Under normal circumstances, Stephanie would have been in full-scale panic mode. After all, her newest client was hounding her for answers about the dead body on their property, the dead body she was almost sure her husband had something to do with, the dead body who most surely had dollar bills on his person that could eventually be traced back to her. To top it all off she hadn’t even heard back from her daughter about last night’s date. But, the more she thought about it, the more Stephanie was beginning to see the positive.
Teddy was dead, and, cliché though it may be, that old adage was ringing true in Stephanie’s ears: Dead men tell no tales. Further, if Carly hadn’t come home yet, Stephanie figured she must have been worn out from a night of fun with Monica. And, if Carly was having fun with Monica, it meant she was one step closer to forgetting about Lori Purifoy. So, instead of panicking, Stephanie was even more at ease than she’d been the night before. Her confidence was visible in the relaxed way that she marched into the police station not even pressed to dress down the gate officer for asking to see her identification.
“I need to speak with the commanding officer on duty.” Stephanie spoke through the thick clear glass that blocked her off from the checkpoint officer at the information desk.
“Concerning what ma’am?”
“A document request” Stephanie explained with a hint of annoyance in her tone.
“You need to fill out form GA-231R, official state record release” the officer rattled off without bothering to make eye contact. His voice was monotone, as if he had pre-programmed responses at the ready for any given situation.
“Young man, look at me” Stephanie instructed in as nurturing a motherly tone as she could muster. “Do you know who I am?”
At that, the officer finally looked up to acknowledge her. As soon as he did, he was visibly flabbergasted. “My apologies Mrs. Lancaster” he stammered. “I’ll let the commissioner know you’re here to see him.”
Stephanie smiled reassuringly, but then reconsidered. She was, after all, already at the police station. Why not take the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. “No need to bother the commissioner, is the Monica on duty today?”
The check-in officer thought it was strange for Stephanie to want to speak with Monica given that Monica was only two years removed from being a rookie. But then he remembered the office was buzzing about #Carmon. “She should be at her desk ma’am. I’ll page her to come see you.”
Monica hadn’t been able to sleep the entire night before coming in to work. Her mind was racing with thoughts about Smokey and his untimely demise. She was convinced the location of discovery was intended as a message to Stephanie or the entire Lancaster family. She was also convinced that who ever was behind it, they were only getting started. So, instead of behaving like a normal human who sleeps, Monica immersed herself in every possible detail about the hospital, about Smokey, and the Lancaster’s, drawing connections where she could, and some where she shouldn’t. All of it landed her at the payoff of having Rodrick Stevens sitting directly across from her blabbing about any and every grievance he’d ever held against the Lancaster’s.
“It’s so good, finally having someone listen to me” Rodrick exclaimed with a sigh as he braced his weighty arms against the splintered wood of a dated desk chair. “I was starting to think I’d lost it or something.”
Monica sat at the other side of the desk swiveling back and forth in her chair between sips of coffee. “So, how did your cousin know the mayor?”
Rodrick puffed up his cheeks and let out a big huff of air. “I don’t know…I don’t know, but I do know one thing…” Rodrick trailed off letting Monica get visibly annoyed by the unfinished thought before adding “He was right about Lancaster being a punk ass bitch.”
“Hey, why don’t we cool it with the vulgarities and micro-misogyny.”
Rodrick placed his hands flat on Monica’s desk. “Look, whatever you do, you gotta look into Evan Lancaster. The man is nuts, he beat the sh…crap out of me.”
Finally, Monica thought, a tidbit she might actually be able to use. She’d heard whispers about Rodrick being beaten a few weeks back, but nothing ever came of it. She figured it was all just water-cooler gossip.
“Mayor Lancaster physically assaulted you?”
“YES! I mean, yes. And I have video of…”
“You have video?” Monica interrupted.
“I had video” Rodrick lamented. He could see Monica was starting to lose interest. “I’m telling the truth. And that’s probably what go my cousin killed.”
Monica was going to ask what Rodrick meant by that, but before she could get the words out her phone rang. She held one finger up in front of Rodrick, the universal signal for an indefinite brush off.
“I’ll be down shortly” Monica winced into the receiver.
“How may I help you Mrs. Lancaster” Monica announced as she marched down the APD stairs into the main lobby.
“Monica, dear, so nice to see you again.” Stephanie motioned for a cordial hug, but Monica stiff armed her way to a simple handshake instead. “And in full uniform this time around” Stephanie joked before dropping her hand.
“Well, lets just hope it stays that way.” The statement from Monica was half joke, half shade.
“I just stopped by to request a copy of your Teddy Fredricks file.” Stephanie paused to reach into her purse. “But while I’m here, I thought I’d drop this off.” Stephanie procured a pre-filled check from her purse and attempted to hand it over. But Monica wouldn’t even look at it. She simply shook her head and waved it away.
“I’m not my father, Stephanie. I can’t be bought.”
Stephanie, ever the control freak, laughed off the dismissal. “No, of course not.” Stephanie tilted her head back with a soft chuckle, a physical demonstration of the preposterous nature of Monica’s suggestion. “I heard that the policeman’s pension fund was in dire need of financial assistance. I wanted to make a personal donation.” Stephanie tried to hand the check over again.
For her part, Monica at least took the time to look at the check this time around. Two-hundred-thousand dollars. It was a check, for TWO-HUNDRED-THOUSAND dollars. What was up with the rich people in Atlanta, Monica thought, always writing checks for large amounts of money as if they were throwing away gum wrappers. Still, she had her principles.
“Appreciate the sentiment Stephanie, but there’s a website for that.” Monica turned to leave. “I’ll be back with a copy of the case file” she paused mid stride. “Oh, and a link to the donation site. I’m pretty sure they take Ca$hBuddy.”
Monica wasn’t gone more than thirty seconds before Rodrick came bounding down the stairs past Stephanie. His was the last face she’d expected to see, and absolutely the last that she wanted to see given her family’s current predicament. “What are you doing here?” she demanded to know.
Rodrick grinned dismissively. “I got the police listening to me now.” He turned to face Stephanie, “You and your husband should be scared.” He popped his collar with confidence and then continued his exit.
Stephanie had been waiting for the case file, but the sight of Rodrick made her lose focus. Her new obsession, finding out what in the hell Rodrick had been talking about with the police, dominate every free space in her mind. Her eyes tunneled in, her ears blocked out all the surrounding noise. Even her skin was numb to the breeze of other people rushing past her. She needed to know, she had to know. But, Stephanie Lancaster was no fool. She knew there was no way Monica would give her any details. She’d have better luck trying to suck milk from a camel’s teat in the winter.
Instead, when Monica returned Stephanie thanked her for the case file then quickly changed the subject. “So, I assume things went swimmingly with Carly last night…”
“That, is none of your business” Monica shot back.
“Well, I just meant it as a compliment. It must take a hell of a woman to keep my Carly from coming home after a night out.” If Stephanie hadn’t been so caught up in actively plotting her ruse she would have noticed Monica’s surprised expression. “When you get a chance just let her know…you know never mind. I was young once too. I’ll let you two have fun.”
“Carly didn’t come home last night” Monica questioned.
“No…” Stephanie answered with only the slightest hint of worry. “If my daughter isn’t with you, then where…” Stephanie trailed off again, having mentally answered her own question before Monica could assist.
“Excuse me Officer O’Rourke. I need to go speak with a blood sucking serpent named Lori Purifoy.”
The day had not gone according to plan, and that was putting it mildly. Still, Stephanie was sure she could salvage things and set the #Carmon train back on the right track. The Georgia sun was only just hitting its high point, still plenty of daylight left for a course correction. At least, that’s what Stephanie told herself as she approached the door to Lori’s apartment. She shook off her momentary lapse of self-doubt, raised her tightly curled fist to the door and knocked confidently.
Carly had been waiting patiently for Lori to get back from work. After their disagreement, they’d settled on something analogous to an open relationship. The rules were simple enough. Carly could date as she saw fit, unless and Until Lori was ready to go public with her. That much, Lori was happy to agree with, anything that kept the hope of their relationship alive just a little longer. The only problem was the second half of their agreement. Carly demanded that, if at any time she decided to get serious with someone else, she could walk away without any questions or discussion. In Lori’s mind it was an excessive stipulation that Carly only insisted on in order to manipulate Lori and cause her stress.
But, for now, Carly was excited at the idea that Lori had left work early to get back home to her. Her enthusiasm made it that much more disappointing when she opened the door to find her mother staring back at her.
“Carly, darling, what are you doing here?” Stephanie immediately questioned.
“Isn’t it obvious” Carly snorted with a roll of her eyes. “I’m avoiding you.”
Stephanie wasn’t going to waste time pretending to be oblivious. She knew Carly was too much like her to fall for it anyway. “It is my right as your mother to do whatever I see fit to protect you” she offered her defense instead. But, even if Carly could understand her motherly instinct, it had little to do with the source of Carly’s rage.
“Mom, you of all people should know what it’s like for a working female, even today. How could you do this, shame another woman like this.”
Where Stephanie was expecting to see anger, instead she saw humiliation. Like Carly was embarrassed to be associated with her. “I did what I did out of concern for you.”
“You slut shamed Lori and used prior bad acts to shame her into silence.” Carly had positioned her body to block off half the door. Every time Stephanie thought she found room to enter, Carly would shift and close it off. “I knew you were ruthless, but I thought at least that much was beneath you.”
“Carly, I…” Before Stephanie could finish her thought, Lori came prancing down the hall looking every bit like the overly confident succubus.
Lori saw Stephanie in front of her, but decided that ignoring her would prove more impactful than acknowledging her presence. The way Lori figured it, Stephanie was like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors, if they just ignored her, she’d shrink and go away.
“Hey babe” Carly announced as she approached the door. She stepped her way around Stephanie and gave Carly an extra long kiss on the lips just for Stephanie’s benefit. Before Stephanie could protest, the door closed in her face. But she had one last ace up her sleeve. Stephanie knew many things about her daughter, including the fact that, despite her best efforts, Carly was unmistakably a daddy’s girl.
She took her phone out and started texting. Even if Carly was ignoring her, eventually, she would read her messages.
Carly, sweetie, I understand you’re mad at me. But please don’t take it out on your dad. He needs your help.
There was no way Stephanie was going to allow herself to be bested by Lori Purifoy. She had blazers older than Lori Purifoy and it would be a cold day in hell before she allowed herself to be bested by an over grown infant whose motives could not be trusted.