“Oh, my God,” he gasped. “It can’t be! Why would she trash my car now? Shit!”
He nearly dropped the computer. Clark grabbed it before it fell. Frank paced, running his hand through his hair. He mumbled a few moments.
“Make her a brunette, take fifteen years off. . . . But why now? That’s what I can’t figure.”
“Who is she?” Marka pressed, halting him mid-pace. “Talk to me, Frank. Who is that woman?”
“You remember. The one I told you about? Prom Date from Hell? That’s her!”
“Really?” Marka studied the picture. “That’s what you were into? Cheap blondes?”
“She was a brunette naturally,” he said quietly. “And she was hot as hell!”
“Not bad looking now,” Phil interjected.
Clark glared at him. “How would she know where you work?”
“It’s a small town. We grew up here. She left shortly after graduation, but I guess she came back. By that time, I would’ve been in college. Haven’t seen her since.”
“What’d she do to you, Frank?” Shay asked.
Frank’s eyes widened. It had been hard enough telling Marka that story. Could he tell these men too? The fear when it happened, the residual effects that put him in the hospital. The concern he had that he’d never again be a normal man, be able to perform, father a child. . . . It had taken years to put that behind him. Suddenly, here it was again.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Marka said, putting a calming hand on his arm. “They can read about it in your dossier.”
Clark cleared his throat. They looked at him.
“Some of them already have,” Marka replied, pursing her lips. “Do you know everything about us?”
“Just about. Don’t know your favorite movie, book or song,” he told Marka in all seriousness.
“Because I don’t have one. But I bet you know what kind of music I like and my idea of the perfect date?”
Clark chuckled, the first sign of a sense of humor they’d seen. “Long walk on the beach, drinks at sunset, making love under the stars. . . ..” he teased.
Marka laughed, shoving him. “Maybe when I was fifteen!”
“I can be relied on not to tell. Arnold, I don’t think there’s any need for Frank to go into this. The question is, as he says, why now?”
“Could she want something from you? Money, maybe? But why?” Phil asked.
Clark cleared his throat, holding up a finger. “I think I can answer that one.”He stared at the floor, thinking before he spoke. “You’re right about her leaving town after she graduated,” he said to Frank. “Did you ever suspect why?”
“Not really. Lots of people do. Hell, I did myself.”
“She left to go live with her aunt in Cleveland. She was pregnant—with your child, Frank.”
“What?” He yelled far louder than he intended. Fortunately, most of the rooms around them were empty. “What are you talking about?”
“That little debacle she put you through. . . . She got pregnant. She gave birth to your son January 25 the following year. She moved back here last year to live with her parents after she lost her job. She’s been working at a car rental place at the airport for the last few months.”
“I’ve got a son?” His knees buckled. Fortunately, he was near the TV and fell back into it. “I’ve got a son. . . .” He rubbed his face with his hands, trying to force reality to sink in. “This is unbelievable. So, why’s she suddenly trashing my car? If I’d known about him, I could have helped. I would have stepped up. God, this adds a whole new level to dead beat dads, huh? So, is he okay? Did she keep him?”
Clark nodded. “He goes to the high school. Smart kid. Doesn’t favor you much, except the eyes.”
“I suppose you’ve got a whole dossier on the two of them,” Frank said with certainty.
Clark didn’t deny or confirm anything.
“So, we may not know what her problem is, but at least we know the car isn’t related to this other stuff,” Marka said calmly, taking Frank’s hand.
“The idea of an angry stalker isn’t too comforting, but at least we know about her,” Frank mused. “But figuring out her motive isn’t really as important as this other stuff.”
“What if there are three different story lines,” Marka said, nibbling her lower lip.
The men looked skeptical.
“Look.” She ticked off the points on her fingers. “We have Psycho-Barbie doing a Carrie Underwood. You know that’s what she planned,” she said as an aside. “Only the sirens stopped her. Second, we have a trashed office and house with a dead guy at the bottom of the ravine. Last, we have Ralph and the Tiffany ring. Yes, they might be related, but something other than Penwarren brought this to us.
“We don’t know that the house and office are connected. They could be separate incidents as well,” Clark postulated.
“That’s not comforting,” Frank said bitterly. “That means there’s one more psycho out to get me.”
“Make no mistake, the people who broke into your house aren’t psycho,” Phil said.
© Dellani Oakes