tagRomanceFinding Elvis Ch. 11

Finding Elvis Ch. 11


Chapter Eleven: Cleaning the Kat box

"What?" Gretchen exclaimed. "That's preposterous. Why the hell did you do that?"

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," he said with a shrug.

I leaned my elbows onto the counter. "But, did you kill them?" I asked quietly. Admittedly, there were a few people that killed and that I missed as suspects, but David just never pinged on my radar. Frankly, I wondered if he was one of those who loved so deeply that he would confess to a crime he did not commit. I had seen it more than once.

"Oh, yes," David said with a nod. "Not that that cretin in the DA's office believed me." He looked at Gretchen and took her hand. "That woman your father married after your mother died. She killed your mother. I know it wasn't suicide. I've known it all these years, but I just could never do what needed to be done. Not, till that night."

Tears streamed down Gretchen's stricken face. "I don't believe you. You're lying to try and protect me. You couldn't hurt a fly and we both know it." I nodded to myself; Gretchen's words confirmed that David was indeed someone who loved Gretchen deeply enough to try and take the fall. The question was whether he was trying to take the fall, or if he really was the killer.

I had to find out. "If that's why," I said, "then tell us how you did it. And why do it with Cartwright there?"

"I saw Cartwright man-handling Gretchen earlier at the party," he said quietly. "I saw Kat send him over to Gretchen, and I knew she was trying to ruin her life. Again. After all the announcements, I saw them go upstairs, and I stopped by the kitchen. With everyone going in and out, it was simple to slip a knife into my jacket. Then I followed them upstairs."

"So you decided to kill them both?" I asked. "Right there on the spot?"

"That's right," he agreed calmly. "I found them arguing in the room upstairs, in the bathroom. I was into the room before they saw me and I stabbed Cartwright before he knew I was there. Then I killed Kat while she stared at me in shock. It was in revenge for my sister."

I reached under the table, took Gretchen's hand and suppressed a smile. The details I had seen at the crime scene told me Kat went down first, and like most cops, I trusted my instincts. "What direction was Cartwright facing when you stabbed him? Where did you hit him with the knife? And Kat?"

"I stabbed him in the chest, just like Kat. He was facing me in the doorway. Kat was behind him after he went down."

I did smile then. "I know why the DA sent you packing, David. The crime scene details tell a different story. What if I told you that Cartwright was stabbed in the back and Kat had her throat cut?"

He looked at Gretchen and shrugged, seemingly unruffled by my revelation. "It all happened so fast. Maybe he was facing away from me and I only thought I stabbed Kat. You're right, that's what happened. I'll have to amend my story with the DA."

Gretchen laughed and cried all at once, relief and anger warring on her face. "Liar! You are such a liar! That isn't what happened, and you didn't kill anybody!"

David deflated. "Why can't a man just confess to a crime and be done with it?" he grumbled. "Why the hell do they need all these stupid details? Can't you just accept I did it and move on?" Then he yelped as Gretchen kicked him hard under the table. "Yeow!"

"You're just saying this to try and take the blame away from me," Gretchen said, suddenly fully angry. "Goddammit, you're all that I have left of Mom, and you want to do this? I won't let you!" She leapt to her feet, yanking her hand out of his, and the chair she'd been sitting in crashed to the floor. "I won't let you!" Her hands were clenched into fists and her eyes streamed tears. "You take it back!"

I stood up and enfolded her in my arms. "Shhhh. It's okay, Baby. He won't get blamed for this." I stroked her hair softly and kept her there with me. Today had opened my eyes to the fact that there was a woman Gretchen carefully hid away from the world. A younger, more vulnerable one that hid behind the hard shell the world saw.

Without warning, I found myself holding that hidden Gretchen, as she collapsed into my arms, her face burying itself in my hair. The emotion inside her came boiling out, and she cried. Her sobs tore at me in a way I never expected, had never experienced and had no defense against. Her pain ate at me, and I cried with her. This wasn't right. I was a cop and cops didn't cry like this. At least I didn't. Still, the ache inside me called back to her pain and we held each other.

Then David pulled Gretchen out of my arms and held her. A flash of anger and jealousy ripped through me, but I forced it down. I might love Gretchen and be married to her, but David was her family in a way I would never be. Blood and water. Inside and outside. I was used to being the outsider, but for the first time in a long time, it hurt.

"I'm sorry," he told Gretchen, taking her face in his hands. "I was trying to save you. I didn't want to hurt you." He was crying himself.

I turned away from them, hiding my face from her. I didn't want Gretchen to see me this way. I knew inside it was wrong, and she didn't need me adding to her problems. Right now, I had to be strong for her. I knew that, but it didn't make it hurt any less. I poured a cup of coffee and swallowed hard, finding a cloth to wipe my eyes.

When I had my face under control, I turned and watched them hang onto each other, using my coffee cup as a prop to keep my hands busy. They were speaking to each other, but too softly for me to hear. I had never been as close as they obviously were with any of my family. My parents had always been distant, even before they had known about my sexual preference. After, they had grown cold and even more distant. The little girl in me would have cut off her own hand to be loved by someone the way that David loved Gretchen.

I needed to get out of here, away from the raw emotion still spilling from them. The way I was feeling wasn't right, and I had to stop it and wash my face. I set my coffee down on the counter and handed Gretchen the rag on my way past her. "Here you go. I need to use the can, so I'll be right back." I said it with my head turned so that she couldn't get a good look at me, but also so I wouldn't have to see the love on their faces.

Locking the bathroom door behind me, I ran some water and splashed my face. The woman peering back out of the mirror at me had eyes red from crying and pain lines all around her mouth. The eyes could stay, but the lines had to go. I grabbed a towel and held it to my face, my hand guiding me to the toilet to sit on the closed lid. One deep breath followed another as I forced myself to distance these feelings. Hot tears burned my eyes and fought my control. I was such a heartless bitch to feel this way.

The rattle of the doorknob startled me so much I almost dropped the towel. "I'll be out in a second," I said, wiping my eyes again.

"Hawk, what's the matter?" Gretchen asked, her voice muffled by the door. "Let me in."

I got up and straightened my clothes. A glance in the mirror told me that my face was composed enough. I unlocked the door and opened it. Yeah, I looked better than Gretchen did, but not by much.

"I was just cleaning up."

Gretchen blocked my exit and held my shoulders, looking into my face. "There's more to it than that. Was it me? Did I upset you?"

I shook my head. "No, I'm fine. I..."

"Stop," she said, her eyes sparkling dangerously. "I don't want you to do what David did. Don't lie to me. Never lie to me."

My hard-fought control went up in a puff of smoke. "Don't you dare accuse me of lying," I snarled, pushing her back, fighting for the hallway. Trying to, anyway. She forced me back into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her, falling back against it.

"Then don't make me call a spade a spade," she sparked back. "I can tell there's more to this and I want to know what upset you."

"Well, I don't feel like talking about it. It's not anything you did. It's my own problem, and I'll handle it myself."

"Bullshit," she spat. "If it affects you, then it affects us. Then it's our problem and we need to talk about it."

I gritted my teeth and stepped into her personal space, poking her generous breast sharply. "That's a big, steaming pile of bullshit, too! You feel free to hide behind your whoring around to hide something you don't want to talk about. You don't think I saw it in the store?"

She looked completely taken aback for a moment and then poked me back, a matching snarl on her face. "That was before you and me and has nothing to do with anything you did. And I'm not a fucking whore and if you call me one again, I'll kick your skinny cop ass. Do you fucking hear me, Hawk? Do you fucking hear me?"

With my face an inch from hers, I laughed mirthlessly with an intense pressure building inside me. I knew I was making a mistake, but at that moment, I didn't care, and couldn't have stopped myself if I had. "Oh, I hear you. What makes you think it has to be about you? Does everything have to be about you? Can't I have my own pain? Does the world have to be all you, you, you? I can take care of my own damn self without a fucking therapy session every time you think I have to share my goddamn feelings!" Fresh tears spilled from my eyes, and I shut up to try and hide. Hide the pain they represented.

Gretchen wasn't having any of that, though. "Then if it's not about me, tell me what it is?" she demanded.

"I..." Wiping away hot tears, I spun away from her. "Crap, this is so stupid. I was fucking jealous."

"Jealous?" she asked incredulously. "He's my uncle. I never slept with him!"

I laughed and the tears escaped my control. "Not that." I was on the razor's edge of hysteria. I took two gulping breaths to pull myself back from that edge, and then barely more in control said, "I never had any family that loved me like that. Never. It just hit me all at once and it's really fucking stupid." It came out angry and bitter.

Gretchen spun me around and I flinched, more than half expecting a slap. Instead she threw her arms around me and squeezed me with gorilla intensity. Part of me struggled briefly and then the floodgates opened and it was her turn to hold me while I cried. Her movements mimicked mine earlier, her hands caressing my hair, her voice whispering in my ear.

"That's over," she said so softly I almost couldn't understand her. "You have a family that loves you now. I'm your family, and I love you."

"You keep me out, too," I sobbed. "This isn't fair, Gretchen."

"Somebody once told me that life wasn't fair, but you're right," she admitted, kissing my wet cheek. "We're the same, you and I, hiding our hurts behind a tough and worldly shell. I'm worse off than you and for almost the same reasons." She wiped her own face. "I don't want to talk about it either, Hawk, but you're my wife, and you deserve better than that from me. We'll talk about this later, when we have more time. I won't promise to tell you everything, but I do promise not to lie to you. Will you promise me the same, Hawk? Promise with me that we'll never lie to each other."

I swallowed and nodded. "I promise. No lies with you."

"Now, we need to go out and finish talking with Uncle David," she said pulling back and opening the door. She paused. "First, though, there is one last thing I need to do to clear the air. Will you try to understand why and not get pissed off right away?"

Warily, I nodded, wiping my eyes and tossing the towel on the counter. My makeup was a loss.

Gretchen gave me a tender smile. "I love you." Then she slapped me. It wasn't really hard, but it caught me completely off-guard.

"Owwww! What the fuck?" I asked, holding a hand to my stinging face.

"Wife or not, nobody calls me a whore. Don't ever do that again," she said firmly, pointing a well-manicured nail at my nose.

The anger that had been building swerved in a direction I wasn't expecting and didn't exactly welcome. I was still angry, but now I was aroused, too. This was too much like foreplay now. I really needed to figure out why I was reacting this way to rough stuff.

"Okay, I won't, but you better not ever slap me unless you're ready to deal with the consequences," I replied with a shark-like smile.

Gretchen's eyes grew huge, and she fled toward the kitchen with me hot pursuit. She never had a chance, really. I took her around the waist within five feet and took her down. With an "oof" I landed on top of her and pinned her voluptuous ass to the carpet, crouching over her stomach. I leaned over and licked her neck.

"No working me up where I can't have you," I purred.

She laughed and I found myself joining her.

"Am I interrupting," David asked dryly from the door to the kitchen. "Do you two newlyweds need a room?"

I looked up at him and smirked. "No, not if she can stop hitting me, and hitting on me, in public." Since I had her pinned, I kissed her deeply and thoroughly before climbing off her breathlessly. Then I helped her to her feet and straightened my clothes. We looked - mussed.

I sighed. "We'll take care of that room thing later. For now, if we're all finished with the theatrics, let's sit back down and get on the same page." I gestured for David to proceed us and followed him with Gretchen, our arms wrapped around each other's waist.

David slumped back into his chair, his momentary chipper mood evaporating. "What now? I tried to help and that didn't work."

"I'm sorry, David, but that wasn't helpful," I said firmly. " I appreciate that you thought you were helping Gretchen, but we don't need that kind of help. First, it gives the DA another card to play in front of the jury: 'Gretchen was so obviously guilty that her own uncle tried to cover for her.' Second, there is still a murderer out there and having a fall guy just lets him or her off scott-free."

David looked stricken. "I never meant to hurt you, Gretchen," he began.

I held up my hand. "That's water under the bridge now. We can't change it. We can only fix this by finding the real killer." I shook my head. "Look, with so many people in that building, it could have been almost anybody. So as I told Gretchen earlier, it all boils down to motive. Cartwright killed Kat. Of that I'm pretty damned sure. The real question, then, is who killed him and was he the target or just in the wrong place at the right time? The killer didn't bring the weapon to the scene, either Kat or Cartwright did, and I'm leaning toward Cartwright. Someone came in, found him over her body and took the knife and stabbed him. Pretty ballsy."

I rinsed out my cup, poured us each another cup of coffee and sipped mine, leaning against the counter. Now that we were back to talking about murder, my stomach settled and the uncomfortable emotions slipped back into the background. I shuddered a bit at the thought that they weren't going to stay there, but I knew Gretchen and I needed to air them out. Just not right now.

"Either Cartwright never saw his killer," I said after taking a sip to refocus, "or he trusted him or her. The blood patterns suggest to me that Cartwright was either turning away from where Kat fell or had already done so. That CSI report would be really helpful right about now."

"How can we get it?" Gretchen asked. "Can't my lawyer demand to see it?"

"Oh, he can demand it," I snorted, "it is exculpatory evidence, but that doesn't mean we'll see it any time soon, or even see all of it, for that matter. If it was Houston, I'd have a source on the inside to leak it to me." I smiled at Gretchen. "That's a big part of what I do, having a network of sources and stoolies to dig where I can't to get information. Here, I've got nothing." I tossed my hands in a throwaway gesture to emphasize my point. "I can't think of a way to get a copy out of there, but if I do, we'll give it a whirl then."

"Now what?" Gretchen asked.

"Now we say our goodbyes and go look through Kat's office. She might have pissed off someone other than Cartwright to the point they were willing to kill her, and Cartwright just beat them to it. Or, Cartwright and Kat could have been in something together that torqued someone enough to kill them both." I shrugged. "We may not find shit, but we won't know if we don't search the Kat litter."

David chuckled. "Kat litter. I like that."

Gretchen rose to her feet and hugged her uncle tightly, not allowing him to stand. "I'm still pissed at you," she told him, the mildest hint of anger in her voice, "but I love you anyway. Don't worry. Hawk will sort this out."

When she let him go, David stood up and held out his arms to me. I started at him, uncertain of what to do and Gretchen pushed me into his hug. Awkwardly, I hugged him back. At least he didn't kiss me.

Back in the Hummer and on the way to Hans' place, Gretchen and I eyed each other from our respective seats. I wasn't ready to talk, so I kept my mouth shut. It looked to me like she felt the same way. Devon must have sensed our need to be quiet, because he didn't even make a single rude comment about the goodie bag. That fragile peace felt like thin ice over a frozen river, but I thought it was strong enough to last out the ride.

It lasted until we pulled up to the gate to the property. "Is that..." Gretchen started.

"Stop the fucking car!" I shouted at Devon. He stood on the brakes and I popped out my door before we were even fully stopped.

Parked right there, beside the gate, was fucking Elvis, Leo Giovanni, leaning against the door to his piece of shit car. His grin at seeing me lasted right up to the point I punched him in the mouth. With a squawk, he bounced off the door to his car and fell over sideways. Then I started kicking him, though he used his arms to good effect in blocking me.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Stop!" he shouted.

Strong arms grabbed me and dragged me back from the bastard before I could give him the ass-kicking he so richly deserved. A glance told me it was Devon.

"Let me go," I growled. "I still have the rest of my can of whoop ass to hose him down with." Belying my words, I didn't struggle to get loose.

Devon held on and just laughed. "Hawk, you need Devon to protect you from yourself! I just hold on here a bit."

"Just watch where you put your hands, if you want to walk away with all your fingers," I said. He just laughed again, and I turned to give him a cold stare. He just grinned, shaking his head. I was growing soft, I thought to myself.

Gretchen stepped up beside us and crossed her arms, glaring at Leo dangerously. "You've got about ten seconds to convince me not to turn Hawk loose on you and then join in myself. You turned our lives upside down, and now you're here to what? Gloat? Do you realize how much trouble you've caused us, you sonofabitch?"

Leo sat up slowly, wiping off his split lip. "You sure don't hit like a girl," he complained at me.

"Let me go, Devon, so I can show him what a bitch-slap really is. I promise I won't hurt his candy ass too bad," I assured Devon. Devon laughed again, but didn't let me go.

"Five seconds to pain," Gretchen told Leo.

"Okay! I'm sorry!" Leo exclaimed, raising his hands to ward off violence. "I didn't know who you were. I thought you were working for a guy I owed some money to and that it would be a kick to hitch you up."

"I'll show you a kick," I muttered and shook myself loose from Devon, though I didn't go after Leo just yet. "Is that it? You're sorry? That means so fucking much to us. Thanks."

"I'll make it up," Leo said somewhat desperately. "I'll do whatever I need to do to make this right. My wife was already pissed for talking her into doing this, and then she read that those two people died. She told me that if my prank had anything to do with it, she'd leave me! I'll do anything! Just tell me what I can do."

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