Ike came in from a game of basketball and headed straight for the refrigerator, pulled out a can of beer and downed a long drink. The exercise hadn’t done its job, it hadn’t eradicated his visit to the Rosenfeld house from his mind. It wasn’t his thing to get associated with murder suspects, but then, most of them had fewer teeth and scraggy looks and bore no resemblance to Gabrielle Rosenfeld.
He sighed heavily and looked around the room. The apartment was a mess, but then, he could still make way to his bedroom.
Ike dried his hair, still damp from his shower and took another long drink off his almost defrosted beer. He glanced out the window idly, then more curiously, as a limousine pulled to a stop in front of his building. Limousines weren’t a common sight in his area and especially not on his street, filled with people of minimum to low income. He watched as a chauffeur got out of the front seat and opened the back door for an elegant looking elderly woman who emerged slowly. He looked on for a moment and remembered his soup. He pulled it out of the freezer and put it into the microwave. When the doorbell rang, he looked at the door in surprise, as if it had spoken. He strolled barefoot across his carpet and pulled open the door.
There she was, the lady from the limo. She was standing right there in the hall.
“Detective Udeh?” she said.
“I’m Beatrice, Gabrielle Rosenfeld’s grandmother. We spoke on the phone regarding Gabrielle’s children. May I come in?”
Dumbfounded, Ike stood aside as she proceeded into the living room, looking around at the pile of books scattered in a corner, some on the dining table, discarded shoes on the floor. She watched him as he reminded her of someone in her youth; boyish in his gym shorts and Reds t-shirt, as he shoved a stack of papers to the floor to make room for her in the most comfortable chair in the room. She sat down and waited as Ike cleared a space for himself on the couch. When he looked at her, his arms resting on his knees, she smiled.
“My sources tell me you’re the only one on the police force who’s questioning this frame that has been constructed around my granddaughter,” she started.
Ike looked at her. Her sources? What did she have – A Mind Reader? The only one he had talked to was Ubaka, and Ubaka would rather spit out his tongue than give away inside information, especially to somebody like Beatrice. Who was she playing?
Mrs. Aku read his mind. “I haven’t bribed anyone, Detective, nor do I intend to do so. If the prosecuting attorney, Amobi, got news of it, my granddaughter would be sacrificed.” She waved her hand dismissively at his stare. “Wealthy people have means, that’s how we stay wealthy.”
“I can’t discuss your daughter’s case with you, Mrs. Aku.” He said regaining his voice.
“I understand that.”
“I’m sorry you came all the way out here for nothing, but –”
The buzzer on the microwave went off loudly.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Dinner,” he replied.
“Oh, am I interrupting something?”
“It can wait.”
“May I go on?”
“Mrs. Aku, as I said, I don’t think –”
She held up her hand. “Please, indulge me. Just give me a few minutes of your time.”
He hesitated, then nodded.
She rested her hands on her laps; a huge diamond glittered on her finger like a ray of light.
“Gabrielle was a very sheltered child, innocent to a fault, guess that contributed to her infatuation with George Rosenfeld. She was twenty when she met him, twenty one when they married and she thought he was ‘Prince Charming’. I had issues with him but finally gave my blessings. His father was biracial, half American, half Nigerian. There was just something about the Rosenfeld name that gave me the chills. But he could offer her security, and stability, and he had a family name.”
Ike said nothing.
She sighed and shook her head.
“Things got bad too soon. She found James with another woman, two weeks after their honeymoon. At the end of the year, Gabrielle wore the expression of a rejected wife, but she was already pregnant and decided to endure it. After my great-grandson, the second child was born, they led separate lives. She ignored the absences, the affairs, name it, but her tolerance took a terrible turn on her nerves. She became distant and reserved, even withdrawn. I told her to divorce that bastard six years ago, but she wouldn’t do anything to expose the children to scandal or harm them. George made it very clear that he didn’t want a divorce – very bad for a public icon like him – and that if she filed, it would be a bitter battle and the children would suffer. And of course, when he went into politics, the ‘Perfect’ family became even more important, and she went along with it, again, for her children.”
“I guess the rich don’t always get everything the way they want it.” Ike murmured.
She smiled. “I guess we don’t. Well, Mr. Amobi would now like us to believe that this same woman would shoot her husband in front of several reliable witnesses and expose her children to hundred times more abuse than a divorce would cause. Does that reasoning make sense to you, Detective?”
“She was positively identified by Rosenfeld’s press secretary, a man who has known her for years.” He said.
“It could have been an actress selected for resemblance, dressed and prepped to impersonate Gabrielle. We all know the power of the advanced make up.” She said, watching his reaction.
“I doubt such a performance would fool a man who saw her so frequently,” Ike said.
“Why not? At a time when everyone is shocked and horrified, there’s mass confusion and mistakes are bound to be made.”
“Mrs. Aku,” Ike said, rising. “I can’t be drawn into this discussion.”
“Why would she kill him?” Beatrice persisted. “After putting up with him all these years? Do you think she’s crazy? Talk to her doctor, she’s as sane as myself.” She leaned forward. “I understand the Amobi and the DPO. I understand that the DPO has earned everything he has by himself and must make political exposure out of this case to go further. He doesn’t have special and private means and so must go through the doors open to him. I admire that but he’s not going to end my grand child’s life to get what he so dearly wants.”
“The prosecuting attorney doesn’t have to manufacture a case, Mrs. Aku, it’s already there.”
“Don’t you care that you’re about to participate in a miscarriage of justice?” she demanded.
“You could be wrong about this, Mrs. Aku.”
“You sense it too, don’t you?” she asked. “You feel something is wrong.”
“My job is to go with the available evidence, not with my feelings.”
She sat back in her seat and stared at him. “Detective Udeh, I am eighty years old, and I’ve seen quite a handful of things and made great acquaintance with a whole lot of people. I’m not wrong about this. Gabrielle is innocent and I know it.”
Ike faced down, feeling as if he were back in elementary school, on the chair directly opposite the principal who was deciding whether or not to suspend him.
“I’ve said what I came to say. Please feel free to call me if you need anything,” Beatrice concluded, rising to her feet. “I can always be reached at the number Gabrielle gave you. Leave your name.”
He didn’t move, his gaze locked with hers.
“My granddaughter is a very pretty lady, isn’t she, Detective?” The lady said slyly, and then walked quietly out the door.
“I want you to grab the woman tonight. Leave no traces. We can’t afford any more mistakes.” The woman barked into the phone.
“We understand that. The first one was my colleagues fault, he…” his cruel softened on the other end of the line.
“I don’t care what happened. I need you to understand. I need a situation where we don’t get to have conversations like this.” The woman said, towering his voice.
“I understand. We would get her tonight.”
“Good. Any loopholes?”
“None yet. We are still working on some things.”
“Create one. Keep an eye on the lady. She’s special.”