Nick stood silently with his arms crossed, gazing through the one-way glass between the observation room where he stood and the interview room where Rebecca Post was sitting alone at a table.|
She was small and delicate, beautiful even in a prison-issue jumpsuit with no makeup on. She raked her fingers through her hair, then laid her hands in her lap as she took a deep breath and stared at the door.
He was tired. He should have been at home. He'd spent the entire night writing up his reports and double-checking all the evidence against her, reading and rereading the coroner's report, tox screen, DNA results, making sure each piece of evidence was properly tagged, that it had been properly collected and photographed, that not a single glitch would get in the way of admissibility of evidence. He should have been asleep in bed with Greg, but instead he was there, watching her through the mirror as she waited for him. She'd asked for him personally.
And it wasn't enough that her very existence had caused him to crack a bone in his hand the day before. It wasn't enough that she had given Jacob Ellerson an overdose of Valium during their final tryst. It wasn't enough that the case brought back memories that Nick couldn't bury no matter how hard he tried. She wanted to see him. Him, of all people.
"Why me?" Nick asked finally.
"I don't know," Brass told him. "But she said that she won't talk to anyone else, just you "
Nick frowned and watched her for another minute. "Will it help?" he asked.
Brass shrugged. "It won't be a formal confession, of course, but the videotape will be admissible. If you get her to talk about what she did with the Ellerson boy, that coupled with the physical evidence will at least be enough to convict her for sexual assault if not murder."
"And he's under 14," Nick said, "so the DA's thinking if they can get her on the sexual assault charges that he won't prosecute for his murder?"
"I don't know," Brass said. "She'd get life with possibility of parole after 10 years. That's too soon. If they go after her for murder she could get the death penalty. Whether the DA goes for that or not is all politics and I don't even pretend to understand it."
Nick nodded, then turned when he heard a familiar click of high heels on the floor. "Hey, Cath," he said softly.
"Catherine," Brass said. "I didn't know you were working this case, too."
Catherine shrugged and smiled wryly. "I'm off the clock, here in an unofficial capacity," she said. "Making sure Nick doesn't break his other hand. The lab can't afford to have him out of commission."
"I didn't break it," Nick said. "It's a hairline fracture, if that."
"Boxer's fracture," Brass said. "Snapped the bone right below the third knuckle on the little finger, right?"
"You know your osteology," Catherine said.
Brass shook his head. "Nah. I've just punched a few walls in my time."
Nick looked back through the one-way glass to where Rebecca post was fidgeting in her chair. "Might as well get it over with," he said. "See what I can get out of her."
"Careful, Nicky," Brass said. "The woman's a nut—thinks she's irresistible like Cleopatra or something. Tried to convince a guard this morning to let her go in exchange for oral sex."
"Sad," Catherine said, wrinkling her nose.
Nick shook his head as he walked into the hall. He heard Catherine's footsteps behind him and turned before he got to the interview room door.
"Nicky," Catherine said softly. "I'll take this if you need me to."
He shook his head and forced a weak smile. "Thanks, Cath, but I'll be OK."
She chewed on her lower lip and he saw her eyes flicker down towards his hand.
"I lost it yesterday," he said. "I'm not going to pretend I didn't. But I'm…" he swallowed hard. "I need to do this."
"OK," she said, and he was grateful that the sorrow in her eyes was born of compassion, not pity. He couldn't have taken pity, not then, not from her.
He took a deep breath to steady himself and pushed the interview room door open.
"Mrs. Post," he said as he entered the room.
She looked up with pretty green eyes and tucked a strand of chocolate brown hair behind her ear with delicate fingers. When she saw him she smiled and sighed with relief. "I was afraid you weren't going to come," she said softly.
He nodded. "Mrs. Post, have you been apprised of your rights? Since you are under arrest, you don't have to talk to anyone. You can have a lawyer with you if—"
"They read me my rights," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "It's all right. I don't need a lawyer."
He nodded again and took a seat across the table from her. "Mrs. Post, I feel I should let you know that I'm considered by the court to be an expert witness. Anything you tell me will be made available to law enforcement and the district attorney's—"
She laughed, a bright, ringing laugh that echoed through the interview room.
"Call me Rebecca," she said. "Mrs. Post is my mother-in-law's name." She grinned as she leaned across the table towards him, then rolled her eyes. "Do you have a mother-in-law?"
"Count yourself lucky," she whispered.
He realized that the closest thing he had to a mother-in-law was Annika, and he had to swallow a nervous laugh. He couldn't afford to let Mrs. Post push him off balance.
"Mrs. Post, I'm afraid I don't understand the purpose of this meeting."
"Rebecca," she said.
"What did you want to talk to me about?"
She laid her chin in her hand and gazed at him for a moment. "I felt it, you know," she said. "I could tell right away. I could see it when you looked at me yesterday."
Nick leaned back in his chair.
"You understand," she whispered. "You know I didn't do anything to hurt Jacob."
"Ma'am," he said, "you do realize that I work for the crime lab, don't you? I'm the one who collected the evidence that resulted in your arrest."
She laughed again. "Oh, I'm ma'am now, am I?"
"If you didn't hurt Jacob Ellerson, how do you explain his semen stains on your shirt? How do you explain the fact that we recovered your saliva and lipstick from his genitals?"
Her smile was so pretty it startled him. "We made love," she said. "I've never denied that. But I never hurt him. I couldn't. I loved him."
He was silent for a moment as he breathed deeply. "Mrs. Post," he said, "what you did to Jacob Ellerson was not making love. What you did is a class A felony and carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison."
She looked startled, then laughed again. "You're talking like I'm a criminal," she said. "But I didn't do anything but teach him how to be a man. I never did anything he didn't like."
He bit back the urge to argue with her. He could feel bile rising hot in the back of his throat. "Mrs. Post," he whispered, "Jacob was 11 years old. That means he was legally unable to give consent. Also, in Nevada any sexual contact between teachers and their students is considered a serious breach of trust and, regardless if the child is 7 or 17, it is automatically a class A felony. You're going to jail for life."
Her laugh was nervous that time. "But…I know you understand. I saw it when you looked at me yesterday. I could tell that you remember what it's like to be a boy, to be curious, to want a beautiful woman to teach you, to show you that there's nothing to be afraid of when it comes to pleasure." She reached across the table to touch his hand.
Nick pushed his chair back quickly. "This interview is over," he said, not looking at her as he fumbled with the door handle. She was still objecting as the door closed behind him.
"Nicky," Catherine's voice was soft. She'd watched the entire thing from the observation room.
He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. He couldn't catch his breath.
Her fingers were cool and soft as she lightly brushed his temple. She chewed on her lower lip. "You wanna get a beer?"
He laughed and nodded. "Yeah. I would love a beer."
"Pancakes and beer," Catherine said, raising her beer bottle by the neck.
"Breakfast of champions," Nick said, clinking his bottle against hers.
"Breakfast of nightshifts the world over," she said before raising the bottle to her lips.
Nick took a long draw on the beer and sighed as he set it down. "How's Lindsey?" he asked as he dug into his whole-wheat pancakes.
Catherine sighed and stabbed at a blueberry that threatened to roll off her plate. "She has a boyfriend."
Nick nearly choked on the bite he was chewing. "What?" he demanded once he could speak.
"I know," she said, raising her hands. "I know. But she was very serious when she told me. His name is Dakota and apparently he asked her to go with him during a game of kickball."
Catherine rolled her eyes. "It's just an expression. Basically, if you're going with someone you're dating them."
"You let her go on dates with this punk?" Nick asked. "What, does he pick her up on his razor scooter?"
She laughed. "They don't really do anything. They don't even talk outside of school as far as I know."
"So basically they just say they're going together and that makes them boyfriend and girlfriend?"
"Apparently," Catherine said.
Nick frowned. "I still don't like it. What's this Dakota punk's last name?"
"I…" she looked over his shoulder and waved at someone, motioned them over.
Nick followed her gaze and saw Jacqui making her way towards them.
"Bobby bailed," Jacqui said as she slid in next to Catherine. "Something about the baby having a fever, yadda yadda. I remember those days, when it didn't take a massive head wound or amputation to make me drive the kids to the ER."
Catherine laughed and shook her head. "Did I tell you Lindsey has a boyfriend?" she asked.
Nick's phone started to ring, and he checked the caller ID before answering. "Hey," he said softly, angling his body away from Catherine and Jacqui.
"Hey, you," Greg's voice was soft. "What's up? You still working?"
"Nah," he said. "Having breakfast."
"No," Nick said. "No, with a couple people from work."
"Mmm," Greg said, and Nick could hear the amusement in his voice. "Warrick?"
"Gris?" Greg asked. "Is he making moony eyes at you over his eggs?"
"No, no, and you're going down for that crack."
"I go down on your crack all the time."
"I was just going to head to bed," Greg said. "I wanted to know if I should leave a key out for you or if you're gonna crash at your place today."
"Oh," Nick said, "right. I think I'll just crash at home. You know, I'm kinda forgetting what the my place even looks like."
"OK. I'll see you tonight."
"Yeah," Nick whispered. "It's nice to hear your voice, though."
"I heard that woman wanted to talk to you. You OK?"
"Yeah," Nick said, toying with the saltshaker. "Yeah, I'm OK. Just tired."
"Well, get some rest and I'll see you tonight."
"Love you," Greg said.
"Me, too," Nick said.
"What? You're not going to say it back?" Greg teased.
"You did not. You said 'me, too' which is not the same thing at all. Maybe I should teach you Norwegian and then we can talk in code."
"You speak Norwegian?"
"The stuff you don't know about me could fill a book. Jeg elsker deg. Say it."
"What?" he laughed. "Those weren't real words."
"Jeg elsker deg," Greg repeated.
Nick sighed. Greg wasn't going to let it go unless he said it. "Yag eska dag," he said quickly.
"Your pronunciation's horrible. We'll have to work on that."
"Mind telling me what I just said?"
"You told me you loved me. Sort of. The pronunciation was really off."
"We'll work on it," Nick said.
"Yeah," Greg said, then whispered "jeg skal passe pa deg."
Nick laughed. "What?"
"Nothing. I'll see you tonight."
"Yeah," Nick said before flipping his phone shut. When he turned back towards the table both Catherine and Jacqui were gazing at him with amused expressions. "What?" he asked.
"Haven't slept at home in a while, huh?" Catherine asked. "Forgotten what your place looks like?"
Nick gritted his teeth and shoved his fork into his pancakes as he tried to ignore their teasing grins.
"Let me guess," Jacqui said. "Model? Actress?"
"Flight attendant," Catherine said.
"I'll have you know I'm dating a scientist," Nick said. "And that's all you're getting."
"And she speaks Norwegian," Catherine said. "A blonde of many talents."
"How do you know she's blonde?" he asked.
"Aren't all Norwegians blonde?"
"No, and we're changing the subject."
"Oh, come on, Nicky," Cath said. "Tell us her name at least."
"No. Changing the subject. I don't need you two nosing into my private life."
"Fine," Jacqui said. "You're no fun but we'll change the subject."
"Thank you," Nick said.
"I've had this song in my head for days," Jacqui told him. "I think it's country. You listen to country music, don't you?"
Nick nodded and took a swig of beer. "All the time."
"I can just remember a few lines of the chorus," she said. "Something about lying on our backs and watching the stars where the cool grass grows."
"Oh," he said. "That's 'Fishing in the Dark' by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It's one of my favorites."
Jacqui's smile was brilliant. "Thanks, Nick. It was driving me crazy not knowing."
Nick didn't know any of his neighbors, so he didn't bother greeting them as they rushed off to work or class and he yawned, on his way to bed.
His condo smelled musty, which made sense since he hadn't been there in over a week. He turned down the air conditioning and stretched his arms over his head as he headed to his bathroom. He brushed his teeth and took out his contacts and he heard Rebecca Post's voice in his head.
I saw it when you looked at me yesterday.
He reached for his glasses and felt around for them for a moment before he remembered that they were on the counter in Greg's bathroom, not his. He wasn't that blind without them, so he squinted and walked into the bedroom and pulled his clothes off. He was so tired that he just let them lay where they fell.
He climbed into bed and squinted again. The sunlight edged around his blinds, making stripes across his pillow. He really needed to invest in blackout curtains. He rolled onto his side and closed his eyes.
I felt it, you know. I could tell right away.
The bed was too hot. He kicked the covers off and pulled a pillow over his face to block out the sunlight. He needed to turn the air down even more. Maybe he could tack towels over his windows. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would help at least.
I didn't do anything but teach him how to be a man.
He jumped out of bed and wrapped his arms around his waist as he paced back and forth. He was exhausted so he should just sleep. He should lie down and sleep and he'd feel better when he woke up.
I know you understand…I saw it…I could tell…
He'd sleep on the couch. He could just lie on the couch and watch the fish until he fell asleep. The gobi was really expanding his territory, had gotten brave enough to sift through the sand all over the tank, and one of the cleaner shrimp had set up a cleaning station right in the front of the tank. From the couch, he'd have a perfect view as it cleaned each fish that swam up to it.
He was in his living room before he remembered that the fish weren't his, they were Greg's. He didn't have anything in his living room to watch except for the TV, and he didn't want to watch TV.
"Hey," Greg's voice was husky when he answered the phone.
"Did I wake you?" Nick asked.
"It's OK," Greg said. "Are you coming over?"
Nick smiled. "If it's OK."
"It's OK," Greg said. "I left a key out for you. It's underneath the pot of chives."
"How'd you know I'd come over?"
"Didn't." Greg's voice was sexy when he was half asleep. "Just hoped. I hate sleeping alone."
"Me too, baby," Nick whispered. "I'll be over soon as I can."