Life Afterwards

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the second installment to my short story, A Reunion to Remember.

Submitted: August 03, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 03, 2012

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A A A


A beautiful light-brown haired girl walked up to me. Her eyes were bright-blue and full of life. She wore a light-green dress that dropped just above her knees and she was barefoot. We were outside in the yard. The little girl handed me a red flower and smiled.

“Here you go Mommy. I picked it just for you!” She exclaimed. Emma laid the flower in my hand and hugged my waist.

“Thank you, sweetheart.” I replied.

It was the second day of spring and the air was warm against our skin. There was not a cloud in the sky. We were standing in our backyard, enjoying the peace and quiet. I bent down to Emma and held her hands.

“How about we get inside and fix Daddy some lunch?” I asked her. She nodded happily and ran ahead of me and into our house. I followed close behind her and closed the patio door behind us.

“What shall we fix him?” I called out to Emma. She was already in the kitchen. I walked across the dining room and joined her in the kitchen. I sat the red flower in the vase on the counter and looked at Emma. She already had a bag of fries and chicken strips sitting on the counter. That was one thing she got from me; she loved chicken strips and fries. She pulled herself onto a kitchen stool and watched as I laid some chicken strips and fries onto a pan and put the pan in the oven.

“Mommy?” Emma asked. I opened the refrigerator and pulled out a container of tossed salad I put together last night. I sat the salad on the counter and looked at her. She was tapping her fingers on the counter. She was a very impatient little girl.

“Yeah Hun?” I replied. The chicken strips and fries were done so I pulled them out of the oven and sat the pan on the stove.

“Do you have to go to work today?” She asked me. I worked as a lieutenant for the FBI and also helped run a crime lab. Four years ago, before Emma was born, we moved the lab around the country. We worked mainly in New York City, St. Louis, and Miami.

“Yeah I do. Daddy has to also but Ms. Donovan will come over and babysit.” I explained. Ben, my husband, worked for the FBI and the crime lab as well but since he does not work all the time, he went back to school and got a degree in law. When we were in St. Louis, he worked as an assistant lawyer for a local firm. Now, he owns his own firm.

“But Ms. Donovan is a weird lady!” Emma whined. Ms. Donovan was an older lady that lived two doors down from us and often babysat for me.

“Ms. Donovan isn’t weird. She just likes to hear herself talk.” I responded. Ms. Donovan was a very talkative person. She loves to tell stories to people but she was a great sitter and adored Emma.

I pulled three plates out of a cabinet and fixed a plate for me and Emma. As I sat Emma’s plate in front of her, we heard the front door open and close. Emma jumped up with excitement and rushed into the living room to greet Ben. Soon, they both entered the kitchen.

“Wow! The food smells great!” He exclaimed. He sat his briefcase down and lifted Emma up. He sat down and lowered her to his lap.

“Glad you like it. Your daughter picked it out.” I informed him as I fixed him a plate. He kissed Emma on the forehead and sat her down in her own chair. I sat his plate in front of him and then took a bite from my plate of food before putting the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. If I did not do it now, then it would be up to Ms. Donovan to finish them.

“Tiff, come over here and relax before you have to leave for work.” Ben suggested. He grabbed my hand from across the counter and pulled me towards him. I reluctantly sat down beside him and ate.

After lunch, I finished cleaning up the kitchen as Ben read the newspaper and Emma played in the backyard.

“Ashley called yesterday while you were at work.” He informed me.

Over the last four years, Adam, Ashley and I quit talking. They hated my job and wanted me back in Missouri. Adam blamed me for his ex-wife’s arrest after a few months it happened. His ex-wife, Ammelia, was arrested for murdering an old college friend of her four years ago while the crime lab was in St. Louis. When I went to my ten year high school reunion, my colleagues and I solved the case of her murdered friend, Jenna Bensley, and put her ex-boyfriend, Ammelia, and an old high school enemy of mine in jail. When Adam started blaming me, I ended our friendships. I had better friends here in Miami that would not treat me the way Adam and Ashley treated me.

“What did she want?” I asked, not really caring about what she wanted. I wiped down the counter and then sat next to Ben, drinking my coffee.

“She wanted to apologize.” Ben informed me. He flipped a page of the newspaper before continuing. “She is moving to Miami this weekend.”

I really did not care where she was moving to. She could have tried apologizing four years ago. Not now. I shrugged and stood up. I leaned over to Ben and kissed him.

“I have to get to the lab. Ms. Donovan should be here soon.” I informed him. I walked into the dining room and out the patio doors. Emma was on her tree swing, singing to herself. That was another thing she got from me; we both loved to sing.

“Emma!” I called out. She jumped off of her swing and ran into my arms.

“Be good for Ms. Donovan.” I told her. I kissed her goodbye and walked back inside. I ran upstairs, grabbed my gun from my gun safe, and headed off to the crime lab.

Ten minutes later, I walked into the lab. No sooner I stepped out of the elevator, Andy found me.

“We just got a call from a couple near Biscayne Bay. Their daughter is missing.” He informed me. I glanced over at him as I walked toward my office. Andy was in his mid-forties and looked as strong as John Cena from the wrestling shows on television. Only John Cena did not wear suits like Andy did.

“How old is the girl and how long has she have been missing?” I asked. Most of the time, parents call in and try to report their teenage daughter’s disappearance and a lot of the time the daughter ran away over their boyfriends or other teen issues.

“She is five and went missing today.” He answered. The girl was very young.

“Give me their address and I’ll have Eric join me.” I responded. He nodded and handed me a piece of paper with the details of the case. I texted Eric the address and told him to meet me there. I hoped we could find the little girl before she was harmed.

Mary and Thomas Candler have lived in Miami for ten years. Although, Mary was from Michigan and Thomas was from New York. They met at a college a year before getting married. Two years after moving to Miami, their daughter Madelein was born. Now they stood in their living room, hoping to find their daughter.

“Where was your daughter last before you noticed she was gone?” I asked the Candlers. Their faces were filled with grief.

“She was in the front lawn playing with her toys. I sat on the porch and watched her until the phone rang. I went inside to answer it and came back to find her gone.” Mary Candler cried out. Thomas attempted to calm his wife by rubbing her arm but she moved away from him. He did not look as upset as his wife which caught me by surprise. Usually both parents would be quite upset when their child goes missing.

“Do you know of anyone who might want to harm you or your daughter?” Eric asked. The four of us stood facing each other as Eric and I waited for an answer.

“No. No one would want to hurt Maddy. Everyone loved her.” Mary replied. Thomas reached behind him and picked up a picture frame from the side table. He kept his eyes on it as he faced us again and then handed Eric the picture. The girl in the picture was no doubt Madelein.

“Please officers. Find our little girl.” Thomas said softly. This was the first time he showed any emotion about his missing little girl.

“We will.” I told him. We stepped out of their house and walked into the lawn where Mary said Madelein was last at.

“It doesn’t look like the girl struggled.” Eric commented. He was right. Everything around her toys seemed to be in place.

“So either Madelein knew her kidnapper or they lured her towards them.” I suggested. We walked to our SUVs and he followed me to mine.

“We better get back and try to find some evidence to go on.” I told him. He opened my door for me.

“Actually you can for now. Emily and I have a date.” He informed me. He and Emily have been dating for three and a half years now.

“Where are you two going?” I asked him.

“We’re going to see a wedding planner.” He responded with a smile. I climbed into my seat and smiled back at him.

“Do you guys have a wedding date yet?” I asked him. He leaned on the SUV and shrugged.

“We aren’t sure yet. We’re just worried about the rule that was just put up yesterday.” He answered. Yesterday, Roland, a guy who supervised the work environment in the lab, posted a rule for everyone working in the crime lab. It stated that you were not allowed to have personal relations with your coworkers. That excluded Ben and I since we were already married.

“There are ways around that.” I assured him.

“He would try to put one of us on the nightshift to avoid any conflicts.” Eric said. I started my engine.

“You two are two of my best investigators and we need you. I will make sure nothing happens.” I told him. Since I was also FBI, I could change the rules if I wanted to or overpower people that would normally be above me. Eric gave me a smile and patted my shoulder.

“Thanks Lieu.” He responded. I gave him a reassuring smile back and he closed my door. I made my way back to the lab.

When I got back to the crime lab, I walked inside the main entrance and found Ingrid at the front desk. When we were in St. Louis, a woman named Diana worked at the front desk. Since we moved, Ingrid took over for us here in Miami. Diana was an older lady and Ingrid was young. She started working at the receptionist desk due to an on-duty injury. So until she gets better, she is stuck on desk duty. I walked up to the front desk and Ingrid glanced up.

“Do I have any messages?” I asked her. She nodded and rearranged her desk so that two small pieces of paper popped up. She picked them up and laid them in front of me. I grabbed them and began walking away.

“Thanks!” I called back. I jumped into the elevator and pushed the button or the third floor. As the doors closed, I looked at my messages. One was from Ben, asking me how I was and making sure I was okay. The other was from Ashley. She said she was moving into town earlier than she thought and was hoping to get together sometime. I crumpled up the message and when the elevator opened, I walked into my office and threw the message away. I sat down at my desk and dialed Andy’s number.

“Yes?” He asked me. He sounded annoyed. He was probably dealing with a rookie.

“Can you do me two favors?” I asked him. “Look up everything you can find on Mary and Thomas Candler and get that back to me. Also, send up someone from the department.”

Within five minutes, a young officer walked into my office. He looked nervous. He was definitely a rookie.

“Take this picture and fax it to every police station and convenient store in a 50 mile radius. She has been missing for 2-4 hours. Her name is Madelein Candler and she’s four years old. Are you going to remember all of this? I doubt it so start writing it down.” I told him. He quickly pulled out a pad of paper and a pen and wrote everything down. He took the picture and left in a hurry. I loved shaking up the rookies. They needed to learn the basics and they were not going to learn it by being relaxed.

I sat at my desk for the next few hours, trying to find a crack in this new case. There was no evidence for us to go on and we were running out of time. I decided to take a rest of the night and start on it tomorrow refreshed. I locked my office up and headed to the elevator just as Eva got in. She worked in DNA but I was transferring her over into the field.

“Hey Tiff.” She said as she was getting in. The doors closed slowly and the elevator began going down.

“Hey. How have you been?” I asked her. I have not seen her in a while since I have been coming in later so I could be with Emma more.

“I’ve been good.” She replied. The elevator fell into silence. If you listened carefully, you could hear the elevator music.

Since we moved back to Miami, a lot of things changed. Some changes had to be made in the labs. A few people had to be fired and some had to be moved. Eva was working in DNA when we were moving everywhere. The crime lab here has room for only two to three people to work. When we stopped moving and stayed here, we had five people working in DNA. There was Eva and a newbie named Davidson. Dave, as we called him, had to be watched over because he made a lot of mistakes. Eva did her job like a pro and she was my best DNA analyst. So to save her job, I moved her from DNA to CSI field detective. She wanted to work in the field beforehand, but when I moved her, she got upset at me for not asking. Ever since then, things between us have been a little awkward.

“Still mad at me?” I asked her. She did not even look at me.

“Hell yeah!” She replied. She never knew about having to cut people. No one else in the lab knew about it besides Andy and Roland.

“Eva, I know what I did was wrong and I’m sorry. I didn’t want to fire you because you do such a great job in the lab. I hoped that the hard work you put into your job in DNA, you could put into working on the field like you wanted. You just got it a little earlier.” I told her, frustrated. I hated when people were made at me, especially close friends. Eva glanced at me and smiled. That is how I knew things were okay again.

“I’ll talk to you later about it.” I added.

“Thanks.” She said as the elevator doors opened. I smiled back at her and we walked out of the elevator together. I motioned goodbye to her as she stepped towards the receptionist desk and I headed toward the door. I walked down the cement stairs and towards the front parking lot when an older woman stood in my way. She looked confused and very upset.

“Can I help you?” I asked her. She looked down at my waist and saw my badge and then looked back at me.

“I need help. My grandson was kidnapped.” She frantically informed me.

“Follow me. We can talk inside my office.” I told her. She followed me slowly back into the building and towards the elevator. As we waited for the elevator to arrive, I turned towards her.

“What’s his name?” I asked her. She began to shake a lot but managed to pull out a picture of a young boy.

“Bennett Morris. He’ll be five tomorrow.” She answered. The little boy was adorable. He had dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and freckles all over his face. The elevator opened and we stepped in.

“How long ago did he disappear?” I asked. I pulled out a notepad and a pen and began writing Bennett’s name and information down.

“He’s been gone for about an hour now. He’s never run off before, which is why I came so quickly. He always plays on the porch with his toy piano or he’ll draw, but if anyone comes up to the porch or one of the neighbors’ dogs comes up to him, he runs inside the house and gets me.” She told me. This could be linked to the Candler case. That would be two kids kidnapped in the last 24 hours and not one clue as to who did it or where they are.

The elevator opened and I rushed her into my office. I sat her down and walked back out to snag Andy from his desk.

“I thought you went home.” He exclaimed as I hung up his phone and pulled him up. He quickly followed me to my office.

“There has been another kidnapping.” I told him as we walked into my office. The older woman glanced back at me as I sat down and Andy sat down next to her.

“This is…” I never caught her name. She spoke up quickly.

“Esther Gladis.” She informed me. I wrote that down so I would not forget it.

“Her grandson, Bennett, was kidnapped from her porch about an hour ago.” I informed him. He nodded in recognition and glanced at her.

“Ms. Gladis, we will do everything in our power to find your grandson.” He told her.

“I’ll take a partner with me and run by your house to see if we can get some evidence of the kidnapper. I’ll have to ask you to stay here until we’re finished though.” I told her. I stood up and walked out. I saw Matt walk out of the elevator.

Matthew Weller was our newest CSI. He was 6’2’’ and had dark-brown hair and blue eyes. He transferred here from patrol a year ago. When my crime lab moved back to Miami, we were short of CSI’s. Even after Eva was promoted, my bosses told me to find one more. So I decided to talk to the patrol officers and found Matt. He worked for them for three years, right out of college. He was their best and my team only included the best.

“Matt!” I called out. He glanced at me and waved at me. I ran over to him and stopped.

“You want to hit a scene with me?” I asked him. His face brightened up as I asked.

Twenty minutes later, we arrived at Esther Gladis’ house. It was located in a small neighborhood in Coral Gables. Her house was a two story home with a small front yard. Matt and I got out of my SUV and looked at the front lawn and porch from the sidewalk. On the way here, I filled Matt in on the two kidnapping cases.

“So this is where Bennett was taken from.” He commented. I carried my kit with me as I slowly walked up the sidewalk, watching for anything to suggest struggle.

“The grandmother said he played on the front porch with a toy piano.” I noted as I pointed to a small one sitting near the steps. It was lying on its side, as if it was knocked over. I carefully walked up the steps and laid my kit down. I grabbed a camera that hung around my neck, and took pictures of the piano.

“I’m going to brush the piano and the railing and see if I get any prints.” I called out to Matt. He remained in the yard as I brushed.

“I have a sucker laying here in the grass and the grass has been agitated.” He informed me.

“So Bennett struggled.” I replied. Matt bagged the sucker as I picked the piano up and set it in a large bag. I looked at the neighbors and saw no one around. I picked up my kit and the bag and walked over to Matt, who just finished bagging the sucker.

“I’ll take this stuff back to the lab. You go around and interview the neighbors. Maybe someone witnessed the kidnapping. I’ll have a squad care come and help you.” I informed him. He nodded and helped me put everything in the SUV.

“I’ll call you if I find anything.” He told me.  I jumped into the drivers’ seat and pulled into the street.

On my way back to the lab, I thought about the two cases and the two families involved. I could only imagine what they were going through. Emma was never out of my site when she is with me. If she was kidnapped, I do not know what I would do.

Something inside of me was telling me that we should check on Esther too. This case was connected to the Candler’s case, besides possibly having the same kidnappers. I pulled out my phone and dialed Andy’s number.

“You find anything on the Candlers?” I asked.

“Actually I just finished. I didn’t find anything too significant, but I saw that Thomas’s business partner was fired by him two days ago.” He informed me.

“Maybe he wanted revenge on Thomas?” I guessed. “Give me the address and I’ll go by and ask Thomas about it and then I’ll pay his ex-business partner a visit. Can you look up Esther and Bennett’s parents too?”

“I’m on it now.” He replied. He gave me the address and hung up.

Mary was not home when Thomas let me inside. He showed me to their kitchen and sat me down.

“What happened to Neil Greenman?” I asked him. I could tell I caught him off guard. He looked surprised that I had asked him that.

“I fired him a couple of days ago. We used to run a small business together and I found my monthly expenses were coming short.” He explained.

“So he was embezzling from you.” I responded. He hesitated for a moment before saying anything else.

“Yes.” He replied. I nodded.

“So let me guess, he wasn’t too happy that you found out and fired him.” I pressed. Thomas adjusted himself in the seat.

“He was furious. He threatened to take me to court with the termination of his job but I reminded him about the face he was doing something illegal. That made him even more furious and that’s the last time we talked.” He explained. Neil could have been mad enough to kidnap Madelein.

“Why are you asking me about this?” He asked.

“I’m just checking up on some things. Have you pressed charges on him?” I asked.

“I have a meeting with my lawyer in two hours to discuss it.” He informed me. I nodded and sat my pen and pad on the table.

“Do you have any proof he was embezzling you?” I asked curiously. He quickly got up and pulled out a huge manila envelope.

“It’s all here.” He replied. I took it from him and stood up.

“How about I look into it and see what I can do for you.” I said. He nodded thankfully.

“Thank you Lieutenant.” He said. He showed me out the door and I climbed into my SUV. It was time to pick up Neil Greenman to see if he was involved with Madelein or Bennett’s case.

Neil Greenman was a tall, tanned man. He had a big body built as though he could wrestle you right now and win before you realized it has already begun. He had dark, black hair and deep brown eyes. If I was not mistaken, he was Cuban.

He was standing in the doorway of a gigantic home in the more famous part of Miami. He held a newspaper in his hands and when I pulled up, he did not even glance. I stepped out of the vehicle and towards him.

“What do you want?” He asked behind his paper. His eyes slowly found its way to me, just a couple of inches too low; my cleavage. I rolled my eyes in my mind and pulled out my badge.

“I’m Lieutenant Forest from the Miami-Dade crime lab. I have a few questions for you.” I said. Behind me, two squad cars pulled up and four patrol officers stood behind me.

Neil sat in the interview room looking very frustrated. I sat across from him with the papers Thomas had given me. We had brought him into the lab. Whether he is involved with our kidnapping cases or not, we had him for embezzlement.

“So Neil, you were fired two days ago from yours and your ex-business partner’s business. Why is that?” I asked him. He looked at me with sneering eyes.

“I was having a bad day.” He replied.

“Uh-huh. So where’s the $25,000?” I asked him straight our. He shrugged.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said.

“Sure you don’t. Let me refresh your memory. For the past year, you have been taking money from the business and generously adding it to your account. Thomas found out and fired you. Is it coming back to you?” I asked. His glance went to the side glass wall where you could see the hustle and bustle of the lab.

“So you got mad and after your threat of taking him to court were shot down, you decided to take it further by kidnapping his and Mary’s daughter.” I guessed. His face turned into pure fury.

“I did not kidnap anyone!” He yelled. He slammed his fist down simultaneously.

“Where were you between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. today?” I asked. He rolled his eyes.

“At home entertaining.” He replied.

“Entertaining whom?” I asked.

“Mary Candler.” He replied.

Hearing what he said was like a bullet taken in the chest. Mary had lied to Eric and I earlier. She was not home with Madelein when she disappeared. She was too busy sleeping with Thomas’s ex-business partner.

“Take him to booking.” I told the officer that was in the room with us. Neil’s face turned red as the officer pulled him up.

“What are you arresting me for?” He yelled.

“Embezzlement.” I replied. He was taken out as I dialed Eric’s number.

“You two still on your date?” I asked him.

“I’m on my way back to the lab.” He answered. I walked out of the room and into the elevator.

“Meet me at the Candler’s. Mary has some explaining to do.” I informed him and hung up.

“What’s this about?” Mary asked. All four of us were back in their living room. Eric was already caught up on the situation.

“Neil Greenman. We arrested him for embezzlement.” Eric said. Thomas nodded.

“Thank you Lieutenant.” He replied. I shook my head.

“Don’t thank me yet.” I told him. I glanced over at Mary.

“So earlier you told us you were here with your daughter. Would you like to change your statement?” I asked. She looked as though she was caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

“I don’t understand.” She replied. Eric jumped in.

“This afternoon you weren’t here with your daughter. You were at Neil’s having an affair.” He informed her. Thomas looked confused.

“No I wasn’t…” She began to say.

“I wouldn’t even deny it. Neil spilled the beans. You and he have been having an affair. How long has this been going on?” I asked her. She turned pale quickly and glanced at Thomas nervously.

“A year and a half.” She said softly.

“And where was Madelein really at?” Eric asked.

“She was at my sister’s house in Coral Gables. She called me when it happened and I rushed home.” She answered. She gave us the address and Eric and I left them alone. Eric decided to ride with me to the house and have his car driven back by a parolee.

“How’d it go?” I asked him. He gave me a huge smile.

“It went great. Emily began choosing the decorations and then we began choosing who was going to participate with us.” He told me. I smiled back at him. We came up to a long bridge going across a lot of water.

“Okay be quiet.” I told him. I was deathly afraid of water. I always have been since I was a little girl. Living in Miami did not help my fear at all. If it was just Ben and me or Emma with us, I would pull over and have Ben drive so I would not have to. We finally made it across the bridge and I let my breath go.

“You know, one day we’re taking you, Emma, and Ben to the beach and I’m going to throw you out into the deep water.” Eric giggled. I glanced at him.

“You want me to shoot you don’t you?” I joked. 

Maria Cambell was sitting outside when Eric and I pulled up. She sat on the steps and looked deeply upset.

“Maria Cambell?” Eric asked. She glanced up and nodded.

“Yes?” She asked. She stood up and pulled her caramel colored hair out of her face.

“Your sister Mary told us Madelein was here when she was kidnapped. Can we talk to you?” I informed her. She nodded and walked up the stairs and opened her door.

“Please come in.” She offered. Eric and I walked up the stairs and entered her home.

Her home was filled of pictures everywhere or at least the hallway. She showed us to her living room and I took a seat in an armchair. Eric sat on the sofa and Maria sat across from both of us in a love seat.

“Madelein was playing outside in the backyard while I made lunch. I heard her scream and when I went outside, she was gone.” She informed us.

“About what time was that?” I asked.

“Noon.” She answered.

“Why didn’t you call the police after you found her missing?” Eric asked.

“I wasn’t her mother. If I called the police, they’d track down Mary and Tom would find out about her affair.” She explained.

“So you knew your sister and Neil were sleeping together? And you’d rather protect your sister’s marriage instead of finding your own niece?” I asked coldly. She stared at me. Eric stood up and looked at Maria.

“We’d like to see where Madelein was at when she screamed.” Eric informed her. She quickly stood up and showed us to her backyard. She retreated inside as Eric and I looked around.

“Well I don’t think this is going to give us a lead.” Eric noted as he looked around. I glanced at the fence surrounding the yard and saw a couple of loose boards tall enough for someone to get through.

“Maybe not.” I replied as I walked over to the boards and glanced at them.

“What do you got?” He asked. He joined me at the fence as I pulled some gloves on and kneeled down.

“This may be where our kidnapper came and left. I found a hair.” I said as I took out a pair of tweezers and clasped the hair. I held it up so I could see it.

“It’s blond.” I confirmed. I dropped in into a small bag and glanced up at Eric.

“If we’re lucky, we could pull some prints.” I added. Eric pulled some gloves on and began brushing away at the planks.

Eric and I stood in the lab with the planks of wood sitting on our light table. We had found some partials and we sent them to Matt to work on as Eva processed the strand of hair we found.

It was about seven in the evening now as we waited for the results. It had been a long day. Everything we had we were riding on because we had no other leads in either case.

“Look what I’ve got!” Andy called out as he walked in. He held up a folder in the air and threw it in front of me.

“I looked up Bennett’s parents and found nothing. So I sat down and gave it some thought on whether these two cases are connected. I turned my attention to the kids. Guess how they’re similar.” Andy said as he plopped down beside us. I opened the folder and found my answer.

“They both attended the Little Oasis Day Care in Coral Gables.” I stated. So someone is using a day care to find their victims.

“There’s no way we could get an interview with the owners tonight!” Eric exclaimed. He sounded frustrated.

“Then you all go home and rest and come back tomorrow refreshed and we’ll start on it in the morning.” I informed them.

“What about you Lieu?” Andy asked. I stood up and walked towards the door.

“I’m going to wait for the results from earlier. Matt’s running the fingerprints from Bennett’s house and the ones we just found so something should pop up soon.” I replied. Both men walked out with me and as they went to the elevator, I made my way over to Matt.

Matt was sitting in front of a computer, tapping his fingers on the table.

“Any luck?” I asked as I walked in. He shook his head in response. Suddenly, a buzz sounded and two faces popped onto the screen.

“Hadley Martin and Denise Broughman. They both work at the Little Oasis Day Care in Coral Gables.” He informed me.

“That’s where Bennett and Madelein attended day care. You go ahead home and we’ll tackle them in the morning.” I called back as I left the room.

“Tiff!” Eva called out. I spun around and saw Eva standing behind me with a piece of paper.

“The hair matched Madelein Candler.” She informed me. She handed me the paper and crossed her arms.

“So Madelein was taken from the backyard, by the loose boards in the fence.” I said.

“Looks like it. I’m going to head home and get some sleep.” She said. I retired to my office and grabbed my stuff and headed home myself.

It was nine o’clock when I walked through the door. The house was quiet. I checked the kitchen and living room for Ben and found nothing but the cat sleeping. I climbed the stairs and stopped in front of Emma’s door. I could hear her steady breathing. I quietly pushed open her door and kneeled down by her bed. I lightly kissed her forehead and retreated out.

“Long day?” Ben asked as he met me in the hallway. I nodded and followed him to the bedroom.

“There are two kids missing that attended the same day care.” I explained. I sat on the bed and slipped my shoes off.

“It makes me rethink about letting Emma start day care next year.” I added. Ben and I were thinking about letting Emma go to day care and spend time with kids her own age. Now I am afraid to send her and have her disappear.

“Nothing will happen to her.” He assured me. He rubbed my shoulders as we talked.

“I’m going to take a shower and head to bed.” I told him as I stood up. I walked into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower.

I jumped out of the bed startled. It was three in the morning and the phone was ringing off the hook. I picked up the receiver.

“This better be important.” I grumbled.

“We found Madelein.” Andy informed me.

I arrived at the Queen Hotel in downtown Miami within twenty minutes of the call. Everything was roped off by patrol. I grabbed my camera and kit and joined Claire besides the small body.

Madelein’s limp body lay on the grass face up. Her yellow sun dress was soaked in blood. Her arms were bruised and her lips were blue.

“Was she choked?” I asked. Claire lifted the child’s head to reveal two bruises on each side of her neck.

“Probably but I’ll make sure when I get her on my table.” She replied. I took pictures of her body as Emily arrived.

“Go ahead and take her Claire.” I said as I turned towards Emily.

“Andy called me over here. I wasn’t expecting an ending like this.” She commented. I shook my head as Eric and Eva joined us.

“It hasn’t ended yet. Eric and Eva, I want you two to process the scene and call me if you get anything. Emily and I are going to wake a couple of people up.” I said as I and Emily jumped into my SUV and drove off.

Hadley Martin opened his door with a rifle in his hands and Emily and I pulled out our guns.

“Mr. Martin, please put down the weapon!” I warned with my gun at my side. He did as he was told and Emily and I relaxed a bit.

“What’s this about?” He asked angrily. I showed my badge to him.

“We’re from the Miami-Dade County Crime Lab. We need to ask you a few questions about Madelein Candler and Bennett Morris.” I answered. He let us in reluctantly and we sat down in his spacious living room.

His house was located in the Gables Estates, which was the home to many large homes. The way his house was organized, you could tell he was not married.

“So, what about the kids?” He asked.

“They were both kidnapped yesterday and this morning, Madelein was found dead.” I informed him. Emily sat quiet beside me, waiting patiently.

“Wow.” Was all Hadley could say.

“We found your fingerprints on the railing at Bennett’s home, as well as on his toy piano.” I added. He glanced up.

“Where were you yesterday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.?” Emily asked him. He exchanged glances at both of us. He looked offended.

“You think I was involved in this?” He asked.

“We’re merely getting our information together.” I lied. For now, he and Denise were our only suspects.

“I was working at the day care.” He answered.

“And people can confirm that?” Emily asked.

“Yes of course!” He explained. I nodded and stood up like Emily did.

“Thanks Mr. Martin for your cooperation.” I said. We showed ourselves out and climbed into the car. The sun was just now coming up.

“So what do you think?” I asked her. I respected her opinions on everything. She was a great CSI. That was the reason why she is my second in command.

“He seems guilty to me but I don’t know to what. There’s no way he could kidnap a kid while working.” She informed me. I nodded. I was thinking that exact same thing.

“Then let’s check out Denise Broughman.” I said as I pulled off. We headed out of Gables Estates and towards North Miami.

“So I heard you and Eric met with a wedding planner.” I mentioned. “Congratulations.” She kept her gaze out the window.

“Roland found out too and threatened our jobs.” She replied.

“Don’t worry. Did Eric tell you what I told him?” I asked. She glanced at me and shook her head.

“If anything happens, I’ll fix it.” I promised.

“In that case, I have something to ask you.” She informed me. I waited for her to speak again.

“Will you be my maid of honor?” She asked. I smiled and nodded.

“Of course!” I replied. The rest of the ride to Denise’s house was spent talking about the wedding.

Denise Broughman was a tall body with bright orange hair and blue eyes.  Her clothes were worn light and short. If I was not sure this was Denise, I would have mistaken her as a hooker. I would definitely not let a woman dressed like this watch my daughter, but I was a criminalist. I had to let the evidence talk to me, not let my opinions danger the case.

“So what’s this about?” She asked. She tried hard to add a rich, British accent into her question.

“Madelein Candler and Bennett Morris.” I answered. I took a quick glanced at Emily. I could tell she did not like the lady either, but was trying to keep it cool.

“They both were kidnapped yesterday and Madelein was found dead this morning.” Emily explained. It took Denise a whole ten seconds before a reaction was made from her. She wiped her eye like she was crying and looked at us.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” She replied.

“Where were you yesterday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.?” I asked. Her eyes widened with the question.

“I was here. Yesterday was my day off!” She exclaimed.

“Can anyone verify that?” Emily asked.

“No I was alone.” She replied. I stood up and Emily did the same.

“Thanks for your time Ms. Broughman.” I told her. She showed us to her door and we walked out to my car.

“There is something not right about her.” Emily retorted. We climbed into my car and drove into the road.

“You mean besides the fake British accent, tight, short clothes, and the dramatic movements/” I asked, referring to her fake tear wiping.

“We didn’t even ask her about the fingerprints!” Emily said. I shook my head in response.

“Actually her story could work out good for us. Her fingerprints are found on two loose boards from a fence that was used to kidnap a little girl. She plain out told us she doesn’t have an alibi so I think we can hold her until we get something more concrete.” I explained. My phone rang just as we stopped in front of the crime lab.

“Lieutenant Forest.” I answered.

“It’s Claire. I took a closer look at Madelein and I found some skin under her fingernails. I sent it up to DNA but you might want to look at something.” Claire explained.

“Give me five minutes.” I said as I hung up. Emily was standing beside my door when I got out. We walked into the building together.

“I want you to see what Eric and Eva found while I meet with Claire. We’ll all meet in the layout room in a half hour.” I said as we parted ways.

Claire’s morgue was located downstairs of the crime lab. I pulled a lab coat on as I walked in. It was very chilly but once Claire smiled at me, things began to warm up until I saw Madelein’s body on Claire’s table.

“I found traces of a white substance around her mouth. I sent it to trace. Also, she didn’t die of the stab wounds. She died of asphyxiation. Her kidnapper broke the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae in her neck, causing her not to be able to breathe.” She told me as she showed me the child’s neck. She removed the cover from the child’s abdominal area so I could see the stab wounds.

“The stab pattern confuses me. It’s not that deep and the blade was jagged. Either her killer hesitated or didn’t have a lot of strength.” She said. She lifted the hands to show me the wrists.

“She was tied up.” I noted. Claire nodded.

“By a piece of small rope I believe. It was cutting into her skin around the time of death.” She replied.

“Did you find anything on her clothes or hair?” I asked. She covered Madelein up and stared at me.

“Now hunny that’s your job.” She replied. We smiled at each other and I got to work after getting my box.

I combed Madelein’s hair over an open envelope and slipped her clothes into a bag. I went up to the lab, dropped the envelope off at trace and went to work on the clothes.

About a half hour later, I joined my team in the layout room. Everyone held a coffee mug in their hands. My team only consisted of Matt, Eva, Emily, and Eric. Then the rest of the lab workers worked under them and helped us out.

“So what was found at the scene?” I asked. I sat down and laid a folder on the table that I had brought in with me.

“We decided Madelein wasn’t killed there at the scene. She was dumped there.” Eric answered.

“We did find some tire patterns in the dirt in the lawn. The killer probably backed too far into the lawn.” Eva added. I nodded. 

“Keep working on those tracks and see if the hotel has surveillance cameras around the lot.” I told them. I opened my file folder and lifted two pieces of paper up.

“I processed the clothes and found some dirt on her pants. I analyzed it and matched it to a very special mix of dirt used in only one place in Miami.” I informed them. I showed them the paper.

“That’s found on the beach near the sport a lot of Cubans like to come in at.” Matt said. I nodded.

“Because of the land mines that used to be there, it left a very significant mixture of dirt and sand. When a land mine went off, it mixed dirt and sand together with the particles of the dead animals killed within in the sand along with its own particles of the mines. Add in the dirt and sand being exposed of salt water for many years, you get a special mixture.” I explained. I stood up.

“Right now, I think we need to get to that beach now! Eva and Matt, I want you two to pick Denise Broughman up and keep her in an interrogation room. Emily and Eric, you’re coming with me on a trip.” I said quickly. The rest of our evidence could be put on standby. If we were lucky, we could catch Madelein and possibly Bennett’s kidnappers.

We were crowded into my SUV as we rushed to the beach. We had three patrol cars follow us.

“You really think we’re going to catch them?” Eric asked. I had to admit it was a long shot but we had to try.

“It’s a better start than what we’ve had.” I replied.

The beach was deserted when we arrived. I jumped out of the vehicle and glanced at the building that sat to the left of where we parked. Recent tire tracks could be seen in the sand leading up to the front of the building.

“Let’s go check that out.” I told Emily and Eric. They nodded in agreement.

The building was not big but was sturdy enough to use as a hideout. I slowly pulled my gun out of its holster and raised it as Eric slowly opened the door. They both withdrew their guns as I creped in first.

It was fairly dark inside although some beams of light blazed through some holes in the side of the building. I reached behind me and pulled a flashlight out of my back pocket. I shined it in front of me as I searched the building. I kept my eyes on the ground in case they left something behind.

“Got something!” Emily called out. Eric and I joined her at the corner of the building. She began bagging a small hair piece that had a few drops of blood on it. I shined the flashlight around the floor where we were and saw a small pool of blood right behind Emily. I gently grabbed her arm and pulled her towards me so she would not step in the blood pool.

“Be careful.” I told her. I pointed to the blood pool. “I think you found our crime scene.”

Emily held her camera up as I shined my light on the blood. She snapped a few photos of the blood while Eric kept looking around.

“This is a good place to keep a kid at.” He noted. I glanced around where I stood and noticed a small shoe beside the far back wall.

“Hey Eric, go check over there!” I told him. I pointed my light in the direction I wanted him to go and he obeyed. He kneeled over what I noticed and threw some gloves on.

“This is definitely a boy’s boot.” He yelled back at us.

“So both kids were kept here.” Emily said as she held her camera down.

“Yep so let’s finish processing this scene.” I said.

 

*******************************************

 

This was not his kind of job. He liked to rob people, not kidnap two kids and kill one of them. This was actually his friend’s idea. They would kidnap them and try to get money from their families. Yet, things went wrong from block one.

The little girl kept screaming when she was brought into the building at the beach. So she forced us to kill her. The boy kept quiet oddly enough so things were quiet until the three cops found our spot. We barely made it out before they arrived. My friend and I are going to teach the Lieutenant a lesson.

 

******************************************

 

“The blood was Madelein’s. There wasn’t any trace on the shoe but I’m sure it was Bennett’s.” Emily told me. I was headed to the interrogation room where Denise sat.

“Okay. Has the fingerprints been identified yet?” I asked her. We had found many partials at the scene.

“Eric is doing them now.” She replied. I nodded and opened the door to the interrogation room.

“Keep me posted.” I informed her. The door closed behind me as I took a seat across from Denise.

“Why am I here?” She asked.

“Because your prints were found where Madelein was kidnapped.” I answered. Her eyes widened.

“I wasn’t there!” She yelled.

“Then how’d your prints get where Madelein was taken?” Eva asked. She sat next to me.

“I don’t know! I must have been set up!” She exclaimed. I studied her face carefully. She did look sincerely surprised and confused but expressions can lie, just like people. I stood up.

“Ms. Broughman, don’t leave town anytime soon.” I told her. Eva and I walked out of the room.

“So what do you think? Was she set up?” She asked me. My phone rang before I could answer her question.

“Lieutenant Forest.” I answered.

“She’s missing. Emma’s missing.” Ben told me through the phone.

My SUV flew into my driveway and I ran through the door.

“Ben!” I called out. The door closed behind me as I ran upstairs.

“I’m in here!” He called from our bedroom. I ran into the room and Ben grabbed my arms.

“Why are you up here and not looking for our daughter?” I asked. He let go and pulled a gun out of a box and hooked it onto a holster.

“Because I needed my badge and gun.” He answered as he pulled out his badge and hooked it to his belt. He walked with me downstairs as Eva, Emily, Eric, and Matt joined us.

“Andy’s got everyone out looking.” Emily told me. I nodded and heard something in the kitchen. Ben stepped between me and the kitchen.

“You don’t want to go in there right now.” He told me.

“Why not? Who’s in there?” I asked. I pushed him aside and walked into the kitchen to find Ashley sitting at the table.

“Tiffany.” She said as she saw me.

“Get out of my house now!” I warned her. She got up quickly and passed me in the doorway. I followed her to the front door. She opened the door and stepped out. I held the doorknob in my hand as she turned around to face me.

“Stay off of my property.” I told her. I slammed the door in her face and turned to the group of people looking at me.

“We need to find these kidnappers.” I informed them. We all headed back to the crime lab to look for more evidence.

“There’s more to this case than just the kids!” Matt said frustrated.

“Let’s just say Denise is right and someone is trying to set her up. It would have to be really personal if they’re going to this much trouble.” I said.

“Which means there’s a very good chance that the kidnapper or kidnappers know Denise and was able to be close enough to her to get her fingerprints.” Andy said.

“Which could have easily have been done with putty or any type of molding.” Eric threw out.

“What if y’all are right? There’s a good way to prove that idea. That’s if the fingerprints are still available to us.” Emily said. She was right. One test could prove whether Denise was set up or is just lying to us.

“Yep they are. We’ll get to work on that. Eva and Andy, you two do a complete background check on Ms. Broughman. I want to know everything. Eric, you and Matt go back to each scene and make sure nothing was missed.” I ordered.

Emily and I headed to open of the open labs with the fingerprints in her hands. We threw some lab coats and sat the fingerprints on the table. I held a cup of pig’s blood in my hand and rested it on the table next to the fingerprints.

“Okay, since we lifted two whole sets of fingerprints from those boards that all matched Denise Broughman, I am only going to use the forefinger of one of them.” Emily told me. I nodded and watched as she managed to separate the forefinger from the first set of fingerprints by cutting it apart.

Emily opened the cup of pig’s blood and slowly poured some blood on the fingerprint.

“I used pig’s blood because it’s the closest type of blood to human blood. This will tell us if the fingerprint is artificial or real by the blood either forming around the print’s edges like an artificial print will or slightly forming around the edges and fading off.” She explained. She knew I already know this, but she loved to explain things and I enjoyed listening to her accent. She was from the South and she was definitely a southern belle.

“See how the blood is evading the edges in the fingerprint? This wouldn’t happen if it were a real fingerprint.” She told me. I smiled at her.

“Way to go Emily. Now let’s go find the right suspect.” I said as we both headed out of the lab.

We sat in the layout room waiting for Andy and Eva to walk in with information. I could not quit thinking about Emma and if she was okay. I knew we would find her. This crime lab was one of the best in the country and I trusted these people with my life and my daughter’s life.

“Tiff?” Emily said. I shook awake from my worrying state and looked at her.

“Huh?” I asked. Emily had been sitting beside me at the table.

“You okay?” She asked me. Eva and Andy walked into the layout room before I answered Emily.

“This is what we found on Ms. Broughman.” Andy informed us as he threw a file at me. I picked it up and read what was in it.

“She recently hired a new secretary for the day care.” Eva told us.

“Her ex-husband’s present wife.” I added. Eva nodded and sat down.

“Ms. Broughman has been receiving alimony from her ex-husband and then he filed bankruptcy.” Andy joined in.

“So the new wife tried to sue Ms. Broughman for ruining her husband’s life.” Eva added.

“Which isn’t legal in Florida or any other state I’m sure?” Emily commented. I nodded.

“So why would Denise hire a woman that tried to sue her?” I asked.

“Because they never met. The case was dismissed before it ever reached the court and Ms. Broughman’s ex-husband never allowed her near the new wife.” Eva answered.

Matt and Eric cheerfully walked in with Ben following.

“He tagged along Lieu.” Matt told me. All three men sat down and held up a picture of a bright-red fingernail.

“I believe this belongs to our suspect.” Eric said happily.

“What’s the new wife’s name?” I asked.

“Melinda Stevens.” Eva answered.

“Let’s bring her in.” I said.

Melinda Stevens was surprisingly Cuba. Her hair was a milky-brown and her eyes were pitch-black. Her lips were bright-red and her fingernails matched; All of them but one.

“So why am I here?” She asked. She fixed her top, which was more like a piece of cloth because it barely covered everything.

“We found your missing fingernail Mrs. Stevens.” I informed her. She shrugged and smacked down onto her gum.

“So?” She asked. I pushed the picture of the fingernail and a picture of where Madelein and Bennett were taken.

“So you admit that that’s your fingernail?” I asked.

“Sure.” She answered.

“Who helped you?” I asked.

“With what?” She asked.

“The kidnappings.” I answered. Her tan face turned a dark-red.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She said quickly. I shook my head at her.

“Right! Your fingernail was dropped where one of the kids was kidnapped from and you have no clue what I’m talking about. Do I look like I believe you?” I nearly yelled. Eva sat in the chair next to me and squeezed my arm to let me know to take it easy.

“Where’s your husband at?” Eva asked her. She shrugged again.

“I don’t know.” She answered. I stood up and joined Andy outside of the interrogation room.

“I want an APB out on her husband.” I demanded.

 

***********************************************

 

“Great! I’m stuck here with two brats.” He mumbled to himself.

“I want my Mommy!” The little girl screamed. He took her by the arm and smacked the child in the face.

“You’re not ever going to see your parents again!” He yelled at her. He turned to the boy and laughed at him. “You either kid.”

The little girl pushed herself against the wall and softly cried as she and the little boy watched the man hook a bomb up over the door.

 

**********************************************

“A helicopter spotted his car parked at a warehouse down near Bal Harbour Beach.” Andy told us. We all jumped up.

“Let’s go get Bennett and Emma!” I exclaimed as we all rushed out the door.

We all pulled up to the warehouse in question. There was not a car sitting out there now.

“I’ll go check the inside.” I told them.

“I’ll go with you.” Andy said. We both walked towards the warehouse with our guns in our hands.

I pushed the door open and suddenly heard a soft whimper. I pulled my flashlight out and shined it on two young kids; Emma and Bennett.

“They’re here!” I called out to Andy as I ran towards them.

“I’ll go get help.” He replied.

I reached the two frightened kids and saw they were both tied up and gagged. I undid their gags and gently untied them.

“Mommy, we need to get out of here!” Emma yelled. I began to hear a beeping sound and before anyone could respond, the building blew up in a large, engulfing flame.

I woke up to find everything on fire. The bomb almost blew the place to pieces. I quickly moved to find the kids, ignoring the pain in my head and arm.

I pushed some boards away and found Bennett lying on the ground, bleeding from his head. I gently shook him awake and told him to cover his mouth with his shirt and sit still while I went to look for Emma. She was lying under a large board that used to hold up part of the ceiling. I rushed over towards her and she awoke.

“Don’t move sweetie.” I told her. I managed to lift up the board enough to quickly be able to pull her out. That was one heck of an adrenaline rush. I picked Emma up and rushed back over to Bennett and picked him up too. I avoided the fire enough to make it out of the warehouse.

“Tiff!” Ben yelled. He must have heard about the warehouse and rushed over. Andy and Eric took the two kids out of my arms and I collapsed in Ben’s arms.

This time I woke up in a hospital bed. My head was killing me and my arm was wrapped up.

“Hey there, Mrs. Forest. How are you feeling?” A woman asked me. Her name was Doctor Megan Graham and she worked at Miami General. She had been mine, Ben’s, and Emma’s doctor for a while.

“I’d feel better if I knew how Emma and Bennett are.” I responded. She nodded and checked my heart rate and blood pressure.

“Bennett suffered from a slight concussion but he’ll be fine. His grandmother is with him now. As of your daughter, I’m afraid I’ve got bad news.” She explained.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Emma was sent into surgery when she arrived here. A few of her ribs were broken and was causing her to be unable to breathe. She should be out of surgery soon. Until then, you have a visitor.” She said. She left the room and then Ashley walked in.

“Hey Tiffany.” She said shyly. I rolled my eyes.

“What are you doing here?” I asked her.

“I want to talk to you.” She replied.

“I don’t want to talk to you!” I told her. She sat down beside my bed.

“Why not?” She responded. I sat up a little bit.

“Because you were the one that got mad because I was moving and I had a job with the government.” I responded.

“I was mad that you were leaving again. Can you blame me?” She asked. I nodded.

“Yes I can.” I answered. “Now please get out of my room.” She stormed out quickly. After a half hour, Ben walked in and sat in the chair beside my bed.

“Any word on Emma?” I asked. He shook his head and squeezed my hand.

“Can you find a nurse for me?” I asked him.

“Why? Is something wrong?” He asked urgently.

“No. No. I just want to sign myself out. The case is still open.” I answered.

“You broke your arm and you’re suffering from a slight concussion as well. Let Emily take over and finish it.” He explained.

“I have a bump on my head and my left arm is temporarily out of order. The rest of me is just fine and so I’m going to find Juan Stevens and put his ass in jail with his wife.” I sternly told him. Ben knew not to fight with me. I always win. I won this argument too and had a nurse give me papers to sign so I could leave.

“So Juan drives a dark-blue, 2007 Sedan with a black trim. Do we still have an APB out on him?” I asked. Andy, Emily, Eva, Eric, and Matt sat in the layout room with me. I had my arm in a cast and a sling and was ready to nail Juan and his wife.

“They’re out looking for him as we speak Lieutenant.” Andy replie


© Copyright 2017 Tiffany Arnett. All rights reserved.

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