Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chapter 79: The Wall is All You Have to Cling to

"I heard what that cop said to my father; she was with another man," Portia says, tears forming again after she'd just managed to stop crying, "How could she do that?"

"Don't dwell on that now, chère," Rainier advises in a gentle whisper, "We don't know all the facts yet." It's hard for him to be anything but blunt, but he's trying to soften the harsh truth for her.

It's a lot to take in, her mother overdosed in a hotel room where she'd been sleeping with another man. A man who apparently left her for dead. Portia still clings to the hope that her mother will survive, but collapses in tears at the thought that she might not. Rainier was in that position himself, when he was much younger, and he knows what it means to grasp an irrational hope and refuse to let it go.

Won out from her emotions, she falls asleep before they've heard anything from her father.

Once she's deep into sleep, Rainier quietly slips off her bed and naps on her couch nearby, ready to come to her if she wakes and needs his shoulder to cry on. He sleeps fitfully, dreaming about his mother, the return of a recurring dream that had finally left him years ago, the one where they find a cure, just in time to save her, but when they go to give it to her, she's already gone, disappeared rather than dead, and the dream becomes a nightmare as he and his father search for her in vain.

It's Bill that wakes him in the early hours before dawn. Rainier sits up as Bill falls heavily into the seat beside him, like all the weight of the world bears down on him.

Bill doesn't say anything, he doesn't have to, Rainier can see it on his face. He wears the same expression his father wore when he came to tell his son that his mother had passed, an empty expression, like part of him had died along with his spouse.

"I'm sorry," Rainier says, because it's what you are supposed to say. He remembers people saying that to him, and he'd resented every last one of them for their clumsy sympathy. But he was a child then and didn't understand the rules of adult society, that scripts they'd memorize and perform for these situations were like walls erected to shut out their pain, to keep their carefully constructed worlds from collapsing. Children have no use for such walls, but as an adult, sometimes the wall is all you have to cling to in times of trouble.

Bill nods, an automatic response. "We have several guest rooms," he offers, "You don't have to sleep on the couch."

"I'd rather stay here. If she wakes up..."

Bill nods again, and claps a hand on Rainier's knee as he rises, "You'll tell her?" he asks in a small voice, "I don't think I can."

"I will," Rainier promises, not looking forward to the task.

He doesn't get any real sleep, and he wakes early to make breakfast for them, hoping he can get Portia to eat something before he has to tell her the bad knews. She was too upset to take any dinner the night before, and once she learns her mother has died, she won't be able to eat for the rest of the day.

"There you are," she says as she joins him in the kitchen, "You made waffles."

"You should eat something," he says gently, leading her to he breakfast table.

"Did my father come home last night?" she asks, stopping before she sits.

"He did," Rainier answers truthfully, though he wishes he could put this off until after she's eaten something.

"Did he say anything to you?' she asks, her voice quiet and trembling, "Is my mother...?" Her face falls as she reads it in his eyes, "Oh, no," she gasps.

She falls into his arms sobbing, and Rainier holds her and whispers soothing nothings as the waffles grow cold.

Chavez drops the forensics report on Ulises' desk. "Nothing," he grumbles, "Whoever she was with has no record."

Ulises leans back in his chair. The victim died during the night, making this investigation officially a homicide. And they have so little to go on; people in the adjoining rooms heard her calling the name 'Justin' and a bellboy reported seeing a man he described as muscular, brown hair, tanned and tattooed hurrying down the hallway in a suspicious manner that afternoon.

"Listen," Chavez says, his voice grown quiet, "You didn't hear this from me, but the word from IA is they're not going to investigate."

Ulises sighs in relief. Esparza and Ancelotti's deaths in his house had raised a lot of questions, questions Ulises was dong his damnedest to dodge. An Internal Affairs investigation into the real reason Esparza had targeted his family could have destroyed him, and ruined the happiness Heather had finally regained.

"You know we're all with you," Chavez says, "You took out the garbage."

As much as he hates bothering the family with his business, it has to be done. He has no leads whatsoever on the identity of Mercedes Arthag's lover, and he has no choice but to pump her husband and daughter for any clues they might have. Not that he expects much, the woman was running around behind her husband's back and it'd extremely unlikely she told her family who she was spending her afternoons with. But if her lover happened to be an acquaintance of the family...

"We don't know anyone named Justin," Bill says.

"No one at all?" Ulises presses.

"Wait, I think Justin was the name of her gallery manager's boyfriend..." Portia says, "I met him once, at a show at the gallery."

It's a slim lead, but Ulises will investigate every one that comes up, and he tracks down Mercedes' former gallery manager to question the one Justin he could find who had even the remotest connection to her.

This Justin fits the bellboy's description to a T. But then, so does Ulises himself, except for the tattoos. And in L.A., tattoos are common enough that there must be dozens of Justins that could fit the bill.  The way this one answers the door, however, his stance calculated to look casual, and at the same time territorially blocking passage, immediately raises suspicions.

"I'm investigating the death of Mercedes Arthag," Ulises explains after he introduces himself and shows his badge, "May I comein."

 "No," Justin refuses flatly, not budging from the door frame, "You don't have a warrant."

Ulises sighs; it's going to be like that. "All right,  just have a few questions about your relationship with the deceased."

"I didn't have a relationship with her," Justin says, "She was my girlfriend's boss."

"She was heard calling out your name," Ulises presses.

Justin looks surprised for a moment, then gathers himself. "I used to be a professional dom, and Mercedes was a client of mine," he says, knowing that a deeper investigation could reveal all this and it's better to get out in front of it. "I was running a perfectly legal operation, no sex, you understand? But she got a little obsessed with me and kept asking for what I wouldn't give her. Then, when Eleanor, my girlfriend, started working for her, I had to drop her. I've had no contact with her since. Whoever she was with yesterday, it wasn't me."

"Where were you yesterday?"

"Mostly at home. I picked up Eleanor's dry cleaning, and I did some shopping."

"We have DNA samples of whoever was with Mercedes yesterday," Ulises says, "If you could come in and let us take a sample..."

"No." Justin refuses.

"It's a simple procedure," Ulises explains, "And if you weren't with her, it would clear you immediately."

"Get a warrant," Justin says.

Ulises might just have to do that. But, though he may not realize it, Justin just gave him a whole new lead to follow. If Mercedes had been trying unsuccessfully to pay this Justin for sex, she might have found herself a look-alike who would do the job for her. Shaking down the gigolos in this town should be a fairly easy task; most of them advertise their services in the L.A. Weekly.

Ulises comes home to find Heather in the new nursery they've been preparing.

"Hey, beautiful," he says, sweeping her into his arms and kissing her on the cheek.

"How was your day?" she asks, like she always does.

"Better now that I'm home," he says, like he always does, never giving her details about the sordid cases he has to encounter daily.

Eleanor comes home to find Justin sitting on their bed, staring at nothing, when he;s usually got dinner on the stove.

"What's wrong, Tiger?" she asks, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Mercedes is dead," he says, "A cop came by to question me about it."

"Why you?" Eleanor asks, "How did she die?"

"Overdose. In a hotel room. Apparently, she was with a guy...and she was calling out my name."

"That's...disturbing," Eleanor says, "But they must have found some DNA, that would clear you."

"The cop asked me to come in and give them a sample. I refused. They don't have a warrant."

"Justin, it would clear you completely. Why would you refuse?"

"They don't have enough of a case to finger me for this," Justin says, "They can take my DNA when they have enough of a case to get a warrant. Which they won't."

Eleanor lies back on the bed. "It would be a lot simpler for you to just cooperate with them."

"I have a record," he tells her, "No outstanding warrants, nothing they can get me for. But I'd like to avoid having LAPD digging into my past."

"I wonder how many skeletons would fall out if they started digging into your closet," she asks wryly. 

"That's why it's best to keep them from digging, Princess," he says.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes. Mercvedes is dead. It was a tough decision for me, but it was right for the story.

  2. wow, she didn't make it. I knew it would lead back to Justin. :( He'll be cleared but not before they do nosing around a bit which could cause all those bones to come tumbling out.

    Poor Portia. So glad Rainer was/is there for her.

    1. The link to Justin is pretty thin, and the DNA evidence will clear him if they do get a warrant to get a sample from him. But the information he gave about Mercedes' habits will actually put Ulises on the right track, looking for male prostitutes. But all this will no doubt lead to some disturbances in Justin's buried past.
      I do feel really bad for Portia. :'(

  3. Damn she died. Poor Bill and Portia :( they are the ones I am most concerned about. Bill especially since he believes he failed her as her protector and stopped "fixing her" I know he really loved her and this will forever haunt him. And Portia :( she seemed to have a very close relationship with her. I just hope she can get through the next weeks and there on. I know this has to be the hardest thing she's ever had to experience and so young her mother will miss the rest of her special moments.

    Justin is making himself more suspicious by not cooperating lol but I expected that of him. I love his flatline "no" and "get a warrant" lol so funny. I really hope Ulises stays on task though and hunts the real guy down and the LAPD don't get so focused on the uncooperative Justin that they try and pin this on him anyway!

    1. This will be hard on Bill and Portia. Portia especially as she will be learning disturbing things about her mother that she never knew.

      Justin is being very Justin; stubborn and uncooperative, lol. And it does make him look suspicious. So it's a good thing for him he did give Ulises some info about Mercedes that he can follow on rather than get stuck on Justin.

  4. I feel for Portia. What a terrible, terrible way to lose her mom, and as if that wasn't bad enough she has to deal with the fact that she was having an affair. Poor Bill, my heart just breaks for him. I wonder though if he wasn't aware of it, of her wandering ways. In my mind I always thought they had an open relationship of some sort, or at least have an understanding.

    Wow, Justin's in hot water for something he didn't do, I'm glad there's DNA to go on, at least he'll be cleared. Hopefully he'll be cleared.

    And I was just thinking about Heather and Ulises the other day, wondering when we'll see them again.

    1. It is a really horrible way to lose your mother. And, worse than just a regular affair, she was with a prostitute.
      I did have Bill sort of make a joke with Portia about how Mercedes would demand that he have expensive mistresses (when Portia made a joke to him about getting a cheap mistress for his midlife crisis) and that could be taken as a joke or as the truth.

      The DNA evidence to clear Justin is pretty strong, lucky for him.

      Heather and Ulises have been happy and drama free lately, but it is nice to let them have a scene or two in the middle of other peoples' dramas.

  5. Normally I'd be annoyed at someone being uncooperative for the sake of it, since every second on the wrong track of a crime is a second the trail might get colder.

    But I'm guessing Justin has something else he needs to hide. DUN DUN.

    What kind of charges would Brian get, I wonder. Mercedes wanted the drugs; it didn't seem to be really murder. Not that they know this, at this point. I'm wondering if Brian supplied the drugs?

    1. Not cooperating with authorities is so ingrained in Justin's nature, he's just going to be that way, I;'m afraid. So, lol, go ahead and be annoyed. Justin isn't hiding anything that could get him arrested, he's just so secretive that he'll stonewall the cops and force them to get a warrant before he'll let them at his DNA.
      But as it stands, what information he did give Ulises is the one clue that might actually get him somewhere, to go looking for prostitutes rather than a lover.

      Brian did supply the drugs to Mercedes. Mot of them, anyway. Ultimately, they couldn't get him on homicide, but he could face drug charges. And prostitution is illegal. So, even if they can't pin him for manslaughter, he could face some jail time. I'm not really going to get to deep into the legal issues surrounding Brian.

    2. Heh. I actually forgot prostitution is still illegal.


      *retreats to DeLorean*

    3. I'm actually feeling a little bad for all the male prostitutes that are going to get caught up in this sting operation. LOL, now that I think of it, Nico's lucky he stopped doing that, because he also fits the description of the guy they are looking for.

  6. I'm not sad Mercedes died herself, but I am very sad that Portia will have to go through learning so much about her mother than a daughter really shouldn't have to know. And I'm sad Bill will have to go on without a wife.

    It was SO nice to see Heather and Ulises being sweet and adorable and not having to worry about drama <3. I missed hearing about them, but I'm glad they've been happy in between their last appearance in the story and now.

    1. Yeah, really, this is going to ruin the image Portia had of her mother.

      Heather and Ulises have been happy. and now that he's free from an investigation from IA, Ulises has a lot less to worry about.

  7. If nothing else, Brian left her at the scene of the accident and didn't report her or anything. And gave her the drugs. Regardless of whether she wanted them or not, I imagine that a court wouldn't have a hard time convicting him of, the very least, manslaughter.

    Also, I've never noticed how gorgeous Justin's eyes are until that picture of him in the doorway. How did I miss those before?

    And...just because I am disturbed; anyone else find it horrible (and a little funny) that manslaughter/slaughter is basically laughter without an extra word tagged on?

    1. That's true, heaven. Brian is definitely in for trouble if they do catch him.

      For the particular shot of Justin, I had to put one of those invisible debug lights in front of his face because the doorway was so dark, and that really lit up his eyes.

      I've actually been known to say 'You can't spell Slaughter without laughter', but I was referring to the band. =P
      LOL, it amuses my husband, at least.

  8. Ah I knew it. They will find Brian and he will be in trouble for something he didn't do. She took the drugs and drank the alcohol, but they have to make it more than it really was, an accidental overdose. I hope Justin doesn't get really mixed up in it, but I am very curious what his skeletons really are. I wonder how this will really affect Portia. Loved the update. So many things happening that are really heavy duty.

    1. LAPD would have to investigate something like this as a crime, and if they catch Brian, there will be trouble for him,
      Justin is pretty safe from this. If they are able to get a warrant for his DNA, that will prove him innocent. And if they can't get enough evidence to get a warrant, they certainly don't have the evidence to arrest him.

      Thanks, Fae!
      Your curiosity will be answered soon enough. =D

  9. I love to see an update from you!

    I was expecting you to leave Mercedes in coma so that she could "come back" like in soap series, but this is way better for the story, I think. I really enjoyed this chapter.

    1. Thank you, misu!
      And thank you for the 'leave door open' mod, I really needed that for Justin's scene with Ulises.

      I also thought Mercedes' death was the best thing for the story.

  10. Hey,
    I am completely addicted in simmer stories, and I decided to start reading yours. Seems very interesting, I loved the style of the characters. I'm still in the first chapters, because I have don't have too much free time, but as soon I finished reading I'll leaving an opinion, right?
    My English may sound strange, because I am Brazilian, haha​​, but I'll try.
    Kisses! Thanks for follow my blog.

    1. Thank you, Alice! I hope you enjoying reading my story. Take your time, it's long read.=D
      Your English is great, you have nothing to worry about.

  11. See, I always thought that if Mercedes was murdered, it would be at the hands of Eleanor or Justin. If Ulises knew how Justin really felt about Mercedes, he'd be a bit more of a suspect, I think. But then again, does anybody really know what Justin feels about anything?

    This Brian fellow is in for a world of pain courtesy of the criminal justice system if they catch him. Yikes.

    Poor Portia. She's definitely lucky not only to have a sweet boyfriend but one that has an idea of what she's going through.

    I'm happy to see Heather back on her feet and seemingly back to her happy self. Here's hoping IA chooses not to investigate.

    1. It's true, if Justin had said anything about his or Eleanor's feelings about Mercedes...butJustin is really good at not revealing anything he doesn't want to reveal.

      If Brian gets caught, he will go down.

      Rainier is really proving himself right now, being there for Portia when she needs him. And he does have that experience of losing his mother himself.

      Heather is doing a lot better. She still has therapy sessions, but she's getting back to herself.