His actions didn’t excuse his crimes.
March 12, 2014
A VH Serial: ToxiCity
Afterwards they fell asleep, and didn’t wake up until midnight. Matt was ravenous.
“I’ll make some eggs after I shower,” she said.
Matt nodded and fell back on the bed. Lulled by the spatter from the shower, he dozed, images from the past few days drifting through his mind: Sheila flirting with Stone; Georgia at the police station; Brandon hugging his mother’s legs. The little boy had faith his mother would take care of him. So did TJ Champlain. The people who lived in Meadow City had faith too. They’d invested their futures with Feldman. They’d believed in the system, trusted in a happy ending.
Stone was right. He should have seen it. A massive injustice had been perpetrated at Meadow City. And Stuart Feldman was at the center of it. But Feldman was lying in a hospital bed, half-dead himself. It was too late for him. Matt heard the spray of the shower. But his daughter still had a chance. They would atone, make amends together. The killings would end. He swung his legs over the bed and reached for his glasses.
He opened the door to the bathroom Clouds of steam fogged his glasses. He could just make out the contours of Ricki’s body behind the beveled glass of the shower stall. Dark wet hair plastered against pale skin.
“Ricki, let’s talk.”
“Sure,” she said cheerfully, sliding back the door. “Come on in.”
“What would you do if you found out someone you loved very much had done something wrong? Something very wrong?”
“Punish them ruthlessly. Show them no mercy.” She held out her arms and grinned. The dimple in her chin deepened. “Come here. I’ll show you.”
She ran a hand over her wet head. “If you’re trying to tell me you had a girlfriend before me, I already know.” She smiled. “It’s okay—I’m not a virgin either.”
“That’s not it.”
She peered at him curiously and turned off the water. Reaching for a towel, she slowly dried one leg, then the other, then her arms, letting the towel drop beneath her breasts. Fighting the urge to grab the towel, he launched into a summary of Stuart Feldman’s bribes. How they caused the death of witnesses. Gutted the parents’ lawsuit. Doomed the children.
“I think this happened for a reason,” he finished. “I think we’re supposed to make restitution. To make amends for your father.”
The towel stopped moving over her skin. She stood as still as a statue. Then she spoke. “Let me get this straight. You think my father bribed his way out of Meadow City,” she said evenly. “Then people died. And you think we should atone for it.” She looked at him. “Do I have that right?”
She fell silent.
Her eyes turned dark and angry. “Who the fuck are you, Matt Singer?”
“How dare you come into my life, into my bed, damn you, and then dishonor my father?”
“I know what you’re trying to do.” She wrapped the towel around her like a shield. “You want to pin these murders on him, because you can’t solve them. You and the rest of your buddies have to paper over your incompetence so you’re going to blame him. Make sure someone is held accountable.” Her voice was steel. “You’re all the same. Low-level bureaucrats in uniforms who can’t make it in the real world, so you attack the rich and powerful.”
Her eyes grew as icy as her voice. “He was your target all along, wasn’t he? You couldn’t wait to make it his fault so you could proclaim how the system works for the little guy.” She balled her hands into fists. “You know something? My father was right. He told me never to trust anyone in a uniform. The more fool me for not believing him.”
“Ricki. You don’t understand.”
But she wasn’t listening. “Tell you what,” she hissed. “Why don’t you pin a medal on the killer when you find him? Give them the key to the city. But make sure you never mention that the courts vindicated us. That we had the law on our side.”
“The law was wrong.” He knew an edge had crept into his voice. “Your father manipulated it. Got himself special dispensation.”
Her eyes were on fire. “He protected himself. Anybody with half a brain would have done the same thing. And the courts agreed. They said he wasn’t liable.”
“That doesn’t excuse his crimes.”
“Crimes? What crimes? You show me evidence, we’ll talk about crimes. All you’ve got is theories.” She flung open the bathroom door.
Matt stiffened. How did she know that? She’d been away when it happened. “I thought you didn’t know anything about it. You weren’t here.”
She halted, her shoulders hunched over the towel. “I—I wasn’t. After you and Stone told me about it, I read up on it.”
Matt gazed at her, unsure whether to believe her. “Then you know what a sin it was.”
Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.