“Oh come on, Lil, what’s the matter, sweetheart? You’ve been fed, changed, had your bath, it’s time to go to sleep, everything’s okay.” Andrea Malone tried to sooth her long time best friend’s eight month old little girl. She bounced her in her arms gently, not understanding what was going on. She had never acted like this before. Nothing seemed to be appeasing the blonde hair cutie.
Andrea was almost at her wits end when her phone began to make a high pitched ringing nose. Who would be calling at two a.m.? Unless Candice and her husband Caleb had decided to pick Lily up. She rushed to her room with the squirming, upset baby in her arms and got to her phone just before it would have got to voicemail, “Hello?”
“Andrea Malone?” the woman’s voice questioned on the other side of the line.
“Yes, this is she, can I help you?” she struggled to hold the phone and Lily.
“I know this is an ungodly hour and sounds like the baby is upset but I need you to come down to the station, ma’am.” The woman continued, trying to sound professional.
“Station, what’re you talking about?” Andrea was so confused as she tried to get Lily to settle down.
“Yes, ma’am, the Whitehorse Police Station, you are in Whitehorse, correct, ma’am?”
“Yes, but what’s going on?” she was getting more confused and she was becoming scared.
“I’ll explain when you get here, ask for Detective Murphy when you come in.” The woman explained.
“O-o-okay,” Andrea stuttered and they ended the call. Panic seized her as she got Lily ready and then her own daughter Lucy, who was ten months old.
She got both little girls dressed and then got their diaper bags ready then headed out to her car.
She placed Lily and Lucy both in their carriers and began the short trip to Whitehorse Police Department, even though it felt like it was taking forever. What on earth happened?
She finally got to the parking lot and found a spot relatively close to the door. She got out and got Lucy out first then Lily out in the carrier. She walked toward the door, one carrier in hand, two diaper bags around her shoulders and another baby on her hip.
She had to look a sight, she hadn’t even taken the time to change out of baggy t-shirt and black tight shorts and flip-flops. She was sure her hair was a mess and she felt like she was just going to kill over from lack of sleep.
She found a very skinny, blonde woman sitting behind a desk. Andrea walked up to her quickly, “Excuse me, I’m supposed to ask for a Detective Murphy.”
The woman seemed to scrutinize her for a moment, “Give me a few minutes, ma’am, I’ll let Detective Murphy know you’re here.” She got up for the desk and left, leaving Andrea there by herself with two upset kids and looking like hell.
She glanced around at the mostly empty station, she found a couple of chairs that were free and didn’t look too comfy at all but it was better than nothing. She took a seat as Lily began to cry again.
Andrea sat the carrier and bags down. She sat Lucy in the other chair for a minute and unhooked Lily from the seat and pulled her up against her shoulder and rocked her back and forth while Lucy climbed in her lap.
“I know, Lil, shhh, I know, you’re so tired, I just wish you’d stop fighting it Lily.” Andrea tried to sooth her as Lily rubbed her eyes then tried to push away from Andrea.
“Ms. Malone?” a female voice called out making Andrea stand with the two girls held tightly in her arms.
“Oh, wow, I didn’t know you had two children tonight.”
“Um yeah, I’m watching one for my best friend,” Andrea explained as she adjusted both girls and Lily rubbed her snotty nose against her t-shirt.
“Wow, now I wish someone else would have answered my call,” the lady stepped forward and went to take one of the girls.
Andrea let her, the woman was a police officer after all. She picked up the diaper bags and carrier and adjusted Lily in her arms as she squirmed again.
She followed the officer to another room that was quiet and secluded, it looked a lot more comfortable than the waiting room she had been in.
“Are you Detective Murphy?” Andrea managed to get out as she sat the bags on the long dark table and the carrier on the floor.
“Yes, ma’am, is this little one I’m holding yours?”
“Yes she is, that’s Lucy, can you please explain to me why I’m here at almost three in the morning?” Andrea adjusted Lily again and went to take Lucy but Murphy shook her head.
“She seems more relaxed than Lily, it’s okay I can hold her for a little bit, you’re new here aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I moved out here shortly before I had Lucy, I wanted to be closer to Candice.”
“Ms. Malone, I’m so sorry to tell you this, and I don’t know any easy way to tell you but Candice and Caleb were killed last night, we suspect a robbery, their wallets, jewelry, and anything else valuable were taken from them, the only reason we know who they were, well it’s a small town.” Detective Murphy paused.
Andrea just stared at the Detective, everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. Caleb and Candice were gone? A robbery? In this small town? Why?
“Ms. Malone, are you still with me?” Murphy asked.
Andrea’s gray eyes met the detective’s green-brown eyes, “I’m sorry, are you sure?”
Detective Murphy adjusted Lucy, “We tried to call all of their family, but no one answered but you, we need you to identify them we’ll do everything in our power to find who did this, they were great people.”
“What about Lucy and Lily? I can’t leave them.” Andrea whispered as tears began to fill her eyes. Her best friend was gone, what was she going to do?
“I’ll have a coupe officers come in and take care of them while I take you to the morgue.”
Andrea flinched a little at the word morgue, “Can’t, can’t you wait to get a hold of one of their family members, I don’t think I can do it.”
“We’ve already waited at least four hours before we called you, I’m sorry I can’t make this painless.”
Andrea saw the compassion in the detective’s green-brown eyes. She finally took the rest of her in, brown wavy hair, she was smaller, n between dark and light complexion. Andrea choked back a sob, “Okay.” She sighed in defeat.
“Okay, I’ll be back with a couple of officer’s to watch the babies.”
Andrea nodded her head. She had no clue what was in store for her, twenty five years old and she never once had to identify a body. She shivered at the thought but tried to keep the tears at bay. She had to do this.
Elijah Cameron woke up to the four a.m. alarm. Ranching started early. He turned the alarm off and rolled out of bed. He checked his phone like every morning. Four missed calls and two voicemails.
He frowned, that was rare. He looked at the number but he didn’t recognize it. He dialed his voicemail and listened to the two messages. Both were from the Whitehorse Police Department. What the hell? He called them back and asked for Murphy like the message instructed.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Cameron, she’s currently with someone but I’m sure she would want you down here, there’s been an accident but that’s all I can tell you on the phone, you should get here ASAP.”
“Okay, I’ll be there soon.” He said forget a shower. He threw on his dark jeans and a white wife beater and headed downstairs, slipped his dark brown, worn boots. He grabbed his keys and brown Stetson then headed out the door.
He shot a text to a couple of the guys who showed up early to let them know where he went and that he’d be back soon.
He jogged over to his gray two-fifty super duty and headed into town.
A million thoughts ran through his mind as he rushed to the police station. What kind of an accident? Who was involved? His heart began to race as he made the drive. He pulled out his phone to call his big brother but it went straight to voicemail. Odd.
Andrea jumped when the door opened again. She looked up to see Detective Murphy usher in two male officers.
Andrea felt unsure at first, the feeling must have been written all over her face.
“It’s okay, Ms. Malone, this is Officer Dean and Officer Carl, they’re fathers and know how to handle children well.” Murphy explained.
Andrea let out a sigh and began to get up and kissed both girls, “I’ll be right back, sweeties.” Lucy and Lily both grabbed for her and it broke her heart not being able to take them.
She followed Murphy down the skinny hallway up to a door. Murphy turned toward her and squeezed her arm. Andrea locked eyes with the woman.
“I know this is going to be hard but I will not leave your side.”
Andrea took a deep breath and nodded her head. She just wanted to get this done, she was exhausted, the girls were exhausted and just wanted to be able to let everything out.
They walked into the room, she felt an instant chill crawl along her exposed skin. She wrapped her arms around herself tightly, letting her body shiver.
Everything sent her reeling. One wall was completely bare, the other wall was metal and had metal doors. She took a deep uncalming breath as Detective Murphy walked up in between two doors.
“Okay, I know this is going to be difficult.”
“Just do it,” Andrea gritted out between clenched teeth, no matter how much they talked it wasn’t going to change anything and wasn’t going to prepare her. She tried to prepare herself a little better as the detective opened first one drawer, a sheet covered the body.
The detective slowly pulled the sheet back, there laid Caleb Cameron. He was so pale, so lifeless. Tears blurred her vision as she looked away from him quickly, “Yeah, that’s Caleb.” She choked out.
Murphy pushed the table back in and closed the door. She stepped back to move to the next door beside where Caleb’s body laid. She slowly pulled the table out and lowered the other sheet.
The tears fell, “That’s Candice.” She couldn’t believe what she was looking at. Her best friend of twenty years laying there pale, lifeless just as Caleb was.
Andrea turned away quickly and rushed out of the cold room. She couldn’t find the bathroom, she rushed out the front door and lost everything she had eaten earlier.
She collapsed to her knees as she cried and lost everything. She held her stomach tightly as she knelt there crying.
Elijah was standing in front of the receptionist at the police department and chatting with her a little, waiting for Detective Murphy to show up.
All of a sudden he heard the sound of pounding footsteps. His head jerked up and he saw the short spitfire he couldn’t mistake. Andie Malone, Candice’s best friend.
He watched her take off out the door and fall to the ground. He took off after her and heard the gut wrenching sound of her getting sick and the tears. He crouched down behind her a little, “Andie, what’s wrong?” he asked calmly.
She turned toward him a little. Her beautiful gray eyes were wide in shock and tears profusely spilled down her cheeks.
“Oh, Eli,” she sobbed out but apparently couldn’t say anything else.
Elijah didn’t know what to do, he pulled her little body back against his huge one, “Calm down and talk to me, Andie.”
She shook her head quickly then began to pull away from him, “I have to get the girls.” She whispered.
“Lucy and Lily?” Eli asked gently.
She nodded and stood up stumbling a little.
He reached out and caught her, her body felt so icy, “Andie?” he questioned as the door behind him opened.
“Ms. Malone,” a woman called out. “Oh, thank goodness, you’re still here, the babies are crying, I tried, so did Officer Dean and Officer Carl, we just can’t get them to calm down.”
Andie pulled away from Eli and headed back inside. She seemed so dazed and confused. Eli followed her inside then the woman followed behind him.
“Mr. Cameron, can we talk for a minute?”
Eli sighed as he watched Andie rush away, he couldn’t believe she was only wearing basically booty shorts, flip-flops, and an old t-shirt. She should have known better than to wear something like that.
He heard the throat clear and he turned back to the woman, “What happened, Murphy?” he demanded almost glaring at the detective.
“There was an incident with Caleb and Candice, no one but Ms. Malone answered, we found her in recent messages and knew she had Lily, Eli, they were robbed, we believe there was a struggle, Caleb and Candice, both of them are gone, Eli, I’m so sorry.”
“What?” he gasped out as he stumbled down into a chair.
“Eli, knowing Caleb he fought the perp off, but they were shot,” Murphy explained trying to meet his eyes.
He looked away to back down the hall, “So what did you need Andie for?”
“She was the last one we called, we didn’t know she had a daughter as well, we only knew she was watching Lily, we needed someone to confirm who we had here.” Murphy explained.
“Out of everyone here you had to drag her down here to identify who’s laying in the morgue? Well, I’m here now, so I guess let’s do this.” Anger filled him, how dare Murphy pull Andie into this. She wasn’t even family. She was the best friend of his sister-in-law.
“She already did.” Murphy whispered.
Eli was up out of the chair in an instant, no wonder she was such a wreck, “Where is she?” he demanded, his temper flaring even more. He always was the one who had a short fuse, Caleb had always been the calm one.
“Second door on the right.” Murphy answered.
He took off to the door she directed him to, he pushed it open and couldn’t believe it when he saw Andie trying to consul both her daughter and his niece, “Andie, here let me,” he took Lucy who was closer to him and began to bounce her up and down while Andie dealt with Lily. “Come on let me get you girls home.”
Andie looked up at Eli, she frowned a little when she met his amber eyes, they were more coppery right now, “Just help me get them to the car, I can handle everything else.”
“Andie, I can help,” Eli tried again.
She shook her head, “No I’ll handle it.” She said icily. She leaned a while ago not to trust men. Not to depend on them. And this cowboy would be no different.
“I can call my mom, she’ll take Lily.” He offered.
“No, she still needs told, not told then be like hey take care of your granddaughter, its fine, Eli, I can handle it.” She placed a now calm Lily in her carrier and grabbed the bags.
As she grabbed the bags and carrier she rushed out of the room. She made her way to her candy blue Camry with Eli right behind her.
She placed Lily in the car and buckled the carrier down then she took Lucy and walked around the other side of the car and placed the miniature her in the other carrier.
She got in the driver’s side and went to start the car. She had to get away from Eli, away from the police station. She just wanted to be home.
She heard a knock on her window which made her jump. She looked over and Eli was standing there. She closed her eyes tightly but put her window down, “What, Eli?”
“Do you have my number?” he asked as he leaned down in the window, which couldn’t be easy with him being over six feet tall.
“No I don’t, Eli, you know I don’t.” She sighed feeling exasperated, they never got to know each other over the last year that she’d been there. So when would they have ever exchanged numbers.
“Phone,” he demanded holding out his huge hand toward her.
She narrowed her eyes at him refusing to look into his different eyes. She grabbed her phone from the front seat and handed it to him, “I don’t know why we have to do this, Eli.”
“Because you shouldn’t be alone during this, so if you need me or anyone just call.” He finished putting his number in her phone and handed it back to her.
She’d just delete it later she thought as she took the phone and threw it in the seat beside her again.
“I’m serious, Andie, I’ll check on you later, I’ll talk to Mom and Dad, see how they want to handle all of this, I don’t want to ask but can you call Candice’s family and let them know?” he squeezed her shoulder.
Tears began to fill her eyes, “Yeah, I’ll handle it.”
“Can I go now?”
She waited for him to step back from the car before she backed out and began to head home. She just pulled into the driveway as both the girls began to cry again. She closed her eyes tightly, looked like she wasn’t opening her bakery beside her house today.
There was just no way. She got out of the car, got the babies out and bags then headed up to the small two bedroom gray house. She laid them both down on the floor in the living room near their toys and began to prepare their bottles.
Lucy seemed to calm down once she was out of the seat but poor Lily wasn’t having any part of calming down.
Andie rushed to her and began to feed her first. She knew something was wrong, the poor little girl knew.
Andie let out a sigh of relief as Lily began to eat. Once she was done, Andie changed her diaper then laid her down in the play and pack as she finally began to fall asleep, over exhausted.
She then handled Lucy and laid her in the play and pack also. She pulled out her phone and called Mrs. Howell, Candice’s mother.
Mrs. Howell answered on the third ring, “Andrea, have you heard from Candice? I cannot get a hold of her.”
Andie bit back the tears, “That’s why I’m calling, Mrs. Howell, I don’t want to do this over the phone but if you’re not sitting down, Mrs. Howell, I think you should.” Andie paused.
“Andrea, dear you’re scaring me but I’m sitting down.”
“Mrs. Howell, Caleb and Candice were involved in a robbery, they were shot late last night.”
“Oh, my, God, the baby?”
“She’s with me, I’ve had her since last night, they were having their weekly date night.” Andie explained.
“Oh, my God, Bruce and I will come out right away, are you okay, Andie?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine, I’ve got two little girls to take care of at the moment, they come first.” She whispered into the phone.
“We’ll be there soon, sweetie.” Mrs. Howell hung up the phone.
Andie threw her phone on the other side of the couch and checked on the girls to make sure they were still okay. She laid down on the couch and curled up into a ball as she stared blankly at the wall. She felt so numb, she hadn’t felt this numb in her life. What was she going to do now?