Home > Uncategorized > Chapters 6-7 of Secrets To Keep

Chapters 6-7 of Secrets To Keep

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Linus rang the doorbell and Jim opened the door. “Come on in,” he said, leading Linus down a hallway past a guest bedroom to Taylor’s bedroom. “I’m not sure what you hope to find. The police already searched his room.”

“You never know,” Linus answered. The police’s primary interest would’ve been to determine whether or not Taylor’s death had been a suicide. As for searching for clues about his dealer, they’d have been interested if Taylor had taken something other than steroids, something that directly contributed to his death.

Taylor’s bed was on the far side of the room next to a nightstand. On the other side of the room, there was a dresser with a TV on top of it. Posters of baseball players lined the walls.

“Was this how he always kept his room?”

“For the most part. My wife cleaned up a little, made the bed, picked up the clothes off the floor. She couldn’t stand the mess.”

“Did she throw anything away?”

“Not that she mentioned.”

Linus looked down at the floor and noticed grooves in the carpet from a recent vacuuming. He looked behind the TV and didn’t see a spec of dust. The room had been sanitized. He’d have better luck winning the lottery than finding anything useful here. He opened the closet door and the shoes were arranged on a shelf, the clothes were on hangers, and the floor was free of any debris. He moved the clothes to one side and pressed on the wall and the ceiling, but it was solid. Linus got down on his knees and pulled at the edges of the carpet, but they were sealed tight. If Taylor had been hiding something, it wasn’t in his closet.

“Did Taylor have a computer?”

“My wife has it. She’s been going through it, reading what he wrote.”

Linus would wait until later to ask for it, but he doubted it would yield anything. At most, there might be a spreadsheet detailing his drug regimen, but he didn’t figure there’d be any information about where Taylor had acquired his steroids.

“Jim, where are you?” a female voiced yelled.

“Back here,” he answered. “That’s my wife,” he whispered to Linus. Jim turned and prepared to face his wife who was coming down the hallway.

“Oh,” she said when she entered the room.

“This is a detective from the police,” Jim said, “They wanted to take another look at Taylor’s room to make sure they had everything for their report. He just finished.”

“Yes,” Linus said, “Sorry for the inconvenience. I think we have everything we need.”

Linus left the room and Jim escorted him to the door, leaving the wife in Taylor’s bedroom. Jim didn’t bother explaining why he hadn’t told his wife he was hiring a private detective and Linus didn’t ask.

He knew the answer.

***

“Your friend needs to go to a hospital,” Barry said. With Colin’s help, Barry had removed Terry’s jeans, which revealed Terry’s left calf had swollen to three times the size of his right.

“That’s not an option. You’ve got to do something.”

“I’m telling you what he needs. If one of the coaches brought in a player looking like this, I’d call an ambulance. Your friend has a broken leg. Judging by the gashes all over his head, he might have a concussion as well. He needs a doctor.”

“He can’t go to a hospital. What can you do?”

Barry leaned back against the wall in the hallway. “I can stitch the gash over his left eye and I can tell you how to clean his wounds so they don’t get infected.”

“And?”

Barry closed his eyes. “I know somebody who owes me a favor. It’ll have to be after hours. We can X-ray his leg and get a CAT scan of his head. But he’ll still need to see a doctor and I can’t help you with that.”

“What do I do in the meantime?”

“Keep him still. I’ll give you a list of supplies to purchase. Give him some Tylenol for the pain. Don’t worry about the recommended dosage, you can go over a little and be fine.”

***

Jefferson shut his office door after the detective had left and called Gil.

“I’m walking into a meeting,” Gil said when he answered the phone.

“I just need a minute. The Foundation was vandalized last night.”

“What happened?”

“According to the detective, it was probably some bored teenagers who thought it would be a good idea to drop a cinder block on some of the donated cars. Liz is checking with the insurance company to see if they’ll be able to help us.”

“Any damage to the building? Graffiti or anything like that?”

“None. The vandalism was confined to a few cars.”

“Is this going to affect the value of the my donation?”

“The value of your donation, for tax credit purposes, is the assessed value of the car at the time of donation. The vandalism does, however, raise the issue of security. I know the donated cars idea is a pilot program, but if we’re going to expand it, we ought to consider some additional security measures. The detective suggested a chain link fence and a security camera or two.”

“How much is this going to cost?”

“I’m not sure yet, but I imagine it won’t be cheap.”

“Don’t do anything yet. If this becomes a recurring problem, we’ll reconsider. Meeting is starting. Bye.”

Jefferson smiled after he hung up the phone. Gil was nothing if not predictable. As long as The Foundation’s building and the tax value of his donated car were unaffected, all would be well with Gil. The security measures would cost money, and if there was one thing Gil hated, it was spending money. Besides, the chain link fence might reflect poorly on the property as well as reduce the value of the adjacent commercial properties Gil owned.

Of course, Jefferson wasn’t anymore inclined than Gil to enact the detective’s suggested security measures, but for different reasons. He did have to admit, but only to himself, that it had felt rather good dropping a cinder block on Gil’s Lexus.

***

Colin stuffed his and Terry’s bloody clothes into separate trash bags and carried them to the truck. “Gonna get some supplies for you,” he told Terry, “Be back in a bit.”

Colin drove east across Arlington to Walgreens, passing two others on the way. Along the way, he stopped at a craft store and deposited one of the trash bags in a dumpster. A few blocks later, he did the same at a grocery store.

Before getting out of his truck and going into Walgreens, Colin put on a pair sunglasses and a baseball cap. Inside the store, he grabbed a cart and gathered the supplies Barry had told him to get- bandages of varying size, gauze, tape, Tylenol, cold compresses, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, and rubber gloves. The only thing he didn’t purchase was the crutches. How many people walked into a Walgreens every day and bought a pair of crutches? Not enough that Colin wouldn’t be remembered. He’d find a way to get the crutches later.

As Colin approached the front of the store, he identified where the security cameras were located. He pushed the cart forward, keeping his chin down, and partially covering the right side of his face by rubbing his temple with his right hand.

“Got a headache?” the cashier asked.

“Yeah,” he mumbled.

“Make sure to take a couple of these Tylenol when you get to your car. Of course, I find if wash ‘em down with a Coke they seem to work faster. Can I interest you in buying a Coke?”

“Sure,” he said and grabbed two from refrigerator next to the register. One for him and one for Terry.

She gave him his total and Colin paid in cash.

 

SEVEN

Linus parked in front of a two-story red brick house on the west side of Arlington. The houses looked identical, the only difference being the varying shades of red brick. He double-checked the address Jenny had given him for Roger Powell, Taylor’s best friend. As Linus approached the front door, he could hear music and what sounded like a video game coming from inside the house. He rang the doorbell and knocked on the door, in case whoever was inside wasn’t able to hear the doorbell chimes. The TV and music went silent.

“What?” a male voice yelled from inside the house.

“I’m looking for Roger Powell,” Linus said.

“So?”

“Jim Horner sent me. He said I should talk to Taylor’s best friend.”

The door opened and a six–foot-five male with the muscled physique of a man and the face of a teenager stood in the doorway.

“Are you Roger Powell?”

“Yeah.” Roger stood in the doorway, not bothering to move or invite Linus in.

“It’s hot out here. Can we talk inside? I have a few questions about Taylor.”

Roger turned and walked towards the living room, leaving the front door open behind him. He grabbed a t-shirt from the back of the couch and put it on. Linus followed Roger through the living room and into the kitchen.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” Linus said.

Roger shrugged his shoulders.

“Taylor’s Dad has asked me to look into his suicide. He believes it might be related to Taylor’s use of steroids. Did Taylor ever tell you anything about his steroid use?”

Roger looked to the left. “No.”

“But you two were best friends?”

“Yeah.”

“And your best friend never told you he was doing steroids?”

“Never.”

“Did you suspect he was?”

“Not really.”

“What sport do you play?” Linus asked.

“Baseball.”

“Got any offers yet?”

“A couple of scholarships to some D1 schools, but if I keep improving, there’s a chance I might get drafted out of high school. If I do, I might be able to get a signing bonus. Might be enough so that my Mom can quit one of her jobs.”

The household walls were blank, devoid of family pictures and decorations. Linus didn’t even spot a nail hole in the walls to indicate something had once adorned the walls. Two empty pizza boxes were stacked on the kitchen counter.

“Let me be clear about what I’m asking. I’m not asking about you and your usage of steroids. That’s between you and whomever, God, your Mom, I don’t care. It’s not my business. But I do want to know about Taylor. If I don’t get the answers I’m looking for, then I might have to make a phone call to a friend of mine, she’s a reporter. She might start asking questions, making inquiries, raising some suspicions. I imagine fewer scouts would be interested in your prospects if steroid rumors were attached to your name. That signing bonus, if you even got drafted, might not be as high as you’re hoping. But like I said, I don’t want to cause you any trouble. All I want is the dealer’s name. So how about it Roger?”

Roger closed his eyes. “His name is Terry.”

Linus pulled Taylor’s cellphone from his pocket and scrolled through the contacts until he came to a Terry. He showed the number to Roger. “Is that his number?”

“Yes.”

***

Colin waited until the garage door closed before getting out of his truck. After picking up the medical supplies at Walgreens, he’d stopped at the store for some groceries- a couple of packages of chicken breasts, two dozen eggs, a head of broccoli and cauliflower, and some bananas. He’d also picked up a couple of milkshakes at Wendy’s. The nutritional value was minimal, maybe even detrimental, but the sugar and the calories would be a definite pick me up for Terry. Colin carried everything into the house.

“Terry?” Colin yelled from the kitchen.

Colin heard something, but he wasn’t sure if it was Terry he’d heard or the TV. He walked halfway down the hallway and heard the familiar sounds of SportsCenter. Terry must be feeling better.

Colin put away the groceries before spreading the medical supplies out on the kitchen table. He wasn’t the squeamish type and he’d never fainted at the sight of blood, but there were a hundred other things he’d rather do than clean Terry’s cuts and abrasions. He grabbed three Tylenol pills along with Terry’s milkshake and headed towards the bedroom.

“Hey, Terry, I got something for you,” he said when he entered the room. The sheets were pulled up over Terry’s face and only the blond spikes of his hair were visible. Colin walked around the bed, picked up the remote from the bedside table, and turned down the volume.

“Terry, man, wake up. I’ve got some Tylenol and a milkshake.”

When Terry didn’t answer, Colin placed the cup and the pills on the bedside table and lifted the covers. “Hey-,” he started to say. The first thing he saw was red blood pooled on the pillow. Colin stood next to the bed with the covers in his right hand and looked at Terry’s face, the color of which had turned gray. With his left hand, Colin reached forward and touched Terry’s neck. Ice cold and no pulse.

He stood there, staring at Terry’s corpse, unsure of what to do. Even though Terry had been in pain when he’d left, he’d seemed okay, not as if he were about to die. How long had he been gone? An hour and a half? Maybe two?

After a minute, maybe two or three, perhaps more, Colin wasn’t sure how long he stood there, he placed the covers back over Terry, this time covering the blond spikes of his hair. He scooped up the pills, grabbed the milkshake, and dumped them down the garbage disposal.

Colin picked up his cellphone off the kitchen counter and called Barry. “Don’t worry about setting up the appointment with your friend. You were right. I’m taking him to a hospital for X-rays.”

“Good,” Barry said, “You’re doing the right thing.”

Colin sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the medical supplies. At least the gloves wouldn’t go to waste.

***

Linus tossed Taylor’s cellphone onto the couch when he arrived home. Part of him didn’t care if it snapped in two or shattered into a hundred different pieces. He’d been through it five or six times, and other than a phone number, he’d found nothing about this Terry. No texts or emails, nothing in the calendar, no obscure notes, not a single thing. Not even Terry’s last name. He couldn’t be sure Terry was even the dealer’s real name. All he had was a phone number.

Jenny had tracked down the cell number, but there was more bad news, which Linus had expected.

“Pre-paid,” she said.

Either Terry had a brain or he worked for somebody who did.

Having a name and number and being able to use it were two entirely different matters. If Linus called from his own phone, Terry wasn’t going to answer. If he were smart enough to use a pre-paid cellphone, then he wouldn’t be stupid enough to take on a new customer without an introduction. Nor would he be dumb enough to accept a phone call from Taylor’s phone. The kid’s suicide had been all over the news, so if phone calls started coming from a dead client’s cellphone, Terry’s pre-paid phone would end up in a dumpster. After it had been smashed to a million pieces.

Roger was the only connection, his only option. His original intent, as he’d told Roger, was to keep him out of it, but things had changed. He’d have to go back to Roger, put more pressure on the kid, and hope he wouldn’t snap or call his bluff. It’s not like when he was a detective with the police department and could use the weight of the badge to lean on a person, threaten them with arrest, if they didn’t cooperate. All he had now were his powers of persuasion, which weren’t all that powerful.

Linus changed into a pair of running shorts and a shirt. He tossed his pants and shirt into the corner of the closet on top of a white box with the number “18” written on the side. Before he’d left the police department, he’d copied this file and taken it with him. At first, he’d looked through it every day, but now it sat in the corner collecting dust and dirty clothes.

Linus stopped in the bathroom and swallowed a couple of Advil. His knees and legs were still hurting, but he needed to run, to clear his head and think.

***

Jefferson backed his white SUV into the temporary parking spot at the airport while he waited for Tabitha to get her luggage. She’d texted him ten minutes ago when her plane had landed. She travelled extensively, sometimes being gone as little as three days and occasionally as long as ten.

Before moving to Arlington to become the Executive Director of The Foundation, Jefferson had been the pastor of a five hundred-member church in Tampa Bay, Florida. Five years prior to their moving, doctors had diagnosed Tabitha with stage three cervical cancer and had given her a less than ten percent chance at survival. As she wrote in the introduction to her book, “I gave myself ten minutes to feel sad and then I dedicated myself to living.” She explored every conceivable treatment, traditional as well as alternative, surgery and chemotherapy along with some homeopathic remedies. A month into her treatment, she started a blog and from the outset her posts went viral. After eighteen months of treatment, the doctors declared her cancer to be in remission and two days later a publisher offered her a book deal. Invitations began to pour in from women’s groups all over the country, which helped her book become an instant bestseller when it was published.

Jefferson had often rolled his eyes when he’d heard people say, “Cancer changed everything,” but now he understood. Prior to her illness, he never would’ve dreamed she would become a sought after speaker and writer. Tabitha had been a quiet introvert who rarely spoke and preferred to be off stage rather than on. Not anymore.

The cancer had also eliminated any chance of them having children. When the doctors declared her cancer in remission, he and Tabitha discussed adopting. But as her schedule filled up with more and more speaking engagements, the idea of adopting dropped to the wayside. She joked to family and friends that her books were her children.

Jefferson’s phone buzzed and he looked down at the screen. “Here,” Tabitha had texted.

Jefferson drove to Terminal A and stopped when he saw Tabitha standing at the curb. She had a briefcase slung over her shoulder and a small suitcase at her side. Even though she’d been on a flight for the last four hours, not a hair on her head was out of place and her clothes looked as if they’d just come from the cleaners.

He parked next to the curb, got out, and put her suitcase in the back of the SUV.

“How was your trip?”

“Wonderful, as always,” she smiled, “How have things been with you?”

“Same old, same old.”

***

This week, I’ll be posting 10 chapters from my mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. Tomorrow, chapters 8 & 9.

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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