This chapter will need a lot of work before the final publication. It could be cut altogether in the end too. This book is giving me a lot of trouble, to be honest.
As always, this is a work in progress and there may be typos, plot holes, etc. and the final story is always subject to change before I later publish the final version. To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE.
Stan was sitting in his car outside the abandoned building when Matt pulled up in his truck.
He climbed out of his sedan and stuck a hand toward Matt as he walked toward him. “I appreciate you coming, Matt. I know it’s not in your jurisdiction, but I didn’t think the staties would come out this far to check it out.”
Matt’s eyes darted around as he shook Stan’s hand, taking in the dilapidated building, the vines stretching up the side, the broken windows, a partially caved in roof. “No, problem. I figured I’d do it off duty just to eliminate the appearance of the Spencer police stepping into the state’s territory.”
He wasn’t sure how much poking around he could do since Stan wasn’t sure who the property belonged to. He didn’t have a warrant, but Stan had expressed concern about the back door looking like it had been broken into. He could at least take a look and decide then if a search warrant was needed.
“We’re hoping to find the owner and sell this property.” Stan talked as he followed Matt. “We have a commercial company interested in this whole area. The owners of the properties adjacent have already signed. I’ve got my secretary combing through deeds records at the courthouse.”
Matt pushed a branch out of his way as he walked through the high brush toward the back of the building. “Oh yeah? What do they want to put in?”
“Distribution center of some kind.” Stan ducked under a tree limb. “It could bring a lot of jobs to the area if it works out.”
Matt stepped into a clearing and looked up at a small flight of stairs leading to a metal door, a bolted lock on a chain hanging from it, leaving the door slightly ajar. The sight of the open door placed him on edge and he hoped it was only from all those horror movies he watched as a teenager.
He wasn’t sure how much further he should go, since entering the building might be considered trespassing. He took in the outside of the building again. The place had clearly been abandoned years ago, maybe even a couple of decades ago. There was a good possibility someone was squatting or the door had simply been jammed open by some teenagers look for a place to smoke and drink.
Stepping up the stairs he peered through the gap in the doorway. From what he could see the building looked empty other than some old tables and chairs, and a few pieces of old machinery, maybe from whatever business used to be here. On the far side of the room there was a longer table, maybe the remnants of a conveyor belt. The tarp covering it drew Matt’s attention and he hoped it was only covering more equipment or machinery.
“I probably shouldn’t go any further until we find out who owns this.”
Still, that tarp drew his eye, and he had a sudden urge to look under it, even as a larger part of him wanted to take off back to his truck and alert the state police to it instead.
“Stay here, I want to check something out.”
Stan nodded, clearly uneasy as he slid his hands in his dress pant pockets and stepped a couple of steps down from the door.
The concrete floor was still in good shape, even under several thick inches of dust. A bird flew out of the metal rafters and Matt flinched but kept walking toward the tarp.
“This is stupid, Matt,” he said outoud as he walked. “No one is going to leave something like drugs under a tarp in an unsecure building.” His arm bumped a large board sticking out of one of the tables and knocked it to the ground. The clatter of it hitting the concrete floor bounced off the walls and ceiling.
“You okay?” Stan called from the stairs.
“Yeah. Just a board. All good.”
It would be stupid for there to be anything criminal under the tarp, but the building was several miles outside of town and in the middle of nowhere. He needed to at least double check and if he found anything his first call would be to the state police. He’d have to explain why he was trespassing on someone else’s property while off duty, but he had a feeling the troopers would simply be happy to bust one of the many drug rings that had cropped up in the area recently.
Lifting the tarp, he found himself praying this wasn’t really like a moment in a horror movie, that there wasn’t a dead body underneath, even a dead animal.
“Be a man, McGee,” he told himself. “Lift the tarp. Also, stop talking to yourself. This is getting weird.”
He lifted the tarp gingerly and peeked under. It only took one look to know he had to pull the tarp all the way off while reaching in his pocket for his phone.
“State Police Barracks, Benford County, Trooper Banfield speaking.”
“Hey, Officer Matt McGee from the Spencer Police Department here. I need to be transferred to Trooper McCallister, drug unit.”
Olivia had been home a week now and Ginny still hadn’t been able to pin her down and get a straight answer about whether she’d dropped out of college or not. Every time she tried to ask Olivia waved and said, “Going to meet up with Melody” or Avery, or Trish, or one of her other many friends who were still living in Spencer. Ginny was determined to corner her daughter today.
She heard footsteps on the stairs as she placed two plates on the table, one with vegan pancakes and some kind of vegan sausage, the other with bacon, eggs, and a waffle.
“Hey, Liv. I made you breakfast.” She called the words out before her daughter could slip out the door.
Olivia peeked into the kitchen. “Thanks, Mom, but I —”
“Sit down, Olivia.” Ginny pointed at the chair opposite hers. “You’ve been avoiding me all week. It’s time we talked. I even made vegan food for you. It took me 20 minutes to figure out which fake sausage to get so you’re going to at least sit down long enough to eat it.”
Oliva sighed as she entered the kitchen and sat. Her gestures as she begrudgingly picked up a fork reminded Ginny of when her daughters had been teenagers and had tried to skip breakfast so they could slip out early and meet up with the boys they liked. Oliva had used to meet up with Brent, before she decided he was “too small town” for her.
Ginny stirred creamer into her coffee. She usually didn’t have coffee but this morning she decided she needed the extra pick me up. She’d made sure to add only half a cup of coffee so she could fill the rest with creamer and sugar. “Time for some tough talk. Did you drop out of college or are you on an extended break?”
Oliva kept her eyes on her plate. She pushed the pancakes around her plate, soaking up the syrup.
“You need to tell me the truth.” Ginny prodded her daughter, knowing she needed an answer so she could decide how they would break the news to Stan without him having an aneurysm.
“Fine.” Oliva rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “I dropped out.”
Ginny took a deep breath to keep herself calm. “Why?”
“I told you. California just isn’t for me anymore. I don’t even know what I’m doing there. I’m wasting your money by working toward a degree that I don’t even know if I’m going to use anymore.”
“If you’re not going to get a degree then what are you going to do?”
Olivia shrugged. “I don’t know yet.”
“Olivia. Seriously?” Ginny tried to keep the anger she felt gnawing at her insides outside of her voice. “You can’t just drop out of school and —”
“How come you cut Liz Cranmer slack but not me?”
Ginny’s eyebrows raised. “Excuse me?”
“Dad says you’ve been hanging out with her for months now. What’s so great about her? She got knocked up by some jerk and everyone knows she was a total alchey and pill popper.”
“Olivia!” Ginny stared at her daughter in disbelief. “When did you become so judgmental? Is this how you learned to act out there? Liz has worked hard to get back on her feet. She’s a wonderful mother, she’s working toward a degree in social work through online courses, and she just took a job as the children’s librarian. Just because she made some mistakes in her past doesn’t mean she’s a horrible person.”
Oliva slid down in her seat and closed her eyes, wincing softly. “Yeah. I know. Sorry.” She let out a breath and looked up at her mom. “I don’t know where that came from.” She shrugged a shoulder. “I guess I’m jealous.”
“Yeah. I mean, she’s had all your attention lately. You two have fun together. It’s like you replaced Liv with Liz. Dad said you watch movies together, go to lunch, attend art classes.” Oliva picked at the fringes on the cloth placemat under her plate. “You never did that stuff with me.”
Ginny set her fork down and set her hands under her chin. “I tried, Olivia. Maybe you’ve forgotten but you never wanted to be around me as a teenager. I embarrassed you. I would gladly have done all those things with you and would do them with you now if you wanted to. Liz needed some extra support. Things have been tense with her parents, she was trying to figure out how to be a new mom. I just wanted to help and, well, we do have fun together. She makes me forget that I’m a dried up old lady with a very dull life.”
Olivia scoffed. “Mom, you’re not a dried up old lady.” She reached across the table and covered her mom’s hand with hers. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Ginny waved a hand dismissively. “It’s probably just some midlife crisis thing. I’ll get over it eventually. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed my time with Liz. If you’re going to be home for a while I’d love to have you join us when we go out or get together for a movie night.”
Olivia’s tone softened even more. “I’d love to, Mom.” For the first time in a long time Ginny heard sincerity in her voice.
“Don’t think that this conversation about you dropping out of school is over, though. You know how upset your dad is going to be. There will be conversations about what you’re going to do for a job, where you’re going to live.”
“Can’t I live here for now?”
“For now, but do you really want to be almost 21 and living at home with your parents?”
Olivia made a face. “Yeah. I didn’t think about that. Guess I better start making some real plans.”
The back door opened as the women finished their breakfast. Ginny noticed a flush to Stan’s cheeks as he strode across the kitchen and reached for the coffee pot. She raised an eyebrow as she and Oliva exchanged a look.
“Uh-oh.” Ginny mouthed the words.
“Hey, Dad. Busy morning already?”
“Hmm?” Stan reached for the creamer on the table. Ginny could tell he was distracted again. Probably thinking of another real estate deal. “Oh yeah. Busy.”
He sipped the coffee and cleared his throat. “Listen, I need to talk to you two and I don’t want you to go all crazy on me.”
Ginny’s muscles tensed around her neck like they usually did when Stan said he needed to talk. It was usually about a big property he was working selling or telling her he wouldn’t be able to attend this or that.
Stan sat at the table, the coffee mug cupped in his hands. “I wasn’t going to tell either of you about this, but then I thought about how you’d probably find out from someone else.” Ginny rubbed a hand against the back of her neck, trying to loosen the tightness and distract herself from the thoughts racing through her mind. “Last week when Matt and I went to that property, Matt discovered a stash of heroin.”
Olivia sat back in her chair, her eyebrows raised. “Whoa. Seriously? In Spencer Valley”
“Yes.” Stan stirred the creamer in the coffee and took another sip. “Matt says heroin has been big around here lately. It’s replaced meth as the dominant drug industry. He called the state police and I had to stay for questioning.” Stan starred into the cup of coffee for a few silent seconds as if waiting for a word of wisdom. “They called me in again this morning. I couldn’t offer them any information beyond what Matt and I saw, unfortunately. None of this has hit the papers yet, but I have a feeling it will soon. I just hope my name will be kept out of it.”
Ginny swallowed hard, her muscles even tighter now. “I’d never really thought about real estate being a dangerous job before.”
Stan grunted and stood. “It’s not. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered anything criminal in the 25 years I’ve been doing this job.”
Apparently, she wasn’t even permitted to worry about him now.
He opened a cupboard and reached for a travel mug to pour the rest of the coffee in. “I’ve got to head back to the office. I have two potential clients coming in.”
A small smile tugged at Olivia’s lips. “Dad, aren’t you worried the drug dealers will come after you?” Her voice quivered with a stifled laugh.
Ginny shot her a scowl. “This isn’t funny, Olivia. This could be really serious.”
Stan laughed. “Not that serious. They left the door to the building open and a tarp loosely covering them. Whoever is running this stuff obviously isn’t a criminal mastermain..” He pressed the lid down on the mug. “So, no. I’m not worried.” He headed toward the back door again. “I won’t be home for dinner but if you could make me a plate, that’d be great. See you both later.” He pointed at Olivia. “Especially you. We need to talk.”
Olivia slumped back against her seat. “Yeah, I knew that was coming.”
Ginny raised her hand. “Stan, wait. Keith is back in town and wants to know if we’d like to go out to dinner with him.”
Stan paused in the backdoor doorway, stepped back, and peered around the door. “Keith?” His eyebrow quirked questioningly. “Your old boyfriend Keith?”
“Yes. He’s moved back and running his business from a cabin a few miles out of town. He invited us to dinner on Thursday.”
Stan stepped back into the kitchen, brow furrowed. “When did you run into him?”
At the grocery store, at an art class, and outside the library.
She decided to pick just one. “At the grocery store a few weeks ago. So, what should I tell him?”
Stan looked above her head for a moment, frowned, and then nodded. “Yeah. I should be able to make that. Where at?”
“Antonio’s in Clarkston.”
“Yeah. I’ve heard that place is great. Sure. I’ll probably have to meet you two there. I have a meeting at six. Shouldn’t take more than a half an hour.”
“He suggested 6:30. I can ask him if 6:45 is okay.”
Stan shifted the travel mug to his other hand, a stack of papers under his arm. “Sounds great. I’m looking forward to it.”
Ginny cocked an eyebrow as he walked through the doorway, then narrowed her eyes. Well, that was interesting. He’d been saying he was too busy for anything she suggested for months now. One mention of dinner with Keith and he could make it? What was that all about?