SYNOPSIS: Jason Franco is an aspiring novelist stuck in a dead end job working for a newspaper in a small town where nothing exciting happens until someone rapes and murders a young woman only eighteen years old. All evidence points to the woman's boyfriend who confesses to the crime. Jason is assigned to write a follow-up story for the paper and soon suspects that the local police are covering up for one of their own. Jason enlists the help from a high school classmate who works at the state crime and the two soon fall in love. Jason and his girlfriend, Tina, follow the leads and Jason finds himself a target for the rapist turned murderer. An attempt on Jason's life puts him in the hospital as the alleged rapist commits suicide. An unexpected turn of events put Jason back in the cross hairs of a different killer.
Tina Nussbaum, High School Classmate
Friday, June 26, 2015
Jason called Tina Nussbaum, his high school classmate, and explained that he wanted to interview her for background information. She said that she would be in Torrington on Friday evening to visit her parents for the weekend. They agreed to meet at The Peking Dragon for dinner.
Tina was already seated by the time Jason arrived. She waved when she saw him. The Peking Dragon was the only Chinese restaurant in Torrington, and it had just one dining room. Jason waved back at Tina. When Jason reached the table, he noticed that a pot of green tea was already on the table. It made him nervous to think she had been waiting for a little while. He stuck out his hand. “I’m so glad you could make it, Tina.”
Tina was wearing a bright colored sun dress with high heels. She was a little uncomfortable without her blue jeans. “No sweat. I’m visiting my parents for the weekend. I’ll drive back to Cheyenne Sunday night.” She pushed a stray hair behind her ear. She never liked her hair covering her ears, so she normally wore her hair in a pony tail. At the crime lab where she worked she had to wear a cover over her hair.
Jason sat down and rearranged his territory. He placed his cellphone on the table next to his water glass. He placed his pocket recorder on his napkin. “Good. I won’t keep you long. Like I said on the phone, I want to interview you about the Angelina Littlefield murder. I’m writing a feature article for the newspaper.”
Tina pointed at the recorder. “No recording.”
“I just need some technical background on how the crime lab operates and I thought you could help me.”
“Turn it off or I’m leaving.”
Jason turned off the recorder. He took out a small note book and pen.
“No taking notes either.”
Jason sighed. “Okay, but I just need some background information.
Tina laughed her faux laugh. She liked the way Jason’s wide-set, large eyes would widen when he talked. “You’re serious? I thought that was just an excuse to ask me for a date.”
“No, no, no. This is strictly professional. I need a confidential source in the crime lab, and I
recalled during our reunion you said that’s where you work. I just want to interview you, if you don’t mind. I’m doing a story on the Littlefield murder.”
“I wasn’t involved in that case. Are you buying dinner?” Tina was attracted to his boyish charm ever since their junior year in high school.
Jason frowned. Things were off to a bad start. “Yes, of course, I’ll pay for dinner.”
“I guess that’s why we're eating Chinese. Was McDonald’s booked?”
That remark surprised Jason. “What?”
“If this is professional, then you must have a budget or expense account. Couldn’t you take me somewhere nicer?”
“No, I’ve no expense account. This is out of pocket.”
“You have to cover my fee.”
Tina leaned on her elbows and lowered her voice. “Listen Jason, the crime lab could fire me for talking to you. The lab has strict policies about talking to members of the press. I'm only talking to you because you’re an old friend and classmate, so I might get away with it.”
“I wouldn’t use your name. No one'd know.”
“Yeah, like my boss couldn’t figure out the confidential source in our small lab.”
“Tina, please. I need to learn how the crime lab operates.”
Tina smiled. “Now if this were a date, that’d be different. Then I’d tell you whatever you need to know.”
“Can’t we be professional?”
“Listen, cheapskate, there are plenty of guys in Cheyenne who will spend a lot of money just for a chance to get into my pants. I don’t need to drive ninety miles for Chinese food.”
Jason raised his voice. “I’m not trying to get into your pants.” Unfortunately, the background music and conversations that had drowned out their discussion suddenly hit a lull. Dinners stopped eating and stared at Tina and Jason.
Jason wanted to crawl under the table. “Do you think I spoke too loud?”
Tina hid her face behind her hand. “You could have just yelled ‘rape.’”
A woman walked pass their table with her husband. “Give him up, girl. You can do better.”
Jason glanced up. “Thank you, Ms. Diaz.”
“You’re welcome, honey,” answered the woman as she continued to walk out.
Tina leaned forward and whispered “Is that who I think it is?”
“If you thought that was Ms. Diaz, our Sophomore year homeroom teacher, then yes, it’s who you think it was.”
“Yeah. While you get to go back to Cheyenne on Monday, I have to stay here. Please kill me now.”
“That was so funny.” She looked at Jason and reached over to touch his forearm. “You’re bright red.”
Jason frowned. “I fail to see the humor.”
Tina looked down and shaded her eyes.
“What are you doing,” asked Jason.
“I can’t look at you. I’ll crack up.” Finally, Tian looked up at Jason and cracked up. The more she tried to stop laughing, the more she laughed. Jason started chuckling too.
“Would you like to see green tea come out of my nose?” asked Tina.
“Not on the first date, thank you.”
Tina laughed even harder. She always liked men who made her laugh. Finally, she regained her composure. She fished around in her purse and held up a thumb drive. “I’ve most of the information on the Littlefield case on this. It's not much”
Jason cocked his head and squinted slightly.
“Okay, okay,” said Tina. “I knew you were serious, so I brought the information. A girl can dream can’t she?”
Jason started to reach for the thumb drive, but Tina pulled it back. “Do we have a date or not?”
“Okay, you win. We have a date.”
Tina handed him the thumb drive. She and Jason ordered dinner. While they waited, Tina poured green tea for both of them.
“Do you want to ask me questions now?” she asked.
“Well, I did but now that everyone in the place is watching us, I think I’ll wait until later.”
“Good, because I’ve a few questions.”
“Like what did you do to Ms. Diaz to get on her shit list?”
“It’s a long story for another time.”
“Okay, then what have you been up to since high school? I didn’t get a chance to talk to you much at the reunion.”
“I started college at the university and ran out of money after a couple of years. I came home and worked a little. I finally got this job at the Star-Gazette. I enrolled at Eastern College last fall.”
Tina laughed. “Is the Star still posting half page photographs with little content?”
“And Sunday funnies.”
Tina laughed. “Sounds like a dead end job to me.”
“It's just temporary.”
“Well you still have the daily funnies, right? Are you dating anyone?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but no.”
“I remember that you dated Jane what’s her name in high school. What about college? Anyone?”
“Her name was Mills, Jane Mills.” Jason was becoming annoyed. “I’m sure you checked our year book today. Why pretend that you don’t know her last name?”
Tina sat silent for a few seconds. “My bad. Yes, I know her name.”
“So what’s the deal?”
“Okay, I’m…was jealous…I guess.”
“No need to be. We’ve moved on. She’s married. I met her husband at the reunion.”
“That was husband number two. She has two kids from her first marriage.”
Jason laughed. “Oh well. I’m glad they’re not mine.”
Tina smiled. “Just think, if you had married her, you’d be pay alimony right now.” Tina raised her eyebrows and widened her eye. “So…anyone?” She shook her head from side to side.
“This is beginning to sound like an interrogation. Did you do a background check on me?”
“The crime lab takes a dim view of employees using their database for background checks on dates.”
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“As a matter of fact, I did. It doesn’t include your love life.”
“You’re squeaky clean, really boring.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Do you have an apartment?”
“No. I can’t afford one at the moment. I moved back in with my parents. I guess you must have one in Cheyenne.”
“Yeah. I share an apartment with another girl from the lab. We get along real well. Actually, more like frienmies.”
“What is your title? Are you an agent?”
Tina laughed. “No. My title is Biologist.” She fished in her purse and handed Jason her business card.
“Do you carry a gun?”
Tina narrowed her eyes, leaned forward and laid her hand on the back of Jason's hand. “Only on dates.”
Dinner was served. They talked and laughed throughout the meal. When they finished, they broke their fortune cookies together and shared the fortunes. Afterwards, they stopped outside to look at the stars. Tina took Jason’s hand as they gazed at the stars.
[To be continued]