Claire was once again drenched, she rang Tony’s bell, but nothing. “Tony, it’s Claire. Are you in there?” She fumbled for her cell and dialed his number. She could hear his phone ringing on the other side of the door. She stared at her cell, Damn, I have to unload these photos. She shook her head, ashamed to be thinking of anything, but Tony. Something wasn’t right.
She turned, ran down his stairway, and looked for the pot where the key was. She had taken care of his plants several years ago, using the hidden key in the pot under the stairs to gain entry. Please, Tony. Let it still be here. There were four pots, she didn’t remember so many. Her adrenalin rush had her in a near panic, she searched under the first two. The third one gave her the prize she wanted.
Running up his stairs, she opened his door slightly, enough to poke her head through the opening. “Tony, are you here? It’s Claire. I need to know that you’re ok.”
She stepped into the flat, her fear mounting. It didn’t feel good, something was amiss. “Tony, are you in here?” She scanned the living room, then walked down the hall to the bedroom. Everything was neat and tidy. She turned and headed toward the kitchen. The smell began to make her nose quiver. “Oh my God.” She stood in the entrance and saw her friend lying in a puddle of blood. She screamed.
“God, no!” she ran back into the living room, and grabbed his phone to call 911. “My name is Claire Winslow, I’m at my friend’s home at 432 C Street. I think he’s dead, blood is everywhere! Oh my God, oh God.” A voice spoke to her. “Ok, yes. Please hurry, blood’s everywhere. Oh God.” She hung up. Her hand was over her mouth, gripping her cheeks, hoping to stop herself from screaming again. Pacing, she waited.
Then she heard his voice.
Turning sharply, she saw Bill. “Honey, are you alright? I’m here for you, Claire.” The sirens could now be heard in the distance.
He hurried over to her and reached out to put his arms around her, to comfort her.
“Get away from me, you animal!” She used her strength to push him away. “Why? What did he do to you? You don’t even know him. Why?” She stepped back to stare at the monster in the room.
“Claire, you’re upset. You don’t know what you’re saying. In fact, I don’t know what you’re saying. What’s wrong? Why are you upset?”
“Why are you here, Bill? You tell me that, Senator.”
“Honey, you seemed upset when you left, so I followed to see what was wrong. I still don’t know.”
The commotion outside the apartment interrupted his thoughts, a fear came over him. “Claire, I’m not going to play games with you anymore. Let me just be clear with you. Ok, Honey? Are you listening? We won’t have any more mishaps with people you care about if you just sign the pledge promising that you will vote with us on Friday.” He laughed. “I realize this may seem extreme to you, but I take my work very seriously and as you know, I’ve been assigned to encourage you to see this our way.” He turned around to see the rescue people running up the stairs. He had time for one last point to make, “Let’s see, Rachel Ross has become a pal of yours, hasn’t she?”
“Sir?” The patrolmen had their guns in hand, “Please step over to the side of the room, Sir.” And then to Claire, “Madam, are you the one that called?”
Claire was stunned, in shock. Any sounds of communication were locked inside. She nodded and pointed to the kitchen. She felt Bill’s arm around her, as if he was comforting her. Jerking, she looked at him wild-eyed.
A detective walked into the apartment in time to see her reaction to Bill, “Are you Claire Winslow? Senator, is everything ok in here?” He checked out Bill, then an expression of recognition came over him. “Senator Hancock, right?”
Bill jaunted over to the man and shook his hand. “Yes, Sir. I’m afraid Senator Winslow has had a terrible shock. Her friend is in the kitchen with the officers. She was the one to find him there.” Bill’s concern sounded impressive. Claire felt such disdain for the man, and now he’d shown a side of himself that terrified her.
“Detective, I need to get out of here. I’m afraid I’m going to be sick if I don’t.” She ran to the exit, down the stairs, and under the porch where she bent over and threw up. When there was nothing left inside of her, her body continued to extract dry heaves. Finally, she stood and realized there was a woman detective standing nearby holding out a tissue for her.
“Senator, I’m sorry for your loss. And I know you must have a busy schedule, but I need you to come downtown with me for a statement. Can I get you to come with me, Senator?”
Claire took the tissue from her and dabbed her mouth. “Can we go now, I mean this second? I need to get away from here.”
Claire followed the detective to her unmarked police car. “Sit in the front, Senator. You’re not a criminal.”
Claire obeyed the woman, and rolled down the window slightly to get the air she desperately needed. She was struggling to breathe and needed the breeze. Her phone vibrated in her purse. Looking at the screen, she saw a text from Bill. I know I can count on you, Claire~kisses.
Her mouth constricted. A gurgling sound escaped her lips. She swallowed, then gulped only to completely lose it, sobbing for the next few minutes. Finally, she gained control of herself, wiped her forehead, and dabbed the tears. It was humiliating.
The detective was kind, she parked the car in the back of the station, and motioned for Claire to follow, taking her in through a back entrance. She led Claire to a private room where she told her to wait until another detective came. “In the meantime, can I get you some coffee?”
Claire stared at her, but said nothing. The detective left, leaving her alone.
Claire knew these kinds of rooms. She’d been on the other side of the mirror many times during her days as an attorney. It was just a formality, but knowing that didn’t seem to help with the knot in her stomach.
The door opened and her interviewer came in. “Claire, it is good to see you again, wish it was under better circumstances. I know what Tony meant to you, I’m deeply sorry.”
Kurt was an old acquaintance of hers, as were many of the force. She had lost contact with most of these people, but the relationships remained that of admiration for Claire, and her for them.
“Kurt, I’m wet and I’m cold. My face is a mess, smeared mascara is not that eye-catching on me. Can we make this quick? I really need to get home to clean up.” Without being prompted, she told Kurt how she had spent some time with Tony the previous day. She had called him earlier today and when there was no answer, she became worried. When she arrived at his flat, she used the key from under the pot.
“What was your business with him, Claire?”
She stared at him, and then spoke. “No business, Kurt. Just two old friends spending some time together. We had a date to meet for lunch and I called to remind him. You know Tony. He’s, I mean he was easily distracted. So when he didn’t answer, I went over there to make sure he hadn’t stayed up all night on one of his science projects. I went there thinking I’d have to wake him. This is a crazy week for me, I didn’t have the time to sit at some restaurant waiting for him to stand me up.”
Kurt stood, and told her she could go. They shook hands, and he led her to the detective who’d brought her in. “Susie, would you take the Senator to her home?” And then to Claire, “Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”
Kurt started to walk away, but hesitated, and turned to address Claire. “What about Senator Hancock? Was he in on your lunch date?”
She shuddered, “No. I don’t know why he followed me. You’ll have to ask him.”
The detective’s eyes squinted slightly, an odd expression that stabbed at her. She held herself together, locking her emotions deep inside, revealing nothing to the man. Then she said, “Thank you, Kurt. I mean for the ride home.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish