Reading Between the Lines

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Chapter 5

“Ok, the first order of our crime-solving endeavors,” Hazel announced later in the day as we were putting new books on the shelves.

“And what might this first order of business be?” I asked, a questioning tone in my voice. As her best friend, I have the right to say her ideas never work out. That’s because 90% of the time they’re fucking insane.

“Well, in order to solve a murder, we have to know about the victim, right? Mr. Crenshaw has to have some sort of family. We should go talk to them.”

“Hazel, they just lost a family member. I’m not sure they’re going to be too keen on talking to strangers.”

“Ye of little faith. We’re just going there to ‘give our condolences’” Hazel put air quotes around condolences.

“I have to say that’s extremely fucked up Hazel.” A frown appeared on her face before I could finish my thought. “But it’s genius. Let’s do it.” A smile soon replaced the frown. Before we could discuss the details any further, my mother walked into the store.

“Mom, you didn’t tell me you were coming into the shop today.” Shit. Her showing up kind of throws a wrench into the whole investigating murder plan.

“Considering I still own 51% of the store and the fact that I’m your mother, I figured I could just stop in.” I rolled my eyes, watching her as she placed her bags by the front door.

“Well, I’d love to stay and chat but Hazel and I- “I walked over towards Hazel and hooked our arms together. “actually, have to go pick up a book order since our driver...” Now was not the time to freeze Cassandra! Come on, think of something!

“Called into today. His sisters in labor at Sacred Heights Hospital.” My mother’s face lit up when Hazel mentioned labor. You know, I think my mother dies a little on the inside every time she realized that I still haven’t given her grandkids yet. Never mind the fact I’m only 20!

“Oh, how lovely! What’s his sister's name? I want to put together a baby basket for her.”

“I don’t know but we will certainly check into that for you. Bye mom we got to go! Thanks for watching the store!” Hazel and I exited the store and began walking down the street. We didn’t stop until we hit the parking lot at the end of the street where my car was parked.

“Really Haze? Sister went into labor?!”

“What?”

“You couldn’t have thought of anything better?” Both of us proceeded to climb into my car.

“At least I didn’t freeze up like someone!” She fired back/

“Let’s just find where Crenshaw lives and hope they don’t mind a few visitors stopping by.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

15 minutes later we pulled up to where google said Crenshaw lived, which was coincidentally only a few blocks away from Hazel’s place.

It was a standard family-sized home with dark brown siding. Several stone columns held up the front of the roof, giving the home a hunting lodge look of sorts.

As Hazel and I got out of the car, a middle-aged woman came out of the house with tear-stained eyes. How did she know we were already here?

The woman brushed her grey streaked hair out of her eyes as she proceeded to approach the car. “Look, I’ve already talked to the detective from earlier. As you can see, I’m not really up for more questions right now.” Wow, Samuel making my life harder. Imagine that.

“Oh, don’t worry! We’re not with the police. Crenshaw- “I paused, not sure how to finish my thought. “came into our store quite often. We wanted to give our condolences.”

“Well thank you. I know he was never the easiest person to deal with, but we loved him. He was supposed to teach our youngest son Carter how to ride a bike without training wheels.” Tears began to fall down Ms. Crenshaw’s face. “Now what am I going to do? I can’t raise three kids by myself!”

Hazel carefully rested a hand on her shoulder. “We’re truly sorry for your loss. Did the police give you hints as to why all of this happened?”

Ms. Crenshaw chuckled to herself. “God no, are you kidding me? They’re cops. The woman detective that was with the guy let it slip that maybe his work was involved, something about someone holding a grudge.”

“But didn’t he work at a dry cleaner?” I commented.

“Exactly, but they didn’t want to listen to me! They insisted he made some sort of enemy! Again, he could be an asshole at times, but he didn’t have any enemies.”

“If it’s between you and me- “Ms. Crenshaw brought her head closer towards us. “Penbrook Falls police department is just trying to make this an open and shut case. Especially that male detective Samuel.” She muttered something under her breath before bringing her head back up.

“Ladies, I appreciate you stopping by, but I have to take my daughter Alexa to dance class. Have a great rest of your day.” She turned her back on us and proceeded to walk back to the house. Neither Hazel or I said anything until we were in the car and had our seatbelts on.

“When did Samuel get a partner? A female no less. I always thought he was more of the lone wolf type.” As I started the car and drove off down the road, Hazel chose to ignore my anger fueled ramblings which was probably a smart decision on her part.

She waited until we pulled to a stop in front of the store to clear her throat. “You know Cassie if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were jealous of his new partner. If this is what you’re like before you meet her- “Hazel finished her though with a quiet chuckle as we both climbed out of the car.

Deciding to ignore the whole Samuel jealously thing, I changed topics. “Now that we’ve talked to Crenshaw’s wife we could- “My train of thought stopped when I saw Samuel standing behind the counter instead of my mother.

“Samuel? What are you doing here? Where’s my mother?” Seriously, she left him in the store by himself.

“I would have called you sooner, but your mom said something about picking up an order?” He waved his hand blasely through the air. “Anyways, she called me and said she wasn’t feeling well so I took her home. She asked me to watch the store until you guys got back.” I didn’t listen to anything else as I sprinted towards the counter to my bag.

“Hazel watch the store. I have to go see my mom- shit.” I muttered, my hands shaking as I put my coat on.

“Cass, do you want me to take you home? There’s still 30 minutes left in my break- “Samuel was in the process of grabbing his keys when I moved towards the front door.

“No, it’s ok. I’ve just- I’ll call you guys later.” I didn’t wait to hear their responses as I ran out the door and towards my car. I just prayed to God that my mom was ok, and this wasn’t the end.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was almost one in the morning and I had been sitting on our porch swing that faces the streets for several hours. When I got home and saw my mom resting, I knew it wasn’t good. I could tell by the color of her skin that this wasn’t going to end. My time with her was drawing to a close. I didn’t how much time was left, whether it was a week, a month or a year. And that’s what fucking sucks. I didn’t know.

Which was why I was sitting out here. Alone, with nothing but my thoughts and a cup of tea to keep me company. I wanted to burst out crying but I guess my body was passed that point. Rest assured though; I was dying on the inside.

I was too out of touch with what was going on around me to hear the sounds of footsteps climbing the stairs. Turning my head, I watched as Samuel reached the top of the stairs. He seemed overly casually in a white t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

“Saw you sitting out here, figured you might need this.” Looking at his hands, I saw he was holding a brown fleece blanket which he proceeded to toss at me, waiting for a few seconds before making his way closer. “How are you holding up?”

“Meh” I grumbled, shrugging my shoulders. He didn’t say anything as he took the empty seat on the bench next to me.

“Figured that might be the case.” I didn’t have to look in his direction to know that his eyes were focused on me. “I went through the same thing with my father. Lung Cancer’s what got him then again, he did smoke for the majority of his life. It sucked, knowing what was killing him and not being able to do a damn thing about it.”

“Cassandra- “With his eyes still on me, Samuel rested a hand against my blanket-covered knee. I didn’t know if it was from pure exhaustion or the fact that I didn’t care but I didn’t bother to move his hand off my knee.

“I know you want to be tough for your mom and yourself, but if you need anything and I mean anything- just call me. I only live next door.” With a quick, but caring rub of my knee, Samuel stood up from the porch swing.

“Wait, don’t you want your blanket back?”

“Keep it. You look like you could use the comfort.” Without saying anything else, he cut across the lawn to get back to his house.

The Next Day

I decided not to go into work today. I needed to watch my mother and make sure she was going to be ok, for now. Hazel was more than willing to run the shop by herself today. God, what would I do without her? It also gave me the opportunity to do some investigative work with Crenshaw’s murder which meant it was time to check out his work.

After I got out of the shower, I heard my phone go off. With my body still wrapped in a towel, I walked towards my phone.

When I saw it was Samuel, I raised an eyebrow at the screen. Maybe he just wants his blanket back? I opened the message and was greeted with a decently long paragraph, staring me in the face.

Samuel: I know we, or I, had this long meaningful conversation last night but I wanted to let you know I’ll be stopping by today, help your mom out with some housework. Besides, I also want to check on you and make sure you’re ok because believe it or not, I do actually care. Maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll take you out tonight to get your mind off of everything that’s going on 😉

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