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Chapter 62

His mind couldn’t rid itself of Katherine’s image and the two paintings. Detective Andretta tried to convince Detective Inspector Hollaway to take on Katherine’s case or even Bruno’s, but to no avail. He was a no-nonsense cop who went strictly by the given order.

Detective Andretta was now living two lives, and neither would suffice. A forlorn detective, and as a married man who was looking to other pastures.

His conviction was leading him down a new path, a dangerous path. I will investigate the two cases in my spare time.

He remained at the station late into the evening, with studying of other cases his excuse. The unofficial collecting of files associated with Bruno’s case, including those on the police computer system, would be his first illegal act associated with his job. The file-laden carton he carried to his car, and placed into the boot. As he drove home, he thought, it’s too late now! I’m committed.

Mid Saturday afternoon and the front door buzzer was sounding in Barbara’s kitchen, with Sophia asleep in the armchair she favored near the living room window.

With the sound persisting, she pushed herself slowly up with both hands and trudged to the intercom.

“This had better be important,” she muttered, as she pressing the button. “Yes? Who is it?”

“It’s Detective Andretta. I’d like to talk to Mrs. Harris if I may?”

“She’s not home. She’s at the art gallery with her daughter. You’ll have to come back some other time.” Her brain was still fuzzy from her nap. Damn cop. Doesn’t he know it’s Saturday afternoon? “Anyway, what’s so important for you to come on a Saturday?” she asked, with annoyance registering in her voice.

“I wanted to talk to her about Bruno Novak being missing and a painting that’s turned up.”

On hearing of the painting, her brain released the single silent word. Christ!

“Who’s he, and what painting are you talking about?” What the hell’s he doing here?

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to stand out here discussing police business. I’ll come back another day.”

Not liking the sound of his inference, she said, “You can come up and wait if you like, they should be home soon.” She knew it not to be true. “Push the door.”

With him seated at the end of the kitchen table, she asked, “Do you have your coffee black or white? There’s sugar on the table.”

“Black, please.”

“You mentioned someone called Bruno? Who’s he?” She wanted to know just how much he knew.

“He’s our only suspect regarding what happened here.”

“What were you saying about a painting?”

“His uncle has one that’s probably painted by Katherine. When I rang Mrs. Harris sometime back, she told me about the one in her office, the one painted by her daughter. I wanted to know how a similar painting came to be in the apartment of Bruno Novak’s uncle.”

“How do you know they’re both painted by Katherine?”

“They’re too similar to be a coincidence, but if need be I could have them tested.”

To continue her cat and mouse game, she asked, “Where’s this Bruno now? Why can’t he tell you where he got it?”

“We don’t know where he is. He’s missing.”

He doesn’t have the faintest idea he’s talking to Bruno’s undertaker. “When you say missing, is he officially missing, or is he dead?”

“Well … he’s not officially a missing person, we just can’t locate him.”

She still wasn’t certain as to the direction he was taking. “I don’t understand why you’re here. If he hasn’t been reported missing, then why are you asking about Katherine doing both paintings? You know what she’s been through and you’re only going to bring up bad memories. Are you here on official police business, or are you just snooping around?”

“I think Bruno was responsible for Katherine’s rape, and attacking you, but what I find strange is his car was found about a block from here. Now he’s missing. As a cop I find it too coincidental.”

“You still haven’t satisfactorily explained what Katherine’s paintings have to do with this!”

“The question is, how did Stan Bobek come to have one? Do you know anything about it? If you do, it would be better if you told me now rather than having to take Mrs. Harris, Katherine, and you to the station for questioning. It’ll be stressful for Katherine.” Detective Andretta wanted to apply some pressure, even though he knew he was not in a position to carry out his threat.

I have to stall him. “Barbara and Katherine should be home soon for dinner. Would you like to stay? We’re having pasta.”

Her invitation’s appropriate, and Katherine will be here. I’m almost sure their connected with Bruno’s disappearance. “If it’s not inconvenient.”

“Do you like mushrooms? I usually put them in the sauce.”

“I’m easy.”

Her brain was in extreme overdrive with trying to find a way out of her predicament.

They spoke generally about Boston, warmer weather, and anything else she could think of. She had to delay him. She was also hoping her next course of action would be successful.

“I’ve have to go downstairs and get the mushrooms from the fridge. I’m sorry about leaving you alone. Will you be okay for a moment?”

“I’ll be fine.”

With his back to the front door, he listened to her descending the stairs. Now’s the only time I’ll get to search for similar paintings, but I have to be quick. He hurried into the hall, glimpsed into the living room, Barbara’s bedroom, but came to an abrupt halt on reaching Katherine’s doorway. He’d found what he’d been searching for. Against a far wall were two rows of paintings.

My hunch was right. The same as Stan’s, got you!

He rushed to his chair, picked up the cup of lukewarm coffee, and in a manner that belied his prior activity, waited. He tried to appear casual, but his fervent mind was thinking of his boss’s reaction.

He’ll be ropeable when I tell him about my unofficial enquiry, but what choice will he have? He’ll have to take the case.

As Sophia made her way to her apartment, in search of what she needed to accomplish her task, she was in no doubt as to what he’d do in her absence. Regrettably, it will give him the evidence he would need to begin an official investigation, but with no body, it will be pure speculation.

Sophia re-entered the apartment, carrying what she had gone for.

Detective Andretta, trying to appear nonchalant, remained as he was, with his back to the door.

The hammer came crashing down onto his skull, the strike so severe it caused his forehead to impact the table. The force of the blow, along with the furious speed, would have ensured his death.

While searching for her late husband’s hammer, she thought of what she had to do. She realised she had to kill him with the first blow. That she did.

The sound of his skull cracking surprised her. It was louder than she had expected.

You must have known I wasn’t going to allow you to investigate Katherine,” she said, distastefully.

With having to dispose of the body into the basement, she knew time wasn’t going to be a luxury she could afford. When that assignment was finished, she still had to rid the table and floor of blood, before Barbara and Katherine were due home.

At least I don’t have as much cleaning as before. The less blood the better.

The hysterical scream shook her to the core. Having just rolled the dead-weighted body in a sheet and blanket she was mentally preoccupied with thinking about dragging it from the kitchen. She bolted upright from her kneeling position. The shrill reverberating around the kitchen was almost deafening.

Barbara and Katherine were standing in the kitchen doorway, but Barbara was screaming at full pitch.

What’s happened? Who’s that?” she managed to ask, as she pointed to the blanket wrapped object.

I can explain, but not now!” Sophia didn’t have time for polite conversations.

Who is it?” Barbara asked, hysterically.

“Barbara, I don’t have time for questions and answers just now. I need to get him into the basement, and quickly.”

“You said he. Who’s he? And, don’t give me any crap about not answering!”

“It’s a cop.”

A cop? Are you crazy? Did you kill him? Why?

Ignoring her, Sophia began to drag the blanket-bound body.

“I’ll help you, Nan,” Katherine said.

As she moved forward, Barbara grabbed her arm and said, “You’ll do no such thing!

“She needs our help! You can stand there as long as you like, but I’m helping her. She can’t do it alone.”

“Barbara, if you help me get him into the basement, I promise I’ll tell you everything.” Sophia was determined to carry on, regardless.

“What do mean by everything? Are you saying there’s more?”

“Are you going to help, or not?”

For the sake of her daughter, Barbara reluctantly agreed.

After moving the body to the basement, mother and daughter washed their hands in the bathroom, before retiring to the living room, to await Sophia. Katherine suspected her grandmother was protecting them, but like her mother, she thought some answers were required.

Who’s the cop, and why did she kill him?

“Katherine, look at me. Do you know what’s going on?” Barbara was demanding an answer.

“No. She’ll tell us when she’s ready. Trust her.”

From where they sat, they heard Sophia moving about in the kitchen, and then moving to the stairs.

Sophia entered the living room with a towel in hand, one she had used for freeing her face and hands of blood. She placed her right arm around Katherine’s waist as she sat next to her on the couch.

She began her story.

It began with Bruno’s entry into their apartment, their immobilisation, and of how Katherine was able to kill him.

Barbara was transfixed by what she was hearing, and of how she came to be on the kitchen floor, but Sophia’s admission of having inadvertently brought the poisonous mushrooms into their home was just as devastating to hear. We could have died, and not Bruno.

Sophia then told of Bruno’s suspected plan, before his death conveniently intervened. “I’m convinced he was going to rape all of us and then kill us. I don’t want to think about it, but without the mushrooms, and Katherine’s input, I’m sure we wouldn’t be sitting here having this discussion.”

She briefly described how she disposed of his body, but conveniently omitted most of the gruesome details. She went on to explain the surprise visit from the detective, and of his intrusive questioning with regard to Katherine’s association to the paintings.

Barbara was trying to process Sophia’s revelations, but the reference to the paintings was just as confusing.

“I remember him asking me, but I failed to see what he was after. I still don’t understand why you killed him. So what if he asked about the paintings?”

Sophia went on to explain Katherine’s painting and the reason behind it’s delivery to Bruno’s address.

“It was our way of showing that justice had been served, but when the cop came I couldn’t take a chance on him following up with his suspicions. It was within my power to end it there and then. So I did!” Glancing at Katherine, she said, with a monotone voice, “Now’s the perfect time to do another painting.”

With Barbara still appearing confused, Sophia again turned her attention to her. “You know I love you and Katherine, but as of today what’s happened here will never be mentioned again. It’s finished! Do you understand me?”

Barbara’s answer was hesitant, but meek, “Yes.” It was her way of surrendering to the circumstances.

Sophia rose from the couch, “I’m going for a shower.”

To eliminate the detective’s personal belongings, she at first had to find his car. And for that to occur late evening was the prime time.

Continually pressing the unlock button on his car remote signalled his car, and de-activated its doors. She didn’t have to walk far. The car was just a short distance from their building, on the opposite side of the street. “That was easy!”

Prior to executing her plan, she had thought longingly of the processes’ required to not leave any evidence of herself.

She searched the car before moving it, and only the carton from the boot was in need of disposing of to the basement. To ensure her DNA never appeared in or on the vehicle, she wore gloves at all times, her head was scarf wrapped, and when the time came to drive the car to the other side of the river, she wore Detective Andretta’s coat. Being large and loose fitting it would almost guarantee her anonymity.

Having discreetly parked the car, she threw the keys into the black night’s river, then, with a bundled coat under her arm, walked briskly to her building to complete another burial.

I’m too old for this. It’s too nerve racking! she thought, as she sat slumped on the lower step leading to Barbara’s apartment. What if I’m caught driving a cop’s car, and a dead cop at that?

Sophia wasn’t in a hurry to dispose of the body, and subsequently the foul smell, but she knew it needed doing. The longer I take, the more exposed we are. Katherine needs protecting.

The detective’s journey was almost a replica of Bruno’s, and Sophia had kept his driver’s licence, police identification, and gun.

Late Sunday evening she disposed of his clothing into bins at the rear of some stores in her area.

I’m an accessory to murder, Barbara sadly thought. I have no choice. I have to follow them.

The synchronised march created by Sophia and Katherine she was now embroiled in.

There would be no changing of the rhythm, and no turning back.

Katherine, meanwhile, had begun a new painting.

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