Chapter 4:

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

Reads: 88

The two of them got in Cooper’s car and went to check out their first lead. According to Ashley, her foster dad and brother didn’t get along that well all of the time. That didn’t mean he did something to him, but it was still a possibility that Cooper had to look into. And seeing as the foster parents were probably the only other people in the house, it would be a good idea to interview them to get their perspective of the events anyway.


Their house was located off the 610 loop. Fortunately it was on the south side so it was on the same part of town as they were currently driving from. Still, the trip would take them around fifteen to twenty minutes factoring in traffic. Those first few minutes were quiet between the two of them, with Larson staring straight ahead the whole time looking deep in thought.


Cooper wondered why Larson changed his mind. He seemed suddenly interested in the case after hearing that she was the daughter of the late Captain Cooper. She didn’t think he was the type that would help her out of respect for her father. But maybe he was just curious. He mentioned that he didn’t even know that the late Captain had a daughter. But he couldn’t be in this strictly for curiosity’s sake. If he was after information, there had to be a reason.


“What is it like to be Houston royalty, anyway?” Larson broke the silence.


“What do you mean?”


“Your father was a local celebrity. He’s had buildings named after him. That must’ve been weird being in his shadow.”


“It wasn’t.” Cooper simply said, trying to subtly sidestep an awkward subject.


She wondered for a moment what kind of man she was dealing with. Her first impression of Larson was that he was a selfish guy with an ego. Most people, if she had approached them with this request for help, would have come up with some excuse or just politely declined if they didn’t want to help. Larson on the other hand had no problem telling Cooper that she was wasting her time and that he had no reason to take this case on.


But first impressions were usually wrong. She had learned this fact after working countless number of cases where a person turned out to be much different than she originally pegged them as. The only thing she knew about him was that he used to consult with the police. She could probably assume that he had somewhat decent deductive reasoning skills and was probably a reasonably smart man. But other than that she knew nothing.


“Well,” Larson began to say. “I know that any other detective with your connections would flaunt them to get ahead. I’m sure you are a great detective but you must know that it’s as much who you know as it is how good you are at your job. You could easily have been Lieutenant by now.”


“What’s your point exactly?” Cooper said.


“There was some kind of issue between you and your father, right?”


“What business of yours is that?”


She avoided the question altogether, Larson thought, my initial instincts were correct.


“It’s none of my business. But I’m just curious.” Larson said. “I know something is up though. You weren’t even at his funeral.”


“How could you possibly know that?” she asked. When she saw Larson smile, she knew she had been played. Of course he didn’t know, but her way of answering all but told him the truth he was looking for. 


Something definitely was up between the two of them, Larson thought, but what could it be? Good thing I have awhile to figure it out.


“So are you just going to keep bugging me about this the whole time?” Cooper asked.


“I was just making conversation, you don’t have to answer anything you don’t want.”


They were both silent for the rest of the trip, even though they were almost already there anyway. It wasn’t long until they got off the Loop and began to carefully navigate the neighborhood streets and arrive at the house of Ashley and David’s foster parents. Cooper turned and maneuvered the car so that it was parked on the side of the road with the driver’s side facing the house and the front pointing towards the neighborhood exit. It was a habit she had picked up on the job to park like that just in case she needed to get out on the road in a hurry.


Larson and Cooper got out of the car and took in the surroundings. On first glance it was not too bad a place--a medium sized, one story house with a driveway ending in a small car port. Two cars were parked there, a shiny looking Ford Mustang and an old, beaten down SUV that could’ve used a wash.


Classic signs of a married man, Cooper thought.


The house itself could have used a few touch ups here and there. The blinds over the living room window had gaps where some of the thin metal strips had been bent. One of the porch lights needed replacing, and the driveway had a dip in it that needed filling in. It was still a relatively old house in a lower to middle class neighborhood just outside of downtown. But seeing as most people in the foster program were on a much lower budget, this actually wasn’t that bad.


She turned to Larson before she knocked on the door. “Just follow my lead on this. Feel free to ask your own questions though.”


He simply nodded and she knocked on the door. They waited a few moments while they heard someone getting up. The door opened and on the other side was Ashley, the kid she had met just hours before. Her face lit up the second she saw the familiar face of Detective Cooper.


“Hello. I’m Mrs. Cooper from social services. Are your parents home by chance?” Cooper winked at Ashley hoping she would catch on to the ruse. She decided on the way there that introducing herself as a detective probably would put her parents on the defensive and make getting information out of them harder to do.


“Yes. They are in the other room. I’ll go get them.” she turned and ran back into the house, yelling for her parents to come to the door. It was another few moments before an adult appeared in front of them.


“The name is Nate Parsons. And you are?” the man asked.


“I’m Amanda Cooper and this is my associate Thomas Larson. We’re from social services. It’s about one of the kids you are keeping here. Can we come in?”


“Sure.” Nate said as he motioned for us to enter his house. “We just finished eating dinner. I think my wife Sarah just finished clearing off the table. We can go in there to talk. Would you two like anything to drink?”


“Water is fine.”


Nate Parsons looked to be a man in his early to mid thirties. He was slightly shorter than average and skinny. His hair showed the first signs of baldness. His figure didn’t look that intimidating in the least bit. Cooper had pictured a more threatening man when Ashley first told her about him. If he was involved in this kidnapping scheme, he probably couldn’t have done it with brute force.


They got a very quick glimpse inside the house as they were walking through it. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Plenty of knick knacks were on the walls and tables and on top of the entertainment center in the living room. They had handcrafted doodads as well as pictures of various people. Cooper recognized Ashley in one of them and another older kid that she assumed was David.


No expensive furniture or anything like that. The biggest thing they had was a green cloth couch that could fit three people. They also had what looked like an old wooding rocking chair off to the side and a matching wooden coffee table in the center of the room with a frilly looking decorative white fabric on top. The flat screen high definition television in the entertainment center, probably the newest thing in the room, looked out of place by comparison.


“This is about David isn’t it?” Mrs. Parsons said as soon as the four of us sat down at the kitchen table.


“Yeah.” Cooper said. “We got a report from one of his classmates that he didn’t show up for school and we decided to look into it.”


“We haven’t seen him since last night.” she explained.


“We’re kind of surprised to hear from you guys actually. He’s done this a few times before. He leaves in the middle of the night and he’ll be back in a day or two.” Nate informed us. “Actually, it’s something I get onto him about all the time. But of course he doesn’t listen.”


“You didn’t notify the police when you didn’t see him this morning?” Cooper asked.


“We didn’t want to bother them only to have egg on my face when he comes back in a few days. That kid doesn’t think about others when he pulls these stunts.”


“Oh, give him a break.” Mrs. Parsons said. “He’s a teenager, and he’s hasn’t had it easy growing up. And you certainly don’t help with the issue.”


“Now’s not the time to argue about this Sarah.”


Both of them suddenly became silent but the looks they were giving each other were very telling. It sounded like there was something going on between the two of them that they didn’t want to talk about in front of us. It could’ve been just innocent family squabbling, or it could have been a key to this case. But if it had anything to do with their foster kid David, then it was something Cooper wanted to know.


Cooper knew she was going to have a hard time bringing the subject back up under her current ‘cover’ as a social services representative now that they decided to shut up about it. Being direct was hard for her without using her badge. For Larson on the other hand, that type of attitude seemed to be right up his alley. And it looked like he was about to chime in with a few questions.


“What do you do for a living, Nate?” Larson asked.


“I’m a construction manager actually.” Nate said.


“That sounds like it brings home a lot of money.” Larson mentioned as if he were just making casual conversation. “But I bet it’s a lot of hard work.”


“It is.” Nate said. “It’s completely worth it though.”


“I’m sure it is. I saw the Ford Mustang in your driveway… that must be fun to drive on your morning commute.”


“Actually, the job I’m working right now is just a little ways down the highway. So I only get about five minutes of fun before work. And today I took the SUV anyway because they said it was going to rain really hard all day. It’s a better car to drive around in when the water starts to flood the streets.”


Houston doesn’t normally get earthquakes or tornadoes. Even really bad thunderstorms are quite uncommon. The only natural disasters the gulf coast people commonly have to worry about are hurricanes and the floods that they can cause. But even just heavy rain in Houston can raise the water high enough to be dangerous. The city gets about one of those a year.


“Yeah, I heard. But the rain missed me. Did it miss you as well?” Larson wondered.


“It did. It sucks, but at least I didn’t have to deal with rain.” Nate said.


“I didn’t think construction workers worked in the rain.”


“They don’t, but I’m the boss and it’s still a hassle for me.”


Cooper and Sarah Parsons sat on the other side of the table with two completely different looks on their face. Sarah was completely fine letting her husband chat away with Larson. Cooper on the other hand was busy trying to figure out what Larson’s angle was. He wasn’t really talking about anything. Everything he asked Nate they could’ve found out about him with a simple background check.


Maybe he didn’t have an angle. Maybe he was just making conversation to try to relax them so that they would react better to our next round of questions. Maybe he was giving Cooper the chance to think of her own angle to take to get information that they needed. Whatever was happening, Larson seemed to have finished his ‘interrogation’ of Nate. That meant it was Cooper’s turn to speak.


“So how long have you two been married?” Cooper asked.


“It’ll be four years next May.” Sarah said.


“Well, congratulations on making it this far. You are doing better than the majority of America at this point.”


“Isn’t that the truth?” Sarah joked. “Nate and I have our spats every now and then but we’re trucking along.”


“This is probably going to sound like a personal question, but what made you decide to get into foster care? Are you not able to have children of your own?”


“We can.” Sarah said, putting her drink down on the table. “Nate has some reservations about having kids. He says it will be tougher on us than we realize. So we compromised and decided to get into the foster care program. We figured if it was too rough on us we could easily get out.”


“That’s nice. Have you decided what to do since then?”


“Unfortunately we’re still split. I’ve come to like Ashley and David in the past year and a half and I’d still like to have kids of my own soon. Nate claims to be stressed out over all of this so he hasn’t warmed up to the idea yet.”


Nate was on the verge of yelling. “Sarah, why did you have to bring this up in front of these people? This is none of their business!”


“Oh, come on. It’s no big deal.” Sarah shot back. “All couples argue every now and then.”


“Well I’d prefer it if other people didn’t know this much about our personal life.”


“It’s your fault that this all started!”


“You just have to throw that in my face every time this comes up.” Nate said.


It was clear at this point that there was something deeper going on between the two of them regarding this issue. They both quickly went into defensive mode and seemed to fling back the same lines they had used in previous arguments. But Sarah had said this was all Nate’s fault. That statement got Cooper’s attention.


“What do you mean it’s his fault? What did he do?” Cooper asked.


“We were in the middle of arguing about this a couple of months back.” Sarah began to explain. “Things got a little heated. Nate said something about how he wished we could just be done with these foster kids already. But he said it a little too loud and David heard him. And let’s just say he didn’t take it too well.”


“Oh… I’m the dick here?” Nate was unable to control his anger no matter how hard he tried. “This is great. Let’s just bring the whole neighborhood into our lives while you are at it.”


“You could’ve talked to him! You could’ve apologized for saying what you said.”


“I’m not going to apologize when I’m not wrong.” Nate had long since gotten out of his chair and started to pace around the kitchen.


“You basically told a sixteen year old kid that you didn’t want him anymore! How is he supposed to react?”


“Is this when he started running away?” Cooper started putting the pieces together.


“Yes. That night he left for a few days.” Sarah explained. “I don’t blame him. The kid had to deal with an abusive father growing up. He got put in the foster program like four or five years ago and has bounced around ever since. Our house is the longest place he’s been. And it seemed like he was turning his life around. Making good grades and all that. And I know he’s real close with Ashley. They seem to act like real siblings even though they’ve only known each other for just over a year. It probably bothers him that they are going to be split up more than anything.”


Nate paced back over to Cooper and Sarah. “It’s all just one big act. He thinks he can get your sympathy by running away, and that way he gets to stay here as long as he wants.”


“Well, you know what? It’s working.” Sarah shot back. “I’m not going to give them up until I can find a home for the both of them at the very least. If you have a problem with that, there is the door.”


“Did Nate and David argue last night? Is that why you think he ran away again?” Cooper asked.


“No. Nate went to the bar after work. He stopped by here to drop off his stuff and switch vehicles with me so that I could take the SUV to the grocery store later and he was out until early this morning.” Sarah said.


Cooper let all the facts pile in. The picture was becoming clearer and clearer. Nate was looking pretty good for this. The animosity between the two of them was well documented. And Nate just happened to be at a bar at time that David had been taken from his room. If she could catch him in a lie, Cooper could probably pressure him into a confession and would be much closer to finding out where the kid was.


“Your husband was at a bar all night?” Cooper asked.


“Yeah, he sometimes goes to a bar after work. It’s not a big deal.” Sarah said.


“It might be.” Cooper said. “If it turns out he’s missing, the parents are the first ones they turn to for statements. I’m going to need an official statement to pass onto them if it gets to that point, and an official alibi.”


“She told you already, I was at the bar.” Nate said.


“Is there anyone that can confirm your story? I’ll need names and numbers.”


“I can’t give you that.”


“Why not?”


“It was some hole in the wall place and I didn’t go there with anyone I knew.”


“So what you are saying is you don’t have an alibi.” Cooper said. Nate wasn’t breaking a sweat yet, so Cooper tried to apply more pressure.


“This is ridiculous!” Nate got angry again. “He’s just doing the same thing he’s done time and time again. And you guys think somehow I’m involved in this?”


“I think I know what’s going on here.” said a voice behind Nate.


Cooper, Nate and Sarah turned to find Larson still sitting down at the table, sipping occasionally at the glass of water that he still hadn’t finished. The three of them grew silent once again as they waited patiently to hear his input on this situation. Cooper held her breath. She was this close to getting Nate to crack and now Larson was interrupting her.


This better be good, she thought.


“What do you think is going on?” Nate cautiously asked.


“I think it’s obvious what went down last night.” Larson casually started to say. “You hooked up with some hottie at the bar and took her to a hotel for a little more fun… if you know what I mean.”


“What are you saying?


“Was I not clear the first time? Last night you were at a hotel laying pipe... pounding the pavement… whatever you want to call it.”


“You dare accuse me of sleeping around in front of my wife? Who the hell do you think you are!?” Nate yelled.


Cooper was dumbfounded. She didn’t believe that Larson would accuse Nate of cheating on his wife out of the blue like that. Again, she didn’t understand his angle. Did he just enjoy getting under other people’s skin? Nate was certainly mad, but how did he plan on using his emotions against him.


“Ok I’ll admit I’m making a few assumptions here. I can’t really attest to whether or not she was hot, or if she was even a woman. But I’m pretty certain you were busy using a hotel room to get your freak on last-“


“Get out before I file a complaint with your supervisor!” Nate fumed. “I’m not going to let you come in here and talk to me like that in my own damn house!”


“Well, I think I made my point.” Larson turned around and walked away.


Cooper shook her head in disappointment and disbelief. She had him on the ropes and Larson came in and burned the boxing ring down. The move he was trying to make, whatever it might’ve been, ended in complete disaster. He pushed Nate over the edge and now the guy was demanding they leave. They were kind of stuck without anywhere to go because technically they had no authority to be there.


As the two of them walked back to her car together, she wanted to completely chew him out. But, she realized, this was probably intentional. He had been reluctant to go in the first place, and now that he was here he was hurting her investigation more than helping.


I guess I’ll have to finish out this case on my own, she thought.

Submitted: June 04, 2013

© Copyright 2020 agentkirb. All rights reserved.


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