The next day at the Double 0 precinct, Isis and Toni were called into Lt. Stone’s office.
“Have a seat, ladies,” Stone said, sitting back in his high-backed, black leather chair. Isis and Toni sat in matching wing chairs. “We have a problem, Detectives. I’ve just gotten off the phone with the deputy commissioner, who had a long conversation with Mr. Tyler last night. You two are familiar with that name, I’m sure.” Lt. Stone rolled his swivel chair closer to his desk. “Here’s the deal. You two are to refrain from harassing his clients—Stacey and Jannifer Hill. That comes straight from the deputy commissioner himself.”
One wave of Stone’s large hand had cut Isis off. “You are to refrain from having any contact with Stacey and Jannifer Hill.” Stone looked at Isis and said, “When this guy Tyler starts waving his pen, it’s like a magic wand. Wallets start to drain.” Stone sat back in his chair. “Isis, do you have any idea who these girls are?”
Isis looked at Toni. “No sir, I don’t.”
“Well then, let me enlighten you. Stacey and Jannifer Hill—who are first cousins, by the way—are two of the most generous teenagers this city had ever known. They’ve donated thousands to different organizations that focus on the protection of battered women and their children. Last night I attended a banquet where Stacey and Jannifer Hill received an award from the mayor of our fine city. The New York Times ran a feature on them. They called Stacey and Jannifer Hill ‘the epitome of true adolescents.’”
Isis looked at Toni again, then she looked at Lt. Stone. “But sir, we have reason to believe that Stacey and her cousin might be mixed up in the Derrick Simmons murder. We’ve been following them—”
“And that stops now,” Lt. Stone said, cutting Isis off again. “What kind of evidence do you have, Detective? Tell me.” Lt. Stone interlocked his fingers and placed his hands on top of his desk.
“Well sir, we were told by Pam—”
Lt. Stone waved his hand again. “No disrespect, Isis, because you know how I feel about your niece, and I’m sorry she’s going through what she’s going through, but…”
Isis knew where Stone was going. Her niece was locked up for the murder of a famous actor’s son, and she would say anything to save her own neck. Then Isis thought about the lies her niece had told her. She looked at the situation from her boss’ point of view, and it didn’t look good.
“A case of this magnitude needs an equal magnitude of hard evidence, Isis.”
Isis lowered her head.
“And in my opinion, I believe you two are barking up the wrong tree. The harassment stops now.” Stone stared at Isis. “Did you grab one of those girls by the arm after they’d answered your questions?”
Isis was about to explain herself, but she changed her mind. Instead, she said nothing.
“I thought so. The harassment stops now, Detectives. And I mean now. Tyler was ready to file a complaint against you two, but I calmed him down by promising that you two would back off.” In an instant, Lt. Leroy Stone’s demeanor changed from authoritarian to a caring friend. “Look, Isis, I know what you’re going through right now, with the arrest and death of your mother in a similar case…” Lt. Stone paused and shook his head. “I know this is killing you, but… look, bring me something concrete, I mean really concrete, then we can move forward on this thing, but until then…” Lt. Stone did something with his hands. Toni caught it.
When the detectives had left Lt. Stone’s office, the words—concrete evidence—swirled around Isis’ head like a nagging fly.
Isis and Toni ambled toward Isis’s truck. “We got to find some physical evidence,” she said as she opened the door. Isis knew that Toni was right when she’d said that the DNA they’d found at the Due Motor Inn could’ve come from anyone.
Toni just stared at her partner. Once inside the Durango, she asked, “How?”
“I don’t know how. These two girls are good…” Isis turned on the radio:
“Pamerla Thomas, a popular student at NYU, and niece of famed Detective Isis Williams has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Derrick Simmons, son of Academy Award-winning actor, Troy Simmons, who is being hospitalized for severe depression after hearing of his son’s murder. Derrick Simmons’ body was found super glued to a chair at the Due Motor Inn in Queens. The deputy police commissioner was quoted saying that the department feels they have the right suspect in custody and that Pamerla Thomas will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Isis switched the radio off. “You’ve got the wrong person you fuckin’ idiots…” she shouted as she shook the steering wheel.
“What was that witness name, the housekeeper...the one that worked at the Motor Inn?” Toni asked.
Isis’ face was twisted with rage.
“You’ve got to keep it together, Isis. I know how personal this thing has become, but you’ve got to keep it together.” Toni rubbed Isis’ shoulder.
Isis glanced at her partner again, then she turned the key to start up her truck. “Let’s go and have ourselves a talk with a housekeeper.”
Captain Doe had provided Isis with the names and addresses of all the employees that worked at the Due Motor Inn. But the one Isis needed to interview was the housekeeper, a Ms. Rodriguez. Isis was told that the housekeeper cleans all the rooms right after the customers check out. She was also one of the eyewitnesses who told the police had she had seen Pam running from the motel.
Isis double parked on 147th St., right in front of a five-story walkup. As Isis and Toni entered the building, their olfactories were attacked by an overpowering stench.
“What the hell...” Toni said as she covered her nose. Isis said nothing as she took two steps at a time toward the third floor. Isis knocked on a door and heard babies crying. A short, round Latina woman answered the door. Isis and Toni showed the woman their ID’s.
The woman seemed nervous, especially after looking into Isis’ eyes. “Did I do something wrong?” the housekeeper asked in a thick accent as she let the detectives inside.
The sound of screaming babies came pouring out from one of the rooms. “You can go and check on them,” Isis said to the nervous looking housekeeper. When the housekeeper returned, she was carrying a baby on her hip and pushing two other babies in a stroller. “Wow!” Toni said. “You’ve been busy.”
“No, no, these are my sister’s children. They’re triplets. I was just about to feed them. Do you mind giving me a hand?” the housekeeper asked Toni.
Toni did not hesitate. “Sure.”
“Muchas gracias.” The housekeeper passed Toni one of the babies, then she disappeared into the kitchen.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” Toni asked Isis.
Isis was paying more attention to the religious painting and all the religious paraphernalia that were hanging on the walls. “Why are you still standing?” the housekeeper asked as she reentered the living room. “Have a seat.” She was carrying three baby bottles in her hand. “Here.” She gave Toni a bottle as Isis watched.
She then passed Isis a baby bottle.
“That’s for baby Maria. You don’t mind, do you?” Isis took the bottle, then she looked at Toni, who was already feeding the baby Ms. Rodriguez had given her.
Toni looked at Isis and smiled, then she whispered, “Have fun with it.” For the next ten minutes, all three women were lost in the innocence of the three little miracles. Isis kissed the infant on the cheek. The scent from the baby was intoxicating. Motherly instincts that she hadn’t felt since her niece, Pam, was a baby overwhelmed her. For a moment, she couldn’t see or hear anything but the baby.
“Isis,” Toni whispered.
Isis was focused on the infant, and she was smiling for the first time in weeks.
“Huh?” Toni gave her the “it’s time to get down to business” look. Isis kissed the baby and placed it back into its stroller. “Ms. Rodriguez, could you show me how you clean the dressers at the motel? It’s very important.”
“What do you mean?”
“Would you please show me how you clean the dressers at your job.” Ms. Rodriguez looked at Toni, then she placed the baby back into its stroller. She excused herself and walked into the kitchen. When she returned, she was holding a dust rag and a plastic bottle of Old English furniture polish. “I take this, pour a little on the rag, and I clean.”
Isis and Toni watched the overweight woman walked over to a dresser and go through the motions of cleaning. When she was done with her imaginary cleaning, Isis felt her heart sink. Ms. Rodriguez looked at the detectives. “What? I do something wrong?”
Isis asked her if she ever wipe under the edge of the dresser top. Isis got up and showed the cleaning lady what she meant. The top of the dresser that protruded outward—just a little—from the face of the dresser.
Ms. Rodriguez’s face cracked.
“Thank you, Ms. Rodriguez. You’ve been very helpful,” Isis said. “Oh, one more thing, Ms. Rodriguez.” Isis removed a photo from her shirt pocket and showed it to the Ms. Rodriguez. “Have you ever seen this person before?”
Without hesitating, Ms. Rodriguez nodded her head. “Yes, she was with Mr. Simmons the day he died. I see her running away.” Then Isis asked Toni to show the cleaning lady the sketches of the twins the homeless man, Mr. Dickerson, had made. “Have you ever seen this person hanging around the motel?” Isis asked as she held her breath.
“No. I never saw this person before.”