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Bart Robinson Jr., age thirty-two, was the son of the minister of education. He studied in the highest-level schools of Uptown, graduated in law with honors and was about to lead a successful life both as a professional lawyer and as a politician in the same party as his father. He was known to be a caring and balanced person; he had a beautiful fiancée, a lot of money, and was always doing charity and giving speeches to the freshmen at different universities. In other words he was perfect, at least until he went crazy and shot his own father, two bodyguards and four other colleagues in one colleague’s villa where they were holding a meeting about the party’s internal policy. On the internet, I found several interviews and videos about him. I looked at him and tried to capture any detail about his personality, from the way he talked, to his clothes, wondering if that person really could have met Shallie in the period she was missing. Ultimately, it was hardly probable I’d figure out anything from the internet, knowing the fact that his car was found in the lake had never reached the public. Despite everything, I felt that there was something I was missing, something I could have guessed from the information I was looking at, but I wasn’t able to connect my thoughts into something concrete. I needed a starting point, an event around which I could build a theory. Lost in my thoughts, I was startled by Dan’s voice behind my back.
“I guess that may be it.”
A towel around his neck, drops of water were still falling from his hair. “The timing. This guy’s car was found two days after your girlfriend. They were investigating the area because of her, her case was closed the next day, and right after that, Walker was threatened. In addition, they found the car, but then they covered it up. Robinson was the son of a minister, and a member of the City’s most influential political party. I guess the police immediately contacted him or his father when they found the car, and then agreed to keep it secret.”
“I see. Yes, it makes sense. But then what about what happened two weeks later?”
“I don’t know, but if he had a plan, clearly something went wrong.”
That was my starting point. I was glad I could discuss it with him; my brain was finally able to expand on all the information at once.
“What if it wasn’t just him?” I said then.
“It may be, why do you think that?”
“Let’s say he kidnapped Shallie on his own. He covered it up, most likely helped by his father. Then his colleagues must have done something against him, and like you said, if he had a plan, something went wrong. The first thing that I can think of is that they found out what he did, but nothing leaked from them, so I guess they wanted to negotiate with him to keep their mouths shut. Doing it in person looks like the best way to keep any business secret, so they met in that villa. Now there’s something strange, something that doesn’t fit the picture: even if the other politicians found out and wanted to threaten him, why kill everybody there, his father included, and commit suicide on top of it? It could be, but it doesn’t feel right. At that point he could have faked an accident to get rid of them. Why die after all the effort to cover up the truth? And by dying he would actually take the blame for everything instead, you know?”
“And his connection with Shallie stayed hidden anyway,” said Dan.
“Exactly. Once he died, they could have just uncovered it. The public opinion loves to put all the blame on one bad guy, so they can pretend the rest of the world is perfect and pure. Still the police didn’t uncover it. The only thing I can think of is that he wasn’t alone. There was someone else involved in the whole thing, someone the news cannot talk about. And this person, or these people, are still well hidden and supported by the police. They might be related to the cause of her death.”
“It makes sense. It’s possible. But we need proof, otherwise you are just guessing. You could be imagining things, and in the end this Robinson was just completely insane and made that massacre on a rampage. Also, don’t forget that the information we have might be controlled by the police or whoever else is behind them as well. So let’s be cautious.”
“Yes, of course,” I said. I opened the web page where I was reading the information about Robinson, and I had an idea. “I think for starters we should talk to someone who knew this guy, just to get an idea of what kind of person he really was.”
“Sounds good, but who and how?”
“Look here,” I showed him the paragraph I was reading.
“‘Engaged to Lilian Marshall, daughter of John Marshall, the chief of medicine of the Rosedeer University Hospital.’ It’s where your father works. Do you know this John Marshall?”
“Nope, but I’m sure my father does. Maybe we can use it as an excuse to get closer to his daughter, even though I don’t want my parents to be involved in this.”
“If that’s the only problem, I’m sure there’s something we can do. I’ll think about it.”
“Thanks.” I felt relieved and I was secretly proud of myself for my deductions.
“By the way, I’m impressed. I didn’t think you were so smart,” he said.
“Hey, that’s rude. Besides, before all of this happened I was about to enroll in the police academy.”
“Really? I see,” he said with a polite smile.
Of course, I forgot he didn’t know that. I glanced at him and suddenly remembered our conversation from earlier. There was still in him something of the boy I knew? Since he was ready to do so much to help me, I guessed he still kind of cared for me. And I? I was still confused. I didn’t know anything about his mother in the first place, and the life he led after leaving Uptown was dark and far away from me. He said he was too ashamed to tell me, and I could understand that. I don’t know how the fifteen-year-old Andrew would have reacted to knowing what he was doing. But one thing was sure, I had no right to judge him. The way I was running away from home and from my loved ones wasn’t so different from what he did, and if he hadn’t been with me in those days, who knows what could have happened to me? Thinking of that made me miss my parents. They had to go through so much suffering in their lives, and I was just making it worse for them.
He was now drying his hair with the towel and wasn’t paying any attention to me. I thought I could answer his question from before and tell him “I’m not disgusted by you, shit happens,” but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. At the same time my sense of guilt toward my parents was growing, so I knew I had to break the silence in the room and get distracted.
“Hey, Dan,” I said, but I still had nothing in mind to tell him. He turned my way with an interrogative expression on his face. Now I really had to think of something. “I don’t have other clothes to wear, maybe I should buy some.” In fact, I still had something in my backpack, but that was the first thing that came to my mind. Or, I could have just asked if I could wash them. I felt like an idiot.
“You can get something from my closet; if my jacket fits you then anything should be good. Unless you really want to go shopping,” he said with a grin on his face. He must have understood I spoke without thinking.
“I— I don’t,” I said then, and went to his bedroom. I was glad I didn’t have his eyes on me anymore. I opened the closet almost expecting a corpse to pop out of it, and I was surprised to find it in perfect order. He liked to keep his things in order when we were children too, and I was glad it was still the same. He had sweaters and winter clothes in the first drawer, t-shirts and pants in the second, and shirts on the hangers. That day finally felt like spring weather, so I chose a t-shirt and I put a shirt on top of it, leaving it open. Then I noticed that at the bottom right of the closet there was something else. I moved the shirts, and there I found a woman’s dress. Looking closer, I saw it wasn’t just one; there were also other dresses, shirts and skirts. All of them very sexy. I hesitated, staring at those clothes, until Dan came in the room.
“Done already?” he asked. I looked at him with the dress still in my hands.
“Are these yours?” I said.
“Are you seriously asking me that?” He looked offended, but I don’t know why, it seemed perfectly possible to me. Then I remembered the old lady saying something about a girl who left her things there.
“Oh, that’s what the old lady was talking about.”
“Yes, I had totally forgotten about it.”
“So these are your girlfriend’s?”
“Well, I should say ex-girlfriend by now.”
“Did she come over often? There’s a lot of clothes here.”
He seemed to think about it for a moment, and then said, “Occasionally, yeah.”
“I guess that’s the good part of living alone, that your girlfriend can sleep over at your place whenever you want…. I’m kind of envious.” I ended up smiling, thinking of Shallie coming to my house. I remembered how she was nervous the first time she met my parents. And again, the first time we made love, in my room. I felt a dull pain in my chest and I put the dress back in the closet, then sat on the bed. Dan probably perceived something was wrong with me and sat down by my side.
“I am kind of envious of you too,” he said.
“Why?” I asked. I was a bit surprised about it.
“She is… well, if you meet her you will know immediately, but she can be pretty intense. And besides her and another kid, all the people I went out with were a bunch of weirdos. I have no idea how to have a normal relationship.”
“Pfff—” That confession unexpectedly made me smile, and his troubled face was too amusing to hold back a laugh. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“What? Is it so funny?”
“No, no, I’m sorry. Thank you,” I smiled at him. He was trying to cheer me up, and he really did it. Methodically, he started to put the girl’s clothes in a bag.
“Anyway, before I called the guy I told you about. The one I tried the drugs for. He owes me a favor, so he said he will listen to our questions,” he said.
“Good, when are we meeting him?”
“He said he doesn’t want strangers in his laboratory, but we can go meet him at his club any night, I will just have to ask the guard for him.”
“He owns a club?”
“Yes, that’s his actual job. He’s there every night, no better place to do business.”
“Of course. So, can we go tonight?”
“Sure. It opens at midnight.”
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