Houdini’s Box

Part 15


By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

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


June 29, 2000

"There you are! Where the hell were you?" Ian exclaims in frustration as I walk back into the cabin. I am dirty and sweaty from my walk in the woods and not really in the mood to report to him.

"I went for a walk." I answer defensively.

"You really had me scared, Grace." He responds quietly, and I can't help but feel like a jerk.

"I'm sorry." I offer. "I didn't know where you were this morning so I couldn't tell you where I was going."

He frowns, digesting what I've said. "You didn't get my note?"

I shake my head. "No. Where did you leave it?"

"On the counter." He responds, going into the small kitchen to look. I follow him, wondering if I was so out of it this morning that I totally missed the note he left. The counter is empty, however, except for the large shopping bag Ian must have just brought in.

"I could have sworn I left it in here." Ian mutters, looking under the bag and around the kitchen's tidy floor. "Next time I'll just stick it to the fridge." He remarks offhandedly, smiling at me. "I'm sorry for acting like an overprotective father, but I'm afraid of what Jaden would do to me if anything happened to you."

I smile at him, only imagining the threats Jaden delivered to Ian. "I'm sorry too for not leaving a note."

"No harm done." He says, ending the conversation as he begins to unload the bag. "Did you have a nice walk?" He asks conversationally.

"It was beautiful. There are a lot of trails and it was really peaceful."

"Sounds like it. Be careful though, I don't want you getting lost out there." He adds, taking a white Styrofoam container out of the bag.

"What's that?" I ask curiously, pointing at the container.

"Bait." He answers, laughing.

"Bait for what?" I question, taking the lid off of the container to reveal a billion fat and entangled earthworms. "Ew." I remark, put the lid back on and set it on the counter. "What do you have those for?"

"You, my dear," Ian begins as he removes two small fishing poles from the shopping bag, "are going to learn how to fish."

I wrinkle my nose, not nearly as excited by this prospect as he is. "Isn't that mean?" I ask, not liking the thought of killing innocent fish just for sport.

"We'll throw them back." He promises, and I relent. What can it hurt? At least it will make the time go by faster until I can see Jaden again.

June 29, 2000

That afternoon

Steele and I sit in the captain's office, trading nervous glances. We couldn't go to the scene of the blonde's death, in case it was being watched. So we came to the station, and are anxiously awaiting the captain's return.

He was the one who called Steele. It seems like Blondie was stabbed and left for dead in a back alley not far from the club where Steele and I were last night. A homeless man supposedly witnessed the event and contacted the station. I can't believe there was a witness, that's unlike Aron to be this sloppy.

Lucky for us, our captain is a pretty smart fellow and contacted Steele and I as soon as he caught wind of her murder. He advised us to get down to the station immediately and that he'd be here ASAP to brief us of the situation.

"This sucks." I mutter, having no idea of what to do now. It's obvious that the blonde's death wasn't any accident or random murder. The last person she spoke with was Steele. So for Aron to suddenly murder her or have her murdered, he must know who Steele is. That's not good for us at all.

"Sucks hard." Steele offers, not looking up from his folded hands.

"Why was she taking you upstairs?" I ask, pursing my lips in thought.

"I don't know." Steele answers, thinking back to his conversation with the blonde at the club last night. His intelligent eyes meet mine. "But whatever was up there is what I think got her killed."

"Me too." I add, much to my surprise I actually like working with the guy. "Go over the conversation you had before starting upstairs with her." I order, having already committed the exchange to memory, but I want to see his take on it.

He shrugs, pausing to think before speaking. "We were talking about how I was new in town and I asked her if she knew how I could get fucked up." He's silent for a moment, his handsome face blushing at his use of fowl language in front of me. I roll my eyes at him, and gesture for him to continue. "Anyway, she asked if I had the resources to make it worth her while and I said that money wasn't an issue. Then we started up the stairs and you told me not to go."

"Not exactly." I interrupt him and he looks at me in surprise. "Blondie asked you to follow her upstairs, but as soon as you agreed, she paused to whisper into some guy's ear. I couldn't hear because your microphone didn't pick it up and it was so loud in the club, but it made me have second thoughts about you going up there with no backup."

"Yeah, I had a bad feeling too. I thought it was too easy, and she seemed to eager to get me upstairs. If she was really one of Aron's best, there's no way that I would have been able to breech her defensives that easily. Regardless of my good looks and incredible charm, I mean." He adds, chuckling.

"Yeah, you're a regular ladies' man. That must explain why I haven't fallen for you so-called good looks and incredible charm, right?" I retort sarcastically.

"There's still time." He responds confidently.

"There's not enough time in the world." I snap good-naturedly. "Besides, you're not that good looking. And you could use a few tips on charm."

He claps his fist over his heart. "That hurt, Phillips." We chuckle and are relieved by the tension-breaking sarcasm. The door swings open, revealing the captain's impressive form. Steele immediately stands up to nod at the captain. I groan, muttering to Steele about being a kiss-up and pull myself to my feet.

The captain nods at us both, giving us a tense smile. "She was murdered." He begins, wasting no time. "No signs of struggle, she knew her attacker. The coroner is running a tox screen, and I expect it to come back positive for who knows what. The murderer slit her throat and left her for dead."

I clear my throat. "What about the witness?"

"A homeless man who supposedly makes his home in that alley. He says he saw a tall bearded guy arguing with the blonde, he suddenly picked her up and slit her throat. The witness hid, but was discovered by the murderer. He says the murderer gave him a message."

The captain stops unexpectedly and I try and contain my impatience. "What was the message?" I finally ask.

"I don't know." The captain answers quietly. "The witness said he'll only give the message to you, Jaden."

"What?" Both Steele and I respond in unison.

"He won't talk to anyone but Jaden." The captain repeats and looks at me, his weathered eyes unsettled.

I sigh and nervously run my hands through my hair and look back and forth between Steele and the captain, unsure as to what to say.

"What kind of fish are we fishing for?" I ask Ian, waking him from his doze.

"Whatever kind is hungry." He responds without opening his eyes.

"Ha ha." I answer sarcastically. "Well, nothing seems to be hungry except for me."

"Me too." He responds, sighing and stretching in his chair. "Wanna get dinner in a few?"

"Yeah." I remark. I'm bored to death and so is Bean. She is sitting next to me, looking longingly at the water. She's been forbidden to swim during fishing time because Ian claimed that she was scaring all the fish. I don't think there's any fish to scare, we've been out here all day and only caught one fish. Well, Ian caught one. I didn't catch anything.

"I'm hungry, let's go in." Ian says finally, looking up at the late afternoon sun. "What do you want to have?"

"Pizza." I answer, not in the mood to cook. I'm pretty grumpy but trying really hard to not take it out on Ian. He's probably just as thrilled to be stuck here with me as I am with him, so we might as well make the best of it.

I stand up and dust off my shorts. He stands with me, reeling in his line. The poles he bought were actually pretty cool, they were in two parts and it was really easy to put them together and get them all hooked up.

"How about I do dinner, okay? I'll go put one of those frozen pizzas in the oven and make salad if you clean up out here." He smiles, handing me his fishing rod. "Deal?" "Deal." I agree, taking the fishing rod. "You just don't want me touching dinner because you were such a baby about taking the only fish we caught today off of the hook that you made me do it!" I tease him with my fishy hands and he throws his up in mock defense.

"He was scary and had all those spiky fins! They're sharp!" Ian says, struggling to retain his pride.

"Just admit it, you're a scaredy cat." I continue to tease him and he laughs. "Geez, I feel so safe with you defending me." I add, now laughing myself.

"Hey, just remember," He says, waggling his eyesbrows, "I'm the one with the gun."

The three of us walk in silence down to where the witness of Blondie's murder is being held. The tension is so think I feel like I'm choking on it.

"We appreciate you keeping this discreet." I mention to the captain and he nods tersely. Sometimes I think that a terse nod is his response to everything.

"I'm going in with you." Steele mentions as we reach the door to the room containing the witness.

"No you're not." I argue. "This could be a trap, this guy could work for Aron and I don't want you being seen."

"Wise up, Jaden, he's on to us. Me going in there isn't going to change anything."

"He's right." The captain agrees, his voice low.

"I don't care. This witness said he's only talk to me, and that's the only one he's going to talk too. There is no reason why you should go in there and possibly influence what he's going to say when you can just sit in the room next door and turn the speaker on!" I allow the last words to impact both the captain and Steele and I burst through the door alone.

The witness seated at the table looks up and smiles nervously. At once I can tell that he is someone working for Aron, most homeless don't have shining white teeth. And most unfortunate people that end up homeless are honest and intelligent people who are fighting a bout of bad luck, not sly and smirking like this man.

"Good afternoon sir." I tell him politely, willing to keep the façade as long as he is.

"Cut the bullshit Jaden." He responds, folding his arms over his dirty coat. "You're not stupid, you know who I work for."

I smile dazzlingly at him. "Should I be impressed?" I lean back and mimic his pose, studying his face. Stupid kid. He's younger than I first thought, probably only 18 and he has no idea how badly he's just fucked up his entire life.

My expression seems to have unnerved him. "I have a message for you." He responds, attempting to regain the upper hand.

"Go ahead." I tell him, a bored expression on my face.

He clears his throat, smiling confidently at me. "You're not going to like this."

I finish cleaning off the small beach, carefully placing the fishing poles against the side of the cabin. I fold up the lawn chairs and put them away, determined to keep Joe and Diana's cabin as neat as I found it.

"Come on Bean!" I call to my puppy and she runs obediently from the hole she's started digging. She's such a scum since we began staying here, always dirty and smelly. But she's having a wonderful time and that's what is important.

We enter the cabin, and I'm surprised to find it quiet. I thought Ian would be here in the kitchen making dinner. I shrug and put the container of earthworms in the fridge, knowing that Ian will be gung-ho on fishing again tomorrow.

Opening the oven, I'm surprised to find it cold and lacking a pizza. What the heck?

"Ian?" I call, getting no response. I begin to search the house in earnest. "Ian?"

"I'm waiting." I tell the kid, waiting for him to deliver his so-called message.

He smiles, his young features twisted in cruelty. "Okay." He begins, pausing to chuckle sinisterly.

"Cut with the dramatics. Do you want to tell me or not?" I question, standing up as if I'm going to leave."

"Okay, okay, jeez, I'm just trying to have a little fun." He remarks and clears his throat importantly. "Aron said to tell you…" He begins, drawing out his words.

"Get on with it." I mutter angrily, not having the patience to deal with this idiot kid.

"Aron said that since you made him kill his blonde, now he's going to kill yours."

Part 16: The final instalment is coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

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