Still In The Past
Another little tidbit working around my mind was the matter of a citizen's privacy. This investigator Randolph had set on my friends and me hadn't followed a code of ethics upheld by local or federal laws. Our government usually prefers to do its own "big brother" routine and definitely didn't like independent individuals doing their own secret invasion on government turf. The pictures were invasive and the pages of reports far too informative.
The walk home took the same quick minutes in my scattered brain. But still I was no closer to the solution than when I'd left. My vision was beginning to blur from the tension. Once home I walked inside the living room and sunk into the corner of the couch. My home was icy cold nearly as much as my heart. I had no energy to get up and light a fire much less turn on the heater.
Moments later, I heard Randolph's key in the lock. Sitting in the dark I watched him walk into the entry hall and flip out the lights. Then he hooked his overcoat on the nearby coat rack and casually ran his fingers through his hair. He wiped his hand over his face and caught his breath. I watched him shake his head as if erasing some stray memory. His shoulders dipped and he called out loudly "Alanna, I'm home!"
He didn't glance towards me on the couch but was aiming his face down the hallway towards the bedrooms. He wiped his face again as if scrubbing away more thought, then shouted, "Alanna, where are you? Why are all the lights out?"
I'd forgotten to put on a hall light, as was my habit. My gaze was steadily focused on the man I'd married and I wasn't even sure what to do. The intensity of my glare must have caught Randolph's attention.
Puzzled he glanced around and saw my shape in the dark.
"Alanna, is that you?" He came towards me. Reaching past my body he found the knob on the lamp next to me and switched it on. The brightness flooded the room hurting my head.
With red rimmed eyes I looked up at the stranger before me. Who was this man? Why had I married him? Something of what I was thinking must have been reflected in my eyes.
Randolph cautiously sat next to me on the couch. Not touching me, just by my side. I was still frozen both physically and emotionally by the discovery of pictures and files about my friends and me. Both Brad and Sheryle weren't here to share the horror I felt, not to mention my utterly confused pain. I wasn't broken-hearted, just disturbed. The far-reaching implications of having been followed -- trailed -- what have you -- such a long time, unknown, wasn't even funny.
"Alanna, what's wrong? Did you get some bad news? Tell me." His hands pried mine apart as he sought to find out what was making me act so different.
Without any thought I began, "What," I started out my voice was raspy from my earlier sobs. I couldn't stand the idea of my friends having a file in my husband's possessions. That we'd been so catalogued and spied on from afar, and having seen some of the photographs, from much closer than I ever could've imagined.
I took a gulp of air and bit out, "What did you have me investigated?" So much for not saying anything, I thought to myself. I never was one to keep my anger buried too deeply, but I had honestly thought I was going to keep my mouth quiet on the files until I'd talked to an attorney.
Lightning quick, his puzzlement flipped from anger than to sympathy in nearly unblinking speed. In fact if I'd not been watching him so closely, I would have missed the anger. He was good with masking his feelings. But I wasn't sure exactly what went through his mind. His silence stretched tangibly before us.
Assertively I pulled my limp hands from his and demanded an answer asking, "Why did you have Brad, Sheryle and me investigated?"
"Oh, that..." he drawled as if somehow relieved by my question.
I snarled, "What do you mean by, 'Oh, that' exactly?"
"Alanna, why are you so worked up? This is a very common practice in my circle. When one's investing a sizeable sum of money with a new team of investment brokers it's only proper to work up a profile." His voice was smug and condescending.
Calmly he sat and explained the need for such an extensive investigation. He mocked the tone the investigator had taken and commented on Rocco's inflated opinion of himself as a true professional. All my fears appeared to be silly as he spoke at great length relating anecdotes of his peers and their failure to properly check out their brokers. He told me of his mother's friend having lost millions due to hiring an unscrupulous personal secretary who went on to live in the lap of luxury out of reach somewhere in the Cayman Islands or another exotic locale. Numbed by all his words and comments, he soon had me apologizing for my doubts and worries.
The next few months passed without any unusual occurrences insofar as I knew. My business had tripled and I was pulling fourteen-hour days. Slowly I forgot all about the spy file and pictures. I didn't want to delve into that mess and it wasn't like Brad or Sheryle were around to be compromised. Randolph said he forgave me so everything was fine. Content to let the sleeping dogs lie, I fooled myself firmly into denial and pretended I was happy with that illusion of wedded bless. I didn't have any other frames of reference or close friends to whom I'd confide my troubles, so I pushed it down ever so gently.
A lunch with Randa brought me some new worries. She called me completely out of the blue.
* * *
Speaking of lunch reminded me where I was. Turning to Detective Stockwell I broke from my involved story.
"It's getting late," I stated, "I think they may want our table for paying customers."
He looked at me surprised. The café had definitely begun to fill up. More customers appeared to be the bar clientele and quite a few men were just standing two or three deep at the counter. We settled up our bill leaving a sizeable tip for our lingering and walked back to the car.
The air had grown cooler with the sun's sinking. Crickets chirped in the shadows, reassuring me that there probably weren't any vampires lingering to complicate my day. Given how my day had been, I wasn't overly sure about that. We passed incoming cowboys in total silence. I was firmly brooding on my past and the detective was still absorbing my tale. He had to have questions, and it wasn't long before he figured out what he wanted to know.
"Alanna, what did Randa tell you?" he broke the silence and into my nightmare-like musings.
Slowing down, meeting his eyes, I spoke straight from my soul, "She said Randolph was an insane killer and I was going to be next."
The crickets stopped, as if appreciating the horror of what I'd revealed. Taking a deep breath, I added, "And she was right."
Michael Stockwell looked at me without a word.
We got in the car and I decided I didn't want to go back to the house. It no longer seemed safe. Once we discussed it, I decided to call Peter Grange and inform him of my altered plans. Peter offered to take care of my animals, as they'd finally showed back up, and collect the mail from the box. I didn't tell him where I was headed, but that I would meet him at his office for the keys and new codes when I was ready to return to my house. I no longer thought of it as home anymore, to my regret. He seemed relieved I wouldn't be coming back yet. So I gathered it to mean he was encountering some problems I didn't really want to know about yet -- if at all.
Detective Stockwell agreed I should consider new housing, for the evening at least. After some debate I talked him into dropping me off at a bed and breakfast inn, which recently had opened for business. We made arrangements to meet after breakfast. He wanted to ask me some more about Randolph, but recognized the strain I was under and held off.
Without a reservation, I was forced to take one of their more luxurious rooms at the inn. I was happy to pay the inflated price and find my room. The owners had made their inn into a delight of comforts and pleasing colors and fabrics. Normally I would have taken pleasure in how the room looked and felt. Instead I paced and fussed while looking around the walls trying to distract myself from being any more worried than I already was.
My mind was playing with past horrors and dressing them up to play in the present. Nothing I was thinking was going to help me sleep. The bed was comfortable while my mind was not. Resigned to the night, I sat on the bed and leafed through the novels that had been artfully placed in the bookshelves. It took me a long time to fall to sleep, but eventually I wore myself out with overwrought prose in the room seemingly put there to knock out visitors. My dreams chased my dark thoughts throughout the night.
I woke unrefreshed but resigned to telling the whole story through until the end. When Detective Stockwell had dropped me off the night outside the inn we'd picked a quiet spot at the inn to meet on the following morning. After we'd exchanged meaningless pleasantries with the inn's owner who had talked to us on the doorstep before the detective left, we'd been assured we would be undisturbed as long as we needed the room.
The Garden Room, as it was named, was a pleasant place under most circumstances. The tale I would be relating would most assuredly not fall into the category of 'pleasant' and I knew I would forever taint the room in my mind with my memories of my past. Once we'd settled in, sipping at the tea supplied by the hostess, I began to narrate the horrors I'd experienced.
In the distance the Watcher gloated.
My, my what a wonder technology could be these days. Tagging the detective's car with a tracking device had been so easy back at the tawdry biker's bar. I didn't even have to sit up all night outside the quaint bed-and-breakfast, to my pleasant surprise. Once I heard where they were headed I backed off and let them settle in. That directional microphone was so much better than I'd ever expected. I even knew what time to be up to listen to the rest of her tales unfolds. It is pretty funny how I never realized that she'd found that investigator's report in all this time. Quite the sneaky little woman -- not that I hadn't known she had hidden talents -- she just wasn't nearly as wise as she thought she was even after all she'd been through.
That bitch would have fried a sprocket if she realized I rented the bedroom next door to her. The innkeeper was happy to give me the room for as long as I needed. A drinking glass to the wall helped me verify she wasn't saying much for a change. Since I found out where in the inn they'd be meeting up I didn't have to stay the whole evening and could conduct some of my own games. Those lovely bugs were easy to nest in the Garden room and I would be back to check what my recordings held later once I took care of my tasks.
I have so much to do. I'll listen as long as I can but then -- to the phones Batman! After all, I really do know the story that she'll tell for the most part. Even if not, I will catch up later. Besides how much whine, whine, whine "Oh Michael!" will I be able to listen to and not go in and just kill them? She certainly plays the victim well, what with all that training. Time to fly. I don't even know if I can listen to the recordings later without yawning. Maybe I can use it for a relaxation tape. A bedtime story for after she's gone. Must go take care of that party-girl Marlene now. She should be awake and twitching furiously.