Unbreakable Faith

a mystery novel by Ann Lynes

Chapter Three

Cassandra

I had just put my breakfast plate, mug, and silverware in the sink, and was filling the dish bucket with water when a knock came upon the door. The dishes had been sitting on the table for hours while I waxed the floor, vacuumed, and caught up on the housework I couldn't get to during the work week.

Turning off the faucet, I wiped my hands on a hand towel that I threw on the counter when the second knock came.

I had already started my usual speech as I opened the door..."I already subscribe to the Arizona Republic. And call me a heartless bitch, if you want to, but I don't care to give to any charities. I don't want to take the chance that it will never get to the intended charity. And..." But I stopped talking as I was surprised when the open door reveal the dark-haired man who led the police team that arrested Richard.

God, I had been such a fool. Richard had been using me. Using me! I had prided myself on being a pretty suspicious person after my marriage. Learning that Richard had been utilizing my Internet account behind my back slapped me back into reality.

"I take it you get a lot of solicitors, Cassie."

I burned my eyes through him, searching for answers. Cassie. I recalled him referring to me as Ms. Martin last night. It was not as if we had become friends. In which case, the liberty of calling me Cassie might be excused.

"I'm sorry, FBI man. I didn't catch your name last night. You paraded your badge too fast." I gave him a quick once over, then scrutinized him, gradually starting at his head and moving to his feet.

He had dark hair, cut in a military-styled crew cut. His eyes were the color of the sky when it was threatening to rain. He had strong classic features--high cheek bones, oval jaw line, and full lips. Although he had a thin built, it was obvious that he worked out often as no flab could be found on his iron-clad body. My gaze--sharp and prodding-- as I lifted my head to meet his eyes.

"What can I do for you?"

"J.D. Hoffman, at your service, ma'am." He held out his hand. When I didn't reach for it, he retracted.

"How can I believe you are who you say you are, Mr. Hoffman?" I folded my arms across my chest. I was in the mood for these type of games. After all, my fiance had recently been arrested. Richard had been my psychologist for years. Made me wonder what else he did behind my back.

"Let's see some identification."

Could this man really be J.D. Hoffman? Had he tried to gain my confidence in our talks, thinking maybe I would slip up and try to sell a FBI agent child porn? Fury washed over me. Talk about adding insult to injury. I wondered if I could sue the FBI for invading my privacy with hidden cameras and false accusation.

"Sure." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the same leather badge wallet he had last night. Flipping it open, he flashed me his FBI badge. He brushed my hand briefly as he handed me the wallet.

"I would be cautious too."

I stared at the picture and the name, trying to lift the picture up with my finger. His identification appeared to be genuine. I couldn't admit to myself, or least didn't want to, that I had been tricked by both Richard and J.D. I chastised myself for being so gullible.

He must have sensed I needed more convincing because suddenly he said, "A Winona Ryder type? In my opinion, you're the second most beautiful woman in the world. The first being my mother."

I felt the heat rise to my cheeks as I tried to hide a brief smile. "Flattery will get you no where with me," I scolded.

"May I come in?"

I blinked my eyes, bringing myself out of my self- reproachable mood. "Yes. I am sorry."

I stepped aside. He walked into my living room, taking a seat on my love seat. The same love seat Richard sat on every time he conducted a session or came over for a date. The same love seat my ex-husband pounded right before he would grab me and fling across the room like an unwanted rag doll.

"Would you like some lemonade?" I asked; a shrill peaked in my voice.

After a moment, he followed me into the kitchen. His rubber-soled shoes squeaking against my newly waxed linoleum. "Forget that, why don't I take you out to lunch at that 50's cafe you like so much?"

I stopped pouring the lemonade into the ice-filled glasses, turned around, and blazed him the fire in my eyes. "Your investigation is over. No need to pretend anymore."

He hugged his chest. "Is that what you think? That our talks were only part of my investigation?"

"Weren't they?" I could see the confusion clouding his eyes, dulling their brilliance. I braced myself for his answer by holding the edge of the counter.

He moved forward, taking my hand and gazing steadily into my eyes. "At first, they were, but somewhere along the way," he drew a deep breath; his grip on my hand tightened, "they started to mean more to me."

He was using me, I decided. He was telling exactly what I wanted to hear. But why? His investigation was over. What other information could he want from me? I didn't know, but I intended to find out.

"I'll go to lunch with you," I whispered, which all I could manage. How much trouble could occur from lunch with this man? I cautioned myself to take things slow, just in case trouble did arise.

After maneuvering his rented red GEO convertible into a narrow park spot at the end of the row, J.D. came around and opened my door for me. We walked in the double doors of the Days Inn Hotel of 32th Street and Van Buren--a street known for its prostitutes. The Spinners cafe was on the left of the doors. A red shoe shine stand was outside the cafe, with the words Coca Cola and a picture on someone drinking a bottle of Coke on the side.

As we walked in, I noticed a sign on an easel that read "Please Seat Yourself." I led J.D. over to the row of booths on the outside wall. A small jukebox was bolted to the wall. For a quarter, two songs could be selected that would play on the larger jukebox on the opposite wall. From my side of the booth, I could see a large cut-out of a loaf of bread and a soda bottle. The bottle was Lime Coke. I knew J.D. was studying the pictures of Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball, along with the old style telephone booth.

Our waitress was dressed in a black dress with a white apron. Her hair swept up in a bun, covered by a hair net. She slid a menu in front of each of us. Setting a pitcher of water down with two small red glasses, she filled them. A lemon sank to the bottom of the pitcher as she put it down. "Can I get you something to drink besides water?" She asked in a rough voice; gum snapping.

After we had ordered our Cokes and food in my usual #9--a bacon, lettuce, and tomato on wheat with french fries rather than coleslaw, and the #2--a Spinners' burger with french fries for J.D.--he touched my hand and looked into my eyes.

A warm sensation rushed through my body like hot chocolate on a cold day. "I am not looking for a relationship," I warned him, removing his hand. "I am not looking for a stand-in fiancee, or someone to take care of me."

He stared at me; a scowl forming on his face.

"I thought our talks were special. That we had something between us," he looked down at his glass was full at the top and thin toward the bottom, tracing the top with his finger. "I guess, I was wrong."

"There was--is." I told him, watching him carefully. If he knew just how much I did for him, I felt it might intimidate him or make him feel guilty for not feeling the same intensity for me.

"I just want to start out as friends." Friends. He winced at the word. God, he probably felt as if the "kiss of death" had been bestowed upon him.

"How long do you expect me to wait?" He glanced up at me before finally taking a sip of his Coke.

I didn't know. If he was suppose to be in my life, he'd wait for the right time. If not, adios amigos.

"I don't expect you to wait for me," I finally realized out loud. I wasn't ready for another relationship. I needed some time to be by myself to reflect on why Richard was able to con me.

He met my gaze. "I have feelings for you, Cassandra, and they are not going to go away." He touched my hand again.

"I will wait as long as it takes for you to realize that you have feelings for me too."

"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you, FBI man?" I asked, smiling awkwardly.

"Prepare for a long wait."

He leaned back, arms now folded across his chest. "I am sure that the wait will be worth the eventual gratification."

Outfitted in a white turtleneck pull-over sweater and black dress pants, he looked wonderful. If he knew just how much I was tempted to begin a relationship situation I wasn't yet ready to accept--falling in love.

J.D. drove me home and saw me to the door. I asked him in for coffee. Immediately, I noticed my answering machine was blinking seven times consecutively.

Pressing the "play" button, I heard Richard's bass voice. "Cassandra, it's me Richard. I'm out on bail. I would like to meet you at the corner cafe to explain things. Meet me there at three."

The next message played, "Cassandra, this is Richard again. I waited for you at the cafe. You either didn't get my message, or are ignoring me. Call me. You have the number." The next four messages were Richard pleading for me to call me back.

The last message that I played was different. At the beginning of the message, I heard Richard let out a loud, piercing scream, which immediately grabbed J.D.'s attention as well as my own. "Cassandra! Someone's trying to kill me!" was all Richard said before the cocking and shot of a gun were heard. The answering machine started to rewind itself as J.D. and I glanced at each other. We grabbed our keys and rushed back to his rented convertible.

When we drove up to Richard's apartment complex--a luxury one, at that, we quickly climbed out of the convertible and flew upstairs to 202.

The apartments were two stories with a private balcony and sliding doors attached to each unit. The apartments were as large as miniature homes and were equipped with large-size appliances. A racquet and tennis court, four swimming pools--two heated, sauna, and gym were included in the one- thousand dollar a month rent.

After knocking several times, J.D. was able to push the unlocked door open. Richard's body was in sight of the doorway. Blood gushing from his head. His eyes wide open in terror. His face and hands--pasty. I ran over to him as J.D. scoped out the rest of the apartment--the two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, closets.

The police rushed in the open door. "Freeze. Police," they shouted, showing their badges. "What happened here?" A dark-skinned man asked as they filed through the open door.

"Richard left a message on my answering machine. He was trying to tell me someone was trying to kill him, and I heard the shot over the recorder. So here I am." I looked up at them, not sure whether they believed me.

"The ambulance is on its way, ma'am." A man in a dark blue uniform walked toward me, helping me up by the arm.

"Come with us, please."

"I didn't find the intruder," J.D. said, moving out of the bedroom, to the living room. "He must have escaped before we arrived."

When he saw the police, J.D. automatically flashed his FBI badge.

The ambulance technicians arrived, driving a stretcher through the sea of police. "Now if both of you will go with Detective Robinson, we have work to do." The dark-skinned officer was referring to J.D. and I.

We were led off to the Phoenix Police Department once again. The perfect end to an already nerve-wracking day.

I could still see Richard's lifeless, frail body on the floor of his apartment. The purpose driven out of his torso. Blood stained his hair and the side of his face. Detective Robinson's questions chanted in my head. Where were you at the time Richard was killed? Can anyone confirm your story? It was almost as if they suspected me of killing Richard.

"What was your relationship with the victim?" I finally fell asleep.

Kenneth came toward me, pounding his fist on the love seat. Moving toward me like a line back, inspecting his enemy, I noticed the long, steel blade he had been clutching. I knew I was going to die. He inched closer. There was a dangerous hint to his eyes, almost dazed.

"I am going to slice your throat," he screamed in a tone so loud it almost shook the walls.

I picked up a low-back, desk chair that usually was set in front of the upright piano and hurled it at him. It knocked him backward hitting his head on the floor. He impacted it so hard he remained unconscious long enough for me to unzip my purse that hung on the front door knob, retrieving the revolver Graham had bought me after I was beaten so badly I was hospitalized--the first of several times. Graham made me take lessons in how to handle a gun and took me to the shooting range every chance he got.

When he stirred, I held the revolver tightly. What if I actually had to use it? Could I? Would I freeze? He rose to his feet, grabbed his knife, and came for me again.

"You won't use that thing, Cassie. But I have the guts to kill you."

He lunged at me. I aimed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. Kenneth fell back. My heart pounded. My hands shook as I reached for the phone and dialed 9-1-1.

"9-1-1, what's your emergency?"

"I shot my husband," I told the operator, trying to keep the fear out of my voice.

"He came after me with a knife."

"Is he dead?"

I looked down at him. He remained still. His blue shirt already turning crimson. "He's not moving." The shakiness creeping into my voice.

"What's your address?"

After telling the operator my address, a knock came at the door. Assuming it was the ambulance, I replaced the receiver in its cradle. "They must have had a vehicle in the neighborhood," I said, then realizing the only other person in the room was my almost, if not, dead husband.

Opening the door, I found my neighbors. "We heard Kenneth yelling about killing you, and when we heard the shot, we rushed right over." Old lady Williams'--short, honey- colored permed hair with rimmed glassed dressed in a snappy black and white jump suit--eyes fell upon Kenneth's body beyond my shoulder.

"He deserved to die," she commented, "after all the abuse you had to endure."

"Yeah, all that hitting and screaming," another older woman agreed. This one had grayish hair fixed in a bun perched on top her head and was wearing a light pink housecoat.

"If you heard everything, why didn't you contact the police?" I wondered aloud, leaning my hand against the door frame. I noticed the ambulance workers wheeling a stretcher up my walkway.

They parted for the stretcher to get by. "We couldn't get involved."

I frowned.

"Remind me not to help you if you need my assistance." I slammed the door shut after the stretcher was safely inside.

I woke up, screaming at the top of my lungs. I glanced around, realizing I had only been dreaming. Dreaming about my past. A past I had tried to forget.


Home  ·   Chapter One  ·   Chapter Two  ·   Chapter Three  ·   Chapter Four  ·   Chapter Five
Chapter Six  ·   Chapter Seven  ·   Chapter Eight  ·   Chapter Nine  ·   Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven  ·   Chapter Twelve  ·   Chapter Thirteen

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