February Short Story - mystery romance?
|I arrived in town on Wednesday. My family was expecting me, but not until the weekend so I had a bit of time to explore town before heading out to the farm. I parked in the lot behind the grocery store and walked the short distance to the main street. It was quiet, mid-morning quiet.
I noticed a few new shops across the street and decided to explore. One shop pulled me. Chat Noir Books. Now that had promise. I crossed the street making sure to look both ways before venturing across. Unlike the city, the street was almost clear. I made my way up to the shop and gazed in the window. They had a coffee shop. A smile spread over my lips. Books and coffee: what more could you want.
Wanting to get out to the farm before the evening darkened into dusk, I had to cut my bookshop time to reasonable. The farm had kept its old heritage. So far out from town it did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. A wood stove and generator served to provide heat and the minimal electricity for the place. Out behind the farmhouse an outhouse served the premises. I didn't relish trying to find my way in the dark.
Before heading out I slipped into Mike's Grocer to pick up a few things. I doubted my grandparents would have fresh milk, so I bought a carton knowing I could keep it cool enough in the pantry under the floor or maybe out in the cooler in the front porch if I bought ice. I also picked up a few other items I knew my grandparents would appreciate – like a small block of vanilla ice cream.
Just before going out the doors, I noticed a poster plastered to the window. A wanted poster. The faces looked vaguely familiar. An older version of someone I had a feeling I knew. Or someone related to someone I used to know. I stared at the picture trying to place them.
"A couple of the Dante brothers." I heard a voice say behind me and I turned to see my father's cousin, the aging police chief, shift up beside me. I gave him a smile wondering if he would remember me. It had been a long time since I had been home and my father's family had not been as close to me as my mother's.
His clear blue eyes assessed me and then his lips tipped up into a grin, "You're Bob's daughter.”
I nodded and before he could try to recall my name, I said, "Yes, I'm Emma."
He nodded. His smile deepening. "You're the spitting image of him."
I smiled. The compliment warmed me. I was glad my Dad was still remembered. My mother and I had left town shortly after his death. Since then, we only came home for family gatherings. My mother's family gatherings.
I looked back at the poster.
"The Dante brothers have been doing an amazing job of evading us." He added looking back at the poster as well.
"I went to school with one of them." I mused.
"Probably, the youngest’s about your age."
I glanced back and caught the smile on the Chief's lips. He tapped his forehead as he said, "You were born the same year as my daughter, Eden."
I remembered Eden. Popular and smart. She had always been kind, but distant. Much like many of my Dad's family. Of course, it didn't help that I had been the quiet, introverted mouse. I had felt more comfortable with adults than kids my own age.
“So, what are they suspected of doing this time?”
“The typical kinds of things…. Some robberies, home invasions.”
“Here in New Haven? I would've thought things were pretty quiet around here.”
“It isn’t the big city, that’s true, but we've our share of issues. Lots of domestics, Drunk and disorderly… that kind of stuff.”
I nodded. I hadn’t paid much attention when I lived here as a kid, but I was getting the idea that all places had their share of criminal activity.
“You up for your mother’s family reunion?”
“Yeah, I came up a couple of days early so I could get my grandparents to myself.”
He grinned at that. It was a small town. Everyone knew everyone, but most certainly my grandparents. My grandfather made a point of standing on the main street corner smoking his pipe and talking to everyone who happened to go by. He was a small town fixture.
“I should get going. I have ice cream in here and I would love to share it with them before it turns to cream.”
The Chief gave a chuckle and tipped his hat.
I packed the ice cream and milk into the cooler with the ice. Grateful that I had packed it into my trunk.
It only took twenty minutes to get out to my grandparent’s farm. The little yellow house seemed to beam a welcome as I crested the trees at the top of the hill looking down into the valley where the house sat. I was sure my grandmother would be waiting at the window wondering who was travelling the road at this time of day. I gave a couple of friendly beeps of my horn to let them know it was family. This was the routine. Honking hello and goodbye as we made it to this crop of trees at the uppermost point of the hill.
By the time I made my way around the second corner of the gravel road, I could see them both ambling out of the house and making their way along the lane to greet me. Laddy was trotting ahead of my grandfather. His tail already waging. My heart swelled with homecoming.
By the time I had been thoroughly greeted, I was ready to share my goodies. My grandmother lead the way in while my grandfather stoked up his pipe and hefted my bags out of the car.
Over ice cream I asked about the local news and my grandfather filled me in on what was going on with the Dante Brothers.
“Seems they’ve been up to their old tricks. Busting in doors and stealing whatever things the can make off with. Seems they been selling it off in other towns and the police are having a hard time locating them. Nasty business. Seems they managed to get their hands on the Grant’s art collection… worth a pretty sum. Mr. Grant got himself a concussion….”
“He saw who it was?”
“It was dark, but he claims it was the Dante boys.”
“So, he didn’t really see who stole from him.”
My grandfather shook his head, “Seems those boys have a reputation.”
“Does he claim they were all involved?”
My grandfather shrugged. “It was a big job. Makes sense that it would be most of them… but they can’t be certain.”
“I thought I had heard that Grey had gone off to university.”
“He did… but I think he’s home now. Came home to look after his momma.” my grandmother told me.
“Doesn’t mean he’s in on it.” My grandfather added.
My mind flew back to the image on the poster and as it did, I remembered the young boy, Grey. He’d been in my grade. Quiet. Studious. Artistic. Not like his rough and tumble brothers. I wondered if he was in on it or simply guilty by association.
“He was such a lovely young man.” My grandmother said as she set a fresh pot of tea down on the table between us. “I couldn’t see him in on it.”
Neither could I, but I said nothing. As I poured the tea, I felt the prickles of interest flow over me. My need to know quivered and flickered to life. I remembered Grey. I had liked him. I liked him a lot. He had always been nice to me… and not a lot of kids had been nice to me when I had lived here. I was a lonely only.
“What did he go off to study in university?” I asked.
“Art, I think.” My grandmother said.
My heart stuttered and flipped. I had a vague memory of him sitting and sketching under an old oak tree the last time I had seen him. We’d been twelve. I had remembered asking to see his sketches and he had showed me. He’d been shy about it. I’d remembered him saying his brothers had teased him about his drawings. They called him a sissy boy for preferring to sit around and draw instead of venturing off with them. There had been a pressure to conform. I wondered if he had given in…. I worried that maybe he had, somehow. If art had been the stolen item….
The next morning, I headed into town shortly after breakfast. The rest of the family wasn’t going to arrive until tomorrow - late afternoon. I hadn’t been able to sleep. My mind had traced back over the details I had managed to glean from my grandparents and the newspaper reports. My gut told me Grey was not in on it, but I could not be certain and I had a feeling he was going to be lumped into his brother’s criminal activity whether he was involved or not.
A little research in the archives turned up some interesting things. Grey had indeed gone off to study art at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. He had actually gotten a scholarship after winning quite a prestigious art award. His face seemed to glow with pride in the newspaper’s photograph. He did not look all that different at eighteen as he had at twelve. Still amazingly good looking. I touched my finger to the picture and smiled fondly. I had had such a crush on him, but I was far too shy to ever broach the subject.
I also found several reports of his brothers – Seth, Jimmy and Dan. All of them had had plenty of run ins with the local law, as well as some of the surrounding communities. They were bad news. Bullies to the core. She remembered Grey often sporting some bruise or broken bone all due to dealing with his brothers. He had always claimed they were trying to toughen him up.
One of the last things I had said to him before my mother and I left town was that ‘I liked him just the way he was.’ That had been the only thing I had said to give any hint that I liked him, then I ran and never looked back. I was far too embarrassed and I couldn’t face his rejection.
From what I could gather the older group of Dante brothers were still bad news. Talking to the other women in the newspaper office I got the impression they all figured the break-in had been their doing.
“I don’t figure Greyson was involved. He’s a good lad. Came home to look after his mother after their Dad died. Those brothers of his are a waste of time. They’d never help her if she was lying half dead in the road. They treat her as despicably as they always did, probably worse than their old man.”
“I heard he was trying to convince her to go down to the city with him, but she won’t hear of it. She’s too afraid to leave her own property. I figure she’d starve if Greyson hadn’t come home.”
“Well, he’ll stay then, but I don’t see good things for him here. He should have stayed gone and not come back.”
“Greyson would never do that… he loves his momma.”
“Such a good boy.”
I couldn’t help smiling. It seemed the locals still saw him as a ‘good boy’ who came from a bad situation.
“He’s been in to talk to the Chief, I heard. Telling what he knows.”
“That won’t go over well.”
I was gathering my things to leave when Mrs. Eddie leaned over and whispered, "I heard tell, that Amanda Grant is a piece of work."
This caught my interest. I set my things back down to stay and listen. I knew it was probably just gossip, but sometimes these ladies weren't too far off.
"I heard Mr. Grant hired Greyson to do a portrait of his 'little darlin'" Mrs. Jennings added.
"I suspect she'd make a play for Greyson. He's such a fine looking young man." Mrs. Eddie said wafting her hand in front of herself to cool herself off. We all laughed.
"He'd have set her straight. That girl has wild blood."
"Greyson's too smart to get mixed up with her."
My mind whirled. Would she be vindictive enough to try to get him in trouble? It had been a long time since I had known Amanda Grant. She was younger than I was, by a couple of years, but I remembered a spoiled, little brat who seemed to always get what she wanted.
"I heard someone say they had seen her with Seth." Mrs. Jennings told them.
"Really?" The other ladies all said in unison. I bit my lip not wanting to appear so drawn in to their conversation.
Mrs. Jennings shrugged, then added, "That would make more sense to me."
"How is that?" I could not help ask.
"She will do just about anything to upset old Mr. Grant. Who knows, if she upsets him enough he'll die and she'll get her inheritance early."
"That old weasel probably has something written in his Will to dis-own her if she does that."
"Even if she's his 'little darlin'?" I asked.
"He's a crafty old bird. He's lived this long out of spite, I tell ya."
"He'll want things his own way... even in death."
“Do the Dante’s still live out along the highway?” I asked when the conversation took a momentary lag.
“Yep, on the other side off the mountain… a few miles in from the highway.”
I nodded. I knew the place. I had been there a few times as a child when my grandmother had taken over some things to help the family. I wondered if I could do that again. It wouldn’t hurt and I would love to see Grey for myself. I told myself it was just mere curiosity, but the thought quickened my pulse and made my palms begin to sweat.
It wouldn’t be too hard to convince my grandmother to make a few extra batches of biscuits. If I helped, we could get them done before the family started to show up.
By the time I thanked the ladies for their help, my head was buzzing with possibilities. Could Grey have been framed? I felt this was a very strong possibility. Knowing he'd been in to talk to the police made him the same upfront kind of guy I remembered.
On my way home I drove by the Grant home; a mansion. more like. The only moneyed family in the area. They had their fingers in a number of businesses. Most of them legit, but historically… there had been rumours of running liquor during Prohibition. Nobody crossed old man Grant.
I slowed as I passed the home, then slowly drove on. As I turned onto one of the side streets I saw a huge black truck barrel past me. A rather new looking solid black Ram 4 X 4. Most trucks around here showed their age; this one looked new. It stood out. I glanced back in my rear view mirror to see it brake and pull into one of the small side laneways not far from the Grant place. Curiosity bit at me and I turned my car around so that I could take another slow pass by the place. As I passed, I saw a young woman bound out of the truck and circle around to the driver's side. I grabbed my phone and snapped a shot just as she stepped up on the running board and leaned into the cab a moment. When she stepped back and waved at the driver, I snapped another shot, then watched the truck rumble off down to the far end of the lane. The woman dashed off behind the house going through the back gate.
So, who owned that truck? The windows had been tinted, too dark to see in. My gut told me following it right now, would not seem the smartest of things to do.
I headed back to the main street hoping the truck would emerge, but it didn’t. I circled around to see if the truck had gone a different way, but I was not able to find it.
This town wasn't that big. I expected I'd see it again.
I headed back to the farm after picking up the ingredients for more biscuits and some chocolate chip cookies. If I timed it right, I could get them made and delivered before any family arrived.
The next morning. I changed into a fresh pair of jeans and threw a light weight button down over a t-shirt before heading over to the Dante homestead. I took the route I remembered taking with my grandmother when we had gone to visit so long ago.
The closer I got the more the forest seemed to close in as if holding secrets close to its heart. I took the road slowly not wanting to send up too much gravel dust into the air. I also didn’t want to miss the turnoff for their lane; it cut into the mountain, deeper into the bush. I was glad the sun had decided to perk up and brighten the way because I needed the confidence it provided. The closer I got the more nervous I got.
What would I be driving into?
I pulled into a small, open clearing and cut the motor. From over the rise a pack of dogs came barreling towards me. My heart thundered and lodged itself into my throat. These dogs looked fierce. I took a deep breath and grabbing my goodies, I pushed the door open slowly hoping not to make any sudden movements.
The dogs forced their way forward, but I spoke to them with a confidence that seemed to settle them. It was a skill my grandfather had taught me and it worked. They seemed to calm at my voice and nosed in to get a sniff of my parcel. When a deep voice called out to them, they shifted and made for the hill they had come from. My eyes followed them curious who had ordered them back.
A broad shouldered man blocked out the view of the sun. His eyes bore into me. Was this Grey? I swallowed, licked my lips and managed to call out a hello without sounding like a croaking toad full of jitters.
“I don’t know if you remember me…. I’m Emma Harper…. I brought some of my grandmother’s biscuits….”
“Emma Harper.” the deep male voice repeated and I saw a smile tip the corner of his lips.
I nodded and held up the bundle of biscuits as a peace offering.
“Emma Harper,” the guy said again. This time I heard what sounded like fondness. He chuckled and began walking toward me. “Only little miss Emma Harper would venture this far over the mountain.”
“With biscuits.” I said stupidly.
This made him smile all the more. The dogs circled around him, clearly much less fierce with him near.
“With biscuits,” he repeated clearly enjoying the exchange. There was amusement in his tone.
“Yes… Grey?” I had to know. The man coming towards me was not the lanky twelve year old I remembered, but a rather hunky full grown man.
“Got it in one,” he chuckled when he saw me let out a relieved breath.
When he stopped in front of me, I noticed the bruise on his jaw and his split lip, but my eyes were drawn up into his silver, grey eyes and I couldn’t help smiling. “You look good,” I said, then bit my lip realizing I had said that out loud.
He raised a brow and said, “So do you. It’s been a long time.”
I thrust the biscuits at him too befuddled to say anything. This man sent my senses toppling over each other like a bumbling idiot.
He took the bag, but kept his gaze on mine. “These as good as they used to be?”
“Of course.” I said feeling a bit defensive. That had him laughing. The timber of it resonated down to my toes.
“Then I will keep them just for mom and I.”
“I brought cookies too.”
Both brows went up at this.
“You still like chocolate chip?’ I asked.
He nodded, “your grandmother make those, too?”
“No. I did.”
His eyes shimmered with amusement and I squirmed under his intense gaze. I could feel the crimson blush creep up my neck and into my cheeks.
I was saved by the squeaking of a screen door. Both of us looked over to see Mrs. Dante emerge from the house. “Whose there, Greyson?”
“Miss Emma Harper…”
“Annie Proctor’s granddaughter?’
“Yes, ma’am. That’s me.” I called over.
“Well, what a lovely surprise.”
“And she brought some fresh made biscuits…”
“And cookies.” I added.
“Don’t tell her about the cookies,” he whispered, “I want those for myself.”
“What’s that your saying Greyson?’ she called over giving him a stern look.
I smiled. Even though Grey was now a full-grown man, I could sense the playfulness he still had within him. He winked over at me. My nerves melted away. I was able to recognize that twelve year old kid again.
“I just came over to say hello, ma’am,” I called over to her.
“That’s so nice of you. You back for your family’s reunion?”
“Such a good girl.”
“I was wondering if you and Grey would like to come over tomorrow for our barbecue?”
“Oh… that is nice of you, but we ain’t family…”
“We aren’t sticklers, Mrs. Dante and I know my grandmother would love to see you. They’ll be plenty of food. My mother is inviting her friends as well…” I could see her hesitate, and I forged on, “It’s more a family and friend’s reunion. I would love it if you both came.”
“We still friends?” I heard Grey ask beside me and I turned to look up into his eyes. They really were mesmerizing.
“Yes.” There was no hesitation in my voice. I trusted this man.
He nodded slowly as if considering, then his gaze shifted to his mother’s, “You would love to see Mrs. Proctor, wouldn’t you?”
“Oh, well… I would hate to intrude….”
“But you’d love to see her, wouldn’t you?” he asked again clearly wanting the best for his mother.
Mrs. Dante nodded.
“Then we’ll be there.” Looking back at me he asked, “Should we bring anything?”
“No.” I began, but seeing the look on his face, I added, “Their wedding anniversary is tomorrow – 57 years…. So, a card or flowers might be nice.”
He smiled. “57 years.”
I smiled. My grandparents were an institution around these parts. Still happily together and stronger for it. They had weathered a lot, but always worked as a team. They never failed to reach out to their neighbours to help when the need arose and Grey’s family had been poor and needy. He clearly did not want to be seen that way anymore.
“Won’t you come in for tea?” Mrs. Dante asked and I nodded knowing it would be rude to go as quickly as I had come.
“I can only stay a short while. I need to help get things ready for the party tomorrow and my relatives are due to start arriving in a few hours.”
“You came up early… that’s sweet.” She said then disappeared back into the house to busy herself with fixing the tea. I moved to follow. Grey laid his hand on my arm and I felt a jolt of awareness flare. The touch had me stop and look up into his eyes.
“Thank you,” he said. “She’s been a little down these days…”
“Even with you home?”
“My coming home… has caused some trouble.”
“Trouble? What kind of trouble?” My eyes shifted to the bruise on his jaw and over to the small cut on his lower lip.
“Don’t play dumb. It doesn’t suite you,” he began.
“I’m not playing dumb, Greyson,” I said, my tone tinged with hurt. “I’m just curious.”
I put up my hand to stop him. “I am not a cat and you are my friend. I was concerned.”
“I don’t have a lot of friends around here.”
“I think you have more than you think.” When he gave me a curious look, I went on to say, “I talked to a few people in town and many see you as a ‘good boy’ who’s got a bad rap.”
“And you. What do you think?”
“I don’t think you’ve changed all that much from the kid I knew. You have a good heart… and some lousy brothers who have always tried to ‘toughen’ you up. I am thinking this is something like that.” I pointed to his bruised face.
He grinned, “You think you know me?”
“I do… you came home to look after your mother. You’re here for her, when staying in the city would have been a better escape. That tells me you still have a good heart… and a soft spot for your mother.”
He chuckled, “You always managed to see the good…”
“Because there is good.”
“How many years has it been...fifteen?”
I nodded. “Time doesn’t change what I know in my heart.”
He shook his head slowly from side to side as if he couldn’t fully understand my loyalty.
We headed in for tea and Mrs. Dante served up the biscuits and the cookies. I laughed as Grey moaned when he savoured the treats.
Before I left, Grey took my phone and put his phone number into the contacts. When I made a grab for it, he said, "so that you can call me if you needed help setting up for the party."
I made sure to give him my number as well. He walked me out to my car. The dogs bustled around us. Clearly, I had made a good impression.
“Thanks” he said again as he opened my door for me. I slide in and smiled up at him.
“Make sure you share those cookies.” I told him and he grinned down at me.
“I’ll try, but it will be hard. It’s been a long time since a girl made me cookies.”
The blush tinged my cheeks again as I pulled the door closed and rolled down the window.
“So, do you still like me just the way I am?” he asked playfully.
My mouth dropped open momentarily. He grinned and took a step back from the car. As I put the car in reverse, he winked at me. I couldn’t believe he remembered.
When I turned back onto the gravel road, I noticed a dark black truck waiting along the side of the road. The same truck I had seen earlier in town. A shiver of trouble ran along my spine. I drove home a little more quickly than I had come. My eyes checking the rear view to make sure I was not followed.
The next morning as I was standing out by the well pouring coffee into the outstretched mugs of family members who were used to early mornings… the farmers of the family, I noticed a big silver truck pull into the lane and slowly glide over the graveled ruts as it came down into the farmyard. We all stared, curious as to who it could be at this hour of the day. Behind me I heard my grandparents move out onto the front porch to greet whoever it was.
As the truck got closer, I recognized Grey’s face and I could not help smiling.
Behind me, I could hear the approving grunt of my grandfather as he moved forward to greet Grey.
Grey slid out from behind the wheel and made his greetings. He added that he had come to add any necessary muscle to getting the festivities ready. My cousins, who were standing all around me grinned and raised their mugs in greeting.
“I’ll get another mug.” I said shifting towards the house, but my grandmother met me holding two more, since I had forgot one for myself.
I kissed her cheek, then proceeded to fill one mug and hand it off to Grey before filling my own.
Grey had received the strong handshake from my grandfather, a sure sign that he was more than welcome. Taking the mug, he beamed at my Grandmother.
“I understand congratulations are in order. 57 years. Happy Anniversary.”
“Thank you.” My grandmother said, clearly pleased to see him.
Turning his silver gaze to me, he smiled and said, “I thought I would come by and help. I doubted you’d call and ask.”
A blush suffused my cheeks as I smiled shyly up at him. He winked, then moved over to my cousins to see what kinds of things needed doing.
By the time he left to get his mother, the huge party tent was up and the tables arranged under it. The decorations were being added to their work and inside the food was being organized and prepared.
Any talk of Grey’s involvement in the stealing of Mr. Grant’s artwork had been dissipated by his helping out. Anyone willing to lend a friendly hand could not be a bad person. No one believed he could be in on the event that had clearly been part of the last evening’s conversation. I found myself relaxing.
Between the orchestrating the festivities, greeting guests and helping out where needed I was barely able to socialize much. It was not until the day began to darken into night, that my Grandmother managed to convinced Mrs. Dante to bed down in the back room for the night. This left Greyson free to mingle with the rest of partiers.
It was in the early hours of the morning that I found myself sitting alone at the fire pit with Grey. Everyone else had said their goodnight's and slunk off into the darkness. We sat quietly. The night sounds lulling us beyond the crackle of the dying fire.
My curiosity got the best of me.
"So, what have you been doing since you came back to town? My grandparents said you'd gone to the College of Art.... but I'm not sure what kind of career you have."
Grey chuckled in the firelight beside me, "I am an artist. I fixed up the old shack behind my parent's house and I use it as a studio to paint..."
"Oh, wow. I would love to see your work."
"Things have been going pretty well, or they were until Mr. Grant contacted me and asked me to do a portrait of his daughter, Amanda. You remember her?"
I nodded. "What happened?"
"Mr. Grant wanted an assessment done on his collection. So I went to tell him that I did not feel qualified to offer that kind of work and Amanda made a big fuss about having her portrait done... a gift for her mother, I think she said..."
"But..." I said when he paused and stared down into the flames.
"Mr. Grant gave me the okay and hired me to do it, but then when I showed up.... she was.... barely dressed…"
"She was wearing one of those lacy silk robes...and not much else."
"I see." I said careful to keep my thoughts to myself. A wave of something passed through me, something I didn't know how to name. Was is jealousy?
"Amanda is one of those beautiful women," he began and my stomach cramped at his words, but as he continued, the knot released, "but, maybe because I know her and know how dark she is under the surface... that darkness makes her... unappealing. I didn't want to have to deal with any kind of intimacy with her. And she was pushy about it. She wasn't too happy when I turned her down."
"Oh." was all I managed to say as a strange relief washed over me.
"Now with you..." he let his whispered words fall away. His eyes looked down into mine and I felt transfixed. My breath hitched.
"With me?" I repeated my own voice a breathy whisper.
"You are far more beautiful... because I know you are a sweetheart."
I was glad the firelight hid the fact that my blush had turned me a deep shade of scarlet. "I'm no angel." I told him.
"No, but you have a pure, kind heart."
'Why do you think that?"
He smiled. A smile that I felt all the way through my body. "I have watched you today. You haven't stopped. Helping. Caring. Making sure everyone is having a good time. If it wasn't for your Grandmother pushing a plate of food at you, I'm almost certain you would not have stopped to eat."
"Well..." I began
"Besides you brought my mother and I biscuits."
"And cookies." I said making him chuckle.
"And cookies. Which I did share, by the way."
"I knew you would."
"You also cover and write about the good, happier happenings in your column."
"How do you know about my column?"
"I keep up on what interests me... and you, Emma Harper have always interested me."
The huskiness of his voice traveled over my skin like a caress. My body trembled.
"You cold?" he asked as he removed his jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders.
I wanted to protest, but the warmth of his jacket and the spicy scent of him held me captive.
Trying to keep my head and put a little distance between us, I said, "I've heard they have your fingerprints at the scene and they are considering you one of the suspects."
"Yep. I can't deny I was there, but I have no interest in a life of crime. The best I can do is be upfront."
"Do you think your brothers are in on it?"
He nodded. "I came home for my mother.... not my family….my brothers are who they are. I wouldn't put it past them to frame me for this and walk away clean."
"Does one of your brothers have a brand new Dodge Ram? All black?"
"Yeah... Seth. Why?"
I pulled out my phone and showed him the pictures I took. While he looked, I mentioned that I had seen the truck the day before on the gravel road when I left their property.
When Grey looked at me, I saw concern etched there.
"I was wondering, if Amanda has a thing going with Seth.... that might explain or at least give another possibility of one of your brother's getting access to the Grant house and the art collection."
"But there's no prints."
"Hence the idea of framing you." I said, "Mr. Grant can corroborate your story about being hired to do a portrait, but if Amanda is involved with Seth.... she could be giving them the information they think you gave them."
We sat in silence for a moment considering this, then I said, "I'd like to go talk to the police chief and Mr. Grant. Show him these photos. I am almost certain Mr. Grant will be able to look for evidence at his end."
"The Police Chief said that Mr. Grant told him his surveillance cameras were not working properly that evening..."
"Do you think Amanda could have arranged that?"
"I wouldn't put it past her. She loves irritating her father. This would be a coo for her and a way to get back at me for not giving her what she wanted."
"She seems quite vindictive."
"She does have that tendency."
The next morning after Grey had taken his mother home, I headed into town to pay a visit to my Dad's cousin, the police chief. Even though it was Sunday, the Chief called Mr. Grant and asked if we could meet with him. Mr. Grant had been gruff, but he finally agree to a meeting at a restaurant just on the outskirts of town. One that was a bit more upscale.
I called Grey to let him know what was going on and he came to meet us at the restaurant.
Mr. Grant was not pleased to hear that Amanda had been sneaking off with Seth Dante. The pictures clearly riled him, but they were evidence. He agree to set up surveillance cameras that his daughter was unaware of in the hopes of catching her in the act.
It did not take too many more days to find enough evidence that she had indeed tampered with the home's security system and given Seth, Dan and Jimmy access to the paintings and several other items that he had not even known were missing.
With the evidence and Grey’s help, they were able to locate Seth, Jimmy and Dan. They were all charged and sentenced to a good long while in jail.
Grey was cleared.
Amanda was given her walking papers. Mr. Grant did not want her charged and going to jail, but he did send her away. She was exiled to Europe and she had been told she was no longer welcome at their home.
I got the exclusive rights to tell the tale and report it. My first real journalistic piece. I was proud of it. But I was also only too happy to return to my column and take a little time with my other creative pursuits as I decided to spend a little more time in the area.
My grandparents were so proud and happy to have me stay.
Grey was pleased with that decision as well and took me out to celebrate on the first of many dates.
Word Count = 6347.