It has been a wonderful week! Lani was home for 9 days and the Three Musketeers spent 3 whole days together, idling the day away in the sun and talking the night away as well.
Lani inherited a beach house from her grandparents, which is the main reason she came home, to sign paperwork and such. It’s out just past Malibu, but in the older, ‘not fashionable’ part. It’s a real bungalow style, built in the 1930’s and just awesome. I spent quite a few days there helping Lani sort through things and you should have seen us trying to handle a few minor repairs. Josh came over to help occasionally, but in reality he isn’t much handier with a hammer than we are. It was a true spectacle to watch us, I’m sure!
When Robbi came for a long weekend it was the perfect end to the week. No men were allowed; we turned off our cell phones and stocked up on wine and munchies and sunscreen and just did whatever we felt like. Lani has really enjoyed Tokyo but she seems different somehow about it. I tried to get her to tell me what was wrong but she insisted that nothing was wrong and that perhaps she really was just a bit home-sick and in truth I think she is; she seemed to absorb everything and clung to us when it was time to go. It’s almost like she has seen something there that she doesn’t understand or maybe just something that made her grow up. Who knows, but I am so glad she was home.
Oh, I almost forgot something! I ran into Carl when I was working a story for the paper. He is doing really well and is a detective now; a job that he is perfectly suited to. It felt good to see him and he met Josh and I for dinner one night; they already knew one another from a couple of cases. I haven’t mentioned to Josh that Carl and I used to date; I suppose I should at some point, but it feels kind of weird to mention it. Carl did seem surprised by Josh and I and that sort of made me laugh. He didn’t say anything, but I could still tell. Carl is engaged and has promised to bring his fiancé next time we meet for dinner.
My friend Morgan, who is a fantastic photographer told me about a great job opening at Buzzwire, an internet news and gossip venue. She told me to tell Maureen Williams there that she had sent me and I went to the interview. I think it went great and I am really hopeful about it. Who knows, thanks to Morgan I may be the next ‘it’ girl on the internet!
My mom has retired from her job with the Glendale school system. She is really excited about it too. She was there for 20 years and she says it’s about time. She is going to help Clark with his business, a remodeling firm specializing in green technologies. He has made their house into a finely working and energy efficient showcase, it’s really kind of cool.
Guillermo to Mick: Hey man, you need to come down here and look at this body. It may be the one you been looking for.
Mick to Guillermo: Be right there.
Mick slid his phone back into his pocket and thought about the text from Guillermo. For the past week he had been looking for a missing girl, 6 years old who disappeared from her yard. He prayed it wasn’t the one in the morgue, but logic told him it probably was.
Damn, he didn’t want to have to do this but he grabbed his keys and headed out the door; the sooner they got it over with the better.
At the morgue Mick found Guillermo with Carl Davis, examining the body. Mick had worked with Carl a time or two on a case and he respected the lieutenant’s ability to get cases solved. He nodded to both of them as he entered the room.
“Hey Guillermo, lieutenant.”
Carl looked at Guillermo and said “What’s he doing here?”
Mick spoke up and said, “I’ve been working a case for a missing 6 year old girl; hired by her parents.”
Carl looked irritated but stepped aside. Mick stepped over the body and lifted the sheet, wincing as he did. The body was in pretty bad shape and he quickly covered it again and said to Guillermo, “What can you tell me about her?”
“She was found in a drainage ditch in west Hollywood. The body is in pretty bad shape though. We’ll have to run dentals and maybe even DNA to positively identify her.” Guillermo shook his head as he looked at the tiny body that lay covered on the table. “Man, who does this to a kid?”
“Mick, did the girl have any identifying markers on her? The one you are looking for?” Carl asked, looking at his notes.
“Yeah. She has a strawberry birthmark on her right shoulder her mom said. Did you find anything like that Guillermo?”
“Her body is pretty abraded, looks like it was drug through the ditch but we can take another look. The coroner didn’t make any notes on here about one though so I’m assuming either she didn’t have one or it is impossible to tell.”
Mick nodded and Carl lifted the sheet again; both men closed their eyes for a moment because the little girl was so badly messed up. Guillermo lifted her and they all looked at her shoulder.
“Um, maybe. Take a look,” he told Mick and Carl.
Both men looked at the uncovered back of the child, but it was just too hard to tell for sure. “I guess it will be dental records or DNA before we know for sure.”
“Yeah. Hey, thanks Guillermo. Carl,” Mick said, nodding to both men before leaving. Outside Mick leaned up against the wall for a moment to collect himself.
That so easily could have been Beth, when Coraline took her. The realization shook him to the core and his gut twisted with pain. It could have been…
Mick sat in the living room of the Turner’s house in Glendale, taking notes about Elizabeth Turner, 4 years old who had been taken from her bed the night before. Her mother, grandparents and Clark Griffin were all sick with worry and guilt for not hearing Beth being taken.
“May I see her bedroom now? I think I have enough background.”
Dorothy Turner nodded and said, “Yes Mr. St. John, please, follow me.” Her voice caught on the last word and she tried to stifle a small sob. “It was quiet last night and we didn’t hear anything; we just don’t understand. Whoever took her got in through the window, which they pried open from the outside.” She opened the door and as soon as she stood aside Mick not only scented exactly what had happened, but who had taken her.
A knife twisted viciously in his gut. Coraline…Coraline had the little girl.
He saw her coming in the window and standing still, looking at the child, who was sleeping peacefully. Coraline leaned over her and laid her hand over the child’s mouth and then scooped her up into cold and merciless arms and was back out of the window before anyone knew it.
He shut his eyes tightly for a moment; he couldn’t bear for Dorothy Turner to see the naked pain in them. After he had regained his composure he said to her, “I’ll find her. I promise.” He had left then, rage filling his being. He knew exactly where to look for Beth. He would find her, but would he find her in time?
Those same worries occurred to him now; it wasn’t Coraline who took the child, but would they find her in time? Or had she been found already? Mick could only hope for the best.
“Beth, did you hear?” Max said, an infectious grin plastered across her face.
Max was a new co-worker at the paper and she and Beth had hit it off immediately. Max, short for Maxine was married to a great guy named Mark and she and Josh had hung out with them several times. Max and Mark had 3 kids, all boys and something was always going on at the Tyler household.
“What?” Beth asked distractedly as she stared an e-mail from Josh asking her to go to dinner that evening.
“The 710 shooter struck again! This time on Dozier!”
Those words brought Beth’s immediate attention to focus on Max. “Dozier? It is definitely an alphabet thing then,” she said as she mentally ticked off Anaheim, Bell, Compton and now Dozier. All streets that crossed the 710 but the times seemed to be random and Beth had spent a good deal of time pondering the situation since she was covering it for the paper. She stood up and grabbed her purse and phone and told Max, “I’m heading out then. Thanks Max!”
As Beth drove to the site she mulled over the shootings and when they had happened. Each one had happened after noon but before 1pm. The victims had all been driving north-bound on the 710, otherwise known as the Long Beach Freeway, at streets that intersected the freeway. So far there had been 3 clean shots that caused wrecks on the freeway that had killed 9 others. No telling what today’s totals might be. So, the times Beth wondered. Someone on their lunch hour or what?
When she got to the scene she had to fight her way through the lines of police who were processing the scene. She saw Carl and made a bee-line for him. As soon as he saw her heading for him he tried to duck out of the way but he was too late – he was cornered with nowhere to go.
“Carl! Hey Carl,” Beth called out, ready to chase him if need be.
“Beth,” he said with a shake of his head. “Why am I not surprised to see you here?”
“You shouldn’t be, I’ve been at all the other crime scenes. Anything different about this one?”
“No, same damn thing. Shot from one of these buildings, shooter undetected and got away clean. It’s really frustrating…”
Beth laid a hand on his arm and smiled at him. Their eyes met and for a moment the years had melted away and the both remembered the past. They both shook it off, not because it was a place they wanted to find again but because it was a place where they lost each other. “You’ll catch them Carl, you always do,” she told him, trying to sound convincing.
He nodded and looked around him, at the ambulances and yellow crime scene tape that criss-crossed the paths. “He got 3 today Beth, the driver was killed immediately and the car went into another lane and killed an elderly couple who couldn’t get out of the way in time. Fourteen cars were involved.”
“At least there were no more fatalities than that Carl. It could have been worse. But I know that is poor consolation to you. Any other information you want to share?”
“No, but I’ll tell you that we think the shooter was on top of the parking garage on Dozier, the one by the bank. They’re checking the scene now.”
Beth nodded and made notes on her pad. “It’s crazy Carl. So if this was ‘D’ then the next will be ‘E’ I expect. How many ‘E’ streets are there anyway?”
“A couple. But knowing when the hit will be made is the problem. That’s what we can’t figure out.” Just then he got a call on the radio and waved to Beth as he headed to talk to some officers.
Josh was arriving on the scene when she was walking to the car. She stopped to chat with him for a minute before she went to file her story. “Hey honey, how’s it going?” she asked.
“Beat me to the scene, again!” he said with a laugh. “I’m good. Did you get my e-mail about dinner?”
“Um hm, sounds good. What time?”
“About 7:00? Should be wrapped up here by then. Carl give you anything?”
“Not much,” she said with a shrug. “He’s pretty frustrated. Hey, I gotta go, but I’ll see later okay?” She gave him a quick kiss and headed off to her car, watching the media circus of television people who were setting up cameras to get their story. She sighed and wondered if she would ever make it that far.
On the drive back to the paper her cell buzzed and she looked at the number with interest. She knew she would definitely return that call when she got out of the mid-day traffic but in the meantime she thought about her life so far.
She wasn’t unhappy really, more like she was just treading water and it felt tiresome. She had gained some great experience with the LA Free Press but she was so ready to move on. And Josh, well, he was a great guy. They had so much fun together and he understood her pretty well. But when she looked at other couples, like Robbi and Kevin and Max and Mark she felt like something, some integral part was missing. Maybe it was that thing that came with longevity; the whole, knowing someone better than you know yourself deal. As a whole, she couldn’t complain about her relationship with Josh; the sex was good and she truly enjoyed their time together. But was that all there really was to it? Where was that connection that the other’s seemed to have? She sighed and made the turn off to the paper and parked before walking in to her desk.
Max was hovering around her desk, waiting for Beth to get back. Max was a political editor and a good one. Her rapier sharp wit had ruffled more than a few feathers over time, but you couldn’t fault her for being biased, she skewered them all!
“Well, what’s the deal this time?” she asked, sitting on the corner of Beth’s desk while Beth put her purse away.
Beth gave her the lowdown on the crime scene and then pulled out her notebook and saw her phone and remembered she had a call to return. She was feeling hopeful about it and fidgeted while Max sat there chatting. Finally she was gone and Beth returned the call, waiting impatiently for it to be answered.
“This is Mo; talk to me!” Maureen’s voice rang out clearly over the telephone line and an excited ripple raced up Beth’s spine.
“Hi Maureen. This is Beth Turner, returning your call.”
“Hey girl, glad you called! So how soon can you come to work for me?”
Beth’s breath caught in her throat and she silently did the happy dance. SHE GOT THE JOB!!! When she could speak again she said, “Well, I want to give the paper two weeks’ notice; will that work?”
Maureen grinned on the other end of the line. “Looks like I got me someone with a conscience. Hmm, well, I guess that will be fine. So, I’ll see you in two weeks then?”
“You bet you will! And Maureen, thanks so much for this opportunity; I won’t let you down!”
“I’m counting on that Beth. See you then!” She hung up the phone without another phone and started giggling, excitement overcoming her normally serious demeanor. Max came over to see what was going on.
Beth jumped up to hug her and then proceeded to jump up and down with excitement. “Guess what? I got a new job; at Buzzwire, the internet news place! I GOT THE JOB!!!”
“Wow Beth, that’s great! Will you be an online reporter?” Max asked, delighted for her friend.
“Not at first, but soon. I’ll be learning the ropes for a few months and then I’ll get to go live. Max, this is my chance and I can’t wait! Oh, I gotta write my resignation letter now. I’ve never had to do that before! And I have to tell my parents and Josh and wow, I’ve got to get busy!”
“Congratulations Beth!” Max said as she watched Beth start typing on the computer. She walked away with a smile, genuinely happy for her friend. She cast a quick look over her shoulder as Beth sat frowning at the computer screen for a moment. Yes, Max knew it was scary, but she also knew that Los Angeles was about to be taken by a small hurricane named Beth!
“Hey Morgan, I just hired your friend, Beth Turner! I hope you been straight up with me girl. She had better deliver!”
“I’m sure she will, and I’m telling you Mo, the camera lens eats her. She’ll be a hit!”
Morgan nodded and headed out the door to her car. She really didn’t know Maureen Williams; she’d sold them a few photos here and there, but when she had heard about the opening at Buzzwire she had immediately thought about Beth.
On camera she was bound to garner attention, hopefully from the person that Morgan had her eye on. There had to be a way to draw him back into her life and she would attempt just about anything to do that. Yes, she knew that he had watched over Beth for quite a few years, but all that ended when he spent those reclusive years in Seattle. This would be the perfect way to get his attention focused on her again. The perfect bait that is.
It was all coming together as Morgan Vincent, aka Coraline Duvall wanted. And she always got what she wanted when it came to Mick St. John. She remembered the fire and amended, well, most of the time anyway.
To be continued…