My Saturday mornings consisted of sleeping in until noon and then doing some much needed laundry. Unfortunately, Daniel and I had to pay Whisper Street a visit and figure out what was next on this murder train. After I paid Gabe's grave a visit and planted some new flowers, I headed over to Garry's Garage, where Daniel worked on the weekends, which was less than a mile from my own office. I agreed to pick him up since his truck was getting a new paint job and we were heading over to Marley's house afterwards to relay all the information we found at our old farmhouse anyway.
After I parked my car and locked it, I headed towards the front entrance of the garage. I was greeted with several pairs of eyes, mostly male and I sent them all a small smile as I looked around for Daniel. I spotted his worn out boots peeking out from underneath one of the cars and a dark haired woman with grease stains scattered all over her uniform working on the same car, laughing as he told her something funny.
I made it a point to announce my arrival as I marched towards them in my heels and the woman lifted her head high enough to back away from the car slightly, her smile fading as she stepped around the car to greet me.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked and the raven-haired beauty seemed nervous as she skimmed over me, probably trying to figure out who I was. She was about to find out if she didn't step back.
"I'm looking for Daniel Carter." I answered stiffly, and the next sound I heard was Daniel cursing and then groaning in pain. Both his co-worker and I pulled him out from underneath the car. Our gazes went straight down towards the man who just let a tool fall on his face, and managed to give himself a bump on his forehead. His eyes widened as he looked back and forth between the women standing before him and he grinned as he brought himself up and off the floor, dusting himself off. When we both reached to study the bump on his face, we narrowed our gazes and faced each other.
"I'll catch you later, Dee." the woman, who's name was Jesse according to the name tag stitched to her uniform, announced. She and Daniel exchanged looks before she turned to move on to the next car. Something was going on between them and I didn't like how it bothered me so much. I shouldn't give a damn about who he was fucking. But I did. And those two look like they've definitely had at least a couple of late night talks.
"How bad is it?" Daniel asked rubbing his forehead, and I glared at him.
"You'll live. Are you going to change or what?"
"Give me a few minutes. I'll meet you outside." he replied casually, as if he had no clue how livid I was.
"Fine." I said, marching back the same way I came in. When I reached my car, I rested against it and began to answer a few text messages from my lawyer, who insisted harassing him wouldn't make him get an earlier court date any faster.
Today was going to be a long day.
"Are you going to tell me why you're pissed off now?" Daniel's question was made as he stepped in beside me and crossed his arms. I didn't look at him. I couldn't. He would know what I was thinking, feeling. He always saw right through me and he'd left me raw and exposed too many times for me to let him in now.
"This court date is taking longer than expected. My workers are ready to walk on this project if I don't hurry this up." I answered with half the truth. He didn't need to know I wanted to go back in there and tell whoever that woman was to him that I was still legally bound to him and that he belonged to me. But I knew he didn't. Not in a way that counts.
"What kind of project is it that you need this specific piece of land for?" he added and I sighed, not in the mood to go into the details. A summary would have to do.
"I wanted to open a domestic violence sanctuary. Not that you'd care. You're too selfish to give me the one thing I need to make it happen."
"There are other properties all over Texas you can use. Why do you want to tear down that house so bad?"
And there it was, the bait he'd been waiting for me to take. I didn't. We were halfway through solving Gabe's murder, and we needed to get along to do it. For now, Daniel would have to keep wondering.
"Let's just get this over with." I told him, wrapping around the car to the driver's seat. I hit the gas as soon as we were both strapped in and I held back a laugh when I heard Daniel grip onto the armrest for dear life.
"You know, dying in a car accident because you're jealous is a really sad way to go." Daniel claimed sarcastically as I made a sharp left turn onto Main Street.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Park this damn car right now, Serena. I mean it." he warned sharply, but he should've known better. I never listen. My foot stepped on the gas until my car flew down Main Street and I hit the brakes once I saw the yellow lights turn red. His head hit the dashboard hard and he cursed everything in sight. Including me and my reckless driving.
"I never touched her." He admitted, in between wincing from the pain and cursing. I sighed, pulling over to make a phone call and killed the engine.
"Michael?....yeah, I'm fine, how would I know if someone has a concussion?...how'd you know I was with him?....no, I didn't kill him. Obviously. I wouldn't be so open about it....yeah, thanks." I ended the call and reached to unbuckle my seatbelt. Once I was done, I reached for Daniel's face and he immediately backed away from me.
"Oh, stop it. I'm just checking to see if you're not going to pass out any time soon." I promised and lifted his upper eyelids to check his pupils.
"Do you believe me?" he asked, as he held my gaze and my hands slipped away from his cheeks when he began to lean into them.
"It doesn't change anything." I retorted, turning to put my seatbelt back on. His hand stopped me and I felt myself take a breath as I turned to look at him. I was close to losing it. If I hadn't already. It didn't help that he was looking at me as if he wanted nothing more than to take all the pain he's caused me away.
"I'm not sorry I left you that day." He began, and I could already feel the tears burn and blur my vision as I blinked them away.
"Shut up. Please, shut up." I pleaded, placing my forehead on the steering wheel as I closed my eyes and tried to mentally fly away.
"I loved you too much to keep watching you be so miserable." Daniel finished, his voice cracking as he spoke. The knot forming in my throat was a sign I needed to lift my chin up and brush his confession off my shoulders. I couldn't sit here and let him destroy me all over again.
"Do you need to go to the hospital?" I asked, clearing my throat as I turned my car back on and pulled back onto the road.
"No. I'm okay. Thanks." he answered quietly and I nodded, making a right turn towards Whispers Street.
As we pulled up by the curb of Gabe's old house, I noticed it was the only one on the block that was abandoned. The vines were practically engulfing the place, the grass was overgrown, the paint was chipping off the exterior. I loved renovating these kinds of ominous properties but even I didn't want to go in there. The house gave me the chills and there wasn't much that could scare me.
"I found the spare key." Daniel announced, as he joined me on the rotting front porch and helped me walk over the termite-eaten gaping holes on the floorboards beneath us. He opened the door and it creaked open, allowing different stenches and musty dust to blow towards us. Daniel walked ahead, leading me towards the same room we had taken the picture in. The time we spent here began to enter my mind, smaller memories spilling into bigger ones. Like the last time we came to this house, right before everything began to fall apart.
It had been the night of his nineteenth birthday. And there wasn't any bad news that could make that boy's smile go away. He had been the happy kind of drunk before that day. The guy who laughed at everyone's jokes and made everybody else laugh right along with him. Gabe had had his good moments.
That night wasn't one of them.
He'd been drinking more than usual and I suspected he'd taken drugs as well. In the end, it made us all see just what kind of friend he really was. Every secret anyone had ever told him he spilled that night. Including how Michael had been selling drugs, and how Daniel had been his accomplice behind my back. And lets not forget how he so bluntly exposed Freddy's double life by sending everyone pictures of the girl he had been cheating on Marley with, ultimately causing them to break up for the second time that year.
Year after year, Gabe spiraled lower than the year before until we stopped hearing from him all together. It was ironic that the person who had caused the dissolving our group was the one who forced it back together.
"Hey, I found something." Daniel's words caught my attention and I joined him by the bookcase, where he had been rummaging through dusty books. He handed me a book who's title I couldn't make out because the letters had been scraped off and I raised an eyebrow at him. He rolled his eyes and blew away some of the dust before he opened it.
"He used to read this to his father before he passed away from cancer. Every night, like clockwork. After he died, Gabe never touched a book again." Daniel explained, as he flipped through the pages.
"How old was he?" I asked, not knowing much about Gabe's childhood other than it hadn't been very good. Every time I tried to talk to him about it, he changed the subject. I always thought it was because he was too ashamed. Maybe it had been too painful for him to talk about. Maybe he just didn't trust me enough to let me in, like he had done with the rest. After all, all everyone knew me as was Daniel's crazy long distance girlfriend, who he constantly fought with and Marley's new best friend.
"He was ten. He changed a lot that winter. Got into more fights. Got friendlier with the girls. Until he met Marley. She was to him....what you are to me...." he paused, reading my expression carefully before continuing. I nodded, letting him know I was fine. "someone worth changing for." he finished and I could tell he really meant it. I lowered my gaze and cleared my throat as I took the book out of his hands and began to flip through the pages myself.
"He cheated. A lot. He knew there was no excuse for it, knew she deserved better. That's why he made sure she caught him in the act. Kind of like the last turn of the knife before you die."
"Wow, that's graphic. Even for you. She told me she left him. And I remember her crying about it. I wanted to kick his ass." I let him know, and he laughed.
"You're not the only one. We argued about it a lot too." he admitted. Once I reached the back of the book, I noticed something had slipped out of the pages and onto the dirty carpet.
"Galveston? Why would he hide this in there?" I asked as I picked up the postcard that had been folded to be a bookmark and handed it to him.
"To make sure we would find it. And to hand this investigation over to the next person." Daniel claimed as he rubbed the dust off the postcard and unfolded it.
"Freddy and Marley."