Guilty of Innocence

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Chapter 11-Uninvited Guests

“Honey, I’m home!” Chad called as he stepped from the elevator and into the room, glancing around for Nicky as Jared hurried in after him. They were both soaked from the rain now pounding the roof and windows of the hotel. He frowned as Jared hurriedly pulled his laptop from his wet bag to set it on the main room table.

“Nicky?” Chad called, stepping toward the closed bedroom door. “You go back to bed, babe?”

He pushed the door open, effortlessly as he stood in the threshold. His eyes widened when he looked into the room, his feet planted in their spot as his heart raced in panic.

“Chad Stiles?” Detective Parker Villa questioned, one hand on Nicky’s shoulder as another woman stood in the room, her hand hovering over her sidearm as she glared at him, glancing only briefly to Jared when he slowly stepped next to Chad. “I’m the lead Detective on your parents’ case, Parker Villa. This is Detective Katherine Johnson. We got the murder weapon you left.”

“Let Nicky go,” Chad demanded, making all eyes shoot wide at him. “She’s got nothing to do with this. Neither does Jared.”

“You’re in no position to make demands, kid,” Kat spat, making him glare at her.

“Kat, take Nicky and Jared into the main room,” Parker ordered, letting his hand fall from Nicky’s shoulder as Kat looked to him with a wide-eyed gaze. “I’d like to talk to Chad alone.”

Nicky ran to Chad to throw herself into his arms as Kat turned to face Parker fully, and Chad held Nicky close.

“Sir?” Kat frowned, glancing to the blonde and not moving from her spot. “You sure?”

“You heard me,” Parker replied then jerked his head toward the door.

Kay nodded reluctantly, heading toward the main room, ordering, “Come on, kids.”

Jared hesitantly followed as Nicky shuddered, refusing to let go of Chad, even when he tried gently pushing her away.

“I didn’t call them,” she whispered into his shoulder.

“I know,” he murmured as she looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “Go sit with Jared.”

“I don’t like that woman,” she grumbled before slipping her hands to his chest and adding, “And I don’t wanna leave you.”

“You’re not, babe,” he smiled, pressing a kiss to her forehead and nodding toward the door. “Go on. I’ll only be a minute.”

Nicky sniffled before nodding, glaring over her shoulder at Parker before shuffling out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

“How’d you find me?” Chad demanded, glaring at the policeman who sat on the foot of the bed.

“I’m a detective, Chad,” Parker smirked with a slight shrug. “I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I couldn’t find you.”

“What do you want?” Chad continued, unmoving.

“I’m here to help,” Villa replied, making Chad’s eyes widen. “Don’t look so surprised. I had a hunch about you, and I’m following it. Why would you hand me the murder weapon on a silver platter after a whole year, accuse another person of killing your parents and then come here, out of the blue?”

“Because this guy killed my parents,” Chad ground out, his shock subsiding.

“You sound sure about that.”

“I am.”

How are you so sure?”

“He told me.”

Parker’s eyes widened as Chad instantly began explaining everything that had happened from the first phone call from Nemo to the sighting at the gardens.

“I didn’t go to the cops because you already have it in your head that I did it. You wouldn’t have believed me.”

“You don’t know that,” Parker snapped. “Kid, haven’t you heard the phrase ‘Innocent until proven guilty’? We don’t have evidence for you or against you.”

“Tell that to your girlfriend out there,” Chad shot back.

“Look, everybody else may feel that way, but they don’t move without my say-so. The detail on your house was for your protection, and then you take off the way you did. You think it’s you against the world, but it isn’t, Chad.”

“I don’t care,” Chad ground out. “It’s me against this guy, now. You wanna help, detective? Take Jared and Nicky back. There’s nothing more they can do here.”

“You don’t make the rules, Chad,” Parker replied, shaking his head. “No one’s going home yet. I’ll call your uncle and tell him we found you, but we’re not going anywhere without you.”

Chad glared at Parker for a moment before giving a nod then saying, “I have a condition. It‘s not negotiable.”

“What is it?”

“No matter what, whether I run off, or we’re separated for whatever reason, protect Nicky before me, got it, Villa?”

Parker couldn’t help but smirk before nodding, “I swear on my badge, Chad, I’ll protect her.”


Meanwhile...

Kat sat on the arm of one of the cushioned chairs in the main room, her foot propped up on the edge of the small table in front of the couch where Nicky and Jared quietly sat. The detective was chomping on a piece of gum while flipping a butterfly knife she’d pulled from her pocket open and closed several times. Nicky glared at her the entire time as Jared sat with his head slightly bowed, twiddling his thumbs in his lap.

He glanced between the two women before shifting closer to Nicky and whispering, “We almost had him.”

Nicky jerked a frown toward Jared just as Kat flipped her butterfly knife shut and looked at the two with a suspicious glare.

“You mean…Nemo?” Nicky breathed, quietly and Jared nodded, but before she could ask any other questions, Kat butted in.

“Hey,” she called with a nod, drawing a glare from Nicky and Jared glanced shyly over his shoulder as Kat demanded, “What’re you two whispering about?”

“If we’d wanted you to hear, we wouldn’t be whispering, would we?” Nicky shot back, making Kat glare at her and lower her foot from the table to lean forward on the arm of the chair.

“Don’t sass me, kid,” Kat retorted. “I’m a cop, ya know? So whatever you have to say that pertains to this case, you’re gonna say it out loud so I can hear it.”

“I don’t take orders from you,” Nicky shot back, Jared still remaining silent. “And I’m not a kid.”

“No,” Kat smirked, leaning back to prop her foot up again. “Just a love-struck teenager. The worst kind of teen to be.”

“If you weren’t a cop—!”

“Ladies, ladies,” Jared finally spoke up through a nervous laugh, accompanied with a smile as he turned to hold his hands up to both of them in surrender. “There’s no need for name calling and empty threats. Detective Johnson, I’m sure Chad is discussing the particulars with your boss as we speak, so you’ll hear everything you need to and Nicky…” He looked to her with a reassuring smile, “maybe I should let Chad explain everything to you.”

All eyes shot to the bedroom door when Chad and Parker stepped out and the boy did not look pleased at all as he stepped to the side, Parker stepping toward Kat as she stood from her spot.

“We’re staying here, Johnson,” Parker reported as Chad marched toward Nicky, she and Jared looking to him with wide eyes at Parker’s words.

“Sir?” Kat frowned in wonder. “I thought we were taking him back to California with us.”

“I’ll explain everything on the way back to our hotel,” Parker replied, heading toward the elevator past Chad. He stopped to set a hand on the boy’s shoulder, making Chad look up at him with a scowl. “I’m trusting you not to do anything without calling us. I’m not saying to ask our permission, just let us know if you get a lead on your own, alright?”

“Fine,” Chad muttered, shrugging the detective’s hand off his shoulder. “I’ll tell you if he calls again.”

Parker only nodded before heading after Kat who was holding the elevator for him to take them to the lobby. The three teens waited until the doors were shut before Nicky stepped directly in front of Chad, setting her jaw as she glared at him.

“Jared just told me you almost ‘had’ him!” she snapped as Chad looked down at her with wide eyes, the source of his scowl now gone. “What does that mean?! You chased Nemo?! You could’ve been killed! He could’ve killed you! Don’t you care that I was sitting here waiting for you, worried out of my mind?! I swear, Chad, do you ever think before you do something?!”

Chad said nothing before gripping Nicky’s hand and marching back into the bedroom as Jared sat himself in front of his laptop again. Chad slammed the door shut and shoved Nicky against it, looming over her as she stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes, afraid to make a move or a sound.

“First of all, Jared should’ve kept his mouth shut,” Chad ground out, staring his grey eyes into her emeralds. “Second of all, I tried to wake you up this morning before we left and you just groaned and rolled over. I was nice enough to send you breakfast, and this is the thanks I get? Yes, we ran into Nemo, and how the hell am I supposed to get the answers I need about what the hell is goin’ on here if I don’t take the risk and chase the bastard, huh, Nicky?! You tell me what I was supposed to do?!”

She stared up at him, trembling in fear, but she wasn’t afraid of Chad. It was the look in his eyes. It was the same look he’d had when he’d told Nemo he was going to find him. She hated that look, but she couldn’t find it in her to be angry with him. Fear was all she could feel at that moment. But when Chad’s gaze suddenly softened and he sighed, bowing his head before turning to step toward the bed, she felt her heart clench in guilt that she’d yelled at him. Her stomach turned when he sat at the foot of the bed heavily, his hands holding his head as his elbows sat on his knees.

“I’m sorry, babe,” he murmured, not looking at her. “I know you’re worried about me, and I shouldn’t be mad at you. That cop showing up just…messed me up, I guess.”

Nicky swallowed, saying nothing as she stepped toward him to lift a hand and stroke it through his damp hair. One of his hands on his face came up and gripped her hand lightly to pull her closer as he lifted his head, his other hand throwing itself around her waist to force her to stand between his knees. She gasped in surprise but didn’t resist him as his other hand wrapped around her waist and he snuggled his face into her abdomen.

“I don’t know what to do now,” he shuddered. “He’s gonna find out the cops are here, and he’s gonna run. What if he gets better at hiding the signal when he calls? What if he doesn’t make contact again and disappears and we never find him? I’ve got nothing, Nicky. Nothing. He’s probably gone by now.”

She didn’t know what to say as he pulled her closer by her waist and back and she felt something warm and wet soaking through her pajama shirt and onto her belly as he snuggled closer to her, his shoulders shaking. All she could think of doing was wrapping her arms around his head and hugging him as best she could to let him sob, silently. She knew he didn’t like it when people made a big deal over his tears, so she only hugged him close and let him cry for what seemed like an eternity before he finally shifted to pull away from her. Her hands lowered to his shoulders as his hands rested on her hips and he frowned at her shirt.

“Aw, man,” he murmured, nasally before sniffling and lifting a hand to examine her shirt as she looked down. “I got tears and snot all over your shirt.”

Nicky couldn’t help but giggle, shooting his watery gaze up to hers and she used her fingers to brush away a rogue tear from his cheeks.

“I don’t care,” she assured him in a whisper and he smiled before giving a sigh, falling back onto the bed and taking Nicky with him. She gave a started shout before grunting when she landed on his chest and giggling when they came face to face and he smiled weakly at her. “What now?”

Chad sighed again and hugged her closer as she shifted to be more comfortable and shrugged, shaking his head, “I don’t know.”

“What did Detective Villa say?” she wondered.

“He said he’d have his tech guys run the records,” he replied. “The whole cop investigating thing, but I doubt they’ll find anything. He dumped his phone in a pond before we could get to him, and he’s probably left Seattle by now.”

“Kinda odd, that he made it so easy for you to find him, don’t you think?” she mused, deftly playing with the collar on his jacket.

“He didn’t think I’d have Jared for help,” Chad shrugged. “Without him, we wouldn’t be here right now. We’d still be in California.”

“Yeah,” Nicky sighed, hugging his chest as she snuggled against him. “Thank God for Jared Walker, huh?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “Thank God.”


Meanwhile...

Jared typed rapidly at his laptop, glancing up at the bedroom door every few strokes before turning his attention back to the scream. He stopped and sighed tiredly, slipping a hand under his glasses to rub his eyes and face, making the frames sit crooked over his nose for a moment before he fixed them. A soft ding sound from the speakers caught his attention and he read the small text in the instant message box on the screen.

Do any of them suspect?

The teen swallowed before typing into the keyboard again.

No, but it doesn’t mean they won’t find out sooner or later. The cops are here now.

I said no police, Jared.

It’s not my fault. Chad left the knife with them and they followed him.

It was too close today, Jared. Don’t let it happen again.

Yes, Sir. I’ll try.

Don’t try. Do it, or your parents won’t be home when you get back, understand?

Jared swallowed as he read the last line before his trembling hands went back to the keyboard once more.

Yes, Mr. Nemo. I understand.


The Holiday Inn...

“I need the phone records for this number,” Parker spoke into his cell phone and read the number he’d written on his hand. “This is urgent, Lou. Got it? I need ‘em in a few hours. And get Trace to run that number through their database and find out where any restricted calls might’ve come from. I’ll need the records for the entire Stiles household, too. Any phones they used, house and cells, got it? Good. Call me when you’ve got everything. Bye.”

Parker hung up his cell phone as Kat sat on the couch, playing with her knife again, but this time she wasn’t chewing any gum as she glared at him.

“You really believe this kid, Boss?” she wondered, flipping her knife. “I mean, there’s more evidence against him than for him.”

“Circumstantial evidence, Kat,” Parker replied, heading toward the kitchen for a bottle of water in the fridge. “Just because his alibi didn’t check out doesn’t mean he did it. This case needs forensics. No prosecutor is gonna take this to court if all we have are witness testimonies but not one shred of science to prove it. He could’ve ditched school and gone to the movies.”

“I’ve seen cases taken to court for less,” Kat recalled, smugly.

“He’s sixteen,” Parker continued. “Does he look like a killer to you, Kat? One look at him and the jury will be one over by sympathy. Who knows if they try him as an adult? Besides, would you wanna be the one to send the wrong killer to jail? Especially if that supposed killer is a kid? I don’t.”

“So you think he’s innocent.”

“I’m following my gut and my experience. He says somebody called him out of the blue a few days ago. What reason would he have to lie if he knows we think he’s guilty? If he’s lying he would’ve come to us back when the case first started with this instead of waiting a whole year to come forward.”

“It all seems a little too dramatic to me, Boss,” Kat admitted, still playing with her knife. “Like something out of a movie. The kid ain’t Jason Bourne.”

“No, he’s not,” Parker nodded, taking a swig of water before continuing, “That makes me believe his story all the more.”

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