Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Episode 23

A cold winter wind blew directly off Pine Lake as Helen Kallias exited the post office. She walked down the block, preoccupied with a dozen different problems, mostly having to do with her two daughters. Engrossed in her thoughts, she didn't immediately register that the man coming out of Rainbow Bar was her husband, Nick.

Her first instinct was to call out to him, but a nano-second later, she wondered what he was up to. Why would he be at the Rainbow in the middle of the day, especially since he had made a point of telling her he was going straight to Taverna to work on the new menu with the chef?

Helen stopped in her tracks. Against the biting wind, she stepped close to the shelter of the nearest building, turned up the collar of her coat, and covered her head with her scarf.

To her further surprise, Biff Monroe also stepped out of the bar. Helen watched the two of them--one older, one younger--stand together, talking as if they were old friends. Something is definitely wrong with this picture, she thought. Nick had always gone out of his way to either ignore or bad-mouth Biff.

Maybe ten years ago, when Biff was a kid, he'd been wild, but as far as Helen was concerned, he seemed like a decent enough young man now. He was always very polite to her. Still, Nick had continued to be unreasonable about Biff. When their daughter, Selena, began dating the fellow, Nick carried on as though she would completely ruin her life if they so much as had dinner together.

Helen pulled her scarf more closely around her head. Of course, it wouldn't conceal her identity if Nick turned around. After nearly thirty years of marriage, he would recognize her in an instant. But for the moment, she preferred to see, rather than be seen.

For the first time in her married life, she wondered how well she really knew her husband. That Nick would have anything civil to say to Biff was too far out of the ordinary to be insignificant.

She flashed back to the afternoon a few weeks earlier when Nick had cut his hand. In the emergency room, she had sensed an unspoken communication between the ER nurse and her husband. That nurse was Claire Monroe. Claire, who was Biff's mother, had been shunned in the town of Pine Lake for raising her son by herself, refusing to reveal the identity of the boy's father.

Nick had known Claire since high school. It wasn't a giant leap for Helen to wonder now if her husband might possibly be Biff's father.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Episode 22

Chief Donati had just about pieced everything together. He'd spent half an hour on the phone with Special Agent Jackson, who corroborated Biff Monroe's story.

"Monroe came to us a couple of years ago," Jackson said. "He told us he had information about the Gonzales family, a sleaze-ball group of drug runners who specialize in marketing their wares to high school kids.
Monroe seemed to know what he was talking about. but we needed more hard evidence. That's when he volunteered to put together a photo-documentary for us. I gotta tell you, I don't know how he got some of those pictures and lived to tell the tale, but we have a file two feet thick. There's just about enough evidence to put the sweet boys away for a long, long time."

"So what's the status of the case now?" Donati asked.

"There was one last link--some guy named Lassiter. Monroe was supposedly in the final stage of nailing his ass. We were waiting for his okay before rounding up the lot of 'em. When you called, I figured that the bad guys got him. Glad to know he's all right."

Donati had been relieved that Biff was on the level. He liked the kid. Seemed like he was doing his best to turn his life around. With a reminder to stay out of trouble, Donati let Monroe go.

The only question that hadn't been answered was: who wrote the anonymous tip-off note? And why?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Episode 21

When Matt gave the coffee cup to Claire, their hands touched briefly. Claire tried hard not to look at his face, but she couldn't help herself. He was standing so close to her. Too close. He brushed her cheek with his finger tips.

The kiss that followed was not unexpected; she'd thought about it many times. When she'd found the single red rose in her mailbox yesterday, she'd allowed herself to hope that maybe her secret crush wasn't so silly after all. Who else would have left the flower but Matt?

"I'm sorry," he said, but he didn't move away from her.

Claire, still holding the empty cup, was the one to take a step back. "Don't apologize," she said. "It was nice." She saw the troubled expression on his face, and added, "But it can't happen again. You're a married man."

Matt turned away. "We both know I shouldn't have kissed you, but I'm glad I did. I can't believe I'm trapped with a woman who hates me, when I could--should--be with you."

"Caroline doesn't hate you."

"Yeah, she does. She hates everyone."

Claire made a production of rinsing out the coffee cup, drying it, setting it on the counter.

Matt continued, "I'm pretty sure she'd got some serious problems. She spends all day standing at the window, staring at the world through those damn binoculars, complaining about everything and everyone. I mean, literally, all day. That can't be normal."

"Why don't you see if you can get her some counseling?"

"Not going to happen." A moment later, he added, "But I can't go on like this. Something's got to give."

Claire moved to his side, put her hand on is arm. "I'm sure you'll work it out, and whatever happens, I'm glad that we're friends. Oh, by the way, thank you for the rose. That was sweet."

"What rose?"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Episode 20

"So let me get this straight," Donati said, propping one foot up on the edge of his desk. "You say you've been doing a photo documentary of a bunch of Columbian drug dealers that just happen to end up here in Pine Lake?"

Biff Monroe leaned forward in his chair, his elbows resting on the tops of his thighs. "It's more complicated than that, but yeah, that's why I was on the Adams' property when Frankie Lassiter took a nose dive off the second-floor balcony."

"But you didn't help him over the edge?"

"No, sir. I don't know who would've sent you that note saying I pushed him, but they didn't have their facts straight. I can prove that with the photos."

Donati studied the face of the young man across the desk. Biff Monroe was no stranger to the police station. As a kid, he'd been wild as hell, skipping school, drinking, driving through town like a maniac. He'd been caught smashing windows at the junior high, and Donati suspected, but could never prove the kid was behind a rash of graffiti. Murder, however, was an entirely different class of crime. Monroe might have been a reckless kid, but in spite of the anonymous note claiming he'd pushed Lassiter off the balcony, Donati wanted to believe the guy.

"Got anyone who can corroborate your story?"

Biff grimaced and ran his hands through his hair. He took a full minute before answering. "Yes, sir. I do."

He pulled a cell phone from his pocket. "This is going to blow three years worth of undercover work, but you can talk to this guy."

Biff punched in a number and handed the phone to Donati. There was an answer after the second ring: "Jackson here. What's up?"

"Hello. This is Chief John Donati, Pine Lake Police."

"Ah, shit.," the man said. "If you're using this phone, it must mean the bastards got Monroe."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Episode 19

Jeni DuMont had learned years ago that money made life so much easier. It was a lesson she'd put to good use by marrying a very wealthy man forty-five years her senior. Other than his age, infirmities, and revolting physical appearance, Jim DuMont's biggest weakness was stupidity. not surprisingly, that was the trait that worked in Jeni's favor. Most men, especially the stupid ones, were easy prey for a hot-looking gal with the skills of a seasoned hooker.

Now, with poor old Jim's fortune (gleaned by selling Florida swamp water purportedly blessed by the Pope) transferred safely to her new account in Pine Lake, Jeni was ready to re-invent herself.

She stopped in at the Pine Lake Bank & Trust to discuss her financial options with a personal banker and, as always, Jeni had her eyes and ears open, scanning her surroundings for treasure. She sat quite still in the well-appointed waiting area, inhaling the scent of money, alert to everyone and everything.

So it was that she was instantly aware of an attractive, 50-somenthing man as he strode confidently through the bank lobby.

"Good morning, Mr. Adams," one of the receptionists cooed.

Jeni pinned her eyes on the gentleman, correctly assuming he must be the Blake Adams. He didn't look stupid, but appearances could be deceiving. Chief Donati had drive her past the Adams' house, and Jeni figured the guy's bank account was ten times old Jim's. That could make her happy for life.  Originally, she had planned to sue Adams for the wrongful death of her brother, Frankie, but having laid eyes on him, Jeni began to formulate more amusing ways of getting her hands on his money.