Friday, October 26, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Chapter 10

Chapter 10


Not Professionally edited
Ethan sat behind the desk in his office, the nerves rattling inside of him beginning to show as he tapped his fingers restlessly on the wood. The coffee he’d poured himself moments ago, going cold and untouched.

What the hell was taking her so damn long?

When his office door flew open and Gwen stepped in, looking annoyed, the nerves suddenly turned to anger. “Forget to knock?”

“You order me to your office and you expect me to give a damn about being courteous.” She flipped her blonde locks in an arrogant move as she came to a stop in front of his desk. “What do you want, Ethan?”

He pulled the file out of his top drawer and slapped it on the desk. “Where did you get this information?”

“I told you, I found it in the desk drawer in your home office. You probably should have cleaned it out when you stormed out on me. Something this incriminating could easily fall into the wrong hands.”

He stood, meeting her face to face. “Everything in here is a lie. I have not now, nor have I ever taken money from my own company for my own gain.”

She examined her nails in an obvious attempt at looking bored. “That’s not what the book says that I found in your home office.”

“There is no book, Gwen. And there is no proof I embezzled money because it never happened.”

“And who do you think the board will believe? You, or the proof?” She tapped the file, her eyes staring at him arrogantly.

“I want to see this so called book.”

She laughed haughtily. “That is not going to happen.”

“Then you can take this little attempt of extortion and leave. I do believe you have two weeks to get yourself and your belongings out of my house.” He sat down behind his desk, pulling out his keyboard and began to work, indicating he was through with her.

Gwen leaned over the desk, getting right in his face. “And if you don’t call your lawyer and revoke the eviction, I will make a call to the local news station with a tip on how newly appointed Ethan Montgomery has been milking money from the Montgomery accounts since the day he took over after his father passed away.” She jumped back when he pushed up from his seat.

“Do not threaten me, Gwen.” When his intercom buzzed, he took a moment to take a deep breath before answering. “Yes, Marianne.”

“Just a reminder that you have a business meeting in fifteen minutes with Hayward and Associates,” As his secretary spoke, Gwen slammed the door in her wake.

Damn it! “Thanks, Marianne.” He disconnected and dropped down in his seat. Gwen wouldn’t take this false evidence to the media, would she?

He knew better than that. She would do it in a heartbeat.

***

She was taking a huge chance here, a risk that could backfire on her if it ever came out. Sam was hoping her luck held. Ringing the bell, she waited for someone to answer. When the door finally opened, Sam saw the resemblance between the woman before her, and the young girl who was asking her for help. “Mrs. Donaldson?”

“Yes?” The tall blonde-haired woman tilted her head. “What can I do for you?”

“My name is Samantha Dowling, I’m an investigative reporter. I was hoping I could talk to you about your daughter, Alexis.”

 “Of course. Have you found her?”

How could she stand here and lie to a woman who had such high hopes that her daughter would be found, alive? “I’m afraid I’m not with the police. I’m a reporter and I was hoping to get some information from you that might help to find your daughter.”

 “Oh, right.” The woman shook her head. “I heard investigator, and well…Why are you here again?”

“I would like to ask you some questions about your daughter,” Sam repeated, understanding why the woman would be a little scatterbrained. She couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to have lost a child.

“You said Dowling. Would you be any relations to Jessica Dowling, the anchor woman on the news?”

Sam nodded. “She’s my mother and the reason I’m here today.” Please Lord; don’t strike me down for lying. “Could I come in and talk to you about Alexis?”

“Oh, yes, yes. Sorry. My brain is a little scrambled.” She stepped aside to allow Sam into the house. “Come in.”

Sam followed her to a quant looking sitting room with floral furnishings and fancy crystal vases that held fragrant flowers. “First, I would like to say how sorry I am.”

 “I have every confidence that my little girl will be brought home to me, alive,” Mrs. Donaldson stated, vehemently.

She wished with all her heart that were the case. “Of course.” Sam took a seat on one of the floral chairs while Mrs. Donaldson sat on the sofa. The tight skirt and suit jacket she’d decided to wear was beginning to restrict her. She just wasn’t used to wearing a dress, she was much more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but Sam figured for this sort of thing, dressing up would be better. Made her look professional.

 “My mother wants to do a story on missing children in hopes someone will know something and call in to help.”

“That’s a wonderful idea. How can I help?”

“If I could get a list of everyone you and your husband knew, anyone that knew Alexis: her friends, teachers, etc.” Sam pulled out a small notebook she’d brought with her.

“Oh my, that’ll be quite the list.”

Sam nodded. “I’m aware of that.”

“May I ask why you need it?”

Sam shifted, her skirt making her feel uncomfrtable. “I would like to talk to anyone that knew Alexis, get a feel for the little girl that she was.”

“Is,” Mrs. Donaldson corrected.

Watch your mouth. “Yes, of course.”

“I suppose I could get one together for you.”

“If I could get it by tomorrow, I would really appreciate it.”

“I’m sure I could manage that.”

“Thank you.” Sam drew in a breath.  “Do you know of anyone that would want to do harm to Alexis, someone that would be capable of taking her?” Of killing her.

Mrs. Donaldson shook her head, her blonde hair falling over her shoulders. “Anyone we know wouldn’t be capable of taking our daughter.”

Sometimes, it’s the one you least suspect. “Did Alexis ever mention anyone following her, talking to her that was out of the norm?”

“Not that she ever mentioned to me, or her older sister.”

“An older sister? Is she home?”

“No, she’s at school.”

“I would like to talk to her, if possible.” Maybe this was her ticket to the answers.

“I don’t want Crystal involved. She feels guilty enough about that day.” Mrs. Donaldson sighed as she looked down at her hands.

“Guilty?”

“Crystal blames herself. She told Alexis to go on home without her, told Alexis she wanted to stick around and play with some of her friends. As a rule, I don’t allow that, but…” She let out a long breath. “Anyway, you can understand why she feels guilty and you can understand why I don’t want her involved.”

Her heart nearly burst. That poor child who felt guilty now was going to be in a world of hurt when the family finds out the truth. “That’s a heavy burden for a young girl to carry around with her.”

“Indeed.”

“If you could ask her, maybe, if she saw anyone in the week before Alexis went missing, and get back to me on it. It would be really helpful.”

Mrs. Donaldson stood, indicating she’d had enough and wanted Sam to leave now. “I’ll see what I can do. I’ll get that list and have it ready for you tomorrow.” She walked Sam to the door. “I’ll do anything to get my little girl back home safe with us.”

Sam wanted to weep. Alexis would never be home again. “Thank you for your time, Mrs. Donaldson. I’ll stop by tomorrow for the list.” As she stepped out into the sunlight, Sam felt the overwhelming need to weep. Holding it in, she climbed into her car and drove off.

***

The dinner table at the Dowling house was definitely not a calm one. Food flew, arguments got rowdy, and teasing was the norm. It was exactly what Sam wanted, and needed, particularly now. She was about to smear mashed potatoes on her brothers face for the sexist comment he’d made seconds before, when her father stood up.

“Samantha, put the potatoes down. I think it’s time for a toast. Here is to my eldest daughter. May she sell many items and become stinking rich so she can support her parents in their old age.”

Andrew snorted. “Please, you’ve got your own money.  She can support me.”

“Dream on, bro. My money is my money. Get your own.” She tapped her glass against his, shooting him a toothy grin.

“You always were the greedy one.” Andrew sulked.

“And you always were the moocher in the family, still are.”  She leaned in and kissed his cheek, despite his screwed up face.

“Sam, why don’t you tell your mother more about this new case you’re working on?” Her father urged on.

“Actually, I was going to talk to you about it later.” She turned to her mother. “I kind of used you to get some information, she blurted out.”

Her mother’s eyes perked up. “Used me, how?”

“I went to see the mother of this little girl who’s asked me for help. She was kidnapped and murdered and she wants me to find her and her killer, anyway...” She took a deep breath. “I told the mother I was working for you, gathering information for a story you were working on relating to missing children.”

“Oh, Sam.”

“What else was I supposed to do? Anyway, you could do it, the story.” Sam hoped.

“I could, but in truth, Sam, one missing child doesn’t make big news, as sad as that is,” her mother admitted sadly.

“It’s a local interest story. I’m sure you could convince your producers to do it.”

“I hear begging on your knees is more affective.”

She slugged her brother in the arm and continued. “I think it would make a great story.”

“Another news flash. Sam thinks.”

“Shut up, Andrew,” both Sam and Colleen chimed at once.

“Jesus, bitchy.” He dodged the blow from both sisters. “Couldn’t you have had at least one more child? Given me a brother to help me defend myself against these two barracuda’s?” he asked his mother with pleading eyes.

“If I‘d had another son, you wouldn’t be as special to me.” She reached across the table to touch his hand lovingly.

“You love the attention, bro. If there was another male child, you wouldn’t be able to wrap mom around your little finger the way you did the other day and get money from her,” Sam pointed out.

“Shut up,” Andrew said through gritted teeth.

“Excuse, me, what was that about money?” Her father sat up, his eyes darting from his son to his wife.

“Sam’s dating a married man,” Andrew blurted out.

“I am not.” She kicked him under the table, satisfied when he winced loudly.

“No, then how do you explain you smooching with him by the stock room the other day.”

Nothing could have shocked her more. “How did you…? He kissed me. That’s different. Ho…how did you find out?” Sam stammered.

“Colleen told me.”

Sam turned to her sister for answers. “And you found out how?”

Colleen shot Andrew a heated glare. “I told you that in confidence. Tammy Masters saw you two kissing,” Colleen informed Sam, turning back to her. “She’s not known for her silence and spread it all over the store. Sorry.” Colleen pursed her lips with a look of sympathy on her face.

 “Sammy’s in trouble,” Andrew chimed in musically and received yet another kick to the shins. “Jesus, that hurts, you know. Brothers, is that too much to ask.”

Her father turned to her, his face disappointed. “Care to explain yourself, Samantha?”

He only called her Samantha when he was being authoritative, or when she was in trouble. “No. Like I said, he kissed me. We are not dating. I am not involved with him and even if I was, it would be my business.”

“He’s married,” her father stated firmly.

“In the process of a divorce. I’m not seeing him, okay. Can we drop it?”

Her father glared at her for a few moments before he turned to Andrew. “Now your turn. Let’s discuss this money you swindled from your mother and how you plan on paying it back.”

Grateful the spotlight was off of her, Sam gulped down her wine.

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