“What do you mean he made bail?” I stuttered into the phone. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“He must have had his lawyer on speed dial because he met us at the station,” Officer Stevens informed me.
I couldn’t stop pacing the waiting room. “This is just bullshit. What am I supposed to do? Should I just sit around and wait for Stalky McStalker to show up at my door again?”
Officer Stevens let out a sigh. “Will you take the security detail now?”
“Fine.” I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having a bodyguard again. At least it’s not going to frighten off Greg, like it does with other guys. “Who’s it going to be?”
“Does it matter?” he asked sarcastically.
“Has it ever?” Greg took the phone from me before I could come up with something worse.
“Your dad wants to see you,” he said before walking off.
The door to the recovery room swayed open exposing me to an overly sunny room. My dad, lying in his bed, looked older than I expected.
“Hi, Daddy.” He could still make me feel like I was five years old.
“Hey, Baby Girl.” He smiled.
“How’s your arm?” I sat on the edge of the bed. I wasn’t sure how to bring up anything from the past few hours.
“Greg is taking you to get a gun.” It was good to see the bullet didn’t stop him from giving orders.
“Are you kidding? You know how I feel about those things.” It wasn’t so much that guns bothered me. It was noise they made.
“Caroline, there’s no arguing. It’s happening.” His stern look bore right through me.
“Fine. But I’m getting a dog.” Dogs were the subject of our never-ending fight since mom died.
“No small yappers.” He sipped his water. “You need something big and loud to scare people away.”
“You know that chihuahuas bite more people than any other dog?” I retorted.
“Did you know that I could kick one across a football field?”
“You wouldn’t dare. You would succumb to its cuteness.” It was fun to banter like nothing was wrong. “How much longer till you’re a free man?”
“They want to see how the surgery went. There’s a possibility for another one.“ He spoke as if he was getting his hair cut.
“Why don’t you get out of here? There’s no reason for you to be moping around this place. It’s already depressing enough.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said sarcastically before tackling him into a bear hug.
As I was walking out the door, I noticed his reason for suddenly shooing me away. I said, “Hello” as a nurse in her early fifties shuffled past me and took my place next to my father’s bed. I gave my dad the eye and all he said was, “Bye, honey.”
As I left the room I could hear his deep laugh behind me.
“I wonder if that’s Janet?” Greg asked, startling me. “Sorry. Thought you knew I was back.”
“It’s okay.” I relaxed my fists. “Who’s Janet?”
“A recent divorcee with no kids who just loves a man in uniform,” he repeated doing his best impression of my father.
It was weirding me out how much Greg had changed. “How much time have you been spending with him?”
“How about that puppy?” he asked.
I squinted at him. What were those two plotting? "Aren't you supposed to get me a gun?”
“That was your father’s idea. Besides, I just got you back and I’d really love to keep you alive.” He didn’t even brace himself when I swatted at him. “I have enough guns for the both of us.”
Greg seemed to have the dog situation planned out way more than I did. The only dogs I had ever been around were my dad’s hunting dogs. I bet if he kept them in the house instead of the kennel out back, they would have eaten Elliott and this whole mess would be settled.
Greg flicked his blinker on. “Mike is meeting us at the at pound.”
“That’s my undercover cop?” I laughed. “What kind of b.s. is that? It’s just going to be high school all over again.”
“Who better to guard you than Officer Stevens? He already knows your house and every bit of your insanity.” Greg turned into the parking lot just as Mike was stepping out of his black Mustang.
“You finally ready to get that dog of yours?” He greeted me with a hug.
These were going to be the strangest few months leading up to Elliott's arraignment. “Oh, you know it. How did you get this detail? Isn’t it under your pay grade?”
“Nah. Babysitting the Honorable Judge Crommett’s little angel will probably be the most dangerous job I’ve held.” At least that's what I thought he said. Most of it was drowned out by the loud barking.
I hated coming to these places. I wanted to bring home every animal in there. We walked down three rows of dogs, petting them and handing out treats as we went, but were unable to pick one.
Greg loved all the bully breeds and there were so many to choose from. As I walked past a dog that was jumping so high that he was banging into the roof of his cage, I saw a smallish dog resting in her bed. She was the only dog that hadn’t jumped up or barked at the gate. Her tag said she was a two-year-old beagle-chihuahua mix named Daisy. I put my hand up to the gate and called her name.
“She’s too small,” Greg told me as the black and white pup approached me and licked my hand.
“She might be better than a giant dog. Smaller ones bond quicker and most places around here only allow the little ones in.” Mike stopped Greg from saying anything else. “Besides, what’s stopping you from getting your own dog?”
I got an attendant to bring Daisy out to the play area. I was hoping that she would wake up a bit, but the moment I saw her prancing next to her caretaker I fell in love. Not once did she pull on the leash and, the moment she was unleashed, her nose went to the ground sniffing everything she could.
I squealed in delight. “Yep. She’s mine.”
I bent down and, once Daisy got a good sniff of my hands and face, she planted herself next to me as if she approved of me as well. Greg found a tennis ball and threw it across the pen, but instead of chasing after it, Daisy paused and looked up at me. It wasn’t until I gave her a “Go get it!” did she take off after the ball. Her sudden burst of energy surprised us all.
“Why is she here?” I asked the attendant.
“Her owner was killed in a drunk-driving accident and her next of kin didn’t want her.” The woman could have tried sounding more heart broken, but I was already sold.
“Can I take her home tonight?” I asked.
“There’s usually a forty-eight hour hold-”
I interrupted her as I pulled out my father’s checkbook. “What if I made a sizeable donation?”
She folded her fingers around the check. “I’m sure we could work something out.”
I felt victorious sitting on the couch with Daisy using my leg as her pillow. Mike had pulled out Elliott’s case file and we were going over everything again. He was bent on proving that Elliott knew me from somewhere else besides the dating site.
“So, until you created the profile, you had never seen or heard of Elliott Hawking before?” Mike asked for the fifth time.
“Oh my god, no!” I said too loudly. Daisy scowled at me. “Sorry.”
Mike called out. “Greg you need to feed her. She’s getting moody.”
“Like I told the other officer, Elliott was a former Calc professor at USF and he was trying to get picked up by Lynn, which is why he moved down south.” I watched as Mike’s face scrunched up. “What?”
“When did you go to UF again?” he asked.
“I graduated in 2012, a little late since I traveled too much.” I was trying to think back but nothing stood out to me.
“Caroline, he has no records for teaching anywhere other than UF. How did they look over this?” Mike was pissed. He was punching numbers into his phone as he left the room.
My dad’s hounds started barking in their kennel. Greg had just fed them so they weren’t hungry. Then Daisy started to growl and the fur on her back stood on end. I looked around but both Greg and Mike were missing. Daisy ran to the front door snarling. I thought for a second that the guys were playing a trick on me and then something slammed into the front door rattling the living room window. I screamed and scrambled for Daisy. She started barking furiously as we ran from the room.
In the dining room the curtains were drawn open and the light from inside made it impossible to see who was out in the dark. A howl came from the other side of the house. How many were out there?
Greg found me crouched under the table with Daisy guarding me. She snapped at him as he tried to reach for me.
“I’m not the bad guy,” he told her.
Greg pulled us from under the table. We heard Mike yell “Stop!” outside the window. Without warning three shots went off. I heard tires squealing as they kicked up gravel from the driveway.
Greg pressed himself against the wall nearest to the window. “Mike, you alright?”
“I’m fine, but you guys are going to want to see this!” Mike yelled from the porch. “And use the side door. The front door is now a crime scene.”
The flashing red and blue police lights reflected off a pool of blood on the porch where an officer, now covered in blood, was standing. He was holding a severed deer’s head that he had just removed from the front door. It was impaled there with a machete.
“Why is the head wrapped in iron?” He asked me.
I rolled my eyes. “Because fairies are supposed to be hurt by iron.”
I kept looking at the floor of the doorway. My father’s blood, from the day before, was now replaced by fresh deer blood. Another officer told me the kennel was encircled with blood as well.
“Caroline, we’re going to put you into protective custody.” Captain Reilly told me.
I nodded. I was numb. Mike said he had seen four guys jump into cab and he shot at five others who all came scrambling from different directions. They hopped into the back of a truck before it went peeling off.
The captain handed me a note he found impaled on the deer’s head. He gave me a skeptical glance. “Have you had any contact with Mr. Hawking?”
“No.” I unfolded the note to read. Burn the fairy. “This is bullshit.”
I didn’t speak on the car ride to the police station. I wasn’t allowed to ride with Mike or Greg because they were being questioned. Mike’s own unit was questioning him! He was on the phone with the station when everything went down. I felt all eyes on me as I walked to Captain Reilly’s office.
“Is there a reason why my case wasn’t being taken seriously?” I demanded.
“We didn’t see Mr. Hawking as a threat any longer. He was on house arrest and hadn’t even stepped foot outside the front door.” He gestured towards his computer monitor.
“I don’t know what that is. Look, he called me a fairy on our date. He left me flowers at my apartment with a picture he took of ME SLEEPING! And you are the one who gave me that burn the fairy note. I don’t know how many people you think consider me to be a fairy, but he’s the only one on my list.” I stared at my father’s so-called friend. “For crying out loud, he shot a judge!”
“Caroline, I don’t think you understand how connected Mr. Hawking is.”
“Enlighten me.” There was no way the captain was going to cover his ass.
“His half-brother is Congressman Bradford and once Judge Haver heard that, she let him go.” He sounded defeated. “But that wasn’t till after she revoked his passport and put him on house arrest.”
I didn’t care who he knew. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life fearing some weirdos who thought I was a fairy. I wished I was a fairy, if even for a moment, so I could at least make them disappear. “Are you even bringing him in?”
“He should be here any minute. We sent a patrol car to pick him up when your alarm system went off.” He quickly dialed a number on his cell phone and stepped away from his desk.
I watched him pace. In the quiet of his office, I could hear the phone ringing through the receiver. Whoever he was calling kept him waiting, and he would not make eye contact with me until he got someone on the other line.
“What do you mean he isn’t there?” he shouted. “His tracker still shows him at home!”
No doubt, Elliot was just at my father’s house. This was the one time in my life where “I told you so” wasn’t a victory.
“Find him.” He hung up the phone.
I crossed my arms. “Yeah, if ya could go and let Greg and Mike out of custody, that would be great seeing as they are the only people I trust to actually handle this problem."
“There’s no need for the attitude, Caroline,” he chided.
“There’s reason for that and more, Carl. You guys have completely botched this whole thing. Not only has a man who is stalking me been set free, he is the same man that shot my father. At this point, you should consider yourself lucky that I haven’t called the media to tell them about the Congressman’s whack-job brother. I’m going to be pressing charges against that bitch Haver. She flops for anyone who can help her move up in the world.” I slammed his door behind me.
It didn’t take me long to find Greg. He was sitting alone on a bench holding Daisy. He was trying his best not to let his frustration show, but he never really knew how to get rid of his scowl.
“You alright?” he asked.
I let my shoulders drop. I had used the last bit of my facade on the captain. “As I’ll ever be.”
I looked around and saw that Mike’s desk was empty. “Are they really still questioning him?”
“Nah, he’s in the media room. The officer that brought in Elliott said we had to listen to what his dash cam caught. Mike was just making sure there was nothing that would upset you.” He stood and took my hand.
I expected it to feel strange walking down the hall holding his hand again. I spent so many months after our breakup trying to figure out what went wrong. It was nice to know now that it was nothing between us. I wanted to be mad at my father, but he was right. We were too young to understand anything. I was happy that I finished college. Might had done it sooner if I didn’t spend my first semester as an emotional mess.
Greg looked down at me. “Where you at, little one?’
I squeezed myself tight against his arm. “Just thinking about how great of a man you’ve become.”
“Are you saying that I wasn’t?” he teased.
“You were going down a questionable path.” I stuck my tongue out at him.
He held the door open to a windowless room. Mike was glowing from the monitors light. He unfolded his arms when he noticed us come in.
“How this guy made bail is beyond me,” he said, shaking his head.
“Easy. Judge Haver found out that Elliott’s half-brother happens to be Congressman Bradford.” I couldn’t wait to take that woman down.
“You’re shitting me. That bible thumper shares blood with this nutjob?” Greg was stunned.
It was hard to believe the junior congressman from the great state of Florida would even want to tarnish his name by helping out Elliott. He was already in deep water for failing to get the government to help with the last hurricane relief. He was also caught on tape right after the disaster saying how he was happy that Lake Okeechobee's levees failed to wash away the welfare dependents. He really didn’t need a gun-toting lunatic messing up what his P.R. team had already repaired.
Mike pulled out a chair for me to sit in. “Ready?”
“I don’t think I ever will be, so why not?” God, this chair felt like it was kept in a freezer.
The tech started the tape from the beginning. I watched myself walk by the front of the car. I hadn’t realized I had blood on me before. Most of what Elliott was yelling about made no sense till Officer Jeffreys got in the car.
“Mind calming down back there?” Officer Jeffreys asked.
Elliot lowered his voice. “You are ruining everything.”
“And what is that?” Jeffreys asked.
“The balance of the universe. We must sacrifice her before the harvest moon or the gods will be furious.” Elliott spoke with conviction.
Jeffreys raised his voice. “Now why would you want to go and sacrifice Ms. Crommett? Believe you me, there ain’t nothing magical about that girl. I’ve known that poor thing my whole life, and if she was what you think she is, she would have saved her mama years ago.”
“That’s just it. That bullet wasn’t meant for her mother. It was meant for Caroline. The order has been haunting her her entire life.” Elliott was foaming at the mouth being able to share his mission. “You see, changelings have been poisoning this world for centuries.”
“I do believe you were read your rights and one was to remain silent. I suggest you do so.” Jeffreys had never been known for his patience. “Her mother was killed during a mugging. Your kind ain't going to take credit for an already horrific act.”
“You know how I know she’s a fairy?” He wasn’t listening.
“No, and nor do I care to learn.”
“I’ve seen her fly.” Elliott sounded wicked.
“Son, she didn’t fly out of that window. She is a trained driver.”
“Not just tonight but I have followed her. I’ve seen her fly from buildings. Her wings were glowing against the night sky.” Elliott stopped talking after that.
The police cruiser slowly rolled into the station’s parking lot. Jeffreys turned off the car and, with that, the video went black.
I stared at the computer waiting for more. I wanted to hug Jeffreys for letting the madman rattle on, but it still didn’t tell us where I could have known him from.
“What did he actually teach?” I asked Mike.
“I double-checked your schedules with what he taught and there was only one class that ever crossed.” He read the file. “He was a lab T.A. for your Anthropology class.”
“We had a lab? No wonder I got a C.” I thought back to the lecture. I tried to remember if there was anyone out of place. “Oh my god.”
“What?” they both asked.
“He was the annoying guy who stood in the back of class during the test. He would clear his throat like forty times a class.” I was getting angry thinking about the sound.
“Did you ever speak to him?” Greg asked.
I shook my head. “Never. I couldn’t even stand to be near him. I would move if he was behind me since he reeked of cigarettes. Usually, he spent most of class outside chain smoking. And the only time he did say something to me was a smart-ass remark about how I was late to class. That was after I was stuck in the rain.”
“Can you explain why he thought he saw you fly?” Mike was full on cop.
“I did a few short movies for some film majors. They had me covered in LED lights and I would free run across a few buildings.” I asked the tech to pull up the online video.
We watched as I hid behind bushes and snuck up on people while they walked down a dark hallway. At night I ran across the top of a parking garage and jumped to the closest building. I would do flips if space allowed me or I would quickly ran up walls. The lights on my black clothing would randomly change colors. If Elliott has seen this video, I could understand why he would confuse me with a ninja, but not a fairy.
“See there’s nothing,” I said as the video finished.
Right before the tech closed the screen something popped up at the end of the video.
“Caroline what’s that?” Greg asked.
Someone had tagged me in the free running video recently. The tag attached my name to about fifty other videos that I had never uploaded. Some were of me walking around school while another was of my first retail job during my freshman year of college. We pulled all fifty of them up. It was scary watching my life unknowingly documented.
The last video was of a group of friends and I at a Renaissance festival. We were blissfully unaware of the camera as we drunkenly danced around the maypole. We had peasant dresses on and flowers in our hair. As I spun around the pole, my blatantly fake wings glisten in the sun as voice could be heard saying “caught ya.”
I didn’t know if I was more creeped out or angry after watching everything. “So, about that gun training. When can we start? Because I’m shooting the next guy who points a camera at me.”
“Lets just start with you not cowering every time one goes off.” Greg should have laughed, he always had before.