CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

“Hazel you can’t stay in your room forever.” Maria Stuart said standing in Hazel’s doorway.

“I was downstairs just a minute ago.” Hazel said, staring at her computer screen.

“You know what I mean.” Maria said. “You didn’t go to school on Monday, or Tuesday or today.” She said. “You have finals coming up.”

“And I am preparing for them. Here. At home.” Hazel said. “I already got accepted into Berkeley.”

“But you still need to keep up your attendance record.” Maria said.

“Mom, I found out one of my best friends is a killer.” Hazel said. “I am just not ready to face everyone at school, so can I just get this week?”

Maria sighed. “Fine. But you will be in school monday, no excuses.”

“Promise.” Hazel said as her mom left the room. It had been days since she found out about Jasmine. The police had been looking for her, but she had disappeared. There was no sign of Ben either, but she hadn’t told anyone about him. Not even Toni.

Of course that hadn’t stopped the police from asking questions about him.

She had spent hours with detective Ashwood recapping everything Jasmine had told her. They found it suspicious that Ben had disappeared the same time Jasmine did. But as far as she knew they hadn’t put out an APB on him. They had found her car though. It was left on the side of the road. No damages, no scratches.

Her phone rang. She picked it up and looked at the screen. It was Toni. She let it go to voicemail. She had been dodging her calls. She had come over a couple of times, but it had been kind of awkward. They just hung around in silence, didn’t talk much. Neither of them had brought up Jasmine’s name. It was like they had a silent pact not to ever speak her name.

The phone stopped ringing. Hazel felt guilty. Toni was probably going through the same thing she was. She picked up the phone and dialed her number. It rang once.

“Hey.” Toni’s said, her voice sounding dull. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing much, just catching up on homework.” Hazel replied, her voice sounding equally dull. “How about you?”

“Same.” Toni replied. “Were you in school today?”

“No, I stayed home.” Hazel said. “You didn’t go either?”

“Haven’t gone since Monday.” Toni replied. “Hey, are you up for a movie later?”

“Sure, your place or mine?” Hazel asked.

“Yours definitely.” Toni said laughing a little. “See you in a bit.” She cut the line.

Hazel set down her phone. She sighed. Another night of awkward silence.
* * *
“I don’t get it.” James said in frustration. “How could an eighteen year old girl be this good at evading the police?”

“Considering all that she was able to pull off, I am not surprised.” Corbin replied. “She is probably in Kansas by now.”

“Probably.” James said. “Have you gotten a hold of Alex?”

“Funny thing, I called the office in Los Angeles, and they said he was on assignment. Classified.” Corbin said.

“Feds and their classified jobs.” James snorted. “Any progress on Ben Adrian?”

“Yeah his credit card was swiped at a gas ‘n’ sip not far from here.” Corbin said. “You think he is helping his girlfriend hide?”

“It is possible.” James said. “But if he has been lying this long we’ll never get him to talk. It’s best we keep following him.”

Corbin nodded. “Maybe he’ll lead us to her. That is, if she isn’t in Kansas already.”

“True that.” James said. “Well so far Hazel’s story checks out. It doesn’t look like Jasmine killed Jeremiah. She was in school then.”

“How about Thomas Bridges?” Corbin asked. “She admitted to being in his house right in our kill zone.”

“Yeah, but why would she lie when she was already blown?” James asked. “I don’t know, there is something else going on here.”

“You keep thinking that.” Corbin said standing up. “But I say we have got our killer.”

“Where are you going?” James asked.

“Gonna patrol a little bit.” He replied. “Wanna come along?”

“We have got a bunch of paper work to deal with.” James said.

“And they’ll be here when you get back.” Corbin said. “Come on I am tired being cooped up in this place.”

James sighed and closed the file that was on the table. “Fine. But you are buying coffee.”
* * *
Jasmine set the remote on the table. She sat back and set her bowl of popcorn on her lap. She had seen this movie before, but it was the only thing on that was worth watching. She hated, motels, but they were a necessary evil.

There was a knock on the door. Jasmine grabbed the remote and hit the mute button. She got up from her bed and looked through the peephole. It was a guy with a hard face and a beards chin. She knew him. That was Frank. She opened the door.

“Were you followed?” Jasmine asked.

“Who you think you talking to?” Frank snorted. He handed her a brown package. “It’s all in there. Id’s, passport, Social security, a whole new Identity.”

Jasmine took the package.”Thanks.” She handed him a roll of cash. He put it in his jacket.

“How long so you think you can run?” Frank asked.

“I am not running.” Jasmine said. “I am buying time.”

“Whatever.” Frank said. “Stay sharp.” He exited. Jasmine closed the door. She picked up the remote and shut off the television. It was time to blow this joint.
* * *
Ben watched as the man with the bearded chin left the building. That was where she was. He waited until he got in his car and drive off. He was not going looking for a confrontation with him. He got down from his car and walked towards inside the building. He went to the receptionist.

“Hi, I’d like a room please.” Ben said to her.

“Okay give me a moment.” She disappeared through a door behind the desk. Ben grabbed the records book, and began to search it, he didn’t expect to see her real name or Zas, but he knew the kind of aliases she used. His eyes caught a name. Pearl Harbor, room seventeen. That was definitely her. He closed the book and rushed upstairs quickly before she came back.

He reached number seventeen. He was deciding whether to knock when the door opened and Jasmine stood in the doorway. Her eyes widened in shock and she grabbed him and pulled him inside, and shut the door.

“What are you doing here?” She hissed. “Do you know you are being followed?”

“What how do you know?” Ben said defensively.

“Because I have been tracking your credit cards you moron.” She said. “If the cops had any brains, they’d be doing the same too.” She grabbed her bag I am getting out of here.

“Wait,” Ben grabbed her arm. “I want what you have on me.”

Jasmine grabbed his arm and twisted it. She heard his bones snap and she swept his legs from under him. He fell on his back.

“Ow.” He complained. “You broke my arm.”

“You are lucky that was the only thing I broke.” She said angrily. She took out a thumb drive and tossed it to him. “There it is.” She said. “Goodbye Ben.”
* * *
James phone rang. He picked it up. “Hello?” He said into the phone.

“Our boy just entered a motel downtown.” Officer Bruce said. “And get this, he didn’t check in.”

“He is going to see her.” James said, motioning for Corbin to turn the car around. What is the address?

James listened to the address as Corbin turned and started speeding in the other direction. “Thanks.” James said after a while. “Secure the area, do not let anyone leave” He hung up the phone.

“They found them?” Corbin asked.

“Yep.” James said. “They are in a motel downtown.”

“What do you think his role is in all this?” Corbin asked.

“I don’t know.” James said. “But it isn’t a coincidence he ran away, the same time Jasmine did.”

Five minutes later they were at the motel. There were cops surrounding the place. James went up to Bruce.

“Where are they?” James asked.

“No one has left the building.” Bruce said. He pointed at a blue car. “That is Adrain’s car. They should still be inside.”

Corbin cussed out loud. “Did you try to find them?” He asked.

“No I was waiting for backup.” Bruce said looking confused.

“Backup? They are a couple of kids.” Corbin un-holstered his gun and went inside, James behind him. He went up to the receptionist, and flashed his badge. “We are looking for a guy, white, jet black hair, green eyes, eighteen years.”

“A guy like that came up to check in. But when I left to get the book he disappeared.”

“Let me see your records.” James said. She handed it to him and he flipped through it while Corbin described Jasmine to her. His eyes caught a name.

“Pearl Harbor. That’s her.” He said pointing at the book.

“How do you know that?” Corbin asked.

“It’s a cliché.” James said. “A variation of her name and her town. She is in room seventeen”

Corbin and James rushed upstairs. They got to room seventeen and James banged on the door. “Police open up.” He bellowed. There was no answer
Corbin nodded and they kicked the door in. It was……….empty.

“What the hell?” Corbin yelled. “Where are they?”
There was a noise in the hallway. James peeked to see a figure in a hoodie get into an elevator. Long brown hair peeked out if the sides. “Stop!” He yelled. He rushed to the stairs Corbin behind him. He got to the ground floor, pressed the button for the elevator and waited for it to open. After about a minute it opened. There was no one there.

“Where did she go?” Corbin asked.

James looked around in confusion. Then he saw Ben running towards the exit. “Freeze!” He yelled running towards him. He reached him and tackled him to the ground. “O’Brian get Jasmine.” He said while cuffing him. Corbin ran back upstairs. Bruce came up and James handed him to Bruce. He ran after Corbin. They got to the hallway. It was clear.

“How many floors are in this building?” Corbin asked.

“Just two.” James said panting. “How did she get out of the elevator.” He wondered aloud.

Corbin smacked his head. “She never went down. She is somewhere on this floor.”

They started opening rooms. Then they heard a crash from one side of the building. They ran in the direction of the noise and found a broken window. Then they heard a ding and saw Jasmine in the elevator. She waved at them mockingly as it closed. “Stay here.” James told Corbin as he ran downstairs to intercept her. But when he got down stairs, the door was already opened and she wasn’t in sight. He went outside

“Where is she?” He bellowed at Bruce.

“She who?” Bruce asked.

“Jasmine.” James yelled. “She was in that elevator.”

“No one has come out.” Bruce replied.

James went back inside and looked around. There was a service exit at the end. He ran to it and opened it. It led outside, to the parking lot. James exited and looked around, but he knew in his heart there was no use. She was gone.
* * *
“You let a teenage girl evade you?” Jones thundered. “How did this happen?”

“She used Adrian as a distraction sir.” James said. “She managed to get away using a service exit.”

“A service-” Jones spluttered. He put his hands in his face. “Where is Adrian?”

“He is the interrogation room.” James said.

“Go see what he knows.” Jones said.

“Will do sir.” James replied. He left the office and headed for the interrogation room. This was all Bruce’s fault. It was his incompetence that let Jasmine escape.

He got to the interrogation room and opened the door. Corbin was already there. He was sitting across Ben.

“The nitpick wouldn’t say anything.” Corbin said as James entered.

“That’s fine.” James replied. “We will just charge him for murder.”

“Whoa hold on, murder?” Ben exclaimed. “I didn’t do anything.”

“Didn’t do anything?” James snorted. “You helped a fugitive escape. Who is to say you haven’t been helping her this whole time?”

“I didn’t help her escape.” Ben retorted. He moved his right arm uncomfortably. James noticed.

“What happened to your arm?” James asked.

“A gift from Zas.” Ben said wincing. “She broke my arm.”

Corbin laughed. “You got beat up by a girl? What were you doing there?” Corbin asked. “Why were you meeting her?”

“I am not saying anything.” Ben said. “Unless we can work out some sort of deal.”

“I thought you didn’t do anything?” James asked.

“I may have done some things.” Ben said. “Not murder though.” He said quickly. “I swear I didn’t kill anyone.”

“Okay, tell us what you know, and we’ll work out something.” James said. “It’s the best I can do.”

Ben hesitated. There was dead air in the room for a minute. Then Ben started talking. “Jasmine caught me stealing test questions last year. She started using that to blackmail me to do things for her.”

“Like what?” James asked.

“Drop bags at random places. I didn’t know what was in them until I opened it one day and found out they were drugs.” Ben said.

“So you committed a bigger crime, to cover a smaller one?” James asked.

“I didn’t know they were drugs.” Ben protested. “When I told her I didn’t want any part of it, she put those test questions they found in my locker, and tipped off the principal.”

“So Jasmine stole them not you.” James asked.

“No I did. I just didn’t keep them in my locker.” Ben replied.

“Okay, so why were you hanging out with Carla?” James asked.

“Carla and I became friends after the test question incident. When she was on the run. Jasmine wanted me to keep an eye on her to make sure she was okay.” Ben replied.

“But Jasmine killed Carla.” James said.

“No, that was Jeremiah.” Ben said. “Jasmine got her money back, but Carla thought Zas tried to kill her, so she ran. Jeremiah killed her, that’s what Jasmine told me.”

“No, Jasmine did kill her.” James said. “She confessed to Hazel.”

Ben slumped in his seat. “So I was framing Jeremiah for no reason?”

“Wait what do you mean you were framing him?” Corbin asked leaning forward.

“Everything you guys found that pointed to Jeremiah, Jasmine and I put it there.” Ben said. “The Van? We moved that. When the girls came clean to you about the money? That was my Idea, so it would lead to Jeremiah. Jasmine convinced me Jeremiah killed her. That bitch! ” Ben slammed his fists into the table.”

“So you had no Idea who killed Tom either?” Corbin asked.

“It was probably Jasmine right? If she lied about Carla, she would lie about him too.” Ben said.

“We don’t think she killed Tom.” James said. “So if you know something else now would be the time.”

Ben hesitated. “Jeremiah had someone helping him. I don’t know who it was. Jasmine does.”

“How do you know?” Corbin asked.

“She was having me keep tabs on him.” Ben said. “Jeremiah kept meeting up with this person. I never saw his face.”

“So how does Jasmine know who it was? Corbin asked.

“That hack Tom did.” Ben said. “Jasmine thought it was her name that’s why she stole his computer. But it was him.”

“And Jasmine never told you his name?” Corbin asked.

“No.” Ben said. “She said it was leverage.”

“Techs are going through that laptop right now.” James said. “We should be able to find out who that person is.”

“Don’t bother.” Ben said. “Jasmine swapped the hard disk. She has the real one.”

“Wonderful.” James said sardonically. “Guess we have to find her.”
* * *
Keith sat in front of his father’s tombstone. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a can of soda. He popped the lid and took a long sip. He set it down.

“So Jasmine is still at large.” Keith began facing the tombstone. “Me and mum didn’t tell the cops we found the laptop in her room. They still figured it out anyway. But it’s only a matter of time before they find out. How long can she run for anyway?”

“I’m surprised you have little faith in me Keith.” A familiar voice said coming from behind him.

Keith turned to see Jasmine walking beside him, wearing a baseball cap over her head. Her hair was cropped short. “Jasmine.” He hissed. “What are you doing here?”

“I knew I’ll find you here, duh.” Jasmine said.

“The police are watching Mom and I.” Keith said. “Why aren’t you leaving town?”

“No one is watching us right now, I made sure of that.” Jasmine said. “As for leaving town, I still have a lot of things to do.”

“Why did you do it?” Keith asked.

“It’s a long story.” Jasmine said. “Just want to let you know. You are covered.”

“Covered for what?” Keith asked.

“Everything.” Jasmine said. “I set up a trust for you.”

“You want me to take drug money?” Keith asked.

“It just money.” Jasmine said. “And I also came to give you this.” She handed him an envelope.

“What is this?” Keith asked, glancing down at the paper.

“It’s a letter I wrote for your sixteenth birthday.” Jasmine said. “It’s corny stuff.” She pulled the hoodie over her head. “Take care Keith.” She ruffled his hair and walked away.

“Wait.” Keith said staring up from the letter, but Jasmine was already gone.
* * *
“My father is moving to Harbor.” Toni said.

“Wait what?” Hazel asked sitting up.

“Yeah, he told me yesterday.” Toni said. “Apparently, he said Carla’s mom was mishandling his company.”

“What are you going to do about it?” Hazel asked.

Toni laughed. “I am going to college in the fall. I’ll hardly see him.” There was a few minutes of silence. Then Hazel broke the ice

“Do you know where Jasmine applied to?” Hazel asked.

“Stanford.” Toni said surprised. “Why are you asking?”

“She told me she applied for a scholarship last year. We didn’t know about it. Do you think we were bad friends?” Hazel asked.

“We are not to blame for what happened.” Toni said. “This is all Jasmine’s doing.”

“I just can’t help thinking if we were better friends-” Hazel said but Toni cut her off.

“Don’t beat yourself over this.” Toni said. There was a knock on Hazel’s door. “Come in” Hazel called out. It opened and her butler walked in.

“Ms Stuart, you have a package he said handing a brown parcel to her.

“Thanks.” Hazel said, taking it from him. As he closed the door, Hazel started opening it.

“Who is it from?” Toni asked.

“I don’t know.” Hazel said undoing the wrapper to reveal a box. Hazel opened it to reveal a picture frame. It was The four of them. Jasmine, Carla, Hazel and Toni. There was a note attached to it.

“For all the good times” Hazel read aloud. “Love, Jaz.”

“Why is she sending you this?” Toni asked.

“I guess it’s an apology or something.” Hazel said. “Wait there is something on the back of the note.” She looked out it and read aloud. “D.O. killed Tom.”

“Who is D.O?” Toni asked confused.

Hazel widened her eyes. “Oh my God. We have to call Detective Ashwood right now.”

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