Chapter 4: Search and seizure
The next morning, Alex dropped Elena off at her friend’s house then went to the station. Maria was supposed to come in so he could search the house for anything of Matthew or Natalie’s, and Alex figured he could ask the neighbors a few questions about what went on in the Parks house if they knew anything at all.
Alex turned in his chair when he heard Enrique’s loud feet coming from the back of the station. “Do you know when Maria’s coming? I’m supposed to search the house today.”
The Puerto Rican man raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Are you going to search the house, or search the house?”
“You are insane.”
“Insane, perverted, witty, call me what you will.”
“I think ‘idiot’ is the term you are looking for. And besides, she was in an abusive relationship with her husband, is afraid of everything, and is pregnant with his child.”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t like her though.”
"Actually, it does. She's has too much on her plate anyway." Saving Alex from another awkward conversation was Armstrong calling his name from his office. For once Alex got up willingly.
“Hmm?” He leaned on the door frame.
“Maria is downstairs. Drive over to the house and take her with you. Oh, bring Garcia along too. You’ll be surprised by the estate. It’s almost the size of Lansing. You’ll need his help,” Armstrong told him, not looking up from his computer, which drove Alex crazy.
“Should I bring her in for questioning afterwards?”
“Only if she feels up to it. I assume you won’t push her into doing anything she isn’t comfortable doing because of what happened yesterday.”
Alex pressed his lips together. How could he forget? Feeling guilty, he walked over to Enrique.
“Come on, your helping me search the place.”
Enrique’s eye lit up. “Really?”
“Really. Let’s go.”
The two of them took the elevator downstairs where Maria was waiting. When the doors opened, Alex made sure he was the first to step out so Maria wasn’t alone for even a second with a man she did not know.
“Hey.” He tried greeting her with a warm grin, but found that she didn’t respond to it except with a small smile that subsided quickly.
“How are you?” Alex noticed that Maria was eyeing Enrique, and not even paying attention to his question. “This Enrique, my assistant today.”
“Assistant?” Enrique muttered into Alex’s ear, initiating Alex to shove him in the ribs. Without another word, he held his hand out. “Nice to meet you Mrs. Parks.”
Maria showed no desire to take his hand, so she didn’t move. Enrique pulled back, then scratched his head trying to play it cool.
“Okay then, lets get going shall we,” Alex said, interrupting the silence.
Maria nodded as she followed behind the two cops into the parking lot. Alex pulled out the key from the pocket of his navy blue pants and unlocked the police car that was new compared to all the others. Alex opened the passenger car door and waited as Maria stood there. After a few seconds he remembered why she was hesitant.
“...Do you want me to help you?” He offered, knowing that her rib was going to make sitting in a car anything but a simple task.
“No,” she said, ignoring him and holding her side while breathing heavy as she got in.
Alex looked away not expecting watching her in pain while he stood by to be so hard. When she was settled, he was able to look at her again, this time without having to bite down his lip.
“Are you okay?”
All she did was nod.
No one spoke during the drive over there. Not even Enrique who was known to be a very talkative person. The only thing you could hear was the muffled voices that came from Enrique and Alex’s walkie talkies, and Maria who told Alex when to turn, when to go straight, and when to stop.
“Turn here,” she said, pointing outside her window.
Alex obeyed and turned the wheel to the right, which led down a nice neighborhood with those two story houses that were all identical to each other. It was ten minutes from the station, and Alex was grateful it was easy to find in case he ever needed to. But he had been down this road so many times and never noticed it. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that someone was abusing Maria ten minutes away for seven years. He had lived in Lansing for twelve. That was more than enough opportunity to find out what was going on. He had to admit, part of him felt blameworthy, even though he hadn’t met her until a few days ago.
“Stop,” she told him, looking at the light brown two story house with an empty driveway that was outside her window.
Alex slowed the car down and followed Maria’s eyes. “This is it?”
“Yes. Now Detective Rivers, Garcia, can we get going please? I have other responsibilities to attend to,” Maria snapped, swinging open the door before anyone else.
Alex shared a look with Enrique. They were both thinking the same thing. Maria couldn’t possibly have anything else to be doing. Right now she was living in a hotel alone, dark thoughts swirling around in her mind, with no job, no kids, expect the one she was carrying, and had nothing to take care of except herself.
Alex and Enrique walked side to side following behind Maria, who, again, struggled alone to get out of the car.
When they got to the door, Maria used the padlock on the door to open it. Alex’s jaw dropped when he saw the inside of the house. There was a chandelier, a spiral staircase, and hardwood oak flooring.
“Wow,” the cops said in unison, there boots clicking on the floor.
Maria turned to the both of them. “Detective Rivers, Detective Garcia, why are you two standing there? Do your job.”
Alex nodded and told Enrique to take the first floor and he took the second for himself.
Alex walked up the stairs two steps at a time, his hand dragging along the handrail. Upstairs had three bedrooms. The first one was painted white and appeared to be the master bedroom, the next painted light pink, and the third blue with a rocking chair in the middle and zoo animal stickers on the walls. He walked back towards the master bedroom because he knew that was where everything happened. From the minute he stepped foot on the floor, he felt an immediate mood change. He observed the walls and found a few dents that made his stomach unsettled, along with light blood spatter stains that looked like someone tried to scrub them off the wall. Alex traced his finger along the red marks and tried to imagine how they got there. Only, he didn’t want his mind to wander to such a dark place. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know who’s body it came from, when it was put there, or who caused it. He pulled his phone out from his pocket and took a picture for later reference and evidence when trial rolled around. On the dressers there were pictures of the three of them together. Matthew, Maria, and Natalie. And they looked happy. Really happy. Alex didn’t see anything wrong with the picture until he was able to look past the parents gleaming faces and see their underlying expressions. He saw the way Maria’s eyebrows were not as arched, and how her smile just didn’t fit her face. But no one would every recognize that unless you looked at the picture long enough.
After he was finished there, he wandered through the second floors halls more. But opening closet doors and looking around in different rooms didn’t do anything except make him tremble. However, there was one thing in particular room that caught his eye. In one of the closets was a box that had holiday decorations and old baby things that were so dusty they looked as if they hadn’t been touched in years. He rubbed off some of the dust of an old high chair. There was a box laying next to it that read ‘Anthony’ across it in thick black letters. Whoever Anthony was, was a mystery. There had been no mention of an Anthony in the case file. But one thing was for certain, he definitely wasn’t here. Closing the door in confusion, Alex decided to go back to Natalie’s room. The pink paint looked fitting for a four-year-old, and so did the stuffed animals of Disney characters. There was a baby picture of her on the small white dresser, and another of her with Maria on her third birthday. She was quite the cute kid. Her hair was in two pigtails and she had the brightest smile (just as Maria had said). But what Alex really focused on was Maria’s smile. She looked genuinely happy there. No dark undertone, no mysterious bruises. Not that he was ruling out life was good then, because even if it was, she still appeared blissful. And he noticed how Natalie’s bright smile came from Maria.
Natalie’s room seemed to be the only place in the house that wasn’t drenched with gloom and he wished that he could just stay there in this happy little girl’s room and not be aware of the things that were going on around her. He wanted to be oblivious and think everything was okay, and not have to worry about their mother almost dying because of their father, or their mother taking her own life as a way out. Alex wondered whether Natalie was still unaware of all the terrible that silently surrounded her. He hoped not. A four-year-old did not need to know about these things. All they should be worried about is learning how to count on their fingers and whether they should play dolls or color. Suddenly, he felt Natalie’s room release its own kind of dark tinge, so he left before he throttled.
Alex headed back downstairs after that to find Enrique who was lingering around in the living room looking at pictures, and they continued there search together. All that was left in the mansion was the furniture and storage boxes. Armstrong was right, this guy just took everything of value when Maria was at her weakest. Enrique waited by the door while Alex went to go find Maria. He looked around the first floor and there was no movement, so he went upstairs.
“Maria?” No answer.
“Maria?” He called out again with no answer.
He looked through her bedroom which was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, then peaked through the door that led into the room that was painted light blue at the end of the hallway. He saw Maria sitting in the rocking chair, her eyes closed, stroking her tiny baby bump that was covered with her long sleeved shirt. He knocked his knuckle on the white door softly, sending an echo throughout the hallway.
“Maria,” he whispered. “Enrique and I are done. We are going to go walk over to the neighbor’s house. You can stay here or come with us. Whichever you prefer.
“I’ll come with you.” And without discussion, Maria stood up, struggling to gain her balance. Alex did his best to stop himself from helping her, knowing she would only yell or swat his hand away like she did once before.
Unfortunately, the only information the neighbors had were that the Parks family were very private people. The windows were always shut, and Matthew wasn’t around a few days out of the week, but had been staying home more and more as time went on.
Everyone went back into the police car and sat in the same seats as before. All Alex wanted to do was reach over and wrap his arms around Maria so she could forget, for a just a second, about all the things that were happening.
But he remained in his seat.
Alex drove in silence again; the only sound was the occasional sniffle that came from Maria. He didn’t even want to look at her, one hundred percent sure that she was crying. He didn’t want to see her like that. It physically hurt him.
The sun was being swallowed by dark storm clouds when they pulled up into the hotel check in area. Maria said goodbye to the both of them with a simple, “Detective’s.” Alex gave her a sympathetic look as she turned away, and watched as she walked through the double door. He then turned to Enrique who was giving him a smug look.
Alex punched him. “Pervert,” he murmured. “Get in the front seat.”
The two of them talked about their finding’s in her house on the way back to the station, stopping for milkshakes from Violet’s on the way, even though they knew Armstrong would be on their tails about it.
As soon as the elevator rang and the two entered the station, Alex heard Armstrong calling for him.
“Rivers! Get your arse in here!”
They shared a look and Alex trudged up to his office.
“Hurry up, I don’t have all day,” he continued, particularly annoyed today. He starting again once he was in his sights. “Matthew and Natalie Parks, we think they are in Texas.”
Alex’s dark brows knitted together. “Texas? Why Texas? And how do you know this?”
Armstrong rolled his eyes. “Someone with eyes down there saw someone that looked like Matthew in a car driving right outside Dallas last night.”
“Did they catch a license plate?”
“What about the model of the car?”
“A silver Ford focus. Possibly the most boring and basic car ever.”
Armstrong stood up and let out a breath. “But I want you to drive to Dallas and see if you can find them. This is our shot, Rivers. Don’t fuck it up. And tell Mrs. Parks she needs to come in for questioning. With this new lead, her information could be vital. But do not tell her about this. Do you hear me? You are not to tell Mrs. Parks.”
Alex eyed him suspiciously, then went to his desk, already thinking about how the hell he was going to get Maria back in for questioning.