“Tarahill LLC, a sales company,” Sandra read out loud. “Hmm, that does seem like a vague enough business description to be a front for a prostitution ring, but what makes you think this came from her boss and not just a potential john?”
I replied, “It’s the only one in her wallet. And it came from one of the inner compartments, not like she stashed away contact information from an interested customer. She kept it safe, so this obviously means something to her!”
Sandra agreed with me, “We definitely need to check this place out! Ooh, I hope their website is as shady as this card!”
It actually was! As we sat at my desk and used my computer to research this company, we discovered that, like the business card, it appeared very chic and sophisticated but didn’t tell us much about the establishment or any day-to-day operations. “It doesn’t even say what they sell!” I noted.
“Oh, there’s a section about the owner,” Sandra very keenly pointed out. I clicked on the link, and a head shot of a very striking man appeared. He had slicked back, blonde hair, sparkling, light blue eyes, and a broad, toothy grin. This picture didn’t show anything below his shoulders, but anyone who saw the picture could tell that underneath his fine suit he had a well sculpted body too. Sandra gushed, “Oh, he’s hot!”
“Yeah, and he probably uses his good looks to get away with murder!” I meant that almost literally. While his picture conveyed a nice, easy-going personality, I immediately didn’t trust him. I thought he put up a pretense of benevolence and used that to lull people into a false sense of security. Reading his biography only deepened my suspicions of him. “Started off in his garage, and fifteen years later, he became Maryland’s top salesman. Still doesn’t say what he sells. Spends his free time honing his magic… Well, clearly he’s a powerful magian. He could definitely have the skills it’d take to scare a street-savvy person like Dahlia!”
Sandra appeared to have been listening, but she seemed to engrossed in that page to look at me while I was talking. “Sounds plausible. Aw, he likes to give to charity!” She probably sensed my reproachful stare because she tore herself away from the computer and apologized, “Sorry! I’m not setting the best example for you, but… Wow! He’s gorgeous!”
Her eyes flickered back to the screen and glued themselves to a photo of him planting some trees with a group of kids and adults wearing foster care tee shirts, and I rolled my eyes. “Mister Maddox undoubtedly staged this to fool people into trusting him!”
“Mister who?” Sandra hadn’t taken her gaze off of the picture.
“Aidan Maddox. That’s the name of the guy you’re drooling over.” I showed her where his name appeared on the page.
Sandra, once again, pulled herself away from the screen and suggested, “You investigate that site. He’s got me acting like a school here! I kept trying to see if he had a wedding ring, and I forgot that I’m wearing one! If you meet my husband, don’t tell him about this!”
I couldn’t help but grin at her quirkiness. “I won’t! Personally, I don’t see what the big fuss is…” I saw something on that site that made my eyes go wide.
“Ah, he’s got you under his hypnosis too!” Sandra chimed.
“Oh, please!” I refuted. “Take a closer look at that charity photo again.”
I covered Aidan’s image so she wouldn’t get distracted and could see what I saw. When she spotted it, she gasped, “That’s Reed Radley in the background!”
I nodded vigorously. “He knew our victim, and the murderer’s accomplice. Sounds like enough to bring him in for questioning!” Sandra’s eyes sparkled at that thought, but she immediately corrected herself and acted ultra professionally.
After we got a warrant issued, it was time to go home for the day. With all of the exciting developments of the case, I forgot how tired I felt! I snuck a couple more donuts so that the sugar would keep me awake for the ride home. Even though I didn’t feel totally comfortable with my living situation, just knowing I could lay down and rest made me feel at ease! That changed quickly as Travis saw me coming and popped out of his house to ask, “Did you find my bike?”
I lied, “Not yet!” His expression showed signs of wanting to ask more questions, so I rushed inside the house.
Immediately after I stepped inside, Wade confronted me from the kitchen table, “Why’d you throw away my food?”
“Huh?” I only felt half awake at that point, so I didn’t have any idea what he meant.
“You threw away my bagels!” he yelled.
I argued, “They were moldy!”
He scolded me, “You could’ve eaten around it! God, don’t you dare make decisions about the food in my house again!”
It struck me as odd that anyone could get upset about losing moldy bagels, but I also felt very hurt to have an allegation like that sprung on me the minute I got home. I didn’t know what else to say, so I just quietly promised that it wouldn’t happen again. I walked to my room in a defeated manner and thought that the donuts I had eaten would suffice for a meal. I decided to distract myself from any lingering hunger by opening up my phone. I had dozens of messages from Ben, and I realized that I had forgotten about him. I figured that the stress of dealing with him would ruin my appetite, so I steeled myself up to call him. Just as I was about to dial, I heard my mom shout, “I’m just feeding the cats!” She peeked inside my room and whispered, “I brought you some dinner!”
“Thanks, Mom!” I smiled gratefully as I took the rice dish she had made. She returned my smile and hastily tiptoed into into her bedroom. I was glad my mom secretly fed me, but it sort of felt humiliating to have landed myself in a situation where I had to go through that just to eat! I let it go though, and as I ate, my weariness really crept in. My phone started to ring, but I ignored it. I had a big day ahead tomorrow, so I decided he could wait another day and went to sleep.
I really didn’t think I’d wake up so late after going to bed so early, but when I looked at the clock, I realized that I only had fifteen minutes to show up to the office! I mean, we didn’t have a set clock in time, but we tried to stick as closely to the nine to five schedule as possible. We were allowed to come in early and leave early, and the same went if we showed up late, so I wouldn’t have gotten penalized for my lack of promptness, but I hurried to get there as fast as possible in case they had my witness ready for questioning. My mom insisted on giving me a hug goodbye, which I found odd until I saw that she had sneaked some biscuits into my purse! As I dashed out the door, I got a call from Ben. I thought about talking to him on the way to work, but then Travis came out to question me about his missing bicycle again. I lied again and said that I didn’t know what happened to it, and as I got into the car, I felt uneasy. I absolutely detest lying, so I felt really bothered by this continuation. I had no inclination to talk to Ben after that and just sped to the station.
When I arrived I expected to hear the full gamut of my fellow detectives working on their cases, but to my astonishment, most of the cubicles were empty! I got utterly confused by this and wondered if I had accidentally shown up on a Saturday. As I checked my phone to verify what day of the week I had shown up for, I suddenly heard Chief Mazarine shout, “Interrogez votre témoin pour que mon personnel retourne au travail!” I glanced up and saw him staring at me as if he had just given an order that he expected me to follow. I looked at him in confusion, and he responded sarcastically, “What? Am I not speaking English here?”
“Uh, no…” I told him truthfully. “I think that was French.”
“Oh!” He seemed rather gruff about his error, but he made no mention of it. In a language that I could understand, he ordered, “Go interrogate your witness so that my staff will go back to work!” He stormed into the break room without saying another word. I found it strange that my witness would prevent a whole team of detectives from doing their jobs, and very curious now, I walked over to the interrogation room.
I got a jolt of shock to see the observation room packed to the brim with people! When I stepped inside, I could see that most of the women and some of the men were ogling him and whispering excitedly as if they were in proximity to a celebrity! “Oh, for Heaven’s sake!” I pushed past a few people to find Sandra because I felt sure she would participate in this frivolity, and she was, front and center! I snidely mentioned, “I wonder how many people it’d take for this room to lose its soundproof quality!”
Sandra frowned a bit as she inwardly knew that I had a point. She didn’t take her eyes off of him as she informed me, “I can’t go in there with you. I’ll probably cross professional boundaries. You’re the ideal candidate to go in there! You’re single now, so it’s okay!”
“You can’t date a witness!” I objected to her premise.
“You can once he’s cleared!” Sandra brought up.
I shook my head and slowly exited the room. He hadn’t uttered a single word and already had most of my colleagues on his side! I didn’t trust him at all now, and and as I finally escaped from that observation room, I vowed that I wouldn’t get bewitched by his antics!
I charged into that room full of steam, but when I caught a glimpse of him, I froze in my tracks! I had never met someone so gorgeous that they literally took my breath away until that day! He did a double take when he saw me, and suddenly I felt very frumpy! He had a much higher level of fitness than me, and after many years of lovingly calling myself curvy, I now viewed my body large like a cow! I had at least gotten a decent amount of sleep in the last night, but I didn’t think I had fully recovered from my previous insomnia. Plus, I thought my face and skin probably gave away just how stressful my life had become! He gave me a warm smile, and a part of me had the urge to excuse myself from the room and get dolled up, but then it dawned on me why I had come in there in the first place! In a huff, I grabbed the chair across from him and coldly introduced myself, “I’m Detective Shannon Vidette.”
He held out his hand for me to shake as he greeted me, “Aidan Maddox! Pleasure to meet you!” I refused to shake his hand, and he somewhat dejectedly put his hand down. “I see, straight to business!”
I stated, “This isn’t a social call! I’m not a floosie you found at closing time at the bar! I’m sure you’re used to flirting your way out of trouble…” He nodded to acknowledge the truth of my claim. “… but you’ll need more than that this time! It won’t work on something as serious as murder!” His face fell, he seemed genuinely scared, and that made me feel certain that he had something to do with Reed Radley’s death!