Friday, November 16, 2012

Haunted: Innocence Lost Chapter 16


(Not professionally edited)
 
Chapter 16

 
            Ethan’s one and only thought was that perhaps Gwen had made good on her threat to expose his supposed fraud. Swallowing his worry, he entering the main level and walked directly up to the two policemen waiting by the door. “Can I help you, officers?”

The tall thin officer with sandy hair turned to Ethan. “We’re looking for Ethan Montgomery.”

“That would be me.”

“Ethan Montgomery, you are under arrest for Aggravated Domestic Assault.” The officer pulled out his handcuffs.

Ethan backed off, lifting his hands to hold them off. “I beg your pardon. What is this all about?”

“Charges have been filed against you by your wife.”

Stunned, Ethan felt the steel click over his wrists. “Charges? I didn’t assault her. This is a mistake.” Despite his protests, he found himself escorted out of his bookstore, handcuffed, while people stared.

“According to the hospital records and by her account, she has a broken wrist which she say’s you broke after entering her home in a rage earlier today.

“I didn’t break her wrist. And for the record, it’s my home. This is a mistake.” Yet they didn’t stop as they walked him from his place of business.

“Ethan, is there anything I can do?” Sam asked with quite a bit of worry in her voice.

He shook his head, looking her square in the eyes. “The only thing you can do, Sam, is to keep away from me. I never should have brought you into this.” The officers escorted him to the police car and as they pulled from the curb, he saw Sam standing and watching.

***

Two hours later, Sam was in her kitchen stirring a pot of vegetable soup that she really didn’t want. All she could think about was Ethan and the look on his face as he’d been escorted away by the police. Though she really didn’t know him that well, she had a hard time believing he could be capable of breaking someone’s wrist. The way he touched her, kissed her spoke of a gentle man, not a brutal one. Sure, he’d mislead her as to his intentions when he’d taken her out to dinner but looking at it now, Sam could see how she’d read more into it than there had been. She’d been the one to invite him to her home when he’d inquired about her art. She’d been the forward one, not him. No, Sam was sure Ethan Montgomery wasn’t capable of hurting someone and from what he’d told her of his soon to be ex-wife, Sam was more inclined to think the woman had made it up.

Sam wished with all her heart she knew what was happening to him. She’d called the police several times, but each time was told he was in questioning and no other information could be given.

 She’d just filled her bowl with soup when Colleen burst into her house. 

“Sam, where are you?”

“Kitchen. You’re just in time for some dinner.”

“Maybe later. You won’t believe what happened at the bookstore this afternoon?”

“Ethan was arrested.”

Colleens jaw dropped. “How did you find out?”

“I was there when it happened.” She took her bowl to the table, though Sam wasn't sure why. She wasn't in the mood to eat and had mostly made the soup out of need to keep busy more than anything.

“What were you doing at the bookstore?”

“I came to see you and to tell you my good news.”

“What good news?” Colleen pulled a chair up to the table.

“I sold one of my pieces to Alfonzo Demarra today and he’s putting it in his New York Gallery.”

Colleen nearly knocked the soup over when she jumped at Sam and wrapped her arms around her neck. “Oh my god, Sam, that’s incredible! You must be so excited.”

“I am.”

Colleen frowned as she took her seat.  “Yet I don’t see you jumping for joy. Why is that?”

Sam let out a long sigh, her shoulders drooping. “I’m worried about Ethan.” She sat at the table with her soup. Staring into the orange liquid with its chunks of potatoes, vegetables and all she could think of was how devastated Ethan looked as the handcuffs were slapped on his wrists.

“Well so am I but…Oh, Sam.” She let out a long sigh.

“Don’t, oh Sam me.  I refuse to believe he could be capable of harming someone.”

“You don’t know him that well.”

“I know him enough to know he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Colleen’s eyes flew open. “Tell me you’re not sleeping with him.”

Sam pushed her untouched soup aside, snarling. “I am not sleeping with him.” When Colleen narrowed her eyes, Sam stated firmly, “I’m not.”

“But you would like to?”

“I don’t want a lecture right now, Colleen.” Sam pushed from the table to pour herself a glass of water. The last thing she needed was a lecture from her younger sister.

“Then I won’t lecture you, but I will give you some advice.”

Sam rolled her eyes. “Please don’t.” She gulped down the water, set the glass aside.

“Careful where you step, Sam, the ground looks very unstable.”

Sam turned, her brow lifting. “That’s it, that’s all you’ve got? What the hell kind of advice was that?”

“It’s as good as any I’ve ever given you. Now grab your keys, we’re getting out of here.”

“And where would we be going?” Sam asked, annoyed.

“To celebrate.” She grabbed Sam’s hand and pulled her toward the door. “Where are your keys?”

“I’m not in the mood to celebrate, Colleen. I need to get back to Alexis’ case and I want to call the police station again—”

“No! What you need is to take a night off and celebrate with your family. Keys?”

Her sister was a persistent woman. And Sam loved her for it. “My purse.”

“Then grab it. I’ll drive. So how much did you get for it?”

Sam grabbed her purse as her sister opened the front door. “Two hundred and fifty thousand.”

Colleen stopped abruptly then turned to Sam. “For real?”

“As real as I am standing here now.”

 “Good God art’s expensive. Remind me never to buy yours.”

Laughing, Sam rushed out the door with her sister. She wouldn’t have to buy it; Sam would eagerly give it away to her family.

***

Ethan sat patiently in the small hot room he’d been led to upon after being released from his jail cell. Now there was an experience he would rather never have again. Along with him in the cell had been two rather big burly men who smelled of stale cigarette’s and cheep scotch. And the way they’d looked at him…well he’d have nightmares of that alone for days. Though he’d only been in the cell for little over half an hour while he waited for his lawyer to bail him out, it had been a very long half hour.

Brandon Cooper, attorney at law and long time friend of the family, sat beside Ethan in a three-piece dark brown suit, his hands folded tightly on the table while his eyes focused hard on the officer across from them. He’d instructed Ethan to remain silent and to let him deal with the police. But as the officer began explaining the reason for the arrest, Ethan couldn’t help but defend himself.

“I barely touched her.”

“Ethan, silent,” Brandon warned.

“Your wife claims you became physical with her then grabbed her by the wrist and snapped it.”

 “I didn’t break it,” Ethan gasped.

“Then you admit to grabbing her by the wrist?”

Ethan’s eyes widened. “I certainly didn’t grab her hard enough to break it.”  What the hell was she up to now?

“Ethan, shut up,” Brandon said through gritted teeth. “There has to be a mistake. My client is separated from his wife and in the process of a divorce. They have no contact other than through me and Miss Van Berge’s lawyers.”

“Yes. We’re well aware of the divorce.” The officer turned his attention back to Ethan. “Miss Van Berge claims you entered her home earlier today, demanding she vacate the property and when she refused, you grabbed her by the wrist and attempted to throw her from the house.”

“I did not. She’s lying,” Ethan said, turning to Brandon.

“Let me deal with this,” Brandon advised him. “What proof do you have?

“There was a witness.”

“A witness?” Brandon glanced over at Ethan.

“The butler. He came in when he heard the argument. Aside from the witness, we have the hospital report of the injury. This is the wound on Miss Van Berge’s wrist before the cast was put in place,” the office explained as he laid out four pictures on the table. “And the x-ray of the fracture.”

Ethan looked from the photos to x-ray and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Leaning into Brandon, he spoke quietly. “I didn’t break her wrist, but I think I know why she might be doing this.”

“May I have a moment to confer with my client?”

The officer nodded but rather than leave the room, moved to the coffee pot across from the table they sat at and poured himself a cup.

“What’s going on, Ethan?”

He couldn’t tell him everything because then an investigation would be held against him and the company turned upside down. “Yes, I went to see her today, and yes, we had an argument and yes, I grabbed her wrist. But I did not grab it hard enough to do this damage.” He tapped the photos. “She’s threatening me into giving her more money. I can’t tell you with what at this time, but you have to trust me on this. I never hurt her.”

“If you want me to trust you, then you have to tell me everything, Ethan.”

He wished he could. “I just need a bit more time, and then I will. I promise.”

Brandon shook his head. “If she’s threatening you—”

“I know where you’re going with this, but I can’t tell you with what she’s threatening me with.”

“Ethan—”

“Just trust me, Brandon. Please. What will happen to me because of this charge?”

“It’s your first offense and a minimal one at that. I’ll work this out, but you have to listen to me. Got it?”

“Okay. Let’s finish this then. My decision, Brandon,” Ethan reaffirmed when Brandon opened his mouth to speak.

“We’re ready officer,” Brandon informed the officer, still shaking his head. “My client has entered a plea of no contest. He has a good record, a clean record. He’s the head of a conglomerate and doesn’t have so much as a single infraction on his record. He’s a pillar of the community”

“Even the good are known to commit a crime,” the officer said evenly.

“He admits to the argument and wishes to put this to a close.”

“Then I guess we’ll get this written up and filed.”

“What happens now?” Ethan asked after being released and he and Brandon had stepped out of the precinct.

“I’ll be notified of time and date of the hearing and I’ll inform you when I have it. In the mean time, stay away from her and as long as you stay clean, this should be minimal.”

“Okay. Good. Thank you, Brandon. I know I put you in an awkward position, but this is something I need to sort out before involving the law.”

“I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

So did he, Ethan thought, as he climbed into the car with his lawyer.

***

Sam had gone along with Colleen, reluctantly, though her mind constantly drifted to Ethan and wondering what was happening with him. Had the police let him go? Was he sitting in a jail cell right now, while she was enjoying herself? She wanted so desperately to go to him, and that scared the life out of her.

Her sister had been right. Ethan did have a lot of baggage, and Sam didn’t need to be weighed down by it.

Still…

“Penny for your thoughts.”

Sam snapped out of her thoughts to look at her mother. “I’m sorry. I’m not much fun tonight.” When her mother touched a hand to her cheek it made Sam want to curl in her lap like she had as a child.

“Personally I would be jumping up and down with glee at my accomplishments, but that’s me.” She kissed Sam’s head. “What's on your mind, sweetie?”

She couldn’t tell her mother the truth. That she was worrying over a married man, who happened to have been arrested on allegations of assaulting his wife, and wishing she could be with him now. Or that she felt something strong for that man even though she told herself not to. So instead she went with the other problem troubling her. “This case I’m working on. I’m getting nowhere. There’s a man out there who abducted and killed eight children and they’ve all come to me for help. Problem is, I can’t figure out a damn thing.”

“Oh honey, I am so sorry.” Her mother cupped Sam’s face in her hands. “Tell me what I can do to help.”

Sam thought it over. The sound of her family chatting behind her as she stood on the terrace looking out at her parents’ backyard was comforting. She didn’t know what she would do without her family and she knew if any one of them ever needed her help, she would be there in a heartbeat. “Could you do a story on them, make the public privy to what’s been going on?”

“I’ll talk with my producer and run it by him and of course, we’ll need the cooperation of the police.”

“Why?”

“I wouldn’t want to hamper the investigation, honey.”

Sam frowned. “Good luck with that. The cops haven’t been very forthcoming with me. Did you know that the parents don’t even know this is possibly a serial abductor? They think their child is a random case.”

“The police didn’t tell them otherwise?”

“No. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

“Odd is more like it.”

“It’s so sad, Mom. They’re all so optimistic that their child will be found, alive.” Sam took a deep breath, the pain settling uncomfortably in her chest. “How can I tell them their children are gone?”

“You don’t.” She lifted Sam’s chin, looking into her eyes. “You let them have this moment because it will be all they’ll have for a very long time.”

“It’s so hard.” She hated this part of her so-called gift.

“I can’t tell you I know how you’re feeling because I don’t. But I’ve lived with a man for nearly thirty years who has and I’ve seen what it’s done to him.” She squeezed Sam’s chin lightly. “You’ll cry, you’ll get mad and you’ll grow frustrated, but in the end, you’ll do the right thing and grow from it. Now, do you want to tell me the other reason you’re so down tonight?”

Leave it to her mother to see through her. “How is it that mothers can always tell when their children are hiding something from them?”

“That, I hope, is something you’ll learn for yourself one day.” She tilted her head at Sam, waiting. But Sam wasn’t about to give in. “Not going to tell me are you?”

“Not this time.”

“I guess I’ll have to accept that. Come on; let’s go celebrate your good fortune.”

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