Houdini’s Box

Part 12

By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

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June 28, 2000

"Can I talk to you?" I ask, my voice low as I address my captain. Without a word he heads for his office and I take that as my cue to follow. I shut the door firmly behind me and sit at the chair across from his desk. He seats himself behind his desk, and takes out a pad of notebook paper.

It’s safe; I had it checked this morning. But we can’t be too careful.

He turns on his radio, the annoying sound of classic rock filling the office.

I nod; having spoken to him about my thought that there was a good chance Aron has someone on the inside who could bug the place.

"Let’s do this." I tell him, and his grayed brows rise in surprise. "We’re not ever going to be more ready, let’s do it now."

"Okay." He answers, and I’m surprised that he’s not going to put up a fight. He smiles gruffly at me, adding, "I trust you, if you say you’re ready, I believe you."

"Thank you." I tell him honestly. "I want to get this over and done with. Where do we go from here?" I ask, handing him my file I’ve put together on Aron.

He efficiently flips through it, making grunts of surprised approval. "Good work, you’ve managed to find out more in a few days then any of our specialists have been able to do in months." He looks at me in astonishment. "How did you do this?" He questions, his intense face studying mine.

I shrug, looking into his eyes. "You told me you needed me because I’m the best. I don’t plan on proving you wrong." He slowly nods.

"I guess so. You interested in moving form the mounted department? If so, let me know."

I grin at him, shaking my head. "You know me better than that sir. I love what I do."

"Just a thought." He finishes, clearing his throat and opening the file again. I know he wants to get down to business. "You and detective Steele will work together. He’s a specialist that’s been brought in."

"No." I tell him simply. "I work alone on this."

"I won’t have it Phillips, the suspect is too dangerous. I need you with Steele."

"No." I repeat again, standing firm. "I have reason to believe that the someone in this department has led the suspect on to our investigation. I don’t trust anyone."

"Not even me?" My captain asks, his voice low. I look into his weathered eyes, finding nothing there but openness. I hope I can trust him; I sure as hell want to have someone on my side here. My gut tells me to trust him.

"I trust you sir. But I don’t know detective Steele."

"You’ll get to know him. He’s earned my respect Phillips, and that should mean something to you."

"Fine." I answer him, effectively dismissing the argument. If I have to work with him, I will. But I don’t have to trust him.

"You and Steele need to meet the suspect and exchange him in a sale. If that goes cleanly, we move in to take him out. It should be enough to put him away."

"It won’t work." I argue. "He’s too smart to fall for that." I sigh, exasperated. "It’s been tried with him before. We need to get someone on the inside, someone who can get recorded evidence of his past crimes. That’s our only way."

My captain looks at me warily. "What do you propose?" He asks, and I’m surprised that he didn’t overrule me. He must agree with my opinion on the plan.

"Either detective Steele or myself must find our way into his inner circle and get hard evidence, or find someone willing to testify against him."

"Too dangerous." He adds. "It will never happen."

"I’ve done it before." I tell him quietly. He looks at me in question as I slide a piece of paper over to him. It’s the information I purposely left out of the file, the information about my history with Aron and my role as an informant with the police.

His eyes register shock as he reads the paper. "What happened?" He asks, his voice hushed.

I tell him the entire story, from my drug abuse to Jonah’s death. To his credit, my captain doesn’t flinch once, even when hearing of my illegal activities. He holds all of the power right now, the ability to kick me out of law enforcement for good, the ability to arrest me, and most important, his ability to lose all respect for me.

He sits back in his chair, folding his wide hands over his trim stomach. I sit before him, open and vulnerable, nervous since my first day on the force.

"There isn’t anyone here who has been a completely upright, law-abiding citizen. Phillips, you’re too good of an officer to be punished for mistakes you made as a kid." I let out the breath I was holding, relieved. "The fact that you had the guts to go after this guy then and now means more to me than your past. I’m honored to be working alongside you."

He stands, moving from behind his desk to pull me into an awkward hug. He breaks it uncomfortably, sitting down again once more. "If you don’t mind me asking, how did you pass background checks to be eligible for law enforcement?"

"I lied." I tell him. "I was 15 and scared out of my mind. I refused to give the police my real name and they knew me only as Jay. I told the police that my brother Jon and I were on our own, and that our mother abandoned us. Which was true, in our case. The police only knew us as Jay and Jon. When Jonah died, I fled and came back to Massachusetts. I was too scared to stay there."

He nods, his eyes compassionate. "I’m sorry." He offers, and I smile tersely, anxious to get this conversation over with.

"Thank you for understanding sir." I tell him, and he clears his throat in acknowledgement.

"Back to business." He states. "I think you should excuse yourself from this assignment. You should have from the beginning." From the look on his face, I know he’s expecting my argument.

I sit and think, pondering the option he just gave me. He’s just allowed me permission to back down and away from this. To put Grace and myself out of danger. I could take her away somewhere, maybe even out of the country until this is resolved and Aron locked away. We could relax and spend some time together, no worries, no cares. The ticket to freedom, or I can be stupid and go through with this mission and put Grace in danger. Be stupid and get Aron out of my life once and for all.

"I’m no quitter." I tell him, effectively making up my mind. I never said I wasn’t stupid. "I know this guy, better than anyone else you have. I can do this, and I need to do this. Not only for the safety of others, but for personal reasons."

The only sound is from the radio, the captain tensely going over what I’ve said. He is lost in thought, his eyes darting back and forth. His ass is on the line, if anyone finds out about this he has as much to lose as I do.

"I’ll go get Steele." The captain finally mutters, standing up and walking towards his office door. "I don’t feel right about this Phillips, but I need you."

I smile at him, my eyes narrowing at the thought of finally being able to get the best of Aron. "I won’t let you down." I tell the captain and he exits the office.

Returning shortly, the captain enters the office trailed by a guy that might as well be a Greek God. He’s tall, with long sandy brown hair and chiseled features. Jesus Christ, he’s so big he should be a wrestler. I stand, shaking his hand and observing his clear blue eyes. My first impression tells me that he’s honest and a good person, the innocent intelligence in his eyes reminds me of my Grace.

"Detective Steele, Detective Phillips." The captain offers as a quick introduction. "Please be seated officers."

We all sit. "Why are you only a detective?" I ask Steele before we can get the conversation started again. "If you’re as good as the captain has been making you out to be, I’d think you would be a bit higher on the food chain."

Steele smiles, a friendly and handsome smile. "I haven’t been in law enforcement that long, not nearly as long as you have detective Phillips." He adds, emphasizing the detective part.

"Point taken." I add, smiling at him, glad he stood up to me.

"How do you think we should do this?" I ask Steele. His light eyes eagerly tell his thoughts on our assignment.

"Move in and take him out. Easy as that." He responds, and I am surprised at his confidence.

"It’s not that easy. This suspect is good at what he does."

"I’m better." Steele answers easily, and for some reason I believe him.

"What makes you so sure?" I argue, not wanting him to think I’m impressed with him.

"Something has got him scared. The suspect has been running lately and making mistakes. With careful review of his history, I first that that he was purposely being sloppy, but now I don’t think that’s the case. He’s afraid of something, and we can use that to our advantage."

I nod, thinking about what he’s said. He’s exactly right. The captain is saying nothing, simply listening to our ideas and allowing our new partnership to work itself out.

"This is what I want to do." I begin, both the captain and Steele’s eyes avidly watching me. "I want Steele to move in on the suspect’s inner trusted circle. Aron’s got them on high alert now, so we don’t want to do anything that will tip them off. From what I know of Aron, he’s eliminating everyone know how he doesn’t trust. We need to get information from these people before they are killed."

"And stop them from being killed." Steele adds.

"Right." I offer and the captain nods in agreement.

"If you think it’s the only way." The captain relents, not liking the plan.

"It is." Both Steele and I answer. I look to him, smiling at his excited face.

"Okay, we meet tonight at the location detailed in my report." I stand.

"I’ll be there." Steele responds, shaking my hand again. I nod at him, trusting my first impression that he will be okay.

"Good luck you too." The captain offers, and I give them both a reassuring smile.

I leave the office, stopping quickly at my desk to collect my things before heading home. I take the stairs down a floor and pause at the dispatch desk to visit my second favorite girl.

"Hey." I say to Diana, glad she’s not on call at the moment.

"Hey yourself." She answers, standing up to give me a quick hug. What’s with everyone hugging me today? I’m not exactly a huggable person. "How’s Grace?" She asks, smiling.

"She’s going back to Ohio." I answer her, my eyes low. "Can I talk to you in private?" I ask, my voice on the verge of tears.

"Of course!" She answers, telling the other women working dispatch that she’s taking a quick break.

We walk out to the hall and I pull her into a back corner that sees little traffic. Seeing there’s no one around I start the conversation again.

"How’s Joe and Kasey?"

"Wonderful." Diana answers, confused by my actions. "What did you do to Grace? I can’t believe you’re splitting up! You idiot Jaden, what is wrong with you? I’m going to kick your stupid butt!"

I put my hand on her shoulders to quiet her down. Leaning towards her, I whisper in her ear. "I need you to act like Grace is leaving, okay? I’m on a really dangerous assignment and Grace is in danger." I pull back away from Diana, feigning sobs in case the hallway is bugged.

"Shit, Jaden that sucks. I’m so sorry. You guys were great together. That really sucks that she’s leaving." Diana adds, playing her part perfectly.

"I know." I add, sobbing louder and leaning down to whisper to her again. "Can I send her up to your cabin in Maine until this is over? A few weeks, maybe I’ll need it."

"Anything I can do to help, Jaden." Diana adds, shaking her head yes.

"Thanks. I’m so glad to have such a good friend." I tell her. Whispering once again, I add, "Someone in the department is tipping the suspect off. Do me a favor and try to spread it around that my roommate is moving back to Ohio, okay? And I’ll get the keys from Joe on my way home."

"You do have a good friend. Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight, okay?" Diana finishes, giving me a perfect excuse to be seen going over to her house. "I’m leaving soon."

"Great, I’ll head right over." I tell her, smiling and hugging her. She’s a wonderful friend; I have to remember to treat her better.

I get in my Explorer and leave the parking lot, and as expected a dark car slides out of a parking space near mine and begins to trail me. I have a little fun with my follower and take the long and winding back roads to Diana and Joe’s, allowing Diana to make it home before I do. I get to their neighborhood and park, seeing her car in its spot.

I leave my car, watching my follower speed off down the street as I make my way to their walkway. I’m greeted with the usual amount of chaos, dogs barking and Kasey loudly exclaiming my presence.

I pick her up, giving her a kiss on her cheek. "Hi munchkin." I greet her and she giggles.

"Where’s Pixie Head?" She asks, pouting.

"At home." I tell her. She looks perturbed and I set her down, shooing her off to her playroom.

Joe hands me the keys and I quickly shove them in my pocket. "Thanks." I tell him, and he puts his arm around my shoulders.

"That blows that she’s leaving." Joe mentions. I nod, agreeing with him. Diana is a goddess. She probably realizes that her and Joe might be being watched and followed and is going to keep this going. She rules.

"Smells good." I tell them as I sit at the table.

"Ordered it myself." Joe adds, laughing as he takes the pizza from the counter and sets it on the table.

"My hero." Diana tells him, putting her hand to her head and swooning. We all laugh as we eat our pizza. Kasey is singing loudly in the other room to the chorus of the dogs barking. Even if Aron does have this place bugged, he’d never be able to hear anything with all this racket.

After our quick dinner, I make my way to the door. I’m tired and really want to spend a few hours with Grace before meeting Steele again. I need to convince her to go to the cabin, and I know she’s not going to like it.

"Thanks guys." I tell them at the door. I hug Diana and then Joe, mentioning in his ear, "Be careful, I don’t want you in danger."

Joe smiles at me, understanding what I mean. He’s from an old Italian family that probably invented the Mafia, so I know he’ll make sure Diana and Kasey are guarded. We love to tease Joe about his family; they make the cast from the Godfather look like pussies.

I’m surprisingly not being followed home, and I enjoy the quick drive. As I round the corner to my street I see Jake’s car parked. I take comfort in the fact that I’ve had Jake and his guys watching the place. I wanted someone here to protect Grace especially after her run-in with Aron, but I didn’t want to ask another officer in case they weren’t trustworthy.

Jake was one of my best friends in the academy, but instead of going on to become an officer he decided he rather be an investigator. This led to him starting a very lucrative bodyguard business. I’m sure that 100% of what he does is not legal, but I trust him and most importantly, I trust him with Grace.

I check my mailbox, knowing Jake will leave a printout of any activity of my place for me. As expected, there is an envelope confirming my subscription to "Playboy." I snort, admiring Jake’s sense of humor and open the envelope, revealing the white paper that tells me that nothing suspicious happened today. It should make me feel better, but it doesn’t.

Aron won’t give up.

I stand in the hallway of the apartment building, dreading the walk up the stairs. I have to go and break the news to Grace that I need her to leave for a while. She’s not going to take it well, but how can I expect her too? She just got here to get away from trouble and now I’m putting her right back into it. I know it’s not my fault that Aron just showed up out of nowhere; it’s just rotten luck.

I talked to Jake and he agreed to have one of his best guys accompany Grace up to the cabin just in case Aron found out. She will be completely protected, and get to spend a few weeks on a beautiful and quiet lake with her dog. She should have a wonderful and relaxing time.

But I know Grace and I know she’ll worry. She won’t want to go and I don’t want her to go. I’m going to miss her.

I have to do what’s best for her though, regardless of my feelings. She’s going to be so pissed.

I sigh and begin walking up the stairs. Can’t I ever just come home with good news?


Part 13: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

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