“’Is Little Elk really pissed’ is an understatement Sarah,” Ryan confided with a laugh. But his face grew red again and I couldn’t help but feel it hadn’t been a pleasant conversation for him and I sincerely hoped he wouldn’t get into any real trouble for our having decided to stay here this weekend. It wasn’t Ryan’s fault; he had no control of us or our actions but Little Elk might not see it the same way.
Adam was up searching through the pantry and the fridge, inventorying supplies I was sure. I looked at Ryan and said, “Would you like to go outside to the patio Ryan? We could take our plates out there.” He nodded eagerly and soon we were sitting outside in the warm sun on the patio, the light reflecting back to us off the pool.
Ryan scanned the whole area, how the natural rock wall surrounded most of this area and provided privacy as well as some security. The rock wall formed a loose ‘C’ around the area with the pool at the open end and extending to the left with the hot tub joined to it at the upper side near the house. The patio table sat just to the back of the house side of the pool while the barbeque area sat to the bottom right of the pool. On the opposite side were the steps leading down to the beach. He again looked up towards the hill where the security people were and scrutinized it carefully.
I inwardly smiled because he was apparently a cop through and through; not quite able to stop checking things out. I’ve never really known a cop before and I liked this young man a great deal already and that made me think again about Little Elk.
“So, what did Little Elk have to say Ryan?”
He ears immediately turned red again as he remembered Little Elks words. He cleared his throat and said, “Let’s just say that he is not a happy man this weekend and when that 6’5” Comanche gets pissed it’s never a good thing.”
I wondered if it would help if I told him I’m an eighth Cherokee I thought facetiously. “Is he your boss?”
“Yep. He is the head of the detectives. He never gives up on a case. I almost pity whoever is doing this to you because he won’t stop until he has got them. Did you ever see the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Sarah?”
“Yeah I did. It’s one of my favorite movies in fact.”
He nodded his head and smiled, his eyes gazing at a faraway place. “Do you remember the Indian guy, Lord Baltimore who tracked them over impossible places and always managed to follow them?”
I nodded and he continued, “Well that guy ain’t got nothin’ on Little Elk!”
“Oh dear. Or maybe I should say fantastic. I’m not totally sure. But he understands that you had no control over what we decided to do doesn’t he?”
“Nope. He’s still probably figuring that Adam is going to cave and come back because of what he said to him. Let’s face it, not too many people cross him. He’ll calm down a bit over the weekend thankfully, before I see him on Monday.”
I was frowning, thinking about it. It was our decision and Ryan had nothing to say about it; had no choice in the matter at all in fact and it seemed unreasonable that Little Elk would hold it against him. I suddenly realized I felt like a mother protecting her young!
Ryan had watched my face and suddenly said, “Hey Sarah, he’ll get over it. He won’t fire me or anything.” And under his breath I distinctly heard him mutter “I hope!”
Adam came out carrying a plate and his bottle of water and sat them down on the table and then pulled a chair up for himself. He had changed into a pair of khaki shorts and a turquoise colored tee shirt. He looked wonderful in it and I saw that his hair was a bit wet, so he must have taken a quick shower before changing.
We brought Adam in on the conversation about Little Elk and Adam grinned ridiculously over it, before he laughed out right. “I’m afraid he is probably a little dismayed over me then.”
“Why? What did he say to you on the phone?” I asked, beginning to worry all over for Ryan.
“He just told me that it was impossible for us to stay here and pointed out several reasons for it and that he would meet us at the airport when we arrived back in Dallas. That’s when I told him we couldn’t do that. I think I heard him saying something about ‘you will do it’ when I hung up the phone. Yes, I’m sure he’s a bit angry.”
Ryan smiled at that and said, “It’s a good thing I didn’t bring my cell phone. It’s a department phone so I left it in Dallas. He’d be driving me crazy right about now.”
“He has our numbers. Adam, did you check yours? I turned mine off this morning, but it’s in my purse. I should probably check it though, for messages other than Detective Little Elk's!” I got up to go in and grab my phone.
Adam called out to me, “I had 3 messages from him love. I, uh haven’t listened to them yet.” He looked at Ryan and smiled; his eyes were definitely twinkling.
As I walked away I heard Adam tell Ryan that if he needed to use the phone for any reason to feel free to use any of the house phones and as I slid the screen door closed behind me I heard Ryan thank him.
As I walked past the kitchen, the phone rang there and I saw that it was William. I called out to Adam and said, “Adam, William is calling, shall I answer it?” and he said yes so I picked it up.
“Hello,” I said into the phone.
“Ah Sarah, its William Patton. Is Adam available?”
“Yes, he’s on his way in actually. Can you hold on for a minute?” I stood there for a moment holding the receiver and Adam walked it and took it from me, but not before kissing me briefly. He and William were already chatting by the time I was in the bedroom.
I opened my purse and pulled out my phone. It took a few seconds for it to power up and start searching for messages and while that was happening I decided to change into my swimsuit and maybe swim a bit. By the time I had changed and found the sunscreen, I saw that I had 7 messages. I wondered how many were from Little Elk. I have never had that many messages before in my life; not on my personal phone that is.
I scrolled through the list of messages and saw 3 from Little Elk; at least he’s consistent I thought with a laugh. I also had one each from mom and dad, Lissa, Derek and Cassie. I decided to take the phone with me downstairs and call them from outside. At least I could sit in the warm sunshine while talking to them.
I was almost ready to head outside when Adam came into the room and smiled at me in my bathing suit appreciatively. He pulled me to him for a kiss and said, “I like this!”
“Just remember we aren’t alone here! We have what seems to be a very earnest young man staying with us who probably has ears like an antelope!” I laughed.
“That could put a cramp into our style couldn’t it my love? We’ll just have to make love very, very quietly. Shall we practice now love, hm?” he asked while nuzzling my neck.
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I told him all the while leaning my head back so that he might get to my neck a bit more easily.
The phone rang then; the house phone and Adam reluctantly pulled his mouth away from my neck and looked at it. “It’s Mrs. Barber. I hope nothing is wrong,” he said before answering.
I watched as he frowned while he listened to her talk and then asked her if she needed any help with the groceries. After a small pause he told her that Ryan would come out to help and then hung the phone up.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“The press are camped outside the house, a half dozen cars. I guess they realized that we didn’t go back to Dallas. I’m going to ask Ryan to help her get the groceries in and then we are going to close the doors and ignore them. C’mon,” he said, holding his hand out to me.
We walked downstairs and found Ryan standing by the steps down to the beach and watching some of the paparazzi as they wandered out onto the beach looking for a vantage point from which to take pictures. He looked over his shoulder at us as we came back out and said, “We’ve got company.”
“Yes, in fact if I could ask for you indulgence for a moment Ryan? Mrs. Barber is in the driveway, with the press surrounding her. Could you go out and grab the groceries from her so that she can be on her way? It would help a great deal.”
Ryan headed into the house and up the stairs with Adam and I following behind. He peeked out the windows out front before opening the door. “Holy moley, they are everywhere.” He turned to look at Adam and asked, “Don’t they ever leave you alone?”
Adam dryly answered “Occasionally.”
Ryan said, “Step back,” and then opened the door and stepped out into the flash of a dozen cameras. That activity quickly stopped when they realized it wasn’t Adam, but the questions started then. He told them all “No comment” and when that didn’t help he flashed his badge and said, “You all are trespassing. If you don’t want to spend a little time in jail, I’d suggest you head out of here. And keep in mind that it’s a private beach folks, okay?” he said, smiling a mile wide.
None had been close enough or quick enough to notice that the badge was from Dallas and not local and it seemed to have some effect. They withdrew to the land across the road. They would probably migrate up to the hill as well.
“They are going to go up on the hill aren’t they?” I asked solemnly.
“They’ll try yes. It is public access ground, but I’ll call the local police and they will keep them at bay. William has already informed them that there are security people up there and about the death threat. They will take care of it, I’m sure.”
We watched as Ryan headed back to the house carrying a dozen plastic grocery bags. He looked like some sort of surrealistic beast of burden with weird appendages everywhere. Adam opened the door quickly and in he came. Mrs. Barber was already pulling out of the drive as Adam and I were grabbing bags from him. We shut and locked the door before taking the groceries downstairs.
On the way I laughed and commented “I like how you just flashed that badge there Detective! Very impressive.”
Ryan gave a silly and ridiculous grin, “Well, what good does it do if you can’t flash it around every now and then?” He laughed and added, “At least they didn’t notice it wasn’t a California badge!”
In the kitchen we put away groceries and I practically drooled when I saw the wonderful steaks that Adam was going to prepare for dinner. And Mrs. Barber had bought huge potatoes to bake to go with them and bags of salad. My mouth was watering and I didn’t think I could wait another minute to eat.
For tomorrow it looked like there was chicken and ribs and lots of fresh veggies to grill to go with them. Oh, it was going to be heavenly I decided.
“Did you give her some money to pay for all this?” I asked when I ran across the receipt and saw that she had spent nearly $150 dollars on all this.
“No, she has a household account credit card she uses,” he told me with a smile. I raised my eyebrows at that but I wasn’t really surprised to hear it I guess. She had to have some way of taking care of things when Adam wasn’t here.
Adam called William before we got started with preparations and told him about the paparazzi camped outside. William evidently told him he would get on it and Adam hung the phone up and started to get things organized for dinner.
“So how long until dinner?” I wheedled, just like one of the boys.
He cast a glance at the clock; it was almost four o’clock, a little early to eat, but since other than the snack we hadn’t eaten all day I think he decided his stomach had waited long enough. “Let’s get those potatoes washed and into the oven. They’ll take close to an hour to bake, so we might as well get started.
He had me wash them and then poke holes in them before coating them with butter and rolling them in kosher salt in preparation to baking. I sat them on a baking sheet in the oven and soon they were baking away, to all our satisfaction. Adam put Ryan to work snipping fresh chives to go with the sour cream and I started working on the asparagus. I loved fresh asparagus and it reminded me of the night at Pappas Brothers restaurant in Dallas.
After Ryan had successfully snipped the chives and still had all his fingers, Adam put him to work chopping vegetables for a salad, while he got the steaks ready. The phone rang again and I saw that it was William yet again as I picked it up.
“Yes, just a minute,” I told him, handing the phone to Adam. He talked with William for several minutes before hanging up and when he got off the phone he told us what William had said.
“He called the Laguna Beach police department and was eventually connected to Detective Roberts. Do you remember her love?”
I nodded yes, but it was a miracle that all the police weren’t running together in my mind. But she specifically stood out because of how she dealt with Rachel. She didn’t take any of Rachel’s histrionics and I was impressed by that, but then she still questioned Tamara and I had hated that, even if I understood it.
“Well, she may drop by later, but in the meantime the police are going to move the reporters along. They will say that hanging around on that hill over there,” he nodded his head in the general direction of it, “is considered loitering and if they go out on the beach in back of the house they can be arrested for trespass. This should keep them mostly at bay, enough for a peaceful weekend anyway. Also, William has let it be known that I will be giving an interview on Sunday for a few reporters and that anyone viewed as ‘unfriendly’ would certainly have no chance at attending that interview. That will help too.”
“So who is Detective Roberts?” Ryan asked.
We told him all about her and he nodded in approval. “She was very professional Ryan and helpful,” I added, “But the police, over all, well it’s been a very frustrating situation, that’s all.”
“Why is that Sarah?” he asked sincerely. And I could tell he was really interested in the answer.
I thought back to the night in Texas when we found the rat and the diatribe that had run through my mind then. Those thoughts hadn’t ever really gone away since then and I took a deep breath while trying to decide if I really wanted to tell him. Despite the fact that I liked him, he was one of ‘them’. Adam had sat down at the breakfast bar and was twisting his almost empty bottle of water around in his hands and he watched me as I tried to make my mind up. In the end, I decided that my mind had been made up when I had first mentioned the situation; I was going to talk about it. Maybe it would help hearing it from the police perspective.
“Ryan,” I began slowly, trying to choose my words carefully. “It’s a frustrating situation, for everyone. I understand that, but we have now dealt with police in Italy, Wichita, here, and Texas and while everyone is courteous and takes copious notes in their notebooks and asks all sorts of questions, nothing changes. The notebooks are always the same,” I told him, seeing him smile at that but taking no offense, “And the questions are pretty much the same, but nothing helps. It’s not that we don’t think you are doing your jobs, it’s just that, well, there isn’t really anything that helps, clues I guess I mean. So at a certain point we just have to wonder, why bother? Last night, when Adam got that call we came pretty close to not calling, we did.”
“Sarah, Adam, you haven’t withheld anything have you?” he asked, clearly alarmed.
We both shook our heads no, in unison. Adam answered, “No, we haven’t but last night I had to wonder if it would do any real good – if it would provide any help, that’s all.”
“I understand how you feel about that, how frustrated you get. But look at the clues we got last night. The phone and note and that hair which could provide DNA evidence. Those are huge things, you need to remember that. And we will try to work on electronically enhanced voices and see if you can identify a type.”
“Yes Ryan but what good will that do? It is almost a given now that it was electronically enhanced so is it going to tell us who? It’s not likely to,” Adam finished.
“What it might be able to tell us is what kind of equipment it was done on, which will help to tell us where. Not every place has access to every kind of equipment.”
“You’re dealing with a movie studio Ryan; there is all sorts of amazing equipment available.”
“Yes but does everyone have access to it? Are there any kinds of checks for who is where? I feel sure there must be.”
Adam grimaced as he thought about all that. He was resting his head in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair with both of his hands and sighed. “Maybe, maybe…” He glanced at his watch and said, “It’s time for me to get the grill going, excuse me.” He was very formal again, his protective shield fully in place and he needed to retreat a bit. I said nothing as he headed out doors.
“Is he okay Sarah?”
“Yeah, he just needs a little bit of time Ryan. He’ll be okay. My daughter is in school to become a doctor and one of the things she said she has come to recognize is that doctors often forget what it is like to be the patient because they are so wrapped up in being the doctor. I would have to say that police seem to have that same characteristic too.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand exactly,” he told me.
“Just that, you all see it from a very clinical point of view. It’s very cut and dried to you and you know that by methodically following policies and procedures you have the best luck at solving the crime. And I’m sure that does work the most often. But you forget what it’s like to be on this side of it all Ryan.” I looked at him and he was almost shocked and I reached across and took his hand for a moment. He looked up at me and I could see that he was thinking about what I had said. “When you are on this side it is very different. You are scared and confused and in our situation, fearful of whom we can trust and who we can’t. So we tend to stick with those people that we instinctively can trust, like Tamara, but in your methodical means of solving crimes, you don’t have that luxury of trust I’m sure. You can’t tell me Ryan that part of the reason you are here today isn’t to observe these other people,” I finished and absurdly I found a tear running down my face.
“It’s all part of the process Sarah. Someone is doing this and sometimes it’s easier to rule people out to cut down the number of suspects. Yes, I’m here partly to do just that. But I am also here to help you and Adam. Little Elk disagrees, but he did let me come. Sarah that first night I met you, you sort of went straight to my conscience. You were so upset, understandably so, but it seemed more than that. And I felt very ineffectual about what we were doing. As a police officer we must remain impartial and I haven’t lost that, but it is important to me to solve this. You made a comment earlier, about you and me coming from the ordinary world. Well, we do, but he doesn’t and you’re with him so there must be something special to that guy. Sarah,” he told me as he looked straight into my eyes, “We will figure this all out, I promise.”
“Now,” he told me with a smile as he headed over to the phone, “I think I need to call Little Elk and see what if anything is going on. Give him a chance to yell at me some more, it’s like releasing a pressure valve,” he laughed.
I nodded and headed outside where Adam was messing with the grill. I couldn’t see anyone hanging around our here and that was a pleasing thought.
“Hi,” I told him as I put my arm around his waist. He was using a wire brush on the racks in preparation to preheating the grill.
He looked down at me and smiled, but it was a sad smile all the same. “Where is our young detective,” he asked, looking around me.
“Braving the lion,” I laughed. “He is calling Little Elk, says it’s best to let him yell a bit, like a pressure valve. Are you okay Adam? With him being here I mean?” It’s not exactly like we could change that. I mean, I guess we could refuse to let him stay here, but he’d probably camp out at the beach or something equally as ridiculous.
“Yeah, yeah, I am. I rather like him, but it’s all frustrating Sarah. I just can’t stop it all from going through my head. I’ve got that voice on my mind and it’s driving me insane. Maybe not a far trip, eh?”
So that’s what was going on – he was thinking about the voice. I felt an immediate sense of relief that it wasn’t about Ryan being here at the house. I wondered if he had figured out the same thing that I had though, that part of the reason he was here was to observe the other people in our life. I decided that if he hadn’t, now was not the moment to add that into his already busy brain. I watched him ignite the grill and then we headed back in to get the steaks and found Ryan, ears red again listening to Little Elk and taking notes – in his notebook I noticed with a smile.
We tried to ignore him as I got the asparagus ready to steam and Adam was seasoning the steaks. We talked quietly to each other about getting to see the game tomorrow and how excited we were about it. I knew that we both wished we could see them all, but we didn’t voice that to each other; it would do no good.
“Have you ever made Hollandaise sauce love? Do you know how?” he asked me as I was checking to see if the water was steaming yet.
“No and no. Not a clue. Do you want some?”
“It’s not really necessary, for me anyway. What do you think about Ryan?”
“I would bet he doesn’t even know what it is Adam. And the asparagus with a bit of butter and seasoning is my favorite way. And lemon and I know we have some. That should be fine. Actually, I’m not even sure he has ever had asparagus, judging from the way he looked at it. I think this is a hamburger and French fry kind of guy here, with maybe some salsa thrown in.”
He got off the phone then and said, “Did I hear someone mention salsa? I LIKE salsa!”
“But do you like asparagus?” I quipped.
“I don’t know,” he told me with a huge laugh. “But I’ll pretty much eat anything that doesn’t eat me first!”
Adam smiled at me out of the corner of his eyes and for the first time today I saw the dimples. I reached up and pulled his head down to kiss him and he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. “Close your eyes for a moment Ryan!” he teased and proceeded to kiss my thoroughly, leaving me breathless.
Ryan of course watched the whole thing and laughed about it. “Glad to know that I still have something to look forward to when I’m your age,” he joked.
I just looked into Adams eyes and he mouthed ‘I love you’ and I did the same thing back to him. I could hear the pan of water gurgling as it came to a boil and Adam released me to go put the steaks on the grill. Ryan followed him outside. After all, that is the manly thing to do, hang around the grill. I wondered what Little Elk had said, but I supposed we would hear sometime, if he had any new information that was.
I threw the asparagus in and then went to the door and asked them if they wanted to eat outside because it was still so beautiful out. The sun would be setting in an hour and it would be breathtaking to watch. They both said yes so I gathered up plates and utensils and all the other necessary accoutrements and placed them on the counter to take outside with me. I was pulling the salad out of the fridge and fretting over what kind of dressing Ryan wanted when he came back in to see about getting some plates.
“What kind of salad dressing Ryan?”
“Ranch?” he asked and I smiled and nodded my head.
I grabbed it out along with the blue cheese for Adam and I and the lemon for the asparagus. And then the timer was going off signaling that it was ready and I grabbed the pot off the stove and turned the burner off and prepared to dish it up.
Ryan was hanging over my shoulder, looking at it and finally said, “Hey, that smells pretty good!” and I had to laugh at that.
“Ryan, grab the butter out of the fridge for me please, I forgot it. It’s in that compartment there in the door. Yes, right there,” I indicated when he had his hand in the right spot. He brought it over as I was rolling the lemon on the counter top to get the juice flowing in it. I laid the asparagus out on a deep plate and dropped some butter onto it and then squeezed the lemon juice all over it. Salt and pepper and it was ready.
Adam was calling for the plates and Ryan said, “Oops, I forgot!” and was headed out the door, plates in his hand.
I grabbed the asparagus and salad and headed out the door with them. As I sat them down on the table I saw Adam pulling the steaks off of the grill and noticed that Ryan was watching with rapt attention. I suspected we had unwittingly added another ‘honorary Richland’ to the family. I headed back in and put everything else on a big tray and carried it out. At the last minute I added 3 beers because I thought we could all use them.
Adam immediately grabbed one, popped the cap and took a long drink. Ryan just stared at it and I could tell he was trying to decide whether or not to drink it. I thought he was probably sort of feeling like he was ‘on duty’ and so was having a mental debate about it. I decided to make a joke and asked him, “Do I need to see your ID young man?”
He laughed and shook his head and said, “No, but I don’t know if I should drink that or not. I probably need to keep a clear head, just in case.”
Adam asked, “Will one beer relieve you of your clear head Ryan? If you feel so you won’t offend us, but on the other hand if you just want to relax a bit, go ahead. You have back up,” he said, nodding to the hill.
“Seriously Ryan, can I get you something else to drink? We’ve got some diet Coke and there is always water,” I offered.
“I think I would feel better if I had the diet Coke, if you don’t mind,” he told us apologetically.
“Not a bit,” I said and got him one. We all sat down and started passing the dishes around. Ryan wasn’t shy and I was right about his appetite. I told them my thought about the Richland appetite and after we explained it to him he laughed so hard tears were streaming from his eyes.
“Now you see, that’s just a Texas kind of appetite. Every healthy Texas boy has one and the Texas girls too.”
“Well Ryan, you are with the right people for the weekend, anyway!” Adam jested good-naturedly. “So what did our fine Little Elk have to say? Can you tell us?”
Ryan immediately blushed a bright rosy red and I knew that at least part of what he had said wouldn’t be passed on to us. He laughed and said, “Each time I talk to him it will get a bit better. But - ,” he said, taking a drink of his diet Coke, “We did get to review the security tapes from the convenience store. And we did see the purchase of the phone.”
“And let me guess,” I stated. “It was someone wearing a blue hoodie, right?”
“Well, yes it was, but there are several shots and they are running them through analysis and enhancement to see if they can get a better look at the face of the person. They could tell that the person is about 5’8” or 5’9”, so that helps.”
Adam and I immediately looked at one another. The person from the pictures in Italy was shorter than that they had determined and that agreed with Adam’s and my perception of the person who ran past us and the eyewitness accounts.
Adam and I looked at each other in alarm. Together we said, “So there are two of them!”
Copyright 2006 Cynthia Hope Hodge