Sharon took the seat behind Cole’s desk. Freddie was placed in the visitor’s chair on the other side. Gordon took a menacing stance in the back corner of the room, watching Freddie’s every move.
“Mr. Milton,” Sharon said as she flipped through some papers in a file. “Do you know why we’ve brought you here?”
“What?” Freddie asked. “Do I look like I just picked up a plus five psychic powers card?”
“Plus five what now?” Sharon asked.
Freddie scoffed. “Clearly you’ve never been blessed with a good game of Magicians of Montazor.”
“Clearly not,” Sharon said. “Cut the bullshit.”
“Cut the bull-what?” Freddie asked.
Gordon grabbed the nerd by the back of the neck and slammed his head down on Cole’s desk. “How’d you off Countess Cucamonga, geek?!”
“What?” Freddie asked.
Gordon lifted the nerd’s head up then slammed it down on the desk once more. “The fat ass pop star! The old man! The college student! You killed ‘em all and we want to know how!”
“But I didn’t…”
Wham! Before Freddie could finish his sentence, his head was connecting with Cole’s desk again.
“Is this even legal?” Freddie asked.
Sharon sat back. Gordon kept his hand on the back of Freddie’s head, ready to strike at any moment.
“It’s a gray area, Freddie,” Sharon said. “Abuse of a scumbag like you only becomes a problem if a) the public finds out and b) the public cares about you. But let me give you a little piece of advice. Countess Cucamonga’s songs about her big butt were universally loved by people of every race, color, and creed in the entire world. Ergo, people want her killer found and won’t give a shit about what happens to him in the process.”
Wham! Another head slam. “That means you start talking now, bitch!” Gordon said.
“You think I killed Countess Cucamonga?” Freddie asked.
“Stop restating the obvious,” Sharon said. “My colleague has no patience for it.”
“I didn’t do it!” Freddie shouted. “Why would you think I did?”
Sharon perused Freddie’s file. “You were harassing and stalking her several years ago.”
“I was harassing and stalking her with love!” Freddie said.
Wham! Down the nerd’s face went yet again.
“You were caught red handed,” Sharon said. “You broke into the Countess’ mansion and she walked in on you while you were wearing one of her dresses and singing one of her songs. You even had a pillow stuffed down the back of your underpants to simulate the Countess’ fat ass. You left her so traumatized that some speculate you were the cause of her Japanese Moki fish huffing addiction.”
“OK,” Freddie said. “You got me. Yes, I did that. But I was in a bad way back then. I just got out of college. I was depressed to discover that there weren’t that many career opportunities for sociology majors. I mean, who would have known that, right?”
“I knew that,” Sharon said.
Gordon slammed Freddie’s head into the desk. “Everyone knows that, nerd!”
Freddie’s forehead turned bright red. “Could he please stop doing that?”
Sharon looked at Gordon and nodded. “Cut him some slack.”
Gordon growled like an angry Rotweiller.
“I plead guilty,” Freddie said. “They let me off with probation. I got a job at Tasty Burger. I moved in with my Grandma. I joined the local chapter of Magicians of Montazor. I turned my life around.”
“You call living with your Grandma while you flip burgers and play kids’ games turning your life around?” Sharon asked.
“It was better than before,” Freddie said. “I used to have a problem with bath salts.”
“Shit,” Sharon said. “That’s a serious addiction. A lot of junkies do bad things after they ingest them.”
“Ingest them?” Freddie asked. “No. I’d just sprinkle them in my bathtub and take long, luxurious baths while lavender scents filled my nostrils. It relaxed me so much that I lost control and did, well, you know what I did. To this day, I feel so terrible that I caused the Countess so much pain.”
“Lies,” Sharon said. “You would have killed her right then and there had her security detail not pinned you to the ground and beat the ever loving shit out of you.”
“No!” Freddie said. “I would never hurt the Countess!”
“Then why’d you break into her house, freak?” Sharon asked.
“Because I wanted to know what it was like to be her!” Freddie said. “I listened to her songs in the bathtub whenever I felt down. Big Time Booty. Booty Funk. Asstravaganza. Around the World in Fifty Cheeks. She was fabulous and I guess for once I wanted to know what it would be like to be a beautiful woman with a corpulent keister that was loved by millions.”
“Right,” Sharon said. “So you cooked up a bizarre scheme. Figured you’d kill her and replace her and no one would notice? You were caught then but you went back to the drawing board, spent the past few years devising a new scheme to kill the Countess and you finally did it!”
“No!” Freddie said.
“Just admit it!” Sharon said.
“Never!” Freddie said. “I love the Countess too much!”
“How do Hugh Hogan and Chad Becker figure into this?”
“Who?” Freddie asked.
Sharon looked to Gordon. “Do it.”
“With pleasure,” Gordon said as he slammed Freddie’s head into the desk.
“I don’t know those people!” Freddie said.
“You’re on thin ice, Freddie,” Sharon said. “And it’s about to crack.”
Tears streamed down Freddie’s face. “I didn’t do it I swear. I could never hurt a fly!”
Sharon sighed. “That’s too bad, Freddie. I thought we could cut some kind of a deal but now you’re going to do life for this. You know who else loves Countess Cucamonga? Prison inmates. Her fat ass songs helped them get through their dreary days and you took that away from them. They’ll make short work of you.”
“No!” Freddie said. “Please, you’ve got to believe me.”
“Why should I?” Sharon asked.
Gordon loosened his grip on Freddie, allowing the nerd to sit up and dry his tears. “I have an alibi.”
“Don’t play me for a fool, Freddie,” Sharon said.
“I do!” Freddie insisted. “Talk to my fellow magicians. Talk to my Grandma. I was home all night.”
“Sounds pretty flimsy, Freddie,” Sharon said. “How do I know a bunch of nerds and an old lady wouldn’t lie for you?”
“You don’t,” Freddie said. “But please. I’m telling you the truth.”
“You gotta give me something, Freddie,” Sharon said.
“Give you something?” Freddie asked.
Gordon slammed Freddie’s head down on the desk. “Give her something!” the enormous man shouted.
“OK, OK!” Freddie said. “I may have something.”
“Spill it,” Sharon said.
“Well,” Freddie said. “I may have…kind of…sort of…committed a crime to get this info, so that’s why I never told anyone.”
“No surprise there, weirdo,” Sharon said.
“So I don’t want to go to jail for this,” Freddie said.
“Depends on how good the information is,” Sharon said.
Gordon tightened his grip on the back of Freddie’s neck. “You’re not in a position to bargain, little man.”
“OK,” Freddie said. “When I broke into the Countess’ mansion…I may have…kind of…sort of….”
“Stop beating around the bush,” Sharon said.
“I’m not saying I did this,” Freddie said. “But hypothetically speaking, I might have, in theory, hacked into the Countess’ personal computer and found some troubling files.”
“Troubling files?” Sharon asked.
“Her agent was robbing her blind,” Freddie said. “I was hoping to find, you know, photos of the Countess in the buff…”
“Because you’re an insane pervert,” Sharon said.
“I’m a reformed insane pervert,” Freddie said. “But back then, yes, I was out of my mind. But instead of nude photos, I just found a bunch of emails to the Countess from her manager, Irving St. John. Concert ticket sales, merchandising rights, TV special deals, album sales…none of it added up. Her cut of the take was supposed to be one thing, but the money being deposited into her bank accounts was another…”
“You hacked into her bank accounts?” Sharon asked.
Freddie blushed. “In theory.”
“Jesus,” Sharon said.
“You want a suspect,” Freddie said. “I’d look into that guy. Maybe the Countess finally figured out Irving was skimming off the top and he rubbed her out to keep her from going to the cops.”
“Did you save any of this evidence?” Sharon said.
“In theory,” Freddie said. “I might have a flash drive I could turn over…that is, if it gets me turned loose.”
Sharon nodded at Gordon. Gordon pulled the nerd up onto his feet. “Let’s go, nerd!”
“Wait!” Freddie said. “What about my deal?”
“We’ll see if your story checks out,” Sharon said. “Until then, you’ll be cooling your heals in a holding cell for awhile.”
“I want my lawyer!” Freddie cried.
Gordon dragged the nerd out of Cole’s office. “You’ll get nothing and like it you little dweeb!”
Once alone, Sharon leaned back in Cole’s chair and rested for a few moments. She spotted a turned over picture frame on the desk. She picked it up to find a photo featuring much younger versions of her and Cole, embracing on a beach. Cole’s lips were playfully pressed up against her cheek.
“Oh Cole,” Sharon said.