Shaking my head at the newest run of events in my usually quiet life I let Detective Michael Stockwell, from as of yet unnamed location, take as seat in my living room. I wasn't big on pretentious overstuffed couches and there were a choice of comfortable chairs available for my invited company. The cop wasn't invited but he did have plenty of documentation so I knew he was legitimate. If unwanted, he was here anyways. I curled into my favorite seat closest to the unlit fireplace. Reluctantly he sat down in the chair opposite me. A look of almost sympathy crossed his face. I had no idea what this man was doing here.
"I'm sorry to intrude, Mrs. ... I mean Ms. Gilliam. I can see that you are obviously busy. But -- well -- I mean," his fumbling was seemingly uncharacteristic to me. To date I had always found that police were more callous and unsympathetic than they were helpful or useful in any way.
My brain finally caught up with the rest of my life. I shuddered as it dawned on me that I had a cop in my living room. Unasked or expected. This wasn't good.
"Excuse me, but before you continue, how is it exactly that you got past my front gate? It's heavily posted 'absolutely no trespassing' and there's a security panel up there," I had abruptly remembered and felt like an idiot for letting it get this far. I must be slipping up to wait until he was inside to ask! That didn't bode well for my current life. Mentally I shuddered, as it dawned on me how lax I'd gotten. Vampires didn't allow for such mistakes and I knew too much about them to slip up like this. I slapped my brain awake and tried to focus.
"Luck, I guess. I pushed a sequence of numbers and voila! Here I am." He drolly replied.
I knew he wasn't a vampire, but yet he was as arrogant as any of them I'd met. I didn't want to remember the vampires, but somehow this unexpected guest made me think of them. I didn't sleep at night much because of those creatures. Hell, why would a cop of all things make me think of vampires? It made no sense, but I shelved it into the back of my mind and waited to see why I'd made that leap. Only time would tell if I didn't get fanged first. God, I hated vampires.
Rising, I walked past my easel sitting in the corner of the room with drop clothes underneath and the picture unfinished, taunting me. I ignored the muse and went to my desk and keyed back into my computer. At the prompts I hit the right combination of symbols, signs and numbers and my log on screen popped up and I quickly keyed into my system.
Once I had my security up I saw that the cop wasn't lying and he had keyed into my front gate. Without asking him another question I picked up the phone and hit a pre-programmed number. The security company answered on the first ring. I authenticated my codes on the phone avoiding verbal words and code phrases. While still watching the man I quickly spoke once I cleared the prompts.
"Peter, this is Alanna Gilliam. I have a breach in security. You have twenty minutes to show up and explain." With that I returned the phone to the base and spun to see Michael Stockwell squirming deeply around in his chair. I resumed my seat without a word.
"Okay, let's try again. How again did you get the code?" I wasn't amused by his insincere smile. I didn't trust the smile in the least. But then I didn't trust anyone if I was honest with myself.
"Randolph's mom, Rachel Hagen, had his wallet," he started to explain.
A wave of absolute dread washed over me. Blood rushed to my head, pushing out anything else. I had thought vampires were evil but then I had forgotten how wicked humans could be. This was very serious.
"Ms. Gilliam, as I started to explain, I've been asked to contact you regarding a Mr. Randolph Hagen. I was unaware you were divorced. I was led to believe you were still married. Also that this was his home," he broke off at the horrified look on my face. Concern and anxiety oozed off him as his obvious mistake dawned on him. I would've vomited but then I would've been forced to leave him alone in my living room. I keyed my computer locking it unless he had the codes.
"And that said, Mrs. Rachel Hagen," why he felt he had to say her full name out I shuddered to think when it dawned on me even though he was calling me Ms. Gilliam he was still thinking of me as Mrs. Hagen -- gag -- but true, "gave me directions and the codes from his wallet with precise instructions on how and where to find your house. She said she was unable to reach you by phone and feared foul play. So I came here as quickly as I could."
He took a deep breath and then said, "Randolph Hagen shot and killed himself yesterday," he looked slightly dismayed to be relaying this information to me. I wondered what he expected, given his job and the whole police informing survivors bit that they were paid to do. Public servants had to be good for something.
I tried to keep my face blank as relief flooded through me. Nothing mattered anymore. I didn't care about the exposed code, because Randolph was dead, finally! I must have let a smile slip because I saw a look of revulsion cross Stockwell's face. Uncaring, I bounced out of my chair to the wet bar behind my desk.
"Pardon me, Detective Stockwell, I don't know where my manners are. Would you care for something to drink?" I dropped the gun solidly onto the bar while pulling out a diet soda and an ice tray.
Puzzled he said, "Okay, if you have a caffeine-free soda? It would be appreciated."
"Yeah, sure." I looked in my mini-fridge beneath the bar and looked for something without caffeine. I wasn't big into non-caffeinated drinks but kept some for the rare visitor.
Obviously he was still puzzled by my behavior he stared at me as I asked, "Sugar-free, okay?"
"Whatever," he responded. Like he had a choice?
I took a few moments to prepare our drinks. When I turned back to him I had filled an icy glass from my fridge and handed to him smiling. I had to admit the silence was welcome. With a deep breath I settled back into my place with the frosty drink. It was all I could do to stay still. I wanted to dance across the floor.
"Excuse me, lady, are you sure you heard me?" He'd accepted the drink and wasn't joining me in my joy. Oh well, I had more baggage on the subject than he did.
"Perfectly. Mr. Randolph Wilson Hagen the Third has finally done the world a favor and departed. His nasty little mother, Rachel, chickened out on telling me herself and demurely asked a kind police officer to do it for her. Well, quite frankly, I hope it was a particularly long and extremely pain filled death."
I didn't bother pulling punches because he'd find out sooner than later I pretty much hated my ex with a red-hot passion that went well beyond the usual problematic relationships. I sipped my beverage and waited to see how he handed my animosity.
I had my answer after he took a large gulp from his glass. He peered uneasily at me, for the first time encountering an extraterrestrial. Uncaring I exhaled my pent up air, I hadn't realized how tightly locked down the cop had made me. I felt like dancing and singing. A huge weight had been lifted from me. Finally I was free, I could move back to the city and hide inside a normal neighborhood and try to piece my life back together. I could deal with the vampires easier in the city. My constant diligence could relax for a bit when I had people surrounding me. Suddenly a horrible thought struck me.
Panicked I asked, "Oh my God, are you positive it was him?"
A tremor started at the corner of my bottom lip as it had dawned on me it would be just like Randolph to fake his death to give me false hope. I would relax my guard and he'd come back into my life and finally destroy me. It wouldn't be the first time he played with my mind just to amuse himself.
"Well, Ms. Gilliam, there were a number of independent witnesses who heard the gunshot. A suicide note detailed his wish to die and there was positive identification by his family and, I think, household employees." The man was still looking at me like I was an exotic species of alien.
The day was sparkling all over again and I began relax again when something trickled through my brain. A snake of fears and worries rapped and strangled my happiness.
"Excuse me -- you said a note?" Briefly I flashed back to all the bizarre and macabre 'notes' Randolph had left me before I finally left him.
"Yes, detailing his desire to end his life. It rambled a few pages about some historic events like the Kennedy assassination and other conspiracy theories. Mostly it spoke lovingly about your marriage. He talked about how much you meant to him and then wrote he'd found out that you no longer loved him. He accepted your spurning of his heart, but wanted to end it rather than go on in the world without you. Ms. Gilliam, I read the letter myself. It was written as if this event was recent. From the way I read it I had thought you'd left him last week." The detective was leaning towards me with a seriously confused look on his face. I wasn't helping him much.
"Detective Stockwell, I think you've been misled quite thoroughly by Rachel Hagen. Help me here, what is it you thought you needed from me? You said the family already identified his corpse." My brisk manner wasn't sitting well with the cop in the least.
Squirming slightly he continued, as if I hadn't just unnerved him, "As I mentioned I was given the impression that possibly you'd come to some harm. And from the way his letter ended with talking about 'Alanna and how she needed him and couldn't possibly survive without him', I even thought you may have been seriously injured by the deceased before he committed suicide."
"Apparently from the fact you found me and have my front gate code I may well have been 'seriously injured' as you so nicely phrased it," the front gate buzzed interrupting my dark thoughts.
"If you'll excuse me," I stood up slowly and went to my computer control panel. I keyed in my password and tapped the code in opening the communications between the gate and me. Most people arrived on my doorstep starting at this point.
"Identify yourself," I spoke into the monitor's microphone that went through the system to the intercom and pinpoint camera at my front gate. Checking my screen I could see the man standing by his car. I had it positioned far enough that casual leaning out of a car window wasn't recommended. This way I could see who was standing or being pushed through my front entry.
"Peter Grange, Ms. Gilliam," came the reply. I knew the voice and the man on the other side.
"Enter your pass code now," I instructed. Had I wanted to block Peter this was the time I could. A tonal pattern was quickly heard. I pressed a corresponding set of codes. He got back in his car as the gate slid back.
I turned to Detective Stockwell excusing myself with, "Pardon me, I'll be right back with you."
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