#23 – When Lightning Strikes
- Richard McKinelle died and left his considerable estate to his widow; and not to his children.
- Leticia McKinelle hatched a plot to contest the will.
- Trevor Jordan dropped out of school and is extremely in debt to a man named Weston.
- Anita Breza and Duncan Marshall were arrested for double murder (including her husband) in California.
- Police Chief John Godspeed decides to perform his own investigation; but with the intention to clear Duncan’s name.
- Kerstin Waterford started working at The P & Q, which is owned by her ex-boyfriend‘s father.
- Kerstin began a relationship with Frank Denzre, a new resident of Emerald Heights and her neighbour.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Kerstin said, the incredulity clear in her voice as she addressed her cousin.
Leticia shook her head, “not at all, I have to get that information.”
Kerstin’s stare continued, “you cannot go snooping around the Manor while your step mother…”
“Stop calling her that!” Leticia interrupted, a finger pointed squarely and accusingly at Kerstin.
“Sorry. While Clara – uh, Clara the… mega-bitch?” She watched for Leticia’s approving reaction before continuing, “is wandering around the house,” she finished. “There’s no way that you’re going to find… what exactly are you looking for, anyhow?” Kerstin had listened to the explanation of Leticia’s caper that would see her find evidence to challenge her deceased father’s will. Leticia supposed that the evidence was located somewhere in her father’s home – the home that had been inherited by her not-step-mother, Clara Preston.
“I’m not really sure.” Leticia replied.
“That should make it easier to find,” Kerstin said as she puffed out her cheeks. “Seriously, Leticia, whose idea was this? It sounds like something Sarah would come up with.”
“It was my idea…” Leticia replied, “by the way, have you heard from Sarah?”
Kerstin nodded, “yeah, she called me from some chalet in Paris. She said that she forgot to tell anyone that she was leaving and that she would be home, uh, I guess it would be tomorrow now.”
“She forgot to tell anyone that she was leaving?” Leticia rolled her eyes, “she has three assistants, you know? Plus she works with me. And, uh, her father. And she forgot?”
Kerstin chuckled, “this is why I figured that she had inspired you to ninjadom. That’s totally not going to work, by the way.”
Leticia sighed, “I know… but, Kerstin, I have to try something… I can’t just let Clara take everything that my father ever worked for.”
Kerstin nodded, “yeah, I know.”
Chief Godspeed made his way down the grey hall toward the cells that contained the prisoners in the Emerald Heights Police Department precinct building. The hard soles of his shoes clacked against the floor in a way that seemed louder than usual and it made him momentarily feel uncomfortable about his plan. He turned the corner and was presented with the last locked door before the holding cells. He turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open.
Immediately he heard the sound of sobbing coming from within the cell block. He knew that it was Anita Breza because this particular block of cells was empty otherwise. He walked toward the cell, taking particular care to step as lightly as he could in order to not disturb the woman.
“Ms. Breza,” he asked as he drew close to the cell in which she was seated. She looked like she’d been crying since the night before when she had been booked in. “I’m Chief John Godspeed, I’d like to talk to you, if you don’t mind.”
She looked up at him. Her eyes were red and swollen, her lip trembled and her long slender fingers were too wet to be effective at wiping away the tears. She didn’t stand at first, but just looked up at him. He began to feel uncomfortable at her still silence. He was about to speak again when she slowly rose from the bench. “Mr. Godspeed,” she said. She had an accent he couldn’t place, although it was well worn down by decades of living in California.
It struck him that he hadn’t really prepared for the scenario in which he found himself. He was used to letting the evidence speak for itself and following it to its eventual end. “I… I am here unofficially,” he said by way of clarification, faltering only slightly, “this isn’t exactly Emerald Heights’ jurisdiction.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “I’ve read the reports that were taken by the witnesses in California – including yourself – and I’ve read the notes that Burgess has submitted to the District Attorney, but… well, Ms. Breza, something just isn’t adding up.”
He continued, “I’ve known Duncan Marshall since he was this high,” he gestured to the height of a toddler, “and I just can’t… can’t wrap my head around anything like this. And believe me, Ms. Breza, this town ain’t exactly known for its straight forward police work.” He shook his head. “My gut tells me that there’s more goin’ on here than meets the eye…”
Anita Breza nodded, “what do you want to know, Mr. Godspeed?” She asked, speaking softly.
“Well, for starters, why did you come to Emerald Heights?”
Tears welled up in her eyes again as she choked out the words, “to tell Duncan that I’m pregnant.”
“Hey, hey,” the young man called after her as she rounded the corner outside Cafe Orleans. Leticia stopped and turned toward the voice, unsure if it was her that was being addressed or not. She was somewhat surprised to see the man to whom the voice belonged step up to her and reach out his hand. “I’m Trev…” he pause, “uhm, Trevor… and I would couldn’ t help but overhear you and you friend talking in the cafe.”
Leticia’s eyes narrowed, “overhear what, exactly?” She asked.
“Oh hey, yeah, no worries,” he said, leaning in as he spoke, “I totally get it, I’m like not going to rat you out or something.”
The hair on the back of her neck stood up slightly as she realized that the man’s conspiratorial tone was far more appropriate than the cavalier way in which she and Kerstin had been taking about her plans only minutes ago. She cleared her throat, “uhm, well, okay then. What… what do you want?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said to a question that wasn’t asked, “I want to help.”
“You’re pregnant?” Godspeed said, more than a little gobsmacked.
She nodded but didn’t speak. He continued, “did you tell him?” She shook her head, “okay, does Burgess know?”
“I… I think so,” she replied.
The Chief’s mouth suddenly felt very dry, “I apologize for my questions, but how… far along are you?”
“Three months.” She said softly.
Godspeed nodded, “did you know about the pregnancy before your husband…” She nodded. “And, is the father…” he trailed off.
She nodded again, “Duncan?” She paused, when she spoke her voice cracked, “I think so.”
The Chief rubbed his forehead slowly while thinking, “and no one knows any of this? None of the Californians?”
She shook her head, “not that I know of. The only people other than me to know were Claudio and Inez and they…”
He nodded, he hadn’t remembered the name of the other victim but he figured that was who she was referring to. He had felt somewhat out of his depth when he’d decided to look into the matter in spite of it being out of his jurisdiction, but now he was completely swamped. This was seven different kinds of motive for Duncan, the Breza woman, or both of them to have committed the murder. His instincts, however, told him that all of the pieces of this puzzle had yet to be exposed.
“I need to tell Mr. Marshall,” Chief Godspeed said, speaking in an even tone intended to keep her calm. Anita Breza’s eyes briefly brought forth a new stream of tears. But, when her emotions subsided he continued, she nodded, “and I’ve gotta tell the District Attorney too.” She nodded again. He sighed heavily before continuing with one last thing:
“And if you don’t mind, I’d like to tell Mrs. Marshall.”
Leticia hadn’t said anything since the young man had attempted to inserted himself into her caper to infiltrate Pinewood Manor and seek out the dirty laundry that would bring down her father’s widow and invalidate her claims on his will. Her eyes narrowed, he hadn’t flinched or fidgeted since he’d finished speaking, “how do you propose to help me?” She said calmly and flatly.
“Uh, well,” he said, continuing his semi-conspiratorial tone, “I heard you say that you need to get into the house.”
She nodded, “yeah, I was planning to do that through the front door.” She replied.
“Naw,” he said, “that won’t do any good, I heard you say that you don’t even know what you’re looking for.”
“I don’t,” she replied, still not sure why this conversation was taking place.
“Well, I can get into the house… like, into-into the house.”
She shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose, “I don’t know what that means.”
He smiled broadly, “well you said that your ste… your dad’s old lady was a lot younger than him, right?” She nodded, he continued, “I, uh, I’ve got a way with the ladies.” He pulled at his shirt slightly in some gesture of machismo that she didn’t recognize.
“Wha…? Okay, I’m sorry… I have to go.” Leticia said.
The young man stepped around in front of her again, “no seriously,” he said, “I can totally get in there. You don’t even know.”
Leticia set her jaw. “No,” she said, “no, thank you. I can manage this on my own just fine. Please forget what you heard and…”
Trevor cut her off, “okay, cool. You try it your way. When it don’t work you give me a call.” He pulled a piece of folded paper out of his pocket and reached out his hand, “pen?” For whatever reason she obliged him and he scribbled down his name and phone number on the paper and then thrust both it and the pen into her grasp.
She stuffed them into her purse and stepped around the young man. She walked several feet before turning back to look at him. He remained standing in the same spot, looking at her. He made a “call me” gesture with his hand as she turned back around and headed for her car.
Kerstin lazily wiped away at the bar. In one ear she could hear the television that played quietly in the corner behind the bar in the other was the droning voice of some patron who had glommed onto her as a target for his life story.
The man on the television screen was reading out the news of the day which included such spectacular nuggets as the two new docks that were being build on the coast, a contentious debate that city council was engaged in with regard to the name of a park that was being developed on an area of reclaimed waterfront and a recent fatal car accident.
The latter story did, for the briefest moment, catch her attention when the announcer noted that the vehicle in which the driver had died had Oklahoma plates and that anyone with information should contact the tip line.
“Then my wife left me and took my goddamned pool table… the goddamned pool table. What the Christ does she need with a pool table?” The man said, then repeated, “hey, you listening to me?”
“Not really,” Kerstin said before she realized it. “Uhm… what?” She corrected quickly. “I mean, sorry… there was… on the television. Someone died.”
She hoped that the man would accept the news that someone had died was justification enough for her to not having paid attention to his sob story about a wayward pool table. “Oh, geez. Someone from here?” He said.
“From Oklahoma,” she said, “it doesn’t sound like they know who the driver was.”
“Well, Christ,” the guy said, “probably the bastard my wife cheated on me with.”
“He was from Oklahoma?” Kerstin asked.
“What? No. He was just an asshole.” He said then continued, “so she takes my goddamned pool table and when I find it gone d’ya know what’s left behind? Do you? My effing cue. She left the cue behind and took the goddamned table. What am I supposed to do with just a Christly cue? What a bitch.”
Kerstin chuckled in spite of herself and noted immediately the scowl on the man’s face, “I… I’m sorry,” she said trying to rein in her amused expression. “That’s terrible.”
The patron swiped his hand through the air in a gesture of dismissal, “screw you, too,” he said before getting up from the stool and moving to a table the window.
She tossed down the towel that she had been using to wipe the bar and headed toward the back room in order to restore the stock of a few bottles that she had emptied over the past hour or so. As she stepped into the dim store room, she heard footsteps behind her. She wheeled around.
“What was that about?” Jehua Stanley said from the store room door.
“It seems I didn’t give his woes their due,” Kerstin explained. “I was distracted by the news report; that accident out by the highway.”
Jehua nodded, “there was a kid in the car, too.”
Kerstin grimaced, “damn.” She shook her head, “did he…”
Jehua shook his head, “no, sounds like he made it.” He shrugged and leaned against one of the shelves, “so, aside from buddy over there how is your night going?”
“It’s going… well,” she said. “No complaints.”
Jehua smiled, “good, good.”
She continued to dig through the bottles on the shelves as Jehua stood silently between her and the door. From the corner of her eye she could see him and she could tell that he was watching her. There was nothing at all threatening about his stance and yet it made her feel totally closed in. “I can’t find ver… vermouth.” She said after a few minutes of silent searching.
Jehua pushed himself upright and came up behind her and looked at the stacks of bottles and boxes on the shelves in front of them; the front of his right shoulder touched the back of her left shoulder with the lightest of contact, but it was the only sense with which Kerstin could concentrate. He made a humming sound while he scanned the bottles and she could feel the gentle reverberations even through that slight physical connection.
Her breath caught in her chest and goosebumps formed on her arms.
“There it is,” they said in unison and reached as one to retrieve the bottle, his hand over hers. The heat of his touch juxtaposed against the coolness of the store room was almost more than she could take; she gasped audibly and drew her hand back. She turned quickly where she stood and found herself face to face with Jehua Stanley, looking up into his eyes. His magnificent blue eyes.
Neither said a word, instead each one stared into the other’s face.
She was certain that her eyes closed before his, but the heat from his body was enough to tell her exactly how close together they were. A hand pressed against the small of her back and she leaned in to him. She could feel his face millimeters away from hers, his ragged breath gently cascading across the flushed skin of her face. Every nerve in her lips was on fire with anticipation as she felt him lean in to close the distance that remained between them.
What happened next made her feel like she’d been struck by lightning.
“Kerstin,” Gordon Stanley spoke softly from the entrance to the store room, “it’s the emergency room at Bayview Hospital… it’s your, uh, boyfriend. They say he’s suffered some sort of head trauma.”Tags:Anita Breza, Chief John Godspeed, Jehua Stanley, Kerstin Waterford, Leticia McKinelle-Glendale, Trevor Jordan