Installment 46: pages 193 - 196 [Elliot, still reeling from Danielle's suggestion that a political leak may have gotten Jenny killed, decides he needs to look at Marina's room again. He prepares for what could be a difficult interview.]
“Elliot,” began Eva firmly, “do you think you’re in over your head here? Mightn’t it just be time to call that detective and tell her all this?”
“Come on Eva,” I replied, mustering a wan smile. “Do you think I like this kind of trouble? Look, how would you react if a suspect in your murder investigation came in with my collection of bits and pieces, half a paper trail and something that sounds a lot like an accusation that a murdered woman with access to ministerial information tipped off a brothel owner? Jesus, Jenny probably had a national security clearance to “secret” or better. It’s going to sound like I’m trying to throw suspicion on someone else, like I have something to hide.”
“But they know you were with me,” put in Danielle gently.
“I know. Which is exactly why I shouldn’t start acting like someone with something to hide. Look, you’re both right. I don’t want to argue, or to make any more trouble for myself – or for either of you – but I can’t turn this over to the police. I’ve got nothing to turn over. More than that, you have to remember …,” I took a breath, I hated dragging this up in front of Danielle again. “You have to remember that where the AFP’s concerned I’ve already been tried for one homicide and in their view, probably got off when I shouldn’t have.”
I thought about it and couldn’t help a small chuckle.
“What?” asked Danielle.
“Sorry, it only just occurred to me – if I hadn’t been able to get myself off then, Marina’s dad wouldn’t have hired me now. It was my skill in getting out of this kind of mess that impressed him.”
“But the jury said you were innocent, right?” Danielle did not seem to like my tone. I realized I might be sounding a little hysterical and tried to rein it in.
“Things weren’t quite that simple. You have to give a jury something to go on. I did. It had … consequences for other people. Look, I know I keep putting you off, but we can deal with this stuff after everyone is safe.”
I hoped the look I gave her wasn’t too desperately pleading.
It was Eva who broke the silence.
“My parents are already expecting me,” she said. “I wouldn’t have felt safe here tonight after what happened next door … even without the rest of this.”
I nodded: “Danielle, you should be perfectly fine, only the police know anything about, well, about me and you.”
I looked up again, hoping that there still was a me and her. She shot me a glance and the corner of her mouth twitched, maybe a little ruefully.
“Sounds like you should stay at my place then,” she said softly.
If my insides hadn’t already been thoroughly rearranged that afternoon, I’m sure my stomach would have lurched, my heart melted and quite possibly my lungs burst into the bargain. As it was, even though I couldn’t rule any of what I felt out as a pre-existing injury, her words still blew right through me, exploding into clear blue daylight on the other side.
Shit, I thought. This girl really likes me.
“Just until this is all cleared up,” she added. “But we are going to have to talk more about … well, what happened to you last year. The trial. And your parents.”
“You’re right,” I said. “I owe you that. And thanks.”
I caught Eva turning her head to hide her sentimental smirk from Danielle. She turned it into a motion of getting up from
the couch to go collect an overnight bag from her room.
“Sounds like we’re all sorted for the minute, then,” she said.
“Yeah, except Marina,” I said. “Look, if I’m lower-lip deep in the shit right now, she’s in real trouble.”
My eyes flickered to Danielle.
“I mean, it’s been over for ages and she’s probably the only person who can clear all this up,” I added hastily.
Danielle waved my stupidity away. I was certainly doing a great job of acting like someone with nothing to hide.
“You’re worried about her,” she said. “You should be.”
“I feel I’ve let everyone down here. Look, on the way to your place … would you mind if we dropped by Marina’s one last time? I keep feeling there must be something I’ve missed.”
Eva re-emerged with her bag, tucking a strand of her long black hair over one ear.
“You did seem to think at Thursday night dinner that Ted might have done something stupid like make a pass at Marina, or even have slept with her,” she said. “If he had – he might actually know something about where Marina is.”
“Yeah,” I said grimacing, and not just in pain, “the time for tact has probably passed.”
“Pity really. You’ve done tact so well to date,” Eva replied.
I shot her a look which I had hoped would say: Thanks. Mate. She simply arched an eyebrow in return.
“Fine,” said Danielle, “so we stop by Marina’s on the way to mine.”
“I’ll come with you guys that far, then,” said Eva, “Trish was going to lend me some Peter Carey – I might be able to keep her out of the way long enough that you can have a manful heart-to-heart with him.”
“Cheers,” I said. “Man to man, upright and fully sober, than should be just slightly more fun than amateur dentistry.”
“What is the deal with that?” asked Danielle, collecting her keys and waving that I should go grab what I needed from my room.
“Yeah, I’ve spoken with boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends before,” said Eva.
“So have I!” chimed Danielle.
“About what?” I called from room, hand frozen in the sock drawer.
“You’re sounding a bit shrill there, Elliot,” replied Eva. “You OK?”
I mumbled something about the inherent conspiracy of femininity and was rewarded with the sound of female voices soaring into the higher octaves of disbelief and shoulder-shrugging in the lounge. They didn’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.
I was about to shirt-front a mate, of sorts, and ask him: “So been shagging my ex at all?” Anything could happen. Men simply do not talk to other men about sex. At least, not the sort that actually happens in real life. Especially with women both parties know and like. Anything could happen.
And he works out, I thought, more in bitterness than trepidation. This is going to be a total disaster.