Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 21

“Oh, we’re taking your car?” I got so swept up in celebrating my new plan that I hadn’t paid close attention to where we were going! It made me nervous to get into a suspect’s vehicle! A decision like that always comes with the risk of getting trapped inside; it was an easy way to corner someone, and I had no idea what he had planned with me!

“Oh, I’m sorry!” he apologized. “I should have asked your preference. We can take your car if you want.”

I almost accepted his offer, but then my curiosity got the better of me. He could have held some clues inside of his car, and the only way I thought I’d get a chance to get access to it would have been to go on our date in his vehicle. “Oh, no! Your car is much nicer! I’m just gonna let my supervisor know that I’m leaving mine here so no one worries about me.”

He gave me a warm smile as he opened the passenger door for me. As he went around to the other side, I scoped it out a bit. It looked showroom new, no hints of trash or debris, so I assumed that he must have cleaned it before he led me on that chase because he knew it’d get searched. I wouldn’t have put it past him to have some kind of secret compartment to store things in, but with just a cursory glance, I couldn’t tell if that was the case. When he got into the car, I had hoped that he would put his cellphone down where I could read it. I remembered his reluctance to show it to me when we searched his office, and I desperately wanted to see what he tried to keep hidden from me! Unfortunately, he didn’t bring it out from his pocket. I could see him wondering why I hadn’t texted Sandra yet, so I fibbed, “Sorry! I got distracted just admiring your car! It’s gorgeous!”

“Thanks!” He grinned as he started the car. The engine revved up like a tiger’s roar, and I genuinely got impressed this time! I really did need to message Sandra though, so I didn’t comment on it yet. I almost told her the truth, but I knew she’d have a TON of follow up questions, so I decided to keep it brief with: “I got a ride home. I’ll pick up my car tomorrow.” She didn’t write back right away, so I surmised that she was still talking to Chief Mazarine about our conversation with our witness. That irked me a little since I was the lead detective on that case, but I understood why he decided that. Obviously, Chief Mazarine thought my outburst made me emotionally incapable of having a collected conversation, and while I didn’t believe he had the right judgment about my state of mind, I felt kind of grateful he sent me home when he did. I didn’t know how long Aidan would have waited for me, and this was too good of an opportunity to pass up!

“Where are we going?” After I craned my head up, I saw that we had gotten onto the highway. Most people in Anaknock went downtown for date nights, and I tried not to show my nerves as I deduced that we were going in the exact opposite direction! I began to wonder if I had made the right call in going in his car…

He genially responded, “Oh, I was gonna surprise you, but maybe you’ve had enough surprises today…” I nodded and tittered a bit in agreement. “Well, there’s a really nice, little, mom and pop resort up in the mountains. I sell stuff for the owners sometimes; they’re a really sweet, old couple, so I like to visit them from time to time too. Have you ever been to Berengaria?”

My heart started thumping wildly! I had no idea he planned on taking me out of town! Conveniently, it was outside of Slygow county, so we were heading out of my district! I suddenly felt completely reckless for landing myself in such a potentially dangerous situation! “No, I don’t do a lot of traveling, so…”

“Oh, that’s right!” His expression grew remorseful upon hearing that. “I just thought you would enjoy its beautiful scenery. I can’t believe I forgot about how you feel about traveling! We can go somewhere else if you want.”

“No, that’s okay. I should face my fears some time!” I hadn’t truly meant that. I know some people like to conquer their fears, but I really didn’t have any desire to do that. Again, he gave me another out, and again, I declined it out of curiosity. If I wanted to glean more insight about his motives and plans, I needed to go to his turf! It still terrified me to go out of the city, but I remembered that Dahlia mentioned working in Virginia sometimes, so I decided that since I had a reasonable excuse to search in another district without worrying about procedures, I needed to convince myself to sotomach this road trip!

At that moment, Sandra texted me back, and I frowned as I read: “Oh no, you are not coming to pick up your car! I’m picking you up on Tuesday, and you’re telling me EVERYTHING on the way to work!” I groaned slightly. I knew I’d have to tell her eventually, but I dreaded her fervent reaction to the gossip I’d bring!

Aidan noticed my distracted attention and inquired, “Something wrong?”

“Oh no! It’s just work stuff I gotta deal with later.” I deemed this as a good time to casually bring up, “Do you happen to know anything about the Ploutonion?”

“I’ve heard of it,” Aidan replied. “I know it can be dangerous since there’s no law enforcement there, it’s like the wild west! Jasmine refuses to set foot in it!” He paused and added, “You’re not going in there, are you?”

I explained, “Maybe. I mean, I hope not, but a witness mentioned something about it, so we may have to go there eventually.” I hadn’t considered going in there before, but now I privately wondered if I should. It didn’t sound like he wanted me to, and it was yet another thing he wanted to keep hidden from me!

He advised me, “If you do have to go, please bring someone with you! People get attacked from behind in there, so please don’t go there alone!”

I hadn’t expected him to say that! I wanted to ask him more about the stories he heard (or the incidents he incited) from there, but I didn’t think it would have made great date talk. I had to maintain the ruse that I had a romantic interest in him! Well, I actually did have an attraction to him that grew and grew despite all of the evidence I found against him! Some of it was physical, his looks became more and more becoming each time I saw him, but a part of me wanted to believe in his sincerity. Anyways, my main motive for going out with him was to gather evidence, and as we grew closer and closer to to the hills, I had to remind myself of the importance of putting a close to my case as fast as possible- lives were at stake! Trying to stay as nonchalant as possible, I promised him, “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t go into something like that without backup! Don’t worry, I won’t go there alone, I swear!”

As he turned onto a curvy, uphill road, he looked pleased at my affirmation. I’m glad that he had to concentrate on driving through a difficult terrain so that I could hide how scared all of this made me! I didn’t buy his claim that he forgot my fear of travel, and I theorized that he purposely took me here to torture me! It appeared as though we only had one way to get to this place, which meant I didn’t have a lot of escape routes! It gave me some comfort when I saw were were approaching our destination, but I grew increasingly anxious about what other torment he had in store for me now that we were isolated!

Once we parked, I composed myself to continue my charade. If I let him see my vulnerability, he’d gain an edge on me, and I couldn’t let that happen! When I stepped out of the car, I froze on the spot just seeing my surroundings! I stood among tall, leafy trees, and the ground still had a light dusting of snow on it that gave the area an aura of purity! The lodge itself had an antiquated, wooden log style, and I found its old-fashioned charm very inviting! The stunning view made me forget my trepidation, something that Aidan delightfully observed. “I knew you’d like it!” he said with a smile. He offered his arm, and after I took it, and as we headed up there, I dared to consider that maybe, just maybe, he hadn’t taken me here it invoke my anguish after all!

After we entered through the heavy, wooden doors, a little bell rang. We stood by an empty host’s podium, and it surprised me to see posh, linen on timbered tables that sat under cozy lighting. A few people were eating happily as some soft music played in the background, all of which convinced me that he had taken me here to impress me. I now thought that perhaps he wanted to get on my good side so that he could get information out of me that I would never normally give up willingly! If that was the case, I thought that perhaps this date wouldn’t become as horrifying as assumed it would!

“Hey, hey!” An old couple came out of the kitchen with an excited look after seeing Aidan. The elderly gentleman gave him a hug and chirped, “Nice to see you again!”

“How have you been, Aidan?” the man’s wife queried as she hugged him. “Staying out of trouble?”

She had meant that as a joke, but I found it ironic enough that I involuntarily uttered, “Psh!”

They noticed me for the first time, and I smiled as though I were just kidding. The old man asked Aidan, “Well, well! Who’s this lovely, young lady?”

“This is Shannon!” he answered proudly.

I blushed a little as they looked at me in admiration. I extended my hand to them and politely greeted them, “Nice to meet you!”

They each shook my hand, and the elderly lady told Aidan excitedly, “Well, let’s get you kids a table!”

The two of them took us to a table next to what appeared to have been a dance floor. The man took out my chair for me and offered, “Can I get you some wine?”

“That sounds great!” I responded very truthfully. “Thank you!”

“Our pleasure!” he remarked before dashing back into the kitchen.

Aidan and I grinned in a somewhat awkwardly manner. I couldn’t think of a way to break the ice, but luckily, the old fellow came back with the wine pretty quickly. He poured us each a glass, and we both gave him our thanks as he left the bottle on the table before he departed. Aidan held up his glass and toasted, “To first dates!”

I held up my glass and echoed, “To first dates!” We clinked our glasses together and took a sip of the wine, which was absolutely delicious! The date formally began, and I could sense something big happening on the horizon. Either I had gotten myself much closer to solving my case, one step closer to danger, or perhaps, I thought, I had garnered something deeper than I could have ever imagined!

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