The clock on Katie’s computer read six and the office staff was beginning their nightly migration home. The afternoon had been a productive one. In the few hours after lunch Katie had hunted down several promising leads for her next story. She would start researching them tomorrow. For now, she just wanted to go home and relax. She gathered her things then shut down her computer and left her cubicle. She stopped by Nicole’s desk to say goodbye but Nicole was chatting on the phone. Katie gave her a quick wave then headed down the hall towards the elevators.
“Katie, wait,” Nicole called out just before she pushed the down button.
Katie turned to see Nicole running down the hall. “What’s
“Hey, what are your plans for tonight?”
“A glass of wine and a hot date with a fictional man,” Katie quipped. Since her breakup with Brandon she had delved into binge reading the types of cheesy romance novels that would make her Lit professors cringe.
“Oh, that can wait. Let’s go out and celebrate our front- page articles.” Nicole smiled.
Katie sighed. “Nicole, we don’t know that they’re front page.”
“Yes, we do. Bob just sent out the lineup for tomorrow’s edition. We’re both front page. Didn’t you check?”
Katie glanced down at her phone. Sure enough, there was an email notification from her boss. She quickly opened it and scanned the letter. “Right as usual, Nicole.”
Nicole smiled. “So, let’s go out and celebrate. We can go to June’s,” Nicole said, referring to June Wine Bar in Brooklyn.
Katie considered denying the invitation, but the pleading look in Nicole’s eyes convinced her not to. “Okay, but I can’t stay out too late. I have to work tomorrow.”
Nicole rolled her eyes. “Well duh, so do I. So, how about I pick you up at seven-thirty. That’ll give you time to change, right?”
“Yeah,” Katie replied. She’d have to hurry home.
“Great. Wear something sexy,” Nicole commanded then headed back to her cubicle.
Katie shook her head then got on the elevator. A few minutes later she was out on the street, hustling back to her apartment.
Katie arrived at her apartment aching and out of breath fifteen minutes later. Her complex was only ten blocks from the office. Usually her walk was leisurely. However, since Nicole had given her such a short time to make herself look sexy, Katie had pretty much run the entire way. She was putting her key in her lock when her next-door neighbor’s door opened.
“Katie you’re home.” Katie was nearly knocked to the ground by Bella’s embrace. Despite her tiny stature, the young girl packed quite a punch when she wanted to. For a moment Katie found it hard to breathe. The little girl wrapped her arms around Katie’s waist and placed her cherubic face tight against Katie’s stomach.
“Bella Osbourne, what did I tell you about running into the hall?” Jane Osbourne scolded as she stepped out of her apartment.
“But it’s only Katie.” The young girl frowned. “You like
“I do, but honey, it could have been someone else— someone you don’t know,” Jane explained.
Bella looked up at Katie with a pleading look in her eye. As much as she wanted to side with the precious girl, her mom was right. “Bella, you should listen to your mom. You need to be more careful. Next time it may not be me.”
Bella rolled her eyes. “Okay. I’ll be careful.” “Good.”
“So,” the little girl’s tone shifted from solemn to cheerful, “are you staying for dinner tonight? I’m sure it’s okay with Mom.”
“Yes, you’re welcome to join us, Katie. We’d love to have you.” Jane smiled.
Katie smiled back. Jane was only a couple of years older than Katie. She had lovely auburn hair and dazzling violet eyes, two traits she had passed down to her daughter. “Oh Bella, I wish I could, but I have to go out tonight with someone from work,” she explained. Granted her outing tonight was for pleasure and not business, but Katie knew the little girl would be less upset if she thought it was work related.
“Okay.” She frowned. “What about tomorrow?”
Jane smiled “Did you forget about your girl’s night tomorrow night?” Jane gave an exaggerated sigh. “Honestly, Bella.”
Bella’s violet eyes lit up and her auburn curls bounced up and down as she jumped with excitement. “Oh yeah! That’s right! I’m coming over. We’re going to watch movies and paint fingernails. Right, Katie?”
“Yes we are.”
“Oh goodie!” Bella gave Katie another tight hug.
“Now go eat your dinner and get plenty of rest. We have a busy night tomorrow.” Katie instructed then sent the girl inside.
“Thanks so much for tomorrow.” Jane said after Bella left them. “She’s been looking forward to spending the night since her spring break started.”
“Hey, anytime. I love having her over.”
“Well, you’d better go and get ready for dinner.”
“Yeah, I wish I didn’t have to go. I could use the rest tonight. It’s been a long few days. But Nicole wants to celebrate.” Then Katie said in a hushed tone so Bella wouldn’t hear, “I’ve been ordered to make myself look sexy. I think that means she’s bringing a friend.” Katie groaned.
Jane laughed. “Oh, you’ll be fine. Now go get dressed and have a good time. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Thanks. Have a good night,” Katie said then turned the key. She walked into her apartment, dropped her things on the couch, then went to her room and tried to figure out what to wear.
Columbia, MO 8:30 P.M.
Brandon was stretched out on the couch with his laptop carefully balanced on his lap. He carefully read over the email Rebecca had just sent him. She identified the victim as an Alaina Watson, a twenty-one-year-old student from Glendale, a suburb of the St. Louis area. Brandon had called the St. Louis PD and told them of the girl’s death. They were informing the family. Brandon was more than happy to let them do the task; he hated notifying victims’ families. He hated seeing first the shock then the despair in their faces.
Now that he knew the young woman’s identity, he could begin his background research into her life. He Googled her name and searched the usual social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. All of the accounts showed a normal, well rounded, high achieving student. He read through her Facebook posts, which were largely updates on classes and friends. No negative comments or threats popped up. The same went for her Twitter and Instagram accounts. He began to feel like her social life was a dead end.
Perhaps something in her personal life was the trigger. Brandon quickly jotted down the names of her friends. He began with the ones that were most often tagged in photos or commented on her posts—these were most likely her closest friends. He also looked up her housing information. Nothing in her name popped up. He would ask her parents about that later.
Brandon checked the clock. It was eight-thirty, meaning it was nine-thirty in New York. Katie would probably still be awake. She had always been a night owl. With a sigh, he dialed her number once again. She had not answered the first time he called. He wanted to think that it was because she was asleep, but his gut told him it was because she was still angry with him. She had every right to be. If the roles had been reversed he would have been hurt deeply. But what was done was done. He hoped that eventually they could work past it.
Once again it rang several times then went to voicemail.
She was definitely ignoring him. He listened to her cheery message:
“Hey, it’s Katie Quinn. I can’t get to my phone right now.
Please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thanks!” Moments later the phone beeped.
“Hey Katie, it’s Brandon. I know I’m the last person you want to hear from right now, but I really need to talk to you. It’s important. Please call me as soon as you get this. I’ll answer anytime, day or night. Hopefully I’ll talk to you soon. I hope your life is going well. I miss you.” He was going to continue, but the emotionless electronic voice informed him he had hit his limit.
Reluctantly, he set the phone down and continued to watch the basketball game.
June’s Wine Bar New York City, NY 9:30 P.M.
Katie was on her third glass of wine when her phone buzzed. She glanced down at the caller ID and sighed, it was Brandon. Why the hell is he still calling me? she thought. Doesn’t he get the message? She quickly shoved the phone in her purse and tried to focus on what Nicole’s companion was saying. As she had predicted, Nicole brought along one of her male friends. Katie was not a fan. Sure, he dressed in that smart, sexy way that she liked.
He even had on a pair of expensive looking glasses. They were probably fake, just like the rest of him. Still, she he had to admit she was having fun with him. Just to test him she had tossed in big words in sentences; words that did not fit the context of what they were talking about.
Dick, or as she liked to refer to him, Mr. Fake, got up from the table. “Pardon me, ladies. I have to use the restroom. I shall return shortly.” He grinned then walked away.
“Katie, you are being naughty,” Nicole scolded the moment he was out of earshot.
“Oh, shove it. You’re laughing at him too,” Katie returned. Nicole shook her head. “Katie...”
“Oh don’t pretend you don’t think he’s ridiculous. Honestly, he’s been faking his way all night. And who the heck says ‘shall’ anymore?”
Nicole burst out laughing. “But Katie, he says he went to Harvard.”
“If he went to Harvard then I have a PhD in Astronomical Physics,” Katie blurted.
Nicole laughed even harder. “I’m sorry for putting you through this. I just want to get you back into the dating scene.”
Katie rolled her eyes. “Well, if Dick here is the best you can do then I’m doomed to singledom.”
Nicole laughed. “I promise I’ll do better next time.”
Katie became serious for a moment. “I appreciate the gesture, but in all honesty, right now I just want to focus on my career. I’ll meet someone when I meet someone.”
“You’re not still pining over Brandon, are you?”
Katie shook her head vehemently. “No, we’re done. I’m just more interested in my career,” she half lied. It was true. She desperately wanted to focus on her career. She’d been so successful in the past year and the only direction she had to go was up. But deep down her heart was still wounded. She missed Brandon, missed the easy relationship they had, but she also loathed him. He had hurt her and she still had not forgiven him.
Katie looked up and noticed Dick returning to the table. She let out an audible sigh as he sat down and began speaking about himself...again. Ugh, she thought, he is the definition of a narcissist. With a giant heap of resignation, she ordered another glass of wine and pretended to listen.