Home > Uncategorized > Chapters 4-5 of Secrets To Keep

Chapters 4-5 of Secrets To Keep

StK_bookcover_mkFOUR

Jefferson sipped a cup of coffee as he sat on the leather couch in his living room and watched the local morning news. In the hour he’d been monitoring the news, having checked each of the four local stations, he’d yet to see a single mention of the accident. Maybe the young man hadn’t been injured as badly Jefferson had thought.

He muted the television when his cellphone rang. The caller id displayed “Foundation” on the screen. He let the phone ring three times before he answered it. “This is Jefferson.”

“Mr. Beale,” Liz said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t think this could wait.” Liz was the administrative assistant, his administrative assistant, at The Gilbert and Penny Bonner Foundation, where Jefferson worked as the Executive Director.

“You sound anxious, Liz. Is everything okay?”

“There’s glass and metal all over the back parking lot and three of the donated cars are ruined.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m a little shaken. I can’t believe somebody would do something like this.”

“Is there any other damage?”

“Not that I’ve seen so far.”

“Is there someone there with you?”

“Yes, Alexis and I got here at the same time. She was the one who noticed the damage first.”

“Have you called the police yet?”

“No, I thought I should call you first.”

“We’ll need to notify the police so go ahead and call them. We’ll probably need to contact the insurance company as well, but that can wait until later. If you come across anything else, let me know. I’ll be there as soon as I finish with my meeting.”

Jefferson ended the call and un-muted the television.

***

“Tell me again what happened,” Colin said. Ten minutes after Terry’s phone call, Colin had arrived. He carried Terry to his truck and placed him in the passenger seat, having reclined the seat as far back as it would go. Terry dripped blood on the floor, the console, and the door. Colin handed Terry a towel, but it was pointless. He had too many injuries and there was too much blood. Colin tossed the bike into the bed of the truck and stashed the backpack behind the seat.

“I told you on the phone.”

“Tell me again.”

“A car swerved right at me.”

“Was he trying to hit you?”

“It sure seemed like it. That or he was drunk. I’m not sure. It all happened so fast.”

“Did you recognize him?”

“Never seen him before in my life.”

“And he didn’t get out and help?”

“He stopped like he was going to, but then he drove off.”

“I don’t get it,” Colin said.

“I don’t either.”

“I got the bike and the backpack. Did you have anything else with you? We don’t want to leave anything behind.”

“That’s everything.”

“You got your phone?”

Terry nodded his head. “Which hospital are we going to?”

“We’re not.”

***

After driving away from the accident, Jefferson had avoided the main roads. He waited three seconds at every stop sign, stopped when the traffic light turned yellow, and otherwise kept the car’s speed just below the speed limit. If he wouldn’t be able to provide a good explanation as to why he was driving this Lexus, then he certainly wouldn’t be able to offer one for the smashed windshield, dented hood, and whatever other damage the young man’s body had inflicted on the car. No right-minded police officer would believe he’d run into a deer inside the city limits.

He crossed Jackson Avenue and drove down Nickel Street, a two-lane road separating the south side of The Foundation’s building from a residential neighborhood. Gil Bonner had named the road himself, because in his own words, “he’d gotten the land for a nickel.” Jefferson turned into The Foundation’s rear parking lot and returned the Lexus to the spot from where he’d taken it.

In addition to the smashed windshield and the dents on the hood, the bumper was dented, the right headlight was cracked, and there were innumerable scratches all along the car. Jefferson found some spots of blood, which he wiped off with a rag he’d found in the car’s trunk.

He searched the parking lot until he found a concrete cinder block next to the dumpster. Jefferson carried it to the Lexus and dropped the cinder block on the hood, the bumper, and the windshield multiple times. After he finished with the Lexus, he did the same to the cars to the right and left. When he’d finished vandalizing all three cars, Jefferson dropped the cinder block on the ground next to one of the cars. Even if they checked it for fingerprints, he wasn’t worried. He’d been the one who’d hauled it out to the dumpster in the first place.

The sun peaked over the horizon and Jefferson wiped the sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt, which no longer smelled of Candice’s perfume. He picked up the rag with the spots of blood on it and placed it inside a plastic bag he’d found in the dumpster. Jefferson got into his white SUV, turned the air conditioner on high, and drove towards home. But first, he stopped at a shopping center and turned into the alley where he put the plastic bag deep inside one of the dumpsters.

At home, Jefferson undressed in the laundry room and put his clothes in the washer. He walked naked across the house to the bathroom where he took a long, hot shower. After toweling himself dry, Jefferson dressed in blue slacks and a white dress shirt and picked out a red tie to put on later. He made himself a cup of coffee, turned on the TV, and sat down on the couch to watch the news.

***

“Why aren’t we going to the hospital?” Terry asked.

“Too many questions.”

“Can’t you just drop me off at the entrance to the emergency room?”

“No.”

“How about at the corner and I’ll walk to the emergency room?”

“If you walk into an emergency room, they’re going to ask you questions. You look like somebody beat the hell out of you. They’re not going to fix you up and send you on your way. What are you going to tell them? You fell down some stairs? Where? When? Some guys jumped you? Again, when and where? Why did they jump you? If I take you to the hospital, the police are going to be all over you and they’re not going to stop until they get a satisfactory answer. And if they’re all over you, then they’re going to be all over me.”

“I could claim amnesia, that I don’t remember anything.”

“Do you really think they’ll believe that?”

“So what’s the plan?”

“A guy owes me some favors. I’m going to call him and he’ll fix you up. You’re going to be fine. I promise.”

Colin pushed the button on the garage door opener. He parked the truck inside the garage and waited until the garage door had closed before getting out of the truck. He didn’t need any of his neighbors to see him get out of his truck covered in blood.

***

Linus grabbed two Advil and a bottled water from the duffel bag on the car floorboard. He washed down the pills with one swallow of water. He’d thought he was prepared, that he’d done the requisite training for a fifty-mile run, but his body didn’t feel like it. The way he hurt, he felt as if he hadn’t trained at all.

Linus had always been a runner, cross-country in high school, the occasional 10k and marathon in college and after college, but it wasn’t until last year that he’d started running further. He woke up one day with nowhere to go or be, nothing to do, put on his running clothes, grabbed his house key, cellphone, a twenty-dollar bill, and took off. Those were the best thirty miles he’d ever run. Yesterday’s fifty were the worst.

With Taylor’s phone in his right hand he checked the call log and read the text messages. With his own phone in his left hand, he called Jenny.

“You get the job?” she asked.

“Why do you keep giving my name to people?” he asked.

“If I didn’t, you’d starve from lack of work.”

He ignored her comment and concentrated on Taylor’s phone.

“You haven’t answered my question?” she asked.

“There’s a such a thing as client confidentiality,” he said.

“Whatever. I know you didn’t call me to shoot the breeze or ask how my day was going. You want information. Just like always. Keep in mind that the information highway is not a one way road.”

“What do you want?”

“Same as always. The story before anybody else.”

Jenny Stapleton had worked as a newspaper reporter until six months ago when she’d left to take a job with an online magazine. According to what she’d told Linus, her departure from the newspaper had been a mutual decision. They were ready to fire her for what they considered a breach of ethics and she was ready to quit, tired of working for pansies and catering to the city’s elite. Those were her words.

“Agreed,” Linus said.

“I wasn’t finished. And you keep me posted throughout the investigation.”

“But you can’t publish anything ahead of time without my approval.”

“Sure, fine, whatever you say,” Jenny said, “What do you need?”

“Who is Jim Horner? I also need to know about Taylor and his best friend, Roger. You’ll have to find his last name, because it’s not in Taylor’s phone. Also, who has been known to deal steroids to high school students?”

“Jeez, why don’t I do your job for you?”

 

FIVE

Jefferson sat down at his office desk and picked up one of The Foundation’s new brochures. The words “You Can Make A Difference” were emboldened across the front cover above a picture of destitute and forlorn-looking women and children from a third world country. Jefferson couldn’t remember where the picture had been taken. At Jefferson’s request, the designer airbrushed out the men who’d been in the original photograph and replaced them with more women and children. The inside of the brochure, along with containing more pictures of women and children, described the mission and work of The Gilbert and Penny Bonner Foundation. “We aim to instill hope and opportunity to women and children in impoverished nations.” The brochure’s last two pages guided the reader as to how he or she might participate in and contribute to The Foundation’s life-changing work. A person could give by check, setup an ongoing bank draft, donate shares of stocks or parcels of real estate, assign The Foundation as the beneficiary on a retirement account or insurance policy, and, Jefferson’s latest idea, donate a car. The donor of the car would receive a tax credit for the car’s value while The Foundation would sell the car and keep the proceeds.

Jefferson returned the brochure to the stack on his desk and picked up the second one he’d commissioned, the one targeted towards churches and other religious organizations. The pictures were identical although arranged in a different order, the appeal to make a difference the same, but the means by which one might do so was different. Instead of seeking the donation of assets or money, the second brochure offered individuals and groups the opportunity to join The Foundation on a trip to one of these countries. The Foundation would handle all of the arrangements- travel, housing, and food as well as provide the opportunity to work with the less fortunate. In exchange for taking care of the arrangements, The Foundation charged a set fee, which varied by the size of the group and included a slight administrative fee to cover The Foundation’s expense for organizing the trip and handling the arrangements.

Jefferson placed a couple of the brochures on the other side of the desk so the detective would see them when they discussed the damaged cars in the rear parking lot.

***

“Are you comfortable?” Colin asked. He’d carried Terry from the garage, through the house, and laid him on the bed in the spare bedroom. Colin and Terry were nearly identical in height, weight, and physical build- five-ten, one seventy, and all muscle. Carrying Terry wasn’t a problem, but keeping his blood off the walls and carpet was. He made a mental note to clean up the blood later.

“I can’t take the pain much longer. When is your guy going to get here?”

“Soon. Don’t worry.”

Terry’s jeans were shredded and stained with blood, but Colin wasn’t about to try to take them off. He didn’t know what sort of injuries he might find and he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out. Terry’s arms were covered with abrasions and cuts and there was a gash above his left eye. With so much blood, Colin couldn’t tell where the injuries actually began.

“I need something for the pain.”

“He’ll be here soon. You get some rest.”

Colin left the bedroom and walked into the living room. He pulled out his cellphone and called Barry Mines. “I need a favor,” he said to Barry when he answered the phone. “I have a friend who needs medical attention, but I can’t take him to the hospital.”

“What happened?”

“He was hit by a car.”

“Colin, I’m not a doctor. I’m a trainer.”

“But you bandage wounds and work on people’s injuries, right?”

Barry sighed. “Yes.”

“Then you’ll do. Be here in ten minutes.”

“But I’m at work.”

“This is an emergency. Ten minutes. You owe me.”

***

Liz notified Jefferson when the detective arrived. Jefferson came out of his office and accompanied the detective as he inspected the crime scene. The detective took pictures of the parking lot and the damaged cars. He made notes on a legal pad, which Jefferson attempted to read over the detective’s shoulder, but he couldn’t decipher the man’s handwriting. When the detective finished in the parking lot, the two returned to Jefferson’s office.

“What do you think happened?” Jefferson asked.

“Probably some bored teenagers.”

“Have there been similar acts of vandalism nearby?”

“None that have been reported, but if the value is negligible, meaning not worth filing an insurance claim, people don’t always call it in. On the other hand, somebody always has to be the first victim.”

“Gang activity?” Jefferson asked.

“Unlikely. We don’t have much gang activity in this part of Arlington.”

“It seems so strange. Random.”

“Look, I’m going to be honest with you. We’ll do what we can, but without video surveillance or an eye-witness account, the chances of us finding who did this are very slim.”

“I understand.”

“If I were you, I’d make that back parking lot more secure. It wouldn’t hurt to put up a chain link fence and a couple of cameras. You’ve got some lights back there, but the building shields the parking lot from Jackson Avenue. Nobody can see what’s going on behind your building.”

“Thank you. I’ll make sure to bring your suggestions to the attention of our board.”

The detective handed a copy of the report to Jefferson. “I’m assuming you’ll need a copy for your insurance claim.”

***

Colin stared out the window looking for Barry. His cellphone rang and he looked at the display, hoping it was Barry explaining why he was late. It wasn’t Barry. “Max, I’m kind of busy right now.”

“Are you sure it’s safe to make my deliveries?”

“We’ve been over this already.”

“Haven’t you seen the news? Taylor’s Dad won’t let it go. He was on the news again last night.”

Rich kid commits suicide and somebody had to be blamed, but not the parents. It was the drugs, the steroids, the people who’d sold these things to the kid. Colin had seen the news and wondered why no reporter had bothered to ask the parents where they’d been or what sort of parents they were or even why their son had wanted to take steroids. Everybody was blaming the drugs and the dealers.

“Everything is fine. Go ahead with business as normal.”

“Have you heard from Terry? He didn’t show this morning and hasn’t been answering his phone. I went by his house and he wasn’t there.”

“Not a word,” Colin said.

“I’ve got a bad feeling. Are you sure we’re safe?”

“Positive.”

***

This week, I’ll be posting 10 chapters from my mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. Tomorrow, chapters 6 & 7.

To read the rest of the book, you can purchase the e-book for $2.99 (or the paperback for $11.95) at the following:

Amazon
iBooks
B&N Nook
Smashwords

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