Houdini’s Box

Part 7

By: Girl Bard


Please see Part 1 for disclaimer.

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June 26, 2000

I flip through the file, conscious of the captain's eyes observing my every move. "Same old Ronnie." I tell to myself as I look through Aron's recent activities. Illegal drug smuggling, a few suspected rapes, and even more suspected murders.

"Why isn't he locked up?" I ask, shutting the folder and passing it back to the captain. "Seems there is enough evidence here to convict him several times over."

The captain raises his hands in question. "I don't know." He answers simply. "This guy is good, and we can't get him."

"What is he doing here?" I ask, my voice getting caught in my throat. He wouldn't come after me, not after all this time. It must be a coincidence.

"We think he's laying low. He ran into some serious trouble in New York, and then was spotted here." The captain pauses, pursing his lips. "This is big, Phillips. Departments from all over New England have tried to go after this guy."

I nod, deep in thought. "I need some time." I tell him, standing up. "I'm taking my day off, and I'll call in tonight with my decision." Before he can protest, I exit the room and head as fast as my legs will take me to my car.

I need to think.



I drive erratically to the barn. My head is racing from the amount of information I've just received. Why is Aron here? And what does he want? I know him too well to just brush this up to coincidence. He's been sloppy lately, he used to be untraceable. But his file, Jesus Christ, he's gotten himself into some trouble and it is unlike him to not be able to get out of it.

I don't know what I can do. The cop in me wants to go after him with everything I've got and finally put him behind bars. But the cop in me also knows that if I accept this assignment, I won't be able to do it because Aron knows me. He's so fucking smart.

But I'm smarter. I know that, and he does too. That's why he did what he did to Jonah. He couldn't beat my intelligence, so he hurt the one who meant the most to me.

"No." I tell myself firmly, biting the inside of my cheek. "Don't think about it." I angrily wipe the tears from my eyes as I make the sharp turn into the driveway of the barn.

My tires crunch on the gravel and I park my car. Leaping from the drivers' seat, I head out to the pasture running at full speed. The gleaming coats of the horses beckon me to them and I willingly oblige.

I reach Studley and his pasture mates, heaving from my unplanned run. I throw my arms around his neck and bury my face in his long black mane. He stands quietly, allowing me to regain my focus. The other horses approach me tentatively and I sink to the soft grass below, bury my face in my hands, and cry.


Hard, demanding droplets of rain awaken me. I rub my eyes and look around, momentarily confused as to why I am laying in the pasture surrounded protectively by four horses. I stand up, stretching my legs and look up at the offending sky. It's overcast and gray, the rain falling harder now and my keen ears can detect the roll of thunder in the distance.

A bolt of lightning suddenly strikes, and the rain turns into a downpour, causing the normally calm horses to snort and prance.

"Come on!" I call to them as I run towards the barn. They follow me, their fleet legs carrying them far faster than I could ever hope to run. "Studley!" I call, and he obediently turns, trotting back to me.

I spring onto his back and gently dig my heels into his side. He races up the hill and stops when he reaches the gate. I jump down and throw the gate open, herding each horse into its' stall.

"Better now?" I ask them as I throw each a flake of hay. They munch with approval and I check each one over carefully for any pasture injuries. They all seem fine, so I pat each nose and leave the barn.

Where do I go now? The thought of going home to Grace sickens me. One look at her will remind me of Jonah and how I was powerless to stop Aron from killing him. I don't know what I would do if anything happened to her. If Aron hurt her....

Jesus Christ, I can't even think about it.

And in that second, my mind is made up. I can't let Aron continue to torment innocent people like Grace and Jonah. He needs to be stopped, and who better to stop him than the person that knows him the best.


I shake my hair, releasing the beads of rain and get into my Explorer. Starting and throwing it into gear, I head back for the station.

I have work to do.



That evening:

Shivering, I pull the blanket up further around my shoulders. Bean is curled up at my feet, her little black nose sticking out from under the blanket. It is now completely dark outside, and the thunder and lightning haven't stopped since this afternoon.

The storm is beautiful on the ocean, but I guess I can't really appreciate it yet. I hope someday I can look upon the Atlantic with the awe and reverence of how I first viewed it. But I guess being on a sinking boat rather destroys that.

As the lightning cracks again I glance at the clock for the thousandth time. It's almost 8:00 and Jaden still isn't home. It's a really long day for her and I hope she's not out in this storm.

I was driving around and came back as soon as the downpour happened, hoping she'd be here. But she wasn't and I haven't heard from her all day. She must be busy and really upset that she had to work today.

Sighing, I turn back to my book. Truthfully, I am enjoying this time to read and think, but I can't rid myself of this nagging feeling of worry that has taken up residence in my stomach. I know Jaden's a big girl who can take care of herself and I have to trust that she has enough sense to get out of the storm.

The front door creaks open, and I jump in surprise.

"Just me." A weary voice answers and I turn to see a completely drenched Jaden standing in the kitchen. I set my book aside and go to her, my heart still racing from my surprise.

"Hey," I tell her softly, "You scared the living hell out of me."

"Sorry." She answers equally as soft. She looks so completely uncomfortable and waterlogged in her uniform.

"Let's get you changed." I tell her as I take her hand and lead her to the bedroom. "You'll catch your death in those clothes!" I tease her.

"Okay mom." She answers, smiling finally to reveal perfectly white teeth. She fumbles with her belt, her frigid hands shaking.

"Let me." I offer, taking the offending article of clothing from her. Deftly I release the buckle and finish helping her undress. She stands there like a small child, and I know she must be exhausted to be so helpless. "Goddess, Jaden, you are like an ice cube!" I exclaim as I unfasten her bra, leaving her completely nude. I've never once felt her be this cold, even on the boat she was warm.

I place my hand to her forehead. "Jaden, you're burning up. Are you sick?"

"No." She answers, her voice hoarse. "Just tired and hungry." She looks so miserable as I wrap her in her fluffy bathrobe and usher her into bed. I pull the covers tightly around her and plant a kiss on her forehead.

"I'll be right back, would you like some soup?" She nods her head, her lower lip sticking out in a defiant pout. "What's the matter?" I ask her.

"I want you to stay with me." She responds shyly.

I kiss her full lips gently. "I will stay with you, I promise. Just let me get you fed first, okay?" She nods in agreement.

I head to the spare bedroom and quickly find my small first-aid kit. I'm glad that I packed it. I figure I get hurt enough to constitute having it around, but I didn't expect to have to use it on Jaden. Removing the electronic thermometer, I head back into the bedroom and place it under her tongue. She looks quite offended, but I don't let her argue as I head to the kitchen.

She doesn't have much for soup, but I finally find a can of tomato and heat it up. Thinking quickly, I pull out ingredients for a grilled cheese and make a few of those as I heat up her soup and a cup of tea.

Heading back into the bedroom, I find her with her arms crossed and a grumpy expression on her face. I roll my eyes good-naturedly as I remove the thermometer from her mouth. 98.5 on the dot. "You'll live." I tell her, showing her the number. "I've never actually known anyone to have a perfect temperature." I remark offhandedly.

"I'm special." She retorts grumpily and I snort as I head back to the kitchen.

My impromptu meal doesn't take long and I put it on a tray to take in to her. She beams as she sees the sandwiches. "I love these!" She exclaims, her throat still sounding scratchy.

"I'm glad." I answer her as I hand her the tea. "Be careful, it's hot." She nods in understanding as she takes a small sip. She sets her cup down and digs into her meal.

"Do we have an grape jelly?" She asks and I must look at her as if she has four heads because she begins laughing.

"For what?" I ask, wondering what she could possible want to put grape jelly on.

"My grilled cheese." She answers. I scrunch my nose up, thinking of that disgusting combination.

"That's gross." I offer, but get up anyway to get her the jelly.

"No it's not." She argues. "What do you put on yours?"

"Ketchup." I tell her, turning in the bedroom doorway.

"That is vile!" She answers, pretending to gag.

"Not as vile as grape jelly!" I dispute over my shoulder on the way to the kitchen.

"Here." I state as I hand her the jar of Smucker's. "Ruin my perfect meal with your artificial grape flavoring." She chuckles as she takes the jar and dumps a mountain load of it on her plate. Handing me her empty soup bowl I set it on the bedside table and watch with horror and fascination as she manages to scoop a huge amount of jelly up with her sandwich. Taking a big bite, her eyes roll back and she smiles while chewing.

"Perfection." She answers and I giggle. She's such a clown sometimes. Finishing her bite, her face turns solemn as she takes my hand in her slightly sticky one.

"Thank you for taking care of me." She declares seriously.

"My pleasure." I respond, leaning forward and removing a glob of jelly from her nose with my tongue. "Feeling better?" I ask and she nods enthusiastically.

"Good. Now, can you explain why you were out in the rain all day?" I ask, putting my hands on my hips mockingly.

Her eyes become suddenly guarded as she answers. "Work stuff."

Ah. I take it I've crossed a line. "Oh." I answer, looking away. I know I shouldn't pry into her business but it really hurts that she still won't be open with me sometimes.

Jaden pats the bed beside her. "Want to join me?" I shake my head yes and take her tray to the kitchen.

"I'll be in after I take Bean out." I call to her, slipping on my shoes and grabbing Bean's leash. Before I can even call the dog Jaden bolts from the bedroom, dressed in a pair of sweat pants and a rain jacket. How in the hell did she change so fast and where is she going?

"No, I'll do it." She answers breathlessly. I quirk my eyebrows as her.

"You just came in from the rain, and you're not feeling well." I protest to deaf ears.

"Grace, I want to take her out, okay? Go get in bed and keep it warm for me. I'll be right back." With her arms folded across her chest and that surly look on her face, I know I can't argue with her.

"Fine. Thanks." I tell her, handing her Bean's leash. I retrieve the sleepy puppy from under the blanket on the couch where I left her. Bean absolutely hates to go outside when it's raining. She hides wherever she can so she doesn't have to potty in the rain. I hand the yawning dog over to Jaden. "She hates to go in the rain." I advise her. "You better take an umbrella."

Jaden swiftly pulls the hood of her rain jacket over her head. "Got it covered." She tells me, slipping into her well-worn shoes and heading out the door.

The back of her rain jacket says "Boston PD" and I wonder why she chooses to commute into Boston rather than work closer to her home. And what is so secretive about her job that she needs to hide it from me? Why would she want to take Bean out in this weather when she's been in it all day?

That woman just doesn't make any sense. As much as I love her, she is the most confusing, infuriating, and frustrating woman I've ever met. I shut the front door behind me and head for the bedroom.



June 27, 2000


The wind whips back my long hair. Frustrated, I pull the blonde strands behind me and tuck the rest of my hair behind my ears. It doesn't work, and my hair immediately blows back into my face again. I sigh, aggravated and annoyed that my car has broken down on the worst day possible.

"I should have gotten a cell phone." I tell myself as I begin walking again down the deserted street. My clothes flap in the strong wind and I keep my head down as my feet pound on the pavement. I hope there's a gas station or something ahead where I can call my mom. She's going to be so pissed at me for interrupting her soap operas. At least I know she'll be home, she never misses General Hospital.

"Grace!" A voice shouts, and I struggle to turn around in the offending wind. I squint my eyes, just barely making out a small figure in the distance headed towards me.

"Grace!" The figure shouts again and I try to remember where I've heard the voice before. Suddenly, the figure is close and I see that it's Scott.

"Grace!" He calls again, sweeping me up into his thick arms. "I've missed you so much!"

I push him away and struggle to break free from his grasp. "Don't touch me!" I scream as I try to run away.

The cruel wind pushes me back against him regardless of how hard I try to run away.

"I've got you, Grace." He whispers in my ear and I scream in fright.


I am jolted awake, twisted and caught in the damp sheets. I look around, and find myself in Jaden's dark bedroom. My chest heaves with the effort of regaining my breath and my entire body is shaking.

It was only a dream, I realize. But it was so real. I could feel everything, my hair, my clothes, Scott's body against mine. But it was just a dream.

I place my face in my hands and rub my weary eyes. The clock on Jaden's dresser reads 2:37am. It was just a dream and I'm safe here.

I lay back down in bed, straining to untangle the sheets. I roll over to curl up next to Jaden, needing to feel her comforting presence.

It is then when I notice that she's not here.

"Jaden?" I whisper to the dark room, and she doesn't answer.

"Jaden?" I call, louder now, to the hallway bathed in darkness. Still no answer.

I'm still shaking with fear as I get out of bed and turn on the bedroom light. My eyes wince in adjustment to the sudden brightness and I pull on Jaden's bathrobe to quell my body's chills.

I turn on the hallway light, and then the bathroom. "Jaden?" I shout, now terrified. I race through the apartment, turning on every light possible. A confused and disoriented Bean trots out from the bedroom, blinking tiredly.

Jaden's not here. A glance to the kitchen counter shows her car keys missing.

She's gone.

And I'm alone.


Part 8: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!