“Mike, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for you to want to meet.”
“Hello, Rose. Thank you for coming.”
“Why so formal, darling? It’s just us.”
“There is no us anymore, Rose; which is why I met you in a public place.”
“Hey, Connie, do you have the file on…”
I jumped when I heard Jeremy’s voice and quickly shut the tape player off. I turned to him, not able to hide the annoyance in my face. “What?”
He walked in and noticed the tape. “Oh, sorry, finally listening to it, huh?”
I turned red. I hadn’t wanted to listen, specifically leaving the tape in Jack’s office so I wouldn’t be tempted. But come Saturday morning, it was sitting on my desk as if it materialized out of nowhere. I shrugged at Jeremy, “Well, clearly I’ve not had my fill of her today.”
“A bit of a masochist are you?” he joked. Rose had already been in the office to go over her testimony for Monday. She was annoyed to come in, and not happy about having to admit to where she really was. To be fair, I couldn’t blame her; I wouldn’t want to tell people I had been in a group orgy either.
Jeremy got the file he wanted and walked out, giving me privacy. I looked down at the tape. Just hearing the way Rose spoke to Mike made me nauseous. Did I really want to continue?
“Now, Mike, I’m really hurt. I know we’ve lost touch over the years but you don’t have to…”
“We lost touch because you wanted to marry someone else. Remember?”
Hearing the emotion in Mike’s voice made me fidget in my seat. I glanced around the office, glad it was Saturday so fewer people, if any, were around.
I think things worked out for you. Would you have become a district attorney if we had gotten married?”
“No, Rose, I can safely say, having you as my wife would have required making more money.”
There was a brief pause. I imagined Rose pretending to feign shame.
“Mike, I wish I had known now what I didn’t know then…”
“Don’t go there, Rose. I was heartbroken back then, especially with the way you left me. The way you just ended things, like I was a piece of trash you were tossing away. But it’s what I needed because it was the one way I could see you for who you really were.”
“Honestly, Mike, I don’t know what you mean…”
I couldn’t get my eye roll to be dramatic enough at that. I imagined Mike doing one of his own.
“Rose, I’m really not here to talk of the past, our past. I’m here to talk about your alibi, or lack thereof.”
“Oh, really?” There was ice in her voice. “Did your D.A. pal put you up to this? She’s certainly persistent.”
“No, she doesn’t know I’m here.”
“REALLY?” I didn’t like the new tone that echoed in the repeated. “That is interesting. Why do you care about the case, you aren’t working it anymore? Or is it her? Honestly, Mike, I didn’t think you would go for that type.”
I realized I was holding my breath, waiting to see if Mike would validate her claim. When none came, I felt a strange sadness instead of relief.
“Rose, if you don’t tell them where you really were, the defense will have a field day and make it look like you killed Melanie.”
“Maybe I did, the tramp had it coming!”
“I know you too well. You didn’t do this.”
“Glad to hear, Mike, that our time together at least allows you to believe I’m not capable of murder.”
“I didn’t say that. But I just know you didn’t kill Melanie.”
I frowned, not sure where Mike was going. Rose’s expression must have matched mine as he went on.
“You’re a cunning woman, Rose. Every word, every gesture, every glance is calculated right down to the last detail. I have no doubt that if you had decided to kill Melanie, you could have, but it wouldn’t have been this sloppy, this disorganized and without having an actual alibi.”
“Oh, you are the white knight now, aren’t you? I hope you don’t fall off that high horse of yours.”
In spite of her irritation, he laughed which meant he was enjoying making her squirm. For whatever issues Mike had with seeing Rose that first time, he was on his game this time.
“Rose, I have dedicated my career to putting criminals behind bars. Max Brooks is someone who needs to be locked up, he will kill again. And I know you don’t care about anyone but yourself, but that’s why you are going to explain where you really were.”
“How do you know I’m not telling the truth?”
“You and your husband have both admitted to not being sexually active with each other for some time. We know what Daniel was doing to get his needs met, what about you?”
“Mike, I’m not the kind to just jump into bed with people…”
“Please, Rose, you were never the type to be monogamous.”
“I was with you.”
Again, I felt the urge to vomit come upon me. The idea she ever had her hands on Mike inspired murderous thoughts. Thank goodness I wasn’t present for this conversation or I might have possibly struck her.
“Yes, I know, that’s why I thought I was different for you. I thought…well, the point is, I wondered why you wouldn’t just come forward about where you went. Taking a car either meant you had distance to go, you wanted privacy or both. Your husband wasn’t being discreet, at least not anymore, but you were the one who cared about your perceived reputation. And I remember that you have a healthy sexual appetite…it’s not too hard to guess you were meeting someone.”
“Mike,” her voice sounded different now, desperation setting in. Mike had obviously struck a nerve. “You don’t understand, I’ve…I can’t risk hurting anyone over this. I refuse to let someone else get sucked into this scandal.”
“More like you can’t risk your society friends, those friends who have rallied their support around you, finding out you weren’t quite the victim you made yourself out to be.”
There was a beat, and Rose replied, “Fine, I’ll admit it. I don’t want them to know who I was sleeping with. This whole ordeal hasn’t been that bad because it’s given me the way out of my marriage to Daniel with him looking like the bad guy. But Melanie’s murder is not important enough for me to ruin that. You can’t do anything…”
“You sure about that, Rosalie?”
I smiled; this was Mike in the courtroom when he was circling in on a witness or defendant. Rose was good, but she was no match for him.
“Don’t try to bluff, Mike, I can see through you. You can’t prosecute me for Melanie’s murder. There is no evidence, and you know it’s because I didn’t do it. So there is nothing to push me on…”
“I have to admit something, Rose. After you dumped me, I kept tabs on you. It’s amazing how you don’t really know someone until you watch them from afar and unnoticed. I watched as you worked your way around the university. I never realized you had such an agenda. After I moved onto law school, I obviously was no longer seeing you. But I still heard things. That you found ways to get people to do what you wanted them to do.”
“So since I left the case, I decided to look back at your life. You and Daniel were married almost ten years ago, which I realized was the same time those old rumors began. He was a good match though, wasn’t he? Newly promoted to Dean of his department. He was young and published, I understand. His family name was well known in high society, society you wanted to be a part of forever.”
“Mike, I don’t have to sit here and listen to you…”
There was a small interruption, and I realized she had tried to get up. He must have grabbed her wrist as I then heard him growl to sit down and she yelped.
“The thing is, your engagement came so quickly. Nobody was expecting it. I called up professors at the university at that time; they all remember how surprised they were that you two were going to be married. Of course, what really surprised them was you weren’t exactly his type. You were a bit too…old.
Daniel was seen a lot with his students after hours, especially the young female students. The ones that still looked like teenagers. Many of his colleagues made bets about how long it would be before you found out. Yet, you never did. You never caught on. That astounds me, given how perceptive you are. Seems to me…”
“You don’t know anything, Mike. I’m a victim here….”
“Do you remember someone by the name of Maria Cortez?”
There was silence from Rose, so Mike went on.
“She used to work for Daniel as his house keeper. It was tough tracking her down but I managed. She was happy to tell me that Daniel always had a thing for the young girls. Sometimes girls that looked underage, though she couldn’t have really proven it. She remembers well how much you did know of your husband’s extracurricular activities, you almost seemed to encourage them. Isn’t that interesting?”
I sat there, realizing what Mike was saying and a smile formed on my lips imagining the look on Rose’s face. I knew she was hardly the long suffering wife she made herself out to be, but I never expected this.
“You can’t be seriously blackmailing me…”
“I wouldn’t call it blackmail, Rose. I’d call it motivation. I know it’s embarrassing to find out where you were…who you were with…”
“It wasn’t just one person. It was multiple…please, Mike, this is still something I can’t just come forward about. If it comes out…”
“Well, we can try not to let it come out, but if it does, it does. I’m sure you can figure something out, something to excuse it away. Maybe you became desperate to be desirable again, your self esteem taking such a hit you looked anywhere, and everywhere for help. That might work. But if it got out that you knew of your husband’s fetish before you got married, possibly using it to get him to marry you, well that changes everything doesn’t it?”
I sat there, staring at the tape, not sure how to absorb it all. Rose didn’t make many objections after Mike laid it all out for her. They ended their meeting and I imagined Rose made her Friday phone call to me almost immediately. I remembered interrupting her lunch earlier with Angela Davenport and how she was working the older woman. It was bad enough about her alibi, but I was sure no one would welcome her back into their circles if it was made clear Rose knew exactly what her husband was like. She laid her bed; she had to lie in it.
I was just about to stop the tape when someone came into the room. I looked up, expecting to see Jeremy, but was startled when I saw it was Mike. He was smiling until he glanced down and saw the tape player.