“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 33

The Paperback Edition…

I had had only one whiskey sour tonight.  After last night’s drinking fiasco, I figured one drink was plenty.  But it had been a strong one.

When did I last eat?  I wondered to myself…breakfast had been sweet rolls and coffee…but I had had no lunch.

I had been abruptly woken up from my nap, hearing a text alert on my phone, announcing a press conference at the Minneapolis Court House.  I had had no time to eat…I barely had time to drive down there.

There had been a horrible drive-by shooting this past Tuesday and a little five year-old boy had been killed in the cross-fire between two local gangs.

The police had a suspect in custody and they had called a press conference.

I couldn’t miss this.  Day off or not, hangover or not, I had dragged my body down to the court house.

This one was my story to cover…but what I did miss was lunch.  Dinner had been a piece of cheese eaten on the way over to Hannah’s apartment.

What a life…the news never stops…and if you’re a reporter…neither do you.

I could hear the clean-up crew in Doyle’s kitchen so I knew I could go out the back door without setting off any alarms.  They all knew me and Hannah.  No one would be surprised to see me…or if they were surprised they surely wouldn’t care.

When you go to the same bar week after week…you pretty much get to know everyone who works there… and they get to know you…or at least…recognize you.

It was sad, right?  But since both Hannah and I covered the crime scene in Minneapolis, we felt we had a justifiable reason to have fun whenever an opportunity arose…and that was usually on the weekends at Doyle’s.

Doyle’s also had a great house band…so there was live music and liquor.  What could be better when you’re twenty-four and single…right?

Well…….what would have been better…was to have not seen Bobby…”potential love of my life”…and flight attendant Tiff sharing passionate kisses every time the band took a break tonight.  Boy, I had that one figured wrong…

Oh well…life goes on.  I was always so optimistic that I would meet someone.  You know…a really nice guy.  They had to go to bars too, didn’t they?  I was nice…I was here…

Maybe I was just kidding myself.  Maybe I should start going to church…join a book club…I liked to read…

I noticed the light was still on in Jake’s office…not that it mattered one damn bit to me anymore.

Something must have happened in the “Marlowe household” today…Jake was sporting a shiny, gold wedding band…with a diamond stuck on it for good measure.

He had been at the door tonight, checking ID’s and had greeted both Hannah and I when we came in.

He had given me a totally sheepish look when he noticed I had seen his ring.  I gave him a smile.  Hey, it’s who I am.

Hannah gave me a ‘look”…but did not say “I told you so…”    It’s nice to have good friends.

I looked around the club…waiting to feel normal.

Wow.  This place is really strange when it’s empty.  Where’s the magic now?

“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 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 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 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 17

I sat up completely and put my feet on the wooden floor…it was not freezing cold.  To my delight…Abby had remembered to turn the heat up this morning.

You would think that after living in the frigid state of Minnesota for her entire life, Abby would naturally and even unconsciously realize the importance of heat when the outside temperature is struggling to reach -15 below zero…which was the forecast high for today.  But…you would be thinking incorrectly.

Abby…like me…had spent her entire life…living in the comfort and security of her parent’s house and was not accustomed to the inner-workings of a wildly complicated heating/cooling system…as in…turn the heat on when it is cold and turn the air conditioning on when it is hot.

But…I digress…today the floor was toasty warm and therefore…I was happy.

I stood up.  So far so good.  I turned slowly and glanced at myself in my full-length mirror.  I had hung that mirror when I…surprise, surprise… realized at age 12 I didn’t want to look like a boy any more.

Stella wandered back from the bathroom and sat down next to me.  She also looked at the mirror.

“Even with the waviness of this cheap mirror, I don’t look too bad for a completely hungover 24-year-old,” I said optimistically.

Stella…with her head cocked to the side…seemed to be appraising me.

I smiled down at her, looked back at my reflection and then fluffed my short, brown hair, pulled my little side-burns in front of my just a bit too large ears and patted down my always errant bangs which would never…even in the best of circumstances…lay straight.

I patted my cheeks to add some natural color and looked a little closer at the mirror.  Bloodshot eyes.  For sure…sigh.

“Well, Stella…not completely horrible.  But, I do think I should buy a new mirror.”

“Doesn’t drinking alcohol age a person?”

 

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 15

The Paperback Edition…

I spotted an envelope lying on the bench on the other side of the carrier.  I reached for it and opened it without even thinking once…much less twice

Hey…I was in this…whatever this was. The note read:

“Her name is Stella.  I adopted her from this place two weeks ago.  She is about two months old.

“I did not know I  was severely allergic to cat hair until after I got her home.  I think she’s pretty smart.  She has been to a vet and she is completely healthy and has had all her shots.

“She is already litter box trained and she is very loving.  I am truly sorry.  And I am very sad.  Please give her back for me.  It’s just too hard for me to do.  Thank you for your trouble.”

And there were two brand-new $100 bills inside the envelope.

“HOLY CRAP!” I exclaimed…rather loudly, I’m afraid…and looked at Stella…who was now looking at me…

“What?  What?  Am I dying?” asked Stella, ever so quietly.

“No, you’re fine,” I told her.  “Let me read this again.”  I patted her head a couple of times as I re-read the note.

This must have been his plan all along.  Come to the shelter on a Saturday when they’re busy and just leave the carrier with the note next to someone who looks like a helpful person.

People have always told me I looked very helpful…

Well.  Now I had a situation here… 

One thing I was pretty sure of…this kitten would never want to jog with me around Lake Nokomis every morning…or, let’s be honest…ever.

But…I was also pretty sure that this kitten, now officially named “Stella”, was not going to be brought up to the desk and returned.

I looked around and everyone was busy doing their own thing…mostly filling out forms. 

Even my previous loud exclamation of surprise had not jolted them.  Perfect.  I too…will do my own thing.

I gently pushed Stella’s little head back into the carrier, zipped it closed, tucked the note and the money in my purse and picked up the carrier and headed for the exit…tossing the unfinished application in the trash bin by the door.

Well…I thought.  That was easy.  I didn’t even have to sign any papers  Plus, I vaguely remember reading somewhere that having a cat for a pet was much easier than having a dog.

“Welcome to my life, Stella.”  I said happily and pushed open the door.

“I think I’m cold.” said Stella.  “And really, really hungry.”