>> Friday, August 12, 2011
Las Vistas Police Headquarters - Downtown Las Vistas
“Who are you?” Reese said out loud to himself. His eyes moved back and forth, scanning the pictures of the three women whose murders still hadn’t been solved. They were all young, all brunette, beautiful and successful, and all of them had been strangled, left with a slit on each side of their face and a handwritten note slipped between their legs; a gruesome calling card from the serial killer he had absolutely no leads on. The man had left no physical evidence at all, not even so much as an eyelash, nothing for them to test or compare to anything they had on file. He was a ghost that had terrorized these women and then disappeared into thin air.
One thing was for sure, while it didn’t seem that he knew the women personally, he had studied them thoroughly before the attacks. His letters had included personal details about them: where they worked, places they frequented, names of friends and family. It was as if he had been dancing on the outskirts of their lives waiting for the perfect moment to catch them alone and have his way with them. They weren’t just random victims. They had been carefully watched and selected like a bottle of wine and from the caliber of the victims, this psycho had discriminating taste.
It had been months since the last killing, which probably meant that the man had come to the end of victims on his list. He was in the screening process now; stalking new candidates to kill. It wouldn’t be long before he stuck again and Reese was hell bent on finding him before it was too late. “Think damn it, think!” he shouted to himself again, but he soon let out a frustrated breath and pushed away from his desk.
He never could focus when he was angry, and he was getting more pissed off by the minute as remnants of his argument with Nico kept flashing through his mind. Old friends made the worst enemies; they knew all your weaknesses and how to use them and Nico had hit a nerve he didn't’ realize was still so raw. But he had been right, which made the jab that much worse. As much as he had wanted to believe that his badge was enough to keep him on the right track he hadn’t been immune to the dangers of falling for the wrong woman.
Aside from Isabella, Nadia was the only woman he could truly say he had been in love with and it had been all wrong from the beginning. She was the ex-girlfriend of a drug dealer that had turned state’s evidence against him to save her own ass and Reese was a rookie cop that still believed that everyone had a good side, even criminals. Her beauty had certainly been a factor in his involvement with her, but it was the long hours of questioning her that led to real conversations, that led to more than talking, that eventually led to him completely loosing all objectivity where she was concerned. He had fallen so hard that he never saw what was right in front of him until he was staring down the barrel of the gun she had pointed at him.
Nico saved his life that night, so many years after their friendship had dissolved, after they had become different people on opposite sides of the law, what little connection remained between them had led him to save Reese rather than walk away. It was a favor that he was grateful for yet hated just the same. One he felt could never really be repaid which was the main reason why he looked out for Nico in his own way.
But things had gone too far this time. He had implicated and endangered an innocent person, someone that, despite his objections to the contrary, Reese cared deeply for, maybe more deeply than he should. And maybe he had been playing the hero, but this was the inevitable mess that he had tried to protect Isabella from in the first place. Surely now she had to realize that being with Nico was a wrong that would never be right. She deserved something better, she always had, and maybe now, after all of this, she would finally see that he was one of those better options.
Reese caught himself and instinctively began to shake off his wandering thoughts, but stopped himself. Why should he continue to deny what was in his heart? He still felt as strongly about Isabella as he had the day he stepped aside and let her go. And what good had come of it. She had made the wrong choice again. Why shouldn’t he be there for her to help her pick up the pieces? He was going to support her no matter what, above everything else he was her friend, but he wasn’t going to leave it at that. This time he was going to make damn sure she knew that he intended to be a whole lot more.
Blair stepped off the elevator and onto level P2 of the parking garage attached to her office building. She raised her arm above her head, keys in hand, and pressed the panic button on her key fob. It was the only way she was going to find her car; she’d been working so hard and so long she could barely remember her name let alone where she’d parked that day. She hadn’t had any luck on P1 and was about to give up and go to P3 just as she moved a few feet further and pressed the button again. Suddenly the blaring sounds of her car alarm began to echo several yards ahead and she pushed the button again to disarm it and trudged forward.
A big fat ugly blur was the best way to describe the last week: non-stop phone calls, meeting after meeting, putting out one fire after another. She felt bad for what Isabella was going through, but another part of her wanted to slap her for being so careless and failing to disclose the fact that she was involved with a known criminal. But none of that mattered now, the damage was done and she had the lofty task of cleaning it all up.
A high profile case like this was what she and every one of her colleagues had dreamed of, she had worked her entire career for a chance like this. What she hadn’t thought about was the toll that being on top would take on her personal life. She wasn’t interested in dating--hadn’t had one in at least a year--but she did have family and friends she wanted to spend more time with or at the very least, have five minutes to breathe, or read a book, or take a long hot bubble bath. None of that had been a remote possibility since the day that she took the Monacco case and this latest scandal meant that it wouldn’t be a possibility in the near future either.
Her mind was racing with random thoughts of what she had on her “to do” list for the next day, but the sound of footsteps behind her caught her ear. She slowed down and held her jingling keys still to listen harder. She could still hear them faintly, clopping and shuffling softly in step with her own. She took a few more steps and then stopped short and spun around to see who was behind her. The sound had stopped and there was no one there that she could see. I’m just hearing things, she thought.
She began to move forward again, listening intently. She had definitely heard something or someone and the absence of the sound this time made her feel more uneasy than she had before. She quickly closed the gap between herself and her car, unlocked the doors, jumped in, and locked them immediately. She searched her back seat, something she should’ve done before getting in, and then looked around the half empty parking lot. Still she saw no one. “I must be loosing my mind,” she said to herself as she turned the ignition and pulled out of the garage.
>> Monday, January 24, 2011
3:35am – Gutierrez Residence – Vista Hills
It was well after 3am by the time Cyrus made it back home. He cut off the car lights and engine as he slowly coasted into the driveway. He looked up to the window of their bedroom as he got out of the car; pushing the door shut and silently bumping it closed with his butt. All the lights were out; she was definitely asleep.
He slipped into the house and peeked into Zoe’s room to find her wide awake, playing with her doll in her crib, and to his surprise she didn’t laugh or coo the way she normally did when she laid eyes on him. Instead she looked at him quietly as he scooped her up. Could she possibly be onto him? Was her lackluster reaction to his presence silent contempt, or had this pattern of late night rendezvous inadvertently turned her into his innocent little accomplice who had learned to keep her mouth shut? He gave her a firm hug which she returned by squeezing her small arms around his neck; her sweet embrace nearly choking the guilt out of him. He took her into the kitchen and fixed up a bottle for her before placing her back in her crib, giving her a peck on the check, and turning out the lights.
He took off his shoes and crept up the stairs and into the bedroom. As he entered, Eden let out a soft sigh and shifted positions causing him to stop short, only moving forward when he was sure she was still asleep. When he finally reached the side of the bed he stood there looking down at her peaceful, beautiful, and completely oblivious face. Once again he had succeeded at his deception.
He wasn’t even sure how he had lived with this secret for so long. He had been so close to being caught more times than he could count. One lie here, another there, all unskillfully crafted in the beginning, now flew out of his mouth with effortless authority after so many months of practice. And she had believed every one of them, which comforted him and killed him at the same time. Her implicit trust had played more of a role in his betrayal than just about anything else.
She had given it to him almost immediately after they met. She saw him, past the muscles and football jersey, past the trophies and top draft picks, past the championships and MVP nominations. She understood him and loved him as close to unconditionally as anyone ever could and out of all the men she could’ve had, she chose him to entrust the rest of her life to. She had gladly swallowed all of the beautiful dreams she had for herself, for her life, and used her strength to build a foundation upon which his could grow. It was the thing about their love that had always made him proud, grateful, but most of all, bewildered. Maybe too much so. How on earth could a woman like her ever really love him the way that she did? He should’ve been able to find an answer within all of the unsolicited reassurance she gave him, but for whatever reason, especially lately, it never seemed to satisfy his insecurities.
He closed his eyes and turned away. He couldn’t look at her anymore. He took a quiet and labored breath, pounded a closed fist on his forehead. What the hell was wrong with him? Why hadn’t any of it been enough? That would be the first question she would ask if she ever found out. He knew her well enough to know that she would need, demand, that explanation and anything he said would make about as much sense to her as it did to him. There was no answer, no real reason or concrete evidence of what she would ultimately perceive as her failure as his wife--a failure that he would tirelessly deny. But still somehow it was there, it had to be there, otherwise why had he done any of this? Why had he risked everything and everyone that mattered the most to him for something that was wedged in a place between wrong and right, an experience that was far from meaningless sex but nothing compared to the connection he felt when he was with Eden. It was all completely unnecessary yet somehow, for him, completely warranted.
It was never anything he could put his finger on, but over the last few months it had begun to gnaw at him constantly. At first he thought it was the normal boredom he always felt in the off season, or maybe the fact that Eden’s schedule had gotten unusually busy with all the charity events she was a part of, leaving him home alone looking after Zoe more often than not, or even the rumors that had been swirling around in the media that he might be released from his contract at the end of the next season. Whatever it was it had taken a firm hold of him and had him completely on edge by the time he met Jade.
She wasn’t like most of the women he came across that gravitated to him for one reason or another; whether it was his looks or the fact that he was a well known athlete. Her appearance, of course, had thrown him off and led him to assume many things about why she had approached, but after their first conversation it was clear that she was nothing like the bimbos that sent him naked pictures or threw their underwear into the locker room after a game. He could talk to her, easily, candidly, about the fears he was having about his career, his perceived shortcomings as a husband and a father, all the things that he couldn’t share with the one person whose opinion of him mattered the most….his wife.
He had rationalized that, as unlikely as it was, she was just a friend. But somehow, without him even realizing it, things between them had grown into something more. Chance meetings around town became dates, accidental physical contact became deliberate, and finally, any attempts that either of them made to keep things from crossing the line failed to exist and he had allowed himself to be pulled into doing the unthinkable.
The thought of it all brought tears to his eyes and as he sat down on the edge of the bed he let one fall down his cheek forming a salted trail of shame as he came crashing down from his post coital high. These were the only emotions he ever felt now; a combination of guilt, fear, and a twisted and impossible love for both his family and for Jade. Never before in his life had he felt so empty and conflicted, yet at the same time disgustingly fulfilled.
After a few moments he collected himself, wiped the wetness from his face, got undressed and slid under the covers next to Eden. True to form she sensed his presence, scooted up next to him wrapping her warm leg around his. The touch was like torture, making him feel wonderful and horrible at the same time. He didn’t deserve her blind faith, but he would take it; he had too. In his own dysfunctional way he needed it to hold things together. He tucked his arm around her and pulled her closer, pressing his lips to the nape of her neck.
Her hair smelled like cinnamon, just one more thing that he loved about her, that he needed, one of the many damn good reasons not to ever be unfaithful to her again. To hold her like this and breathe her in should’ve been all he needed to stop, but it wasn’t. And as the hope that it could be slowly drained out him, he pulled her closer to him, in vain, once more holding on for dear life. Another night with her in his arms; another night of having his cake and eating it too; another night of his trusting, loving wife remaining ignorant to the secret that could shatter her entire world.
>> Sunday, January 9, 2011
Java Jolt Coffee Shop - Downtown Las Vistas
Sienna flipped the pages of her newspaper quietly, scanning the ads in the employment section trying not to draw attention to herself. The darkest corner of the most out of the way coffee shop she could think of still didn’t feel covert enough to hide the fact that she was dead broke, and wearing the same outfit for the second time in a week. Selling off most of her jewelry, a few handbags, and her favorite pair of Gucci boots had only given her enough to settle the last of her outstanding credit card bills, but without any steady income how was she supposed to live? How did regular people do this all the time? Having to plan and figure out how to pay for the most basic necessities like food, shelter, and valet parking. What was the world coming to when she couldn’t even scrounge up a few bucks to have someone else park her damn car?
Her hopes continued to drop as she perused add after crappy add. She had been holed up there for the better part of an hour trying to find something to do that didn't involve too much effort on her part, having already decided against trying for a retail position again, and at this point she wasn’t holding out much hope for getting the hostess job at Giovanni's. Anything that involved heavy lifting, working with animals, or dealing with children was out and she knew any job that required computer skills beyond web surfing and texting was way over her head.
All of a sudden the top corner of the newspaper began to flop down removing the barrier she had between herself and the other patrons. She snapped it straight and pulled it closer to shield her face. The only thing worse than stooping to looking for a job in a place like this was to have someone she knew see her doing it. "Can I get you anything else?" the server startled her, causing her to nearly knock over her coffee. She grabbed the mug and shoved it in his direction. "You can start by bringing some coffee that doesn't taste like dish water. When did you make this, last week?”
"If you think you can do a better job why don't you come behind the counter and give it a shot." Sienna put down the paper and glared at the man incredulously, her anger casting away her need to be anonymous. “What did you just say to me? Does your boss know that you’re out here serving poison to his customers and treating them like shit?”
“I’d say it’s fair considering how you just treated me and at this point I don’t think he’d have a problem with it. So what’s it going to be princess? You want me to get you another one or are going make it yourself?” Sienna grabbed the newspaper, stood up and pushed past him toward the door. "I don't do manual labor and I certainly don't take orders from assholes like you."
"Hey, I just thought you might need the work since you had the employment section wide open. I guess you're looking for that cushy vice president position you've been holding out for." She stopped in her tracks, exposed, embarrassed, and shot him a look that should have killed him on the spot. The satisfied smirk he gave her in return infuriated her all the more. “Go to hell,” she hissed over her shoulder as she covered her face with her hand and stormed out the door.
Bolthouse Beach House - Azura Beach
"Who doesn't have measuring cups?" Blair mumbled to herself as she fumbled through the half empty cabinets and drawers in Blake's kitchen. She came up empty again after looking through another drawer and officially called off her search. "Blake, where are your measuring cups? Blake!" she shouted when he didn't answer. A duet of yelling and cat calling suddenly erupted from the living room and a few moments later Blake walked backwards into the kitchen, nearly running into the island; his eyes still glued on the television.
"What's up?" he asked, still not looking at her. "I'm trying to finish dinner. Where are the measuring cups?" Blake bent down and opened the cabinet under the sink and produced the missing kitchen utensil. Shaking her head in disbelief, she snatched it from him and went to the sink to fill it up. "This isn’t' what I had in mind when I agreed to come over for dinner; me cooking while you and A.J. watch football. The least you could do is set the table or make the salad or something." Finally giving her his full attention, he flashed a smile, grabbed a bag of lettuce from the refrigerator, and dumped it into a large glass bowl that was already on the counter. "There. Salad made. Come over next weekend and I'll do all the cooking, okay?"
She rolled her eyes and shoved the casserole she'd been working on in the oven. "As tasty as mini egg rolls and hot pockets would be, I won't be here next weekend. I'm going to visit mom and dad." She paused before she continued, her voice lowered to a near whisper. "You should come with me." Blake narrowed his eyes and looked away from her and back at the television as A.J. jumped up shouting obscenities when his team missed another touchdown. He remained silent for a few moments before giving her the answer she already knew was coming.
"You know I can't do that."
"You can't or you won't?"
"Both. Just drop it Blair, please."
"Fine", she said, turning back to the sink to wash her hands.
More silence passed between them before Blake spoke again. "Why are you going now; is something wrong?" "No, but I didn’t get a chance to see them over the holidays. And, Isabella doesn't have anything major going on next week and since I passed most of my other cases off to work on hers I have some free time." Blake took a breath. There it was again, the tight knotting of his stomach, the increase of his heart rate, even with just the mention of her name. That same unexplainable reaction he had whenever he even thought about her; which he had done almost non-stop since seeing her at the boutique. What the hell was it about that woman that put everything off balance for him?
He shifted his position, looked away, trying not to look as affected as he actually was. “I thought things had calmed down with all that,” he said casually. “They have but there’s still so much work to do. It’s taken a long time for all that crap about her father, and Nico DeSantos to die down and clean up the mess that Thad made of everything. I’m just now getting call backs for potential contracts that I need to nail down. I need a break before it gets crazy again.”
“So she’s not with that guy anymore; she’s not with anyone right?” Blair folded her arms and scrutinized him closely. “You know, I was going to thank you for staying out of the way and dropping this fixation you have on her but I guess I was wrong. I don’t know who she’s seeing, if she’s seeing anyone at all; not that it would stop you if she was. Do I have to remind you of my previous threat? I will kill you if you screw this up for me. I mean it, Blake!”
“What?! I didn’t even do anything,” he said with a laugh. “Not yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t and your track record speaks volumes.” He feigned injury when she playfully punched him on the shoulder. “My record isn’t all bad and you know it. I haven’t always been a ‘womanizer,’ he said, making quote marks with his fingers. “I know,” she said, her voice growing somber again. “You just choose the wrong women to be faithful to and that’s what worries me.” She moved closer and reached out to put her hand on top of the one he had resting on the counter, but he pulled away as if she’d wounded him with the gesture. “Don’t worry; I won’t make that mistake again.” She drew her hand back and let out a sigh, knowing that she had touched a very sensitive nerve. “Call me when dinner’s ready,” he said as he turned his back on her and walked away.
The Next Day
Sienna hurried down the sidewalk, trying to escape the chilly morning air. She kept her head down, maintaining a low profile. Generally no one she knew was ever out and about this early, but she could never be too careful. It was the end of the holiday season and the clearance sales tended to draw a crowd. She hated the holidays, hated winter, hated this side of town, but most of all, she hated the fact that she had to show her face in that two bit coffee shop again. She could have kicked herself for leaving her purse there, though it was understandable. The fact that she didn’t have any money in it had rendered it useless. It wasn’t until she had gotten home later that night that she realized it was gone and a quick mental track back left only one place that it could be; stranded in all of its designer beauty in the dark hollows of that beatnik java joint with the rude hippie who had accosted her.
Of all the people she didn’t want to run into today, it was him. Hopefully the fact that he had been working the afternoon shift meant that he wouldn’t be there this morning. When she finally reached the shop she opened the door and took a tentative step inside. The place was empty except for the waitress standing behind the counter. Sienna approached her quickly hoping to get her bag and get the hell out of there. “Good morning,” the waitress said in a tiny voice. “Hi. I was in here yesterday and I think I left my purse. It’s silver with black accents. A Louis Vuitton.” “Yes, someone did turn that in. It’s in the back; I’ll go get it for you.”
Sienna managed to the return the girl’s smile as she watched her disappear behind a large wooden door that made a loud thud when it closed. She took a seat on the one of the stools and leaned against the bar. How had things come to this? Not long ago she was a free spirit, going where she wanted, when she wanted, buying whatever she wanted; not a care in the world. Now she was sitting in a rundown coffee joint for the second time in a week contemplating how she was going to make it through the rest of her life on only a few hundred dollars. Everything had been so easy before. She had taken it all for granted, and why wouldn’t she? Her family was rich, had been rich for several generations. Why, all of a sudden, did she have be the sacrificial lamb to atone for their wealth?
Just because she wasn’t a successful business owner like her brothers didn’t mean that she deserved to be cut off indefinitely. Yes, maybe she could’ve finished college, maybe she could’ve gotten a job with Thad, but she didn’t want to do any of that and since no one had come up with a better option she opted to enjoy what was her birthright. Was that really so awful? She crossed her arms in protest and let out a sigh. Thinking about all of this made her head swim but she had no choice. Whatever twisted road she had taken to get here, she was here and she had to do something about it.
The loud thud of the door closing again startled her, but not as much as the sight of the person coming through it. “Hey Sienna, I figured you’d be back for this. Maybe another cup of coffee too?” he said sarcastically. “How the hell do you know my name? Did you go through my purse?”
“I had to know who it belonged to. Trust me I wasn’t thrilled about having to see you again either, but I knew you’d be back for your little pet here,” he said carelessly dropping her purse on the bar. Sienna grabbed it up quickly, as if any contact it had had with him would’ve tainted it, and began rifling through it. “Get over yourself, all your stuff is still in there. I’m not a thief, but I did collect the five bucks you owed me for the coffee you “forgot” to pay for yesterday.”
“And you don’t call that stealing?! I don’t know what they call coffee under that rock you crawled out from under but that wasn’t it, so no, I didn’t bother paying for something I didn’t get. But feel free to keep the change, I don’t need it” she said as she headed for the door. “From those overdue credit card bills you have in there, I’d say you do. Hope that new Vice President gig works out for you.”
Sienna turned around and walked back towards him. “Since you didn’t take my advice yesterday I’ll say it again. Go to HELL!!” He laughed despite the fact that he was clearly irritated. “I’d say that I’ll see you there but I doubt you’d have the cost of admission. But we could change that if you stop being stubborn and take me up on my offer. Six dollars an hour plus tips? I’ll even throw in two 15 minute breaks free and clear.”
Sienna almost choked. Six dollars and hour? Her maids got paid more than that; when she had a maid that is. The man must have been insane if he thought she would accept that pittance or his attitude. “You really are unstable aren’t you? Why in the world do you think I would ever spend another second in this dump with the likes of you for that chump change?” she replied. “Because I need the help and you need a job and right now neither one of us has a better option. It’s as simple as that princess. Are you in or are you out?