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The Letters

By Ella Drayton All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller

Colonel Mustard In the Library

Grayson’s dad was pulling into the driveway as I was getting out of my truck. He always picked up Braelynn from school and delivered her safely home. I watched Braelynn kiss him on the cheek and then jump out of the car. He flipped his hand up from the steering wheel in a quick wave and then started pulling out of the driveway. I couldn’t remember the last time he had actually spoken to me. Grayson’s parents blamed me for his death and in a way I couldn’t say that I blamed them. As much as it hurt to have them ignore me, I was glad that they still had an interest in Braelynn. She loves her Mims and Poppa very much.

My sweet little girl bounced up to me like she had springs in her feet. At only ten years old she was already almost five foot five. She was always grinning down at me so amused that she was taller than her mother. She had his round honey colored eyes and upturned nose. Her hair was the same jet black as mine and her little cherubic mouth was all hers. I loved watching her laugh and play. She had such a hard time after Grayson died that I thought I might never see my child smile again. Keaton had helped her get over the pain and learn how to be a kid again. He was always playing games with her and telling her fantastical stories about princesses in towers and knights in shining armor that were also ninjas on call. I know she’s mad at me right now because Keaton moved out but I was hoping to change that. Especially after our conversation this afternoon.

“Hey, momma. You look tired.”

“Hey, sugar. I am tired. It’s been a long day. When you get in the house you get started on your homework. I better not hear the TV turn on. You understand?”

“Yes, mam.”

“Good. I’m going to get dinner started. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

Braelynn grabbed my keys out of my hand and unlocked the front door. She had become so independent recently and wanted to do everything herself. She had also developed a bit of a rebellious streak so some days were just one battle after the other to get her to do what I asked. Once inside the door, she kicked her shoes off and slid on her sock feet over to the couch which was her favorite place to do homework. I personally thought that she should do it at the desk in her room or at the living room table but she insisted that she worked better on the couch and it just wasn’t a battle worth fighting with her.I was in the kitchen chopping up fresh garlic for our lasagna dinner when I heard the doorbell ring. I wasn’t expecting anyone and our house was so far out from the main road that I doubted it was a salesman of any kind. I assumed that it was Walker.

“Mooooom! Someone’s at the door!”

“I know, Brae. I’m coming as fast as I can.” I wiped my hands off on my red kitchen towel and made my way into the living room so I could see who was at the door. Braelynn had textbooks all over the coffee table and notebook paper spread all over the couch. I would never understand how she worked like that. I had to have all of my stuff neatly spread out and stacked together according to topic. She just tossed stuff everywhere. I flicked on the porch light because it was getting dark outside and peaked through the side window by the door. Keaton was standing on the porch holding a bouquet of orange tiger lilies, Braelynn’s favorite flower. He wasn’t here to see me. Keaton saw me looking out the window and gave me a small wave.

“It’s for you.”

“For me? Who would be coming to see me?”

“I guess you better get your butt over here and find out.” Braelynn jumped off the couch and slid her way over to the front door. She didn’t even bother to peak out of the window like I did. She just snatched the door open and let out a huge squeal as soon as she saw who was on the other side. The flowers in Keaton’s hands were all but squished as she jumped up and threw her arms around his neck. It made my heart so happy to see her with him. They both loved each other so much.

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you. I’ve been kind of a jerk and I wanted to make it up to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Can I come in first?” Keaton laughed as he put Braelynn down and walked in the house. I shut the door behind him as Braelynn drug him by the arm into the kitchen to put her flowers in a vase. I already know that they’ll be on her nightstand before the day is over. Keaton shed his brown suede jacket while she was filling the vase with water. She kept looking back at me and smiling. I hadn’t seen her this excited in a very long time. It made me feel like a terrible parent. Why didn’t I see what I was doing to her by pushing Keaton away?

“Just because your mom and I got mad at each other and decided not to see each other anymore doesn’t mean that I should have just stopped coming to see you. I love you, little bit. And I always will. And I never, ever wanted to hurt you. I’m sorry for not being here. I’m sorry for being a jerk. And I want to make it up to you.”

“Oh. Does that mean you’re coming home?”

“Well,” his voice trailed off as he turned and looked at me. The look on his face said that he had no idea what to tell her. He wanted my help.

“Not yet. Keaton and I talked earlier today and we need to work some things out first before he comes back here.”

“You mean you need to work some things out first?”

“Hey, don’t talk to your mother like that. Don’t be like that, Braelynn. What happened between your mom and I wasn’t all your mother’s fault. And regardless of what happened between us, she is your mother and you’re going to show her respect. You got it?”

“Yeah.” She chewed on the inside of her lip and started fooling with the flowers, trying to pretend that nothing had happened. It felt good to have someone else back me up. Being a single parent was hard enough but being a single parent to such a headstrong girl was a nightmare sometimes.

“We both have some things we need to work out, sweetheart. Neither one of us want to give you false hope about things but Keaton and I do love each other and we do want to work things out so that Keaton can come home, okay? You have to be patient with both of us. Sometimes adults are really messed up. For now, though, Keaton is welcome over here any time and I will take you to see him anytime you want and he isn’t busy. One of the biggest things Keaton wants to work on is his relationship with you. I think he’s missed you more than he’s missed me.”

“That’s because I’m cooler than you, just saying.”She stuck her tongue out at me and then drug Keaton off to the living room. I heard her shuffling around papers and books and then the TV turning on. Before I could get to the living room I heard Keaton telling her that she needed to ask me about watching TV. And then I heard the huffing sound that had become Braelynn’s theme music. Huff, snort, shuffle, flop. When I got to the living room she was flopped over the arm of the couch.

“Something wrong?”

“Keaton says I have to ask you if we can watch TV.”

“Are you done with your homework?”

“My project isn’t due for another two weeks. Do you think I could have a night off so I can spend time with Keaton? It’s not really fair to do homework while he’s here.”

“Fine. One night.”

“Thank you, momma. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I went back to the kitchen to finish dinner and to let them have some time to themselves. I was thrilled to have Keaton here with her but I was also hoping that he would stick around after she went to bed so that we could have some time alone together too. He and his kisses kept running through my head all day at work. I just wanted to come home and curl up in his lap and let him kiss me until we passed out. I had shut him out for too long and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I wanted him back in our lives, here in this house. I wanted to be his wife when the time was right. I wanted us to be a family again. And maybe even add to our family. Braelynn would be a good big sister.The rest of the night was uneventful. Braelynn and Keaton ate dinner in front of the TV while they were watching basketball. I spent the rest of the night in my office going over stuff from today’s case. I kept reading and re-reading my notes to see if I had missed something.

Why would Gunner lie about seeing Chloe on Tuesday? Did he kill her on Tuesday and dump her Friday morning? And why the note to me? It made no sense. I didn’t understand how the note tied in with everything else. I hadn’t even spoken to Gunner since our high school graduation and even then we weren’t really friends. It was just idle chit-chat. Why would he drag me into the middle of this — whatever this was. And why kill that poor girl? From what her mother had told me it sounded like she had already been through enough. Why not just let her leave? Was he really that controlling?

“Knock knock.” I looked up to see Keaton leaning in the doorway of my office. He was biting his lip and staring at me with his hands on either side of the door. I wanted nothing more than to get up out of my chair and run my fingers through his messy hair. Everything about him exuded sex. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it. I saw how women responded to him. That’s why I wasn’t the least bit shocked to find out that he had a girlfriend. A busty, young girlfriend at that.

“Braelynn go to bed?”

“Yes. I figured since you had yet to come out of here that you were busy so I helped her get her books together and lay out her clothes for tomorrow. She told me to tell you she loves you.”

“Thank you.”

“Anytime. I knew I missed doing that but I didn’t realize how much until I turned off the light in her bedroom. So, what’s kept you in here all night?”

“A dead girl. And an ex-boyfriend.”

“I don’t know anything about a dead girl.”

“Funny. It’s complicated and it makes no sense.”

“Care to bounce it off of me and see if I can help you make sense of it?”

“Okay. Let’s see what you’ve got. After you went back to work I got a call from my captain telling me I needed to get to the office ASAP because a letter had been sent to the office addressed to me. The letter gives clues and coordinates to find a dead body. The coordinates and the clues led us to the botanical gardens. We found her in the bamboo behind the koi pond. I figured out the clue because embarrassingly enough it was in reference to the place that I almost lost my virginity. Since I told no one about that day I had to go interview the boyfriend that I was with at the time to see if he had told anyone or if he knew anything about the letter. Lo and behold, the dead girl in the bamboo where he almost took my virginity was his fiancé. Only, he didn’t want to come down and ID her and he lied to me and told me that he hadn’t seen her in a week because they had gotten into a fight on her birthday last Friday. And then I speak to her mother who tells me that the girl had seen him on Tuesday because they were making wedding plans. So, now I’m waiting on an arrest warrant for him. Oh, and the dead girl had on these brand new tennis shoes that had blood only on the soles but the blood wasn’t hers. And when the DNA was run it matched a girl’s DNA who went missing last week. Okay, go.”

“Yeah — Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick?”

“Thanks, jerk.”

“Oh, don’t be like that. I’m sorry I’m not more help.” He walked over to my chair and reached out for my hands. I slipped my hands into his and he pulled me up into him, folding me into his arm so that my head was on his chest.

“You’ll figure it out, though. I know you. If anyone has a hope in hell of finding out who did this, it’s you. As much as I hate to, I should probably get going. I’m kind of sleepy and I still have to drive home.” I looked up at him and saw his droopy eyes. He was definitely sleepy. Keaton lived right down the road from his restaurant in Hoover which was about a thirty minute drive from my house. I didn’t want him to be driving home sleepy but I didn’t want him to leave yet either. He was watching me with an eyebrow cocked possibly trying to figure out what I was thinking. Oh, how I had missed being in these strong arms looking up at that sexy, sleepy face.

“Am I moving too fast if I ask you to stay?”

“I was hoping you would.” He smiled as he kissed me, gently nibbling my bottom lip. My body responded by pushing my hips into him. He smiled some more as he worked his way from my lips down to my jawline. My fingers were digging into the muscles of his upper arms as I tried to keep myself from throwing him on the floor and showing him that I still remembered exactly what he liked in the exact places he liked them. My brain was buzzing from excitement. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take before I exploded and he was only kissing me.

“I love you,” he growled between the kisses he was placing down my neck.

“I love you, too,” I growled back as he bit into my collar bone. A moan escaped from my lips and that was apparently the only invitation he needed. Before I could catch my breath he had swept me off of my feet and was carrying me into my bedroom. I let out a giggle when he threw me down on the bed. Keaton grinned at me as he leaned over, unbuttoned my jeans, and slowly pulled them down my legs inch by agonizing inch. He slid back up my body and just as slowly pulled off my shirt and my bra. He was trying to tease me and it was working.

“Brodie Barrett, you have got to be the sexiest woman I have ever laid eyes on.”

“Why, thank you.” I squeaked as I tried to cover my now semi-naked self with my hands. Being naked in front of anyone had never been a strong point. When Keaton realized what I was doing he snatched my hands up over my head and pinned them with one of his large hands. Too say I was turned on was definitely an understatement.

“You think I’m going to run away?” I laughed as I looked up towards my wrists pinned under his hand.

“Maybe. You’ve done it before.”

“I’m tired of running.” I wrapped my legs around his waist, pulling him closer to me, and he loosened his grip on my wrists as he leaned down to kiss me. This kiss wasn’t like before when he was trying to show how much he wanted me. This was deeper than that. He was trying to kiss me all the way down to my soul. I felt like he was invading my brain and my body and I didn’t ever want to let him go. Keaton slid his hands down to my waist and started maneuvering my panties off while I was still underneath him. Once he had me completely naked he worked his jeans and boxers off with one hand while the other braced himself over me. I pushed him back onto his knees and pulled his shirt up over his head, giggled when his arms got caught in the sleeves and he nearly toppled off the bed.

“Now who’s running?”

“Excuse you, I was not running. I believe you just tried to strangle me using my own shirt and arms.” Keaton grinned and pushed me back down on to the bed, kissing his way down my neck. He entered me as slowly and gently as he had done everything else, teasing me all over again. I let out a sharp gasp as memories of his tan muscular body thrusting into mine flooded my brain. He had begun to set up a rhythm, slow and torturous, while he kissed and licked and nibbled every inch of my upper body. I arched my back as his mouth found my nipple and he bit down hard causing me to cry out from pleasure and pain. The feeling of his skin gliding against me felt like being too close to a flame, the heat was almost unbearable. I was lost inside this moment of being wrapped up in his arms when I heard a whining sound. I thought maybe I had imagined it and focused myself back on Keaton, using my legs to pull him deeper into me. He began to rock faster, grinding me into the bed, when I heard the whining again. This time it was louder. He thrust into me hard one last time, biting his lip and moaning, before he stopped and looked around the room. The whining got even louder and then there was howling sound that sounded like something dying. I pushed myself up on my elbows to look around the room and that’s when I saw Roscoe lying in front of my closet door with his paws over his eyes. He must have sneaked into the bedroom before Keaton had shut the door and now he was trapped in the room with us, forced to listen to us panting and moaning. Stupid dog. He moved his paws off of his eyes long enough to look at us and whine again. Keaton pulled himself off the bed, laughing, and opened the bedroom door to let Roscoe out.

“That dog has serious issues. Now, where were we?” Keaton crawled back into the bed and laughed as he pulled me to his chest. He stroked my hair and my shoulder as I ran my hand through his thick, curly brown chest hair.

“Brodie?”

"Hmm?”

“Let me come home. Don’t you think it will be easier to work out everything together if we’re actually together? Besides, this is the first night I’ve come over here and you didn’t even want me to leave. Do you think any other night is going to be any different?”

“You’re probably right.” Keaton’s head shot up and he looked down at me.

“Is that a yes?”

“Have you talked to Kailee?”

“Not yet. I haven’t had a chance. I didn’t want to have that conversation at work. It’s bad enough that people at work know we date. I don’t want them to hear us breaking up. Plus, she’s kind of dramatic as well so I’m probably going to have to end up firing her.”

“Will you talk to her tomorrow?”

“First thing in the morning if that is what I need to do.”

“You can come home.”

“I love you so fucking much, Brodie.”

“I love you too, Keaton.”

“One more question.”

“Hmm?” I said sleepily. I was drifting off into dreamland when I heard him take a deep breath.

“Will you wear the ring now?”

“What?” my eyes shot open.

“The ring. You know, the one from the plane? Will you wear it now? Or is that taking things too far?”

“You kept it?”

“Of course.”

“Why?”

“It might sound stupid but I was hoping that one day I’d be able to actually put it on your finger. And it was my nonna’s ring so I can’t really get rid of it anyway.”

“Is this your way of proposing to me? With a pregnant girlfriend waiting up for you?”

“First of all, I doubt she’s waiting up for me. Just like I doubt she’s really pregnant. Our relationship isn’t even anything like you think. As shitty as it sounds I pretty much used her.”

“As shitty as it sounds, I like hearing that better than I would like hearing that you really had feelings for her.”

“I have feelings for you. And yeah, in answer to your question, I guess I am proposing. Can I come home and marry you and be Braelynn’s step-daddy and be your crotchety old husband who steals the sports section out of your newspaper and drinks up all the coffee?”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“Yeah, you bring that out in me. Damnit, answer my question, Brodie.”

“Yes. Yes, you can come home. And yes, I’ll wear the ring.”

“And plan the wedding.”

“And plan the wedding.” Keaton kissed me long and hard, pulling my body against his. I couldn’t believe that I had even said the words out loud but I knew in my heart that it was right. I knew that he wouldn’t hurt me. I knew with everything in me that he wanted to be with me and Braelynn and protect us from everything bad in this world. I knew that he would love us with everything he had. I knew I was ready this time. I was ready to be someone else’s wife. I was ready to build a family again. I was ready to be Keaton’s wife. As soon as he resolved this pregnant girlfriend thing.

When I woke up the next morning, my left hand felt heavy. I wiggled it around a minute before turning my head to look and see what was wrong. I folded my fingers into my palm and felt the cold metal around my ring finger. A ring. There was a ring on my finger. On my left hand. I was wearing a ring. My eyes shot open and I stared at my hand. There it was. The most beautiful square cut diamond was staring back at me. It was 3 carats with a halo of smaller diamonds around it and double bands also covered in diamonds. Of course, I had seen this ring before on that plane in St. Louis. This was the first time I had worn it, though. Sneaky Keaton had brought it with him last night hoping that he could plead his case and I would give in. He apparently knew me all too well. It didn’t take much persuasion on my part. This ring belonged to his grandmother on his mother’s side. Rosanella Genovese was Keaton’s hero. Most little boys looked up to their fathers and grandfathers but not Keaton. He was enamored by his Nonna Rosie and her ability to take ingredients and turn them into masterpieces. She passed away before I got a chance to meet her but from the stories I’d heard from Keaton she was nothing short of amazing.I rolled over to kiss him and saw that he wasn’t there. I thought maybe he had already sneaked out for the day when the smell of bacon wafted into my nostrils.

I quickly threw on a powder blue silk button down shirt, gray slacks, and my favorite black boots. The clock on the nightstand said it was nine o’clock. I should have had Braelynn at the bus stop at seven forty five. Shit! I sped-brushed my teeth, threw my hair up in a messy bun, and took off down the hallway.

“Braelynn, get up!! Mommy’s running late. Again!!” She wasn’t in her room so I dashed into the kitchen, hoping she was already dressed and ready to go. I’d had to take her to school quite a few times since Keaton had been gone. It was always the same conversation with her teachers and the principal. I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it today. And to top it all off, I was supposed to be in the office at nine thirty. I went ahead and sent Beau a text telling him I would be late. When I rounded the corner in the kitchen the only person there was Keaton.

“She’s been gone for over an hour and a half. And she has her lunch. Don’t worry.” He looked up at me over a plate full of grits, biscuits, and a large omelet. Keaton could cook like no one else I’d ever met. Eggs were one of the easiest things in the world to cook yet somehow he managed to make them taste like a five-star gourmet meal. I sat down at my antique green Formica kitchenette that I had bought at an antique store in Savannah, Georgia on mine and Greyson’s third anniversary trip. It even had the plastic padded chairs to match it. Keaton set the plate down in front of me, placed a fork and a napkin next to it, and kissed the top of my head. Before I could get my hands on him, he was pouring me a glass of orange juice. He was wearing one of my old police academy t-shirts and the same tight pair of jeans from last night. I watch him pad barefoot across the kitchen and then back to the table carrying his own breakfast plate.

“This smells delicious. Thank you for getting Braelynn up and out the door. Why didn’t you wake me, though? Did she say anything?”

“I didn’t wake you because I figured you could use the sleep. And I wanted to walk her to the school bus. I wanted to talk to her. She told me quite a few things but I’ve been sworn to secrecy, sorry. I will tell you that she loves you very much and she just wants you to be happy. Oh, and she told me that she knew when I showed up at the door that I wasn’t going to be leaving. How she knew, I don’t know but she’s a very perceptible little girl.”

“Sworn to secrecy? Horseshit. You better not hide things from me about my own daughter.”

“You need to hush, woman. You know if I thought it was something you needed to know I would tell you. Other than that, you can forget it. I’ve already betrayed her trust once. I won’t do it again. You look nice by the way. Different. You put some makeup on?”

“No. None.”

“Hmm. Oh, I know what it is” he reached across the table and grabbed my left hand, fingering my ring. I smiled and stuffed another bite of the omelet into my mouth.

“It is a really beautiful ring” I said with a mouthful of omelet and grits.

“If only you’re eating habits were as beautiful.” He laughed and let go of my hand so that he could devour his own plate of food. We were eating in silence when my doorbell rang. I jumped up and answered the door without looking through the window. Walker was standing on the porch. He was shoving his phone into his tan suit jacket when I opened the door. He had on a cream colored turtleneck, dark brown slacks, and his favorite brown Ferregamo loafers. He must have been going to do some actual work in his office today. Walker never wore a suit jacket unless he thought he was going to be seen by someone who was more important than him.

“Good morning, asshole. Can I come in?”

“I deserved that. Come in, please. Nice jacket.”

“Thanks. Mom bought it yesterday. She and Chelsea went on another one of their shopping sprees. Chelsea is trying to decide if she wants a formal wedding or something more casual. This was one of the casual options. Listen, about yesterday, I’m really sorry. I guess I should have given you more warning. And I should have stepped in when my mother got out of hand. I know you think she doesn’t like you, Brodie, but she does. And she genuinely cares about your happiness. And of course, because of her business relationship with Keaton, she cares about him too. She knows that you two miss each other —” Walker’s speech trailed off and I noticed him staring at my left hand. I looked down at the giant rock on my hand and then back up at him with a sheepish grin. He cocked an eyebrow at me and pulled my hand up to his face to get a closer look.

“What the hell is this?”

"Isn’t it beautiful?” I gushed sounding nothing like myself and more like Chelsea.

“It’s — uh — It’s something. I’m confused.” Keaton walked into the living room and wrapped his arms around me. He kissed my cheek and then extended a hand for Walker to shake it. Walker shook his hand limply while still looking dumbfounded. I let out a small giggle and covered my mouth with my left hand catching the light with my ring so that it reflected in my eye. I really hope I get use to wearing this gigantic thing.

“Well, hello, Keaton. Nice ring, man.”

“It was my nonna’s. Listen,” he said as he was pulling his jacket off of the coat rack. “I’ve got to get to the restaurant and take care of some business. I hope you have a good day at work and I’ll see you tonight. I love you.” He kissed me on the nose, patted Walker on the arm, and then walked out the door. The reminder that he would be back here tonight was buzzing in my brain. My heart was fluttering at the thought of being snuggled up next to him again.

“What the hell was that all about?” Walker gestured towards the front door.

“He brought me home yesterday and we really talked about things. Finally. And neither one of us want to be over. He came over last night to see Braelynn and he stayed after she went to bed so that we could talk some more and we decided that he should move back in. We can work on things better if we’re actually together. The ring was just an added bonus.”

“Are you kidding me? Look, I know mom was trying to get you guys to start talking again but do you really think this is a good idea? You know he’s got a girlfriend, right? A pregnant girlfriend?”

“He’s ending it. That’s where he’s going now, actually. And even if she is pregnant it may not be his. We’ll just have to wait for a paternity test. And if it is his, we will support the baby. Already discussed this.” Walker ran his hand down his face and then shoved both hands in his pockets. He leaned back against the arm of one of the chairs in the living room. I could tell that he wasn’t happy and I understood his concern. He and I had been friends since the 8th grade. He was always concerned when it came to me and guys. The first year of mine and Grayson’s marriage Walker spent the entire time giving Grayson grief and trying to play the big protective brother. I know he meant well.

“Well, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too. I should have been nicer to you mother. After all, she’s the reason that this ring is even on my freaking finger right now. Is this thing not huge? So how’s wedding planning going with you guys? Oh, my gosh! Walker, we should totally have a double wedding!”

“You’re really an asshole, you know that.” He laughed and punched me in the arm.

“Yeah, yeah. Oh, hey, while you’re here can I pick your brain for a minute?”

“Work or personal?”

“Work. Confidential for now.”

“Got it. Shoot.”

“You still have contact with Gunner Hayes?”

“Off the record, yes. He plays poker with me and some of the other lawyers from my building. Why, what’s up?”

“It’s a long complicated story but his fiancé is dead and I think he’s involved somehow. How close are you guys? I mean, do you and him talk outside of this poker game that I know nothing about?”

“We talk quite a bit actually. He designed some spreadsheet software for the firm and he plays golf with me and Greg. Why on earth would he kill his fiancé?”

“I have no idea, Walker, but when I went to talk to him about it he acted really weird and refused to come down to the station for questioning. And also told me that he hadn’t seen her in a week. Then, her mother told me later yesterday afternoon that he had seen her on Tuesday because they were going over wedding plans. Did he ever talk about her? Her mother made him sound like a real dick head but I don’t remember him being like that?”

“He talked about her all the time. He worshiped the ground that girl walked on. Hey, I don’t know why I just thought of this but she and Chelsea are friends. Well, were, I guess. They were sorority sisters and pageant friends. You should talk to Chelsea.”

“Do I have to?”

“Brodie, stop. If you would just take the chance to get to know her, I’m pretty sure that you would love Chelsea just as much as I do. Besides, if you want some insider information on Chloe and Gunner’s relationship Chelsea might know some things. Or at least know someone who would. And I can confirm that Gunner saw her on Tuesday because poker nights are on Tuesdays and he was telling me that Chloe was upset because she wanted him to fly in some certain kind of rose from France instead of just using the roses at the botanical gardens where they were planning on getting married.”

“Thanks. Want to know something really creepy?”

“Of course.”

“We found her at the botanical gardens.”

“No shit? Wow. I’ll keep my ear to the ground in case I hear anything that I think might help you. I would have never guessed Gunner would even have it in him to do something like this but you never really know people, do you?”

“No, I don’t guess you do. I’ve got to get to work. Let’s have lunch some time this week.”

“Sounds good. Give Chelsea a call. You can talk to her about wedding plans.”

I drove into work jamming to Jason Aldean and drumming on my steering wheel. I was in such a good mood today that I wasn’t even annoyed when the radio changed to a Taylor Swift song. I even caught myself singing along to her stupid song. Nothing could ruin my good mood. At least I hope not. I pulled into the precinct and hummed to myself all the way to my desk.

There was a bouquet of red roses in a silver vase sitting in the middle of my desk. I immediately knew that they weren’t from Keaton. I hated red roses so I knew that he wouldn’t have sent them to me. I yanked the card off of the little plastic stake and opened the envelope.On the front of the card was a picture of the Wurlitzer from the Alabama Theater. It was a large organ that came up from the floor of the stage when someone was playing it and then lowered back down into the floor when it wasn’t in use. It always reminded me of the Phantom of the Opera. I flipped the card over and then on the other side was a note, addressed to me, from the killer.

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