Selene (A continuation of Silence)
“We don’t have much to hold her on since the dealer isn’t pressing charges. We’ll have to cut her loose…”
“Over my dead body,” a stern voice boomed from the doorway. Stanley Lankin’s stomach had distended and his fierce Stalinist mustache had greyed with time. His casual khaki slacks and cheap button-up shirt made it clear that although he was retired, Stanley would always be a cop.
“Stanley, good to see you.” Detective Pinkerton of the Las Vegas Metro Police division shook Stanley Lankin’s outstretched hand.
“I got your call about a hit on the O’Leary case. Is this the girl?” Stanley pointed to the sobbing siren seated in the interrogation room. She looked fresh from a brawl at a USO dance.
“Yes, Selene. O’Leary.” Pinkerton’s eyes narrowed.
Stanley looked ready to jump out of his skin. “Break it down for me.”
“Selene was picked up at Caesar’s Palace after assaulting a poker dealer. From what we can tell by watching the security tapes, she lost a hand to the dealer and came over the table to extract her pound of flesh. Here’s where it gets weird. As she’s shaking the dealer, she’s screaming, Where is he? Where is he god damn it, don’t make me kill you. She was gesturing to an empty seat at the table and chanted repeatedly, He was right there, right there. So security wrapped her up and while she was in their custody, she begged them to review the casino’s security tapes. She claimed that her husband, Dean O’Leary and his friend Gaelin—no last name—were at the table and disappeared.”
“Yeah, like a ghost story, or a timewarp or something. Anyway, I remembered that you had worked on a case involving a Dean O’Leary for several years…”
“Ten years,” Stanley confirmed.
“…ten years. I’m sure the name hit is just a coincidence, but I thought I’d call you nonetheless. This one is a 5150, she’s drunk as hell and has her wires crossed.”
“Maybe. Can I talk to her?”
“Stanley, you’re retired, I can’t let you…”
“Just for a moment. If she knows where he is, I have to know.”
“Look, I understand, but it’s not going to happen. I can go another round with her and see what she knows about her husband—you’re welcome to listen in.”
“You’re welcome.” Detective Pinkerton walked back into the interrogation room and closed the door behind him.
“Did you review the security tape?” Selene’s bright blue eyes were clouded with tears and her voice had the shrill undertone of desperation.
“Yes, we’ve been over that, Selene. We saw the whole thing.”
“Then you saw Dean.”
“Selene,” Detective Pinkerton said, sighing wearily, “we didn’t see anything out of the ordinary aside from your attempted murder of the dealer. Andy, I think is his name.”
“Ask him, he knows.”
“Andy didn’t have anything to add. He’s still pretty shaken up.”
“Of course he is. They disappeared.”
“Dean?” Pinkerton asked.
“Yes. And Gaelin.” Selene placed her head in her hands and began to cry softly. Her disheveled auburn hair fell below her shoulders in long, pooling curls as she shook timidly.
“So, you were all out for a night on the town, and decided to play a little poker at Caesar’s Palace?”
Selene smoothed her navy blue dress and composed herself. “We were celebrating our nuptials with Dean’s best friend.”
“Gaelin?” the detective interrupted.
“Yes. We met at Gaelin’s house.”
“Had you met Gaelin before?”
“Just once. On the night I met Dean.”
“Okay. Where did you meet Dean?”
“At the Double-Down Saloon. I bought him a drink.” Selene smiled for the first time. “He was too shy to talk to me, but Gaelin returned later to make sure we saw one another again.”
“Then Dean found me. He wandered Las Vegas Boulevard until he found me. We never left one another’s sight after that evening.”
“You were married shortly after?”
“Yes.” Selene’s smile faded. “Do you understand, detective? I found him, the one. Can’t you help me?”
“We were hoping you’d help us find him.”
“If I knew…” Selene began to protest.
“We think you do. And we need to know where his is, now.”
“I don’t know! How many times can I tell you? We were with Gaelin as he played. Dean said something to Gaelin, Gaelin started acting weird and so did the dealer. They laid their cards down and… and…”
“Yes.” Selene dipped her head. “I know how it sounds, but if you just look at the security tapes, you’ll see.”
“What do you know about your husband?”
“That I am dead without him. That I am incomplete because I know he exists, incomplete because he has been ripped from my arms. That he makes everything vile in this world perfect and he always will.”
Detective Pinkerton looked to the two way mirror on the adjacent wall and stood.
“Dean is someone we have been looking for. We’d like to speak to him. We have a great many questions to ask him.” The detective approached the mirrored window with his hands clasped formally behind his back.
“Dean? You must be mistaken.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know my husband.”
“You think you know your husband, but in truth you’ve only known him for a little over a month, correct?”
“I hate to break it to you but Dean has a very dark past.”
“We’ve been looking for Dean for a very long time. He’s a pretty nasty individual.”
“Our pal Dean, your husband, had a very lucrative career as a bank robber in California. We had nothing on him until he screwed up in Los Angeles. Dean and his crew murdered fourteen innocent people during a botched robbery.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Dean isn’t from Los Angeles.”
“Dean didn’t tell you he was from Los Angeles. He also didn’t tell you that he was involved in the death of Sarah Gilbraunsen in 1998 during another botched bank robbery right here in Las Vegas. He disappeared, Selene, completely, until now.”
“Well, that’s what we’re trying to sort out.”
“The man I married is not a criminal, and he is certainly not a murderer. He only wants to love me and to write. Nothing else.”
“Where did he work?”
“I don’t know. He never went to work…” Selene’s resolve began to fade.
“That’s a little strange isn’t it? Did he inherit some money from someone?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was he independently wealthy? Did you discuss a pre-nuptial agreement?”
“No. I don’t know, please, I’ve told you everything, why aren’t you trying to find my husband?”
“Dean O’Leary.” Detective Pinkerton twisted the knife. “We’ll find him, Selene. You can count on that. We’ll also find out what you knew and when.”
“Am I free to go?”
“I have some questions about…”
“Am I free to go?”
“Yes,” the detective reluctantly replied. “But don’t leave town, this isn’t over.” Detective Pinkerton left the interrogation room.
“She’s lying,” Stanley said, grunting as soon as the detective had closed the door.
“Maybe. Chances are she doesn’t know anything about Dean. Chances are, it’s just another Irish kid with the same name as thousands of other Irish kids.”
“Bullshit. This is it, Pinkerton, I can taste it. Dean fucked up and hit our radar again. He won’t escape this time.”
“We’ve got nothing to hold her on.”
“I understand. Do you mind if I have a look at the security tapes?”
“Thanks, I owe you.”
Stanley and Pinkerton retreated to a small room with a large computer monitor and a single chair. Pinkerton entered his passcode into the system and retrieved the digital security footage from Caesar’s Palace.
Stanley stood expectantly over Pinkerton’s shoulder. “Pretty fancy, Pinkerton. Do we have the overhead?”
“No. Technical difficulties before the event in question. Okay, here we are. There she is, calm, then… bam, she loses it.”
“There are too many passing bodies blocking the view. Run it back ten, fifteen minutes,” Stanley insisted impatiently.
The pair of street-tested eyes watched cards being flipped, waitresses coming and going, and the multi-colored milieu of the addict.
“There!” Stanley shouted and pointed to a shadowy figure revealed only by a rapidly collapsing fissure in the crowd. “That’s him.”
“It isn’t clear, that could be the person in the foreground reaching out their arm.”
“You have to be kidding, Pinkerton; that’s a person, standing next to Selene. You can nearly make out the outline of the player they are watching.”
“Stanley, no offense, but you’re reaching pretty hard on this.”
“You’re not reaching hard enough…”
“The story just doesn’t check out. And besides…”
Stanley was gone. The room’s door was sliding closed slowly.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Stanley.”
Selene blurred in a sea of hot steam. She bathed slowly, refusing to cry. Her hands reminded her of Dean. Her arms reminded her of Dean. The pleasure of the water’s warmth reminded her…
How could he be a murderer? How could the man, who revealed to her the endless depths to which love can descend, be a monster? He couldn’t. End of story. Selene, wrapped in terrycloth, slipped into their bed. Moonlight spread across their crumpled sheets. They had been here, just this morning. A beaten copy of On the Road, a half-pack of cigarettes, and a few typewritten pages of a letter cluttered his side table. She ran her fingers over the old paperback and re-read portions of the typed missive.
The sound of the stream is deafening. Who says you can’t hear erosion? Your warmth has eroded the ice and stone I’ve so carefully built around my love. You claw at my defenses to reach inside, to feel connected, truly connected with me. You’re saving me. I see forever in your eyes, and for once, I’m not afraid. It breathes fire into my veins. It inspires me.
Stanley pulled to a slow, deliberate stop across the street from Selene’s address. The house was dark and the porch light was lit. Stanley waited; he had no choice. Pinkerton was useless, he wanted a closed case, and he couldn’t see the big picture. O’Leary and his crew slaughtered fourteen people in broad daylight on the corner of Sunset and Vine. Los Angeles went silent as every low-life informant and hustler was brought in. It was a parade of the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. More than a few fish hit the net but LAPD never found a trace of the suspects. Stanley took it personally; with the vehemence of Ebola, he searched out and eliminated suspects. A young rookie working alongside Stanley turned up a homeless person who gave a description of: a man from the movies. You know, them old gangster movies. Suits and tommy guns… Blah blah blah, or so it seemed at the time. Amateur footage confiscated from a tourist had shown a man in his early to mid twenties standing outside of the bank a few minutes before the crime was committed. It took the cooperation of seven departments, but Stanley found a State gaming license issued to a Dean O’Leary of Las Vegas, Nevada, with a pristine photograph, and a nice pre-millennial fingerprint. Stanley had his man.
The detective had a point; Selene had only known Dean for a handful of weeks. The feeling of warmth and protection Dean enveloped her in was something she could never explain to the police. The moment she saw him, the way his hands moved and his tired expression of joy reminded her of her childhood, of the innocence of human faith in things to come. She felt his presence immediately and still felt it now, he was not gone. Dean could have been many things before their eyes met, she may never know. All she could know is what they had shared, what transpired between them. The devotion they so properly succumbed to, the eternity they intended to spend in one another’s embrace.
Stanley wanted to start in Las Vegas, but starting the investigation in Los Angeles, at the scene of the crime, ended up being the call of the day. By the time they were tipped off to Stretch, the crew’s redneck driver, Dean was long lost in North Las Vegas. The police found his address by accident; he was careless one day and didn’t wear a hat to the liquor store. He was long gone but they had plenty of willing witnesses to his comings and goings. Then Dean disappeared for the final time. Stanley spent the better part of his career looking for him, but Stanley had neither the manpower nor the support from his Chief of Detectives to pursue O’Leary to the ends of the Earth. Now he had no restrictions and nothing to lose.
What was happening to her mind? How had Dean and Gaelin disappeared? It made less sense than Dean being a mass murderer. She twisted the steel band on her finger to remind herself that they were married, it really happened. She carelessly opened the drawer to Dean’s side table. It was muddled with papers, pens, spare office supplies, and a black notebook. Selene had never seen him using the notebook. It was bound with a pair of rubber bands and looked like it had been through a particularly nasty neighborhood in Hades. Did she have the right to read it, now that he was gone? Now that she knew there was more to him than she could know? She numbly pulled at the first of two rubber bands, committing to the pain of knowing.
The lack of lights and the length of time he sat idly waiting were enough for Stanley. He’d never been good at stakeouts and now that he was off the job, the experience had only tarnished further. He walked slowly across the street and slid between two houses. By way of two hip-high fences he approached Selene’s backdoor. The two-story building left little room on either side, and Stanley had to be careful not to wake the neighbors. He removed tools from his jacket but the door popped open as soon as he applied pressure.
Stanley stood in the kitchen and let his eyes adjust to the dark house. He thumbed through a few bills on the kitchen counter and moved into the living room. The various drawers of the desk and of the large chest serving as a coffee table turned up rubbish and a few love letters. Stanley turned several times, looking for another place to search. His arm struck a small lamp near the sofa. He caught the lamp and froze.
Selene sat up in bed. What was that? She dropped the notebook on the floor and rushed to her closet. The house was silent. Selene fumbled for a baseball bat she’d kept near her bed, any bed, since high school and found it in the corner of the closet. The absence of noise pulsed, her blood rushed through her body. She stepped forward slowly, flattened against the wall, and moved toward the bedroom door.
Stanley took short careful steps toward a small antique file cabinet in an adjacent room. The room looked like an office and Stanley smiled, swimming in anticipation. He pulled gently on the top drawer and it creaked quietly.
Selene stopped. Someone is in the office. She walked to the doorway and turned her head slowly around the corner. A hunched man was running his fingers through Dean’s file cabinet. Selene hoisted the baseball bat over her shoulder and rushed toward the man.
Stanley heard the faint click of the pine against the doorframe. His reaction was faster than he’d imagined possible at his age. He turned and fired his revolver at the shape about to overtake him. He fired twice more once the shape hit the ground. Stanley’s hands shook and he dropped his weapon. Selene lay in a growing pool of crimson lit by the midnight sun. As her life ebbed, the truth about Dean O’Leary slipped from Stanley’s grip. Nothing discovered in the house would be admissible in court now; his career had been for nothing.
He stayed until the inky night peeled into morning’s light. There was nothing. The ramblings of a wannabe writer. His fear consumed him and he fled.
The notebook remained silent on the floor.
William M. Brandon III (@wmbrandoniii) is the author of Silence, a Black Hill Press Contemporary American Novella, A Selfish Man, a novel, and short stories: “Athens Diptych” and “The Atlantic.”