TUS: 3. Who loved a Beast

Natasha had finally fallen asleep at some point in the early hours  of the morning and only woke when her mother walked into her room.

“Breakfast in bed!” Lily sang enthusiastically carrying in a tray loaded with food. Upon hearing her voice, Natasha was immediately hit with the memory of the snippet of conversation she had overheard last night. She shot up and jumped out of bed ignoring the angry pounding of her head.

“Whoa, where’s the fire?” her mother asked surprised at Natasha’s sudden movement. Natasha just stood there looking like a deer caught in the headlights, heart racing. Her mother looked at her worriedly.

“Are you okay honey?” she asked setting the tray down on Natasha’s dressing table and moving towards her. Natasha subconsciously backed away from her approaching mother. Her mother stopped short when she saw this.

“Natasha?” she asked confused.

“I’m fine,” Natasha said curtly.

“You don’t look fine. Did you have a nightmare?”

‘I was living one’ Natasha thought to herself but to her mother she said, “Something like that.” Lily finally closed the distance between them and held her daughter in a tight embrace.

“Why don’t you take a shower and eat your breakfast then we’ll go out and do something fun,” Lily suggested.

“I don’t really feel up to it mum. I just want to get some more sleep. But you can go to church without me,” Natasha said.

“I can’t leave you alone like this,” her mother argued.

“I’ll call Kelsey to come over and babysit me,” said Natasha.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!” Natasha reassured her, “Now get going before you’re late.”

“Okay then, but call me if you need me,” her mother said tucking her into bed again. She kissed Natasha’s forehead then went to get ready to go out. In a few minutes, she was gone.

Natasha texted ‘Code red’ to her best friend Kelsey, their signature calling card for emergencies. Kelsey called her almost immediately after she had sent the text. She didn’t wait for Natasha to say hello before she started talking. Not that she ever did anyway.

“What’s the 411 on the 8a.m 911?” Kelsey asked.

“Get over here now,” Natasha said. Kelsey must have heard the urgency in Natasha’s voice because she didn’t barrage her with a million and one questions as she normally would have.

“Be right there,” she said and hung up and ten minutes later Kelsey was knocking at Natasha’s door.

“What’s up?” Kelsey asked when Natasha let her into the house.

“So yesterday when I got back from the station after they had arrested me, wrongfully by the way, I….”Natasha began when Kelsey interrupted.

“Arrested!” Kelsey exclaimed eyes wide as saucers, “What on earth for?”

“Murder,” Natasha replied leading the way up to her room.

“Who’d you kill?”Kelsey asked, then paused on the stairs, “Oh my gosh, was it Max?”

“You did get the part where I said wrongfully arrested right,” Natasha said coyly.

“Yeah, yeah, but who did they think you murdered? His dad?” Kelsey asked, resuming the climb up the stairs.

“Exactly,” Natasha said plonking down on her bed.

“That makes zero sense,” Kelsey said lying down next to her.

“Hence my release. Anyway that’s not the important part,” said Natasha.

“It’s not?” Kelsey asked confused, “Only way you can top that is if you tell me you did actually murder someone and somehow got away with it.”

Natasha then recounted the events of the previous night and the phone call she had eavesdropped on.

“So, wait. Are we saying your mum had something to do with Mr Bandieer’s murder?” asked Kelsey.

“Well Mr Bandieer isn’t the only Henry around-”

“He is the only dead one,” Kelsey interjected.

Natasha nodded. “True, but she could have been talking about someone else and she didn’t say she killed him, just that she might as well have killed him herself so there isn’t really enough evidence to say that she did. Her statement however is enough for reasonable doubt of her innocence. At worst she could be an accomplice after the fact,” said Natasha.

“You know I don’t understand you when you speak lawyer. English please,” Kelsey said rolling her eyes.

“At this point, I don’t know what to think. She may or may not have been involved in Henry’s murder,” Natasha explained.

“Hmm,” said Kelsey, “And what about the thing she said about your dad? Any idea what truth she doesn’t want you to find out about him?”

“No clue,” Natasha said.

“Maybe you should just confront her,” Kelsey suggested.

“She’ll just lie to get me to back off it,” Natasha said shaking her head.

“Not if you catch her off guard” Kelsey said. Natasha gave her a questioning look for her to explain further.

“Start a conversation with her about something basic and simple and something you know to be true. That will help you establish a base line for her physical features when she’s telling the truth like the pitch of her voice or her facial expression. Then ask her something you know she would lie about to establish the baseline for when she lies and then drop the bomb on her and see which features she exhibits, the truthful ones or the lying ones,” Kelsey explained.

“You know I don’t understand you when you speak psychology. English please,” Natasha said quoting Kelsey’s earlier statement.

“It doesn’t get any simpler than that,” Kelsey said. Natasha narrowed her eyes at her and Kelsey threw her hands up in the air in surrender.

“Fine! Hook her up to a lie detector then,” Kelsey said.

“Are you crazy? Where would I even get that?” Natasha asked incredulously.

“What? Judges don’t have truckloads of those things lying around their homes?” Kelsey asked.

“Seriously,” Natasha said sarcastically.

“Do you have a better idea then?” Kelsey asked. Natasha sat in silence for a while, thinking.

“Maybe,” she said when an idea hit her.

“Uh-oh, you have that look on your face,” Kelsey said suspiciously.

“What look?” Natasha asked as she stood up.

“The I’m-about-to-do-something-stupid look,” Kelsey said.

“I never do anything stupid!” Natasha retorted pulling Kelsey with her out of the room and heading for the stairs.

“Right,” Kelsey said rolling her eyes.

“This coming from the girl who called a bunch of boys pigs to their faces and they chased us all over town,” said Natasha laughing as they went downstairs.

“Point of correction, I called them VIP’s- very ignorant pigs, which, mind you, isn’t very far from the truth and besides we were in fourth grade! Fourth graders do and say stupid things all the time,” Kelsey argued.

“Sure, whatever you say,” Natasha laughed as they came to a stop at the door of her mother’s study. “So, can you pick a lock?”

“I can do that in my sleep but…” Kelsey began confused then her eyes widened when realization dawned on her, “You want us to break into your mum’s study!”

“She keeps all the important stuff in there. It’s the best place to search for answers and it’s definitely a better idea than asking her straight up if she murdered Henry Bandieer,” Natasha argued.

“You know how your mum feels about people in her study. All her case files and stuff are in there. It’s literally illegal for us to be in there,” said Kelsey.

“It’s not illegal,” Natasha countered.

“Just because you got into law school, doesn’t mean you know the law. It’s illegal!” Kelsey practically yelled.

“Would you rather I carry on thinking my mother is involved in a murder and let that thought torture me till I turn in my suspicions to the police who will drag her off to the station and question her, throw her behind bars and sentence her to life imprisonment leaving me as good as an orphan with nowhere to live, no college funds and eventually a school dropout living in the streets,” Natasha yelled back.

“Oh now you’re just being dramatic,” Kelsey hissed.

“Please Kelsey,” Natasha begged, holding out a bobby pin to her.

“Fine,” Kelsey sighed taking the pin from her and picking the lock.

When they entered the study Natasha went straight to the safe while Kelsey stood at the door looking uncomfortable.

“Do you even know the combination?” Kelsey asked looking around warily.

“No, but I’m pretty sure I can guess it. Adults always have easy combinations, a birthday, an anniversary, name of their first child,” Natasha said keying in her birth date which was rejected, then she tried her mum’s and her dad’s both of which were also rejected.

“I guess your mum didn’t get the memo about the combinations,” Kelsey said sarcastically.

Natasha sighed and gave up on the safe then headed to the desk drawers. She flipped through a couple of papers and files then gave up on that too. Kelsey had finally entered the room and she was standing in front of the desk watching her friend riffle through papers.

“I thought HB only made pencils,” Kelsey said. Natasha followed Kelsey’s gaze to a golden fountain pen engraved with the letters HB that was lying on the table.

“Looks like they do,” Natasha shrugged.

“We really should get out of here Natasha.”

“But I haven’t found anything,” cried Natasha.

“Did you really expect to anyway, love? Your mum is a judge, if she was involved in something like a murder she won’t leave evidence of that lying around,” Kelsey said.

“I guess you’re right,” Natasha said disappointed. Kelsey led the way out of the room and headed straight to the kitchen. She made sandwiches for them and they sat by the counter having them with coffee.

After their snack they went upstairs to Natasha’s room and watched a movie on her laptop. Lily came back home two hours later and went straight up to Natasha’s room.

“Hie girls,” she said poking her head in.

“Hie Mrs E.” Kelsey said smiling at her. Natasha gave her mother something in between a smile and a grimace.

“How’re you feeling now honey?” Lily asked Natasha.

“Great,” Natasha said then turned her attention back to the screen. Her mother was taken aback by her curt response.

“Did you eat anything?” Lily asked.

“Yeah we had sandwiches and coffee earlier,”Natasha replied.

“I’ll make lunch then,” her mother said leaving the room. Kelsey waited till she was sure Lily was in the kitchen before she spoke again.

“What was with the cold front?” she asked.

“I wasn’t cold,” Natasha argued.

“And I haven’t had a crush on Zac Efron since I was 15. Are we done lying to each other now?” Kelsey said raising her eyebrow.

“She could be a murderer. I just couldn’t get that out of my head,” said Natasha.

“Natasha!” Lily called from downstairs in a voice laced with fury. Kelsey looked quizzically at Natasha who shrugged her shoulders then got off the bed and opened her bedroom door.

“Yes mum?” she said from the door.

“Get down here,” Lily shouted up at her, sternly from the bottom of the staircase. Natasha went down the stairs feeling apprehensive.

“What were you doing in my study?” Lily asked as soon as Natasha was standing right in front of her. Natasha was momentarily stunned into silence and all she could do was stare wide eyed at her mother.

“Answer me!” her mother yelled making Natasha practically jump out of her skin.

“I just…I,” Natasha stammered.

“I specifically told you never to enter my study, ever! There are case files in there with sensitive information for my eyes only,” Lily shouted. Kelsey heard all the yelling and immediately left Natasha’s room and was now standing a few steps away from her and her mother.

“Is everything okay?” Kelsey asked in a small voice.

“Not now Kelsey,” said Lily still giving Natasha a steely gaze.

“But I heard….” Kelsey began to protest.

“I said not now Kelsey,” Lily said finally looking at Kelsey with her signature stern courtroom glare. Kelsey gulped and shrunk back against the wall, her bronze skin blending with the brown wallpaper.

“I guess I should leave you two alone,” Kelsey said checking that she had her phone and car keys in her pocket before climbing down the remaining stairs and practically running out the front door. Once the door had closed, Lily turned her attention back to her daughter.

“Well?” she asked one hand on her hip. Natasha took a deep calming breath before she spoke.

“Last night I overheard you on the phone,” Natasha said pausing to see her mother’s reaction. Lily didn’t say anything so she went on, “I heard you say something that was really disturbing. About killing Henry.”

“And what does that have to do with you breaking into my study?” Lily said without batting an eyelid.

“Well I wanted to be sure that you had nothing to do with Henry Bandieer’s murder because from what I heard on the phone it sounded like you were a part of it,” Natasha said more boldly than she felt.

“So you eavesdrop on my conversation, break into my study and go through my private stuff and to top it all off, you accuse me of murder,” Lily said in a deceptively calm voice.

“I didn’t say you murdered him, just that you might have been involved in it,” Natasha said defiantly.

“Oh my mistake, you’re accusing me of conspiring to murder, not the actual murder. Well that makes me feel a whole better,” her mother said sarcastically.

“Well did you do it or not?” Natasha asked.

“Are you serious?” Lily asked angrily.

“Mum, I just want….” Natasha began but was interrupted by her mother.

“I didn’t kill Henry. I had nothing to do with his murder at all. The fact that you think I’m capable of something so horrid breaks my heart. I was talking to David about your arrest and saying how ridiculous it was and that it was as good as me having killed Henry myself,” her mother said.

“I’m sorry mum, I really…” Natasha said. Her mother held up her hand to silence her.

“Next time you want to accuse me of something as heinous as murder, don’t,” Lily said coldly as she entered the study and locked the door behind her.

Natasha stood at the foot of the stairs, deep in thought. Something her mother had said had set off several alarm bells in her mind. She went into the kitchen, conceiving a plan and started lunch preparations.

When she was done cooking lunch an hour later she went and knocked at the study door. No response came and she was just about to turn away when the door creaked open.

“Uhhm hie mum,” she said nervously. Lily simply nodded in response with a passive expression. Natasha gulped. This was going to be harder than she thought.

“I-uh, made lunch. Mac and cheese. Your favorite.” Natasha smiled hopefully.

“Okay,” Lily said still steely-faced.

Natasha sighed. “I’m sorry mum. I was out of line earlier and I said some stupid stuff. I’m really sorry for all that and I love you.”

Lily’s expression softened and she hugged her daughter. “I forgive you. And I’m sorry I yelled at you”

Over lunch, they slowly started talking more like they usually did and everything was almost back to normal.

“The Wilson’s asked me to make the cake for their 50th anniversary party,” Natasha told her mother.

“That’s great news!” her mother exclaimed happily. “Have you picked a design yet?”

“No. I’m having a little trouble with that and they asked me to surprise them so I can’t get their opinion. Do you still have pictures of them? Maybe I could get an idea from those.”

“I think I might have a couple upstairs. I’ll go find them for you,” Lily said leaving the table and heading up the stairs.

Natasha waited till she heard Lily open her bedroom door before pouncing on her mother’s phone which was sitting on the table. She swiped over to the call log, hands trembling in fear of what she would find.

Would it really be David’s number on the call log like her mother had said? Or would it be someone else? Henry’s killer?

But what she found, was far worse.

There was nothing. The entire call log had been deleted.

***

Next post: TUS: 4. Until a brave knight saved her

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