Authors: Cindy Bell
Bekki left Nick sleeping in her bed. She liked the idea of him being there, but she had to focus on the task at hand. It wasn't until she stepped outside that she realized just how cold it was. She shivered and hurried to the car. Once inside she started the engine and started to back down the driveway. She hoped the noise wouldn't wake Nick. In her hurry she didn't realize that she had left her cell phone inside. Only once she was on the road and reached for it to check for any missed calls, did she find that it was missing. She gr
oaned, but she knew she didn't have time to go back for it. She drove as fast as she dared to the Windward mansion. It was a gated home but the gates had been left open with the coming and going of the police and Annabelle's party. Even though the gate was open, Bekki chose to drive down the next side street to park her car. She needed to sneak up to the trash cans before they were taken out to the curb.
As she slipped through the gates and hurried up the long driveway she tried not to think of what Nick's reaction would be to this scenario. She knew he would be furious. But this wasn't about her, or Nick, or even their relationship. It was about setting Sammy
free and for that she was willing to risk everything and anything. As she walked around the side of the house she came across the garbage cans. They were full, and smelly. Bekki cringed as she realized she was going to have to start digging through them.
As quietly as she could she sorted through the bags of refuse. There wasn't much
in them that surprised her. Then she got to a smaller bag. It was tied tightly shut. She couldn't see what was inside through the plastic. As she tried to rip the bag open she accidentally knocked over one of the metal trash can lids. It made a loud clanging sound against the pavement that made Bekki cringe and duck down behind the other can. Luckily, it seemed it had been a late night for the Windwards because no one came rushing out to see what was going on. Bekki daringly stood back up and began tearing into the trash bag once more. When she got it open she found that it was filled with the broken vase that the maid had knocked over, as well as little bits of torn paper.
Bekki sorted through the glass shards very carefully. She didn't want to leave her DNA behind on it. She gathered the pieces of paper from the bag and tried to figure out what they were. From what she could tell it was some sort of personal letter that had been ripped into shreds. She could tell it was personal because it was hand written without a formal greeting at the top.
However, she wasn't sure what it said beyond that. She knew that she could easily and swiftly be discovered so she tucked the papers into her purse. As she started to walk away from the garbage cans, a voice startled her from the front corner of the mansion.
"What are you doing here?" Annabelle asked, her eyes gleaming with indignation.
"Oh, I," Bekki tried to think as quickly as she could. "I misplaced my cell phone when I was here last. I thought maybe someone had thrown it out. I just thought I'd check, you know how much of a hassle it can be to have to pay for a new phone," Bekki smiled as charmingly as she could. Annabelle just stared at her blankly. Of course she didn't know anything about what things cost. She probably never had to count a penny in her life.
"Okay, sure," Annabelle sighed with annoyance. "Just get out of here."
Bekki sighed inwardly with relief. Then she started to walk past Annabelle. Something that had been bothering her since the day before suddenly came to mind.
"Annabelle, you said your Aunt Kathe
rine never left the living room, right?" she asked and studied the girl intently.
"What?" Annabelle replied as if she couldn't comprehend Bekki's words.
"Yesterday, while Lucy was being killed. You said your Aunt Katherine was with you the whole time in the living room," Bekki reminded her firmly.
"Oh, uh, yeah," Annabelle nodded as if she didn't really
care. "She's always around somewhere."
"Did she leave to maybe go
and get some snacks or drinks for the girls?" Bekki suggested with an arched eyebrow.
"Not that I recall," Annabelle replied in a classically impenetrable
, vague way.
, just think about it for a minute," Bekki suggested. "You and your aunt were in the living room with all of your friends and your cousins. Isn't it possible that your aunt
walked away for a few minutes?"
Annabelle finally sighed with aggravat
ion. “I don't know," she admitted.
"What do you mean you don't know?" Bekki asked with surprise, it was not the answer that she was expecting.
"I don't know because I wasn't there the whole time," Annabelle confessed and lowered her voice as she glanced over her shoulder. "I saw my Uncle Phillip taking off after that waitress again, and it was just so mortifying. I mean most of my friends and I are older than this girl he's trying to get into bed with. It's ridiculous!"
"You're right," Bekki encouraged her. "That is ridiculous. So what did you do? Did you follow him?"
"I did," Annabelle said. "At first I thought he was going into the dressing room, but then I spotted him ducking out the back door."
"Did you follow him outside?" Bekki asked, making a mental note that those must have been the footsteps that the maid heard approaching when she broke the vase.
"I did," Annabelle sighed, it seemed as if it made her feel better to be getting all of this off her chest. "I saw him with the waitress, underneath the window, like he could hide out in that little garden," she shuddered. "I was going to say something, but I was afraid he would cancel the party, so I just went back inside."
Bekki nodded with compassion. "It's never easy to see something like that. But when you went insi
de, was your Aunt Katherine still in the living room?"
Annabelle froze in reaction to the question. Her eyes misted with some kind of recollection.
"Actually, she was just stepping back in," Annabelle said, her voice growing distant. "I was too busy trying to sneak in myself to realize she was sneaking in, too."
"That's something that we should discuss down at the station," Bekki suggested, her heart pounding. In one conversation Phillip Windward had gained an alibi, and Katherine Windward had lost hers. She was sure that Nick would want to know about that.
"I was thinking the same thing," an all too familiar voice said from just behind them. Bekki grimaced as she recognized it. It was Detective Williams. "But, Annabelle can go back to bed, it's you I want down at the station," she clarified, her eyes glittering as hard as diamonds as she glared at Bekki.
"Great," Annabelle yawned, completely unconcerned about Bekki being arrested.
"Detective Williams I can explain," Bekki said quickly. "I lost my cell phone, and then…"
"This cell phone?" Nick asked as he stepped out from behind Detective Williams and held up her cell phone. She had never
before seen him so angry, and for the first time she noticed he had a little zig-zag vein on the side of his forehead that popped out when he was really gritting his teeth. Or maybe it wasn't there before. Maybe Bekki was the cause of it.
“Come over here,” he said sternly in such a way that made Bekki bristle with the desire to walk in the other direction. It wasn't a request as much as it was a command. Was he trying to save face in front of Detective Williams?
“Annabelle, go on inside,” Detective Williams instructed calmly. “I'm sorry if anything that Bekki has said to you has upset you. Let your aunt and uncle know that Bekki will be charged with trespassing and harassment.”
Bekki felt as if she had just been slapped across the face as she paused in front of Nick. She reached for her phone, but he pulled it away from her grasp.
“I'll hold on to this,” he said in that quiet yet furious tone that she was beginning to think she was hearing far too often.
“I didn't mean to cause any trouble,” Bekki started to say.
“You said you understood,” Nick corrected her, searching her gaze for any hint of remorse. But Bekki didn't feel any. She was upset that Nick was angry with her, but she also didn't care. She had to find a way to protect Sammy, and if that meant ending up in handcuffs so be it. She just didn't expect that Nick would be the one cuffing her, at least, not again.
"You're not really going to let her do this, are you?" Bekki stared into Nick's eyes. Just the night before she had felt as if his arms were the safest place that she had ever been, and now, he was her enemy.
"What do you expect me to do?" he asked her in a hushed voice as Detective Williams openly watched the two of them. "Detective Williams warned you, I warned you, you outright defied the requests of two police detectives. Am I just supposed to ignore that?" he asked, each word sharpening as he spoke it.
"I did what I had to do," Bekki said calmly, though her heart felt as if it would pound right out of her chest. "I didn't think it would be that big of a deal."
"What made you think it wouldn't be?" Nick snapped as he stared at her. "I told you again and again just how dangerous these people are. I told you not to come here," he added, reminding her that it had never been a request. "Do you think so little of me, do you trust me so little, that you can't even refrain from doing one thing I ask you not to do?" when he stepped closer to her, Detective Williams stepped forward, reminding him of her presence.
"The point is Bekki, you're interfering yet again with another investigation," D
etective Williams took over from Nick, as he and Bekki were glowering at each other so intensely that it was unlikely that either of them could utter a word. "You think this is a game, but it's not. You keep messing everything up. If it's left up to you, your friend is going to end up facing life in prison, is that what you want?"
Bekki winced at her words. "No," she said back firmly. "And that's what I'm not going to let happen," she returned her eyes to Nick's, ignoring the fury and the hurt that she saw within them. "And if you can't understand that Nick, then I'm not the only one that mistakenly believed they knew everything about another person."
She held out her hands, wrists upward to both of them. "Want to throw me in jail?" she asked as she glared directly at Nick. "Fine, I'll call my lawyer."
Nick's eyes narrowed so swiftly that Bekki thought he might start shouting right there in front of Detective Williams, and in the middle of the Windward mansion driveway, but as always, he managed to control himself.
However, the vein on the top of his forehead was bulging.
"You haven't given me any choice Bekki," he said flatly as he reached for her wrist and pulled his handcuffs loose from his belt. Bekki started to pull her hand
back, the idea of actually being cuffed frightened her. Detective Williams stepped in, and pushed Nick aside.
"I'll handle this," she said sternly. Nick held Bekki's gaze as Detective Williams cuffed
Bekki's hands together.
"You're just going to let this happen?" Bekki asked him incredulously. She kept expecting him to say something to stop the process, to come to his senses and forgive her for her actions, but he didn't say a word. In fact those plump lips that she had envisioned kissing just an hour before, were drawn so tight that she wasn't sure he would ever speak to her again.
Even though Nick had been instructed to take Bekki straight to a holding cell, he didn't. He steered her down the long hallway that led to the interrogation rooms. Bekki's heart was racing, and she was blinking back tears. The last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of him. She was so angry, so hurt, and at the same time she understood why he was upset. It was the very reason she held back from him. They had different views when it came to life. His were so black and white, from being a police officer, or perhaps from his father being so strict as he grew up. Hers were a circular never ending pattern of hero versus injustice, of the risks justifying the truth being revealed. Maybe that was something he would never be able to understand. Maybe it was better that she figured that out now instead of later. Nick reached past her and opened the door to the interrogation room. Despite how angry she was, when his arm brushed against hers she felt that familiar sense of security, the same soothing experience that she had felt the night before. She tried to ignore it, as she didn't want it to assuage any of her fury.
"Go in," he told her from just behind her. He could have pulled her in, or pushed her in, but he let her walk in on her own. When she went to sit down at the table, he grabbed her gently by her forearm.
"What?" she asked sharply and looked up at him with some fear in her eyes.
"Shh," he instructed as he pulled out a handcuff key. He released the handcuffs and laid them on the table. Then he ran his thumb over both of her wrists, to ensure they weren't
injured by the metal.
"Nick?" she asked, feeling more confused than ever.
"Sit down," he commanded, and waited until she did as she was told. Once Bekki was sitting in her chair, he sat down across from her.
"Do you have any idea what you put me through this morning?" he asked her as he stared across the table at her.
"I didn't mean to embarrass you in front of Detective Williams," Bekki said quietly, though her anger was still clear.
"Not that," Nick said dismissively, which stunned Bekki. "I woke up and you were gone. I called your phone and you didn't answer. Just after I had warned you of all the danger you could be in from the Windwards. What do you think I thought happened to you?" he demanded as he studied her.
"Oh, Nick," Bekki frowned as she realized how terrified he must have been. She was gone, left no note, and he couldn't reach her on the phone. With what he knew about the Windwards' influence, he probably imagined some very terrible things. "I'm sorry,' she said lamely.
"If it wasn't for Katherine Windward calling to alert us that someone was on their property, I would have had no idea where you were. And then to have to deal with Williams on top of that, and of course you directly ignoring my advice, as usual," he shrugged slightly and laid his fingertips against the table top. "I guess that all makes for a pretty bad morning. Don't you think?"
"Yes," Bekki admitted reluctantly. "I didn't think…"
"You didn't think," he agreed and sat back in his chair as he fell into silence.
"So, what does that mean?" Bekki asked tentatively. "You're not going to arrest me?"
"Of course I'm not going to arrest you," he repli
ed with a slight laugh. He smiled a little as he added. "Although, if you wanted me to…”
"No!" Bekki said sharply, her mind still reeling from the sudden change in events. She had been so angry at Nick, and now she wasn't sure what to be.
"Detective Williams is probably working herself into a tizzy out there,” he shrugged. “Let her wind herself up.”
“A tizzy,” Bekki repeated, and stared at him with amazement. “I can't believe you were playing me this whole time.”
Nick sat forward and reached across the table to take her hands in his. “And I can't believe that you didn't trust me, when I told you, I care about you first Bekki, I'm a detective second.”
Bekki smiled at his sweet words.
“But how are you going to get this past Williams?” she asked with confusion.
let me handle her,” Nick reassured her. “Now, before we go out there, I want you to tell me everything you learned.”
the letter!” Bekki said abruptly. “It's in my purse. I found it in the trash bag. It's a ripped up letter, I'm sure it has something to do with the Windwards. Also, Annabelle admitted she wasn't with her aunt while Lucy was being killed. She was following her uncle, who was having a tryst with a waitress who worked for the caterer.”
Nick's lips parted with surprise. “You found out all
that this morning?” he asked.
“Everything,” she nodded quickly. “So now it seems Phillip has an alibi, but Katherine doesn't.”
“Very interesting,” Nick said quietly. Then suddenly he stood up. “Let's go,” he said and reached for her hand. Bekki took it, and braced herself for Detective Williams' reaction.
When they stepped out of the interrogation room, she was waiting for them. She was determined to make her point this time.
“Nick why is she out of cuffs?” Detective Williams demanded.
“I'm not arresting her,” Nick said calmly, and kept Bekki's hand held tightly in his.
“What?” Detective Williams stared at him with annoyance. “Fine, then I will.”
“No you won't,” Nick warned as he took a slight step forward in front of Bekki.
“Nick,” Detective Williams stared at him with complete exasperation. “She has been interfering with this case from the beginning!”
"And it's a good thing she
has," Nick snapped in return, "because you missed a shoeprint in the garden under the window. You missed the fact that Annabelle was lying about Katherine Windward's alibi, and you missed the fact that Phillip Windward was having an affair with one of the waitresses from the catering service."
With each example he gave her, Detective Williams looked more and more crestfallen.
"Without Bekki's investigation, this case would be hopeless. Obviously Sammy didn't have anything to do with that young girl's death. But you let the investigation focus only on her. So if it weren't for Bekki interfering, we would be putting an innocent woman in prison. Is that what you want?"
Detective Williams was so stunned that she could barely form words to speak.
"But, but, she- the rules say…"
"The rules are pointless," Nick corrected her. "The goal is to solve the crime. If Bekki happens to find the evidence or the truth before we do, we shouldn't be fighting her, we should be inviting her along with us. So
, if you think I'm going to arrest her for finding out more information in a single morning than your entire crew of officers has discovered since the investigation began, you're mistaken."
Detective Williams was silenced by his words. She only nodded a little. She didn't want her superiors finding out that she had bungled the case so badly, and what Nick was saying was
actually true. Bekki had found out a lot more information along the way than she had.
“As for me,” Nick smirked as he pulled Bekki closer to him. “I'm still on vacation.”
“Okay,” Detective Williams nodded with defeat. Bekki retrieved her purse from the reception desk, and they headed out the front door.
“And you couldn't have told me all of this before having me led away in handcuffs?” Bekki asked as they reached Nick's car.
He turned so swiftly to face her that she leaned back against the car. His hands laid on opposite sides of her, resting on the roof of the car as he studied her surprised expression.
“I thought you were dead Bekki, do you know that?” he stared hard into her eyes. “When I woke up and couldn't find you, I thought that the Windwards had you erased,” he explained. “So
, maybe hauling you into interrogation wasn't the best thing to do, but I wanted you to hear me,” he frowned as he stepped back slightly from her. “I never want to wake up feeling that way again. When I tell you that someone is dangerous, I want you to believe me.”
“I do,” Bekki said quietly. She couldn't imagine waking up feeling as if Nick was dead or abducted, so she could understand his frustration.
“So just,” he smiled faintly as he met her eyes, “don't do that to me again, okay?”
“Okay,” Bekki nodded a little. He leaned forward in the same moment that she leaned upward and their lips collided in a savory but short kiss.
“Now we've got a puzzle to solve,” he said and opened the car door for her.
Nick drove Bekki back to her house.
The entire time Bekki kept stealing glances in his direction. Nick was a hard one to figure out sometimes. One minute he would be gentle and patient, the next he would be rather severe. But at no time did he make her feel unsafe, and that was the biggest difference between him and Trevor. Trevor. She had almost forgotten about him with all of the chaos. Her heart started pounding as she wondered if he would be waiting for them at the house. Would another near-fight ensue if the two of them saw each other again? Bekki had made her intentions clear, but Trevor didn't seem interested in listening to them. He had always been a take what he wants type of guy, but she couldn't understand why it was suddenly her he wanted. When they pulled into the driveway and Trevor's car wasn't there she breathed a quiet sigh of relief. She and Nick stepped inside the house and Nick got them drinks from the kitchen while Bekki began spreading out the pieces of the letter across the table.
"I see why you enjoy this," Nick said with a chuckle as he sat down across from her. "All the thrill of solving a crime, and none of the paperwork," he
grinned as he took a sip of his water.
"You have to do paperwork?" she asked with surprise as she carefully lined up the ripped paper.
"Oh yes. In fact, I have three file drawers dedicated to you," he grinned when she glanced up to see if he was being honest or just teasing her.
"I'm honored," she murmured. "I think," she quirked a brow and then looked back at the paper.
"This looks like it's addressed to Phillip," she said quietly. Nick leaned over to help line up a few of the papers. Bekki couldn't hide a smile. Working side by side with him was much nicer than having to hide everything she was up to from him.
"Here, this one goes there," he mu
mbled and slid a piece of paper towards her.
"Can you read any of it yet?"
"Dear Phillip, Do you remember Meghan?" she said, making out what words she could.
"Meghan?" Nick asked with surprise. "Who is Meghan?"
"I don't know," Bekki shrugged. "No one has ever mentioned a Meghan. There isn't one in the Windward family that I know of."
While they finished piecing the letter together their bodies and fingertips kept gliding closer together. Bekki was finding it a little hard to concentrate, until she
had placed the last piece of the torn up letter into the right spot.
"Here it is," she said cheerfully.
"Dear Phillip," Nick began reading. "Do you remember Meghan? I'm her daughter. I just want a chance to know you," he glanced down at the bottom of the letter. "It's signed Lucy," he said with a surprise. "So Lucy wrote this letter to Phillip. But who is Meghan?"
Bekki frowned and shook her head. "I'm not sure, but maybe Phillip's alibi isn't as air tight as I thought. Maybe he sneaked out there, and then slipped back inside to get rid of Lucy."
"But why would he do it then?" Nick asked with a slight shrug. "It doesn't make much sense to me."
one thing is for sure, Katherine knew about the note. Otherwise she wouldn't have taken the garbage out herself. So, if we figure out who Meghan is, maybe we can figure out who's responsible for her daughter Lucy's death."
“Good plan,” Nick agreed with a smile of admiration. “But how are we going to figure out who Meghan is?”
“Well, she must be someone related to the family in some way, someone from the past, as Lucy asks if he remembers her. So, I guess we'll need to make a visit to the Windwards,” Bekki smiled bravely, awaiting his response.
“You're not serious,” he began his lecture.
“Look, Nick,” Bekki replied firmly. “I'm going to the Windwards, if you would like to join me, you're welcome to. If not, I'm still going.”
He stared at her as if he had no way of comprehending her behavior, but only shook his
head. “All right, then I guess I'm coming along.”