Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 24

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“He swung first. I have witnesses,” Burl said.

“That’s right,” Thug Two said, ratting out his friend. “Moe swung first.”

“Yeah, he did. We saw the whole thing. He was f**king with the little one earlier. We tried to stop him!” Thug Three added.

They couldn’t talk fast enough. Several other students stepped forward, speaking for Burl.

“We still have to call your parents,” the officer said.

“No need. My mother is in the car. She saw the whole thing.”

Traffic had stopped, so Deirdre was able to get out of the Jeep and walk to the sidewalk. Corin cowered in the back seat.

“These boys attacked my youngest son,” she spoke in a chilly tone. “Where were the teachers and administrators when that happened? Corin, front and center.”

Her youngest son got out. He wasn’t any taller than his mother, and slender. The other boys were considerably bigger. The security officer took one look at Corin, and got an entirely different attitude.

“They charged up to the car,” a girl said. She was the picture of a pretty high school teen; fresh faced, her hair in a ponytail, wearing a sweater, pleated skirt and saddle Oxfords. “Burl got out to stop them, but they were looking for Corin.”

“You know them?” The officer pointed to the other three boys.

“Yes, sir. Xander, Moe and Oliver.” She pointed to each of the boys.

“Marybeth!” Xander, Thug Two, squeaked.

“Shut up,” she replied.

“Did you see them picking on Corin?” the officer asked her.

“No. If I had, I’d have stopped them, or gotten a teacher. I may look like a little, bitty girl, but I’m a red belt in Aikido.”

Burl flashed her a grateful look. “They owe my little brother an apology,” he stated calmly.

“Agreed. Boys?” Crossing his arms, the officer looked intimidating.

Faced with him and Burl, the three of them babbled an apology.

“What about him?” Moe pointed at Burl. “He hit me!”

“From what I saw,” the officer said. “He was defending himself.”

The principal stepped into the circle. “The rule is that anyone fighting gets an automatic ten day suspension.”

“If you suspend my son for protecting himself, I’ll have your job,” Deirdre said. “You have multiple witnesses, parents and students, who saw what happened. Your security officer even saw it. There are cameras, too, I assume? If you suspend my son, then I’ll have to have those subpoenaed to find out why no one saw my younger son getting roughed up. He’s got a black eye and his clothing is torn. I think this is evidence enough for me to get a lawyer, don’t you?” She appealed to the officer.

“Ma’am, I’ll find out, personally, what happened. I apologize, son. Someone wasn’t paying attention and doing their job.”

“Thank you, Officer Mendez,” Deirdre said in her most regal tone. “Now, gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take my son to the hospital. I assume that I can have them send the bill to the school? Good.”

Not waiting for confirmation, she got in the Jeep, followed by her sons. Officer Mendez round up the other boys and they were taken to the office. They were just going inside the door when she pulled away from the curb.

Three hours later, they got home. Corin wasn’t badly hurt, just bruised. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Burl stepping in to defend him. On one hand, he was glad his brother was protecting him, on the other, he felt like a baby. He was playing Call of Duty when his door opened and Burl walked in. Flopping on the bed, he said nothing, just watched his brother play.

“You kill at this,” he said when the mission was complete. “I’m not this good.” It wasn’t entirely true, but Corin was better at some things than he was.

“You’re just saying that, but thanks.”

“You’d kick my bony ass,” Burl said, dropping to the floor with his brother.

Corin handed him another controller and started the game. They played side by side for a while, crowing then they did well, cursing when they did badly.

“Thank you,” Corin said quietly. “I feel kinda stupid….”

“Never. You know how many times Aiden had to save my ass? Creeps have to learn that they don’t f**k with any Partridge. I’ll show you some tricks sometime, when Mom’s not around. She’d have a cow. Aiden showed me that duck and punch.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 23

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

“Mom, really?” Burl yelled. “Why can’t you be like normal mothers and listen to appropriate music?”

Deirdre turned the music down. “And what’s appropriate?” She smiled, raising an eyebrow as she turned it down a little.

“I dunno, like Enya or Michel Bublé.”

“Hmm…. No. And hell no.”

The music changed, now it was More Human Than Human by Rob Zombie. The song began with the sounds of a woman having an orgasm. Burl hid his face in his hands.

“Please, Mom! Come on! People know me!”

Taking pity on her son, Deirdre laughingly turned the music down more. Corin got there a couple minutes later, disheveled and red faced. His shirt was torn and his face bruised. His lower lip was puffy and one eye was going black.

“What happened to you?” Deirdre asked, concerned.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Freak!” some kid yelled at him.

“Can we just go?”

Others walked by, leering at them, making rude noises and cursing.

“What the f**k?” Burl said. “What did you do?”

“Nothing! I heard some guys talking about Aiden finding Wendy’s body, and they were saying awful things about her—and him! So I tried, politely, to set them straight. I said he hadn’t found her, I had, and they jumped me.”

“Jumped you? Who?” Burl opened his car door.

Deirdre, who had been ready to pull into traffic, slammed on the brakes. “What are you doing?”

“No one f**ks with my baby brother. They want a piece of Partridge, they go through me.”

“Burl, I’ve told you…!”

He actually glared at his mother, one foot on the ground. “I don’t care, Mom. I’m as non-violent as the next guy, but someone put hands on my little brother, they cross a line. Look at him, he’s half the size of nothing. That can’t happen!”

“Get back in the car.”

“No. Corin, who was it?”

Three large, tough looking boys were walking over to the car. Corin shied away, although he was inside. That was all Burl needed. He walked over to the center one, blocking his way. He wasn’t quite as tall as Aiden, but was more solidly built. His anger made him seem bigger.

“You got a problem, Partridge?” the boy asked, squaring off with the middle brother.

“Yeah. You’re messing with my brother. I guess no one told your dumb ass not to f**k with our family.”

“Must have missed that memo,” the boy said, taking a step closer. He chest bumped Burl.

His friends hung back, ready to bolt. The raised voices had finally caught the attention of other students, and teachers.

Deirdre started to get out of the Jeep, but Corin caught her arm. Shaking his head, he held her in a steel grip.

“I guess you don’t listen well, then. That’s been the word now for three years. You f**k with one Partridge, you get us all.”

“I see only you. Your big brother’s not here to protect you.”

“I don’t need Aiden,” Burl said softly, looming over the shorter boy. “You think I need him to fight my battles?”

“You fighting for the baby,” the boy countered, but he looked less sure.

“You leave him outta this. Your argument is with me, now.”

“Your crazy big brother’s probably the one who killed her,” the boy grew bold, thinking his friends were behind him.

They had backed off even further. Teachers and administrators were converging on their position. Given the number of students who were gathered around, they were having a tough time getting through the crowd.

Burl started laughing. It was a deep, dark, ugly sound. “You think you’re a tough guy, huh? You’re a pussy. You and your butt buddies need to back off. If I catch you anywhere near my brother, or even smell your stank….” he didn’t have to finish the treat. It was implicit.

The other boy, unfortunately, didn’t read it right. Feeling bold, but threatened, he took a swing at Burl. The middle Partridge ducked, slugging the thug in the stomach. The other boy gagged and retched, red in the face. Moaning, he gripped his stomach. Backing up a step, Burl put his hands behind his head as the school security officer came over.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 22

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

While going through pictures of the golf team, Vanessa spots something, with her husband’s help.

“No clue. But you noticed something, or it would be an 8×10, not a 10×13. I wouldn’t have spotted it so fast in a smaller print. That’s the dead girl? Wendy?”

“Yes,” she replied sadly.

“Beautiful girl. Too bad she was doing the coach. And probably the goob.” He pointed to Jim.

“You think?”

“Yeah. That old man has tapped that.” His nail clicked on her desk.

“That’s disgusting.”

“Very, but I’m not wrong. There are a lot of pervy old men out there.”

“A lot of pervy young ones, too,” she said, her mouth full of taco. “Oh-yum! Perfect! Thank you. This is amazing.” She took a sip of her soda. “You spoil me.”

“Whatever my baby, and her mama want—and she wanted tacos, enchiladas and flan.”

“Yes, she did. Funny that a baby who is half Peruvian and a quarter Cuban, wants Mexican food.”

“And a quarter Jewish. At least she doesn’t want gefilte fish.”

“Even if she did, no way I’d eat that. It’s bad enough to gag a moose. Now, matzo balls, I like.”

She finished the food, realizing Dario hadn’t eaten.

“Oh, God. I ate it all! Are you okay? Are you hungry?”

“I ate before I came. Can you go home? It’s after six.”

“Yeah. I’ve got what I need. I’ll start interviewing people tomorrow. I’ll just drop by the school to talk to Coach Grab-Ass. That will be a fun conversation.”

“Your idea of fun, and mine, are different. Meet you at home, love.” He kissed her, patted her belly and left.

Vanessa checked out and followed him to the parking lot. They drove home together. He arrived seconds before she did, and waited until she got out of her car before unlocking the door. Once inside, he locked up and pulled her into his embrace.

“I’ve missed you today.” He rubbed against her, kissing her deeply.

“I can tell. I want a shower, first.”

“Works for me. I’ll join you.”

Their union in the shower, was loud and spirited. Later, they made love more gently. Afterward, Vanessa was exhausted. She curled up and went to sleep. Dario was disturbed by the picture of Coach Bullock. He never went through Vanessa’s things from work, but this bothered him. Leafing through, he found the group shot. Scanning it, he pulled it up on his wide computer screen. What he saw unnerved him, but he kept looking. He told himself it was for his wife’s sake, but he knew it was for Wendy’s as well. After he was done, he put the pictures away and wrote his findings on a large Post-It pad, sticking it to the picture’s margin. Vanessa would find it when she got to work. For the moment, it was enough. Trying not to wake her, he got ready for bed and fell into an uneasy sleep.

After Aiden and Vanessa left, Deidre sat down at her computer and did some more digging. She wasn’t convinced Troy was the one who had killed Wendy, but she wanted all the background on him she could get. She also wanted to know more about the golf team. There was more going on than Aiden had told her, or Vanessa. She was sure of it. As the child of abuse, she had learned to read people well. Her son’s body language set off warning bells and whistles in her mind.

Going back to the yearbook, she settled down to research the students and faculty. Starting alphabetically, she read each person’s page. She didn’t want to print anything off, because the boys occasionally poked around her office looking for pens, paper, or other school supplies. She bought a lot of the common items when they went on sale just before school started, and kept them stocked in her office. She didn’t want them pawing through and finding something, particularly Aiden.

Deeply embroiled in her reading, she got a call around noon from Aiden. He was on the way to Port Orange with Detective Weinstein. He wasn’t terribly specific about their reason, but he did say it had to do with Troy. It would be time to get the boys from school, soon. She printed the pages about Troy, precious little, and made herself a sandwich for lunch. Tucking the pages in her purse, along with a steno-pad, she headed to the school. She hoped to talk to the golf coach, on the premise that she hoped all her boys were doing well, but he wasn’t in.

Going back to her car, she turned on the air conditioner and cracked up Space Lord by Monster Magnet, the unedited version. It boomed and thrummed, turning a few heads from parents and students who happened to walk by. Deirdre didn’t pay any attention to them, turning the radio up more when it started playing Closer by Nine Inch Nails—also unedited. Her first son hopped in the car just as the singer got to the chorus: “I want to f**k you like an animal.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 21

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 Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

When she arrived at the office, she settled at her desk, prepared to do some searching. A man walked up, clearing his throat. She finished her search parameters without looking up.

“Hiya, Scott.”

“How did you know it was me?” He slung a hip over the corner of her desk.

“Change your cologne.” She smiled up at him. “It’s distinctive.”

“Bad?” He sniffed himself.

“Not at all, but no one else smells the same.”

“Update me. What happened with Troy In—”

“Intriago.” She spelled it for him.

He repeated it silently, nodding. “Okay. Him.”

Vanessa gave him a rundown of her discoveries.

“And the Partridge kid, you’re sure he’s not good for it?”

“No, I don’t think so. But he knows something he’s not sharing. His reaction to her death was genuine. He was horrified, disgusted, grief-stricken.”

“You let him take down Troy?” he scowled.

“Duh—pregnant lady? I didn’t have a uniform with me, and he volunteered. It was a clean hit, on grass. No serious injuries.”

Scott nodded, biting his lip. “What are we doing now?”

We? Aren’t doing anything. I am looking for potential suspects. Aiden said Wendy had issues with the coach and a couple players. I have a feeling he didn’t tell me everything.”

“You’re convinced about the kid? You’re sure he didn’t do this?”

“There’s a core of anger there, which I don’t understand. Do I like him for this? No. Am I worried I’m wrong?” She spread her hands, shaking her head.

“You’re wrong about as often as I am, Nessa.” Which in his mind, meant never.

“Maybe, but there’s something—dark. Secret.”

They talked a few more minutes, batting ideas around. Finally satisfied, he left her to work.

Focusing on the screen, Vanessa examined her search hits. Selecting the yearbook site, she checked on the year Wendy graduated. Accessing the golf team photo, she saw a familiar face. This one was sun-kissed and smiling, not frozen and pale in death. Front and center, Wendy stood, flanked by Jim Butcher and Coach Bullock.

Searching the photo, she found Aiden. Shorter and younger, he stood near the middle of the group, grinning proudly. There was a sizable crowd, larger than she had anticipated. She shouldn’t be surprised, it was a popular sport in Florida. New Smyrna Beach alone, had five golf courses. Surely not all the players were retirement age.

The names were listed below, with links to their class pictures and bio pages. She clicked on all of them, printing off the information. Her hand hovered over Aiden’s link, but she clicked it anyway. He might not be a suspect, but he knew something. The coach’s name took her to a far longer page. He had played professionally for a few years. Since his career had been less than stellar, he had left the pro circuit. He worked as a golf coach and was an instructor at the municipal course.

There were several pages of golf matches listed, with photographs of their victories. In all of the pictures, Wendy stood proudly in the center. Jim Butcher and Coach Bullock, as always, on either side of her. In more than one, they men weren’t looking at the camera, they eyed Wendy. In one, the coach’s expression could only be described as lascivious. Vanessa stared at it a long time before printing it. She gave herself a bigger copy, and took it to her desk, studying it carefully.

Someone came up behind her, but it wasn’t Scott. Soft lips brushed her neck and she leaned into her husband’s embrace. Eyes closed, she savored the moment.

“I brought dinner,” he mumbled, lips on her throat. “Or can you actually go home?”

Her sensitive nose picked out the aroma of her favorite Mexican food and her mouth started to water.

“Let’s eat, then go. I’m starving.”

“Pepita is taking it out of you.” His hand caressed her still flat belly.

“Yeah, now I know what my sisters were talking about. They were all ravenous when they were pregnant.”

They sat at her desk and Dario laid out the food. His eyes didn’t miss the picture of the coach.

“Why’s the old guy playing grab-ass with the teeny bopper?”

“He—what?” She snatched up the photo, examining it more closely.

“You’re losing your edge, my love. Look at the old lech’s right hand. He has a handful of lush, teen ass. What a perv.”

“He does! How did I miss that?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 20

sidetracked resizedBoth women felt a shiver up their spines. He might be young, but there was a suppressed energy there, core of strength they rarely encountered in men twice his age.

“I know some other people who knew her from golf team,” Aiden said, as if he hadn’t just revealed his inner self.

“Did any of them have a problem with her?” Stavros asked, recovering first.

“Not more than usual on a team. She was a strong leader, some called her a bossy bitch. She was a perfectionist. The women’s team did well under her leadership. Even the men did better, because she wasn’t above telling our captain how to do things.”

“Was Troy on the team?” Vanessa asked, taking out her pad.

Snorting, Aiden rolled his eyes. “Him participate in anything? He’s good with cars, not much else. You saw how easily I caught up with him. I could have taken him down in the parking lot, but I didn’t want us both to be bleeding, or broken. So I waited until we hit the grass.”

The women exchanged a surprised look.

“Did you know Wendy was back?” Vanessa asked sharply.

“If I’d known, she wouldn’t be dead. Wendy meant a lot to me, Detective. I wasn’t still in love with her, but I’ll love her for the rest of my life.” He could see that the two women understood the difference.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Stavros asked.

Aiden had anticipated being interviewed by one or both of the officers. He smiled a little. “I’ve got a couple girls I date, nothing serious. No one special.”

“Are you sexually active?” Stavros said.

Giving her a patient look, he smiled. “I lost my virginity, with Wendy, when I was sixteen. I’m eighteen, and male. You do the math.” He shrugged.

“I think we need to get you home,” Vanessa said. “I’ve taken up enough of your time. The lab has your jacket and the desk sergeant has a receipt for you. We’ll stop for it when we go out. We won’t have results on DNA right away, but we can type and match the blood.”

“Good. I’m glad I didn’t have to fight him. I didn’t want to put you in a difficult position. Better this way.”

Vanessa drove Aiden home, feeling less sure of him than she had. He carried a lot of suppressed anger, though she couldn’t believe it was rooted in his family life. His mother was a lot like hers. She hadn’t met the father, but couldn’t imagine a woman like Deirdre putting up with an aggressive spouse. The things he said, often sounded so cold. It was hard to equate with the handsome, nurturing young man he professed to be. However, his grief at identifying Wendy had been real. Even the best actor in the world, couldn’t pull off that performance. Shaking off her doubts, she pulled up in his driveway, putting the car in gear.

“Thank you for letting me help,” Aiden said, holding out his hand.

“Bring it in,” she held out her arms, giving him a hug. He returned it warmly. “You were a big help. Oh, while I’m thinking about it, you said there were people who might have had conflict with Wendy—on the golf team?”

“Yeah. Jim Butcher, the men’s captain. He might be hard to get hold of, I think he went in the Marines? Maybe Navy. Lonnie Hamilton, she wanted to be captain, and got the job the following year. And Ed Bullock, the coach. He and Wendy didn’t always see eye to eye.”

“Do you think any of them knew she was in town?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to Jim or Lonnie in years. She graduated the year after Wendy and Jim. Mr. Bullock is still coach. I don’t have issue with him.” He shrugged. “I didn’t know any of her other friends, if she had any. Except for Troy, she kept to herself.”

“You believe he isolated her from others.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes. Making her live in that stinking hole of a house….”

“You think he made her?”

“Would you live there, when you could be in a foster home? Unless it was hell there, I can’t see her agreeing.”

“I plan to interview the foster parents soon. I won’t need an assist. I don’t expect them to run.”

“Will you let me know—what they say?”

“I can’t be specific, Aiden. Unless it directly involves you, I can’t allow it. I shouldn’t even have let you in on this much.”

“I understand.” The grim determination was back.

Vanessa had the impression that he would do investigating of his own, and wondered if he’d given her all the names. She drove back to the station, the three names Aiden had given her, resonating in her head. She was sure he’d kept a name or two to himself, so she made a mental note to check out the entire golf team. She also planned a more in depth investigation of Wendy, herself.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 19

sidetracked resizedLisa turned off the monitor, taking him in her arms. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think he did it, either. And Vanessa will come to that conclusion, too. We just wait this out. Have you had lunch?”

“No, and I puked up my breakfast when Vanessa read the letter.”

She told one of the officers to go for pizza and talked with Aiden in her office. Food arrived a few minutes later, and Lisa picked up the conversation as if there hadn’t been a break.

“You had no idea about the baby?”

“None. I tried to reach her after she left, but she either cut off her phone, or changed her number. I didn’t have an address. It damn near killed me. I barely even remember that summer.”

“Can you think of anyone else who would want to hurt Wendy?” Captain Stavros asked gently.

“Honestly, Captain, the Wendy I knew didn’t have an enemy in the world. She was beautiful, kind, loving. The only dark spot was Troy. But I can’t believe he did it. I hate him, and I want him to burn, but he didn’t kill her. I do think he knows more than he’s saying. And I think he beat her up. At least now, you have his DNA to compare.”

“We do?”

He explained about his jacket.

“Clever boy! You ever thought of being a cop?”

“Until now, no. But it’s starting to look like a vocation.”

The interrogation of Troy Intriago wasn’t going as well as Vanessa had hoped. She’d rattled him with the baby picture, more than she’d anticipated. He was so hung up on that, for a while, he couldn’t do anything but deny the truth. Doing her best to get him on track, Vanessa kept hammering him with questions.

“When did Wendy live with you?”

“That kid? Dammit! I knew I shoulda nut checked him.”

“When was Wendy living in your grandmother’s home?”

“I dunno. Her last year maybe? Her foster mom was a nosy bitch. Up in her business, so she left.”

Though she tried to rope him back in, he didn’t cooperate. When she pressed, he got abusive. Unwilling to hear him insult her, she had him led back to his cell.

Vanessa walked into Stavos’ office a few minutes later. Sitting heavily, she put her feet up on another chair. “He didn’t do it. I believe he contributed to the bruising, and I think he may be the one who assaulted her.” She wouldn’t look at Aiden when she said that. “But murder? No. I really wanted him for this.”

“Alibi?” Stavros asked.

“Soft. He claims he was home with his grandmother. She confirmed that he was there, but she fell asleep in her recliner at eight o’clock. She can’t account for anything else until yesterday morning. He wasn’t there when she got up at seven. She figured he hadn’t spent the night, because he always makes a pot of coffee for her when he gets up for work. There was no coffee that morning. She was pretty pissed about that.”

“I don’t suppose she could have done it?” Stavros asked.

Vanessa snorted. “No. She could stink someone to death, but she’s had stroke damage. No way she could strangle a healthy young woman.”

“How do you know?” Aiden asked.

“Her face shows signs of it. She has a very uneven gait that isn’t just from alcohol, and she slurs her speech—again, not just booze. I was pre-med before I became a cop,” she explained to the curious teen. “I wish we could have helped Wendy….” The pain of her own past nearly blindsided her. The survivor of an abusive relationship, she understood the younger woman’s pain and shame.

“You didn’t even know her,” Aiden said. “I’m the one who should have.”

“You’re a kid,” Stavros said, not unkindly. “I hate to say it, but chances are good, the police wouldn’t even have listened. If she wasn’t willing to press charges, there would be little we could do. Did he ever hit her in front of you?”

“If he had, we wouldn’t be sitting here, I’d probably be in jail,” Aiden said in a calm, deadly voice. “I’m not a kid, even if I’m young. I can handle myself, and I don’t take shit from anyone. I also won’t watch a man beat up on a woman. My mother was the victim of an abusive father, she taught us to control our anger, but we learned how to defend ourselves, so we won’t ever be a victim. I never have started a fight, but if someone starts it with me….” He shrugged. “Guys bigger and meaner than Troy are scared of me.” He cut his eyes at the police officers. “After a few fights, and a six inch growth spurt, I don’t have much trouble with bullies.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 18

sidetracked resizedVanessa handed her the picture and letter.

“What does she mean Troy would know the baby wasn’t his?” Her eyes darted from one to the other.

“One of the things I wanted to ask him.”

“You like him for this?”

“Too early to tell. But it’s possible that he had a motive. One thing I’m very curious about, how did that letter get to his house, among Wendy’s things?”

“Excellent question.”

“Can I go in?” Aiden asked.

“Absolutely not,” Lisa Stavros said. “What makes you think you could make him talk?”

“We have history. He hates me. He thinks I’m a punk kid, and it will make him angry.”

“You absolutely cannot be in that room. But I think we can arrange for him to see you. He’s in booking right now, but he’ll be in the interrogation room in a few minutes. When he makes that walk, we’ll put you where he can see you.”

“Devious,” Aiden said, nodding. “I like it. Tell me where to stand.”

She led him outside a few minutes later. Standing at the end of the hallway, leading to the holding cells, she engaged Aiden in conversation. They were some distance from where Troy would walk, but clearly visible. When he came out of the holding area, on the way to the interrogation room, he saw Aiden and started yelling. It wasn’t even words, he was so angry. He tried to break away and run down the corridor, but two big officers held him.

“You punk! I’ll get you, you cock sucker! You son-of-a-bitch!”

Aiden bridled at that. He could handle being insulted, but not his mother.

Lisa put her hand on his arm. “Don’t give him the win,” she murmured.

Relaxing a little, Aiden nodded. “Can I watch?”

Captain Stavros considered a moment. “Not in the booth. There’s a closed circuit TV in my office. Come.” She led him to her office.

Troy sat in the uncomfortable chair, chained to the table. His ankles were shackled and locked to the floor. He wasn’t going anywhere. He sat for quite some time before Vanessa went in. She had pulled her hair into a severe French twist and black framed glasses perched on her nose.

“She looks like the sexy librarian,” Aiden chuckled.

Stavros chuckled. She’d called Vanessa that from time to time, when she saw her done up interrogation style. “Don’t knock it, it works.”

“I’m not. But even if she’s a lot older, and married, she’s dangerously hot.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that.”

“Never. She’s a lady—who could kill me with extreme prejudice. She’s intimidating as shit.”

They laughed and settled into chairs to watch.

“So, Troy, why did you run?” Vanessa asked, not looking up from the folder.

He squirmed, shifting in his chair. “I figured you want to talk about Wendy. I didn’t do it.”

“I never said you did.” She folded her hands on the stack of pages. “I wanted to ask you questions. It’s been my experience, when a man runs, he’s got something to hide. What do you have to hide, Troy?”

“Nothing. I didn’t even know the bitch was in town.”

“Then why was this letter in your house?”

“Must have been left from when she lived there.”

“I doubt it. Look at the date.” She pointed to the letter. The picture was nearby. Troy ignored the letter and looked at the child. “He looks like that kid!”

“It’s a girl. That’s because he’s the father.”

“The f**k you say! That’s not possible.”

“But it is. She was pregnant when she left. But not with your baby. Did she get tired of you, Troy? Cast you aside? Is that why you killed her?”

“That can’t be his kid!”

“She’s certainly not yours. Did Wendy tell you that? Did she come by to see you, tell you about her baby? Did you lose your temper and kill her in a rage?”

“I don’t—you’re mixing me up!”

“But she did come by. Did she tell you about the baby, her baby—with Aiden. Did she tell you?”

“Yes! I mean no,” he sobbed, shaking his head. “I didn’t kill her. I loved her.” His face twisted in anguish. He looked furious with grief. “A baby?” his voice quivered.

“It’s not him,” Aiden said with confidence.

“He has means and motive,” Lisa Stavros said.

“Yeah. But listen to his voice. Look at his face. He’s hurting like I am. He might be a creep, but he loved her, too.” He looked away. “I thought this would feel better, but it hurts—” He rapped on his chest with his fist. “It hurts.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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