“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 11

Bob and Franny were waiting for us on a bench outside the restaurant.

They were talking a mile a minute and laughing…like they had been friends for years.

In my paranoid, self-centered world, I prayed Franny wasn’t sharing any personal information about me…like how old I was.

Hank got off the bike and then before I could make any attempt to get down…or should I say…before I wasted any more time trying to get down…he just lifted me off the seat and placed me on the ground…like I was three years old.

I swear…I though he was going to pat me on the head…as in ‘good little girl’…but he instead just smiled at me and then walked over to where Bob and Franny were sitting.  I followed.

“This looks like a good place,” he said, peering inside the restaurant windows and then turned to me.  “What do you think, Cooper? he asked. 

He said my name so…so pleasantly.  Much better than before…when he was yelling at me

“Looks great to me.  Let’s go in.” I said.

Then I almost fainted when Hank grabbed my hand as we headed to the door…like this was an actual date.

There were booths along the back wall of the restaurant, tables by the front window where the family was sitting, a couple of tables in the middle and then a long bar than ran from the front to the back.

There were three men sitting at the bar and they all turned and smiled at us when we walked in the door.  I just love small towns.

I bet their jails are nice too…not that I would be seeing one…but just saying…for the record…I don’t mean ‘a record’ as in ‘ a police record’…I mean…

(OH SHUT UP COOPER!!!) *

* As the author of this piece of fiction, I give myself full permission to yell at any character I have created.  It’s just one of the perks of the job…along with raking in piles of cash…

“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 34

The Paperback Edition…

Feeling better, I stood up and shrugged into my coat.  Since I was so hot from crawling all over the floor, I didn’t think I needed to button up.  I could handle 20 below zero for a couple of minutes.  I was…after all…a hardy Minnesotan.

I reached into my pockets for my gloves and then realized that I had left them on the front seat of my car when I had paused to put on lipstick before Hannah and I went into Doyle’s.

“See you next week, Teddy.” one of the dishwasher guys hollered at me as I passed through the kitchen.  I waved and pushed open the back door.

A blast of frigid air hit me and I immediately went into the bent-over, “huddle” position…familiar to anyone who has ever lived thru blistering cold winters.

I walked quickly across the parking lot to where my car was parked to begin my long trek home.

There would be no eating at the Minnehaha Grill tonight.  No eggs.  No bacon…and definitely no fun without Hannah.  What a bummer.  Oh, well.  I was pretty tired anyway.  It had been a long day.

The lot behind Doyle’s was huge and tonight we had no choice but to park way out on the perimeter since we had been running late.

Hannah had taken forever to get dressed.  She wanted to make a good impression on the band…and on her new ‘cop friend’.

“Amateur Night, Charlie,” she had said to me…as I tried to hurry her along.  Hannah was so beautiful she could wear a brown sack and look perfect.

As I walked to my car, I looked down to search around in my purse for my keys when suddenly a strong hand from behind grabbed my wrist and twisted my arm up behind my back.

Another arm came around my other side and a hand clamped over my mouth so tight I couldn’t scream and my struggling  was useless.

As I looked up, two more men appeared before me.  One of them had on a Grinch ski mask and the other one was wearing just a plain, black ski mask.

They swayed from side to side in an unsteady manner.   They had obviously been drinking…a lot.

“You be good now,” said the Grinch.  He was the taller of the two.  They both reeked of alcohol as did the man holding me captive.

“Jus’ let go of that pursh,” he slurred.  “An’ we’ll be on our way.”

I didn’t like the look of the long-bladed knife he had in his right hand.

I quickly let my free hand open and my purse fell with a thud to the ground.

I winced.  It was my brand-new Kate Spade bag.

 

“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?”

 

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 23

The Paperback Edition…

“Say what?  What did you just mumble Charlie?”

Abby closed the refrigerator door where she had gone to get more half & half for our coffee.

“I missed what you said.”

“I said… that’s when the night got a tad complicated.  Last night…someone said ‘Good-by Charlie’ or ‘Take it easy, Charlie’ or…something like that…I can’t remember exactly…”

“Hannah and I were starting to leave.  Then I turned and waved a huge good-by to everyone around me.”

“You know the wave.  One of those very tipsy, all encompassing waves that includes the whole room.  It was just before last call.”

“How the hell does anyone at Doyle’s know my real name, Abby?  Hannah and I have been so careful.”

Abby was still standing with the half & half container in one hand.  She sat down,  added cream to her coffee,  stirred and took a thoughtful sip.  Then she took a more thoughtful bite of her eclair.

“Describe how ‘happy’ you and Hannah were last night…on a scale of one to ten.  Ten being really, really ‘happy’ but still conscious.”

She gave me one of those piercing “I am not in the mood for BS looks” that is going to work so well for her when she has kids.  Her mom could do the same look.  It truly was a gift.

“Well…Hannah was driving, so she was a definite one.  I was a definite eight.”

“Earlier in the evening, Hannah was singing a lot…along with the band.  She really got carried away a couple of times.”

“She was trying to impress the band…prepping for tonight’s amateur night…you know Hannah…”

“Oh…I know…not that practicing will make a difference with that voice.  She is persistent though.”

Abby got up to get some tomato juice from the fridge.

“So…is it possible that Hannah may have said your real name at some point…maybe as she was singing, as in c’mon Charlie, sing with me.”?

Abby sat down and looked at Stella who had suddenly paused during one of her many mini baths to look at me.  It almost appeared as if  she was waiting to hear what I was going to say.

“I can’t wait to hear this story,” mumbled Stella.

“Why is Stella looking at you like that? sputtered Abby.  “Honest to God, Charlie, I swear that cat understands everything we say.”

I ignored her comment.

“Are you  actually expecting me to remember if Hannah used my real name last night?” I answered sarcastically.

“I was flat-out drunk and that’s being charitable.  Of course she could have used my real name.  Hell, I could have used my real name.”  I reached over and scratched  Stella under her chin.

“Good answer.”

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 22

The Paperback Edition…

“Older, white-haired man makes fool of himself trying to flirt with young girls.  SO SAD…”  He could be their father”

“Our oh so handsome  bouncer gently removes slightly out-of-control female drinker quietly and efficiently.  Five star to whatever his name is…”

“You aren’t talking about you or Hannah here…right?” asks a worried Abby…her coffee cup pausing halfway to her mouth.

I gave her a withering glance as I looked up from my notebook.

“Hey don’t get so huffy…I just thought I’d ask,”  Abby said with a little smile.

“Hannah can get a little too ‘joyous’…as we all know.  Please continue.”

“Two phony looking but very cute,  guys  about 21-25 enter the bar near closing, looking for a couple of mostly drunk young ladies they could quickly impress for a little action after last call.  They look over at me and Hannah and we both roll our eyes.  They move on and continue looking.”

“Bobby looks at me while he is singing a love song and then he winks at me when he’s done.  I wish he would ask me out!.” 

I hear a low groan from Abby.  She is not at all fond of Bobby, lead singer in Doyle’s house band., The Continentals.

“Jake comes over and sits down.  He takes my hand in his and is just about to ask me something when we hear a loud crash from across the room.  Trouble somewhere and he leaves.”

“He’s married, you know…Hannah and I both agree.” says Abby very pointedly.  “He is absolutely married and you are being a total fool…just saying…”

I ignore her comment completely.

“And that is almost it.”  I pause and close the notebook and take a bite of my roll and glance out at our snow-covered back yard.

It was January in Minnesota and this year we have three or four feet of snow in the backyard.  I was just about to explain the ‘almost’ part…when Abby started talking.

“I have two very important things to say,” said Abby.

“One.  Doesn’t Bobby already have a girlfriend or maybe three?  And…I agree completely with Hannah…who can spot a married man a mile away…Jake is married.”

“Well…” I argued, “Bobby is the lead singer of the band and also extremely good looking…and that means he has lots of girls…you know…like groupies…always hanging around the stage…and him”

“But…I think he really likes me.  He always goes out of his way to say ‘Hi’ when Hannah and I come to Doyle’s for their Wednesday lunch buffet.  Sometimes he even stops practice to come over to talk to us…you can ask Hannah!”

I knew I was sounding pretty lame…and pretty thirteen-oldish…but still…

Abby scoffed…and continued talking.

“And…and the second thing…Jake Marlowe …”

“Stop.”  I ordered, holding up my hand to silence her.

“I know both of you guys have my best interests at heart, blah, blah, blah.  But…just because Jake hasn’t really asked me out on a proper date and just wants to go for a drive down to the Lakes after closing means nothing.”

“I think it would be romantic.  He doesn’t get a lot of free time and I have a job too.  We could really get to know each other.”

I took another bite of my roll and looked defiantly at Abby…who countered…as I knew she would.  She was Abby Jones, after all.

“And yet…you haven’t gone with him ‘down to the lakes’.  Why?”  Abby questioned, tilting her head to the side.  She looked just like Stella.

“I’m not sure, ” I mumbled.  “But I think I will…soon.  I’m really holding out for Bobby.  I know if I go out with Jake, Bobby will never ask me out.  I don’t think they like each other much.  Plus Jake is kind of like Bobby’s boss…so there’s that.”

“But when Bobby asks me out, I’m telling him my real name and where I work!”

I paused and looked out the back window.  A bright red cardinal had landed on the porch railing and was trying to pick up a piece of bread one of the squirrels had dropped.

I turned back to look at Abby who had stood up to go to the refrigerator.

“Anyway…as I was saying before you interrupted me…just before we left Doyle’s last night, it got a little complicated.”

 

 

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 19

The Paperback Edition…

For some reason (insert Stella The Cat here) my pillow ends up on the floor almost every morning.  I bent down to grab it and my head started to seriously pound.

I quickly sat back down on my bed.  The room was not exactly doing the infamous “drunk spin”…but I definitely felt better sitting down.  Crap.  I am such an idiot.

I tried to remember…did I take 2 aspirin before I went to sleep last night?  Because if I did…I should not have such a bad headache.

This was a classic hangover prevention trick that one of the older reporters had shared with me and Hannah  one morning when we were both miserable from a night of partying.  He swore by it and it actually worked…when I remembered to take the damn pills.

“Maybe I have the flu…Jeez Louise… who hopes for the flu?”  I muttered to myself.

“You are so pathetic,” Stella said as she jumped up on my bed.  “The flu.  Indeed.”

“You could be more sympathetic,” I challenged her.  “I take such good care of you.  You are one of my very best friends.”

“One of…?  Well, that’s nice.  I love…being qualified.”

I patted the little bit of golden hair on Stella’s head and then turned to look at my new hair cut in the mirror.

Back in the 60’s there was a geometric hair style called a “Sassoon” named after Vidal Sassoon, the stylist who had created it.  The cut sported very short hair with sharp V sideburns and 2 deep V’s cut in the back.

It was really radical back then so of course every one had loved it. 

And…apparently it was coming back in style..or so said Seth…my favorite stylist.

He has been cutting my hair for about 4 years, and he was not taking no for an answer.  Seth said I had perfect  “little sticky-out ears” that would look so awesome with this new cut.

“You’re gonna look just like Anne Hathaway…” he ventured…

“Whatever….”  I agreed…you just can’t argue with Seth…and Anna Hathaway looked pretty good.

Seth was adorable and very persuasive.  I loved him dearly.  It was too bad he played for the same team.

I heard the back screen door bang and almost felt the blast of freezing air that came rushing  in as Abby pushed open the inside door.

“I have breakfast!” Abby shouted from the kitchen.

Stella’s ears shot straight up at the word “breakfast” and she jumped off the bed and raced through my bedroom door.

“You just ate!  You’re going to get so fat!”  I hollered after her.

“Not me, kiddo…” she shot back…as she raced down the hallway at warp speed…sliding thru the doorway that led into the dining room…and then…

“Abby!!!!  I’ve been waiting so long for you to come back!!!”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake”  said Abby.  “Stop talking to me!!”

I chuckled…even though it hurt…and knew it was time to get moving.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 13

OMG!  THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A TALKING ANIMAL!…

Nope.   The voice was my voice and I can assure you that I am not crazy.

I just have this nutty habit of giving a voice to objects that could not otherwise speak…if I did not do it for them.  I mostly do this for animals.  I do not speak for the refrigerator.

When I was a little girl, every one of my dolls or stuffed animals had a separate personality and a different voice. 

My mom started this crazy thing after I had been sick for a couple of weeks (for the fourth or fifth time that winter) and the whole staying in bed thing was getting really old…for her as well as me.

She was always trying to find different ways to make me feel better…and this definitely qualified.

One gloomy, winter day she came into my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed.  She pulled one of my brother’s white socks out of her apron pocket and put it over her hand. 

And then…she made it talk to me. It was a puppet with no eyes, no mouth, no ears no hair.  Just a white sock.  Over her hand.  And…I loved it.

The sock’s name was “Tudy” as in “Judy” and she lived next door to us.  She was constantly getting into trouble and hardly ever went to school…which is why she was always there when I was sick.

Both me and my mom would talk to her and Tudy talked back to us.  She was a polite little girl but in trouble a lot… for one reason or another…and because of that she always had quite a tale to tell.

That was the start of me talking for inanimate objects…mostly animals.

It drives Abby nuts.  So of course I do it whenever and wherever I can.  Hannah could care less…as you might expect from the care-free Hannah.

So…here I am…the day before Valentine’s Day…”talking to” and “answering back for” some kind of animal in a carrier at the Minneapolis Animal Humane Society. 

But doing so…very, very softly.

I looked around to see if anyone was watching and then I bent down to the carrier.

“Where is your owner?”  I whispered to the carrier.  I figured a soft, pleasant voice would make it feel better so I tried to speak softly and pleasantly. I am such a nice, normal person…not crazy at all.

Gone.”