Crimes of the Fay, Chapter 28

Once again, I expected the worst. I thought he would confess to a horrible crime and then ask for my help in getting him cleared. I also believed that he could have used this chance to blackmail me into doing some illicit deed, and if that had been the case, I felt fully prepared to confess my technically illegal surveillance. I hadn’t considered him figuring out my plot before, but now that I had, it seemed like exactly the type of thing a sociopath would do! I was already going over how I’d word my admission to my department in my head as he began to explain what he wanted, “My sister’s father in law went to the hospital, so she asked me to watch the kids while they went to visit him. I can’t handle them all by myself right now, so would you mind coming with me when I take them out to dinner tonight? I know an arcade with five kids isn’t a great second date, but…”

My body flooded with relief upon hearing this! I prepared myself for much darker demand, and with all of the precarious scenarios that ran through my head, doing this seemed like a piece of cake! “That’s not a problem! I’ll do it!”

“You’re a saint!” I could tell he wanted to kiss me, but he stopped himself as he glanced at the two-way mirror behind my back. Instead, he gave me a little tap on my hand and told me, “I’ll text you the address. Meet me there around six?”

“Sure!” I grinned at him, and when he smiled back, I could have swooned! As I watched him leave, I pushed my suspicions about his criminal nature aside as I savored the affection I just received from him and imagined all I had coming to me later!

With a smirk, Sandra joked, “And Chief Mazarine worried about me acting like a school girl!”

As I pulled out my wand to turn the surveillance equipment back on, I gently chided her, “You shouldn’t have done that!”

“What? He was a friend of Jasmine, he had a right to know how she died!” she justified as the listening devices turned back on. I gave her a hard stare, and she awkwardly shrugged, “Alright, so maybe I just wanted to-.”

“Detective Nason! In my office, maintenant!” Chief Mazarine pointed out the door, and Sandra sheepishly left the room. I figured that he would chew her out for going off the record like that, and I almost felt bad for her. She tried to do something nice for me, and her stunt did score me another date with Aidan, but she could have gone about it in a different way. I walked back to my cubicle and came to the conclusion that her desire to get a confirmation of our relationship oversaw her sound judgment, and I hoped her curiosity on the matter would subside a little after this!

After I read an email from forensics saying that they didn’t recover anything from the cellphone but would continue searching as they repaired it, I decided to type up my report on the new evidence before I headed out. As I gazed at my notes about the killer in my serial murder case, I got reminded of how much his profile matched Aidan. Suddenly, it seemed foolish to go on another date with him! Once again, he picked the location too! I did feel a bit better knowing a bunch of kids would surround us, so he couldn’t do much with so many witnesses around. Plus, I’d get to drive myself this time, so I thought this rendez-vous offered less dangerous potential consequences. I really needed to find out the information he kept hidden from me, so I settled on the notion of continuing with the evening as planned but added the firm resolution of snagging what I needed to know from him!

Sandra came out of Chief Mazarine’s office pretty shortly after she went in. Apparently, he got the impression she went off the record so she could hit on him, which gave us both a good laugh. Before she could attempt to gather more details from me though, I had her look over my report so I could dash out. I did feel a little guilty for keeping a secret from a friend, but I assured myself she’d understand why once I uncovered the truth from him.

I drove to the address he texted me, and before I went in, I brought out my wand to doll myself up a bit. I know it may have appeared a little silly to dress my finest to go to some kiddie place, and he did already see me not that long ago, but I needed to do everything I could to get what I wanted from him! And yes, I realize that has a double entendre to it. A part of me wanted more than just kisses from him, and I had no idea how I’d accomplish that in front of his nieces and nephews, but as I saw him waiting for me at an empty table, it was all I could think about! I tried to keep my investigation at the forefront of my mind, but as I walked in, I didn’t know which side of myself would become the victor here!

I thought the expression on his face displayed an impatience for waiting, but as I got closer to Aidan, I could tell he had gotten irritated by all of the children running around. Based on his previous description of his sister’s kids, I could pick them out from the crowd pretty easily! I previously assumed he exaggerated on their behavior, but as I watched their rambunctious antics, I saw that I stood corrected! I totally understood why he wanted some help for the night now! As soon as he noticed my arrival, he beamed and then joyfully greeted, “Hey! You didn’t run away the moment you saw the reality of the situation!”

“A promise is a promise!” I giggled at his quip as I sat next to him, and he gratefully gave me a kiss.

“Ew!” the two youngest reacted in repulsion.

Aidan directed them, “Go play!” After they ran off, he turned his attention back to me. “How did the rest of your day go?”

I shrugged. “It was pretty uneventful. Do they serve food here? I’m starving!”

“They just have pizza I think.” He handed a small menus over to me, and then he amended his statement, “Oh, they have a salad bar too.” He spotted one of his nephews playing with the food in that area, so he scolded him, “Hey, get out of there! That’s not a toy!”

“I’ll probably skip the salad bar.” I made a face just thinking about all of the other kids that dipped their hands in there!

He said with a grin, “I don’t blame you!” We shared a laugh, and then he began searching around the restaurant slash arcade area. “Is there a waitress or-.” One of the workers came over to our table, and he pleasantly regarded her, “Oh, hi! Can we get a large pizza for the table?” He asked me, “what kind do you like?”

I answered, “Pepperoni is my favorite, but whatever you guys want is fine.”

“One large pepperoni, please,” he politely requested.

“Um, okay, I can do that, but I actually came over to ask if that was your kid over there…” She pointed to a child that had climbed on top of the skeet ball games and was currently trying to go inside the air vent.

Aidan groaned and then yelled, “Harper! Get down from there!” The little girl pretended like she couldn’t hear him, so he took out his wand and used his magic to float her down. He apologized to the employee, “Sorry about that.” She sort of half smiled before she ran off to the kitchen. Aidan gave me an appreciative look and then commented, “I can’t believe you agreed to this date! Then again, I’m still in shock you wanted to go out with a guy like me in the first place!”

I shook my head in exasperation as he played the humble card again! I’m a decent catch, maybe a bombshell to a loser like Ben, but I couldn’t accept a man this handsome, fit, charming, and rich wanting to act like he wasn’t good enough for someone like me! “Why do you keep saying that? I’m a plus sized woman who’s about to get divorced, and I live in a crime-ridden trailer park with my mom and crazy stepdad, that’s a lot of baggage! I haven’t even had the chance to dress my finest, and you keep saying I’m so pretty! I got so stressed that you had to teach me how to have fun again! Why do you wanna take all that on? You’re funny, talented, you make decent money, and you’re one of the most gorgeous men I’ve ever seen in my life, so why do you want me? Why do you want me when you could have the most beautiful woman in the world?”

“Oh, I can have you?” He gave me an amorous smile as he spoke.

“I was serious!” I thought the gesture was cute, but I truly wanted some honesty here. If he wanted to manipulate my feelings in order to pull the wool over my eyes to his potential crimes, then this operation of me going out with him to gather evidence against him would have been pointless. I pondered what story he would come up with, and if I detected any hint of deception, I readied myself to walk out and let him deal with these wild kids on his own!

With an intensely serious face, he looked me right in the eye and insisted, “So I was!” I hadn’t expected any authenticity, and the concept stunned me in the best kind of way! He went on, “When I first saw you, I had to look twice ’cause I thought an angel just walked in! I swear! You’re smart, and you seem curiously adventurous, but what really drew me to you is a strong sense of decency that’s very rare and very attractive! You’re a better person than me, and I’m lucky you even gave me a chance! I know you almost didn’t.”

After blushing furiously for all of the sweet ways he described me, I felt a little guilty for my initial hesitation of dating him. “Well, you gotta understand, I just left my husband, like, a week ago…”

“Oh, that makes sense.” He nodded in comprehension.

“I didn’t expect to date again for a while, and then you came along, and it just felt so fast…” I almost spilled my guts out about how attracted I grew to him, but then it occurred to me that a window of opportunity to discover the secret that I needed to uncover for my case just opened up, and as much as every fiber of my body wanted to elongate this romantic occasion, I couldn’t let my community down by not seizing this chance! If he did play a part in the murders, I needed to know right away! If I acted too selfishly, I could put innocent lives in danger, and I refused to let that haunt my conscious! So, I came up with, “I like you a lot, and I’m ready to be yours, but only on one condition… You have to tell me what’s in those missing files at your work!” His face soured a little, but I pressed on, “I need to be able to trust you, and I can’t date someone who doesn’t tell me what they really do at work!”

He contemplated my offer for a few seconds, and then he concluded, “Okay, I’ll tell you. I just hope you don’t hate me too much when I do!” He mentally prepared himself to expose his secret, and I waited with bated breath…

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 9

Nick’s good looks may have made her nervous, but when it came to marketing, she felt significantly more confident. Hadeon may have been a terrible husband, but he had a genius for his craft. The one good thing about him getting overly obsessed with his job was that he dragged her along for everything, so she learned a lot. She took out a notebook and pen from her purse and already wrote down some notes. ‘You said you had a band in high school. What kind of songs did you do?”

Nick recalled, “We wanted to be the next Rolling Stones, but our songs were a little more age appropriate. We wrote one called ‘Homework Rebellion,’ for example.” Nick laughed at his memories. “Teachers hated us, but the other students thought we were bad asses!” Nick grinned at the nostalgia that came to him right then.

Stacy grinned too, and then she observed, “So, you guys wrote your own music! How much of that did you personally contribute?”

Nick told her, “It was a group effort, but our best stuff came from me and Charlie. He was our drummer and my best friend. We worked on our music a lot more than our schoolwork!” He smiled fondly as he reminisced, but he soon started to frown. “I wish we paid more attention in school! Maybe if we had, we could’ve gotten accepted into college and Charlie would have avoided the draft…” He could tell Stacy wanted to follow up about that, so he elaborated, “After high school, Charlie and I both wanted to move to the city where we could get discovered, but we were both broke. We both took up jobs here at Gilmar’s, and we got through the awful work days by dreaming about what our lives would be like once we made it big. We kept the band going for a while, but eventually, with all of our different work schedules, the band drifted apart, so it was just me and him still working on our music. Charlie and I always thought we would form a band and get famous before we got considered for the draft, but, obviously, that didn’t happen. Charlie got drafted and sent to ‘Nam. I begged them to draft me too, I wanted out of this town so bad! In our letters, we still dreamt about making it big when he got back. But then, one day, Charlie’s mom called me and told me… Charlie wasn’t coming back!” He got choked up at this point, but after a moment, he lamented, “I wish we hadn’t focused on silly dreams so much! If we had a back up plan, maybe Charlie wouldn’t have…”

“It’s not your fault!” Stacy reached across and pat his shoulders comfortingly. “The draft went on ’til seventy-three, so Charlie could have gotten drafted after graduation.”

“That’s true,” Nick acknowledged.

“My mom always said everything happens for a reason,” Stacy narrated. “My ex-husband ran to Canada after high school. He claims he was a conscientious objector, but truthfully, he was just being a coward. But if he didn’t chicken out, he wouldn’t have blown away his trust fund, which forced him to move into his uncle’s garage in Nashville. He started his business there, and ten years later, it’s one of the most successful businesses around! Maybe Charlie had to go to Vietnam ’cause they needed a hero.”

“He was a hero!” Nick remarked. “I still wish he didn’t go! I miss him!” He paused and added, “Do you love him?”

“Charlie?” Stacy puzzled.

“NO,” Nick clarified, “I mean, do you still love your ex-husband?”

“Oh! No.” Stacy searched inwardly to verify her initial reaction. “After what he did, there’s no going back.” She could tell he wanted to ask what he did, so she revealed, “He hit me!”

“No!” It took a while for Nick to absorb this, and when he did, his fists tensed up. “That bastard!” His expression softened when he turned back to Stacy. “How often did he do that?”

“That was the first time. Honestly, in more than five years, he’s never done that!” she told him. “I left ’cause if he did it once, he’ll do it again and I’m not gonna walk on eggshells for the rest of my life just to make sure I don’t make him do it again!”

You don’t make him do it again?” Nick cried out. “You aren’t responsible for his actions! Even if you pissed him off, that’s not an excuse! Unless a woman holds a gun to his f’ing head, there’s no excuse to hit a woman! Ever!”

This visibly moved Stacy. She had her hand on her heart, and she was near tears. His logic flowed with her initial view on the matter, but that manager as well as her own doubts on the situation made her question this. She often wondered if it had been her fault or if she had been wrong in same way on the matter, but Nick was completely right, nothing she had done deserved his abuse! She felt heartened that she had an ally who backed her up on this. “I had an interview at Stereo Hut the other day, and the manager made it seem like it was all my fault!”

Nick immediately commented, “Well, we’re never shopping there again!” Stacy gave him an appreciative smile, and Nick emphasized, “I mean it! I’m not gonna go into a business that thinks that you had a perfectly happy marriage and, for no reason, you decided to destroy it and run away from paradise!”

“It’s true! That was exactly how he acted!” Stacy laughed in the ridiculousness of the topic. “Our marriage wasn’t paradise, thing were getting bad for a while. I thought eventually we’d work through our issues, but I don’t think he thought anything was wrong. I felt miserable for a long time, so eventually, if he hadn’t hit me, I would’ve had enough. At some point, you gotta consider your own needs ’cause your happiness matters!”

“Yeah…” Nick hesitantly agreed.

“Your happiness matters too,” Stacy reminded him.

Nick sighed, “This is different! This is a huge risk!”

“No, it’s not!” Stacy respectfully disagreed. “You’re playing music. If you make it big, you’ll be really happy. If you don’t, you’ll still enjoy the process. It’s not like you’re enrolling in the police academy like my dad did. He risks his life every time he goes on patrol, but he does it ’cause it’s what he loves. If he picked safety, he would be completely depressed his whole life! Imagine him going from graduation to retirement like that! His work is dangerous, but he’s lived his life without regret. The only thing you need to worry about is living your life with regret!”

“Okay, so I’m nos happy working in the factory,” Nick confessed. “But I do have a family to worry about. This isn’t fun for me, but they’re taken care of. What if this music thing ends up hurting them?”

Stacy almost pointed out that it seemed unlikely that this could hurt his family, but then she realized, “Wait a second, this is about Charlie, isn’t it? Last time you set out on this path, you lost someone important to you. You’re pursuing this ‘normal’ life ’cause you’re worried if you take a chance again, you’ll lose someone else!”

Nick mulled it over and came to the conclusion, “Yeah, I guess it’s true. I mean, that’s part of the reason anyways. I spent most of my adult life trying to squash the urge to sing and play to an audience, but I can’t help myself, it always resurfaces. Like earlier in the month, we went to visit her grandparents and I snuck away ’cause I saw a recording studio nearby. I had a great time, but it was selfish. Janet had to take time off work right near tax day ’cause her grandfather’s dying and it was his birthday. I should’ve been there for her more! I mean, her grandfather did throw me out, but still…”

“He threw you out?” Stacy responded. “What do you think you were supposed to do? Just wait outside for hours?”

“She ended up not staying that long,” he remarked. “She went looking for me and couldn’t find me. She talked her grandfather into letting me come back, but when I disappeared, that blew it. I shouldn’t have ran off, but I didn’t think he’d invite me back, the guy hates my guts! I went for a walk to blow off some steam, and I saw the recording studio there, and it was just calling me! I thought that after spending all my time helping other people, I deserved to see it! I work all day, spend all night with her, and help my dad on the weekends, I never get to do anything for myself! So I thought, here’s my chance! It felt great! Well, until she found me and we fought.”

“That’s the argument I had with my husband before we split!” Stacy related. “I was late for something I had to do for this big party, and I was wrong for doing so, but if I got to do what I wanted to do more often, that wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t regret what I did, and I guess he felt like I should live only to please him. I was tired of living like that.”

“You have a point,” Nick admitted. “I may have went about it the wrong way, but it wouldn’t have happened if I just made a little more time for what I love. Music isn’t gonna leave me no matter how hard I try! My family may not understand it, but if I don’t do it and keep spending my life trying to make everyone else happy except for me, I’m gonna lose it! I gotta do this! I keep worrying about something happening to them, but what if I don’t and something happens to me? I hope nothing happens to them, of course, but I’m committed to this!”

“Good!” Stacy nodded in approval.

Nick took a deep breath and released. “Wow, this conversation got real deep!”

“That’s ’cause we’re talking about music, and, for you, that’s your heart and soul!” Stacy affirmed. “I mean, I’m no shrink, but I hope you’re comfortable opening up to me. It’s gonna help me help you develop really meaningful lyrics and melodies. It’s not gonna make your pain go away, but it’ll help it become something beautiful. Like, losing your best friend, that’s a great topic for a song!”

“I did make a song about it,” Nick disclosed. “I took a song we wrote in high school, ‘Pay Attention,’ and I slowed down the tempo, changed it into a ballad, and made it about Charlie. Instead of making fun of teachers, I talked about how we get so distracted in our own lives that we don’t savor the time we have with people who matter most to us. If you don’t pay attention, you could miss out and you may not ever get another chance! Back then, I didn’t know how else to react to his death other than music. I was still in the habit from when he was alive.”

“That song sounds amazing!” Stacy exclaimed, and then she requested, “Can I hear it?”

“That was so long ago!” Nick reacted. “What makes you think I even remember it?”

Stacy gave him a playfully reproachful look. “You heard the song ‘Run to You’ once, and not only did you remember every word but you taught the music to that band! You have an amazing memory! So, let’s hear it!”

Nick relented, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it!” Stacy waited with mounting anticipation as he mentally prepared himself to sing…