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A very heartfelt Thank You to Erik Thread for his skilled editing. His work makes your reading pleasure better.
Even with the air conditioner running full blast, the late July heat seemed to filter through the walls. Every time one of the children opened or closed the door to the rear yard, Gail felt the heat hit her back. Maybe she shouldn’t have started this project today. The chemical sizing used in the fabric during the weaving process was beginning to sting her eyes. However, Mrs. Wagner wanted the denim skirt to wear to the big dance on Saturday night and was willing to pay for the rush job. Gail could certainly use the extra money. The electric bill would be a killer this month and next month’s bill would be even higher.
One of the children stood beside the sewing machine tapping her on the shoulder, “Miss Gail, Miss Gail, Bobby fell down. His knee is bleeding.”
Turning off the machine, Gail stood to tend to yet another minor emergency. “Okay, I’m coming. Let’s go see about Bobby’s knee.”
“Miss Gail, why is blood red?”
Gail chuckled at the child’s simple question. “I guess so we can see it easily and fix the place it’s coming out of.”
After the ritual of comforting a crying four-year-old, Gail washed, applied a spray-on antibiotic, and rewarded Bobby’s injury with a blue adhesive bandage. She sent all five children back to the rear yard for a few more minutes so they could forget the injury. Their energetic play would tire them and she might get all of them to take a good afternoon nap.
As she closed the door, she noticed a long, silver Crown Victoria stop at the neighbor’s house. She had finished sewing the back seam of the denim skirt when the front doorbell rang. It was so much a part of her concern for the children’s safety that she automatically turned off the sewing machine when she left it that she did it without thinking and went to the front door.
Children seem to have some kind of internal radar. As she opened the front door, five pairs of children’s eyes stood behind Gail and heard the man on her front porch ask, “Gail Grove?”
Through the locked screen door, Gail spoke to the stranger, “Yes sir. I’m Gail Grove.”
“Miss Grove, I’m Carlton Conyers. I have a few questions to ask you. May I come inside?”
“No sir. Can you tell me why you need to question me?”
“I’m a detective and…”
“Private or police?”
“Alright,” the man nodded as he reached into his rear pocket and pulled out a leather wallet, opened it and held it up for her to see the badge and the identification.
Gail unlocked the screen door and held out her hand, “May I,” indicating she wanted to hold the wallet.
As she examined his credentials, he examined her, from the top of her head covered with a cap of curly short brown hair, all the way down her slightly square face with somewhat sunken cheeks, dark brown eyes, and a narrow nose. He continued looking down the long slender neck, and broad shoulders, across the moderate-sized bust and the flat plane of her stomach. Neatly hemmed denim shorts covered her well rounded hips and half of the thighs of her long slender legs. She was wearing short socks and comfortable looking, well-worn walking shoes. His experience permitted him to guess her age was probably in her early twenties. She was about 5’8″ and weighed about 115 to 125. This young woman was pretty in a plain way, not really beautiful and she had a serious look in her eyes, which indicated intelligence and a quick mind.
“You certainly are careful.”
“I have to be.” Gail answered looking down at the children collected around her. She opened the door wider for the man to walk into her house. Amid the questions the children were asking the detective, she smiled as she half-way listened to her little people discuss if he was with NYPD, did he have a gun, and why didn’t he have lights on top of his car.
“Is this just one or two questions or longer?” Gail asked over the next child’s voice questioning about why the policeman wasn’t wearing a uniform.
“I’d like at least an hour of your time,” the detective responded. He looked around the small living room as Gail watched and raised his eyebrows at all the children crowded around them.
Gail lifted her chin, “I’m legal,” she nodded toward her framed license for a child care facility she kept on the wall beside the front door. She might have raised her hand to point toward the frame, but children clasped both hands firmly, tugging to get her attention. He turned his head and nodded.
Above the chattering of the children, Gail spoke to the man as he followed her through the house. “It won’t get any quieter. You can come back in about an hour or you can wait. It will take less time, if you help.”
He raised his voice above an argument over a red or a blue plastic plate Gail was handing out. “Help?”
“It’s lunch time, Detective.” Gail smiled and laughed lightly. “When they’re chewing, they don’t talk as much.”
Getting Antalya Escort all five children sitting down with their color coordinated plates, cups, and forks, and then dishing out small chunks of fruit, cheese, and meat sticks took more time than Carlton could have imagined. Before he realized it, his suit jacket was off and he was showing five pairs of wide eyes a gun hanging from his shoulder holster and talking about gun safety. A few minutes later, he was reviewing a few often repeated phrases from a children’s stranger danger video he remembered giving to his sister.
As she worked at getting all the children fed, Gail occasionally glanced at Detective Carlton Conyers to examine him, much as he had done to her when he walked in the front door. He looked taller than the six foot two inch height shown on his identification. Perhaps it was because he seemed to fill so much of the small kitchen with his broad shoulders and muscular build. Yet, he moved with the ease of a man younger than his physical age, which she knew from his identification, was forty-three. His closely cut dark hair was beginning to show a small amount of executive gray at the temples. His dark brown eyes were quick and observant of everything happening around him.
After seeing him bend over to add more fruit to one of the children’s plates, Gail turned back to filling a small cup with juice. She was smiling thinking about how his suit pants fit across his tight butt.
Then restroom breaks, washing hands, ten small feet were going down the hall to the middle bedroom. Another fifteen minutes of a short story and the children grew quiet and were soon falling asleep.
When she was back in the kitchen, Carlton had the table cleared and the dishes in the sink. Without showing surprise, Gail commented, “I imagine your wife is a very lucky woman. How many children do you have?”
“I’m not married, Miss Grove. I have a grown niece and a nephew in college. My experience with small children was a long time ago.”
“Gail, please,” she requested, dispensing with the formality of using her last name.
“Thank you, Gail. Now, can you answer a few questions?”
“Fire away,” Gail blushed at the double entendre. “Ah…yes, I can answer your questions, now. Coffee?” she asked as she pointed at the coffeepot and picked up her cup.
She wasn’t surprised that her hands were slightly shaking. The man was crowding her personal space, as if he were doing it intentionally. He stood beside her, his hip nearly touching the counter top beside the coffee maker. When she reached for the coffee pot, he didn’t move, not an inch. She barely avoided brushing his arm with the hot pot, and he seemed to know how nervous he was making her.
“Yeah, thanks,” he answered easily. “I’ve already talked to a few of your neighbors.” As Gail reached in the cabinet in front of her to remove a second coffee cup, the man’s tone of voice did not change when his hand lightly brushed down her upper arm. “You’re a very pretty woman.”
Gail did not respond to the man’s flirting, nor did she turn her head to look at him. Instead, she took her filled cup of coffee to the table and sat down.
Gail nodded when he asked, “Will all of the children go to sleep?” She did not look up when he asked, “How long does their nap usually last?”
“They usually sleep an hour, sometimes a little longer.”
“That should give us enough time,” Conyers replied moving his head to look down the hall toward the bedrooms.
Unaware that in her nervousness she had crossed one leg over the other and was slowly swinging her foot back and forth, the man moved a little nearer so that her foot brushed the leg of his pants. Tired of the man’s flirting, Gail turned her head to look at him, “Detective Conyers, you said you have some questions?”
“Well, I am asking questions,” he replied. “You don’t like my questions? Darrell Johnson across the street didn’t seem to mind my questions.” He stood in front of her, his feet at shoulder width. If she looked straight ahead, she would see that he had the beginning of an erection.
Gail looked away from the detective and clenched her jaw, refusing to respond to the man’s jibes. Darrell Johnson was not as subtle as Clayton Conyers was. Darrell had offered to fuck her until she screamed. On another occasion, he had promised a pussy licking that would make her eyes roll back in her head. He often sat on his front porch repeatedly running his hand down the back of a calico cat, which sat on his lap. He had told her he would be as gentle with her pussy as he was with his own little pussy cat. At least half of the times she walked out her front door, he was standing on his front porch slowly rubbing his hand up and down the front of his tight bicycle shorts under which he demonstrated his engorged erection, or something he had stuffed down his pants.
“Do my questions bother you, Gail?” Detective Conyers asked as he moved a chair away from the table so he could sit and look at Antalya Escort Bayan Gail. He made a slow perusal of her, from her slowly swinging leg all the way up to the top of her head as he slowly licked his lips.
Gail sat up straight in her chair, uncrossed her legs, and looked at the man sitting beside her. She’d had enough of his intimidation. “Detective Conyers, you’re not going to get anything from me I’ve already refused to give to Darrell Johnson. If you have specific questions, ask them, or please leave.”
Relaxing against the back of his seat, he didn’t bat an eye at her comment. Instead, he continued in the same tone of voice, “I need information about the people who live in the house next door.”
“I thought that was why you are here. What do you want to know?”
Reaching into the pocket of his suit coat hanging on the back of the chair, Conyers brought out his notebook. He reviewed the number of times in the previous eighteen months when Gail had reported the sounds of a domestic disturbance. He allowed Gail to describe the appearance of the woman on the days following her reports including the two times Gail encouraged the woman to go to the hospital or to see her personal physician.
“What is the first date you can recall that you had not seen Cheryl Ramos?”
“Oh, let me think. I’m not sure I saw her after the last report. She had been over that night. She was limping so badly she could hardly walk. I wanted her to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance, but she didn’t want to go to the hospital. I think she stayed over here about an hour and was holding her stomach the whole time. I saw him the next morning, I think, but I don’t recall seeing her after that night.”
“You said you asked Tony Ramos where Cheryl was.”
“Yes, I sort of lied. I told him she left her glasses at my house and I wanted to give them back to her.”
“Glasses. Reading glasses?”
“Yes, she wore glasses to read. She bought two or three pair at a time at the drug store and was forever leaving them lying around and then forgetting to take them home with her.”
“Did she actually leave her glasses over here that night?”
“Not that night, but I had some she had left on another day. I just used that as an excuse to ask about her.”
“Did you always ask about her or see her the day after one of their fights?”
“Usually. I was just letting him know whatever he was doing to her wasn’t going unnoticed.”
“What did he tell you?”
“Oh, well … I have to use the words he said, I guess.” Conyers nodded and Gail said, “He told me, ‘I finally got rid of that lying cunt.’ He said some other things, but it came down to a story that she was being unfaithful with his brother and he told her to go to him, or to go live with her sister.”
Conyers continued questioning Gail to determine if she knew, or had met Tony’s brother, Cheryl’s sister, or any other family members or knew where any of them lived.
“I’m sorry, I don’t. In fact, I didn’t even know she had a sister. She didn’t talk about any of her family. We weren’t close. I mean we might have a short conversation occasionally, mostly we just nodded, waved, or said hello when we were coming or going and one of us was somewhere we could see the other. Most neighbors are like that, I guess. It’s not like when I was a lot younger and played with all the other kids in the neighborhood. Most of those people are gone now, except for Darrell Johnson across the street.”
“Oh, you’re saying you’ve lived here a long time?”
“Yes. My Mom and Papa owned this house when I was born. I’ve lived here all my life.”
“And Darrell Johnson?”
“About the same, I guess. As long as I can remember, he’s lived across the street.”
“You don’t like him?”
“I don’t really dislike him, I just don’t trust him.”
“Has he ever done anything to cause you to distrust him?”
“Ha!” Gail exclaimed with sarcasm. “No, I shouldn’t say that about him. I’m just not comfortable around him.”
Blushing to the roots of her hair, Gail looked down at her fingers intertwined on her lap. “He’s ah… I guess the right word is lewd, or indecent. He has a filthy mouth. He and Cheryl would trade suggestive remarks across the street at each other. Any time they started what Cheryl called ‘word fucking’ each other, I’d leave the yard and bring the children inside.”
“Detective, I really don’t want to repeat the things they said to each other.”
“Okay, I guess I get the idea. Do you have any reason to believe there was anything other than verbal exchanges between them?”
Gail shook her head, “No, just the words they yelled at each other.”
“Anything else you can remember?”
*** Although Gail did not tell the detective, she was almost glad Cheryl Ramos was gone. The verbal exchanges between the woman and Darrell Johnson were growing so ugly Gail was becoming concerned that the children she cared for Escort Antalya might begin to repeat what they heard. It wasn’t a daily exchange, yet it had grown more heated and their voices had increased until Gail had gone outside on several occasions to tell them to stop or she would call the police and report them for creating a public disturbance.
After the detective left, Gail rushed through the completion of the denim skirt and called Mrs. Wagner to come by for a hem measurement at her convenience. The woman had a very low hip on one side and wanted her skirt hem to appear to be straight when she stood still. Gail usually managed to adjust the waist of most skirts, but liked to make any additional adjustments before she sewed the hem. It was one of the reasons Mrs. Wagner paid Gail so well to make the clothing she wanted.
By the time the last child left on Friday afternoon, all Gail could think of was a hot shower, an hour to cool down, and chili cheese fries to go with a margarita. Even after telephone calls to a couple of friends, discovering they had other plans for the evening, her interest in the chili cheese fries had not waned. She put on a clean pair of jeans and a plain shirt then left for her favorite restaurant.
Rather than take up booth space in the crowded restaurant, Gail sat at one of the tall tables in the bar and ordered a margarita. When the waitress delivered the frozen drink, Gail asked for a double order of chili cheese fries with melted cheese plus sour cream and sliced jalapeno peppers on the side.
Using one of the four forks sticking out of the side of the serving dish, Gail picked up two long strips of crisply fried potato and allowed the chili to drip off the end, dredged it through the top of the mound of sour cream, then stuck the fork into a slice of pepper. Just as she pulled the slathered potatoes off the fork with her front teeth, a short glass with tinkling ice cubes was placed on the table beside her margarita.
“My God, Gail, what is that?”
Gail looked up to see Detective Carlton Conyers sitting down on the elevated stool beside her. She finished chewing the mouthful, swallowing a little sooner than she should have, and took a sip of her margarita.
“Chili cheese fries are my personal reward for the end of a tough week.” She picked up one of the other forks and offered it to Carlton, “Try some.”
As they ate, they talked, Carlton teasing Gail about doing everything herself and never asking anyone for help as she described her various jobs. She was a child care provider, seamstress, and part-time tutor for a few students at the nearby high school.
Half an hour later, Carlton was offering to order a second tray of chili cheese fries. Gail declined, but she did hold up her nearly empty glass and admitted that against her better judgment, she would drink a third margarita.
Gail’s alcohol induced, slightly loosened tongue, allowed her to say, “I’m enjoying myself. You’re not quite the asshole I thought you were.”
Carlton laughed, “Yeah, I wasn’t very nice to you.”
“You tried to intimidate me.”
Carlton lowered his voice, perhaps yielding to his own alcohol intake, “You frightened me. I was attracted to you. I didn’t deal with that very well.”
Without lifting her eyes to his, Gail asked quietly, “You ‘were’ attracted?”
“Don’t go there, Gail. I’m enjoying myself, but I’ve probably ruined your chances of finding a man tonight, although, I’ve watched you sending ‘Back Off’ looks at every man in here. I’m too old for someone as young as you are.”
“You’re forty-three, that’s not old.”
He raised his eyebrows at her for remembering information on his identification. “You’re right, but you’re not even thirty yet. I like you, and yes, I’m attracted, but maybe we should leave it at that.”
“Okay,” Gail agreed and reached across the table for her purse. Carlton beat her to it, picking up her small handbag and deftly removing her keys from the small clip on the side. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“You’ve had a little too much to drink. I’m going to see you home.” He stood, telling Gail to sit tight for just a minute. He tucked her handbag under his arm and walked across the room to a table where two men sat with a small group of women. The table had been making quite a bit of noise with their laughter, while Gail and Carlton ate and enjoyed their drinks. He tapped one of the men on the shoulder and handed him a key he removed from a key ring he took from his pocket.
When he returned to Gail’s table, he helped her stand until she was steady on her feet and walked her to her car then drove to her house.
Once he had her inside her front door, he leaned over to look her in the eyes, “Are you going to be sick?”
“No, I might be a little tipsy, but I’m not that drunk. I’m just tired,” she admitted as she leaned against the closet door. “How are you going to get home?”
He patted his shirt pocket, indicating his cell phone, which he had answered several times during the evening. “I’ll call a black and white to pick me up.”
Carlton put his hand on her shoulder to pull her forward, “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
Gail raised her arm and jerked away, “Don’t take care of me, Carlton.”
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