Jasper slipped the letter into an evidence bag.
“I’ll read it,” Vanessa volunteered. Clearing her throat, she scanned the letter before reading aloud. “Dear Aiden, I’m sorry I left so suddenly. I discovered that I was pregnant, and Troy would know the baby wasn’t his. He’d have killed me, or her…. It’s a girl. I had her when I was in Gainesville, during my first year. I put her up for adoption, because there’s no way I could take care of a baby. I hardly had a penny to my name. School was covered, but not living expenses…. I named her Rowan, but I don’t know what her parents called her. They were really sweet people, chosen for me by an agency. They paid my living and medical expenses while I went to school. I barely got to see her after she was born, but they sent me this picture. Isn’t she beautiful? She looks so much like you. I love her so much, because she’s yours. I hated to give her up, but you’re too young to be a dad, and I couldn’t burden your family like that. I loved you like crazy, kid. I still do, but I’m no good for you. Take care, Aiden. Do great things.”
“It’s dated a year ago,” Jasper said. “How the hell did it end up here?”
Aiden shook his head. “Did it have an address on it?”
“No. I suspect she wrote it, but didn’t mail it for some reason,” Vanessa said. “The child would be—three—now?” She did some calculations.
“Not quite. Little over two and a half,” Jasper clarified.
Aiden was too shaken to speak.
“You okay, there, bud?” Jasper asked. “He’s gonna blow, Ness,” he cautioned.
Vanessa backed away from them. Jasper held Aiden while he vomited at his feet, barely missing his own shoes. Gasping and groaning, he held his stomach. Vanessa moved out of earshot. She couldn’t handle the odor, or the sound, for that matter. Usually not bothered by such things, being pregnant had made her very aware of smells. Popping a peppermint in her mouth, she turned her back and inhaled slowly through her mouth.
“He’s okay now, but let’s move on.”
“You’re not going to clean that up?” Vanessa pointed to the mess.
“Not my job.” He winked at her. “I’ll grab the hose, provided it’s not full of holes. I need to get back inside. You okay now, bud?”
Aiden nodded, breathing raggedly. Jasper handed him a stick of gum.
“Hell of a way to find out you’re a father. You handled it better than I would have.” He clapped the younger man on the shoulder, impressed that he held up.
“If I’d known….”
“You’re a good man, Aiden. This isn’t on you,” Jasper stated, accepting no protests. “We don’t know when something like this happens, unless the lady involved, shares. I’m sorry you had to find out like that, especially now. You sure you’re okay?”
“I just wanna go home,” he whispered. “I don’t understand. We were careful….”
“Accidents happen, son,” Jasper said. Nodding to his boss, he went inside.
“I want to go with you to see Troy,” Aiden said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She could see by the set of his jaw, he was angry. “We have no proof he killed her.”
“You’re running DNA, right? Is his on file?”
She cast her eyes down. “Whoever has been protecting him, all this time, has managed to keep that out of the file. I can’t ask for it without a warrant.”
“Take me to him, I’ll get your DNA.”
“You have to promise not to start anything. I don’t want to arrest you for assault.”
“It’s not assault if he throws the first punch, is it?”
“Then, I’d have to arrest him.” She smiled, liking the way the young man thought.
She knew it was a bad idea, but instincts warred in her. He had to participate, or he’d go mad. He wanted closure, needed release. Right now, he probably felt like he’d been hit by a truck.
“For Wendy. For our daughter. I have to do this, please.”
“Call your mother. Tell her where we’re going. The rest, we tell her in person.” She cut her eyes at him. “Don’t get hurt,” she cautioned. “If I let a kid get half killed….”
“Does it count in my favor if he swings first, but doesn’t connect?” His blue eyes pierced Vanessa’s soul.
“Yes. You can’t swing at him first.”
“Won’t have to. Troy and I have history.”
“This is a really bad idea, Aiden.”
“If you won’t take me, I’ll just go on my own.”
Figuring if she was there, she could keep the boy from getting killed, she sighed. “Get in. But you keep your distance. You let him come to you.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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