Detective Valentine and her partner, Detective Bernard, have just left the home of the family of a homicide victim. Sydney recognizes the husband as someone from her past, before she began her career in law enforcement.
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“You want to tell me what the hell just happened in there?” Bernie jerked his thumb at the now closed door.
“That was him….” I marched to our car.
“Him, who?” He jogged to catch up to me.
“No, his name’s Montgomery Harrington.” He glanced back at the house, then at me, frowning. “What are you talking about?”
“He raped Allison our freshmen year in college.” I turned to go, then spun to look at Bernie. “That’s him! He changed his name. Had some work done on his face. His teeth. Whatever.” I started moving toward the car. “He couldn’t do anything about those legs though.”
Bernie grabbed my arm. “Who’s Allison?”
“Allison was my best friend since first grade.” My eyes burned. Not being a crier, I looked away. “We were roommates at UCLA.”
“Was your best friend?”
“Allison’s dead, Bernie.”
“I’m sorry. What happened?” He handed me a handkerchief.
I waved away the handkerchief. “Freshman year…” I paced. “…she was date raped by a boy, Monty Bradford, from another school.”
“Jesus. Is that how she died? Did he do time?”
“She didn’t want to report it. Too scared.”
“So, she let him get away with it?” He was pacing now. Patted all of his pockets. Probably looking for cigarettes, forgetting he’d quit a month ago.
“Oh, no.” Every word tasted bitter. “I talked her into going to the police. Drove her there myself. It went to trial and the asshole’s attorney made her look like a tramp. Bernie, she was a virgin!”
“Ah man.” He looked around, shoved his hands through his hair.
“Monty’s parents had big bucks and a swanky lawyer. He got off. Destroyed Allison.”
“That’s not justice. I’m sorry, Syd.”
“Do you remember…in elementary school…when we said The Pledge of Allegiance in the morning?”
“Sure. Now people get all riled up about the ‘one nation under God’ part.
“Yeah. Well, screw that. I’m talking about the ‘and Justice for all’ part. Allison didn’t get that.”
“What? She didn’t understand what it meant?”
“No! Bernie, I mean she didn’t get any justice!”
“Syd, how did she die? What happened?”
“Two weeks after the trial I found her in her room lying on her bed. She never made her bed, but she did this time. She was all dressed up in her favorite pink dress. Seeing her lying there reminded me of when she’d played Sleeping Beauty in third grade. Then I noticed the vomit on her dress. Found a nearly empty bottle of her anti-depressants and an open bottle of Tequila on the carpet next to the bed. She didn’t even drink booze. Wasn’t old enough to buy it either.”
“Was she already…gone?”
“Not yet. I called 911. She died in the ER. Never woke up.”
“Did she leave a note?”
“On my pillow. She said, ‘Syd, I’m so sorry. I can’t. Best friends forever. Love Allison.’ The ‘for’ in forever was the number four. We always did that when we were kids. We both wanted to go to law school. Work for the DA’s office. If I hadn’t pushed her into reporting it, she’d still be alive.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do. I know it. That’s why I nailed that sonofabitch to the wall.”
“He went to jail after all?”
“No.” My laugh tasted bitter, too. “Literally, Bernie. I went to his condo, kicked his scrawny ass all over it. Broke his nose too. When he woke up…”
“Whoa! Woke up?”
“Yeah…woke up. I made him stand against the wall. Then, I literally nailed him to the wall through his clothes with my dad’s nail gun.” I let my breath out in a rush. “I’m sorry it was through his damn clothes.”
“Seriously?” Bernie laughed. “I’m not going to ask how you happened to have a nail gun handy. Weren’t you afraid he’d call the cops?”
“Nope. I knew his kind. Rich boy. Couldn’t fight worth shit. Wouldn’t want anyone to know he got his ass kicked by a girl.”
“I sure as hell wouldn’t let anyone know if it was me.” He shook his head. “Damn.”
“Ironic, isn’t it?” I was sure my eyes were bloodshot and my face a blotchy mess.
“Ironic?” He tilted his head and frowned. “How?”
“I wanted to kill him, Bernie. I really did. Now look at me. A murder cop.” And a damn good one. I opened the passenger-side door, slid in and buckled up. I removed my tomato stress ball from my purse and went to town. I needed it.