“Are you sure, Daddy?” she asks, and it’s not her reverting to little. She’s in shock, so I scoop her up and carry her into my apartment, drawing a bath for her, finally glad I don’t have a proper shower, but instead a bathtub with a hose. Once she’s soaking, I comb her hair, and read her a few passages from some story in her Kindle by an author appropriately named Lena Little, based on the content of her work.
That seems to put her at ease, and allows me to ease out of the room for a minute to grab her some juice from the fridge…and call my friend who simply goes by ‘The Fed Fixer.’
Thirty minutes later he’s at my door and I explain to him how I knew something was wrong when I arrived at the apartment. The telltale I’d slid into the door had fallen, letting me know someone had entered or exited at the time, and a quick check of the tiny security camera I just had installed, with live view hooked up to my phone, only confirmed it when I saw a body slide into the building beyond suspiciously.
I didn’t even bother going in the front, knowing he’d had the door shut and possibly a hostage situation. Luckily the other night I’d already climbed up to her window so I knew it could be done, quickly, quietly, and stealthily. And the best part is there was a nearby window that would provide a reflection so I’d be able to see everything that was transpiring inside her apartment.
The Fixer shakes his head. “Clear cut self-defense, or at least it could be swung that way pretty easily in court. But here’s the easiest part about it…I ran his name and that school you said he worked at on the way over. He’s not an off-duty cop. As a matter of fact he’s not qualified for any type of security profession. He shouldn’t even be allowed to guard…” his eyes look around the room, “one of these stuffed animals he’s so incompetent.” He pauses. “His name is obviously an alias, the Epstein choice beyond a bad joke, and how he pulled off the off-duty cop thing we’ll have to look into, but we have federal offenses here most certainly so my being here is justified. The question is how do you want to play this?”
“We can have an anonymous person call it in later in the day, you happen to be in the area and show up, putting together all the pieces based on his fake IDs.” I pause. “Or we just play it like it is and I’m stuck here in town probably a month or two, and my location is revealed since I’m attached to the crime. That only gives both the good guys and the bad a chance to track me and my woman down.”
The usually stoic Fixer jerks his head back. “Did you say…my woman?”
I smirk. “Yeah, I’m surprised as you are that I met the one.”
“You never even dated.”
“Not gonna waste my time with that stuff. I was never available, but what I realize now is I was available, but only for her. I was waiting on her to find me, or vice versa, whether I knew it or not.”
“Case closed then. Since there’s a woman involved that means it’s called in later in the day. I’ll look for a diner to sit in for a while until then. You know a place?” He smirks back, clearly having put the pieces together by now and figured out I was involved in the thwarted robbery attempt at Diana’s old place of employment within the last week.
“I know a place, but clearly you do too.”
“And I know you’re going to land on your feet, you always do,” he reinforces, putting his hand on my shoulder.
“Once all this blows over and you feel like chasing bad guys again you give me a call and you can come play on the winning team, with the big boys.”
“The only ‘big boys’ I want in my future are watching my sons grow up, and the only chasing will be my kids around some beach in the sun. And the only blowing will be a nice afternoon breeze while I spend the rest of my days focused on what matters most. Family.”
“I’m glad you solved the puzzle that most of us never do. Most are destined for backaches and dodging bullets until our bodies are too broken down to move, only to shovel ourselves onto oversized red city-tour buses to ‘explore’ European cities.”
“Yeah, that’s not gonna work for me.”
“Something tells me I might see you there.”
“Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re not.”
“Good luck, amigo.”
I quickly pack up all of Diana’s things and give the keys of her apartment to The Fixer, feeling like I’m in a James Bond movie…which is a huge relief.
Not an hour ago I thought the story that was my and Diana’s life was about to have a different ending, one where the good guy doesn’t win. But then again, that’s not really a possibility.
I’m her Daddy and that means I make the rules for her own good, my number one responsibility is to keep her safe and happy. And although that nearly got compromised, there’s no way we’ll ever come that close again. I’m taking my baby girl and we’re outta here. She comes first, always.
And we’re gonna be the first two at the bank when it opens, and the first ones to board our plane to…
Two months later