User:Eirik/Love Long Past

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Love Long Past

Author: Eirik

Detective Hooper sat in the drab room and waited. He'd managed to pull a few strings with the warden, an old friend, to borrow a vacant office for this interview. He didn't want to subject the woman to more public humiliation than she already had gone through. Lord knew she'd gone through a lot.

There was a firm knock on the door. "Detective Hooper?"

"Come in," he said, standing out of the wooden desk chair. The door swung open and a guard stood to one side to allow the woman to enter. Hooper was struck by how tired she looked. Three years in prison would do that to anyone, much less a woman pushing sixty. "Please, sit down Mrs. Baskerville," he said, pointing to a dusty chair in the center of the room.

"Thanks." She looked oddly at him as she sat, "Don't I know you?"

He frowned and cocked his head. "I don't think so."

She looked hard at him, her brow furrowed in thought. "I'm sure I know you from somewhere." Finally, her features softened and she smiled. "I'm sure it'll come to me."

He smiled back. "I'm sure it will. How are you doing?"

She rolled her eyes. "I'm healthy, if that's what you mean. But I can't wait to get out of here."

Detective Hooper smiled and nodded, picking up a file. "I can understand that. You've been a model prisoner, according to your file. You first parole hearing is in... what? Three months?"

She nodded. "I'm doing all I can to get out then. I've got a lot of lost time to make up for."

Hooper sat down slowly. "Do you know why I'm here, Mrs. Baskerville?"

She chuckled. "I assume you're still looking for the rest of the money."

He arched his eyebrows. "You're can be that cavalier about more than a million dollars?" he asked with surprise. "You know that if the parole board thinks that you're hiding something..."

"Detective Hooper," she interrupted in a stern, motherly tone, "there is no other money. I admitted to every dime that I stole myself, I told you people where every penny that I could remember went. There isn't a thing I stole that is in some bank in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. You're not going to find gold Krugerands in a safe deposit box somewhere. Nothing."

"Mrs. Baskerville, there is over a million dollars missing from your brokerage house. That's over and above the three million you admitted to taking."

She leaned forward a little, looking tired but angry. "Then I suggest you investigate the other people in my department. We all knew about the security lapse. We all knew to drain money from the firm. It wouldn't surprise me if that million is made up of thousands of tiny withdrawals. I just made a mistake by taking too much."

Detective Hooper didn't respond right away. "You can understand why I don't believe you, I'm sure," he said at last.

She closed her eyes and sighed. "I guess so."

"I've read up on you. You still believe it, don't you?"

She didn't meet his gaze. "I'm not so sure anymore. I guess not."

Hooper waited for her to elaborate. When she didn't, he broke the silence, "You don't sound all that convinced," he said quietly.

She turned on him, her eyes flashing with anger, "Is a mother supposed to give up on her son?"

He picked up the file off the desk and opened it, but didn't look down. "That would be Robby Baskerville?"

"I only had one son."

He glanced down and looked at the entry details. "He was eighteen when he was killed in an diving accident ten years ago, right?"

She nodded silently.

"You started embezzling from your firm two years later, almost to the day as best we can figure. Where did all the money go?" he asked

"You already know that," she said tiredly. "Everyone knows that. Anyone with a TV or a newspaper, at least."

"Horses," he said simply. "You bought horses with the money." She didn't answer, just sat still and listened. "Not just any horses, either. All of them champion show horses, retired race horses and the like. Why?"

"I was looking for Robby," she said simply.

He let the answer hang in the air. It was exactly what she had told the original investigators, the press and anyone else who asked over the years. "You thought that he was one of the horses?" He sighed. "Do you really think that we should believe that?"

"Have you got the records on the horses there?" she asked.

He shook his head. "No, I don't."

"Take a look at it sometime," she said. "You'll notice a pattern in the purchases. A pattern than most people forget about. At first, they were all horses that were born within a week of my sons death, then I started buying the ones born around fourteen months later. Do you know the significance of that?"

"The gestation time of a foal, I know."

Her eyes narrowed a little. "I'm surprised. Most people don't know that. My youngest daughter rode for years and I didn't..." she stopped and leaned back. "I know where I know you from, now! You owned the stable that my daughter used to ride at!"

He blinked. "You mean my wife's stable. It's hers, been in her family for years, but I go out there from time to time. I guess you could have seen me there."

She was looking at him with new suspicion. "Why are you here, detective? This is too much of a coincidence."

He shook his head vigorously, "There isn't anything to be suspicious about, Mrs. Baskerville. I've been on this case since the beginning. With my wife's contacts, we've been trying to trace all the horses that you bought over the years. We're still trying to trace them."

She sighed, "You've found all of the ones I owned at the time. At least none of them was Robby."

The detective stood up and walked around the desk and sat on the edge. "How can you be so sure? How are you so sure that he was a horse to begin with?"

"If you're looking for some deep seated insanity or something, you'll be disappointed," she said. "And it's not because he loved horses, or I found black magic in his room after he died or anything like that."

"Then what was it?" he asked. "You never really explained it all that well to anyone."

Her eyes welled with tears, "A mother knows, damn it! Is that so hard for all you people to understand? A mother knows!"

He handed her a clean handkerchief from his pocket. "I'm not unwilling to believe, Mrs. Baskerville, but want to understand. Why are you so sure?"

She regained her composure, but looked at the floor. "I had a dream, two years after Robby died. I was at a horse show waiting to see horse show waiting to see him brought before the judges. For some reason, I knew he was one of the horses. I knew it."

"You had no other proof? No other evidence?" asked the detective.

She shook her head, "No, and I didn't need any. A mother knows," she said simply and finally.

Detective Hooper seemed to deflate a little. "That's not going to satisfy my superiors, Mrs. Baskerville. They want to be sure that you're over this fantasy before you get out."

"You can't hold me longer than my sentence," she said with a trace of fear in her voice.

He shook his head. "No, but you are here for three to five years. You're only three months from the first parole hearing. If you cooperate, they won't protest it. Otherwise, you could be here two more years."

"I have cooperated!" she said loudly, nearly shouting. "I've told you where all the horses are, where all the money I stole is. If you don't believe me, then that seems to be your problem!"

"How did you decide which horses to buy?" asked the detective, changing the subject.

She blinked. "I don't know, really. I bought the ones that felt right, that were young enough to be him. I started with stallions, then bought mares too, just in case. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, really. I'd buy them sight unseen, then go and spend days with them. When they didn't seem to know me, when they didn't feel right, I usually sold them and used the money to buy another one. The ones I wasn't sure about I kept." She chuckled, "I probably owned over fifty horses at one point."

"Fifty-five at the height," said the detective. "More than three hundred passed through your hands, we think."

Mrs. Baskerville stood up and started pacing. "Detective, I owned a 1987 Oldsmobile with bad brakes when I was arrested. I owed thousands on my house. I hadn't bought any jewelry since my husband died and got my business suits from Sears. What else was I using this money for?"

The detective stood up and touched her lightly on the arm. "I'm sorry, but my superiors think you've still got something to hide. I'll tell them that I think you're telling the truth, but I'm a low man on the totem pole. The more money you can help us find, the better. And the less you talk about this fantastic idea, the better."

They spent over an hour going over the trail of horses and cash. Baskervilles memories of her years spent buying and selling horses were remarkable, and matched up closely with what investigators had found. It still left a lot unaccounted for. The meeting ended silently, with Hooper leading the woman out of the office. Tiredly, he tossed his notebook and tape recorder into his briefcase and checked his watch. It was past time to get home.

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He tossed his keys on the hall table and dropped the briefcase next to the door. He could type up his report on the meeting with the poor woman the next day at the station. He walked to the small minibar by the kitchen and poured himself a shot, then another. He poured a third and walked out the back door to the patio and collapsed onto a lounge chair. He heard the light steps on the path from the back of the property. "You're up late," he said. "Checking on the horses?"

"Part of my job." There was a long pause. "Long day?"

"I saw her today," he said simply, taking a sip from the shot glass.

"How's she doing?"

He shrugged, "Fine. I think she's telling the truth. The problem is that I'm the only one who believes it. I'm going to take her suggestion and start poking around the other people in the firm. Maybe there are other embezzlers." He sighed. "I wish she had never said publicly why she did it. It would make things so much easier." He looked over his shoulder. "You sure that you don't want me to tell her?"

The donkey vigorously shook his head. "Absolutely not! Not while she's still in that place! It would drive her nuts that she was so damn close. That I was around and she couldn't see me." He sighed. "For now, just do what you can to get her out of there. When she's out, then bring her here."

"I wish we told her earlier, Robby," said the detective. "It could have stopped so much."

The donkey sighed. "Me, too. Me, too. As soon as the memories came back, I thought it was best that she get over me. If I'd known, I'd have trotted over there myself to stop her." He anxiously tapped a hoof on the concrete. "Damn it." He jutted his head at the shot glass. "Any more of that? I think I need a drink."

"Got a new bottle of corn whiskey yesterday. Want it?"

"I think I need it."

"Be right back," said the detective as he walked slowly back into the house.

The donkey sighed again and turned to look at the moon. "You know, Hooper?" he said, stopping the detective at the door. "I like this life. I really do. But there are some things I just can't do anymore."

"Like what?" asked Hooper quietly.

Robby let out a long, slow breath. "You know that donkeys can't cry?"