Houdini's Box

Part 11

By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

Many thanks to everyone who mailed me feedback! Keep it coming!



June 27, 2000


   "Grace!" Jaden yells, throwing open the door. She looks around the apartment frantically, her eyes wide and frightened.

"I'm right here!" I tell her, running from the living room and throwing my arms around her. I feel her panting and shaking with fear as we cling to each other. "It's okay, nothing weird happened, I'm fine." I tell her, trying to calm my normally unflappable girlfriend.

"Thank God you're okay. I can't begin to tell you how terrified I was when you told me…." Jaden continues on, rambling like I've never known her to do. I pull away from her embrace and plant a kiss on her cheek.

"Shh, I'm okay. I'm so sorry for scaring you Jaden, I didn't know." I tell her, tears forming in my eyes. I feel so guilty for scaring her so. I hope she can forgive me.

She doesn't reply, hugging me close to her again. She buries her face in my hair, and her frantic breathing finally subsides. "That was scary." She remarks, her voice shaking.

"I'm sorry." I respond, nuzzling her slender neck.

"Not your fault. You didn't know."

We hold each other in silence for a few minutes, until our pounding hearts return to their normal rate. It is then that we break apart, looking into each other's eyes. Jaden has tears in hers, as do mine, and when I smile at her she smiles back uncertainly.

"Do you think you'll ever come home normally?" I ask, giggling. She soon follows suit. "I mean, really Jaden, the few times that you've come home you've been either drenched from the rain, covered in mud, in an awful mood, or scared out of your gourd." Jaden continues to laugh, the rich sound of her voice like liquid honey to my ears. "None of the normal, 'Honey I'm home!' with us, huh?" This is the final straw, and Jaden breaks into uncontrollable laughter, and I join her willingly.

We laugh like hyenas for a few minutes until I force myself to stop because my stomach hurts so. I don't know what really else to say, and always having trouble with awkward silence; I decide to voice what I'm feeling.

"I don't know what to say." I tell her and she nods, her face now solemn.

"Let's not say anything. Let's get changed and go somewhere wonderful for dinner, okay?" She answers, and I couldn't agree more.

We head into the bedroom, changing silently. Jaden pulls on a pair of black pants and a beautiful steel gray button-down shirt and I follow her lead of dressing nice and pull on a long flowered skirt and black shirt. Slipping into my low heels I head into the spare bedroom to use the vanity mirror for my jewelry and makeup. Recalling the probability of rain, I leave my hair slightly mussed and dust on some light makeup. I remove my light black dress jacket from the closet and my purse.

"You ready?" Jaden calls from the living room as I shut off the light in the spare bedroom. I swear she always manages to look incredible and take no time to get ready. I don't know how she does it.

"Yep." I answer her, heading down the short hallway. She looks incredible, her long black hair is shiny and slightly waved from the bun she had it in at work. "I already took the dog out." She remarks as she helps me slide on my jacket.

"How? I didn't even hear you go." I tell her, patting Bean's head as we head out of the door. Jaden doesn't respond, and merely smirks at me. She's such a smart ass sometimes, especially when she thinks she's so cool. I love that about her. Hell, I love everything about her.

"You look lovely, Pixie head." She tells me, ruffling my short hair. I stick my tongue out at her, recognizing Joe and Diana's daughter's nickname for me.

We head down the stairs and out of the building. We get in Jaden's car just in time to miss the light sprinkling of rain. "Is it always this rainy in Massachusetts?" I ask her, it seems like it's rained daily since I moved here.

"No, it's usually too dry." She remarks, putting the car into gear and backing out of the driveway. "We had a mild winter though, not much snow, so we need this rain desperately, regardless of how annoying it is."

"Oh." I answer, and then change the subject. "Jaden, will Bean be safe at home? What if Ronnie, er, Aron, is poking around and will hurt her? He was pretty mad when she tried to bite him." I am suddenly nervous for my little dog, I can't imagine what I would do if anything happened to her.

"Don't worry about it." Jaden remarks, pointing to a nondescript dark car parked on the corner. "Jake's watching the house, and I can guarantee that Bean will be safe." She takes her eyes from the road to look at me. "And what makes you think that Ronnie is Aron?" She remarks, her lip slightly curled.

I feel like a deer in the headlights, only her headlights are bright blue. Well, one set of her headlights is bright blue. The other set is a milky white golden pinky color with lovely round pink…... I laugh to myself, my sides shaking with effort as I try to put on a straight face.

"What are you laughing at?" Jaden predictably asks.

"You really don't want to know. Trust me." I tell her, and she doesn't push the issue, simply rolling her eyes and focusing her full attention on the road. "And I just assumed that Aron and Ronnie were one in the same. Did I assume wrong?" I question her, adding, "And who is Jake and why is he watching the apartment?"

"Okay Sherlock, Aron and Ronnie are indeed one in the same. In fact, Aron hates to be called Ronnie, and so after our relationship started to turn, I called him Ronnie constantly. He hates it. So that's why he told you to tell me that 'Ronnie' said hello, because he knew I'd recognize who he was. Secondly, Jake is an old friend of mine and he's watching the house because he'll do a better job than any cop. I called him from my way home today after you told me about Aron. He and his guys are going to keep a constant watch on the place, so don't blow their cover. No interacting with them for any reason. Ignore them and pretend they don't exist."

Goddess, that's the longest thing Jaden's ever said to me. Well, not really, but it sure seems like it. "Okay." I reply, wondering how good of an 'old friend' Jake is and just how many 'old friends' does Jaden have?

"I thought we'd go to Capilano's." Jaden remarks. "They have fabulous seafood among other things."

I scrunch my nose up. Ick, I hate seafood, and fish too. Anything that swims or lives in the water I can't eat. "Okay." I answer agreeably. "If they have other stuff besides seafood, I'm sure I'll find something great."

"You don't like seafood?" Jaden asks, her voice surprised.

"Nope, it's gross." I offer as an answer. She laughs and shakes her head.

"We can go somewhere else." She suggests, but I rebuff her.

Arriving at the restaurant, we enter the lobby and I find Capilano's to be very small and cozy. The other diners are dressed nicely, and I'm glad I wore this outfit rather than the jeans I had on. A cute waitress seats us and I glance over the menu, finding everything to be expensive beyond my dreams.

"Thirty-eight dollars for a steak?" I whisper to Jaden incredulously. She nods her head, her eyes never leaving the menu.

"But it's good steak." She replies and I giggle. I can't believe she brought me somewhere so nice. I thought Jaden's idea of 'somewhere wonderful for dinner' was somewhere without a drive-thru.

I shouldn't say that, Jaden and I have gone wonderful places together; I just didn't think she'd be into going somewhere this dressy and expensive. But I'm glad we came here, the atmosphere is lovely and the food sounds delicious.

The waitress returns, and Jaden orders the steamed mussels as an appetizer and the swordfish for her main course. Double gross.

"And for you, Miss?" The waitress asks, her pretty brown eyes shining in the low light. She has light brown hair and freckles, and I feel she's looking at me weird.

"Um," I stammer, looking down at my menu again. "The filet mignon, cooked medium please, with mashed potatoes, green beans, and garlic toast." The waitress scribbles down my order. "Oh, and can I start with a salad? Italian dressing?" I ask, seeing Jaden grin from the other end of the table.

Her warm hand finds mine and grasps it. I settle my fingers in between hers, the soft linens of the table proving to be quite comfortable. The waitress finishes writing my order and gives me a dazzling smile. Blushing, I smile in return and as the waitress turns to walk away, she notices our clasped hands and turns her gaze to Jaden.

Jaden smiles at her, almost menacingly and the poor waitress rushes away.

"She was looking at me weird." I tell Jaden.

"She loved you, she wanted to kiss you!" Jaden teases, sounding like Sandra Bullock in that one movie, 'Miss Congeniality' or something.

"She did not!" I protest, my face flushing even more.

"She wanted to marry you, have your babies.." Jaden continues, and I laugh loudly, earning us a few looks from the diners around us. I instantly quiet, not wanting to make a scene in this nice restaurant.

I gaze at Jaden, finding her exquisitely beautiful in this soft light. She smiles at me, squeezing my hand. I return her smile, wondering how I'm going to pose this difficult question. I chew on my bottom lip nervously, wishing that our appetizers would come so I could procrastinate asking Jaden to finish what she started earlier.

Glancing around, I don't see our waitress anywhere. Deciding that I might as well just bite the bullet, I begin to speak.

"Can you tell me why you're so afraid of Aron? What happened after Jonah found out about you using drugs?" I am careful to keep my voice low, to avoid anyone else overhearing our conversation. Jaden stiffens, but from the look on her face I can tell that she was expecting me to ask this.

"It seemed so simple." Jaden begins, leaning over the table to be closer to me. I take her unconscious cue and leave my seat from across her, moving next to her in the booth. She welcomes my presence by putting her arm around my shoulders.

"We don't have to talk about this here." I tell her, giving her the chance to back out from telling me.

"No, I want to tell you." She answers, her voice grim. "If I tell you somewhere in public, then I have to tell you and I can't get upset."

"Jaden, it's good to get upset and feel emotions, regardless of if they are happy or sad. Only be feeling things can you heal." I tell her, hoping she can understand.

She nods her head in agreement. "I know, but every time I try to tell you I get so upset I can't finish. You need to know Grace, you have to know."

"Okay." I tell her, letting the subject drop.

"It was simple." She begins again. "I told Jonah that I would go to the police with what I knew about Aron. I had enough inside information about him to lock him up for years. Jonah didn't want me too, as much as he wanted Aron to pay for what he did, he thought I would be at risk if Aron found out I told on him." Jaden pauses, licking her dry lips before taking a drink of her soda water. "Jonah and I decided that we would leave in the middle of the night in two days. In those two days, Jonah would stay at the hostel and I would stay with Aron, like nothing had changed. I would get any and all evidence I could against Aron and turn it in to the police on our way out of town."

"What happened?" I ask, scared to hear the answer.

"I was an addict, that's what happened." She answers dryly. "Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of choosing between my brother who I loved more than anything or the drugs that I thought I needed more than anything. I knew if I stayed with Aron he would keep me so high that I wouldn't be able to carry out the plan."

"What did you do?" I question her again, mentally slapping myself for interrupting.

"I made a tough decision." Jaden answers only to be interrupted again by the waitress who is delivering our appetizers. She hurriedly sets the plates down, not remarking on my changed seating arrangement, and leaves us to eat. I look disdainfully as Jaden eagerly digs into her mussels.

"I left Aron." Jaden continues succinctly. "I packed up my few things, went to the hostel and told Jonah not to contact me and that we'd leave when I was ready, and using the money I had earned I got myself a hotel room." She finishes another mussel before continuing.

"I didn't want Jonah at the hotel with me in case Aron or his loser friends tried to find me. Aron said he'd kill me if I left, and I believed him. I spent weeks in that hotel in agony, trying to get the drugs out of my system."

I almost choke on my salad. "I can't believe you did that, how did you have the strength to kick yourself of a drug addiction?"

"Shh." Jaden admonishes, giving me a harsh look. Oops, I guess I did say that a bit loud. None of the other diners seem to notice, but I still feel awful.

"Sorry." I mumble, turning my attention back to my salad. Jaden leans over and gives me a sweet kiss on my cheek.

"Not a big deal." She says, and I don't know if she's speaking of my outburst or her kicking her own addiction. "So after I was better, I turned my full attention to screwing Aron for all that he was worth. I went to the police and gave them a list of all of Aron's inside people. Then I told him the usual locations where things happened as well as everyone and everything else I knew about. The police were ecstatic, here I am, this stupid fifteen-year-old kid completely giving them everything they need to know to cut down on Detroit's drug problem."

"You are so brave." I tell her.

"I was stupid and naive." She answers. "I honestly thought that I was smarter than Aron and that I could beat him." Pausing, she adds softly. "I guess I was, and that's why he did what he did."

"What did he do?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

"Everything worked perfectly. The police were prepared to make their move on Aron. They had already arrested most of his group, and Aron's so-called 'trusted inner circle' all ratted on him. The police had more than enough information to arrest him, and they were searching everywhere for him. I had called Jonah, told him to be ready and I would come to the hostel and we'd go home."

Jaden stops speaking, and I see her trembling. Giving her all the comfort I can, I press my body next to hers and hold her hand. "It's okay sweetheart, you don't have to tell me, it's okay."

"No." Jaden whispers, and I see her face, filled with emotions slowly fade and become stoic, her sad blue eyes becoming set and cold. "I was in the hotel, checking myself out and paying in cash. As I walked outside to get a cab, Aron grabbed me. He had a gun and it was pointed into my back. He told me that if I moved that he would kill me. We walked forever, it seemed, until we got to a bad part of town."

"What happened?" I ask again, riveted by her tale.

"Well, what Aron didn't know is I had someone from the police force following me. The police assigned me a bodyguard because they knew my life would be in danger. This officer saw Aron grab me and had followed us the entire way."

"That was smart." I add, not wanting to think about how much trouble Jaden would have been in if no one had seen Aron grab her.

"We went to this warehouse, Aron going in the back door. I couldn't see the officer, but I knew that he had probably called for backup a long time ago and that Aron was going down." She clears her throat. "What I didn't know was that Aron had a trump card."

"What?" I ask.

"Jonah." She answers, her voice breaking. "Aron led me to a room, and I saw my brother, tied up in a chair. He looked so scared, Gracie." My heart breaks at the anguish Jaden must have felt, and is still feeling.

"I'm so sorry." I whisper to her, wishing I could take away her pain.

"Aron told me that if I didn't go to the police and tell them that I was lying that he would kill Jonah. I wasn't an idiot. I knew that Aron brought us both here to kill us. I was hoping that by agreeing to him I would buy us some time until the police got here. I told Aron I would, if he'd let Jonah go."

"Did he?"

Jaden signs angrily and shakes her head. "He untied him and walked him to the door. I didn't know if he was going to let him go or if it was just a plot. But Jonah refused to leave without me, and it took all of Aron's strength to push Jonah out the door. Aron then shut and locked the door, telling me that he had a lot more to do to me than just kill me." She shudders and regains her composure before continuing. "I don't know what came over me. I lunged at him, taking him by surprise and knocking him over. The gun went flying and I managed to grab it first, pointing it at him. He laughed, taunting me and saying that I would never kill him. My finger tightened on the trigger, knowing how easy it would be to end it all. Jonah was banging on the door, screaming my name. I was so confused, I had a gun pointed at Aron and I didn't know what to do, and Jonah wouldn't stop screaming and banging. Holding the gun on Aron I opened the door and Jonah came running in. In the commotion, I never even saw Aron reach down to his leg and pull out another gun. He pointed it at Jonah and fired, the same time I fired the gun I had pointed at him." Jaden's words come out in one single breath and she has to stop to catch her breath before continuing.

"Aron killed him, instantly. I put a bullet in Aron's shoulder, and before I could finish the job the police barged in. Aron held the three officers at gunpoint, and managed somehow to escape down the alley. He had someone waiting outside for him, and they couldn't find him. Jonah was dead by the time that I reached him."

"Oh Jaden, I am so sorry." I tell her, pulling her into a warm hug. "I am so sorry you had to go through that." She doesn't respond, her arms hanging lifeless and I hug her closer. "You didn't deserve what happened, and you didn't kill Jonah. Jaden, it wasn't your fault."

"I don't know why Aron is back." Jaden begins, her voice gentle in my ear. "But I'm doing my damnedest to find out. I won't let him hurt you."

"I know." I answer honestly.

"Our food, Grace." Jaden remarks in my ear and I release her to find the waitress has appeared with our dinners. Even my remarkable appetite has been squashed as I look into Jaden's haunted eyes. "Let's eat, I'm starving." She tells me, pushing her plate of half-eaten mussels away. She puts lemon on her fish and cuts one piece off. "Wow, this is incredible."

I look at her like she's just gone crazy. I don't understand how she can be hungry after telling me what she just told me. "Jaden, are you okay?" I ask, and from the look she gives me I wish I hadn't asked. Her beautiful eyes are guarded and cold. I realize that this is how she copes with things, and that it's the only way she can function despite the pain she's in. I nod in understanding, and turn my attention to my steak.

"Thank you for being open with me." I tell her. "I really appreciate it."

"I appreciate you." She answers, her lips quirking slightly as I look to her. "I don't mean to be a bitch, Grace."

"I know." I answer, smiling at her. She smiles in surprise and continues devouring her dinner. I dig into my steak, feeling strangely at peace regardless of what I have just learned.



Part 12:Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

Return to Main Page