October 23rd, 2010
The next morning, Jen woke, and her phone was blowing up from texts, emails, and phone calls from not only her two best friends, but her husband and her mother and her boss. By the time she finished answering and replying to them all, it was already six thirty am. Everyone was marveled what she did yesterday. But that didn’t change the nightmare she had about Azazel being free and coming after her.
“Where the hell did that come from?” she questioned herself. “It seemed so fucking real. Azazel, here and had Brian, he wanted me. Why?”
She shook her head. Her take down of the gunman at Speedway gas station went viral. She never expected it to. With knowing the new situation, she decided to stay away from her social media today. She went to the bathroom across from the room and took a hot-steamy shower. Being careful with her cheek and the stiches.
After she finished, she hurried on a pair of blue jeans, a dark blue button-down blouse, and tossed on her brown, knee-high, leather boots. She walked through the home, grabbed a Mountain Dew from the fridge and went out to the garage.
Ten minutes later, she arrived at the single-story building that had been a second home for over a decade now. She entered the building after swiping her key card on the lock pad next to the double doors. She walked through and everyone was gathered around the front security desk. They all clapped for her.
As everyone congratulated her, she smiled, walked through and went to her office. She booted up her laptop, closed the door and pulled down all the blinds on the four windows that made up her office. She got to work on writing her new story about the deal that was made yesterday. She worked all day at typing, researching and only stopping for a half hour lunch break.
After lunch, which was around, four-thirty pm, Jen continued to type away on her laptop. She had to get her story in before seven pm or it wouldn’t make it to print. And she wouldn’t get paid this week. As she finished, her eyes widened as they caught the sight of the time on the right corner of the taskbar on the laptop.
“Oh my, is that time?” she questioned. “It was just like four pm. Now it’s almost six? Shit! Fuck my life!”
She blew out a few breaths and shook her head. Losing track of time was one of her bad habits she spent so many years working on. Seemed no matter what she did with the doctors or her therapist, June, Jen feared nothing was ever going to work.
She took out her ear buds and stopped her phone from playing her favorite band, KISS, she grew up with. The song was I Just Wanna. She always played that cause it was her and her husband’s signature song to get them in the mood. She couldn’t wait to see her husband. And her friends and mom. But after, after was what she looked forward to most.
Having the hot steamy sex that her and Brian had was legendary. She so missed that while he was away. Jen hated the fact that she was so vulnerable when he left. She never experienced any guy quite like her Superman.
She finished the story she worked on. She printed the documents and tapped her fingers on her desk impatiently. The printer finished printing and she grabbed the stack of paper. She left her office and jogged to Michael’s office that was adjacent to hers. She hurried the door open, smiled to him, and tossed the papers down to him. He picked them up and glanced over them.
“I thought I told you yesterday, your video will not be admissible. You wrongfully obtained this information. I could suspend you, but Jen, I like you. So, consider this a warning.”
She wrung her hands together hoping to rid herself of the clamminess she felt. What? She questioned. How could he do this to her? She’d been working on this story for over so long now, she needed this, badly. Sure, she did other stories, but this was her major story that was going to finally get her that Pulitzer. But now, Michael, just crushed her life-long dream.
“A warning? Are you serious? I’ve spent so much time on this Mike! Please, come on. I’m an Investigative Reporter. This is what we do,” she stated.
“We do it legally. If word of this gets out, we will be investigated by Internal Affairs. I can’t have that, Jen.”
She pursed her lips and shook her head. As she continued to wring out her hands, the sweat continued. Not wanting to believe this, she closed her eyes for a few moments. After a few deep breaths, her eyes opened. He was warning her. What the hell!? She yelled in her mind.
“Jen, you have a verbal warning. I’m sorry. As not only your boss, but your friend, this will not go into your work record.”
“So that’s a no then? You’re seriously turning down my story? If you don’t run this, I won’t get paid. Come on, please!?”
“Jen, did you hear what I said? You have a verbal warning. You’ve never gone beyond the law. I don’t see why you’re so into this corporation. You need to cease and desist, now. Understand me?”
“Mike, come on. We’ve taken down many big corporations before. This is one of the biggest of them all. Please.”
“I’m sorry Jen. I can’t turn this in.”
“Mike! Just at least read it.”
“If you give me your sources, then maybe, just maybe there might be a chance to print it.”
“I can’t do that Mike! Look, just read it and let me know what you think. I mean you haven’t even read it.”
“Fine, I’ll look it over and let you know.”
“Thanks, Mike, okay, well, I have to go. My mom’s coming home and so is my hubby.”
“Oh yeah, it’s your birthday. Happy birthday.”
“Thanks. Please, just read it and print it for me.”
“I’ll let you know when we go to print.”
Jen went back to her office, which was just one door down from his. She grabbed her belongings and locked the door as she headed out. As she stepped away from the door, she walked right into Chad Hastings, her long-time rival. He was tall with short poker straight black hair down to his shoulders. Black glimmering eyes eyed her every move, and he licked his lips. His light olive toned skin was smooth and perfect. And he was a scrawny little man. With a scrawny dimpled chin that made her want to hurl.
When she smacked into him, her athletic build almost knocked him flat on his ass. She didn’t get her build from sports though. Her build came from years of dedication to working out and eating right. Even when her ex, Eric, the abusive, controlling, narcissist, kept her home.
“Dude, watch where you’re going!” he snapped. “You just narrowly knocked me on my butt. And almost broke my chin.”
“Maybe you should eat a few hamburgers,” she chuckled.
He didn’t find that funny at all.
She grinned. Wish I would have nailed said scrawny chin that makes me want to hurl. She laughed but he noticed.
“Something funny?” he questioned.
“Leaving early, I, see? That should be a write up for you!”
She rolled her hazel green eyes and started to step around him. But he kept blocking her path.
“Don’t think I haven’t forgotten about what you did!” he snarled.
“Um what? I don’t have time for this! You little weasel!”
“Name calling, really Jen. How is it you’re still the top Investigative Reporter? Your attitude needs some serious cleaning up,” he snarled once more.
She grumbled and blew out a few breaths. She side stepped him again. But he continued to block her path.
“Dude, you wanna seriously get out of my way?” she asked.
“I noticed that you’ve been leaving early way more than usual.”
“Um what? I’m the one who stays here the longest, working my butt off, while all you do is try to get me busted for something you’re making up. Don’t you have anything better to do?”
He grinned. As they stood toe to toe with each other, Jen never backed down from him. She’d been here at the paper since she was seventeen years old. He’d come just two years after her.
“I do. But least I got here by myself with no help from anyone. You know, Mike won’t have your back forever,” he said.
Jen rolled her eyes. “What are you trying to say?”
“You only got here because of your Grandmother! I’m going to prove it.”
“Really, is that all you’ve been doing for eleven years? Least I’m a real reporter with real stories,” Jen chuckled.
She put her shoulder into his to push him out of the way. Jen didn’t even look as she knew he was infuriated by that move. And the smile never left her face all the way to the doors that led out.
She left the single-story building and heading to the parking lot. When she climbed in her truck, she pounded the steering wheel. Chad Hastings, the little weasel of a man who hated being under powerful women. But she was not about to let him ruin her awesome day.
Jen came to work here at seventeen, which was true. But she got here on her own merit. She began writing at the age of six years old. Her stories about her German Shepard were award winning, up until he was killed. She rubbed her mouth and shook her head of the horrid memory.
She hurried home. Today was going to be a totally amazing day. Not only was she going to get to see her husband, but her mom as well. Both were the most important relationships in her life next to her best friends, Karen Logan and FBI Special Agent, Zander Cole.
Her husband, Brian Long, had been away out of state at a Realtor conference tour for the past five days. Her mom had been on a long-term assignment out of the country for the company she worked for, KCI Corporation.
Being a reporter for the Shelby Times gave her the action she had so desperately craved. She was an action movie junkie. Action movies always had the best soundtracks as well. She played one of her favorites, the soundtrack from the Last Action Hero, starring her favorite actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in her pickup as she headed home from the paper.
The party was to start at around eight pm. Of course, she wasn’t supposed to know about this, but Zander spilled the beans. But Jen was glad he did. It had been lonely for her.
Jen thought back to when she was always so alone, while living with her Grandmother, she turned to music, comics, reading, and writing. She had originally dreamed to become a New York Times bestselling author when she was just twelve. But her Grandmother was an Investigative Reporter and retired from the Shelby Times. Jen read her stuff and that was what helped propel her into the career. When she was old enough and told her Grandmother what she wanted to do, Rose smiled wide. Her eyes widened. She snapped her fingers.
“That’s it! That little weasel Chad truly thinks my Grandmother got me in the paper. Damn it.”
Before she went to the party, she had to call her Grandmother. She grabbed her smart phone and called her Grandmother. After parking her truck in the garage, going around it and then opening the garage door to the house. Jen needed proof of her wandering thoughts. When Rose answered on the third ring, she smiled wide.
“Jen, it’s so nice to hear from you.”
Jen smiled. “Look, I need to ask you something.”
“Anything, you know that day or night.”
“Right, um, this is hard for me.”
“What is it honey?”
Jen smiled at her Gran’s light toned voice. Unlike her nasally voice, Jen found Rose’s voice pleasant. Almost as if Rose could sing just like Lady Gaga.
“Jen, are you there?” Rose asked.
“I’m here. Um…” Her stomach knotted. After all these years, she just now put this together. How could she ask such a thing of her fifty-year-old Grandmother?
“Jen, is something wrong?” Rose asked with a worried tone.
“No. Nothing’s wrong. I’ve been having trouble with this guy at work. He said something to me a while back. I just never realized it ‘til now.”
“What’s that honey?” Rose asked.
“It’s probably stupid, but did you get me into Shelby Times? You know, because you retired from there and was in good with Michael?”
There was a long pause. Jen nodded and now knew the answer she sought. But then Rose cleared her throat and returned to the conversation.
“No, honey,” Rose started. “You got that all on your own. I made Michael promise me that you’d get that job all on your own. You did all the work. You went to school, you did everything.”
“Are you pulling my chain?”
“Honest Jen. I made sure of it. I know you always told me that you always wanted to get everything on your own merit. Favoritism is one of your pet peeves.”
Jen smiled. “Thanks Gran.”
“Are you better now?”
“I’m okay. But there’s something else too.”
“June wants me to get a damn dog.”
“A dog, what?”
“Yeah, a service dog no less. I keep telling her, I don’t need no damn dog!”
Jen sighed for a few moments. She was an animal person. But ever since when she was a kid and… She hated going back to when she was just eight years old, and that horrible accident happened.
“I know how you feel about dogs, ever since, you know,” Rose started.
“Please don’t go there!”
“Still, after all these years, Jen?”
“Yes. After all these years. I haven’t even told Brian about this.”
“Whoa, what? He doesn’t know?”
“The case is sealed. So, he’ll never find out. Right?”
“Not unless you get in serious trouble, and someone goes digging.”
Jen sighed and blew out a few more breaths. Her stomach knotted and she closed her eyes for a bit. She never counted on that. Sure, she blamed herself for that. It was the hardest ache in her that never, ever went away. She knew Brian would be upset she kept this from him. But damn it to hell. It hurt so bad to talk about how everything went down. It still gave her nightmares.
“Look, what happened to Spike wasn’t your fault. You have to believe that Jen.”
Jen rubbed her mouth and nodded. She knew she needed to get going but talking to her Gran was helping a lot. This was most important to her right now.
“Jen?” Rose checked again.
“It was my fault Gran. It was my fault he got killed. And Karen losing her leg.”
“Jen, you were both only eight-years-old.”
“Doesn’t matter. They were both my reasonability. Uncle Jim trusted me with him.”
“Jen, I know Jimmy loved you. He also knew how much of a loner you were then. That’s why he gave you Spike. He knew you were strong with animals.”
“Did you ever tell him what happened? You know, before he died?”
“No. I wanted my Jimmy to know you did all you could for Spike. I wanted him to go in peace when he died.”
“So, you lied! Damn it.”
“I didn’t lie Jen. I just didn’t tell him. To protect you, to protect my son.”
Jen blew out more frustrated breaths. She needed to end this conversation. She swallowed hard and so wanted to hang up before the tears that were threatening to come out did like a waterfall.
“Jen, I’m sorry I never told you. Jen?”
“Yeah, I’m here. I get it. I understand.”
“Are you going to tell Brian about that whole thing?”
“You have to Jen. I think getting a service dog would help you overcome that and the other things troubling you.”
Jen nodded. Damn it. Her Gran was right. As always.
“I have to go Gran.”
“Let me know what you decide, either way. Keep in touch and I’ll see you soon. Love you.”
“I will. Love you to Gran.”
She couldn’t let her Grandmother know that she knew about the party. She so wanted to ask if she’d be there, but it was risky asking that. However, she figured she would for sure be there. It wouldn’t be right if Rose wasn’t there.
As she got ready, there was that swoosh again. Was it a swoosh? This time it was more prominent. It sounded to her like the wind whipping a thick, cloth curtain on a warm summer day. But Jen didn’t have any windows open. She shook her head. This she had to keep to herself. If she told anyone else this, she feared she’d get locked up.