A/N: A quick note. I have an English Language proficiency test on next Saturday. So till then, I’ll be locking myself out of my thinking chamber to study. So next update will be on Monday, May 1. Hope to see you then.
Another long chapter for you. Enjoy!
It happens when I’m exiting the office of Inside Out at the end of the day. Maybe I’m just that attuned to the shadows, or maybe it’s a stroke of luck, but the moment I step outside, my eyes spy a black Mercedes parked a few feet away from the building in a seemingly inconspicuous manner. One closer look at the man sitting inside, and I recognize who it is. It’s easier to pick out Carlisle Cullen’s profile thanks to all the photographs of him available on the internet.
“Ms. Bella,” I say, touching the elbow of the girl standing next to me.
“Just Bella, please, Tony,” she tells me in exasperation.
I offer a mortified smile and ask, “May I walk you home?”
She laughs, the sound of her tinkling laughter making my heart do a little somersault in my chest. “Tony, I’m a big girl,” she says once she quietens. “I can take the subway myself.”
“But I …”
She ruffles my hair sweetly and then walks away, waving her hand at me. “See you tomorrow, Tony!”
I cannot help but sigh. DNAgirl is just a bait, I realize as Cullen’s car comes to life immediately after her departure. What remains to be seen is whether the fish circling around is the one who’s trying to frame me for murder, or if there’s a bigger fish out there.
I follow Cullen through the shadows, always watching him while staying out of sight. When he turns to a driveway that’s miles away from his listed address, I know something is up. Briefly, I wonder whether he’s meeting the bigger fish here. Reaching up, I switch off the tracker Esme has on me in case of emergencies because I know she’ll freak out if she finds out where I am, and then I walk the way Cullen has gone.
Hidden behind the bushes, I watch Cullen park his vehicle and walk into the manor-like house . I don’t have to wait for long to find out who he’s there to meet. From the light spilling out of one of the downstair windows, I watch him hug a woman sitting on a bed. For a moment, I wonder if he’s got a wife hidden from the world or something, but when I zoom in with my binoculars, I find that the woman definitely looks older than him. I watch as he helps her sit in a wheelchair and then wheels her out of the room, switching off the lights as he leaves.
I don’t know what makes me do it, but before my brain can tell me to get out of there, I’m sneaking around the perimeter of the house and then climbing through the window I saw Cullen through. “Esme’s gonna freak out, Ed,” I murmur to myself as I shine my flashlight around the room, trying to get a clue as to who the woman might be. That’s when two photos standing on the bedside table catch my eyes.
First photo is of the woman I just saw in this room with Phil Dwyer, who according to wikipedia is a well-connected politician and also, Carlisle Cullen’s cousin. The way Dwyer has his arms wrapped around the woman suggests that they share a personal relationship. Maybe she’s his wife? I wonder.
I don’t get to ponder on the first photo for long because when my eyes fall on the second photograph, I feel my throat dry up. It’s a photograph of five people—four men and one woman in the middle. The woman is obviously the lady in wheelchair and the man on her left side looks like a younger version of Phil Dwyer. There’s a man I’ve never seen on her right, hugging her close. It’s the men on far sides that make me stop breathing. On the far right, next to Dwyer is Riley Biers, my mentor and on the far left, next to the unknown man … is my father.
Silently, I take the photograph out of the photo frame and slip it into my pocket. I know there’s much more to find out.
“Have you become an adrenaline junkie? Is that it? Is that why you turned off your tracker so that you can get off of the adrenaline rush of getting caught without me covering your ass?” I hold the earpiece away from my head while Esme screams her lungs off at me.
When the sound of screaming quietens, I bring it back to my ear. “Hi, Es.”
“Don’t you Hi, Es, me, young man! You’re in big big trouble,” she threatens but then asks, “Are you okay? Your heart rate is faster than usual.”
I nod even though I’m sure she can’t see me now because I’m standing in the middle of the road. “I wanna go see my mom tomorrow.”
She’s silent after my admission. Then she says, “You sure you can handle it? She has another family now.”
“Yeah, I know,” I say before admitting quietly, “I’ve tracked her down and watched her with her other son from afar.”
Esme sighs. “Whatever you feel is right, buddy,” she tells me. “Just don’t give me a heart attack like you did today.”
“I won’t,” I promise as I put my car in drive and head toward my loft.
That night, I sleep fitfully. The old nightmares coming back to haunt me in my sleep. I dream about the night my four-year-old-self went to bed and then woke up the next morning to find my grandmother crying over my mother’s empty bed. I relive the moment Grammy hugged me and told me that it’s because I looked too much like my dad that mom had to get away from me all the while reassuring me that I was loved.
When the first rays of sunlight hit my window, I throw the covers from my bed and sit up. It’s time I got some answers.
Finding the school where my stepbrother studies is a piece of cake for Esme. By the time I get dressed for the day, she even has the time when mom is going to drop her son off at school noted down for me.
When I get to the school, I don’t locate my mother immediately, but her son is another matter. With hair the same shade of red as her, my stepbrother looks the spitting image of my mother. It’s only when I find him that my eyes fall on the woman helping him put on his backpack. Mom. She doesn’t notice me of course. She’s busy brushing her son’s hair with her fingers and hugging him one last time before the boy rushes off to school and away from her clutches.
Pulling out my cell phone from my pocket, I dial the number Esme had gotten for me. I watch as she fishes around her purse when the phone starts ringing and then puts the phone to her ear. “Hello?” she answers in her sweet voice.
“Mom, it’s me,” I say quietly. “Edward Masen Jr.” It feels awkward to have to introduce myself by my full name to my own mother but it’s better than to have her question who I was.
Even from across the street I see her face pale at the sound of my name and her hands start to shake. “E-edward? My Edward?” she asks in a broken whisper.
“Yes,” I answer. “Look across the street, Mom.” I hold a hand up for her to see. The moment her eyes find me, tears start rolling down her cheeks and she’s running across the street to me. And then she’s right there with me, hugging me tight and sobbing hard, hiding her face in my chest. “Shh, Mom,” I say as I rub her back, glad that she remembers me.
I must have said the words out loud because she looks up and cups my chin in her hand in a way only mothers can and then offers me a watery smile. “Of course I remember you,” she tells me. “How could I forget my own son? I’d have come to find you, but you told me not to go looking for you, remember?”
I nod, remembering the day I came to tell her that I had graduated from college … six years ago. “I’m sorry, it took so long for me to come,” I say.
She shakes her head and hugs me again. “I’m just glad you’re okay.” She lifts her head and then smiles. “My baby boy has grown up so much.”
I smile back at her and ask, “Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”
She hooks her arm around mine and nods. “For my son, always.”
We both play catch up while sipping on our coffees for a few minutes. Mom asks me about what I do, I answer that I can’t tell her. She doesn’t pry, maybe because she still feels guilty for leaving me the way she did. I ask her about her other son and husband. She answers that it’s no picnic living with a pre-teen and a drunkard husband, but that’s life. I want to tell her that she should leave her drunkard husband to a rehab and come live with me, but I don’t. What’s the point, anyway?
Once there’s a lull in our conversation, she looks at me and smiles sadly. “You look even more like your dad now that you’ve grown up,” she says softly.
That reminds me the reason behind this little family reunion. I reach into my wallet and bring out the folded photograph I took from the house I later found out belongs to Phil Dwyer and put it between us. “Mom, I found this,” I start. “Can you tell me anything about this?”
She gasps and then a look of melancholy crosses her face as she runs a finger over my father’s image. “I can’t believe you still have this,” she says. “It was one of your dad’s most favorite photos in our house.”
I don’t have the heart to tell her that it’s not dad’s copy but rather a stolen property of a woman. So I don’t.
“Do you know who these people are with dad?” I ask instead.
She nods. “Yes, they’re his college friends.” She taps the picture of the man next to dad and says, “This is Charlie Swan, your dad’s best friend. And the woman next to him is Reneé, his wife.” She turns to the other men on the picture and frowns. “The man next to Reneé was another of their friends, Phil, I think his name was, and the last man is called Riley Biers, another of their friends.”
“Did you know them well?” I ask, wondering what their connection with Bella must be. Was she related to one of them? Is this why Carlisle hired me to collect her DNA? Myriad of questions swarm in my head as I try to figure it all out.
Mom shakes her head. “Not really, we met at some house parties here and there, but that’s it. I remember that Charlie used to work with your dad though.”
I feel my eyebrows pull together. “Didn’t dad use to work for a news station?”
“Yes, Charlie used to do the reports while your dad manned the camera.”
Before I can ask her anything else, my phone beeps, letting me know that I was due to my new work soon. “Mom,” I say, standing up and placing a few dollar bills on the table. “I have to go. Thank you for meeting with me.”
Mom follows my suit and pulls me into a hug. “Son,” she says in a whispered tone. “I know I ran out on you when you most needed me, but I want us to be a family now. Please don’t make me be a stranger.”
“We’ll see each other again,” I promise as I hug her back, hoping that I can forgive her enough to tell her that I love her one day.
Meanwhile … somewhere in Seattle …
The beeping noise of her microwave almost drowns out the alarm that rings throughout her lair, signalling an outgoing email from the Seattle Police Department with the keywords Virtuoso and David Simmons in it.
Dropping her plate of leftover tuna casserole, Esme Platt runs over to her computer connected to multiple monitors, glad that she had the foresight of hacking into the SPD’s system. A few strokes of keys and she finds out the outgoing email contains a video clip.
She swallows as she clicks the play button and then closes her eyes tightly. Opening her eyes in small slits, she watches the video play out. It’s a video captured on someone’s phone. The video shows David Simmons standing inside the subway train with his head bowed low. The subway doors open all on a sudden and a man clad in black hoodie and a black mask claps on his shoulder, signalling him to jump. Simmons jumps and then the masked man turns back to look around at the other passengers before jumping off the train. Even the crappy quality of the video doesn’t fail catch a clear image of the masked man’s eyes and forehead and Esme feels her legs start to shake.
“Vir–virtuoso!” she gasps. That’s when she notices the name of the recipient of the email and curses out loud. It reads: firstname.lastname@example.org. She closes her eyes and lets her head fall to her hands because she knows. She knows that if there’s one man sharp enough to find out who Virtuoso is, it’s FBI Special Agent, Jasper Whitlock.
A/N: So … thoughts?
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Thanks for reading.