Looking at the paper again for the correct directions, he put the car in park not believing where he was – in the middle of a very nice townhouse area of Southfield, a suburb just outside of Detroit. He walked pass the blue Mercedes parked in the driveway and ran his hand along the perfect corners of the vehicle.
In all his life, he had never known anyone who could just walk into a car lot and pay for a car, but he remembered Kasey telling him how Jode strode in some dealer and pointed out the blue Mercedes. When the salesman asked if she would be leasing the vehicle, Jode had promptly wrote a check out for the full amount of the car and drove it out the showroom the same day. Kasey thought it was hilarious, but he thought Jode was being a showoff.
She opened the door before he knocked. Today, she was dressed rather casual in some khaki’s and a Detroit Tigers shirt. Her ear length hair was pulled up in a loose wrap with ringlets of curls coming out around the edges. He could feel those deep grey/green eyes examining him just as he was examining her.
Was she still scared of him? He wondered. Jode had grown into a beautiful woman from the skinny mouthful of braces pimply knock-knee stick. He remembered by her last year of junior high she had acne so bad, she looked more red than brown, but as he looked at the heart shaped face now, he could not find one blotchy flaw on her smooth light caramel skin. Along with a beautiful face, she had a nice fit body to match and she was not so short anymore. At five foot eight, she had a nice tight figure that his eyes were definitely drawn to.
“Did you have trouble finding the place?” she asked.
The hint of berries touched his nostrils and his mind swirled at what she was wearing underneath those clothes. “No, you gave pretty good instructions.”
She moved out the way stiffly, “Welcome to my casa, Stephen.”
He smirked to himself. Jode was the only one who called him Stephen. She had a lisp when she was younger and after three years of speech therapy it had disappeared, but she still continued to call him Stefan (with the f clearing pronounced) while everyone else called him Stephen or “Red,” which was his nickname. “Pretty nice, for a Popsicle stick, Jode.” He turned around to face her after she let him in.
When she faced him after closing the door, again she looked ill at eased and even inched around him.
‘She still feared him,’ he surmised.
Guiding him into the front room, she already had the coffee hot and ready for them and offered him a cup. He refused and sat down on the pastel looking couch. “What do you want, Jode, that you didn’t want to discuss over the phone?”
“I didn’t because I felt it was something I needed to discuss in person. When was the last time you spoke with Kasey?”
“Before she committed suicide? Two days before. She seemed distant and she was shaking. I figured she was just pheening.” As if he were defending himself, he said, “I told her several times to stay away from that shit, but you know Kasey did whatever she thought was cool and fun. I just figured she needed a hit and she asked me for several dollars, but of course I told her to bug off. I wasn’t going to contribute to her habit.”
Jode frowned. “Why would she need money when I loaned her seven hundred a week ago?”
“You gave her that amount of money?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Are you crazy? She was a drug addict, Jode. I think any fool would know where that money went.”
Jode didn’t show the hurt she felt for his cruel words, but Stephan was always opening his mouth without caring what it did to the other person. “She didn’t use it for drugs,” Jode defended. “She must have used it for something else, but what else could she have used it for?”
The question was rhetorical by the way her eyes were drifting beyond him to nowhere, yet he was still stuck on the fact that she had given his sister some money. “You wanted to help her, but giving her money wasn’t helping her. You’re probably the one who helped her buy that large dose. Do you know how much crack you can buy on the street for seven hundred?”
“For your information, she wasn’t pheening for crack, she was addicted to heroin.”
“Well you should know since you helped her keep the habit.”
She shot to her feet angrily. “You can take your accusations and stick them where the sun don’t shine, Stefen. I won’t have you blaming me for what happened to her especially since I don’t think she did it.”
“And who do you think did this?”
“Someone else. Someone she was close to.”
He could read the accusation in her eyes. “Kasey wasn’t close to a lot of people. Who are you saying?”
Jode sat down. “I just want to find out the real truth. Kasey was checking herself in a clinic to get better.” She handed him some documents with his sister’s handwriting on it. “We went together to get her checked in, but she said she had to take care of some things for Peter. She was terrified and she wanted to get off the drugs right away.”
“Why didn’t she come to me?” He knew this was Kasey’s handwriting and the grief look on his face as to why his sister had not come to him, was too real.
Jode excused herself from his presence when her phone rung. He watched her leave and wondered what else did Jode know?
# # #
Jode put the receiver down. Some people had great timing, but what did she expect when they thought they were God. Sometimes it felt like it.
Returning to the front room, Stephen had moved to the large picture window with a coffee cup and was staring out to nowhere. His grief seemed real when she had shown him the papers and now she almost doubted he was apart of what she had found out, yet she would not tell him everything – not yet. He had fooled her before in the past with false concern only to hurt her more. She didn’t want to be fooled again.
Having him in her home was too unnerving. Jode felt like a fool because she was so worried he would pinch her arm or take out a lighter and try to burn her hair. It didn’t matter if he was older, that little girl fear of him hurting her like he use to still made her terrified of him.
Yet, she couldn’t help notice from the back the broad shoulders, burliness of a very well fit body, firm butt, long legs, and well-groomed head of hair.
Taking a deep breath, she cleared her throat to let him know she had rejoined him.
Stephen turned around to face her. Upon the last time they had seen each other, she had been thirteen and he was two years her senior in tenth grade. The only things changed about himself was he was much more buff, with tighter muscles, and he had grown taller, about four more inches making him a nice six feet.
“What else do you know about Kasey?” he asked.
She approached arms length of him, to fearful to get any closer. “I should be asking you. I hadn’t spoken to her and when I began to get worried, I couldn’t reach her. She had her phone cut off, and she sold the cell phone she used. I tried to go to her old hangouts and they said they hadn’t seen her. I figured if she needed help close by you would be the person she would go to.”
“Unless she didn’t trust me?” he guessed.
She nodded. “Which is why I have to wonder about your involvement with her problem? How much did you know about it?”
His burnt camel eyes narrowed to slits and a chill went down her back. “You think I would hurt my sister?”
“Can you explain why she wouldn’t come to you?”
“How the fuck do I know that, Jode? I was there for her. I never refused her anything as long as it was reasonable. You think I had something to do with her problem?”
Bravely, she said, “I think you had something to do with her the night she died, Stefan.”
He hurled the cup in his hand across the room against the wall. “Fuck you and this high and mighty shit. You think you can just pop up in our lives again, make your accusations and then think nobody will fuck you up for it.” Stephen stepped forward as if to hurt her, but she didn’t back down although there was fear in her eyes, but her body stayed put. “You were so stupid then and you’re still stupid now, Jode,” he seethed through clenched teeth before he stalked out purposely bumping her shoulder and slamming the door.
Jode closed her eyes to compose herself. Again she had not gotten what she wanted out of him. It took a few seconds to clean up the mess Stephen made. The more she thought about her fear of him, the more peeved she became with herself. His bullying days were over. They were two grown adults and she had never backed down from a fight in her adult life, yet… This was Stephen. They had a history. He knew her when she was little and vulnerable. He knew her weaknesses like no other man.
Afterwards she went to her office in the back of her house. Opening up a file, she put on her reading glasses and read the location of Stephen’s workplace. He had been working for Dale Steel Company out in Dearborn for the past five years. She could imagine how he remained so buff because hauling all that steel around was a hard job. Packing up her purse, she jotted the address down and went to her car.
First she would stop in the office to do a few hours of work, and then she would stop by the medical examiner’s office. They would tell her if the articles she was trying to locate were released to Stephen.
To her surprise the coroner office still had the articles. Dawning on some rubber gloves, she picked through the jacket, shirt and pants, yet did not find the item she was looking for. “Are you positive this is everything? She didn’t have a purse or satchel?” she questioned the assistant who had dug out the package.
“That’s what came in with the body and that’s what I put in the bag. Maybe she dropped it. You could request a sweep of the scene.”
Jode had no doubt forensics had already swept the scene very well and there was nothing to report. Biting her lip out of habit, she wondered how could she find out where Kasey could have gone before “ending it all” in the middle of a dead end alley. The first clue to a mystery was that Kasey usually hung out in downtown or eastside. She never went on the Westside unless there was some kind of big party, but she always went with a group. Could there have been a group she’d overlooked?
She thought about Kasey’s last words to her, “I just have to take care of a few things before I stay, Jode. Things Pete would need me to close up and things I have to put to rest.”
‘What things, Kase?’ she had wanted to ask, but didn’t want to press her luck in getting Kasey off her addiction. If she was willing to take it this far, then she shouldn’t have had to push.
Pete’s business. She had to take care of something Pete needed her to do.
That was it! Jode would have to find out what had killed Pete in order to solve Kasey’s mysterious death. Going back to Kasey’s place, she was glad it was still intact and decided to search around for anything of Pete’s. There was a picture of Kasey and Pete on the mantel.
Kasey had the same burnt orange/brown eyes like her brother, but she didn’t have the reddish brown hair like Stephen. Her long shoulder length black hair was naturally curly.
Jode took a good look at Pete. Blotched red eyes, swollen nose, and dark circles under the eyes are all that stood out to Jode. What Kasey saw in him was a mystery to her?
Lifting the picture, it felt heavy for the cheap frame around it and she flipped it to open the back. Inside were two sheets of paper and wrapped up in them was a key. Placing the back in place, after putting the items in her pocket she heard a door open behind her.
“What the hell are you doing here?” a deep sneer behind her came.