Part One - Chapter Four(Follow up from Chapter Three - posted June 6th on this blog)
I brought my groceries home to a one bedroom apartment in a small old Craftsman style house, on the second floor, where the rooms sported slanted ceilings. I dropped the bag on the counter, placed the veggies in the fridge, and then went straight back to the office, where there was more room to work. It was late afternoon and the sun was getting ready to set. Shadows of the trees cast across the road, like long finger mirages, reflecting the branches still half barren as they struggled to bud their new spring foliage. I reached the cabin and headed for the door. The guys went home already, and I was the only one within earshot. I was fine with that, and wanted some peace and quiet. I felt compelled to do more research on Jennifer Taylor and her family. There must be a clue somewhere, or a reason she was taken and killed, and then dumped in the middle of the forest. I was determined to keep searching for the missing piece to the puzzle. I always found working the edges was the best approach, so I decided to work this case the same way.
I unlocked the cabin door and switched on the overhead lights. All the computers were shut down for the day, and the space was void of noise except the drip of water hitting the sink in the break room every fifty seconds. That was my white noise. I walked to my desk and switched on the desktop and within seconds the screen brightened. I sat down in my old desk chair, its seat permanently sunk in the middle, and offering little comfort or support. I was compelled, and started surfing the web right off, hoping something would turn up. I Googled her name, and found her Facebook account. I hacked in, using the obvious user name and password combos. It didn’t take long, jtaylor 1994, her birth year. She had over 400 friends on the site. I clicked on the active friends who had posted on her wall. They were mostly fellow students, and kids she had known in high school. Then I checked out the groups she visited, all of them were pretty much ‘have a great day’ type of pages. There were lots of rainbows and cats on the page sites. All her posts were upbeat, and she didn’t seem to have any problems, other than what purse to buy. I was intent on doing a thorough job, so I kept digging into every site listed on her page or wall.
At last, I checked out the pages she liked. Pay dirt! There, within her list of hundreds of pages she liked, was one obscure page called ‘Real Horror Games’. At first I was taken aback by the gruesome icon, and then thought it must be just one of those crazy on-line games. I decided I needed to check it out because it was so different from anything else listed on her page. It just didn’t seem to match her personality. I clicked on the link and was brought to an open web page. The website offered game services, just like I thought. It also advertised live role playing.
Now my interest was piqued. Adrenalin flowed through my veins, excited with this new discovery, and I knew this was important somehow. The feeling kept me looking for more, and then I let my imagination go wild. What if she had joined this group and had done a real life role playing game? I wondered. Could she have done something dangerous? Or maybe she was forced to do something she didn’t want to do? My thoughts started down a spiral road, as I kept dreaming up scenarios in my head.
I decided the people who ran this business needed a visit, and then I realized I didn’t have that kind of authority. My spirits fell instantly, and I got a sick feeling in my gut, knowing I had to have Rory handle this lead. He would probably laugh at my intuition and dismiss the whole thing. I decided the heck with protocol. There was no law saying I couldn’t go down and check the place out as a concerned citizen, or maybe even a potential client. It was still a free country after all. Maybe I wanted to play a real horror game myself, who knows, it might be nothing more than fun.
I got up from my chair and turned off the monitor, opened up my desk drawer and took out a small pistol that I kept for emergencies. I tucked it into the back of my belt. I grabbed my jacket and pushed my chair in. Focused on the task, I decided to undertake this lead myself. I was headed for the door, lifted my head to watch where I was going on my way out, and was startled by someone standing right in front of me. I jumped and a small screech came out of my mouth, in a very high and undesirable way. I nearly wet myself; I was scared shit-less. Rory stood there, now laughing his head off at me.
“God! Don’t do that!” I said.
My stomach was doing flip flops as my blood rushed through my veins.
“Do what?” he said between outbursts.
“Very funny! Do you always sneak into other peoples’ offices and scare them to death?”
“Sorry, I knocked but you were so engrossed, you didn’t hear Me.” he said.
He still had a wide smile across his face and his eyes sparkled, more like the way I remembered them. Every other second he covered his mouth, still suppressing a snicker. This was one more thing he could hold against me. Well, I resigned to the fact I seemed foolish for the moment, because he was not letting me forget my reaction.
“Okay, that’s enough. Can I help you? Did you come here for a reason?” I asked.
Rory’s face suddenly fell, the smile wiped off in a mere second. My voice must have seemed harsh. I felt bad about that, but I had more important things going on in my mind, like what I was going to do once I reached the Real Horror Games’ office.
“Do you mind telling me where you are going with that pistol tucked into your belt?” he asked.
His eyes were determined, and I felt like a school girl caught in the act of a forbidden prank, going against the rules.
“Okay, you got me. I was just going to do some practice shooting.”
“I don’t believe you. Tell me the truth Karen.”
I gulped hard. I tried to think quick, but that was always my downside. I could think of grand retorts hours after a conversation, but I could never come up with a quick comeback, on the spot, that sounded real. I knew there was no choice except to tell the truth.
“Okay you got me. I was just going to check out this place called Real Horror Games. Jennifer Taylor had visited the site, so I thought it might be worth checking into, just in case.” I said.
I looked directly into his eyes, and tried to determine if he was going to let me continue with my hunch.
“How did you come across this?” he asked.
“Her Facebook page.”
He didn’t answer right away, but instead thought about what I just said. His eyes stared past me, and I could tell he was deliberating it in his mind. He was not the type to use social media and probably had no idea about liking pages, and the crazy advertising that went on in the social media sites, but at least he was thinking about it.
“Okay, let’s go check it out. I assume you have the address.” he said.
I showed him the piece of paper I had in my hand. He nodded and we headed for the door.
“We are taking my car, to make it more official.” he said.
Then he led the way to the car. I locked the office door behind me, and then sat in his car, shotgun. It felt strange to be seated near him again. It was even stranger being in a state police car. I wondered if he would turn on the lights, but he didn’t. We drove towards the city in silence. Finally I got the nerve to talk.
“Where’s your partner today?” I asked.
I tried not to put any emotion into my voice, and to sound just friendly. He looked over at me briefly, and then shrugged.
“She’s working another case right now. We aren’t usually partnered together. She and I went through training at the same time years ago, and stayed friends, but my steady partner, for the past five years, just passed away. Sargent Thomas was just covering.” he said.
I gulped, embarrassed that I asked anything about his business. Who did I think I was to pry, after all these years? I could see he was still upset over the loss, and it was probably something he would never get over, if he was still the same Rory I knew. I wanted to kick myself for my weakness and yearning to know how he has been.
“I am so sorry.” I said.
“It happens. He had cancer.” It was silent for a moment. “I miss him, but he would want me to go on, and do my job.”
He did a half smile, and I could tell he experienced a flash of a good memory of his late partner. At that moment I remembered one of the reasons I admired Rory - he was loyal. So why did he have that other girl in his bed? The thought leaped into my head from my subconscious. I felt the hurt again, it was piercing my heart. I decided not to say anything else for a while, and took the time needed to forget the thought, and composed myself again. I was committed to act businesslike
Like the man said, we have a job to do.