Detective Kress and Lori welcomed Oliver and Eden to the Red Hill Detention Centre. Eden had anticipated her meeting with Black since she woke up at the hospital. She was in a coma for four days due to excessive blood loss from her gunshot wound. Fred and Black were the first people she asked for when she woke up. Kress promised to let her meet them after she was discharged, and he kept his promise. They didn’t see other parts of the detention centre as she and Oliver were ushered in through a private entrance.
On their second turn through the long hallway, they entered a grey walled room. Eden was told to wait for Black while the others stayed outside. A steel table and two chairs on opposite sides of the table occupied the room with a ventilation shaft above. A shut single rectangular window, very close to the decked ceiling allowed a ray of sunlight to beam in.
Eden heard chains clanking with approaching footsteps and sat upright with ardour.
The door opened to reveal an officer escorting Black inside the room, chains clasped around his wrists and legs. The officer retreated out of the room once Black was inside and closed the door. Black finally lifted his head to see his visitor. His icy eyes collided with Eden staring right into them. Black’s footing faltered and his face morphed into trepidation as he scrammed to the corner of the room.
Eden was riddled with perplexity. This wasn’t the reaction she expected. She stood up and walked to Black. He gripped his head, tapping it and shattering his teeth as though he had seen a ghost of one of his victims. Eden couldn’t figure out why he would be afraid of her.
He was muttering words to the wall.
“What?” she crouched down to hear him.
“Devil’s spawn, devil’s spawn,” he whispered to the wall, avoiding Eden’s face. “Eyes of fire, devil’s spawn, devil’s spawn,” he chanted ceaselessly.
Eden huffed. “Devil’s spawn? I am not the devil’s spawn, am I?” she gestured to herself but Black kept mumbling the same words. “I am the devil’s spawn?” she snorted. “You murder 59 people in four years and I’m the devil’s spawn for burning your face off?”
Black was genuinely frightened and it gave Eden joy to watch him tremble in that fear. “You are right,” she said, shifting on her heels. “Maybe I am the devil’s spawn.” She leaned in and arched her head so she could look into his eyes as she spoke. “Keep living in that fear until you die,” she said softly and rose. After taking a step away from him, she stopped and turned back to him. “And Black…”
Black stopped vibrating at the corner and peered at Eden’s boots.
“I hope you burn in Hell.” She paused to let that sink in. “No, that shouldn’t be a prayer. You will surely burn in Hell. I have already given you a free sample of what you should expect,” she ran her eyes over Black’s burn marks. “I hear it’s hotter down there, but I’m sure you will adjust in no time.”
Black resumed whimpering and didn’t stop even after Eden left the room.
Her next stop was Fred. He was waiting in another empty room- except for a table and two chairs.
“Hello, Fred,” she sat across the table from him. “Blue looks good on you,” she gestured to the blue detention wear on him.
He replied with a scoff.
“I saw Black. Why is he like that? He called me the devil’s spawn.”
“You gave him an enormous shock the night of the fire. He was never normal after that—
“When was he ever normal? He attacked me in my apartment.”
“He wasn’t ready to face you when he did, which was why you got away.”
“More like he ran away.”
Fred huffed and rolled his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see you. Phoebe said hi.” Eden was ecstatic to see Black behind bars. For Fred however, maybe he wouldn’t be here if Black hadn’t kidnapped him and made him a killer. Maybe, just… maybe. “What did they say?”
“The DA said Black will get the death penalty and the best I can hope for is life,” Fred answered.
“Well,” he crossed her legs, “you did murder seven people including cops.”
“To protect you.”
“Don’t say you murdered in my name. I didn’t ask you to and you enjoyed it.”
“So did you.” He leaned forward in his seat and pointed a finger at Eden. “I saw your face when you shot Emma—
“Sorry, I was a little high on the adrenaline to notice my face.”
“Yeah? I remember your eyes when you burned Black. That emptiness and a black hole of lack of empathy. You loved it, just as you loved it when you shot Emma and you would have killed me too if the cops had not shown up. Why do you think Black called you the devil’s spawn?” he chuckled eerily. “Because you are his greatest achievement. You became a master before any of us.”
Eden eyed him, “What are you blabbering about?”
“If you had stayed back, you would have been worse than me.”
“No. I would have been better and not sloppy or become stupid enough to get caught. And my drive will surely not be an obsession over someone who didn’t even remember me.”
“You know what?” She propped her arms on the table. “I enjoyed watching Black burn. I loved it when I put four bullets in Vass and I would have killed you if the police hadn’t intervened. See, for me, I wasn’t driven by a misguided crusade to dispense justice. I wasn’t driven by blind love or thirst to feel needed, to protect. It was simple for me,” she narrowed her eyes. “You hurt me, I hurt you back, at least in two folds. You come after my family or the people I love, I come after you and rain on you as the hellfire and brimstone rained on Sodom and Gomorrah. I burned Black’s face off because he hurt Oliver. I was okay when he hit me but when I saw Oliver bleed…” she chuckled. Fred could guess the remaining part of the sentence. “I shot Vass because she shot me. I would have killed you too because you killed Micah who was my friend and you kidnapped me, tranqed me, held me captive and hit me.”
“You didn’t even know Micah until you got your memory back.”
“But I did when I had a gun in my hand and that was when it mattered.” She made her point and rested her back. “I am sorry for how things turned out.”
“I bet you are,” he sneered.
“No, I am. You probably won’t have turned out this way if Black didn’t kidnap you. You would have grown up with your family under normal childhood training. Everything changed for you when you were kidnapped. It became worse when you stayed behind. Evil begets evil.”
He grimaced and rolled his eyes aside.
“Thank you, for everything you did for me back in the tunnels.”
He rolled his eyes again.
“I mean it,” she said. “Thank you. But as I said, I am not that girl anymore. I can take care of myself now. And although it was a little obsessive, thanks for watching over me. For twenty years,” she sucked in air,” that is some devotion, but love isn’t give and take. Because you love someone doesn’t mean they must or they will love you back. You can only hope they feel the same way you do when you show them your sincerity. You can’t force someone to love you or force them to stay with you. That is not love, that is an obsession.”
There was a knock on the door and Eden knew what it meant. She rose to her feet, “Take care of yourself,” she said.
“I will see you, E.J,” Fred said. “Soon.”
She smirked back at him and confidently said, “No, you won’t,” and strutted out of the room.
“Thank you, Detective,” Oliver said when they got outside the detention centre gate.
“I should thank you,” Kress said. “You sped up things with your ability. Without it, I never would have known that my partner of five years was a serial killer’s fangirl.” When Oliver came to him four weeks ago, asking to see his death vision to be sure he was on their side, Kress felt insulted. He understood his reasons when he told him about Vass.
Oliver knew he couldn’t do it alone. His only choice was to be sure he could trust Detective Kress. He had to see his death vision and he did. A criminal he was chasing would shoot him years from now, that was how he would die. After he saw that, he knew he could trust him. A pang of sadness washed Oliver’s heart when he remembered how Kress would die. He succeeded in forcing a smile out and offered his hand for a handshake. “I will see you around.”
Kress shook his hand, “Actually, I doubt that.”
“Why?” Eden asked. “I am moving to Green County. My wife got a better job there so I requested a transfer. It was granted two days ago.”
“Aww, congrats,” she smiled. “I’ll miss having a detective in my corner.”
“Ohh, you have your cousin,” Kress laughed, “and she is good. Besides, you will be seeing the rest of the team, especially Lori.”
“I’ve been assigned to Detective Rhea Hart’s team,” Lori told them.
“My team members have been reassigned to other teams. Lori will be working with your cousin.”
Eden smiled and nodded approvingly. Lori was a smart lady. Rhea would love to work with her.
“Have a safe trip when you leave,” Oliver said to Kress as they strolled to Oliver’s car.
“Erm, Mr Hastings,” Lori called as he placed his hand on the doorknob. “Dash asked me to get your autograph.” She gave him a picture of Dash. “He took it the day he met you at the conference.”
Oliver laughed and signed on the picture. “Give him this too.” He unclipped his rose gold Patek Philippe wristwatch and gave it to Lori.
“He will never take this off,” she collected the watch, staring a big woah at the beauty. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” he said to them
“Bye,” Eden waved and entered the car.
Oliver drove out of the detention centre and into the freeway. “I saw you shake Detective Kress’s hand,” Eden said as Oliver drove her back home.
He smiled and nodded. “I took your advice.”
“Which one? I gave you many.”
He laughed. “You told me to embrace my ability and see it as something that can be developed. I can now turn it on and off.”
Eden shifted in the car seat to face him. “On and off?”
“I can shake or touch people without seeing the visions if I don’t want to. And I can now move better in the visionscape.”
“Without having a brain aneurysm or nosebleed?”
“Yep!” He wrapped his fist around the steering wheel.
“Really?!” she perked up. “Nice work!” She slapped his shoulder too hard.
Oliver’s upper body bounced forward with a soft grunt. “Your hand really hurts.”
She waved his words aside. “So you don’t have to avoid skin contact again?”
“Yea. I have to put my mind to it to see the visions.”
“Oh, yes!” she snapped her fingers, grinning from ear to ear.
“How come you are happier about this than I am?”
“Because your life just got easier. How can one survive without physical contact?”
“I survived without it for twenty years,” he jutted his chin at her, slightly tilting his head from the road.
“Yes, and we can see how you turn out.”
“But why can’t you see mine,” Eden wondered.
“Maybe it’s fate? I wouldn’t have gone back to look for you if my ability had worked on you. It was what drew me to you. Maybe it is fate.”
“Awww,” she smiled, “look who has started believing in fate.”
A pressing weight was lifted off their shoulders. Black and Fred were behind bars. Phoebe was alive and ready to start afresh. Oliver didn’t have to keep his hands in his pockets anymore. The wind hit them differently as Oliver drove down the freeway in the cool evening.
The bed was not hers. It was softer, yet firmer and she couldn’t hear vehicles passing the street. A sound she was all too used to every time she was at home or in her office. This place was quiet except for the faint twittering of birds outside the window. It was the best sleep she had had in a long time.
Eden turned on the bed and laid eyes on the chocolate-skinned figure lying beside her. She yelped and sprang out of the bed, waking Oliver.
“What am I doing here?!” Gathering the grey blanket to her body, her eyes shot to the four walls of the room. “Where is here?”
Oliver groaned at the loud noise. “You are in my house.”
“What am I doing in your house?”
He yawned and stretched. “You don’t remember?”
“You slept off in the car after we left the detention centre.” He rolled out of the bed, wearing a white round neck and black shorts. “You were exhausted. Who told you to start hopping around after being discharged?”
Eden couldn’t remember when she fell asleep. Oliver was taking her home and that was it, she woke up here. “You should have taken me home.”
“I did. I didn’t know the security code to your apartment and I didn’t want to wake you,” he stretched and yawned again. “Why do you look so surprised? It’s not like you haven’t slept in my house before.”
“I have slept in your house before, not in your room.”
“What’s the big deal? We are both consenting adults,” he grinned.
“Conse—” she looked down at herself. She was wearing her night top and shorts. This was not what she wore to the detention centre yesterday. “Who- who- who wore this on me?”
“I did,” he said casually.
Eden’s mouth fell apart in shock. “Did something happen last night? Did you do something to me?”
Oliver’s shoulder dropped. “Seriously? What do you take me for? Nothing happened and if it did, we,” he flicked a finger between them, “are both consenting adults.”
Eden scoffed. “Get out.”
“This is my house. My room.”
“Get out!” She climbed the bed and wobbled through the thick bedspread and blankets to meet Oliver on the other side. “Out, out, now,” she turned him to the door.
“This is my room,” he protested.
“Out, out!” she shoved him out of the door.
She came downstairs twenty-five minutes later, after a shower. Some of her clothes were still at Oliver’s which was why she was able to change into a clean pair of blue jeans and a black criss-cross blouse.
“You’re done in my room?” Oliver’s voice dripped with sarcasm.
“I left your room immediately I pushed you out.”
Snowball sprang up from Oliver’s side and scurried to Eden.
“Why did you send me out then?”
“Snowball!” She wagged her tail as Eden picked her and danced her fingers between her ears. “What’s for breakfast?”
He picked up his phone. “What should we order?”
“Let’s go to the supermarket,” she said. “There is nothing in your kitchen. I’ll cook.”
Remembering Thea’s advice, Oliver slowly sat up. “You don’t need to do that. Let’s just order.”
Eden stared at him blankly. Her mind made up, she asked him, “Aren’t you getting dressed?”
An hour and a few minutes later, they got back from the supermarket with grocery bags. When Eden asked what Oliver would like to eat, he chose the simplest dish he could think of. How hard could it be to fry eggs, right? To his astonishment, it took Eden more than forty minutes to accomplish that.
She lacked basic kitchen coordination and culinary skills. Oliver attached himself to her hip to prevent food poisoning or a possible fire outbreak. No one could blame him. Eden tried to add vinegar to eggs earlier and she carelessly dropped a napkin beside the gas stove. She was completely out of her element in the kitchen. It made him wonder why she suggested cooking that would put her through pointless stress.
Oliver stood on his toes, hovering around her in case of another disaster. “You can go and sit,” Eden said as she whisked the eggs – it was her third attempt. “I am almost through.”
He gave a false smile. There would be no sitting until the danger was over, meaning Eden out of the kitchen. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he resisted the urge to check who was calling him. He couldn’t afford to take his eyes off Eden before she spilt hot oil on herself.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” she said to him. He shook his head, keeping a watchful gaze on her hands. “It might be important.”
All she had to do now was pour the eggs into the pan. She could manage that, right? “I’ll be back in a sec.” Reluctantly, he fished out his phone and strolled to the living room to pick up the call. Jane needed some documents from his laptop, which meant he had to go to his study to send them via email. He glanced at Eden before running up the stairs, praying she didn’t burn the house down before he got back.
He came back less than ten minutes later. God, the kitchen was in a mess he was sure even a toddler couldn’t manage to create. Oil dripped from the counter, plates piled up in the sink, and vegetables littered the countertops; all from making an omelette for two people. At least she didn’t burn down the kitchen.
“Bon appetit!” She placed a plate of vegetable omelette on a space she had wiped on the kitchen island.
“Thank you.” He slid on the stool, staring at the plate. The omelette looked fair from the outside, but a feeling kept nagging at him to be careful. He picked up his fork and took a bite. The coldness of the raw egg in the middle of the omelette was distinct from the warm and crusty outer part. He pressed his lips together and swallowed the bite forcefully. He knew better than to spit out a woman’s food, especially Eden’s. And considering the hours it took her to get this ready, he didn’t want to find out how she would react. “How long did you fry the eggs?” he asked.
“What?” she lifted a brow, “It tastes bad?”
“No, no, not at all, just…, it has a unique taste.” He cleared his throat, “Just wondering if you rolled it off the pan immediately you poured the eggs inside.”
“Is it bad?” She took his fork and tasted it. “Hum,” she groaned and covered her mouth. “Raw egg,” she cried and spat inside the trash can.
Oliver’s laugh lines deepened as he chuckled.
“Since I left it for too long the first time and it got burnt, I thought I shouldn’t let it stay in the pan for too long this time.”
“Next time, reduce the heat—” What was he saying? “Wait, there won’t be next time. Don’t ever cook again. I will do the cooking or we will order in. Hands off anything cooking, okay?”
The doorbell interrupted her attempt at a protest and Eden’s phone rang as Oliver went to get the door. Halfway there, he heard the visitor entering his security code. The door beeped and opened.
“Mom!” Oliver’s eyes bugged out. He really should change his passcode.
“Why do you look like I came to greet you from the afterlife?” Mr Hastings strutted in, her arm bag in her hand.
“What are you doing here?”
“I knew calling you would be useless. Matters like this require a direct and physical approach. What is burning?” she sniffed.
She cocked her head at her son. “You have not seen the news?”
Eden gasped, drawing in as much air as she could. She clasped her hand over her mouth, staring at her phone. The loud gasp drew Mrs Hastings and Oliver’s attention to her.
“Ah!” Mrs Hastings pointed at Eden, “That is the girl!” Her expression was between amusement and joyfulness.
Oliver looked from Eden to his mother, confused.
“The girl in the articles,” Mrs Hasting squeaked. She paused to notice the chaotic state of her son’s kitchen. “What in God’s name happened in your kitchen?”
Oliver ignored curiosity. Mom, what article?”
Mom? Eden blinked several times before she could react. She leapt off the stool and went to Oliver’s mother. “Hello, my name is Eden Johnson.” Mrs Hastings was without a doubt Oliver’s mother. They shared the same skin colour and dotted nose. Her short ringlets of brown hair draped around her head and face and her thin lips were covered in nude lipstick. She had a pair of hazel eyes that sparkled as she spoke.
“Of course you are! You are trending right now.” She pulled Oliver to her side. “Is she your type?” she whispered.
Oliver locked his face, lost. Eden showed him an article on her phone. “Lessie just called me,” she told Oliver. The article’s headline read CEO OF SH GROUP AND THE MOST ELIGIBLE BACHELOR OF RED HILL IS TAKEN?! A picture of Oliver and Eden shopping together earlier that morning was attached to the article. Oliver Hastings, Eden Johnson, who is Eden Johnson? Who is Oliver Hastings’s girlfriend, Is the CEO of SH Group in a relationship? Ranked on the search list in that order.
“You two should have been more careful if you didn’t want to get caught,” Mrs Hastings said, sensing Eden’s displeasure with the publicity. “Although, I don’t mind,” she shrugged gleefully. “It is noise marketing for SH Group.” She brushed past Oliver and sat on a sofa in the living room.
The smell of burnt food in the air drew her gaze to the kitchen area again. Oliver disliked mess and he never cooked at home. The only other people that came to his house were Mrs Brooks and Niles. Mrs Brooks wouldn’t leave the kitchen in this state and Niles was no better than Oliver; he never cooked too. That left the lady her son probably has something for, enough to get caught on camera and not be bothered. Oliver grew up in the spotlight as the only heir to SH Group. He knew how to avoid cameras and the media. Letting his guard down this way could mean he actually liked the lady. He even went shopping with her. He never did that. Woah. If she was to be her daughter-in-law, she would never enter her kitchen. God help her.
“What are we going to do about this?” Eden whispered to Oliver.
“This picture makes me look older,” Oliver tilted his head at the screen.
“Is that what you are concerned about? They think we are dating!” It took Eden a significant amount of strength to keep her voice down because Oliver’s mother was there.
“Why are both of you mumbling? You should have expected this when you started dating,” Mrs Hastings said from the living room. Eden and Oliver suddenly found the ceiling and floor very attractive. “You are dating, right?”
“No!” Eden answered. “Yes!” Oliver affirmed, simultaneously.
“We are dating?” Eden asked him.
“Yes,” he widened his eyes.
“When did you ask me out?”
They spoke in whispers.
“Do I have to? It’s obvious I like you and I know you like me too. Plus, we have had… moments. It can be inferred that we are dating.”
Eden jutted her face at him. “There is no such thing as inferred dating.”
“You are so old-fashioned,” he rolled his eyes. “How many people begin a relationship by asking officially? So cheesy. People just flirt and somewhere along the line, it turns into a relationship.”
Eden huffed and crossed her arms on her chest. “Look at him talking as if he has been in a relationship,” she muttered. “Yes, I am old-fashioned. And what gave you the idea that I like you?”
“I—” Eden stopped to look at Mrs Hastings. They forgot for a moment that she was in the room, observing them with interest.
“Can we talk about this when your mother is not in the room?” Eden asked through gritted teeth.
“Ma, time to go,” Oliver gestured to the door. “We have things to discuss.”
Mrs Hastings relaxed on the sofa. “I am not going anywhere until I see this through.”
Oliver cocked his head at his mother.
“I need to know what to do with the media,” Mrs Hasting said. “If you are dating, it is good and I will leave the articles. If you are not, I have to make the article disappear before it blocks your chance of getting another lady.”
The idea of Oliver with another lady didn’t sound well to Eden.
Oliver sighed. “Fine,” he said to Eden, “since you want it the old-fashioned way, will you be my….” Mrs Hastings smirked, wishing she could pull the words out of Oliver’s mouth to make things go faster. “Ma, a little privacy, please?”
She rolled her eyes with a groan and stood up. “Fine,” she threw her hands up and went to the balcony, picking Snowball on her way there.
Oliver faced Eden again. “I don’t want you to feel pressured into something you don’t want to do. We can always make the articles disappear in minutes, so your answer should not be based on it.”
“Okay,” he inhaled deeply. “I like you, a lot. I have since I met you twenty years ago. I have since I met you again two months ago. I love having you in my life and since you want a label, how about you being my girlfriend?”
Awwwww. Eden clenched her teeth and shivered, rubbing her shoulders. “You are right, it is cheesy.”
They laughed before Oliver pulled her in for a kiss. Eden wrapped her arms around him and deepened the kiss, while Mrs Hastings peeped through the balcony door, giggling. Her son was finally in a relationship! Would you look at that?!
Eden’s phone rang, breaking their kiss. “It’s Makayla.” She paused to regulate her breath and stepped aside to pick the call as Mrs Hasting returned, grinning. “What?!… now?” Eden said to the phone, pinching her nose bridge. “Okay.”
“What is it?” Oliver asked as she ended the call.
Eden puffed air through her cheeks. “My dad wants to see us at the Base.”
“Hum?” Oliver’s eyes bugged out. “Why?”
“He saw the articles online.”
“Ah,” he rubbed his head.
“He wants us to come now,” Eden said.
“Uhm, okay.” He braced himself. “Okay, let’s go. Ma, Eden and I have to go.”
“I am coming with you,” she replied.
“I came with an Uber! You have to drive me home.”
“Mom, I can’t—
“Which was why I said I will go with you,” she spaced and stressed each word.
“I will call another uber for you.”
“Nope!” she shrugged.
Oliver groaned and went upstairs to change. It took him longer to find an outfit that fitted the occasion. He was meeting a General and the father of his girlfriend. Girlfriend. He smiled.
He hurriedly descended the stairs to meet Eden and his mother talking about something he didn’t know.
“I am driving,” Eden said at the garage.
“What? Let her drive,” Mrs Hastings said.
“Ma, when was the last time you reviewed your Will?”
“It’s been a while. Why?”
“Because you need to do that before you let Eden drive you.”
“She can’t drive?”
“She can. She can, that is the problem.”
“How is that a problem?”
Eden grabbed the car key from an unsuspecting Oliver and hopped in the driver’s seat.
“Oh, Jesus, be with me,” he mumbled and entered the car while his mother sat in the back seat. Oliver drew his seatbelt immediately
“Ready?” Eden grinned mischievously at Oliver.
Oliver clenched his seatbelt. “No.” He motioned that Eden come closer and whispered to her. “I get that you can’t help yourself, but please, don’t drive like the sociopath that you are. My mother is in the car,” he said with a sardonic smile.
“Trust me, I will get you to the Base in no time… except we don’t get there,” she smirked.
Oliver’s screams muffled through the Ferrari as Eden zoomed out of the garage, into the street.
This brings us to the end of the adventure. Thank you for reading. It has been a wonderful experience for me. Hope it was for you. Until next time…