THE STORY IS NOT IN ORDER
THE STORY IS A BIG MESS
I KINDA LIKE TYPING THIS WAY....NEAT, EH?
Carlos leaned back in his seat and sighed. “What’s wrong?”
Tiffany glanced at him, then looked back at her glass. “Nothing,” she mumbled. She grabbed her fork and started to play with it.
“Come on, out with it,” Carlos prodded. “You’ve been quiet all night, and you haven’t so much as looked at me for more than a few seconds.”
“I have not.” Tiffany put the fork back on the table and looked at him. She sighed deeply. “I was…For the past…” she broke off, not sure how to tell him.
A small fear started to creep into Carlos’ chest. “Are you dumping me?” he asked in a quiet voice.
Tiffany blinked a few times. “Of course not! What makes you think that?” She took his hand in hers and squeezed it reassuringly.
Carlos exhaled in relief. “Then what?”
“I’m thinking about leaving the force.”
“Leaving the…” Carlos stopped. “Why?”
Tiffany shrugged slightly. “I don’t think it’s what I want to do anymore.” She avoided his gaze, and picked up the fork again.
“That’s not the real reason, is it.” Carlos stared at her until she looked at him again. “Is it?”
“I don’t…look, all I said was that I was thinking about it.”
“That’s not an answer, and you know it.” Carlos tried to soften his voice, but he could hear the anger in it. He leaned back slightly as Tiffany straightened and glared at him.
“Don’t you get snarky with me, Carlos,” she said evenly. “If I decide to leave the force, then I will.”
Carlos bit his lip slightly to keep from saying his retort. He decided to try another tactic. “How long have you been thinking about this?”
“A few days.” Tiffany sighed. “Can we just drop it?”
“Are you going to follow through?”
“Who the hell knows?” Tiffany asked, suddenly angry. “You know me, I’m just a rich bitch who gets sudden urges and follows them.”
Carlos’ mouth dropped slightly. “I have never thought that about you, and you know that!” He stood from the table, walked out to her living room, sat down heavily on the couch and leaned back. He could hear her get up and take the dishes off of the table. After a few minutes, he sighed and got up.
Tiffany turned from the sink when she heard him enter the kitchen. “Admit it, Carlos. You’d feel better if I wasn’t on the force anymore.”
Carlos stopped walking. “Why do you think that?”
“What I do worries you…doesn’t it.”
“The truth, please!”
Carlos took one look at her stance, knew that the ‘hands on hips, pursed lips’ routine meant that she wasn’t going to accept anything but the truth, and decided to come clean. “It scares the hell out of me at times.” He held his hands out in front of him as he tried to explain. “But, I know the job. I did that job. I am very familiar with the risks involved.”
“Exactly.” She turned back to the sink and started to wash the dishes.
He watched her back for a few moments. “So that’s it, huh? You’re willing to throw away your career because of me?” He walked up and stood beside her. “No.”
“Look at me,” he demanded. She faced him, and Carlos frowned slightly. “Don’t you quit your job because of me.”
“I’m not finished,” he interrupted. “You are a police detective…and a damn good one. I won’t let you throw that away because of me.”
“Rather high on yourself, aren’t you?” Tiffany said. “The world does not revolve around you, Mr. Sandoval…there are a lot more reason than that for me wanting to quit.”
Carlos took a step back and regarded her coolly. “Really…then why don’t you tell me.”
“Can we talk about his later?” Tiffany went back to doing the dishes. “It’s getting annoying.”
“Well, far be it for me to get annoying.” He stormed out of the kitchen, grabbed his coat, and headed for the door. “Later,” he said as he opened the door.
Tiffany stood in the kitchen and closed her eyes as the door slammed shut behind him.
(Los Angeles – same day)
Detective Jennifer Hendricks glanced at the man in front of her, went back to what she was reading, then leaned back in her chair when finished.
“So…” she began in a friendly tone. “How have you been?”
The man rolled his eyes. “Cut the bullshit, Hendricks.” He leaned forward in his chair. “You read the report, nothing has changed since then.”
Jenny lightly touched the papers in front of her. “Yes, I did read this report. Makes for a rather interesting scenario…’cept for one thing.”
“And what would that be?”
“Oh, come now, Detective…do be patient.” Jenny smiled sweetly. “Can I get you a coffee?”
“How about you just get to the point.”
Jenny sighed lightly. “If you insist.” She passed a picture across the table. “Notice the gun?” She waited for a nod. “Good…see how it’s in the perps left hand?” Again, waited for the nod.
“The perp is left handed….so what?”
Jenny leaned back, a slightly confused look on her face. “See, that’s what I’m having a hard time understanding. Yeah, the perp was a ‘southpaw’…but, and here’s the odd part…he broke his index finger a week before this shooting, and well……have you ever broken a finger?”
The other detective shifted slightly. “Yeah.”
“Then you know what I’m getting at.” Jenny held out her left index finger and bent it slightly. “This was about as much he would have been able to bend that finger.” She put her hand back on the table. “So, that’s why I’m confused…how was he able to pull the trigger when he couldn’t bend his finger?” She suddenly changed to a cooler voice. “The same finger that is wrapped around the trigger in the picture.”
The man stared at her for a few moments. “Fucking Internal Affairs,” he muttered at her.
Jenny shook her head slightly. “I’m here because of cops like you.” She stood, walked to the door, and knocked. The door opened almost immediately, and she walked out.
(Dallas – later that night)
Tiffany peered though the peephole, then opened the door. Carlos looked at her. “Feel like discussing it now?”
“It’s three a.m. Carlos,” Tiffany said. She moved to the side and let him in. “I thought you’d be home in bed by now.”
Carlos shrugged. “So did I.” He walked to the couch and sat on the arm. “Actually, I’ve been driving around for the past four hours.”
“Why?” Tiffany sat beside him on the couch and put her head on his lap. She smiled as he started to run his fingers through her hair.
“Because I hate fighting with you,” Carlos admitted. “I need to understand why you want to leave the police force.”
“I did…but that was a completely different thing.”
Tiffany lifted her head and looked at him. “Why is it different?”
“Because the world revolves around me, that’s why.” He smiled as she laughed slightly. “Scoot over.” He sat on the couch when she moved. “Now, no arguments, no yelling…tell me why you want to leave the force.”
Tiffany sighed deeply. “I almost killed a kid the other day.”
“Wha?” Carlos stopped. “Tell me about it.”
“I was at the store, just to pick up a few things, when these kids came in to rob the place.” She paused. “I pulled out my gun, told them to freeze…the others took off, and there’s this kid…” She looked at Carlos. “He couldn’t have been more than fourteen! A kid!”
Carlos squeezed her hand. “It’s okay.”
“I kept telling him to put the gun down…he kept yelling that he was going to shoot me.” She closed her eyes and exhaled. “He finally put the gun down, but…I came so close to having to shoot him.”
“That’s rough,” Carlos finally said. “But he had a gun on you.”
“He was a kid!”
“Do you know how many gangbangers in this city are under fifteen?” He asked. “How many would love to take out a cop?”
Tiffany sighed. “I know, I know…but that doesn’t make it any easier. No one would look at it like that, either, you know?”
“What do you mean?” Carlos put his arm around her and pulled her closer.
“If I had shot him, I would be labeled as the ‘cop who shot a kid’…not the ‘cop who shot at a robber in self defense’, but only that I shot him.” She paused for a moment. “And I am getting so sick of that attitude from people.”
“Yeah,” Carlos whispered.
“And some mother would mourn a child…mourn a future taken away…” She swallowed hard. “I don’t want to be responsible for that,” she finished in a whisper.
“You wouldn’t be,” Carlos replied.
Tiffany ran her hands over her face and exhaled. “So, anyway, that’s the reason.” She looked at him. “Now for the question…”
Carlos nodded. “Can you leave the force and be happy?”
“I don’t know.” She looked up at him. “I don’t know if I can honestly answer that question.”
“I think it’s something you better think long and hard about before making any decisions.”
Tiffany stared at him for a few minutes, started to say something, but stopped. “You’re right.”
”Is there another reason you want to leave?”
She hesitated slightly. “No.”
“Babe…if there’s something else bothering you…I want to help.”
She kissed his cheek. “I know you do, and I love you for it.” She sat silently, looking into his eyes. “I’m just tired of it.”
“Tired of police work?” he asked. “Or tired of the crap that goes along with it?”
“I’m tired of arresting people who end up back on the street before I finish the paperwork on them…tired of being thought of as the ‘bad guy’ in certain areas…. tired of the interdepartmental bullshit that goes on day after day…tired of carrying a weapon with me wherever I go.”
(Los Angeles – same night)
Jenny covered a yawn as she pulled into the driveway in front of her condominum complex. She hadn’t gotten a confession out of the other detective, but he had called for a lawyer, so she took that as a good sign. Not that she overly enjoyed having to ‘police the police’, but she always believed that bad cops were no better than the criminals they had sworn to stop.
Jenny took her keys out, opened her condo door, and walked in.
“You’re late,” a man’s voice said.
Jenny looked at him. “Sorry…long day.” She walked into the kitchen, got a beer out of the fridge and opened it. “So, what was I late for?”
“Thought you were gonna come home straight after work.”
“I did,” Jenny said slowly. “Barry…why the controlling attitude?”
“It’s not a…as you say…controlling attitude,” her boyfriend said. “I just expect you to keep your word.”
Jenny raised an eyebrow at him. “You do, do you?” She took a drink of beer as he nodded, then put the bottle on the counter. “Barry…get out.”
“Get out,” Jenny repeated. “As in: so long, have a nice life, don’t trip on your way down the steps.”
“You gotta be joking,” he said as he started towards her.
“I am serious, and I would suggest that you stay where you are.”
Barry glared at her. “What?! You gonna fuckin’ shoot me?” His face turned red with anger as Jenny smiled slightly. “Yeah, well…I’m tired of you anyway.” He turned, walked to the door and opened it. “I’ll be back for my stuff tomorrow.”
“Send someone else for it,” Jenny said. “I don’t want to see you here again.”
“Fuckin’ bitch,” Barry said, then slammed the door.
(Dallas – same day)
“Sometimes I think you should date someone who isn’t a cop.”
Carlos smiled slightly. “Not a cop? And be bored for the rest of my life?” He coughed slightly. “Besides, I think I told you about that last woman I dated…”
Tiffany thought for a few seconds. “The one from a few months ago? The one that already planned your wedding after two dates?”
“Yeah, that one,” Carlos said. “Face it, I prefer cops…so…”
“So, if ya still wanna date me, then you better stick with being a cop.”
Tiffany stared at him, then started to laugh. “You nut! Damn, you’re obnoxious.”
Carlos smiled seductively at her. “Well…” he paused. “Do you still want to leave the force now?”
Tiffany stopped laughing. “I’m not sure….I’m leaning towards staying, but I’m just so tired of it all.”
Carlos nodded. “I just got a great idea…can you book the next three nights off?”
Tiffany thought for a moment. “I think so…I’ve got time banked. I’ll call in the morning and see.”
Carlos smiled. “Good.” He put a finger on Tiffany’s lips as she went to speak. “No questions…it’s a surprise.” He glanced out the window. “No how’s about you get some sleep, it’s nearly dawn.”
Tiffany sighed. “Fine…you keep your secret…I’ll find out tonight anyway.” She laid her head against his chest, closed her eyes, and was soon asleep.
Carlos held her as she slept. He brushed her hair out of her face with his hand and ran a finger along her cheek, down her neck and to her shoulder and back again. He leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes.
“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” he whispered.
(Los Angeles – same day)
(Dallas – a week later)
Tiffany walked into her living room, stopping in surprise at the sight. Dozens of roses were scattered around the floor and the furniture, and candlelight flickered softly, casting shadows on the walls. Soft music filtered through, barely audible, yet relaxing. She looked up at a cough, and gasped as Carlos stepped out of the shadows, wearing a tuxedo.
“You like?” he asked softly.
Tiffany nodded as she stared at him. She could feel her pulse quicken as he approached. He stood in front of her for a few seconds, clearly enjoying the look of surprise on her face. He put a finger under her chin, raised her head slightly, and kissed her.
Tiffany’s pulse raced as Carlos moved slightly and began to nuzzle her neck…he worked his way to her ear, stopping to whisper something. Tiffany’s legs grew weak at the feel of his warm breath against he skin, barely hearing the words: “bedroom, dressed.”
Carlos stepped back, gently turned Tiffany around, and sent her off with a soft pat on her backside. “Go,” he ordered gently.
Tiffany’s mind whirled as she walked down the hall to her bedroom and entered. She went to the closet, picked out a revealing “evening gown” and put it on. Her mind was still on the scene that had greeted her when she first arrived home, causing her to smile. Carlos had seemed preoccupied lately, but looked to be on the right track tonight. As she slipped her feet into her shoes, she noticed a small box on her night table. Resisting the urge to undo the bow and open it, she picked it up and walked back out into the rose scented living room.
Carlos looked up from his spot on the arm of the couch, and smiled roguishly at her. “Beautiful,” he whispered, “you are absolutely stunning.”
Tiffany blushed at the compliment, happy that after three years, they were still able to bring out the lust in each other, make each other smile. She held out the small box.
Carlos smiled. “Ah, you found it.” He got up and approached. Carlos went to take the box from her, but dropped it on the floor. “Oh, darn,” he said mischievously. He bent down to retrieve it.
Tiffany took a longing look around the living room, feeling her desire growing for the man who had gone through all this for her. She looked down as Carlos took her hand, and gasped at what she saw.
Carlos was before her, on one knee, the small box now open to reveal a delicate diamond ring. He smiled up at her, but she could see the nervousness in his eyes.
“Tiffany Roxanne Chambers,” he said softly, “will you marry me?”
Tiffany smiled at him, trying not to cry. She reached out and ran a finger along his cheek. “Carlos…” she began, but found she could not talk. “Yes” she mouthed and nodded.
Carlos closed his eyes in relief as he slipped the ring onto her finger. He kissed her hand, stood, and embraced his fiancee.
Their bodies melded together so perfectly as they lay in each other’s arms. Trent Malloy kissed the side of his girlfriend’s head, trying to stop the feelings of sadness that threatened to overtake him. He closed his eyes, remembering the evening they had just experienced, the love that they had just shared.
Jennifer Hendricks turned onto her side and looked into his eyes. “I love you,” she whispered.
Trent closed his eyes, not wanted her to see the tears that were forming. “Jenny…please…”
Jenny smiled sadly. “I’m sorry, Trent, but I have to go away for a while.” She kissed the tip of his nose. “I’ll be back in a few months…I promise.”
Jennifer Hendricks stared at the ceiling of her bedroom, lost in the memories of the dream she just had. “I promise,” she whispered, then closed her eyes and put her fists over them. She had meant to return to Dallas after moving to Los Angeles, but she never had. After a while, it seemed easier to try to forget her life there, easier to try to forget her friends. She hadn’t contacted any of them, except for Trent, when she decided to make her move, and still hung onto the guilt that came everytime she thought about it.
Trent had been so gentle their last night together, but she could sense the urgency in his movements…the way his hands traversed her body… the way his lips covered hers… the way he had held onto her, long after they had made love…as if he knew this was the last time he would see her, be with her, make love to her.
Tears started to seep out from under Jenny’s fists, as they always did when she thought of Trent. She jumped, startled when he phone rang. Sighing, she got up, check the call display, and answered.
She sighed in annoyance. “What do you want, Barry?”
Her ex boyfriend paused for a moment. “I want to see you.”
“Barry…” Jenny sighed. “No.”
“Why??” Barry demanded. “Is someone else there!?”
“Not that it would be any of your business…no, no one is here,” Jenny said. “Look, Barry, I’ve told you that I didn’t want to continue to se you.”
“So, you’re just willing to piss away the last year of my life???” Barry snarled. “I don’t fuckin’ think so, lady…I’m coming over, and you are damned will gonna talk to me!”
Jenny jumped slightly as he slammed the phone down. “Damn,” she whispered, then made a phone call.
“’Hello?” the person answered.
“Hey, girl, it’s me,” Jenny told her.
“Hey Jen… what can I do for ya?”
Jenny sighed. “Barry just called, and he’s on his way over….sounds pissed…”
“…and you need someone to watch your back.” The other person finished for her. “I’ll be there in five.”
“Thanks,” Jenny said.
“Hey, what are partners for.”
Carlos raised an eyebrow in mild surprise as his best friend and partner in Thunder Investigation, Trent Malloy, ordered the biggest piece of cake that he had ever seen.
“Take it easy, buddy,” Carlos warned gently. “You’re gonna make yourself sick.”
Trent smiled easily. “Hey, it’s not everyday that you’re picking up the tab for dinner. And since this a wonderful occasion, I’m going to enjoy myself.”
Carlos sighed, and mentally added up the tab in his brain. He knew it was going to be a mistake suggesting a celebratory dinner, but he had no idea that they were out to take advantage of his offer.
Tiffany smiled as the waitress arrived with Trent’s cake. “My, but that does look good,” she said. “Could you bring me a piece of that, too?” The waitress nodded as Carlos looked at her open mouthed. Geeze!!
“And another coffee,” Tiffany added. She turned to Carlos as the waitress left. “Problems, dear?”
“Of course not,” Carlos said. “Just that you two are trying your best to bankrupt me.”
Tiffany patted his hand lightly. “Relax. If it would make you feel better, I’ll pay you back…with interest.”
Carlos looked into her eyes, caught the double meaning she implied, and blushed.
“Think you two could keep the hormone level down for just one evening?” Trent asked dryly, and wished once again that his girlfriend Amanda were with him, instead of visiting family in Austin.
“Mind your own business, Trent,” Carlos said as he continued to stare into his fiancee’s eyes.
Carlos reluctantly handed over his credit card with the dinner bill, and waited. He knew the bill was going to be big, but even he had been surprised at the amount. He looked as the waitress handed him his card back.
“I’m sorry sir, but this card has been rejected. Do you have another one?”
Carlos looked at her blankly. “Rejected?”
“Yes, sir,” the waitress replied. “Do you have another card?”
“Not on me, no,” Carlos mumbled. He closed his eyes and sighed. “Hold on.” He walked back to the table. “Ummm…do either of you have any money on you?”
Trent looked suspicious. “Why?”
“My card was rejected,” Carlos mumbled. “But I paid it last week,” he added quickly.
I knew this was too good to be true!! Trent thought. “Yeah, sure, I’ll cover it.”
“I’ll get this one,” Tiffany said and stood up and walked to the front counter.
Carlos sat down, and looked up to see Trent staring at him. “Honest, I paid it!”
“I believe you,” Trent said. “Why don’t you give them a call, and see why it was rejected?”
“Yes…I want to find out why my credit card was rejected earlier tonight,” Carlos said into the phone. “I paid it off last week.” He listened for a few moments, then gave his card number.
Carlos took a drink of his beer and leaned back in his chair. He made a face, and moved the phone a few inches away from his ear. “Musac version of ‘Muskrat Love’”, he informed Trent and Tiffany.
Tiffany leaned to Trent. “Ten bucks says he just thinks he paid the card off”, she whispered.
Trent nodded. “You’re on.”
“I heard that!” Carlos frowned at them. Any further complaint was cut off when the company came back on the phone. “Yes…pardon?”
Carlos moved the phone away from his ear again and stared at it in disbelief. He brought the phone to his ear again. “My who? canceled it???” He listened as the person repeated it.
“What?” Trent asked.
Carlos shushed him with a wave of his hand. “There must be some sort of mistake,” he said into the phone. “I’m not married.”
Trent and Tiffany looked at each other in surprise as Carlos continued. “Yeah…I’m quite sure!” He listened some more. “Look lady…I’m telling you that I am not married, nor have I authorized anyone else to use my card!” He paused. “Can you hold on for a moment?” he asked in a hard voice. He covered the phone with his hand and brought it to his chest.
“What?” Trent asked cautiously. He could tell that his friend was getting rather upset by the phone call.
“It seems,” Carlos said dryly, “that my wife canceled my credit card.” He could hear a voice coming from the phone, and brought it to his ear. “Yeah…ya wanna hold on for a minute?!”
Tiffany got up and approached. “Let me talk to them.” She held out her hand, and Carlos passed the phone over with an exasperated sigh.
“Hello?” Tiffany said. “This is Detective Chambers, Dallas P.D.. Who am I speaking with?”
Trent cast a sympathetic look at Carlos as he sat in the chair. “Already married, huh?”
“So they tell me,” Carlos grumbled.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Trent asked. “I mean, I am your best friend…I should have been the best man.”
Carlos blinked a few times. “That is so not funny!” He glanced up as Tiffany walked away with the phone. He noticed that her jaw was set, and he silently pitied the person on the other end of the phone.
“Thank you,” Tiffany said curtly, and hung up. “Well, they are going to send you a new card…and I think I convinced them that you are not married.” She sat on the arm of his chair. “Not yet, at least.”
“Thanks,” he patted her leg.
“But,” she continued, “it seems the reason your card was canceled is because your wife decided to go with another credit card company.”
“Huh?” Carlos stared at her. “Another what??”
LATER IN THE STORY – Jenny is in Dallas, shows up at the police station….approaches Tiff’s desk….. (Anthony Cortez has been Tiff’s partner since Jenny left)
Tiffany glanced as a shadow fell across her desk. “Be right there, Tony,” she said without looking up.
Tiffany stopped reading the computer screen when she heard the voice. She looked up slowly. “Jenny?”
Jennifer nodded, looking a bit uncomfortable. “Hey.” She noticed the ring on Tiffany’s finger, and raised an eyebrow. “That what I think it is?”
Tiffany held her hand out, still slightly shocked at seeing her former partner. “Yeah.”
“Of course, Carlos.” She paused. “What do you want?” She nodded to a folder Jenny was holding.
“You recently sent an inquiry through about a one “Derlene DeLancy”…” Jenny paused, waiting for acknowledgment.
“Yeah…about a week ago,” Tiff said, and motioned to the chair beside her desk. “Why?”
Jenny sat in the chair. “Her name is flagged, to contact me upon any and all inquiries. Why did you run her name?” Jenny asked, already knowing the answer.
Tiffany stared at her former friend for a few moments. “She’s stalking Carlos,” she finally said.
Jenny closed her eyes. “Mrs. Carlos Sandoval,” she whispered. “Damn.”
THEN ONTO OTHER THINGS…..MAYBE MEETING TRENT BY ACCIDENT…ETC AND SO ON…..
Tiffany held her breath as she stood behind the door. Please please please please please!! She forced herself not to exhale as Robert closed the door and walked away. Now to get the hell outta here! She headed for the window, and was half way across the floor when the door swung open again.
Tiffany spun to face her worst nightmare. "Fuck!"
"Exactly," Robert Hendricks said as he held a sharp knife out in front of him.
Tiffany started to back up slowly, with Robert matching her step for step. She kept an eye on the knife in his hand, silently wishing for her gun. Her foot caught on something, and she tumbled to the floor. She rolled, and stopped as she saw what she had tripped on. She stared into the lifeless eyes of Officer Danielle Pritchart.
Tiffany caught a movement out of the corner of her eye at the exact same time she noticed Dani's service revolver. She grabbed for it, rolled away, and came to her knees. She pointed in the general direction of the approaching Richard, and fired.
She sat on the floor and put her elbows on her raised knees. She sat there for a few moments, then dropped the now empty gun onto the carpeting. Her gaze went back to the body of Dani. "Be good to her, God," she whispered.
Her head came up as she heard something, and looked up in time to see Robert as he swung at her. She pushed herself back, but was not fast enough. The knife cut through her skin, and into her side, knocking all the air out of her. She thought it strange that she could not scream as the immense pain hit.
"Kevlar, a wonderful product," was all she heard the killer say before everything around her went black.
Tiffany’s eyes flew open as she started to gasp for air. She put a hand on her side, trying to inhale, but found it difficult.
Carlos blinked at the noise, rolled over and sat quickly. “Damn it,” he whispered. He’d seen this before, but it had been nearly two years since Tiffany had last dreamed of Robert Hendricks. Carlos reached for Tiffany. “It’s okay,” he told her. “It was just a dream.”
Tiffany looked at him and nodded.
“Breath slowly,” he continued.
"Drop the gun, or she dies." The knife pressed harder against Tiffany's neck, producing a small drop of blood.
Carlos tightened his grip on the gun. "Not this time," he said. "Let her go, or I will shoot you."
"Drop your gun first."
Carlos frowned at the memory. “He’s dead,” he assured his fiancee. “He’ll never hurt anyone again.”
Tiffany stood in surprise as music started to filter through her house. She reached for her gun, pulled on a bathrobe, and made her way out of the bathroom. She slowly, but effectively checked each room as the words to the song ran through her brain.
’Cause the love that you gave that we made
wasn’t able to make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me you’d hold me
Until you died, ‘til you died
But you’re still alive
And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave me
You, you, you oughta know
Tiffany gently pulled open the basement door, and glanced down. She sighed as she put her gun away, satisfied that the person was no longer in her house. A noise from the basement caught her attention.
“Come on up,” she ordered. Damn it! The door was locked! How the hell did anyone get down there?? Tiffany’s eyes grew wide and she stepped back as a shape lunged up the steps. A gray bundle stopped at her feet.
“Damn it, Fluffster!” Tiffany bent down and picked up the large gray cat that belonged to her neighbor. “How did you get into the basement again?” She stroked the purring cat’s head as she closed the door. “See anyone down there?” she asked him. Fluffster meowed once, and pushed his head against her hand.
Tiffany walked over to her stereo, and reached forward to turn the music off. She whirled around as the cat hissed and jumped from her arms. She saw nothing but the bat as it struck the side of her head, knocking her to the floor. The only thing she was aware of as her vision faded was the song still playing.
’Cause the joke that you laid in the bed that was me
And I’m not gonna fade
As soon as you close your eyes and you know it
And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it…well can you feel it
The lights grew brighter, and the noises grew louder as consciousness hovered over her still body. Tiffany mentally grabbed onto a voice she heard, and held onto as she pulled herself out of darkness.
“That’s right,” the voice said. “Hurry please! Yeah, I’ll stay on the line.” The person turned, then stopped. “She’s conscious!” Jenny said happily into the phone. She bent down. “An ambulance is on the way.”
Tiffany nodded slightly. “Fluffster?”
“Huh?” Jenny looked at her.
Tiffany licked her lips. “Cat…big…gray.”
Jenny motioned to another room. “It…Fluffster, is in the kitchen. He ran in there when I came in.”
Tiffany nodded, then everything went black again.
“Tiff?” Jenny said in a worried voice.
Tiffany pulled back as a doctor checked the wound on her head. “Leave me alone, k?!”
The doctor continued applying the bandage. “It doesn’t look like you will have a scar,” he told her.
Tiffany sighed and turned her attention to one of the other persons in the room. “Anything?”
Detective Anthony Cortez shook his head. “Nothing at your house. No forced entry.” He paused for a moment. “How long has the latch on the basement window been broken?”
“I didn’t know it was,” Tiffany said. “That must be how Fluffster gets in.” She saw the confused look on her partner’s face. “He’s my neighbor’s cat. He came up from the basement before I got blindsided. The window is, I think, just big enough for a small child to fit through, but not an adult.”
Jenny sat silently as she checked her notes. I never expected police work to be so exciting. Every single case I got with Tiffany was almost nonstop action. She laughed to herself.
“What’s so funny?” Tiffany asked as the doctor finished dressing her wound.
“Oh, nothing,” Jenny said. “I was just thinking that every case I used work with you was nonstop action.”
Tiffany chuckled. “My be my magnetic personality that attracts these nuts.” She stood slowly and headed for the door.
Carlos examined the basement window closely as he crouched beside Tiffany’s house. He stood slowly and looked around, stopping when he saw a small set of eyes peering over the back fence.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello,” the small boy replied. “Are you locked out, too?”
Carlos paused, then approached the fence. “No, I’m not.” He didn’t recognize the child, so he assumed that they must be the new neighbors he saw moving in the previous weekend. “Is your mom home?”
The boy nodded. “Want me to go get her?” He set off at a run when Carlos nodded.
Carlos waited for a few minutes, then the boy came back with a tall bronzed woman.
“Yes?” the woman asked.
Carlos took out his private investigators identification and showed her. “I was wondering if I might be able too ask you and your son a few questions?”
Carlos briefly told her about the unauthorized entry into Tiffany’s house. “Your son asked me if I was locked out, too.” He paused. “Do you know if he helped anyone get into the house?”
The woman turned to her son. “Aaron? Did you help anyone get into that house today?”
Aaron nodded. “She said she lost her keys. She helped me through the window, then I let her in.”
“Aaron.” The words came in a warning tone. “How many times have I told you not to talk to strangers?”
The child looked ready to burst into tears. “But she wasn’t, mommy…I saw her before!”
Carlos smiled gently at the child. “You did?” he asked kindly. “Can you remember what she looked like?” He nodded as Aaron told him. “You are very observant, Aaron…you’ve been a great help.”
“I have?” Aaron sniffed as he wiped his nose along his sleeve. “Can I keep the money she gave me?”
Carlos stood straight, and looked at the mother. “Uh, how much did she give you?”
Aaron took a crumpled bill out of his pocket. “This much.” He looked at his mother.
Carlos reached in his own pocket. “Wanna trade?” He held out a five-dollar bill. The boy nodded, and passed over his own one-dollar bill. Carlos gently took the money by the corner and carefully put it into a small plastic bag.
The mother bent down to her son. “Go play in the side yard, pookie…I need to talk with this man for a moment.” She waited until Aaron ran towards the other side of the house. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Carlos nodded. It really wasn’t this woman’s, or her child’s fault that this had happened. “Do you recognize the woman he described?”
She shook her head. “No…but then, I’ve been too busy unpacking to notice anyone around here. We just moved in last weekend,” she explained.
“I thought so,” Carlos said.
“I saw you moving in last weekend,” Carlos explained. “I, uh, my fiancee lives here.”
The woman smiled slightly. “Do you have a card? If I can get Aaron to remember where he’s seen that woman before, I’ll give you a call.”
Carlos sighed as Tiffany got up once again and paced the floor. “What?”
Tiffany stopped. “What?”
“That’s what I’m asking.” Carlos stood and walked to her. “Are you all right?”
“Just nerves,” she answered. “I guess I’m a little jumpy after what happened today.”
Carlos put a hand on the side of her face. “Hey, come on…it’ll be okay. I’m not going to let her hurt you.” He smiled lightly. “How about I run you a nice bath…throw a few logs in the fireplace…maybe a bottle of wine…”
Tiffany smiled. “Actually, that sounds like it might be nice.” She kissed him on the cheek, then sat as he went to the bathroom. Shortly, she could hear the running water, and forced herself to relax. Nothing’s going to happen to me with him here,
“Mail call,” Anthony said as he tossed an envelope in front of Tiffany. He sat at his desk and went through his own mail.
Tiffany opened the envelope, took out the paper, and started to read. “What the?” She sat straight in her chair, her fingers wrapped around the letter.
“What?” Anthony asked. “Bad news?”
Tiffany glanced at him. “Depends on your point of view, I guess.” She stood a little uneasily. “I gotta go.”
Anthony watched as his partner walked out of the squad room, then grabbed the envelope off of the desk.
Tiffany held the paper out to Carlos. “I received this in the mail today. It’s quite interesting.”
Carlos read the paper. “Who sent this?” he demanded.
“Quite remarkable what you did with her.” Tiffany walked away from him. “Strawberries and cream…watching romantic movies, then having sex in front of a fireplace…bringing her to a place, with your tongue no less, that only you could bring her.” She turned to face him. “It’s exactly like…like…” she swallowed.
Carlos felt her pain, along with his, as he watched a tear roll down her cheek.
“I can’t handle this.”
Carlos looked at Tiffany. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s…not your…fault.” She walked over to the window that looked over her side yard. “She must have been watching us…” Tiffany stopped and put a hand over her mouth, trying to quell the nausea she suddenly felt at that thought. “Maybe we should…”
“Maybe we should what?” Carlos asked.
Tiffany turned to face him. “Maybe we should cool it for awhile.” She smiled sadly. “That way, we’d both be able to concentrate.”
“I don’t want to concentrate,” Carlos said as he approached her. “I don’t want his to come between us.” He took her hand in his.
“It already has,” Tiffany said as she removed her hand. “Face it, Carlos…your wife has…”
“She is not my wife!” Carlos interrupted. “Damn it, Tiffany! If you don’t want to marry me, then just say so!’” Anger burned in his eyes.
“Do not put words in my mouth, Carlos!” She walked across the room. “That bitch tried to kill me, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little pissed off at the moment.”
“She didn’t try to kill you…she only wanted to scare you,” Carlos replied, knowing it was a mistake as soon as he said it.
Tiffany glared at him. “Making excuses for her now, are you?!” She put her hands on her hips. “You listen to me, Mr. Sandoval, and you listen good. I am not accustomed to being attacked in my own house. I do not like it, nor am I going to wait around for it to happen again.”
Carlos bit his tongue as she spoke; knowing that she had been more spooked by the intrusion than she had let on. He didn’t really blame her for wanting to break their relationship off, but he wished that she wouldn’t do that. “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to…” Tiffany paused as she swallowed. “I want you to go. We are through.”
“You broke up with him?” Anthony asked in amazement. “Why?!”
Tiffany leaned back in her chair as she put her feet on her desk. “Because I felt like it!”
Detective Richard Ryan looked at her. “That has to be the best decision that you have ever made.”
“Shaddup, Dick!” Tiffany said, not really caring if some of her New York accent showed up. “Who the hell asked for your opinion?” She stood as Ryan replied with a glare. “Fuck! You are such a prick!”
“I want you to…” Tiffany paused as she swallowed. “I want you to go. We are through.” The scene played through Carlos’ mind for the hundredth time. He closed his eyes against the pain he saw on Tiffany’s face, but that only brought the image in clearer. He put his elbow on the table as he absently peeled the label off of his barely touched bottle of beer.
Carlos looked up at Trent, and nodded. “Yeah, sure…why not.”
“How are you doing?” Trent asked, then added, “Kim called me.”
“Does she have any idea how much this hurts me?” Carlos asked absently, not really hearing his friend. “I mean…it’s not my fault that someone decided that I’m married to them.”
“No,” Trent agreed, “it’s not.” He reached out and took the beer from Carlos’ hand. “Come on.”
Carlos looked at him. “Come on where?”
“We’re going to go on a little hunting trip.”
************ *********** *********** ***********
Carlos peered through the window and scanned the living room. He saw her lying on the couch, an empty liquor bottle on the floor beside her hand. He knocked on the door, but she didn’t move. He took out the key she had given him about a month ago, and opened the door.
He glanced at the surroundings as he made his way to the couch. A half-filled ashtray sat on the coffee table beside a pack of cigarettes. Papers were strewn over the floor, probably her days work that she had started to do. He glanced up as a noise caught his attention, and stood as a man appeared in the bathroom doorway, clad only in a towel.
“Who are you?!” they both demanded at the same time.
The man in the towel stayed where he was. “Who are you, and what are you doing here.”
Carlos stood slowly. “Carlos Sandoval. Who are you?”
“Kyle Chambers.” He put his hands on his hips. “What are you doing here?”
Kyle Chambers? “I have a key,” Carlos said as he held it up. “Tiffany and I…well…we’re together.”
Kyle smiled slightly. “Oh…that Carlos Sandoval. From what I heard tonight, you’re no longer together.”
Carlos sighed and looked at Tiffany’s sleeping face. “What the hell are you doing in your ex wife’s house…in a towel?”
“I came over to get Tiff’s signature on a few things,” Kyle explained. “She still owns stock in my company.”
“And you’re in a towel because…?”
“Just got out of the shower,” Kyle answered easily, adding to the already tense situation.
“Not that it’s any of your business,” Kyle began, “but Tiff spilled whiskey on me, and I needed a shower.”
Kyle snorted lightly. “I don’t care if you believe me or not.”
*********** *********** ******************************************** ********************************************
Derleane Mahter pointed the gun at Tiffany. “And now…you die.”
“Better make it a good shot,” Tiffany said. “Because when I get outta her, I’m gonna shove your face into a wall…Ya fucking bitch!”
“Such big words from someone who means so little.” The gun lowered slightly.
Tiffany saw he chance, and pressed on. “Means so little? If I mean so little, then why is Carlos with me, and not you?”
“He is my husband!”
“No…he isn’t.” Tiffany bit her lip to keep from grunting against the pain caused by twisting her hands out of her bonds. “In fact, he doesn’t even like you.” The rope worked over her thumb, and she slowly pulled her hand free.
“He loves me!” Derleane shrieked as she raised the gun.
Tiffany jumped at her, both hands coming out from behind her back. She heard the gun go off, and felt a stinging in her upper arm. Her momentum caught Derleane off balance, and the two of them fell to the floor. Tiffany slammed the other woman’s head into the warehouse floor, then fell backwards as the gun caught her in the face.
She got to her feet quickly and charged. Derleane fell backwards into the shrine she had built for Carlos, scattering the lit candles everywhere.
“NO!!!” she screamed as she tried to stamp out the growing flames. “No!!!!!!”
Tiffany cast a glance at her, before heading for the door. She stopped, looked back, and shook her head. “I must be fuckin’ crazy,” she muttered as she headed back to the woman who had tried to kill her.
Derleane sat in the middle of the spreading fire, clutching a scorched picture of Carlos. Tiffany grabbed her by her arm. “Come on! We gotta get outta here!” She pulled, but Derleane stay where she was.
“Suit yerself,” Tiffany said and backed away. Flames flicked around her feet as she tried to make it back to the door. She was halfway to her freedom when the roof collapsed in a mess of burning timbers.
Carlos grabbed her before she fell to the ground. “Tiffany?” He frowned when she didn’t reply, and carried her to the side of the burning building. “Tiff?” He put his ear to her mouth and listened. Her faint breathing sounded like music to his ears. He handed her over to an EMT, but stayed close. “Help her!” he ordered.
Tiffany coughed lightly.
Carlos jumped from his spot on the bench, and was at her side when her eyes opened. “She’s gone,” he whispered to her.
“Carlos?…I’m sorry,” Tiffany whispered. “I’m sorry…I ….please.” Carlos squeezed her hand in response. “My place,” she said, “ten o’clock…be there.”