Chapter 5: "Faith in Lovers"
Wilson was the prep cook at a four star table in the campus district, and, in the evenings she was the expediter at a different but nearby kitchen. Smith sat at one of the small two-person booths, by the central bar that protruded from one of the kitchen entries. The interior was fully wood cloaked but this room was maple and airy, with high ceilings, in contrast to Kelly Sammys nookish mahogany. The air was full of the flavored smells and smokes of a busy supper hall, from the kitchen's grills and ovens, tobaccos, wine, scotch, ales, and of the patrons themselves. The detective ordered a medium well steak with a side of steamed vegetables and a lobster tail. There was a sizeable university crowd, wiping away the wounds from their week's first day of classes with dinner ales. Several times he saw Wilson through the bar's kitchen door, and he saw that bar staff directly walked all food orders made at the bar back to Wilson's expediter port. He didn't think she saw him, because she was occupied as the switch between the front-of-the-house and the back-of-the-house staff, and the restaurant was busy. But when he was just finishing his steak, Wilson came around through one of the kitchen's side doors, and walked up to the detective's table, and asked about the quality of his meal. He had no complaints, so he didn't offer any. She asked if he had made any progress in the Santos case.
“I'm going visit a family member of hers, back east, tomorrow morning,” Smith said.
Wilson said she was aware that Santos did not have anyone in the way of relatives or in-laws, since she wasn't married, and was an only child, and both of her parents had been dead for many years. She asked that the detective inform the “family member” that she and Professor Foster wished to offer any financial assistance which might be needed, either in disposal of Santos' estate or assistance to the family, and that they would also like to be informed regarding any funerary rites.
“Basically, if they don't have the money, or any sort of plan, Skip and I will take care of it all,” she said. “But right now, I need to get back to the kitchen, Detective Smith. Please contact me when you return.”
Ms. Wilson returned through the door to her kitchen.
Smith parked at Seattle Tacoma International at 3:45, and his flight left on time at 4:30. He changed planes in Chicago about lunchtime; he had checked no luggage, and by 3 o'clock he was in his rental. The detective drove to his hotel off a rainy I-95, and showered off the slightly oily film acquired on his skin during the day of travel. He put on a pair of khaki shorts and a collared beach shirt, laid back on the bed, and watched the local TV news for about 45 minutes while his spine decompressed. He telephoned Santos' aunt, confirming his arrival, and their appointment the next morning. He took the stairs down to the ground floor of the hotel, and took a spot at the bar of the eatery adjoining the lobby, where he remained watching the people and the sports on the restaurant's televisions until about 7:45.
He put his slacks and coat back on, and steered his rental a few more miles up I-95, not far, to Santos aunt's home, on the southern side of downtown's Center City district. They had agreed on 10 o'clock. He parked down the block, walked up to her address, and rang the bell, and she opened the door within seconds. Janice Allison. He had expected her to be elderly, but she was not. Ms. Allison was 49 years old, she said. Santos' father's sister's daughter – so in fact not an aunt to Santos, but a cousin of hers, though with the age difference between them of about a generation, her role was more that of an aunt's, and labels had followed the form that followed function, the woman explained. Ms. Allison invited Smith inside the home, a house decades old and bordered on each side by similar residences. She offered coffee, and the detective accepted, and they sat down. She wanted to know what happened, and he answered her in honest gruesome detail the events and details of the case. In about the last 15 years, the two women saw each other only around Christmastime, Allison explained, when they could afford the time and the plane fare. That amounted to just about every other year, she said. Beyond that, there was not much family business to tend to because the two were essentially the only ones. Santos' parents were both dead by the time she was 20 – her father had been gone since Santos was a little girl, she said. There was not even family gossip, she explained.
Among receding cousins or other in-laws scattered about the country, Allison and Santos just kept in touch with each other, and that was family, certainly easy to keep track of, she said. Smith asked how frequently she had spoken to Santos on the phone; she explained that it wasn't a weekly thing, but surely a monthly thing, and that the two had always gotten along, and would sometimes chat at length. He asked of Allison what she might have heard Santos say about new friends or lovers, old lovers, jilted lovers, or any change in lifestyle or habits that seemed unusual or dangerous or notable for any reason. No, she said, Tina was a modern woman and always did well taking care of herself, she said. He asked if she had ever mentioned Professor Skip Foster or Daisy Wilson. Yes, she said, the art professor and the cook, she said.
“I met them two Christmases ago, we all went out to the theater, and then for dinner,” she said. “That was the last time I saw her; we missed last Christmas. She was planning to fly out here this year, we had already bought refundable tickets. I talked to her about it last month. The last time we talked.”
The detective explained that he didn't have any significant parties of interest except Foster and Wilson, because, as far as he could tell, they were the only parties with whom Santos' had been significantly recently romantically involved. He elected not to mention Detective Thompson's recent interaction with her for several reasons – the primary one being that he did not suspect Thompson. He explained that Santos' remains were still at the Pierce County Coroner's Office, and that Wilson, the night before, had offered her and Foster's assistance in burial/cremation costs and arrangements.
“You might telephone her regarding that, OK? Moreover, I haven't seen any evidence indicating Foster's or Wilson's involvement in Tina's death, to clarify. Just, under the circumstances, I have to look closely at Tina's acquaintances, inasmuch as victims of violent crime are typically not strangers to their attackers. The are, in fact, even more likely to be romantically involved with their assailants,” he said.
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