SINCE WE know each other well, Meredith coming into my motel room is not suggestive, nor does she see it as a ploy on my part to seduce her–though I’d be willing to shout to the Canadian geese out by the rain-made lake that I’d love to seduce her, that is, if she were willing. Which she is not.
The room is small but pleasant. A sign outside tells potential in- habitants that this is The Blue Dolphin–A Pleasant Place to Lose Your Blues. We sit on the edge of the bed, she at the foot, I at one side, and she begins.
“As a young woman, Grandma Claire had been, of all things, a police officer. No, I’m serious. When aperson is in her seventies, you can’t always tell the circuitous routes she took to get there. She was respected as a ballsy babe who passed near the top of every milestone on the training list at the police academy. But she had one thing that was an albatross around her neck.”
She stops and I see that she is laboring internally with some dark secrets. I wonder why she said that she ‘must’ tell me all this.
“Your sister knew this about Grandmother, but as Claire told me, and this is a true compliment, ‘Charlotte Smart is the most respected person in the complex, and abhors gossip.’”
“One thing,” I repeat, “that was a burden for Claire…?”
“Yes. And that is that she was a lesbian. Oh, she was once mar- ried, and did have a couple ofchildren. But all of it went against what she called her true nature. Well, you can imagine how being alesbian
would go over for a policewoman. Every cop in the precinct thought she was attractive and wanted to get into her pants. And when she would turn them down, they would broadcast that Hazelton was a queer.”
“She had children, but realized she was gay and then…what, got divorced?”
“That’s right, and I never knew my grandfather, not even sure he’s alive. Claire turned seventy-four last summer; not too old, but since she’s been blind for several years, decided she’d be better off in a residential facility. You know, she was a policewoman till her early forties, already single, a caring parent toher kids, and a damned target of every horny cop in Simi, California. She finally sued for harass- ment, andactually won a settlement. But, because of the hostility, de- cided she had better resign. A small pension came in monthly.”
“How did she get here, in Pennsylvania?”
“My mother and I lived here, and, after Dad died, we hung around for a few years–I was in my teens–and Mom decided to move to Florida. I didn’t want to leave my high school pals, had a boyfriend I thought I was in love with, so stayed with some friends till I gradu- ated, then moved out on my own. When Claire left the police force, she lived with her partner, who was also an ex-cop, in California for nearly twenty years. They broke up when her eyesight began to go bad. She was past sixty, and she wrote to me asking if there was a good care facility near where I lived.”
“All this is background. You have a sordid part still to tell.”
“Yes. This part I didn’t even know till about a year ago, and I decided it wasn’t to anyone’s benefit to make it public. One of those homophobic cops, while out on patrol with Claire, tried to rape her. As it happened, they had been sitting on a possible hold-up call for several minutes, and just as the partnerattacked her, the perp ran from this liquor store. Claire fought her partner off, but during their strug- gle, he hit her on the head with his pistol, not enough to knock her out, but enough to stun her. He then leapedfrom the black and white and ordered the perp to freeze. The guy was almost on top of him and managedto bowl the cop over, and the two of them were rolling on the pavement when Claire exited the car, picked up the suspect’s gun, and demanded he stop. The other cop then stood and without a word, shot the perpin the chest. The way Claire described it, she was so pissed at the cop, she fired the perp’s gun at him. So, itwas a mur- der for a murder. The fingerprints were not the issue, because it was the perp’s gun that killed the cop, and vice-versa.”
“Holy shit!” I say. “That’s a movie of the week.”
“Claire told me all this with great regret, as if she had gotten away with something and deservedpunishment. Maybe she did, but, as you can imagine, I wasn’t about to turn her in.”
“Okay, so–even though I’m honored–why do you think I ‘must’ know all this?”
“Because I think my grandmother was killed. And I think your sister, Charlotte, is the one person here who can figure out how and why.”
If you’re enjoying CHARLOTTE and would like to blog about book two in the series, ACCIDENT, please contact my publisher who will hook you up with a free copy!