A middle aged woman with a lively expression answered the door at the Rosenfeld house.
“Detective Udeh, New Haven police.” He said, flashing his badge. “Is Mrs. Rosenfeld in?”
“She’s in the living room,” the woman said uncertainly.
“Please tell her I’m here. I’ll wait.”
The woman went in and came out in seconds.
“Mrs. Rosenfeld would see you.” She said.
Ike was shown into the parlour. Gabrielle Rosenfeld was seated on one of the twin couches that faced the television. She stared openly as Ike was lead into the room.
“Thank you, Nelo,” Gabrielle said. As the housekeeper left, she added, “Hello Detective Udeh. What can I do for you?”
As Ike opened his mouth to reply, she said,
“Forgive me, Detective, would you like something to drink?”
“No, thank you, I’m on duty.”
“Something soft? Coke?”
Gabrielle glanced into the hall. “I think Nelo went upstairs. I’ll get it.”
She slipped out of the room for a minute and returned with an iced drink for him.
“So, Detective, what brings you out here?” Gabrielle said, taking a seat.
“You left your overnight bag in the property room at the station,” he said. “I brought it back for you, it’s in the hall.”
“That’s nice of you to bring it out here. I’m afraid I was in such a hurry to leave that I forgot it.” She raised her brows delicately. “Is it usual for a detective to be on such a minor mission?”
He looked sheepish. “No, it’s not–” he stopped.
She smiled gently, “It’s almost lunch time, would you like a sandwich to go with that?” she asked. “My son would be coming back shortly, and Nelo will be fixing him something.”
Ike stared at her. How could she be so nonchalant, acting all cheerful with such confidence and style? Did she have no idea she was sinking slowly in quicksand.
Gabrielle looked at him and could see exactly what he was thinking. He watched her draw a deep breath and pass a slim hand through her hair.
“Yes, Detective, I have a complete understanding of my situation,” she said flatly, answering the question in his eyes. “If I didn’t before, the attorney, Mr. Umeh, my grandmother brought explained it to me very thoroughly. What you see before you is someone who believes something might happen when you can’t think of what else to do.” She bent her head. “It’s beginning to wear on me.”
“That’s understandable.” Ike said.
Gabrielle sighed, her expression grim. “Would you like to hear what my famous attorney told me, Detective Udeh?”
Ike opened his mouth to say no, but she went ahead before he could speak.
“He told me that he doesn’t care if I’m guilty, that it doesn’t matter to him.”
Ike didn’t comment. That sounded like Umeh, a high priced mouthpiece with black face, curly black hair and the carriage of a showman.
“He said that if I plead not guilty and the judgement goes against me, as it surely would in his opinion, I could receive the maximum penalty.” Gabrielle went on. “If I plead guilty with special circumstances, a good choice according to him, I could get off with a white collar jail. You’ll not be surprised that pleading guilty is what he advised.”
Ike met her gaze slowly.
“It didn’t seem to interest him that I didn’t do it,” Gabrielle added dryly. “In fact, my insistence that I didn’t kill George seemed to annoy him so much, as if I was bringing up an irrelevant information that was wasting his time.”
Ike looked away from her. He didn’t want to tell her his opinion of Umeh. Ike hated celebrity lawyers, and he thought Umeh was amongst the worst of them.
Gabrielle closed her eyes, recalling the interview. “He kept calling me ‘little lady’ and acting like I was some feeble minded female who had gotten her silly self into a very bad mess and now had to be bailed out of it by good old Umeh. But when I resisted his opinion about my case and expressed my feelings about the idea of pleading guilty to something I had not done, he became so mad.”
“So the choice was to go with what he told you or go elsewhere?” Ike asked quietly, getting drawn into the conversation despite his resolve to remain detached.
“Pretty much. I think I’d go with the latter.” She laughed shortly. “Not like I have anywhere else to go.”
“Mrs. Rosenfeld …” Ike began.
“He kept referring to what ‘we’ were going to do like we were both facing the same crime.” Gabrielle murmured, not looking at Ike as she said it. “He’s not charged with murder, I am. And what kind of attorney doesn’t care if his client is guilty. He didn’t even consider the possibility that someone was setting me up.”
“Who would that be, and why?” Ike asked.
“You sound like him. That’s exactly what he said. And when I couldn’t supply a list of suspects, he said that ‘we’d’ better take a long look at reality and prepare my case accordingly. By that time I was already firing him in my mind.”
“Mrs. Rosenfeld, I really shouldn’t be talking about your case with you.” Ike said flatly, falling back on the seat to seize the continuation of the discussion. He was disturbed by the lifeless, hopeless tone of her voice.
“According to Mr. Umeh,” Gabrielle continued. “All of this means that I had better take whatever deal is offered and be thankful for it.”
Gabrielle shook her head. “I know it doesn’t look good for me, Detective Udeh, but I refuse to believe that there’s no way.”
Ike didn’t comment. He agreed with her about Umeh, but it wasn’t his place to say so.
Gabrielle met his gaze, and she realized she was talking too much. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Of course, I shouldn’t be bothering you with this. Please, excuse me. I really don’t know how to act under circumstances like this. I have never been a murder suspect before and the protocol is new to me.”
“No problems,” he said shortly, relieved that she would now stop talking to him about the case. He wanted to know what was happening with her but at the time, he was aware that he was pushing the limits of his professional behaviour by conversing with her on the subject.
“Well,” she said, changing the subject and rising. “Let me see about some lunch.” She took a step then slipped, her hand holding the arm rest of the couch.
He was at her side in an instant, setting his drink down on an end table and catching her as she fell. She felt like a bundle of sticks in his arms, her bones as light as air. He made to put her on the couch but remembered the son coming back for lunch from school. He didn’t want the kid seeing his mum passed out on the couch. He carried her into the hall, looking around for the housekeeper, and then took her up the staircase to her room.
She opened her eyes slowly as he set her down on the bed. He let her down reluctantly, resting her head on the pillow. As he released her, she stirred and murmured, “Oh, no. Did I faint?”
“I think so.” He replied sitting next to her.
“I haven’t done that in years,” she said, blinking, rubbing her forehead and struggling into a sitting position. “I used to do it all the time, low blood sugar or stress or something, I don’t know. Did you catch me?”
“I had to or you could have crashed to the floor.”
She flushed deeply. “How awful for you to be caught in such a situation, I really have been a problem since you first met me, haven’t I?”
They stared at each other, Ike studying the fine, flawless quality of her skin, Gabrielle noting the thickness of the brows shielding his eyes. They sat frozen in a place when they heard Nelo’s voice from the hallway.
“Mrs. Rosenfeld?” the housekeeper called.
They looked ashamed like teenage lovers caught having sex.
“I’m up here, Nelo, in my bedroom,” Gabrielle answered, throwing back her hair and slipping her legs over the edge of the bed. Ike moved to assist her, and she rose and turned against him. His arms came around her tightly and she allowed herself the luxury of accepting them. Her head fell on his chest and she felt him stiffen. He smelled of soap and starch on his shirt, and she had to fight the urge to fling her arms around him and bury her face in his chest. Here was the strength she sought in George and never found, here was the basic decency she’d begged for when she discovered that her husband was losing it. She sighed and held him, her eyes closing as she felt the hardness of his manhood against her thigh.
They both heard the housekeeper’s footsteps in the hallway and Gabrielle stepped away from him just as Nelo came through the door.
“Mrs. Rosenfeld, what’s wrong?” Nelo asked, glancing from one person to the other in concern.
“Nothing, Nelo, I felt a little faint and Detective Udeh brought me up here, that’s all.” Gabrielle said, avoiding Ike’s eyes as he made his way to the door.
“It’s no wonder you’re fainting, you barely eat enough to keep a bird alive,” Nelo said. “Do you need me to call the doctor?”
“No, no, I’d be fine. Don’t worry yourself. Is Ekene home yet?”
“That’s why I was looking for you, he just got back.”
“I’d be going now, Mrs. Rosenfeld, if you’re sure you are alright.” Ike said from the doorway, his expression blank.
“Yes, thank you, Detective. Goodbye.”
“I’d show you out,” Nelo said.