Chapter 27: Chapter 27

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 70

The morning had come quickly and had done little to ease the instability that the night before had left. The two women had tried to continue the day as normally as possible and hardly spoke or acknowledged the realistic yet unknown seriousness that Damian’s visit presented. Their crossing paths was bound to happen but the manner it had occurred was more than unnerving. Alex could see that Kate had worked overtime to keep composure when face to face with the man she said killed her son. In a span of a few hours, there was suddenly so much to sort through, but first Alex wanted to figure out how to pull Jeremy back in. He had been the wild card to everything, but she still believed what he knew was the key.

Alex worked her way from the kitchen and loudly announced that lunch was ready. As she balanced two plates of sandwiches and glasses of juice she listened for a reply or movement from above. Her concentration on her juggling act was halted when a small shadow caught her attention. She looked over at what created it and found cowering in the doorway a boy no more than twelve years old. He was thin and ragged. Dirty blonde hair was a mess of curls on top of his head that half-covered large brown eyes that searched the room. A shredded belt held up his dirty and torn blue jeans that lay beneath his stained and holey green t-shirt.

Alex set the plates down and stood up straight to fully address the boy. “Can I help you?”

Slowly the boy stepped into the room but stopped when the growl that rattled in Rontu’s throat grew louder.

“Shh, that’s enough,” Alex ordered and put her hand out towards the dog before she moved to stand between the canine and the boy. “He won’t hurt you.”

With her assurance and actions, he eased up a little more. His eyes landed on the full plates of food. He forced himself to look away to make contact with Alex.

“Umm, I-“ He stopped and looked at a small box he held in his hands. 

“Do you have a delivery?” Alex asked looking at the package.

He nodded and looked around again. “I’m looking for Katelynn Quinn.”

“What’s your name?”

“Vincent- Vinnie,” he stuttered.

“Well, Vincent- Vinnie, are you here on your own or did someone send you?”

"I- I, are you Katelynn?”

“Nope. But, she’ll be down in a minute.”

Alex studied him as he nervously fidgeted with the edge of the box. She had never seen him before, but he was a kid, not the sort that crossed their threshold. Alex had a feeling he hadn’t eaten a real meal in days and decided she needed to work to ease his tension to get what he needed or wanted out of him.

“Are you hungry?” she asked moving a plate in his direction.

“I, yes,” he said with a hint of shame in his voice.

“Come sit and eat while you wait.”

He shook his head and took a step back before he spoke. “I really shouldn’t. I need to get back.”

“Then leave the box, I’ll make sure Kate gets it.”

“No, I have to make sure she gets it in her hands.”

“Why?”

“I just do, please.”

Alex pulled the other chair out and then settled down across from the vacant one.“Yeah, whatever, food’s here if you want it.”

She didn’t wait to pick up half of her sandwich and bite into it. She knew he was watching her every movement. He subconsciously licked his lips and stared at the offered meal in front of him. He took a few more steps and stood over the table. Alex didn’t look up as he set the box down next to the plate and lowered himself into the empty chair.

“Are you sure it’s okay?”

Alex nodded and took another bite. He smiled at her and lifted the sandwich up and bit off a mouthful. He chewed slowly; enjoying all the flavors offered in the simply toasted bread and melted cheese.

Alex watched him eat and was about to ask a few more questions when she saw Kate emerge from the stairs. Kate paused and looked at their guest briefly before she shifted her questioning eyes to Alex.

“This is Vincent,” she introduced as Kate approached.

“Nice to meet you, Vincent.”

He swallowed what was still in his mouth and kicked his chair back as he quickly rose. “Are you Katelynn Quinn?”

“You get right to business don’t you, kid?” Alex chuckled.

“I’m sorry I just really have to give this to you,” he said, and picked the blue cardboard box up and extended it to Kate.

Kate took it but didn’t move her eyes from the boys. “Who’s it from?”

The boy shrugged and sat back down to finish his assault on the grilled cheese.

“Where did you get this?” Kate continued to ask before she cared to open it.

"Just helping a friend of yours out.”

“A friend?” Alex asked, “Did you get a name? What did he look like?”

“I don’t know, he was tall and old,” he answered, and gulped down the juice. “Like you guys old. He gave me money because he couldn’t come here, and wanted it to be a surprise. I get more if you get it personally.”

Alex and Kate looked at each other. Alex figured Kate was also considering that it could be a message from Jeremy. Her curiosity piquing to the possibility.

 Kate continued to gently probe him for answers. “How will he know if I get it personally if he can't come here?” 

The boy looked at her dumbfounded and shrugged cautiously. “He’ll just know, I guess.”

“How did you get here?” Alex asked handing over the second half of her sandwich.

“My bike. I was hanging around the pier hoping to get a bite or some change and he was there.”

“Okay,” Kate said with a shake of her head. Then with hesitation lifted the thin lid. She released it with the shock of what was contained within. No one paid attention to the lid as it floated down a settled on the floor. Kate’s hands began to shake and her eyes darted back to the boy.

“Who sent this?” Kate asked again with a serious tone that was unlike any Alex had heard.

“What is it?” Alex asked with concern.

“I told you, I don’t know,” Vincent answered again, but his original apprehension that had laced his words was back.

Without another word Kate set the box down and in a few strides was out the door slamming it behind her. Rontu bolted from his bed, but his injured paw wouldn’t allow him to move fast enough to get out. He whimpered and scratched at the sealed door. By the time Alex got there to open it, Kate was already headed down the road. Rontu barked and moved as fast as he could behind the truck as it disappeared into the mist of the marine layer rolling in. She tried to call the dog to stop him, but it was useless. He was determined to get to his person.

Alex went back in and lifted the small box to see what had caused Kate to become so upset. Inside was a small shard of marble. The surrounding edges were jagged but one side was smooth with an etched section of what Alex made out to be a part of a letter. It didn’t take any more questions for Vincent to know exactly where Kate was headed.

“Stay here, Vinnie, okay?”

The boy nodded and shoved the last wedge of toasted bread in his mouth.

Once Alex had reached the cemetery the marine layer had blanketed them. The sun that had shown all day was now replaced with the dreary cold of the ocean’s fog. Alex jumped off her bike and pried her helmet off as she moved. She hung it on the handlebars and ran to crest the hill. She wasn’t sure what she was going to see but wasn’t fully prepared for what she witnessed below her. Kate looked small and vulnerable kneeling next to the two graves she had for so long painstakingly taken care of. Kate was hunched forward; her fingers gripped the upturned soil and grass that was now mixed with fragments of marble from the freshly destroyed markers. Her body shook violently as the sobs wracked her.

Alex froze and suddenly felt a wave of helplessness overcome her. For once she didn’t know if she should try and comfort her or back away and allow Kate space to grieve, but this was different.

With the decision made she moved across the sloping hillside. When she was a few feet from her, Kate straightened slightly but didn’t look up. Alex’s body shivered at the sudden drop in temperature and she wrapped her arms around her body for warmth. She stood respectfully next to her friend. She would wait patiently for her to open up; she wasn’t going to push it. She had overstepped many times, but this was a moment she knew to tread lightly on. When Kate began to speak Alex knelt down to her eye line to give her complete support and attention.

“Whether they really know I’m here or not it doesn’t matter. I believed they could hear me.” Kate tried to control the shaking that had overtaken her. She sucked in a breath and looked away from the destruction in front of her. “Maybe it’s crazy to think, but in that, I found something sane, a small moment of peace.”

Alex remained silent, but when she saw the tears escape she reached out to grab Kate’s hand and gently squeezed. With the pressure, Kate finally looked up. When their eyes met, the pureness of her pain ripped at Alex.

“Now it’s gone,” she almost silently mouthed, but Alex heard the words before they were lifted away on the breeze. 

The eye contact was broken and Kate’s head dropped back down. The brave and emotionally controlled woman that Kate portrayed was gone. The real agony she expertly hid was now exposed. Whoever had done this had known it was the only true way to knock her down and leave her vulnerable. Alex’s protective nature kicked into overdrive. She had no words that could comfort her friend at that moment. There was nothing that could be said to make any of it better. She only had anger. Anger towards the person she knew who had done this. It bubbled and boiled in her gut. It began to rise and flood her veins as she saw the fresh tears spill from her friend’s eyes.

Without another thought, she shot up and turned. Alex ignored the questioning calls that were carried over the whipping wind that followed her up the hill. She sped off with one destination in mind. All she could think was that Damian, once again, had gone too far. He couldn’t take anyone away from Kate and wanted to watch her suffer. So he destroyed what she had left. Alex was so blinded by her rage she had not realized when she pulled up to one of Caleb’s office buildings. It was a smaller version of his expression of power that towered downtown, but she knew Damian would be there. It was outside the city and a place he could pretend to be in charge.

She sprang from her bike and moved towards the door. Confused at her approach the man that had been leaning against the building began to move in her direction.

“This is private property,” he called out. His deep voice fit his bulky body. She saw it as an automatic win; he was probably all brawn and no brains. She expected him to approach her overconfident that he was just dealing with a girl. It was almost too easy.

“You don’t say?” Alex called back and tore her helmet off. 

As she closed the gap between the two of them she chucked it towards him. The throw caught him off guard as it checked him in the chest. When he was trying to recover Alex grabbed the helmet back and in the same movement sent a solid right hook into the side of his face. He stumbled slightly, but the impact seemed to wake him and he responded with his own-balled fist. Alex anticipated the swing and blocked it while she reached down and adjusted her hold on the helmet. She then drove hard off her back foot twisting her torso as she swung her arm. The helmet was extended out like the ball at the end of a chain. She hurled her arm upward and it collided with the outer edge of his right cheekbone. The final blow had him crumbling to the ground. Alex tossed her helmet to the side and knelt over him to retain his weapon. After she tucked his gun in the back of her waistband she tied him up where he lay using his own belt as a restraint.

Satisfied she withdrew the gun and carefully entered the building. To her surprise, no one occupied the front. They probably figured the football player out front was security enough. They weren’t expecting her though. She knew exactly where to go. She hugged tightly to the wall and moved down the hall to the furthest closed door. Without hesitation, she barreled through. She was slightly taken aback by the presence of Caleb and not Damian, but she swallowed her immediate reaction. He looked up from papers he had in front of him. There was no sense of surprise on his face.

“Where is he?” Alex leveled her gun towards him as she decreased the distance between them. 

“Good afternoon, Alexis,” Caleb said calmly as he removed his reading glasses and intertwined his fingers in front of him.

“That was a stupid move on his part.”

With an impatient sigh, he spoke to the brunette. “I was thinking the same of you.”

Alex ignored his comment. "Was it really necessary?”

“Was, what necessary?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Damian just can’t leave Kate alone, can he? And you let him.”

“Alexis.” He breathed out and stood. “Is this about his visit last night?”

“Sit back down!” Alex barked and stepped closer.

Caleb threw his hands up and nodded his head to the decanter at the edge of the desk. “I’m just getting us a drink. You need one. Might help your nerves.”

“I want you to sit down or I will put one between your eyes.”

He smiled and looked to the gun in her hand. “You didn’t come here to kill me, Alexis. You know you wouldn’t make it to the door.”

“Stop it with the games.”

“I don’t have time to play games.” 

The commotion had caught the attention of the others and four heavily armed men flowed into the room. They quickly surrounded Alex. She ignored them and kept her attention on Caleb. He simply put up his hand to hold them off. Alex knew he was right about actually killing anyone, as Kate had been earlier. She had been driven by anger and impulse, but now she realized she hadn’t planned anything out rationally. But, she had him at gunpoint and could at least use it as a moment to relay they weren’t ones to back down. She side-eyed the men but it was the sudden presence of Damian that took her full attention. He strolled in looking from her to his Uncle. She quickly adjusted her stance and traced his movements with the gun and when he stopped trained it on him.

“Alexis,” he greeted. 

The smug expression he held began to tip her anger closer to uncontrolled rage. 

“You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

“I do a lot of things, what is it that you want to falsely accuse me of this time?”

“Enough of your false ignorance,” she said and moved closer to the younger Sloane. “Destroying the only memory Kate had left is on the same level as the actual murder you committed.”

“I believe this was already resolved, Alexis,” Caleb interjected.

Alex shook her head. “Because you pulled some strings, but it doesn’t make him or you less guilty.” 

“We both know who is really guilty,” Damian countered with a mocking smile.

His condescending tone was what had Alex leaping forward. She sent the butt off the gun into the bridge of his nose. He immediately cried out with the impact and stepped backward in shock. His hands cupped over his now bleeding nose stifled the curses he sent her way. The men circled closer but once again Caleb held them off. He appeared mildly impressed by her action but quickly shifted back to his serious manner.

“I’m done with this. I have things to do,” Caleb spoke with clear annoyance and fell back into the chair behind him. He shifted his head side to side and rubbed his shoulder like he was working out a knot. “I'm going to give you one chance, Alexis. Turn around and walk away and we’ll just overlook this interruption of my time.”

Alex tensed as she looked around. She was constantly driven off instinct but was also smart. It was four to one. It was a small office with little room to make a move and she wasn’t about to start shooting. She had to at least get out of there alive. She lowered her gun to her hip and regretted it immediately when a smile crept across Damian’s face.

“Good girl,” Caleb remarked.

Two men moved to either side of her and gripped her arms. One man held her arms above the elbow, while the other grabbed her wrist and violently twisted it to the side. With the pain, she felt the gun release and heard it clatter onto the ground. Once disarmed Caleb strolled towards her. His smile seemed to become more malicious as he looked her over.

Caleb nodded to the men behind her and his voice trailed as he disappeared from view. “Resistance will just make it worse.”

“Give my regards to Katelynn,” Damian added as he slunk away in the shadow of Caleb.

Alex was released with a forward force that had her stumbling. She had no time to recover before the first blow sent her to her knees; the second had her gasping for air. She moved to fully get up when a boot connected with her midsection sending her back down. The same foot dug under her and flipped her over. She looked to who was towering over her and saw the swelling face of the thug from the front. He smiled past the still dripping blood and relished in the final assault. The tread of his boot was the last thing Alex saw before she was hurled forward and slid face-first along the dusty ground next to her motorcycle.

Alex groaned as she tried to roll over to her back. Distant laughing echoed through the air and she cringed at the sudden pounding that encompassed her head. Her entire body ached and throbbed at different rates of intensity. She stared at the grey cloud covered sky above her and breathed out to try and find some control. The sound of a car door slamming shut caught her attention.

“Alex!” Kate’s tone was a blend of alarm and worry. Within seconds she was by her side. Her hands hovered over Alex unsure what to do.

Alex didn’t move, she couldn’t. She wanted to stand and wave off the concern she knew was coming, but her body refused any of her commands.

“What happened?” Kate finally asked looking to the building to see if anyone lingered outside.

“It didn’t go so well.” Alex tried to joke but cringed at the pain a half-smile made to her swelling face.

"What didn’t?”

“Caleb,” she whispered and looked away to not see Kate’s reaction.

“Oh, Alex,” was all she said, but the disappointment was clear in her tone.

She just shook her head and closed her eyes. There was no need for words. Kate didn’t really need an answer; she knew what Alex had done. Or tried to do. She came because she had the same thought that Damian was involved.

She didn’t protest when Kate unzipped her jacket and slowly rolled her shirt to reveal the damage done to her ribs and midsection, but flinched and pulled back when she gently palpated the area. Kate cursed under her breath and returned the shirt back to its original state.

“Let’s get you home. Can you get up?”

Alex didn’t respond. She probably could do it all on her own, but it would be slow and excruciating. Reading the nonverbal answer Kate leaned forward and gently ran her arm under Alex and eased her to a seated position. As soon as the pain eased enough to move again she leaned against the taller woman and let the majority of her weight be lifted. Once standing they began to slowly shuffle to the truck.

“Vinnie?” Alex asked trying to understand his role.

“I don’t think he knew anything about what was in the box,” Kate answered looking to the path towards the truck. “He’s a kid that was bribed with money, but if he hasn’t taken off I think we need to ask him a few more detailed questions.”

Alex nodded, but then regretted the movement as the blood felt like it shifted in her head and fired every nerve ending at once.

Seeing the need to get moving Kate gingerly progressed them one step at a time, pausing when the brunette needed a moment to regain herself. As Alex settled into the passenger seat she looked up at Kate. She had paused with the door in hand staring at the building.

“I should have just shot him.”

“You keep saying that,” Kate responded unfazed and gently shut the door. Alex cringed at the rattle reverberating through her head. She tried again to control the consuming pain, but with each attempt, she failed.

After Kate rolled the motorcycle into the truck’s bed she climbed into the driver’s seat. As she inserted the key into the ignition she looked from the building and back to Alex. She scanned her with worried eyes. Alex could see that her mind was racing and after a moment of silence, she grabbed the key and twisted it.

“I’ll call Hazel when we get back.”

“Don’t bother her. I just need a shot of whiskey.”

“Yeah, right,” Kate murmured and cranked the truck into gear before she spun it around to leave.

Alex closed her eyes. It was an impetuous and failed attempt to show the Sloane’s she wouldn’t allow them control. The result was that what felt like endless unknowns hamming at her. They had come back onto Caleb’s radar, and destroying the graves was an extremely personal attack and a definite warning. A warning that Alex saw as an attempt to keep something from being brought to the light. She worried that asking Luke for help and pulling old files had set in motion this new dangerous game. It was glaringly clear that they held no real cards, unless they could get Jeremy’s honest account and lost information. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: November 02, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Kathrynmp. All rights reserved.

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