Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Shorts - Part 5 of "By Any Other Name"

At last, the ending is revealed!


A tentative knock on his office door made Dan raise his head. He smiled as Denise walked in the room. He leaned back in his chair and offered her a seat with a wave. “I hear congratulations are in order. Justin told me the Judge dismissed the Motion to Suppress yesterday.”

“Yeah. Finally, something went right on the case.” She looked down at a piece of paper in her hand. Her expression was somewhere between nervous and excited, but she was having trouble deciding what to say.

He decided to give her the chance to think. “Have the police in Burlington gotten back to you yet?”

Denise sat down on the edge of the wingback chair and smoothed her gray pinstripe skirt over her knees. She nodded. “They caught them checking in at a motel in Pueblo. You were right about the license plates. It had never occurred to me to check to make sure that I had the same plate on the back as on the front. It probably only took her a second to replace my front plate. Unless she got pulled over, and the cop actually examined the car she would be me — my license, my make and model of car, my plate number. Did I tell you that I recognized her the minute they showed me her mug shot?” At his shaking head, she nodded. “She was a grade lower than me in high school and was constantly competing with me, even in stupid little things, like who got in line for lunch.”

She shook her head with small movements that spoke of both frustration and confusion. “All her preparation — getting my birth certificate, social security card, even a duplicate driver’s license. She followed me around, stole things, practiced my signature — that’s a level of something that’s . . . eerie. I might not have ever found out if we hadn’t made the trip.”

“But what was she going to do to you? That’s the part I don’t get.”

Denise shuddered and rubbed her arms as though cold. “The police involuntarily committed her after her first interview. At times, they said she believed she was me. She was rational and clear-headed and gave my history as though she’d lived it. But then she’d flip and claim she wanted to ruin me — my name, my reputation. She wanted people to hate me as much as she did, said I needed to be punished for succeeding, when she couldn’t. She was never very good in school. She had to struggle even to get average grades, and somehow I guess she translated that into being my fault. Steve Lofgren said that the transcript is pretty weird, like she has a split personality. I don’t really care whether she winds up behind bars or in a padded cell, but I hope she’s off the street for a really long time.”

“What about the accomplice? Any story on him?”

She shrugged and tapped the roll of paper on her knee. “He was just in it for the money, I guess. He was using her to kite the checks and I guess he was picking pockets too. Steve said there were a bunch of wallets in the car with them, so they’ve got a pretty good trail of their crimes.”

There was nothing else to say, so Dan just nodded. The telephone on his desk rang right then, but he ignored it. He kept his eyes firmly on Denise, waiting. His intense gaze brought a nervous smile to her face that lasted until the final ring faded. He motioned to the phone with his head. “Is there anything else you want to tell me before I check voice mail?”

She looked down at the rolled paper in her hand and opened it, smoothing it against her skirt to straighten it. “This was the toughest puzzle I’ve ever worked. You threw me by putting in numbers and not showing the length of the words.”

His voice was teasing, and pleased. “You seem to enjoy a challenge. You’re here, so I presume you figured it out.”

Standing up with a raise of one brow and a smirk, she tossed the slightly curled anagram on his desk. “Yes, I did. I thought the roses were beautiful, and I would like to have dinner Friday at seven. I’d like it very much.”



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