Jeff looked up from his desk as someone came into his office. He smiled at the blue skinned girl as she sat down in a chair opposite his desk. She was young. She was good. He knew from experience she wouldn’t speak until spoken too. He wished more of his subordinates were like that. “What have you found?” he asked steepling his hands on his desk.
“Not much,” she admitted “she bought the materials used in the bomb from the local hardware store. It’s easy enough to do with instructions readily available on the internet.”
“Unfortunately” Jeff muttered. He glanced at the framed photo of his wife and kids on his desk. He longed to go home. Not until this case was closed though. He had to see it through to the bitter end. Jeff had resigned from the police force not long after losing his long time partner Zayne Thompson in the line of duty. Zayne had saved his life by sacrificing his own. He felt responsible and it only spurred him on to do his best in solving the most difficult cases. As a private investigator Jeff was free to travel and take on cases all over the country. In most cases he worked closely with the local police department while he ran things.
“This isn’t your fault,” Verity said interrupting his thoughts “you did everything you could to keep your cousin and his family safe.”
“Are you speaking to me or yourself?” Jeff asked with a half smile “you feel as responsible as I do. We failed.” He shoved the open files onto the floor watching the papers flutter to the floor.
Verity flinched watching him as he lowered his head to the desk. His words hung in the air stinging as if she had been slapped. “You’re right,” she mumbled “I keep going over it and over it in my head. What could I have done differently? What did I miss?”
“And” he prompted watching her closely.
Shrugging she looked up, face drawn “I don’t know. Wherever it went wrong it wasn’t on our watch.”
Nodding he rubbed his chin “that’s my conclusion as well.” He hated to admit it but there was only one explanation. “Kara had an accomplice” he said leaning back in his chair.
“Would you like me to follow the other body guard?” Verity asked. She had come to the same conclusion he did. She wanted to find the traitor among them. She wanted to find Garrett’s parents. She wanted to bring them home. Dead or alive either was better then not knowing. She caught the curt nod Jeff gave her. She stood in one swift graceful movement like a tigress on the prowl.
Jeff’s eyes followed her from the room. A girl in a million. No wonder his nephew was so taken with her. He suspected she shared his feelings but was too professional to ever let it interfere with her job.
Katrina sat beside Garrett’s bed holding his hand. It wasn’t fair she wanted scream it from the highest building in Starlight Shores. He should be up enjoying life. Graduating high school. Getting ready for college. He shouldn’t be lying motionless hooked up to machines.
She blinked back tears as someone walked into the room. She didn’t look up. Whoever it was was either a doctor or a nurse. She jumped when a hand came down on her shoulder. Glancing up she found August looking down at her. Jumping to her feet she threw her arms around him.
He held her sobbing, shaking body close to his. He mumbled inane words of comfort stroking her hair. As soon as he heard Kara was dead he hopped on the earliest plane he could get. How ironic to be killed by her own bomb he thought.
“Where’s Sarah?” she asked once she was able to talk.
“In the waiting room with a million other relatives” he told her “she’s safe.”
“Never doubted it for a minute” she said standing on her toes to kiss his nose.
His hands tightened around her waist until his mouth sought hers. “Get a room” a voice said startling both of them.
Pulling away from August she ran over to her brother’s bedside “Garrett” she cried tears streaming down her cheeks. Only this time they were tears of joy.
A nurse walked into the room smiling brightly at the cute old couple holding hands. “I have good news for you two.”
Aimee and Gene exchanged excited glances before turning towards the young woman “what news?” Aimee asked squeezing her husband’s hand.
“Your grandson is awake,” she announced with obvious delight.
Gene struggled to sit up to the consternation and objections of both his wife and the nurse. “Now Mr Bennett if you want me to sneak you information you have to lie down. We don’t want the old battle ax charging in here now do we?”
Stubbornly Gene resisted their efforts to push him back to the mattress obviously wanting to risk the ogre’s ire. Aimee’s pleas reached his ears emphasizing his hate for hospitals. “Ugh” he growled relenting. He allowed them to push him back to the bed. “Fine have it your way” he mumbled turning his face away from their concern. He hated being sick and made to feel helpless when there was so much he should be doing.
Aimee patted his shoulder in approval. She knew how much this was costing him. She knew he wanted to be out there front and center looking for his son. Instead he was practically tied to a hospital bed by tubes and machines that monitored all his bodily functions. She knew how much he hated feeling weak, helpless, mostly he dreaded the day when he wouldn’t be needed. A useless relic, good for telling tales and holding babies. She needed to find a way to make him feel relevant again. “I love you” she whispered kissing his lips.
She stood up to leave when Gene grabbed her hand “don’t leave” he requested.
“I’ll be back,” she assured him “I’m going to check on Garrett. Besides I need to give someone else the chance to visit with you.” She smiled at him hoping to reassure him. The doubt in his eyes troubled her. Didn’t he think his family wanted to spend time with him? Were his old insecurities resurfacing after so many years?
Jeff sat staring at the door Verity just slipped through. Drumming his fingers on the desktop something didn’t feel right. He was missing something. Picking up his phone he punched in the number for the morgue. “This is Jeffrey Bennett. Please have my niece’s remains sent to Dr Campbell.”
He waited a moment clearing his thoughts before making another call. “Dr Campbell? Thank you for taking the time to review the remains ….Yes yes very sad…” he took a deep breath before asking his question “is there anyway someone could fake their death by falsifying dental records?” He listened for a moment ” can you check? I want to make sure that the remains are who we think they are.”
He tossed his phone onto his desk. He got up from behind his desk to pace around the room. He knew something was wrong. It was to convenient. Too good to be true. He picked up his phone as another thought occurred to him. “Dr Campbell yeah it’s me again. Can you verify the age of the remains? Yes I mean the victim.” He stifled his irritation. Dr Campbell was one of the best in her field but she lacked the ability to think outside the box without prompting.
He had a very bad feeling that he knew who was in the morgue and it wasn’t Kara. He hated to call his Uncle and make the request he had to make. His Uncle was still weak from the heart attack he didn’t want to add any more pressure and worry on his shoulders. If there was another way to get what he needed he would do it without thinking twice.
“Hello” a tired bored voice spoke in his ear.
“Uncle Gene?” Jeff said gauging how he was doing by the sound of his voice “I need your help.”
“What can I do stuck in a hospital bed?” Gene asked.
Jeff could hear the irritation in the older man’s voice. No doubt that was exactly how Jeff sounded the few times he had been injured bad enough to be hospitalized. He had a new understanding for what he must have put Lisa through. “Are you still Celia’s power of attorney?”
“Yeah” Gene replied “why do you ask? Did you find her?”
“Err not exactly,” he cleared his throat “I think the body we found may not be Kara’s. I think she somehow made it to look like it is.” Jeff hated knowing what he was telling his Uncle was going to be added stress the older man didn’t need.
“I’m gonna guess you want me to authorize access to Celia’s records” Gene concluded.
The slight wobble in his voice was the only sign of the stress he was under. Jeff was shocked that he had put it together without him having to go into detail. “Yes. I’m sorry. If I could find another way I …”
“Nonsense,” Gene barked at him sounding almost like his old self “bring the papers over you need me to sign. We can sort things out later.”
“You do realize if I’m right…”
“I know. It means Kara is still alive and my grandchildren are still in danger,” Gene told him “I wasn’t born yesterday.”
Jeff smiled at that “I’ll bring the papers this afternoon.”
Verity sat in her car waiting for the young detective she was following to come out of the diner. The restaurant must be busier then it looks from the outside. Drumming her fingers on the steering wheel she waited. What was taking him so long? Glancing at the time, an hour had gone by since the last time she checked.
Something wasn’t right. She could feel it. Had he discovered he was being followed? He didn’t seem that bright in Verity’s estimation. How had he been able to pass himself off as an equitable detective for Jeff to hire him as a bodyguard? Jeff seemed to be an intelligent guy. Getting out of her car she ran across the street towards the restaurant with a feeling she had underestimated the guy or over estimated her own abilities.
Walking into the restaurant she was shocked to find it almost empty. Besides herself there was one or two occupied tables and a waitress at the counter. A cook in the back with one or two other workers. The detective definitely ducked in here to escape his tail. Grimly she walked up to the waitress “do you know where this guy went?” She handed her a picture of herself and him playing pool together, all smiles.
The woman scrutinized the picture before nodding “your his girlfriend?” she asked.
“Yeah” Verity replied deciding to play along.
The waitress put a hand on her shoulder “sweetie that boyfriend of yours is no good.” The woman looked around making sure no one was nearby to over hear her. Leaning in close she whispered “he’s upstairs in one of our special rooms.”
Unconsciously Verity looked up before turning her attention back to the helpful older woman. “Thank you” she managed before turning to leave. He hadn’t after all ditched her on purpose. He obviously had no idea she was following him. If he had known he wouldn’t be upstairs. The manner of the older woman gave her the impression the guy was regular.
She ran to her car hoping he wouldn’t come out while she was exposed crossing the street. How long had he been coming here? Was this why his wife divorced him? Was this where he met Kara? Was this how she was able to bribe him into helping her? Did he know where Ian and Celia were located? Could this be where Celia was being held?
Garrett blinked up at his grandma. Her pink eyes were so sad. Slowly he moved his hand towards her. Every muscle in his body hurt. Biting his tongue to keep from crying out he squeezed her hand. “Where’s mom and dad?” he asked through a throat dry and hoarse. He had seen everyone else. They all avoided his questions unable to meet his eyes “are they dead?”
“We don’t know,” she said reaching to caress his cheek.
He could feel his lips trembling as she talked. What did she mean they didn’t know? Weren’t they in the house when the bomb went off? He had thought he had seen his mom in the kitchen when he opened the door. Did she think skirting the truth would be better then telling him? “Tell me please,” he pleaded “I need to know.”
Tears beaded the corners of her eyes. Lifting his hand to kiss his fingers she said “I would if I could. We don’t know. We expected their bodies to be found in the house but they weren’t there.”
“Where are they?” he cried trying to sit up. He couldn’t imagine his parents not being home. They were always home when he got there after school. If they weren’t there then who was in the house?
“Your Uncle Jeff will find them,” Aimee said giving him a small stiff smile hoping to impart confidence.
Garrett stared at her a moment before nodding. She was trying to keep his mind from dwelling on it. He asked “where’s grandpa?” Her eyes flickered melancholy in the sharp intake of breath.
“He had a heart attack” she finally told him “he’s going to be alright.” She reached for his hand “he was in the hospital when it happened. He’s too ornery to die.”
“Grandma” he swallowed down the anxiety he felt as he watched her eyes fill with tears “he’s going to be alright.”
“I know baby” she said “it’s just been so much.”
There was little to do but wait for Dr Campbell to finish up the autopsy on the body. He drummed his fingers on the desk. He had a feeling he was missing something, something important. He grabbed his phone before it was able to ring “hello.”
“Mr Bennett” Verity’s voice was low but clear “I followed Mr Stevens to a house of ill repute.”
He smothered the inappropriate giggle that threatened to escape. The girl was too formal when she called in to give her reports. His attempts to get her to call him Jeff had failed so he resigned himself to being Mr Bennett. The address she read off to him sounded familiar. Why would he find it familiar? He typed in the address on his computer “isn’t that a restaurant?”
“It is. The upstairs has private rooms that are used by prostitutes.” She told him using the same tone she would if she were discussing the weather. “One of the waitresses identified him as a regular.”
Clicking the pen as he thought Jeff asked “do you think this is where he met Kara?”
“I think it’s a possibility” she agreed “how many married woman would want to find out their loving husband had been with prostitutes. This might be what she threatened him with in order to coerce him into helping her.”
Curious to know what she would say Jeff asked “do you think we should bring him in for questioning?”
A lengthy pause ensued as she mauled over her answer “not yet. Let me follow him for a little longer.”
“Alright” Jeff nodded in approval “call me if he leads you anywhere interesting or if you need back up.”
Silence greeted his request. “Verity I’m serious. Call me. I don’t want to have to tell Garrett you’ve been hurt. He’s been through enough.”
“Alright I’ll call,” she agreed despite the stubborn resentful tone she used.
“See that you do,” Jeff ordered “we’ve had enough tragedy to last us for a lifetime in this family.”