Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Generation Two — Chapter Nine: Death Continues To Plague The Willow Creek Police Department …

Ayden folded the newspaper in half, flipped it over and set it aside. The headline said it all. What happened was extraordinary. Disturbing. First, two of their prisoners expired at the very same moment, falling together in a heap on the jail cell floor, while a third inmate looked on. 

Shortly thereafter, two officers, outside the building, fell to the cement walkway, in eternal sleep. Later on, a third officer, their Receptionist, Kaylen Jackson, joined them on the sidewalk, presumably to pay her respects, when she suddenly fell dead, too.
 Ayden was more than a little shaken up. Months had passed since Jade succumbed to her burns, and his life was just starting to get back on track. He even accepted an invitation to join the Partihaus Club, Jade had belonged to.
Bobbi was back to flirting with him again, too. Thinking he was going to have to give her a second look, he tried to flirt back and engage her in conversation. Sadly, all too quickly it turned awkward. Maybe not such a good idea, after all. Best he look outside of the force, lest they become fodder for all of the ‘office romance’ gossip going on all too often. 

  And then this happens. Ayden pressed the heels of his hands into his tired, bloodshot brown eyes. What bothered him the most, was how and why this kept happening — So very many police officers or police support dying right here at the precinct. Six to date.  

This was beyond weird. Taking to the computer at work, Ayden scoured the internet, the police data files and anywhere else he could think of. Was this merely coincidence, since all of those deceased were elderly — or was it something more? Something sinister. The latest three police had perished on the walkway outside the building. Drive-by? Or, did the Mobwives have an insider, silently destroying the Willow Creek Police Department?
What about the two prisoners? How did they fit into this?
Ayden slammed his open palm onto the desktop, startling several of his co-workers. “Informant!” he said. “That’s it. That has to be it.” He immediately did a search on the two prisoners, to see if they were witnesses in lock-up, simply to keep them ‘safe’ before the trial and if that trial had anything to do with the Mobwives. Wouldn’t be the first time police kept witnesses in custody. Although normally they were kept in a ‘Safe House’. Ayden shook his head in dismay. They had failed these two people, miserably, if this were the case. He felt more than lousy over it.  Again, he felt impotent. Unable to be of use.
Was the ‘insider’ the other jailbird who watched as the two perished before his eyes? Ayden found himself riddled with questions for which he had no answers. Not a comfortable or desirous place to be.  

And, just what to do about his brother — Was he possibly the tie-in? Had he been spying on Ayden all of this time? Talk about an insider … the very thought chilled him to the bone. Perhaps, this uncomfortable association is what prompted the very long investigation into his own dealings by the Department. Why hadn’t they just asked him outright? Or, maybe, just maybe Ayden wasn’t the subject of this investigation, after all. He may well have been the bait. By which they hoped to draw Braylon out. 
Ayden’s head began to hurt. Another tension headache, he was certain. Had his brother really murdered Jade?  For the longest time he refused to allow himself to explore this possibility, let alone question why.  She must have learned Braylon belonged to the Mobwives sometime between their conversation and her dying moment. Braylon had to be the one to tell her. Ayden always thought he was lying through his teeth about being a criminal. Braylon was such a jokester. Now, he wished he had listened to that little voice of doubt deep inside himself. The detective within nagging him that something just wasn’t right, here. Braylon worked at night, was evasive, was quick to deflect and distract anytime anyone pressed for any real details about his line of work. Quick to squelch any real inquiries into it. 
Jade always took it to be a joke, too. A big fat lie. They used to laugh about it
Somehow, Braylon must have impressed on her it was no joke, but indeed, a fact he worked for them. Somehow, he’d slipped up, breached the code of silence. Then, fearing retaliation, since the Mobwives was such a secretive group, he must have scrambled to find a way to rid himself of his only witness. The obvious thing was a fatal accident. A fire. So, he switched out the canister of lighter fluid for Ayden’s spare gas tank. Jade would hardly know the difference …
Folding his arms on the desktop, Ayden leaned his weary head on them. Was he crazy to allow himself to think this way? Had he unwittingly stumbled upon a truth — Or, was this a manifestation of a grieving mind and heart, needing answers where none could be found?
Ayden got home after a full day’s work. No time to confront his brother as he knew he needed to do, the man, dressed in a suit, was on his way to work. 
“Hey, Bray—”
“Hey, no time for chatter,” Braylon doffed his hat, pretended to consult the non-existent pocket watch, “Oh, my fur and whiskers, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” Twirling himself about on his highly polished dress boot heels, he was off. 
Ayden watched as his brother disappeared down the block, shaking his head. He was a funny guy. Quite humorous. Needing the distraction, he decided to collect the wild fruits, vegetables and flowers, instead of stewing over it, keeping up with the ‘family’ tradition.  Busy work. Never hurt to have some extra funds on hand. He also hoped to still his rapid-fire thoughts for a time. 
Before it grew too late, his father enticed him to go out. A friend had texted the ghost and invited him out for “Knight’s Night” at a place in Windenburg. Ayden readily agreed, but they took off so fast, he didn’t have time to change out of his work clothes. In fact, he barely had a chance to take a bite of his dinner. He took his plate with him.

The young bar tender, a Morgan Fryes, was a real looker. Beautiful red hair, large blue eyes, a sweet face. Incredibly young … He chatted her up. He’d had quite an awkward conversation with Bobbi earlier in the day, Ayden was afraid he’d lost his touch. It had been a few years since he was on the dating scene. Didn’t expect to be here again, nor did he want to be. But, he was lonely and his friends suggested he get back into the proverbial saddle. And so, taking advantage of this occasion, he invited the young lady to dance. Pretty soon, his day caught up to him. He bid Morgan goodbye and went home.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Generation Two—Chapter Eight: It Wasn't Supposed To Be Like This

     Ayden sat at his desk, nearly paralyzed with grief. The last thing he truly remembered about their campout was the boys bickering, horribly.  Next thing he knew, Jade, who was about to grill up breakfast for them all, was screaming. A horrible, heart-wrenching shriek. Trying to break up the boys, who were on the verge of a royal fist-a-cuffs, he glanced over and saw the huge, roaring, already out-of-control fire.

She must have used too much lighter fluid, was his first thought. The flames shot out from underneath the barbecue grill, licking at her arms, as if it were alive. A beast wanting only to be fed. Wanting to eat his beautiful wife. Jade busily swatted at them, to no avail. Next thing Ayden knew, her clothes caught fire, too. A veritable forest of fire surrounded her, she couldn’t move, nor could he get to her. She kept screaming. And he just stood there as if his feet were suddenly rooted to the ground. Powerless. Impotent. Useless.  So much for all of his training.
Curiously, Braylon wasn’t anywhere to be seen. 
At last, Ayden grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed for help. By the time the park rangers, firefighters, and paramedics got there, Jade was barely conscious. Ayden knelt down on the ground cradling her in his lap. Her lips kept moving. He bent over her to hear her last words. “Mobwives,” she whispered.
“Hm, what? Jade, what about the mobwives?”
“Bray…lon.” Her last word was more of a gasp. And then he felt the life force lift from her. She was gone. Her eyes staring at nothing. Ayden confronted the Grim Reaper, whom he’d seen many times before. He pleaded, he wept. His cries fell on deaf ears. Jade was gone. She wasn’t coming back.  

Jade’s skin was as black as burnt toast. Crispy. Gone was the elasticity in it. It had to hurt her even to speak. But, what did she mean? Ayden looked around the wrecked campsite. The fire had been so hot, even the dirt was blackened. He fought a shudder, doing his best to answer the Fire Chief’s questions. Ayden well knew the routine. He was courteous, if not numb, fumbling, wanting comfort. A bit dazed. After a time the Fire chief and Rangers recognized Ayden was in shock and simply told him, “We’ll contact you, if we have any further questions. Sorry for your loss, Lt. Cantrell.” Ayden vaguely remembered nodding. 

He then set out to break camp, getting his two little boys to help with the tents. The sooner they left this place, the better. Next he focused on the chairs, got them folded and packed up. Looking around for anything he may have forgotten, Ayden spied the canister of lighter fluid. Picking it up, he removed the lid and carefully took a tiny whiff of it.  Not enough to give him chemical pneumonia, just enough to recognize this was not lighter fluid, but gasoline. Someone had switched out what Ayden had brought to their camp. This wasn’t even the same container. The bright red plastic bottle was none other than the 1-gallon gasoline tank he kept in the back of the car for emergencies. How did this get here? 
About this time, Braylon strolled back into camp. Holding out his hands, he said, “Hey, what’s going on? Are we leaving already? I thought we had one more night. Things were just heating up, in fact.”
“Jade’s dead,” said Ayden. “We’re going home. Stay here if you like. The site is paid for already. Here, keep a chair.” He all but flung the folded camp chair in Braylon’s direction.
“What are you talking about? I was just chatting with her. Say,” he said looking around. “How did the ground turn black. Ow,” he quickly pulled back his hand able to feel the heat still rising from blackened dirt. “Something’s smoldering. Wow. Did you pitch our tents over a geyser or something, bro? That’s not too bright.”
“Neither is exchanging lighter fluid for gasoline. Jade poured the stuff from this,” he held up the red gasoline bucket “onto the coal under the grill and the minute she set a match to it —”
“Boom?” Braylon said, and began to chuckle. Ayden cast his younger brother a glance. The man seemed totally distant, untouched, by the tragedy he and his little sons just suffered. Curiously, disturbingly, amused by it all. He knew Braylon was mean, but he never figured him to be so detached. Evil. Shortly thereafter, he packed up the boys, hollered for his ghostly father and they went home, leaving Braylon on his own.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Generation Two — Chapter Seven: Mobwives and Discord, Where Does a Police Lieutenant Fit In?

Ayden grew concerned. For two days in a row, he’d been unable to interrogate the suspect.
He went home and did his best to get a good night’s sleep, hoping that would ‘repair’ his situation. That was a sad joke on him. Jade gave birth to his second son that night. Sleep was elusive after that, to say the least.
After the third day of his ‘affliction’, his inability to even get the perp out of lock up, he took his situation to the Chief. After a nice chat, he at last grabbed the perp from the pen and sat the teen girl down in the Interrogation Room. What bothered him was the group of officers who filed in behind him. Ayden usually did his questioning alone. Were they studying his style, since he had a high conviction rate, or was something else going on? This worried him. The Chief had made some off-hand remark about how things were done in Sunset Valley and that he had to leave those ways behind him, they didn’t work here in Willow Creek. This remark left him completely baffled. 

     Sunset Valley? Ayden had only been there a few times to visit his father’s side of the family. He was never employed there.  Ayden got down to business and got the confession he needed. He filed his paperwork and went home for yet another day. 
As time slipped by, and Jaylen grew into a child, things didn’t get any better at the precinct. Lieutenant Ayden Cantrell was increasingly certain he had come under investigation. But rather than involve his family in his work problems, he kept them to himself, pretty much. Unfortunately, the tension that mounted inside of him began to escape, like steam from a boiling pot. He grew increasingly snippish.  

Come Saturday morning, he decided they all needed a bit of a change. He made reservations to go camping. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day. Packing his family up, they headed for the campground. Once the tents were pitched and the camping chairs arranged around the fire pit, Ayden began to feel a tad better. Sitting in front of the fire, already Ayden could feel the tension running out through his fingertips. He told the boys a few stories as they roasted marshmallows. He was having fun, for a change. And he did something unusual. Ayden smiled.  

   Later on, when he tried to have a nice conversation with Braylon over some burgers the brother grilled up for the group, Braylon flew into an unexpected rage! Jumping up from the picnic table he stormed off. Jade just gazed over at Ayden. “What was that all about?” she said. “You just asked him how things were going.”  
“I don’t know.  Maybe he’s picking up on my tension. Or maybe he’s having a hard time of it, too.”
“Ayden,” Jade said, placing a hand on his arm. “What’s wrong? Didn’t you want a second child? I thought you were thrilled. But you haven’t been the same since his birth. Sweetheart, what is it?”
“It’s not Jaylen. Not for a minute. No, something is up with the chief and has been these past few years since Jaylen was born, really. She’s been riding me pretty hard lately. She’s said some pretty strange things to me recently, that’s left me worried, is all.”
“You mean like before when you thought she was going to ask for your badge?”
“No, it’s deeper somehow,” Ayden’s voice drifted off. Then he gazed hard at his wife. “Have you ever heard of the Mobwives?”
“The what?” batting at a mosquito. “Is that a Club?” 
“In a manner of speaking. It’s a crime syndicate —out of Sunset Valley,” like pieces of a jigsaw puzzled, the facts floated into place in his head. “Seems they have quite a setup in Willow Creek, now. All I know is this is the first I’ve heard of it— being in our jurisdiction, that is.”
“First I’ve heard of it at all, if that’s any comfort to you.”
Ayden flashed her a weak smile. “The Chief acted as if I should know something about it. So, I guess before I return to work on Monday, I’d better get myself up to speed. Who knows? Maybe she needs me to do some undercover work.”
“Oh, I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Don’t worry, I’m just speculating. Say, listen, I’m going to get some sleep.” Ayden left and crawled into their tent.  
Jade sat at the picnic table for awhile. She could see it was very near dawn, and although she felt ill, there was little sense in sleeping this surprise weekend away. Instead, she collected some more wild basil and, thanks to the tips given her by the park ranger, she made some much-needed bug repellent on the grill.  
Pretty soon the sun rose lazily over the mountain ridge. She was just about ready to fix breakfast, expecting her two little boys to bounce out of their tent before anyone else, when to her surprise, Braylon was the first one up. He went straight to the horseshoe game and started taking a few practice tosses. Jade decided to join him, engaging her all-too-aloof, mean, brother-in-law in conversation. Hoping to get to the bottom of the family’s mounting dissension. He smiled when she greeted him and readily accepted her challenge to play a round.
“Sure,” Braylon said, “if you think you can beat me.”
Jade just smiled, trying not to be offended by his untoward remark. She had no idea whether she could beat him or not. She’d never had the pleasure of playing this game before. After a time, tossing the shoe horn at the peg and missing, a lot, she began a very casual conversation. “So, you’ve never really said what you do for a living,” she said, smiling brightly, yet bracing herself for yet another outburst. He was usually so guarded when it came to his job. What Braylon disclosed left her already reeling head, spinning!
“I’m a criminal, actually,” he said, tossing the horseshoe and listening to the clanking of it hitting its mark. He smiled, puffed his chest out and gestured for Jade to take a turn. “I work for a company called the Mobwives.”

     Jade’s carefully flung horseshoe went awry with that revelation, her concentration shifting. Then she laughed, half out of embarrassment, and half out of fear. “Oh, Braylon! You’re such a jokester. I’m surprised you didn’t say you were the Boss.”
Taking careful aim, he flung another horseshoe, “That’s because I’m not the boss —  at least, not yet.”

Friday, January 8, 2016

Generation Two —Chapter Six: A Night Out Meets The Stork?

Jade really loved being a mother. She enjoyed the time she had off for maternity leave. Soon, she was going to have to get back to work. Feeling a tad overwhelmed and out of sync, she decided to hone her skills before going back to the grind of the Business world. She was glad that Ayden was more than willing to help her get up to speed on her job requirements. Logic was something she struggled with, for one. So, he spent many an evening, after little Nathaniel was in bed for the night playing chess with her. One of these evenings she received a text message from a friend. Jade realized she hadn’t been spending much time out of the house, lately, so when she was invited to join her friends at a dance party, she went.  
She was fully rested, having adapted to the late nights of taking care of her beautiful baby boy. She was also delighted to see Patrice, once she got to the clubhouse. Jade took to the dance floor immediately. She had just a few more pounds to shed after giving birth. What better way than to dance them off? Happily, she remembered all of her moves and showed them off, too. Then she got a wild thought and challenged Patrice to a Dance Off. It was fun. Although, Jade couldn’t tell who won. Seems Patrice had a few moves of her own. This little bit of competition helped to strengthen their ties, too.

Sometimes Patrice was rather aloof. Jade was strongly considering throwing a dinner party, of which she would invite Patrice. She knew this would please Ayden, Erik and probably Braylon, too, so long as she threw it early enough in the day so he could participate, that is. She still wondered just what it was he did for a living. Any time the question came up, he was so evasive and, in fact, would twist things around with any number of mischievous antics. He loved to tease.
After her outing, which felt so good, reminding Jade she was a bit of a party animal at heart, Ayden met her in the drive.  
“I woke up and you were gone,” he said, kissing her on both cheeks.
“I should have left a note, I’m sorry,” Jade said. “My friends invited me to a dance party. It’s been so long …”
“I know. I need to take you out more often. Did you have a good time?”
Jade smiled broadly. “It was glorious. I may have beat Patrice in the dance challenge.”
“You’re not sure?”
“It was just a little strange. I danced first, she tried to follow along. In the end no one said anything. Maybe it was a tie?”
Ayden smiled, kissed her, and taking her by the hand led her into their bedroom where he closed the door. “May I have this dance?” he said, as he slid open the closet door.

Later, she was so glad they chose the closet over their bed. Not long after the closet door was slid shut, they heard their bedroom door open. When they finished their little romp of woohoo and stepped out of the closet, they were both surprised to see Braylon sitting at Ayden’s desk, using his computer.
Jade cast a glance at Ayden, who seemed peeved. She was equally peeved. This had to stop. Braylon had little to no sense of privacy and it was getting old. Fast. If she and Ayden ever got two minutes alone, truly alone, to discuss it, she was going to advocate that Braylon move out on his own. It was time. He was no longer a boy, had a steady job. He should be fine. Half of his problem, she was certain, is that he wasn’t allowed to stretch his own wings. Don’t birds nudge their chicks out of the nest at some point? 

A short time later, Jade became aware that her little unguarded moment of woohoo fun had put her back in the family way. Nathaniel was still a baby, although not for long. This would put a possible Sim year between them. Certainly, her hands were going to be very full from here on out. Excited, although dubious, she was quick to share her “big news” with Ayden.  
He was elated. The weeks went by and then she received yet another text from friends, reminding her she was the Leader of the Partihaus Club and just how long had it been between group meetings? Nauseous as she was, Jade went ahead and scheduled a dance party. She danced her little heart out, too.

Between running to the bathroom all too often, she was ravenous. She ordered something ‘safe’, or so she thought. It had always been a favorite. My, oh, my had they spiced it up, or what? Suddenly, her mouth was on fire. Shortly afterward, needing sleep badly, she ended the party and went home.