Erin and Chris are best friends. She knows Chris is hiding something from her. What?
| Chapter 1
It's 5:45 a.m. on Monday, April 1, 2003. Erin Williams, a tall, slim blond, rolls over and turns off her alarm.
"Dammit," she says sitting up. "Morning always comes too early."
She proceedss to go through her morning routine of shower, breakfast, and making sure her mom and dad are still among the living and not sleeping away their day.
"Mom, dad," she calls wandering into their room. "It's 6:15, time to get up!"
"We're up honey," her dad says coming out of the bathroom looking a little more than just refreshed after his morning shower.
"Oh, just makin' sure," Erin says looking her dad over with a critical eye, noticing his too-bright smile.
"Erin!" her mom calls as she steps to the door. "Make sure you pick up Steph at 3. Your dad has to work late and I'm leaving at 2:30."
"Okay mom," Erin says thinking of her annoying little sister, Stephanie, whom she now has to pick up after school.
Erin grabs her backpack off the kitchen table then heads for her room to get her purse. Just as she opens the door her private line rings.
"Hello?" she says rushing to answer.
"Erin, it's Chris. I missed the bus, can you come pick me up?"
"Sure, but I'm leaving right now. Don't decide you just HAVE to eat breakfast as soon as I get there, understand?"
"Chris you're not funny. I'll see you in ten minutes."
Erin puts the phone back on its cradle, grabs her cell phone, drops it in her purse, then slings it over her shoulder and bounds down the stairs, out the door and into her brand new, 2-door Toyota Celica.
Exactly eight minutes later Erin pulls up into Chris's driveway. She thinks about honking but then decides she'd rather go say hi to his mom. She hops out of the car and Chris meets her on the porch.
"Ready?" he asks.
"Yeah, just one sec, le'me go say hi to my favorite person."
"She's sleeping." Chris says grabbing her arm. "She and dad got into another fight last night so she's trying to sleep it off. I called in sick for her an hour ago."
"Chris," Erin says taking his hand and heading for the car. "You really should let me call my uncle about your mom and dad. Don't you ever worry that he's gonna kill her one of these days?"
"Of course I worry, dammit!" Chris snaps. "I worry about it day and night."
"Then why don't you let me call Uncle Willy and ask him what he thinks you should do. Chris, you're 15 years old. You don't need to grow up in that environment."
"And where do you suppose I 'grow up' huh?"
"Well, what's wrong with my house? My parents would let you come stay with me at least until I move out if they knew the situation."
"I don't want no damn charity. I can take care of myself."
Erin decides to let the subject drop, for now, because they've reached school.
Two hours later Chris seems to have forgotten Erin's comments this morning, or so everyone thinks. He told Crystal, his other best friend, about what Erin said and, naturally, she agreed.
"All you damn females are alike!" Chris hollered when Crystal voiced her opinion. "You stick the fuck together."
An hour later, Chris is wandering through the halls because he didn't feel like going to class.
"Well," Chris thinks to himself, "Maybe Erin's right. Maybe I should let her call Uncle Willy."
Just then the bell to dismiss to lunch rings. Chris hangs a left, stops by his locker to pick up his Advance Bio book, and heads for the parking lot.
Erin is hanging by her car waiting for Chris when all of a sudden she looks up and notices him passing underneath the bell tower.
"Chris!" she hollers waving.
"Hey Erin!" he says rushing up to hug her.
"I need to talk to you." Erin says climbing in the car.
"Good, I need to talk to you too. But go ahead, you first. But I have one request. Do we have to go to some restaurant to get lunch? Can we just go to Marquez's house? He's working right?"
"Yeah, sure, we can do that. Pass me my phone and le'me call him to let him know."
Chris reaches behind his seat and grabs Erin's purse and plucks the cell phone from the side pocket.
Erin dials Marquez at work and waits for the receptionist to pick up.
"Mack, Brown, and Evans. This is Melissa speaking. Can I help you?"
"Yeah, Melissa, hi it's Erin. Is Marquez in?"
"Yeah, hold on, I'll transfer you."
Two minutes later Marquez's deep sexy voice picks up.
"Hello? Erin, what's the matter?"
"Yeah, Marquez? I need to use your house for about an hour; I'm just leaving for lunch and Chris has something serious we need to talk about. Is that okay?"
"Chris, that's the bi one right?"
"Okay, sure, that's fine. Call me when you leave though and make sure to lock up."
"I will, thanks Marquez. I love you."
"I love you, too girl. Later."
Erin hangs up and passes the phone back to Chris who drops it in her purse and slides it back behind his seat.
Three minutes later they pull into Marquez's driveway. He has a beautiful home his father bought for his 21st birthday. It's a three-story turn-of-the-century Victorian.
"Beautiful house." Chris says in awe.
"Ain't it though? Hand me the keys in the glove compartment please."
Chris reaches forward and removes an extra set of keys.
"Whose all keys are on there?" Chris asks.
"Well, a spare to your house, my house, Marquez's, my granny's, Marquez's gate house on the other property, and the key for the sauna room here, were the controls for the jacuzzi are."
They get out of the car and walk in the door.
"Wanna go hang in the jacuzzi?"
"No suit," Chris says shrugging.
"Who said you needed a suit?"
"I don't think that's a good idea Erin. I mean me and you naked?"
"Chris, what are you worried about? You act like you've never seen me naked before."
"Erin, you were 14; you had nothing back then, I beg to differ now."
"Oh quit bein' a baby and strip."
Erin walks to the hall closet and grabs two towels, dropping her clothes along the way.
Erin proceeds out the sliding glass door and heads for the sauna room. She unlocks the door quickly and flips 5 levers. Immediately, the jacuzzi comes to life. It's jets spit water, the minature fountain in the middle makes the surface bubble, and the seats automatically recline.
"Pretty snazzy," Chris says.
"I love it," Erin admits slipping into the warm water, offering Chris her hand to follow suit.
"So, what was it you wanted to talk about?"
"Well..." Chris says drawing out the word. "I don't know how to put this. Go ahead, you first."
"Okay," Erin takes a deep breath, takes Chris's hand, turns to him, and begins. "Chris, you know I love you, you're my best friend. So for that reason, and that reason alone, I have decided to call Uncle Willy whether you like it or not."
"HUH!?" Erin recoils as if from a burn.
"What do you mean 'good'?"
"Well, I agree that it's time to do something about mom and dad. If that means that I have to come and stay with you guys for a while, then so be it. Erin, you're right about the fact that I'm only 15. Which means that I can't get a job legally in the state of Florida."
"So," Chris continues drawing a breath as if it's his last. "I've decided to call Uncle Willy myself. With you right by my side for moral support of course. So will you help me?"
Erin's in shock. She doesn't know what to say. Tears fill her eyes as she automatically reaches out to Chris. He hugs her as she cries.
It's a full ten minutes before Erin's regained her composure.
"I'm shocked Chris, I thought you'd be mad at me. Damn, what a surprise."
"I know," Chris says smiling. "But I came to realize as I was wandering the halls second period that you were right. Dad may eventually kill mom. So how's a son supposed to live with the loss of his mother at the hands of his father?"
"I don't know Chris. All I do know is that I love you and I don't want anything or anyone to hurt you. I have a strange urge to protect you from all harm."
Just then the alarm on Erin's cell phone goes off.
"Damn, I really don't want to go back to school, and we haven't even eaten lunch yet."
"Me neither. Do you want to skip 3rd and 4th? Just hang out here and talk some more about this?"
"Sure, but I have to call Marquez and make sure that's ok."
She glances at her watch and realizes Marquez is out on lunch break. She calls his cell; he picks up on the second ring.
"Erin, hi, leaving so soon?"
"Actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Chris and I have more that we need to discuss. Is it ok if we stay until you get off?"
"Sure, I'll be home about 5:30."
"Okay, thanks Marquez. I owe you one. Later."
"What'd he say?"
"That it was fine for us to stay. He'll be home at 5:30 so we have to be gone by 5." "We can manage that. But first, let's go find something to eat. I'm starving."
"Me too," Erin slips out of the jacuzzi and offers Chris her hand.
Ten minutes later, wrapped in Marquez's and his ex-girl friend's bathrobes, Erin and Chris prowl the kitchen for anything edible.
"I don't see much, do you?"
"Nope. Wanna order pizza in?"
"Here, you dial, I got something I gotta do."
As Chris dials Pizza Hut down the street, Erin runs upstairs to Marquez's bedroom and dials her uncle on her cell phone. Fortunenately she can dial him direct.
"Detective William Sovine at your service."
"Oh, Uncle Willy, that's so cute."
"Erin! Sweetheart, how are you?"
"Well, unfortunately Uncle Willy this is not a social call."
"Oh lord, what's wrong?"
"Well, I have a question."
"Okay, let's hear it."
"All right, let's say Matt told you his best friend's father beat up his mother almost on a nightly basis. The kid's only 15; what would you tell him?"
"Okay, well first thing I'd tell him is to file a report with the police. The second thing I'd do is tell him to find somewhere he can stay until the police can come and investigate. And last but not least, third thing, I'd tell him not to tell his parents. That answer your question?"
"Yeah, but I have one more. Are you free this afternoon?"
"OK great, my friend and I will be in; what's a good time for you?"
"Erin, tell me what this is about."
"Uncle Willy, I'm sorry, but I can't tell you over the phone. What time is good for you?" Willy sighs.
"How's an hour from now?" Erin checks her watch and realizes that that would be around 12:30.
"Sure, that's good. Do I tell Harris what it's about?"
Harris is the guard at the front desk.
"No, just tell him you need to see me, it's a family emergency or something. Harris knows you; he'll let you pass without much inspection."
"What about my friend?"
"Tell him that it has everything to do with your friend. If he gives you any greif tell him to call me."
"Okay, thanks Uncle Willy."
"You're welcome baby, I'll see you in an hour. Oh and Erin,"
"Don't tell your mom you're coming to see me about a problem with a friend. Tell her I got the afternoon off and we went to the movies or something."
"Okay, thanks again. Love you, see you in an hour."
"All right, love you too."
Just as Erin's foot touches the last step she sees Chris reaching for her wallet to pay the pizza man.
"Cash, Chris!" she hollers.
Chris removes a $20 from her wallet and hands it to the pizza man, who promptly gives him the pizza and change.
"Thank you, and you have a nice day," the pizza man says tipping his hat.
"Same to you," Chris says closing the door behind him.
"So," Chris says sitting the pizza down on the coffee table and taking a slice.
"What was the phone call about?"
"Well, I called Uncle Willy."
"And? What did he say?"
"He said to come to his office in an hour. About 12:30."
"Okay, we can do that."
Erin picks up a slice of pizza and turns to Chris.
"So, tell me something. What changed your mind?"
"You mean about calling Uncle Willy?"
"Well, three things. First, I blew up at Crystal when she said you were right. I realized it was wrong to yell at her and called to leave a message on the cell and apologized. Second, your comment this morning about dad eventually killing mom hit home. And third, I'm utterly sick of the bullshit fighting."
Chris turns and Erin notices a bruise on his lower cheek bone.
"Chris, what happened to your cheek?"
Chris touches his face self-consciously and mumbles, "It's nothing, Erin. I slipped when I rolled out of bed this morning."
"Chris, don't lie to me. That doesn't look like any bruise I ever got falling out of bed."
"Erin, it's nothing. Would you stop pestering me about it?"
"I'm not 'pestering' you. I'm just concerned; that's all. Chris you know you're my boy and I love you. Tell me what's going on."
"Nothing," Chris says, obviously lying. "Erin, if something was going on you know I'd tell you right?"
"I'd hope you would. You know you can trust me and more than likely I've been there. And if I haven't been there personally I know someone who has been there. I can help you. Whatever it is, you can tell me."
"I know, but I'm just not ready to share that information yet."
"Okay, you'll tell me in your own time."
Just then Erin glances at her watch.
"Shit!" she says hoping up from the couch. "It's 12:00, we'd better leave if we're gonna make it downtown."
They finish their last bites of pizza, Chris gulps down the last bit of soda, and they rush out the door, Erin locking it on the way.
Twenty five minutes later they pull into police headquarters.
"So, what should we say to Harris? That's the guard at the desk by the way."
"What'd your uncle say to tell him?"
"That it was a family emergency."
"What's wrong with that excuse?"
"Well, you're clearly not part of my family."
"That's true. How about a report for school that you're interviewing your uncle for?"
"That's plausible, and you're helping me. Great plan Chris."
They get out of the car and Erin locks it then they head for the front door.
"Afternoon Erin," Harris says as she and Chris walk through the door.
"Hi Harris. Would you buzz us in? I have to see Uncle Willy."
"Is he expecting you?"
"Okay, le'me just call up and make sure."
Sergeant Harris picks up the phone, has a two minute hushed conversation with Erin's Uncle, hangs up the phone, and buzzes her and Chris into the bullpen, handing them visitor ID's on the way.
Erin and Chris are ushered into her uncle's office by his secretary, an older graying woman in her mid-60's.
"Hi Erin," he says coming around the desk to give her a hug. "And who is this?"
"Uncle Willy, I'd like you to meet my friend Chris."
"Glad to meet you," Uncle Willy says extending his hand to shake Chris's.
They shake and take chairs on opposite sides of the desk.
"So, tell me why you're here."
Erin turns to Chris.
Chris says, "Well, okay. It's like this. For about 5 years now, my dad has beat my mom almost on a nightly basis. I'm tired of all the fighting and my dad scares me to death."
"Has he ever hit you?" Chris hesitates then admits it.
"That's what the bruise is from on your cheek right?"
"Chris, I'm sorry." Erin says hugging him.
Uncle Willy let's them have their moment then says, "So, the first thing I want you to do is go and stay with Erin. Erin, le'me hold your phone."
Erin hands her uncle her cell phone. He dials Erin's house and realizes her mom's not home yet.
"What's your mom's work number?"
Willy dials the number and a receptionist picks up.
"Brown, Champion, and Williams, may I help you?"
"Shanel Williams please,"
"I'll put you right through."
Two minutes later Erin's mom answers the phone.
"Shanel here, who's speaking?"
"Shanel, it's Willy. We have a problem."
"What's up bro?"
"Okay, Erin's friend Chris needs to stay with you guys for a while until we can figure out a better place for him to be."
"That's fine, but why? Why can't he stay at home?"
"It's a long story. Ask him, maybe he'll tell you, maybe not. Respect his privacy. He'll come home with Erin tonight."
"Okay, is she there with you?"
"Le'me speak to her."
"Oh hi mom, what you need?"
"What's going on at Chris's house?"
"Mom, I can't tell you that. I have to respect Chris's privacy. He'll tell you if he wants you to know."
"Well, I admire your loyalty. Okay, see you Monday."
"Okay, bye mom. I love you."
"I love you, too sweetie. Call your dad and tell him what's going on."
"Okay, I will. Talk to you later mom."
Erin hangs up and passes the phone back to her uncle.
Willy agrees and dials her dad's work number.
"Harris and Williams, Attorneys at Law, may I help you?"
"Brian Williams, please."
"Just a moment,"
Two minutes later, Brian answers.
"Brian Williams here, who's speaking?"
"Brian, this is Willy."
"Oh, what's up?"
"Oh, nothin' but we have a problem."
"Lord, what's wrong now?"
"Okay, you know Erin's friend Chris right?"
"Yeah, what about him?"
"Well, he needs to stay with you guys for a while."
"Okay, that's fine."
"He'll come home with Erin tonight."
"Okay, tell my girl I love her and well wait, is she there with you?"
"Le'me speak to her."
Willy passes the phone to Erin.
"Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I won't be home until late tonight, and since your mom's leaving in a couple hours, you guys will be on your own for dinner. Do you have any money?"
"About 5 bucks."
"That's what I thought. Then, when you get home, go into my den and look in the bottom left drawer of my desk. You can have $30. Take your sister and Chris to dinner. Okay?"
"Okay, thanks dad."
"You're welcome, dear."
"Well, gotta go. Chris and I gotta get back to school. Love you, dad."
"Love you, too, pumpkin. See you tonight."
Erin hangs up and drops the phone back into her purse.
"Well, that's settled."
"Good to know."
"Okay, what do we do now?"
"Well, you do like you said you would, and take your butt back to school. I'll have a conversation with my captain and we'll discuss a game plan then I'll let you know what's going on. I'll call you tonight. Give me your cell number."
"Okay, I'll call you this evening and let you know what's happening. See you later."
"Thanks, Uncle Willy."
"You're welcome, now get! Back to school with you already."
As Erin and Chris are on their way back to Marquez's house, her cell phone rings.
"Hand me that please, Chris."
Chris reaches for her cell phone and puts the ear piece in her ear and answers the call.
"Hello?" Erin says.
"Hey girl, what's up?"
"Oh, hey Bianca, um I'm kinda busy right now can I call you back once we get to Marquez's house?"
"Sure, but who's we?"
"Oh, you know Chris right?"
"Oh yeah, tell him I said hi. I'll talk to you later then."
"Yeah, later." Erin disconnects the call and turns to Chris.
"Bianca says hi, by the way. That was her, just wanted to say hi I guess. She does that. It's annoying."
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
After they're back at Marquez's house,
Chris says, "So, what you wanna do?"
"Well, Marquez has some great DVDs we could watch. Or maybe we could play some video games."
"Why don't we go back to my house and get some clothes before my dad gets home."
"What about your mom?"
"Mom? Mom will still be dead to the world. It's only 1 o'clock."
Ten minutes later they pull into Chris's driveway.
"Want me to go with you?" Erin asks.
"Do you mind?"
Chris smiles his thanks and they head for his room.
Erin and Chris walk upstairs and into his mom's room.
"Just wanted to see if you're okay. I'm gonna go spend the night with Erin, k?"
She mumbles something that Chris thinks is "Ok," and he and Erin head for his room.
Half an hour later they're back at Marquez's house.
Erin says, "So, what ya wanna watch?"
"I don't know; what ya got?"
"Well, lots, check it out."
Chris browses through Marquez's DVD collection and decides on "Bicentennial Man."
"Oh, haven't seen that one in a while; good choice."
Chris follows Erin to the kitchen and together they investigate the refrigerator for something to drink.
"Hem...nothin'." Erin says. "Go down stairs and look in the closet and see if he has any Arbor Mist left."
Ten minuets later Chris is back with some Peach Arbor Mist and Erin's popped some popcorn then puts in the movie.
Half way through the movie Erin's phone rings. She reaches for the remote, pauses it, and picks up.
"Hey, you guys still there?"
"Yeah, we went to lunch with Uncle Willy then came back here; what ya need? We're in the middle of a movie."
"Do you guys wanna go to dinner with me tonight?"
"Well, we'd love to but I have to pick up Steph after school because mom's leaving for Chicago and Dad's working late. So I have to feed her dinner."
"Well, bring her with you."
"Um...where we goin'?"
"I was thinking Taco Bell."
"Okay, she likes Taco Bell. Which one?"
"The one on Phillips and Emerson."
"Okay, what time?"
"I'll meet you guys at 6 o'clock."
"Okay, see you then; love you."
"Love you too, later."
"Who was that?"
"What'd he want?"
"To invite us to dinner. I gotta go pick up Steph in a few minutes though so I didn't think he'd be into that but he just wants Taco Bell so yeah."
"Okay, why do you have to pick up Steph?"
"Cuz Mom's leaving for Chicago and Dad's working late."
"Oh, ok, should we go then?"
Erin checks her watch and, realizing it's 2;45, says, "Yep, bout that time."
Erin stops the DVD, grabs her purse, locks the door, and they're on their way.
Once they get to Steph's school, Erin can't find her.
"Well, where is she?" Chris asks.
"I don't know," Erin says getting out of her car and heading for the front office.
She walks into the front office and the receptionist asks, "Can I help you?"
"I'm here to pick up Stephanie Williams."
"And you are?"
"Okay, just a second, le'me call her classroom."
The receptionist rolls her chair over to the PA system, pulls a thick file from the side table, runs her finger down a list, and picks up the microphone.
"Yes?" the response kind of mumbled.
"Please send Stephanie Williams down to the office, her sister's here to pick her up."
"Okay," more mumbled response.
Five minutes later, Stephanie comes into the office.
"I thought Dad was picking me up from tutoring."
"Dad had to work late tonight. Ready?"
"Oh, by the way," Erin says as they're walking out the door, "we're going to Taco Bell with Marquez so behave yourself."
Erin takes Stephanie home then heads back to Marquez's house with Chris to finish the movie.
"So," Chris says as they pull into Marquez's driveway. "Le'me ask you a question. Where am I sleeping?"
Erin looks confused.
"Damn, I didn't think about that. I don't know; we'll talk to Dad when he gets home. He's sure not gonna let you sleep in my room."
"Because he doesn't think it's proper, I guess. I don't know. I know he trusts me but yeah."
Once the movie's over and Erin's called Stephanie, they go pick her up and head for the Taco bell.
As Erin pulls into the taco Bell, Marquez hops out of his Jag.
"Hey girl, who's your friend?"
"Marquez, this is Chris."
"Nice to meet you," Chris says extending his hand.
The men shake and they proceed into Taco Bell.
Once everyone's eaten, Marquez asks Erin if she wants to go to a movie.
"I'd love to but I can't. Stephanie can't get into R-rated movies and I can't leave her at home."
"Because my dad will have a cow if he comes home and finds out I went to the movies and left her at home by herself."
"Don't you know someone who could babysit?"
"Mrs. Trummel next door probably could. I guess we should go home and ask her."
"Okay, I'ma head back to my house; call me and let me know what she says."
"Okay, see you later. Oh and Marquez? Thanks."
Marquez just smiles and hops in his car and pulls off.
When Erin, Chris, and Stephanie get home she sends Chris in the house with Stephanie while she walks next door and knocks on Mrs. Trummel's door.
Erin knocks for what seems like five minutes before Mrs. Trummel's grand daughter Alyssa answers the door.
"Hey, is your grand mother home?"
"No, she went to play bridge with some ladies from church. Maybe I can help you. What do you need?"
"Well, I wanna go to the movies with a friend of mine but I don't wanna leave Stephanie at home. Can you babysit?"
"Sure, no problem, how long should you be?"
"A couple hours at most. Say I'll pick her up around 10 o'clock."
"That's fine, send her on over."
"Okay, I have to call my dad and make sure it's okay though."
"All right, well when you talk to him, just call me and le'me know what he says."
"Okay, I will."
Erin walks back to her house.
"Chris! Steph! Where are you?" Erin hollers walking in the house.
"Upstairs!" she hears Steph call back.
Erin wanders upstairs and into Stephanie's room where she finds them sitting on Steph's bed playing with Legos.
"Gee Chris, didn't know you were still into Legos."
Chris laughs. "What'd she say?"
"She wasn't home but Alyssa was. She volunteered to babysit. Steph pass me your phone."
Stephanie hands Erin her phone and turns back to the castle she's building.
Erin goes down to the kitchen to pour herself some water as she dials her dad's cell phone number.
"Hi pumpkin, what's up?"
"I just wanted to ask you a question."
"Okay, what's going on?"
"My friend Marquez invited Chris and I to a movie; is it okay if Alyssa baby sits Steph?"
"Why can't you take her with you?"
"Because, Dad," Erin says, exasperated. "She's 12. She can't get into R-rated movies and I know Marquez couldn't stand the Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie."
"Good point, it's fine."
Erin hangs up and calls Alyssa.
It rings twice before she picks up.
"It's Erin. I'll bring Stephanie by right now. Dad said it was fine. Thanks so much."
"Oh you're welcome. Stephanie and I will have lots of fun."
"Thanks again," Erin says hanging up. "Steph!"
"Get down here, you're going next door!"
Two minutes later Steph comes racing down the stairs with Chris not two feet behind.
"What's the rush?"
"I love Alyssa! She's so cool."
"Hem...high praise coming from a 12-year-old." Chris says.
"Definitely," Erin agrees.
Two weeks later, Erin and Chris are enjoying lunch in her car when Erin's cell phone rings.
"Hello?" she says reaching down to pick it up off the gear shift.
"Hi honey, it's me."
"Oh hi Mom,"
"Hi honey, le'me ask you a question."
"What time are you and Xvierra leaving tonight?"
"The concert starts at 8 so I guess we gotta leave about 6:45 to get downtown and get parking and all. Why?"
"Well, your dad and I were planning on going out to dinner tonight. Can you feed Stephanie?"
"There's nothing in the refrigerator, Mom. And I only have $5."
"Well, you know where your dad's money is. I'll let him know you're taking some money."
"Okay, thanks Mom."
"No problem, see you when you get home."
"What was that about?"
"Oh, Mom just wanted to know if I could feed Stephanie tonight."
"What'd you tell her?"
Just then the bell rings and Erin