Ten minutes after leaving Crabapple Farm, Dan plopped down into his office chair and booted up his computer. As the system readied itself, he grabbed the bottle of yellow-green liquid caffeine he’d purchased from the vending machine on his way through the station, which was staffed for the grave-yard shift. Twisting the cap off with a quick turn of his wrist, he took a long drink and thought about the events of the past couple of hours. Anger at and fear for his best friend bubbled to the surface. Hitting the side of his fist on the desk, he thought, That is so NOT like Mart. He’d never do anything to hurt his ‘lovely Diana’.
Setting the drink to one side, he slowly sorted through the copies of all the papers Trixie had found amongst the baby’s things and began to assemble them in order. He hoped to use the information to find out as much as he could about the woman, the baby and who the possible daddies really could be.
Opening the search program on his computer, he entered ELIZABETH ANN CHARLES and the mother’s birthdate from the birth certificate, and then pressed F1 for the system to ‘find’ the name.
Dan leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and rubbed them roughly with the heels of his hands.
“Please, please, please let me find something useful,” he muttered under his breath.
Ding!! The system chimed it had discovered something.
He quickly sat forward at attention and scanned the information on the screen. “Let’s see. OK. It seems Ms. Elizabeth Ann, age 24, has issues with parking tickets. And there’s an old charge, dismissed, for disturbing the peace.”
Dan flipped back through the scant information the computer had generated. He searched her employment history. “Hmm, lots of retail experience, but nothing lasting longer than four months. Can’t keep a job there, Elizabeth Ann?”
Reaching the last record, he clicked on the last prior in the system which was marked as ‘jailed for suspicion of shoplifting, misdemeanor, value $1499’. As the screen filled in the data and photo, he flipped through the papers again to see if there was anything of importance he missed.
Dan tossed the file back onto the corner of his desk and turned back toward the computer monitor. As his face lost the color under his tan, Dan moved and pushed away from the computer, knocking over the soft drink bottle and spilling the sticky beverage all over the keyboard and mouse.
“No!” he exclaimed. “Ah, hell no!”
“Waaaahhhh!” wailed Myriam.
Honey brushed a comforting finger across the baby’s forehead. “I know, sweetie,” she soothed. “They needed to take that blood to make sure you’re OK. It will stop hurting in a minute.”
“I always hate working on babies. It really hurts to listen to them scream,” answered the nurse, putting a small cotton ball and bandage over where the butterfly needle had been. “It makes me feel horrible.”
“But you were so gentle with her,” Honey argued. “I think she is just cranky because she’s sleepy.”
“Well, I just need to get the mouth swab done for the DNA testing,” informed the nurse, as she opened the sterile swab. “We might as well get all the mean tests done so this precious baby can catch her breath.” She eased Myriam’s mouth open with her thumb, efficiently took the sample needed and then sealed it for delivery to the lab. “The doctor will be in shortly,” she advised, taking the labeled vials and leaving the exam room.
Myriam filled her lungs and let out another loud cry, causing Honey to cringe.
Di stepped forward with her arms reaching for the baby. “Hon, let me take her for a bit. Your eardrums are going to burst and you’ve been holding her for two hours,” she stated. “I bet you’d like to hit the ladies room, too.”
Honey looked at her friend with concerned eyes. “Are you sure, Di? I know how this affects you.”
Violet eyes looked thoughtfully at the baby for a moment before meeting her friend’s. “I’m sure,” she said resolutely. “Mart and I are getting married. I love him for better or worse.”
Honey smiled. “In sickness and in health.”
“Until death do us part,” Di replied, taking Myriam from Honey’s arms. “If he is your daddy, little one, his death may be sooner than we think, ‘cause I’ll kill him myself.”
Stretching out her arms and flexing her fingers, Honey giggled as she turned to the door. “I’m pretty sure Mart is safe, Di,” she retorted. “I’m going to the restroom. Do you want anything from vending?”
“No, I’m good.” Rocking the baby back and forth, she added, “I don’t think there are very many tests left to do.” Her nose wrinkled and her lips pursed. “Whoa, baby! What have they been feeding you? Chili?”
A laughing Honey took that moment to slip out of the exam room door.
Mart stood outside the exam room watching Diana talk to the baby as she changed Myriam’s diaper. He could hear her delighted laugh as she blew raspberries on the baby’s soft belly. When she picked the baby up and cuddled her to her chest, a tear overflowed from his eye.
A hand clamped down on his shoulder, startling him.
Brian softly said, “They are beautiful together.”
“Yes,” Mart whispered. “Diana is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” Pointing at the room, he added, “Both inside and out. She’s a rare person who’ll stand by someone who has been accused of fathering a baby with another woman.” Mart sniffed several times. “I didn’t do it, Bri. That baby is not mine.”
“I believe you, Mart,” Brian affirmed. “I’m sure we’ll figure out who that little girl belongs to soon.”
“I hope so. Di needs confirmation that her trust is warranted,” he sighed, pushing the door open. “You two all done, love?”
Di turned swiftly toward the doorway to see Brian enter behind Mart. “I think we’re all done with the tests but the doctor is supposed to come and talk to us,” she replied, rocking the baby back and forth. “I think Myriam will need a bottle soon,” she said quietly, watching Myriam’s rosebud lips pucker.
“Where’s Honey?” Brian inquired.
“She ran to the ladies’ room.”
Brian palmed the door and pushed out. “I’ll go find her and we’ll get a bottle from the nursery for Myriam. We’ll be back shortly.”
Mart and Di stood looking searchingly at one another as the door shut behind Brian.
He reached out a hand, gently cupping Di’s cheek. When she nuzzled her face into his hand, the tears that Mart had sniffed back earlier overflowed his eyes.
“I love you so very, very much, Di,” he vowed. “And I want to thank you for your belief and trust. I also want to swear to you that I am not this child’s father.”
Diana’s eyes glistened with tears. She placed a kiss on his hand holding her cheek. “I know that, you goose. I was just stunned and upset at the thought that someone would accuse you,” she offered. “I love you. We’re going to be married in two weeks and we’ll face each day together.”
Mart leaned in to put his forehead against his fiancée’s. “Together,” he affirmed. “Forever.”
After reporting the findings of his computer research to Chief Molinson, Dan drove straight to his uncle’s. Climbing the stairs to Regan’s apartment over the garage, Dan paused when his cell phone buzzed indicating a text message. Checking the screen, he noted the text was from his girlfriend, Bonnie Martin.
Running a splayed hand through his thick, dark hair, Dan sighed deeply and read the message.
Where R U?
Quickly he typed: Got called in.
Oh. On nights next 3. Call when U can. XO
Dan closed his eyes, ashamed to give her only part of the truth. Drawing another bracing breath, he typed: K. Miss U. XX
He stood on the landing by Regan’s front door for ten minutes, absorbing the sounds of the June night. Finally, he straightened his shoulders and knocked heavily on the door.
“Damn!” growled a deep voice. “Who is it?” Regan yelled.
“It’s me, Uncle Bill,” Dan hollered in reply. “I need to talk to you.”
The door jerked open to reveal Regan standing holding his bare foot in one hand rubbing his little toe, his unbuttoned jeans hanging off his narrow hips and a face full of reddish-brown stubble.
“Dan, what the hell?” he said gruffly. “You know it’s 2:30 in the morning, right?”
“Who is it?” a sleepy female voice called from Regan’s bedroom.
“It’s my nephew, Dan. Go back to sleep, baby,” Regan replied. Turning back to Dan, he asked grumpily, “What’s going on, Dan? You look like you’ve been pulled backwards through a knothole.”
“It’s a long story, Uncle Bill,” Dan admitted with a sigh. “Got any coffee?”
“This sounds like we may need something stronger,” Regan answered, hobbling on his bruised foot to shut the door. “Let’s go to the kitchen to see what we have.” Following Dan out of the room, he muttered, “This is gonna be a long night.”
Trixie sat curled up next to Jim on the couch watching Sherlock play with her squeaky hedgehog toy.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go into the office now, babe?” Jim said, unconsciously playing with the blonde curls brushing her shoulders.
“It’s kind of silly to go all that way tonight. I’ll run a quick trace on her from my laptop and if there is anything compelling that I need to dig into, we can do that before we stop and get the pastries.”
Sherlock pounced, causing an extremely loud squeak. So loud, in fact, it startled the young dog and she scrambled onto the couch. “And that’s the end of Hedgie for the night.” Trixie scooped up the toy and placed it up on the shelf. “Besides if we’d gone to my office, we would have had to leave Little Miss Thing here alone. We couldn’t have that, could we? She’s our baby. Be right back.”
“Where do you think mommy’s going?” Jim asked the dog.
Sherlock cocked her head and pricked up her ears. She sat up and put her front paws on Jim’s lap and stared at him.
“Yeah, don’t tell your momma, but I’m glad we came home. We can have some snuggle time,” he said and kissed the dog on the head.
Trixie came back into the living room carrying her laptop to find Jim making kissy noises at the dog. She placed the computer on the coffee table and booted it up as she settled back onto the couch. “So what are you two talking about?” Leaning forward she logged onto the secure site and entered her password. Quickly she was engrossed in the process of checking on one Elizabeth Ann Charles.
Knowing she was completely absorbed in the hunt, Jim leaned back and watched her work. “Hmm, what were we talking about? Well, Sherlock and I were discussing the chances the Yankees have to make the series this year.”
He grinned as the only response he received was a halfhearted, “Mmm.” She clicked rapidly through a series of pages, keying in information as needed.
Not sure how long she would put up with his ramblings, Jim continued his one sided conversation and Sherlock jumped off the couch and curled up in her dog bed. “I think it’s a sure thing the way Gardner has been hitting. But Sherlock thinks the bullpen is too broad, but I assured her Rivera had things all locked up.” So, mindless chatter doesn’t seem to fluster her; let’s see if she can still concentrate if I do this. With that thought, Jim began to run the back of his index finger along her hair line on the back of her neck. Tiny gentle caresses, light like butterfly kisses.
A few indistinct grumbles and several pages later, she hit a series of keys and whirled around. Catching Jim by surprise, she straddled his lap and accosted his lips.
The unexpected assault on his senses had him motionless, for about thirty seconds. Then Jim thrust his hands into her tousled curls and held her in place as he turned his attention to nibbling along her jaw line.
Trixie’s head tilted back to allow Jim better access to her neck and collarbone. Her hands moved of their own accord to the buttons on the front of Jim’s shirt. Unbuttoning several, her hands slipped inside to run across his muscled, supple chest.
Jim’s hands smoothed over her back and then toyed with the hem of her shirt.
The couple talked with their lips and hands for several minutes.
Breathing heavily, Trixie broke the passionate kiss and rested her forehead on Jim’s. As her breathing returned to normal, she sighed.
Hearing the sadness in her sigh, Jim reached up and gently lifted her chin up so they were looking eye to eye. “What’s wrong, Shamus? I hope it’s not my kisses,” he teased, trying to determine what she was thinking about.
“Oh trust me; it’s not your kisses,” she said, smiling faintly and sitting back on Jim’s lap. “Although you kind of ignored my right ear lobe. It feels left out.”
“By all means,” he leaned forward and placed a smacking kiss on Trixie’s right lobe. “If I know you, you’re thinking about Mart and Diana. Am I right?”
“I’m blown away by it all, Jim. It doesn’t make any sense. I mean it has to be a lie, but who would just drop their baby off? Mart’s name was on the birth certificate. But he’s doesn’t have money. If someone wanted to pull a scam, you’d be a better, more profitable target than a college professor who’s the son of a bank manager.” She ticked each item off on her fingers as she listed her thoughts.
“Baby, we’re going to figure this out. You’re right. It has to be a lie and in a few days, we’ll have the DNA test results and know for sure.” Jim reached out and brushed a wayward curl from her forehead. “I understand how hurt Di must be and, man, Mart was just a zombie until she came out of the house tonight. They love each other and I know they’ll work through this.”
Trixie was chewing on her lower lip, processing her thoughts. She reached out and fixed the buttons on Jim’s shirt. “I know they will, but it’s scary watching them go through this.”
She leaned down and rested her head on Jim’s chest. “Jim, what do you think would have happened if your name was on that paper?” she asked quietly.
Jim ran his fingers through her curls. “That’s easy. The Frayne family plot would have one more resident.”
She sat up and looked gravely into his eyes. “I’m serious.”
“So am I. You’d kill me first and ask questions later. But seriously, I haven’t wanted anyone else but you since we were teenagers.” He gathered her close and they entwined themselves on the couch.
After a few minutes, Trixie sat up. “I think we should go to bed. I want to grab the info I printed and look at it for a few minutes. Besides, we’ve got to be back at Crabapple Farm by 8:00 am, so we need a few hours of sleep.” She stood up and pulled on his hand.
“Twist my arm to spend the night. Maybe I should call and ask Miss Trask if it’s OK.”
“Go ahead, smarty, I dare you. I double dog dare you,” she teased as she turned the lights out in the living room and went towards her office. Seconds later she came out carrying several papers.
He grabbed her around the waist. “Nope, if only you’d triple dog dared me; I woulda had to do it for a triple dog dare. But you can read me a bedtime story all about a mean old witch who abandons babies.”
“Mmm.” She was already lost in the file, as Jim flipped the hallway light out and closed the bedroom door behind them.
Our lovely editors of Joycey, Kelly and Mylee make our stories sooooooo much better with their edits and suggestions. If there are boo-boos left in this story, they belong to us, Jenny and Jo.
Brett Gardner is a centerfielder for the NY Yankees.
Mariano “Mo” Rivera has been the pitching closer for the NY Yankees since 1997
The explanation of suspicion of shoplifting, misdemeanor, value $1499 is - If the value of the item is between $50 and $1,500, the crime is considered a misdemeanor and can include fines up to $4,000 and jail time for up to one year. However, if the value of the item is between $1,500 and $200,000, it is considered a felony. Punishments can be up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and every office and business ran on a mainframe computer, F1 was the “find” key. Some software manufacturers still use the function keys for assigned tasks.
Background is from allfreebackgrounds.com
Header and dividers created using MS Clipart manipulated by Jo
Word count – 2705