Private Voices: Part 03

Updated on February 6, 2020
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Mike is a long-time supporter of procrastination and enjoys doing as often as he can.

The Story So Far

Janice James is a Private Investigator working for a client named Steven Franko, who is having trouble divorcing his wife, Ava. Her investigation deepens as it would appear Ava was hiding a double life. With the permission of Steven Franco, a co-owner in Ava’s dental business, Janice started a search of the office where she found a hidden safe and opened it.

The first surprise was the money. The safe had stacks of Euros, British Pounds, and American Dollars. More money than one person should have on hand unless they were a bank or up to something. She found Ava's passport and a driver's license from Brazil, a 22-automatic with several magazines and a suppressor. There was also ammunition for several other weapons from a 556 to a 9mm. In a box in the back was a bag with diamond and gold jewelry. She took pictures and scanned some of the cash, then she left, making sure everything was locked and left as she found it. Janice liberated a few of the bills. Her first stop was at the bar, where they had a program that allowed them to check for counterfeit currency. After a scan and search, they knew that at least the American money was genuine.

After a few calls, Janice was set to speak with a dentist she knew and see if he could look over the billing to see if they are legitimate. He would leave his morning open so he and one of his assistants could examine the records. Janice noticed just how happy they were to look at the books from another dentist. The morning was several hours away, so Janice went home, hoping Bill would still be there, but instead, she found a note and Brandon waiting for her. This was the six-year-old Brandon in his SpongeBob pajamas wearing that Christmas elf hat he carried around for about a year with the fake ears.

Brandon asked, "so who won?"

When he was six and still alive, he had walked in on her and Bill making love. Janice told him they were wrestling.

Brandon asked, "who's winning?"

Bill, with no subtlety, said, "I think I was."

Just before he left the room, Brandon had turned and said, "ok, I thought you two were having sex working on that baby brother, but I guess I was wrong."

Janice stirred in bed, trying to forget about the past. Brandon climbed in next to her. She could feel his presence, if not him.

Brandon said, "I think daddy is starting to slip away."

It was about this time in his life when Brandon stopped calling Bill Daddy and started calling him Dad. Janice looked down at the rise and fall of his small chest, knowing now that there was a ticking clock, an expiration date built into his heart that would end his life on the soccer field. She fell asleep and found herself in that field despite the fact she wasn’t there that day. All the parents were there with the kids playing a game, that is all of them except for her. Janice told them that she had a job, and she needed to be on it, but really, she just didn't want to be around the other parents. In her dream, she watched as Brandon faded to the right then the left, and with his last burst of speed made his final goal, then he dropped. Janice watched as the paramedics worked on him then got him into an ambulance. From there, she was in the hospital room, and Brandon was gone. Then she saw herself as she walked into the hospital, not knowing what had happened being so annoyed by Bill and what she thought was nothing.

At first, nothing seemed wrong with the files except that Ava didn't have that many patients. Just before she had them stop and go back to their typical day; the assistant pointed out that the records didn't mention materials used as a part of the billing.

She said, "fillings aren't cheap, and no dentist would give the materials away."

The mystery that was Ava just widened as they went back over the records noting anything missing from billing. Janice left the dentist after promising she would be back for a cleaning and exam.

As she left, her phone buzzed. "Mam, my name is Officer Regan. I am investigating a shooting at the house of a mister Franco when we found your card. Was mister Franco a client?"

The question hit her like a slap in the face.

She asked, "Is he dead?"

Officer Regan asked if she could bring any files to the police station, and they would answer any questions they could.

From what the police could piece together, Steven was at home in his living room watching a basketball game when the assailant struck him with a baseball bat. The bat was a part of the victim's sports memorabilia and was signed by Jim Tome of the Cleveland Indians. It seemed funny to Janice just how upset the officer was over the bat and not the body. From there, the person or persons using a hammer and a pair of pliers broke and dislocated fingers and joints.

Regan said, "it was like out of some sort of movie where they wanted him to talk."

Janice quietly replayed the night in her head. The crime scene pictures showed an empty gun safe.

She read out loud, "Preliminary test showed both drugs and what could be explosives."

Janice started with the paper from Steven, giving her the authority to go into the office. She then gave them a step-by-step account of her night in the office and what she found out when she spoke to the dentist. It was the dentist and his assistant that gave her an alibi for the crime. A manhunt started for the wife, but Janice knew they would never find her unless she wanted to be found.

When she got back to her office, Janice called her service and stopped any payment from Steven Franco. Like most of her clients, Steven paid with a credit card and was set up for routine deposits for Janice's service. She didn't want any bad will with the local law, so she gave them all her files on him and all the non-questionable evidence. Anything that might have been illegal was quietly left out. Back home, she found a note from the realtor. The house was officially sold, and she had sixty days to move out. Inside, she could hear the baby crying. An echo of a long-ago time that would never repeat for her, but just maybe a new family could have this place and have good memories. In the last two years, the house felt like a memory prison, and she was the only inmate, but now that she was free, she didn't want to go. The crying stopped.

The house was filled with people. Her uncle Dave who died in a fire when she was twelve. Cousin Steve was sitting on the steps holding the revolver he used to shoot himself about ten years ago. Janice's maternal grandparents Janice and Jack, who died from a carbon monoxide leak in their trailer in Streetsboro, were on the loveseat making out. Sitting around the piano was her cousins Jenny, Bobby, and Nancy, who all died from heroin overdoses about six months apart. In the kitchen were Brandon, her sister Sue and Sue's best friend, Jennifer. One-night, Sue was high on acid; she started to think that the telephone poles were out to get them. She recorded herself slamming into a pole in her metallic blue and gray 1992 Corvette at somewhere around ninety miles an hour. All during the run-up to the collision, Jennifer screamed: "lets light this place up and let her burn." In the front, Janice heard a door open then close. She turned around to see that everyone was gone.

Bill was at the door. He had this look on his face that said it all. Bill didn't want to sell the house, but Bill understood that Janice needed to be able to move on. He had a bag from their favorite Chinese takeout and a bottle of pink Catawba wine from Heineman Winery on Put-In-Bay, a small island in Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio. Back when they first married, they had honeymooned there going back and forth between the island and Cedar Point amusement park. They spent their first night as husband and wife in a tub built for two with several bottles of this wine. Even after they could afford something better, they still came back because it was the best in every way that mattered. This time the bottle seemed to signal an end. For a split second, she thought he would break it over her head, and in that second, she felt that just maybe she would deserve it.

© 2019 Michael Collins aka Lakemoron

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