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Sad Lisa – Chapter Twelve

Banner for Sad Lisa, an Operation Quickline story
July 13-14, 1984

The next couple days went by in a weird blur as if I were watching myself from someplace else. Friday morning, Sid got me up at the usual time, but not to go running. Instead, we took a drive in Sid’s BMW up the coast.

Pull quote from romantic spy novel Sad Lisa: "The problem is, I can’t tell you what’s going on."

“Where are we going?” I asked with a yawn.

We were dressed in our running clothes, but it didn’t seem like we’d be running.

“We’ve got to get rid of George’s camera,” Sid said. “It would place us at the scene.”

“Oh.”

He glanced over at me. “I don’t know that I should be bringing you.”

“I’ll be fine.” I took a deep breath. “It sounds terrible, but it’s really all for the best. I’ve been praying about it, and that’s what keeps coming up. George never knew that I couldn’t marry him and was spared a lot of pain. There would have been a lot of awkwardness at the bible study and in the teen group because not everyone would have understood. I know George would have thought I was being terribly unfair. It’s definitely better this way.”

Sid nodded. “By the way, Henry had a team go in and clear George’s studio. Standard operating procedure.”

“I understand.”

We ended up driving past Ventura before we found a stretch of coast with a good, rocky stretch and that was deserted enough to get rid of the camera without causing comment. It was summer, and the beaches were filled with campers and surfers. Sid had already destroyed the film in the camera. We got to a bluff overlooking the ocean and Sid was about to toss the camera when I held him back.

“May I?” I asked.

He handed the camera to me. It was a very nice Canon SLR. It seemed a shame to destroy it, but the numbers etched onto the bottom identified it as George’s. We couldn’t afford to have it connected to us.

I took a deep breath and threw. It sailed out over the bluff and crashed onto the rocks, then bounced into the water below. Sid slid his arms around my waist.

“You are a very strong woman, Lisa,” he said, his voice soft, but carrying over the sound of the surf.

I felt the tears running down my cheeks. “Am I? I don’t feel like I am.”

“You are.” He kissed the side of my head and gently squeezed me.

Then, after we got home, there were the phone calls. Mae calling to offer her support. Daddy calling. Sid, at first, thought he’d messed up and tried to pretend that he was at my place. But Daddy called him on it. Then when Sid gave me the phone, Daddy asked if he and Mama should come down. I told them no.

Somewhere in there, one of George’s sisters also called. The coroner had already released George’s body and the funeral arrangements had been made, with a rosary on Sunday night and the funeral mass on Monday morning, at the Hernandez’s church in Hollywood, not our own.

“That was awfully fast,” Sid said.

“The funeral arrangements?” I asked.

“No. That they released the body so quickly.” Sid shook his head. “Something’s up.”

We found out what the next morning at breakfast. Sid cursed as he looked at the front page of the morning newspaper.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

Sid held up the paper. The article was on the bottom half of the page, on the right.

“Family Claims Cover-Up in Shooting,” read the headline. I reached for it, but Sid chose to read it aloud, instead. The gist of the article was that the Hernandez family had been given conflicting accounts from the police and the FBI about what had happened to George. The police had told them that George had been involved in a gun battle with a suspect, then the FBI said that he’d stumbled into a hostage situation that the agents had been attempting to diffuse. The Los Angeles Police Department had confirmed that there had been a gun battle with a suspect, and one of Henry’s underlings confirmed the hostage story. Neither side would comment on the discrepancy. The coroner’s office would not confirm that the autopsy on George had been rushed, but the police spokesperson had expressed surprise that the body had already been released.

Sid dropped the section onto the table.

“I’ll bet Henry is fit to be tied about this,” he said. “Somebody must have slipped up.”

“But who?” I asked. “And why couldn’t they have just said what happened without naming any names?”

“I’m sure it’s that our contact is still at large. Henry is hoping that he’ll go back to one of his safe houses. The contact can’t have gotten far in downtown L.A. in just surgical scrubs and bare feet.”

“I hope Henry is alright.”

Sid sighed. “I’ll give him a call when we’re done eating.”

I finished the fruit salad Conchetta had made the night before. She had offered to come in that day, but I had thanked her and said no. There wasn’t that much she could do, and if we needed food, I knew of a good restaurant that could deliver quickly.

Sid found Henry in his office at the FBI. Thanks to the news story, Henry was being deluged with requests from the media. He did tell Sid that the underling who had released the report about George’s death had based it on what the agents involved had told him and that those agents had told the L.A.P.D. officers who showed on the scene the same thing.

“Then why did the police say something different?” I asked Sid.

We were sitting in the library again, with me trying to knit and mostly ripping stitches out instead.

“We don’t know,” Sid said. “The only other thing Henry told me was that we were to sit tight, avoid talking to reporters, and to absolutely not go after the contact ourselves.”

We found out why there were two stories between the police and the FBI when the reporters started calling. We had put it on the answering machines that I was not going to be making any comments, but that didn’t stop them from leaving messages. One of them wanted me to comment on the report from the police that identified the two bullets the coroner had recovered as coming from an FBI-issue gun.

“No kidding,” I said as the recording finished. “It was your gun.”

Sid looked at me with an odd frown. “And you had dropped yours.”

“I did?” Squeezing my eyes shut, I shook my head. “I was on my backside. And all I saw was George, then the contact raising a gun and shooting him.”

Sid shook his head. “Your gun landed next to you on the pavement. I grabbed it before I got George’s camera.”

“I don’t remember that part.”

“No surprise,” Sid grumbled. He looked at me. “It was a complete mess.”

Okay, Sid used a seriously obscene term instead of mess. I blushed.

“So, now what?” I asked.

Sid didn’t really get a chance to answer. The doorbell rang and when we looked through the glass, it was pretty clear the two men on the doorstep were cops. Sid opened the door, inspected their IDs, then helped the two officers into the living room, and sat next to me on the couch. The two detectives both wore polyester suits and were taller than average. Detective Bryce Skipman, according to Sid, was the significantly thinner of the two. The other was Earl Fredericks. He had a rather avuncular feeling about him, but not enough of one for me to let my guard down.

“Miss Wycherly,” Fredericks said. “We hate to bother you at a time like this, but we need a few questions answered.”

“I understand,” I said.

“As I’m sure you’ve heard by now,” Skipman said. “There are some discrepancies surrounding your fiance’s death.”

“Such as?” I asked.

“Well, the fact that it was a major FBI operation and we didn’t know about it was pretty unusual,” Skipman said. “Usually, we know when they’ve got something big going down, and this operation was pretty big based on the number of agents they had there.”

“The thing that bothers us, though,” Fredericks continued, “is that the bullet was probably fired from a Smith and Wesson Model Thirteen.”

I looked at Sid, who shrugged, then back at the detectives.

“Okay. What’s a Smith and Wesson, what was it you said?” I asked.

“Model Thirteen,” Skipman said. “It’s the standard revolver carried by FBI agents.”

Both he and Fredericks watched me digest that.

“So, you’re saying that George was killed by an FBI agent,” I said.

“Looks like,” Fredericks said. “And the FBI won’t let us have any of the guns the agents were carrying so that we can determine who fired the bullet.”

“Did they say why?” I asked.

“Nope,” said Skipman. “All they say is that they’re conducting an investigation of their own and will we please butt out. But we’ve got two stories about what happened and a bad feeling that somebody is not being on the level with us.”

“I see,” I said.

“What we need to know, Miss Wycherly,” Fredericks said. “Is did your fiance have any connection to the FBI that you know of, or did he get into trouble with them some way or other, or was he involved in something that might have been under investigation by them, or was he acting like he was trying to hide something in any way?”

I shook my head. “No on all counts.”

“Was there anything unusual in his behavior?”

“Not really,” I said.

“Okay,” Fredericks said. “One last thing. According to Mr. Hernandez’s sister, he was complaining that you were holding out or hiding something from him.”

I caught my breath and thought fast.

“I wasn’t.” I blinked my eyes. “I mean, it wasn’t anything connected to the FBI. It’s just really personal.” I looked at Sid.

He reached over and laid his hand over mine.

“It’s okay,” he said. “Why don’t you tell them?”

I glared at him for a moment, then faced the detectives and swallowed.

“Sid knows by accident,” I said, trying to buy a little time. “I was trying to find a way to tell George, but these things are not easy to talk about.”

“What things?” Fredericks asked, looking a little on the eager side.

I glanced at Sid again. “I… I… I was abused as a child. By a man I trusted. I couldn’t tell George.” I sniffed. “He was so loving and I couldn’t tell him that I was terrified of having sex with him.” I blinked back tears. “I just couldn’t tell him. I know I should have, but I couldn’t.”

Skipman and Fredericks looked at each other and Fredericks nodded.

“That’s very brave of you, Miss Wycherly,” Fredericks said, soothingly. “We appreciate your honesty.”

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?” I asked.

“Of course, not,” said Fredericks.

The detectives got up and Sid saw them out.

“Well,” Sid said as he returned to the living room. “Your flair for melodrama has saved us again.”

I shuddered. “I feel like such a fraud. Sid, this is turning into a nightmare.”

He said down next to me and put his arms around my shoulders. “I wonder how much the police have?”

“Who knows?” I said, snuggling into his embrace.

“The thing that really bothers me is that I caught some definite antagonism toward the FBI,” Sid said. “That’s not normal around here.”

“Huh?” I asked.

“L.A. area law enforcement and fire agencies are usually pretty good about working across jurisdictions,” Sid explained. “And in the past, that’s included the Feds. I’d better call Henry. He deserves to know about this.”

From what I heard on my end of the phone call, Henry was curious about what was in the official police report. Sid offered to go get it. Henry (apparently) said no. Sid said that the odds were against him getting caught. Henry ordered Sid not to go after it. Sid hung up the living room phone and looked at me.

“Henry said not to get that report,” he said.

“That’s what it sounded like.”

“Except that I really want to see what’s in it.”

“Sid, if Henry said no, he’s probably got a good reason.”

“Which is why I’m not going after it,” said Sid with a sigh.

The doorbell rang again and this time it was Kathy and Jesse. I let them in and we all sat down in the living room, with Jesse and Kathy on the couch and Sid and I each in a different chair.

“Lisa,” Jesse began slowly. “Kathy and I have to go make a statement with the Hernandez family in a bit.” He swallowed. “There’s just one thing stopping us.” They both looked at me.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

Kathy took a deep breath. “Lisa, we know something is going on with you.” She nodded at Sid. “And with you, too. We just don’t know what. You dodge people all the time. And that time we were on vacation, you made that phone call, supposedly to Sid, but you used a local number for San Diego. I saw you dial it, and there weren’t nearly enough digits to be calling here. Then you lied to me about it. And Friday night, you got up in the middle of the night to talk to someone on a radio in your truck that I would have sworn you did not have. And you act weird sometimes. When people sneak up on you, you act like you’re going to attack. Then Chip Weaver told me that one time he tried to follow you home in his car. He said you ditched him so fast, his head spun.”

“And that’s not the half of it,” Jesse said. “When George died, he was doing that all-nighter in his studio. He’d seen the guys with the guns again. He called me to tell me. And he saw your truck. He was scared to death that you had driven right into whatever those guys were planning, so he went to warn you off.”

All the air left my gut and I suddenly felt dizzy.

“I don’t what George saw, but it wasn’t Lisa’s truck,” Sid was saying.

“Then why is Lisa sitting there, looking like she’s punch drunk?” Jesse demanded.

“It doesn’t matter,” I gasped. I took a couple of deep breaths. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever George saw or didn’t see, it doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does, Lisa,” Jesse said. “The FBI is covering up George’s death. Another one of us has gotten shot by a cop, and all they want to do is pretend it didn’t happen. Or that George somehow deserved it, because he must have been up to no good. He was a Mexican, after all.”

I saw the pain in Kathy’s and Jesse’s eyes and knew where it came from. How many times had Jesse been hassled by the police just for dropping by Sid’s house? Sid had even bailed Jesse out of jail when he’d been arrested simply because he’d been waiting in his car for me to come out of the house. Kathy had a cousin doing jail time for a crime he didn’t commit. They didn’t talk often about these things, but I’d seen enough to have an idea of what they were up against.

“It wasn’t like that,” said Sid.

Jesse and Kathy froze.

“Sid, they don’t want to hear that,” I said softly. I swallowed. “The problem is, I can’t tell you what’s going on.”

“Why the hell not?” Jesse bounced up.

“Because I can’t,” I said, sniffling.

“You don’t want to know, anyway,” said Sid, standing also.

“Sid!” I snapped. “Jesse, I can not tell you.” I glanced at Sid, who was back in his chair. “We can not tell you.”

“You’re not telling me anything!” Jesse snarled.

I bounced up. “It’s a better answer than George ever got!”

“I don’t care.” Jesse turned to go. “Come on, Kathy.”

Kathy was looking at me and over at Sid. “Wait, Jesse.”

He turned. “We’re not going to get any satisfaction here.”

“No,” said Kathy. “But it’s not their fault. They really can’t tell us.” She looked at me again. “What is it? Some sort of contractual thing?”

“Something like that,” I said softly. I looked over at Sid. “There isn’t much I could say, even if I could tell you guys. But I can promise you this much. It isn’t a cover-up and it’s not because George was Mexican. It’s because the person who killed him is still out there.”

Sid slowly stood. “Believe me, Jesse, if I thought there was even the slightest chance that the Feds were trying to cover some racist nonsense, I’d be yelling, too. I do accept that I don’t necessarily see things the same way you do. But I’m doing the best I can here.”

Jesse looked down at his feet and shook his head. I walked up to him.

“Jesse, you have reason to wonder about what happened to George and every reason to wonder about me,” I said softly.

“But the gun, it was FBI,” Jesse said.

“That’s what they said,” I replied. “I don’t know what’s behind that and I don’t have any way to find out. It’s possible that the person who killed George did because of George’s race. I don’t know. But I’m reasonably confident that the reason the FBI isn’t saying anything is because they want to catch the guy, not cover up who did it. Not because they’re blameless that way, but something else that I can’t talk about.”

Jesse looked at me, then looked over at Sid. “Are you sure?”

“As sure as we can be,” Sid said.

“Alright.” He sighed deeply. “Now what?”

I blinked back more tears. “Whatever you think best. If you need to make a statement, go ahead.”

Kathy got up and patted Jesse’s arm. “Come on, honey. Let’s go talk this over.”

She, at least, smiled at me as Sid and I walked them to the door.

When Sid and I were, at last, alone, I sank onto the living room couch, trying not to cry.

“Terrific,” Sid complained. “Just terrific.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No!” Sid waved at me. “You were fine. There’s just something that’s not making sense.”

I sniffled. “You’re right. Why wouldn’t they have put out an all-points bulletin, or whatever, to get this guy? I mean, being one of their own is embarrassing, but still, he’s been debriefed. There’s no reason not to put the public onto him.”

“I can see not wanting to call attention to the espionage,” said Sid, pacing. “But that’s it, and given the press this case is now getting, it doesn’t make sense not to put out the Most Wanted notice.”

I shoved the heels of my hands into my eyes. “If only my brain didn’t feel like it was stuffed with cotton wool.”

Sid chortled in spite of himself. “I love it when you fall into British-isms.”

“That’s it!” I sat up straight. “Our British friend. What’s-her-name? A12, at least, that’s how we knew her when we met in Paris. Although Dragon called her Marian.”

“Okay. I know who you’re talking about.”

“She was in San Francisco. You said that made sense.”

Sid frowned. “Well, they were here last winter tracking this guy.”

“What was it she called him? That fence-walking pest.”

“In other words, a double agent.” Sid began pacing the living room again.

“We know he was one of our own,” I pointed out. “Angelique recognized him, even if she couldn’t remember his name.” I stopped.

Sid and I looked at each other, remembering the same thing at the same time.

“Henry knows him,” Sid said, softly.

“Could that mean we know him? As ourselves?”

Sid shrugged. “I have no idea, but that would account for a lot, especially with them wanting us to lay low for so long. But then why did we get tagged to hold him until the transfer?”

“Or me get sent to San Francisco?” I frowned. “No, wait. They asked for me.”

Sid sighed and looked at me. “Well, there’s no way of knowing right now.”

“You’re right.” I looked at my watch without seeing what time it was. “There’s got to be something I can do. Maybe I should try getting some sewing done.”

I started for my rooms. Sid followed. I turned on him.

“Sid, I appreciate you being here for me, but you don’t have to stay glued to my side.”

He smiled and nodded. I went to my rooms. A little while later, I heard him leaving.

I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me. It had been several days, at least, since he’d last gone out. And it was ridiculous to assume that Sid would try to stay celibate when I couldn’t move in with him. Still, my eyes filled at the thought of him and another woman. It wouldn’t mean anything, he’d said. Funny, it still seemed to mean everything to me.

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