statue and smashed it against the wall.
I grabbed her hand and spun her to face me. "Gretchen what's wrong? What the hell are you talking about? Who did what to you? I thought you were pissed at the DA and Sweeny."
Gretchen clenched her fist and pulled her arm free. "Oh, I am, but right now I'm even more pissed at Kat." She waved her hands at the room "This was my mother's room, Hawk, the last little bit of her in this whole house! That bitch Kat took away everything that was my mother to me and turned the room into a fucking office for herself! This was the only place I could go to feel my mother near me when I was a little girl, and she's ruined it!" She bit out each word, working up her fury again. "That fucking bitch ruined it!"
She grabbed another little crystal thing from the desk and was about to smash it when I grabbed her again. Gretchen struggled, and I used my training to push her against the wall. She hit a bit harder than I intended, but I needed to break her anger. "Gretchen, stop it! You're out of control!"
Gretchen fought to break free, and her angry eyes smoked at me as I used my body to hold her pinned against the wall. Then the look in her eyes seemed to change, and she stopped struggling as she dropped the statuette onto the carpeted floor. "Who do you think you are, telling me how to feel?" Her voice still held anger, but now it was tinged with something else.
I relaxed my hold. "I'm your friend, and I'm your wife," I said, looking into her eyes. My own eyes widened as the change in her eyes suddenly became clear to me. She was aroused.
Before I could say anything more, Gretchen grabbed my hair with her off hand and pulled my mouth to hers in a sudden kiss. A flash of heat rose inside me, matching her need, but I quashed it. This was not the time or the place for this, and angry sex wasn't good, right? I forced myself back from her lips.
"No, you don't..."
Gretchen surprised me, pushing me back and twisting me until she was holding me against the wall. "There you are, telling me who's the Alpha again." She pushed herself against me, the heat of her body completing my arousal. "I have some news for you, Hawk. In this relationship, I'm the sexual Alpha and the sooner you accept it, the happier you'll be." She smashed her lips into mine, forcing her tongue into my mouth insistently.