Title - An Explanation Heard From The Grave
Rating - T
Warning - Swearing, major spoilers
Disclaimer - All components used belong to Rockstar.
A/N - Honest to God, the ending of L.A. Noire left me feeling hollow. Do not read any further if you have not finished L.A. Noire and/or do not want the ending spoiled. I felt like it left too many loose ends tangling there, as though they'd woven this fantastically complex web of stories and characters and in the process had forgotten a few strands. I honestly believed throughout most of the climax that Cole Phelps had 'been with' Elsa purely to get ease of access to further inquiries and information into the later cases, and continued believing this until the ending cut-scene played. I sat through Phelps' funeral thinking 'Umm... no, wait, what?' So, in response to this, I have written what I think took place. I have not changed the ending in any way, but have changed the way Elsa and Phelps' relationship was portrayed, and added what I felt was left behind, namely Marie's understanding of everything that went on between Elsa and Phelps.
Miss Elsa Lichtmann stared straight ahead of her as she walked purposefully down the sidewalk, her high heels going 'clack, clack, clack' on the solid concrete. She could feel people's eyes on her as she passed them; heard occasional snatches of hasty whispers: 'She's the one!', 'It's her; she caused his downfall!', 'Do you think she has a single decent bone in her body? I sincerely doubt it, myself.' Her hand gripped slightly harder on her purse and she held her head high. She didn't care about what any one of these unknown people thought of her. She only wished to clear the story to one single woman.
Turning the corner, Elsa spotted a sign that dangled overhead of the pedestrians; a lurid, garishly coloured sign with the words 'Break Fast, Lunch Fast!' written in too elaborate a font to be tasteful. This was where she had arranged to meet with the woman. A cheap café – or a 'greasy spoon', as most Americans would flippantly regard it as – to be able to talk freely in; there would be plenty of noise and commotion in such a place. She vaguely wondered if the woman would actually show up, given the rather awkward circumstances that connected them, as she approached the café, but she quickly repressed the thoughts before opening the door.
A small tinkering noise of the bell sounded above her; she looked around, surveying the pokey interior, the tables for two all covered with red and white polka dot tablecloths, the wooden chairs askew with some blocking the little pathways up and down to the counter. There were a group of loud young boys in the furthest corner, some sat on the table with their feet resting on the chairs, talking and laughing animatedly; a couple who were lost in a small world of their own, coffee and cakes all but forgotten; and one lone figure at the end, his back to the door and windows as he hunched over a book. So, no lone woman yet, then. Elsa took a table next to the wall, sitting on the chair that faced the door and glanced idly about her before placing her purse in front of her and picking up a menu.
"What can I get for you, miss?" a cheerful, girlish voice sounded from above, and Elsa looked away from the menu and into a set of bright blue eyes, twinkling with a smile as the girl – the waitress – poised her pen on her obligatory flip notebook. Her smile showed all her brilliantly white teeth, and the freckles that dotted her cheeks stretched slightly. Elsa couldn't help but smile back at such an innocent face.
"I will just have a coffee, no milk, no sugars, please," Elsa replied, watching the girl scribble down her order in short hand probably only legible to herself and the chef. "And could you check back in a few minutes? I am waiting for someone, but I do not know what to order for them."
"Sure! Your coffee will be ready soon," the girl beamed, radiating warmth and sincerity. She placed her pen and notebook back into the pocket of her well kept apron as she walked away. Elsa let a small, melancholic smile grace her lips for a few seconds; she could only wish that that girl, so naïve and young, would not experience half the things she herself had in her corrupt and ever changing life.
Out of the corner of her eye, Elsa spotted a woman weaving in and out of the crowd of people, walking past the café window with her head down and lips pursed. She glanced up quickly at the sign, nodded – a stiff, single jerk of the head – and pushed open the door, flinching ever so slightly at the chime of the bell. Her eyes scraped over the café before resting on Elsa; a spark of recognition and absolute contempt resting there. She adjusted her hat and worked her way past tables and chairs, stopping at the one opposite Elsa, and perched down onto the edge of it, straightening her skirt and clutching her bag in her hands. Prim and proper; Elsa had her number down already.
"I'm afraid this needs to be quick; my parents can only have the children for a little while." Her tone was sharp, her words snapped out.
"I am planning on taking as long as I need to efficiently explain to you exactly what your husband did, Mrs..."
"Ms. Marie will be just fine, thank you." Marie's eyes darted about everywhere, not resting on any one place for long. Elsa knew that she would have to start her story quickly, before Marie decided that she didn't want to listen to the side of the story that was, as of yet, untold. A woman like her would as easily push her chair away with her legs when standing up, clutch her bag to her chest and walk out huffing as she would stay, order a soft drink or a slice of cake and survey the woman opposite her with beady eyes, making the decision of whether or not to trust anything she claimed.
And it was up to Elsa to make sure Marie stuck out with the latter situation.
The cheerful, young waitress had placed the coffee in front of Elsa before either woman noticed her presence. "There you are. One coffee, no milk, no sugar."
"Thank you," Elsa said, pulling the white mug towards her. She would need the bitterness of the plain coffee to help her in dealing with Marie, this much she knew. A bitter woman's company chugged down with a hot, bitter liquid. It would keep Elsa on her toes, at least.
"And what would you like?" The waitress had turned her attention to Marie, whose smile was clearly forceful where Elsa's had been genuine. The waitress, however, seemed unperturbed by this different reaction.
Marie was silent for a few seconds, looking as though she would turn down the offer of anything at all.
"Do not worry. I am buying, Ms. Marie," Elsa said, raising one eyebrow at her almost challengingly. She smiled in satisfaction as she saw Marie's cheeks flush with just a hint of red.
"I'll have just lemonade, please." Marie's tone of voice was of annoyance, all traces of her smile dead to the wind. She looked almost ready to leave, but Elsa knew that she could not stand impolitely leaving after ordering. She'd caught her there; Marie wouldn't want to look standoffish in public.
"Okay, your drink will be here in just a minute." The waitress bounded off once more, and the bell tinkered again, this time to a couple who seemed to be in some sort of dispute. The woman kept shaking her head, and plonked herself down on a chair belonging to a table in the middle, and the man had his hands in the air, a mocking smile playing on his lips as he took the chair opposite. They were insignificant, yet Elsa found that she couldn't help but hope that they could listen to each other and sort out their differences.
She snorted. She was here to sort out a dead man's problems; to tell a story that had gone down to the grave with its real owner. She had much bigger differences to settle out than those two ever would.
"So," Marie said, staring with hard, slightly curious eyes at Elsa, her voice quiet and sharp. "Tell me of Cole Phelps's 'side of the story'. Enlighten me as to why he ended up with a German whore like you. I'd like to know better what drove him to such low levels."
Elsa grasped her mug's handle tightly, lifted it to her lips and swallowed some of the coffee down, all the while staring straight into Marie's eyes. Marie had ordered the soft drink and surveyed her with beady eyes. Now all she needed to do was see if Marie would decide to trust her or not.
Elsa put her mug down onto the table, cradling it in both hands, and told the dead man's story.