Chapter 13

The Waiting Place

Life after that changed dramatically. All of a sudden I had friends. Not just the kind of friends you chat with casually every day, but friends who actually took an interest in my life. We were invited to their houses at least twice a week especially if there was a basketball game on TV. I had never watched sports before and wasn't really interested in the game, but watching my boy and the men watch the games was entertainment itself.

I knew what they were doing. They were doing their best to distract me from the trial. It wouldn't be for two months and I was impatient for it to start and end. I knew Nathanial was out and about town and it made me nervous. I hadn't noticed anyone following me and my children's new "nanny" hadn't noticed anything either.

Bernadette, or Bernie as she liked to be called, had been a blessing. She was an older woman who had just retired from the FBI and so unassuming she was the perfect protector for my children. She wore two concealed firearms and was adept in unarmed combat, although you would never think it to look at her. She wasn't quite grandma age, but she also didn't bother dyeing her graying brown hair. Her green eyes were sharp and always roving, but knew how to laugh when the occasion warranted. She had been married and divorced, but had never had children, a regret she expressed in her interview. Her career had become her focus after a bad divorce. She was a natural with the children, even getting down on the floor with them when their game called for it.

Things seemed pretty normal for a couple weeks, then weird things started happening. At first, they just seamed trivial. Things that you feel don't deserve any attention. Stuff you feel silly even mentioning, like a small hole dug up on my front lawn. Nothing was in it. It was just a hole. A few days later one of the tires on my car went flat while I was at the office. No big deal, right? A couple days after that my mailbox was literally overflowing with junk mail. Just that one day. Like I said, weird stuff. And it kept getting more random. Nothing threatening, just aggravating.

Obviously, I had my suspicions. Nathanial was behind this. He wanted to psych me out before the trial. He chose an interesting way to do it too. It's not like I could go the police and tell them my rose bush was trimmed improperly and without my permission. I'd be the crazy lady of the precinct. But the truth was, it was starting to grate on my nerves. All the small, seemingly insignificant, events were building up and I was starting to feel powerless… again.

"No, Dillon. I wanted an update from the Future section of R&D not the Current section. Please have it by four-thirty today." I cut off the intercom before he could respond. This morning there was a pile of leaves dumped and scattered underneath the tree in my back yard. My kids and I had just raked this weekend and seeing all our work undone was infuriating, but more eerie was the leaves themselves. They didn't come from my tree. They were from a totally different kind of tree.

My office door opened and Dillon walked in and sat down in one of the chairs facing my desk.

"I know Mondays are supposed to suck, but you are not yourself, Abigail, even for a Monday. Will you tell me what is bothering you?"

I took off my reading glasses and rubbed the bridge of my nose. I sighed and said, "Your probably gonna think I'm nuts."

"Well, I already know that," he said with a smirk. I smiled. He continued, "But what I really want to know is why you aren't yourself today… scratch that. You haven't been yourself for a couple weeks. Today is just worse than before. You can tell me."

"Me and the kids raked the leaves out of our backyard this weekend," I started while rubbing my temples. Then I looked up at him and said, "This morning there were leaves scattered all over the yard under our tree."

"So? More leaves fell off the tree, right?"

"Nope. The leaves on the ground were from a different kind of tree all together."

Dillon looked perplexed. So, I continued.

"Last week there was potting soil on my windowsill and when I came out of the grocery store my car was the only one covered in flyers for a new night club downtown."

Dillon still looked confused so I continued.

"The week before that, for a whole day, every hour on the hour, I got a call from a blocked number. As soon as I answered or the machine beeped the person would hang up. Oh, and then there was the bushes planted in my back yard the Saturday we spent with my parents."

As I listed more and more of these strange events Dillon's face began to change. He looked more and more angry. "How long has this been going on?"

"And it's not like I can go the police and say, 'Hi officer, my morning newspaper was ironed and folded neatly on my doorstep this morning. I don't know who did it, but I want them to stop!' It's always something different, no repeats for five weeks. It's finally starting to take its toll. At first I just ignored it. Oh, I fixed or cleaned anything that needed it, but I didn't let it bother me. Now I'm just so irritated."

"Sounds like someone is trying to get under your skin, and he's starting to succeed." Dillon looked thoughtful.

"Yes, he is. And I have no way of connecting all of this to him. I don't even know who his agent is." I sighed again, leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes.

"Well, that is something we can do." Dillon said. I opened my eyes and looked at him. I could tell he was planning something.

"Do I even want to know?" I asked him.

He smiled and it looked almost devious. "How about I surprise you?"

"OK… I guess."

"Excellent! Now, you, my dear boss, need a breather. Why don't you get some fresh air and try to relax? Go get a cone or something."

"A cone?" What was that? I had no idea what he was talking about?

"An ice cream cone, Abigail. There is a great creamery around the corner and across the street. They have a chocolate mousse ice cream that is, according to Cassandra, 'to die for.'"

How could I not know that lingo? And I'm a mom. Geez. I decided to take his advice. I didn't have anything truly pressing on my list, so I grabbed my purse and he ushered me out of the office.

I had just sat down with my ice cream (I had decided to go for the cup instead of a cone) when I saw Cassandra walk by the creamery. I knocked on the window to get her attention. She smiled and came inside.

"You're right," I said when she sat down opposite me.

"About what?"

"This ice cream is to die for." And it was. I had never tasted anything so wonderfully chocolate-y without being overly rich. It was smooth and creamy and also had little bitty chocolate flakes in it.

"I once asked the manager if I could have a look at the ingredients list and it's got coconut milk in it. I think that's where a lot of the creamy-ness comes from. So, I gather things are a bit stressful if you are here in the middle of a work day."

"Mmm Hmm." My mouth was full of ice cream.

"So… just the usual work stuff or is it the trial?"

"I suspect it is about the trial."

"Suspect?"

"Some weird things have been happening lately and they are starting to get on my nerves. I don't know what to do about it, but apparently, Dillon does."

"Isn't that annoying?"

"Is what annoying?"

"Dillon," she said. "He always seems to know what to do. I guess you could say problem solving is his forte."

"Actually, I like it. He's one of the best employees I have ever had. There are some problems that come up at work that I don't even know about until it's all been squared away. And some of his solutions are genius. Work has been smooth sailing since he came on board."

"Wow. He's always saying how much he loves his job, I guess now I know why," she said with a tone that I couldn't quite identify. It was almost like she knew exactly why Dillon loved his job, but didn't want to let on. Curious. "So, whatever is bugging you must be more major if you are resorting to chocolate mousse. Tell Nurse Cassie what's wrong."

So, I did. I do have to say that even though it had only been weeks since I attained this instant group of friends, it was still a little uncomfortable for me to open up and tell people my problems. Ever since the accident I was used to taking care of my own problems. That was one of the reasons I switched foster homes so much before the last one. I wasn't afraid to tell my social worker when something was wrong in the home I was in. And the only reason I did that was because I didn't have a whole lot of control over what home I ended up in. Other than that, I took care of my own problems. So truly having others to lean on, other than David and Cheryl, was unusual. But if you were to ask David and Cheryl they would tell you I didn't lean on them enough.

Cassandra looked concerned, but not worried. "I'm sure Dillon has everything planned out already. Probably has Kaden and Jeff involved too," she said with a shrug.

I sighed. If there was some way to connect what had been happening to Nathanial, then he would get in bigger trouble. And hopefully go away for a long time. Just add harassment to his list of crimes.

Eleven more days until the trial and the money hadn't been found. The prosecution was relying heavily on my new friends' testimony since there was no physical evidence. I was surprised that it wasn't my friends who were getting harassed. It was their testimony that tied Nathanial to the money. But even with that, it was by no means a slam dunk. I really wish the police would find that money. Even the P.I. David hired has no idea where it could be.

Cassandra and I chatted for half an hour and then I excused myself. "Work awaits. Crazy, greedy exes may come and go, but business never stops… well, we hope that it doesn't, anyway."

"I'll walk you back to the office," Cassandra said as she stood up with me. "I'm curious to see what Dillon has planned for that problem. Maybe I can help too."

"You don't have to do that. It could involve late nights- lots of them."

"Who do you think you are talking to, Abigail? Hello? This nurse is used to doing swing shifts. Nobody does 'em better."

A/N: I wrote this on my tablet because my computer went kaput. I was able to beta it once, but please let me know if you find any errors.