Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
“Big city,” I said.
He shook his head.
“I meant here at Lakewood. Are you a resident?”
“Oh, right.” I said. “Not yet. I’m in the market though so I thought I’d check it out.”
“What about you, do you live here?” I said.
“And other times?” I said.
“I have a house in Park City, but I travel a lot for work. My family has a private jet so I can’t complain.”
One would assume that line fascinated the ladies. A man with a house in Park City, a townhome on the side, a private jet, and a sports car that looked like a hornet. Most women would find him hard to resist. I wasn’t most women.
He looked at his watch.
“Would you recommend this place?” I said.
“My townhouse isn’t like the others you’ve probably seen. You can take a look at it if you like.”
“That’s nice of you, but I don’t want to—”
“I insist,” he said.
He glanced at his watch again.
“How about tomorrow?” he said.
“I’m number 312. Does eleven o’clock work for you?”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” I said. “Oh, and enjoy your mother’s birthday party.”
He picked a lily from the bouquet of flowers and extended it to me.
“I look forward to tomorrow.”
“Me too,” I said.
More than he knew.
Parker had been so swept up in our tete-a-tete he failed to notice the bug I planted on him during my little mishap. Now I just needed it to pay off. I hoofed it through the parking garage and ensured his car remained in its space, and then waited for the fun to begin. I passed the time by running blondies plates. They belonged to one Zoey Kendrick with an address off 18th and Walnut in Sugarhouse.
There was a knock on Parker’s door, followed by the click-clack of heels. Blondie perhaps?
“I’ve missed you,” Parker said.
I wondered how much you could miss a person you spent time with a few hours earlier.
They shuffled around and then kissed.
“For you,” Parker said.
“They’re beautiful,” a woman’s voice said.
“And you’re even more beautiful.”
“Come, sit down,” he said. “Tell me about your life since I last saw you. I want to know everything.”
“I’ve been good.”
“Are you happy to see me?” he said.
I wasn’t convinced. Something about the tone in her voice wasn’t right.
“Why don’t you lie down on the bed and let me give you a back rub, it will be just like old times.”
There was urgency in his voice and a sense of inquietude in hers.
“I’ve got something for you,” he said.
“The flowers were enough.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he said.
She was silent.
“Take your clothes off,” he said.
The man wasted no time.
“But I thought…”
“Our dinner reservations aren’t for another hour,” he said. “That gives us plenty of time, and I don’t want to waste another minute of it.”
“You said we could take it slow.”
“There’s no need to play coy with me. I want you,” he said.
“Can’t we talk? I just got here.”
“Come on Daniela, please,” he said. “Don’t make me beg.”
Daniela? Unless blondie changed her name in the past few hours the proverbial poster boy of love lacked a faithful bone in his cheating, philandering body.
The bed creaked.
“Would you like to remove your clothes or should I do it for you?” he said.
She didn’t respond.
“Fine,” he said. “If that’s the way you want it.”
There was movement on the bed and then something ripped.
“Stop, you’re hurting me.”
“And what about me, Daniela? Have you considered what you’re doing to me, haven’t I treated you nice? I bought you beautiful flowers, I made arrangements for an expensive dinner for the two of us, and this is how you show your appreciation—by refusing me.”
“Stop it Parker, please.”
Stop it Parker, you’re hurting me
,” he said.
His attempt to taunt her went unanswered.
“I’ll teach you to refuse me you ungrateful bitch.”
His voice took on an incensed tone, a far cry from the gentleman that wooed me earlier that evening.
“Don’t move,” he said.
I turned the key in the ignition and slammed my foot on the petal. I didn’t want to blow our meeting the next day, but no woman deserved this.
There was a crash and then a thud and something hit the ground.
“Get back here!” he said.
The door slammed.
I pulled up in front of the building and a dark-haired woman sprinted out. One look at her disheveled hair and bare feet and I knew I had the right woman.
“Daniela,” I said, “get in.”
“Why should I, I don’t know you.”
“I’m a friend. Trust me please.”
“I…I don’t know.”
I grabbed the door handle and pushed the door open.
“It’s okay,” I said, “let me get you out of here.”
“Who are you, and how do you know my name?”
I owed her an explanation, but how much of one I wanted to give, I didn’t know.
“Where to?” I said.
“Are you okay?” I said.
She shook her head.
“His family jewels might be sore for a while, but I’m sure he’ll survive. He always does. Wait, how did you…?”
“How do you know Parker?” I said.
She gazed at me.
“It’s a long story. He’s the ex-boyfriend of a friend of mine’s sister. Have you known him long?”
“About a year.”
“Were you two involved?” I said.
“If you mean in a romantic way, yeah.”
“For how long?” I said.
“About nine months. I broke it off a couple weeks ago.”
It crossed my mind that Charlotte found out about his dirty little secret and that she paid for it with her life.
“Why did you break up?” I said.
She sighed and looked out my car window.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“When did he hit you last?” I said.
She looked startled that I knew, or assumed to know. At this point it was more of a hunch and I knew I had pushed her with my questions, but right now she was stuck in my car and unless she opened the door and flung herself out, she had no place else to go.
“Look lady, I don’t even know you so what’s with the twenty questions?”
“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it,” I said.
She massaged her arm with her left hand which jerked a tiny bit every time she touched it.
“Are you hurt?” I said.
“I wanted to break it off for good this time. That’s why I went to see him. How could I be so stupid, sono cosi stupido!”
I wasn’t sure what she meant, but it didn’t sound good.
“You loved him, didn’t you?” I said.
She hung her head but didn’t say a word.
“Do you know a woman named Charlotte Halliwell or Zoey Kendrick?”
She shook her head back and forth.
“From what I understand they were both involved with Parker,” I said.
Her face hardened. She didn’t know.
“What makes you think there are others?”
“Up until a few months ago Parker planned to marry Charlotte Halliwell, but then she called it off,” I said.
She contracted her hand into a fist and thrust it into my leather seat—two times.
“If it’s any consolation, I believe he kept all of you in the dark. I think he wanted it that way,” I said.
“And you think this Charlotte person, she didn’t know either?”
“I’m not sure,” I said.
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“Because,” I said, “she’s dead.”
She took her hand and shielded her eyes and squeezed both temples.
“Me too,” I said. “It would help me if you could tell me more about your relationship with him.”
“How did you know I was going to meet Parker tonight, and how did you happen to drive up at the exact time I ran out, like you expected me.”
“It’s a long story,” I said.
“Fine by me, you don’t answer my questions, I don’t answer yours.”
It seemed we were at an impasse. I didn’t want to give up my true motive and she didn’t want to pour her life story out to a stranger. One of us needed to relent. Her arms were crossed and her eyes were closed—the answer was obvious.
“Alright,” I said.
For the next several minutes I fed her rudimentary details about my interest in Parker Stanton and hoped she would keep quiet long enough for me to confront him myself. I made no mention of my earlier run in with him that evening.
“That’s crazy,” she said, when I finished.
“Now can you see why I need your help?” I said.
“And you want to know if I think Parker is capable of murder?”
“I’m asking you to share what you know about him. Anything you can tell me would help.”
“You might not believe me, but at first our relationship was different from anything I’ve ever experienced before, like something out of a fairy tale. He left presents on my doorstep and notes stuck to the windshield on my car, and he took me on trips all over the place. Paris by day, London by night. Nothing was out of his reach. I guess some part of me questioned whether it was too good to be true, but I didn’t want to believe it wasn’t. No one in my life had ever treated me that way before.”
“When did things change?” I said.
“About halfway into the relationship, but by then it wasn’t easy to get out.”
“It’s a hard decision to make, especially when you’ve invested your feelings into it,” I said.
“Parker has a nasty temper and anything can set him off. At first he would just grab my arm or pin me down but after awhile, that wasn’t enough. One day he shoved me and I fell. He spent the next two days apologizing and said if I had it in me to forgive him he’d never lay a hand on me again.”
“And did he?” I said.
“For the next couple months after that no, and then last month he went off in a tirade. He hit me in the face and it left marks. I backed up and tried to get away from him and tripped over the coffee table, and that’s when this happened.
Daniela turned on the passenger side light and lifted up her shirt. It revealed a faded bruise that spanned about seven inches on her side.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “That must have hurt.”
“I thought he was the one. We planned our life together—kids, the whole bit.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
She shook her head.
“I wanted to, but I was embarrassed,” she said. “I didn’t want my family to find out what happened so I left for a couple weeks and visited a friend while I tried to sort it all out in my head. I know what you think—how could I go back to that monster after what happened? He called me every day and for a long time I didn’t answer, but the messages he left me were so sweet. Even with all we’d been through in the past, it was hard not to see him again.”
She lifted her finger and pointed out the window.
“Take a left at the stop sign.”
“You can pull over right here,” she said.
She opened the car door and punched in a code that opened the gates into a long drive.
“Nice place,” I said.
“It’s my Uncle’s winter home. We only use it a few months out of the year during ski season.”
It looked like a smaller version of the Hearst mansion. I couldn’t imagine what his summer home must be like.
“I’ll walk from here.”
“Can I call you if I have any other questions?” I said.
“All I want right now is to get away from him and to put this behind me, for good this time.”
“At least let me give you my card so you can call me if you need to,” I said.
She took the card and turned toward the gate.
“Thanks for the ride.”
“What is it?” I said.
“That would be our cause of death,” Maddie said.
“It hardly sounds dangerous.”
“The Greek’s didn’t call it the Queen of Poisons for nothing,” she said.
The light from the sun blinded me. I yawned and reached out to adjust my curtains and then closed them all together. I wasn’t ready to get up yet.
“So does that mean Charlotte was—”
“Poisoned,” she said.
“It’s ingested or absorbed into the system, and in this case, she ingested it, a lot of it,” Maddie said.
Audrey was right.
“I can’t believe it.”
“It’s possible someone gave it to her before she went skiing,” she said.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because this stuff has nasty side effects.”
“Paralysis of the facial muscles and the heart,” she said.
“It also dulls vision and my guess is that at some point she couldn’t see where she was going.”
“That explains a lot.”
“It’s nasty stuff, and the sad thing is, when her body started to break down she was probably still with it and conscious right up to the end,” she said.
“Any chance she came across it on accident?”
“I don’t see how,” she said.
“It was premeditated then.”
“And the killer never thought they would get caught,” she said. “Whoever did this assumed her death would be ruled an accident and didn’t take time to consider there might be a toxicology report.”
“Their world of disillusionment is about to change.”
“The drug works fast, and based on the amount I found in her system, death probably came within a few hours from the time she ingested it, maybe less.”
“That gives me a good place to start.”
“Go get him, sister,” Maddie said. “And jack his shit up.”
In light of what happened to Daniela and the fact Charlotte was poisoned, I decided the time had come for my big reveal.
I knocked on door 312.
I tried again.
Still no answer.
Maybe last night’s antics turned him off women for the moment. Then again, for a womanizer such as himself, that didn’t seem logical.