Early the next morning, I popped some food into the microwave and grabbed some coffee in the break room. The cubicles behind me were quiet, most people hadn’t arrived yet, so I took the opportunity of this calm atmosphere to try and clear my head. The more I learned about the serial killer in my case, the more I believed that Aidan had masterminded the whole thing. At the same time, the more I learned about Aidan, the more romantically drawn I grew to him. That didn’t bode well for my character, and I wondered if my attraction to a potential murderer made me a horrible person. I didn’t know how else the two set of facts could co-exist! I thought I had a morally strong soul, but now I wasn’t so sure! I always went into our dates with the intention of stopping any evil he might commit, but I always let the experience relishing in the good times we shared rather than getting any clues that could help my investigation. I considered the the possibility that my subconscious purposely sabotaged my covert operation because of my growing feelings for him, and I inwardly debated on whether or not I should cease my efforts in investigating him off the clock. My instincts froze whenever I thought that, and that made me doubt myself even more. I mean, what kind of person doesn’t want to break the heart of a relentless criminal?
All of a sudden, a familiar voice’s presence made me jump! “Are those tater tots?” Sandra queried.
“It’s tater tot casserole, actually,” I corrected her. “My mom saved me some of their dinner from last night, and I needed to eat it before Wade spotted it and ate it himself. I figured it’s similar enough to hash browns, so why not eat it for breakfast?”
“Why not cook it at home thought?” Sandra inquired.
I replied, “Wade doesn’t want me eating any of their food. If I lived in a normal house, I could sneak it before he wakes up, but all those damn cats would give me away. They don’t beg for food, they demand it!” Sandra chuckled, and then I could see the gears in her mind spinning. I took an educated guess that she would attempt to glean more information about my relationship with Aidan, so I thwarted her plans by asking her, “What made you come in so early?”
As my food finished cooking, she explained, “Forensics promised to have some results from that cellphone at the start of their shift, and I wanted to take a look at some of my other unsolved cases before this one took over our day again.” She paused and then commented, “Ooh, that smells good!”
“Grab a fork, have some!” I invited. She retrieved a plastic utensil out of the community bin and joined me. As we ate, I remarked, “I forgot that other detectives have multiple cases going on at once! A couple weeks ago, all I got was petty crimes that I solved in, like, five minutes, and suddenly I’m waist deep in homicides! Gosh, so much of my life has changed since then, you’d think it happened a decade ago!”
“It is funny how all this began ’cause of a missing bicycle!” Sandra noted. I nodded, but before I could continue on the subject, Sandra brought up, “So, you didn’t have dinner at home, huh? Does that mean you spent the night with a certain someone?”
I knew sooner or later I’d have to talk to her about my date last night, but I still dreaded the prospect of going over it with her. I really didn’t want any of my colleagues to find out about my scheme until I finished it, and even though I felt sure she wanted to hear more about the salacious details of my love life, but I decided to give her minimal details and hoped that would suffice for now, “You think we slept together? He had five kids over at his place, how would we be able to without little ears hearing us?”
Sandra told me, “Listen, I had two kids in a small apartment, and if my husband and I didn’t find a way to do it, we wouldn’t have had baby number three! We also wouldn’t have become grandparents! We had no idea she was bringing boys into the house! Look, my point is you can still get laid with people around! You just gotta move fast and keep the volume down.”
“Oh, a quiet and quick romp, so romantic!” I said sarcastically.
“Hey, it’s better than going without!” Sandra defended her advice.
I reasoned with her, “I don’t need to do that right now! It wasn’t that long ago I had a husband that I could get that from! Of course, we hadn’t done it in a while, but still, I’m not at the point of desperation yet. Besides, I want my first time with him to be special! I don’t wanna worry about every little noise waking up a kid who may or may not know about the birds and the bees yet! And I definitely don’t want any interruptions! Doing it right is worth the wait!”
She shook her head and expressed her surprise on my viewpoint, “I don’t know how you could wait! I couldn’t resist it if I had a guy like that around! Actually, I didn’t wait with Alan! We did the math, we’re pretty sure our oldest child was conceived after our first date!”
“Well, it’s not like I didn’t want to, but…” I blushed furiously upon saying that, and I couldn’t speak from that point forward. I hadn’t meant to divulge that much honesty about the matter, and truthfully, I did long for him in that way. His studly good looks and well sculpted body flooded me with desire, but I also grew fearful at the prospect. If he really did the heinous acts I suspected him of, how could I make love to him? I felt guilty enough for not solving this case sooner and helping him get away with more murders, so I didn’t want to give him the pleasure of pleasuring the detective who was supposed to be working on putting him bars too! If he did turn out guilty over these allegations, then he definitely didn’t deserve to have an arousing experience like that! It didn’t feel right to get him off in either meaning of that phrase! However, if I kept up my ruse, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep my hands to myself…
“Am I interrupting anything?” a forensic analyst walked in and stared at us curiously.
I responded, “God, I hope so!”
She chose not to query about that statement and let us know, “We’re ready to let you know some of our findings on that cellphone.”
I got up to join her in the lab, but Sandra requested, “Wait!” She gobbled up the last bites of the casserole and mentioned to me, “I gotta get the recipe for this from your mom!”
In the forensics laboratory, the analyst led us to her station where the cellphone still laid broken inside of a tray. “I’m assuming you didn’t drag us over here just to tell us you couldn’t fix it,” I regarded the analyst.
“Quite correct!” the forensic analyst acknowledged. “Whatever spell the killer used had a permanent effect, but we didn’t give up there! We were able to decipher a serial number on the device, and we traced it to the factory where ti was made. The factory helped us track down what store they distributed it to, and that store matched their inventory list to their purchase history.”
“Oh, you got a name from the purchase history?” Sandra surmised.
The forensic analyst informed us, “Well, we got a name of the original buyer, but that consumer had since sold the device to someone else. Luckily, the selling app she used had a record of their transaction, and finally, we were able to confirm the last owner of the phone, Giada Midori.”
Sandra and I both breathed a sigh of relief after receiving this piece of evidence! We were both tired of running around in circles trying to learn something about the murderer that would help us get an arrest, and we assumed that this cellphone had something on it that would link us to our suspect or else he wouldn’t have gone through such great lengths to retrieve it. I prayed that the analyst didn’t reveal anything that would bring Aidan into the case again! Obviously, I didn’t think that notion would last forever, but I just didn’t feel ready to face that heartbreak yet! I had no idea if I’d ever be fully prepared to deal with that, but I had hoped that I would have more time to accept the truth rather than finding it out so abruptly like I did with my mom cheating on my dad or with Ben cheating on me with multiple hookers! For once, I wanted to get let down gently! I somewhat hesitantly asked her, “Were you able to learn anything else from it?”
“Yes,” the forensic analyst confirmed. “We went through Miss Midori’s contact information that we had on file, and we were able to pinpoint her network provider. Apparently, she had rigged the phone so that she could switch it to a cheaper company than the one the device was built for. Anyways, her provider gave us her usage history.” She turned her computer screen to face us and stepped aside to clear our view. “Feel free to take a look.”
“Thank you,” I made sure to mention before I took over her computer. I scrolled through the data as Sandra watched over my shoulders, and I stated, “She must have gotten a new cellphone ’cause this shows she made several text messages from this number last night!”
Sandra denoted, “Looks like she listed everyone by their street name. I wonder what her dealer went by!”
I spotted something on the log and pointed to it. “Found ’em! She just listed them as ‘Drug Dealer.’ Hmm, not very creative!”
“But it sure helps us out!” Sandra studied their conversation and concluded, “The last time she spoke to them was right before the attack.”
“Good!” I reacted approvingly. “I’m glad she was smart enough to leave this person alone! They’d probably attack her again for helping us.” I inquired to the forensic analyst, “Can you tell us anything about this number?”
She hopped back onto her computer and entered it into her database. When the results came back, she reported, “It’s a prepaid cellphone, sorry.”
Sandra lamented, “The killer probably had the dealer’s phone destroyed too so that we’d never find it, especially after he figured out that someone had found Giada’s phone, which could link us to him.”
“Maybe, but maybe not!” I offered an alternative theory, “If the killer had destroyed the dealer’s phone, then he wouldn’t have bothered to track Jasmine down. I mean, we can run all of her contacts through the system and see if one matches someone who fits the killer’s profile, but if he never had direct contact with Giada, then the only logical reason he’d have for destroying the phone would be that we could use it to find the drug dealer, and if we found the drug dealer, we could find him!”
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to destroy the drug dealer’s cellphone though?” Sandra differed. “The phone isn’t registered to anyone, so if the phone didn’t exist anymore, then we couldn’t identify the dealer. The killer must have had another motive to go after Giada.”
I countered with, “Possibly. It certainly would have made more sense for the killer to do that, but maybe they had to have that number active for some reason. We could contact that number and find out. If the line isn’t active anymore, we’d find out right away, but if the line is still active, then maybe we could lure the drug dealer somewhere and nail them! It’s worth a shot!”
Sandra contemplated my argument and then concurred, “You’re right! Let’s try it!”
“We have a program that simulates text messaging if you want to use it.” The forensic analyst pulled it up for us.
“Thanks!” I repeated to her. I typed a message about my willingness to do anything to get some pills, and my heart pounded as I pushed send. When the message went through, I announced, “It got sent! The number is still active! Now let’s just hope the dealer takes the bait!” The three of us watched as dots in a chat bubble indicated that the drug dealer was typing something, and when we saw them reply, our anticipation mounted so high that we practically lost our breath! We got quite the shock when we read their response…