Chapter Twelve: Information Station
Ariel looked through the peephole in her door, and her breath caught in her chest. She knew it wouldn’t be The Sapphire Dreamer; he shows up in her backyard. But she hadn’t figured it to be the other man in her life. Ariel took a deep breath and opened the door.
“Detective Gunnar.” She said with a smile as she held the door open for him.
“Ariel.” He said as he entered her house.
“What’s wrong? You look worried.” She said as her eyebrows furrowed.
“I hate to do this.” He said as he turned to her and watched her close and lock the door.
“What is it?” She asked as she studied him.
“My captain told me to keep you out of it, but I have found that I will need your investigative skills.” He said as he watched her.
“Oh?” She asked, intrigued.
“Yeah, we’ve been working on a case for the last few weeks and have come up with bupkis. We know the ringleader’s name but can’t find where he’s hiding the women.”
“Hiding the women?” She asked as she moved into her kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. She had this feeling they would be up most of the night with this one.
“This man is running a human trafficking organization. Mostly women and children. Selling them to the highest bidder and not caring what happens to them.”
She frowned as she set mugs on the island. “And what do you want from me?”
“Talk to your contacts; find out anything you can.” He said as he watched her pour coffee into their mugs. “Hell, contact The Sapphire Dreamer and ask for his help. I don’t care, there’s a shipment of women coming in next week, and I want to catch them in the act and save some lives.” He said as he accepted the mug from her.
She watched him as they sat at her dining room table. “I don’t have his number, you know.” She said as she continued to watch him.
“I know.” He said with a sigh. “I just hoped you would have a way to get in contact with him…”
“You know, he is going to kill this man in charge.” She said as she took a sip of her coffee.
He took a deep breath. “I was hoping we could do this without bloodshed.”
“We’ll see.” She said with a nod.
“You can contact him?”
“I didn’t say that.” She said as she set her mug down and went to her desk.
She pulled out two files, then took them to the table and spread the contents out for him to read.
He stared at them, then looked up at her.
She shrugged. “I worked a similar case a few years back. A man named Brayden Riley ran it.”
“That’s our guy.” He said with a nod.
“Figured as much. He was never caught. I’m surprised he’s back here with everything The Sapphire Dreamer has done to stop people like him.”
“You make him sound like he’s better than the criminals he’s killing.” He said as he looked up at her from the papers on the table.
She sighed as she sat back in the chair. “Because I believe The Sapphire Dreamer is. But that’s neither here nor there.”
“Well, if we will capture this asshole, I guess we’ll need a man like him…”
“I will only contact him if you promise me that you and your men won’t arrest him.” She said as she eyed him.
He stared at her, then sighed. “I promise.” He said as he held up two fingers. “Scout’s honor.”
“Were you a Scout?” She asked as she eyed him.
He smiled. “Actually, I was.”
“Cool.” She said with a smile. “I was a Brownie.”
Luka left Ariel’s house at three-thirty in the morning. Exhausted, she slipped outside into her backyard and sat in her chair. She wasn’t sure he was out there tonight, but sometimes she got this feeling he was watching her.
Like he was making sure no one came after her.
“If you’re out there.” She said in a whisper. “I could use your help with this case.”
She sighed when she heard nothing, then leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. She was so exhausted. Her head tilted to the side as she fell asleep.
The masked man watched Ariel as she slept in the chair in her backyard. Crazy woman, what was she thinking, sleeping in her backyard? He easily jumped over her fence, then moved to her sleeping form in the chair.
He sighed as he lifted her into his arms. He had heard her conversation with the detective and her plea when she had come out here. He shook his head as he carried her into her house.
He moved over to the couch and placed her on it, then pulled the light blanket from the back and laid it over her. If it weren’t her asking for help, he would just ignore it and figure it out on his own.
But he can’t resist helping her.
He leaned down and kissed her forehead before he turned to the coffee table and set a box and card down on top of it, then took a deep breath and left the house, locking the door behind him.
He looked up at the night sky and shook his head. What is this woman doing to him?
Ariel opened her eyes and looked up at the ceiling. How had she gotten inside? The last thing she remembered was falling asleep in the chair outside.
Ariel looked at her coffee table and sat up when she noticed the box. She reached out and picked up the box and watched as a card fell to the floor. She set the box back on the table and reached down to pick up the card and read it. It was a typed letter, rather than a handwritten one.
This is to chase away the dreadful dreams.
What? She thought as she picked up the box and opened it.
Inside the box, among colorful wrapping paper, sat a beautiful dream catcher. She pulled it out and looked at the center. There wasn’t a gem, but what looked like a bear’s tooth.
She looked at the card again.
How does he know I have unpleasant dreams?
She shook her head as she picked up the box and carried it to her room.
She pinned the dream catcher above her bed, then stood back to look at it. It was beautiful and looked great in her room. She put the card into the box and placed it into the bottom drawer of her knight stand.
She jumped when her house phone rang. She quickly picked up the phone on her nightstand and looked at the collar ID. It displayed her own number.
What the hell?
“Hello?” She said as she answered the phone.
“Yes, I will help.”
She froze. The masked man had heard her last night.
“How are you calling me with my number?” She asked as she looked around the room.
“Go to your living room.”
She paused before she opened her bedroom door and strolled down the hall to her living room. She stared through her back door at the masked man, who stood on the other side, holding her living room phone to his ear.
“I will contact you when I find some information. Until then.” He hung up and set her phone on the table outside, then disappeared.
She ran to her backdoor and unlocked it, then ran out to the table. The man had called her house with her own phone. She had heard of house phones being able to call each other, but she had never figured out how to do it.
Ariel looked around her backyard. There was nothing to show he was ever there. She shook her head as she took her phones into the house. He had said yes to helping her. But what if that was a horrible mistake, and the detective went back on his word and arrested him?
She shook her head. She trusts Detective Gunnar.
She sighed; she’s in a crazy triangle here with two men. One man is handsome and tall, with amazing blue eyes. The other man is also tall, with creepy red eyes.
But she would side with either of them or even both of them.
Oh, Lord, two men from two sides of the track. What is she going to do when one went after the other? If they force her to choose, she will throw a brick at each of them.
Maybe that will jog some sense into them.
She laughed as she went back to her bedroom to get ready for the day.
“What are you working on now?” Trenton asked Ariel as he approached her desk.
“An old one.” She said as she held the folder out to him.
He looked at the folder with a whistle. “I thought we put this to bed a long time ago. There’s nothing more…”
“Detective Gunnar and his people are working it again. And he asked for my help.” She said as she took the folder from him.
Trenton grinned. “Well, by all means, don’t let me keep you. But I want an excellent report when it’s over.”
“You know it.” She said with a grin as she went back to going through the old files on the case.
She wondered if she still has good standings with some people she had contacted back then. She thumbed through the folder until she found their names and numbers.
It was good to get into actually investigating again, the last few she’d done; she had solved easily. She hadn’t had to put on her thinking cap.
She had been in the middle of it anyway, getting one part of her body or another, mangled. She shook her head. Hopefully, that would not happen this time.
She picked up her work phone and dialed the first number on the page. Out of order, she placed the phone down. One of these people has to be around still. She called each number; until she finally came up with a winner.
A young woman who was from another country had come here legally and gotten her citizenship. She had had to smuggle her sister into the country but never saw her again.
“Yes.” The soft voice said, on the other end.
“This is Ariel Lawson. Please don’t hang up. They’ve reopened the investigations on Brayden Riley…”
“Please, I don’t want to talk about that.” Meranda said as she held back her tears.
“Please, Meranda, we are hoping to put the man away, I have real detectives on my side this time…”
She heard Meranda take in a deep breath and let it out. “Meet me at the state park in thirty minutes.” She said, then the line was dead.
Ariel smiled as she hung up the phone. Hopefully, Meranda will remember something new. She grabbed her coat and purse and left for the park.
When Ariel got to the park, she noticed children were playing on the playground, having fun, while parents sat on benches or stood below slides.
Ariel turned to look at the beautiful woman she hasn’t seen in years. Her enormous stomach told her that things have changed in the woman’s life.
“I can’t stay long.” Meranda said as she laid her hand over her stomach.
“That’s okay.” Ariel said as she motioned for her to sit with her on the bench.
Meranda looked around, then sat next to her.
“I see life has taken a change for the better.” Ariel said as she smiled at Meranda’s stomach.
“Yes.” Meranda said with a smile. “I met him a few months after you closed your case on my sister’s disappearance. He’s a teacher at the local college. He dotes on me.”
“I can see why you don’t want to dredge this up again.” Ariel said with a frown.
Meranda sighed. “If you can find what happened to Hannah, it will make my life complete. I can have closure, and the family she wanted me to have.”
Ariel nodded. “Can you refresh everything you remember and anything you may have thought of after?”
“I will give you everything I can remember. And when you capture the bastard, I want you to break his nose.”
Ariel laughed softly. “Trust me, with the people I have working on this; he’s not getting away again.”