The Right of Casey Clipper to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
First Published 2017
Copyright © Casey Clipper 2017
Published by NTJ Publishing
Hannah had won the argument. She’d gone toe to toe with her husband and beloved father-in-law and walked away the victor. But now? She was bored as hell. She sat in a car, across the street from the Ohio home, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. She let out a long, suffering sigh.
Jason and Mr. Campbell were at a bar, following the Dean and Nick’s person of interest. Yet she sat here, staring at a lifeless home, with no activity happening behind the four walls.
She glanced at her cell phone. Probably another couple hours of mind-numbing boredom were in store for her. Her head hit the headrest. “Ugh, so bored.”
She shifted in the driver’s seat, her eyes flicking to the front door again. The home wasn’t in bad shape but the age of the structure showed in the shutters that needed a new coat of paint, the worn front porch that also needed refinished, the patch job on the roof, and the siding that should be replaced.
A man came out of the home two doors down and stood on his front porch, his head swinging the direction of her car, his eyes zeroing in on her. His glare she could see and feel from that far away. She laughed. Okay, maybe things were looking up. Her hand came up to give him a wave but she snapped it down. No reason to have him remember her. She really needed to get this whole private investigator thing down. She wasn’t exactly the incognito type. Well, at least when she wasn’t wearing a full body cat suit and head mask, prepared to rob a jewelry story.
She sighed, again. How she missed those days. The adrenaline running through her veins. The unknown of what might happen. The thrill of snagging hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds and getting away with it. Man, she was debilitatingly bored.
She watched the man spin and march back into his house. Interesting. He only came outside to look at her car? The neighbors must be onto her. Or them? Jason, Mr. Campbell, and her had been watching the home for a couple of weeks. Shit that wasn’t a good thing. It meant that the person they’d been watching would be given a heads up, sooner rather than later.
Hannah glanced at the home again, her mind easily slipping to a place it hadn’t been in months. The place where instinct took over. For her. Jason’s rational voice tried to join her, warning her not to venture back to the days she left behind, but she pushed him out the door, slamming and locking it.
She climbed out of the car, scanning her surroundings. Luckily she wore moveable clothing. Dressed in black leggings, a black form-fitting long-sleeved black T-shirt, and high-heeled boots, she was ever the infamous jewelry thief. Well, except for the small baby bump that had formed not that long ago. She’d woken one morning and suddenly the baby decided to show him or herself. She and Jason had been stunned. Jason had been dancing around the house, kissing her swollen belly non-stop. She’d finally had to put a halt to it because the overzealous touching became a bit too much. Though she had to admit, dressing around the bump was kind of cool.
She jogged across the street, going straight for the back of the house. Yes, she had the skill set to run in heels. Another task she trained herself in. Though she had worn flats in the past, since marrying Jason, she preferred heels. She began running short distances in them for something to do. Even though she left her jewelry thieving days behind, that didn’t mean she had to let herself become rusty, right? Learning to run in heels was something every woman should know. At least, that’s what she told herself and Roy, when he caught her doing sprints up and down the steps. He’d shaken his head and called her nuts and went back to his bedroom.
Hannah climbed the couple steps to the dilapidated back porch, opened the squeaky screen door, and knocked. Had to be sure no one was actually home. Breaking and entering 101.
No one answered.
She went to the window next to the door, her boots clicking off the wood, and planted her face against the glass, peering inside. The house was dark, with no movement.
She pulled out her black leather gloves that conveniently were tucked into her boots and slid them on. Nothing like being back home. She tested the window, pushing up on the frame, and it gave with virtually no effort. Dumbasses.
Hannah stealthily crawled through the window. “Honey, I’m home.”
Nothing. Not even a cat came to greet her.
She pulled her cell phone out of the waistband of her pants, opening up the camera app. She surveyed her surroundings. The house’s interior resembled the exterior. A place that needed some TLC. The walls needed a fresh coat of paint, the white now a yellow. A stale stench of cigarettes made her stomach roll. Her hand flew to her mouth, blocking herself from pitching up her lunch. Baby not a fan of nicotine. “Gross.”
The furniture was old and dirty and the pictures that hung on the walls all had something wrong with them. Cracked glass or a missing piece of frame or water marked. The carpet was worn in places that holes revealed the old padding underneath.
Hannah slowly made her way through the living room, snapping pictures of random objects. There wasn’t anything that she considered to be noteworthy. There wasn’t mail strewn about or items laying around. Just a film of dust covering the furniture.
She made a left and found herself in what was supposed to be the dining room. This room held a bit of more interesting items. Empty beers cans stacked and discarded lay on the long wood table that had seen better days. She clicked away. She could envision Jason crinkling his nose at the cheap beer of choice.
On a hunch, she wandered over to the left corner of the room, where a stack of mail sat untouched on a cabinet. All delivered to Mr. Harry Conley. Bills upon bills. Not a surprise considering how in debt the man was. Too bad he didn’t have the financial sense of his twin or sister. She snapped more pictures and snagged a bill or two or three.
Hannah made her way to the kitchen, opening the fridge that held almost nothing. More beer, a half gallon of milk, and cheese. And the inside needed cleaned. Ewww. Was that mold? She clicked one picture and slammed the door shut.
She roamed around the first floor, enjoying her time of breaking and entering. It had felt like years since she’d had this rush that made her body tingle from the inside out, in that good naughty way that told a person they were doing something majorly wrong. That little angel on the shoulder that most people listened to. The one that always wagged a finger at her and tsked. She was a party pooper and Hannah hated her.
Hannah climbed the steps, glancing at the time on her phone. She’d been in the house for twenty minutes with no sign that anyone was returning soon. Jason or Mr. Campbell hadn’t even checked in. Which was unusual because they didn’t trust her not to do something stupid. Like breaking into the house they were supposed to be watching.
She shrugged. “Oh well. He knew who he was marrying.”
The first room she came to was the bathroom. Again, a room that needed cleaning. Dirty sink, toilet, and shower had Hannah cringing, but didn’t stop her from checking the inside of the medicine cabinet, which only contained toothpaste and aspirin.
She found the master bedroom and stood in the doorway, observing the space. It looked lived in, as if the room was the only space that warranted any type of cleanliness from its occupant. And oddly enough, it looked as if the bed had two people sleeping in it. Which was weird, considering they’d only seen Harry coming and going from the place.
She went to the dresser and took pictures of all the items strewn about, including turnpike toll receipts with dates and timestamps. She rummaged through drawers, filling her phone with picture after picture. Under the bed, she found an earring.
It took her another twenty minutes to make a complete tour of the bedroom. She explored the remainder of the second floor, not finding much in items, until she opened the door of a spare bedroom.
Hannah stepped inside the barren room, confused. Taped to the far, paint chipped wall, were aged newspaper clippings. She slowly approached the wall, like she was encroaching a cranky lion. Dread washed over her. Who has newspaper articles taped to a wall like a serial killer? Except a serial killer.
She stopped in front of the dozens upon dozens of old newspapers used as wall art. Her mouth dropped open, a small gasp escaping. Every single article was a story on Dean, Erin’s accident, or the police investigation. Why the hell would Harry have these in this rented home? Where did he get them? They’d clearly been there for a while.
Hannah skimmed over each story, tears dripping from her eyes at the recounts of Dean’s nightmare that had forever changed the man. How could he even be functioning? She wanted to plop down on the dirty floor and cry for her friend. But now and here wasn’t the time or place. She’d have to cry into her husband’s shoulder later, after he reprimanded her for her illegal break-in.
She took the pictures of the wall and each article, making sure to zoom in. She finished quickly, needing to get the hell out of the house. Too much time had been spent inside the structure. She left the same way she came in. When she was safe inside her car, Hannah cried, hard. A body wrenching sob for her friend and the wife he’d lost. She never knew Erin, but she loved and adored Dean, who had accepted her as Jason’s wife, knowing her past and how she screwed over the department. He managed to put all of that behind them and treated her as a dear friend.
Hannah cried until she couldn’t cry any more. She lifted her head in time to watch Harry’s car pull into the driveway of the home. She wouldn’t stay. There was no reason to at this point. She got information they wouldn’t have unless she’d broken into the home. She’d write a report and give it to her husband, along with the pictures.
She drove away, calling Jason, who answered on the first ring. “Are you all right?”
Her voice cracked. “No.”
“Is it the baby?”
“No,” she said softly. “It’s Dean.”