Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Matter of Dreams: Chapter 12.2

            It was almost dark when they approached Harte’s residence near campus.  It was a nice area, Chavez mused.  When Connecticut had first changed its law, Sam had tried to talk him into moving across the country, waiting out the residency period and getting married.  But life had intervened, as life always tended to do.
            Elizabeth sat quietly in the passenger seat, drawn and withdrawn.  She gave the impression of trying to curl into herself, just another shadow as night fell.  What could have motivated her to drive across the country to see her brother, Chavez wondered.  Mere concern for him wouldn’t have sufficed, not in the state her husband had left her.  What was it she had really seen? 
            He had to be careful.  Too much pressure to talk, and she’d keep withdrawing until she wouldn’t speak at all.  Only a monster like her husband could get anything out of her then, someone who wouldn’t scruple to break her. 
            Chavez felt a flare of disgust toward Douglas Wright.  He had seen too many abusive relationships in his time.  Whatever happened, he would have to see what he could do to keep Elizabeth from going back to that man.  But that was a problem for later.   
            He hoped that by bringing Elizabeth with him, pushing her to assert herself and giving her a role in the investigation, she would eventually volunteer what she knew.  He had told her the truth when he said that he didn’t believe Larkin was responsible (or, at least, solely responsible) for what happened; he had a gut feeling that the boy couldn't be the driving force in something this weird.  There was no question however that Larkin was involved, and he needed to know what Elizabeth was hiding. 
            A second floor light was on in Harte’s surprisingly large house when he eased the car up in front, into the shadowed gap between two street lamps.
            “Well,” he said to Elizabeth, “we’re here.”
* * *
            She trailed behind the FBI agent as he walked up the flagstone path.  Elizabeth couldn’t figure him out.  Agent Chavez frightened her; when he looked at her with those dark, stern eyes, she was certain that he was reading her mind.  She had been sure she was going to jail when he confronted her at the hospital.  But he didn’t arrest her; he didn’t shout at her, or threaten her, or tell her she was worthless. 
            Instead, Chavez was polite.  As they had driven to the doctor’s house, he had asked for her opinions on what they had seen in the hospital ward.  Doug had never asked for her opinion on anything, unless he wanted to hear how great he was after the booze had blinded him to their wreck of a life.  When Doug looked at her, it was with disgust, or dumb lust, or, when she was lucky, indifference. 
            Agent Chavez was also far, far more intelligent than her husband.  Elizabeth herself was not stupid, she would not have survived Doug if she were, but the fact that she was smarter than Doug infuriated him more than anything else. Elizabeth had learned to keep her mind to herself.  She was not used to someone like Chavez, who wasn’t afraid to use his head.  And somehow, the FBI agent seemed most intelligent when he was asking questions, unlike Doug, who wouldn’t ask questions in case he let people know what a fool he was.
            It had taken all of Elizabeth’s strength not to blurt out what had happened on the night Doug was attacked.  The one thing she was certain of, however, was that she was not going to let Matt down again.  It was the only thing that she was certain of, anymore, but it was a certainty nonetheless.  It gave her the will to tell Chavez that she had been asleep and had not seen anything. 
            Elizabeth could tell that Chavez had not believed her, and she suspected that he was letting her tag along in case she gave something away.  But that meant that as long as she kept her mouth shut, she could follow him and maybe learn what had happened to Matt.
            Chavez had stopped now at the foot of a wide stairway leading up to the front door, and was examining a bicycle partially hidden behind a row of ornamental shrubs.  She didn’t see anything special about it.
            “The professor has a visitor,” Chavez said in a hushed tone.
            “Oh...”  Elizabeth kept her voice low too, though she didn’t know why.
            “I don’t think he’d crush his own topiary to hide a bike, do you?  Not when he’s got a perfectly good garage in the back.”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Mmm.  And none of the other lights are on besides the room upstairs...”
            Then Elizabeth understood.  “He wouldn’t have all the lights out if he had a guest, would he?”
            “Maybe, but probably not.  I think perhaps you’d better wait in the car, Mrs. Wright.”
            He stepped up to the front door.  She stood there for a moment, but then she grasped at that stone inside of her and followed him.
            “Please, call me Elizabeth,” she said.  He nodded gravely.
            Then he turned back to the door.  “Look at this,” Chavez whispered, pointing to a set of multiple-choice doorbell buttons with little brass plaques.
            “Which do we choose?”
            “None of the above.”  He pounded on the door with his fist.  They waited, but there was no response.
He tested the large doorknob.  “Not locked,” he said.
            “Don’t you need a warrant or something?”
            “No one came to the door.  Either we’ve got someone inside who isn’t supposed to be here, or someone who might need help.  Exigent circumstances, Elizabeth.”
            He eased open the heavy door, revealing a shadowed hallway.  Yellow light spilled down into the hall from somewhere upstairs.  The house was silent.
            They moved up to the second floor, their footsteps muffled by the lush carpet.  A door stood open onto the upstairs hallway, the source of the light.
            As they approached the open door, Chavez waved her back, then glanced into the room.  “Office,” he mouthed, and went inside.
            Elizabeth exhaled, realizing she’d been holding her breath.  She had expected some huge thug to burst out of the room and kill them both.  She leaned against the wall to catch her breath.
            Elizabeth’s nerves had been strung out for days, keyed to a fever pitch over the past two hours, and stretched to their utmost limit for the last ten minutes.  When a huge figure did in fact charge out of the shadows directly at her, they snapped.  With a scream that was equal parts terror and fury, Elizabeth lashed out with her fist at the man, striking him squarely in the nose.
* * *
[Go to Chapter 12.3]

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