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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chapter Seven

David sat at his customary table at Stephano’s, the local bar where most of the ‘One Week Window’ staff spent their off hours. It wasn’t quite a dive, but it certainly wasn’t the upscale urban hang out that its owner had desperately branded it as. A few tables away from where the detective sat perched two female analysts, trying to drink their Irish coffees while a cameraman tried his best to flirt with them.

David normally would have been home lying restlessly in his bed at that time of night, but he figured since his encounter with the strange woman outside Atlas still had his mind racing and his adrenaline pumping, he might as well get some work done. The empty shell of Atlas Communications’ offices had proved too quiet and tomb-like after he’d finished going through the woman’s personal effects.
From the picture of the child with Ted Richmond, he had assumed that she was related to the ex-mogul somehow, but when he’d run her name through the database he had come up with nothing helpful. He sighed, took a sip of his beer and stared blankly at the folder of information about the Tucker case that he’d brought with him, his hand resting on the photograph of Ted Richmond that he’d absently slipped into his pocket on the way out and had forgotten about until he’d grabbed out some bills to pay the bartender and had pulled it out instead.
He was just about to signal to the single server for another drink when a familiar, yet deeply unsettling voice broke into his thoughts from behind him, “It’s pretty late for you isn’t it, Detective?”
David turned around and found himself staring into a face that was quite literally impossible to forget, “Lee Finch.”
Raleigh Finch smiled back at David through his ruined mouth, or at least David assumed that he did. The man had once been beautiful in the way that wild tigers were beautiful: he was sinuous and sleek like a predatory creature, and his heavily lidded yet sharp olive eyes, knife-sharp cheekbones and pear-cut lips made him look like he should have been an underwear model rather than a data analyst for Atlas. That was before the attack that had quite literally taken most of his face off.
His left eye was clouded and almost permanently shut, a thick, angry red scar running from the scalp of his thick black hair down to his chin, the scar tissue on his cheek making it puff out dramatically. His lip had been split neatly just off to the left of the center, and the ropey scar continued down his sinuous neck and across his throat. This second mark was from the wound that had almost ended Lee’s life completely instead of just in the metaphorical sense. The top of his ear was completely gone, shaved into elfin sharpness by the knives of his assailants, and when he moved his mouth, part of the upper lip remained frozen in a permanent sneer.
“It’s been a long time, Lee.” David said, managing a smile despite his shock at seeing Lee again. He had been assigned to Mr. Finch’s case when it had first occurred five years ago, back when ‘One Week Window’ had first gotten off the ground. Atlas had picked up the case mostly because it had been viewed as a hate crime: Lee had been attacked trying to defend a woman from being gang raped outside a bar and the drunken bastards had objected to Lee’s sexuality and his interjection.
Lee set down the hat and thick black shades that he normally wore and gestured to the chair across from David with a silent question. David nodded, “I was gonna get another beer, you want one?”
Lee sat down and cocked his head to the side, his face permanently impassive, “No, thanks. It’s not very pretty when I drink.”
David flushed slightly in embarrassment, “Oh, yeah. Sorry.”
“It’s fine.” David gestured to the waiter who nodded and hurried to the bar to get his drink. Lee glanced down at the papers in front of David and asked, “Is it common practice for you to study confidential files in public?”
“Confidential my ass, the whole world has access to this file.” David awkwardly shifted his gaze to the file again and asked, “What are you up to these days, Lee?”
“I’m working for a private investigator, actually. I know it seems pretty stupid after working for Atlas, but I’ve got to eat and I think they were too uncomfortable to keep me around.”
Lee’s was one of the sadder cases in ‘One Week Window’s’ history: David had incorrectly assumed that this case would be solved within the seven days, since there had been more than enough physical evidence and eyewitness accounts to convict the perpetrators.
David had been blindsided when Edwin McCormack, the thirty-year anchor of one of the largest network news programs and a fool, uttered a personal opinion on-air when he’d thought his mike was off about how Lee Finch had received his just rewards. Rumor and innuendo, stoked by competing networks, had flooded the web, and the firestorm that ensued overshadowed the original attack and distracted the viewers to the point where they didn’t care about the fact anymore, they just wanted the gossip.
Taking full advantage of the distraction, some of the eyewitnesses and assailants who attacked the young man had agreed to cooperate with investigators in exchange for immunity. Once they realized that the McCormack utterance was going to cause the investigation to not meet the seven-day rule they refused to testify or changed their stories, and the case was dropped.
            Lee grunted, “I’ve been watching the case, actually. Poor girl, her private parts are splashed all over the internet.” the permanent smirk on his face made his words that much more eerie, and his gentlemanly Southern drawl didn’t help matters.
            “Yeah. It’s pretty amazing, really. Millions of viewers and no one has given us any useful information. We’ve had twenty callers, and four of them thought it was aliens, fourteen of them insisted that the perp was someone who was in a different state at the time and the last few think it was suicide.”
            “Suicide?” Lee’s good eye blinked incredulously, and he gently pulled the file with the crime photos in it towards him and looked at them inquisitively. He then scratched the scars above his eye, “How would someone manage to shoot themselves through the head twice and then rape herself?”
            “We are pretty sure the sex was pre-mortem and that it was consensual.”
            Lee shrugged, “Still, the double tap to one’s own head in two different places is still quite a trick.” he pushed the pictures back to him and caught sight of the picture of Ted Richmond, “He doesn’t seem your type, Dave.”
            David looked down at the picture and snorted, “Hardly. Some girl tried to break into Atlas and she had this on her.” he handed it over, and Lee dutifully stared at it.
            “Well, it has been ripped up and taped back together, that’s pretty obvious.” He shrugged, “Looks like Ted and his daughter, Rosie.”
            “Rosie?” David blinked, “I looked him up, there’s no record of a daughter.”
            “She was the daughter of one of his mistresses. He took her in when her mother died, but the kid kept her last name.”
            David blinked at him, “Now how the hell do you know that?”
            Lee smiled at him, and the effect was grotesque, “I’m an analyst, Dave, don’t insult me. Working for Atlas makes you retain some weird ass information.”
            “You don't happen to remember her last name, do you?”
            “Sure don’t. Is she linked to Darcy Tucker?”
            “Right now I really don’t think so, but it doesn’t hurt to check.” David cleared his throat, “Thanks for your help, Lee. If I can do anything-“
            The scarred man put a hand on David’s and the smile returned to his ruined face, “You’ve already done more for me than anyone else has. Consider this the first step towards repaying my debt.”
            David blinked at him, “I didn’t solve your case though-“
            “The point is that you tried.”
            The detective stood up and shrugged, “Thanks again. I’ll see you around, Lee.” Lee nodded dismissively and David hurried outside, his mind racing over the potential meaning of Rosie’s connection to Richmond.
Even before the door shut entirely, Lee lifted the detective’s half-finished beer and carefully set his mouth around where David’s lips had touched the glace, a malicious glint in his eyes as he drank the rest of the bitter liquid.
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