“The Day After the Night Before” Final Chapter

The Paperback Edition…

“Charlie!  It’s okay.  I’m a police officer…I’m an undercover cop, MPD.  My name is Mike.  Mike Foster.”  The words were clear and simple and strong…meant to be calming.

His voice…it sounded so familiar…and then it slowly dawned on me.

It was the same voice as the one who had asked me last night if I was “driving home”.  I now remembered Hannah whispering in my ear…

“That Mike is sure a cutie.” Hannah had said, referring to Doyle’s cute , new bouncer as she had guided ‘my drunken self’ out the door.

I slowly turned around and looked up.  It was him.  My mind raced… no wonder he was with all those cops at the court house.  Of course.  He must have seen me and didn’t want to take a chance on blowing his cover.

“Mike…” I murmured under my breath.  “Right…”

He let me stand free for a moment as he put his gun away.  I swayed a little and he grabbed my elbow to steady me.

“Hey, take it easy.” he said softly.

Quiet tears of relief started to stream down my cheeks and I started to shake.  Shock and the freezing cold began taking their toll on me.

Mike pulled me a little nearer and tried to close up my coat, saying soft, comforting words as he fumbled with the buttons.

Then he stopped and took his hands and lifted my face so he could look me in the eyes…

“Charlie.  It’s all over.  You’re safe now.”  He spoke very slowly, carefully choosing his words… to be sure I understood.

But I was so cold.  I couldn’t stop shivering and I couldn’t stop crying.  I just stood there unable to speak or move.

Graphic images I had seen too many times from crime scenes I’d covered the last couple of years were flashing thru my mind.

I knew just how bad this could have been.

“So cold…” I managed to whisper.

Mike gently pulled me next to him.  His jacket was open and he wrapped his arms and his jacket around me.  I could hear sirens in the distance.

“Thank God I was still here,” he said, his voice ragged with emotion.

I sighed and sank into the safety and warmth of his body.

After a few minutes, my tears stopped and I was shaking less.  But I didn’t want to leave the warmth of Mike’s arms.  And he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to let me go.

I pulled back just a little, looked up and asked, “The rose?”

It was the first time I had ever seen Mike Foster smile.  He had a great smile.

  “The End”

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 35

The Paperback Edition…

Please, I silently prayed… let them just want the money.

But the man holding my arm did not release it.  He pushed it up even farther.  Was he trying to break my arm?  I tried to scream but only a muffled whimper came out.

The man in the Grinch mask walked over and picked up my purse, walked back and said something to his buddy that I couldn’t hear.

He looked back at me and then they both laughed…it sounded pure evil.  Now I was glad I couldn’t see their faces.

“Get her over behind those trees,” the taller one ordered.  And suddenly I felt my feet leave the ground.  My toes skimmed the rough pavement as the one holding me started to drag me to the darkest part of the lot.

I struggled to free myself but it was no use.  Every self-defense class maneuver I had ever learned flew out of my head.

I couldn’t believe this was happening to me!  My heart was pounding so fast, I thought I was going to pass out.

Then suddenly I heard another man’s voice.   It was deeper.  Older.  Coming from somewhere behind us.

“I think you boys are done here now.  I’ll take over.”

But no one let me go.  I was still being dragged.  Was this a friend of theirs?

“Oh I don’t think so man.  But we can share,” sneered the one who had his hand over my mouth.  It was getting hard now to even take a breath.

Footsteps behind me got louder but I wasn’t able to twist around to see who was talking.

“I don’t share,” he said quietly.  Now he was right behind us.  “Let her go.  Now.”

And then I heard the unmistakable cocking of a gun’s hammer.  A big gun.  I had been around policemen long enough these past couple of years to recognize that sound.

Whoever was holding me, let me go so fast my feet hit the ground and I stumbled and started to fall forward.  I could hear the footsteps of my assailants running away.

New hands quickly caught me and kept me from hitting the pavement.  But still terrified, I fought to get away.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 32

The Paperback Edition…

LATER THAT NIGHT…

I was leaving Doyle’s a good twenty minutes after closing.

Everyone else had cleared out.  I had sent Hannah on her way with her new boyfriend, reassuring her that I was right behind them.  The “new boyfriend” was that cute cop she had met last night.

He was new to the Minneapolis ‘cop shop’…neither Hannah nor I had seen him before….and he was drop dead good-looking.  Hannah was absolutely on fire about him.

She had talked of no one and nothing else all the way to Doyle’s…wondering if he would show up tonight like he had promised.

She had also told him that she would probably be singing with the band.  Oh.  My.

They had been inseparable since the minute we had walked in.

I never got a chance to ask her if she knew who had called out my name last night during my rather sketchy departure.

To be brutally honest…I was a little embarrassed to admit…even to Hannah…that I was drawing a blank about some of last night’s activities.  It’s pretty scary when you don’t remember…

Just as we were all getting up to leave, I realized that I did not have my favorite pen…the one that I always use to take notes.

I told Hannah and her “little detective”…to take off since I was sure I would find it shortly.

I searched my purse again…for the umpteenth time and was not looking forward to pawing thru the rubble on the floor but I knew that was my next mission.

Even the bright white lights they usually put on to hurry us drinkers out into the forgiving darkness…had now been replaced by the bar’s glowing, red security lights.

At most clubs, when the last note had been played, people quickly left in droves.

There were after-hours parties to go to and “romantic” hook-ups that needed completing.  But…I wasn’t going anywhere until I found that damn pen.

It was an old Peterson family tradition to give a 14 KT Gold Cross pen to your son or daughter at their high school graduation.

Even though my dad knew he wouldn’t be able to do this himself…he had died when I was seven…he had instructed my mom to to buy one and give it to me on the day I graduated from Hamilton High School.

I was not leaving Doyle’s without that pen.

As I was searching around underneath the nearby tables, I finally found it under a bunch of grubby napkins.  Gross…

When I stood up from the floor, I felt a little dizzy so I sat down in a nearby chair  and waited for my head to clear.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 31

The Paperback Edition…

Damnation!  Whose voice was that…and how the hell did he know my real name?

I reached over and grabbed my phone to call Hannah…but then I hesitated…it was kind of early.  She may not even be alone…she and that detective had been pretty cozy last night.

I’ll wait…maybe in an hour or so when I’m sure she’ll be up…and awake…and in an agreeable mood to talk..

Stella peeked her head out from under the covers.

“You look so cute under there.”  I said.  “I bet it’s really cozy.”

In the winter, Stella often burrowed under the covers on my bed, turned around  and then just poked her nose and ears out from underneath.

And…of course I have several photos on Instagram to show everyone just how darling she looked…in case you were wondering…

I started to move the covers so I could slide in next to Stella.  I kicked off my fuzzy slippers and carefully crawled in.

“Hey!  Don’t squish me!” said Stella whose yellow eyes flashed open but then  immediately closed again.

Before my head hit the pillow, I looked one more time at that beautiful yellow rose.

To think that someone…someone I didn’t even know…cared enough about me to let me know that they were thinking about me…and…even worried about me.

To my complete surprise, tears welled in my eyes…and  I felt the deepest loneliness than I had felt since mom had died.

“Me.  You have me, you know.” said Stella.

“Indeed.  Oh, indeed.” I said and rolled over and meant to give some careful thought to all that was going on or not going on in my life.  But then Stella snuggled a little closer and  I fell asleep before one little thought could even appear.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 29

The Paperback Edition…

Complicated and drawn out conversations were not Stella’s cup of tea.

She tended to stare off into space if I talked too long…and in Stella’s world…too long was defined as one or two minutes.  A yawn often escaped.

“I wonder,” I said, as I scratched behind her ears, “if this beautiful rose is connected to the someone who said ‘good-by, Charlie’…or whatever…to me last night?”

“And…how did that someone know my real name?  We still haven’t figured out that mystery.”

“I should call Hannah and see if she remembers if anything out of he ordinary  happened last night.  Or…even better…maybe she even knows who shouted out my name.”

“She’s still sleeping, I bet,” said Stella.

I continued…

“…because I’m so sure this rose has something to do with last night…”

“Of course, she had been pretty busy with that cute cop that wandered in around midnight.  I vaguely remember he was pretty interested in her too.”

“You know she’s asleep.” persisted Stella.

“So you say.   I should call her anyway to see if she still  plans to go to that party tonight at that after-hours place.”

“I thought you were done going to those places…didn’t the cops raid one of them a couple of weeks ago?”

I ignored her comment…even though I knew it was correct.

I totally knew neither Hannah nor I should go to any after-hours clubs.   If they got raided while we were there, we could lose our jobs.  Hell… we would lose our jobs.

Sometimes it sucks to be young and have a really great job.  You have to be so responsible.

“You weren’t very responsible last night.” said Stella.

“I know.  I know.  That…was the last time…for sure.  I promise.”

“I’ll be keeping track.” said Stella.

I pulled her close and nuzzled the top of her little furry head.

What I really wanted to do tonight, was to just stay home with Stella.

I would curl up on the sofa…eat hot buttered and generously salted popcorn, followed by my favorite ice cream, Haagen-Dazs Belgium Chocolate…and…watch the ‘Gilmore Girls’.  Again.

“I love the ‘Gilmore Girls'” sighed Stella.

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 28

The Paperback Edition…

Abby looked at me and then looked towards the living room.  Shaking her head, she said very calmly and without any emotion or even judgement in her voice, “I’m going to get dressed now…just like other normal people do on a Saturday morning.  And  I stress the word normal.”

She got up and left the kitchen without waiting for any more comments from me…or…from Stella.

After a few more minutes of “rose appreciation”, I carefully picked up the vase and headed towards my room.  I put the vase on my dresser where I could see it from my bed and then went to gather my furry, little friend for some mystery solving.

“C’mon kiddo,  we have to talk.”  I picked up a sleeping Stella from the top of the sofa and slung her over my shoulder despite a few protesting groans.

People watching from the top of the sofa was one of her favorite activities.  Naps were a close second.  Since there weren’t a lot of people to watch in the winter…she was getting in a lot of nap time.

“I have no clue, said Stella.  “You do know that I am really you, don’t you?  I mean when we talk?”

“Yes.  I’m not crazy…not yet anyway…I just need to talk out my thoughts and it helps if I can do that with you…me…you…whatever.”

I knew full well that Abby could hear me talking as I headed from the living room  down the hallway and grinned when I heard a loud, expletive loaded groan coming from her room.

“Quiet down in there.  We have to think.” said Stella in a very teeny yet somewhat loud voice.

And then Stella licked my neck…twice.

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 27

The Paperback Edition…

I gently opened the flap and pulled out a white card.

It said, “Charlie.  I hope this makes you happy.  Seeing you always makes me happy.”

I immediately got tears in my eyes.  I took a deep breath and exhaled a little shakily.

I handed it over to Abby who was impatiently reaching for it.

“NOT SIGNED!!!  IT’S NOT SIGNED!!!.  Abby yelped as she read the card.

“That’s it.  I’m done.”  Stella stood up, stretched quickly and jumped down to the floor.  She headed off to the top of the living room sofa…to begin one of her many daily vigils of the front sidewalk.

“I can’t believe it’s not signed!  What torture!”  Abby disgustedly tossed the card back down on the table, got up and started to clear away the last of the dishes.

I looked at her with indignant shock.

YOU can’s believe it!”  I said.  “YOU can’t believe it…how do you think I feel?”

“For the first time in months I have something… maybe kind of swell…happening to me and…it’s a secret!”  I shook my head in utter exasperation.

But then I looked at that beautiful, delicate rose again.  I picked it up and inhaled the unmistakable scent that only a rose can produce.

I smiled and carefully laid it back in the box.

“Abby…do you know if there’s a smallish vase around…”  I turned toward the sink but Abby had gone.

I got up and walked over to the stove.  I reached up and opened a seldom used cupboard.

“I think this is where mom kept some vases…” I said to myself…since no one else was listening to me…

I rummaged around and behind some larger ones…there was a small bud vase.   It had little pink flowers on it that were kind of faded…but it was the smallest of the lot so it would have to do.

I took it down and checked for any cracks…finding none…I went over to the sink and filled the it with water.

“Why doesn’t he want me to know who he is?” I asked Abby…who had returned to the kitchen.

“Well…I hate to say this…but…maybe he’s a married guy and just wanted to do something nice for you…like maybe Jake?  He probably would have noticed how much you were hurting last night.”

Abby was speaking very carefully, not wanting to upset me too much by using the word “married” and “Jake” in the same sentence.

I carried the vase over to the table, put it down and carefully added the rose and the greenery that had come with it.  I gently touched a yellow petal.

“Or Bobby?”  I mused.  “He did seem to be paying more attention to me than usual last night…or at least I think so.”.

“I just hope it’s not from some creep who’s going to start stalking us!” 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 26

The Paperback Edition…

Abby put the package down on the kitchen table.  I got up and carried some of the dishes to the sink and got a scissor so we could open it up.

“I can’t see a card, can you?” I asked as I gently cut away the layers of protective cellophane.

“It would be just like Ralph to forget a card.  Oh well, he’ll probably call me later this morning and we can know for sure.”  Abby said confidently.  Then she reached up her arms and stretched her back.

“That’s very good for you,” said Stella…who watched every move that Abby made…thinking…I’m sure…that another morsel of food could be placed on her plate at any given moment.

“Did you hear that Charlie?” Abby exclaimed as she quickly brought her arms down to her sides.  “I swear to God she said good!”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Abby.  Stella is just a cat.  One I happen to talk for…on occasion.  You do know that, right?  Do you not see my lips moving?”

“Well, sure I do…but sometimes,” Abby said in a soft voice, “I forget…especially when she makes sounds…strange sounds.”

“I resent the phrase ‘just a cat’,” complained Stella…to no one in particular.

I had opened the box and finished unwrapping the soft white paper.   I gently pushed some white tissue to the side.

Lying inside the box was one, beautiful yellow rose…and a small white envelope.

Abby had peered over the wrappings and had also spotted the envelope.

“Oh look!!’ she said.  “There is a card,” and she started to reach for it.

But I was quicker and I grabbed it before she did.

“I got it.”  As I picked it up and turned it over I saw just one word written on the front of the envelope.    It said…”Charlie”

Abby…who had also read the card…sat down in her chair and took a bite from her eclair and said,  “Well…this is interesting.”

“I can’t believe it!” I cried.  “It’s for me!”

I looked over at Abby who was no longer so interested in the package and squinted my eyes suspiciously at her.

“Is this from you?  You know, to make me feel better?  Considering ‘the anniversary’ and all that?”

“Nope.  And if you don’t open that envelope pretty damn soon, I’m going to.”  And she made an attempt to grab it.  But I was too fast.

I moved away and sat down opposite her at the table, holding the card in my hands.

I was almost afraid to open it.  Could it be from Bobby?  Or maybe from Jake? I would be happy either way…really.   But neither knew my real name…or for sure…my address.

At least I didn’t think so.  After the incident last night, I wasn’t so sure of anything.

“Open it or I’m leaving.”  Stella hurried.  “I have to take a nap.”

Abby looked from Stella to me and then back to Stella.

“I’m with her…open it!” Abby ordered.

“All right, all right,” I said.  “Sometimes…anticipation can be fun…”

At this point…I didn’t really care what the card said or who it was from…as long as it didn’t say, “Charlie.  Hand this rose over to Abby.  She will be so surprised.  Thanks. Ralph..”

 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 25

The Paperback Edition…

Abby was silent.  This was a rare occurrence for her.  Then…

“Was there anyone at Doyle’s last night that you ever see at the other bars? ” Abby asked.

“You and Hannah go out every weekend and most Wednesday nights.  Do you always use the phony name/job bit?” she continued.

I answered quickly…”Always.”

Suddenly Abby slapped her hand down on the table.  “By Jove, I’ve got it,” she said….using just a terrible English accent.

“Maybe…maybe it was someone who works at the Journal with you or Hannah…but neither of you knew they were there last night.”   Abby said.

“You know…you could be right…that kind of makes sense. ”  I took another swallow of my now very tepid and therefore unappetizing coffee.

My head was starting to scream at me and I got up to get two aspirin.

Just as Abby had finished putting yet another piece of eclair on Stella’s plate, the front doorbell rang.

All of us just froze in place.  No one came to our house on the weekends…NO ONE.  Even Stella had paused…tongue again hanging out.

Both Abby and I said in unison.  “What the hell?”  I know we were both thinking the same thing…this has to be bad news.

Abby was way more appropriately dressed than I was.. so she went to see who was disturbing our little Saturday morning brunch.  I returned to my place at the table…headache momentarily forgotten.

“I wonder who it is?” whispered Stella.  Never one to miss any action,  she had moved over to be closer to me.

Stella was a very friendly cat. She always loved the few people who came to visit us…but this was Saturday morning on a frigid, cold day in Minnesota.  I think even she thought something wasn’t quite right.

“I don’t know.” I said quietly.   “Why are we whispering?”

I could hear Abby talking and then heard her say, “Hang on”.   She soon appeared back in the kitchen.  She had a puzzled look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked…eager to have this mystery solved.

“I need a dollar for a tip.”  She opened up the cupboard over the sink and took down the old Apple cookie jar where we kept change and dollar bills.  It made tipping delivery people a snap.

“For what?” I asked.

“For.  A.  Tip.” Abby said evenly…and gave me a look of exasperation.  She then went back to the front door.

I looked at Stella.  “Well, that was rude.”

“You have a killer hangover.  Everything will seem rude today.” she said knowingly.

I heard Abby say ‘thank you’ and then heard her shut the door.  I could feel little trickles of cold air that had filtered back to the kitchen from the opened door.

She walked into the kitchen carrying a long, white, rectangular floral box.  It was heavily wrapped in clear plastic to protect it from the freezing cold.

The label on the box said “Flora’s Fresh Flowers”.  It was very skinny and looked like it could only hold a single flower.

“Who’s it for?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Abby said.  “There was no name on the delivery ticket.  Only an address.  This one.”

“Well, well,” said Stella.  “The plot thickens.”

 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 24

The Paperback Edition…

I took a large bite of my second caramel roll, put it down and then…not thinking… pushed the plate with the half-eaten roll on it in Stella’s direction.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Stella doing a super, slow-motion, low crawl toward the abandoned roll, her tongue hanging out in wild anticipation.

“Oh, no you don’t,” I said and moved the plate out of her reach.

“Foiled!” Stella muttered…and then used her dangling tongue to quickly smooth some errant hairs on her front paws.   With her tail twitching in annoyance, she returned to look out the window.

“You know, Abby,” I said.  “This whole cockamamie fake name thing was all your bright idea.”

“I know, I know,” agreed Abby.  “And I still think it’s a great plan…almost as good as my ‘fourth grade mob’ idea…”   Then she grinned from ear to ear.

I also grinned and patted her hand.

“Nothing will ever top the ‘mob incident’…that was pure genius.  You were brilliant.”

“I was, wasn’t I?” Abby agreed.  “And to think I was but a mere child.”

We both laughed at that never to be forgotten event in our lives.

“You should come out with us once in a while,” I said to Abby.  You don’t have to dance or anything.  You don’t even have to drink.”

“Just sit with Hannah and me.  It would be so much fun.  The band at Doyle’s is great.  Your name could be,” and I paused…thinking of some of my favorite names.

“Annabelle,” I said and slapped my hand on the table.  “I love that name.”

“Okay…that’s never going to happen…” Abby said firmly.  “However… you can remember that for my bachelorette party.  We can all go to Doyle’s and I’ll be Annabelle Jones!”

I sighed…thinking of Abby leaving and pushed that sad thought to the back of my brain…

“So…back to me and my problem.  How does someone know my real name, a name that I never use when I am out at the bars?”

“Do you think in addition to knowing my real name…whoever it is also knows I’m a reporter…and that I work for the Journal?”