**To my lovely readers and friends, it’s a very, very bad head pain week (Trigeminal Neuralgia) so I apologize for the quality of the chapter. I didn’t want to keep you waiting too long. As awesome as you all are, I know you will understand! So the chapter is more picture heavy and less story. Next chapter we will learn so much!
Steve disappeared Friday night for a meeting that went way into the morning hours and when he returned, he announced to the family that he was leaving for a work conference to Sunlit Tides on Monday morning. This was just the break I was looking for in the investigation and I quickly put in a call to my boss about the situation.
“I don’t know what you want me to do. Do I stay? Or do I follow him to Sunlit Tides?”
“Following him could put a lot of things in jeopardy,” he responded. “How would you explain your absence coinciding at the same time Steve is gone? No, you have to stay and accomplish what you need to do. I will go. I could use a vacation myself. (Sigh) I just hope the wife will understand why I have to go alone.”
From the window on the second level, I watched as Charlotte walked him to the car on Monday morning and proceeded to embrace him in a very hot make out session, before he finally left. As the car drove down the road and turned the corner, I saw what I thought was a very sour look cross her face, but as I was so far away I couldn’t tell if I was truly seeing what I thought. It led me to wonder, did she know? Did she know about the affair with Bianca and was she playing the doting wife or “turning the other cheek” as some wives did. There was no doubt in my mind that when my boss returned, I would learn that Bianca had taken this trip with Steven. No doubt at all.
So when Charlotte announced a few hours later, that she herself would be leaving on vacation after her work shift ended, my suspicion grew. Was she going after her husband?
Steve had plans to be away for about five days which hopefully would give me the opportunity to prepare for and accomplish everything I wanted to do. Lily rather, had much different plans and so we decided to make the most of our lack of parental supervision, and finally go on that date.
We dressed in formal attire and I escorted her to the most expensive restaurant in town (which I could easily afford as I was secretly being paid for two jobs) where we ate the most expensive items on the menu, and drank the best bottle of juice I could pronounce on the list. Lily wasn’t quite ready for our evening to end and since it was such a warm Fall evening, we danced on the patio to soft Latin music. Luckily I only stepped on her foot twice! It had gotten quite late and the restaurant had long closed but neither of us wanted the evening of freedom to end, so we danced and talked about our lives. I’m afraid we were a bit silly, but it served me well, for in the middle of a dip, I saw something I never expected to see.
I pulled lily into the shadows and watched from across the street.
Charlotte had emerged from her work place…..and gotten into a very expensive limousine.
The limousine pulled away from the curb and left the middle of the city turning towards the direction of home.
“Do you know anything about that?” I said to Lily.
“No,” she whispered back.
“I think we should go home. See if we run into your mother there.”
When we arrived home, Charlotte was nowhere to be seen.
Lily had checked the mailbox before coming in and now stood in the foyer with a confused look upon her face before she gasped. She stood there shaking and I truly felt she may pass out, so I backed her to the steps to help her sit down.
“It’s Maria. She has run away with the maid!”
By the time you read this, Lonnie and I will be long gone. He’s asked me to marry him and vows to protect me from this whole mess we have found ourselves in. If you were wise, you would leave too Katie. You’re in danger, you all are and I couldn’t stand by any longer living in fear of my own father. He’s changed and I don’t know who he is anymore. I’m wondering if I ever did.
You have the tools to get away now. He provided you with the means to do so. Run away. Forget you are Katie and be Lily Stone. Make a life for yourself far from here. I love you sister and I don’t want to see anything happen to you.
I’ve ditched my phone so don’t try to contact me. I will let you know where I am, as soon as I feel I am settled somewhere no one can find us. Stay safe, dear sister.
P.S. Please give father the note I have included when he returns from his trip.
Lily just sat there staring at the letter, I’m sure looking for the hidden meaning behind the words; something to help her to understand. I broke her concentration by asking to see the envelope intended for their father
“It’s sealed,” Lily said.
“I plan to unseal it,” I replied. “Your father will never know. I should probably go.”
“Go? Go where? I thought….. I thought maybe…. I mean we are alone.”
“Lily, I know what you are suggesting but I really don’t think that is a good idea. Besides on the off-chance your father finds out your mother was also away, I want to be able to gain his confidence by telling him I slept somewhere else. I will go to the safe house. Will you be okay without me?” She nodded her head. “Lock the door behind me.”
I spent the night at the safe house, but sleep did not come. I tossed and turned in the bed fighting the visions of differing scenarios in my head. I had unsealed the letter intended for Steve and what I read gave me chills.
The letter was a threat to her father, intended to provide for Maria and Lonnie’s safety, but it wasn’t just the threat that was weighing hard on my mind. It was obvious to me that I perhaps should have aligned myself with Maria, for as her note stated, she was very well versed in much of what her father was doing. The big question became, how did she know? She knew about the affair before I even did, which indicated she had been aware of her father’s activities before I was even brought on the scene. But still, how? Had I misjudged Maria? Or, could she be part of the scheme her father was running?
You’re in danger
I couldn’t get those words out of my mind. She was right. Lily was in danger and I had put her there even more that she had been. Guilt stabbed at my conscience and by the night’s end I knew exactly what I had to do. I just needed to pick the right time to do it. For now, I texted my boss and warned him to also be on the look out for Charlotte Barton.
I went into work that day and made the rounds like I always did, playing friendly to everyone and gathering as much gossip as I could along the way. No one seemed to know why Steve was gone, but his absence was marked by many. On the day shift I had all the keys to every door in the building, but if I tried to actually go into a room, eventually my own absence would be missed. So I tried the age-old trick of applying chewing gum to the lock and crossed my fingers it would hold until I returned that evening. Then marked that the office had been checked, so a recheck would not be required that evening since Steve had left town.
I came back into the building after 10 p.m., using a key I had made for the side door. I could have walked right in to the hospital doors on the front, but I didn’t want to be caught on camera entering the building at all. The chewing gum did work, although not completely and I had to jiggle the lock in order to get the door to Steve’s office to open. I stepped inside and took it all in.
I had never been able to actually see his office, just check the door to make sure it was locked when he was out of the building, so I was a bit in awe of the wealth of the room.
Trying to crack into his files on the computer proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I did discover his secrets, but not the ones I wanted to see. I decided to look around the office and search in drawers for anything that might give me a clue for the files that were password locked.I found a few things, but none of them were the key. So I sat in his chair looking around the room and tried to think like him.
That’s when I saw it….an unlocked cabinet across the room with this…….
Shelves full of elixir bottles filled the cabinet, all labelled with the name Lex and a bunch of numbers after them. I wasn’t a scientist, but I doubt most doctors had ever seen elixirs like these. They were glowing neon colours and by the look of them, they had to be supernatural.
Lex was the password to get me into the files I was looking for. They were all written in scientific terms and made no sense to me, but there were letters written between Steve and a man named John. The content of the letters indicated they were trying to cure something but that previous testing of viles 0001-00010 had been unsuccessful. The most alarming bit was “more test subjects needed” was mentioned in more than one letter.
Was John our “unknown” man in this scheme?
I copied everything to a USB, carefully made my way from the building, and back to the safe house to go through all the files. Hopefully something would register in a Sim language I could understand. I googled Lex as well, hoping I would find some definition of the word, but found nothing at all. When I was done, I texted the boss and asked him what he wanted me to do.
Tuesday after work, I made my way over to visit with the family and meet the new…..
Brokk, and Blossom at the block table with Brenna trying out her wings before she can even walk. I helped the older trips with their homework and spent some time around the fire after supper with the middle trips. Kalen was only too happy to tell me how his mom had gone into early labour while they were spending the day at the beach. Not only had his father freaked out, but so did Fayette, while he himself had stayed nice and cool and took complete charge of the situation. “In your dreams!” Fayette said annoyed.
The trips were born at the beach on a beautiful hot and sunny day. I was disappointed I wasn’t there to be apart of it.
Cameron convinced me to stay the night and the following morning, I called in sick to work to give her a bit of help with the toddlers. But I also wanted time to go through all those files I had taken from Steven’s computer.
Cameron’s morning didn’t go well. Shortly after the maid got there, she had to fire her and the maid was quite belligerent about it. Once I thought Cameron had everything under control, I made my way back to the safe house to see what I could decipher on the computer.
I sat there for hours reading those files, sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of the evil that had fallen in Monte Vista. By the time my boss returned three days later, I was emotionally sick from everything I had learned. Then my boss came back from Sunlit Tides and between the two of us we figured out….
It was worse than we ever could have imagined and we still hadn’t even gotten to the root of the scheme.
Lonnie Coulter and Maria Barton
**Special thanX to all my friends who sent me elixirs not once but twice, when I had to replace them due of a power outage during game play!