Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn – Part 13

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 61 minutes.


Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

Jason came awake abruptly as he heard sounds from the baby monitor from the side table. Jake was stirring at—he glanced at the clock next to it—just past five in the morning. He rolled over gently to see Elizabeth still sleeping deeply. Cameron had burrowed into her side during the night, his head tucked into her chest, her arms wrapped around him securely.

Quietly, Jason slid out of bed and went down the hall to the boys’ bedroom to find Jake laying on his back, his tiny fists waving in the air. “Hey,” he said softly, switching the monitor to mute so he didn’t wake Elizabeth. He lifted Jake in his arms. “You’re up early.”

Jake just looked at him and shoved his fist into his mouth. Was he hungry? He didn’t think Elizabeth would feed him this early, but maybe he was on this schedule for her return to work. Or maybe he just wanted to be held — he wasn’t fussing, Jason thought, and sat in the rocking chair by the crib. He put Jake against his shoulder and stroked the infant’s back. Michael used to wake himself up without warning, and if Jason was careful, he could get another hour or two of sleep from him.

“It’s our first morning together,” he said to his son, relieved when Jake didn’t continue to fuss. He settled down, his eyes drifting shut. “I don’t know your schedule. I’m a quick learner.”

“He likes a cuddle in the morning.”

Jason glanced up to see Elizabeth leaning against the door frame, her eyes sleepy and her hair tangled from sleep. “Did you want—”

“No. You don’t get enough time with him.” She smiled, stayed where she was as Jake’s breathing slowed and the baby slid back into sleep. “Besides I like to watch you with him.”

Jason settled Jake back in his crib and switched the monitor back on. “I tried not to wake you up—” he told her as they went back in the hall and he closed the door.

“Internal clock,” Elizabeth said, stifling a yawn. “Can’t help it.” She caught his hand before he went back to the master bedroom. “Thank you for letting us stay last night—Cameron always has such a great time with you.”

Jason drew her closer and she smiled as their bodies brushed. “If I thought you were ready,” he said, “I’d let you stay forever. I like waking up next to you.”

“I like waking up in your bed.” She pressed her lips against his briefly. “We could get another hour before Cam gets up.”

Jason was wide awake now, but wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. “Let’s go.”

PCU: Campus

Lucky crouched down, the bile in his stomach rising as he glanced up at his partner. “Who found them?”

“Kid coming from a party—” Cruz Rodriguez swallowed hard, looked away. “How we gonna tell him, Spence? Christ.”

“No good way,” Lucky murmured. He’d known Georgie Jones since she was a girl. Smart, quick, friendly—all of it was gone in an instant. Her pretty brown eyes were open, lifeless, looking up into the sky, the garish, angry purple bruise around her neck stark against her pale skin.

Beside her, another girl Lucky had seen in passing, was laying — her curly brown hair spread around her like a halo, her eyes open to the sky. They were sprawled out — killed where they were found, Lucky thought. He got to his feet, took a step back. “The second vic has a cord around her neck —”

“You think it’s the same cord he used on Geor—” Cruz stopped, took a breath. “The first vic.”

“Maybe. We’ll see if the bruises match.” Lucky dragged a hand down his face, looked around the campus. He didn’t know PCU that well — he’d never really hung out here when Emily and Elizabeth had taken classes. They were close to Lewis Hall and a few other dorm buildings — about half a mile from fraternity row and the heart of the campus with the student center and academic buildings.

“CSU is on their way,” Lucky said. “But this—” He crouched back down, gestured at the strap of a purse still slung across Georgie’s body. “It doesn’t look like a robbery.”

“No—” Cruz broke off with a swear as he looked out. “Shit, shit, shit—he must have heard—”

Lucky sprang to his feet and leapt over the bushes to stop Mac as the commissioner rushed towards them, his eyes bulging, his face red — “Mac—don’t do this to yourself—”

“I have to see—” Mac shoved Lucky aside and then he crumpled in on himself. “Georgie. Georgie. Oh, God. It’s Georgie—” His hand was trembling as he raised it in the air, and he seemed to struggle for air. “Oh, God. Georgie. My baby. Georgie.”

Lucky put an arm around the grieving father’s shoulders. “We’ll take care of her, Mac, okay? We’ll look after her. You can’t be here—”

“Don’t you—” Mac sank to his knees, a few feet from Georgie’s body, his eyes locked on her lifeless form. “She was going to Oxford. Did you know that? She was going to transfer after this year—Oxford. In England.” His shattered eyes met Lucky. “What happened? What do we know?”

“Not much yet,” Lucky said, trying to get him to stand, to get away from Georgie’s body. “Partygoer found them about a half hour ago. Called it in. CSU is on their way. Can’t be sure,  but it looks like strangulation. Both girls have their purses so it doesn’t look like a robbery.” He paused. “Do you know the other?”

“Chelsea Rae,” Mac murmured. “They were roommates.” He closed his eyes, fought for breath. “I have to get it together. I have to take care of—Maxie. And Felicia. I have to call them.”

“Sure. Sure. Cruz, go with Mac, okay? And call Robin,” he told his partner. “And Kevin Collins. Mac needs them.”

“My baby,” Mac said. He curled his hand into a fist. “My baby.” He looked at Lucky. “Not a robbery.”

“It doesn’t hit me that way, no,” Lucky said. “I could be wrong — maybe he emptied the purses, but—”

“Not a robbery. Start with the friends.” Mac’s face hardened. “Start with that little freak Spinelli.”

Morgan Penthouse: Kitchen

“Cameron, try to get some of that syrup on your pancakes and not just in your hair,” Elizabeth said with a sigh, reaching for another napkin to wet as Cameron’s sticky fingers became stuck in his curls. He flashed his baby teeth at her.

“Yummy,” he said.

“How would you know?” she asked, but smiled anyway. It was so good to see her baby back to himself, with his sunny smiles and zero to a hundred personality. He’d only slept another half hour after Jason and Elizabeth had gone back to bed, and he’d tried to zoom down the stairs in the little motorcycle tricycle from his room.

They’d only slowed him down with promise of waffles and bacon, his favorite breakfast — and Elizabeth was only mildly surprised to see Jason digging a box of frozen Waffles from the fridge. “The last time I had breakfast here, you had like six eggs and half a loaf of bread,” she teased him.

“Spinelli is eating more than his weight in food,” Jason said, setting down a plate in front of Spinelli.

“The Jackal needs his sustenance, Stone Cold.” Spinelli slid a few slices of bacon onto Cameron’s plate. “Here you go, Little Dude.”

“Yummy—” Cameron broke it in half and shoved it in his mouth. He grinned. “Best day ever.”

“Easy for you to say,” Elizabeth muttered at the sink as she dabbed at a glob of syrup on her shirt. Jason grinned at her and she smacked him lightly in the arm. “Don’t enjoy my misery. I hope he gets you next.”

“We should have sleepovers all the time if it means the Jackal will get a hot breakfast,” Spinelli said cheerfully.

Jake started crying on the monitor, and Jason set down the spatula he’d been using for bacon.

“I’ll get him,” Elizabeth said. “I need to soak this stain before it sets — can I borrow a shirt?” she wanted to know. “I didn’t replace the emergency one in the diaper bag after last week’s mustard affair.” Cameron had smacked a mustard packet hard and it had spurted all over her at Kelly’s.

Jason nodded, and she snagged the bottle he handed her, already lightly warmed. It was lovely, she thought, almost like a normal family morning with all the chaos and mess that came with it.

She knew it was too soon to be thinking about staying more than a one night every once in a while, and she still had to find a good way to explain staying last night to her grandmother — though maybe Audrey would understand that she’d needed to focus just on Cameron last night, so it had been helpful to have Jason there to pick up the slack with Jake.

And she hadn’t forgotten Jason’s words the day before — that losing Lucky didn’t mean Cameron couldn’t have a father. She just didn’t quite know what to do with it — everything seemed to be going exactly the way she dreamed — she and Jason were in love, he adored the boys, and she was happy.

Every time Elizabeth came close to happiness, the world caved in.

She tossed the shirt on the bed, intending to soak it after Jake had his bottle, and found a t-shirt of Jason’s that wouldn’t completely swallow her whole, though it came close. She tugged the blue cotton over her head, and brought the collar to her nose for just a moment, letting the fresh scent sink in.

This moment of perfection wouldn’t last forever, so she was going to remember every second.

She scooped Jake up, settled him in her arms, and began to feed him. When Jake had latched onto the bottle, Elizabeth carefully made her way downstairs, taking the stairs slowly.

She was halfway across the living room when the phone on the desk rang. Jason came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on his a dishtowel, surprised at the sound. It was too early, Elizabeth thought, her heart rate picking up. What if something had happened—

“Morgan—what? Why?” Jason exhaled slowly. “No. No. Wait—” He pressed a hand to his forehead and looked at her. “He needs to give a reason or  he’s not getting past the desk—” Some of the color slipped from his face. “Yeah. I’ll meet him in the hallway. Thanks, Wally.”

“Jason, what’s wrong—”

Jason slowly set the receiver down. “The front desk. Lucky’s downstairs on official police business.” He looked at Elizabeth. “He needs Spinelli.”

“Lucky—why—” She tightened her arms around Spinelli. “Why does he need Spinelli?”

“He wants to talk to Spinelli about a party he went to last night on campus—” Jason went past her into the kitchen. A moment later, Spinelli  followed him out.

“What’s up, Stone Cold?” he said cheerfully. “Hey, it’s Little Stone Cold, having breakfast just like us—”

“Spinelli, the PCPD are coming upstairs to ask you about a party last night,” Jason told him, and Spinelli’s smile slipped.

“The party? I dipped early on that. Not my scene—” He stopped. “Georgie. Chels. Are—are they okay? Was there an accident—”

“I don’t know anything,” Jason said. “Just that Lucky wants to talk to you about that. We’ll go out in the hallway,” he told Elizabeth. “So Cameron doesn’t see or hear him.”

Elizabeth hesitated, concerned. Jason might not know exactly why Lucky was coming up, but whatever Lucky had said to the front desk guard had worried Jason. Or upset him. “All right. I’ll go make sure he stays in the kitchen.”

Jason steered Spinelli out into the hallway, closing the door. “Listen, you’ll answer questions only with me present,” he told the younger man. “If it goes south, I’ll stop it, and we’ll call Diane. I think this is just an information thing, but if I change my mind—”

“I gotta help Chels and Georgie.” Spinelli rubbed his chest. “Maybe they didn’t get home. Maybe they’re missing. Or someone got hurt—I gotta do the right thing—”

The elevator doors slid open and Lucky stepped out. Twenty-four hours earlier, Lucky had been the piece of shit walking from a son crying out for him, and there was a piece of Jason that still wanted to pound him into the ground.

But the man who stepped out was a cop — and his face was somber, his jaw clenched, and his eyes grief-stricken. Jason clenched his hands at his side. Christ. What the hell had happened—

“Hey, Spinelli.” Lucky flicked his eyes to Jason, and his cheek twitched, but then he nodded. “I’m glad you’re not alone. Uh—” He cleared his throat. “Can we—you might want to sit down—”

“This is as far as you go,” Jason said flatly. “Cameron is inside.” He saw Lucky jolt at that, but then nod.

“Fair enough. Uh—” He paused and looked back at Spinelli. “You were at a party on the PCU campus last night. You went with Georgie and her roommate didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” Spinelli’s eyes were wide, dark. “I went home early. It’s not really my thing, so Georgie said it was cool if I split. I only went to keep them company. Are—you gotta tell me they’re okay.”

“What time did you get home?” Lucky wanted to know.

“I don’t know. Ten? Eleven?” He looked at Jason helplessly. “Stone Cold? The Jackal—he can’t seem to think right now.”

“A little after ten-thirty,”  Jason said. “We can pull security if you want to confirm—”

“Yeah, yeah, I want to be able to confirm it. I believe you,” Lucky added. “It’s just—I need—” He dipped his head. “Okay. Gotta do this fast then. I’m sorry, Spinelli—”

“No, no—”

“Georgie and  Chelsea were—they were murdered last night.”

“No, it’s wrong—” Spinelli shook his head, backed up into the door. “No, no, no! No, they’re fine! You’re wrong! This is wrong!”

He sank to the ground, hugging his knees. “No. No.”

“We’re sure,” Lucky told Jason. “I made—I made the identification on Georgie myself—” He fisted his hand at his side. “I’m sorry, kid. I know you were close,” he told Spinelli.

Jason crouched next to the shattered boy. “Spinelli,” he said quietly. “Lucky might have more questions for you. We need to help Georgie now. Like she helped you. Right? Can we try—”

“Yeah.” Spinelli looked up, his cheeks tear-stained. “Yeah. Faithful friend. That’s who Georgie was. Always there. Did—she told her dad, didn’t she? About the calls and the dead flowers. She was supposed to tell someone—”

Lucky’s expression stilled. “What calls? What dead flowers?”

Comments

  • I like this family breakfast routine and I hope there is more in the future. Poor Spinelli his heart is broken.

    According to Becca on November 13, 2022
  • My heart is breaking for what Spinelli, Liz, and Mac are going through. I love the family breakfast, and I can’t wait to find out who is killing the students. Thanks for the update.

    According to Shelly Samuel on November 13, 2022
  • Poor Spinelli! I was really hoping Georgie would be ok. I love the little bits of domestic Liason!

    According to GoldenGirl on November 13, 2022
  • Oh there was a part of me that hoped Georgie was only unconscious and not dead. Of course, I knew that was unlikely … but didn’t stop me from wishing.
    Glad you made progress on Kismet and writing goals. Looking forward to all the upcoming projects including the return of Invisible Strings.

    According to LivingLiason on November 13, 2022
  • I loved the family breakfast. Cam is so cute!! I was hoping that Georgie was just unconscious. This is so horrible!! Who killed these girls? Mac broke my heart and poor Spinelli. I think he’ll be the one that will solve these murders.

    According to arcoiris0502 on November 14, 2022
  • So sad! I was hoping the girls would be alright. Hopefully Spinelli can lead Mac to the killer. I loved the family moments with Jason, Elizabeth, Spin and the kids.

    According to Carla P on November 14, 2022
  • Great update. I’m so glad that Cam was happy for the sleepover; I was too . It was nice family time. Mac & Spinelli broke my heart. And I still can’t stand Lucky, but I was glad to see he was able to at least pretend to a professional at least once.

    According to Felicia on November 15, 2022
  • wow, great update.
    love family time.
    I feel so bad for Mac and poor Spinelli.
    I was hoping they would find Georgie still alive.
    Jason is being a wonderful friend to Spinelli and looking out for him.
    look forward to the next update

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on November 15, 2022