She wasn't as pretty as on television. I was sitting on the overstuffed chair, drinking water from the Channel 2 news coffee mug stammering through carefully prepared answers to inane questions. As I placed the empty mug down on the tasteful glass coffee table she asked me “does the family have a sense of closure after the successful prosecution of the perpetrator?”. “I can't speak for the family but our town is much safer with Mr. Williams on death row.” I regurgitated from memory. “Thank you for your time and service Mr. Cruise.” “It was my pleasure Ms. Lopez.” The light on the camera went out and the stage manager began a slow almost sarcastic clap. I stood awkwardly after setting through eight takes, my back had stiffened in the bright floral chair. The interviewer grasped me in an unprofessional embrace. “Thank you sir, you just made me a star” she murmured in my ear. “Call me Oscar” I said in my best gravely cop voice. “Let me buy you a drink, Oscar.” While she still held my cheap suit with her highly manicured, tiny hand. “I'm on the clock and twenty years your senior.” “Breakfast then.”
I followed her to the diner out on forty one. The morning crowd was mostly gone, except for the round table that was almost always holding court in the center table. I knew most of the guys, we all got along if we stayed away from politics and football. Like most people they accepted me because I didn't judge them.
Jean came over to the booth. “Hi Jean” my young date chirped as I saw the waitress slightly hackle at the greeting. “Hello Jean” I said softly to overcompensate for Ms. Lopez's insensitive greeting. “We are out of hash Oscar, sorry dear.” Jean explained. “What would you like Ms. Lopez?” I asked trying to smooth over the awkwardness. “Is the hollandaise sauce fresh?” “If something ain't fresh Tim won't serve it, sug.” “I'll have the benedict.” “I'll have the shit on a shingle” I said. “That is gross” the waitress said “it's called chipped beef on toast, dear.” Our food came stalling the conversation. “You know most people named Jean, male or female, don't like to be addressed with 'hi’, it makes their name sound like hygiene.” I explained finishing my breakfast. “That's silly.” She giggled, exposing her age. She excused herself to the ladies room and I settled the bill. When she returned the top button of her silk green blouse was conspicuously undone. The rise of her milky caramel breasts were trying to escape the confines of her tortured bra. “I would have charged breakfast to the television station.” She offered. “I'll expense it to the police department, it's part of the public outreach budget.” “Would you like to take a walk at Riverside park?” She asked tilting her head slightly so she could look at me more seductively. I held the door for her and we walked in silence for two blocks up route forty one to the park.
Her high black heels clicked on the concrete insisting that the occasional passing man notice and desire her while creating envy in the passing women. The magnolia tree was still in bloom dominating the south corner of the park with its extravagant blossoms. The pure white flowers looked fake against the almost iridescent green leaves. We found a secluded bench on the west side of the park with a nice view of the churning brown waters of optimistically named Green River.
“Mind if I smoke?” She asked me while twirling a stray lock of dense black absently with her delicate finger. “Not if you don't mind mine.” As removed my pipe purse from the breast pocket of my annoying cheap suit. She withdrew a small silver case from her black leather hand bag. It clicked open and showed three thin perfectly rolled joints. She took a deep long practiced draw and offered it to me as she exhaled away from me discreetly. “No thank you.” I said through clenched teeth and around the stem of my pipe. I struck my father's lighter and touched the flame to the loosely packed tobacco. She threw her head back and laughed a unexpectedly hearty laugh.
“Who would have thought I would be sitting with a cop smoking a jay.” “The world is changing more quickly by the year.” I observed flatly. “Why did you become a cop, you seem too sweet.” “Off the record?” She laughed again “I'm no reporter just a pretty girl who does puff pieces at the bottom of the newscast.” She thought for a second as she snubbed out the roach and it dawned on her. “I was that girl, but with this story…” and leaned her breast firmly against my shoulder while kissing my cheek above the beard. “Thank you” she breathlessly whispered near my ear. “Doing my duty, this was a high profile case, captain insisted that I be the face of it.”
“The Myers case was yours, you brought him in, performed damning testimony and now you reap the rewards” Captain said, winking poorly at me.
“Yeah perform is the perfect word” I grumbled knocking the ashes from my spent pipe on the sole of my overdressed wing tips. “Nice shoes Mr. Cruise.” “I'll only tell you once more to call me Oscar.” “Or else what, Mr. Cruise?” “I'll talk to another reporter.” “So serious, don't you find me attractive?” “Absolutely” I said as I handed her my business card with my cell phone already written in my carefully printed numbers. When she looked back up from it I was already silently walking away.
I grimaced as I held the power button on my cell phone knowing what world was waiting behind the currently blank screen. The job was easy but the politics, media, court and co-workers made me want to drive to a shack in the middle of the desert or worse. I already had to buy another phone that only both my friends and a couple of family members had, that one stayed on and had yet to ring. They understood I had enough to deal with but would be there when needed.
As usual it wasn't as bad as I feared. There were ten missed calls and 6 voicemails. The first was my senior partner who was jealous because I was quickly eclipsing him. He was wishing me good luck with the interview and to meet him at his place when I was done with my fifteen minutes of fame. The next three were news outlets wanting access to information on the case now the trial was over. The fifth was my captain reminding me I was representing law enforcement and the town also we were going to watch the interview together tomorrow morning. The last was my ex-wife, she was so happy for my success and wished I would have had this much focus and determination while we were together.
I didn't even check the emails, if it was urgent they would call. I started the new Challenger and cabin filled with DeeDee Ramone counting down. As I headed south on forty one my thumbs almost kept time to Rockets to Russia. I wasn't anticipating a good meeting with Jorge since he wanted to meet at his house instead of the station. Ten minutes later, or three songs, I was at my partner's house. I knocked on the door. I hated using the doorbell it was so impersonal, there is no way to know who pushed the button but you can tell a lot about a caller by how they knocked.
Helen, Jorge’s sour wife answered. “Hi Oscar. Nice work on Jorge’s case. Glad you got that piece of shit.” she said. “He is in the office.” and walk up the stairs leaving me in the open doorway. I didn't take her attitude personally, it was just who she was. I closed the door and walked down the hall of memories. The walls were filled with family pictures and framed news clipping of Jorge’s successes. It was dominated by pictures of their slain son. Baby pictures, grade school class pictures progressed as I neared the door to the office. His oversized senior picture of a beautiful, bright eyed teen dressed in a white collared shirt and tie casually sitting on a low branch of an oak tree was beside the office perhaps the last record of his existence.
Before I could announce my presence the sound of the lock being opened then the door swung out almost hitting me. His face was redder than usual, not anger but more like fierce concentration. “About time bud. I was worried you had moved to Hollywood.” “I was wading through the groupies.” I fired back, ironically.
He waved me in, there was just enough room for both of us, the old steel desk from the station remodel and a folding chair. “I've been going through the tapes and there is something wrong. In Liz’s deposition she says ‘he’ four times and ‘they’ twice while talking about the rape. Why would she say ‘they’?” “There was no evidence of a second person at any of the scenes. No DNA, hair or prints.” I rebutted. “She had just watched her daughter raped and murdered. She had been left for dead, that would explain why her recollection of events may have been murky.” I went on. “It was how she said it, listen to it Oscar.” he implored while handing me the high end headphones attached to his laptop on the desk. I put them on, the outside world became muffled then the trembling voice of the poor woman pulled me reluctantly back to the dank hole I spent three weeks exploring.
“Ginger and I were returning, I mean Emily of course I called her Ginger. We were almost home from school fundraiser, she was carrying her new pink stuffed horse, when a distraught man said ‘excuse me but can I borrow your cell phone, mine has just died’. He was well dressed and groomed holding up his blank phone. I thought it was cool that he had the same phone as me. We were a block off Main street on Chestnut so I felt safe enough to help him. I dug my phone out, unlocked it and handed it to him. He dialed a number and said 'Hi Emily, sorry I'm late, I'll pick you up in twenty minutes.’ He then put the phone in his pocket and started walking away. 'My that's my phone.’ I said. 'Shit, force of habit’ and handed me back what I thought was my phone. I put it in my purse, if I had only looked at it more carefully Ginger would be alive and I wouldn't look like this. I'm so sorry Sweet Ginger…”
I took the headphones off suppressing my anger and pain. I had spent hours interviewing Pamela Myers, and countless more reviewing the tapes. Her pain had become my pain, not the uncontrollable rage that my partner felt. Jorge had nearly killed one of the suspects, the loss of his son blinding him. He was seeking justice for his pain. My pain was quiet, giving me a sense of detachment and perspective, making me more capable.