Kyle feels foolish after Carmelita teases him about being a lustful male. He endures a lot of ribbing from her, but it’s a bit much on his male ego at the moment. Fortunately, Emily understands and isn’t deterred by his behavior.
“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
More surprises await Frank once Shay arrives. Not only has he found out that he’s Mable’s great-grandson, he also discovers that Shay’s team has had him under surveillance. Not only that, their cameras recorded the vandalizing of his car. Not Ralph Penwarren or some unnamed, faceless “spook”, but a tall, attractive, very angry blonde.
“And you know this why?”
“I’ve been watching you,” Clark replied defiantly. “I’m head of the surveillance team.”
“And you didn’t catch the guy at my house?”
“Our job was to watch you, not your house. My team and I have been keeping an eye on you for the last three years.”
“How did I not know that?”
“We’re very good, Frank. We blend,” Phil said with a smirk.
“Right. . . .”
“If I told you who my people are, you’d be stunned. I’m the silent, unknown watcher who sits outside in all kinds of weather. Rain or shine, snow, sleet or fog. . . .” Clark continued.
Frank laughed, shaking his head. “You’d be noticed.”
“True, so mostly I sit in the blue house on the edge of the property and watch from there.”
“Wait a second. What?” His laughter increased. “I had this flash of that little, modular home chock full of super spy equipment.”
Clark didn’t laugh, neither did the others. Frank sobered, suspecting he’d hit the truth.
“Why move now?” He asked quietly.
“Because you were starting to remember bits and pieces. And you’ve done some research. Why do you think your passwords still work? Not cause we’re careless,” Phil said in a smug tone.
“I’ll be going now,” Marka said from the foyer.
Frank leaped across the room, taking her gently by the arms. “Please stay. I’m so sorry. I overreacted. That’s the problem with doing what we do.” He gestured to include the other men. “You get so paranoid, you see conspiracy everywhere. I believe you. Can you forgive me?” He took her hands, gazing deeply into her eyes.
“Can you trust me, Frank?”
“Because I have to know you’ll trust me, or I can’t help you.”
“I don’t just want your help,” he whispered. “Surely you know that?”
“If you don’t trust me—completely—just like you say, this can’t go any further.”
Frank sighed, nodding. Forgetting that they had an audience, he took her face in his hands, kissing her compellingly.
“I trust you, Marka. And I’m wild about you. That’s all I’ve got. . . .”
Their kiss lasted longer this time. A soft clearing of the throat caused them to break apart. Frank to turn around. Shay stood by the chair.
“One or two more things, Frank. First, we’re continuing our surveillance. If nothing else, we can keep an eye on you both. Second, the woman.”
“What woman?” Marka asked.
“The blonde who trashed his car,” Phil replied.
“What are you talking about? I thought that was Ralph?” she appealed to Frank for clarification.
“Clark saw some woman trash it,” he explained, shrugging.
“Know any stunning, tall, blonde women about your age who hold a grudge?”
“Not really. I mean, I know some attractive blonde women about my age, but not any that hold a particular grudge. I’m a pretty nice guy. I don’t go out of my way to piss people off.”
“No disgruntled employees? Ex-lovers? Old girlfriends?” Clark continued.
“My ex-lovers were rarely violent,” Frank said. “Amicable breakups. Maybe a little disappointed. . . .” He shrugged, grinning when Marka poked him.
“Being honest. I aim to please.”
“Otherwise we don’t get laid,” Phil, who was only a little older than he, intoned, offering his knuckles.
“Damn Skippy.” Frank tapped knuckles with the Major.
Shay and Clark, both of whom wore wedding bands, looked at the antics of the younger men with amused smiles.
“I did get a couple pictures,” Clark said in a more sober voice. “Can I borrow your laptop?”
“Sure. Knock yourself out.” Frank gestured toward the computer which was on the floor beside Shay.
Shay handed the computer to Clark. The Major whipped out a flashdrive and plugged it in after the computer booted. The shots he showed Frank were of a woman about 5’9″ dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt who was swinging a hammer at his headlights. Her blonde hair was pulled up in a ponytail. Some pictures were from a distance, the others were up close with a very sophisticated telephoto lens.
“You couldn’t go out and stop the bitch?” He complained. “Shit, Clark! That’s my ride, man.”
“There was a lot going on, Frank. You noticed the date/ time stamp. It was around the time all hell was breaking loose inside. She heard the ambulance coming and took off.”
“Does she look familiar?” Shay asked.
Frank squinted at a closeup, frowning as he concentrated. There was something familiar about her features. He couldn’t place it. Suddenly,
recognition dawned. © Dellani Oakes
The arrival of his former commanding officer, Colonel Arnold Shay, hasn’t made Frank very happy. He’s particularly annoyed when Shay brings in two younger men who are obviously much more than they appear. Marka sees far more than Shay and his officers are happy about.
“Wasn’t a guess. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I think there’s a traitor in your ranks. And you think Frank knows who it is.”
“Frank does know,” Phil said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you think for a second that I’d have let this drop if I knew who killed Clay and the others?”
“Do you think it’s any accident that a specialist in memory disorders, who worked with the military and has clearance only slightly lower than God, came to work here?” Clark asked nastily.
Frank’s dark eyes bored into Marka’s. “What’s he talking about?”
“Figure it out, Frank. Put the pieces together. You think this is a coincidence?” Clark continued.
“Colonel, he doesn’t know that he doesn’t remember,” Marka said to Shay.
“His mother told me tonight. . . .”
“Wait! You knew about me? All along?” Frank fought the urge to run.
Marka wouldn’t meet his accusing glare.
“This—all this—was for them? Him?” He pointed to Shay. “So, you didn’t just pull his name out of thin air?”
“I didn’t know Colonel Shay by name. I was asked to evaluate you, yes. But the job I’m doing here is real. That’s what I applied for and came for, Frank. You have to believe me.”
“Oh, because you’ve been so open and honest with me.”
Marka bit the inside of her cheek. Forcing back tears, she swallowed. “I haven’t lied to you.”
“Was going to bed with me part of the job description? Your evaluative process? Or is that just gravy? Do you do that with all your clients?”
Marka burst into tears and ran out of the room. She slammed the bathroom door. They could hear her weeping.
“She’s never met me, Frank,” Colonel Shay told him. “When we found out she was coming here, we asked her to. . . .”
“What? Get to know me? See if I’m stable?”
“No,” Clark said. “We asked her to see if she could find out what really happened that day. Don’t you remember anything? You were suspicious. Once you recovered. . . .”
“Recovered? I wasn’t injured.”
“Frank, you damn near died,” Shay said. “You left the hospital and went AWOL for three days. We found you wandering around in your hospital pajamas and you could barely remember your own name. It took weeks before you could remember the incident at all. When you did, it was totally different from the official version.”
“Maybe the official version was wrong.”
“Film crew documented it. We know what went down. It wasn’t your fault,” Phil said gently. “Before you disappeared, you told Colonel Shay you knew who did it. You wanted to find proof before you made an accusation. Then you went missing. When you came back, nothing.”
“We think you were drugged, brainwashed,” Shay said. “We asked Dr. Ventimiglia to evaluate you as a favor. She wasn’t on some sneaky, secret mission. Based on what I’ve seen, her interest in you is genuine. If you haven’t completely screwed it up, that is.”
Frank closed his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he pressed down the air with both hands. “I’m confused. What’s going on? What’s Marka’s part in this?”
“She was hired here to do just what she says, to work with Alzheimer’s patients. We sent her a letter and asked her to give us an assessment, to find out what she could, and help you remember. Whatever happened is buried deeply, Frank. We thought the lady could shake it loose.”
“Why is this so important?”
“We suspect that whoever had a part in this is going to move against you,” Clark replied. “From the looks of things, he’s already tried.”
“The red flag thing.”
“Exactly. He worked with whoever did this.”
“Whose name you don’t know.”
“Who wants me dead?”
“He wants to make sure his secret is safe.”
“So, what’s he looking for?” Frank demanded.
“Evidence. Do you remember or not? Did you leave yourself any clues?”
“Great. So, he searches my office and house, trashes my car. . . .”
“The car wasn’t part of it,” Phil interjected.
“You think my uncle did that?”
“Uncle? What are you talking about?” Shay asked.
“Ralph Penwarren. You think that he trashed my car?”
“No. Wait, he’s your uncle?” Phil was confused.
“Great-uncle. My dad is his step-mom’s grandson.”
“This has nothing to do with them. And he didn’t do your car,” Clark replied.
“It was some chick. Kinda hot. Tall, blonde. . . .”
© Dellani Oakes
Frank and Marka almost make it. They’re SO CLOSE! Until there’s a knock at the door and his former commanding officer, Colonel Shay, appears accompanied by two junior officers. Their presences isn’t at all welcome, which Frank makes readily apparent.
“We talked about this extensively, Arnold. I’m not coming back.”
“Not even if your country needs you?” Lieutenant-Colonel Anonymous said.
“Sir, my country needs all the help it can get, but I gave already. Got the scars to prove it. Now, what’s so goddamn important you scope me out in the middle of the night and interrupt my private time with my lady?”
Shay stood, offering Marka his chair. She smiled, but stood near Frank, taking his arm. The Colonel sat once more, frowning slightly.
“You’ve become of interest. . . .”
“To whom?” Frank demanded. “And why am I just finding this out?”
“We’ve had you under surveillance. . . .” The Major interjected. Shay shot him a look and he clammed up.
“And you didn’t think it was important to tell me this, Arnold? Thanks. I love being unwitting bait.”
“That’s an ugly accusation,” Shay replied, sipping his coffee.
“But an accurate one. Who’s interested in me and why?”
“I really can’t tell you that. . . .”
“Look,” Frank said, stepping forward aggressively. “My life’s in shambles at the moment. My office, my car and my home have been violated. Someone died. . . .”
“Who was that, by the way?” Marka asked.
The three officers gave her a gimlet eye expecting her to be quiet. She didn’t let it stop her. “Frank has a right to know who’s coming after him. He has a right to know why someone broke into his house. And don’t you think it matters to someone—other than us, how that a man died?”
“Miss Ventimiglia,” Lieutenant-Colonel began.
“Doctor,” she interrupted. “I worked hard for my title, just as you worked hard for yours. I expect to be treated with respect and addressed appropriately.”
“I think we got off on the wrong foot,” Colonel Shay said calmly.
“Do you think so?” Frank said with a grin. “And here I thought we were all getting along so well. Enough with the cloak and dagger shit, Arnold! Just tell me plain.”
“With all due respect,” the Major began. “We don’t know the lady’s clearance.”
The Lieutenant-Colonel flashed him a look that could have meant anything. Marka interpreted it as saying that he did know and the other guy needed to shut up.
“He knows,” she nodded at the Lieutenant-Colonel. “You know I’ve worked with the State Department and Veteran’s Administration. Part of my research for my doctorate pertained to memory loss in soldiers who’d experienced physical or emotional trauma. In fact, it’s possible that my clearance exceeds yours,” she said pointedly to the Major.
The Lieutenant-Colonel smiled. “Good guess. It doesn’t exceed mine.”
“I wouldn’t expect it to since I’m guessing that the uniform and the rank are bogus. I think you outrank everyone in this room—or, if you don’t outrank Shay, you’re in a line of work where you know about all there is to know.”
He shifted uncomfortably under her scrutiny.
Marka continued. “You don’t like me. You think I’m dangerous and I hit way to close to the truth. Did you think because I’m a girl I wasn’t smart enough to suss you out?” She rolled her eyes. “Would you guys get a new shtick, please? This one’s old and says very little about the progressive attitude of the modern Army.”
She took her coffee cup to the kitchen and put it in the sink. The men stared at one another. Frank was less shocked than the others, but not much.
Marka continued to surprise him. That she’d caught the Lieutenant-Colonel and Shay by surprise as well, pleased him.
“Well?” Shay addressed the Lieutenant-Colonel. “Clark, this is crazy. We’re dancing in circles. Be straight with them.”
The Lieutenant-Colonel reddened. Lips pursed, he stood abruptly. “Fine. You’re wrong, Doctor, I don’t outrank Colonel Shay.”
“But you do out-spook him,” Marka said with a decisive nod. “Thought so.”
“Out-spook?” The Major was still trying to catch up.
“Get on board, would you, Phil? Jesus, it’s like talking to a stump,” Clark snapped.
“No need to be insulting,” Phil rejoined. “Just tell them, already. This is ridiculous. We’ve been here ten minutes and all we’ve succeeded in doing is piss each other off.” He stood, advancing with his hand extended to Marka. “Doctor Ventimiglia, I’m Major Phillip. Lieutenant-Colonel Clark and I work with Colonel Shay. Frank was part of our team, though we never met directly.”
“Who mined the road?” Marka asked, taking the Major’s hand.
“Don’t be coy. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Does all this have anything to do with the death of Frank’s brother-in-law?”
Phil blinked at her, wide eyed.
“Can we start over?” Frank said. “Like at the beginning without the hedging?”
“Good idea,” Shay said. “He’s Phil, he’s Clark. Now that we all know who we are, let’s talk about this. Marka, good guess. This does have to do with that incident.”
© Dellani Oakes
Frank and Marka have just gotten home from visiting his parents. It was a fun visit, but Marka’s mother calls, creating a bit of a stir. Her premonition prompted Marka to tell Frank to call someone named Shay. It’s not a very welcome announcement. Colonel Arnold Shay was Frank’s commanding officer.
Tired of being cramped on the couch, Frank carried her to the bedroom. He set her down, removing her shoes. His hands caressed her feet and ankles, moving up under the leg of her pants. He set the shoes reverently on the table near the bed.
Marka giggled at that. “Do you always set a woman’s shoes on the table when you make love?”
“Only the really sexy ones. . . . . shoes that is.”
“My shoes turn you on?”
He glanced at them, shrugging. “Not really. But I find your breasts intoxicating.” To emphasize that, he kissed both of them—repeatedly. “And this, magic. . . .” His hand slid between her legs.
Marka was hot and wet. He could feel it through her clothing. Enough playing around, he wanted her too much. He finished undressing her and himself in record time.
“Condom?” She asked as he finished.
“Um. . . .” He had to think about that one. This wasn’t his bedroom at home, which was well stocked. Did he have any? “Yes!”
He unzipped his shaving kit. He remembered having packed a few in there when they went by his place—just in case—to be prepared. He was just about to rip it open with his teeth when someone knocked on the door.
“God dammit!” Frank yelled. “Can’t you leave me alone for five fucking minutes?”
“I dunno, kid. Haven’t tried. Put your pants back on and open up before I open it for you.”
“Colonel Shay?” He headed to the door.
“Frank!” Marka tossed him his jeans.
He shut the bedroom door behind him rather more loudly than he should have. “Coming!” Well, I would’ve been in about an hour. . . .
Frank opened the door to find his former commanding officer in the hallway with two other officers.
“I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow,” Frank said ungraciously.
Shay pushed passed him. “Tell your lady friend to join us.”
“What makes you think I’ve got a lady here?”
“Cause nothing puts that tone in a man’s voice except coitus interruptus.”
The other men laughed. Frank blushed slightly.
“I’ll see if she’s dressed.”
“Put your nickers on, son. That denim’ll rub ’em raw—state they’re in.”
“Be out in a few,” Frank said. “You can fix coffee.” He pointed to the kitchen, nodding at the lowest ranking officer, who happened to be a Major.
The other man smirked, moving toward the kitchen. He banged a few cupboards and clattered about for several minutes as Frank tapped on the bedroom door.
Marka was dressed and putting on her shoes when Frank walked in. He dropped his pants and put on his boxers. Marka watched him dress with longing. She tried to speak, but his naked body was very distracting.
“Come meet the guys,” Frank said, holding out his hand.
Marka ran fingers through her tousled hair. Frank kissed her one last time.
“I’m so sorry.”
They walked to the living room hand in hand. The coffee finished brewing. Marka found cups as the men stared at one another. Frank leaned against the console TV arms and ankles crossed.
“We’d be more comfortable in the sitting room,” he said.
“I hardly think we want to do that,” Shay said, frowning slightly. “Why aren’t you home?”
Frank told him the one minute version of the last few days. Shay nodded, accepting a cup of coffee from Marka with a distracted smile.
“This must be Dr. Ventimiglia.”
“And you know about me—why?”
“Frank mentioned you in passing,” Shay said evasively.
“Right. I suppose you know all about me now. My research and education?
My proclivity for red and my cup size?”
Shay chuckled while the other men looked uncomfortable.
“Thirty-eight C,” she told the Lieutenant-Colonel as she handed him his coffee.
“Dossier said it was thirty-eight and a half,” the Lieutenant-Colonel replied.
Marka flashed him a curious look. He was right, dammit. Smart ass. “You did look me up! You bastard!” She threw a napkin at him.
“Doing my job, Doctor. Nothing more.”
“Where’s Liz? You and she are usually joined at the hip,” Frank asked Shay about his assistant.
“She’s on vacation. She had some personal business to take care of in Florida,” Shay replied.
“Pity. She can always be counted on the jazz things up. Are you going to introduce us, Colonel?” Frank asked.
“My companions would prefer to remain anonymous,” Shay replied.
Frank eyed him critically, arms still crossed defensively, eyes wary. “Not sure I feel like chatting with Major and Lieutenant-Colonel Anonymous. I’m not in the game anymore.”
“I can activate you anytime I want, Francis. You’ve got some skills I badly need.”
© Dellani Oakes