“What the hell kind of a question is that?” Tate barked out as he stared angrily at Mario.
They were alone in Mario’s living room after he’d sent Wil upstairs to play, much against the boy’s will. When he was out of earshot Mario had given Tate an abbreviated version of what he’d gone through with the detectives, ending by asking, “Did you take things into your own hands? Maybe decide to teach Jonah a lesson and went too far?”
“No way in hell!” Tate said forcefully after he took a deep breath to try to calm down. “That’s not something I’d do, no matter what. The last I saw of him he was clinging to a tree because he could barely stand.”
“All right, I believe you, but I had to ask.”
“I know.” Tate sat down on the sofa and drummed his fingers on the arm. “I didn’t kill him, I know you didn’t, not that way they said he died. You don’t have it in you I don’t think, or at least not unless he was threatening Wil.” He leaned his head back to stare at the ceiling. “Did they say how he was beaten?”
“No.” Mario settled down on the opposite end of the sofa, perched on the edge as if he was going to take flight at any moment. “They just said someone beat him to death.”
“So it could have been fists or something else.”
“I suppose so, yes. Does it make a difference?”
Tate held out his hands, palms down so Mario could see his knuckles. “If it was with fists there’d be evidence of it, broken skin, bruised knuckles. I don’t have those and neither do you.”
Mario looked at his hands and then Tate’s and nodded. “So I suppose I should hope someone used their fists on him. Damn, what a horrible thing to wish.” He bit his lip suddenly, a stricken look on his face. “Why don’t I feel any sadness for his dying like that? Why doesn’t hurt that he’s dead? I mean…once I thought I might love him.”
“He threw that away the first time he hit you, Mario. You should be upset that he’s dead, yeah, and you probably will be soon enough. You’re still in shock and then to have the cops think you might be his killer on top of that, you’re still processing it all I think. But I also suspect that any grief you’ll feel will be for the loss of someone you knew, not for someone you once cared for.”
“Maybe.” Mario scrubbed his hands over his face. “So what do I do now, wait for them to come and arrest me?”
“No, now you tell me every last thing you know or remember about him. Who his friends were, who he didn’t like. I need to know about every person in his life that you can think of. If this was personal and not random then it has to have been done by someone who knew and hated him.”
“Oh boy. All right.” Mario went to get a pad of paper and a pen then sat down again. He quickly wrote down three names, explaining to Tate they were men he’d met when he and Jonah had first started going out together. “Before Jonah had decided we should spend all our time alone at his place.”
Tate waited for him to continue. When he didn’t he said, “Those were his only friends?”
“I honestly don’t know. The only time he talked about anyone was to make an occasional comment about someone or another at work and I don’t remember their names.” Mario scribbled something at the bottom of the paper. “The name of his company,” he told Tate.
“Think about his place. Were there any photos of people, on his desk or bureau and did you ask about them?”
“No to both questions. He didn’t even have family pictures around.”
“Nothing on his fridge even,” Tate asked.
“On his fridge?”
Tate chuckled. “You should see mine. That’s where I put snapshots of family and friends. It’s a veritable photo album without having to turn pages.”
Mario smiled as he pictured that. It faded quickly when Tate asked if Jonah lived alone. “He did all the time we were together,” Mario told him. “He said he hated roommates unless he was involved with them. ‘Too nosey’ I think was his comment. But the detectives told me he has…had one.”
“Really? So he found someone to replace you. And if that’s the case why would he have been stalking you?”
“Hell if I know,” Mario muttered.