A Guy with a Story
It was still raining, but faster and harder than before. When we got to the car, we were soaking wet. “Do you want to go home and change before we meet this guy, Daniel?” Jamie asked, as he looked at my sopping wet clothing.
“No. Maybe just turn up the heat, and, hopefully, we will dry out a bit.” I suggested.
“Okay. Yeah I didn’t really want to go back home either, but I thought I would ask.”
Even though Jamie and I were both uncomfortably wet, we knew it would be best if we didn’t run the risk of going home. Dad might not let us back out.
I stared blankly out the window, as Jamie attempted to call Daniel. I would have normally listened in, but I felt like avoiding the situation for the moment. A part of me really didn’t want to meet this guy. It made me sick, thinking of how he treated my sister and the fact that it could be a lot worse than Jamie and I ever suspected. That thought made me panic. My stomach started doing summersaults, my palms and forehead were sweating, my hands were shaking, and my breathing kept getting heavier. I stuck my hand out in front of me, holding it in the air, and watching it shake. Just then, I felt a damp, hot cloth underneath my hand. It stopped shaking, and I began to pet Whoopido. It eased my fear, and I fell back into the seat with a sigh of relief. The panic was gone, leaving calmness in its wake. With the heat cranked up, and our wet clothes, it began to feel like a soothing sauna in the car.
“You look content.” Jamie said as he glanced over at me.
“I am, finally.”
“Well good, you should be. You get to finally meet this person who seemed to be such a big part of our sister’s life. And, I have a feeling he is going to reveal a lot. Well, I hope so anyway, because I really want to know Ruth’s connection in all of this.”
“Me too.” Jamie didn’t seem nervous to me at all. He even appeared overly confident. I didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. For all I knew he could be a pot of boiling water, ready to explode. Even though this guy, Daniel, probably deserved whatever Jamie wanted to give him, I didn’t want Jamie to get in trouble.
“Well, here is the place.”
“He lives in an apartment building? Doesn’t he live with his family?”
“Apparently not. And, by the way, he thinks we are here to give him an interview for the paper.”
“Really? You didn’t tell me that.”
“Well, I thought you were listening when I called.”
“No. I guess my mind was somewhere else.”
“Oh, well, here is the deal. I called and asked him if he would be interested in an interview, and that’s all I said. Luckily, he responded by asking if it was for the local newspaper, and if it was about teens who lived on their own.”
“Yeah, crazy eh? It made it so simple. Oh, and I said that you were my little sister who is interested in writing for your school paper, and you wanted to know how interviews are done.”
“That was a good idea.”
“Yeah, I thought so,” he said with his impeccable posture, and reassuring nodding of his head. “You ready to go in?” He then asked me.
I paused and looked out at the pouring rain for a moment, and listened. “Yes. Wait! Should we bring the dog?”
“Sure, if you want to.” He said, as he shrugged his shoulders. I was relieved, since I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle meeting this person without Whoopido.
The apartment building was old and made of brick. There were no balconies, and not even a buzzer to ring. The entrance was small, and when we walked in, there was a small landing with stairs to go up and stairs that went down. “Which floor?”
“Third.” I followed close behind, with Whoopido casting a shadow. As we started to walk up the stairs, I noticed all the mailboxes on the right hand wall. They were made of rusted metal, and a lot of them looked like they weren’t in use because there were no locks on them, and they hung wide open.
The staircase and hallways were old hardwood and full of dirt. They looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in a couple of years. There were wrappers and other garbage on the floor. I figured he didn’t have a lot of money, or he just hid it well, but then, I thought about those necklaces. They looked pretty expensive, but they could be fake. Or, maybe, he hadn’t bought them at all. Ruth wouldn’t have bought them, and I don’t think she would have been able to. Perhaps they were stolen?
Jamie knocked lightly on his door. I could hear his footsteps approaching the door. He opened it. “Hello,” my brother said, with a big smile on his face, as he held out a hand to shake Daniel’s.
“Hi, come in.” He shook Jamie’s hand firmly, then stood back to allow us to walk in the small doorway. His appearance was pretty much what I had suspected. He was pretty tall, well built, with blond hair, and wore pretty stylish clothes. He certainly didn’t match the appearance of the building or his apartment.
There was very little furniture. An old brownish couch sat in the middle of the living room. When we sat down on it, it creaked. There was a small TV and TV stand in front of the couch, and two old wooden chairs. There was no dining room, and a very small kitchen. Beside the kitchen, there was a small rounded patio table that looked as though it had spent a lot of days out in the rain. Next to it, was a matching patio chair.
“Sorry for the mess, I wasn’t expecting company at this hour.”
“I am sorry too. I just had the idea for this story this evening when one of my other ideas fell through. So, I thought, I would try to contact you.”
“Oh, I see. So, I am your second choice?” He asked, as if he were offended.
“Huh.” He raised his brows and looked us right in the eyes. It felt like he was reading us like a good book, trying to put all the pieces together.
“I guess uh- I’ll get started, if you don’t mind?” Jamie said, ignoring Daniel’s attempt to intimidate us. I was proud to see my brother showing no sign of guilt. I, on the other hand, grew warm and sweaty.
“No, not at all. But, let me ask you guys something first.” He then leaned over in his seat, and stared into our eyes again. I thought for sure he suspected us, but it seemed like he played along anyways. “What are your names?” He finally asked.
“Oh, right. I am so sorry. My name is Jeff and this is my sister Barbara.”
“Barbara? That seems a little bit of an old name.”
“Well, yes. It is a family name, passed down for generations.” Jamie replied without hesitation.
“I definitely won’t be passing down that tradition.” I laughed uncomfortably.
Daniel smirked at me, “I don’t blame you.”
Jamie was good, real good at playing the reporter. I thought he should do this for a living. Daniel told us all about his story, and how he got to be in the place he is. He said he had been an orphan since his parents died at a very young age. He then had foster parents, but he couldn’t stand them so he left home when he was sixteen. He was now turning eighteen, and graduating high school this year. When he first left home, he spent a lot of his time at the shelter run by the church, and not just any church, but the one our family attends. I remembered my father saying he did volunteer work, helping out homeless teens. I could never understand why, since he barely spent time with his own teenagers.
Jamie then asked him how he made a living. He told us that he got some money from the government but that he also was working a lot for a company called, Technikol. He said normally you need a college education to work there, but a friend of his from church gave him a job. Jamie and I tried to hold in our reactions and stay calm. This was our father’s company. Jamie continued, and asked him what he did there. Daniel didn’t tell us much, but mentioned he did a lot for the manager, like run errands and whatnot. He told us, it was an entry job until he gets his college education, then he would be hired on full time with a more important job. When talking about this, he was very confident and full of pride.
“Wow. You really lucked out, didn’t you?” Jamie said, acting impressed. I wasn’t sure if it was sincere or not.
“Yeah, I guess I did. You are probably wondering why I am not in a better place, but I’m living here to save up money for college. I figured, instead of paying for a nice place, I would settle for this and save money.”
“Thanks, I thought so.” Not only was this guy handsome, but he was smart too. No wonder there were girls fighting over him. Not to mention, he had his own place, and independence. At first glance I could see nothing wrong with this guy, but I knew there was a lot more to the story. He must be very good at hiding and putting up an act - a lot like my father.
I thought Jamie might think it would be too risky to ask any questions about Ruth, since Daniel worked for our father, so we left the conversation at that. When we were leaving, I worried that Daniel might wonder why his story isn’t in the paper tomorrow morning. He would definitely suspect us, then, if he didn’t already, and, if he had anything to do with Ruth’s death, he would be on guard for sure. I couldn’t think of any other way that we were going to find out the rest of the story. Maybe my helpers would show me tonight in my dream, or at least give me some more clues.
“That went pretty well. At least we know the guy’s history, and how he is connected with our dad.” Jamie said.
“Yeah, but do you think maybe dad set him up with Ruth?”
“Why would he do that? He hates it when his daughters are dating. Remember when Sam dated that really nice guy last year and dad freaked out and scared the guy away for good.” Jamie always got really worked up on the subject of our father, and the injustice of his actions.
“Yeah, that’s true. But it doesn’t make sense.”
“Wait. What if dad got Daniel to check up on Ruth? That would explain how they met. Or it could just be a coincidence that they met at school and he happened to work for our father.” Jamie suggested.
“It could be but I don’t think they met at school. Remember in the letter how it mentioned that their relationship was a secret. Well, it must be a secret for a reason. Not just that he was ‘cool’ and she was not. It must be more than that. They were even investigating something together.”
“Yeah, that’s true. But what? Maybe this guy isn’t so bad after all. Maybe he was trying to help Ruth investigate those hotels and what our father was or is still doing.”
“I doubt it. Yeah, he seems nice enough, and he’s got the whole “bad childhood” story, but I don’t know, Jamie. I think he is hiding something, something big. And I think Ruth paid the price.” I could tell Jamie didn’t want to believe what I said, but I had to say it. We can’t assume the best about this guy. I think he truly didn’t want to face that Ruth was immersed in that kind of life, as Mary so bluntly pointed out. And I certainly don’t want to believe it either but this isn’t a time for denial, it is a time for truth.
We decided to call it a night. It was getting really late by now, and we couldn’t really go to the other hotels without staying at them. I was still worried what Daniel would think when he wasn’t in the paper tomorrow. “Jamie? What is going to happen when Daniel finds out you’re not a reporter?”
“Not sure yet. I could always write up the story and try to give it to the newspaper. They have lots of boring stories in there, and are always looking for something to fill the pages.”
“Yeah, but you don’t work for them. Do you think they would?”
“I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. I will send it through email tonight. And if they don’t publish it, and if Daniel asks I will just tell him they wouldn’t take my story or there wasn’t enough room for tomorrow but they might publish it on a different day. And besides Ruth, remember he doesn’t know who we really are. He doesn’t have our real names.”
“Oh right.” I replied, relieved.
“See, nothing to worry about.” He said as he patted my shoulder.
“Yeah.” I agreed with reluctance. I knew there wasn’t nothing to worry about.
“We should get a good night’s sleep. We have to check up on those other hotels tomorrow and maybe somehow get more information about Daniel and Ruth’s relationship.”
“Okay,” I agreed. Falling asleep wasn’t going to be easy. There was still too much speculation and not enough proof. I wondered how I was going to get a DNA check for that blood sample I got without telling the police. If it was Ruth’s, I knew where she was murdered and even what weapons were used, which would bring us that much closer to her killer.
But wait! How could it be hers? Ruth hadn’t been wounded or else the police would have suspected she had been murdered. The only wounds that would be relevant to what they think happened are either cuts on her wrists showing she tried to commit suicide or marks on her neck. The person who killed her must have strangled her, or else they knew exactly where to cut. I must ask the police if they know how she died. I am sure they would understand why I wanted to know, but I fear I might let out too much information. It would be so much easier to just hand this information over to them. Then it would be their responsibility. Or isn’t it already? It is their job.
Except, Ruth and the helpers asked me to do this. That makes this my job, and perhaps it would help me complete my future job. But what future job? I am just a child; a human child. What could I do to possibly make this right? And would it be enough for just me to know the truth or should everybody know? If everybody needs to know then I think I should get the police involved. I was so confused.
I felt guilty for wanting to give this job up but I also felt justified. I would have to meet with Ruth tonight. I must know if it is okay to ask for more help.
I walked into my dark room and didn’t bother to turn the light on. I sat by my window and looked out watching the rain. I tried to see through it to look at the forest, my haven. I had not been there for awhile and I missed it. I missed the comfort, peace and simplicity. I missed the days when the only thing I had to worry about was my dysfunctional family. Even then I was able to escape. It didn’t bother me. Probably because I couldn’t see the pain Ruth was going through and at the same time denying mine and everyone else’s pain.
I was happy I got to spend more time with my older brother though. He is more fragile than I thought but, also more confident. I was glad he was by my side. With this thought I looked down at the floor at Whoopido. He was curled up on the area rug, sleeping. His breath was harmonizing and calm, in contrast to the pounding rain outside, it was comforting, and I felt safe.
I laid beside him on the floor, kissed the top of his head, and said, “Thank you for making me smile.” I fell asleep shortly after that.