Our anticipation mounted high as we braced ourselves to receive a really dramatic revelation, and then Clifton announced, “Kaleo has a bit of a criminal history, but it’s all petty stuff. And seeing how it was all against Fay Folks, given that he and his wife fall into that category now, we didn’t think it posed a threat to any of you.”
“That’s it?” My hopes of obtaining juicy information that could assist Aidan and me in solving the mystery of how Lake Ana Wai disappeared had deflated so unceremoniously that it soured my mood in a nanosecond! I couldn’t accept this as the conclusion to the story he had for us! Did he truly believe Aidan and I would go through such an extravagant measure merely to learn about some cockamame misdemeanors?
“I’m sorry, did you want me to tell you that we transplanted your family to the home of a murderer or something?” Clifton retorted.
I admitted, “Kinda, yeah!”
Clifton shook his head. “Listen, I understand you two miss your jobs, but you can’t go fishing for a crime to solve like that! Try to find a way to relax more! I’m sure Mister Toonella will get captured soon, and you’ll be home before you know it!”
“That’s not true!” I disagreed. “I thought they’d nab him before our plane hit the ground!”
“And who says we’re not relaxed?” Aidan challenged him.
Clifton pondered, “Were you relaxing when that mob was trying to force you into an asylum?”
Aidan responded, “You guys are going through a lot at the moment- why add more stress to yourselves?” Clifton posed to us.
Neither Aidan nor I had a snappy comeback to that. He had a valid argument about the chaos we were currently undergoing- it was difficult to claim that we would be better off pursuing a case where we could potentially create another adversary who aspired to propel us into our demise! I knew that Agent Hearne would have most likely boiled over if we had to go through Witness Protection for our aliases, and normally, that would have been enough for me to put a lid on this venture, but something inside of me steadfastly maintained the stance that this vanishing pond had a link to Wade somewhere! He brought those teddy bears to the empty bank for a reason, and I felt determined to figure out his motives for doing so! Perhaps his fatal illness caused him to lose his mind, but I couldn’t rule out that he had a more sinister intent for putting those toys in that location! I couldn’t fathom what, but it couldn’t have been for anything good! Regardless of what scenario would prove to be the truth, I simply had to get to the bottom of this enigma!
“Hey!” Aidan cried out when we reached Lani Noni. “That’s our truck ahead of us!” The five children realized we were in the van behind them and threw some funny faces in our direction. “They went somewhere without us?”
Clifton pointed out, “Well, you went somewhere without the eight of them!”
I groaned, “The house was empty today? So, we could’ve had enough privacy to finally… do things?”
Aidan bemoaned this lost opportunity, but Clifton spared us no pity! “Well, you two interrupted Tarosh and me, so forgive me if I don’t feel too badly for you!”
“We forgive you for nothing!’ I folded my arms and pouted.
“Romeo!” Minna chimed as she wheeled herself out. “Oh, you came to see me! I knew you would! You were only ignoring my texts ‘cause you had too much to tell me and it wouldn’t fit in a small message! I’m here for you, baby! Talk to me!”
Clifton urgently requested us, “Please hurry!”
I entertained the idea of delaying my departure from his vehicle to enact revenge for his slight, but Minna’s overbearing antics were too cruel of a penance for Clifton’s offense, so I hopped out with alacrity. Immediately following our withdrawal, Clifton peeled out of the area! Minna called out to him, “Wait! Don’t be afraid of intense feelings!” When he became a dot in the distance, Minna cooed, “Aw, he’s too shy to admit his burning desire! Isn’t that adorable?” Everybody glanced at each other for cues on how to react to that!
“Did I tell you that we’re both scorpios?” Minna asked the people sitting at the dining room table.
“Yes, several times while we headed back here,” I answered from the ledge of the loft where Aidan and I were eating. “And a couple more times once we got inside!”
Minna gushed, “Scorpios are known for being very romantic and passionate! Together, we’ll be explosive!”
Mason wondered, “Is that a good thing?”
“Not everyone can handle that sort of intensity, but I thrive on it!” Minna purred. “You wanna see a picture of him working on a tractor?”
“Not really,” Harper honestly told her.
Minna displayed her phone for everyone to view it anyways. “He doesn’t just help farmers, he is one! Isn’t he dreamy?”
Aidan shooed a cat away from his plate when it tried to steal his meal, and then he riposted, “Yeah, his boyfriend thinks so too!”
“Minna, don’t you wanna go for a guy who’s a little more available?” Mom probed.
“You can’t choose who you fall in love with!” Minna shot back.
I nearly choked on my bite upon hearing that sentence! My mom had previously expressed a similar sentiment to me, but my situation was rather different since I was falling deep for a man who I believed was responsible for a series of brutal killings! Aidan turned out to be innocent, so it was totally okay for me to love him, but it wasn’t so okay for Minna to keep getting enamored with men who were already taken! Then again, she appeared to get smitten with any reasonably attractive fellow who crossed her path! This observation struck me with some inspiration though! “You should see some of the hot dudes in Eka Nahele!”
Minna puzzled, “Eka Nahele? What is that? A music group?”
“No, it’s this really nice town in the rainforest,” Aidan filled her in during his attempt to shield his dish from the sneaky kitty. “I didn’t pay much attention to the men’s looks though, there were a lot of strange individuals there! Oh, you’d fit right in!”
“If you’re trying to set me up with somebody, you can forget it! My heart is already set!” Minna happily sighed as she hugged an image she saved of Clifton.
Laraleigh brought up, “I thought you had a huge crush on my brother.”
Minna shrugged. “I still like him, but I’ve felt some distance between the two of us lately. Probably ‘cause of the restraining order!”
“If I give you a treat, will you leave me alone?” Aidan snapped. Everyone gazed at him peculiarly, so he clarified, “I was talking to Lulu!”
“You can thank Wade for that,” Mom remarked. “He used to give them tons of treats off of his own fork! It’s been two years since he moved out, but they still haven’t forgotten these bad habits! He’s gonna haunt me forever!”
Minna conversed, “You can parade as many beautiful beaus in front of my face as you want to, but you can’t convince me to worship anyone else but my beloved Romeo!” She spotted a photo on Laraleigh’s cellphone, and her interest piqued. “Ooh, who’s that?”
Laraleigh bellowed, “That’s my husband, and if you lay your hands on him, I’ll tan your hide from here to New York City!”
“Why New York City?” Minna catechized her.
“It’s far away!” Laraleigh barked.
I proposed to Minna, “If you really feel that strongly about Clifton, how about you prove it? We’ll go to Eka Nahele tomorrow, and if none of the hunks there tempt you, then… well, we’ll figure that out later!”
Aidan threw a piece of meat for Lulu to run after, and in the same instance that the feline munched on this morsel, Minna reached her decision, “Alright, fine! I’ll do it and show you all!”
Lulu aimed to return to Aidan’s side, but Aidan put up a force field and blocked her! Once both matters settled, we ate more peacefully. I was quite curious on what poor soul would have the misfortune of getting Minna’s attachment, but I was more eager to get some answers from the Hekekias’ Hut, put a rest to the stumper of wha Wade wanted with that evaporated body of water, and pretend like we followed Clifton’s advice about backing off all along!
“Can I ask you something?” Kinsey inquired to Aidan and I as we sat in a booth at a tropical restaurant.
“If it’s about the red hair, I’ve already explained that to you!” I muttered while pulling my hat further over my eyes. If she kept discussing our attempt to conceal ourselves, then Aidan and I would never be able to blend in with the crowd and get this operation done!
Kinsey assured me, “It ain’t about that! I just wanted to know… “ She turned her tone into a whisper, “… Did y’all ever kill anybody on the job?”
From their table ten feet away from us, Laraleigh commanded, “Don’t answer that!”
“That’s a yes!” Kinsey grinned triumphantly. “What’s it like?”
“I can’t give out classified info,” I partially expressed the truth there- I certainly couldn’t spill details of certain cases, and while I could illustrate the science and psychology behind using lethal force, I couldn’t give her a first-hand account on it. I did see a few victims die during my shifts, but I wasn’t about to divulge any descriptions of that to a teenager! Especially since we were striving to create an inviting atmosphere for Minna to attract a potential new boyfriend! The sooner she was occupied with a budding romance, the sooner the love of my life and I could slip out of there to do our secret mission! Determination brewed in Kinsey’s eyes, so I excused myself from her presence, “I’ll be back. Feel free to change the subject, babe!”
Kinsey was objecting to my suggestion behind me, but I ignored her as I walked over to Minna at the other table. I sat next to her and checked in, “See anyone you like?”
“Nope!” Minna reported.
“That’s ‘cause she won’t quit looking at pictures on her phone!” Mom tattled on her.
I glanced over her shoulders, and when I beheld that Minna was ceaselessly scrolling through Clifton’s social media pages, I snatched the device out of her clutches! “Hey!” she protested.
Undaunted by her agitation, I challenged her, “How about now?”
Minna begrudgingly scoped out the premises, and then she opined, “No one here compares to my Romeo!”
Not believing that a packed and hip establishment like this could have no promising prospects, I surveyed the space for myself. After a minute, I found a gentleman at the bar that made me wish that Sandra was here so I could watch her drool over his handsomeness! I pointed him out to Minna, “What about him?”
“Gosh, he’s gorgeous! But I couldn’t betray my dear, sweet Clifton over a dreamboat who looks like someone who could give me hours of pleasure!” Minna mulled over her statement and then changed her tune, “Nevermind, I’ll go talk to him!”
“Atta girl!” I encouraged her as she wheeled off.
Laraleigh commented, “She’s gonna blow it!”
I admonished her, “That’s not fair! You don’t know that!”
“Oh, yes I do! She’s not exactly smooth with pick up lines…” Laraleigh elucidated. “We really should have given her some stuff to say!”
“Why didn’t you mention this earlier?” Mom grilled her. “I’ll go grab her before… Oh, too late!”
Minna went up to the gentleman, and in a silky voice, she invited him, “Hey, hot stuff! You wanna come back to my place? We can’t have sex there ‘cause I have a bunch of roommates, but we could play a mean game of Parcheesi!”
I cringed at the disaster I watched unfold! I was expecting something cheesy that a man interested in her could overlook, but this was a failure beyond repair! Didn’t she just express a sensual desire for him seconds ago? Why would she utter anything of that sort? I grew extremely exasperated at this mishap, and my singular optimism at this juncture laid in the off chance that some of the other eligible bachelors in this joint hadn’t seen this blunder! I reviewed the room, and it wasn’t too reassuring! Suddenly, it wasn’t so much of a problem anymore… I saw something frightening that forced me to forget all of my other woes!