Authors: Jayton Young
“Sir, I’m not…” I tried to tell him I wasn’t quitting, but he cut me off.
“No, let me say what I have to say first.” He let out a deep breath and looked out the window. “Margie is my mother, whether she gave birth to me or not. She has been there for me in one way or another for my whole life, and didn’t think twice about raising me when my mother left. She has always had a big heart, and can spot a hard luck case from a mile away.” I stiffened when he said this. I didn’t know that was all he thought of me, and wondered if it was still that way.
“When she got off of the bus with you tagging along behind her, I was wary of your intentions, especially when she told me you’d be living with her.” He finally looked back over to me. “As you know, one of the things we do here, is run background checks for companies looking to hire someone, so before you even came here for a job, I’d tried to run one on you. I wanted to make sure you weren’t scamming Margie, or using her.”
“Mr. Garret, I have tried to pay my own way since I got here, but as you know, she will not take anything from me, no matter how much I argue or how hard I try. I clean and do any household chore I can think of to make her life easier, I would
take advantage of her kindness and hospitality.” I couldn’t believe he thought that of me. I guess I kind of understood him being protective of Mrs. Chambers, her being like his mother, so I overlooked it. It seemed as if he was hoping I’d say something else, but I didn’t want say something I’d regret, so I kept silent.
He finally continued. “I know that now, but back then I didn’t trust you, since from what I could tell, Dina Evans did not exist before four years ago, and has barely existed since then. There was no history for a Dina Nicole Evans with your social security number before then, so I took the next logical step, and asked one of the PIs we have on retainer to do a thorough investigation. In that time, Margie asked me to hire you, and of course I thought that it would be the best way to keep an eye on you, so I agreed. Of course, she wouldn’t have taken a ‘no’ for an answer anyway, but you were so distant, and wouldn’t let anyone get close to you. You still are for the most part. I wanted to get to know you and find out why you are the way you are.”
“So, none of this was real?” I was hurt and offended that the only reason he was talking to me was to try to get the scoop on me, and then a thought occurred to me. “Oh my God, please tell me that Clair and Stefan had no part in this.” I said desperately, with tears welling up in my eyes. I really hoped that two of the people I had let in hadn’t only been a scam on me.
“No, Claire knew nothing about this. I did tell Stefan. He is a close friend, and the silent partner here, so I did tell him, but in his defense, he likes you a lot and told me to tell you what I was doing. I was the one who didn’t listen to him.” His eyes held the regret he was feeling. “I’ve gotten to know you from afar because you never let me get close. You have such a big heart. Even before you finally befriended Claire, you defended her to some of the staff who talks about her because they don’t understand her personality. You are loyal and trustworthy, never divulging who Stefan really is, though you weren’t told not to. You saw that he didn’t want anyone to know, so you just treat him as another member of the staff. I’m actually jealous of that part.”
That confused me. “Why would you be jealous?”
“Because the more I saw and learned of you, the more I wanted to be your friend. I wanted to be more than just a friend to you. I would like to go on a date with you.” He looked at me hopefully. “But, before you even consider that proposal, there is something else you need to know.”
“What?” I asked, wary of what else he’d reveal to me.
“I know who you are, and what you are running from. Or, I guess I should say ‘who’ you are running from.”
I started panicking in my head. I didn’t know what to do. If he knew; if I were being investigated, then it would definitely get back to certain people, or I guess I should say a certain person, that I didn’t want to know. I was thinking that I should call Doc back and tell him that I changed my mind. “How?”
He knew what I was asking. “The PI I have on retainer invested in some very good software. He’d been wanting the facial recognition software the police use, so after about four months of trying, but not finding anything, he got it. It took a couple of days, but he found you in the DMV records of several states, and the rest you know.” Garret got up from his chair and came around to kneel in front of me. “I want to help you. I don’t want you to have to run anymore. As I told you the other day; you can keep running, but eventually, you’ll run out of places to go. You have to make a stand, and I want to help you to do that.”
“You don’t understand. If you know about him, then he probably already knows where I am. Someone told me that he took a leave of absence from the force, and he’s not in Chicago anymore.”
He grabbed my hands, squeezing them, and looked me straight in the eye. “We won’t let him near you.”
“We who? You told someone?” My voice kept going higher. The more people who knew, the more people that would be in danger. I shot out of my seat, thinking about how I needed to just pack up and leave. I would call Doc from the road, and he could come to wherever my next city would be.
As I turned to go to the door, Garret’s hand grabbed my upper arm, and I cringed back on reflex. He immediately let go, and backed up. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I swear that I won’t hurt you, but please, let me call Claire and Stefan in here, and we can discuss this. We all want to help you. We care about you and want you safe.”
I thought about it, and was very temped. I had tried to do things on my own, and look how that turned out, but on the other hand of that, look at what happened to Jamie’s garage and Patty’s shop when Chuck caught up to me in Tacoma. Jamie lost everything, and got severely injured in the process, and Patty lost everything she had worked so hard for. I couldn’t let that happen to anyone else. That’s why I never wanted to get close to people.
Garret reached out slowly and took my hand, giving me time to back away if I wanted, but I didn’t. He led me over to the sitting area of his office and sat beside me on the couch. “Just talk to us, and then hear us out. If we don’t come up with a reasonable solution, you are welcome to leave, though we’d all miss you.”
What could it hurt just to listen to what they had to say? “Okay.”
We were situated in the sitting area of Garrets office. I was in the chair and they were spread across the couch. Garret had only told them that we were discussing my wanting to leave.
“I thought you said you had changed your mind?” Claire said. “You said your friend was moving here for you.”
“What friend?” Stefan Asked, while at the same time, Garret asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Deciding to answer them in order, I said to Claire, “That was before Garret informed me of certain facts; someone that helped me out and became a friend in Chicago,” I said to Stefan, and then turned to Garret and told him, “You didn’t give me a chance to tell you. I tried at the beginning, but you cut me off asking me to let you speak first. You know what happened after that.” I reprimanded. He was the one who didn’t give me time to talk. He was acting like I had kept something from him, and I hadn’t. Well, beyond my whole past.
“I’m sorry for that.” Garret said. “Who is this friend from Chicago? Are you sure you can trust them?”
“Yes, I trust him with my life.” I told him with no hesitation, daring him to accuse Doc of anything.
A look crossed his face, but it was so fleeting, so I couldn’t decipher it.
“Anyway, what’s going on?” Stefan asked, trying to get us back on track. “What made you decide to leave in the first place?”
“Will you tell them what you are running from?” Garret pleaded. “It’s your story to tell, and your trust to be given.”
I took a deep breath, let it out, and nodded. “I started dating Chuck Sanders when we were seniors I high school. We were so in love. I had known him all through school, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know him beforehand. After graduation we moved in with my mother, and things were fine. After he graduated the academy, he went for his degree in criminal law online, while he was working on the force, so he could become a detective. He started changing after he went on patrol, and it got worse when he was made detective. He had such a short temper, and little things would set him off. When he hit me the first time, I tried to leave him, but he beat me even worse, and told me he would kill me and my mother if I ever tried to leave him again. Once he knew I had no other options, it escalated even further. My mother died when I was twenty. She conveniently fell down the stairs, and he supposedly found her when he got home. Him being a detective, he told me nobody would believe me if I tried to say anything. I had never accused him straight out of murdering my mom, but it conveniently happened after he had put me in the hospital because he overheard my mom tell me that she had found us a place to go. I left him after her funeral only for him to find several months later. He beat me so bad; I was in bed for three weeks. He wouldn’t let me go to the hospital that time because it was too soon after my mom’s death, he was afraid of raising suspicions. I was stuck with him, basically a prisoner in my own home for another couple of years. About four years ago, after a pretty bad argument, I was admitted to the hospital. After eleven days in there, a friend I had acquired over the years helped me escape. He got me a car, some fake IDs and a bunch of money. It was done legally, so don’t think he or I ever broke the law. Anyway, I found myself in Tacoma. I figured with a new name, a new look, and being so far away from Chicago, he wouldn’t find me, so I got comfortable. I had a job, a home, and several very good friends and I was dating someone.”
I stopped and looked down for a moment thinking of Patty and Jamie. A mother like figure and a boyfriend. Both I would have died for, one that I had fallen for. “I got so comfortable, I got arrogant, thinking there was no way he would ever find me, but I was wrong and people got hurt. One person very close to me almost died. Chuck sent me pictures after it happened letting me know he was there. He obviously enjoyed tormenting me, thinking I would give up and go back to him, but instead, I ran. I have been running ever since, never staying in one place for more than a six or seven of months. Now, I have people who care about me that will end up getting hurt or worse because of me. I’m
worth it, and staying with you guys to make myself feel better, is not worth what will happen as a result.”
They were all silent for a moment before Claire came over and sat beside me on the arm of the sofa. “You can’t decide that for us. It’s not fair, Di.” She said. “I’m sure these two lug-nuts will agree that we all think you’re worth the risk. You know what they say; four is definitely better than one.”
“You know, Dina, that I teach several forms of self-defense in the evenings and on Saturdays.” Stefan joined in. “You should come to one of my classes and see if it’s something you think you’d be interested in.”
Garret butted in before I could respond. “Of course she would be interested.”
“You can’t say that. What do you know about me to think you can talk for me?” I said in indignation. I couldn’t believe he thought he could talk for me. I had thought after his earlier statement, that he respected me more than that. He had a look of regret in his eyes, and I knew he didn’t really mean anything by it, but I was so done with people controlling my life, that I had reacted first. I gave him a smile before I turned back to Stefan. “What could I possibly do? I’m five foot two and one hundred and five pounds. How would I be able to defend myself against a six foot four, two hundred and forty pound police detective?”
“Trust me, Dina, there are plenty of things you could do. Just give me one lesson, I’ll even make it to where it’s just between the four of us, but give me that one lesson and I guarantee that
you’ll be able to take down Garret here. He fits your size criteria.”
“Hey! Who says I want to get my butt kicked?” Garret asked, acting like he was offended by the idea, but he looked at me and winked causing me to blush.
The others laughed calling him a wimp and girlie man, but I was too busy thinking. What could it hurt? If it worked, I would at least be able to fight back. I wasn’t losing anything to just try. “Okay, I’ll try.” I said. Everyone looked a mixture of surprise that I said yes and happiness that I was staying.
“Good! Garret will bring you to the gym I teach at this evening. You can watch my last class, and then we will do our thing.”
The rest of the day, I was actually getting excited for this lesson. The only thing that marred my little bit of happiness is the phone calls I had answered again today. There was a total of five today to where when I answered, nobody said anything. It was starting to make me nervous. I decided to talk to Garret about it after work.
After I logged out of my computer and clocked out, I sat in Garret’s office while he finished a conference call with several people working on the hotel project that he had signed the contract on yesterday. When it was over, he started gathering all of his papers into his briefcase. I helped him, and decided to go ahead and bring it up while it was just the two of us.
“Mr. Starr, I need to tell you about something.” I said softly looking down.
“We aren’t friends then?” He asked.
“I thought, after today, we were finally classified as friends, but if we were, you’d be calling me Garret, not Mr. Starr.” He answered with a smirk.