It was a lazy Saturday morning. August had been working late nights for the past week and it was dragging on him. He was so exhausted, he didn't even wake up when Bullet pounced on him like he usually did if we weren't getting up early for work. I still had a full schedule today, though. Clients were demanding on the weekends. My only break was on Mondays.
Finally, Bullet grew fiesty, growling, wanting to play. "Hey, August," I said, nudging him.
"Huh?" he said, groggily, rising up a bit. Suddenly, Bullet bounced all over him, wagging his tail and licking August's face.
"Morning, Bullet," August greeted. "I see you. Okay, buddy. Calm down." This just made Bullet even more excited. He wouldn't be satisfied until August threw him a ball.
"I think you better get up, baby. He's not going away." Even at eight years old, Bullet still acted like a puppy.
"Shit. What time is it?" he asked.
"8:30. I've got a client at 10, but if we're quick," I nuzzled his cheek then gave him a kiss.
"Mmm..." he purred. "I'd love to, baby, but I gotta go."
I lurched my head. "Huh? You aren't working, are you?"
He kissed my cheek then rose out of bed, padding toward the bathroom. "I'm doing two cases now. And one of those I need to use our data base when the boss isn't around. You want me to solve Daniel's murder, don't you?"
"Not if you run yourself ragged. You came home at 11 last night."
I heard the hissing of the shower for an answer. He wasn't listening.
The chicory smell of coffee wafted toward me as I'd entered the kitchen. Finishing up my nails at the counter, I saw August not on his epad, not reading anything, just staring off into space as if he was working on a huge problem. Dark circles seemed to appear under his eyes today. He needed to stay home and rest.
"August, you look like shit. Can't whatever you're working on wait? I mean, Daniel's murderer has been out there for eight years. Giving it a break for a few days so you can rest won't hurt."
But he didn't answer. He just slurped a bit on his coffee, still staring at nothing.
"What good is this going to get us if you end up in the hospital for exhaustion? Will you at least open up and tell me what's bothering you? What's going on?"
Anger rising, I spat, "Fine. Don't talk to me. I'm late for work." I turned on my heel, pins seemingly pricking my face. I'd be in a salty mood all day for sure.
Pulling me back, August said, "Hey, baby, don't go away mad..."
God, when did August get this strong? I remembered when we used to spar in high school. I could hold my own with him.
Well, whenever he wasn't using that flying kick of his.
I was freaking weak now as I'd been this character, Caleb Vatore, for so long. I hated that. "August, what the fuck?"
"You didn't give me a good-bye kiss." He slipped his warm tongue in my mouth, sending shivers down my body. He knew how to douse my anger. Relaxing, I gave into him.
"When are you coming home?" I asked, knowing he wasn't going to listen to me no matter what I said, so I dropped it.
Peppering me with kisses, he murmured, "Late."
I grunted, not happy.
Catching me with his eyes, he said, "Listen, Beau, once this is over, I promise to take some time off, okay? We'll go somewhere for vacation like to Shang Simla or...how about Selvadorada? Would you like that?"
I couldn't help but smile. How could I stay mad at him? August was doing this for us. For me.
Chuckling, I said, "Yeah, okay. That's a deal."
I'd stayed late last night because I'd been running background checks on all the people I'd remembered who'd attended Wilder's Graduation Bash. And although I didn't know everyone there, I had to start somewhere.
But what I'd uncovered filled me with dread.
I couldn't tell Beau. It would crush him. And I guessed it just clouded my mind all this morning. I'd felt bad about ignoring Beau. I didn't mean to.
But telling him what was on my mind was out of the question.
I'd found through my search that Ethan Moon had led a double life. One as a typical high school kid. The other, as a drug runner and thug for some guy named Tony Corleonesi III. This dude was as slippery as the Bambinos, always avoiding jail time with nothing sticking. He'd disappeared shortly after our graduation. Ethan had gotten busted many times over the years in high school, but with each time, the charges were always dropped on some sort of technicality. Brindleton Bay style.
And now, Ethan was the financial kingpin for Wilder's business. I'd called for a Federal Audit on Wilder's holdings about a month ago. The results just came in this week and were suspicious of money laundering. I had no clue if Wilder actually understood what was happening. He just didn't seem the type to do something like this. Thankfully, Agent Dickens wanted more information from Wilder. I had to weasel it out of him tonight. This turn of events had been flooding my mind all week. Beau was right. The stress was getting to me, but the worst thought was--could Ethan have had a falling out with Daniel Fortner? Was this Corleonesi character the one Daniel was afraid of when I'd beaten him up?
There were so many unanswered questions.
But then, if Ethan was Daniel's killer, what would have been the motivation for him keeping me and Beau apart? And why would he kill Briar? It didn't make sense.
Bottom line--once we get enough information, both Ethan and Wilder were going to jail. And hopefully, we could get them to be witnesses against the Bambino brothers. Usually, when people were faced with huge jail sentences, they'd squeal to get out of it. I hated the fact that it was me who had to do this.
I called to check in with Beau right before I met up with Wilder. I promised him I'd be home around ten. He seemed to be in better spirits which relieved me.
But as I walked toward the meeting place Wilder and I'd agreed on, that feeling of dread washed over me as I spied Ethan Moon grinning at me like a cat who'd caught a mouse in its fangs.
Next chapter on Monday, March 26th!
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