After a minute, Aidan finally spoke, “Okay, well, as a police officer, you must have seen people get out of jail even though they were a hundred percent guilty. And you probably know people who belong in prison but got out on some loophole, am I right?” I nodded without outwardly noting the irony that I felt that way about him. He went on, “Doesn’t it drive you crazy?”
“I’m proud to work for our justice system, but obviously, it’s far from perfect,” I agreed with him before adding, “But, what does this have to do with your missing work files?”
“I just needed you to understand why I do it before I tell you what I do.” He took a deep inhale, exhaled out all of his nervous energy, and then rapidly admitted, “I don’t get most of my money from selling people’s random stuff. I get most of it from screwing over criminals who deserve it.”
It seemed like he conveyed a great deal of honesty, but I didn’t really buy his claim. I felt so sure that he had fabricated that story to cover up what he actually did, so I decided to press him further, “What do you mean? Do you run some kind of hedge fund scam or…?”
He explained, “No, nothing like that. I just find these people who try to buy these illegal things, pretend like I’m selling it to them, and then disappear with their money. Like, I act like I’m trying to get rid of a boat I stole, or I’ll fake like I’m selling organs on the black market. Once I hook them, I make it all vanish, and there’s nothing they can do about it!”
“I don’t buy it!” I told him bluntly. “If you were really hustling that many people, you’d constantly be looking over shoulders waiting for an attack! They may not go to the police, but they can still go after you! You’d have so many hits out on you! But when I’m with you, you don’t act like anyone is hunting you down!”
“They don’t know it’s me doing it,” Aidan informed me. “Are you kidding? I would’ve been dead a long time ago if I didn’t wear a disguise!”
That last part intrigued me. “You wear a disguise? Like a fat suit, maybe?”
I was so sure he’d confess to my theory about the killer altering his appearance with that kind of ruse, but instead, he differed, “Oh no, usually I make myself look like a frail, old man. It adds to people’s trust of me, no one suspects a sweet, old person of possibly conning them. Actually, it lures them in more ’cause they think they found an easy target!” He chuckled slightly at the thought.
His story made some sense, but I still didn’t understand one thing. “If all this is true, then why do you have so much unaccounted for time at your business?”
“Oh, I don’t keep most of what I earn from doing this,” he let me know. “I put it back into the business and write it off as a cash sale. It’s not technically a lie! It was a sale, and cash was involved…”
“So, that’s it?” I reacted incredulously. “That’s the big secret you were too afraid to tell me? That you’re a modern day Robin Hood?”
He gazed at me in surprise. “You’re not mad?”
I assured him, “No, I’m not mad about that.” I didn’t fib by saying that. I didn’t care about his swindling operation, I was more worried about the fact that he kept the role he played in the murder hidden still! But, to be fair to him, I didn’t delve into anything he did outside the scope of his work files. I did my best to stifle my feelings of bitter defeat of me extracting the proof of guilt I needed to bring him back onto the suspects list and attempted to maintain my cover of trusting him completely. “Why would I get mad about that?”
“Well, you’re a cop, and I just revealed to committing a crime…” He flushed as he expressed that to me.
“Eh, sort of!” I shrugged while still privately stewing about my loss. “If I didn’t know you personally, I still probably wouldn’t do much about it. We can’t enforce an illegal contract.”
Aidan’s face lit up after he heard this. “So, this doesn’t change anything between us?”
I couldn’t ignore my suspicions of him, but I didn’t want my scheme to falter either. If I wanted to discover the actions he took relating to my string of homicides, I needed to continue this charade. “Nope! Doesn’t change a thing!”
“Oh, Shannon! I’m so-!” He cut himself off when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. “Oh no! Harper’s in the air vents! Harper! Harper! Get out of there!” He pointed his wand at the vent he caught sight of her in, but his spell didn’t have an effect. “Where did you go? Harper? Harper?”
As he got up to find her, I contemplated my whole situation with him. I agreed to some sort of a commitment with him if he gave me the reality of his missing work files, but I hadn’t really expected to actually do it! I thought I could convince him to confess that he was the killer or he paid someone to do it, something along those lines, but instead he admitted to some petty stuff that I didn’t care about! Well, I sort of did, I didn’t like the idea of dating someone who did sneaky things like that, but it bothered me more to think I set myself up to start seriously seeing a man who may have done some horribly despicable things! I wondered how people would judge me when they found out I kissed the lips of a person capable of such evil atrocities, and I wondered if I made a terrible mistake in this venture…
All of a sudden, I caught a glimpse of him trying to coax his niece out of the piping, and I found myself smiling! I couldn’t pretend like his beguiling good looks didn’t have an effect on me, but I knew my attraction to him ran deeper than that! I wouldn’t get hypnotized by him if he didn’t have the personality to back it up! When I looked at him, I couldn’t see a criminal, I just saw a virtuous, thoughtful, fun loving guy, and it astonished me that a man of his caliber wanted me so badly! He fit the profile of my murderer so much, but no matter how much I feared his role in this dastardly act, I couldn’t shake how deeply I desired him!
Right in the middle of this thought, I felt something furry move down my back! Thinking I had some kind of wild animal on top of me, I darted out of my seat immediately trying to get it off! Just when I drew out my wand to fend it off, I saw a person in a rat mascot costume standing behind where I had just been sitting! I no long had the sensations of something crawling on me anymore, so it dawned on me pretty quickly what really happened. “Oh, sorry! You scared me!”
“My bad, baby!” A distinctively male voice came out of the costume. He put his arm around me and flirtatiously asked, “What chu doin’ tonight?”
“My boyfriend!” I retorted. I remembered using that same line in high school when pervy, older men hit on me at my first job at a grocery store, but I rarely got hit on like that after I married Ben. Usually, the wedding ring warded off guys like this, but now that I no longer had a reason to wear that band, that line returned as my go-to in this kind of scenario. I mean, I had Aidan, and I did tell him I’d become his if he told the truth, but we didn’t put any specific labels on our relationship yet. I’m sure he would have backed me up in this debacle though, and it’s not like I needed a man to defend myself, but these relentless horn dogs backed off faster with another male around! I couldn’t see Aidan in my periphery, so I resigned to the idea that I’d have to deal with this dude on my own. “He’ll come back any second now, so…”
This jerk didn’t seem ruffled by my claim. “Forget about him! I have a spot in the back we can go to; I promise I’ll make it worth your while!”
That comment would have nauseated me if anyone had said it to me, but coming from a freak in a giant mouse costume really sent me over the edge! “Get your arm off me right now!”
He didn’t obey my command. “What’s a matter? Afraid you might like it?” I rolled my eyes and pointed my wand at the arm he had around me. The spot I directed my magic to burst into flames, and while the rat worked on putting out the fire, I walked away from him shuddering at the thought of what just happened!
Aidan came rushing over to me and apologized, “I’m so sorry! I was in the middle of helping the workers get Harper out of the air vents or else I would’ve helped you. Looks like you didn’t need my help, but just so you know, I wanted to!”
“Oh, I know you would’ve helped if you could have!” Right after I mentioned that, a thought occurred to me. “How many people watched me get hit on by that creepy monster?”
“Don’t worry, I think they were paying too much attention to my niece to have seen much of that. I actually didn’t see much, but I heard a lot of that conversation.” His eyes sparkled as he relayed to me, “I heard you call me your boyfriend.” I inwardly cringed at that. I really didn’t want to claim him officially until I could remove any doubt from my mind that he had anything to do with those murders! “Are you sure you’re ready for this? I mean, I know it’s a little fast, especially for you since you just left your husband…”
I hadn’t expected him to give me an out again! He gave me chances to back out of our first date, and despite the temptation to bail, I kept going. That time felt different though. A date doesn’t have to imply anything serious, but if I took this step today, it could seriously compromise my efforts in investigating him. I felt it prudent to tell him that we could continue seeing each other but we needed to slow things down, and I fully prepared myself to do just that, but when my gaze met his, my heart melted! I didn’t see a potential suspect, I saw this amazing person who I could make incredibly happy with just one gesture! Before any logic could intervene, I blurted out, “A promise is a promise! I’m all yours!”
He smiled broadly, and then he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss. I forgot about everything else because I was in paradise at that moment! But it really only lasted a minute. A balding man in a dress shirt, who I could only assume managed this place, came waddling over to us and confronted me, “Did you just attack one of my employees? All he did was hit on you a little, for crying out loud! How could you-?” I flashed my badge to him, and his tone changed entirely, “In that case, he’s fired!”
“Literally!” Aidan joked. The manager nervously tittered and then waddled away as fast as he could.
“Uncle Aidan, I’m hungry!” one of this nephews wailed.
He reassured him that dinner should get served soon, which it did pretty promptly after that! Despite any trouble the kids may have caused them, the staff acted super friendly towards us from that point forward! The manager even comped our meal! As I ate with Aidan and his family, I had a pretty good time, but as the evening went on, I had a feeling of remorse that constantly chewed me out. Once again, I succumbed to my emotions and had a blast instead of staying focused on gathering evidence. I also began to dread the following day and speculated what we would learn about the case, hoping that we found nothing else linked to Aidan. I just really hoped that I didn’t become the girlfriend of a serial killer!