The Man. The Doctor. A Puppy. Two Serial Killers.
Eden Johnson is an ordinary Veterinary Doctor who wouldn’t mind committing murder to protect those she loves. She has a gap in her memory that she has gotten comfortable with, until now… She would do anything to remember it all.
Oliver Hastings is a lot of things to different people; a billionaire, a proud psycho, an astute businessman… What they don’t know is his disturbing past that he tries to forget and the uncanny secret he carries.
When the fate of a stray puppy brings these two unlikely souls together, they had no idea the depth of their shared traumatic past?
Until tragedy strikes again, trapping them in a cat and mouse game with a psychotic killer.
“What is taking him so long?” she mumbled, glancing at the exit for the sixth time in fifteen minutes. The Italian restaurant was busy while traffic cramped the Avenue outside as Red Hill citizens made their way home from work. She dropped her head over her wristwatch and let out a bored sigh. The blonde tucked her hair behind her ear and sat back on the chair, shifting her white heels wearily on the floor.
Her phone rang about a minute later. It was her friend. She must be calling for updates. She slid her thumb on the receiver icon and pressed the phone to her ear. “Hey, Maya… Yes, I am there… no, not yet. I know,” she covered her mouth and giggled. “He is the Director of SH Group!” she whispered with excitement. “If he is half as handsome as he is on billboards and magazine covers, I am going to glue myself to him,” she giggled again. “Of course, …I am everyone’s ideal girl. I can win him over… His personality? … Who cares? He is rich, handsome and brilliant!” Her brows drew together as she listened to her friend. “…what else is there to think about…?”
“Bianca Solan?” a soft baritone called her from behind.
She turned to the voice. Woah, he was more attractive than what the billboards and magazines portrayed. She blinked at the tall man in a three-piece navy-blue suit, making a desperate effort not to let her lower lip fall. Forgetting that Maya was still on the other end of the phone, she slurred her “Yes,” as though she wasn’t sure of her answer.
“I am late,” he sat across the table. “Traffic was maddening.”
Her friend’s voice demanding why she was silent brought her back. “Maya, I have to call you back,” she whispered and ended the call. She recognized the chocolate-skinned man with trimmed stubble beards- Oliver Hastings. “I am sorry… my friend,” she dropped her phone on the table.
Oliver nodded as he crossed his legs under the table and slid both hands into his trouser pockets.
Bianca waited for him to apologise for being more than thirty minutes later. Instead, Oliver stared at her, as though he was reading an uninteresting book.
“Did you wait for long?” he asked at last.
“No, not really.” She should stick to the classy lady act and not give him the pleasure of thinking she had been waiting for him.
He hummed through folded lips.
A waiter in a red and white uniform appeared at the table with a jotter and pen. “Would you like anything to eat, Sir?”
“I won’t be staying to eat.” She glanced at Bianca, “I doubt she will be able to also.”
She huffed, “What gave you that impression?”
“You might get indigestion.”
Her brows snapped together, “Excuse me?”
“By the time we are done here, there is a high chance you will have indigestion either because you are too angry or too sad.” Confidence dripped from his every word.
Bianca stared at him, embarrassment engulfing her. Oliver had a stare that made her feel little. She had heard stories of Oliver Hastings’s abrasive and obnoxious personality. However, he was a successful businessman and that was enough to make one wonder how he ran a seventeen-figure conglomerate with that kind of personality.
The waiter forcibly cleared his throat. “Perhaps something to drink then?”
“Just water for me,” Oliver said.
The waiter turned to Bianca.
The waiter bowed and left their table.
Oliver’s attention was back on Bianca, with that look that made her feel small and uninteresting.
“Why are you staring at me like that?”
“I am not staring. Although, I am wondering what the point of this meeting is.”
“If I may ask, how old are you?”
The unexpected question made Bianca stutter. “What?”
“How old are you?”
She hesitated before answering, “24.”
“In your opinion, do you think this is a productive meeting?”
Bianca suddenly felt like she was in an examination hall. “Ah…humm…”
“Do you even know why this meeting was set up?”
He kept calling it a meeting, it was supposed to be a blind date. Although, she already knew who she was coming to meet and was excited to have a sit-down with one of the most successful and eligible bachelors of Red Hill.
“Alright.” Oliver sat up and brought his hands out of his pockets, locking them on the table. “Since you still use a glitter phone pouch,” he waved a finger over the bejewelled pouch encasing Bianca’s phone, “I will assume you are not involved in your family’s steel business. However, I,” he touched his chest with a warm, yet annoying smile, “love keeping family members in the loop of the family business, so I am going to give you a piece of exclusive news– well, not exclusive exactly. You are probably the only one who doesn’t know that Solan Steel Industry is bankrupt—
Bianca’s hearing popped, “What?”
“I am sure your mother set this blind date as a circumvent,” he continued, ignoring Bianca’s confusion. “If we eventually get married, you will be entitled to my company shares. If that doesn’t happen, by association, you will be open to investors who will be willing to help just to gain favours with me.”
“What… what are you talking about?” she asked, flustered.
“I know, I know.” Oliver rocked his head, “I understand you,” he waved his right hand. “How can you know what I’m talking about?” He smiled and relaxed on his chair.
The waiter arrived and set down Oliver’s glass of water. He took a sip, while a half-filled wineglass was placed in front of Bianca as her head raged with thoughts. Her elder brother, mother and father ran the family business. She was more of a spender than an earner. She never bothered herself with company details or its management. She wondered if that was why they didn’t tell her about the bankruptcy. Her mother and brother only stressed that her date with Oliver must go very well.
“Will that be all?” the waiter asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Oliver answered.
The waiter was about to leave when his eyes caught a smudge on the silver chrome table. He pulled out a napkin from his pocket to wipe it as Oliver wanted to place his tumbler back on the table. Their hands were inches from each other when Oliver recoiled his hand as though the waiter’s hand was the sun that would burn him to crisp if it touched his.
“I… I am sorry, sir,” the waiter said. “I only wanted to clean the table.”
Oliver heaved with relief and placed his hand on his thigh. “No, it’s okay. Thank you.”
The waiter took a slight bow and left. Oliver adjusted his cufflink as his eyes wandered to Bianca. He almost forgot she was there. She has been lost in thought that she didn’t pay attention to what transpired between the waiter and himself. That was good. He wasn’t in the mood to answer questions on why he avoided the slightest skin contact.
“What do we do now?” he said, nabbing Bianca’s attention. “I am not in the mood to be anybody’s buffer and,” he ran his brown eyes over her, from head to her midsection, “you are not my type.”
She felt the heavy impact of Oliver’s last statement more than when he told her of her family’s bankruptcy. “What… what?… I am not your type?” she slammed her hand on the table, infuriated.
“Yes,” he said calmly.
“How am I not your type?” she gestured at her slim figure and long blonde hair.
Oliver drew in the air and swayed his right hand as he spoke. “How should I put this? You are… simple and… plain.”
Her jaw dropped. Nobody had ever called her that before. She was everybody’s type. Her ego and self-confidence were batted and replaced with embarrassment and vexation.
“I think we can both agree that this meeting has been a constructively advantageous one.” He drew in a mouthful of water from the tumbler and gulped. “You now have intel about your family business…”
She frowned, “Intel?”
“And I have performed my civic duty to enhance freedom of information and my duty to be a good son to my mother.” He rose from his chair. “Everybody’s okay?”
She eyed him with blazing anger. Somehow, her anger made him smile. He’s a total psycho.
“Okay?” He made an okay sign with his fingers. “Okay?” he asked again, pushing his fingers forward.
Bianca’s lips parted to speak, but she could not figure out the right words. She was embarrassed, mostly angry.
“You won’t answer?” he dropped his hand. “Anyway, I will see you around and don’t worry, I will pay. You need to learn how to spend wisely now,” he winked at Bianca and left.
Oliver paid at the cashier stand and walked out of the restaurant, straight to the parking lot. Of all his Mother’s tactics to marry him off, he scoffed as he pressed his car ignition button and drove into the street. She threatened to go on a hunger strike which was the only reason this was the only date she was able to get him to agree to in the last two years. Not that he believed she would truly go on a hunger strike, but he loved to indulge his mother once in a while. Besides, she wouldn’t stop talking about it if he didn’t go. This way, she won’t talk about setting him up with another lady for at least a month or two.
He had barely driven for five minutes when his phone rang through his car stereo. His eyes dropped to the screen, Niles. He pressed the receiver button on his steering. “What?”
“How was it?” His closest friend’s voice came from the car speakers.
“It was fine,” he tapped his right index finger on the steering.
Niles groaned. “When it comes to your relationship with people, fine in your dictionary is synonymous with being mean and annoyingly blunt. You didn’t say anything wrong, did you?”
He smirked, keeping his eyes on the road. “What do you take me for?”
“What did you say to her? If it didn’t go well, your mother is going to start giving me that look again.”
“The look that blatantly screams ‘you are responsible for my son’s unmarried status’.”
“That’s because you are,” he shrugged. “You are still single. It is unfair for me to get married and leave you behind.”
“Will you marry me then?”
Oliver snapped his face at the screen like he could see Niles through it, “Are you crazy?”
“Exactly, exactly my point. So how was the blind date?”
“It. Went. Very. Very. Well,” he tapped his forefingers on the steering wheel as he spoke.
“It went very, very well?” Niles slurred his words incredulously.
“Mhmm-hum,” he bobbed his head at the road, smiling. Niles was quiet for three seconds, and then Oliver heard him drop a cup on a table.
“You told her,” he said. “You told her about her family’s bankruptcy, didn’t you?”
Oliver chuckled. His friend knew him too well.
“Yes, you did,” Niles affirmed his guess. “Let me guess, you also told her she is not your type.”
He chuckled. “It was a productive date. We shared life experiences and we were honest with each other.”
“Your honesty is crude,” Niles muttered.
“My man, you know me too well.”
“Uhm- uhm, I do. How many times has it been? The stare your Mum gives me every time you ruin her blind date plans gives me the chills.” Niles heard Oliver laugh.
Mrs Hastings was a pleasant woman, but once she set her mind on something, she was relentless. After the death of her husband seven years ago, her goal has been to find a suitable partner for his son, Oliver. That proving futile, she always found ways to make it Niles’s fault that Oliver was still not only unmarried but also not in a relationship.
“Seriously, are you not going to get married?” Niles asked.
“I am sure I will, someday,” Oliver glanced at his side mirror and made a turn.
“Someday, when? You are thirty-two already—
Oliver laughed, “And you are what? Twenty?”
“…You keep telling all the ladies that show interest in you that they are not your type. Tell me, which lady is your type?”
He paused, thinking.
“Ollie?” Niles called through the speaker.
“What?” he drawled.
“Tell me your type,” his friend urged him. “I will find her for you.”
It wasn’t that all the ladies he had met were not his type— He didn’t really have a type and he had met some impressive women. He always pushed them away before an emotional bond was formed and for a legitimate reason.
“Oliver. Earth to Oliver.”
He pulled out of his thoughts with a sigh and soft smile. “Before I think about getting married, don’t you think I need to find a way around a more pressing predicament?”
Niles paused before he spoke. “Yes, I understand your situation but you need to make an effort, so people don’t start circulating rumours.”
He scoffed. “The rumours can’t be as bad as the truth, can it?” he chuckled. “If they know the truth, they will tie me up in a psychic ward or dissect my brain. NSA, CIA, FBI, all of them will have a field day.”
“You have a point,” Niles said with a sigh.
“Don’t you think the lady will start asking questions when I never hold her hands or hug her?”
“Still, it’s better than—
“Since what my mother wants is a grandchild,” he cut in, “should I get a surrogate mother to have my child through artificial insemination…”
“…I will tell my mother I got married secretly and my wife died while giving birth.”
He laughed— his eyes caught a small form scurrying into the street. He slammed the brake as it dashed in front of his car.
Niles heard the screech of Oliver’s tyres. “What? What happened? Did you hit someone?”
“Worse,” he unlocked his seatbelt. “I think I killed a puppy,” he clenched his steering wheel, stretching to see the ground beyond his bonnet.
“A puppy’s life is more important than a human’s?” He paused, “Wait, that is not the issue here,” he spoke to himself after his mind processed what Oliver said. He exclaimed, “What?! You killed a puppy?!”
“I have to go.”
“Wait—” Oliver ended the call and stepped out of his car.
Oliver found the puppy whimpering on the ground, inches away from his tyres. He glanced at the passing pedestrians. Some of them were watching him closely to see what we would do next. He scooped the pooch and examined it; no obvious physical damage. He exhaled with relief.
“You are taking her to a clinic, right?” A woman in her late seventies, carrying a groceries basket, questioned him. Her grey eyes said, ‘I dare you to say no’.
“She’s fine. I didn’t hit her.”
The woman shook her head, staring down at Oliver with displeasure. “She could have internal injuries.”
“I know dogs like this,” Oliver kept the puppy at arm’s length. “They run in front of a car, intentionally and pretend they are hurt. Their endgame is to be adopted.”
The woman scoffed, “You are a very bad man. Evil.” She threw her chin aside and walked away.
“Move your car, dimwit!” a driver barked at Oliver and drove off.
Oliver eyed the golden retriever. Her medium brown eyes were friendly and… kind of lonely and sad. He could perceive the garbage smell coming from her dirty brown fur and she didn’t have a collar. A stray puppy. “Where is your mama?” he asked the pup. She looked aside, swiping her tongue over her snout. “I am going to take you to the clinic and that is it,” he ended his speech with a sneeze. Oh right, he forgot he was allergic to dogs. He eyed the puppy as if she would transform into a piranha and he took her to his car.
He perched the puppy in his rear seat. “I am allergic to dogs. Keep your distance,” he flashed a finger at the puppy. The puppy simply cocked her head, staring at him. Her eyes danced over Oliver as he ducked into the driver’s seat and fired up the engine.
Oliver sneezed six more times and had a mild case of the runny nose by the time he spotted a veterinary clinic. Luckily, it was close to his office. He needed to get back to work anyway. He parked his car in front of the clinic and read the sign, Johnson’s Vet. He stepped in through the glass door, with the puppy between his palms and away from his body like a soiled diaper. A rectangular receptionist desk was fastened to the floor on the left side. Six waiting chairs were arranged opposite it on the right side. A waist-level glass partition boxed the reception area. Beyond the reception were shelves for animal drugs, foods, leashes, bowls, toys and other pet essentials.
“Hello, welcome to Johnson’s Vet.” An average height skinny young man got on his feet from a chair behind the front desk. He had thick brownish beards and tardy hair of the same colour.
Oliver took note of his multi-coloured striped shirt before anything else. It was a crime against fashion. “Hello,” he responded, looking down to his chest to read his name tag, “Rodney. There was a minor accident with this canine. Is there a doctor that can check her?” Rodney stretched his hands to receive the puppy. Oliver placed her on the desk to avoid any chances of their hands brushing against each other.
“Aww, you poor thing,” Rodney lifted the puppy to his face. “This man hit you?” he spoke to her as if he would get a reply. “I know,” he purred, “ humans and their cars,” he said through pouted lips.
Rodney kept stroking the puppy’s back while Oliver stared at him with an arched brow. When he couldn’t take it any longer, he said, “I know you have all the time in the world to play with a puppy, but I don’t. Are you the — No,” he gave a dismissive wave. He couldn’t possibly be the Doctor. “ Could you please get the Doctor?”
“Let’s have you checked out,” Rodney told the puppy and slid out of his desk.
Oliver shook his head as he watched him leave through the back door. With Rodney out of sight, he was left to his thoughts. He paced around the waiting area, both hands stuffed in his trousers’ pocket. The habit had long become a part of him. Among his other survival techniques were, wearing long sleeves despite the weather- except he’s home alone- and fleeing from large gatherings when he could.
“The Doctor wants to see you,” Rodney said, emerging from the back door.
“Because you are the Guardian,” he slurred with a questioning tone.
Oliver scratched his nose bridge with a finger and sniffed. “I am not the Guardian.”
Rodney raised his face to him, “You brought the dog, yeah?”
“Yes, I did, but…”
“That makes you the Guardian. Come in,” he signalled Oliver to circle the counter. Reluctantly, he did so. “First door on your right,” he said and sat down with his phone.
“Top-notch customer service,” he scoffed. “If he works at my company, I would have fired him,” he mumbled as he swaggered towards the back door, hands back in his pockets.
The first door on the right side of the hallway was opened. The medium-sized office had basic furniture. A desk and two chairs, a few decorations and a basin on its right side from the door. A lady wearing a green scrub and white overall sat by the table, scribbling on a jotter when he walked in. She packed her short dark-brown hair to the back.
She looked up when she heard footsteps and her eyes met Oliver’s. “You brought the Golden Retriever?” she asked him.
“Uhm,” he scratched his forehead. Hesitantly, he answered, “yes.”
Eden Johnson; he took note of the nameplate on the desk.
Eden had a pair of glistering ebony eyes that felt oddly familiar to Oliver.
“Have a seat, please” she gestured to the chair across her table.
“Have we met before?” he sat and asked her.
She locked eyes with him for less than three seconds before blurting out, “No.”
“I think I have seen you before.”
Eden assumed he was hitting on her and ignored him. “Your Golden Retriever is fine…”
“She is not mine,” he clipped.
Either the Doctor didn’t hear him or she chose to ignore him, she continued, “…but she lacks several nutrients. She’s malnourished. I have given her some injections and supplements.” She plucked the front page of the jotter she had scribbled on. “Here are the drugs you need to buy for her.” Oliver took the paper from her. “What exactly have you been feeding her?” she asked with creased brows.
He let out a testy sigh. This was not how he envisioned spending the rest of his day. “Again, she’s not mine. She ran into the street and almost became roadkill under my tyres.”
“Oh, oh, that explains a lot,” she nodded.
“I was wondering why a man of your,” she scanned Oliver, “…status would choose not to take care of his pet. But since she’s a stray dog, it’s fine.” She dropped her pen and pushed from her table to her feet. “My Assistant will bring her shortly. You can leave once you’ve paid your bills at the counter. Remember to feed her and give her the drugs as prescribed.”
What?! he sprang to his feet. “Excuse me, I said I am not the owner of the puppy.”
The doctor paused, eyes dancing sideways. “So?”
Searching for words to convey his thoughts, he rubbed his lips. “I thought you would take her in.”
She gave a short laugh and crossed her arms on her tummy. “Why on Earth would you think that?”
“This is a clinic for animals, right?”
“Exactly! It is a clinic for animals, not animal control or animal shelter.”
“I can’t take care of the dog,” he declared.
“So I should?” She arched her thin brow, waiting for an answer that never came. She drew in a breath, “Why can’t you be responsible for her?”
“Okay, for one, I can’t take in a stray dog,” he counted with his right hand while his left remained in his pocket. “She’s covered in like a million germs and she,” he inhaled, “she smells so terribly.
“Nothing a warm bath can’t fix,” Eden countered.
“Two, I don’t like dogs. They leave fur everywhere. They bark loudly and they poop anywhere. Three, I am allergic to them.”
Eden’s gaze danced over his face as if processing what he just said. “Only the last thing you said made any sense,” she said with a shrug.
He clenched his teeth and spoke through them, “In any case, I can’t be responsible for it.”
“Neither can I,” she shrugged. “You can take her to the animal shelter.”
Oliver’s face softened as he sat back. “But she won’t be cared for there. Where is your spirit of animal advocacy?”
She exhaled sharply. “What do you want me to do?” Despite her attempt to keep a cool head, she was close to losing it with this guy.
“Doctor,” his eyes went to the nameplate on the table again, “Eden Johnson. Can I call you Eden?”
“No, you can’t,” she said emphatically, shaking her head.
“Thank you, Eden.” He continued, squashing Eden’s retort before she started, “See, Eden, you take care of animals here, right?.”
“Yes, we take care of sick animals,” she stressed.
“The puppy is sick,” he insisted.
Eden slapped a palm on her forehead with a groan. “Mr….
“Hastings. Mr Hastings, this is an animal clinic. We take care of sick animals, we do not take in stray animals and keep them,” she explained, speaking slowly. “Your— the puppy you brought in is not sick, just malnourished. She is currently taking fluids to help her recover. After that, you only need to give her healthy food and vitamins. In other words, you can take her back to where you found her if you can’t take care of her,” she grinned, blinking ‘please, just get out of the office’ at Oliver.
“Wooh! Doctor of the year,” he gave a humourless crackle. “You want me to take her back to the street and dump her there?”
“That was why I suggested you take her in and care for her, at least until she is better or take her to an animal shelter.” Eden’s voice was gradually elevating. Early signs of frustration.
“Oh Jesus,” Oliver muttered aside, pinching his nasal bridge. His gaze was met with Eden’s oval face, her lips curled to suppress her frustration.
“Doctor Johnson,” a tiny voice called from the door. The petite lady with dark skin and protruded belly walked in with the stray puppy. “She is ready,” the lady announced.
“Thank you, Lessie.”
Lessie touched the puppy’s paws on the table, right in front of Oliver and acknowledged him with a warm smile. He responded with a short smile.
“You can take her now,” Eden said to him. “Bring her back on Saturday for an antibiotic shot.”
The pooch’s brown eyes looked brighter, although she was still quite dirty. She scurried across the table to Oliver.
“Oh!” Lessie thrust her hands out to stop her from falling. Unknown to her, the puppy was headed for a familiar face.
Oliver caught the puppy with Lessie’s hands and it happened!
He saw it. He saw it again. The images and flashes of death. He saw how Lessie would die.
Neither Lessie nor Eden understood why Oliver froze, staring into space. They glanced at each other, puzzled before he yanked his hand away from Lessie with a gasp.
“Are you okay?” Lessie asked worriedly, lifting the pooch from Oliver’s lap. She searched his eyes for answers and when she couldn’t find any, she asked again. “Are you okay?”
Oliver inhaled and exhaled to collect himself. “Yes, I am fine.” He glanced at Lessie. He perceived her as a warm-hearted lady, probably in her early twenties. She was young— that never stopped death. His gaze fell on her tummy. She would die before she gave birth, less than a week from now. He wished he could warn her, but nothing would change. Everybody had an appointed time. Once that time was up, nothing could stop the cold hands of death from prying them away. Nothing.
Oliver rose and took the puppy from Lessie, careful not to touch her again. “Thank you,” he said to her and she released a soft smile. “Can I get these drugs from your store?” He asked Eden, showing her the prescription. He wanted to leave the clinic as fast as possible.
She pointed left, to the wall. Oliver understood it meant outside, at the shop attached to the reception area.
“Make your payments there too,” Eden said.
Oliver replied with a nod and went towards the door. He stopped to glance at Lessie. Usually, after twenty years of watching various strains of death, he didn’t care anymore. But he felt bad for Lessie. Maybe because she was expecting a child, maybe because she seemed nice.
Lessie kept smiling at him. She wondered why he persistently stared at her with such sad and beautiful eyes as if she was dying.
Oliver shifted his gaze to Eden. He knew her from somewhere, he was sure of it; he thought before stepping out of the office.
“Is something wrong with him?” he heard Lessie say.
“How would I know?” Eden said dismissively.
Oliver bought the drugs and strode to the exit.
“Don’t hit a dog again,” Rodney shouted to Oliver as he continued to the exit. “Animals have families too!”
He ignored Rodney and exited the clinic. He almost bumped bodies with an eager lady who breezed past him. She dashed inside the clinic without apologising for almost crashing into him. She had an apron tied around her waist and she held a phone like she couldn’t wait to show something on it to someone.
Oliver sat the puppy in the front passenger seat this time. He turned to the puppy after he had settled in the driver’s seat. “You are not going to tie me down,” he told the pooch. “I will find a place to dump you.” His phone rang afterwards, it was his Secretary.
He picked up the call and switched to its speaker. “Jane, sorry I am running late.”
“It’s okay, Sir,” a feminine and formal voice came from his phone speaker. “I guess your date went well this time.”
Oliver chuckled. “Of course.”
“Well, take your time. Mr Foyer got a call from the Rilwan investors. Mrs Morris flew in ahead of her initial schedule today and she is going to China tomorrow. If Mr Foyer doesn’t meet with her today, we won’t be able to acquire the Berlin Hotels until she gets back and her Secretary is not sure when that will be. So, your meeting with Mr Foyer has been postponed.”
Foyer was Oliver’s Head of Acquisition. He was supposed to meet with him and the other members of the Acquisition Unit five minutes ago. He made the right decision to cancel it for a meeting with Mrs Morris, a Senior Partner at Rilwan investors. “Okay.”
“Are you coming back to the office today?”
“I am not sure.” He eyeballed the pooch beside him. She was licking her paws, smearing saliva over the red leathered interior of his Benz. “I want to get to the police station first,” he said through gritted teeth, glaring at the pooch as though she cared. But as soon as the puppy heard his last word, she threw him a look that said, ‘police station? Really?” and blinked as she squeaked quietly.
“A dog ran in front of my car. Almost drove over her. She is fine but I feel bad letting her back in the street. I am taking her to a police station. I will drop her off there.”
“Sir, I don’t think that is what police stations are for. I think an animal shelter will be better.”
“Can you find one close to the office?”
There was a brief silence that was followed by the soft clicking of a keyboard. Jane was very competent, the only reason she has worked with him for seven years. “The closest one is on 3rd Avenue at Blackwood.”
“That is too far. I don’t have time to drive down there. The police protect and serve every citizen of this city, including its animals.” He glanced at the puppy again, who suddenly seemed interested in his conversation.
“I don’t think animals are included,” Jane said quietly.
“I will let you know if I will come back to the office. Do I have any major schedule left for today?”
“Okay, thanks.” Oliver disconnected the call.
“Rodney!” The abrupt noise caught Rodney off guard. He jerked in his seat and almost dropped his phone.
“Where is Eden?!” the lady that glided past Oliver at the entrance queried, slightly out of breath.
“No! forget that,” she waved her hand, hurriedly. “Where is Lessie?”
“She’s at the back with Eden,” he said, wondering what was going on with her this time.
She hustled through the back door and went straight to her little sister’s office. Lessie was still at Eden’s office when she appeared at the door. She halted when she saw Eden.
Surprised to see her sister at the clinic, Eden called her, “Makayla?”
“What’s up?” Lessie said.
Makayla’s eyes danced around erratically. “Lessie! I need to see you.” She pulled her out of the office without waiting for her reply.
“What? Makayla, what is it?” Lessie asked as she dragged her to the end of the narrow passage.
Makayla looked back to make sure Eden wasn’t following them before showing Lessie her phone. “Look at this.”
Lessie took the phone, rubbing her tummy with her free hand. She saw a picture of a lady wearing a bikini at a beach. She was holding a guy’s hand; only his arm was captured in the picture. “What am I looking at?” she asked.
“Look at the guy’s hand, his thumb.” Makayla zoomed the picture for her.
She squinted to get a better look. “I still don’t get it,” she shook her head.
It took Lessie about two seconds to figure it out. She clasped her hand over her mouth with a gasp. “Oh my God,” she zoomed the picture again. “Jay?” she widened her eyes at Makayla and she confirmed with a nod.
“I knew I never trusted him,” Makayla gruffed.
“How are we going to tell Eden this?”
“I don’t know,” Makayla arched her hands on her waist.
“She probably won’t take this well, right?”
“An average person won’t take this well…,” Makayla said.
“And Eden is not an average person,” Lessie added.
“No, she is not. Not with that temper,” she shook her head.
“She will kill him…”
“And dump his body in the sewer…”
“Nobody will ever find him…”
“Nobody will find who?”
“Jay.” Makayla had answered before the voice registered itself. She turned back and yelped with Lessie as they came face to face with Eden.
“Why do you want to kill my boyfriend?” Eden asked them in an interrogatory voice.
Makayla and Lessie exchanged looks.
“What is it?” Eden demanded. “What were you talking about?” She took a step toward them and they took two steps back. “There is a wall behind you,” she reminded them. “There is nowhere to run.” She folded her arms across her tummy and stalked them. “What is going on?”
Maybe now was the time to fake a baby kick. Lessie held her tummy and groaned.
“I know you are lying,” Eden said to her.
That used to work… the first three times. Lessie dropped the act.
Eden looked from her to Makayla. “Are you not going to talk?”
Lessie pushed Makayla’s phone into her hand. “Tell her,” she barely made a sound from the corner of her mouth.
Makayla’s lower lip dropped. “Traitor.”
“Tell me what?” Eden yanked the phone from her elder sister. She tried to get it back but she held the phone away from her.
“You don’t know my password. You can’t unlock it.”
“Really?” Eden showed her the phone. She had unlocked it. “I told you to change the password from Thea’s birthday. Anybody can guess….” She saw the picture they were looking at. She didn’t pay attention until her eyes wandered to the scar on the thumb of a hand shooting into the picture. She knew that hand, more importantly, she recognised the scar on the thumb. It was her boyfriend’s.
She knew the scar because she stitched it herself. His thumb was caught between the doors during one of their dates at Makayla’s café. She brought him to her clinic to stitch the cut. Eden read the caption of the Instagram picture, At Bahamas with the love of my life. Eden searched for the date; it was posted two months ago. She huffed because two months ago, Jay told her he was on an assignment in Texas and he was away for two weeks. Guess the Bahamas was the new Texas. “How did you find this?” she asked, her emotionless eyes still on the picture.
Lessie pinched Makayla to answer. “Mhm… she is a fashion designer. A friend recommended her to me and told me to check her Instagram page. I found the post while scrolling through her page.”
Eden chuckled. Lessie and Makayla knew there was nothing funny about her current laugh. “She couldn’t even have a separate account for her business.” Eden scrolled down the lady’s page. There were several other pictures with traces of Jay; his hand, side view, leg. None captured his face completely. “He’s good and she is bold.”
“Are you okay?” Lessie asked her, carefully choosing her words. Eden wasn’t known for her good temper.
“Yea,” she returned the phone to Makayla. “Why won’t I be?” she shrugged. “It’s not like we are married,” she laughed in a way that scared Lessie and Makayla. “We are not even engaged.”
“Still, you guys were together for five months.”
“And judging from the pictures, he has been cheating for over three months.” She laughed again, “Maybe even longer than that.”
“She is laughing,” Lessie whispered to Makayla. “She is scarier when she laughs in situations like this.”
Eden stopped laughing abruptly and shrugged off her white overall.
“What are you doing?” Makayla asked her.
She went to her office to change into a sleeveless, mint-green chiffon shirt and jeans, ignoring Lessie and Makayla’s questions.
Makayla blocked her path as she was about to step outside the office. “Where are you going?”
Eden took a long breath. “Let’s go kill Jacob Ford.”
To be continued next Saturday