Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
In the corner of the room stood a tall bookcase with three shelves. The first and third shelf contained books, most of them real estate related. The middle shelf posed as a shrine to her achievements in the form of crystal-like objects. Each contained words like,
Presidents Club 2009, Realtor of the Year 2010
, and the like.
I switched my focus to the laptop and therein found my first impediment—I didn’t know the password. I hoped a quick call to Audrey would give me the answer I needed.
“Try Charlie,” she said.
“It was a nickname my dad gave her as a kid.”
I started with her internet files, the majority of which were left unread. The inbox showed over six hundred of them, most related to real estate in one form or another.
PRICE REDUCED ON GORGEOUS ALPINE HOME
proved the favorite with a grand total of eleven emails that all said the same thing.
I sifted through her inbox and ran a search on the name Parker. It turned up nothing. On the days that led up to the murder most of the emails in her sent folder contained responses to real estate questions and follow-up with clients. I also found a monthly meeting she had with the real estate board and a couple of random emails to friends, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The top drawer of the desk contained the usual; a stapler, paperclips, pens, sticky notes, a box of thank you cards, and markers. I tugged on the second drawer, but I couldn’t get it to open. I tried a little harder, it wouldn’t budge. And that’s when I noticed it, a sunken in hole on the side of the desk about the size of a dime, just big enough for a tiny key to fit through. I tried to put myself in Charlotte’s place—if I needed to hide a key, where would I hide it? I felt along the ridges of all the doors but it wasn’t there. I looked through drawers and jewelry boxes, pill boxes and cups, all to no avail. Maybe it wasn’t in the condo at all. On the other hand, if she accessed the drawer often enough the key would need to be somewhere convenient which meant one thing—I needed to look again.
I returned to the desk and opened the top drawer once more. I pulled out the box of thank you cards and shook it. It rattled. I opened the box, but I didn’t see a key. I dug through the cards and the envelopes, and there at the bottom was a shiny silver piece of metal which fit into the hole and when I turned it, the drawer popped open. Inside were two items; a notebook of some kind and a single file folder. I flipped open the notebook and there on the first page scrawled on a post-it note were three names: DANIELA LUCIANA
known about Parker’s other women, but for how long?
On the opposite side of the page was a paperclip with a business card attached. It read,
Marc Benjamin, PI
, and beneath the card was a small stack of photos. In one Parker was engaged in a kiss with Daniela. Another was of Zoey and had been taken through a sheer window. From the waist up, she didn’t have a stitch of clothes on and she flaunted her naughty bits for the entire world to see. A third photo showed Parker in a tight embrace with a brunette. Kristin maybe?
I pulled out the second item in the desk, a file folder. It included an agglomeration of real estate transactions for the past year all arranged in chronological order. Nothing unusual about that. I glanced up at the wall clock in the hall. Maddie would arrive any moment now. Chief Sheppard expected us in fifteen minutes. I shut Charlotte’s computer down and grabbed the contents of the locked drawer.
Once I turned off all the lights inside the house I stepped outside. Charlotte’s porch light was out so I relied on the soft glow of the moon to lock the door. There was a faint aroma in the air that reminded me of sugar cookies and I figured one of the neighbors must be baking.
A wave of hot and then cold air brushed across my neck. I looked over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of a large crystal-like object hurdling toward me. I ducked, but not in time. My head burned and something wet and runny slid down my neck. I touched it. Blood! And then my legs caved in beneath me and everything went black.
I woke in a field overflowing with white daisies. The sun blazed down and its warmth coalesced on my skin. I felt a sensation in my toe like something was pricking it over and over again with a needle and when I opened my eyes a dainty red and blue butterfly was perched there.
I sat up and looked around. The place was unfamiliar to me and yet I was at peace, more so than I had ever been in my entire life. My body was weightless, as light as air, and I closed my eyes for a time and soaked it all in.
The butterfly spread its wings and fluttered away.
A voice called out to me, but I couldn’t make it out. It was soft and melodious, like the rhythm of a song and the more I listened, one word became clear—my name. I took my hand and shielded my face from the sun and tried to see through the lambent light. When I did I beheld my sister clothed in a summery white dress. She was far away, but I recognized her diminutive frame. I stood up and the stems of the flowers brushed along my feet as I ran toward her.
I shouted out and hoped she heard me.
“I’m coming,” I said.
The more I ran the farther away she became. I tried to run faster, but when I looked down it was as if I was running in place. I motioned with my arms for her to come to me.
“Please Gabrielle,” I said, “I can’t reach you.”
In a single moment, she was before me. Her entire frame radiated with light and when I looked upon her, I felt a sense of calm and happiness. She reached out her hands and we embraced. I closed my eyes and when I opened them she was far away again. She raised her hand into the air and waved at me and then turned and walked through the trees.
“Wait!” I said. “Don’t go, please. I don’t want to be here without you.”
But she didn’t turn back, and after a moment the faint outline of her dress was all that remained.
“Sloane, can you hear me?”
I opened my eyes. Everything was blurry like I was looking at objects through my dad’s old horn-rimmed glasses. A woman hovered over me. She reached out her hand and shook me, and I couldn’t figure out why she was so close. I tried to back up, but my head throbbed when I moved.
“Talk to me,” she said. “What happened?”
The woman’s blond pigtails hung in my face. I tried to swat them out of the way, but I couldn’t lift my hand off the ground.
“Do I know you?”
“Sloane, come on, it’s Maddie.”
Maddie? And who’s Sloane?
“Let me help you up,” she said.
“Do you know where you are?”
I tried to speak but nothing came out.
“We better get you to the hospital,” she said.
Hospital? What for?
The woman lifted me off the floor. She wrapped a piece of fabric around my head and slung her arm around me. I tried to move my legs forward, but it felt like they were all flesh and no bone.
“I’m cold,” I said. “Why is it so freezing out here?”
The girl who called herself Maddie laughed.
“I see you haven’t lost your sense of hatred for zero degree temperatures,” she said. “Maybe if you wore boots instead of flip-flops all the time, you wouldn’t be cold.”
“Where are we going?”
“To my car. Don’t worry, it’s right over there.”
right over there
and didn’t see anything except a big blue blob with two bright circles on the front of it. The woman reached out and touched the side and it opened.
“Okay, here you go. Let’s get you in,” she said. “Do you know who did this to you?”
“Whacked you over the head, silly.”
The tires rolled over the bumps on the road,
dutt doom, dutt doom
“Do you have your phone on you?” she said.
“I need Nick’s number,” she said.
The sound of his name made me feel good inside, but I didn’t know why.
“Can you call her?”
“Who?” she said.
“Gabrielle’s not here sweetie,” she said. “You’re starting to scare me.”
She stretched across me and rifled through my jacket pocket.
“Oh, I wanted to get one of these touch phone thingies,” she said. “Very cool.”
“I saw Gabrielle.”
“Of all the times to talk about Gabrielle, you choose now.”
She grabbed my hand and squeezed it tight.
“It’s going to be alright,” she said.
She pressed some numbers into the phone.
“Hey Nick?” she said. “What’s up, it’s Maddie.”
“Listen, I’m not calling to talk about your relationship problems.”
“Nick, for Pete’s sake, shut up and listen. I went to meet Sloane at that dead chicks house and when I got there I found her slumped on the ground in the doorway. She’s going on and on about Gabrielle, and I’m totally freaked out.”
It was silent for a moment and then she said, “To be honest with you, I don’t know. She didn’t know who I was when I found her. And she’s hurt, her head is bleeding. I think someone tried to take her out.”
I heard a man shout a bunch of words. His voice was loud and he sounded agitated.
“What I’ve told you is all I know right now,” she said.
She whispered something into the phone that I couldn’t hear and then looked over at me.
“Good, good,” she said, “see you in ten.”
I tried to talk, but all I could get out was
mmmp mmy heaaad isss
. I felt like I’d been bulldozed with a steamroller.
The woman turned toward me.
“Stay with me Sloane, we’re almost there.”
“Sloane, are you alright?”
“I’m so glad you’re awake,” he said.
He had a grip on my hand so tight it drained most of the circulation out of it.
“She’s on a mission to find you some real food,” he said.
“You tell me, do you remember?” he said.
I examined the room and then the bed I rested on and it dawned on me that I wasn’t at home or in my own bed, and I was dressed in a fashion repressed hospital gown. On a bedside table next to me was a tray with a bowl of jello. I wondered why it always had to be jello, and why green.
“I remember going to Charlotte’s,” I said. “I messed around with her computer, but I didn’t find anything so I looked though the drawers and one needed a key.”
“I want to know about when you left,” he said.
“That part is a little hazy.”
“Try to remember, it’s important.”
“I locked the door and when I started to turn around I got this feeling like someone was behind me. I don’t know what happened after that.”
“Did you see anyone?” he said.
“A figure, maybe in grey or black. I don’t know. It all happened so fast. And then I opened my eyes and Maddie was there.”
“And that’s all you remember?”
“Are you still mad at me?” I said. “Because I’m sorry about what I—”
The door opened.
“Ah, you’re awake.”
A man in a white coat flashing a shiny pair of dentures and hair the color of tinsel approached my bed.
“You gave this one a scare little lady,” he said, and thumbed in Nick’s direction.
“I’m fine now though, right?”
“It looks like it,” the doctor said. “I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“What’s your name?”
“I don’t mean to question your judgment, but is that necessary?” I said. “I know who I am.”
“Just answer the question please.”
“Sloane Alice Monroe.”
“And do you know where you are, Sloane?” he said.
“A hospital I guess, although I can’t tell you which one.”
“Good, very good. Who is the current president of the United States?”
“How about my favorite president?”
He made a face that displayed his many wrinkles and sighed.
“Alright, fine,” he said.
“That would be the guy who freed the slaves in 1863 and goes by the name of Abraham Lincoln. Did you know he was the first president to ever be assassinated and the first president to have a beard?”
He shook his head.
“I did not know that.”
“Would you like me to recite the Emancipation Proclamation too, because I can.”
Nick stood off to the side with a wide grin on his face.
“Don’t tempt her or she’ll have us here all night,” he said to the doctor.
“I want to run a couple of tests,” he said.
“Why?” I said.
“You sustained a concussion, one substantial enough to cause a temporary loss of memory.”
“But I feel fine now. What kind of tests?”
“The usual—strength, balance, coordination,” he said.
He gazed for a long moment at my chart.
“I also ordered an MRI.”
“That sounds serious,” Nick said.
“It’s nothing to worry about right now; I just want to make sure her brain is not bruised or bleeding.”
“I want to go home. When will that be possible?”
The doctor patted my head.
“I’ll come back and check on you in a little while.”
He walked out and the chief walked in.
“Mind if I come in?” he said.
“Not at all,” I said.
“How’s the patient?”
“She’ll live,” Nick said.
“I’m glad you came,” I said. “We need to talk.”
“No need for that. Madison filled me in.”
Having Maddie discuss her findings with the chief was for the best. The medical jargon she liked to use sounded like a bunch of gibberish to me.
“So?” I said.
“Why didn’t you come to see me
going to the victim’s house,” he said.
“You called her the victim. Does that mean you believe me now?”
I was pressing my luck, but my head hurt, and I didn’t care.
Nick piped up from the corner of the room.
“I’m going to check on Maddie and see how she’s coming along with our dinner.”
“The green jello looks so good though,” I said. “We can’t let it go to waste.”