Last week I left you with government agents at Kate’s door. We know George, her former boss, brought them there, but you all gave me all sorts of fun suggestions as to why. If you’ve been keeping up with the story but not the comments, I highly recommend going back and checking them out.
You all are very entertaining.
I sat in the loveseat, Eli sitting by my side, the three government figures taking their places on the couch across from us. Travis, the man who introduced the group at the door, and the woman were each dressed in khakis and crisp polos, like a government sponsored Gap ad. The third figure was older, in a perfectly tailored suit, a leather portfolio in his hand.
“Thank you for having us in. I know it would have been more convenient if we called ahead, but you can imagine how many people become unavailable when they hear we hear we want to stop by.”
I smiled, ignoring the butterflies threatening to burst through my stomach lining. Maybe that’s what Red’s painting was. I looked over at her in the corner, oblivious to the presence of our guests. “Do we need more privacy? My roommate is working over there, but once she gets her headphones on, she’s pretty much dead to the world.”
“As long as you are comfortable, it’s not a problem for us.” He nodded towards Eli. “Your boyfriend is welcome to stay as well.”
I felt like I should be objecting to the misunderstanding, but Eli’s choice of morning tea rather than coffee left me too tired for explanations. Eli wasn’t jumping up to correct the agent either, so I let it go.
The agent smiled as he sat forward, hands folded, elbows on his knees. He nodded to the two with him, who took out their badges and took turns leaning forward to show their credentials.
“I’m not actually DEA,” said the smartly dressed man as he flashed his badge, “I’m with the IRS.”
“I figured there was a reason for the suit. You had to either be IRS or concealing a weapon in your jacket. Not really sure which is scarier.” I let out an awkward laugh and watched the DEA agents stifle a grin as the IRS man looked down at his portfolio, expressionless.
“Junior or Senior?”
“What exactly was your job at the skating rink?”
“Well, I did all sorts of stuff before George Sr. passed, but when his son took over, I basically just cleaned up, sharpened skates, helped out with rentals and concessions, that sort of thing.”
“What do you mean you did more before?”
“I used to handle inventory and help George with the financials.”
The IRS man leaned forward on the couch. “Did you have access to any financial information when his son took over? Checkbooks? Bank accounts?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t so much as open a bank statement.”
“That didn’t strike you as odd?”
“George Junior was always kind of Type A, you know?” I paused as the IRS man stared back at me and quickly added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But he liked to be in control, so it didn’t really surprise me when he took away some responsibilities.”
He sat back and nodded for Amy to continue.
“Did you ever observe anything out of the ordinary?”
“Well, there was this one thing recently.” I felt Eli shift in his seat next to me, but continued. “One night after I closed up the rink, a man was sitting in a car in the parking lot. I noticed the guy talking on a phone, but when I tried to get a better look he took off.””
“Can you describe the vehicle?”
I closed my eyes, my brows pulled together tightly as if that would somehow paint a clearer picture of that night. “I’m not sure. A dark colored, older model sedan. You know, the kind with boxier edges. That’s all I can remember.”
Amy pulled a small binder out from under the legal pad. “I know you probably didn’t get a great look at the man in the car, but would you look through these pictures and let us know if anyone looks familiar?”
She set the binder in front of me and proceeded to flip each page, pausing on each one for a moment as she asked, “That one?”
I stopped at a picture of George Junior. “I recognize him, obviously.”
She smiled and continued turning the pages.
“Wait,” I said, putting my hand down on a page, “I’ve seen him before.”
“From the car?”
“No. The rink. He played a few pick-up games. I think his name was…oh, what was it, something girly like Cary or Ashley?” I looked up to see Amy and Travis smile, the IRS agent once again expressionless. I scrunched up my nose and added, “Please tell me that your name isn’t Ashley.”
“No.” The IRS agent smirked as he added, “It’s Cary.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“So,” Amy continued, “do you remember seeing this guy talk to George?”
Amy and Travis exchanged a quick glance then flipped through the rest of the pages. I was relieved to find only unfamiliar faces.
“Well, I think that is all we have for you right now.” Amy took the binder back and placed it on top of her legal pad.
“I’m really sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.” I paused for a moment before asking, “What is it that George is suspected of doing? Or am I even allowed to ask that?”
Travis replied, “He’s part of a much bigger investigation. We think he may have been involved in drug trafficking, among other things, but he’s just one of the many dots we are trying to connect. And you were helpful.” The agents all stood up together. “Thank you so much for your time, Kate.”
The agents shook Eli’s hand, then mine. Rather than a business card, Travis handed me a torn edge from Amy’s legal pad with his name and phone number on it.
“If you think of anything else, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.”
I walked them to the door, then stopped short. “Travis? Assuming that George isn’t on his own in whatever mess he’s involved in, are these people dangerous? Should I be concerned?”
He turned, as the other two agents paused in the hallway. “It is possible that he could be involved with some pretty unsavory characters. I wouldn’t worry too much, but just be cautious. If you are concerned about suspicious behavior, don’t hesitate to call.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
“Thanks again, Kate.”
I shut the door behind them, leaning against it and holding my hands on my stomach as I let out a big sigh.
“Okay, I think I need to go throw up now.”
Eli laughed. “Why?”
“Why? Contrary to how it might seem, I don’t usually have government agents showing up at my house questioning me, or scary masked men kidnapping me and shoving me in tree trunks.”
“When you say it like that, I guess it is a lot to take in.” Eli’s tone was more serious, but he was still grinning.
“Well, I am glad the endangerment of my well-being is so amusing to you.”
“Okay, okay,” Eli held his hands up, “I apologize. I was just attempting to lighten the mood.”
I sighed again and walked to the kitchen, Eli following. “It’s fine.”
“Why didn’t you mention being abducted to the agents?”
“I was nervous. Seemed like a lot of explaining I’d have to do, considering I didn’t call the police or go to the hospital. I feel like that might have made me seem like I was hiding something. Plus, I didn’t see their faces, so it’s not like I’d have anything helpful to say.”
Eli nodded. “You never told me someone was watching you in the parking lot. Was this recent?”
“Yeah. I guess I just didn’t think much of it at the time.” Or more truthfully, I was curious as to whether the stranger in the car had been Eli and didn’t want to bring it up.
“At least now we have a better idea of what ‘friend’ is putting you in danger.”
“You think so?”
I grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge and tossed one to Eli. “I guess I didn’t really think about it being George. I mean, he definitely doesn’t come to mind when I hear the word ‘friend’.”
“True. But to an outsider it could seem otherwise, especially since you’ve worked for his father for years. They may have made an assumption that you were a closer connection to him than you are.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
Eli leaned against the counter, opening his bottle of water. “You don’t sound convinced.”
“No, it makes sense. It was just…unexpected? I’m still processing everything.”
“You have had a time of it the last few days.”
“I’ll be fine once I get some normalcy going again.”
“That sounds like a fine plan. Let’s start with dinner.”
I choked on an unsuccessful sip of water.
“Yes. I saw your research on some of the candidates, looks like we have one or two to work with thus far, so we should start scheduling some dinners.”
“Which one did you like the look of? We can start there.”
“Actually, I’ve been meaning to tell you that I know one of the candidates from the list.”
I let the name hang in the air without explanation, seeing if it elicited any reaction from Eli. The right corner of his mouth turned up slightly.
“Yes, I was wondering when that might come up. Meera’s fiancé, correct?” I nodded as he quickly added, “I made the connection on moving day.”
The turned up corner turned into a smile. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased about the connection, but I honestly knew nothing of it beforehand.”
“Oh. Well, David is actually in town this week. We could schedule a dinner with him.”
“I should warn you, Meera mentioned that David’s been approached by headhunters before and hasn’t been terribly receptive.”
“Meera knows we’re looking at David?”
I felt the butterflies return to my stomach. “Uh, yeah. Sorry, was I not supposed to say anything?”
Eli sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Ideally, no.”
The butterflies evolved into piranhas, happily gnawing away at my gut. The anxiety must have shown on my face, as Eli reached out and grabbed my arm, giving it a squeeze. “I wasn’t clear on that, Kate, so it’s my fault. In this case, it probably hasn’t hurt anything. So, no worries, okay?”
I gave a weak smile in response.
“Let’s get something set up then, shall we?”
I nodded, and headed over to the couch and laptop.
Looking up from the screen over at Eli, I smiled. “There is one big flaw about David you may not be aware of, Eli.”
“Oh?” He looked up from his laptop, eyebrow raised.
Eli grinned. “Well, we all have our faults.”
Can you guess who you get to meet next week? That’s right. David! So, in the comments, give me three words you would use to describe David, or his behavior at/reaction to the dinner with Meera, Kate, and Eli.
I apologize for last week’s hiatus – an unpredictable toddler and celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary took me away for a bit. I should be doing another character interview next week, so long as life gets back on track.
In the meantime, see you in the comments!