With the right link, he could wrap up both cases.
November 11, 2013
A VG Serial: ToxiCity
Another noise. A quiet thud. Anchoring his feet, he stepped forward and aimed his Beretta at the closet. It flashed through his mind that he should call for back up. Too late. A floorboard squeaked. Blood pounded in his ears. Taking one hand off his weapon, he felt around the wall, found the light switch, and snapped it on. Bright light poured over the patchwork quilt, TV, and shelves of videotapes.
“Police,” he shouted. “Out of the closet! Keep your hands where I can see them.”
“Now. Nice and slow.”
Still nothing. Keeping the Beretta in front of him, he inched over to the closet and flung open the door.
A dark figure cowered on the floor, arms over her head.
“Who the hell are you?” Matt demanded as he cuffed her to a chair.
The woman had cropped grey hair and a stricken expression. She was wearing dark sweats. She didn’t answer.
“Anyone else here with you?”
She shook her head. She wouldn’t look at him.
Matt made sure the cuffs were locked before searching the rest of the apartment. Empty. Back in Romano’s bedroom he peered in the closet. A few papers were scattered on the floor between shoes, boots, and boxes. Matt picked them up. They looked like letters. Addressed to Julie Romano. He started reading.
“I know we’ve only met, but…” “I never knew I could feel like this…” “I don’t understand why you won’t…”
He looked at the signature, then at the woman in the chair. Brenda Hartman stared at the floor.
“Where did these come from?” He hadn’t seen any letters when he first searched the apartment. She kept her mouth shut. “I’m talking to you,” he said harshly.
She shook her head again.
“You will tell me. Either now, at the police station, or at Cook County Jail. Up to you.”
She jerked her head toward the shelves of videotapes.
“Inside the cassettes?” The evidence techs checked them, they’d said. Nothing in there but videotapes.
“Only one,” she finally spoke. “Casablanca.”
Matt stepped over to the videotapes. He found Casablanca on the shelf, picked it up, and looked inside. Empty.
“How did you know that?”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to find out.”
When back up arrived, they took her to the station. Matt booked her for burglary, but instead of dumping her in a cell, he led her to an interview room. He’d let her stew for a while. Let the reality of where she was sink in. But not too long. If she asked for a lawyer, they’d never get anything. He left the cuffs on and called Brewster. Matt tried to keep the excitement out of his voice, but Pete picked up on it. He’d be there in ten minutes.
While Matt waited, he paced the hall. Hartman meets Romano. Falls in love. Somehow the love affair goes bad. Hartman loses it. Rage. Jealousy. Murder. He started formulating questions. How did she poison Romano? When did she start? Who helped her get the body into the dumpster?
He called Georgia and filled her in, then decided to get some air. He opened the back door of the police station and went out. The wind had picked up. Tiny beads of moisture glistened in the light and stung his face. But Matt felt buoyant. If they could somehow find a link between Hartman and Simon, they could wrap up both cases.
Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.