Chapter 19…

” Janice, there are a few things I have to  know before the cavalry arrives. We only have a few minutes. You said that you were here earlier, and that Jenn’s car was here…exactly what time was that? And, did you see or talk to anyone then? You really have to start giving me something to work with.”

From the look in her eyes, you could fairly watch the calculations running through her mind.

She had gone into the house by herself. I shouldn’t have let that happen. And before I had a chance to react, she moved towards the threat, not away from it.

” Did you know the guy who ran outside, Janice? Were you expecting someone to be here?”

No response. Still calculating.

But why?

I had come across something like this once before…people need  quick help, but don’t want to involve the police. So they try a private detective first. It’s a good cover, especially if there’s a deeper motive that they want to conceal.

Should have run to at least get a glance at that guy. Should have checked the upper floor, too. I don’t have any idea what might be going on there.

But then again…this girl is acting very… suspicious?

Police en route…girl not talking…suspect got clean away…stupid errors.

Should have waited to call them, give the girl time to gather herself. Now I need to know things, and there’s no time.

This adorable film-noir starlet was going to have to start filling in some gaps…right about now.

” Janice, they’re going to be here any minute. You can tell me, or tell them. You’ll have to anyway, so give me a clue here.”

The North Smithfield guys weren’t exactly the cast of Criminal Minds, but they’d put this together quick enough. Hell, the Boy Scouts could see this coming.

Nothing. Still calculating. Figuring, as an old friend would have said. Her actions right now seemed so similar, you’d think they were related. Figure that, Spenser.

“Janice, for Christ’s sake, give me something. You were here earlier, OK…did you go inside? Do you have keys? Was the house locked? Who else has access to Jenn’s car? Was the car even here? ”

Nothing.

What the hell was this? What had I walked myself into?

I initially had two suspects to ponder… the guy who took Jenn’s car ( providing that it was actually ever here) and the guy who just ran out. And now… I realized that I had better add one more. This girl wasn’t really acting overwhelmed…she was beginning to act involved.

So the list quickly flushes out to three…and was about to go to four, including me. Dammit.

The North Smithfield guys would have to put me in the mix too, if they were on their game. So they would be asking me a lot of the questions that I had already been asking her.

I wondered now what she would  actually tell those guys. And hoped that she didn’t necessarily expect me to cover for her. Not that that was out of the question, but I really couldn’t see any connection to that right now. She simply hadn’t told me anything yet. But regardless, I certainly wouldn’t throw her under the bus without good cause.

And…I knew that Jenn’s daughter Kendra lived here too. Where was she in all this?

School had gotten out a week ago, so we could be looking at a missing mother- and possibly a missing fifteen-year old to boot. And Janice hadn’t yet mentioned a word about any of that.

Of course, she was still calculating. Figuring.

Even as the two cruisers pulled up. One with two uniform guys, and a black Crown Victoria.

The first order of business would be to get them to check the rest of the house first. At least secure that perimeter… and try not to make any more rookie bonehead mistakes.

Like having a drawn weapon when they came in. I holstered it. Prudent. And thought again that I called them too soon. I wasn’t much better prepared for this than she was.

And Janice? Something huge going on in there. I wondered again who she might decide to share it with.

She was startled when they knocked loudly at the door.

So was I.

 

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Chapter 18

I couldn’t help it. Roger’s voice faded, now a droning in the background. White noise. As soon as he said that, as soon as he said “I’m thinking Jenn was into something that might have been a bit over her head”, I swear I felt as if I could puke again. Man, what a sucky day this has been….”and shadows run from themselves”. Don’t ask  me why my brain goes to lyrics in times like these.

The drone of Roger’s voice was now supplanted by Cream and Eric Clapton singing about a white room with black curtains by the station. Funny. I was the younger sister yet I had a lot more on the musical ball than Jenn. She, queen of what we used to call the “Top 40”.  Not that I didn’t like the “popular” stuff. Hell, I like music from any era if it strikes a chord. No pun intended. For me, music is like the air we breath. Always, there’s a musical association to life, especially the big things….

“Earth to Janice, earth to Janice”. Shit! Lost in my own head again! I turned to see my private eye standing beside me, snapping his fingers.

“Hey, buddy, I’m not a dog. Don’t be snapping your fingers at me”.  Man, I hate that shit. Guys always seem to do that. They think you’re ignoring them, they want your attention, so they start snapping their fingers. What’s up with that? I chuckled to myself….I could give him some training….

“Just got off the phone with the North Smithfield police department. They’re going to send someone over. We just made this official. You know you’re going to have to go over the story with them now, right? Anything more you want to tell me – something you’ve remembered…forgotten to tell me?”

Wow. Couldn’t believe Roger was being so obvious in his lack of complete trust in me. Yeah, I know we just met. And maybe I hadn’t been totally up front with him but surely he could see in my eyes I had told him nothing but the truth. My gut trusted him, but I wasn’t quite ready to get all down and dirty about my older sister. It’s not my place to be opening someone else’s skeleton closet.

 

 

 

Chapter 17

“You’ve got to be kidding me….” I looked at Roger who was now standing with his weapon drawn. I’d never even noticed he’d pulled his gun. Quick on the draw. Good quality to have in a situation like this. First point to the private detective.

Roger stood totally still, motioning me to be quiet. Holding up his left hand for me to stay where I was, he moved closer to the answering machine. I heard it! Someone was still on the other end of the line. Not leaving a message. After about the 10 longest seconds of my life, we both heard a soft click. The line went dead.

“Can’t you star 69 that or something?” I asked impatiently. “Who the hell was that?! That was no wrong number.” Roger was looking pretty intense, a little “wound”. Tighter than a drum my mom would say. Staring at him, I was suddenly seeing Julia Roberts – he had that same vein running down the middle of his forehead. Yeah, he was definitely on edge. Walking into Jenn’s house and finding it trashed – didn’t see that one coming.

” …is someone watching us?” Instinctively, I was whispering in a voice so low I don’t think a dog could hear me. I got a “I don’t know” look from my new employee. We both stood where we were, not moving. Waiting. Listening. In spite of the strange phone call, neither one of us could be sure there wasn’t someone still in the house. Finally, Roger made a move towards the kitchen. As if connected by a string, I immediately followed suit. He was the one holding the gun afterall.

We found the kitchen in the same condition as the living room. Where once there was order on the counters, it was disaster. The Keurig was knocked to the floor, glass from the storage jars in jagged shards everywhere. Even the Coca Cola Bear cookie jar lay fatally broken on the pergo flooring. As we both surveyed the scene in stunned silence, that silence was suddenly broken by the sound of heavy, hard running from upstairs. Instinctively, I turned and ran out of the kitchen towards the living room. I got there  just as the front door slammed shut.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Roger was looking at me with eyes turned to lasers. I could almost feel the burn on my face. “Couldn’t help it. Instinct, ya know”.

“Listen” he said, “I think it’s time to call the cops. This is looking a little more complicated. And after we make that call you and I are going to have a more in depth conversation about your sister. I’m thinking Jenn was into something that might have been a bit over her head.

 

 

Chapter 16…

Geez. There goes another pair of 40- dollar JC Penney Jordans. I just can’t have anything nice, as my mom used to say. But I don’t recall anyone throwing up on her shoes. Probably me, I suppose. Oh, well.

” You know, I was totally buying the whole ‘ Lana Turner- film noir’ thing, but I think it’s safe to say you just shot that whole thing in the ass.  Given your delicate constitution, you probably keep  cleaning supplies and contractor bags in the trunk, so I’ll just grab one of those and cut some arm holes in it. Can I get you one too?”

” Sorry, I’m having a rough morning. You may very well have noticed. Many people might have, if they could only see past their donut obsession.”

Wryness…gone straight to unabashed sarcasm.

I have often had that effect on women. They just can’t help themselves, the poor things. Seething resentment was likely only a few minutes away.

” That is a perfectly healthy obsession, little miss. Not just donuts…Allie’s. Allie’s Donuts. Certainly, you’ ve had them. You weren’t raised in a cave, were you?”

” Please stop talking about food. Please.”

” Allie’s donuts are not food. Broccoli is food. Cauliflower is food. Cauliflower in the wrong hands could easily be a weapon. Allie’s donuts, by comparison, are the glue that holds Western society together. Chocolate crullers with a delicate whipped German chocolate filling…made by angelic creatures who only aspire to provide nutrients to mere mortals in a form they might recognize. And the icing is only to keep them from floating away altogether.”

” Well, you stay right here and use up all the oxygen you want, then. I’m going inside. I need to freshen up. And don’t you dare to come into Jenn’s house with those shoes on… sorry about that, by the way.”

” If there’s a garden hose around, I can make do with that.”

” Just around to the right there.”

I followed her in a few minutes later. She hadn’t seemed to react to my question about the car until I asked it…odd. Maybe she was lying about the car being there to begin with…or maybe had forgotten that she had said that it was there.

But if it had been here earlier…then someone had been here in the meantime.

Thinking that I shouldn’t have let her go in alone, I saw her standing in the middle of the living room. It had been completely trashed…shattered TV on the floor, framed photos broken, and sofa cushions that had been cut open.

She turned and started to speak, and I quickly motioned for her not to. Whoever did this might have taken the car if it was ever here, or might still be in the house. There may be more than one person involved in this, too.

I kept her attention while I slowly took my Springfield XDS .45 out of the shoulder holster- the only reason to wear a bulky jacket on a warm day. Released the safety and pointed it at the floor.

She didn’t even flinch.

Pretty damned ‘ film noir’, I thought to myself. Bogart would have liked this girl.

I was beginning to like her a little, too.

A phone rang, and she made a high- pitched panicky noise. My heart slammed into the top of my throat, finally dislodging that little bit of Allie’s cruller that had been stuck there for two hours now.

The phone call went to the cover message. It was the first time I had heard Jenn’s voice in over two years. And felt a touch of vertigo… it sounded so normal, so Jenn…

As I stood in her trashed house, with a drawn weapon, eyes locked on her panic- stricken sister.

Yes. She was definitely, absolutely having a rough morning.