Bags in hand, I leave the airport and hop into Detective Cannen’s car. He glances at me with a solemn expression. I frown, avoiding his eyes. He probably thinks I’m the stupidest person in the world. I was here less than a week ago and I fled. My cowardice killed Jacob’s mother. It’s my fault. All of it. Jacob is probably dead because I didn’t listen to him. I didn’t take the time to understand how lonely he might have been. Maybe the Wordsworth wouldn’t have found him if I made more of an effort. If nothing happened to him, Kathy would never had come over and I wouldn’t have put her in danger. I messed up and I can’t fixed it. I’m so stupid. I’m such a terrible human being. I lean against the window and hide my tears from Cannen. It’s bad enough I caused Kathy’s death, it’s ridiculous that I have the audacity to cry about it. If I actually cared, I would have thought about what could have happened to her, my parents and everyone I interact with.
Cannen flexes his grip on the steering wheel. His leather gloves squeak with each compression. He’s tense and pensive. Probably because he’s driving me to make a decision I should have made the first time around. I’m so worthless, inconsiderate, illogical and selfish.
The elevator takes me down to the interrogation room. Fandellia sits with her legs crossed, tapping her fingers on the thick metal table. “Did you decide on the chip implant or are you only removing your vocal chords?” she says in audible sign language. I shudder. The thought of losing my voice makes my skin crawl and my stomach feel uneasy. I glance behind me at Cannen. He points at a scar on his neck and gives me a thumbs up, then points at a spot behind his right ear, where the implant would go; he shakes a finger. Fandellia gives him a dirty look. “What does not work for you, works for others, Cannen. This is Simona’s choice, and her choice alone.” Fandellia looks at me and inches closer to the table. She leans in and stares at me, intense and focused.
“I-I,” I begin, stuttering. I look at Cannen again and put my face into my hands. Why do I need to make this choice? Why is this happening to me! I sob. I can’t. I just can’t do this. Cannen rubs my back, then pats my shoulder. I hear him scribble something on his notepad. Fandellia sighs. Her chair screeches on the waxed floor and her high heels clack out of the room, followed by a door slamming shut. When I finally stop crying, Cannen helps me up.
He shows me a note. “She’s giving you three more days to reconsider your next action. After that, you’re on your own.” I frown and avoid Cannen’s eyes. He probably thinks I’m so selfish and immature.
Cannen and I make our way to the exit of the inconspicuous building. “I’m sorry,” I mutter. He pats my shoulder. We pause for a second, while he scribbles in his notepad. “Don’t speak outside of this building.” I sigh and nod, holding back my tears. We go through an alley and then end up on a main road. Weaving through crowds of passersby, Cannen guides me to a nondescript motel. A woman watering some bushes waves at us. Cannen waves back. We cross the parking lot and head into a room. There’s a queen-sized bed, a couch and a small table with an open laptop next to empty cans of beer and an ashtray. I guess this is where he’s staying? Cannen holds up his notepad. “I’ll take the couch for the time being,” he writes. “Make yourself comfortable. I need to go check on something. I will return.” Before I can get a word in, Cannen leaves the room and hops into his car, an old Cadillac Coup Deville. Looks like I might as well settle in.
I set my bags down and remove my laptop from the carrier. After setting myself up on the wifi and handling some work, I hop in the shower and weep. With everything that’s happened to me recently, I can’t believe I lost my nerve in there with Fandellia. Why couldn’t I pick? What would I even pick if I had picked anything? Stupid! Stupid! I rinse off and then run a bath and drift into a nap. After some time, the door to the room opens and slams shut. How long have I been in here? I dry off and slowly make my way to the bathroom door.
It’s still daylight out, so that’s good. I glance around the room, but there’s no one here. I know heard the door slam. A newspaper shuffles on the table, startling me. I laugh at myself, as I pick it up from the ground. What the hell? I can’t read it. The words are changing from random symbols to emojis. I toss the paper aside and look around the room again. I wave an arm in front of my face, but can’t focus on the back of my hand. I reach for the door, but the knob jiggles on its own, then turns to sparkling dust, fading away into a river of bright colors. I feel a presence behind me. “Okay. Wake up,” I tell myself. The presence gets closer. I can feel it trying to get my attention. “Okay! Wake up! Wake up!”
“Simona!” Mom’s voice echoes, pushing me out of my sleep. I sit up in the tub, then get out and dress. Cannen arrives several hours later with a large bag from a place called “Tagliare’s Delicatessen.” He holds up a note that asks “Meat or veggies?” I shrug. “I dunno, both,” I respond. He sticks his hand in the bag and passes me a dense sandwich. Cannen and I work on our laptops while we eat in silence. I go on Twitter and check if my DM received a response. Nothing yet.
Cannen calls it quits and heads to sleep on the sofa. I recline on the bed and continue scraping the internet for any clues or hints of Jacob. I’m afraid to tell him about Kathy. I knowingly put her in danger just by talking to her. She was his only parent. I don’t know if I can face him. To make matters worse, there’s still my parents. Who knows what kind of danger they’re in because of me. I wonder what they’ll think happened when the news about Kathy reaches them. I groan and reach for one of Cannen’s cigarettes. Regardless of what happens, I can’t risk putting any more people in danger. What do I do? I wish god or something could spell it out for me. And, just like that my phone lights up. It’s a call from my dad. I don’t know what kind of a sign this is, but it’s not a good one. I ignore the call and a few more. Dad continues calling until I finally answer. “Simona, I think I have a lead on Jacob,” he says, calm and relaxed. There’s a short pause. “Are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here. That’s good,” I respond, not fully comprehending what he just said. “Wait, what?”
“Your mom and I found a lead, and I think we’re on to something. I wanted to call and let you know. It seems like Jacob is alive and well. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to pinpoint a location.”
“Wow, Dad! I-I’m speechless. I can’t even tell you how-“
Dad laughs. “I bet, Simona. I could definitely use your help. I know it’s a little short notice, but I’m flying to Missoula, Montana. I could probably find a connecting flight to Nashville and we can fly to Montana together. How’s that sound?”
“Dad, that all sounds good, but I’m kinda’ sorta’ already…”
“Already what, Simona? Spit it out,” he says, patient and reassuring.
“Already… In Montana,” I say, completely realizing this was probably a trap. “How did you get this number to begin with?” I ask, examining the burner phone.
“The wife of my recently-deceased colleague was found dead in your apartment. How do you think I got your number? Ever since my partner died, someone’s been keeping eyes on Kathy. The agent watching her just lost contact, prompting a search for him. Which led to me checking in on your safety since you were with her,” Dad says, his voice more serious. There’s a slight pause before he speaks again. “They called me as a courtesy, you know. Leaving the agency and starting my own practice rubbed everyone the wrong way. While I can’t promise that I can completely get you out of whatever mess you’re in, I can promise that I will do my best to help you. But first, Simona, I need you to tell me everything that’s happened.”
I pace around the motel room and sit at the table, concerned and anxious. “It’s a lot, Dad. It’s a lot. I don’t even know, if you’ll believe me,” I respond. A knock at the door wakes Cannen and catches my attention. We open the door to my dad hanging up his cell phone.
“Try me,” he says, letting himself in.
Enjoy my work? Share it. Chances are someone else does too. They just don’t know it yet.