The Lady in Blue Ch. 11byWine_Maker©
Chapter Eleven: On the case
Ted's point of view
Hawk was pretty upset when she saw the guy standing by the car looking like he had just seen a two headed goat. She rushed out and grabbed him by the shirt and slammed him against the car.
"This is not what it looks like," Hawk said.
Wide eyed, he nodded. "What do you think it looks like, Hawk? And, um, you have a hair stuck in your teeth. It's not blonde, Sugar."
Hawk let him go and slapped a hand across her mouth as though that would make it go away. Then, she slumped and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. "Okay, maybe it is what it looks like, but there is more to it, Javier. If I find out you blabbed my business to anyone, there will be consequences. Serious consequences. Am I coming across loud and clear?"
Javier nodded, wide eyed. "Hey, it's no business of mine if you sleep with a guy. I've been telling you that's the ticket for years." He leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "So, you kissed the cutie. Does that mean you had a good time?"
Hawk pushed him back against the car. "That's none of your business! Drop it, and keep your damned mouth shut about it! I mean it!" She pulled him off the car, and he staggered into the parking lot as she released him. Reaching into her pocket, she tossed me the keys.
I slid behind the wheel and started the car. Lisa climbed in front and Hawk into the back seat. As I drove off, I saw Javier talking excitedly into a cell phone, jumping up and down like a schoolgirl waving his other arm wildly in the air.
"He's going to tell everyone," Hawk said morosely, not even looking back at Javier. "He's probably already on the phone. It's going to be all over Houston before noon."
"Is it that bad?" I asked, turning up the street toward the International House of Pancakes we had passed on the way in.
Hawk looked up at the mirror and into my eyes. "Well, how would it affect your personal life if rumors you were gay started circulating?"
"With all the shit that gays and lesbians get, I'm surprised they would care," Lisa said.
Hawk laughed without humor. "People are people. It may not be as bad, but mark my words, it will not be fun. It's ironic, in a way. Straight people will give me shit for being a lesbian and the hardcore lesbian community will smack me around for not being lesbian enough. Screw it, let's eat and get working."
Lisa was half-turned in her seat and nodded. "Right. I think we should split up for now. Ted and I will search Calvin's house and look for what those keys go to. You have Kotov to check out." Lisa sounded in control and Hawk didn't even argue.
"I'll need wheels so I'll have to chance sneaking into my house," Hawk said. "I'll get you to drop me off after we eat. I can slip in the back way, change and be gone before anyone knows I'm there."
Reluctantly, Lisa agreed.
* * * * *
We ate quickly, with little conversation. We all had things to think about. Today had marked a changing point. Hawk had become a part of my relationship with Lisa, at least for a while. I hoped it wasn't a mistake that one, or all, of us would regret.
During breakfast, Lisa's cell phone rang and she had a brief conversation. When she hung up, she smiled wryly at Hawk. "It's you and me, kid, together in the same boat. My boss just got back into town and told me to get lost and stay that way until the police had a better handle on things. It looks like we both have been put out to pasture."
"Actually, in your case, that's a good idea," Hawk said, "and at least he may let you go back to work when you're done."
When we were finished eating, I drove through some back roads, under the guidance of Hawk. I had only a vague idea of where we were when she had me stop.
"I'm going to keep my cell on until I'm on the road. Sit here and wait. The other side of that fence there is my back yard. Come running if I yell." She tossed Lisa a set of keys and slipped over the fence with a lot more grace than I would have managed.
My cell rang. It was her. "No sign of entry in the back. I'm in, and the alarm was still on. I've locked up and rearmed it. Let me change. Hang on."
The sound of clothes changing could be heard. "Done, and I have a bag packed. I'm starting to run out of clothes. Now, I'm going to get my bike and get going." I could hear the sound of alarm buttons being pressed and a door opening. Then we heard the rough rumble of a Harley kicking off. "I'll turn the alarm back on and let it warm up before I get going. Just a few more minutes."
That was a nerve-wracking few minutes, but nothing went wrong. "Door's open and I'm out of here. I'll call if I get a good lead. You do the same. Ted, be careful and don't let Lisa get in over her head."
"I'll try to keep up," I said dryly. "Good luck." I hung up and heard the bike accelerating away. Starting the car, I retraced my course back out of the area.
"Hit Highway 45 south and let's go to Galveston," Lisa said. "Calvin's house is next on the hit parade. These keys seem really important. Daedalus, doesn't that have something to do with flying?"
I shrugged. "You have me there. We'll have to look it up."
"Ted, thank you for this morning," Lisa said after a few minutes.
I looked over at her and smiled. "As long as it doesn't come between us, I don't mind. I can't say I didn't have a good time."
She smiled. "I did, too, but if it becomes a problem, then it stops. We are what's important and everything else is just play. Deal?"
"Deal, Sweetie. I look forward to when we can get some time out on the town, just to ourselves, when this crazy stuff is over."
* * * * *
I pulled onto 45 and started south. The drive was uneventful, and we talked about ourselves, getting to know each other even more. That felt really good. The connection I felt for her made me warm inside.
We pulled up in front of the two story house Lisa indicated and started looking at it from the outside. As I would have expected, there was no one around on a Monday morning because most people were at work by now. The house was older and the outside was a weathered blue. I didn't see anything that even indicated the police had been here. I stepped into the street. "Stay here and I'll go see if anyone's home."
I opened the gate and walked onto the small porch. It creaked beneath my weight. Hopefully, I wouldn't fall through. Several hard knocks on the door brought no response from inside, so I waved Lisa up. A quick check confirmed that the door was locked.
"Locked," I told her. "What now?"
She grinned and produced her keys. "I have his spare, just like he had mine." In a second she had the door open and we were in. The house was neat and clean inside. A thin, dark carpet covered the floor and the living room had sparse, but tasteful furniture. Lisa locked the door behind us.
"We start on the bottom floor and work our way up to the second. I don't know what we are looking for, but it'll take keys. Don't disturb things too much and use these." She handed me a couple of thin rubber gloves.
"Where did you get those?" I asked curiously.
"I keep some in my purse for when I get called out to a crime scene," she replied.
I put my pair on and took a moment to wipe off the door we had already touched, both inside and out, before locking it again. I started in the living room, looking in drawers, under cushions and other places that seemed like a good place to hide something. I even looked behind paintings. In thirty minutes, we had cleared the first floor and were up to the second. There was a bedroom on the right and an office to the left; Lisa zeroed in on the office so I took the bedroom.
It was a lot less flamboyant that I would have expected from a gay man. I suppose my preconceptions were tripping me up. Tasteful curtains and a sensible bed with a dark cover. I went to the dresser and looked through the clothes in it. Nothing. The closet was more interesting, but a bit embarrassing. Over the racks of suits and other nice clothes, there was a shelf of videos with titles like 'Men Who Love Men,' and 'Manly Deep Throat.' I was about to close the door when I saw something that didn't look right. All were commercial tapes except for one that didn't have a label.
I pulled it out and looked for the VCR. If it was a porno, I could put it back. The small TV on the dresser had a built in VCR so I turned it on and popped the tape in. The picture was a bit grainy, but clear enough to make out the details. It was obviously taken from a hand held camcorder. The scene was a parking lot at what looked like a grocery store.
Two cars were parked so that the driver's doors were side by side. There was a good view of their faces, though neither one of them looked at all familiar to me. The cars couldn't have been more different, though; the men either. A sporty red coupe with a slick man sporting dark hair in his forties and a beat up, rusty Dodge pickup with a gray old man with frizzy hair. The angle wasn't good enough to see the license plates. The man in the coupe passed a paper bag to the older man, and the older man reached in and pulled out what sure looked like a bundle of money. It was too far away to read denominations, but I didn't imagine it was a bundle of ones.
My eyebrows rose. That looked interesting. I rewound the tape and went into the office to check on Lisa. She was sitting at the desk poring over an appointment book, to my eye, somewhat unhappily. "Lisa, I found something."
She looked up. "I did, too. I found Calvin's appointment book. There's an entry marked 'wire payoff funds' and a check mark beside it."
I shook my head. "Let's not jump to conclusions just yet. We don't know what it means. If it's bad news about Calvin, we'll find out soon enough. If it's not, don't beat yourself up over it now. As for the police, maybe they are not as serious as Hawk and haven't gotten here yet. We need to get out of here soon." I took her hand and pulled her to her feet. "I found a tape that sure looked like an exchange of money."
When she was in the bedroom, I hit play. "Oh, my god! That's Zed Barclay, the Galveston District Attorney! I don't know the other man, but why the hell is someone like Barclay giving him bag full of money?" When the scene ended in snow on the screen, she popped the tape out and stuffed it in her purse.
I held the appointment book while she was doing that and the bookmark caught my attention. An admission ticket for something, date stamped last month. I pulled it out and looked at it. Admit one to Seawolf Park. I was familiar with the place though I had never been there. Two rusting World War II warships. A small surface ship and an attack submarine, were open to the public to help pay for the slow restoration. I put it back in place and watched her.
We heard the sound of the front door opening. "You take the kitchen," said an unknown male voice. "I'll take the living room. When we finish down here, we'll go the upstairs."
Lisa's eyes were huge and she quietly closed the bedroom door. "It's Murphy! He's a cop down here. He hates Hawk and he's none to fond of me after yesterday! We need to get out of here before he finds us, but how?"
I opened the window and it made a horrible noise that I was sure would bring the cops down on us, but they must not have heard it. Amazing. The screen came out without too much trouble. A quick look at the roof told me that we were on the front of the house and the angle of the roof wasn't too bad. I saw what must have been an unmarked police car behind mine on the street.
"We'll climb out, but be careful. Let me close the screen back up and we'll look for a way down," I said. With a boost, I helped her out and onto the roof. I then pulled myself out and closed the window behind me. Thank god, the screen went back into place easily.
The window exited onto the roof with one of those little arches. Lisa climbed up the roof to the top of the window arch, out of sight. I followed her, holding the appointment book we had found between us. Before we could further our plan of escape, the window opened back up. We froze, staring at each other.
"What is it?" Murphy asked.
"I thought I heard something," the other man said. "I don't know what it was, but it sounded like it was upstairs."
"Nothing in the office, here or the attached bathroom. The screen is still on the window so it must have been squirrels or something," Murphy said. "Let's get back to work."
The window closed, and we both sagged with relief but kept quiet for a few minutes, just in case. When we felt safer, we slid down the roof and I found a metal pole, probably from an old TV antenna that was long gone. I handed Lisa the book and slid down safely. She dropped the book and her purse before sliding awkwardly down. I caught her and we ran for the car. I didn't feel safe until we were blocks away with no signs of pursuit.
"That was too close," I said. "I somehow don't see them being very forgiving of our taking the evidence."
"Shit," she said. "We shouldn't have taken it but what the hell were they doing waiting so long? They should have looked everything over on Saturday. There should never have been anything for us to find. Now we're really committed because we can't just turn it in. If my boss is involved, I can't be sure who to trust now. Do you think Calvin was running a covert investigation on Zed?"
I shrugged. "It's possible and might explain some things. Where next?"
"I need time to read through this and decide what we do next." She considered while I drove. "While we are down here, do you mind if I check on my mother and get some clothes?"
I shook my head. "No, I don't mind. Clothes first?" I smiled at her nod. "Good, I've been wanting to see how the other half lives."
"My place, then. Turn left." She directed me to a small two bedroom house not too far from the beach. Following her directions, I drove past it and parked a half block away.
"Let's both go in, and we can be out in a few minutes," she said as she climbed out of the car. "I'll toss a few things in a bag while you watch for trouble."
* * * * *
Her house was neat and orderly. There was a collection of what looked like family pictures on a small table near the door. While she gathered some things, I looked them over. Her mother was an older version of her. In the ones with Lisa, I would judge Lisa was a late teen. There was also a dark haired boy in the family shots. He had a quiet, somber air about him, almost withdrawn. That must be Arthur, her black-sheep older brother. Thin and gaunt, his eyes were like the tar pits in California, absorbing everything that touched them.
I shook my head. All teens seemed like a different species. I took a walking tour of the rest of the house. Tasteful furniture and bright colors. Very nice.
I hadn't been sure what a single woman's house would look like beforehand but this seemed to suit her busy lifestyle without being barren. The walls had a series of landscape prints in nice frames. Mountains, forests and waterfalls dominated the style, but there was one of a single oak tree in a field, standing tall and alone. In my mind, that one suited her best. It was a bit crooked on the wall, so I leveled it out.
When I looked back over the room, I noticed it was a little like the picture, the clean lines of the layout were off by just a little bit. The couch was a little forward on one side, and the love seat had one cushion out further than the other. It looked like someone had searched the room and had not been very careful in putting things back in order.
"Lisa! I think the living room was searched. We need to get out of here," I called up the stairs.
"Same here," she shouted back. "I'm ready." The stairs clattered as she ran back down with a small overnight bag over one shoulder. "Let's go and keep an eye out for people watching us."
I felt like I had a target on my back when we bolted from the house. Was that a curtain falling into place across the street? That woman walking the little dog; was she watching us a bit too closely? The dry cleaning van up the street was it... I shook my head. I was being paranoid. Taking a deep breath, I slowed my pace. Lisa slowed down with me and we walked calmly to my car.
Once we were moving and I could look into my rearview mirror I started feeling better. I breathed a sigh of relief. "It looks like no one is following us. I'll make some more odd turns just to be sure, though."
When we were both moderately certain we were safe, she gave me directions to the nursing home where her mother was staying.
In the parking lot, I put my arm around her. "Your mom seemed pretty young in the pictures at your house. What happened?"
She shook her head. "A stupid car accident about a year and a half ago. The doctors say she has recovered from the injuries but she's in coma and won't wake up. I tell people that she doesn't know her own name but that's not really true. She's just asleep. All they can tell me is that she may wake up any day just as normal as she was before, or she may never wake up at all. They really don't know. The brain is a huge mystery to the doctors. I come and talk to her every day, if I can. This weekend is the longest time without me stopping in, and I feel bad about it." She looked at me. "I really think she can hear me."
I nodded. "I've heard something like that before. It surely can't hurt. I hope she wakes up soon." I held the door open for her.
The lobby was filled with older people, sitting in chairs or wheelchairs and watching TV or talking to friends or family, and some staff people manning the desk or moving among the residents. Two bird cages, a fish tank and a single cat were scattered around the room with them.
"You mentioned that your mother changed her will and that your brother stopped hanging around. Do you mind if I ask what that's all about?"
Lisa shook her head. "I don't mind. Arthur has always been a bit of an odd duck. Loner in school and at home, too. He got involved in one of those right wing groups that thinks the government is illegal and should be overthrown. One of the militias, I forget the name. He got arrested several times for damaging city or county property with his nut case friends. Mom always bailed him out of jail. Then I got my first job as an ADA in Dallas, where we lived, and he freaked out. We had this huge knock down, drag out fight and he was pretty wild. He scared both of us but my mother stuck to her guns and threw him out. Then she re-wrote her will so that I was the primary beneficiary of her estate. Daddy left her pretty well off so it can pay for the expensive care she gets. It would be hard on my own. When Arthur found out he had a screaming cow. For the life of me, I can't imagine why he followed us down here. He keeps claiming it's because he's family, but I think he hopes that if he waits around, Mom will wake up and change her mind."
I scratched my chin. "If we weren't already pretty sure Calvin was the first target, he'd make a pretty good suspect."
Lisa laughed. "Puh-leeze! Arthur plan and execute a plot this complicated? The sun will go out first!" She waved to the nurses, leading me down a hall and into one of the rooms on the right side. There were two women in the room, both in bed. I knew the younger one was Lisa's mother from the pictures but she looked so different now. Lying as though asleep, her face was slack. The older woman was watching a soap opera on the television with the sound coming out of her remote control. The older woman smiled and they exchanged greetings.
Lisa pulled up a rolling chair and sat down beside the bed, taking her mother's hand into her own. "I'm sorry I didn't come by this weekend, Mother. It's been a real bear of a week." She looked up at me. "I want you to meet someone. This is Ted Stansbury. He and I have started dating." She smiled at me and then looked back at her mother's face. "I only just met him, but he's special. I can tell. I think you'll like him."