Authors: Victor Methos
Morning came quickly. Sharon hadn’t come home, nothing that she hadn’t done a thousand times before. Usually, it meant a decent night’s sleep for him… but something was different. He had been guzzling Pepto-Bismol the past few days. When his stomach wasn’t gurgling, it was sour or gassy. All in all, he felt as though he had the stomach flu without all the symptoms.
As he rose from bed and let the sunshine into his bedroom by pulling up the blinds, he thought he should visit the doctor. Maybe he had caught a little bug
. In general, he’d felt lousy all week.
Richard took his phone off the nightstand and checked for text messages. Sharon had
a yoga class the night before, but he hadn’t received any information from Tate. It apparently hadn’t happened then.
No big deal,
he thought. They were probably just really thorough.
After a quick breakfast, he showered and shaved
. Then he went into Eliza’s bedroom. She was still asleep, though it was eight o’clock.
“Sweetie, time to get up.”
“Okay, daddy, one minute.”
“No, not one minute, now.”
She groaned and threw back the cover. “This sucks.”
“School or waking up?”
, get used to it, ’cause going to work every morning is even worse.”
Richard waited until Eliza had dressed and then made her egg whites with a Diet Coke, her preferred breakfast. As his daughter ate in front of him at the table, he just watched her. When she
was younger, he’d watched her sleep or play outside. He didn’t get to do that much anymore.
“Big plans today?” he asked.
She shook her head. “School and then Cheer. You?”
“Sounds fun.” She paused. “Where’s Mom?”
He cleared his throat and
wiped pretend crumbs from the table. “She’s on a business trip.”
“Business trip again
, huh? She goes on a lot of business trips for someone that doesn’t have a job.”
It’s just the way of things.”
“Dad, cut it out.”
“Cut what out?” he said, grinning.
“I’m not a little kid anymore. I know she has boyfriends.”
His grin disappeared. “You do, do you?”
“Why haven’t you divorced her?”
“Now you just hold on a minute. That’s your mother. You don’t say things like that about your mother.”
“What? That I want you two to divorce? Why not? I think you deserve someone better than her. She’s a shitty mom and a shittier wife.”
“Now hold on just a dang minute, Eliza. You do not talk about your mother that way. Do you know what I would do to spend even a day with my mother again? When she passed, a part of me went with her. You don’t see it now, but that’s how it’ll be with your mother, too. You only get one.”
“Thankfully. I couldn’t handle two of her,” she mumbled under her breath.
A car horn, no doubt belonging to another carpool parent, blared in the street. Eliza jumped up and said, “I’ll see you, Daddy.” She kissed his cheek.
“See you, honey.”
When she was gone, Richard sat at the table alone and looked out the window over the sink. He’d sat there alone many, many times and thought about that very topic. Everything Eliza had said was true. Sharon was a terrible mother and wife. She wasn’t just terrible. Many parents were neglectful, but Sharon was something else. She was… malicious, as though she wanted to hurt Richard and Eliza with her actions.
Richard sighed and rose
to clear away the dishes before heading out to his car. The Cadillac was new and still had that clean leather smell. He soaked it in on the drive to his office as he listened to the oldies station. “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys was playing, one of his favorites. He’d actually seen the Beach Boys live once in the seventies. It had been one of his first, and he remembered everything about the concert. The smell of the crowd, all packed tightly together in that arena. The lights bouncing off the walls and ceilings. The music reverberating through the floors and into his feet. He’d been so poor at the time that he’d had to skip several meals that month to pay for the concert ticket. Very poor and very happy.
The office was buzzing with activity. Paralegals were filing things, receptionists were busy on the phones
, and several attorneys were in the conference room for a partners meeting. As Richard walked past the glass conference room, he stopped. He should have been one of the firm’s eight partners. He’d been there longer than anyone but the founding partners, and he billed a hell of a lot more than even they did. Tax and estates was a thriving field as the baby boomers retired.
he meeting appeared to be coming to a close, and the partners rose and began filing out. The senior partner, Candice Strain, stayed behind to look through documents. Richard nodded hello to some of the partners, and they acknowledged him but didn’t say anything back as they scurried to their offices.
He opened t
he conference room door. Candice didn’t notice him as he entered, so he cleared his throat. She looked up, and he smiled awkwardly.
“What can I do for you, Richard?”
“Um, well, I was just… You know
, I’ve been here a long time, Candice. I mean, I came on a year after you founded the place. And, well, I’ve seen a lot of younger guys make partner ahead of me. And I’ve held my tongue because I know you know what you’re doing, but I was thinking that—”
“Get to the point, Richard. My time is limited.”
“I deserve to be a partner.”
She lowered the papers. Leaning back in the leather chair, she looked like
an ancient queen about to pass judgment on one of her serfs. “Richard, I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have people like you. I may sign the clients up, but they stay because of the quality of work people like you do in the back offices.”
“People like me?”
“Yes, Richard, people like you.”
his weight from one foot to the other, uncertain what to do with his hands. “People like me who never become a partner, you mean.”
“You’re a brilliant lawyer. But a partner has nothing to do with being a brilliant lawyer. I can hire brilliant lawyers. I don’t need to be brilliant. I need to know how to sell. You can’t sell the client
“Sure I can. Mrs.
Dillar is one of our biggest clients, and when she calls, she only talks to me.”
“I know. But she wouldn’t have come to this firm if you had been the one to meet with her
first. That’s not your strength, Richard. We all have to go with our strengths. And yours is right where you are.”
He nodded, staring down at the floor. “Thanks for your time.”
As he shuffled out of the office, three of the paralegals, all attractive, passed by. He smiled, but they didn’t smile back.
Richard shut the door to his office and put his feet up on the desk. He didn’t move for a long time. The outside walls were just windows
, and he could see the streets of Honolulu below him. Fancy cars passed by, and the women who walked the streets could’ve been pulled from any
he’d ever seen.
He took out his cell phone and dialed the number he’d been given.
“Yeah,” Tate Reynolds answered.
“She had yoga last night. Why isn’t this done yet?”
“Hey, calm down. You want it done right, or you want it done fast?”
“I want it done both. It needs to get done.” Richard noticed his voice was louder than he would’ve liked.
Taking his feet off the desk, he tried to calm himself. “When?”
“You sure? It’s really tonight?”
He rose and paced his office. “I mean, if you need more time, then take it. I didn’t mean to rush you.”
night’s as good as any. We’ll do it tonight.”
ll right… all right.”
“So you cool?”
“Yeah,” Richard said. “Yeah, I’m cool.”
Richard waited for Tate to hang up first, then he placed the phone down on his desk. He was chewing on his thumbnail and pacing manically around his office when the door opened.
Candice stood in the doorway, leaning against the door.
“Just dandy. Why?”
“I felt bad about that conversation. I think I could’ve handled that more delicately, and I’m sorry.”
“I appreciate that
.” He didn’t know where to put his hands, so he put them on his hips, but that felt awkward, so he put them in his pockets. That didn’t feel right, either, so he took them out and let them dangle at his sides.
, well, how about this? We’ll give you a nice little bonus this quarter and an extra week of vacation time. Take your family to Europe or something.”
“Yeah, sure, listen, I just
kinda need to be alone right now.”
“Okay, but I want you to know that you’re valued here.”
“Right, valued.” He began to pace again.
, what I’m trying to say is—”
“Candice, for fuck’s sake
, I said I wanted to be alone. Damn it, what the hell do I have to do to get some quiet here?”
Candice said nothing. Slowly, she shut the door
, leaving Richard alone again. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. He approached the door to find her and apologize then stopped himself. It wouldn’t help.
He grunted and swiped at his desk, knocking his lamp
to the floor. Then he stared at the ceiling and let out a big breath. He left the lamp where it was and decided he needed to get a stiff drink. He had a feeling he would be counting down the seconds until nine o’clock, when Sharon’s yoga class let out.
Stanton woke in the morning and went immediately for a run. He preferred
running barefoot because the natural stride was easy on his knees and ankles. The North Shore was ideal for it. The sand wasn’t too soft, but it gave enough that he could zone out and watch the ocean, letting whatever thoughts naturally come to him take hold in his mind.
The sun was just coming up over the Pacific
, painting it light gold then crimson. Flocks of birds hovered above the waves, and farther out, blue fish darted in and out of the water.
The run was smooth and easy. Stanton got in four miles before he stopped and
checked his heart rate. Then he sat on the beach and watched the sunrise. Groups of young surfers were out. They had no jobs and devoted their lives to the ocean. Most would move on to other things. But some of them would stay because detaching themselves from the sea would be their death. They would become the middle-aged men Stanton saw on the beaches six hours a day and then later at the beach parties and weekend bonfires. They could never quite break away.
He rose and strolled back to his house, watching the surfers glide
ashore. The waves were mushy and slow. He wouldn’t be going out that day unless they picked up around evening.
he got back to his house, a car was out front. Laka sat inside, texting. She looked up at him and smiled.
“Hi,” she said, stepping out.
“Hey. What’re you doing here?”
“I thought I’d pick you up.”
“I appreciate it, but I’ve got my own car.”
She seemed almost hurt. Stanton
often forgot how young some people were. And that with youth came a sense that everyone, somehow, had to like you and want to spend time with you. “But since you’re here, lemme hit the shower, and then we’ll head in.”
Stanton led her inside his home. He went to the kitchen for some water and noticed her examining his house
—she even looked over his DVD collection.
“Interesting movie selection,” she said.
Stanton guzzled a glass of ice water. “They’re mostly my sons’ movies.”
“Oh? I didn’t know you had sons. How many?”
“They live here?”
“No, they live with their mother in Boston. But they lived here for a year before moving back.”
She picked up a framed photo of his two boys. “My parents divorced when I was
a kid, too. They went one step further, though, and told me I had to choose who to live with. They wouldn’t do it for me.”
Stanton leaned against the island in the kitchen. “Who’d you pick?”
“My dad. My mom remarried, had other kids. By the time I was fifteen, I only got a card on my birthday from her. But my dad’s always been there.”
“He lives on the island?”
“Yeah. I’ll have to introduce you to him. He makes the best Huli-Huli chicken you’ll ever have.”
his water glass by the sink. “Why did Kai really partner us, Laka? There are far better detectives than me to show you the ropes.”
“I don’t know. Before I even transferred
, he said he wanted me with you.”
her a moment, taking in the way she moved. He hadn’t had a woman in his house for so long, he had forgotten what it felt like. “I better go hit the shower.”
Stanton stripped off his clothing once he was on the second floor and threw them into a
laundry bin. The water heated up instantly, and he let it run over his head and down his back. He kept thinking of Laka. She was exotically beautiful. Her straight hair was inky black, and her skin appeared so smooth that she didn’t need makeup. Stanton had to stop his thoughts, though. She was his partner, and there was no surer path to destroying a career and partnership than starting up a relationship. If it didn’t work out, one of them would have to request a new partner and maybe even transfer from Homicide.
He toweled off and
put on jeans, a button-down shirt, and a leather jacket. Laka was sitting on his balcony, watching the ocean.
“This is why I bought this place,” he said.
“I always take it for granted. Growing up on the islands, you forget about it.” She took a deep breath and rose. “Ready?”
Stanton sat in the passenger seat, and Laka drove. The car was immaculately clean, to the point that it didn’t appear to have even been driven before. Hanging from her rearview mirror was a framed painting no bigger than a few inches wide, depicting Jesus and his twelve apostles.
H1 was practically empty th
at morning, and they zipped down the interstate. Stanton kept his window down and his eyes fixed on the passing landscape, but they occasionally drifted over to the beautiful woman sitting next to him. The acute pain of loneliness was never greater than when he was with someone else.
“I read some stuff,” she said, “about you.”
“Kai tell you to do that?”
. I looked it up on my own. About how you testified against your former chief for corruption charges. That couldn’t have been easy.”
“No, it certainly wasn’t. Mike was my friend, as well as being my boss.”
“Then why’d you do it? Most cops wouldn’t have.”
“I think every choice we make leads to one of two things
. Either chaos or order. I can’t choose chaos. There’s so much of that already that I’m not sure we’ll ever have order. But I can’t contribute to it.”
“So you think every choice is going to lead to that?”
“Yes. That’s the only choice we really have. Do you want chaos? Or do you want order? Nothing else really matters.”
pulled to a stop in front of the station, and an ambulance was there. Two EMTs were talking in front of the station. Farther off was a fire truck.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.”
Stanton hurried inside. The din that normally accompanied his first steps into the precinct was there, but something was off. Some people were talking in hushed tones, and a few stared as he walked by. Stanton rode the elevator to the fifth floor, where Kai was speaking with two paramedics. He waited until they were finished then went to Kai.
“What’s going on?” Stanton asked.
Kai’s brow furrowed like a bulldog’s. “Come into my office, bra.” Kai shut the door as Stanton sat down. Kai settled into his seat and took a sip of a fruity drink before placing his hands on the desk. “You got that confession last night. That was good work. Russell Neal. That’s exactly how I want you to work these cases. And nothing that happens after is in our control. We just make the collars and move to the next case.”
“What happened?” Stanton
asked. But the sinking feeling in his stomach already told him.
“Mr. Neal decided to take his own life…
after he found out that we hadn’t found the murder weapon when he’d confessed. Jon, we know each other a long time, bra. Have I ever been anything but straight with you?”
“Then believe me when I say this ain’t your fault. Nothin’ you could’ve done would’ve stopped this.”
Stanton nodded. “I appreciate you telling me.” He stood. “Anything else?”
“No.” He leaned back in his chair. “That’s it.”
tanton left the office, Laka was waiting for him by the bullpen, but he didn’t go there. He marched straight toward the elevator and pushed the button. When it took too long, he opted to take the stairs.
Though he meant to keep an even pace down the five flights, he found himself nearly running. He burst out into the warm air. He needed to get out of there, away from everyone.
His chest felt tight, and his vision blurred. He was sucking breath as if he were facedown in sand. Though the world spun, he dashed for the palace across the street. A car horn blasted somewhere near him. A moment later, he felt the soft grass underneath his shoes. He leaned against a tree and slid to the ground, sweat beginning to sting his eyes.