Detective Phil Harris and his partner Detective Leron Diego, a first-generation Latino in his early 30’s whose family hailed from Mexico City, drove quietly in an unmarked, brown late 1980’s sedan, which was today’s ride since the white Ford Crown Victoria had its transmission blow. Leron got in, buckled up, and put his hand down on day-old gum stuck to the camel-colored passenger seat.
He lifted his hand, spotted the sticky mess, and groaned, “What the fuck, dude?” he said as he rolled down the window with his other hand and flicked it onto the pavement.
Phil sniffed and chuckled, “Spearmint. Why don’t you eat it? Freshen your breath.”
“Fuck off, that’s nasty shit. Some slob put that crap under the fucking seat! Some hombres ain’t got manners!” he complained.
Phil enjoyed Leron as his partner. They had been riding together since they had been promoted to detective about the same time. Phil, who had graduated in criminal justice with perfect straight A’s, was shocked and a little jealous when Leron, a perfectly average C student, had bested him on the detective test. When Leron had bragged about his much higher score, Phil never had admitted his score was a lot lower. He hadn’t wanted Leron’s already high opinion of himself to grow. After all, Phil had to sit in the car with him all day and listen to him talk about his girlfriend Evonne who gave him pussy every single day. Although Phil felt sure that Leron was pumping up the numbers, Leron had stuck to that story for two years. So Phil figured maybe it was true.
He had once said, “Yeah dude, she can do it like six times easy on a Sábado.”
He had a habit of using Spanish words randomly with his English, even though most of the time his English was flawless. He took pride in speaking clearly and elegantly, especially in front of women. He had said he adored Evonne, but he had wanted to marry a rich white chick and have mixed babies in a big mansion in Granite Bay, which was a wealthy community near Folsom Lake. Phil found his proclamations annoying since it was obvious he wasn’t going to abandon his daily sex girl. Phil had once seen Evonne, and she was definitely hot with long, dark hair, big breasts, and a voluptuous ass that he had imagined Leron enjoyed from behind. He had wondered if Evonne knew of Leron’s aspirations to leave her. He doubted it.
They soon arrived at Mia’s best friend Erica’s upscale single-story house in the Fair Oaks area of Sacramento. Fair Oaks was known to have once housed the Governor’s Mansion and played home to many famous Sacramentans. Erica’s house was a beautiful Swiss-style chateau with lovely woodwork and brickwork on the exterior with a double-decker fountain tinkling near the entrance. Phil made note that Erica had money as a black Mercedes C250 sedan also sat in the front driveway.
Phil and Leron stepped out of the old sedan.
Leron glanced at the Mercedes and back at their decaying sedan and grimaced, “Dude, see what I mean … white chicks. They got the pan.”
Phil frowned, “Pan?”
“Yeah, dude, bread.”
Phil rolled his eyes and knocked on the door. A dog started barking. It sounded like a big dog, and as Erica, a full-figured brunette with searing hazel eyes, opened the door, she forcefully held back a German Shepherd, named “Doug” that she yelled at to quiet down. The dog pulled her backward for a moment, and Erica held up one finger, meaning one minute, closed the door, and made a shuffling noise followed by “fucking dog.” Phil and Leron chuckled at the cursing. A second later, she returned and opened the door. She smoothed her white linen blouse with an open V-neck and stood up straight.
She extended her left hand, which was unusual, and Phil noted she was a lefty, as she said, “You must be Detective Harris and Detective Diego. Please come in.”
“Yes,” he replied.
They stepped up inside of the gorgeous interior of the house. The front room had a mahogany fireplace with a suede brown sectional in front of it and a blue club chair across from it. On the matching mahogany coffee table, Phil noticed a tray with two containers, natural sugar cubes, and half-and-half. He assumed the containers had coffee or tea or both. Erica’s good manners set the tone for the conversation as she offered him coffee or tea to which he accepted tea.
Erica observed him also pour half-and-half in his tea and smiled, “English tea lover.”
“Yes, my dad drank it that way, but he wasn’t British,” Phil replied.
“Hey, you know if it’s not too much, you got a Coke?” asked Leron.
Erica stared at Leron in silence for a moment and then said, “Coke? Um, okay let me see. I think we have San Pellegrino lemonade.”
“What’s lemon San whatever? Never mind ma’am. It’s cool.”
Erica smiled politely, “I’m sorry detective we don’t drink sugared soda in this house. But please, help yourself to the tea or coffee.”
Phil glared momentarily at Leron, who just shrugged.
He then turned back to Erica, “So you were best friends since grade school.”
Erica nodded, “Well, if you ask me, which you haven’t yet, Mia would never kill anyone. I personally think it’s that Evan asshole she got involved with,” she said with disdain.
Erica got up and grabbed a wedding picture in which Mia was the matron of honor who stood next to Erica in her bridal gown. Mia was statuesque in a long navy-blue, floor-length gown with her long blonde hair pulled neatly back in a smooth ponytail.
“She is absolutely beautiful,” said Erica admiringly. “Her husband didn’t appreciate her at all,” she said and shook her head in a sad way. “He ran her into the ground. It was painful to listen to him say all sorts of mean shit to her right in front of family and friends. So when Evan came round, well … she was an easy target, I think. What? A wilted flower.”
“Do you know Evan’s last name?”
“Garner. He was her business partner, too.”
“They were lovers?” asked Leron.
“Oh no, not at first, no absolutely not,” responded Erica. “Not at first anyway.”
“What do you mean? Were they or weren’t they?” asked Phil.
Erica’s eyes watered, and she swiped a tear. She grabbed a recycled paper napkin to dab them.
“I loved her. She was really something – smart, sweet, beautiful. Loved her girls! I don’t know exactly how he seduced her. I just know she called me one day and flat out said, ‘I’m leaving Paul.’ I wasn’t surprised, you know. She didn’t complain. She never complained not about any of it. But she once said the saddest thing, ‘Expect nothing, and if you get something be grateful.’ And then that awful prick! He hid money. Left her bankrupt. Got his buddy to appraise a million-dollar home at $300,000 – what a joke! She was so broken she rolled over. He told the girls, ‘I have to sell the house. Mom needs money.’ Isn’t that just terrible? Mia didn’t want to take the girls’ home away. I told you, sweet, selfless. No way she killed anyone.”
“So you don’t know if they were lovers during the marriage?” asked Leron.
“I miss her,” said Erica who then shook her head. “I don’t know. Sorry. But honestly I knew Mia best. I don’t think so.”
Phil got up and so did Leron at the same time. Erica walked them back to the door. Phil handed her a card. “You think she’s still alive?”
“I hope so,” and as she said these words she choked on tears. “She was my best friend … look, I would go find this Evan or his partners … I think they were brothers or something. She went to New York a lot back and forth on business. I think that’s where they met.”
Phil nodded, and he and Leron went back to the sedan and got in. Leron looked at him. They both seemed to know exactly what was the next move, and Phil started the engine.