The Stein Ch. 03byK.K.©
I was two blocks from the house and there were no other cars in sight. No one was following me so I began to think that maybe it wasn't John Parker that had visited Charlie that morning. Maybe it was a cop and Tony just didn't know about it.
I was waiting at the light to make a left onto the Charleston Boulevard when I saw a silver Ford Explorer turning right off Charleston on to Desert Foot Hills Drive. I took a quick look at the SUV and although I couldn't see the driver through the tinted windows I saw that the vehicle had California plates on it. Seeing California plates on a car in Nevada is no surprise but seeing a car with California plates turning on to the street where I had been staying was just too much of a coincidence for me.
As I traveled east on Charleston I was trying to decide which hotel I should go to when I came upon the I-15 interchange. I made my decision in that instant. I turned right onto the ramp for I-15 South. If John Parker was in Las Vegas looking for me I was going back to LA.
The ten year-old Honda performed admirably, easily maintaining speeds between seventy-five and eighty miles per hour all the way back to the 10. Things slowed down a little there but I was back in Burbank at 2:30 AM were I checked into a small hotel near the Burbank airport.
I wasn't sure if it would be safe to go home because I still wasn't sure that John Parker was in Vegas looking for me. He might be watching my house. Then again he could be on his way to Mexico. I really didn't have a fucking clue as to what was going on.
I sat down on the bed in my dingy hotel room and once again began to ask myself questions trying to make sense of things. Why would John Parker want to kill me? Did he want me out of the way so he could have Nicky? That was a possibility but it didn't seem to make sense. If he wanted Nicky and she wanted to be with him they sure as hell didn't need to kill me. Divorce would have been much easier. It wasn't like I had a lot of money that Nicky would inherit. Financially she would have made out just as well in a divorce. There had to be something else going on.
I was beginning to wish that I had confronted Nicky with what I knew before I brought in Tony and Jim. Maybe she would have told me what this was all about. My body was aching, my head was beginning to hurt and I needed sleep.
In the morning I called Tony and told him where I was. I also told him about the car I saw with California plates the night before.
"What kind of car was it?" Tony asked.
"It was a silver Ford Explorer," I said.
"That was probably his Explorer," Tony said. "We found out late last night that Mr. Parker had parked his Ford Explorer at LAX when he flew out to Denver. We managed to get a security camera picture of him as he drove out of the parking lot Sunday evening. Where are you now?"
"I am at the hotel. Room 254," I said.
Forty-five minutes later Tony was at my door. When he came in he was carrying a brief case, which he set on the only table in the small room. Tony opened the brief case and took out a photograph and handed it to me.
"Do you recognize him?" he asked.
It was a black and white picture taken from a high angle looking down through the windshield of a car. The man in the drivers seat had dark hair and a rather ordinary face. He appeared to be rather large but it was difficult to tell from the photo. I didn't recognize him.
I looked at Tony and asked, "Is this John Parker?"
"That's him. Have you seen him before?" he asked.
"No. He doesn't look at all familiar to me," I said.
"I notified the Las Vegas Police and the Nevada State Police to be on the lookout for his car. They will arrest him if they find him and hold him for us," Tony said. "I think you'll want to watch this."
Then Tony pulled videotape out of his briefcase and set the video on the table. "I'm not supposed to let anyone see this yet but I thought you should. You can't tell anyone I gave this to you."
"I won't, but what is it?"
"You'll just have to wait and see," Tony said. "I have to get back to the station. As you can imagine things are a little crazy since Mr. Parker disappeared." Tony was at the door ready to leave and said, "I'll call you later and we can talk."
When the door closed behind Tony I looked that the television sitting on the dresser. I knew there wouldn't be a VCR there but I looked anyway. I called the front desk and asked if they had a VCR that I could rent. The guy that answered the phone said that they did have VCRs and if I wanted one he would have it sent up to my room. I was actually surprised when the VCR was delivered five minutes later. I didn't expect that level of service in that hotel.
It only took me a few minutes to hook up the VCR. I loaded the videocassette into the player but waited for another minute before I hit the play button. I was a little afraid of what I was going to see. I was just ready to hit the play button when I remembered something from when I was in the hospital. I remembered waking up and hearing Nicky talking to a man as they stood by the door. She had called him John. Could it have been Parker? I thought about it for another minute and remembered what they were talking about.
Nicky said, "John, you really shouldn't be here."
"Does he remember what happened?"
Nicky responded, "I don't know. Detective Trenca tried to question him about it yesterday but Eric was too doped up from the painkillers to give any answers."
"As soon as he is able to talk to the police I want to know what he tells them."
"John, please leave before he wakes up and sees you. Beside, Detective Trenca could come back at any time."
John said, "Okay, I'm going, but just remember what I said."
"I will. Now please leave. I just can't deal with you right now." Nicky said.
"She had him in my fucking hospital room," I said out loud.
I would have to be sure and tell Tony about that. Finally I took a deep breath and hit the play button.
The television screen was all snow for a few seconds then the picture flipped a few times and settled down. On the screen I could see Nicky and Jim sitting at a table facing toward the camera. The room was painted a drab gray color and the tabletop was an equally drab gray. Nicky was wearing the clothes she had been wearing when she left the house with Jim a week earlier. I assumed then that the video was from that night.
Jim was talking quietly to Nicky and she had her hands on the table in front of her palms down and she was staring straight ahead with no expression on her face. After a minute a door on the left side of the room opened and a man dressed in gray pants and wearing a white shirt sans tie entered the room.
"Good evening, Mrs. Anderson, I am Detective Harris and I will be conducting this interview. Before we get started would you like a glass of water or do you need a bathroom break," he asked.
"No, I don't need anything right now," Nicky answered in a weak monotone voice.
"Fine, then let's get started." Detective Harris said.
From what I could tell the video camera must have been hidden behind a two- way mirror. I got that impression because no one in the room paid any attention to the camera. I would expect that if the camera were in the room it would draw Nicky and Jim's attention.
"Mrs. Anderson, I would like to start with the events that took place in your home on Friday August eighth. So if you will just answer the questions truthfully and with as much detail as possible I think we can clear this up quickly," Detective Harris said.
Nicky said, "Okay."
"Now Mrs. Anderson, were you in the house when your husband was shot?" Detective Harris asked.
Nicky's head dropped to her chest. "Yes."
"Who shot your husband?" Detective Harris asked.
"It was an accident," Nicky said.
"Mrs. Anderson, who shot your husband?" Detective Harris asked again.
"John Parker," Nicky said in a voice just barely above a whisper.
"Who is John Parker?"
"He's a phys Ed teacher at my school."
"Where were you when your husband was shot?" Detective Harris asked.
"I was hiding in my closet."
"If you were hiding in your closet, how do you know the shooting was an accident?" Detective Harris asked.
"John told me what happened," Nicky said.
"Okay, Mrs. Anderson, why don't you tell me what happened that afternoon."
"John and I were upstairs in my bedroom when we heard the front door open," Nicky said. "I knew Eric wasn't due home because I was supposed to pick him up at the airport that evening so I was scared. I picked up the phone to call 911 but John signaled me to be quiet and he stepped out of the room to the top of the stairs and looked down. He came back into the bedroom a few seconds later and whispered that someone was snooping around downstairs and then he told me to hide in my closet until he came to get me."
"How long were you in the closet?"
"I don't know, a minute maybe two." Nicky said.
"Then what happened?"
"I heard the gun shots. I was terrified. I thought someone had shot John and I was sure they were going to find me too," Nicky said in a shaky voice. "I sat on the floor in my closet listening for any sound that might tell me what was going to happen next and then the closet door opened and John was standing there. His face was ashen. I asked him what happen as I got up off the floor. He started mumbling, 'It was an accident... It was an accident.'
"I followed him to the bedroom door and he said, 'I thought I saw a gun in his hand. I panicked and shot him.' I didn't know what he was going on about until I looked down the stairs and saw Eric laying there. I ran down the stairs and screamed for John to call 911 but John was right behind me on the stairs and he said it was already too late. He said that if Eric wasn't dead yet he would be before help could arrive.
"By then I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs trying to see if Eric was breathing. While I was doing that, John said, 'We have to make this look like a burglary.'
"It was then that I noticed that Eric was still breathing and I told John that I was going to call 911. John grabbed my arm and told me to wait a few minutes while he tried to make this look like a burglary and then he went into the family room. I heard him throwing stuff around the room but I knew I couldn't wait any longer so I dialed 911. I was immediately put on hold. John came back into the foyer while I was still waiting for the 911 operator to answer. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was calling 911.
"John took my face in his hand and pulled it toward his face and said, 'When the police get here tell then you came home and found Eric laying there and don't tell them anything else.'
"I asked him why and he said, 'The police will never believe this was an accident. They will think we killed him on purpose.'
"I was so scared and confused that when the 911 operator finally came on the line I told her that I had come home for lunch and found Eric on the floor at the bottom of the stairs and that it appeared that he had been shot."
"What did Mr. Parker do while you were on the phone?" Detective Harris asked.
"He stood and watched me until I finished the call and then he said, 'remember to stick to the story. If you don't and the police come after me you will go down with me.'"
"What did Mr. Parker do after he warned you to stick to the story?"
"John did something strange. He bent down close to Eric and I thought he was checking to see if he was still alive. Then he whispered something in Eric's ear and then he left," Nicky said.
"He said something to your husband? Did you hear what he said to him?" Detective Harris asked.
"I am not sure but part of it sounded like 'That's for Sarah,' but I can't be sure. I could just barely hear him.
"What did you think that meant?" Detective Harris asked.
"I have no idea?" Nicky said.
"Who do you think Sarah is?" Detective Harris asked.
"I am not sure. He might have been talking about a girl Eric dated in college before we met. Sarah Bowden."
"Why do you think he was referring to Sarah Bowden?"
"John asked me once if Eric knew Sarah Bowden?"
I could see Detective Harris writing Sarah Bowden's name on his pad and he underlined it. "We'll come back to her later," he said. "Now I would like to know about your relationship with John Parker."
"What do you mean by my relationship with John Parker?" Nicky asked defensively.
"Just exactly that. What was the nature of you relationship with Mr. Parker?"
"John is my boss. He is a teacher at my high school."
"That's your only relationship with him?" Detective Harris asked.
Nicky tensed up and I saw Jim put his hand to top of hers to comfort her.
"Just what are you trying to imply?" Nicky said.
"I am just wondering why Mr. Parker was in your bedroom with you," he said. "Would you care to explain that?
"He followed me up stairs." Nicky said.
"Why was Mr. Parker at your house?" Detective Harris asked.
"He went there with me after lunch."
"So you had lunch together?"
"Yes, with a few of the other teachers."
"I will want the names of the others that had lunch with you that day," Detective Harris said. "After lunch, why did you and Mr. Parker go to your house?"
"I spilled tomato sauce on my blouse so I went home to change my blouse," Nicky said.
"Mr. Parker was riding with you?"
"So, when you got to your house you both went in and Mr. Parker followed you upstairs to change your blouse?" Detective Harris asked.
"He didn't follow me up stairs."
"You just said he followed you upstairs." Detective Harris said.
"When we walked into the house John went into the family room while I went upstairs to change."
"But then he came upstairs?"
"He was carrying the beer stein he bought for me in Germany," Nicky said.
I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Parker had bought that stein for Nicky. Then she had the nerve to give it to me like it was such a special gift. The acid in my stomach was beginning to churn. "That bitch."
"Why did he bring the beer stein upstairs?" the detective asked.
"He wanted to reminded me of our night out in Germany," Nicky said.
"Why do you think he came upstairs with the stein instead of waiting until you came downstairs?"
The tears were streaming down Nicky's face as she answered. "I guess he wanted me to have sex with him," Nicky said.
I could feel a tingling in my spine when Nicky said that Parker followed her up stairs to have sex with her. I felt like my body was going to explode.
"So then, would you describe your relationship with Mr. Parker as a sexual relationship?" Detective Harris asked.
"No. I didn't have sex with him."
"Was that because your husband came home and interrupted you?"
Detective Harris was beginning to take on the characteristics of a pit bull. He could smell blood and he was ready to go in for the kill. Part of me wanted him to break Nicky down but part of me wanted him to go easier on her.
"I was not going to have sex with John." Nicky was becoming very agitated and was having trouble controlling her temper. Jim kept whispering to her, trying to calm her down.
"You said that Mr. Parker followed you upstairs to have sex with you but now you say you weren't going to have sex with him. Which is it, Mrs. Anderson?" Detective Harris asked.
"He came upstairs with that damn beer stein and was trying to talk me into having sex with him but I was not going to have sex with him," Nicky said.
"He was trying to talk you into having sex with him? You mean he was trying to seduce you?"
"Yes... I guess so," Nicky said.
"Did he have any reason to believe that you would be willing to have sex with him?" Detective Harris asked.
"He kept talking about what happened in Germany and how we should..."
Before I could hear the rest of Nicky's answer, the hotel room started to move. It took me less than two seconds to realize that we were having an earthquake. I quickly moved to the doorway into the bathroom to wait it out. It felt like a fairly strong quake, maybe a six. The room's large picture window cracked and then fell out of the frame and dropped into the parking lot below. A moment later the power went off. The whole event lasted less that thirty seconds but I could already hear sirens all over the city along with every car alarm in Los Angeles County.
I sat down on the bed and waited for the power to come back on but it didn't. I waited more than an hour for the power to come back on but when it started to get dark I disconnected the VCR and took it down to the front desk to ask if I could take the VCR with me and return it the next day because my tape was stuck inside it. When I got to the hotel lobby I noticed that they had lights. I asked the clerk about that and he said they had an emergency generator. I asked him about taking the VCR with me and he said that he couldn't allow me to do that then he suggested that we plug the VCR into one of the outlets serviced by the generator and then I could eject the tape.
Five minutes later I was in the Honda with the tape and headed to my house. I just hoped that I would have power when I got there. I called Tony and told him where I was going and why. He said that he needed to talk to me and he would meet me at the house in about a half hour.
By the time I got to the house it was extremely dark outside. There was no moon that night and the power was out all over the city. Without the streetlights I could barely see my house from the driveway when I shut off the cars headlights. I picked up the videotape from the front seat of the car and headed around to the front door.
It was so dark that I kept stepping off the edge of my sidewalk, nearly spraining my ankle a couple of times. At the front door I had to get down on my hands and knees to try to get the key into the lock. It was so dark that I felt that I would have an easier time getting the key into the lock if I closed my eyes and it worked. When I got the door opened and stepped inside I found that it was even darker inside. I held my hand up in front of my face but I couldn't see it.
I knew that there was a powerful flashlight in the kitchen pantry. All I had to do was work my way through the foyer and along the hallway into the kitchen, a distance of about fifteen feet and then go to the right another six feet and I would be at the pantry door. Normally it would take me five or six seconds to cover that distance but in the darkness I was moving very slowly.
As a child I had never been afraid of the dark but I had never encountered a blackness so profound as I found myself in that night. After thirty seconds of shuffling my feet along the floor and keeping my shoulder against the wall I reached the doorway into the kitchen. I am still not sure why I stopped there but when I did I sensed something that made the hair on the back of my neck bristle followed by the hair on my arms. It took me a few seconds to understand what had generated this increased level of fear. It was something I smelled. It hit me as soon as I got to the kitchen doorway. It was the strong sour smell of body odor and something else. For a moment I thought it might be me that smelled bad but then I recognized the other odor. It was whiskey breath.
Somebody else was in the house, but who. Was someone taking advantage of the power outage by breaking into my house or was it something even more sinister. I thought over the possibilities and decided that I didn't like coincidence. I decided that it was not a looter, it had to be Parker.
I was frozen in place as I listened for any sound that might give away his position. He could be right in front of me or even directly behind me. I was just hoping that Parker's night vision wasn't any better than mine and that the lights would stay off until I could figure out how to get out of the house without running into him.