Chapter 30: Chapter 30

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

Reads: 59

Alex’s eyes shot open as a cold shiver shot through her. She looked around the familiar room and then at the weight on her legs where a low whimper greeted her. Confusion wracked her. Why was she in the office and on the couch? How did she get there? Her head throbbed with a new intensity and her stomach rolled with nausea. Had she really had that much to drink last night?

Alex stared at the ceiling to try and focus, but no memories of the past hours surfaced. Instead, she closed her eyes to gain control, but the swirling in her stomach won out. She jumped up and disregarded the yelp from Rontu as she kicked him off and stumbled out of the office; her focus was to get to the bathroom. Pushing through the door she fell to her knees and clung to the white porcelain as her stomach purged itself. With each heave, the blood rushed to her head exacerbating the already pounding pressure. When the upheaval subsided she carefully leaned back against the wall and held her head. She continued to try and pull together any information on the lost time, but she couldn’t seem to think past the pain. Using the sink as leverage she slowly rose and gripped the edges to hold herself up. Alex stared into the mirror at the mess of the woman looking back at her. Streaks of mud ran down her face and clung to strands of her unruly hair. She ran the water and splashed her face. The cold liquid eased her head briefly and snapped her back to the present. She suddenly remembered seeing Kate’s worried eyes as she called for Rontu. There was someone. Then it went black.

Just as she emerged from the bathroom movement coming from the kitchen drew her attention. She looked up in hopes to see Kate appear, but instead, there was Rontu. He redirected his path once he saw her. He released a constant and unnerving whimper as he approached. Alex grabbed the nearest chair for support and pulled it out and gingerly sat down. She let her head fall heavy into her hands. Nothing was clear except her physical discomfort and Rontu’s behavior. It confirmed something wasn’t right.

“What happened?” she asked looking to the grey dog as if to get an answer.

She hoped Kate would stroll in from an early morning surf session, or run, but doubted it. Alex couldn’t wait and forced herself back to her feet and went to the door. She pushed it open and was struck by the morning sun reflecting brightly off the puddles left from the evening’s rain. She squinted at the instant pain the light caused and covered her eyes to try and get a look around. Kate’s truck was still parked on the side of the building and there was no sign of any activity.

With her hand holding her head she rubbed her temples and turned to get back in when a bell ringing stopped her. Alex twisted her body in the direction of the noise and saw pedaling toward her on his rusty yellow cruiser was one of their regular patrons, Fred. Their place was usually his last stop on his bar hopping routine, and seeing him so early in the morning had her curious.

He waved and began speaking before he fully reached her. “Ms. Cruz, I was so worried. Are you okay?”

“Why would you think something was wrong?” she asked playing ignorant to her obvious appearance.

“I cruised by last night and there you were drunk, and I’ve never seen you like that. Your friend was helping you up.” He hopped off his bike and in a swift motion brought the kickstand down.

“My friend? You mean Kate?”

“No, I didn’t see her. He said you had indulged a little too much,” Fred said with apprehension. “And, that you slipped in the rain and was helping you back in.”

“What makes you think he was a friend?”

“Ummm, he said so, and you weren’t disagreeing.”

Alex shook her head in disbelief but kept asking more pertinent questions, “Did he give you his name? What did he look like?”

“You know, I didn’t think to ask.” He looked up to the sky as he thought about the second question. “Well, he had your skin complexion, maybe a little darker, dark hair, and a beard. A nice clean cut beard I must say.”

“Yeah? Anything else?”

“Yeah, he was a little annoyed I insisted on staying to make sure you were okay. Your black eye worried me, you know.”

“Thank you for that,” she said with sincerity. “How long did he stay?”

“Not long, once he knew I wasn’t going anywhere. We got you to the office couch and then he bailed.”

“Can you think of anything else that might have stood out about him?”

“Besides his light eyes?” Fred scratched his baldhead and his face scrunched into a deep look of concentration. His jerking reaction had Alex jumping in start. “Tattoos. His forearm was covered.”

“What sort of tattoos?”

“A sleeve, but you know how hard it is to make out what’s actually going on with those, but I do remember that on his wrist it wasn’t a tattoo; more of a brand.”

“A brand?”

“Yeah, you know like what people do to cattle.”

A sudden memory of the night before hit Alex and she moved as fast as she could to get back into the office. Fred noisily followed behind her asking what had her so wound up. She ignored him and shuffled a few files until she found the ones she needed. She opened them and flipped to a series of photos and set them side-by-side. She turned to Fred.

“Did the brand look like this?”

He nodded in shock as if she had just performed a magic trick. “Pretty damn close.”

She thanked him and looked back at the pictures. It had been right in front of her, the link, the revelation she had before her accident. With her building excitement, she grabbed Kate’s file to confirm her findings, but as she scanned each word and photo it wasn’t there. She couldn’t understand, but she knew what she had seen.

Alex had forgotten Fred was there until he spoke up again. “You good?”

“One last question.” She skimmed through the piles again. “Was this the guy?” she asked showing him a photo of Damian.

Fred squinted his eyes but shrugged in uncertaintly. “Maybe, I couldn’t say for sure. He doesn’t have a beard like your friend did.”

“That’s okay,” she responded with slight disappointment and patted him on the shoulder. “Thank you again, Fred.”

He smiled brightly and turned on his heels almost skipping from the bar. Without hesitation, she grabbed her phone from the desk and made the call to the person she knew could help.

“Luke, I need you.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Kate’s in trouble, and I know who, but not who.”

“You’re not making any sense.”

“You have to trust me, I think the Sloane’s are involved.”

“Okay.”

She could hear the doubt in his voice, but she couldn’t give up and knew if she wanted Luke’s help it was time to tell him the truth. 

“I’m coming to you,” she stated quickly and once again sifted through the boxes of files and grabbed the one on Peter Sloane to go with the other two she already had out.

***

The gasps heard through the Homicide Bullpen had Luke looking up from his desk. Heading towards him was Alex. He was overwhelmed by her appearance and suddenly he felt as if he was being hurled into the past. The last time she sounded so frantic and looked just as battered the end result was one he could never imagine. He jumped up quickly and moved to cut her off.

“Let’s take this outside,” he suggested cupping her elbow to change her direction.

“Fine.” She turned with his guidance and pushed back out the glass doors. 

His original concern heightened as he followed her. She was trying to walk fast but apparent injuries had her moving more gingerly. She stopped after she cut around the building and stepped into the alleyway.

He looked her over and felt nothing good about what he saw in front of him. “What happened to you?”

“I don’t matter.” Alex rubbed her forehead in annoyance. “I don’t think Kate has much time.”

“So tell me what’s going on.” He gestured towards the files tucked under her arms. “What are those?”

“I’ve found the connection between the Sloane’s, Kate’s attack, and Tyler,” she answered and flipped to a series of photos in Peter’s file.

Luke looked them over but was confused at the direction she was headed. “It’s a sleeve of tattoos. What are you showing me?”

Her impatience for him to see what she had uncovered was evident as she shoved Peter’s file into his hand. She then flipped open the other two she had and extended them out so they were laid out side by side. 

“Do you see a resemblance?”

He squinted and tilted his head, and looked back to the photo in his hand. “Maybe, but to what?”

She reached over and pointed to a spot on Peter’s wrist. “See the brand?”

He nodded for her to continue, suddenly seeing a different type of connection. He needed more information before he dared comment.

“Kate has a brand of that same design on her right hip.” She then redirected him back to the files in her hand. “These women had something similar. They are crude cuts, but look at the lines it makes out this part of the brand.”

He couldn’t focus on what Alex was showing him, the comment about Kate had raised an immediate alarm. “Kate has a brand on her right hip?”

Alex looked up and no longer attempted to hide her annoyance. “Yes, I just said that.”

“How did this get missed?” He stared at the image with sincere and utter confusion. He really thought it would be a significant detail he’d remember or have looked into more at the time.

 “Really, Luke?” Alex fired back. “Maybe because everyone was so focused on everything and everyone other than Damian Sloane.”

“I don’t remember you bringing this up.” He challenged. “I’m not going to apologize for doing my job.”

“Even if I had known, no one was listening to me anyway.”

“Okay, let’s stop, we’re just going to go in circles.” Luke suggested calmly seeing the focus needed to be reigned in. “We were a team once, a really good one.” 

 “Okay.” He could see Alex calm a little. “What now?”

“This case I’m working-” He swallowed and tried to arrange his words just right. “This is a significant detail found on the victims.”

Alex’s eyes widened with what he disclosed. “There are women who have been murdered with this exact brand?”

“Yes, and the same location on their bodies as Kate’s.”

“It has to be Damian!” Alex’s voice rose. “I have a witness that describes someone that looks a lot like Damian at the bar last night before Kate disappeared. He mentioned the brand on his wrist.”

“Don’t lose it on me but we also have to consider O’Hara.”

Alex closed the files and as he expected immediately rejected his argument. “Please explain to me why Michael O’Hara would bother branding women with a symbol that is on a man he has no significant connection with? Beside’s the fact Michael is a tattooless tall white guy with light blonde hair and brown eyes.”

Luke could argue more but didn’t. She was right, to an extent, but Damian still didn’t fit for him. He wanted to get back inside to research the new lead.

“Let me look into it. Can I borrow those files?”

She handed them over and tapped the top one. “These old cases are high-risk victims, and a few months apart. The second was a few weeks before Kate was attacked. They died of asphyxia but had been stabbed both anti and postmortem. They could have been surrogates before he got to Kate. This could be his endgame, Luke.”

“That’s a bit of a hard sell, Alex.” 

“I’m don’t care about trying to sell it, I care about finding Kate, and this information is going to lead us there.”

“Okay, come in and talk to Peterson. Help us work it.”

“I have no interest in talking to him until I have something truly substantial. Work the lead and either call or meet me back at the bar, I have other info I want to look at there.” 

“This isn’t a ‘do it Alex’s way’ type of situation. You brought this to me, remember?”

“Don’t make this about protocol, Luke.” Her voice began to shake revealing the true emotions she had been holding so tightly. “This is about finding Kate and stopping the monster that has her.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: November 05, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Kathrynmp. All rights reserved.

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