A LOOK INSIDE DANGEROUS LIAISONS: CHAPTER 2
Another week has come and gone. The weather has been extremely warm and humid but I love it all the same. I hope you enjoyed reading chapter 1 last week – are you ready for chapter 2?
Colton woke up drenched in a cold sweat, panting as if he were out of breath. “Damn it, not these fucking dreams again.” Darkness still filled the room as he laid his head back on the pillow, thinking about his haunted past. Some memories were great, some weren’t, and the one he had of killing his best friend to protect another would forever be embedded in his mind. At first, they thought Sierra’s cover had been blown, as they had both tried calling her home phone and getting no answer, then calling her cell and it going to voicemail. Call it fate, ESP, whatever you want, but Colton knew something was wrong. He could feel it like an electrical current running through his body; and when he called Paul to see if he knew Sierra’s whereabouts and couldn’t get Paul either, that feeling grew stronger. Colton and Max headed over to the Lancaster home and heard Paul yelling. With the houses being so far apart where the couple lived, the neighbors were oblivious to all of the noise and cries for help.
Paul had her in a chokehold, gripping her closer to him with the gun pointed directly at her head. She remained ever so calm trying to talk to him, but he just became more erratic. The house was dark, apparently Paul had cut the power. Colton tried everything he could think of to get his friend to let Sierra go, but to no avail. He knew Max would come in from the opposite direction. He hoped it wouldn’t be too late.
“Come on, man, let’s talk,” Colton said.
“Go away, or I’ll kill her right now,” Paul said.
“Paul, we’ll get you some help,” Sierra said.
“Shut up!” Paul’s hand shook, he pressed the gun harder into her head.
Colton couldn’t wait any longer. Paul moved towards the door that led downstairs, just as that door opened and Max appeared. He knew Paul was about to pull the trigger; he could just feel it in his bones, could tell by Paul’s voice plus years of experience; but he and Max were quicker. They fired at the same time. Paul went down.
Colton looked at the alarm clock, 9:00 am. He must have fallen back asleep after his nightmare. Perhaps being injured had its perks, because his parents had let him sleep in. He’d flown home to finish recovering at their home in Leesville, Louisiana, where his dad had retired from the army and taught ROTC at the local high school.
Hauling himself out of bed, Colton picked up his phone from the nightstand and hit speed dial. His call went straight to voicemail. “Hey, Cupcake. When you get this message give me a call.” He hung up and wondered what Sierra could be doing that she didn’t answer. He wanted to talk to her, needed to talk to her. She was his best friend as well as his partner. He needed to tell her about his dream. She’d understand.
Colton took a shower, dressed, and went into the kitchen where his mom was loading the dishwasher. “Morning, Mom.”
Patty Jameson looked up from the dishwasher and smiled at her son. “Well, good morning, sleepy head. Slept well, I hope?”
“Uh, yeah, great, Mom,” he lied, not wanting her to worry. His parents were still on edge since he’d been shot and were using the incident to pressure him about a career change.
“Are you sure? You still look tired,” she said as she observed him while wiping off the countertop.
“I’m fine, Mom. Stop worrying.” His voice held a slight edge of irritation as he ran his hand through his hair.
“Honey, as long as you do the kind of work you do, I’m going to worry.” She sighed as she started taking dishes out of the dishwasher and swiping a towel over them before putting them away.
“Let’s not go through that again,” Colton said as he reached for the newspaper laying on the table.
“Can I fix you some breakfast?” Patty asked, finally turning to face her son directly.
“No thanks, Mom. I’m just going to have cereal. I’ve been on my own for quite some time now. You don’t have to wait on me.” He took a deep breath, hoping it would go unnoticed by his mother.
“Sorry, honey. It’s not every day my baby gets shot,” she said, closing the cabinet door a little harder than she intended.
“Mom—” Just then his cell rang. He reached in his pocket and walked outside for privacy.
“Hey, Cupcake.” He smiled, his tension easing away somewhat just because—well, it was Sierra.
“Hey, how you doing?”
“My parents are driving me crazy. How are you?” he asked as he paced in front of the house.
“Doing okay. Getting ready to leave for Lexington shortly.”
“Wish I was going with you. Anywhere would be better than here,” he said, as he looked towards his parent’s home.
He sighed and ran his hand over his tired face. “Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents and my brother, but it’s the same old story. Look, I need to talk,” he said as he kicked at a pine cone.
“Having those dreams again?”
“Gee, you know me so well.” He paused, looking down at his sneakers. “Yeah, a bad one. Same one.” He said, sighing as he looked towards the clear blue sky.
“Maybe it’s the pain pills you’re on.”
“I’m not taking any now.” He reached down and picked up another pine cone and tossed it across the yard.
“Look, it wasn’t your fault. You need to stop feeling guilty.”
“Logically I know all this, but why can’t I let it go?” he asked as he turned, facing the house.
“I don’t know,” Sierra said.
He glanced up at the window, noticing the movement of the curtain and his lack of privacy.
“Well, I better let you get going on the road.” He sighed, shaking his head, knowing his mother was intent on keeping an eye on him.
“Look, if you want me to come to Leesville, I can.”
“No, I’ll be fine. Really.” He wasn’t sure who we was trying to convince, Sierra or himself.
“Yeah. Call me when you get there.”
“Yeah. Later,” he said as he looked at his phone, watching the ‘call ended’ icon appear on the screen. He hesitated for a brief moment before walking back into the house.
It felt good talking to Sierra. He wanted to get out of the house, and wanted to take a drive to be alone; however, his mother insisted his brother Cooper drive him instead of Colton driving the rental car; and to keep the peace and arguments down to a minimum, he didn’t fight it. He chose to pick certain battles and this one—he let his mother have her way. He couldn’t take much more of all this hovering—even his dad was doing his share of it, and his dad was ex-military.
An hour later, Colton and Cooper made their way around Vernon Parish, going nowhere in particular. It reminded Colton of when he and Cooper were teenagers and they would drive up and down the drag on a Saturday night looking for girls or something to do—only this was daytime and they were not looking for girls.
“So how long are you planning on staying with Mom and Dad?” Cooper asked, as he glanced over towards his brother.
“Um, maybe a few more days, then I thought I’d go back home,” Colton said as he adjusted his sunglasses.
“So I guess you’re not going to quit your job?” Cooper asked, as he stopped for a red light.
“Hell no. Look, I love my job. Mom and Dad, and you, need to accept what I do for a living,” Colton said as he looked over and saw two young women with short shorts on and practically nonexistent tops. He wondered if they were hookers, reminded himself he wasn’t on the job, then the sound of Cooper’s voice brought him back to reality.
“Yeah, well, it’s hard on them. They can’t tell their friends what you do for a living so they lie, and that makes them uncomfortable,” Cooper said with a little bit of anger in is voice.
“Yeah, well, it’s for their safety as well as mine,” Colton said.
“You’re being selfish,” Cooper said still with that slight bit of anger in his voice.
“Coop …” Colton spoke calmly, as if he were talking to a victim of a crime.
“Colt, forget it. Just forget I brought it up,” Cooper said, now somewhat calmer, but still steamed.
“Fine with me,” Colton said, knowing his brother wouldn’t let it go; he would always have to have the last word.
“So this partner of yours, what’s she like?” Cooper asked.
“Sierra?” Colton asked, knowing his brother so well. He wasn’t interested, he was fishing for their mother.
“Yeah, what’s she like?” Cooper asked, a slight flush coming over his neck
“Can’t discuss other agents with you,” Colton said, hoping to drop the subject. But if mom had put Coop up to it, then that wouldn’t work.
“Mom said she heard you on the phone with her earlier, sounded serious,” Cooper said sheepishly.
“Geez, can I not get any privacy anywhere here?” Colton asked, running his hand through his hair.
Cooper laughed, “You know Mom, she’d like to see you get married and settled down.”
Shaking his head, Colton sighed. “It’s not like that with Sierra.”
“You called her ‘Cupcake,’” Cooper laughed.
“Great, Mom listened to everything,” Colton groaned, staring out the window as the town crawled by.
“So, Cupcake?” Cooper asked as he glanced over at Colton.
Colton looked over towards his brother and smiled, “It’s a private joke between me and my partner.”
“Okay, whatever.” Cooper came to an intersection, gave a signal, and turned onto a road that led them back the way they’d come, only on the other side of the highway.
“So, you’re having nightmares?” Cooper asked.
“Ugh, Mom.” Colton groaned. “There was an incident some years back. I had to shoot someone close to me. Sometimes I have nightmares.”
“And you can talk to your partner, but not your family?” Cooper asked, glancing at Colton with a concerned look on his face.
“About this? Yes. She understands,” Colton said bluntly.
Pissed off, Cooper asked, “What makes you think we wouldn’t understand?”
“Because, damn it, I shot Sierra’s husband in self-defense.” Colton loudly rapped his fist on the car door interior. It kept him from exploding until he could calm down. The silence was deafening, but he felt relieved all the same. They drove through town for another few minutes in awkward silence before heading back towards the family home.
Colton got out of the car and closed the door. “Thanks for the ride.” He rushed into the house, headed to his bedroom, and closed the door.
Two neatly dressed men stepped off the plane. One wore a dark blue suit with a white shirt, light blue tie, and black dress shoes; the other dressed in a black suit, with a pink shirt, black tie, and black dress shoes. They landed at the Los Angeles International Airport. It had been a nerve-wracking flight, with some minor turbulence and irritable children. They were already on edge with their upcoming meeting with Juan Diaz and listening to cranky kids didn’t help to alleviate their nerves. Though they had business dealings with the man, Juan Diaz was a man you did not want to cross. They were meeting with El Jefe, as he liked his men to show up in person on a regular basis, which made it difficult because they were from a small Virginia town.
The tall one said to his partner, “The boss should be happy with all the money we’re bringing in, right?”
“Let’s hope so. He can be greedy. Always wanting more,” his shorter partner said as they stood aside the tarmac to let the other passengers go on ahead.
The tall one said, “You just remember to be nice—I mean it. He’s ruthless. He could kill us,” the partner spoke as he adjusted his tie.
“Stop being paranoid,” the tall one said angrily.
Chuckling nervously, his partner said, “Alright, chill out.” The two men walked ahead in silence.
They followed the crowd of people heading to get their luggage, then grabbed a cab to their motel room where they checked in before getting cleaned up and heading out again. Only a couple hours after landing, the two men were in the boss’s mansion, with several other men in their profession. Although El Jefe was in charge of the meeting, his lieutenant did most of the talking because the boss liked watching everyone in the room. That’s how he was, he looked for a weakness. It was as if he had a keen sense of knowing if someone was being disloyal.
“El Jefe’s stepson, Miguel Diaz, is still in the hospital. From what information we got, feds were waitin’ on them. Killed Romera. The Smith woman got hurt, but she’s in jail now.”
El Jefe spoke up then, and spoke to everyone in the room. “I want her found. Take care of her, see that she never talks to anyone.”
The lieutenant said, “Word has it, she’s supposed to be transferred, we just can’t find her.”
“Find her, and take care of my stepson too. Make sure he doesn’t talk.”
Everyone looked around the room, but said nothing. El Jefe issued the order to have his stepson killed, all in a day’s work for him. The man only cared about his business, and didn’t want his stepson telling the feds anything about that business. Rumor had it, he killed his wives too. At least, they had all disappeared.
The tall one said, “If we can be of any assistance in helping you find this Smith woman in any way, please feel free to let us know. We’d be glad to help.” He crossed his legs.
“Yeah, we’d be glad to help get rid of her,” his partner added. He wanted to throttle the tall one. Selling drugs was one thing, murdering someone was another story.
They paid the boss and ordered more drugs to be shipped into Lexington, Virginia. They had quite a following there, a great set-up, and business was booming. They each had conversations with the other dealers, as well as El Jefe, who seemed very pleased about the business being so profitable for the size of the area. There was even talk about possibly expanding in Lexington, with the two men in charge if things continued to remain profitable and without arrests. Hours later, the two men were back on a plane and headed home.
Sierra stood in her apartment, staring out the window. Her conversation with Colton worried her, and brought back her own memories. She knew he still felt guilty for shooting Paul. When it had gone down that terrible night, neither Colton nor Max had a choice. She would be dead if they hadn’t fired those shots.
Paul suffered from PTSD. He served in the Army during the Iraq invasion in 2003, and had plans to make the military his career, but he changed during his tour. When he came back to the States, he went into the police academy and did great, until he started imagining Colton and Sierra were having an affair. Every time they had a conversation, Paul thought they were making plans to meet for some sort of torrid affair. Perhaps it was fed by the fact that one of his buddies who had been killed in Iraq, his wife had sent him a letter telling him she wanted a divorce because she was going to marry his best friend back home. Whatever the cause, every time Sierra and Colton had an assignment, Paul thought there was more to it. He saw how close the two were, how comfortable they were with each other, and so he imagined all sorts of scenarios. It triggered his inner demons from Iraq.
Sierra remembered that dreadful day as if it were yesterday.
“I know you’re sleeping with him when I’m not here,” Paul said as he stood up from the kitchen table.
Putting on her best smile, Sierra put her cup of tea down, and stood up from the table to be on even ground with him. “Honey, that’s not true. We are just partners, that’s all,” she reminded in an even tone.
“Bullshit!” he shouted, slamming his fist on the table.
“You need help, Paul. You need to go to the VA, talk to someone.” She reached out to put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Jerking away from her when she touched him, she saw that her touch made him furious. “Are you tryin’ to say I’m crazy?”
All of a sudden, Paul went off the deep end. Rage inside him filled until she thought he would explode. She knew he saw her as the enemy now as he slapped her across the face and shoved her to the floor. Sierra brought her hand up to the sting where he’d slapped her, shocked. Before she could get up and get her bearings, he grabbed her arm and dragged her across the kitchen floor and into the living room. Although she struggled to get free, he managed to keep her down until he reached the closet in the living room. Opening the door with his free hand, he searched for something to confine her with, and found a winter scarf. He yanked it out of the closet and bent down to tie her hands together. She tried screaming, kicking, fighting him with all her strength. But her initial shock let him win the first round. He slapped her again, calling her names. When they had both run out of steam, he went and found a pair of her handcuffs and put them on her, which made her angry all over again. They went on like this for most of the day, until he cut the power to the house. Up to that point, Sierra hadn’t been scared. Angry, frustrated, worried for his sake, sure. But not scared. In that moment, she knew he was going to kill her. That was when Sierra got scared. He wasn’t thinking like a rational man anymore. He wanted to hurt someone—anyone—the way he was hurting at this moment. The pain he was feeling wouldn’t stop, just wouldn’t go away. He looked down at her on the floor and even though he knew her name was Sierra, that was all he seemed to know or cared to know. Her Paul was gone.
She suffered a few hours of terror, until Colton and Max figured out something happened when Sierra didn’t show up that afternoon for a stake out. She blamed neither Colton nor Max, and she didn’t blame Paul. He was a victim, though his dad accused her and blamed her for Paul’s problems. The man couldn’t accept the fact that his son had a serious problem. He had always told Paul to ‘man up.’ Perhaps that was the reason Paul fought getting help every time he needed it, because he knew his dad would be disappointed. His father, Victor Lancaster, had objected to their marriage, mainly because Paul’s family had money and high society status, and Sierra didn’t. Paul didn’t join in the family business of finance: he joined the military and then became a cop, and on top of that he married a federal agent and Paul’s father thought that was beneath his son.
She looked at her watch. She had to get going, whether she wanted to or not. She was going to the school reunion to please Max, and maybe a part of her deep down wanted to see her former friends from afar—just from afar. She really wasn’t looking forward to going back to her hometown, despite what Max said. In small towns, everybody knows your every move. Gossip in small towns spreads like a raging fire, that’s just how it is. Nothing you can do about it.
She reached for her cell, hit speed dial, and moments later it went to voicemail. “Hey, Max, just letting you know I’m leaving for Lexington. Talked to Colton earlier. Oh well, you can call me back or not. Later.” She hung up, looked around her apartment, and checked to make sure she had not forgotten anything important.
She went in the bedroom, brought out her luggage, set it by the door, and sat down at her desk. She did a quick search on her computer, found what she was looking for, and added some numbers in her cell before she went around her apartment, adjusting things so she’d know if anyone entered while she was gone. One of the perks of the FBI Academy, you learned ways to stay alive.
Satisfied everything was set, she couldn’t stall any longer. Lexington waited on her whether she wanted to be there or not.
Join me next week for the exciting third chapter of Dangerous Liaisons! Until next week.