“Who would have ever guessed that my life would turn out this way?” Trisha thought to herself. Her life had started out like anyone else’s, pretty much. Uneventful childhood, normal teenager years, even her beginning as a young adult had been pretty normal.
She had grown up in Waukesha, moved to Chicago to attend college where she had earned her associates degree in business administration. She had to leave school before she could accomplish any higher degree because her scholarship had run out and she just couldn’t afford any more schooling. She was too independent to take money from her parents and didn’t want to sink herself into financial debt by taking out a student loan.
So she had found a decent job as a secretary at a local property management company and was taking courses online to get her master’s degree. She had a nice apartment and even some money in her savings account. She paid her bills on time and had a nice circle of friends that she got together with on a regular basis.
The only thing really lacking in her life was a man but she was in no rush. She rarely dated since she wasn’t as man needy as most of her friends. When they went out, most of her friends usually managed to hook up with someone while she caught a cab home by herself. But that was okay since she wasn’t in any rush to get tied down and the one night stand thing that some of her friends did just wasn’t her style.
She had dreams of traveling the world and wanted to get a few adventures under her belt before she settled down. She had decided a long time ago that if she was going to sleep with a man, then it was because they were serious about each other and she would have an engagement ring on her finger, if not a wedding ring. Then she had met Josh and her whole world had turned upside down.
They had met at her best friend, Naomi’s wedding. It had been a beautiful spring day and Naomi had pulled out all the stops, at her new mother in-laws instance, and the wedding was everything Naomi had ever dreamed of for that very special day no matter ow her new mother in law had tried to spoil it.
Mrs. Grainger didn’t care for Naomi one bit but she was determined that her son was going to have the wedding of her dreams. What she didn’t know was that his only dream had been to have Naomi as his wife and he made sure Naomi got whatever she wanted. Naomi was now married to her high school sweetheart, Phillip Grainger.
Trisha had never been an overly shy person but she had felt so self-conscious when Naomi’s new husband, Phillip, had introduced her to the handsome Joshua Baker. He had smiled at her and her face felt hot and she could have sworn that someone had filled her shoes with water, even though she was wearing sandals.
Josh had been so nice and quickly had her feeling more at ease then had spent the rest of the afternoon treating her like a princess. They had danced together like they had been doing it together for years and by the time he had asked her out to the movies the next night, she felt much more relaxed and had accepted.
They had casually dated for about four months and Trisha had told him a lot about herself. Josh, on the other hand, she now realized, had shared very little about himself. He had told her that he worked for a distribution company on the other side of Chicago from where she lived but never mentioned the name of the company and she had never thought to ask. It hadn’t seemed important to her then but now, thinking back on it, she could have kicked herself repeatedly for not being more inquisitive back then.
She had hesitated when he had asked her to go overseas with him to Thailand, which was high on her bucket list of places she wanted to see, on a buying trip but he told her that he didn’t expect anything more of her than she was willing to give.
He had said they could have separate rooms, if that’s what she wanted. He said the company they were buying from was providing tickets and accommodations for two people and that she would have to go to a dinner with him to meet the buyers but then she would be free to do all of the sightseeing she wanted to do while he was at work. He had told her that this buying trip was a big deal for him because, if it was successful, it would mean a big promotion for him.
Trisha had been so excited and even though it was only to be for a couple of days, Thailand had always been on her bucket list of places she wanted to go. He had even bought her some new luggage for their trip. “Put your clothes in the small one and put it inside the bigger one. We’ll only be there for a couple of days so you won’t need to carry much in the way of clothes but I might need the extra space to bring back samples.” He had told her.
She had never suspected that the “samples″ he would be bringing back would be filled with drugs, all craftily hidden of course, so she had never suspected a thing. Trisha had gotten up early every morning to go sightseeing and shopping. She bought gifts for everyone in her family and had a wonderful time. In the evening, she and Josh had dinner together and went to see some of the shows of the Thai dancers that Trisha thought were just so beautiful and graceful.
When it had been time for them to go home, he had taken over her small suitcase and filled it with his “merchandise”. When they had gotten back to the US, she had never even questioned it when he had taken it home with him. She hadn’t argued it since she had managed to fill up the larger suitcase with her clothes and all the souvenirs she had bought since she had thought she would be seeing him again. He hadn’t said he wouldn’t return it but since he had paid for the set, she hadn’t even questioned him about when she would get it back.
Trisha had been so shocked when the police showed up at her apartment a few days after they returned from their trip. They had the luggage tag from her small suitcase and asked if she was that person. When she said yes, the young officer started to reach for his handcuffs until she asked where they had gotten that from.
“Where did you get that from? It was on the suitcase I loaned to Josh to carry home his samples from our trip to Thailand.” Trisha replied. “Is Josh okay? What’s going on?”
“Hang on, Jeff. I don’t think she’s aware of anything.” The older of the two officers told his partner. “Ma’am, why don’t we sit down and I’ll explain.” He took her by the arm and led her into the living room of her gate house apartment and she sat on the sofa with him. “By the way, I’m Darrell Stevens and this is Officer Bobby Danson. May I call you Trisha?” The officer asked and when she nodded, he went on, “Chicago PD raided a drug house today and we found a suitcase with this luggage tag on it. There were no women involved in the bust so we are following up a lead. I need your boyfriend’s name, address and phone number. Do you have a picture of him?”
Almost in shock, Trisha answered his questions truthfully and took out her phone. She had taken a picture of Josh in front of the hotel where they had stayed in Thailand and it was still in her phone. She showed it to the officer and he asked if she could send it to his phone. She couldn’t barely see by this point, as her eyes filled with tears. “You mean that Josh is a criminal? But Naomi’s new husband introduced us.”
“Who is Naomi?” The officer asked.
“Naomi Grainger. She’s been my best friend since the first grade. I’ve known her husband, Phillip since high school. There is no way they would be involved in anything like this.” Trisha said.
“Maybe you need to find out how they know him then because you might not be the only one he is dragging into this nightmare.” Officer Danson told her.
“How is Josh involved in this?” Trisha wanted to know.
“We don’t know. The drug house was just hit this morning. I don’t know for sure that your Josh was even there but he’s involved somehow. There were a lot of men arrested and it will take a while to get them all sorted out.” Officer Stevens said.
They asked a lot of questions about how and when she had met Josh and she answered all of their questions truthfully, telling the officers about having met Josh at Naomi and Phillip’s wedding four months before.
“Have you had any suspicions about him being involved in any criminal activity?” Officer Danson asked.
“No, of course not. I wouldn’t have had anything to do with him if I even suspected that he was a criminal. I usually only see him on the weekends since we live and work on opposite sides of town.”
“Have you met any of his friends?” Officer Danson asked.
“No, we usually go on our dates alone.” She replied and it suddenly occurred to her that she hadn’t met anyone he knows, even in passing.
“Have you ever been to his home?” Officer Danson asked.
“No, he usually comes here to pick me up or we meet somewhere after work.”
“Do you know his address?” Officer Danson asked, with a note of disbelief in his voice.
“No. I’ve never been to his house. He told me he lives not far from his job but I don’t even know the name of the company he works for. He just told me it’s a distributorship on the other side of town.” Trisha said, close to tears.
Trisha already felt like an idiot and the young cop made it worse when he said “You must be the most uninquisitive woman I’ve ever met.” And that was when the flood gates opened. She began crying uncontrollably and had to excuse herself. She ran to her tiny bathroom and sat down on the toilet and tried to get herself under control.
She could hear the older policeman scolding the younger one but it did nothing to help her stop crying. After a few minutes, her sobs turned to hiccups and she cupped her hand to drink some water from the sink. She grabbed a washcloth and wet it then wiped her face before she returned to the living room.
“I’m sorry. I just feel like such a fool. I guess I never should have assumed that just because Phillip introduced us that Josh was going to turn out to be one of the good guys like Phillip but honestly, Josh has never been anything but nice to me.”
“Well, he may be an innocent in all of this and was used as a mule without even knowing what it was he was getting into but I would seriously doubt it. He has to have known that he was carrying illegal merchandise but what I would like to know is how did he get it past customs without getting caught? Can you tell us how things went when you went through customs?”
“Well considering it was the first time I’d ever had to go through customs, I felt like they were being overly noisy and I’m glad I didn’t go more crazy shopping because the customs fees I had to pay on the few items I did buy cost me more than what I paid for them to begin with.”
“What did you buy, if you don’t mind me asking?” Officer Stevens asked.
“Mostly fabric. They have beautiful silks and I just couldn’t resist. A few souvenirs like that incense burner over there, that wooden elephant. Oh and Josh gave me that pillow you are leaning up against. He was carrying back a whole suitcase of things like that. He put them in those bags that you seal with a vacuum cleaner and packed them in the suitcase he had bought for me. He said he was using the pillows to cradle stuff that was breakable. That one was the one that wouldn’t fit, so he gave it to me.” Trisha told him.
Officer Danson pulled the pillow out from behind his back. It was a beautiful green silk brocade on one side and fine blue cotton with a picture of an elephant done in different shades of gold thread on the other. He seemed to be feeling the weight of it and then he started smashing it around with his hands. After a few seconds, he said “Bingo” and pulled out a knife and started to cut it open when Trisha said “Hey! Wait a minute.”
“Ma’am, I feel something solid in here. We need to open it up and see if it contains something that shouldn’t be in here.” Officer Danson said and Trisha felt her stomach lurch.
“And you feel cutting into it with a pocket knife is the wise way to go?” Officer Stevens asked, as he shook his head at the rookie. “Give me that.” He snatched the pillow from the younger officer then looked at Trisha and said “I take it you are a seamstress. Do you by chance have a seam ripper?”
Both Trisha and Officer Danson gave him looks of surprise, so he explained “My wife sews and she’s constantly misplacing hers.”
“Yes, I do.” Trisha said, with a slight smile as she stood up to go get hers. Her second bedroom was set up as a sewing room and she often made her own clothes. She found her seam ripper and returned to the living room.
“Here, you are probably going to be better at it than me.” Officer Stevens said and handed her the pillow. Trisha made short work of opening one of the side seams on the pillow and then handed it back to Officer Stevens. She wanted nothing to do with it anymore. Officer Stevens reached in and pulled out a couple of handfuls of stuffing before he found the small bundle that was tightly wrapped with plastic about the size of a bar of soap. To say that Trisha was surprised would have been an understatement. Shocked was more like it.
“How many of these pillows did you say he brought back?” Officer Stevens asked. He didn't say anything but he had not seen the actual contents of the suitcases that had been confiscated. He and officer Danson had just been given the luggage tag and told to check her out. He couldn't help but wonder about the condition of the other pillows that would have been in the suitcase.
“A dozen, I think, but I don’t know for sure. He had them all vacuum wrapped for packing when I got back to the hotel that day. I actually found this one laying on the floor on the other side of the bed. It was almost underneath his bed and I kicked it with my foot.
He seemed a little upset about it at first but then he asked if I could fit it in with my clothes in the bigger suitcase. I had plenty of room so I said sure. I put it in one of the shopping bags and put it in the bottom of my suitcase before I packed everything but I still had to pay $15 in custom fees for it.”
“Fifteen dollars in custom fees for a block of heroine that would probably go for over twenty thousand on the street.” Officer Danson said and they saw her go from a sickly sort of green to white as a sheet.
“Oh, my God. I think I’m going to be sick.” Trisha said and made a mad dash for the bathroom where she was violently ill for a few minutes.
“Man, you will never make it as a diplomat, that’s for damned sure.” Officer Stevens scowled at the young rookie officer. They heard the water in the bathroom sink go on and a few seconds later Trisha came back down the hall, holding on to the wall.
“I’m sorry. I’m forgetting my manners. Would either of you like something to drink? I think I have some soda or juice in the fridge.” Trisha said.
“No, thank you, but you go ahead if you want.” Officer Stevens told her.
Trisha detoured into the kitchen and quickly made herself a glass of sprite to hopefully settle her upset stomach. She leaned up against her kitchen counter and took a sip. Her knees still felt like limp noodles and she had a hollow spot where her heart used to be and her stomach felt like it was trying to fill the space. She took a few deep breaths and pushed herself away from the counter and returned to the living room.
Officer Stevens gave her a look of sympathy and the young rookie looked apologetic but he didn’t say anything more. She returned to her chair and asked “So what happens now? Are you going to arrest me?”
“No. I don’t believe you knew anything about any of it until now. I do feel it might be in your best interest to get out of town for a while until we can catch up with him and the guys in this drug ring. Guys like this are not going to be very forgiving if they find out that you turned this over to us.” Officer Stevens said.
“Are you saying I could be in some kind of danger from Josh?” Trisha asked.
“Maybe not from him directly but from the people he’s associated with for sure. I’m kind of surprised that they haven’t shown up here looking for it before now.” Officer Stevens said. “When was the last time you talked to this Josh?”
“The day we got back from our trip, four days ago.” Trisha said and realized that it was unusual not to have heard from him for so long. He usually called every other night, just to ask about her day or to make plans for their next date. But since they got back, he hadn’t called or texted at all and she had been beginning to wonder if maybe he was upset with her about something.
“Well, if at all possible, I would get out of town until we find out for sure if he’s even involved or not.” Officer Stevens said.
“Well, I guess I could go stay for the weekend with my folks. It’s been a while since I’ve been home.” Trisha said.
“Ma’am, this might take more than just a weekend. I need you to stay out of sight for an extended period of time. I would also make them aware that if anyone comes looking for you, to say that they haven’t heard from you.”
“But what about my job? I can’t just up and quit. I had a hard enough time landing this job. I don’t want to give it up.” Trisha said, indignantly.
“Where do you work?”
“A property management office. We rent houses and apartments as well as commercial properties.”
“Is there a chance your boss would let you stay in one of their apartments for a while?”
“Not without paying rent and I don’t want to live in one of their units. I like this one. I’ve lived here for over 3 years and I finally have it how I want it. I’ve got great landlords and neighbors.” Trisha said stubbornly.
“Well, the best I could do for you, if you stay here, is to have a car patrol by daily. I can’t assign someone to watch over you every day and night. We just don’t have that kind of man power and I’m sorry to say that, at this point, you don’t really qualify for witness protection since you don’t have any information about the crime or the criminals involved in this. I can’t express strongly enough that you could be in danger if they come looking for this.”
“Why can’t I just call him, break off our relationship and tell him that you have the drugs?” Trisha asked.
Just then the radio each officer had on his shoulder began to make noise and then a robotic sounding voice came on announcing something but Trisha’s mind was trying to think up what she would say to Josh when Officer Stevens’ voice broke her concentration by saying “10-4. We’re just wrapping up here. We’ll be there in about half an hour.”
“Miss Trisha, we have to leave now. Someone found the body of a man that they believe is involved in the drug ring we’ve been tracking. We’ve got to go but please, make arrangements to get out of town for as long as you can and if you have any trouble, please give me a call.” He said as he handed her a business card.
“I still don’t know what I’m supposed to say to Josh if he calls.” Trisha said as she followed them to the door.
“If I were you, I’d just ignore the call for now. We’ll be in touch.” Officer Stevens said with a wave as they left.