He had no idea of the significance of the umbrella would have on his life.
The Red Umbrella Mystery
Jackson (Jax) McCrae was born in southern Texas a man who no doubt lived up to his name. Jackson standing 6'1 with chocolate brown eyes, blonde curls, and masculine features. Had made every woman swoon from El Paso to Dallas and everywhere in between. It had always been like that for him. Born of the McCrae family of upper east Texas. He grew up on the families ranch in Henderson County near Gun Barrel City in the early seventy's.
In 1989 he had gone to Texas A&M University in College Station for Agriculture Science. Majoring in Engineering, Animal, and Livestock. He had wanted to expand his families ranch bringing it into the twenty-first century. Jackson had done well for the family having offices and ranches now in Dallas and El Paso, expanding in cattle and horse breeding.
Jackson stood at the window watching the rain slide at a steady pace down the windows in the McCrae tower in downtown Dallas. It had been raining for 3 days non stop. He had been off in his own little world thinking of Arleigh Davis a beautiful petite brunette. It had been 3 days since he asked her to marry him. She made him promise to give her time to think about it. He had known that she had her reservations about being involved with him but had no idea that it would take her this long to figure out that she loved him. He saw it in her eyes and when he touched her. Looking into those gorgeous teal eyes of hers, he had no doubt she did.
He watched the rain as he thought that his heart was being torn out of him. The rain was as if his heart was crying out. He was watching his own tears sliding down the outside walls of his heart. How could she ask him to wait for her to call him? This was uncalled for, he had to see her and see her now, today. He buzzed his secretary, Jolee a bottled blonde who had worked for him for 10 years.
"Yes, Sir," she spoke into the intercom. "Jolee, clear my schedule for the rest of the day and make sure that those flowers were delivered to my Momma. I sure don't want her to think I forgot her birthday, heaven forbid, I do it again." "Yes, Sir, flowers were delivered half an hour ago, will you be returning today, sir?" she asked. "You're awesome Jolee, always a step ahead of me. Not if I can help it, hopefully, I will be celebrating tonight!" He hoped to get an answer from Arleigh in a few minutes. They would be going to her favorite restaurant to celebrate. They always had a standing reservation and had no reason to request Jolee to make one.
"Jolee, take the rest of the day off and relax, go get a massage, put it on my account, heck get yourself a manicure too." "Yes, Sir," she answered him as he headed out his office closing the door, walking down the corridor he gave her a thumbs up. Jackson had always treated Jolee with respect and her to special rewards for doing such a great job for him. He wouldn't know what to do without her. Jolee had been married for 15 years and was the wife of Jax's Loss Prevention Manager, Don Wright.
He had decided to walk in the rain, the few blocks to Arleigh's townhouse. Grabbing an umbrella out of the stand as he stepped into the elevator. He pushed the button to the 1st floor. Still thinking of the last words Arleigh had said to him. "Please Jax, give me a few days to gather up my feelings. You know what it was like growing up for me. My parent's marriage was not the best example I know, but I have my reservations about it. Please!" "Alright, a few days, please no more than that. I love you and want to be with you always."
She shook her head and promised to call him in a few days. Arleigh laid her head on his shoulder as she stroked his chest. The warmth her hand searing through his shirt. He didn't know if he could wait, but he was going to for her. She had been the most important person to him and he didn't want to mess this up.
"Ah babe, I better go if I'm going to be a gentleman here." Tucking his finger under her chin raising it up so he could tenderly kiss her. His lips lightly touching hers, he felt tears on his cheeks, opening his eyes he found her eyes moist. "What's wrong?" looking into her teal orbs wondering what could it mean. Was she that unhappy, is that why she didn't want to answer him? Her eyes fluttered open and she saw the concern in his eyes. "No Jax, it's not what you think. I love you more than I ever thought I would one person."
"Then why, the tears Arleigh?" Brushing the tears from her rosy cheeks with his thumbs. She smiled up at him, "I am afraid is all, I don't want to mess up like my parents, that's all." "You are not your mother and I'm definitely not your father." He held her close and moaned softly into her silky hair, kissing her head. Releasing her as he stood up to leave. He didn't want to go, but if he stayed it would be for keeps and they knew that.
Walking him to the door they kissed goodnight and she closed the door behind him. "Arleigh." "Yes" "I didn't hear the lock and bolt." As she slid the bolt into its place and locked the door he whispered. Both placing a hand upon the door, not knowing the other had. "Good night my love." Arleigh placing her head upon her hand whispered back "I love you, too Jax." She heard the elevator door open and close. Jax was gone and the tears flowed down her cheeks and onto her hands. She didn't move for a very long time. wishing she had never let him walk out the door.
* * * * *
It had been the most horrible night of Arleigh's life. How could she have just let Jackson walk out of her townhouse without telling him "Yes!" Sitting there with her feet and hands bound to a steel chair, tears streaming down her dirt-stained cheeks. Blindfolded she could smell the mold and mildew in the room. How could she be so stupid to think that Jax had returned to convince her to marry him?
She had unbolted her door and swung it open after hearing the knock at the door. But, it wasn't Jax, it was two men and they bolted into the townhouse with such force it through her across the floor. The first man put his knee into her back and injected Rohypnol into her right arm. As she drifts off to sleep she recalled one of the men saying to be careful they didn't need her bruised up yet. Picking her up and slinging her over one shoulder they took the elevator down to the lobby where a van was waiting for them.
Arleigh didn't wake until the next evening making it easy to tie her up to the chair. Her eyes fluttered open as she heard voices, someone was lightly slapping her awake. "Great, you gave her too much, you idiot." "No, I didn't or maybe I did, she's a tiny thing, you said she was 5'6." about 180. She's at least 135, 140 at the most." "How am I suppose to know what she weighs, she was wearing a big coat."
"Alright, alright. There you go pretty little thing, you waking up. Tilting her chin up to his, I know your head probably feels like it's going to split wide open. But, you're going to be just fine. Get her some water, we don't want her to die of dehydration, now do we? Not until we get Jax McCrae to pay." "Here, you go some nice cool water to drink." said the second man. Here is the next shot, now that we know she's alright." "Will don't give her as much this time," said the first man. As Arleigh slurs a "No," out, but it's too late as she drifts off again.
* * * * *
It was a steady rain as Jax walked the 4 blocks to the townhouse. He was so transfixed on Arleigh he didn't notice people staring at him. When he reached the building that Arleigh's townhouse was in the doorman opened the door for him. Recognizing Jackson McCrae and saying, "Nice umbrella sir." Jackson handing the doorman the umbrella finally notices the color. A bright red, no wonder the stares he was getting. He would have never used one, but he had forgotten his hat in the truck.
Jax stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the penthouse suite that belonged to Arleigh. She had been a resident for 5 years after her parents were killed in a car crash and had decided it was better to live closer to town. Especially after meeting Jackson McCrae six months ago. The doors swung open and he stepped out into the corridor turning left to Arleigh's. When he approached the door he noticed the door ajar. It wasn't uncommon for her to leave it ajar to run to the neighbors for something.
But, as he opened the door and noticed that the entry table was turned over and the vase was broken along with other items strung out across the living room floor. He called out for her running through the house and not finding her. He sat down on the sofa and noticed her phone on the coffee table just where it was 3 days ago when he left. He remembered her sitting it there before they cuddled on the sofa.
Picking it up he checks it, nothing the battery is dead. He goes to the bedroom where she keeps her charger and plugs it in. Sitting on the edge of the bed wondering where she was and if she was ok. The phone rings and he picks it up, frantically he yells into the receiver, "Arleigh, where are you?" A deep voice answers him, "She's with us, if you want to see her alive you will do as we say, Got it?"
Racking his hand through his thick hair he replies, "Yes, please don't hurt her!" "Good," he shouts back at Jax. "What do you want from me?" "We want you to pay for what you did." "And just what is it that I've done to you?" "Listen carefully Jackson McCrae, first off no police or she dies. Second, you need to take that fancy red umbrella of yours and walk down to the river walk and meet me there. How do you know about the red umbrella? We've been watching you, Jax. You got 20 minutes, ya hear?"
"I want to talk to Arleigh, now before I do this, how do I know she's still alive." "She is." The man shoves the phone in front of Arleigh. "Say something to your boyfriend." "JAX, is that you?" "Yes, baby are you ok?" "No, I am tied up." The man walks away from her leaving her words ringing in Jax's ears. "I'm on my way babe, hang on." You could hear the desperation in Jax's voice. "Good to know that you'll be on your way, cuz I'd hate to hurt a hair on this pretty head of hers."
"Don't forget the red umbrella so I can see that it's you." "Ok, red umbrella, got it."
Jax's reaches the designated spot the man says. He looks around and notices that there are more red umbrellas. "NO," he shouts into the rain as his umbrella falls.
Word count: 1990