Ayden grew concerned. For two days in a row, he’d been unable to interrogate the suspect.
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.”