#15 – In The Morning Light
- Duncan Marshall is accused of the murder of Claudio Breza and a woman in California.
- Frank Denzre and Kerstin Waterford try to give in to passion.
- Trevor Jordan’s parents discover that he hasn’t been attending college.
The distinctive jingle that accompanied the opening of the door caused Duncan to look up from his work. He had been retouching images from a shoot that he’d done the previous afternoon. He watched the large man dressed in a suit jacket but wearing no tie entered his establishment; the man appeared at first to have a purpose but seemed to forestall it in order to assume a more casual appearance.
“Mr. Marshall,” the man spoke as he meandered his way toward the counter. Hearing his voice jogged Duncan’s memory enough that he recognized the man. It was the police chief. “Chief Godspeed of the Emerald Heights Police Department,” He reached out his hand for Duncan to shake. “Is there someplace that we can talk privately?”
“It’s pretty private in here, chief.” Duncan replied making note through a sweeping hand gesture that the place was empty.
Godspeed nodded, “true enough.” He leaned his elbow on the high back of Duncan’s desk as he spoke, “what’s going on Mr. Marshall? The D.A. tells me that you’re the suspect in a double-murder investigation in California and the other day I had a meeting in my office with the detective that you roughed up who refused to press charges.” He tapped his finger on the desk, “that’s a little strange, Mr. Marshall.”
Duncan rubbed his chin and crossed his arms. “I can explain the… altercation with Detective Burgess, Chief,” Duncan began before the chief cut him off.
“There’s no need, Burgess explained the whole affair… well, that’s bullshit, he didn’t explain a damned thing… but he did say that it wasn’t assault, which is good enough for me.” The cleared his throat. “Now, this isn’t Emerald Heights jurisdiction, son, so I’m not here to interrogate you or arrest you for anything. I’m here as a citizen and a friend of your late father, but you need to keep an eye on this Burgess fellow, he seems like he’s got a stake in this that’s bigger than just solving a crime.”
“Stupid, stupid,” she said to herself as she leaned against her apartment door. The door had only just clicked shut behind Frank Denzre. Once she heard the door to his apartment (which was almost directly across from her own) open and close she repeated “stupid, stupid,” a little louder while she smacked her head against the door in unison.
As if on cue the phone rang and she nearly leapt across the room to answer it. “Hello?” She said before even looking to see who was calling.
“Listen, I’m sorry about last night,” the voice on the other end of the phone replied.
She sighed out loud, “it’s okay, Jehua, you didn’t really interrupt anything.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line during which she replayed the events of the night before.
She and Frank had come home from her father’s house and were standing in the front entrance of her apartment, in the dark. The silence roared into her ears as the tension grew between the two of them. They stood, only inches apart, each watching the form of the other in whatever dim light had managed to bounce its way across the room from the street light outside.
Finally she couldn’t take it anymore and she had to speak; but all that would come was “I…”.
It was enough. The dam that had been holding back the emotion surrounding the events of the previous day came crashing down around the two of them and they were drawn together in a passionate fury. Their mutual attraction for one another found them tearing at their clothes; it brought them to crash down heavily on Kerstin’s sofa, their lips locked together and their naked flesh tangled together in utter ecstasy.
And then there was a knock at the door.
At first she resolved to ignore it; feeling him against her, the rise and fall of his chest, his fingers entwined in hers, made her very much not want to break off their contact. The second knock, however, was harder to ignore. Frank lifted his weight off of her and looked at her face, “you’ve gotta get it,” he said. She scrunched her nose.
The third knock was accompanied by a voice that Kerstin recognized instantly, “Kerstin, are you there? You didn’t come into work…” It was Jehua Stanley.
Just as it had the night before the sound of Jehua’s voice interrupted the moment and brought an end to her recollection. “Really? It definitely seemed like I was interrupting something.”
Kerstin opened her mouth three times to begin sentences that just wouldn’t come out. “No, I mean, you didn’t… there’s nothing going on… y’know, I mean… he’s my neighbour. He was the one who was there after the… thing.”
“Oh, the attack?” Jehua inquired.
“Yeah… let’s not call it that, okay? But yeah, he was the one who… broke it up.” She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to not only defend her actions with Frank but also to minimize their importance. “He was staying the night, uh… to protect me. I guess.”
“Okay, well, I’m sorry that I came down to your place, but we were worried when you didn’t show and I was worried that it was because of me…”
If it wouldn’t have been conspicuous she would have liked very much to have dropped her phone into a pit that plumbed its way to the very depths of the Earth itself. Or a pot of water, really. “Uh… no,” she said, drawing out the word just a bit too long. “I don’t have a… y’know, I mean… the stuff with us is old and I don’t have a… like, a problem or whatever.” Not convincing. “Y’know,” she added after an egregious pause, “we’re good.”
At that she set about wrapping up the conversation as quickly as possible. When finally the call had been ended she threw the phone into the crease of the couch and buried it under three large pillows.
The chief let out a very gratified groan as he lowered his bulk onto the large red sofa in the back of Duncan’s studio. They had been speaking at length and he was getting less comfortable as he stood, leaning against the reception desk; that constricted feeling he got in his chest had come on with a vengeance and the shooting pain in his left leg was getting to be more than he could bear.
“So you worked for this man, Claudio Breza, a lot?”
Duncan pursed his lips, “I had done a fair amount of work for him over the five years that I lived in L.A., he really helped me earn a reputation for fashion photography.”
“So you owed your whole career to him at this point?”
Duncan shook his head, “no, not entirely. Breza introduced me to a bunch of other fashion people who I worked with as well. Models, set designers, another fashion designer he worked with named Paula Rei, and Breza’s shoe man Esteban Ruiz.”
Duncan chuckled, “Claudio Breza was a clothing designer. He exclusively designed clothes; not shoes. Esteban Ruiz designed all the shoes that went with Breza’s designs.”
“Okay,” the chief said. Aside from the strategic mastery that went into answering his wife’s questions about whether or not such and such an outfit made her ass look fat the chief couldn’t remember a time when he’d thought so much about clothes. His beige shirts and brown pants had never done him wrong. “So you were at the Breza estate on the night of the murders?”
Duncan shook his head, “I flew out that night.” He added, “I had been at the estate until earlier in the day, my plane was supposed to fly out that afternoon but there was a weather system that had grounded it. So I decided to… well, pass the time at a local watering hole.”
The chief nodded, “what time did you finally check in at the airport?”
“About an hour before my flight,” Duncan replied, “which took off 5 hours late.”
“That’s a fair chunk of time that you can’t account for, Duncan,” the chief stated.
The chief didn’t say anything for a few moments, asking himself how involved he wanted to get in this case. William Marshall, Duncan’s father, had been a good friend of the chief’s. They had worked closely together during William’s time as a prosecuting attorney and the chief had been devastated when the elder Marshall had died. It had been sudden and unexpected. He felt it was his duty to protect the younger Marshall if at all possible. “When Detective Burgess came to my office, Duncan, he mentioned something about an affair.”
Duncan’s face screwed up and the chief instantly could see it. It was the strongest reaction he had yet received from the other man. “I… yeah,” he said quietly. “Anita Breza, it was a relatively recent thing. Claudio had been spending a lot of time in Europe and she was fairly certain that he was having an affair with his assistant and, yeah, it happened.”
“That’s a fairly significant motive,” the chief noted. “Opportunity and motive, Duncan. That’s the sort of thing that Burgess is going to zero in on.”
Duncan nodded somberly.
After a few more minutes the chief stood slowly and spoke, “Duncan, I hope for your sake that this ends well. I hope for your wife’s sake that it doesn’t get ugly.” He wheezed slightly and pressed the palm of his hand into his chest.
“Thank you chief,” he said. The chief began to walk toward the exit when Duncan interrupted him, “Chief, you never asked me if I did it or not.”
The chief smiled and shook his head, “Son, I honestly don’t want to know.”
As he turned back toward the front of the studio he watched two figures walk around the corner toward them. A man, who he recognized as Detective Kevin Burgess, and a woman who he didn’t.
“Oh, but I would like to know,” Burgess said as he gestured toward the woman, “and I think, chief, we have all the witnesses we need right here. May I present…”
From behind him the chief heard Duncan say, “Anita.”
“Dude, I’m humped.” Trevor Jordan said matter of factly.
“Your parents aren’t going to screw you, man, just ask them for the coin.”
“Oh hell no, they’re pissed. I don’t even know if they know how long I’ve been siphoning off my tuition money.” He shook his head, “frig. This is some bull…”
“Damn dude, what are you going to do? Weston is going to want his money.”
“No shit!” Trevor replied, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Eff me, man, I had such a good run going.”
The other man chuckled, “dude, your streak ran out.”
“Like I don’t know that, Seth? Like I don’t effing know that?” Trevor shook his head, “man, I was up 200k at one point… like two-effing-hundred thousand effing-dollars. That’s ballin’ man, that’s major pesos. What happened to it?”
Seth quirked an eyebrow, “bad bets, good booze, bad drugs… great women.” He chuckled and punched his buddy in the shoulder.
“Not funny, man.” Trevor replied, “you don’t owe some crazy Front Street bookie 80 grand.”
“Nah, man, that’d suck.” Seth immediately realized what he said, “aw, shit, sorry Dude.”
“I’m a dead man.” Trevor said finally.
“Yeah, kinda…” Seth agreed. “Pass the bong.”Tags:Anita Breza, Chief John Godspeed, Duncan Marshall, Jehua Stanley, Kerstin Waterford, Kevin Burgess, Trevor Jordan