“You said Marc will be here in a few minutes, right?” Marie asked Stew as she hung her jacket by the door.
“Yeah. That’s what he said. He was showing the theater to some potential buyers.”
“When he gets here, let him know his room is across the hall. 411. He’s rooming with Sam. You’ll be next door in 413 with Wiz. I’ll be in here with your parents. That door adjoins our rooms. We’ll keep it unlocked. Just knock first..” Stew picked up his suitcase and went into the next room. There was a knock at the door.
“That’s either Derek or Marc,” Marie said. She had her hand on the handle, about to turn it. She paused and stared at nothing. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. Closing her eyes, she turned the handle down and pulled the door open. Detective Robles stood in the doorway, his hands in his pockets and a smug look on his face.
“The Blake? What happened to ‘discrete’?” Derek asked as he entered the room.
“It’s more secure than anything else in town. Now, what’s wrong?”
“Alex’s parents want Stew brought in for questioning.”
“Don’t worry. They have nothing except for the fact that they don’t like him. They just lawyered up and think they can muscle their way around the law and lack of evidence. Cap said to just standby and he’d let us know if anything changes.”
“So you talked to Stew’s parents?” Marie asked.
“Yeah. Where is Stew?”
“He’s next door.” Marie walked over to the door that joined their two rooms and knocked. Wiz answered the door.
“Marie… these rooms are really nice.”
“I know. Can you send Stew over, please?”
“I’m right here,” Stew said, peeking around the doorframe. “What’s up?”
“We have to discuss something.”
“Hey, Detective Robles. What’s going on?”
“Well, it seems Zachary is not your only enemy.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have Alex’s parents to deal with, too. I don’t think they like you very much.”
“Yeah, I got that impression, too. Are they trying to stir up trouble?”
“Trying. They got a lawyer and wanted us to bring you in for questioning, but my captain denied them that satisfaction.”
“Questioned for what? They think I killed Alex?”
“No. They don’t know she’s been killed. All they know is she’s been kidnapped.”
“So they think I’m involved with her being taken?”
“It would appear so.”
“Do they know about Zachary?”
“I told them but… he just wasn’t listening. What does he do for a living?”
“Some kind of doctor. Proctologist, if I’m not mistaken.”
“That’s a perfect fit, I think. It takes one to know one. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”
The telephone rang and the red light above the keypad flashed. Marie picked up the receiver. “Alderman. Yes. Send him up, please.” Smiling at Stew, she put the phone back on the cradle. “Marc’s on his way up.”
Marie’s cellphone vibrated inside her pocket. When she pulled it out, she noticed it was blinking with a text message. After reading it, her eyebrows tensed and crinkled. “Uh… Stew? I just got a message from Jade.”
“Jade?” Stew asked.
“Yeah. It says, ‘Tell Stew Z says hi.’ What the crap does she mean by that?”
“She’s with him,” Stew replied.
“Who? Zachary?” Marie gestated.
“Yes. Zachary found my phone and found her number. I hadn’t updated my contacts and still had her as an ICE.”
“Ice?” Brandr enquired.
“In case of emergency,” Marie added, nodding.
“Zachary’s smooth and arrogant,” Wiz noted. “No doubt he charmed his way into her trusting him.”
A few minutes later, Stew heard Marc coming down the hallway from inside the room and opened the door. When Marc appeared, his cheeks were flush, his eyes wide and expecting, breathing hard through his nose.
“Dude.” was all Marc could mutter.
“Dude… did you just get off a rollercoaster?”
“Ha! You could say that. Today…” Marc said, trying to catch his breath, “I’m a tourist in a country called Emotion, and I’ve seen all the sites.”
“Guess how much these people offered me for the theater. I just got off the phone with the realtor.”
“I don’t know. 150?”
“Wow. That’s unreal.”
“I know. Right?”
“Did you accept?”
“I told them I’d think about it.” Stew’s eyebrows grew close together as he tilted his head and his mouth fell open. “What? I didn’t want to seem to anxious. Crap. Where is my head? How are you?”
“Well… I’ve been better.”
“Yeah? But you’re like… Connor MacLeod and stuff now, right?”
“I guess so. Without the accent.”
“What about Alex? Is she okay? Did she come back with you guys?”
Even though Stew knew the question was inevitable, his physiology was not prepared. His bottom jaw quivered, as though holding back a tsunami with a wall of toothpicks. The water broke past the barriers and Stew collapsed right there just inside the door. Marc tried to catch him but the best he could manage was to slow his descent. Marie and Wiz rushed over and helped Stew up, guiding him to the nearest bed.
“Okay,” Marc said, his eyelids getting moist, “what happened?”
Marie took him by the upper arm and led him through the door to the adjoining room. She looked Marc in the eyes and then down at the floor, having found herself a little overcome. She tried to swallow. It took a couple of times before she was successful. After a few moments, she looked up again, her eyes red. “We were too late.”
“What do you mean, ‘too late’, Detective? Where did he take her?”
“She’s gone, Marc. Zachary didn’t take her anywhere. He killed her.”
Marie nodded her head. “Yes. Alex’s grandmother, too.” Marie tucked her lips in and held them with all her might to keep from frowning. When she couldn’t hold them any longer, she pulled Marc close to her and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder. As they both sobbed, she felt someone put their hand softly on her back. Marie opened her eyes to see Wiz’s wise, weathered face looking back at her.
“Is Stew okay?” she asked, taking the handkerchief he held up.
“Yeah. He’s all right. You two look a mess, though.”
“I know. I don’t think any of us have really given ourselves much time to grieve.”
“It is important, but we all grieve in our own way,” Wiz noted, “in our own time. Some of us multiple times. Whatever is needed.”
“There’s a coffeeshop downstairs,” Marie said, loud enough for everyone to hear as she wiped the tears from her face. “Anybody up for some caffeine injections?”