A sharp pain coming from under her lower rib cage, above where the baby lay, woke Leah Perez in the early hours of the morning.
“Christ!” With the release of the single word, her reflex action was to sit upright with arms encircling her stomach.
“What’s wrong? Do you want to go to hospital?” her husband asked, as he knelt beside her on the bed.
“No. I’ll wait and see how I’m feeling later.”
She’d been advised by her gynaecologist on many an occasion to take leave from work, at least until the birth of the baby, but leaving a partner stranded with an increased workload she thought demeaning.
With the arrival of as daylight, she considered it prudent to heed her doctor’s advice.
“Michael, I’m not coming to work today. The baby is causing me some grief. We haven’t spoken to Barbara Harris for a while, so if at any time you’re driving passed her office could you see if she has some updated information on Bruno Novak. You may have to ring first.”
“When are you returning to work?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll ring you.”
“If I hear anything new, I’ll give you a call.”
In the course of her questioning, Barbara reminded Detective Andretta of client privilege. Although, with Bruno being her daughter’s possible rapist, her ethics to him as a client, against her love for Katherine, were clashing, or more to the point, colliding. If it means he’ll go to jail, then that’s what it’s going to be, she thought. Knowing what was required of her professionally, the only avenue available for achieving her desire was unofficially.
“Please understand that I can only discuss him in general terms.”
“Absolutely, but we’re not only investigating your daughter’s case . . . we’re also looking into him as a possible missing person.”
“Missing? What does missing mean? As in disappeared?” Barbara asked, incredulously.
“His car was reported as suspicious, or abandoned. It hasn’t been moved for some time. It was in the same street as your apartment. Since we began our new enquiry, we’ve established he hasn’t been to his apartment, and hasn’t reported to work, which his employer says is unusual. I’m not here to alarm you, only to ask some questions.”
“When you say his car was parked in my street, was it near my apartment? Do you have any idea where he is? Is the car still there?” Her brain was screaming its silent alert, but she now had a possible answer as to why he had stopped coming to her sessions? Considering his visits were now voluntary, she had assumed he had chosen not to return, although the outcome was a relief to her.
“We haven’t been able to find him, but we’re working on it. The car was towed away for forensics. When was his last visit?”
“It’s been a while. I can look in my diary for the exact date.”
Barbara had photos of Katherine and JM on her book cabinet, ones taken just prior to the break in, and it showed a mid-teens Katherine and a handsome JM.
She looks completely different to the girl I saw in hospital. She had tubes protruding from her, no makeup, and her hair was tussled; whereas this girl, or should I say young woman in the photo is beautiful. Going by her mother’s good looks, I can see where she gets them.
“Do you want me to check my diary?” Barbara repeated.
“Oh . . . okay.”
Although he was thirty-years-of-age, he, too, had discovered the distracting photo.
“Thanks for giving me your time. I may need to ask more questions if something should arise. Is that okay with you?”
“If it will help.”
He rose from his chair and turned to leave, but the painting on the wall near the door attracted his attention.
“Interesting painting,” he remarked, as he opened the door.
“Yes it is.”
He was never a believer in coincidences, so he was more puzzled than ever. Detective Andretta stood on the sidewalk and looked up to her office window.
The painting looks similar to the one Stan has. If the same person painted them, then surely they’re linked to our inquiry.
He rang Leah Perez to tell of what had transpired, but for reasons unknown, the sighting of the second painting went unsaid.
If my mental alarm bell rings any louder, I’ll need the fire brigade. Did the same person paint them? Is Stan’s excuse for having the painting true?
Sitting in the unmarked police car, he tried to re-examine the evidence, mentally. Nothing else mattered, but forefront in his mind was the image of the painting hanging on Barbara Harris’s office wall.
She has to know who the artist is, and she probably has an idea who took the other painting to Stan’s apartment.
Unhindered he drove, but he allowed his mind to traverse through the evidence relating to the break in, and subsequent rape. He had been a detective for a little over two years, and was inquisitive, although he had an aptitude that belied his manner. Slovenly, and lazy, was a description other cops used, but when it came to the analysing of evidence he was regarded as exceptional.
Having visited her gynaecologist later that day Detective Perez took his advice not to return to work until she, and the baby, were clear of any complications.
Detective Andretta sat at his desk and thought of his partner’s phone call. With her not returning to work for the near future, he quickly concluded a re-assignment to another team, or superior officer, was inevitable. His one dread was for the Harris case to become the responsibility of another team of detectives. He anticipated his exclusion.
It was against police policy to investigate a case as an individual detective, at the station, fine, but on the street, no.