CHAPTER 22: Playing With Fire
I heard the sound of my tires squeal as I sped away from the Sheriff’s department at a formidable speed. My skin felt feverish and I didn’t bother to wipe away the hot tears rolling down my face in waves. I felt so incredibly alive. I to sc
ream! I wanted to take off on a sprint and run until I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I wanted to rip out a fistful of my hair, just to feel something other than what I was feeling right now. I had the urge to jump into the lake and let the cold water shock my system. This couldn’t be happening to me. Was this really possible? Did Dean Cummings kill my mother?
The dates match up and it’s the only viable explanation that made any sense. There was no doubt in my mind, that my
mom was a victim of the hit and run that went unreported. She went out for her evening walk, just as she did every night after dinner. But that night, she didn’t come back. She never would have deliberately left us. I was only 3 and Jade was just a baby. She was the best mother anyone could have asked for. It would have taken an act of God, for her not to return home. Someone ended her life. Her beautiful, young life. Then covered it up so that they wouldn’t have to pay the consequences. I felt like my world was spinning off its axis and I was catapulted into some sort of alternate universe. Was this for real?
I looked at my reflection in the rearview mirror, I didn’t even recognise the crazed woman staring back at me. Heavy black smears of eye makeup ran down my face and my skin was flushed red. I noticed the police cruiser still tailing me at a distance. I reached for my cell phone after I heard it start to buzz in my purse. It was a text from Rob. “Please come over. It’s life or death.”
If he only knew, I thought to myself. Before I could respond, a second text from Rob popped up. “I have to see you. Its urgent. Can you meet me at Manor Hill? Please hurry!”
I dialled Rob’s cell phone number. No answer. I tried a second time and then a third time. Still no answer. What was this about? I wondered if Rob had put the pieces of the puzzle together on his own somehow and wanted to talk to me about it. Maybe he finally broke down over his fathers death and needed a shoulder to cry on. The truth was, I didn’t care. Not at this moment. At this moment all I could think about was the distraction I craved. Anything that would take away this pain in my heart, this emptiness inside me.
I quickly make a U-turn down the middle of 24th street in downtown Greenbriar and change direction, west toward Manor Hill. I look in my rearview mirror to see the police cruiser still on my tail about a block behind. I thought for sure, he would have pulled me over for making the unexpected U-turn in the busy downtown intersection. Apparently, being the Sheriff’s daughter really does allow you to get away with bad behaviour.
I turn up the volume on my car speakers to a deafening level. Hoping the music would be loud enough to drown out my racing thoughts. My music was playing on random and I listened as Mick Jagger’s sultry purr filled my jeep with the lyrics of ‘Miss You’.
After my heart pulsating, angst filled drive, I pulled into Manor Hill. I don’t know if it’s possible but the sky seemed especially dark. Darker than normal, no moonlight from any direction. In fact, now that I thought about it, I couldn’t even find the moon. It didn’t help that Manor Hill did not have any of its usual grandiose light fixtures turned on. The only car parked in the drive was Rob’s black Mercedes.
There was no answer upon ringing the doorbell, so I let myself into the foyer, via the unlocked front doors. “Rob!” I yelled into the vast entryway. No response. Something felt off. Very, very off. I promised myself a long time ago never to ignore my gut instincts. Natures way of telling you wether to ‘fight or flight’. And right now, every fibre of my being was alerting me of a looming danger. I pulled my purse in close to the side of my body. I quickly felt around in my side pocket to make sure my military knife and mace, were readily available. I noticed headlights from the police cruiser as they made their way at a steady pace down the drive. Strange. When I was here earlier, the officer on duty waited for me on the street, in front of the mansion. Almost like a polite gesture.
“Rob?” I yelled out again into the darkness. Once again, no response.
I took a few more steps, when I noticed the unmistakable scent of gasoline hovering in the air like a thick cloud. The smell became stronger and I felt a cold chill work its way up from the base of my spine. I wrapped my arms tightly around my body and called out his name again. “Rob!” Louder this time. When he didn’t respond, I knew. I had been set up. I turned back toward the front doors, prepared to take off in a sprint and alert the officer outside. When I saw him.
“Where do you think you’re going Ms. Parker?” Mayor Bracket stood in the doorway. He had a crazed look in his eyes and his usual business suit looked especially rumpled with his neck tie loosened. I knew right at that moment, Rob didn’t send me those texts, Mayor Bracket did. And it was him, who followed me to Manor Hill in the police cruiser, not Toby.
“Mayor Bracket? What are you doing here? Where’s Toby?” I asked already knowing the answer. It was obvious that playing dumb was my best measure of defence for the moment.
He crept closer to me and tilted his head to the side as he spoke in an almost playful manner. “I think you already know the answer to that. You and your team of second rate detectives have been working very hard trying to nail me to the cross.” He smelled of acrid sweat as he abrasively grabbed my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “Well, here I am. Now what are you gonna do with me?”
I wondered exactly how long Mayor Bracket had been following my every move. This was no time to panic, I had to think fast. I had to fight. It was clear I was on my own here.
“ROB!!” I began screaming his name this time at the top of my lungs to distract the Mayor as I quickly reached into the side pocket of my purse as my thumb felt the familiar round centre ‘record’ button on my digital voice recorder. I pushed in the button as a last ditch effort to capture any sort of confession that may come my way. If he killed me, there was still a chance my recorder could be found, it was worth a shot.
Before I knew it, he pulled me into a stranglehold. “He can’t hear you. He’s sound asleep.” Mayor Bracket said, pulling me further into the house as he pushed me down into one of the dining room chairs, like a rag doll.
“What did you do to him?” I demanded. Without thinking I stomped down on his foot as hard as I could and with as much strength as I could muster, I punched him in the nose with my right hand. If he thought I would go down without a fight, he was sorely mistaken. My fist was screaming in pain from the impact of the punch. I think I hurt my hand far worse than I hurt his nose…