The Thousand Words

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Chapter 13

I woke up the next morning with the sun shining in my eyes and Kelsey in my arms. She was snuggled up next to me, her back and legs plastered against me. It was equal parts for warmth and trying to be as close to me as possible. We were in the same position when we fell asleep. Doubtful either one of us moved the whole night.

Kelsey and I talked for another few hours about my dad, Hannah, what happened the night when they were killed and my previous life. She was kind, curious, and not judgmental. She knows I will always miss and remember Hannah. That’s a given. But I believed last night solidified the fact I am truly in love with Kelsey, and her with me. It was a wonderful feeling. We both had the desire for an intimate session then but we were completely emotionally and physically exhausted.

I snuck out of bed, quietly closed the shades and headed into the bathroom. I took a long hot shower, letting the water work out the stiffness from the motionless sleep the night before.

Kelsey was still asleep when I finished, so I dressed and headed downstairs. She had the ability to sleep well into the morning when she needs it. It was one of those days. I simply left her alone and wrote a note, leaving it next to the coffee pot where she would head first after waking up.

Jane and I had a meeting today with Neil at his office downtown. She had let me know Neil scheduled the meeting for both of us at the last minute, saying there were a few items to discuss. I thought it was a bit unnecessary since I just met with him two days ago and silently wondered if we could just do this over the phone. There was some paperwork to sign and two of them had never met, even though they talked and emailed frequently, so I relented.

I walked down to the office area, checked email and completed a bit of work. After a little over a half an hour, I closed up and got in the car to pick up Jane. Traffic to her apartment and all the way downtown was thankfully light. It was after the main morning rush hour as well as a Friday. Both of those helped keep the road pretty clear.

We parked in my normal spot between the river and the football stadium. Jane and I talked as we headed up to the meeting.

“You seem in a good mood this morning even with what happened,” Jane said. “It has to be so weird seeing someone you know violently murdered. You have seen dead bodies with the work you do for the police but those are always some anonymous person. It’s not right in so many ways.”

Jane and I had never discussed my past. She must know having picked up on a few things from me and others but we have never talked in any detail on the subject. Jane is forward enough to ask about anything and everything. No filter whatsoever. It’s one of the benefits of working with her. For her not to ask about it makes me think she knows more than she has leads on and is just leaving the subject alone.

“Kelsey and I had a good night last night,” I said.

Jane got a big smile on her face. “I bet you did!” she said elbowing me in the ribs.

“We just had dinner at my place and talked,” I replied dodging the second elbow inevitably on its way.

“I bet you did!” She said again.

“Grow up, would you? Ask her yourself. Wait. That’s a bad idea.”

“I bet you did!” she said for the third time laughing.

Any meaningful conversation was a lost cause. We walked in mutual silence for the rest of the way to the office building. I was in a good mood and Jane knew it. She was just giving me her normal hard time that tended to dominates her conversations.

We made our way up to Neil’s office. The door was open so we just headed in. Neil stood up and walked out from behind his desk.

“Jane Curso, it is wonderful to finally meet you in person,” Neil said, shaking her hand. “It’s always helpful to put a face to the name instead of only being a voice over the phone.”

The two of them chatted about themselves for almost ten minutes. Their work histories, details about where they grew up here in the area, and how best to work with each other. I was beginning to wonder if I was even needed for this meeting.

Neil finally turned his attention over to me. “There are a few things we have to go over. One of them is a little difficult to discuss.”

“I thought you only did good news meetings face to face,” I said.

Neil ignored me. “I need for you to get ahead in the submissions. We normally work with one in reserve to ensure if one isn’t working or there is a problem, we have a backup ready to go. I need the total in reserve to be three now. The sooner the better. Sounds like a lot for a weekly column but most of the Sunday paper is designed and laid out during the normal work week, sometimes a couple of weeks in advance. Right now I have the article for this Sunday and the next. So by the end of next weekend, I would like for you to give an additional four submissions and then one a week thereafter unless one is rejected. The reserve number doesn’t include the one due by the end of Sunday.”

Completing the additional columns quickly was going to be a ton of work on my part but it was not an unreasonable request. Going from one every two weeks to one a week was going to be just fine. The picture taking, research, and writing were fun. This initial surge to increase the backlog was going to be a burden on my other work. Jane will definitely have to help more as we talked about on the way down.

“I can do what you requested. You will have one to you on Sunday and a total of four more by the end of the day on the following Sunday. Do you want the four all at once or when I get them completed?”

“To be honest,” Neil said, “I am not going to have the chance to go over them in any detail during the week. Too many other things going on. Have Jane send me an overview of the subject and the photo whenever you can, so I know what to expect.”

“Sounds good. This conversation wasn’t too bad,” I said hopefully.

Neil squirmed some in his chair. “The number of columns topic was the easy one.” He paused for a minute collecting his thoughts. “I received a call yesterday about your column that made me a bit concerned.”

“What was it about?” Jane interjected. “I can’t imagine there was anything controversial in any of the columns at all. Most are about local history and architecture for God’s sake.”

“It was nothing of the sort. The caller has their concerns about you, Alex.” He was looking directly at me. “They said you are involved in a murder investigation. The woman who was killed and found up in Eden Park was actually a client of yours for some private investigation work. They were very concerned about what kind of people we have writing for the paper. This was all news to me.”

“What does any of this have to do with my column?” I was not happy at all and was having trouble getting the words I wanted out.

“A number of things. You never told me you work for the police department. We are a newspaper first and foremost. Any information as such would be beneficial to pass on to the reporters. We also have a morality clause in our contract to protect the paper from anyone working with us being involved in situations that could damage the reputation of the paper. You only told me you were a professional photographer.”

“First off,” I said back very agitated. “Yes, I work for the police department every now and again taking pictures of crime scenes. It’s grizzly but necessary work. It’s being a professional photographer. I have signed a non-disclosure agreement where I can’t say anything to anybody about the cases. Jane is my assistant and we don’t talk about it at all.”

In reality, we do talk occasionally about the work I perform for the police. I was hoping she would take the hint and keep her mouth shut on the subject.

“You could be an anonymous source,” Neil added. “Happens all of the time.”

“Not going to happen,” I said dismissively. “Second, I am a licensed private investigator. The vast majority of my work involves taking pictures of people in some way shape or form. That’s also a professional photographer. The woman found in Eden Park was a former client from a year ago. Yes, I happened to know her but just barely. I have a closer relationship with the person who I get takeout from once a month. So it’s nothing. Just a coincidence and not related to anything at all.”

“Alex, I agree.” Neil was squirming again. He appeared to know he went too far with this and was trying to figure out a way to backpedal. “I just wish you would have told me more about what you did. I don’t want anything like this to get in the way of your column and the potential book. You do great work and have the ability to possibly take the column nationally.” This new topic must have been his way of changing the subject and trying to make me calm down.

I wasn’t done yet. The anger in me was still there. “Do you know who called you? Did they leave their name?” My investigator skills were kicking in.

“As a matter of fact they did not,” Neil answered. “Even if they did I am not sure I would tell you. This newspaper can’t have you contact them to complain. They were older but not old, and seemed to be well informed with the investigation.”

Jane and I locked eyes and instantly knew what each other was thinking. “The twins,” we said at the same time. It’s the only people who knew details on the murder investigation and wanted to see me fail. Case closed.

“Who are they?” Neil asked.

“Two nobodies who don’t like me and want to see me fail. Don’t worry about the call. It was obviously an attempt to discredit my work and reputation.”

Neil looked as if he agreed and understood. “I see there is nothing really to this and you couldn’t talk about it anyway. Just be open and honest with me in the future, Alex, and everything will work out. Hopefully, nothing more will come of it.”

The actions of the twins had me concerned. Them actively trying to sabotage my work with the police was bad enough, but going after my photography business crossed the line. Their behavior is something that I would have to address before it got any worse. First and foremost, however, was to make sure Neil believed the complaint was meritless.

“I guarantee there will be no more problems with the person who called you nor with any of the work that I do for the police department,” I said with as much conviction and honesty as I could.

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