“I’m sorry I asked you to come back. Thank you.”
“No problem. What happened?”
I had spent the rest of the party not doing much. I had sat back down outside but I had been too preoccupied with the threat left on my freezer to enjoy myself. Soon after I had rejoined the crowd my guests had thinned out, and before I knew it everyone had left and it was getting dark. I thought I’d be fine, but the moment I was alone inside my house my legs had started shaking again. I had locked the doors and windows, but the feeling that someone was watching me didn’t leave.
That’s when I had called Emery. I didn’t want to be alone right now, and if I could trust anyone in this world it was my partner.
How was I going to explain to him why I didn’t want to be on my own inside my own house? Could I tell him about the note? Should I tell him about the note?
“It’s nothing, really. Just something someone… said.”
“Are you sure that’s everything? I’ve seen guys twice the size of you trying to intimidate you, and you never even flinch.”
I nodded, hoping he would leave it at that.
For the first time since he had been assigned to me I took a good look at Emery. He had a friendly, warm smile and eyes which reflected that. Mum’s words echoed in my mind, and I had to admit that he did look a little like Marvin. Their faces were completely different, but Emery had similar bright eyes and his hair was the same shade of brown. I could see why Mum would make the connection, but there was still nothing there. I still didn’t have feelings for him like I had had for Marvin. I knew enough about Mum’s past to know that a long time ago, feelings wouldn’t have mattered to her but I didn’t want a physical-only relationship like that. I had liked Marvin, and I would wait until I liked someone in the same way again.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Mostly. Would you like to come inside? We could watch a movie, and I’ve got some brownies left over if you’d like some.”
If there was one thing I had learned about Emery during this party it was that he loved food. He had a big sweet tooth, and loved cooking as well as baking.
“Well, I can’t say no to that!” He smiled, following my lead.
I quickly stacked some brownies and some fresh cookies onto a plate, and took everything to the sofa where Emery was already getting started on the TV. The many times he had repaired this old thing had taught him a thing or two about which channel was where or where all the recorded shows were stored. He found my movie stash in no time.
“What did you want to watch?”
“I don’t mind, anything will do” I said truthfully, grateful for the distraction and to Emery for being such a good friend. He probably had made plans for tonight, but he had dropped everything because a note on my freezer had freaked me out. Letting him pick the movie was only fair.
He flicked through everything quickly and settled on Zombieland.
After that the night went by very quickly. The movie was hilarious and did a wonderful job of taking my mind of my stalker. Emery was really funny and almost made me laugh more than the movie did. We were still sitting on the sofa talking long after the credits had finished, and I was wondering if we could do this more often. Not for the same reasons, but just for fun.
I felt much better by midnight. What had I been so scared about? All my doors had locks, and I was a police detective! A small note or threat couldn’t scare me! I’d be looking into it at work, there were bound to be fingerprints all over the note. Maybe I could even figure out who’s handwriting it was.
I was feeling positive, when Emery suddenly moved closer. Our legs were barely even touching, but I could feel the warmth radiating from his body and Mum’s words repeated in my head. Was she right? Did he really like me in that way?
Suddenly uncomfortable, I got up.
“It’s past midnight, you should probably get home.” I was facing away from him but wished that I could have seen his face. Did he look tired? Disappointed?
“Oh, sure.” Disappointed. Emery was definitely disappointed. I felt bad that I had led him on. Me asking him to come over and stay late to watch a movie? Maybe even to protect me? He had said it himself, I never even flinched at the toughest criminals waving their fists at my face. He had probably thought that this was more than it actually was, and I felt bad that I had given him false hope. I didn’t like him in that way, and it would be highly unprofessional. My job and my personal life shouldn’t mix, and I was determined to keep them separate.
“I’m sorry I made you stay so late. See you tomorrow?” I hoped working together wouldn’t be awkward now. Mum was likely right, he did have feelings for me. How could I work with him knowing that I was bound to disappoint him? Was that fair on him?
“Yeah, see you tomorrow. Let me know if anything else happens, alright? I’ll be over if you need me.” I smiled at his genuine offer, hoping it didn’t give him the wrong idea once again.
“Thanks, Emery. I will do.”
The next morning I was fired up. I was going to figure out who had left that note, and then I’d take my evidence to the Police Chief. Threatening a colleague was reason enough to issue a warning, possibly even a final warning, and I needed whoever had done this to know that they couldn’t toy with me like this. If they had something to say to me they could say it to my face!
Emery was busy typing up a report on the last case we had worked on, so I had a couple of hours at least to work this out. I was just running the third test on fingerprints when I was asked into the Chief’s office.
Scowling, I pocketed the note away safely and made my way over to his office. I hadn’t found anything but my own fingerprints, which implied that whoever had left and written the note knew what they were doing. They were here, in this police station – I just had to figure out who it was.
I knocked, and saw through the window in the door that he motioned for me to come inside. Quickly I shut the door behind me and sat down in the chair opposite his desk.
“Some of your colleagues have voiced concerns about you, Miss Seaworth.” My heart dropped. This was not what I had expected!
“Concerns? Like what?” I didn’t understand why they would say something like this, I always arrived first thing in the morning and often stayed late. My success rate was fantastic, and feedback from witnesses and civilians even better. Why would anyone have concerns about me? Had I slipped up and hadn’t noticed?
“You understand it would be highly unprofessional of me to tell you who said what. The concerns reported to me revolve around your obsession with one case in particular. Our colleagues are worried that you are spending too much time chasing something which we have put to rest many years ago, and that you can’t focus on current cases as a result.” Oh Maker. Had I really been that obvious?
“I assure you, I am very focused on all current cases. I would never let my work slide because o-”
The police chief gave me a sympathetic nod. “Of curse not, I know you are a professional. I believe your… interest revolves around the case of a prison outbreak some years ago, where several criminals managed to flee their confinement. May I ask what has drawn you to this case in particular?”
I couldn’t tell him. If anyone here had reason to think that my interest was personal they would never assign me to pick up Blaine’s case again, and I couldn’t let that happen.
I forced on my best smile, and offered: “It’s merely curiosity. The breakout happened when I was a young teenager, I watched the news the night it was covered. I only wondered if all of the criminals who escaped that day had been recaptured, or if I might be able to track down any stragglers who have eluded us so far.”
The concern on my boss’ face relaxed into a smile. “I am glad to hear it, Miss Seaworth. Rest assured that we have caught everyone who escaped that day, every last one of them have been moved to a high security prison.” I really hoped that my face didn’t show the surprise I was feeling. He was lying. The police chief was lying to me. Why do that?
“Thank you. It’s good to hear that everyone has been brought to justice.”
“If you are interested, we have received a new case only a few hours ago and I have yet to decide who to assign it to. It’s more difficult than what you and Mr. Dwyer have dealt with before, but if you perform well there might be a promotion waiting for you. Can I count on you?”
Barely listening, I nodded. “Yes, thank you! I won’t let you down.” Why would he lie to me? It didn’t make sense – he was the police chief, he knew everything there was to know about all cases. He had all important information available to him. My father was still out there, and he was covering it up. Why would he cover it up? Did my colleagues know about this?
Suddenly, I felt sick. Corrupt police officials only existed in movies, not here, in sleepy little Willow Creak, and yet the evidence had just presented itself to me. I couldn’t let this go, but I couldn’t do my research from work any more. If anyone else saw that I continued searching for the truth they’d report me again, and then I’d be in trouble. I couldn’t afford to be in trouble. Not until Blaine was in prison and I had gotten to the bottom of this cover-up.
“I know you won’t, Miss Seaworth. Good luck.” We shook hands, and I left the office with a sinking feeling in my stomach. I knew that something had been wrong here, but this? This was larger than I had expected.
For now, all Emery and I could do was solve our newest case. The chief had been right, this was complex and would take a while to solve. I had the uneasy feeling that we had only been assigned this case because it would keep my mind focused on something else for a long time, but I had no way of proving it.
Whatever was going on here, I had to uncover it and fix it. Who knew how many officers were in on this? How many corrupt colleagues we had? What if even Emery was included in their circle?
I felt sick yet again. Was it possible that he had only been assigned as my partner to keep his eyes on me? Suddenly I felt very alone in our crowded station.
All these people who had sworn an oath to do the right thing, and I didn’t know that I could trust any of them.