August 2, 2009–
Pop! Pop! Pop! The sound of a tennis ball smacking against rackets. Sweat was dripping into Kendra’s eyes, making it harder to see the ball. This time she was smarter and wore waterproof mascara instead of the other stuff she normally wore. She felt good just moving around finally. After the concussion she had received at the hands of Marissa Marceno about a month ago. She had suffered from multiple headaches since then and hadn’t felt like doing too much, which was a good thing because until the last week, her doctor advised her to just take it easy and she’ll feel normal again. Kendra was getting sick and tired of looking at the walls of her home and wanted to make a few changes.
Pop! Pop! Nick wasn’t playing his best today, Kendra noticed. He was all over the place and seem to be fumbling for the ball more than he normally does. Either she was getting better or he was getting worse. She received the point for that. He walked back to the serving position with his hands on his hips. Sweat poured off his forehead and his black curly hair was soaked.
“Ready to quit old man?” She teased.
“Nope,” he whipped off his light blue shirt and tossed it behind him on the ground.
Bugger, she thought. Distracting her with his chiseled chest and arms. Not to mention the strong bunching of muscles in his back. She had always had a strange fascination on strong backs. She had her bikini top on underneath her black tennis shirt and was tempted to do the same thing.
She tossed the ball up and sent it sailing over the net, Nick returned it perfectly, making Kendra run for it. The sun was starting to set and they had the court booked for another ten minutes. The ball flew back and forth between them until he smacked the ball so hard, that Kendra ducked, or else it was going to hit her in the face.
“Sorry,” he called. She looked up and he actually looked sorry.
Well he was good at faking things, so he would be. Kendra reached for the bottom of her shirt, turned her back on him and whipped it off, tossing it on to her gym bag. She turned around and he looked like he was surprised. “Not a problem, it happens.”
“Kendra.” It wasn’t a question or the beginning of a statement. He just said her name.
He tossed down his racket on the ground and she watched him walk towards her and around the net. Kendra wasn’t all together sure what he was doing but she stood there, rigid, her racket in her right hand. Nick had this really stern look etched in his face. She thought maybe it was determination but she wasn’t sure, until he got closer. He stood just in front of her. It was lust.
Nick put his hands on her hips and pulled her flush against his body. Her skin on is his, her breasts pressed tightly against his chest. His hands slid around her to her lower back and he came in for an aggressive kiss. His mouth hot on hers. She still stood there, still as can be, in shock. Soon Kendra could feel herself softening in his arms. Her lips parted to allow him entry. His tongue slipped in immediately and explored her mouth. Kendra dropped her racket to the ground with a clank as it hit the cement. Her knees started to shake a bit, but she was so tightly wound in his arms she wasn’t going to fall.
She snaked her arms up the slippery slope of his back and held on. Her nails digging slightly into his skin. She could feel his the hard length of him against her body, and he was getting harder with every thrust of their tongues.
Nick pulled back slightly, his mouth still against hers, only softer. “I want you so bad, Kendra.”
She was breathing heavy, but once she was able she said to him, “I’m done with tennis.”
He smiled against her lips, “me too.” With a quick kiss, but hot kiss, he relentlessly let her go. Nick turned and jogged to his stuff, making Kendra’s heart quicken. She bent to pick up her racket, then turned to grab her bag that was sitting behind her at the base of the fence.
Nick couldn’t believe Kendra had just whipped her shirt off like she did. That wasn’t like her to be so bold. He couldn’t help himself, he needed to have her, and if it wasn’t for the building being tall enough that the higher units could see the entire court and the fact that they had ten minutes before the next booking, he would have taken her right there.
His stuff in his hand, he walked back to her side of the net and took her hand and together they left the court. He was finally going to be with her after the past few months. Ever since that time on her bed, soaked from the rain, he had dreamed about her every night. He slipped his arm around her as they walked to building. Her skin was slippery from sweat, just like his. And as much as he’d like a shower before getting busy with his dream woman, he found it sort of erotic.
“We need to put our shirts on before going in,” he said as he let go of her to put his shirt on. “Stupid rules and all.”
“Not a problem.” She put bag on the ground and slipped her black shirt over her head.
Together they walked through the lobby, at a friendly distance and he prayed he got the elevator to the third floor to himself and Kendra. He wanted to kiss her again. Lucky, the elevator was empty, and it was highly unlikely that someone on the second floor would be going up.
Kendra walked in a head of him and leaned against the wall. Her face was flush, either from the game or the sexual energy arcing between them. The doors closed and Nick swung around and kissed her. She was against the wall, but her arms wrapped around him and she excepted his kisses without hesitation. The doors opened, making it the shortest elevator ride ever. He would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t want the elevator to have broken down, leaving them inside for hot elevator sex.
He walked her down the hall, touching her as much as he could. His penis was aching, it was so hard for her. Kendra rolled her hips as she walked in front of him, occasionally sending him sexy glances over her shoulder. They got to the door and he had his keys ready in his hand. She stopped and pulled him by his shorts to her, and kissed him. Sweat rolled down from one of them between their noses.
“I hate that I’m all sweaty Nick.” She stated.
“Me too, but it’s sexy, doncha think?”
“Mm-hm,” Kendra smiled against his mouth, as he unlocked the door, still pressed against her.
A thought took flame in his brain. “Hey, why don’t we get wet and wild in my shower?”
“Nicky, I’m already wet.”
Oh, fuck he almost came in his shorts. He got the door open and she walked in, removing her top as she turned the corner into his bathroom. She leaned against the sink and took off her shoes and socks and tossed them into the hallway, as Nick did the same. All she was wearing was her tennis skirt, that was too short but never showed anything he had been dying to see. Kendra’s hands fanned out on his abdomen under his shirt, and she eased it up over his head. Nick stepped back and opened the glass doors to his stand in shower and turned the shower heads on. He had never been more thankful for multiple shower heads in his entire life. When he turned around, Kendra was naked.
Nick had wished Kendra could have stayed all night, but she had to go home to Hardy. It was impossible to leave him alone that long. But after their shower together and
a tumble in his sheets, they enjoyed some pizza together and then she had to go. It had sucked but he understood. He told her would come by in the afternoon to see her and she said she would be waiting. He never really thought that she was so sexual. Nick knew she was sexy but she really became bold in bed with him.
He parked his car on the road in front of her house, a men’s bike was parked in next to her car in the driveway. He wasn’t sure why that made him ticked off, but it did. Nick rang the door bell but knew she was outside when he didn’t even hear Hardy bark at him.
Nick turned and walked down the steps of the front porch and went to the backyard under a huge cherry blossom tree. He opened the gate and closed it and could hear two people talking. Quietly he made his way through her blossoming garden and stood out of sight.
A very tall muscular guy, with a shaved head stood blocking his view of Kendra. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and a tattoo marked the width of his shoulders, and two on each arm matched it. He had to be over six-feet tall. The guy had large ears. Nick stood and listened.
“I’m just telling you to watch yourself. You get to attached sometimes KK.” The guys deep voice just irritated Nick.
“I’m fine, and you worry too much.” She responded.
Nick watched them sit down. Kendra was wearing a pink string bikini, and her hair slicked back from the pool water. The big guy sat down, straddling her hips with his legs on the end of the lounger. When the guy turned to get the sunblock off the table next to him, Nick ducked down just in case.
“Need more sunblock KK?” He asked.
He started to put sunblock on her shoulders, and Nick turned around and left. What the hell was going on?
Half eaten birthday cake sat in the middle of the wooden blanket box that subbed as a coffee table, in front of Kendra’s white sectional sofa. The room was dark except the glow of the television. The flicker of light bouncing off the wine glasses in the hands of Kendra and Seth Morgan. Brother and sister hanging out, doing their usual birthday tradition.
Seth was propped up on the longer side of the sofa, wine glass one-quarter full of Merlot, and Kendra cuddled up in the corner, with her glass half full of Chardonnay.
Twice a year, on each of their birthday’s, brother and sister got together to get drunk, gorge themselves on a pizza or two, and watch their favourite British comedy “Absolutely Fabulous”. Tonight was no different.
“More pizza?” Kendra asked her brother.
“No but I’ll take more wine,” he leaned over and held out his glass to her.
“It’s my birthday, get it yourself.” She told him, then smiled.
With a huff, Seth sat up and reached for the bottle of Merlot, “if I was to eat more pizza I would be diluting the booze.”
She laughed. Kendra missed her older brother. He lived in New York City, and very rarely trekked back to Maine. His job as an editor of a high-end fashion magazine named “FAB” kept him extremely busy. Knowing her brother, he wasn’t easy to work for. Seth Morgan was particular about details, a perfectionist, and needed to be surrounded by strong people who could handle the stress of the job, and of his demands. As his sister, she often worried about his stress levels. He was in a high stress career, and her family’s history didn’t bode well for him. Seth was also the type of person who lived the motto, “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”
If you were family or friends, Seth was the type of person who would go out of his way for, no questions asked. Seth often hooked up Kendra, Molly and Hailey with high-end samples, and discarded clothes and accessories from photo shoots. He even has given things to Hailey’s daughter, Megan, when he can get a hold of stuff for a twelve year-old. It was because of her brother, that she and Molly had the business.
“Any exciting cases recently, Ra?” Seth asked as he leaned back on the cushions.
Kendra put her wine glass down on the table, removed the “8” candle from her “28” and cut a piece of cake. “No we were on hiatus for two weeks until tomorrow morning, to get the final details of Molly and Eli’s wedding finalized.”
“It was a beautiful wedding. I’m glad I managed to wrangle that Vivian Westwood for her.” Seth smiled. He has always been proud of his handy work.
“So is Molly,” she laughed. “They should be on a plane to Hawaii now.”
“Lucky assholes,” he snided then laughed.
She balanced her plate on her knee, “oh whatevs, like you have never been to Hawaii.”
Seth shook his head, “actually darling sister, I have not.”
Kendra found herself surprised. She would have thought for sure her brother had been to Hawaii. He’s been to so many places, she must have lost track.
The two of the returned their focus to the television just in time to sing-a-long with the main character, Edina Monsoon, “Walking down the road, people say hello…” They looked at each other and then started laughing uncontrollably.
Nick looked up at the Grandfather’s clock which stood prominently against the west wall. The dark wood standing out in stark contrast to the white of the walls. Nick, his step-brother Aaron, and Tony, his brother-in-law, often referred to their parent’s home as the Insane Asylum.
His mother was a firm believer that colour should be in the accessories, but Nick just wished that his mother’s idea of colour was something other than beige, taupe and browns.
Catharine Dupree-Richards was dressed in a black conservative gown, and the jewelry she had on twinkled as she mingled with the guests and other members of the Boston Ladies League. The League was throwing yet another fundraiser for some charity that Nick never bothered to get the name of. Didn’t matter, he was expected at them now that he was officially unemployed.
His mother looked beautiful, classy and respectable. She took a tiny sip from her crystal champagne flute, then smiled politely as someone told a story. Beside her, in a perfectly pressed tuxedo, stood her husband. He nodded occasionally, making the light from the huge chandelier bounce off his glasses.
Tony, who was dressed in a suave suit came up and stood beside Nick, holding a champagne glass. Nick looked over at him. He could smell beer, but there was no way his mother would allow beer to be served at one of her functions. “Do you smell beer?” He asked.
Tony nodded lazily, “yep sure do, and I taste it too.” Tony took a sip, then looked at Nick, “ahhh!”
Nick nodded in admiration. “I’m impressed with your stealth.” He thought of
Kendra and her over-use of the word. He missed her. “I’d smile but then we both know that we would be hounded by the Mitzies.” Mitzies was the word that Nick, Aaron, Tony, and Tom, his step-father all called the society women.
“I hear ya,” Tony looked over to his wife, Kayla. “She’s one of them now. She already starts in on me early now. Like when are you getting dressed? Or, you’re not wearing that are you? Help me Nicky.”
“Sorry bro, but she’s my mother’s mini-me.” Nick stated. “Look at Mother, then look at Kayla. Now you’ve seen your future.” He laughed but Tony didn’t.
“I have better things to do than stand around some charity fundraiser every weekend. Like clean the gutters. Once a month, I could handle, but not every fucking weekend.” Tony complained.
Nick looked over at his brother-in-law as he snagged some flaky pastry thing with goo inside off a passing tray, “this would be number two this weekend. You had one last night.”
“Yep and apparently I can’t wear the same suit twice in one weekend. I did however notice your conspicuous absence from last nights soirée.”
“I wasn’t there last night because I was at Eli’s wedding.” Nick explained.
Tony rolled his eyes, “excuses.”
Aaron walked by really quick, and Tony and Nick’s eyes followed him. “HELP ME!” He screeched. Then a petite red-headed woman ran by after their brother.
“Why doesn’t he just tell her he’s gay?” Tony asked.
“Because mother doesn’t know, well I shouldn’t say doesn’t know but refuses to accept.” Nick took bite of the gooey thing, it was disgusting. “She thinks it’s note excepted in today’s society circles. So every function, poor Aaron gets pawned off on a Mitzie’s single daughter.”
“Glad I’m married. But how come you don’t get chased?”
The pounding inside her head told her that eight in the morning was definitely too early for being at work, but since they had been closed for two weeks and had a back log of cases, it was her duty to start on them, and get through as many as she could before
they got too far behind. Kendra could deal with the hang-over. Hailey was already seated at her desk when Kendra walked through the front door.
With a smile and a good morning the two didn’t stand around to chat like they normally would. Both knew what a busy two weeks it was going to be while Molly and their newest partner, Eli were off on their honeymoon in Hawaii.
“What do we have in terms of cases Hails?” Kendra asked as she sat down at her desk. Three piles of folders sat on her desk.
“This pile,” Hailey began putting her hand on the pile on the right, “are insurance fraud cases.”
“Leave those for the happy couple. Do you have anything that doesn’t require me to do math or use my brain today?”
Hailey nodded, then put her hand on the three folders in the middle pile, “sure do. This top one I think you will have done in a matter of hours. It’s an adultery case, and the husband is already positive his wife is cheating on him. He just needs photographic proof to take to his lawyers.”
“If that’s all he needed why did he hire me?” Kendra wondered.
“No idea but it’s money. He already paid. In cash.”
Kendra flipped through the folder and gave it a quick look, “think I’ll start here. What’s in door number three?”
Putting her hand on the pile on the left, “cases that might take more than a day, that are prioritized in order of importance. Most important on top, least on the bottom.” Hailey folder her arms across her chest. “You need some help, eh?”
“Yeah I guess I do, but I think I’ll manage. If these three cases are only small ones, I can get them out of the way today and tomorrow. Then I’ll start on non-insurance pile. If I can somehow get through those, then I have no choice but to start on the Insurance ones. I just don’t want to.”
Hailey smiled, “there’s honesty for you.” Kendra smiled back at her.
Kendra stood up, grabbed her coat just after she had taken it off, and picked up her purse off of the top ledge of her post-office style desk. The desk was classic-retro style and matched her purple and black style of her office. As she glanced around there was a new picture added to the collection of Beatles, The Doors and Led Zeppelin art on the back wall. “What’s this?” Kendra walked over to the new picture.
“Happy birthday, it’s from Alex, the kids and I.” Hailey bubbled with excitement at the gift she found for Kendra.
The picture was a vintage photograph of John Lennon done in an overlap of colours, and Kendra loved it. “This is amazing, I love it!” She gave Hailey a huge hug. “Thank-you so much. And please tell the kids and Alex thank-you.”
“I am so glad you like it.”
“Like it? Oh no honey I don’t like it,” she smiled coyly, “I love it.”
“I’m so glad then. But you better get going if you want to get this case over with.” Hailey pushed the young woman who was like another sister to her out into the hallway.
“By the way, the painters should be finishing up in Eli’s office today, and the furniture is scheduled for arrival tomorrow.”
“I know Ken, I know. It’s on my computer schedule, but I appreciate the reminder.” Hailey stated. Kendra was out the door with a laugh.
Two hours later, Kendra walked through the front door again, her coat buttoned up tightly and in her hair was a white little hat.
“Well that was fast,” greeted Hailey.
Kendra sat down on the black sofa, “you want to know why Mr. Beechum, needed me to get the picture of his wife?” Hailey nodded. “It’s because the address was a hotel, and there was no way to get a picture of them. They were on the eighteenth floor and both rooms on either side of theirs were booked.”
“Did you get the photos?” Hailey asked and Kendra nodded yes. “How then?”
Kendra stood up and undid her coat. Underneath was a maids uniform, “I posed as a maid and lifted a the maid’s on the sixteenths floor master key card. I slipped in, praying they didn’t have the privacy chain on, which they didn’t. Spoke in horrible Spanish, and then snapped pictures. They were so mad that the guy jumped out of bed naked, grabbed a robe, and chased me down the hall. I couldn’t wait for the elevator so I went down eighteen flights of stairs, out a back exit and into my car.”
Hailey started laughing. Kendra could see the humour in it, except the running down all those flights of stairs.
“Where are your clothes?” Hailey asked.
“Found the uniform, and then took it out to my car, my clothes are in the backseat. I need to pee.” Kendra answered then walked to the back and closed the door to the washroom.
Hailey was standing outside the bathroom door with the clothes Kendra discarded in the backseat of her car. “There’s a couple out front that has a case that may trump all the other cases.”
Without changing, Kendra walked out into the lobby. A couple in their early forties stood by the window at the front. She was petite, blonde, and dressed casually, but nice. He was tall, also blonde, and wearing corduroy pants with matching jacket both in beige.
“Mister and Missus Ushkowitz,” whispered Hailey.
Kendra nodded and walked over to them as Hailey took her seat at her desk, “Mr. And Mrs. Ushkowitz?”
They turned around and she realized that Mrs. Ushkowitz was a Martha Stewart look a like and Mr. Ushkowitz resembled that of a University professor. “I’m Mac and this is Barb. Ms. Morgan, we really need your help.” He said.
Kendra could see the panic in their eyes and the fact that they had a death grip on one another. Staying close. “Sure, what can I help you with?”
“Our foster daughter, Vula, has gone missing.” Barb Ushkowitz began. “She’s been missing for the entire weekend.”
“Have you reported her disappearance to the police?”
Barb nodded, “we called around eight-thirty on Friday, they said that she had to be missing for twenty-four hours. We thought that had changed for children.”
“How old is Vula?” Kendra inquired.
“She’s fourteen. Her last name is Garcia. The police said that they wouldn’t help us because she’s been known to take off before.” Mac answered.
Kendra nodded. The police were often put off by using resources for finding children who run away quite often. Usually they find excuses not to help out, forgetting that sometimes even runaways tend to get into major trouble, and that twenty-four hours is crucial. This would be a time crunch for Kendra. “I’m not sure I’m qualified for this job. It’s very crucial in the first twenty-four hours in a missing persons case. Not only am I not a police detective, it’s now harder to find her trail and retrace her steps.”
“We’ll do it.”
Kendra turned around to find Nick Dupree standing there holding a bouquet of flowers in his hands and a flat wrapped thin package. “Nick, this doesn’t concern you.”
“Kendra, please. We can find this girl.” Nick stated firmly. He put the flowers and
the present down on the pink coffee table.
“Will you please excuse us for a moment. He doesn’t work with us.” Kendra explained. She grabbed Nick by the arm and tugged him into her office.
“Nice outfit by the way.” He said placing his hands on her hips. She pulled away.
“You’re a douche.”
“Being a douche aside,” he began, “that family needs our help. If the girl was a runaway before, the police won’t help them at all. It’s a waste of their resources and money. That couple out there needs your help. And I can help you and them at the same time.”
“Bullshit, tell me why I can’t?” He demanded.
“You’re not licensed as a private investigator.” Nick whipped out his wallet and handed Kendra his license. “Shit.”
“HA!” He said as he snatched it back. “Give me one good reason that we shouldn’t work together to help this family?”
She stood there, looking at him. Hating him. For the life of her, she couldn’t come up with any really good reasons other than she hated him.
Nick could tell that she wasn’t happy to see him. Lately, she never was. He knew he handled the situation regarding her and her ex-boyfriend badly. He wasn’t normally a coward but there was something about Kendra that scared him a little. He just didn’t know why.
Kendra stood before him, her long hair pulled back in a bun, that ridiculous white maid’s cap still attached to her head, and the outfit she had on was a touch too small, pushing her breasts upwards and against the material. She looked fucking sexy as hell.
“What do you say?” He asked.
“Fine, but try not to get in my way.” Kendra started to walk around him.
Nick put his arm in the door way, stopping her. He was officially sick and tired of her attitude. “Listen up Kendra McCartney Morgan, because I have had enough, and frankly I’m tired of you punishing me. Now we are going to work together in order to find this missing girl.” His eyes bored right into hers, and he knew he finally had Kendra’s attention. “This isn’t about you and me. It’s about this missing girl. When this is over, you and I are going to sit down and hash it out. We have a narrow window to find this girl. And I hate to say this but I doubt we will find her alive, but I want to do everything in my power to make a miracle happen. So get over yourself, Kendra.”
With that said, Nick had nothing better to do than turn around on the heel of his Puma shoes, and leave her behind in the office to pull herself together professionally. As much as he cared for Kendra, a missing child trumped any problems between them.
He walked down the hallway, and headed straight to the couple clutching hands, sitting on the sofa. Hailey’s eyes were watching him closely.
“Why don’t we go back into Kendra’s office and we can get any details from you that might help Kendra and I.” He walked in front of the Ushkowitz’s, then stopped at the door to allow them to enter first into her retro purple office. Kendra and her purple.
She walked around her to her chair behind her desk and sat down, “Nick there’s chairs in Molly’s office if you want to grab one.”
That was a start, he thought. “Thanks but I’m fine standing.” He smiled at her and she did her best not to look pissed off.
Nick joined Kendra behind her desk, and together they asked questions to the Ushkowitz’ regarding their foster daughter, Vula Garcia. “Do you have proof that you are Vula’s foster parents?” Kendra asked.
Barb Ushkowitz opened her purse, “we took her in last summer.” She handed some papers and a couple of photos of Vula to Nick. “She had some issues with her step-
father, she ran away a lot and then child services stepped in.”
“Vula moved in a week just before school started.” Mac intervened. “She tested us that first month, driving us crazy. She was just trying to see what her limitations were, and with most foster homes, that was easy to find. We can’t have children of our own, so we take in children who need a safe place. Vula soon discovered that she was safe with us and that we actually cared about her.”
“She started applying herself at school more, and she started to behave.” Barb added.
“What did she do to test you?” Nick inquired.
“All sorts of stuff,” Barb began. “She would sneak out, then come in late. She stole some stuff when I took her shopping for school supplies. I managed to talk the store manager into not pressing charges. She would break things in the house.”
“Spray painted the garage.”
Barb nodded, “yeah that too. She would stay out all hours and not bother to tell us. One day she was gone over night. Scared us half to death that we had the police involved. When she walked through the door like nothing happened, we had had enough and we reprimanded her with words and a strict grounding.”
Kendra leaned forward and placed her arms on her desk, “and after that?”
“She cried for hours, begging us not to send her back. Vula kept apologizing to us for everything she had put us through.” Barb stopped to smile, “she really is a good kid. She calls us if she’s going to be late from school, and asks us if she can go out, then tells us where without us asking. It’s like she’s down a complete turn around.”
“She was more responsible. We gave her a cell phone to use to call us if she was late or needed a ride. Never once did she use that phone to call friends or text anyone.” Mac explained.
“What kind of friends did she have?” Kendra asked.
Nick was impressed with her handling of the questioning. She would have made one hell of a cop.
“Vula didn’t have very many friends. She had a few good ones that we saw on a regular basis.” Mac answered. “She hung around Layla Parker, Clair Jennings and Melissa Russell. I think there was another one she mentioned but we never met her.”
After more questioning on what her relationship was with her teachers and whether she had any problems at school. They asked questions about Vula’s parents, but the Ushkowitz say they didn’t know the entire story. That their not required to know everything. Kendra and Nick walked the couple to their car and promised to keep them
Nick mentally took down their license plate to further check out. Beside him, he noticed Kendra, starring off at the retreating car. She was thinking really hard about something, and he could guess what. She turned on her white orthopedic shoes and went back inside the office. He followed.
“Hailey, could you please call child services and try your hardest on getting Vula’s file, the file on the Ushkowitz’s and her parents please. They could be real assholes about it and give you a hard time.”
“No problem, I am a bigger asshole then they are.” Hailey said as she typed on her computer to locate the number, smiling away. “I’m always up for a fight.”
“Am I allowed to ask Hailey for favours?” Nick asked.
Kendra stopped in the door way leading down the hall, “that’s up to her.” She continued down the hall.
Nick turned to Hailey, plastered on his most charming smile and looked into her brown eyes that were looking up at him. “Shoot Nick, what do you need?”
“Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“As long as you say please and agree to babysit for me in two weeks, then you have a deal.” She bargained.
Nick liked her spunky side. He realized that Hailey was a perfect cross between Kendra and Molly. “Deal. Just remind me about the babysitting.” He smiled, “could you please do background checks on the parents and foster parents. Sometimes that tells you more than the Child Services people’s files.” Hailey nodded with a smile. “Thank-you Hailey.”
Kendra left the washroom re-dressed in her black dress pants, and her pink blouse. Now she was comfortable. Her tits were no longer hitting her chin. Nick had a point earlier and that sort of pissed her off more because he was right. She had help on this case and that’s what was important. A missing child’s case is critical and even Kendra knew she didn’t have the resources or that she could handle it along.
She leaned back in her chair to think. She sprung forward and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down the license plate she memorized from the Ushkowitz’s car.
Footsteps on the hardwood floors alerted her to Nick’s approach. Kendra looked up, “I got the license plate of their car.”
“Me too,” he smiled as he sat down on the purple chair across from her desk.
Kendra returned the smile. She watched the relax posture belonging to Nick, as he placed his right foot over his left knee, and leaned back. “Where do you wanna start?”
“First, I am going to contact some people at the police department to verify that the foster parents claim they called Friday night.” He paused, “then I will likely ask them some questions about why they just disregarded this case.” Nick locked his eyes with hers. He cleared his throat, “what do you think?”
Surprised that he would ask her what she thought. Maybe she would cut Nick some slack. He was trying. “That sounds good. We should also talk with her friends, teachers, and check out all the places she generally frequents.” He nodded in agreement. “What are the odds we find Vula alive?”
Nick sat up, no longer relaxed and right away she knew she wasn’t going to like the answer to her question. “Kendra, you’re a smart woman and you know your stuff about different crimes. I’m pretty sure you know the answer.”
“I was afraid of that.”
“Ken, sometimes we get lucky and find them. I don’t want to believe the worst on this case, not right now, and neither should you.” He told her.
She just nodded. Being a positive person wasn’t her strongest suit, but she was going to try. If any time in her life needed it, it was right now.
“According to Barb and Mac, Vula went to school on Friday and made it to her first two classes, then left for lunch but was not in her final two classes that afternoon.” Nick stated.
“She was there in the morning until lunch,” Kendra repeated as she tried to think back to when she was in high school. She and Molly would sometimes leave the school grounds to grab lunch at a little café that served cheap but good food. “I’m thinking she went elsewhere for lunch that day. Molly and I used to do that all the time.”
“Did you go to the same school?” She nodded. “Do you have a map that we can muck up?”
Kendra spun around in her chair and got up. Right behind her desk were two black filing cabinets. She pulled open a drawer and yanked out a file folder that had all sorts of local maps. She dug through and pulled one out that was detailed that she printed from Google Maps off the Internet a few weeks ago. Ken turned around and bumped right into Nick. She would have fallen over if it wasn’t for Nick’s strong hands grabbing her arms. “Um, sorry. Didn’t realize you were right behind me.”
He starred at her for a long time, licked his lips. Finally he let go and took a step
back, “sorry, my fault.”
“I’ve got a map of the area. I accidentally typed up the wrong area on Google weeks ago and printed it without looking. But we can muck this one up.” She placed the paper down on her desk. “I’m assuming you want to look at the areas near the high school that she would eat at?”
They leaned over the desk, starring at the map. Their shoulder’s touching, and a chill ran up Kendra’s body. She could feel the goose bumps starting on her arms, and knew that Nick probably did too. But as far as Kendra could tell, Nick wasn’t effected . He switched from a sexually charged man, who teased her and made her sex drive explode, to the police officer Nick. Take charge and get to business. She seen his goofy side too many times to believe that he had serious side.
“We can eliminate the expensive places.” Nick reached across her desk and grabbed a black roller ball pen.
“Bars too. For starters they wouldn’t be able to get in, plus they’d be closed.” Kendra added as Nick marked off the bars along with the expensive restaurants.
“How about,” Nick said, pen hovering over the map as he looked at the places.
“Places that don’t open until late afternoon.”
“Good thinking,” He smiled and crossed those out. “That leaves us with two café’s, four fast food joints, and a donut shop.”
Kendra tapped her middle finger on her left hand on the page. “Eliminate anything that is outside a five mile radius of the high school. There wouldn’t be enough time to get there, eat and get back before third period started.”
With Nick eliminating stuff on the map, that left them with one café, the donut shop and a Subway Sandwich shop. All three places would easily be a teenager’s hang out.
“Our first step, just became three. Not too shabby,” Ken said.
“Tomorrow, while I’m at the police station, would you be OK with checking out these three places and see if Vula had been there on Friday?” He suggested and she nodded. “Great. I better go, I need to look around my condo for some of my stuff. Plus I still have that stuff I borrowed from you.”
“Stole but who’s keeping track.”
“Obviously you are,” he stood up, and walked around her desk to the chair he was sitting in. He picked up his black leather jacket from the back of the chair and put it on. She hadn’t even noticed him taking it off.
He started for the door, “oh Nick,” he stopped. “What time do you want to meet?”
“I’ll call you,” he responded as he walked out of her office into the hall.
“Right, like I haven’t heard that before.” She mumbled to herself.
“I heard that.” He yelled from the hall, “that’s funny.”
Kendra rushed down the hall ready to give him a piece of her mind, but when she made it to the reception area, he was holding the vase of flowers and a flat thin package, wrapped in metallic purple wrapping paper.
“Happy Birthday,” he leaned in and gave her a soft kiss on her forehead, then placed the items in her arms. By the time she found her voice, he was gone.
“What is it?” Hailey asked, “I’ve been dying to know since he plopped it on my desk.”
Kendra smiled at her friend who was more of a sister to her. “Lets find out.”
She started to unwrap it when Hailey started to chuckle, “you and Molly are so opposite. She picks at the tape so that she can save the wrapping paper.” Kendra stopped opening when there was a thin brown box that wasn’t even an inch in thickness.
“That’s why I use so much tape now. That way Molly has no choice but to rip it.” Kendra laughed. She opened the brown box, and inside was, “It’s ‘Yesterday And Today’ by The Beatles.” She was in shock.
“Don’t you have every single Beatles album on vinyl?”
“I do but not this,” she held it up. “There are only a few of these in the World because the cover struck controversy.” The cover had the Beatles in white coats surrounded by dismembered baby dolls. “This is worth a bloody fortune.”
Hailey’s eyes were practically bugged out of her skull, “he’s totally in love with you.”
Kendra looked up from the rare cover to Hailey, her jaw slipped open. Totally in shock.
Kendra pulled open the door to the Subway Sandwich shop. The place was filled with teenagers on their lunch. Just like Flo’s Donuts and Café Latte, where she had the best Latte she had ever tasted. It was so good she was craving another. Her hips, however, were not.
She got in line and stood behind a group of cheerleaders. They were all perky and giggly. As they talked, Kendra checked to see if they were chewing on marbles, they kept using “like” a lot in their short sentences. Nothing ever changes.
“Hello-Goodbye” sang from the inner depths of her Kate Spade bag, prompting the prostatots in front of her to turn around and give her an odd look.
“Oh, like it’s just the old chick,” commented the Cindy Brady rip-off. Oh, God she was old.
Kendra furrowed her brows, as she pressed answer she leaned over to the girls, “smiling causes wrinkles you know.” Then she watched and took pleasure in watching their smiles fall right off their made-up faces.
“ALOHA!!” Screamed Molly and Eli on the other end. They were so loud that Kendra had to hold the phone away from her face.
“Am I old?”
“What?” Eli asked Molly on the other end. Molly chose to ignore her husband and answer her best friend, “sorry about that… You’re not old. But what was up with the wrinkle greeting?”
“Some snotty little cheerleaders just called me an old chick. They’re lucky I didn’t kick their asses. It’s really too bad when she reaches twenty-five, she’ll be fat, alone with two kids from different father’s, and suicidal.” Kendra raised her voice.
“What a nice thing to teach kids,” Eli stated.
“Am I on speaker phone?” Kendra asked.
“Yes sweetie you are. I’m sorry you have to put up with cheerleaders, I know how much you hate them.” Molly sympathised.
“It’s just not possible to be that happy, all the time.”
Molly laughed. She asked how her dog, Chewbacca, was since Kendra was looking after the standard poodle. Then she asked about work, and Kendra told her and her best friend-in-law all about the hotel debacle, to which both Eli and Molly had a really long and obnoxious laugh over. Then Kendra let them in on the missing child’s
case they were working on. She explained how it was Nick who pushed to take the case and that they were working together. That announcement seemed to have surprise both her partners.
“Kendra, make sure you take a close look at both the foster and the biological parents. And I do mean close.” Eli suggested, “often it’s the ones closest to the missing child who is behind it.”
“Thanks Eli, I was thinking that. I was surprised Nick didn’t mention it to be honest.” Kendra told him.
“Me too,” he agreed. “Usually he’s the first person to suspect the parents or spouses or whoever the closest person to the victim is.”
Kendra wondered if Nick purposely with held his suspicions from her. She didn’t think that he would on a case of this magnitude. “I’ll be sure to mention that to Nick.”
“Ken,” Molly interrupted, “don’t forget Chewy’s vet appointment on Thursday.”
“Shit, I did forget, but thanks for reminding me.”
“Not a problem. Listen, sweetie, Eli is tapping his watch and freaking out because this call is costing a fortune. I will email you later. Keep us posted on the case, and if you need us to come home early, just say the word.”
“Thanks Molls, but we should be fine. If I need help, it’s a great time to break Hailey in.” Kendra laughed. “Have fun and don’t worry about us.”
Kendra disconnected the call just in time to talk to the woman who was working the counter. She learned that Vula came in on Friday, like she did every Friday, for lunch. This time she wasn’t with her usual friends, she was with an older man. They were joking around and didn’t seem to be in any trouble. The woman making the subs didn’t have anything more than that. She couldn’t even remember what the man looked like.
“I’ll take two twelve-inch pizza subs, on whole wheat, not toasted or heated, please. To go.” Kendra ordered the two subs to make up for hogging the woman’s time. Plus she just totally gave them a lead.
Nick walked into his old precinct, thinking he would have missed all the excitement, and his friends. Something hit him. These guys and women were never his friends. None of them ever called him after he left, but he never called any of them either. His only friend from this place was currently on his honeymoon.
“Bridget,” Nick greeted with a huge smile, showing off his white teeth. He walked up to the front desk.
“Nick Dupree,” the short woman with the blonde ponytail greeted, “how are you?”
He nodded, “very well thank-you.” Figures Bridget was in a chit-chat type of mood. She asked all sorts of questions. “I’m really sorry Bridget, but I’m really busy and in desperate need to speak to someone in Missing Persons. Who’s up there?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” She looked disappointed. She was a young police officer who served mostly on the front desk. One who Nick had thought had dating potential, but along came Birdie Stevenson. He should have dated Bridget. “Kim Sanchez and Paul DiMarco are in. You can go right on through.” She handed him a visitors badge.
As he weaved his way through the many desks, Nick tried to recall detectives Sanchez and DiMarco, but he drew a blank.
He walked towards a tall, well built, woman with dark hair pulled back into a tight pony tail. She was sitting on the corner of a desk belonging to a long legged, bald man. It all came back to them now. They didn’t have the best of reputations in the department.
“Detectives,” Nick plastered on a fake smile, “how’s it going?”
The tall guy stood up, adjusted his belt, “well isn’t it the jack-ass formally know as detective.”
“DiMarco, find any missing children lately?” Nick stated sarcastically. He remembered Paul DiMarco. He was the laziest asshole in the entire precinct.
He gave a cocky, over-confident smile, “no children missing to be found, Dupree.”
“Are you sure about that?” Nick was getting pissed off, but he tamped it down. “Could you look up a report filed Friday evening by a couple named Barb and Mac Ushkowitz?”
DiMarco raised his head and nodded in the direction of the desk across from his. Detective Kim Sanchez walked around to her desk and typed it in. “There was a report put in by them on Friday.”
Nick gave a head tilt with a phony smile, “see? Told you. What can you tell me?”
“What’s it to you Dupree?”
“I’ve been hired to do your job by the foster parents to find her.” He paused, “I’m a private investigator now.”
Kim Sanchez walked back over to the two men, sparring off mentally, and
thrusted a bunch of papers at Nick. “Better you wasting your time, then us. That girl has been nothing but trouble. She runs away all the time.”
He looked down at the papers in his hands. It was everything they had on Vula Garcia. “I don’t think it matters. A family asked for your help, and it is your fucking job to help them. That’s why you get paid.”
Nick could feel his face grow hot with anger, but he maintained his cool. Two of the biggest assholes were in a department where families of missing people, especially children, need understanding, and sensitivity. When he and Kendra solved this case, he was going to strongly encourage the Ushkowitz to file a complaint, then he would do the same.
He gave Kendra a call on her cell and asked her to meet him at his condo.
Kendra pulled into the parking lot of Nick’s condo, parking next to a tree. She hadn’t been there since August when they made love in his condo. The memories made her face grow hot and her nipples tighten. That night was one of the hottest nights she had ever experience in her life.
She could remember his hands all over her body as their lips were together, and the feel of him inside of her. Kendra blew out a breath, and squeezed her legs together to ease the throbbing. She continued her day dream filled with the memories of the way his mouth felt on her body, under the warm water of the shower head. Her hands dropped to her lap and her eyes closed. All the tingles that she felt that evening, and all the emotion that she put into making love to Nick flooded her senses.
BANG! BANG! Kendra jumped up from her seat and turned to look at the window to find Nick, the source of her day dreams and horniness, standing on the other side of the glass. Kendra took a deep breath and opened the door.
“You OK?” Nick asked, his hands finding her face. He looked at her intensely.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m, just tired.” She lied, looking straight into his eyes.
He squinted at her. Looking at her, through her. “Alright.”
She walked beside Nick as they walked into the back door of the Condominium. He kept looking over his shoulder at her. He knew she lied.
“Drop it, please. I’m fine.”
Nick shrugged as he held the door open leading them to the elevators. Never in her life was she so happy that the elevator ride was only to the third floor. Kendra just
prayed that he didn’t bring up what happened in his home, and that she didn’t embarrass herself completely. This was a big mistake agreeing to come here. She should have insisted that they meet at her place.
“What did you bring?” Nick asked.
Her head snapped up and looked at him. Her eyes were wide, she tried to tone it down, “Pardon?”
“In the bag. What is it?”
“Oh, um, pizza subs. Grabbed us lunch from Subway.” She clarified. He nodded and smiled.
They settled inside his condo and sat at the breakfast bar looking back into his kitchen. Nick had tossed their subs into the microwave which sat in the corner by the refrigerator and heated them up. “Great idea with the subs. I was kind of hungry when I called.”
“No problem, I stood in line and pestered the poor sandwich maker so I figured the least I could do was order something.” Kendra unwrapped hers. “I figured since you like pizza that a pizza sub was the way to go. I got us both the same.”
“No, that’s great. Thank-you.” He took a bite of his and drop of pizza sauce plopped on to the wax wrapper that his sub was wrapped in. “What did you learn from the restaurants?”
Kendra told him that the donut and the first two places were a wash but Vula frequents Subway every Friday with her friends. “Last Friday, she didn’t come in with her friends. She came in with an older gentleman, but the woman couldn’t give me description. She said that Vula didn’t look like she was in any danger and that they were laughing and talking.”
Nick was about to bite into his sub but stopped, “that’s strange?”
“Do you really by the fact that this woman didn’t take note of the man who came in with our missing girl?”
“Honestly?” Kendra paused, “hella no.”
“Did you push?”
“No, I wanted to get her to see that I trust her. I’ll go back either tomorrow or the day after.” Kendra took a bite.
“Good,” he stated before chowing down.
Kendra brought up that she talked to Eli and Molly in between bites. She told him that Eli suggest they take a close look at both sets of parents of the girl, and Nick assured her he thought of that this morning. She chose not to question him about why he didn’t tell her. It was really a minor issue. “Maybe we should talk surveillance.”
“Yeah you’re right we should,” Nick wiped his mouth with a napkin. “First, I think we need to lay down some ground rules for our safety.”
“What do you mean?”
He turned in his bar stool to look at her, “we need to be cautious. I don’t want a repeat of Kennebunkport.” Nick was referring to the case that brought Molly and Eli together. A case where both of them nearly lost their lives looking for a missing elderly woman and trying to break an insurance fraud case. One of the doctors from a walk-in clinic had hired Eli to find his missing mother, only the woman missing wasn’t this guys mother. The doctor and his siblings were also connected to insurance fraud. Turned out they were willing to kill Molly and Eli to get away, but Nick and Kendra saved the day.
“Understood. We don’t do anything on this case without the other.” Kendra stated. She didn’t like this. But if spending day and night with Nick in a car and not in a hotel room where there was a bed, then she figured she could handle it. “Tonight, I think we should start with Ushkowitz house.”
“Because it was the person who hired Eli who tried to kill them, I figure lets get this one over with first.” She reasoned.
He shook his finger at her and made a face, “nip it in the bud. Gotcha’!”
Nick drew little circles all over his note pad. He managed to turn a few them into psychotic squirrels, but nothing else was productive about him drawing circles or otherwise. He glanced over at Kendra’s page, and unlike him, her notes were neat and very detailed looking. That couldn’t have been easy considering that there was nothing to write except that at 7pm, the Ushkowitz’s sat on their front porch for thirty-minutes then went back inside. At 8pm, a pizza arrived, and Mac Ushkowitz paid. Then at 9pm, they sat on the front porch again, for ten minutes. Thinking about the pizza made Nick’s stomach rumble.
Kendra looked over at him, then rolled her eyes. He could tell that she was none too please with the food wrappers all over her dashboard. She was a neat freak, and he did understand that. He himself had a maids service come in every day and clean his place. He liked clean but he was untidy and unorganized.
His stomach rumbled again, this time prompting Kendra to slam down her pen on the pad of paper, “really?”
“You can’t possibly be hungry still,” she stated. Nick shrugged. “Search the pile of wrappers, I bet there will be left over taco meat or chicken from your schwaramas to munch on.”
“That’s cruel baby,” he laughed.
She picked up a burrito wrapper and tossed it at him, “better yet, if you eat all the wrappers, then not only will you be full but my car will be cleaned. You’ll learn the art of multi-tasking.” Kendra smiled sarcastically at him.
“No need to get Nasty, Ken. I will clean it all up when we are done here.”
“But it’s driving me nuts now,” she complained.
Nick smiled as his head bobbed slightly, “yeah, I know.”
Kendra made a face and picked up the night vision binoculars and watched the house belonging to their clients.
A cold wind blew through her window, not phasing her at all but it sent major chills through Nick. All Kendra had on was a light black trench coat, a short sleeved shirt on underneath, and jeans. Meanwhile, Nick had on a pair of long underwear, three pairs of socks, jeans, a t-shirt under a sweater, a ski-jacket, wool gloves and a hat. He looked down at her feet. Flip flops.
“Really?” He exclaimed, “you can’t possible be warm.”
She starred at him for a bit, “please don’t mock me.”
“I’m not, I was just…”
“You’re mocking me.”
“No Kendra I am NOT.” He said with his gloved covered hands in front of him, palms up, as he tried to convince her that he wasn’t mocking her. Except he totally was. “I just don’t understand how you can be warm wearing summer clothes at all, let alone with your window down. It’s not even April yet.” He looked at the clock, in five minutes it will officially be April.
“Why, are you cold Nicky?” She mocked.
“Kendra,” he warned.
Oh yeah, Nick was in for a long night.
Hailey re-arranged the reception area slightly for when her husband showed up. The two of them were finally able to have a nice romantic lunch. Kids free.
She smoothed her hands over her gray dress pants, and popped a couple of buttons on her light blue blouse as she looked around the room. The candles on the pink coffee table were lit, the wine and glasses which she pilfered from Kendra’s bottom desk drawer were in the centre, and the door was locked. Hailey owed Kendra for allowing her to close for the lunch hour.
Alex, who was bringing lunch, banged into the door before knocking. Hailey smiled and walked coolly over to the door and opened it for him.
“Geez Hails, why’d ya lock the door?” He said in that soft tone he always spoke in.
“Kendra closed the agency for lunch today.” Hailey slid her hands around his waist to his back and pulled him in to kiss him.
He kissed back, but only briefly. “That was really nice.” He pulled back, “but as much as I would love to stand here and make-out, I only have half an hour for lunch, and I’m starved.” Alex let go and then turned to the couch.
Hailey pursed her lips together and looked up at the ceiling and let out a breath. Men were so dumb sometimes. She did up the two buttons on her blouse and walked over to the couch. “What did you bring?”
“I got us, two hamburgers. Yours with dill pickle, cheese, ketchup, mustard and tomato. And I got triple onion, hot peppers, ketchup and spicy mustard.”
She so wasn’t kissing him again after lunch. “Fries too I see, and what else?”
“Onion rings.” Alex said. He noticed the candles and the wine. “What’s all this?”
Hailey was about to answer, when the phone on her desk rang. “Excuse me for a minute.”
She got up and answered it. “Diva’s Private Investigators?” She waited as the other person on the other end. They had some information regarding the missing girl. Hailey smiled and grabbed a note pad on her desk and started jotting down the information. “That’s great thank you so much. Do you have a number for Ms. Morgan or Mr. Dupree to reach you at?” She nodded and wrote down a phone number. “Thanks again, have a great day.”
Alex stood up tho his full height of six-feet, “Hailey.”
She turned to look at him, “what’s up?”
“No, you’re not getting involved in this.”
“Alex, honey, I never said I was going to.” She answered.
“You don’t have to Hails. I can see it all over your face. The excitement alone of that phone call, just sent you over the edge. I can tell you are just itching to do something.” Alex accused.
“Bite your tongue. I’m a mother of two and a wife. I like it here and sure I get excited when something like this happens because it helps Kendra out.”
He looked at her like he thought she was full of it. “Alright.”
“Now, can we please eat lunch since you have to rush out of here so damn quickly.” Hailey said with a touch of hostility.
He was right. Hailey yearned for the chance to get out in the field, to do that, she would have to get a license but there was no way that Alex would let her investigate anything. She got to see first hand all the danger and excitement that her sisters and brother-in-law experienced. Part of her wished that she could do stuff like this. One day, maybe she’ll ask to at least tag along with Kendra or Molly.
She looked over at her husband of the past fifteen years. He used to be different before Megan came a long. Alex used to race his motorcycle and go white water rafting on the weekends. He no longer did that. Maybe he should try investigating. He shoved his stinky hamburger into his mouth and chewed. His blue eyes met hers and he smiled, mouth full. No matter what, Hailey loved him.
Chewbacca and Hardy crowded around Nick’s legs, trying to get his attention and Kendra was happy it wasn’t her for once. Those two dogs could really tire a person out. She put down their fresh water bowl and braced herself on the butcher block style counter top and looked at Nick. He was arguing that they need to back off their clients, and focus on the friends. Kendra felt that watching the clients or the parents should be priority.
“What if they try to move her or kill her and we aren’t there to at least stop them or whatever.”
“Are you listening to yourself Kendra? Do you really think you can stop them?” Nick untangled himself from the dogs and walked to her stainless steel fridge and helped himself to a bottle of water.
She raised an eyebrow. Usually she was all for her friends helping themselves but they normally asked first. Nick didn’t bother, he skipped the formality and went for the water. “Could have asked first.”
“I could have, yes.” He answered as he unscrewed the lid and took a long pull on the bottle. Drinking half of it. “You can’t stop sociopaths. Did you not learn anything from Kennebunkport when we had to rescue Eli and Molly?”
“I did and I believe we actually stopped said sociopaths. So your little remark just now,” she paused. “Not valid.”
He put his bottle down on the counter across from her. Kendra couldn’t help but notice his arm muscles bunching under the tight sleeves of his white t-shirt. Which also fitted nicely. Nick’s brown eyes were starring at her. Making her slightly uncomfortable, which he knew because she had a thing about being starred at. “I say that we need to focus on the friends and check the school and not waste time over the damn parents.”
“Hello?” Her brother. What was he doing here now, she wondered.
“In the kitchen.” She returned her focus to Nick. “Who’s company is this? I don’t even recall having you on payroll for my company.”
“Actually it’s my company, you guys still haven’t paid me the full amount yet,” Seth said as he strolled in, dropping her mail on the counter. He turned his attention to Nick, “I’m Seth, Ra’s brother. And you are? We may have met at Molly’s wedding.”
“I’m Nick,” he shook Seth’s hand, “I’m not sure what I am, but we met too briefly at the wedding.”
“A nuisance.” Kendra answered. “And yes technically it’s your company. Although I have the final payment in the bank. Need to get you a cashier’s check for
“Doesn’t matter, I could care less.” Seth said as he watched Nick.
Kendra could tell that Seth was eyeing Nick cautiously. Her brother generally didn’t like too many outsiders, and right now she could tell that him hearing Nick basically yell at her in her own home, made Nick an immediate threat to his baby sis.
“We are just working on the strategy for a case.” She explained. “What are you doing here? Not that I’m not happy to see you.”
Seth moved his head towards the hallway leading down to her bedroom and office. Kendra excused herself from Nick’s company and followed her brother down the hall. “You need to properly put him on payroll. Your insurance won’t cover anything if he gets hurt.”
“He is on payroll, although I haven’t formally discussed it with him yet. Plus Nick is freelance he is insured on his own.” Kendra explained.
“Good, I’m just looking out for you and Molly. Plus with Eli being a new addition, I just wanted to make sure that they are aware of Nick being there.” Seth added.
“Oh they know.” Kendra said. “I know you mean well but Nick is a former detective just like Eli and he might be an asset to this case.”
“Fired or quit?”
“That makes a slight difference.” Seth looked down the hall to see if Nick was listening in. “Just watch your back and don’t let him push you around.”
Kendra smiled. She loved her brother but he said stupid things all the time. “Dude, seriously do I let anyone push me around?” Seth was about to open his mouth, “ah don’t answer that, Mom doesn’t count.”
He smiled, “she does and don’t call me dude.” Seth walked out of her office and back into the kitchen.
“What’s in the bag?” Kendra asked as she returned to the kitchen.
Seth pushed the Saks bag across the counter to her, “left over from a photo shoot with Sarah Jessica Parker. Thought you might want these.”
Kendra loved stuff from her brother, it was the only way she could ever afford designer. Free. She pulled out a shoe box, Manolo’s, her favourite. She opened the box and found the most gorgeous pair of heels. They were fushia with a thin black heel and a
white ribbon weaved around the the edge, tied in a slight bow at the very back. “Love them.”
Nick looked at them with furrowed brows. “I’m going to go. I will call you later, is that OK?”
Against her better judgement because she wasn’t sure what he was up to, she let him go.
Nick took off, and drove over to the high school to see if he can talk to anyone about Vula. When he got there, it was between periods and there were a few student milling about. He looked curiously around to see if anyone would be willing to talk to him. Except they would all disperse when he approached any.
His sunglasses shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun as he scanned the area, and that’s when he saw the navy blue uniform of janitorial. Worn by Elton Savidis.
Elton’s hair was tucked under a baseball hat, but his beard was scruffy since he had shaved it off for Eli’s wedding to Molly on Saturday. He knew Elton had a bit of a problem with alcohol and he was struggling not to order a beer when he was at the wedding but to his credit, he stuck with water or Coke. Nick thought, sometimes janitors knew the students and hoped that Elton could be of some help.
“Elton,” Nick greeted.
“Nick, how are you? Please tell me my son didn’t sign you up to check on his old man?” Elton smiled. He was get old but he was clean and didn’t smell of booze.
“No not at all actually. I’m working a case, and I was wondering if you could help me.”
“Sure I can try my best.” Elton motioned for Nick to follow him. They walked through the doors into the high school and down a hallway to the janitor’s closet.
The room was bigger than Nick expected it to be, it had a full washroom, complete with shower off to the one side and two desks for Elton and another janitor. Lockers and small kitchenette. Elton pulled out a chair and motioned for Nick to sit, and then made him a cup of coffee.
Nick didn’t hold back he just laid it all out. “There’s a student who goes to this school whose parents have reported missing.”
Elton’s brow softened, “oh that’s terrible. I take it that’s the case you’re working on?”
“It is.” He answered. “She’s fourteen, latino, and was a trouble maker a while back. She’s straightened up but the police won’t help the family out because of this girls past.”
“I know some of the students here, if you have a picture maybe I can tell you if I know her.” Elton Savidis leaned on the table, supported by his forearms. Nick handed him a picture. “Vula? She’s missing?”
“You know her?”
“Oh yeah, sweet girl. She always brings me lunch on Friday’s.”
“When did you last see her?” Nick asked.
“Friday at lunch. She said her friends were all going to the mall, skipping school.” He began, “so she invited me to go with her to Subway. I felt bad for the girl so I joined her for lunch, but this time I bought lunch.”
Interesting, Nick thought. He had a bad feeling in the bottom of his stomach. “Did she return with you to the school?” Elton nodded. “Did she go inside the school or stay outside when you separated?”
“She said she needed to go to her locker and that was the last I saw her. She was walking towards the D-wing.” Elton explained.
“Do you know her friends?”
“Yeah I do. They skip school a lot but Vula never does with them. It wasn’t the first time I’ve gone to lunch with Ms. Garcia. I probably shouldn’t, as it probably looks bad.”
“Elton, I’ve got to say, that it does. If I was a cop still and didn’t know you, you would be suspect number one.” Nick told him bluntly.
“Yeah, I know.” Elton hung his head. “I have never hurt her or anyone around here.”
“I know.” Nick finished up by telling Elton that if he thought of anything to call him, especially if it didn’t line up with Vula’s usual routine. Of course, Elton agreed.
Nick drove over to Kendra’s house, relieved to see the rental BMW out of the driveway. This was going to be hard enough telling his partner that he did work on his own without her, but at least her brother was gone.
He stood before her in her kitchen, she wasn’t look happy when he told her all about his conversation with Elton Savidis. As anticipated she was yelling and flailing her arms all around. “I would have liked to have been there for that conversation Nick. In
case you forgot, this case belongs to my agency.”
“No, I don’t think you do. You don’t get it do you?” Kendra yelled, “you make the fucking rule that we are not to go off on our own because we could get into trouble, but then you are the first one to do it. I didn’t know where you were if something had happened.”
She kept on going, yelling and calling him dumb. Nick understood her point and she was right but he wasn’t ready to tell her that. Instead, Nick stepped forward, and shut her up the only way he knew how. He kissed her.
Their ragged breaths were the only sound in her kitchen as they stood only inches apart from each other. Her lips were red and puffy, like he’d just kissed the hell out of her. Kendra could still feel him on her mouth.
“You drive me crazy, Kendra.” Nick said between huffs of breath.
“Yeah,” she was a little breathy hereself, “you infuriate me.”
He raised his head slightly, smirked, then she felt Nick’s hands on her hips and then felt him tug her to his body. “I think we should just fuck it out.”
Kendra gasped and her hands clutched his shoulders as his mouth reclaimed hers. His tongue tasted like mint. Knowing Nick the way she did, he had chewed gum recently and probably spit it out in her front garden. She slid her tongue into his mouth as his hands slid up her under her shirt to her back. Before she had a chance to think, he had pulled her shirt over her head and between their lips. Breaking the kiss for only a few seconds, but it felt like forever.
Her fingers imprinted the soft black leather of his jacket. Kendra would never look at leather the same way again. She could feel the lapels of the leather jacket against her breasts, and the sensation was making her wet. But as much as she loved the feel of the leather, it had to go. She pushed Nick away from her. Shocked, he just stood there starring at her.
“Take your jacket off.” She demanded. He took it off slowly. “Better, now your shirt.”
“I like this side of you.”
“Shut it and get to bidness!” She said, prompting Nick to smile and raise a brow, then removed his shirt.
Kendra jumped up on the counter, kicked off her new Manolo’s and stretched her foot out. She had great toes. They always could get her what she wanted, and this time she used her toes to hook Nick’s belt and pull him to her. Nick reached for the thin black belt cinched around her waist. He slipped the belt through the loops and tugged it undone. His intensity was turning Kendra on more and more. She knew what it felt like to have Nick naked and inside her but it felt like a long time ago. She craved him like she did chocolate.
“Lift your hips Ken,” he said against her throat. She complied and lifted her hips and he slid her pants off down her thighs.
The counter was cold beneath her thighs and bottom. The lace panties matched her lace pink bra. She dressed knowing that she would have Nick going crazy if he had
known what was under her clothes. All intentions was for her pleasure not his. She didn’t plan on sitting practically naked in her kitchen with Nick standing between her legs. The roughness of his jeans on her skin, and the cool silver buckle of his belt pressing against the crotch of her panties, cooling her where she was hot. She could have orgasmed right there.
Nick’s mouth sucked on the sensitive flesh of her throat and then his lips travelled down to the tops of her breasts, where he sucked on the flesh there too. With one hand, he undid the front clasp of her bra, and freed her aching breasts. He stopped to take her in.
“I love your tits, Kendra.”
“Keep talking, and I’ll cover them up.” She responded as she tightened her thighs around his waist. Keeping him right where she wanted. Kendra reached between their bodies and undid his belt, the knuckles of her fingers bumping her own vagina. What a turn on, she was getting too close to the edge. “I need you right now, Nick. I’m so fucking hot.”
“Say no more.” Nick stepped back, took his wallet from his back pocket, removed a condom and finished removing his pants and boxer briefs. His hard penis sprung up. She noticed that he was practically throbbing.
He quickly put on the condom, as she removed her panties. Nick Climbed on to the counter, forcing Kendra to on to her back. The cold of the counter cooled her flesh. He took her nipple into his mouth and nipped and then licked at it, then switched his focus to the other one. His hand slid between her thighs, and he inserted his finger while his thumb played with her clit. Kendra let out a moan of pleasure. “Now Nick.”
He spread her legs further apart to accommodate his hips, as he slid right into her. The feel of him inside of her felt so right. Kendra’s hands slid down his back and she clutched his solid butt. She raised her hips and met him thrust for thrust. Their movements were frantic and hurried but she could feel ber body start to tremble. Nick cursed through his gritted teeth as he pushed and pulled.
She was on the verge of coming when he slowed his motion, and keeping her orgasm at bay. “Oh God!” Kendra hollered.
Nick leaned down and kissed her, his tongue mimicking what his body was doing. He sped up a bit and she clenched around him, as her orgasm hit her hard. She felt his arms tremble around her, and she felt his body react to his own orgasm. They shared their breaths with one another as they felt the release. Wow, Kendra thought. She didn’t believe that this time could top the time in August, but it just did.
His jacket was right beside him on the counter top. He grabbed it and rolled it up, placing it under Kendra’s head. Nick laid his head back down and put his hand on her flat stomach. She was quiet now. Normally Nick would love that, but right now he just
needed to know what she was thinking.
She rolled her head to look at him. Her brown eyes like milk chocolate, glistened in the afterglow. A lazy smile appeared on her face, and he rubbed his thumb back and forth over her tummy, his thumb occasionally flicking her navel ring.
“You look like you’re thinking.” She stated. “Want to tell me about it?”
Nick smiled at her, he wasn’t sure that now was the time to ask questions. “I don’t know.”
“Why?” Kendra’s hand reached up and touched his cheek. It gently slipped to his jaw, and her thumb ran over the stubble of hair on his chin.
He loved the feel of her hands on him. “I’m not sure now is the time to talk about what happened in August.”
“I think now is a good time. I’m sated and unlikely to get pissed off.” She joked and let out a little giggle.
“OK,” Nick got a bit mor comfortable on the counter top. If he was smart, he would suggest the bedroom or her couch. Although her couch was white, then again, it probably wouldn’t matter. “I don’t regret making love to you that night Kendra. In fact, I relive it in my dreams almost every night.”
“Ah-huh, and I just want to be around you even though you don’t want me around.” He said.
“That’s not true. I do want you around. I want you around all the time.” She responded. Her hand still touching his face. Kendra slid her hand slowly from his face down his neck to his shoulders, and stopped.
“I came to your house the next day.” He began. “There was no answer at your door but your car was in the driveway. So I walked around back, and opened the gate.”
“I never heard you open the gate.”
Nick rubbed her stomach gently, “I know.” Kendra was listening to him, for once she kept her mouth shut and was just taking what he had to say in. He continued to tell her about seeing her with her ex-boyfriend and that his reaction was to bolt and just deal with the anger he had. “As I ignored my feelings for you, it kept festering inside me and the longer I kept it inside the more I realized that things were complicated between you and him.”
“It’s not complicated Nick. Matt and I were over a very long time ago, but we
have remained friends.”
“His hands were all over you.”
Kendra laid there, her hand still on his arm. “Nick, nothing is complicated between Matt and I. He’s my friend, and sure he put sun block on me that day, but Molly does it to for me. Doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with her.”
Nick thought about it for a second and made a face, “I’m alright with that if you want to sleep with Molly, but I wanna watch.”
Kendra laughed and smacked his chest playfully, “you’re a pig.” Nick kissed her. “Nicky, I don’t want you to feel threatened by him. If you ever feel that way, don’t run from it, just ask me.”
“Promise.” Nick kissed her again and then slid off the counter. She looked shocked that he left the oasis of the counter. “Come here.” He grabbed her ankle and pulled her just enough to him that he could lift her into his arms.
She squealed in delight as she was naked, cradled in his strong arms as he walked down the hall to her bedroom. He loved her bedroom, and he was finding himself becoming fond of purple.
Nick had her cradled in his arms in her bed. Both dogs on the floor, snoring. He was just about asleep when his cell phone chirped.
“You’re ring tone is so boring.” Kendra commented.
Nick smiled and reached for his phone. He didn’t recognize the phone number but he answered it anyways. Could be about the case. He sat up and greeted the caller. Kendra got up and walked naked to the bathroom. He heard that tap running.
“Is this Mr. Nick Dupree?”
Whoever the caller was on the other end, she was young, “yes this is.”
“My names is Layla Parker, our school’s janitor gave me your card and told me you were looking for Vula Garcia.” The young girl said.
Nick explained that he was looking for Vula and Layla suggested that they meet to talk. She had something she wanted to tell him. “How about I meet you at the Subway shop, after school?” Layla agreed and they disconnected the call. School ended in twenty-five minutes. Nick needed to get Kendra dressed and ready.
“Ken,” he called to her.
“Yes,” she said as she looked around the door frame, tooth brush in her hand.
He stood up, and walked towards her. She raised a hopeful eyebrow. “Down girl, we need to get dressed and head towards the high school.”
“Can’t I shower first?”
“No way, school end in less than a half an hour, and Layla Parker is going to meet us at the Subway near the school. It’s going to take almost at least fifteen minutes to get there.” Nick explained. He turned around to go get his closed out of the kitchen.
“Nick,” she called back. He turned around. “I don’t want to go like this. I smell like sex.”
He smiled, “yeah I know.”
They got to the sub shop with five minutes to spare. Nick went to order some food, while Kendra took a seat. After his sex comments, she spritzed her Burberry Brit perfume on and got dressed in fresh clothes. The more she thought about it the more she realized that they never should have had sex while they were on a case. He was too distracting, but he was oh so good at the deed.
A young girl with strawberry blonde hair came in carrying a back pack. She looked to be about fourteen years old, and she peered around the restaurant looking for someone. Nick returned to the table with three drinks, and two subs to go.
“Nick, I think that might be Layla.” Kendra informed him. He turned around, then walked over to her. She heard him ask if she was Layla Parker, and she nodded.
Her jeans were ripped at the knee, and she wore a lime green puffy jacket. Her hair was straight and layered, and hung just past her shoulders. Her backpack was bright pink with an orange zipper. She slid into the seat across from Kendra in the booth as Nick slid in next to her.
“Layla, this is my partner, Ms. Morgan.” Nick introduced.
“Kendra, you can call me Kendra.” She corrected. Layla nodded. “Layla, when did you last see Vula Garcia?”
Layla unzipped her coat and took it off, putting it on the seat next to her. “I saw Layla last Friday at lunch. I was leaving with some of our friends to go to the mall. I have a free period right after lunch.”
“Save it Layla, freshmen don’t have free periods. You were skipping. I don’t care if you were skipping, I’m not going to tell your parents.” Nick interrupted.
“Fine, I skipped. My friend Clair’s boyfriend is older and he drives.” Layla fiddled with the cuff of her sleeve. “Vula won’t skip because she doesn’t want to piss off her foster parents. They’re really nice people so I don’t blame her. I left Vula at the start of lunch at her locker.”
“That was the last time you saw her?” Kendra asked, and the girl nodded.. “Do you know anything else?”
The girl nodded. “Vula, for some reason, struck up a friendship with the old guy in janitorial. When we come here on Friday’s, she always brings him back a meatball sub and a drink.”
“Who is this janitor that she associates with?” Kendra asked.
“Shit, I’m sorry Kendra.” Nick apologized. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you. Eli’s father is the janitor.”
Figures, he would forget to mention that. She gave him a look that said she would deal with him later. “Layla, what kind of friendship?”
“I really don’t know but I find it very creepy. I think they have something going on.” Layla speculated.
“I’m not at liberty to doubt you but I know Mr. Savidis, and I sincerely doubt there was anything going on. But we will check it out thoroughly.” Nick told her. “I want you to have your other friends who hang out with Vula get in contact with either Kendra or myself.” He handed her a handful of business cards. He quickly jotted down Kendra’s cell phone number on the back.
“Can I go now?”
“Sure, thank you Layla.” Kendra smiled and nodded at the girl. When Layla was out the door, she turned in the seat. “Forgot to tell me that your best friends father is connected to this case?”
“Well, yeah.” He smiled, “we sort of got busy on your counter.”
“True, but really, that should have been something you told me before we got here.” Kendra stated. He agreed with her.
Kendra cracked her knuckles then took a sip of her Diet Coke as Nick cracked the seal on his Mountain Dew. She watched him basically chug half the bottle. She didn’t feel comfortable looking at Eli’s father as a suspect but he was just that. “Nick, we need to talk to Elton Savidis further about this and his relationship with Vula.”
He exhaled and then leaned back against the crappy hard bench. “I know but I don’t feel right about doing it yet until I can talk to Eli.”
“Nick, we can’t play favourites here. If Eli’s father is involved, he needs to be punished. But before you jump all over me, I don’t think he is directly involved.” Kendra told him. “We need to talk to him.”
“Let me talk to Eli first.” Nick wasn’t going to budge. Kendra agreed. “We need to set up another surveillance, but this time with the Garcia’s.”
“Oh sure, now you’re all for the surveillance.” Kendra laughed as she finished off her Diet Coke. “I think we just need to start with the direct approach. We need to question them first then watch them.”
Nick scratched his shoulder, “that’s actually a really good idea. Want to go now?” She shook her head. “Why not?”
“I really want to shower first.”
“You want company?” He asked. Her response, “sure do big guy.”
Nick pulled his car into the cracked-stamped paved driveway belonging to the Garcia’s in Yardley. The house was a tiny bungalow, the siding painted pink and chipped in various places. The front porch was visibly slanted and the house’s yard was surrounded by a chain link fence. The home gave Kendra the creeps. She had a bad feeling about these people already, and she hadn’t even met them yet. She looked at Nick as he reached for the seat belt clasp and unlocked his. He left his sunglasses on. Nick caught her eye and gave her a smile and then she undid her own seat belt.
The man who opened the door looked like he was dragged through a grease pit. His black hair and sideburns didn’t lack in the hair grease, and the yellow stains on his probably once white wife-beater tank top, was probably stains. He had a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, a naked woman tattooed on his right bicep, and a beer belly to match the can in his hand.
“Rico Garcia?” Nick asked.
“Ya. Are you a cop?” Rico Garcia asked.
“No, Private Investigators,” Kendra answered. “We’re here to ask you a few questions about your step-daughter.”
He left the door open but walked away. Nick grabbed it and held it open for them. The house reeked of old oil left inside a deep fryer, and curry. If Kendra thought the outside as bad, the inside was worse. Her black heeled boot, kept getting snagged on the brown threads of the shag carpeting. The television blared from the room to their left, which she assumed was the living room.
“Vezna, police are here.” He hollered as he sat back into his green leather recliner.
“Ah, we’re not the police.” Kendra reiterated.
She looked at Nick who kept his sunglasses on. He was surveying the room and it’s contents. No doubt using his police background to look for anything suspicious. Kendra turned her head in the opposite direction of his, and a woman who was frumpy and chubby, came through the door with her belly hanging out of an orange cropped-halter top, jeans that sat too low on her hips and bottled blonde hair pulled tight into a pony tail. Her eyebrows were arched high on her forehead, obviously drawn on, and thick red liner outlined her lips. “Who are you?”
“Kendra Morgan and Nick Dupree, we’re private investigators. We’re here about
your daughter, Vula.” Kendra introduced.
The woman put her hand on her hip. “What the lil’ bitch do now?”
“Um,” Kendra looked back at Nick.
He took over, “nothing. She’s been missing since Friday.”
The woman shrugged as her husband got out of his chair. “That chick, has caused this family nothin’ but trouble, you hear me.”
“I’m sure she has sir, but she’s been missing for over twenty-four hours and her foster parents are worried about her.” Kendra informed them. They were making her really mad.
“So, like that’s s’pose to bother us? She’s a liar and she runs away all the time,” Vezna Garcia told them. “Vula would leave for a few days all the time. We, like tried callin’ the pigs and all.” Nick shifted on his feet, “but they don’t do nothin’. So yo shouldn’t like be wastin’ yo time.
“Bad English aside, I see your point.” Kendra began, “but someone reported her missing to the police and they are not doing anything, as you said, but we were hired to do something so that is what was are doing.”
“Can you tell us when was the last time you saw your daughter?” Nick asked.
Vezna looked at Rico, then answered Nick’s question. “Um, I think it was two months ago at the children’s service place.”
“How did she seem?” Kendra followed up.
“She seemed like she turned into that Martha Stewart cunt that she’s been living with. Vula was all ‘Hello’ and not ‘what up?’ you know.” Rico answered. “She didn’t look like our Vula no more.”
Kendra wrote that down, then asked, “may we inquire the reason why children’s services removed your daughter from your home?”
“What for?” Vezna questioned.
“Just to help us with background, something you know might help us find her.” Nick answered.
“Oh, sure sure.” Vezna nodded, her giant hoop earrings swinging back and forth. “She went all crazy with the lying and all, tellin’ people at her school that Rico here touched her.”
“Touch as in how?” Asked Kendra.
“Like you know, molested and shit.” Vezna crossed her arms.
Kendra hated people like that. Pedophilia drove her crazy, it made her skin crawl and her stomach turned. It was such an ongoing problem that just gets worse, and no one ever gets a suitable punishment. As far as she was concerned they should get automatic death. People are all concerned that therapy and medical treatments could cure pedophilia, but they were wrong.
She bit her lower lip, and noticed that Nick saw her do so, and thankfully he took cue and took over. “And did you?” He asked Rico.
“I never touched that little bitch. She’s fuckin’ lyin’.” Rico got all defensive.
Nick nodded, “fine. Where were you guys on Friday around twelve-thirty in the afternoon?”
“What? Are you shittin’ me?” Rico yelled.
“No I am not ‘shittin” you.” Nick demanded, “where were you?”
“And that is where?”
“I work at Harley’s Bar and Grill.” Rico answered. “I was working the lunch shift.”
“And what about you Mrs. Garcia?”
She snapped a bubble from the gum she had blown, “I was at the bank.”
“Which bank?” Nick questioned.
“United Banking and Loan’s on twenty-seventh street.” She answered showing major hostility.
“Then where did you go?”
“What is this?”
“It’s called questioning.” Nick answered.
“If you’re grillin’ us because that cunt claimed that she was fucked by my husband, than you are sorely mistaken. If anything my whore of daughter seduced him, and he like turned her down, so she like made up some story. That’s all I’m’ma sayin’.”
“Fine, if you want to live with the fact that your daughter was taken on her lunch hour and is probably now laying in a ditch somewhere, totally eviscerated and rapped then that’s your problem because I have never felt so much filth in my entire life than standing here with a retard and a pedophile.” Kendra yelled.
“You fucking cunt.” Rico yelled.
“Oh no yo’ didn’t,” Vezna said getting all up in Kendra’s face.
“Didn’t I? Get some new material, the Latino-trash stereo type isn’t working for you.” Kendra responded.
“OK, Kendra, it’s time to go.” Nick came between them.
“Yeah get your bitch outta here.” Rico stated.
“Thanks for your time.”
“Fucker,” Kendra yelled for good measured as Nick pulled her out the front door.
He forced her in the car, “what the fuck is the matter with you?”
“Sorry, I got a little mad.”
“A little mad? You chest bumped the victims mother for crying out loud.” Nick stated.
Nick pulled out of the drive way. He couldn’t believe Kendra going off half-cocked like she had just done. He knew that she was a passionate person but that was too much. They needed to have a serious conversation about getting too personal with a case. He wasn’t sure what her reasons for flying off the handle that way but he needed her to tone it down.
“I hate child molesters too, Kendra but sometimes you need to keep that opinion to yourself and then deal with it in private. It sucks and those people are disgusting but honestly, that could have been the only link to Vula and you just screwed it up.” He explained. “You can’t get to personal in a case.”
She was quiet for a bit, and her breathing slowed from the angry huffing sounds to a more calmer rate. “I know, and I’m sorry. I just couldn’t get over how horribly they spoke about their daughter who is missing.”
“I know and I agree with stuff but insulting and almost assaulting them isn’t worth it. They could charge you and then your private investigator’s license will be taken away. Then what?” Nick turned the corner and hopped on the Interstate to get them back to Glenberry a bit faster.
“You’re right. I will keep it in check from now on.”
Nick noticed that Kendra wouldn’t look at him. Something was weighing on her and it wasn’t just the case they were working on. If they were going to get through this, he needed to know what was making her so pissed off. And he asked her. To his dismay she didn’t hold back.
“My step-grandfather died a few years ago from a serious stroke. He was in the hospital when it happened and it was sudden. While he was in there, my dad and his sisters found some child pornography on his computer.”
“Not something you want to learn about a grandfather.” Nick said.
“No it’s not,” Kendra continued to look out the window. “The night he died, my aunts told my father that my step-grandfather had molested them when they were about eleven years old. My dad went ballistic and threatened to tare the man’s heart out and shit. Before my dad even had a chance the bastard died.”
Nick pulled over and put the SUV in park. He grabbed her and pulled him to him. “Tell me he never touched you?”
She cried a bit on his shoulder, but managed to tell him that her step-grandfather never touched her. Kendra said having the police investigate her family at his funeral made everything that bit more real. She told Nick that was why hearing Rico and Vezna just shrug it off made her snap.
“I understand.” Nick said, he pulled away and looked at her, his thumb wiping the tears from her cheeks. “Why don’t we switch cars, and stake out their house like we planned.”
Kendra was grateful for Nick’s understanding and his caring about something so far in the past, but she was even more grateful that he didn’t give her false sympathy. That was always something she hated no matter what the situation was for. She kept an eye on the Garcia house from the driver’s seat of her car. Nick had the binoculars and was watching closely. Surveillance turned out to be tougher on the Garcia’s as Rico would leave and come back and then Vezna would leave and return as well. Never did they leave together. That just didn’t sit right with Kendra.
“I wish we could follow them when they leave,” Nick said voicing exactly what she had been thinking. “I don’t want to leave you here or have you follow them alone.”
“I was thinking the same thing, but if I was to follow them, I wouldn’t have to get out of the car.”
“True, but I don’t like it.”
That was that, she wouldn’t hear him tell her to go and follow. Not without him. “Their constant coming and going worries me. It’s strange that they would go nowhere together.”
“Yeah it is.”
Kendra scribbled that down in her notes then took a sip of coffee. Nick wasn’t doodling like he had during their surveillance of the Ushkowitz’s house. He was taking notes. He must have realized how important this case was now that the molestation angle has been introduced.
“Tomorrow, I am going to get in touch with the Children’s Services case worker on this case and find out what they can tell me about the accusation.” Kendra told him.
“That’s a good idea. Maybe they have some physical proof of the charge. Although if there was, I would assume Rico Garcia would have been charged by the police.” He responded. “I should check with the police to see if anything came through regarding the charge.”
For the rest of the night the two of them sat in the car, watching and waiting. Finally around three in the morning and the house was dark, Nick suggested they go home. They got nothing they could use, which really pissed Kendra off. She could feel it in her bones that Rico and Vezna Garcia had something to do with their missing daughter. She would bet money on it.
Nick propped up a table inside of Kendra’s office. It was one of those portable deals, but they needed the extra work space. He looked over at Kendra who was sitting at her desk, head down while sifting through the file. No doubt she was trying to get a jump on organizing a time line for their case.
Hailey was locating a giant wipe board, apparently they borrowed one from the small advertising agency a few doors down. He looked down at his watch, and realized she had been gone for a while. Nick told Kendra he was going to see if Hailey needed any help, but she was too preoccupied with sorting to pay any attention to him.
Just as he suspected, Hailey was having issues with the board and was struggling to get it through the door.
“Here, grab the door Hailey and I’ll maneuver it through.” He said as he rushed over to help her.
“Thanks,” Hailey excepted his help. He wished that his dark haired beauty in the other room was this responsive. “Where’s Ken?”
Speak of the devil, “in the zone.” He eased the board on it’s wheels through the door, and eased it down the hall. “Where am I putting this?”
Hailey shrugged, “I have no idea. We usually put it in the back room, but Eli’s office is now there.”
A bit frustrated, he hollered, “Kendra!”
He heard a shuffling of paper then her chair squeak. Her head popped around the door, “yeah, what’s up?”
“Where do you want this?” He asked.
She shot him a funny look, “Molly’s office I guess.”
“Don’t get all pissy.”
Pissy? She hadn’t seen pissy from him yet. Nick forced a smile then grabbed the edge of the wipe board, and tried to pull it into Molly’s office. What Nick couldn’t figure out, is why they couldn’t just leave it in the reception area. He stopped what he was doing and asked.
“Jesus, here we go?” He mumbled to himself.
Kendre flew out of her office, “suppose someone comes in, and sees the the board and all the evidence we have collected.”
So?” She mimicked with her hands on her hips, “the case is confidential. If one of those supposed people were to know the Ushkowitz’s or the Ushkowitz’s themselves were to come in, then what?”
Nick leaned his butt next to Hailey’s against her desk, and folded his arms across his chest. Hailed was in the exact same position. Watching Kendra get over dramatic over a wipe board was entertaining as hell. Her cheeks were pink, eyes all glassy, and her hair was a mess. Come to think of it, it was a major turn on.
“Sorry I don’t know. What?” He answered.
She stalked over to him on her new purple shoes, grabbed his face with her hands and squishing his cheeks together. Ken’s face mere inches from his, her eyes wide, “word gets out that this agency isn’t discreet and we lose clients.” She let go, then headed to her office. Hands fly up and she hollers over her shoulder, “in Molly’s office. Thank-you!”
Once se was gone, Nick looked at Hailey, and they both started snickering to each other. “She always like that?”
Hailey patted his arm, “only when she’s really stressed out.” She pushed away from her desk and headed down the hall.
Nick got behind the wipe board, and began to direct it down the hallway. “So,” he checked Kendra’s office, the door was closed. “What else, other than stress, makes her like that?”
He watched Hailey very closely, her body language suggested that she wasn’t going to tell him. “Besides stress, exhaustion.”
“Liar,” he smirked.
“Fine,” she held the door to Molly’s office open for him. “Ken sometimes gets this way when she’s worried about a guy. Call it confusion or fear.”
Nick had no idea what she meant, but the door behind him opened so his inquiries would have to wait.
The muted voices outside her office door had set off warning bells in her head. Kendra didn’t want Hailey to accidentally tell Nick anything. The guy was a charmer and
had a way with getting the ladies to open up. It would take very little effort on his part to get Hailey to spill.
The three of them went through the material in Molly’s office. They needed to establish a time line in order to figure out where they needed to go next in their case.
“First off,” Kendra began, “foster mother said that Vula leaves for school everyday at 8:15.” She scribbled that on the board. “Last Friday was no different.”
“Homeroom was match,” Nick added, then waited for her to write that down. “Second period was Spanish.”
“After Spanish, Vula met up with Layla Parker at her locker, before heading to lunch.” Hailey paused. “Layla told you that was the last time she saw Vula.”
Kendra finished writing was relayed to her from both Nick and Hails. “Then she met up with Elton Savidis, and he said they walked to Subway the restaurant for lunch.”
Nick flipped through some papers, “they ordered at noon and ate there. According to the sandwich maker, Vula and Elton left around 12:20, together.”
“Elton last saw Vula going into the school to her locker. She never showed up to her third or fourth periods.” Hailey looked down, “third period was English and fourth period was gym. We are missing something.”
Kendra looked at Hailey, she knew that Hails would catch the investigating bug. She smiled. “We are indeed missing something, but what?”
The three of them added the background information on both the Garcia’s and the Ushkowitz’s, even after adding that information, none of them could come up with a thing.
“I hate to say this,” Nick began as he leaned back in Molly’s chair, “I think we need to split up.”
Kendra raised a brow, she never thought she would hear him say that. “You sound like a Scooby-Doo episode.”
Nick laughed, “no shit, eh?” He sat up straight. “Kendra, take Hailey with you to the high school and talk to the principal and Elton again. See if he remembered anything more about last Friday.”
Ordinarily she would have been pissed that he highjacked her case, but he looked so cute doing it that Kendra let it go.
“As ready as I’m gonna be.”
Hailey had to tamp down her excitement as she sat next to Kendra in the Civic. She almost kissed Nick for suggesting that she tag along. Looking at her watch to make sure that there was plenty of time before she needed to pick up the kids after school. There was, but even if there wasn’t, she could always call her mother. Except that would lead to a whole bunch of questions.
Her pulse was speeding up, the closer they got to the high school, the more she had a hard time controlling her excitement. This was a whole new World for her.
The pulled up to the school and together they walked inside. Kendra asked to speak to the Principal and the secretary showed them into his office.
Hailey skimmed her vision around the office. The room itself wasn’t that large but he had a huge mahogany desk in the middle, with a green desk lamp, and high back leather chair. She and Ken were both sitting on uncomfortable chairs that had very little padding. The walls were dark wood panelling and didn’t help the room look any bigger. A set of filing cabinets lined the back wall, an antique globe sitting on top of the middle cabinet. She tugged on her lime green jacket as she adjusted her posture to match the confident stance Kendra had taken on.
She had known Kendra for over twenty years, and wasn’t used to seeing this side of her. Seeing her exude such confidence, made Hailey proud of the young woman next to her who was like a sister to her. Hailey found it refreshing to see that despite the hits to her confidence when she was younger, Kendra excelled in her job and lacked nothing.
The principal walked in and shook both their hands.
“Principal Wiggins, this is Hailey Vance, she is one of our associates. We just have a few questions for you in regards to Vula Garcia.”
“I would be very happy to help.”
“Since Vula started in September, what kind of student was she?” Kendra asked.
Mr. Wiggins relaxed by leaning back in his chair and lacing his fingers together and resting them on his stomach. “She was a very dedicated student right from the first day. She’s a very smart girl.”
Hailey thought that was strange considering what she learned this morning while they were setting up the time line. “We were aware that Vula was acting out in that first month at home with her foster parents. Wouldn’t that be the same here?”
Kendra smiled at Hailey. She felt great that she managed to ask a clear question and get Kendra’s approval.
“I’m aware of the problems at the start of the school year at home. The Ushkowitz’s came to me about her behavioral issues at home.” He leaned forward, placing his hands on the desk top. “She didn’t act out here at the school.”
“Did Vula have any appointments with the Guidance department?” Kendra asked, but the answer was no.
They met with Principal Wiggins for about ten minutes as he needed to leave. He explained that he was filling in for one of the teacher’s. Other than learning that Vula only acted out at home for her foster parents, they didn’t learn anything new.
Hailey was learning that this was a lot like parenting. It required major patience, something you needed when you had two children who fought constantly. They headed through the corridors of the school. She was starting to feel frustrated.
When she first met Elton Savidis, it had been a few days ago at her sister’s wedding. He seemed like a man who had lived a tough life but was managing to get through it. She could see Elton as a fighter to do better and to get through his problems. Hailey hoped that he wasn’t linked to the kidnapping of Vula. He was family now, thanks to Eli.
Kendra knocked on the green painted door to the janitor’s room. Green flecks of paint fell off the door and on to the floor. She looked over her shoulder at Hailey and cocked an eyebrow.
The door screeched when it opened, echoing down the empty hall. All the students were in class.
Mr. Elton Savidis stood before them, his blue coveralls, relatively clean. He held a green handkerchief in his hands.
“Why isn’t it my daughter-in-law’s lovely sister, and Nick’s enchanting girlfriend.” He beamed. Kendra’s shoulder’s stiffened at the girlfriend label. “What do I owe the pleasure?”
Hailey intercepted Kendra who was obviously gearing up to abandon all tact and just lay into him. “Elton, is it alright if we ask you a few more questions about last Friday with Vula Garcia?”
“Ah,” he hesitated, making Kendra take notice. “Sure but I told Nick everything I know already.”
“We’re just hoping that maybe Nick forgot to ask you certain questions.” Hailey told him. She was sensing that maybe this time she needed to step back and allow Kendra to handle it.
“Mr…” Kendra began. But Elton stopped her and asked her to call him by his first name. “OK, Elton, was there anything out of the ordinary that took place during lunch? Anything Vula might have told you or strange behaviour?”
“Honestly I don’t remember. It seemed normal to me.” Elton answered.
“When you both returned to school, could you tell me about what happened then?” She asked.
Elton explained that he treated Vula to lunch, and together they walked back to school and she thanked him before going to her locker to get her books. She went into the front entrance. “and I haven’t seen her since.”
“What did you do?”
“I came back here to grab the hedge trimmers. There were some over-grown shrubs near the front entrance that needed some trimming.”
“You didn’t go through the front doors where Vula had entered?” Kendra wondered.
“No, I walked to the side entrance. Maintenance staff are not allowed to use the front entry.” He explained. “You’re not thinking that could have hurt her, do you?”
Hailey wondered how Kendra was going to handle this one. But she handled it just fine. “Elton, I don’t think you did anything wrong. What I’m trying to do is establish a time line to help me figure out where to go next.” Kendra assured him. “I will be honest with you, if I were a police detective, then I would probably have you as my number one suspect. Just because you were the last to see her. So look at it this way, the more evidence and understanding of Vula I can get, the more likely that when the police do come poking around, we can have you cleared right away.”
She told him not to worry and in turn, Elton walked them to their car, told them thanks and then headed back towards the side entrance of the school. Hailey had to give props to Kendra’s class at handling the situation. She used her objectiveness in the case and her honesty. A trait that Hailey will use if it comes to it.
Nick had driven all over Glenberry, checking on both sets of parent’s alibi’s for last Friday. Barb Ushkowitz was at a charity luncheon that she went to every Friday afternoon, and Mac Ushkowitz was at work, in the middle of a lunch meeting. It took him ten minutes to obtain each of their alibi’s but it took him much longer to establish Mr. And Mrs. Garcia’s. After waiting for surveillance footage of Vezna Garcia waiting in line at the bank for over a half an hour, right around 12:30, he ruled her out.
Harley’s Bar and Grill was a dive, but they had a reputation for having the best ribs and wings that rivaled that of Hooters. As Nick looked around, he determined that
the atmosphere definitely didn’t rival Hooters, and neither did the waitresses. At least at Hooters, the girls breasts were high and tight, and they had all their teeth. Here the women could tuck their boobs into their tube socks and were in desperate need of a denturist or dentist.
The place smelled of stale beer and dirty fryers. His stomach turned just as his feet stuck to the floor. He was going to need a shower after leaving this place.
“Excuse me,” he started.
“Yeah, what?” A grumpy, hairy guy with a doo-rag on his head snapped at him.
“Is there anyone here who could tell me if Rico Garcia was working last Friday during the lunch rush?” Nick asked.
“Well, could I talk to him?”
The guy slammed down a shot glass that he was rubbing. Nick would have said polishing if he was in any other bar, but the rag this guy was using was not polishing anything. “You are. I’m Ralph the manager and I can tell you for certainty, that Rico Garcia was not working Friday. I fired him two weeks ago for stealing over a thousand bucks from me.”
“Thanks I really appreciate it.” Nick turned around and left. No alibi for Rico. Now Nick had a new suspect.
Kendra put her feet up on the side of the tub, and watched the bubbles slide down her legs. She was so tired that she had to ask Nick for a rain check and give her the night alone. He didn’t question her, or bug her to reconsider, he simply gave her a soft kiss on her forehead, and told her to relax before saying good-night.
The scent of lavender from the bubbles, helped put her at complete ease. Her eyes gazed at the flame of the candles which sat on the window sill looking out into her back yard. She loved her claw foot bath tub. It was one of those deep, and wide ones with jets installed. It looked old but obviously it wasn’t. It fit into her country-chic home. The bouncing light from her candles had put her in a deep trance that she nearly missed the phone ringing. Reaching it with her wet arm beside her on a wooden stool, she answered it quickly.
“Ken, I miss you so much,” chirped Molly in her ear. “Am I interrupting anything?”
“Nope, just relaxing in the tub.”
“No, alone.” Kendra smiled. A bath with Nick sounded better than the showers they’d shared. And that was pretty fun. “If I was with someone, I wouldn’t have answered the phone at all.”
“True. Anyways, I’m glad you talked us into Hawaii. It’s marvelous. It’s not too hot and not humid at all. In fact, there is this amazing breeze coming off the ocean. Oh and the Pina Colada’s are so delish, you would be in heaven.” Molly went on, “how’s the case? Find the girl yet?”
“Glad I steered you right. Jealous, and extremely jealous in an all too sober way, and slow and no girl yet.” Kendra turned the hot tap on with her toe. She told Molly all that was going on, that they seem to be stuck on what happened to Vula after she was last seen. “Somehow Molls, this girl is connected to Eli’s father. He has some kind of roll in this but we don’t know what. He’s either her friend like he claims or he’s an enemy. I’m pretty hard press to think that he’s linked to her disappearance. Except there is not evidence that say he isn’t connected. It’s a bitch of a case, and there’s no ransom. We’re stuck Molls.”
“Do you believe that Elton could do anything to the girl?” Molly asked.
Kendra turned the tap off with her toe, “not at all. I’m liking the step-father in this, but then again, we have no evidence to support that. Just that he lied about his alibi.”
“Should be enough to get the police involved now, shouldn’t it?”
“Not this time.” Kendra explained Vula’s record to Molly, and how the police are reluctant to help them find someone who they believe ran away on her own. “Even if we could, there is more evidence suggesting Elton is behind it than there is Rico.”
“Crap, Kendra, I have to go. I can hear Eli coming and if he catches me on the phone, he’ll shit. Email me later chickie.” Molly hung up.
Kendra clicked off on her cordless phone and it slipped out of her hand and landed in the bath. “Shit!”
Molly hung up quickly, then ran barefoot over to the desk, making it just as her husband entered the room. She loved saying “husband”.
“Booked our helicopter ride over the volcanoes for tomorrow afternoon.” He announced as he unbuttoned his white cotton shirt.
Another thing she would never get tired of, is looking at his strong, naked chest. “Yum, um I mean yay.” Eli smiled. “I got an email from Ken. The case isn’t moving along very fast.”
“No? Why’s that?” Eli asked sitting on the bed, wearing nothing but his brown cargo shorts, and his sandals which he kicked off.
“Your father is leading the suspects race, despite their reluctance to see it.” Molly told him. She hiked up her yellow sun dress and climbed on to his lap. Eli ran his strong hands firmly up her thighs and under her dress. “You don’t seem to concerned.”
“I’m not,” he placed a kiss in between her breasts through the thin cotton material of her dress. “I know my father. He could never betray my mother. Not with a woman or a girl.”
“Sounds sad.” Molly moaned.
“Mm-hm,” Eli went to tug her dress down for better access, but she stopped him. “Hey, what gives?”
“We’re talking here.”
“So now I know what your father meant by, once you marry them the fun stops and the talking begins.” He laughed as she slapped his shoulder. “It’s not our case Molls, and we’re on our honeymoon, not at work.” He leaned forward but she jumped out his reach.
“You’re right but you’re going to have to catch me first.” She ran to the other side of the king sized bed.
He did some bad pirate imitation, then chased her right out on to the patio and
into the sand. “Looks like ye lass is mine treasure. Open yar box.”
“That is horrible.” Molly gasped before laughing. He shrugged. Horrible line aside, nothing Eli could have said would have stopped her from giving him her treasure box.
She looked relaxed this morning as she got into his car. Nick, however, was far from it. He tossed and turned all night long. Missing her. Kendra was wearing a very short navy blue mini skirt with a what looked to him like a light pink pin stripes running through the material. Kendra matched it with a strapless pink cashmere sweater set. The strapless bodice of the strapless tank top, made her breasts look huge. Nick was in hell.
He listened to Kendra chatter on about her conversation with Molly from the night before. He didn’t intentionally block her out, but the image he had of sticking his hand up her skirt was too overpowering to give a shit about what Kendra was saying. It was official, Nick was fourteen again.
Instead, he told him self to concentrate on getting to Child Services safe and sound and that they had a critical case to solve.
Finally, Kendra stopped talking and watched out the window at the scenery. He was so out of touch with the world right now, that he couldn’t figure out if she was mad at him for not paying attention or just quiet. Not to mention, Kendra’s signals were hard enough to read on a good day, never mind when he was distracted.
He could have sworn he heard his name.
“Nick,” she yelled his name this time. He looked at her, “you missed the place.”
Kendra laughed, “maybe if you weren’t so busy thinking about all the sex you missed last night, that we could salvage this investigation.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking about?” He asked as he turned around in another businesses parking lot.
“The sad look on your face and the bulge in your jeans.” She giggled.
Nick looked down at his lap. Damn, she’s good. “So you got a chance to relax, and I didn’t. It’s a sacrifice I was willing to make for you.” He paused, “a large, painful price to pay. For you.”
“Aw that’s sweet of you.”
“That was sweet? Gee, honey, you don’t get romanced too often do you?” He teased. She went quiet.
They sat across from Jane, a tall woman with a raspy voice, and blonde, neatly curled hair. She was looking up Vula’s case on her computer. The woman was pretty much heartbroken when she heard that Vula was missing.
“She was troubled thats for sure, but once you’ve seen where she came from, you realize that the girl turned out better than you thought.” Jane explained. “Ah, here we go.”
Jane told them that Vula had gone to the police before going to the hospital but they refused to help her. “It took her going to the hospital and having a rape kit done to prove her story.”
“But there was no arrest.” Kendra stated.
“That’s the kicker,” Jane began, “there was physical evidence which collaborated her story but no biological evidence to verify her attacker. That’s when they handed Vula to us.”
“How long was it until placement was found for her?” Nick asked.
“Two months. I had her stay with me until then. Technically it was against the rules but I couldn’t send her back to that place. It just wasn’t safe for her.”
Nick hadn’t realized just how long the system took. He felt bad for Vula, realizing that for two months her life was full of uncertainty. That feeling was hell on a teenager. He had seen it many times when he worked as a beat cop.
“What would have happened if there was no placement for her?” Kendra asked. Nick could tell by the look on her face that she was feeling the same way he was.
Jane looked sad, “she would have had to return home. In reality, Vula was extremely lucky. Nobody wants teenagers, the all want newborns or at least toddlers. Once children hit seven, they’re harder to adopt out.” She explained that the Ushkowitz had been foster parents for fifteen years, and always taken in the younger children, but were finding it harder and harder each time one of those children were found homes. “They figured they would have an easier time with a teenager because they usually leave on their own. The foster home they’re placed in, would likely have them for their entire teenage life. At eighteen, they usually move out. I knew that Mac and Barb would miss any child, no matter what age they take in. They are truly good people. I can verify that with how they are feeling with her disappearance.”
Nick found Jane to be very helpful. She not only explained Vula’s situation, and how the foster care system worked, but also the changes in Vula. “The girl is a beautiful young lady, and I swear that she wanted a better life for herself, that’s why I know she didn’t run off. She knew that where she was, she had it. The kids a fighter.”
“I have to say Jane, that you have been of great help to us.” Kendra echoed his thoughts. “I doubt either of us truly understood how this system worked.”
“Kendra’s right. With your help, we now have a more thorough understanding about the situation.” Nick added.
“I’ll tell you this, Vula is lucky because foster parents like Mac and Barb are very rare.” Jane told them.
“How so?” He asked.
“Unlike the Ushkowitz’s, other foster parents are in it for the pay-off. The more children you take in, the more money the government gives you. Barb and Mac couldn’t have children so they do it for the love. They take in one child or one set of siblings at a time. Never more than that. They teach them how a real family is suppose to be. It’s not always easy, but they manage to help their foster children out. They have never failed an inspection, but their not perfect either.” Jane explained. “They are patient and loving and all they can do, is do their best.”
Kendra thanked Jane again for her help and handed her a card. Nick stood up and placed his hand on Kendra’s lower back to guide her out of Jane’s office. Without really trying, he got turned on from such a simple touch.
He had to fight for control over his body while they walked through the building. He looked down, but got a very good look at Kendra’s behind, and had to look back up again. Nick changed tactics, he began thinking about what Jane told them about the system. That deflated his problem.
Once he was securely inside his SUV, and she closed her door, “you and your damn sexy skirt.”
“Wha…” Nick grabbed her, kissing her as passionately and desperately as he could. She tasted like watermelon, he pulled back and licked his lips. “Watermelon lip balm.”
“I like it.” He went back to kissing her, thrusting his hand behind her neck and into her soft hair. He was just getting started when Kendra called a halt when he grabbed her boob through her shirt. Smooth move Nick, you really are back in high school aren’t you? He though to himself.
“Nick, we are in a parking lot at Children’s Services. This is hardly the place to be doing this.” Kendra stated, then in a soft voice she clasped his hand, “take me home.”
Sweet beans he was back in business.
“We do not work well together.” Kendra mentioned as she fastened her bra clasp while standing at the foot of his bed.
Her hair was a mess, the chocolate strands fell over her shoulders, and one thin strand was stuck to her cheek. Nick walked over, and gently tucked it behind her ear. The woman before him was more vulnerable than she allowed anyone to see. He could tell that because of how she refused to look at him while they were making love.
“I think we work great together,” he said tenderly. Kendra tore her gaze away from his. She stared at his chest instead. “You alright?”
Kendra stepped back out of his reach and bent over to pick up her skirt. Her pink lace panties stretching tight around her bottom. For some reason she always pulls away after sex or she wants more. She confused him.
With a huff she stood up straight, “I’m fin. That’s the problem.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not following.”
“Nick, what I’m saying is, I feel so guilty that I am feeling so great and that we are having fantastic sex, but we are suppose to be looking for a missing girl.”
“That I understand.” That wasn’t it but he was going to let it go for now. Nick took her hand, sat down on the end of his bed and pulled Kendra to his lap. “I’m going to be blatantly honest here. Either Vula ran away and doesn’t want to be found, or she’s dead already.”
She leaned her head on his shoulder, “are we wasting our time with this case?”
“No, her foster parents need answers and it’s our job to provide them.”
Kendra lifted her head. He could tell by her breathing that she had just thought of something, “there’s one place we haven’t looked yet.”
Sometimes sex generated her thought process. If it wasn’t for sex with Nick an hour ago, Kendra might not have thought about Vula’s locker. The most obvious place to start looking for clues to her whereabouts. Now she was watching the muscles in Nick’s
arms flex as he cut the lock off her locker.
They were going to empty out the contents into a box, then check it for anything once it’s empty. She practically had to force Nick to wear gloves before even touching the lock. She planned to dust for prints and keep them just in case the police finally took an interest or when they needed to turn the case over to the police.
“It smells in here,” commented Nick as he used a flash light to take a quick look.
Kendra took a deep breath, “it’s bleach.”
He looked at her from over his shoulder, “you cans smell that from where you’re standing?”
“Yes. I have an acute sense of smell. I could tell that someone had farted in the elevator at your condo prior to us getting on it, and you didn’t.” She smiled.
“A woman after my own heart,” he laughed. “So you have an acute sense of smell, can you tell where the bleach was used initially?”
“Probably,” she put the box down and used her nose to find where the higher concentrated level of bleach was used. She moved right to Vula’s locker. “If you crack any blood hound jokes right now, I’ll kick you in the little Nicky’s.”
The strongest scent of the bleach was inside Vula’s locker, but to be sure she sniffed around the lockers on either side of Vula’s. Nothing. As she looked and smelled Vula’s locker once more, she noticed two things. “The bleach is coming from inside her locker. Not only is the smell stronger in here, but the bleach ate away at the cheap paint on the shelf.”
Nick leaned in to take a look. “Very good, you deserve a Scooby snack.”
Kendra shot him a look of unamusement, but deep down inside she love the Scooby-Doo reference. “And could you hand me the tweezers and two plastic baggies from inside my purse, please and thank-you.”
“What is it?” He asked as he dug around her giant designer handbag.
“I’m gonna grab a chip of paint in case the police need it for trace, if there’s any on it, and there’s a hair that is stuck in the metal seams. It’s dark like Vula’s. She told him. Her right arm was getting tired as she held it out behind her for what seemed like forever. “Ah, Nick, find the stuff?”
“Ah, yeah I did.” He placed them in her hand.
Kendra picked up the chip of paint and put it inside the baggie, then tweezed the hair as carefully as she could in case there was a skin tag on it from the seam of the shelf
and locker wall. She held it up to the flash light, “definitely not long enough to be mine, but it’s good for DNA.”
He suddenly had gone real quiet behind her. She stood up, and turned around. He handed her the box. “Start packing it up, we’ll go through it later.”
“No problem, I need to print the locker after.”
“Nevermind that. We know what we’ll find. Just her prints.” Nick snapped. “I’m going to talk to Elton.”
Confused, she allowed him to walk away. Kendra filled the box with her books, pictures from the door, a make-up bag, a red handkerchief. She turned the handkerchief over in her hands. It was strange to find one in a teenagers locker.
Nick couldn’t believe what he found in Kendra’s purse. While he was shuffling around, her wallet unsnapped and he caught a glimpse of a picture of her with Matt. Smiling, in each other’s arms. They looked perfect together. Nick was jealous of Matt. The guy was over six-feet tall, and very muscular. Nick was not even five-ten, and he was cut but lean. Matt looked like he could protect Kendra better than he could. That thought just made Nick want to punch the son of a bitch out.
It also made him feel sick to his stomach because the woman he loved kept a picture of her ex-boyfriend in her wallet. The picture looked fairly recent. He would love to snoop around her house to see if there were anymore. Like a box of mementos or something.
As he walked towards the maintenance room, it occurred to him that he hasn’t established what his relationship was with Kendra. For all he knew, maybe she viewed as simply sexual. Maybe for her it’s nothing than just scratching an itch. That thought grated on his nerves.
Nick had a job to do. Now wasn’t the time to be thinking how he was feeling about Kendra. He knocked on the door to the room where the janitorial staff ate and worked out of, but there was no answer.
He turned the door knob and entered the room, calling for Elton. There was no response, as he scanned the room. The door to the washroom was open and the kitchenette were they prepared their lunches and dinners if they were on the evening staff, was all clean. The carts with supplies were gone. He took careful look at the gardening tools for any signs of blood or hair. All were clean. Then he took a close look at any cleaning products in a supply room. No bleach at all.
Casually, Nick wondered around, taking mental note of everything. He picked up a girly magazine off the coffee table in front of a tattered couch. Not a nude magazine but bikinis on cars type of magazine. He didn’t want to invade Elton’s privacy by going
through his locker without his permission but time was of the essence, Kendra would be there at any moment.
There was no lock on the lockers which made it easier for Nick to get in and look around. Opening the locker, he was greeted by a photo of Elton smiling happily with Eli and Molly at their wedding. His locker was neat and tidy. On the top shelf was a card from Subway with four stamps needed out of ten before he could get a free sub, next to his car keys, wallet and package of hankies. His street clothes were hanging neatly on the hooks, and on the bottom were his running shoes, a folded up newspaper sitting on top of a few magazines, and something pink.
Nick shined his flash light into the locker, and noticed that it was a pink metallic clip.
“Hey, how many girls carry red handkerchiefs?” Kendra asked as she walked into the room.
“Hey Ken, can I borrow your tweezers?” She handed him the tweezers, “thanks.”
“What is it?”
He held up the clip, with a hair. “Damaging evidence.” Nick watched as Kendra dug through her purse for another Ziplock bag. She handed it to him and he put the hair clip inside. “What was it that you asked?”
Kendra handed him a Ziplock bag with the red handkerchief inside, then repeated her question to him. He reached up on to the top shelf and picked up the package he had seen earlier.
“Six in a package, and there are two missing. I saw him with one the other day, and it wasn’t red.” Kendra pulled out one of the newer ones and matched the pattern to the one she found in Vula’s locker.
Nick looked over her shoulder at the handkerchiefs. The patterns matched, and that worried him. “There are tons of these sold every day, this doesn’t prove Elton’s behind this.”
“It doesn’t, but Nick, I’m going to be honest here, this doesn’t look good for him.”
“No it doesn’t,” he picked up the box she had carried in full of Vula’s locker contents. “Lets go and get this stuff sorted.
Kendra closed Elton’s locker and followed behind him as they headed out to his car. Nick dreaded having to tell Eli that his father might be guilty of kidnapping and possibly murder. And God knows what else.
As they got to the car, Kendra opened the back hatch with his keys, “are we
Nick put the box inside, “we,” he stopped when he saw Elton walk around the corner, “I’ll be right back.”
He ran across the parking lot and called out to Eli’s father, who stopped and waved. Nick grabbed his arm and pulled him away from the office windows.
“Tell me you didn’t hurt that girl?” Nick asked through gritted teeth.
“What? Nick, I would never.”
“Swear to me that you had nothing to do with Vula’s disappearance.”
“I never touched her. I have children of my own you know.” Elton swore. “I want this girl home with her foster parents just as much as they and you do. Where she belongs.”
Nick just stared at him. He knew deep down inside that Elton wasn’t behind it but he wanted to be sure. The evidence was piling up against him, but the man genuinely cared for the girl. His next statement proved it.
“I treated Vula like a daughter Nick. She worked hard in school because she didn’t want to be her mother. She was already picking out her colleges. How could anyone take that away from her?” Elton told him wholeheartedly.
Nick nodded and headed back to the car. Kendra was watching him. As he walked towards her she closed the hatch to his vehicle. His heart was pounding so hard in his chest he thought it was going to punch its way out. He was running on pure adrenaline.
He grabbed her purse, without taking his eyes off hers. She was stunned. He reached in and pulled out her wallet, dropping the bag on the ground. “Does he still mean anything to you?” Nick held open her wallet to the picture of Matt and shoved it at her.
“No Nick, we’re just friends, and that’s an old picture.” She reached to grab her walled but he pulled it back.
“Get rid of it, and we’ll be fine.” He let her have her wallet back by tossing at her once he closed it. He walked around to the driver’s side and got in, leaving her standing there in awe.
Nick had some major balls going through her purse like that right in front of her. Kendra picked up her bag from the ground and put her wallet inside as she headed to the passenger side of Nick’s SUV.
The angry side of the man who was usually laid back, had a strange affect on her. She was turned on by the man sitting next to her at the steering wheel. But she was also pissed right off. Ken understood that he had the right to be pissed off at her keeping an old photograph in her wallet, but to ask, no demand her to get rid of it, was going too far.
If Nick thought that he could get away with being angry, than he had no idea what he was up against. Nobody told what she could and couldn’t do. She was fine with him asking about the photo and even being mad at her. He should realize that she would have just took it out without him demanding her to. Now Kendra was tempted to leave it in there just to spite him. Besides, who the hell was he to demand that she do anything?
He was silent all the way to her house, and so was she. When Nick turned off the engine it surprised her that he thought he was coming in, but she wasn’t about to let him.
Nick pulled his keys out of the ignition, and she asked “what are you doing?”
“We’re going inside.” He answered.
“No, I’m going in, you are going home or where ever.” Kendra got out of his car. No surprise he followed her.
“Are you mad at me?” He asked with a high level of disdain.
“Yes Nick, I am.” Kendra walked up the steps to her porch.
“You don’t get to be angry here,” he stated. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
She turned and looked down at him from the top of the step, “you went through my purse and wallet right in front of me.”
“First off, I saw the photo when you asked me to go in your purse for the tweezers. Your wallet was open and I saw it. Secondly, why are you carrying around a photograph of an ex-boyfriend?” He yelled.
Oh she couldn’t believe this, “I didn’t even realize that it was still in there. Next time just ask, don’t grab, then throw my bag on the ground. And…”
“And what Kendra? What am I suppose to think when you’re fucking me, and carrying him around in you wallet?”
“I have already told you that you have nothing to worry about. Guess you don’t
really know what you’re thinking if you think that we are just fucking.” Kendra looked up to see some of her neighbours walking on the sidewalk in front of her house.
She turned around and unlocked the front door. She could hear Nick’s footsteps come up behind her. He whispered in her ear, “honey, we are more than just fucking, and you know it.”
His lips lightly grazing her ear, and his breath tickling her neck, made Kendra’s panties damp.
“Never demand anything of me, Nick. If you want me to remove that photo, then just ask me.” Kendra responded breathlessly.
Nick pushed himself against her, as she finished turning the key in the lock. He was hard and she could feel every inch of him. He put his hands on hers, stopping her from opening the door. “You’re feistiness, is so sexy.” Kendra felt his lips touch the back of her neck as his free-hand held her hair to the side along with the collar of her jacket.
“The sooner we get in the house, the sooner I can get naked.”
Nick opened the door and pushed her inside. As he pushed, Kendra pulled his coat down around his arms.
Once she had Nick inside her house, their fight igniting the spark of their sexual appetite. Lucky for her the dogs were occupied by the two marrow bones she tossed out of her purse and into the living room. They left for the bones pretty much the moment Nick and Kendra burst through the door.
She pushed Nick up against the wall, kicking the front door closed with her foot. For the second time today, Kendra would be shedding her clothes.
As fast as her hands could work, Kendra had Nick’s pants gone, then his socks. He helped her along by removing his dress shirt and the white t-shirt he sported under it. From her squatted position in front of him, with her skirt bunched around her hips, and the way she looked up at him, she figured she must have looked like a porn queen in the middle of shooting.
She didn’t care because she was so incredibly horny, and his huge cock was right in front of her. Kendra may as well act the part, starting by running her tongue up the length of him. Nick’s hands reached for the chair rail along the wall for balance. Slowly she took him into her mouth, just a little bit at a time. She loved the feel of him, heavy and strong, warm and smooth. Kendra pulled back and looked up at him. His head was back against the wall, staring at the ceiling, and his knuckles were turning white to keep him from coming.
Kendra ran her finger nail up his calf, and behind his knee. He shivered. The added sensation made him let out a groan. She put her lips on him again, this time taking
all of him. Sucking as she drew him all the way in.
Nick’s breath grew very ragged and she knew that he was close. His hands landed in her hair and he tugged her gently. They were so sexually tuned into each other’s bodies, that she stood up, and quickly removed her panties, as Nick pulled her skirt up further, then her top and bra down.
He picked her up easily and Kendra wrapped her short legs around his slim waist as he backed her against the wall. They were unprotected and she knew it. Kendra felt him enter her body in a slow, but slick motion.
“Nick, we aren’t covered.” How she managed to get that out, she’ll never know. The sensation of him, skin on skin, felt amazing.
“At the moment, I don’t care. I’ll pull-out.”
“Oddly, I’m not worried, and I’m on birth control.” She clung on to him, getting so close she practically became his skin. “Oh God Nick. Harder, faster.”
Her demands were met, and her backside kept hitting the chair rail. The brief thought came through her head that was probably not the reason why her grandfather had installed them. If she wasn’t in the middle of an orgasm, she would have laughed.
Once that orgasm was finished, she received another one, almost immediately. This time, Nick joined her.
With a grunt and a final hard thrust, he pinned her against the wall. Kendra felt his breath in her ear, but she could have sworn he just said, “elephant shoe.”
Kendra pulled the white sheet up around their naked bodies as Nick nattered on about Elton Savidis. She wasn’t really in a case mood but he clearly wasn’t thinking straight. Likely he was remembering about how guilty she felt earlier about not working on the case. He was ping-ponging theories back and forth as he drew circles with his thumb on her hip. One sentence Nick was positive Elton was guilty and the next he knew that Elton couldn’t possibly be do something like this.
All she could think about was if they had more evidence on Rico Garcia, they could follow that lead more closely. She was formulating a plan.
Eventually Nick drifted off to sleep, leaving the opportunity for Kendra to put her plan in motion. The moment he rolled over, Kendra carefully got out of bed, and slipped on a pair of black yoga pants, a tank top, and grabbed a hoodie and a pair of flip-flops and carried both to the front door. As carefully as she could, as to not wake up the dogs and Nick, she opened the front door and left. Stopping to put on her flip-flops and to zip up her hoodie.
She pulled her car out of the driveway and headed towards Yardley. She probably
should have grabbed her gun. Yardley at night was pretty sketchy.
Kendra was working on a hunch, and maybe a little hope. She pulled up to the curb across from the Garcia’s shack, as she liked to refer to it as, and got out. Shutting her door, but not making any noise.
Carefully and quietly, she crept up the drive way, and peered into the lime green Pinto that was parked first in the driveway. The windows were tinted, but it was a do-it yourself job as some of the tint was peeling or bubbling in some places.
She shined her flash light into the car and thought to herself that it was a wonder these people weren’t dead with all the fast food wrappers littered in the back seat. As Kendra headed towards a second car, a tacky gold Ford Taurus, parked ahead of the Pinto closer to the dilapitated garage, the front door opened. She ducked into the bush, praying that there wasn’t a skunk in there.
Both Vezna and Rico came out. Vezna was carrying keys. Kendra could hear the metal clinking together. She was saying something to Rico, and Kendra had to strain to hear. “I don’t care what you think Rico, Vula is my daughter and I want to find out what these people did to her.”
Rico yelled back, “get back in here Vez. That lying bitch of a daughter is better off where ever she is.”
“She’s my daughter Rico.”
“Vula owes you everything, and you gave her everything that you could give to that little cunt. Look how she’s repaid you?” Rico questioned. His potty mouth doing nothing to impress Kendra. She’s heard worse while playing UNO with Molly. Hell, she’s said worse playing UNO with Molly. Amature, she thought to herself.
Vezna Garcia was almost down the steps, her back to Rico. “I just want to know what those foster people know.”
“No you ain’t going any where.” Rico pointed to the door of the house, “now do what I say.”
Kendra was really hoping that Vezna would defy the greasey pig standing on the porch and get in the car, but she didn’t. No surprise really. Vezna turned around and went back inside with Rico.
She looked down at her cell phone, an hour passed by so quick, but she needed to get home as soon as possible in case Nick woke up.
One eye opened, then closed again. The sun broke right through the wood blinds along the back doors which lead to the pool. The glare was blinding. Nick rolled away from the sunlight, and found himself nose to the muzzle of a pugged nosed and a bad over-bite belonging to a bulldog. Hardy opened his mouth and flicked his tongue out. The dog had better morning breath than his ex-girlfriend, but it was still pretty rank.
The dog rolled on to his back, thrusting all four legs into the air. With the dog now breathing away from him, Nick could smell coffee. And, saw dust? Maybe he was having a stroke.
Slowly he sat up, then waddled to the ensuite bathroom to take care of morning duties. He washed his hands and then grabbed his jeans from the floor and pulled them on.
Fresh coffe and fresh blueberry muffins sat waiting for him on Kendra’s counter. How did he manage to sleep through the smell of baking?
He was enjoying that first sip of coffee when he heard a scrapping sound. Nick followed it to the basement, and in the middle of all that noise and wood, was Kendra, along with Sheldon and Megan. Sanding pieces of wood. Pink fiber glass installation was neatly tucked into the wall frame and sheets of dry wall leaned up against the walls. Ready to be installed.
His girl, wearing denim over-alls and covered in saw dust, was so cute. Her hair was in braids going down each side of her shoulders, but the shorter pieces of hair were whisping out.
Sheldon’s blonde hair was covered in a do-rag, and his older sister’s hair mimicked her aunt Kendra’s.
“What are you guys doing?” He asked as he sat down on the stairs.
“Morning,” smiled Kendra.
Sheldon came over, “uncle Nick, you owe me ten bucks. The Bruins lost that game against the Maple Leafs.”
Damn the kid was great with money. Never forgot a thing. Nick was never that good at money management at ten. Not like Sheldon was. “My wallets upstairs. I’ll slide you a note later.” Sheldon gave him a look, “kid, I’m good for it.”
“Where’s your shirt uncle Nick?” Sheldon asked. “Cha’ lose it in another bet?”
“Sheldon, you don’t ask that to adults.” His sister scolded. “He and aunt Ken were having a sleep over.”
Nick caught Kendra’s eye. She gave him a wink followed by a little shrug.
Kendra found Nick’s embarrassment really sexy. He had excused himself and took off back up stairs when the kids started asking questions about what adults do on sleepovers. He had panicked, but she knew the questions were Megan’s entertainment. She was a smart twelve year old and watching Nick squirm was fun for her. And for Kendra too.
After his shower, he re-joined them in the basement. He paid Sheldon in full, and then promised him another ten if he helped Nick with the dry wall. The kid was all over that project.
The front door opened and Chewbacca took off from the top of the stairs. He wasn’t the type of dog to get drywall or saw dust in his hair.
Nick looked at her, his eyes asking her who was there. “Molly and Eli, I believe.”
“It’s been a week.” She answered. “Hey Shel and Meg, why don’t you go harass your aunt Molly and Uncle Eli and see what they brought you from Hawaii.”
The two kids took off at a run up the stairs, fighting each other to see who would get their gifts first.
Kendra stood up, brushed her hands on her hips. She pulled him by the belt closer to her. “If I were you, I’d kiss me quickly before they all come down here.”
“Gladly baby,” he leaned his head down and his lips caressed hers before turning the kiss into fierce and fiery. His mouth and hers were two perfectly fitting puzzle pieces.
Kendra heard the first foot step and reluctantly pulled back with a low groan.
As the girls were yapping in the basement, Nick and Eli took the dogs for a walk. He really wanted to talk to Eli about the case, just to hear what his thoughts were.
Chewbacca was next to Eli’s leg the entire time, behaving. Hardy, however, was scrambling ahead, determined to pull Nick’s arm right out of it’s socket.
As Nick tried to maintain control of the dog, he told Eli all about the damaging evidence they had against his father.
“First off, the handkerchief could have come from anywhere. That’s circumstantial evidence that would likely be useless in court.” Eli stopped to allow
Chewbacca to lift his leg on a mailbox.
“What about the hair clip?” Nick asked.
“Could be anyones. For all we know he found it while sweeping. It’s not like we can test the hair for DNA. None of us are qualified.” Eli answered.
“You’re right man, I just didn’t know how to proceed.”
Eli stopped walking, put a friend hand on Nick’s shoulder, “keep an eye on the step-father. Steer your focus away from my father for the time being. If he is guilty, then once all your other leads are completely exhausted, then go back to my father.”
“I could really use your help on this.” Nick rand his hand through his short, curly hair.
“Wish I could, but he’s my father so therefore it’s a conflict of interest.” They kept walking, “I can assist at surveillance of the step-father’s activities.”
He smiled, “I might just take you up on that.”
Alex drove Hailey back to Kendra’s to pick up their kids. He really wasn’t counting on Molly and Eli being there. He assumed they would be back at their place, getting settled in after their long trip home. With them here now, his chance to pick up the kids and go were gone. He loved seeing his sister-in-law and brand new brother-in-law, but with Hailey acting all weird and talking about the case, he didn’t want them talking business. He was getting worried.
The day was perfect for April weather, and they decided to sit outside, gathered at Kendra’s patio table in her back yard. Hailey helped Molly and Kendra make coffe and carry it out.
Just as he feared, talk of the case surrounded him coming from everyone, except the children. They were discussing evidence and the time line they created. He couldn’t understand how the foster parents or parents were feeling in the case but he did know that it was his worst nightmare.
Alex doctored his coffe as he sent warning looks to Hailey. He was sure that his wife was more involved than what she was letting on. She should be nowhere near it. Maybe he should have a man-to-man talk with Nick before they left.
“When Kendra and I talked to Elton, he seemed genuinely concerned,” Hailey mentioned during their conversation.
“Never go by that Hails,” Eli said, “it’s gotten us in more than enough trouble before.”
That was all he needed to hear, he pushed his coffee away and stood up. “Hailey, we need to get going.”
“Alex we are right in the middle of a conversation.”
“Now please, I need to talk to you.” Alex turned and headed through the house, leaving no room for discussion.
Yardley was dingy. The small town held zero appeal for Nick, but the place housed the past of his best friend sitting next to him in his buddy’s jeep.
The streets had garbage clogging up the storm drains, and almost every time Nick had to drive through here, there was at least one store manager scrubbing graffiti off their store fronts. He liked to refer to it as the Black Abyss of Maine.
Elton Savidis live in a bachelor apartment in some hole in a wall building. Except that description pretty much described any building in Yardley. Nick was pretty sure there were cockroaches in Elton’s apartment.
They arrived at the building, and Eli cracked some joke about the place looking cleaner than when he last saw it. He laughed at his own joke until they entered the building. “I stand corrected.”
“No you were probably right. The inside is so filthy because all the shit that was on the outside came in to get away from itself.” Nick told him. Then he could have sworn he saw something scurry down the hall, “oh, my crap in a hat, was that a rat?”
Eli looked at him, “reading Dr. Seuss again there buddy?”
Nick shot him an annoyed look, then pressed the elevator button. “Nice security.”
He was good at sarcasm, but Eli was better, “yeah they upgraded.”
Nick looked around the lobby, the front door was wide open, all the mailboxes along the one wall were opened and trashed. “How so?”
“They installed locks on the mailbox doors. Before that they were just cubbies open for all the riff-raff to steal your mail.”
He looked again, half the doors were pried off. “I see.” They stepped on the elevator.
It was a Saturday so they knew that Elton would be at home. Eli wanted to surprise his father, not because he was back from his honeymoon, but because he could catch Elton drinking. In the last few months, Eli had yet to catch him.
Nick let Eli do the honours and pound on the door. A few moments later the door swung open. Elton was wearing a blue and tan bowling shirt, a pair of khaki pants and his hair was neatly combed. Elton looked like he had a date.
The moment he saw his son, he puled Eli into a hug. Nick felt awkward since he didn’t have a father. Just a step-father. Jealous summed up how he was feeling quite nicely.
“How was Hawaii?”
“Amazing dad, thank-you.”
“How is my stunningly, gorgeous daughter-in-law?” Elton asked his son.
Eli headed to the refrigerator and opened it. Nick knew he was checking it for beer. “Water, Nick?”
“Nick, sit down and make yourself comfortable.” Elton gestured to the couch.
Against his better judgement, Nick took a seat. He could swear that a spring just poked him.
“So dad,” Eli began as he pulled a plastic chair over from the kitchen table. “Nick tells me that you are involved in this missing girls case.”
Elton looked at Nick. The look on his face was disappointment. Nick figured that he thought Nick wouldn’t tell Eli. In a way he hadn’t. Kendra told Molly and Molly told Eli.
“I just happened to be the last one to see her alive, is all.”
“Why are you hanging around teenage girls dad?” Eli asked point blank.
The question was blunt, and the look on the elder Savidis’ face told Nick that it made him nervous. Eli was always better at interrogating than Nick was.
“I…I’m just friends with her. She’s a good kid Eli. That girl says hello every day, and treats me like a human being, unlike the rest of the high school students there.” Elton explained. “That girl treats me better than my own sons.”
“Dad,” Eli was cut off.
“No Elliott, it’s true. Eddie purposely says nasty things and snide comments about me, right in front of me. Eric is the biggest mooch ever and only comes to see me when
he needs something. And you,” he paused, “you’re ashamed of me.”
“Elton,” Nick butted in, against his better judgement. “That isn’t true. I know for a fact that he is so proud of you. He’s said it more than a few times just recently. He’s not ashamed of you. If anything he spent years worrying about you. Now he feels like he doesn’t have to worry. He’s proud of that and you.”
“Dad, he’s right. I am more than proud of you. You’ve worked so hard to get your life in order, and despite Eddie and Eric’s major faults, you raised three boys. Alone. That is one hell of an admirable trait.
The mushy stuff was killing Nick so he decided to tune them out. They had issues to work out and he was about to mentally give father and son the privacy by concentrating on the springs quest to become one with his bum. He tried to move over, but the damn spring followed him.
“Nick?” Eli snapped his fingers in front of his face, “Nicholas, are you with me?”
“Uh, yeah. I was just mentally giving the two of you some space.”
For the next hour, they explained all the evidence that Nick and Kendra had collected and how it made him look guilty. Elton gave the impression that he didn’t care about what they had. He simply didn’t do it.
“I have the hair clip to give back to Vula. I found it on the floor by her locker last Friday. She was wearing ones just like it when we went for lunch that day.” He explained. “As for the handkerchief,” he reached in his lunch bag, “here’s the red one, and here’s the blue one over there. The one you have is not mine.”
“How do we know?” Nick asked.
“Because any used one of mine, will have snot in ’em. You can test them for my DNA if you’d like.” He answered. “I would never give a lady or a girl, a snot rag.”
Eli looked at Nick, as if that logic were enough to clear him because it made sense. Nick hated to admit it, but it did.
The weekend ended quickly and that bummed Kendra out. Nick spent it at her place, and the spent it alternating between working on her basement, with sex then work on the case and more sex.
As for her stealthy exit Friday night, Nick called her on it. Apparently she did a good job until she turned her car on. Since he knew, she decided to tell him everything that she learned from that night.
Except now it was Monday, and he had moved the wipe board from Molly’s office, into hers. This case was their number one priority and judging from her office, there was no room for another.
She had come in early with Nick, who was now out running some errands, to work on the case. Kendra got to work categorizing all of Vula’s locker contents. Going through each item one by one, putting them on the table that was now pushed to the other side of the room. Photographing and putting together an inventory for when things needed to go to the police or her foster parents, they would know what was there and what wasn’t. Kendra was currently flipping through Vula’s text books looking for any little scraps of paper when there was a knock at her office door.
“Come in,” she called out.
There was so much stuff in her office that the wipe board took up a lot of room and the opening door banged against the wheels. There was just enough room for her visitor to squeeze through. When that person finally appeared it was Jane from Child Services.
“Jane, hello. I’m really sorry for the mess,” she began as she stood up to clear a chair for her to sit in.
Jane looked all around the room. Her mouth agog. “I’m sure your office is awesome but looking at all the work that you are doing in order to find Vula is so over powering.”
“She’s priority.” Kendra motioned to the newly cleared off chair.
“Vula’s a great kid with a big heart, if she knew all of what you were doing and how many people were looking for her, she would be touched.”
Kendra sat back down at her desk. She liked Jane a lot but she learned all too well that sometimes you like the wrong person, and that the person who is all too willing to help, will inject themselves into the investigation and end up being the guilty party. And maybe Jane wasn’t a bad person, but Kendra wondered if Jane would go beyond limits to protect Vula, and kidnap her herself in order to get her away from her parents and the system. Kendra decided to engage in subtle questioning.
“What was Vula like?”
Jane crossed her legs, “I know that she tried to treat everyone as equals, and that she has her life mapped out. Vula told me that she could do that now that she was with the Ushkowitz’s.”
“Do you mind if I record our conversation? Anything you can tell us, may help us out a lot.” She got permission then hit record on the computer. “Mapped out how?”
She looked comfortable. Jane’s posture suggesting that she wasn’t hiding anything, and that could be true but with female suspects they were harder to figure out than males. “Vula had specific goals set up to achieve. She wanted to make the honour roll, and graduate with honours at the top of her glass. She wanted to become student body president and attend prom, and join the debate team next year. She wanted to build herself a better life.”
“Did she have her post-secondary education planned as well?”
“Yes she did.” Jane nodded. “Vula wanted to attend Sarah Brown College. Her plan was to obtain a degree in women’s studies and psychology. She wanted to help victims of abuse. Especially children.”
Very impressive Kendra thought. At Vula’s age, Kendra was too busy dodging seniors to think about lunch, let alone plan the next four-plus years.
“I finally got the reports from the police this morning regarding her step-father, Rico Garcia. It’s very telling and I thought you might be interested.” She handed Kendra a folder.
Kendra opened the folder and carefully read through the first few pages of its contents. What she read shocked her. It was almost incredible that both she and Nick missed this detail.
“Kind of eye opening isn’t it?” Jane questioned.
“And they ignored Vula’s plea for help.” She shook her head. “I sincerely hope the police get some major heat from this.”
“I agree with you completely. I think I might go to the media about the shotty police work in the case after you’ve found her.” Jane stood up, and adjusted her purse strap.
“That is a great idea and I’m sure we would back you up, providing Nick doesn’t have a problem with it since he was a former detective for that precinct.” Kendra put the file down, “is it alright if I make a copy of this?”
Jane held up her hand, “no need. That one is yours. I made a copy for you.”
“Thank-you. I highly appreciate that.” Kendra followed the social worker out of her cramped office.
“Kendra,” she stopped and turned around. With her voice lowered, “she’s not going to be found alive, is she?”
She wonder if Jane knew something or was just privy the statistics of missing children. “I hope we do, but I doubt it Jane.” Kendra placed a comforting hand on Jane’s arm, “I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be. I appreciate the fact that you were just honest with me, and that you and Nick took the case with deck stacked against you guys. You both are still pursuing it and that says a lot about your integrity.” With that, Jane turned and walked out of the office.
Kendra turned to Hailey. She was just getting in. “Rough morning?”
Hailey looked stressed, “sorry for being late. Sheldon wouldn’t get dressed this morning, or eat, then he missed the bus.”
“No worries. Is everything alright?”
“Oh, you mean about Alex’s temper-tantrum at your place on Saturday?” Hailey sat down at her desk. “Yeah it’s resolved. He was just worried about me in this job. He kept yammering on about your a mother, not a super hero.”
“Funny, I thought mom’s and super heros were one in the same?” She smiled.
“Ha, too true sista.”
“So we need to keep you out of the field?”
“Yeah pretty much.” Hailey answered. “I liked it though. It was so exhilarating and fun. It helped to make my day more exciting.”
Kendra sat on the corner of Hailey’s desk, “did you tell him that?” she shook her head. “Then my advice to you is to tell him how much fun it is and that not every case had danger involved. Tell him that it makes your day more interesting.”
“Any time.” Kendra headed to her office.
Nick wasn’t looking forward to his trip back to the Garcia’s. Especially after what
Kendra showed him. For the first time in his life he was ashamed of his police back-ground.
He also had the difficult task of keeping Kendra from striking out physically and verbally. Although she promised earlier, he had his doubts. Hell, he didn’t trust himself not to do those same things.
Vezna was home by herself and she allowed them into her home. She seemed more relaxed this tima and Nick figured it was because Rico was “at work”. Nick knew that wasn’t the case.
“Any news on Vula?” The mother asked.
“No sorry,” Kendra answered, “but we’re working on it.”
Vezna shook her head. “That stuff I said before, I didn’t mean any of it. She’s my daughter, ya know. But Rico, well he’s gotta temper.”
“May I ask why you put up with it?” She asked.
“Fear mostly. Money. He’s never touched us, but ah he gets real mad like and he says things. Instead of findin’ out if he’s bluffin’, I’d rather take no chances.”
“Mrs. Garcia,” Nick began, “did you know that your husband has a police record?”
“He has a police record?” She looked genuinely shocked, and concerned. She started to chew on her cuticles. “No I wasn’t aware of that.”
“Mrs. Garcia, you might want to take a seat. What we have to tell you may come to a shock.” Nick warned. Vezna Garcia complied and sat down.
Earlier in the car, they agreed that the news would be better off coming from Kendra if Vezna didn’t already know. Nick watched as Kendra squatted down in front of Vezna Garcia, who was looking more vulnerable than the last time he had seen her.
“Rico Garcia, has a juvenile record that we cannot gain access to because it is sealed, but we were able to get access to his adult record.” Kendra began.
“He has multiple indecent exposure charges, two charges of inappropriate conduct around children, fifteen charges of possession of child pornography, and three child sexual assault charges. Rico is on the sex offender registry and is listed as dangerous.”
Vezna Garcia kept shaking her head, “and I did nothing. I did nothing because I thought my daughter was lying.” She started crying uncontrollably. Her eye make-up
began to run down her face giving her what Kendra referred to as the Alice Cooper special. “He touched my Vula, that bastad.”
Kendra looked at Nick over her shoulder. Nick decided to leave the room, stepping out on the front porch so that Kendra could do the female duties of comforting a hysterical woman Although Nick wasn’t sure Kendra was the one to pull it off, that seemed to be Molly’s area of expertise, but Ken was all he had.
As he closed the door behind him, a really ugly green pinto pulled up into the drive way. There was mud splattered all around the wheel wells. Rico Garcia got out.
“What the fuck are you doin’ here?” He walked up and pushed Nick, “get off my property.”
Nick refused to budge, “or what, you’ll call the police?” Rico didn’t answer. “We both know that’s the last thing you’d do, eh? You’re a sick son of a bitch.”
“No, fuck you. You are behind Vula’s disappearance and I am going to spend every waking and breathing moment to prove that you hurt her.” Nick shoved back.
“Breathing moment, huh chico, I don’t think so. Because I am gonna cut you. I aint ever hurt a child.”
Nick laughed hysterically, “funny. I actually have the police record that says otherwise. Which means you will again, and again.”
Rico punched Nick, but he retaliated with a punch of his own. His face was stinging, and had to mentally admit that Rico had a one hell of a fist, but he wasn’t about to go down without a damn good fight. The two of them rolled around the front yard, punches and blood flying every where. Nick could feel blood drip into his eye from a cut somewhere above. He just hoped it was his own blood and not Rico’s. God knows where he had been.
Kendra looked at Vezna, and she looked back. They ran to the door and swung it open to see both guys kicking and hitting each other. Her first thought was that Nick was worried about her behaviour? She hadn’t punched or kicked anyone yet. No matter how tempting.
She pulled her gun, “STOP! I SAID STOP DAMMIT!”
The two men stopped, Rico put his hands up, and Nick used his arm to wipe the blood from his brow. Now that they were no longer fighting, and shooting either of them wasn’t an option, she had no idea what to do next.
Vezna stepped in and started cursing at Rico in Spanish, and then finished with her kicking him out. He yelled back in Spanish, then stomped off to his Pinto, slamming the car door. Kendra flinched. Those cars had a narly reputation of exploding when hit hard by other cars. Nothing blew-up now. She hated to admit, but she was disappointed.
Vezna, too, disappeared inside her house, slamming the door behind her.
Nick looked at Kendra and she said, “well that was interesting.”
Nick was at his desk in his condo working ona theory. He had already turned evidence over to the police after a long discussion with Kendra. Both of them felt that it was time that the police take over. They could legally deal with Rico Garcia, where as they couldn’t. For once the police said that they would have a look.
His work wasn’t done yet. Nick and Kendra still needed to find Vula. Her foster parents and Vezna deserved answers, whether good ro bad.
Kendra walked in carrying dinner just as his cell phone rang. He gave her a quick kiss then answered.
“Nick speaking.” He walked to his counter carrying the bags of Greek food Ken brought over from her favourite place. He put them down, and felt everything in his body go rigid. “OK, thanks.” Nick felt sick to his stomach.
“What’s wrong? You just turned pale.”
Nick looked at her, “that was the police.”
Her eyes widened, “Oh my God, they found Vula’s body?”
“No,” he swallowed. “They arrested Elton Savidis in connection to her disappearance.”
Kendra and Nick just stood their at Eli and Molly’s house. Eli was pissed off at the both of them. More at Nick. She figured it was because he didn’t know her as well as he knew Nick. She couldn’t get a word in edge-wise to set the record straight. Eli wasn’t letting either of them talk.
The decision to go to the police had been both of theirs. It was their evidence, and their case. Nick had a plan that they would give them everything, after they made copies of everything, and then guide them towards Rico Garcia, not Elton Savidis.
They just didn’t think the police would run out and arrest someone only a few hours after receiving evidence. The police didn’t do any of their own investigating, but instead just arrested someone without really looking thoroughly through what was given to them. Nick and Kendra had done all the work.
Eli had every right to be pissed off but it should have been directed at the police, not his friends and co-workers. Kendra couldn’t help but focus on this vein in the top of Eli’s forehead that popped out. Nick had one in the same spot and one in his neck. She had noticed that yesterday while he was fighting with Rico. Today he had a swollen left eye with a pink Hello Kitty band-aid over the cut he sustained, and a bruised upper lip. It was kind of sexy. Well maybe except the pink band-aid.
Her thoughts dragged her away from the problem at hand. If it wasn’t for the strange questioning look Molly was shooting her, she never would have realized it.
“My father’s hard work has just been flushed down the shitter thanks to you two. What possessed you to go to the police now?” Eli screamed.
“We had enough evidence to give Rico to the police, for questioning. He has a record.” Nick spoke in effort to reason with his best friend.
“A record versus, physical evidence is not enough.” Eli shook his head, and ran his hands through his terminally messy, blonde hair. “You’re so stupid.”
Kendra had to fight to control the urge to bug her eyes out. Eli rarely lost his temper but he never insulted anyone before. At least not from what she knew about him. That was her department. Kendra was a bit worried about Nick, because there was no way he ever allowed anyone to call him stupid. He wasn’t going to let that go.
“You know what Eli, I did what I had to do. The police are the ones you should be pissed off with, not me. Especially not Kendra. The main goal was to find this girl, not to keep your alcoholic father out of trouble. Right now you can fuck off.” Nick grabbed Kendra’s hand, “if you don’t like my way, then you can have this case since you think you’re so God dammned high and mighty.”
Nick pulled her from the house. He was hurt by his best friend so he lashed out.
She understood that, but Eli was a partner in her business, and Nick technically wasn’t even an employee. Deep down inside, Kendra knew that allowing Nick to work with her was a mistake.
“Kendra, not now please. I’m dropping you off at the office, then I’m going to try to repair the damage.” Nick informed her.
Nick told her to keep working the case and that he was going to get Elton released.
Hailey couldn’t believe what Kendra was telling her. She sympathized with both Nick and Kendra but she thought Ken’s fear that this incident would tare her and Molly apart were unfounded. Those two were inseparable. Things would work out.
As always Kendra was trying to hide her fear, but Hailey had known her since she was seven years old. She could see through the facade almost as well as Molly could. “I should have known better than to allow Nick to help me out because now it could put this business in jeopardy and may ruin his and Eli’s friendship.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about Ken.” Hailey and Kendra turned around to see Molly standing in the front door. “He’ll get over it, and maybe, just maybe he will be force to deal with his father’s possible guilt. I love the man, but there is a good chance he’s behind it.”
Kendra stood up, “you don’t believe Elton’s guilty, do you Molls?”
Hailey watched Molly walk to Kendra. Her heels of her hot pink pumps clunking on the hard wood. She put her hands on each of Kendra’s shoulders. “A very intuned and intelligent woman once told me, that evidence speaks louder than feelings but that it screams louder when paired with gut instincts.”
“Having you say that now, out loud, makes absolutely no sense to me. Why would I say that?”
“OK fine,” Molly dropped her arms to her side, “a great writer once wrote, ‘keep the faith’.”
“Jon Bon Jovi,” Kendra smiled, “now that makes sense.”
Then Hailey came up with an excellent idea. “Girls, I think we can salvage part of Eli’s father’s reputation.”
“How?” Molly and Kendra both asked.
Kendra had to hand it to Hailey, her plan might just be working. The three of them were sitting in Principal Wiggins office. His name was enough to make her want to crack up in laughter. She half expected him to get up and the Wiggins walk that Carole Burnette made famous. She felt a giggle that needed to be suppressed. She needed to focus, and not think about Carole Burnette as Mrs. Wiggins. Kendra always got giggly when tired.
“Mr. Savidis was falsely accused in the Garcia case. We have sufficient evidence that her step-father is behind it.” Kendra stated. Stretching the truth just little bit.
“I understand that Ms. Morgan, but obviously the police wouldn’t make a mistake of that magnitude.” Mr. Wiggins retaliated.
“Very valid point Mr. Wiggins. Except that we are talking about the same police force that Vula Garcia went to last June for help, because her step-father sexually assaulted her. That same man who is on the registered sex offenders list for multiple child-sex related crimes. Those same cops ignored her plea for help. So you tell me now that they were right in arresting a man who has no record, no history of violence and actually cares about the victim, and not to mention, who has been more than willing to cooperate with us.” Kendra was fired up but a mistake by two parties were made. She and Nick for going to the police with just a file on Garcia, and the police for ignoring the victim before and not following up with the step-father before talking to, not arresting, Elton.\
Mr. Wiggins leaned back in his chair, considering what Kendra had just told him.
“Mr. Wiggins,” Molly said softly, “a huge mistake was made. Is it fair that Mr. Savidis should lose this job? Or lose a reputation when the only thing that connects him to Vula Garcia is the occasional lunch at a fast food joint?”
“He loves this job,” added Hailey.
“Mr. Savidis is rather good at keeping our school clean, and the grounds nicely landscaped.” He paused. “Did you know that because of him, we don’t need landscapers to come in, and all that extra money goes to extracurricular activities.” Mr. Wiggins told them.
“You mean you don’t pay him for all the extra work?” Molly asked. The man was her father-in-law after all, she needed to make sure he wasn’t getting ripped off.
“We tried to but Mr. Savidis wouldn’t take any payment. He told us to put it back into the school for the kids. It was his request.” Mr. Wiggins explained.
Kendra could see the pride in Molly’s face. She was so proud of Eli’s father, and Eli would be too.
“Is it safe to say Mr. H-Wiggins,” Kendra couldn’t help herself, “that Elton Savidis will still have a job here when this mess gets all sorted out?” The Principal looked at her funny. “Excuse me, hiccups.”
He nodded, “he certainly does. Thank-you ladies for shedding some light into the situation.”
“Just one more thing sir, before we go.” Kendra paused, “I noticed that you have a security system in place. I saw the cameras at the entrance today.”
“Yes we do. None of the students know about them, we picked small high powered ones to pick up any bad behaviour.” He explained.
“Yes they are rather small because I didn’t notice them until just today. How many cameras to you have?” She asked.
“Two at each entrance. Thirty-eight entrances and exits but ten belong to the science and shop classes, and four to the gym. Thirty cameras all together.” Mr. Wiggins answered.
“Is it possible to get the footage from every camera from the day Vula went missing?” Molly asked.
“Sure. We keep the DVDs for a month.” He called his secretary and asked her to retrieve the discs.
Once the girls had thirty different camera’s, which equalled to a hell of a whole lot of DVD’s they were on their way.
“Ladies, I’m really hungry.” Hailey blurted out. “My stomach was threatening to growl in Mr. H-Wiggins office.”
“That’s fantastic.” Molly said as she pulled out of the schools parking lot. “I’ve been having a craving for a frigging pizza sub since the wedding.”
“God you and your Subway cravings.” Kendra stated. Molly rarely got cravings but when she did, they were powerful.
One time while they were in their teens, Molly got this hankering for a hot dog. They drove all over the place at eleven at night on their way to a club, looking for a hot dog. Eventually she found one.
“Bite me. Yes I have a craving, big freaking deal.”
Molly drove to the same Subway where Vula ate lunch on Friday’s. The same woman was behind the counter and she seemed to be relieved to see Kendra.
“Ms. Morgan, I’m so glad you came back. I lost the card you gave me.”
Kendra smiled. The woman was almost frantic. “Not a problem, what’s up?”
“I remembered something about the missing girl.” She paused, “have you found her yet?”
“No, unfortunately we haven’t.”
The woman made their subs while she told Kendra that another man showed up. “The man she was with, the janitor, got up to use the washroom, and the girl went outside.”
“What did the other guy look like?” Hailey asked.
“He was kind of short. Latino with slick back dark hair and those awful sideburns that are bushy. He had a mustache,” she told them what it looked like.
“A fu manchu, go on.” Kendra encouraged, although she knew already who the man was.
“He had a naked woman tattooed on his arm. They argued, well mostly he yelled at her, and then he smacked her.” She described. “I can’t believe I forgot all of this. Our manager was going over the tapes, and he found the incident and asked me about it, and that was when I remembered.”
“Tapes?” Molly asked. “Do you still have them?”
“Sure do. I explained to my manager that a private investigator came in asking all kinds of questions and told him that I had your card. He put the tape aside in the back.” She quickly finished making their sandwiches, then after wiping her hands on a towel, disappeared into the back.
“Wow,” Hailey exhaled, “talk about a major break in the case.”
Kendra picked up her phone and texted Nick. “This might be enough to take the pressure off of Elton and on to Gracia.”
Molly was already on the phone to Eli. This was great news for Elton.
“Here you go. I’m really sorry I didn’t remember when you spoke to me before. Maybe the girl would have been found by now.” She handed the tape to Hailey along with a bag full of their subs. “My boss says the sandwiches are on him.”
Kendra smiled, “thank-you very much. And you know what, don’t worry about forgetting. Everyone does, and I caught you at a busy time. It’s not your fault. We really appreciate this.”
Hailey found herself in Kendra’s office, watching DVDs from the high school. She figured this was their way of killing her interest in becoming a private investigator. There was so much to go through, that she knew that she would have to take it home with her. Alex wasn’t going to be happy, but this was part of her job. They told her that when they hired her on full-time. Hailey wasn’t worried.
After all of them watched the video tape from Subway, while they ate their lunch, Hailey now knew what Rico Garcia looked like. Finding him should be easy.
There were so much video footage that they dumped on poor Hailey, that Kendra felt guilty, and decided to pick up half the DVD’s from Hails’ place. On her way home she stopped at her favourite restaurant and picked up some Greek pasta salad, Chicken on a pita with extra tizhiki sauce and baklava. Her mouth watered all the way home.
A storm was coming in and she hope the power remained on or else she wouldn’t get to view the DVD’s comfortably. She would have to use her lap top and although she would get them viewed, she just wouldn’t be comfortable doing it.
As she walked up to her house, the rain started to lightly pelt the stamped concrete of her front porch. She could hear Hardy on the other side snorting around the door to see who it was, then barked excitedly. Kendra resisted the urge to sniff her arm pits to see if she smelled. Her dog knew her scent, good or bad.
Once inside, she let Hardy out to do his business before the rain picked up since he wasn’t one for getting wet, especially his precious feet. He quickly ran back inside, slid on the wood floor and turned into the kitchen as Kendra closed the door off the dining room. She poured a glass of riesling and took her plate with her Greek food to the living room to start watching the DVD’s.
Nothing too eventful took place, especially while the students were in class, but in between she caught a few making out and smoking, the usual shenanigans that students get into during break. She also noted that there seemed to be a lot of bullying. This high school seemed to have some serious issues which needed to be addressed before the situation escalated to a Columbine level. She would mark the tape and let the principal know.
As she put her put a piece of pita and chicken into her mouth, Vula Garcia appeared on the screen with her friend, Layla. Layla gave a wave and then walked towards the parking lot. Her phone rang so Kendra pressed paused and looked at the call display, “what’s up Hails?”
“I’ve got a lime green pinto in the front parking log.” Hailey told her. “Luckily for us, the one east side camera has a decent view of the far end of the parking lot.”
“Excellent, have you seen the driver?”
“Not yet. I paused it to call you. The time stamp says twelve-twenty-six.” Kendra jotted down the information and then asked if Hailey could un-pause it. “Sure.” Kendra waited patiently for Hailey to watch the tape. “Unfortunately I can’t get a clear shot, but the driver looks male.”
“Where’s he headed once out of the car?”
“He’s heading towards my camera, the east side.” Hailey gasped.
“It’s definitely Rico Garcia, and he walked right past my camera. Towards the back.”
“Hailey, you rock. Mark it down and keep looking for him. We’ll see if we can retrace his steps.” Kendra hung up.
She watched the DVD’s and noted at twelve-thirty, Vula walked back into the school through the front door, and just as Elton had said, he continued to walking to the west side of the school. As Kendra kept watching neither Vula, Elton or Rico come out the front door. However, Elton was out front at twelve forty-five trimming the hedges.
The next set of DVD’s she watched was the back doors of the same building, and sure enough, Rico entered the building just before twelve-thirty. “Gotcha!”
Nick’s cell phone rang and he looked at his watch, just after midnight. The rain was so loud against his windows that he was surprised he had fallen asleep. “Yeah?” He rubbed his eyes. Security. “Sure send her up.”
Kendra was on her way up, and some how he never pictured her making a late night booty-call in the middle of a bad storm. Great he though. Quickly he turned off the porn that was on the television, and yawned. He had fallen asleep while watching a movie on the movie channels. Porn on a big screen, kind of grossed him out.
Nick made it to the door before she did, his shirt in his hand, so he tossed it into the bedroom. He liked this sexy night time call from her. When he opened the door, she wasn’t alone. “Ah, Ken, I’m pretty sure Alex would kill me if this is a three-some booty call.”
Hailey squeezed her wet hair, aiming it at him. “Ew Nick,” she responded following Kendra into his condo. “We’ve just cleared Elton.”
Kendra gave him a peck on the cheek, and let her hand slide down his naked chest before making herself comfortable on the couch. “We’ve got something to show you.”
He asked them to hang on so that he could grab his shirt since he wasn’t getting any tonight. Damn. When he came back, Kendra has switched on the television. She turned to him, “really Nick?”
“I was asleep. I fell asleep after watching The Watchmen. I swear. That came on when my movie finished.”
“That is once giant vagina,” Hailey commented breaking their bickering. They
both turned towards her to find that her head was tilted to the side while looking at it. “It’s like it could eat’cha.”
Kendra laughed, “I think it’s the other way around.”
“OK Seriously,” Nick reached for the remote and changed the channel. “I was watching a movie and you woke me up.”
Kendra put her arms around his waist and kissed his neck, “sure baby.” Nick looked at Hailey, who looked disappointed that he turned off the porn. He decided not to comment. As quickly as she hugged him, Kendra slapped his chest with both hands. “Oh my God.”
“What?” He asked as he rubbed his now reddened chest.
Kendra and Hailey proceeded to show and tell him all about the DVD’s implicated Rico Garcia. “Then here’s the stuff with Rico.”Kendra showed Rico parking at the school after showing him the Subway footage of his and Vula’s argument. They topped it off with Rico dragging Vula, who was alive but holding her forehead, away from the school.
“Then she’s forced into his car, and that’s it.” Hailey said as Kendra turned off the DVD.
Nick smiled, “if only we knew about the security cameras sooner.”
Kendra explained that she and Hailey took the footage down to the police. Not only had they implicated Rico, but in the process cleared Elton. He was on camera working on the exterior grounds pretty much all day long, and didn’t leave school property until six that evening. Carrying just his wallet and his car keys in his hands.
“Fantastic work. What did the police say about Rico?” He asked.
“They said they will bring him in for questioning.” Kendra answered.
“Hey, you two need to go. Eli and Molly should be watching the Garcia house.” Hailey informed them.
“Shit, you’re right.”
Nick grabbed a plaid shirt to throw over his white t-shirt and slipped his shoes on. Kendra handed her keys to Hailey to drive herself home, and they all walked out together. All he could think was that he hoped that the police did a better job this time. It really looked as if Rico was behind it, and he easily could walk if they don’t do a proper arrest.
They drove over in silence until Kendra’s cell phone beeped, with a text message from Eli, saying that they were tailing Vezna. Nick wondered where she was going at one-thirty in the morning. He parked his SUV down the street from the Garcia residence but made sure they had a clear view of the place.
“If Vezna isn’t here,” Kendra began.
“Yes but Rico could show up so we need to stay put.”
She gave him an odd look. Her lip went slightly down in an frown as her brows creased. “I know that, I wasn’t suggesting we leave.”
That caught his attention. He was officially curious. “We’re not breaking and entering either. If the cops show up tomorrow to search the place and we could have contaminated it, then Rico would get off.”
Kendra still looked annoyed. She turned to look out the window and crossed her arms over her chest. He could have sworn she mumbled something that sounded like “wasn’t talking about him getting off.” Nick wasn’t sure.
“You weren’t thinking that were you?” He asked and she slowly shook her head. “Ken, what were you thinking?”
“The moment has passed. Watch the damn house Nick.”
Now she was pissed off at him for, for what? Not being able to read her mind? “Are you alright?”
“Perfectly fine,” she answered sarcastically.
He knew better than to ask if it was that time of the month. He once had asked his sister that and she stabbed him with a pencil.
They continued to watch the house, despite the fact that Kendra being mad was driving Nick nuts. The quiet in the car was adding stress to his uneasiness, then her cell phone beeped. She looked down and read off the text from Eli who reported Vezna was just sitting outside of the Ushkowitz’s home.
“I wonder why.”
“She’s curious. I over heard her arguing with Rico the night I snuck out. She wanted to got talk to them about Vula, but he wouldn’t let her.” Kendra explained.
“Why are you pissed at me?”
Kendra shifted in the passenger seat to face Nick, “I was thinking that I’d like to do something to help pass the time.”
Ah-ha, he got it now. Nick leaned over and kissed her. “I’m sorry baby, forgive me?” He kissed her neck, and her head fell to the side to give him better access.
“I don’t know,” she huffed, and Nick began to suck gently on her neck, as he unsnapped her jeans. “I might.”
Kendra angled her body so he could shove her jeans down her legs. This wasn’t easy in the front seat of a car. Nick unzipped her pink and black hoodie and underneath she was wearing only her bra. A hot pink one that matched her panties he now hand his hand in. She was ready to go. “This is the best surveillance ever.” He muttered from between her breasts.
“Give me the binoculars Eli.” Molly tugged on his sleeve. They had followed Vezna back to her house and Eli had text Kendra but she never responded. Once they were parked they used the binoculars to check to see if they were there. And they were and now Molly and Eli knew why she wasn’t answering because they were getting freaky in the front seat of Nick’s SUV. “Eli!”
“I’m not watching them Mols. I’m doing their job for them.” He answered.
If Molly didn’t know her husband the way that she did, she would have thought he was lying, but Eli never lied about work. Or anything for that matter. She let it go. Now her concern was whether or not she’d be able to look Nick and Kendra in the eye. Molly had seen a lot more than what she needed to see.
Molly looked around, and thought she saw something, “Eli, may I please see the binoculars for a minute please dear?”
“Why, don’t you believe me?”
“I do, but,” then she no longer needed the binoculars. “Nevermind Eli. Lime green pinto approaching from three o’clock.”
Eli swung around with the binoculars still to his eyes, then lowered them “Oye, I think I just gave myself motion sickness,” then raised them back to his eyes.
“Is it him?”
He moved the binoculars down to look at her, “it’s a lime green pinto. How many people have pintos, let alone lime green ones, these days?”
“Yes it’s him. Call Kendra.”
“I’d hate to interrupt.” Molly said but she could tell by the look on Eli’s face that he wasn’t in the mood for her jokes. Without another word she dialed Kendra’s phone and waited. Kendra picked up, slightly out of breath. “Hey, um, we are back and were wondering if, um, you two were done, because um, Rico’s there.” After a few, “shit! Shit! Shit!” from Kendra, Molly hung up.
Kendra turned to Nick as she did up her jeans. He was pulling his pants up his legs. “We are so never going to live that down. Do you think they watched?”
“Probably just long enough to know what we were doing.” Nick responded. Kendra felt her face grow hot. “Aw honey, don’t worry about it. It’s not like a cop knocked on the window.” She laughed.
Her laughter was cut short when the front door of the Garcia residence flew open and Rico and Vezna came out screaming at each other. It was nearly three in the morning, and the neighbours could wake up and call the police at any minute. That might not be a bad thing.
Nick turned the ignition just enough to put the windows down without actually turning the car on, then turned it off. Kendra strained to hear what was being said. She leaned her head further out the window.
“Can you hear what they’re saying?” Nick asked, as he too, tried to hear them.
“Nope!” She looked around, “think they’d see me if I slipped out the car?”
He looked and assessed the situation, “yeah unfortunately.” He looked again, “try slipping out the window. The glare of the door might catch the street lights and they might see that but going out the window is worth a shot.
Kendra grabbed hold of the roof and started to pull herself through the window. She was almost out when she was yanked back inside. The door scratching her bare back, “ouch!”
“Sorry.” Nick ducked as did she, “he’s leaving.”
“Oh,” that made sense. Rico would have seen her if it wasn’t for Nick.
The lime green pinto sped by them and turned the corner. Shortly after, Eli and Molly followed.
Kendra decided it was in their best interest to sit there for a bit longer, just in case Rico came back. It was five in the morning when they left to get some sleep before they opened the office. A text from Eli said they lost the pinto and that Rico was now MIA; Missing In Action.
Right now, Kendra was too tired to care.
A yawn slipped out of Nick’s mouth as he leaned back in Kendra’s desk chair. She was across from him in a purple chair. When she was exhausted she usually broke out in random giggle fits. Right now she was quiet. Nick was thankful, he was too tired to deal with it.
His eye lids felt heavy as he tried to focus on their surveillance notes from the night before. He just didn’t think he could do anything right now.
“Good luck with that,” Eli said startling Kendra, who fell off the chair. “You two were busy, if I recall.”
He plopped down his notes from the previous night, then helped Kendra up off the floor. She giggled.
“She drunk Nicky?” Eli asked as he chuckled.
“Nope, just overly tired.” Nick answered. He took the black note book that Eli put down on Kendra’s desk and flipped through it. “Have you photocopied these?”
“Yes this morning before you two even rolled out of bed.” Eli answered.
Nick nodded and kept reading. After Vezna Garcia had left her home, she stopped for cigarettes, then parked her car in front of her daughter’s foster parent’s home. She smoked eight cigarettes, and cried four times, at least from what they could tell. After an hour, she drove back to her home and twenty minutes later, Rico showed up.
Thank-God for Eli’s extensive note taking or else Nick would have felt like a failed investigator.
“I’m glad that you and I didn’t run surveillance the same way you and Kendra do, because dude things would be weird between us.” Eli joked, and Kendra smacked his arm, making him laugh.
They were all laughing about his and Kendra’s sexual antics during surveillance and Nick watched Kendra’s face grow redder and redder, but she kept laughing along with them. One thing he loved about her was that she was strong and had a great sense of humour.
Hailey came in looking a bit put off, she told them that the police were here to talk to them and then stood aside the door and ushered the two detectives into Kendra’s office.
Both Kendra and Eli stood up and came around to stand with Nick who was still behind Kendra’s desk. His favourite detectives, Kim Sanchez and Paul DiMarco, stood there in front of them looking cocky and a bit pissed off.
“What are you two doing here?” Nick asked. When he dropped off the evidence, Nick purposely went to other detectives. He couldn’t stand these two.
“Savidis. Dupree. You two goof balls don’t look thrilled to see us.” Detective DiMarco commented.
“Well, I see your investigating skills have come a long way.” Nick added as he stood up straight.
“Ha, your funny. Not. Thanks to your complaint against us, we got moved to homicide. Apparently we are not sympathetic enough for missing persons.” Detectives Sanchez informed them. “Along with the move, we were forced to take a five percent pay cut.”
Kendra nodded, “so I guess we will still be doing your job for you then.”
Nick’s brows creased, “wait a second, did you say homicide?”
“Yes we did. When was the last time you spoke to Vezna Garcia?” DiMarco questioned.
“About two days ago we spoke to her, but we did surveillance on the Garcia residence last night until around,” he paused to look at Eli’s notes in front of him, “five this morning.”
“Should have stayed another hour. Vezna Garcia was found dead this morning. Time of death was around six.” DiMarco explained.
“Who found her?” Eli asked.
“Her sister did around seven-thirty. She went to pick her up to go shopping in Portland, found her dead in the front hallway. Looks to be blunt force trauma.” Sanchez told them. “Along with a very severe beating.”
“Since you guys did surveillance last night, can we get your notes?” DiMarco asked. And it was clear to Nick that it pained him to ask them for anything.
Nick looked over at Kendra who looked white as a ghost. She had made the suggestion that they stay a bit longer but Nick didn’t want to call attention from the neighbours when they started leaving for work. Plus he wanted some sleep. Eli left the room to go get the copies of his notes for the detectives.
“Rico Garcia showed up and the two of them had a fight on the front lawn. I think around three, maybe three-thirty.” Kendra told them.
“Sorry,” Kendra shook her head, “we were too far to hear them, only see them. They weren’t overly loud but enough that we could catch the odd word. It was mostly muffled.”
“He has a record,” Nick added. He then gave them a look at his copy of Rico’s record that Jane gave them. He could see by the look on the two detectives’ faces that they had yet to check on the husband. Nick watched as Sanchez and DiMarco exchanged looks.
Eli entered with a copy of the notes and handed them to Sanchez.
After the five of them talked and exchanged all the information they had between them, and the two official detectives didn’t have very much, they left. Nick and Eli couldn’t believe that Sanchez and DiMarco were the two detectives that were assigned to this case. Kendra was right, they would be doing the police’s job for them. Hell, they already have.
Kendra watched Nick push the door bell tot he tudor style home that belonged to Mac and Barb Ushkowitz. Their home looked liked something out of a television show, featuring the perfect family. Growing Pains came to her mind.
Barb Ushkowitz opened the thick wood front door. She looked like Donna Reid, with her blonde hair in a perfect French twist, and not a hair out of place. A strand of pearls decorated her slender neck, and she wore a powder blue sweater set and a pair of tan dress pants.
“Please come in. Excuse the mess, I’m just in the middle of my house work.” She stpped aside to let them in.
Kendra’s eyes scanned the house. Not a speck of dust anywhere, or even floating in the sunlight that came through the non-streaked window’s. “Wow, Mrs. Ushkowitz if you say your house isn’t cleaned yet, then I would have to accuse you lying. You would never know that your place needed cleaning. Would you be interested in cleaning mine? I have a dog who sheds like none other.”
Barb giggled which sounded like Betty Rubble, “why thank-you, but I assure you I have just started my work for the day.” She moved to the door way of the living room. “Please make your self comfortable, I will be right back.”
As soon as Barb left the room, Kendra looked at Nick and watched him walk around the room, which was filled with antique knick-knacks, nice pristine furniture and art on the walls. She had to admit they had an impressive collection.
“I’m afraid to sit down,” she admitted to him. He looked at her. “Seriously, what
if I have a spot of dirt or dog hair on my rear end.”
Nick told her to turn around by using his finger to make a circular motion, she turned. “God that is one hot ass.”
“Nick Dupree, behave.” She chastised. “Your fine,” he said and smiled.
Kendra gingerly sat down on the white cushion of the love seat that looked like it had never been sat on.
“Mrs. Ushkowitz reminds me of my mother.” Nick began to tell her, but he was about to sit down. Kendra put her hand on his butt. “What are you doing?”
“Just checking.” She pulled him down to the love seat.
“Thanks, I think. As I was saying, my mother wears sweater sets and slacks around the house, but she has two maids who do the cleaning for her.”
The prospect of meeting Nick’s family made her feel uneasy before, now it down right scared the crap out of her. Kendra’s parents were borderline hippies, and her her middle named was the last name of her mother’s favourite Beatle for crying out loud. Somehow, Kendra McCartney Morgan wasn’t going to impress Catherine Dupree-Richards. Figures, the first relationship she has allowed herself to enjoy and the freedom to fall in love with Nick, and it’s doomed. She’ll never be good enough for him.
She felt his hand on her knee, and moved it away just as Barb came in carrying a white porcelain tea pot and matching cups and saucers. In this setting, Kendra was likely to turn into Elizabeth, Hyacinth Bucket’s bumbling with nerves neighbour from the Brit-com Keeping Up Appearances, and spill.
“I’m assuming you have news on Vula, am I correct?” Barb asked as she poured.
Nick spoke first, “we do have a lead, but we came here to inform you of new developments that may not pertain to the case directly.”
“Mrs. Ushkowitz, normally we would want to speak to both you and your husband but we are close to wrapping the investigation up that we need to do this now.” Kendra explained. “I’m afraid, Vula’s mother, Vezna Garcia, was murdered very early this morning”
“Oh my word.” Her perfectly French manicured hand went to her lips. “Do you know who could have done such a thing? Are they connected to Vula?”
Kendra apologized about not knowing for sure. She explained that they believe Rico was involved in both Vula’s disappearance and in Vezna’s death, but had yet to prove it. Nick and Kendra handed Barb a copy of the case to date to show her husband. Even though they didn’t want to scare Barb, they owed it to her that they be honest.
“The odds of finding Vula alive are really low Mrs. Ushkowitz. Too much time has gone by, but despite this obstacle, we refuse to give up so easily.”
“I understand that I come off as naïve and maybe a bit ignorant to the bad stuff in the world, but I am aware that we will likely find Vula’s body. I choose to believe that there is hope because it makes me and my husband feel better. It’s the only think that is keeping me sane.” She explained. “I do appreciate you both being so honest with me. Both my husband and I appreciate the work you two are doing for us and for Vula.”
Kendra’s heart broke for the woman. She understood how Barb felt, although she’s never lost a child, she knew that if anything happened to Sheldon or Megan, she would need to cling to that same hope.
Managing to finish her tea without incident, Kendra gently placed the cup and saucer back on the tray. Nick did the same and stood up. Barb followed them outside and told them thank-you.
As they turned the corner from the Ushkowitz’s home, Nick turned to Kendra, “well, involved or innocent?”
“Ah, innocent. Why would you think they are involved?” Kendra asked.
“They’re too perfect.” He said and she though, spoken like someone who comes from a perfect family. “And really, it wouldn’t be the first time the suspects hired help to throw suspicion on to someone else.” He answered.
“Good point, but I don’t think so.”
“Two-hundred bucks says they are behind it?”
Kendra looked at him. Nick was serious. “You’re on big boy.”
Nick and Kendra joined Molly and Eli at the office. Hailey had left early to take her kids to the dentists. The four of them decided to close the office for the rest of the day. Together they sat in the reception area to be more comfortable, and to have better air circulation. Molly had her feet on Eli’s lap on the couch. He was giving her a foot massage. Kendra sat cross-legged on one of the plush chairs and Nick decided to lay on his back on the floor. He picked up a green and blue NERF ball that Sheldon must have left there.
“We need to think of a plan,” Kendra said as she filed her nails. “We really need to get a handle on Rico.”
“I forgot to tell you guys, but I managed to put a tracking device on Rico’s pinto,
but it takes twenty-four hours for the transmitter to be picked up by satellite. Plus he needs to be within range of my tracking device.” Eli told them. Nick thought that was clever. “I’ve already ordered us some better equipment for the future.”
Nick tossed the ball and caught it, “we really need to close this case before Rico hurts anyone else.”
“Yeah but it will be so much easier once we know where he is.” Molly said, “then we could follow him, and with any luck he’ll lead us to Vula.”
“Unless he comes near one of us, this tracking device is useless. We may never find the fucker.” Kendra blurted, her cheeks stayed normal. Nick gave her a smile.
After they agreed that they were stuck until they could get a sense of where Rico was, they decided to go home. Nick followed Kendra to her place for the night.
“You OK?” He asked, he felt like he had been asking that a lot lately but she’s been acting strange all day.
The sun heated up Kendra’s office through the tiny window she had behind her desk. Any snow that was left, which was very little, would be gone by noon.
Across the hall was where Molly was, sifting through her case load to find a potential case for her to start on. Eli was doing the same in his tiny office. His office was way smaller than either hers or Molly’s. It felt like a regular day. Even Hailey was at her desk, organizing requests and sorting the mail. Kendra wondered when the other shoe was going to drop. Things lately just didn’t go smoothly without a rough patch.
Hailey knocked and opened the door to Kendra’s office, and in her hand was an envelope, “this was addressed directly to you and Nick.” She handed it to Kendra and then left.
As she unfolded the letter, Nick entered the office carrying a tray from Starbucks with her caramel frappuccino with extra caramel and his black coffee. “How is it that they can make all these fancy schmancy fu-fu drinks, but when I ordered a black coffee, they just looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language?”
“Yeah,” was all she could manage. She heard him, but just didn’t care.
“What’s up? What is that?”
“Here, seems as if we are being threatened.” She handed him the letter.
Kendra watched as Nick read the letter. Probably twice. He then swore, “son of a bitch,” and went to her door and hollered to Eli.
Without word he handed the letter off to Eli before he even stepped over the thresh hold. Eli then left the room and within a few seconds had both Molly and Hailey standing in Kendra’s crowded office.
“What the hell is going on?” Molly asked.
Eli read the letter, “’Dear Nick and Kendra, thanks for stickin’ your nose in ma’ bidness’” he paused, “now word of a lie that’s what is says.” He continued to read, “’so I has to take care of yo. You are now my problem, so I has to take both you out. All of you. I know you has back-up so they will be on your conscience. You bitches will be tortured and killed. And you Miss know-it-all-chica, I gots somethin’ special in mind for you.’” Eli folded up the letter. “That’s you Kendra the Miss know it all part.”
“No shit.” She responded.
“I closed and locked the front door.” Nick informed them as he returned to the room.
“Heinous spelling and grammar aside, it’s Rico Garcia. The letter sounds exactly how the bastard talks.” Kendra said.
“Like a douche bag,” Molly started to laugh.
Kendra watched Eli shoot his wife a look that said this is serious.
“Hailey, you have two choices, go home until this is all sorted out, or come with one of us?” Nick told her.
“Hails,” Kendra began, “this could get dangerous, you should probably go home.”
“We need to activate a plan,” Eli stated while Hailey took her time to make her decision. “It probably would be a good idea to get the Ushkowitz’s to someplace safe.”
“Probably wouldn’t hurt to keep watch on the Garcia home either. He might go back there for something.” Molly added.
Kendra suggested taking Barb and Mac to her parents place, nobody would think to look for them there. They decided that Molly would watch the Garcia place, and that Eli would keep an eye on the Ushkowitz’s in case Rico tried to go after them. Nick and Kendra would take them to her parents house for safety.
“Guys,” Hailey interrupted, “if Rico Garcia is a major threat to us, me included, then I’d rather not lead him to my home where my children are. I’m tagging along.”
“Fine, go with Molly and do what she says.” Nick told her. “If this isn’t taken care of today, then we will meet here tomorrow at 7am to re-stratagize.”
“Oh an we not tell my husband?” Hailey asked.
Nick and Eli walked around the perimeter of the Ushkowitz’s home while Kendra waited inside with Barb for Mac to arrive home.
Once again, Barb served Kendra tea after showing her around her home, especially Vula’s room, which they had decorated especially for her. She broke down in tears wondering how someone could hurt her. Kendra didn’t mind comforting the woman because she knew her tears and concern were real, but it did make her want Nick and Eli to come in any time soon. She wasn’t good at keeping her own emotions in check.
Eli and Nick escorted Mac Ushkowitz through the back door which lead into the kitchen, where Barb and Kendra were. Kendra couldn’t help but smile as Barb nagged at Mac at bringing guests through the back door.
“Where exactly are we going?” Mac asked.
“Nick and I will be taking you to my parents house. They live on the beach so you’ll have a nice view from inside the house. And I do stress from inside the house.” Kendra told them. “Just a little heads up, my mother is a little eccentric at times. She’s a tough woman as is my father so I know you’ll be safe.”
“I have already packed us a bag to take with us. I think we need to oblige them.” Barb said to her husband. “They believe that if Rico Garcia killed his own wife that he isn’t above coming after us.”
Mac turned to Nick, “alright then, lets go. Afterall, we hired you and you are here to help us. Who are we to make your investigation more difficult.”
In no time they were on the road to her parents home. She hoped that her mother would be on her best behaviour. The woman was awesome but she enjoyed embarrassing the hell out of Kendra.
As they pulled up, her mother, Lola, was waiting on the front porch, swinging away on the porch swing, and her father was bringing a tray of coffee through the front door.
She could hear her mother, “look Clark, Kendra’s here.”
“I see that Lola.”
Together, Nick and Kendra swung open their doors and got out followed by the Ushkowitz’s. As Nick got their bags out of the back, Kendra did the round of introductions and instructions. She was also developing a really bad headache, only she wasn’t sure if it was the pressure in the atmosphere or if it was the stress from being here and handing over her clients to her mom and dad.
Thankfully her mother had toned down her wardrobe and wasn’t showing much, of anything. She was wearing jeans with a blue and white striped golf shirt. Her finger nails were red and matched her toes.
Lola hugged her daughter and whispered in her ears, “don’t look so shocked Ra, I know they are your clients. I’ll behave.” Kendra smiled.
Clark turned towards the couple who looked a bit out of their element. “Mr. And Mrs. Ushkowitz, may I show you to your room?”
“Please call us Mac and Barb.” Mac insisted then told Clark to lead the way.
Lola showed Barb the way into the house telling her to help herself to anything she wants and to make herself at home. As the front screen door slammed, Nick and Kendra were alone on the porch. She glanced at him, his hands were shoved into his
front pockets. The moment felt sort of awkward.
“Ah should we do a perimeter check?” Kendra asked just to break the silence.
She looked at Nick from over her shoulder as she started down the front steps, “yeah why?”
“You seem,” he came down the steps and put his hands on her shoulders, “you seem distant.”
“I know this is a bit awkward but I thought it was because you were feeling awkward.” Kendra gave a half smile.
“Well maybe a little. I’m at your parents house and they have no clue about us. I’m assuming.” Nick let go, “and things work wise are about to get real dicey, so I’m a little stressed.
“Are you alright with us talking about us to my parents when this case is over? It’s not because I don’t want them to know, but because the longer we stand here the longer our case takes.” She kissed his cheek before bounding down the rest of the steps, “we’ll tell them when this is over. Hopefully sooner than later.”
There was no way she was bringing up that in her mind, there would be no need to tell her family anything about them because she was never going to be good enough for his family. It was better to just leave it open and not say anything that would drive a wedge between her and Nick now. She needed him for the case, and although Kendra knew that was wrong, she knew that it was because she wasn’t ready to let Nick go.
Nick went back into the house to drop off a picture of Rico Garcia and to tell them to call if they needed them, and then Kendra watched him walk back down the porch and get into his card. Sliding in to the driver seat next to her. They were headed back to the Glenburry to check in with Molly and Hailey who were parked over at the Garcia residence, and then they would check in with Eli who should be at the Ushkowitz’s.
Kendra started to think that she and Nick really needed to sit down and discuss their relationship before she made any rash decisions. With him being best friends with her best friend’s husband, then there was no way he was ever going to be completely out of her life. Maybe bringing it up now wasn’t such a bad idea. They were going to be stuck in the car for a while. Kendra cracked her knuckles, then looked at him. Tight black t-shirt under his black leather jacket, and jeans that fit him perfectly in all the right places. Jeans that cost more than her monthly car payment. She looked down at her jeans, and the rest of her clothes and realized that she was just average. She chickened out. Kendra wasn’t ready to hear how his family would “get used to her.”
Nick’s cell phone rang, and he put it on speaker. Kendra was grateful for the interruption of her thoughts.
“I got a signal on Rico’s car. He drove past here about fifteen minutes ago.” Eli told them.
“Where is he headed?” Nick asked.
“He is headed your way. In fact he is about five minutes from Kendra’s parents.” Eli informed.
“What?” Kendra gasped. “How the hell would he know to look there?”
Nick slammed the breaks on and swung his SUV around and dust flew up from the tires, just like in the A-Team.
“I’m on my way there now,” announced Eli as Nick headed back to her parents.
Molly clicked her cell phone closed. Eli had just informed them that Rico was heading towards the Morgan’s home and that he wanted her to go inside the Garcia’s and search the place. She looked over at Hailey and together they slid on a pair of latex gloves and headed to the back door. Molly handed her another pair, “make sure you double up,” and proceeded to pick the lock.
“What for? Isn’t one pair enough?”
“Probably, but sometimes these types of gloves aren’t thick enough and can leave partials.” Molly said as she got the door unlocked.
“Gotcha,” and Hailey slapped on the second pair. They walked inside and used their flashlights to search around. “There’s a desk over there.”
Molly shined her light and told Hailey to have fun. She opted going through the drawers in the kitchen. Sometimes people will hide papers in the strangest places. She shined her light in each drawer, checking under the cutlery tray and then she got to the junk drawer. Nothing in there but lots of elastics and bread bag ties.
“Nothing useful in the desk,” Hailey reported.
“Check the bathroom.” Molly joked. Whenever she lost something and couldn’t find it, Kendra always told her to check the bathroom. Sadly, she was usually right.
Hailey headed down the hall and Molly continued to search the Kitchen. She checked on top of the refrigerator, inside the refrigerator. Everywhere. Nothing was in the kitchen. She was heading to check the furniture in the living room when Hailey came
around the corner holding up a medium sized Tupperwear container. “Where did you find that?”
“In the bathroom.” She answered.
“Wel, I’ll be damned.” Molly said as she opened it. Inside a plastic bag were a set of keys and some papers. She opened the bag and pulled out the paper, “It’s a map to what looks like a cabin.”
“Yeah I know. I say we check it out.” Hailey suggested.
“Where in the bathroom did you find this?”
“In the toilet tank.”
Molly just stared at her sister for what felt like an hour but was only a few seconds. “How ever did you think to look there?”
Hailey explained that in one scene, Julia Roberts had hidden money in a container in the toilet tank in her apartment, and that is why she thought to check there now.
“Bloody genius,” Molly said as they left to go check out this cabin.
It took Molly and Hailey forty-five minutes to reach the cabin that, according to some of the paper work that was found along with the map and keys, belonged to Rico Garcia. The place was small looking. Hailey guessed one room, maybe two. It was made of thick logs and was raised up on a stone foundation. A satellite dish sat in the distance where trees used to be. It was one of those huge, ugly old school black ones.
Molly started walking around the place, keeping her head down. Hailey followed, only keeping her head up. If there was a snake or poison ivy, Molly would see it first.
“No one’s here,” Hailey told her sister. Molly looked up at her, “I looked through the window.”
“Good,” Molly grabbed her hand and took Hailey to the front door. “Keep the flash light shined on the lock and stay eye level with it.”?
“We have keys.”
“They are all too small for a regular lock. They belong to a pad lock. Now, on your knees.”
Hailey giggled, “haven’t heard that request for a while.”
“Ew,” Molly responded.
As Hailey got to her knees, she suddenly remembered why she hadn’t done that request for a while. She was getting older. She put the mini flashlight in her mouth, and Molly handed her the tools to pick a lock. “Look for the pin in the lock. It should look like a wire or oddly enough a pin. Some are different…” CLICK! Hailey had the door open before Molly could finish explaining how to pick the lock. “Bitch!”
“My first time took me twenty minutes, and even now it takes me at least two minutes. On a simple lock.” Molly said.
Hailey looked at her, her sister was pouting. She slowly opened the door and was hit with the most foul smell she had ever smelled before. “Don’t feel too bad about it little sister, because I’m about to pass out. It smells worse than ass in here.”
Molly leaned forward and took a whiff, “I don’t like the smell of this.”
“Would you?” Hailey went in and looked around. The smell was horrible but didn’t bother her as much as is it probably should have. Molly however, looked green. “You alright there squirt?”
“Don’t say squirt, and I will be.” Molly held her breath. “We need to find where this smell is coming from.” Molly grabbed her cell phone, ready to call the police Hailey assumed.
Hailey walked around trying to figure out where the smell was strongest. As she walked near the fire place, she could have sworn she heard something. Hailey looked at her sister who had bat ears and no surprise, Molly had heard it too.
Carefully Hailey took a step forward and the toe of her black boot hit something under the throw rug. She stepped aside and removed the rug. While in the process of removing the rug, she stirred up the smell making it stronger.
She looked over at Molly then pointed to the pad lock. Molly reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out the keys they had retrieved from the Garcia’s toilet. It was a perfect fit. Turning it, Molly removed the lock and opened the trap door in the floor. The smell assaulted them. Hailey was now starting to feel sick but her sister looked ready to blow chunks.
Shining her flashlight around, Hailey saw a bare foot. She only hoped that whoever was attached to that foot was still alive and not the cause of the smell. Hailey looked at Molly who was already on her cell dialing 9-11 and decided to carefully get into the hole.
“Help me.” The voice was grovely, but definitely female.
“My name is Hailey, and I’m here to help. Can you tell me your name?” Hailey didn’t want to shine the light directly at her face as she had been sitting in the dark space for a long time that the girls eyes were probably light sensitive.
Molly left, but returned with a bottle of water and a blanket.
Thank-God. “Vula, we have been looking for you all over the place.” Molly handed Hailey the bottle of water and she gave it to the girl who drank it down slowly until the bottle was empty.
Vula was in her bra and panties, shivering. Her hair was knotted with dirt and God knows what else. Grime and dirt covered her body, and she was likely sitting in urine and feces against her will.
Molly handed Hailey a blanket, “here’s a blanket, and ask her first if she’s hurt anywhere.”
“Vula, I’m going to cover you up, gently with this blanket. Can you tell me if you’re hurt so I can possibly move you?” Hailey asked as she gently covered up the teen. Careful as not to step in any potential evidence.
“I can move, please just get me out of here.” The girl begged. Upon careful inspection, Vula Garcia was also covered in vomit. A lot of it. As she helped Vula up to the main level of the cabin, something caught Hailey’s eye. She turned her flashlight on it and gasped.
“What is it Hails?” Molly asked.
“I just found the source of the smell.” Hailey answered and had to swallow the bile rising up in her throat. “A body.”
Nick had never been so happy to know that Kendra was packing heat. He really had no clue as to how her aim was but at this point he didn’t care. He was pretty sure her having a gun would just scare Rico.
He signaled for her to go to the right and to meet him out back. Nick watched her as she rounded the corner of her parents house. Gun in hand.
Kendra carefully walked around to the back of the house. Looking in windows and at the ground to see any abnormalities in the grass. As she got closer to the back, she hear the waves of the Atlantic ocean crashing roughly to the shore. It would be high tide, and probably from the sound of it, the under tow would be deadly.
Behind her parents house was a slight hill of grass which lead to the sandy beach, and as she walked further she spotted some movement down near the shore. Squinting, she managed to get her focus better, and there standing waist high in the water was her family, Clark and Lola, and the Ushkowitz’s. Kendra felt sick to her stomach. That under tow would sweep their bodies under in no time, and her mother was petrified of the water. Why were they standing there?
Kendra moved a bit closer to the hill and realized that Rico was standing there, pointing a gun at them.
She tossed her cell phone and kicked off her shoes to give her easier movement through the sand. Kendra grasped the gun tightly in both her hands, and extended her arms out. She moved swiftly without running through the sand and made it to just behind Rico. He turned around and whacked her in the head with the butt of his gun, and she dropped hers to the sand.
Nick felt uneasy walking around the house. Something was wrong and he figured that maybe he and Kendra were too late. He picked up his pace and rounded the corner to the back of the house. No sign of Kendra anywhere. Nick walked around looking at the ground for signs that maybe she was hurt or killed by the mad man, but found her cell phone and shoes in the grass. Looking up he saw the water being splashed up even more
than the tide was making it.
He took off running after he saw Rico and Kendra fighting in the surf. Fear was gripping his stomach.
Eli pulled up and quietly ran up the front porch and into the house. The place was eerily quiet, but Nick’s SUV and Rico’s pinto were parked out front. He walked around the main floor of the house and then made his way to the second story.
He checked the bedrooms and then the large master bathroom just off of her parent’s bedroom and that’s when he saw them fighting in the water.
Kendra could feel her lungs filling up with water with each time Rico held her under. She kicked at him and managed to scratch the hell out of his face. The bastard was stronger than he looked. She always thought he was a lazy ass.
Her fist collided with his jaw and he dropped her. She felt something hit the back of her head and a searing pain pass through her neck. She grabbed on the a long batch of sea weed, hoping that if she gets caught in the under tow that maybe she’ll stay put if she’s gripping at something. Kendra fought to get the surface but was stopped by Rico’s knee to her chest and she knew she was losing the battle. She was losing her life. The knee on her chest caused her to suck in air, only instead of air, it was salt water. Her limbs suddenly grew too heavy for her.
Kendra’s family was laying in the sand, too weak to help her out Nick noticed as he ran down the sand to the shoreline. He jumped on Rico and pulled him to the shore and started to hit him with his fists.
From behind he heard shouting as Eli came barrelling down. “She’s still in the water Nick, get her out.”
Nick looked up and Kendra was floating face first in at the surface. The waves getting fierce and she kept disappearing into the depths. He needed to get to her before the under tow did. Eli was on Rico in no time and the two of them were rolling around in the sand.
Nick jumped the waves as the cold water smacked him in the face, the arms, just everywhere, but he didn’t care. He needed to save Kendra. He managed to securely grab her but putting his arm around her chest with her back to him, and pull her. He barely touched the bottom so he used all of his strength to swim and pull her to where he could touch down. She was nearly gone.
He laid her body in the sand, and soon Lola was at his side to aid him in the CPR. Nick could hear Eli screaming at Rico, but didn’t care because Kendra’s lips were
cyanotic and she was cold. Lola’s hands shook as she worked on the chest compressions on her daughter. Nick realized this had to be hard on a mother, but he didn’t want nerves or fear to get in the way.
Suddenly she was sputtering water out of her mouth and Nick rolled her to her side so it wouldn’t go right back into her lungs. He looked up just in time to see Rico hit Eli hard against the temple of his head and then grab the gun from the sand, that looked like Kendra’s and take aim at Eli. Two shots rang out and Nick had to look to see who fired the two shots, Rico or someone else.
Rico laid sprawled out on the sand and Eli was slowly shaking his head to clear the cob webs. From the grass stood Hailey and Molly. Molly’s arm stretched out, gun clutched in her hands.
“Guess I, um, am a good shot, eh?” Molly opened her eyes a little more.
Sirens blared in the distance but Nick could barely hear them over the excessive pounding in his chest. He didn’t care about anything except the fact that the woman he loved was going to be alright. She was stubborn and had to take matters into her own hands. That tenacity was part of the reason he loved her so damn much.
Kendra’s mouth tasted fishy, salty and was dry as hell. She was cold but could fee and smell Nick’s jacket covering her. It took a little while for her eyes to focus, and when they did she saw her mother walking through the sand carrying one of her late grandmother’s crocheted afghans.
She could still feel the water inside her stomach and sure enough, Kendra rolled over and heaved out a lot of it into the sand. Luckily her mother hadn’t placed the afghan on her yet. She looked up to find her parents, Nick, Hailey, Eli and Molly standing over her. “Seems like whenever I’m around the ocean, I’m throwing something up.”
“Wanna a hot dog?” Molly asked with a smile.
The room was huge. There was no other way for Kendra to describe the Richard’s living room, other than huge. The ceilings were high and walls seemed like they ran on forever. She really didn’t want to be here, but here she was, standing in a black cocktail dress, her hair in ringlettes down her back, and flute full of champagne in her hand. Nick stood beside her, dressed in a charcoal gray suit, with a light purple shirt and a purple and silver striped tie. His hand was on her lower back, and she could feel his thumb caress her, giving her comfort.
When he had introduced her to his mother, Catharine, Kendra’s stomach was close to heaving with nervousness. Catharine was polite and very classy. If she didn’t like Kendra, there was no sign of it. Instead, Nick’s mother thanked her for coming and that it was very nice to finally meet the woman who was making her son so happy.
She really needed to thank Seth for getting her this Prada cocktail dress and Jimmy Choo shoes for this party. His mother was the queen of the charity scene. Tonight was to help expend the library at Boston College. Mrs. Dupree-Richards, no wait that was Dr. Dupree-Richards had her hair in a lovely but very neat up-do and had on a Chanel dress that cost more than Kendra’s house did when she bought it.
Nick’s step-father was a really nice man. He gave Kendra a welcoming hug and then handed her the flute of champagne she was currently sipping on, whispering in her ear that she would need it. Nick seemed to relax after that.
“Relax honey.” Nick whispered in her ear, then placing a light kiss on her temple.
Kendra took a sip of her champagne and with her free hand smoothed out her dress of it’s invisible wrinkles. “I’m not sure what I’m doing here Nick.”
He turned to face her. He must have seen the uncertainty in her face because he grabbed her hand and walked her from the huge room and up the large winding stair case. He opened a door and took her into a bedroom. It looked like his old room. Green walls, a double bed with neutral bedding on it, and an Atari hooked up to a television. It was spotless. Medals from school hung on a cork board near a desk that had nothing on top but a few trophies. It was indeed Nick’s bedroom.
“Kendra McCartney Morgan you look at me now please.” He said.
She turned around and gave him a funny look, “OK, I’m looking at you. Is this your bedroom?”
“Was, and stop trying to distract me.” Nick said as he sat down on the corner of his bed after removing his suit jacket. “Come here and have a seat, and I want you to tell me what is bothering you.”
Kendra kicked off her shoes, which were really pinching her feet, and sat down.
Nick pulled her close to him and kissed her bare shoulder. “I don’t even know how to say it out loud.”
“Then just blurt it because the Kendra I know, says exactly what she’s thinking.”
“Fine, I don’t think I’m good enough for you. And I don’t think your mother approves either. I’m not Birdie.”
“Thank-God. Birdie was psychotic. And what are you talking about? Do you have any idea how lucky I am that you even look at me? I’m a washed up cop and you are an amazing, smart, sexy, powerful, and astute investigator. I’m the one who should be asking that question, how can I be good enough for you?” Nick took her into his strong arms.
Leaning her head on his strong shoulder Kendra spoke her fears. “I am lucky to have you, but I’m so afraid that your mother won’t find me good enough for you and that my career, lack of social stature and the fact that I’m from hippies that she might give you her disapproval. She’s such a smart and elegant woman who has an amazing and respected career that maybe she wants a woman who is more suited her her and yours life style.”
“Maybe but it doesn’t matter. Besides when you first met me, did you think I came from a rich family from a high social standing?” He asked.
“No I actually didn’t.”
“Then why would you think that I would want that. That I would want a clone of my mother? If anything, that is the last thing I want. I want a woman who will make me laugh and smile. A woman who makes me have sex during a stake-out, a woman who has me craving her morning, noon and night. One who is strong minded but also someone who is up for taking suggestions. I’m so in love with your stubbornness, your tenacity, your quick wit, and sexy smile. I’m in love with your brain, eyes, boobs, and dog. I love everything about you, inside and out. I love your little home that you’ve literally made yourself. Do you think I’m going to give up all that you are just to make my mother happy?”
Kendra smiled against Nick’s neck, “I suppose not.”
“I can tell that my mother likes you. She knows more about you than you realize. That smile she gave you was genuine and trust me, I am a connoisseur of my mother’s fake smiles.” Nick ran his hand down her back.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door, “come in.” Nick answered.
The door opened and his mother came in with a full flute of champagne with a strawberry slice on the rim, “I thought I would find you two up here. Needed a breather I suppose.”
“Yes mother.” Nick said. His mom walked over to the desk and pulled the chair out and sat down. “What brings you up here?”
“I wanted to actually talk to the two of you. I haven’t had an opportunity to get to know Kendra.” She smiled at Kendra. “Are you enjoying yourself sweetie?”
Kendra nodded, “I am, thank-you. It is a bit overwhelming, but yes I am.”
“Lovely, because I am so bored that I’m ready to kick everyone out of my house except the family of course.” Catharine took a long sip of her champagne.
“Mother you live for these things.” Nick said.
“Believe it or not Nicholas, I do get tired of these events and I know your step-father does as well. For once I understand what he’s feeling.” She set her glass down on the desk.
“How would you like to spend a free weekend Dr. Dupree-Richards?” Kendra asked feeling a bit curious.
“Please, call me Catharine dear.” His mother seemed so relaxed sitting there in the chair Nick used to use. “I think I would love to visit my son and spend time at the beach. I would like to wear a pair of jeans and roll them up and walk in the sand bare foot.”
Nick spewed his champagne across the carpet.
“Nicholas, that was not necessary.” His mother chastised.
“I’m sorry I just didn’t realized you liked sand.” He said in return.
“I do, although I haven’t enjoyed it since you children were small. It’s time to retire from teaching and time to live life I think.” Catharine stood up, taking her champagne in her hand and polishing it off.
“Are you ill or something?” Nick asked.
“Nick, that’s not something you ask your mother when there is a stranger in the room.” Kendra told him.
Catharine walked over to her and put a perfectly manicured finger under her chin and lifted Kendra’s face to hers, “my dear, you are hardly a stranger, but thank-you.” She let go and looked at her son. “No I am not sick Nicholas. I’m just tired.” With that she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
“See told ya,” he said.
Kendra smiled and kissed him. “I want you to move in with me.”
Nick leaned her back on the bed, “I would love that so much. I love you so much.”
She was going to go for broke here, “I love you too, Nicky.”
A few weeks ago her stomach turned at the thought of meeting Nick’s family at a high class function, but as she watched the U-Haul pulled out of her drive way, Kendra started to feel that nausea again. Nick’s move in had gone smoothly. He had the basement all to himself, one that she had worked hard to finish with the help from her dad and grandfather.
The only part of her that was down there, besides the laundry area, was her ping pong table, which was off in the far end of the basement. Nick’s couches and furniture fit down there perfectly. A guest room was set up and Nick insisted on using his bedroom furniture for it instead of her going out to buy new stuff.
She, Hailey, Molly and Nick’s mother and sister Kayla, helped unpack the basement of Nick’s stuff, while the guys moved stuff in and around. It was a good bonding experience and now they were able to relax. Catharine and Tom were going to be staying in the newly created guest room for the weekend and in about three hours, Kendra’s parents were going to arrive with her brother,and Elton and his new girlfriend Jane, from Children’s services, and Molly’s parents for a back yard barbecue. Nick also invited Barb and Mac and Vula to celebrate her safe return.
First things first, Kendra thought as she could hear Molly and Kayla bustling in the kitchen and Hailey out side with her kids. Kendra walked up stairs and into her bedroom where she saw Nick putting his clothes in the walk-in closet that Kendra never wanted to share with anyone, until she met him.
Closing the door to lock them in for privacy, she walked over to him and wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling him close to her. Kendra’s lips kissed his and he responded by dropping the pants he had in his hands.
“I wanna play ping-pong, right now.” Kendra said after their lips parted.
“Um, random, but alright.” Nick smiled. “Really, right now?”
“Yes, I do. With you and nobody else.” She said then turned, opened the door to the closet and headed to the basement.
Nick thought it was strange that all of a sudden, Kendra wanted to play ping-
pong. He thought he was going to get lucky in the closet but that wasn’t about to happen. Nick picked up the pants he had dropped and quickly hung them up.
He walked through the kitchen, looked at his mother, sister and Molly and shrugged then went down the stairs. At first, he was shocked at how quickly the women in his life had the basement organized but then he remembered who he was dealing with.
“Are you coming?” She called from around the corner.
“I wish but apparently I’m just going to be playing some ping-pong.” He laughed.
Kendra smiled at him as he picked up his paddle. She bounced the ball and served it over the net to him, and he returned it. Eventually the first point belonged to him. “Not bad, and although you have the first point, I’m just getting started.”
“Bring it,” he laughed.
Nick picked up the white hallow bell and served it hard over to her but she returned it so hard that he missed. Point for her. She was brutal as her serve whizzed by his head and she had yet another point. No rest for the wicked he thought. As she served again, this time he was ready for her and he returned the ball back.
Nick was now up by one point, and his loving girlfriend didn’t look happy about it. She played hard and took ping-pong serious. He threw the ball up and served it over the net to her, and Kendra swatted it back.
“You know something Nicky,” she back handed her next return.
“What babe?” He sent it back.
“I’m pregnant.” Kendra returned the ball and it bounced off his forehead.
He reached up and rubbed the spot on his forehead where the ball had hit. He suddenly had no interest in the game. Placing the paddle on the table, Nick rounded the table, stepping over Hardy who was laying beside it.
“You lose,” she said as she rounded the table to meet him half way.
Nick came to stand directly in front of her, “no,” he paused, “I win.”
At this moment, he couldn’t have been any happier. Nick gently picked her up and kissed. He could feel her lips curl into a smile as she kissed him back. Life was good, Nick thought. Life was so good.