If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com. If you have suggestions or corrections, please don’t bother as that’s what my publisher’s editor is for.
The town was quiet, only the sounds of the bugs and a few animals out. Remmy sat on Overlook Hill, aptly titled as all of Woodland could be seen from the wooded area, which ended in a steep rock ledge, where Remmy sat, legs dangling over the side. She had a bottle of Corona tucked between her legs. She thought the town was breathtaking at night, all the lights flickering on as the sun fell behind it, an orange glow just barely visible at the horizon. She’d already seen the sky go from baby blue, to steel blue, exploding with fingers of pink, orange and red, and finally settling to navy. Soon it would be black.
She had come up to Overlook Hill every night after work for the past two weeks, starting the night she’d left the middle school parking lot. Off in the distance, she heard a coyote calling out, the solitary sound melancholy to Remmy’s ears, as was the lonely train whistle in the distance. She hated the sound of trains at night. Kind of like a lost ship at sea.
Remmy tipped her bottle, allowing the cool liquid to slide down her throat, swallowing with a contented sight. She wasn’t a drinker anymore, but the beer she’d treated herself with was a welcome relief. She had been taking longer shifts at the store, covering since Joan had fired the new guy. Last week alone she had put in nearly fifty hours. Fine by her. It helped her to not think.
The sun was fully gone, now, leaving the cool night behind. Remmy began to shiver slightly, so decided it was time to go home. She pushed up, dusting off the seat of her shorts and headed around to where Overlook Hill sloped down to the outskirts of the town below. She gently swung the bottle of beer, the neck cradled between two of her fingers, and kept a watchful eye on her surroundings.
Remmy had to admit that since she’d been involved with the Venti case, and now Grace’s current case, she had stopped taking people and their actions for granted. She had hitchhiked hundreds of times, stayed with strangers, and partied with guys she’d known for fifteen minutes. She realized just how lucky she’d been. She’d had her share of trouble, had people try and take advantage of her, but overall, she’d never found herself in any sort of dire situation. Never would she put herself in that kind of danger again. She had seen the face of the devil in Sergio Venti.
Remmy roamed the streets of Woodland, her mind clear while she’d watched the sunset, but now her thoughts crammed in, images of Julie smiling at her, then backing away from her, anger and fear in her eyes. The same eyes that had haunted her for two weeks. She had tried her best to not think about it, and sometimes she was successful, but as night fell, she was always inundated with memories, thoughts, and guilt.
She hadn’t tried to get hold of Julie, hadn’t stopped by, hadn’t called her. That had been the hardest thing she’d ever had to do- stay away. She’d hurt Julie that night, shaking a trust that head been building over the months they’d spent together. Julie had been used and abused by Sergio Venti, and then Remmy went and kissed her. Had she been much better than that monster? She just hoped that Julie knew somewhere deep inside that Remmy’s kiss was borne out of love and simply an enjoyment of their time together. Nothing more. Nothing darker.
Off to the right were the fairgrounds, and there was a lot of noise and movement. Remmy stopped at a break in the stone wall that surrounded them, fingers latched into the chain link gate. The rides were going up, large lights hooked up to generators so the men could see what they were doing. They called to each other, yelling out instructions as the Ferris Wheel went up. Posters and flyers had been circulating for weeks, the excitement in Woodland growing over the fair, which would be in their town for little more than a month.
With a heavy sigh, Remmy turned away, tossing her half full bottle of beer into a trash can as she passed it. She was tired and needed sleep.
Brian Wong stared at Grace, doubt clearly etched on his face. He glanced over the crime scene photos again, then tossed them on his partner’s desk. “I don’t buy it. We have found nothing, and no one to prove that Yvonne knew this guy. Or girl,” he quickly pointed out.
“Brian, I trust Remmy’s instincts. Okay?”
“I see. So, because this psychic said that she knew her killer, and he wears some sort of gaudy ring, we should be looking for some long lost buddy who wears a class ring?” He shook his head, throwing himself in the chair next to Grace’s desk.
“Brian, you’re such an ass,” Grace said, stacking the photos neatly and sliding them back into their envelope.
“I just don’t think this entire investigation should be based around what Remmy Foster says.”
Grace smirked. “I hardly think this entire investigation is based around what Remmy Forster says. She’s given us some good leads.” Grace had a thought. She brought up the file on the Bailey couple again, skimming through the details until she came across the baby’s information. Twenty-two months old. Almost two years old. “Brian,” she said, voice hard. Brian removed his hand from his eyes, looking at her questioningly. “How old was your kid when she started talking? I mean, really talking.”
“I don’t know. Maybe fifteen months. Eighteen.” He shrugged. “Why?”
“Let me ask you this-“ Grace turned in her chair, leaning forward so her elbows rested on her thighs, and looked at him over the rims of her glasses. “Was she able to talk by twenty-two months?”
“Oh, yeah. Jesus, she was a little gibber mouth by then-“ Brian cut himself off, pulling out of fond memories of his daughter. He eyed Grace, seeing recognition on her face of his own thoughts. “The baby would’ve talked,” he said.
Grace nodded. “Yep. You can’t threaten a two year old to keep his mouth shut.” Grace threw her pencil onto the desk, sitting back in her chair. “Yvonne knew her killer, Brian, and so did Tyler.”
Brian looked away, not wanting to have to admit that maybe Remmy was right. Again.
“Thank you, Mrs. Albright. Have a wonderful day.” Remmy smiled at the older woman who headed out, her weekly lottery tickets in hand. Remmy was about to head around the counter to clean but saw Skylar Wilson scurrying across the parking lot toward the store.
The bell above the door jingled, and the boy ran up to the counter, a huge grin on his face when he saw Remmy.
“Hey, little man,” she said in greeting. He gave her an excited wave, which made her smile. Well, she assumed Matt didn’t hate her, since he’d sent his son in to pay. “How’s it goin’, Skylar?”
“Good! My dad let me come in and pay for his gas.” He threw the two twenties onto the counter.
“I see that.” Remmy grabbed the money, then leaned down on her arms on the counter so she was closer to his height. “Tell you what. Go grab you a can of something, and it’s on me. ‘Kay?”
The kid’s eyes widening in excitement, he nodded then ran to the coolers. Remmy wondered if he walked anywhere. Within moments, he was back, setting a can of Sprite on the counter. Remmy dug a dollar out of her pocket, then rang the pop up with the gas.
“Are you going to the fair with us tonight?” Skylar asked.
“Oh, uh. What, you and your dad?”
Skylar nodded. “And Aunt Julie.”
Remmy’s heart hurt at the mere mention of her name. “Well,” Remmy thought quick. Skylar obviously had no idea there was anything wrong and she didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news. “I’m kinda stuck working tonight, Skylar. You know, someone’s gotta work since you won’t get a job.”
Skylar giggled, his missing teeth in front obvious. “I’m too young!” he protested.
Remmy rolled her eyes. “Whatever, Skylar.” She winked at him, handing him his can of soda and the change from his father’s gas. “You guys have fun tonight, okay?” She leaned down again. “Take a spin in the Ferris Wheel with your aunt for me, okay?”
Skylar’s eyes brightened, excited to have been given a job to do. “Bye, Remmy!” he called, running out the door.
“God, I wish I had half that kid’s energy,” Joan said, stepping up to the counter after spending an entire afternoon working on the inventory in the back.
“So, why aren’t you going to the fair with them? You know damn well you’re off in two hours.” Joan raised her clipboard, beginning to finger through the candy displays near the register, marking down how many bars of each type of candy were left.
“It’s a long story, Joan,” Remmy sighed, watching as Matt’s truck drove off into the warm afternoon.
Joan eyed her friend, brows raised. Something was up. “Good thing you’ve still got two hours left on your shift then, isn’t it?”
Remmy studied her boss, friend and land lady, unsure if she really wanted to go there. It was private, and she was still embarrassed by it.
“Remmy?” Joan said, her voice soft, all hint of teasing gone. “Honey, what is it? You look like you’re about to cry.”
Remmy blinked her emotion away, feeling stupid. “It’s nothing, Joan. Julie and I got into a… fight.” There was no way in hell she could tell the older woman what had actually happened. She couldn’t stand the embarrassment, or the look of disapproval on Joan’s face. “I’ve just been lying low.” She forced a smile. “That’s all. I’ll get over it.”
Joan studied Remmy, sure there was more to the story than she’d been told, but wasn’t going to push. “Well, it happens. Hell, it happens between Doug and I weekly.” She smirked. “If you ever want to talk, Rem, I’m here. Okay?”
Remmy nodded, smiling in gratitude. “Thanks, Joan.”
Remmy’s hand wiggled into the hip pocket of her jeans, feeling the small rattle. She brought it out, not looking at it as she kept walking, headed home. Her fingers moved across the smooth plastic, some places still slightly sticky from sticky little fingers touching it, a young mother not given the chance to clean it off. Remmy concentrated her touch to those areas, knowing that Tyler had indeed touched the rattle there, his presence still with it.
In the back of her mind, Remmy could easily hear the cry of Tyler Bailey, a comforting sound as it echoed within her head. As long as she could hear him, he was still alive. Her eyes combed the streets, meeting the gaze of everyone she passed, many nodding a greeting or flat out wishing her a nice evening. She politely spoke with the couple who actually stopped and wanted to chat, her mind always on the cry she was hearing.
Finally, she was on her own street, Joan and Doug’s house standing proud down the block. She stood on the corner, turning a small circle, listening, thumb absently rubbing across the toy. She could hear cooing, garbled words that made little sense, except in the language of babies. But just below that, always the crying. She couldn’t get a hit on which direction the crying was coming from. No matter where she looked, which way she turned, it was steady.
With a somewhat frustrated sigh, she headed to the back stairs, which would lead up to her apartment.
Julie ran her hands down over the front of her summer dress, turning this way and that, looking at herself in the free-standing mirror in the corner of her bedroom. As she moved, the flowing skirt of the dress brushed against her bare legs. It made her think of the dress she always seemed to be wearing in the field, when Remmy was there. She studied her reflection again, noting the halter straps of the dress, which left her shoulders bare, the neckline dipping, but not very low. It was a nice dress, very cute, and she had to admit, she looked good in it.
Her eyes met those in the mirror, and she sighed. Remmy. It had been the two longest weeks of her life, and she truly didn’t think it was possible to miss someone so much. She desperately missed Remmy’s company, just her mere presence. Remmy could just be sitting on the couch, chilling as she watched some TV, not a word spoken, and the house somehow seemed warmer, happier.
The night in the school parking lot hadn’t been something Julie had allowed herself to think about in great detail, and she had said nothing to anyone else about it. She could still see the hurt in Remmy’s eyes, the confusion. The sadness. When her mind started rewinding to the kiss, Julie shook her head, not wanting to go there. She couldn’t.
Her gaze wandered over her hair, trying to decide what to do with it. She thought about putting it into a French braid, but changed her mind. Remmy liked it down. “God!” she cried, covering her face with her hands. Remmy wasn’t even going to be there! She missed her, dammit. She really, really missed her. Compromising, she kept her hair down, but tied in a braid that ran down the side of her head. Slipping into sandals, she was ready to go. Matt and Skylar would be there any minute. “Maybe I should call Remmy. Invite her,” she whispered.
The front door opened, Matt using his key as Julie always kept the doors locked now, and the sound of Skylar’s pounding feet heading up the stairs. “Aunt Julie!” he called out, voice excited.
Julie smiled, warmth filling her at the thought of spending time with her favorite pint-sized man. The boy burst into her bedroom, and she immediately caught him up in her arms, tickling him mercilessly as he squealed. She knew her days of doing that were numbered, as he was growing fast, and would soon be too strong for her.
“I saw Remmy today,” he said, proudly escorting his beloved aunt downstairs.
“Oh, yeah?” Julie said, trying to sound casual, but her stomach immediately fell into knots at the mention.
Completely unaware of his aunt’s distress, Skylar continued on, jumping the final two stairs and landing hard on the ground level. “She said she couldn’t come with us tonight cause she has to work.”
Julie felt a sting of disappointment, but hid it well. “Well,” she drawled, ruffling the boy’s hair. “Somebody’s gotta work, right?”
Skylar stopped, glancing up at Julie, perplexed. “That’s what she said,” he muttered. The sight of the two excited dogs was enough to make Skylar forget about how weird adults were.
Matt watched, amused. “You ready?” he asked.
“Yep. Let me feed the trouble twins and we can head out.”
The early evening was beautiful, just enough of a breeze to make the temperature pleasant. The fairgrounds were already filled with laughter and voices calling out to each other, separated parties finding each other in the maze of rides and food and game booths.
Matt paid for the three of them to enter, shelling out another ten bucks a person for an armband which would allow the wearer to ride any and all rides. Julie wasn’t bit on rides, especially at a fair-type situation. As her gaze ran up the Zipper, each individual car seating four, then independently spinning head over heels, she knew that the rides were taken down and put up often, and always wondered at just how safe they really were.
“Are we ready?” Matt asked, finished putting Skylar’s bracelet on his thin wrist.
“Yeah! Let’s get some cotton candy!” the boy exclaimed, happy and carefree as big eyes took in the fun.
Julie was happy to be with the two most important men in her life, loved watching Skylar’s excitement, but she couldn’t quite reach full happiness. Something was missing. She felt the void as an ache in her heart. Remmy was missing. She would have made the night complete. A soft smile brushed her lips as she imagined Skylar and Remmy bantering back and forth, just as they always did. She could imagine Remmy grabbing an unawares Skylar and tossing him on her shoulder, bouncing him, just like she always did. Skylar would squeal in surprised delight. Just like he always did.
“Hey, Jules, you okay?” Matt asked, handing her a cone of pink cotton candy. She took it absently, nodding with a forced smile.
Remmy tugged on a pair of cargo shorts and tank top, her hair still wet from her recent shower. She felt better, after a long day at work, and was almost successful at keeping Julie from her mind since she’d gotten home. She grabbed her brush from the small dresser placed next to her bed, and began to brush out the long strands, wincing a couple times as she caught a couple knots. The sun was beginning to fall, just barely visible above the houses and treetops.
Her brush strokes slowed as she witnessed the beauty just outside her window. She almost wished she were back up on Overlook Hill to watch the sunset. With a contented sigh, she opened her window, allowing the evening breeze to air out her apartment and cool her shower-heated skin.
She had been contemplating the information she’d gotten from Skylar all afternoon, trying to decide what to do. She could easily go to the fair, just an accidental encounter. Or she could stay away, just as she’d been doing. She missed Julie so badly it hurt. Julie was such a part of her, and she felt empty inside. It had taken all of her willpower to not reach out to Julie mentally. She wanted to meet her by their lake, walk through their field of flowers. She’d shut her mind down to her, cutting off her emotions and need.
The sun eased into the darkness of twilight, so Remmy turned away, finishing with her brushing. She tossed the brush to her bed, trying to decide what to do with her night. Who was she kidding? She knew exactly where she wanted to be, needed to be.
By the time Remmy got down to the fairgrounds and paid for her ticket, night was fully upon them. The crowds were dense, excitement all around her. She could smell concessions in the air, and hear distant calypso music. She pushed through the throngs of people, grateful to get to the concourse, which was a little more clear, though not by much. At least large groups of people weren’t standing around, coming up with a plan of attack for their night of fun.
All along the outsides of the grounds were booths for games or food, cheap prizes yelled out by barkers, trying to get someone to waste a dollar on a dart game to win a bear or stuffed monkey. Remmy had no interest, her hands shoved into her pockets as she wandered, taking in the brightly colored lights and loud music that came and went as she passed a food tent, blaring country music.
Remmy passed a game where a tall thermometer-type structure measured the strength of its participant with a sledgehammer and a padded target. She laughed outright at the insults the game controller yelled to the man who barely got the block halfway up to the bell at the top. She laughed even harder when a large, rather burly woman took the sledge from him and with one stroke, sent the wooden block surging to the bell, which dinged loudly in the night. The man walked away, embarrassed.
Remmy’s eyes were everywhere, looking into every face. She finally allowed her mind to reach out, seeking. She turned to her left, seeing a mess of cables from one of the rides, but headed that way.
Julie was finishing the steak on a stick she was having for dinner, not even wanting to contemplate what all critters had likely landed on her food before she got to it. But, it was all part of the experience. She’d allowed herself to be pulled onto at least a half dozen rides already, and was shocked her stomach was able to handle the greasy food, but as much as she didn’t want to, she was having a good time. Even still, she couldn’t help but surreptitiously look at everyone they passed, peeking into the shadows, wondering if maybe…
Remmy placed her hand on one of the supporting beams for the Ferris Wheel, peeking through to the other side of the concourse, all the rides lines up dead center. She felt her heart begin to race, her excitement level rising, stomach roiling.
She walked underneath the flashing lights of one of the rides, the twinkle of color bouncing off golden hair. Remmy walked alongside, still on the other side of the Ferris Wheel, her view of Julie blocked every few feet by the thin bars that braced the huge wheel. Julie was walking with Matt, Skylar between them, one of their hands in each of his, swinging to and fro. She watched as Julie’s dress flared out slightly behind her, the breeze picking it up. The way the material molded itself to her body.
Julie looked around, her heart pounding. She knew she was being watched, but it didn’t frighten her- she would never be frightened by blue eyes on her. She tried to peel away the layers of the sea of people around her, trying desperately to find that one face that she so desperately wanted to see, but still Remmy eluded her.
Remmy could tell that Julie was looking for something, or was it someone? Could she feel that she was being watched? Could she hear the pounding of Remmy’s heart inside her chest? Could she feel how sorry Remmy was?
The Ferris Wheel came to an end, and Remmy was very suddenly left defenseless, nothing to hide behind. She stood there, feeling vulnerable as Julie, Skylar and Matt came to the bend in the concourse, where they’d be heading right towards her. She held her breath, eyes locked on Julie, noting the simple braid that fell down the length of her hair. She wondered if she should run, hide out in the open as she would quickly be swallowed up by the throngs around her. With only a moment she could disappear.
Julie almost felt as though she couldn’t breathe, feeling desperate now. She knew Remmy was near, could feel her. She let go of Skylar’s hand, turning in a small circle, looking. She raised onto her tip toes, trying to look over the heads of those around her. It did no good, as it only led to more people.
“Julie?” Matt asked, glancing behind them to try and see what Julie was looking for.
She ignored him.
Remmy stopped, struck as her breath caught, chills running down her spine.
Dirt. A growing mound. The dark sky above, a hand waving aimlessly. The face looking down, baseball cap on backwards. Something in his hands. Dirt. Cold, heavy. Dirt. Digging. The sound of digging. Dirt. It’s cold. It’s heavy.
Remmy gasped, her hand trembling as she tried to dig the rattle out of her pocket, holding it so tightly she could hear the plastic creak under the pressure. She couldn’t breathe, shivering.
“No,” she whispered. “No, no!”
Julie hurried to the curve of the concourse, stopping so short, a teenager behind her ran into her, cursing as he hurried around her. Her eyes were fixated on Remmy, standing there, looking at her, but not. She was looking through her.
“Remmy?” she said, taking a step toward her. She was torn between being happy to see her, and concern at the look of terror that was quickly paling Remmy’s features.
Julie was nearly knocked down as a large group of laughing fair-goers rounded the corner, swarming around her. She fought her way to get out of their group, pushing one boy roughly aside. Alone next to the Ferris Wheel. Remmy was gone.
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