"A witness says they saw a woman matching your description with a car very similar to yours parked in front of Vidal's Jewelry right before the robbery," Detective Chalmers says.
I lean back on the chair and watch the single light swing back and forth spreading its dim light across the the tiny room.
"Well I'm sure I'm not the only woman with brown curly hair in this town and I'm positive that I'm not the only woman with a silver SUV either," I reply with exhaustion.
He stares at me intensely as he has been doing for hours.
"Again where were you?"
"Again, I ran some errands and again I arrived home at six thirty and did not leave for the rest of the night. My best friend Maria stopped by at about seven we had a few glasses of wine and she around nineish," I say.
"I don't believe you. You had every reason to rob the Vidal family. They took everything from you!" He yells.
I fold my arms together with a grin a little. I'm pissing him more and deep down I'm enjoying it a little. Just then a tap on the window distracts us from our stand off. Another Detective an older guy motions for him to come out. "I'll be right back," he says.
I nod. I figure one one of us has to be calm since he is starting to lose his cool.
He gives me one more stern look and walks out of the room.
I slump into the chair my legs are numb. I want to stand up get my blood flowing again but I know that's out of the question.
I swallow hard and wipe my face. I stare out of the window where the Detectives are talking. My eyes focus on Detective Chalmers. I study him, his smooth caramel skin. I think about his brown eyes so intense. I tell myself to look away but I can't I stare at him more the way the muscles on his arms envelops his black shirt. I see the empty gun holster around his waist and I swallow hard again. I wish I would have taken that cup of water when they offered it. My heart starts to beat overtime and my palms start to sweat. I wipe them on my jeans and clamp them together on the table. My stomach is starting to dance the more I look at him. I turn away, take a few deep breaths and focus on the room. The butterflies in my stomach turn more. I'm nervous. I can't believe it. I shouldn't be nervous I have no reason to be nervous.
I don't look at him anymore as they have their discussion. I'm sure it's about me not to toot my own horn or anything but I know they can only keep me here but so long. Are they booking me or letting me go? That is the question.
Detective Chalmers walks in less intense and almost apologetic. "Mrs.Randall I want to apologize it seams as if we've made a mistake. You're free to go thank you for your coroperation."
He motions for me to follow him out of the room. I do so without question. I follow him through the hallway and to the front entrance. My bag and jacket were waiting for me out on the front desk. I go to grab it but the Detective beats me to them handing them to me quickly. I look into his eyes again and my stomach and heart goes crazy. He goes to walk away and without thinking I yell, "Hey Detective!"
He turns around. "I was wondering after your shift if we could go grab a bite to eat? I mean you do have to eat don't you?"
He doesn't respond for awhile. I feel my face turning red. Why did I even say that? Just twenty minutes ago I was suspect in a robbery case.
"Mrs.Randall..." he says.
"Nicole," I say .
"Nicole, that would be great."
It felt good for him to call my name. My body goes warm and I can't help but smile.
"Michelle's Steakhouse on Spring Street in a hour," he says.
I notice his grin and he walks back into the station. I walk outside and the sun is starting to set. It was early afternoon when I came in.
I walk to my car a silver Lexus. I have a hour to collect my self. With only a hour I don't even have time to freshen up. I feel safe enough to check my phone now that I'm in the car, Maria called about five times. Unsure if I should return her call until I remember what I said to the detective. I call her back.
"Oh my gosh! Where have you been?" She asks.
"I can't say much right now but if anyone asks you if you were with me Tuesday night. You had drinks at my house, red wine and you left around nine or so," I say.
"What? Why?" She asks.
"I can't say right now, but please stick to that story," I beg.
I hang up and drive as far away from the police station as fast as I can. I crack my window. The air in the car is starting to choke me. Then I notice it, something shiny reflecting red from the traffic light on my passenger seat. A loose diamond. How did it get here? I quickly thow it out of the window. I say to myself
I was not there.
That diamond was not here.
I need to remain calm.
I pull off as quick as I can. I drive to the parking lot of Michelle's to freshen myself up the best that I can. A touch of powder, lipstick and some perfume. I walk in and choose a table in the back, order a glass of white wine with a slice of cheesecake. I'm early hoping that the wine will calm my nerves. Michelle's Steakhouse is more romantic than I thought. The dim lighting accents the red carpet and white table settings. Soft piano music plays in the background. It's clear that the owner wants Valentine's Day encapsulated in this room. Detective Chalmers walks in he traded in his black shirt and slacks for a white collar shirt and khaki pants. He follows the hostess to the table and takes a seat. He studies the menu without even saying hello.
"So did you find any breaks in the case," I ask.
"No," He replies without even lifting his head.
I roll my eyes, drink my wine and finish my cheesecake.
We sit in silence.
"So do you see anything that's catching your eye?" I ask.
"No," he says.
We sit in more silence. After twenty mintues I grab my jacket and my bag. Then I take a twenty from my wallet and place it on the table.
"Thank you for an unpleasant day and an even more unpleasant evening. I'm leaving and I hope I never see you again."
I storm out. I hold my breath to keep my tears from falling. I Just focus on getting to my car. How could I be so stupid? I've never been so embarrassed I'm my life. I'm a few steps away from my car as I hear my name being called from a distance.
"Mrs. Randall! Wait please!" A mans voice calls out.
I turn around to see Detective Chalmers in a quick jog-walk combination after me. I stand there even though a part of me wants to run to my car and pull off.
"I'm sorry. I know you've had a rough day and I have as well. That's no excuse for my behavior. Can we please try this again?"
I look into his eyes with my arms folded. My knees go weak. Breathe, I remind myself.
"Sure," I say.
He grabs my hand and I follow him past the steakhouse and towards the town square where there is a pizza stand is still open. I look acoss the street at the now closed Vidal's Jewelry. A cold chill comes over me and I look away quickly.
"I thought we could try something a little less formal," he says.
I smile and nod. He orders a slice of cheese pizza and a soda. I just take a soda and we walk over to a park bench close to the fountain. The lights around here are brighter than in the steakhouse. The fountain quietly streams and there are a few people jogging some how it's relaxing.
"So how long have you've been a detective?" I ask.
"About five years," he says taking a bite of his pizza.
"So were you ever married?" I ask.
"No, engaged once. A while back, to make a long story short she couldn't handle the fact that I was gone the majority of the time and I was just starting my career."
"Wow I'm sorry," I say.
"Don't be. It wasn't meant."
I nod. A little perplexed that with his demeanor that he was engaged at one time. I imagine that one point he displayed emotions and wanted love. I still believe that there is still a part of that is untapped just waiting to be discovered. Almost too quickly our pizza dinner is over and now we're walking hand in hand on Spring Street. The butterflies dance in my stomach and I don't want this night to end. We're a few steps away from my SUV when we hear a loud scream from a woman at unlit end of Spring Street.
He pulls his gun from his waist.
"Stay here," he says. I watch him take off towards the direction of the screams.
I stand there fozen I want to call out to him and tell him to come back.I cross my arms and look around and across the street I see a man in all black standing. Every nerve in my body wants to yell. He doesn't move but I know he's looking right at me. I can't even defend myself, I have nothing, not even pepper spray. I look away towards the unlit end of the street and the man is gone. I look frantically left and right, no sign of him. I run to my car. A hand lands on my shoulder and I run back to the light post wrapping my arms around it.
"What's the matter?" I look and it's Detective Chalmers.
"You scared me! I thought you were some crazy guy trying to kill me!" I yell.
He reaches out for me . I still keep my body around the light post.
"Come on it's ok," he says.
I unwrap my arms from the light post and slowly make my way to him. He wraps his arms around me. "Did you see anything?"
"No, nothing," he says. It takes some convincing but he finally lets me get in my car. Even though we both know I'm still shaken up.
"Thank you for giving me a second chance Mrs. I mean Nicole."
"I'm glad I did Detective."
"You can call me James. We can be informal just for tonight."
We both laugh. I hold his hand tight not wanting to let it go but I do.
I drive off feeling like I'm lifted by a cloud. I still can't believe I took a chance like this and I don't regret it.
I finally get home from what seams like the longest drive. I get a glass of wine and undress. I turn on the shower. I'm ready to wash this day off. I put on my robe and sit on the bed.
"It's about time you got here," I hear a voice say in my bed room.
I jump up, dropping my glass on the floor. I look at the tall skinny man with dark short hair and a boyish face looking back at me.
"How the hell did you get in my house?" I ask.
He smiles and drops a duffle bag on the floor.
"I came to give you this but your date with the detective took longer than I expected."
I eye the bag. "How did you where I was? Were you watching me?" I ask.
He laughs, "No, I don't have time to watch you. I have money to spend. I came to check on, you know, see how you were holding up."
I don't know what's funny. He is so reckless. How could I have agreed to this? I cover my self with my robe. I want to slap him for intruding on me like this. What if the detective came home with me? What if Maria stopped by? What if my neighbors saw him? I'm as good as caught. I don't understand the confidence he has at this moment.
"As you can see I'm fine," I say.
"So are you and the detective going to...."
"Mack I need you leave my house now." I say pointing at the door.
He stands there with a sumg look on his face. So I push him as hard as I can. He doesn't budge. He laughs even more holding my arms lightly.
"Alright, alright I'm leaving," he says walking out of my bedroom. "Just so you know housewives usually doesn't make for good inmates."
I shove him more. I push him as hard as I can. All I want him to do leave. I want him to get out and stay away from me forever.
He leaves though the back. I pray no one sees him and it happens, the one thing that should have happened months ago when John left. I break down. I fall on my kitchen floor crying.
It's been a week now I haven't left my house, answered any phone calls or even taken a shower. All I've been doing is counting and crying. A million dollars in cash and two hundred thousand dollars in jewelry. Sure it's enough to keep me a float keep the house and the car. I could run, change my name start a new life somewhere. I throw that fantasy out of my mind. I'm sure I'm still a suspect or at least a person of interest if I run they will hunt me down. Having this new found wealth felt is more like a prison than prison.I take the duffle bag filled with money and jewelry and place it in the back of my closet. After finally taking a shower I hear a knock at the door. I stand in front of it nervously. I don't want to face my consequences at this moment. I take a deep breath and open it. Maria storms inside. "Where the hell have you been?" She asks.
I stare at her, unsure how to answer the question. I've been slowly loosing my mind for a week.
"Can you say something at least? No you can't because you're selfish everything can't always be about you. You know I have problems too but you don't care. All you care about is running after John. News Flash Nicole he doesn't want you! He left you for Katy Vidal and he's not coming back!" She yells.
I feel my face getting hot and the tears in my eyes I cover my face in my hands and sob. "I'm sorry, there's been so much...I'm sorry." That's all I manage to get out.
She pulls me close and gives me a hug. She rubs my head filled with half damp crazy curls. "Oh Nicole, " she says.
I splash my face with warm water. While Maria tells me how her and her latest boyfriend Chris has broken up. "The bastard is engaged can you believe that? Months out of my life gone for someone who doesn't even deserves a second," she says.
I get dressed while Maria drinks all what's left of my wine. I don't do anything fancy so a pair of jeans and a white v neck shirt will suffice for me. Just as I was getting ready to a glass of wine, the door knocks again. Maria and I look at each other. Who else could be at the door? Mack can't be stupid enough to come here in broad daylight. I walk over and peek to see Detective Chalmers on the other side. What is he doing here? He knows everything. I'm as good as caught now. This is it I'm going to jail. I take a deep breath and open the door. He makes his way in and paces back and forth across my living room floor.
"Sure you can come in. I'm fine. How are you today? Hmm...you seem a little tense." I say.
"Who the hell is this?" Maria asks.
"Detective Chalmers, Maria Anderson. Maria, Detective Chalmers," I felt it was only right to introduce them.
"Nice of you to barge into my friend's house. Do you got a warrant or something?" Maria asks.
"Katy Vidal was found dead in her home this morning,” he says. My knees get weak and I lean against the arm of my couch. I force myself to breathe. Detective Chalmers grabs my waist. "I need to know. Are you telling me everything? I can't help you if keep secrets from me," he says.
I hear Maria to my left coaching me . "Count backwards from ten," she says.
Ten, nine...My husband left me for Katy Vidal...eight, seven...I was broke on the verge from losing my house and car....six, five... I robbed the Vidal's Jewelry store with some punk kid Mack...four...I'm a suspect for the robbery...three...I'm going to jail...two I'm being accused of a murder I didn't commit...one...I'm in love with a detective that can put me away for life. I start to calm down as they help me to sit on the couch.
"Just because she slapped Katy once outside her jewelry store doesn't mean she killed her," Maria protests.
"I know but her wedding ring was found at the scene. I grabbed it before any of the other officers could get a chance. I came straight here to see what she knows," he says.
The only person that could have done it was Mack. He is the only one that has been here in my bedroom uninvited. Why would Mack try to frame me? We pulled of the robbery. We split the money. "What about John?" Of course! You know that bastard did this to try to frame her!" She yells.
Maria gets off the couch yelling and cursing. She paces back and forth vowing to kill him for this. Only it wasn't John. It was Mack. I know I have to find him. Figure out why this is happening. After a hour or so I become completely calm which eases Maria and Detective Chalmers. He kisses me on the forehead and says he'll check on me later. He grabs my hand and places something in it before leaving. It's my wedding ring. He knows that someone is trying to frame me. At least I know he's on my side.
"Nicole I'm going to stay with you tonight but I'm going to my apartment to grab some clothes and come right back. Are you going to be ok?" She asks.
"Sure. I'm just going to drink some hot tea and take a nap."
I grab my keys and look out the window to make sure she's gone. I jump in my car and race down the street to the undesirable part of town where Mack lives. That's how a win-win turns into a lose-lose real quick. I was desperate with no skills to get a decent job. When I married John I was working at a clothing store. I am Mrs. Nicole Randall formally Nicole Pritchett raised by Marianne Pritchett and never knew her father. I would have left me too. Katy Vidal was beautiful, educated, and respected. I almost forgot rich beyond belief. I couldn't compete with that. All I had was eight years of being a devoted wife and John couldn't use that to pay the bills. I finally make to Mack's apartment located in a basement of the abandoned Rick's Auto Shop. I smell the pot before I hit the stairway. Ugh, and the music does it have to be so loud? I don't bother knocking I just walk right in. He's sitting on his futon with two half dressed girls playing video games on a giant tv.
He jumps up at the sight of me. "What are you doing here?" he asks.
I punch him right in the lip. The two girls attempt to defend him but with the lack of sun light or too much pot but they end up tripping over each other and belly flopping on the floor. I step over them and push Mack back onto the futon.
"Look Mackenzie if I go down you go down! You were supposed to take the money to get you a better life but now I see all you wanted to do was smoke pot and pick up whores!" I yell.
I storm out stepping on one of the girls hands on the way. "Just so you know lanky grocery baggers doesn't make for good inmates either," I say and go up the stairs. I make it before Maria comes back. I opt for wine instead of tea. It felt good punch that little punk even though I know it's going to come back to bite me.
Maria comes back with a bottle of tequila instead of wine. It's not my drink of choice but I need to enjoy what time I have left. I get the shot glasses out of the cabinet and we watch a romantic movie and take shots. We take shot after shot not even paying attention to the movie. "That detective is kinda cute and I see the way he looks at you," Maria says.
I nod and take another shot. "I'm in love with him," I confess.
Maria laughs, "You're drunk. No more drinks for you."
The room starts to spin I lay down on my couch. I see the couple on the screen kissing I imagine that it's James and I. I'm love with him. I wish he was here with me. It would be nice if I confess this not just the love part but the fact that I'm a thief too.
I close my eyes and drift off.
A tap on my leg wakes up the room is completely dark except for the time blinking on the digital clock but my vision is too blurry to make out the blinking blue numbers. I feel the tap on my leg again I start to moan and turn away. I feel a pair of hands lift me up. I force my eyes open. "What the hell? Mack put...put me down," I mumble.
"I can't, I have to get you out of here. You're in danger," he whispers.
I feel woosy I try to defend my self, kick my arms and legs but I can't. They barely move. Damn this tequila!
"Shhhh," Mack whispers.
I see that he's taking me to my front door. I beg for him to put me down. I hear two loud pops and we fall to the floor. My head bounces on the tile. I feel something warm all over me. I sit up to see Mack on the floor with his eyes open. His blood pouring from his head making a pool onto the floor. I walk over to him and touch his face. He's gone. "Maria!" I call out. The room is dark and I don't see any sign of her. I stand up and take a better look. Where is Maria?
I walk towards my bedroom calling her name. I feel a set of arms grip me from behind. I'm paralyzed when I see a black gloves and a gun.
"Surprise I'm home," voice whispers in my ear.
Tears roll down my cheek. I know this voice.
"John," I say softly.
"Ding, Ding, Ding," he says, laughing.
"So here's the deal. You robbed Katy's store, killed her out of revenge, and killed Mack your partner found out and threatened to go to the police. I come home find that my future wife was killed by soon to be ex wife. Then you tried to kill me and I killed you in self defense. OK?"
I struggle to get away but his grip is too strong. He turns me around to face him. His eyes gray eyes and face pale. The next thing I know he smacks my face with the butt of his gun. I hit the wall before landing on the floor. Blood fills my mouth. The room starts to spin. Pain shoots across my head and my mouth. The taste of blood makes me nauseous so I vomit the shots of tequila from earlier. I crawl towards the front door. When I see Maria with a kitchen knife fighting off John. I try to yell but the pain in my face doesn't allow me. I crawl towards the phone and dial 911. That's when I hear it. Two more pops I look to see Maria her chest filled with blood on the floor. Maria! All of this is my fault. John can't get away with this.I grab a pair of scissors that are on the floor and hide in a nearby closet where I put storage boxes. I hear John walking around I see his foot steps from the crack in the door.
"Innocent people are dying Nikki. We can end this now!" he yells.
I hate that he calls me that. I grip the scissors tighter.
I start to weep. I feel myself getting sick I hold my breath to keep it down.
He stops in front of the closet.
"You know it's your fault I killed Katy. She defended you. Even after you robbed her blind with my nefew. Did you even bother to check his last name? No? Mackenzie Randall. " He laughs again. "She was going to tell her family. I couldn't let that happen I'm not made for prison and your detective boyfriend would see to it that I rot there," he says.
It comes to me. He was there that night I was questioned. He put the diamond in my car. He was the man standing there that night. He swings the closet door open. I push the boxes and they fall on top of him knocking him down and the gun across the floor. I jump on him with the scissors in hand barrelling it in his chest. He gives me an angry look and punches me. I fall backwards landing on the floor. My face is throbbing more than ever. Everything is blurry I try to move but John is on top of me with his hands around my neck. The air is leaving me and I taste more blood. At least I went out with some kind of a fight. I see lights from my window with red, blue then gray. I close my eyes and keep them shut. I open them again everything is too bright. Pain shoots from my face and my neck and I see James holding my hand. I hear beeps from a machine, I'm in the hospital, alive.
"Good Morning," he says.
"I'm so glad to see you," I whisper.
"We got John. He's going away for a long time and don't worry Maria's going to make it too."
I have to tell him now that I have a second chance. "I'm in love with you and I robbed Katy's jewelry store with the boy John killed," I confess. I look at his blank stare then his eyes lower.
" I knew you committed that robbery and I've been in love with you since the second I saw you in that interview room. Now as far as the case is concerned John committed the robbery along with the murders," he says. He leans in and kisses me. My soulmate saved me after all.