I pulled my keys out of the ignition before sitting against my car seat. I looked around the empty parking lot, and let out a deep sigh. The clock read 3:42 A.M, nearly three hours after Brielle’s party had ended. I had finished dropping her friends off hours ago, yet sleep couldn’t find me. I had been restless since Isabella left, and the headache that had been brewing all night, had only intensified, as I pushed my fingers into my temples to alleviate some of the pain.
I had kissed her.
Why did I kiss her?
I had repeatedly been asking myself that question all night, and as much as I tried to convince myself that it was all for the assignment, a tiny voice would remind me that the assignment had barely crossed my mind the entire night.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew I was falling into a deeper hole with Isabella, and it was a pathway I knew I couldn’t go down.
And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to stop.
I had spent that last few hours replaying every interaction I had with Isabella. From any minuscule conversation we’d had over the span of a couple months, down to her body language with any person she came across.
The only conclusion I could draw was that there were too many gaps in Isabella’s life. Nothing really seemed to add up, almost as if her whole persona was fabricated. I didn’t want my thoughts to cloud my judgment or stray me from the overall goal of the assignment, but the gaping questions were eating away at me, and I knew I needed answers before I could proceed any further.
Heading into my office, I shut the door behind me before taking a seat at my desk. Isabella’s file sat in the middle of the desk staring at me, and I couldn’t help but feel a silver of guilt as I pulled the folder open. I was invading her privacy, but I had already gone through that file more times than I could count. Telling myself that didn’t help the pang of regret that rang through me as soon as I began to read through her file again.
Everything was the same as the first time I had read it, but this time, I wasn’t looking to read information about her. I wanted to dig in between the lines, and find something that the files weren’t explicitly telling me.
I didn’t know what I was looking for, or if I would even find it, but I was desperate for something that would help me make sense of the sudden doubts I had about the assignment. I needed something to help ease the war in my mind that was slowly turning into a war in my heart.
Looking down at the papers, everything appeared to be in order. Isabella was born to two parents, and an older brother. Her parents separated when she was young, and custody was dually granted to both parents, until full custody of Isabella was granted to her father. Isabella and her father ended up relocating, where she was homeschooled and raised by Rick Wright.
I furrowed my eyebrows as I reviewed the information repeatedly. Isabella had an older brother, and yet only she left to live with her father. Judges rarely grant split custody of siblings unless theres a good reason to do so, but nothing on the file alluded to that. It was odd that Isabella and her brother were each living with one parent, when the separation happened at such a young age. There was no way that Isabella came to the decision by herself that she wanted to solely live with her dad when she was that young.
So who made that decision?
Flipping through the file, I looked into the type of schooling Isabella went through over the years. While living with her mother prior to her relocation, Isabella attended public school. It was only when she moved with her father that she switched to homeschooling. There weren’t many photographs of Isabella as she grew older, and the ones that did exist were taken of her outside her home, or a short distance from her home. There weren’t any pictures of her in a grocery store, around town, or with anyone besides her father.
If the few photos that did exist of her were to ever disappear, it would be as if Isabella was only a figment of one’s imagination.
A dark pit slowly began to settle in my stomach as I continued to look through the file. Why was Isabella’s presence in the outside world so limited? She had little to no interaction with anyone prior to attending college, and even then, she kept her circle small.
Nothing seemed to add up. There was a chance that she had been in hiding, only to help Rick behind the scenes and be the innocent face he could use. But something in me didn’t quite believe that was the case. Her abrupt separation from her mother and brother, her switch to homeschooling, and never straying too far from her house. It all pointed to something deeper.
I didn’t have answers, but I had my suspicions. And they were telling me that everything wasn’t what it seemed when it came to Isabella and Rick Wright. There was something else going on behind the scenes, and I wasn’t so sure whether Isabella was actually willingly playing a role in Rick’s whole scheme.
Shutting the file, I let out a deep breath as I leaned back in my seat. All I had were theories, without any solid evidence, meaning there wasn’t much that I could tell boss. I needed answers, but it was clear that I wouldn’t be getting anywhere with Isabella yet. She hadn’t fully let down her guard yet with me, and I didn’t want to say the wrong thing that could potentially ruin all of my progress with the case.
And my progress with her.
There was only one person that knew something that could potentially point me in the right direction. And even though it was a long shot, it was worth a try. Opening up the drawer to my desk, I pulled out the crumbed piece of paper with an address scribbled on it. I quickly stored away the files before grabbing my keys and heading back to my car.
The drive was short, and it wasnt long before I found myself pulling into a familiar street. Parking my car a couple houses down, I glanced down at my watch that now read 5:42 a.m. The sun would soon make its ascend and the world was going to wake again, but I needed to have this conversation, regardless of the time.
Shoving my hands into the pocket of my jacket, I headed down to the same beaten down house I had been at not too long ago and walked up the driveway. The lights were shut off, and the house looked eerily empty from the outside. To any onlookers, the house looked like it wasn’t inhabited by anyone. The grass was outgrown, the house was boarded up in random places with wood, and there were small traces of vandalism on the sides of the house .
With the hope that someone would answer, I rang the doorbell, before stepping back and listening in for any movements from inside the house. A couple minutes passed by without any response, before I decided to knock on the actual door. I was met with silence again, and I was ready to turn back towards my car when I heard the sound of footsteps coming towards the door.
I watched as the door swung open, and a half asleep Roman stood in front of me. His eyes revealed his lack of sleep, and I could tell by the look on his face that he was not pleased to see me.
“Wrong address.” He coldly stated, before the door began to shut in my face. Before he could close it, I pushed my foot into the doorway to stop it as I spoke up.
“I know who I’m here to see, Aiden Carter.” I said, as I studied his face for any reaction. A look of surprise passed his face for a short second, before being replaced by a scowl. I didn’t wait for his response as I pushed open the door and made my way into the house.
I could tell that Roman was angry about my entrance, but I ignored the looks he was giving me as I scanned the house. If you could even call it that. There was little to no furniture in the house, not a single piece of decoration was hung up around the house, and if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought I was at an open house viewing for a house being sold.The lack of decorations and furniture told me that this wasn’t a home to anyone, but just a place to live.
Turning to Roman, I finally noticed that he was shirtless, with sweats covering the lower half of his body. Though they were faint, I could see the outline of various scars littered all over his chest and abdomen. Some of the scars stretched over onto his back, but before I could gauge out the source of the scars, Roman slipped on a shirt before turning to face me.
“What the hell do you want?” He spit at me, as his mouth formed a thin line. I could see the anger on his face, and I didn’t exactly blame him. It was early as hell, and a random man just pushed his way into his home.
I opened my mouth to answer him, but before I could say anything I was shut down by his voice again.
“Actually, more importantly. Who the hell are you? And don’t bother giving me that bullshit about being her classmate.” He suddenly said, as I tried to mask my surprise. I wasn’t planning on revealing anything about my identity to Roman, but it was clear that he was onto me. I knew he didn’t know who I was or anything about my assignment with Isabella and Rick Wright, but he knew enough to know that I was putting on a facade.
I could only hope that he hadn’t mentioned his suspicions to Isabella.
Ignoring his questions, I turned to him and answered, “I’ll tell you who I am as soon as you explain why Roman and Aiden Carter are somehow the same person.” I shot back at him, knowing that it was the one piece of leverage I had over him.
A heavy wave of silence settled between us as we both stared the other down. It was clear that neither of us were willing to back down.
“Whatever it is you’re looking for, you won’t find it here.” Roman gritted through his teeth as I ran a hand through my hair.
“Look, I’m not here about you. I’m here because I need to know if Isabella is in any danger.” I finally said, hoping that he could see the sincerity on my face. I kept my question vague because I didn’t want him to know that I knew more than it appeared.I truly did not come to give him a hard time, and wanted answers from the only person I had ever seen Isabella spend time with.
It was silent for a few seconds, before Roman let out a scoff. I watched as he made his way over to the couch, before he took a seat on it. He leaned over on his knees, and his hair fell over his eyes as he looked at me with a bitter smile.
“Listen here, I don’t know who or what gave you the confidence to come snooping around here, but I suggest you don’t go sniffing in places where you’re not supposed to be.” He said as I let out a small chuckle in response.
I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me.
“Yeah? And what exactly should I be avoiding here?” I shot back in return, as I glanced around the house. Roman remained quiet, as he kept his gaze steady on me. I held eye contact with him, and kept his gaze firmly on mine.
It was clear from his posture and the look in his face that I wouldn’t be getting anything out of him. He was loyal, I’ll give him that.
Though I didn’t get what I came here for, his silence and short responses had told me enough. There was something more sinister going on with Rick Wright, and I was going to figure it out.
I didn’t say anything else as I broke eye contact with him and made my way back to the front door. It was a longshot coming to him, and it was clear that he wouldn’t be confessing to anything. Just as I pulled open the door and stepped out, I was stopped by Roman’s voice.
“Hey.” He said, as I turned back to look at him. I watched as he stood up from the couch and pushed his hands into the pocket of his sweats. His face was expressionless, but his eyes told me everything I needed to know.
“Don’t go looking for skeletons that aren’t meant to be found.”
It has been soooo long, and I am so sorry about that.
Life became crazy, and it was hard to find the time to sit down and write.
I’m on my summer break now, and I’m excited to be back into the groove of writing.
I just want to thank you all for the kind messages, I appreciate you all so much for being such understanding and kind readers.
Much love to you all, and see you all in the next update!