Saturday, February 23, 2013

Serial Saturday: "Protective Custody" Pt. 6

Alex awoke gently to sunlight spilling over his face. He had not been this relaxed since—
Alex jumped awake and glanced at his alarm clock. 8:36? He was late for work! He couldn't believe he had slept right through his alarm like that! Had he forgotten to set it? Why? Where were the Brendons? Alex kept his PJs on and warily crept around the house, peeking into every corner.
"Guys?" he called. It wasn't like them to not show up; they'd made a deal, hadn't they? Or maybe the whole ordeal had been a really long dream, and Alex was just now waking up.
His nerves were tense, still, because even if this was a dream, he could never quite forget the way Marlo would always jump out at him with a loud greeting.
He traveled all around the apartment, but there seemed to be no sign of anyone else. Next to his phone and cuffs on the desk, Alex saw a note and picked it up. The writing was a thin, spidery cursive.
"Have a great weekend, Alex!" it read, "See you on Monday."
Alex barely stumbled over to an armchair before he collapsed. Weekend! This was Saturday! He had two days off-duty!
After taking the time to let himself settle into that realization, Alex grabbed his cell phone. There was a text waiting from Addie.
"Thanx 4 the voicemail," she wrote, "I'm not doing anything this Saturday. Want to hook up?"
Alex punched the air, positively brimming with excitement. This was going to be the best weekend ever! He relaxed for a few hours, waiting until ten o'clock to call Addie back.
"Hey, baby," she purred.
"Hi, Addie," Alex fought to keep his voice from cracking. "What are you doing today?"
"You mean, what are we doing today?" she returned.
Alex smiled to himself, "Your place, or mine?" he asked her.
"Well," she mused, "we met at my place last time—so let's split the difference and meet somewhere else."
Alex thought about the various good dating spots in his area.
"There's a little coffee shop on Main Street," he offered, "I could meet you there."
"Sounds good!" Adelaide responded.
"Shall we say eleven?"
"Sure, Albert!"
Alex winced as once again, she got his name wrong.
"All right, see you then," he told her.
"Bye!" *click*
Alex grinned victoriously as he got his clothes on; all his "fishing" was finally paying off! He actually had a second date with someone he'd be interested in having as a girlfriend! He'd hooked a ringer for sure!

Alex walked out to the main road and flagged down a taxi.
"The Bean House on Main," he told the driver.
Alex arrived there just before eleven o'clock. He paid his fare and sat on a bench to wait for Addie.
The rich young brunette arrived a full quarter-hour later driven in an Audi by a chauffer. The driver opened the door for her, but Adelaide did not disembark immediately. She was busy texting someone. Finally, she looked up and spotted Alex. Addie sprang from the car with a squeal, "You're here!" She grabbed his arm and extended her cell phone out with the other. "Photo op!"
The Audi drove away.
Addie was still busy texting; Alex hesitantly tried to drop hints.
"Do you want any coffee?" he asked.
"Yeah," Addie gushed, not picking up her gaze. "I'll have a double tall nonfat soy dirty chai with whip." Finally, she picked up her head, looking around with a disappointed frown.
"So...where's your patrol car?" she wondered.
Alex shook his head, enjoying the way she leaned against him when he put his arm around her. "I can't drive it when I'm off-duty."
Addie sighed and tapped her foot, but they went into the coffee shop together.
Alex ordered a double tall caramel macchiato, and when the barista asked, "Will that be all?" he glanced over, prompting Addie to give her order.
She gave him back a glance that said she expected him to remember it.
"Also, she'll have a...an, um—tall, chai..." he remembered something about "dirty", something "soy," and... "—with whip?" he looked at the slender brunette at his side.
Addie gazed at him with pity and shook her head. She stepped forward and announced, "I'll have a double-tall nonfat soy dirty chai with whip," she glanced coyly at Alex out of the corner of her blue doe-eyes, "and a chocolate-chip muffin."
Alex returned her smile, even as he mentally calculated that Addie's order was a bit more than twice the price of his own. Like a gentleman, though, he paid up without a murmur, and the happy couple exited the shop arm-in-arm as they had entered.
"So what is there to do around here?" Addie asked him.
"Well—" Alex paused to consider what sort of activities in the area a girl like Adelaide might enjoy. "There's always the Mall."
Addie brightened, "Oh, I love shopping!" she gushed. "I'll call Ward back and we can go in the Audi."
Alex shook his head with a grin. "Oh no you don't!" he teased. "My date, my treat."
Addie slipped an arm around his waist. "A cab, then?" she asked hopefully.
Alex couldn't stop grinning thinking of the opportunity to come. "This way, Addie," he pointed down the block.
Just around the corner was a staircase to the subway metro station. The minute that Adelaide saw it, she turned to Alex and wrinkled her nose.
"The Metro?" she shrieked, "Alex, can we at least take something with less people on it?"
Alex shrugged, "Sorry, this is the fastest way. Saturday traffic is the worst about now."
Addie huffed in exasperation. "Oh my gosh!" But she still went with him.

Lucky for them both, the tram they took was not too full. Still, it was public transportation, and Adelaide stood at the middle, refusing to touch anything or sit down until Alex sat down first and offered his knee for her, which she accepted.

Adelaide relaxed completely as soon as they entered the Mall. Instantly, she took the lead and dragged Alex to all her favorite clothing stores. Each time, he helped her carry the various outfits she wanted to try on, and he went and got different sizes when she asked. Every so often, Addie would buzz his cell phone and he would come running to the fitting room. She would meet him in front, wearing some slinky, fluffy, or skimpy number—frequently in bright colors—and ask him,
"So, what do you think?"

Alex learned to give a neutral verdict right away. If he waited to long, Addie would begin to fidget and say, "It's the hemline, isn't it?"
"Don't you think this is a good color on me?" or
"Does this dress make me look fat?"
Adelaide became self-conscious very quickly, and would often leave the store altogether when she couldn't find something to make Alex look at her appreciatively. For Alex, on the one hand, this meant they could be done with the mall faster, but on the other, this was no way to treat a date, and he knew it!
"You look amazing in those jeans! It's like they were made just for you!" he gushed when she came out after he had given the "wrong" reactions to several outfits there. Adelaide still scowled at him as they walked straight out of the store without paying for the jeans.
"That's 'cause they were made for me, brainless, these are my own jeans," she growled at him.

She was in a better mood when he convinced her to buy a few Prada tops that she didn't immediately like, but his ardent praise convinced her.
At the Coach store, he was back in her good graces. She let him sit on a small armchair while she pulled purses off the rack to try them. She put two bags on her shoulders and showed them to Alex.
"Which looks better?" she asked, "This one?" she turned to her right, "Or this one?" she turned to her left.
Alex stared; a purse was a purse. They looked almost identical to him.
Addie tapped her foot impatiently. "Well?" she pressed, "Which one? This, or this?" She twirled with the purses, completely disregarding the people around her. "This, or—oh!"
The last twirl had slipped one purse off her shoulder, smacked a salesgirl in the face and caused several purses from the rack behind her to fall as well. Addie ignored the downed brunette and the mess, and surveyed the remaining purse. "I'll take this one," she declared, grabbing Alex's hand again. "Come on."
Alex glanced back, watching the girl struggle with the bags as the small gold bracelet dangled from her wrist—
Alex blinked in surprise as he realized he recognized that bracelet. He and Addie walked out to the food court for a late lunch as Alex wondered—
Daphne. It had to be! Didn't she say she worked at the mall? One thing was certain: it was fortunate that Daphne had not noticed Alex with Adelaide...but why? Alex had never cared about girls seeing him with other girls before!
"—and anyway, I told my agent, I said, 'You better not let him get away with it or I'm leaving!' and he didn't change his mind, so guess what I did?" Adelaide slapped Alex's hand with all the glow of achievement in her beaming face. Alex realized he did not have the faintest idea what she was talking about. He decided to play along.
"You left?" he guessed.
"Yeeaahh," Addie squealed in a high pitch. She laughed, "But not really! I marched out the door of his office like I meant it but actually I just waited outside the door till I heard him and dad coming then I let him follow me a ways and then I turned around and was all like, 'Yes?'" She batted her eyelashes innocently. "And it turns out, he changed his mind, we went back into his office, he took my advice and made Daddy sign the papers, and that's how I got my townhouse in the Heights!"
Alex shook his head, "Wow, that's..."
"Incredible, right?" Addie enthused, "I'm an extremely persuasive person when I want to be!"
Adelaide picked up her cell phone and checked the text messages. While she was replying to one, she sighed to Alex, "Well, this has been really fun. Thanks for a great time, Alex."
"Leaving so soon? The day's not over yet!" Alex tried to show Addie how persuasive he could be, too.
Addie sighed contentedly. "I know; but a friend just texted me and said he wanted to meet me here, so—" she glanced up at him suggestively.
Alex nodded, "Okay, I'll give you your space. Maybe tomorrow?"
Addie smiled, "Yeah, we'll see; maybe. Bye, Alex!"
"Have fun!" Alex waved as he left, unconsciously adopting the sarcastic inflection of the dispatcher. He took the metro home, noting the irony that now there was no Addie to stand against, the tram was crowded.

Back at his apartment, Alex pulled out the insurance files from Detective Haversham. Nearly all the items bore the name "Marcus and Aurelia Staten." Searching on the Internet revealed that the Statens were one of the rich, old families in America, with roots that carried all the way back to the Dutch settlement of New York. They had four children: Jeremy Staten, Quincy Maxwell, George Staten, and Marlo Brendon.
Searching "Staten heirlooms" produced thousands of articles talking about the vast amounts of million-dollar antiques Mrs. Staten left when she died, how some Statens thought the treasures should be divided equally, or if they weren't separated, the older siblings thought they should get them; the article mentioned that the three older siblings were all living lavish lives on borrowed money, and they all had a history of bad finances. Imagine their surprise, the article continued, when the reading of the will revealed that the entirety of the heirloom collection to the youngest daughter, Marlo, who married a simple man named Theodore Brendon (Alex had to chuckle; it had never occurred to him that Ted's full name was Theodore), and lived in a nondescript neighborhood.
Alex read the various articles, talking about each of the siblings and their high-profile lives: Jeremy married an Olympic volleyball player, Quincy had several musician boyfriends before landing a proposal from TV heartthrob Tony Maxwell, and George remained a bachelor with a penchant for serial dating. Their lives were fraught with scandal and gossip. As for Marlo, with her middle-class husband and low-profile life, the only things said about her were wild speculations, none of them true. Her siblings were the darlings of the tabloids. Alex read until his eyelids dropped, and then he went to bed.
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Alex awoke Sunday morning to find another note from Marlo.
"Don't have too much fun, now," she cautioned, "Tomorrow is work-day!"
Alex rolled his eyes as he tucked the note under his alarm clock. That was a fine reminder for a Sunday morning! Alex stretched leisurely and glanced outside. The skies were clear and it promised to be a beautiful day. Perhaps he could take Addie to the lake today, and they could rent one of those tandem pedal-boats. Alex got dressed and ate breakfast, and then he grabbed his cell phone and dialed Addie's number.
"Hello?" she answered it slowly.
"Hey, Gorgeous," Alex crooned through a mouthful of cereal.
"Who is this?" Addie's tone became less languid and more sharp.
Alex swallowed hastily, "This is Alex," he identified himself.
"Oh." Was it just him or did she sound disappointed, maybe even annoyed? "Hi Alex."
Alex could have kissed the receiver; she'd gotten his name right! Never mind that he'd just said it, progress was progress! "Say," he tried to revert back to his casual self, "I was wondering if you would like to go on a boating trip around the lake today."
"Mmm, that sounds like fun," Addie responded, "But...I kind of went clubbing last night and had a great time, so I was planning on sleeping a few more hours."
"Oh, that's totally fine," Alex decided to be as accommodating as possible, "I didn't mean like right away of course we could go later on today."
"All right," Adelaide murmured, "I'll call you later, let you know if I feel up to it, okay?"
"Sounds good, Addie," Alex affirmed, "Talk to you later."
"Mm-hm, bye."

Alex hung up and flipped on the television. Most of the channels were commercials, and those that weren't played infomercials or the news. Alex switched it off; he wanted to hang out with a girl, but every time he went to dial, all he could think of were the amazing dates with Addie. There was no way any other girl could measure up, whether in terms of wealth or openness. He had really struck gold with Adelaide Donahue!
Alex managed to find enough to while away the next two hours. Surely Addie would be her old self by now. It was well past the limit of a hangover. Alex checked and re-checked his phone, but there were no calls or messages from his newest girlfriend. Finally, he texted her.
"So...Boating?"
He imagined her giggling as she read the message. Was she in fact sitting bored in that great big townhouse with the snooty butler, deciding what she would say to him about what she wanted to do? Would she be glad that he took the initiative, so glad that she would accept his offer?
The cell phone beeped. Alex opened it.
"Sounds fun. M rlly sick tho. Srry! Mayb l8r. <3"
Alex sat staring at the text for a long time. Sick? Really? That was too bad. He texted back, "Get well soon! <3"
Alex sighed. Apparently he would spend the day alone. He found himself almost wishing for even the Brendons to show up...almost.
Alex went for a walk, choosing to go downtown instead of to the lake. It was nearly lunchtime, anyway, and he happened to know a girl who worked at a bakery.
Alex arrived at Turnkey Avenue, but when he saw the bakery, he suddenly remembered the way his girlfriend had treated Daphne the day before. Would seeing him remind her of the same thing? She hadn't noticed he was there, had she? Could they both pretend it never happened? Alex decided to skip the drama and go to the McDonalds at the other side of the block. As he was turning the corner onto Everine Boulevard, a powder-blue Miata pulled up to the curb. Alex stopped, concealed by the corner, to see if he knew the driver. A tall blond guy got out; Alex was confused. What sort of guy would drive that kind of car? He was expecting to see—
The man walked over to the passenger side to assist none other than Adelaide Donahue out of the car. Alex felt his cheeks burn. Sick, huh? Sick of him, maybe? The pair went into the bakery. Alex couldn't stand it any longer. He continued on his way, determined to forget about her.
The trouble was, Alex couldn't stop thinking about her. All he could think about was her arm around his waist, her lips against his, the way she flipped and twisted her wavy brown hair that made him want to do whatever she asked—
Alex finished his burger and started the walk back to his apartment. Why did it bother him so much to see Addie with another guy? Alex himself had different girlfriends whom he could invite on different activities. Why couldn't he let Addie do the same? Alex shrugged. He spent the rest of the day channel-surfing. At about eight o'clock, his cell rang. It was Chief Prosser.
"Davis, Detective Jamison is doing a stakeout on a tip tonight; he needs a few extra bodies."
"I'll be there, sir."
Prosser hesitated a moment, then chuckled, "What, no lady friends to entertain or shadow tonight? That's it, you'll take the offer?"
Alex understood his reaction; the Officer Davis of the last five years never voluntarily participated in an overnight stakeout; the few he was forced to take, he managed to fall asleep while the others chased and apprehended the suspect. Now here he was volunteering immediately.
Alex replied, "Yes sir, I'll take it."
"Okay, I'll have Marnie send directions to your patrol car. This is a plainclothes job, so just get over there as soon as you can."
"Yes sir." Alex grabbed his gun and his badge and headed for the garage at the station.
Back in his own home, Police Chief Prosser laid the phone down with a shake of his head. There was something definitely strange about Davis.

Alex arrived at the stakeout, a certain house down in Peabody Court, at twenty minutes past the hour.
The Detective greeted him when he pulled up.
"Good, you're our last position," he said. "I want you to patrol the south side of this block, between those two houses. There are plenty of shadows, and not a lot of sight from anywhere else."
A short, wiry figure ran up, "Sir, just got wind of a car matching the description passing—Alex?" the voice rose in pitch, and Alex recognized the voice of Officer Barelli. "What are you doing here?"
"He's got the south side," the detective answered. "Both of you go back to your positions. I want you to know every stick and stone in your area. We're not gonna lose this guy!"
"Yes sir!" Barelli snapped out smartly, only pausing to glare suspiciously at Alex before returning to the shadows.

Alex moved his car into the shadows two blocks down, and walked back to the area. The shed looked really creepy from this angle. That pile of wood covered by the tarp almost looked like two humans huddled against it. Alex strolled leisurely across the street and climbed a low-limbed tree for a better-hidden vantage point. He pulled out his binoculars and focused on the woodpile. Now he could almost make out two people, a man and a woman. Alex dropped the binoculars. As soon as he could blink, a woman sat on the branch in front of him!
"Yipes!" Alex gasped, jumping so hard he lost his grip on the tree and fell three feet into a shrub.
"Careful," Ted Brendon called out obligingly.
Alex heard a burst of static just beside his elbow and involuntarily smacked himself.
"Davis!" the detective hissed over his radio, "What the blazes is going on over there?"
"Nothing, sir!" Alex hastily scrambled back onto the limb with the intangible assistance of Marlo, "Just a—an owl or something."
"Owl?" Marlo shrieked indignantly. "I'll give you owl—"
The detective continued, "Keep your eyes on the prize. We don't want to blow our cover!"
"Yes sir!"

Alex could barely see the ghost couple's silhouettes in the moonlight.
"What are you two doing here?" he demanded in a fierce whisper.
"You're on duty," Marlo pointed out, "aren't you?"
Alex acknowledged her point with a shrug. "I have to say, you freaked me out when I saw you over there by—"
Alex stopped talking as he pointed toward the woodpile and saw the distinct shape of another human figure against the shed!
"Is that—" he wondered aloud, too confused to say any more.
"I can check," Ted offered, and at once he disappeared. Alex peered through his binoculars and saw both the Brendons flanking the stooped form of the burglar as he stealthily attempted to break into the house.
"It's him."
Ted's announcement came so loud Alex almost fell out of the tree again.
"Would you stop that?" he hissed frantically at the ghost.
Ted ignored his consternation. "Call it in," he prompted.
Alex fumbled for his radio. "Rat's in the trap," he announced, "rat's in the trap."
"Don't let him get away, Davis!" Detective Jamison roared.
Alex dropped out of the tree. "Freeze!" he hollered. "Put your hands where I can see them!"
"Hold him till we get there," the detective ordered.
Just then, the burglar bolted.
"Grab him!" Alex shouted to no one in particular. The Brendons heeded his request, and did their best to at least impede the miscreant if they could not hold him.
"Wow," Marlo remarked, having to throw her whole body at the man, "he's really slippery."
"Well, look at it this way, honey," Ted responded, fighting to stand in the frightened burglar's trajectory, "you're a ghost; I think you're the slippery one."
They could not hold him, of course, but at least the two ghosts' assistance slowed the burglar down enough for Alex to catch up.
"Get down on your knees and put your hands on your head," Alex ordered, trying not to gasp too hard.
The man could not figure out why it was so hard to move, like walking through a dense fog. He obeyed the officer's orders.
Barelli and the others came running just when Alex was slapping cuffs on the man.
"Good work, Davis!" the Detective cried. "That must have been some sprint you gave; he didn't make it far at all!"
Alex looked toward the edge of the knot of people now surrounding him. The Brendons waved farewell and disappeared.
Jamison heaved the would-be burglar to his feet. "Chad Andrews," he addressed the man, "You're under arrest for attempted breaking and entering!" He pushed the man toward Alex. "You want to have the honors of driving him back to the station?"
Before Alex could answer, Barelli spoke up, "Let me do it, sir. I was there, too, helping him."
Alex knew good and well this was a lie, but he didn't mind that it meant less paperwork for him to do!
The detective nodded, "Have at it, Barelli. The rest of you, good work and we'll see you tomorrow!"
Alex returned his patrol car to the garage and walked over to his apartment. With a sigh he sank gratefully into bed and fell fast asleep instantly.
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