"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."
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.