CHAPTER TWENTY

Hazel opened her eyes. It was dark and she couldn’t see anything. Her head was pounding. She closed her eyes back again and for what seemed like a few seconds opened it back again. Her vision was blurry.  She couldn’t make out her surroundings. Her head was still pounding and there was a numb sensation in her left hand. There was a buzzing sound in her ears, she couldn’t remember where she was or how she got there.

Her vision cleared. It was bright. The room white, she was on a bed. She looked at her hand. There was an IV tube attached to it. It connected to a bag full of clear liquid. She was in accident, she remembered. She was probably in a hospital. She tried to sit up, but her head pounded furiously so she lay back down. She tried to remember what had happened. A car ran them off the road. She remembered Her and Toni screaming, then that was it. Oh my god Toni, she thought. Was she alright? And how had they survived?

The door to her room opened. Hazel quickly tried to sit up again. Her mother came in and saw her trying to sit up.

“Oh no honey lie back down.” Maria Stuart said rushing to Hazel’s bedside and gently applied pressure to Hazel’s shoulder forcing her to lie back down. “The doctor says you have a concussion. You need to rest.”

“I feel fine mom.” Hazel said ignoring her throbbing head. “Where is Toni?”

“Don’t worry about her honey she is fine.” Maria said. “I should go call the doctor.” she quickly left the room.

Moments she arrived with a man wearing a white lab coat came in.He had a friendly face.

“Hi. I’m Doctor Kent. How are you feeling?” He asked her bringing out a light and shining it in Hazel’s eyes.

“I feel okay I guess.” Hazel said. “My head hurts a little.”

“Well you hit it pretty hard.” Doctor Kent said. “Do you know what day it is?”

“Umm, Thursday, April Thirtieth?” Hazel said her tone raised at the end inflecting a question.

“Good, very good.” Doctor Kent said. “Do you remember what happened?” He said turning off the light and placing it back in his pocket.

“I was in an accident.” Hazel said. “The details are a bit fuzzy.”

“Okay.” Doctor Kent said. He held out his finger. “Follow my finger with your eyes.” He said moving it from side to side. Hazel obliged. After a few seconds he put it down. And wrote in a chart.

“What time is it?” Hazel asked.

“Two pm.” he said. “You slept for almost eighteen hours.”

“I woke up in the night, I think.” Hazel said. “Just for a few minutes.”

“Well you have a concussion so it’s normal to be tired.” Doctor Kent said. “We did a CT scan, found wrong other than a concussion. You were very lucky.” He wrote some more in his chart. “I’ll get you some aspirin for the pain.” He left the room.

Hazel turned to her mother. “Mom can I see Toni?” She asked.

“Oh, I’ll go get her.” Maria Stuart said. “She has been here all day.” She left the room. A minutes later Toni walked into the room looking perfectly fine.There was a grim look on her face.

“Hey!” Hazel complained. “How come you are not bandaged up?”

Toni laughed. Her worried look disappearing momentarily. “That’s because I am indestructible.” She joked going over to Hazel’s bed and giving her a hug. “How are you feeling.” she asked still holding her.

“My head hurts.” Hazel said. They detached. “How long have you been here?”

“I was here all night.” Toni said. “In the morning I snuck home to get a change of clothes and I came back. You were asleep the whole time.”

“What happened?” Hazel asked. “All I remember is that car ran us off the road, and then I am waking up here.”

“Well you were right.” Toni said reluctantly. “It was detective O’Brian. I saw him.”

“How did we survive?” Hazel asked.

“Well the airbags came out” Toni said carefully. “So I wasn’t hurt or anything. But someone pulled us out.”

“Who was it?” Hazel asked.

Toni let out a deep sigh. “It was Jaz.” She said. “She pulled us out.”                             *                                                   *                                               *

James sat in his desk looking at the ceiling. He knew he should be feeling elated. The case was solved but all he felt was an emptiness in his chest. He would have never guessed his partner was the one who murdered Thomas Bridges and Jeremiah Gates. His mind went back o the previous night.

When he received that card. He quickly put it together and rushed to his car, calling Jakes for backup. He was on his way to Corbin’s house when an accident was reported via radio occurring on Scheiman road. Following his gut, he took a detour there and found Hazel’s car in a gorge at the side of the road. He stopped his car and got down pulling his sidearm and flashlight out.  He recognized Corbin’s black car stopped dead center in the middle of the road. Corbin lay on his back unmoving blood coming out of his head. Then he saw another blue car at the far side of the road. Then he heard some noises coming from Hazel’s car. He saw Three huddled shapes climbing out from the ditch. He shined a light towards the shapes and recognized them. Hazel was unconscious, and  Toni and Jasmine were supporting her from both side. By then he was already hearing the ambulance sirens blaring.

“Put your hands where I can see them.” He bellowed at Jasmine.

“I can’t.” Jasmine snapped. “Toni can’t bear her weight alone.”

“Lay her on the floor then.” James said. Toni and Jasmine lay her gently on the floor. Jasmine reluctantly put her hands up and James moved in and cuffed her. “What happened.” He asked Toni, who still looked shaken up.

“Detective O’Brian ran us off the road.” Toni said. “He got down from his car and was about to shoot us when Jasmine hit him with her car.  Detective, He killed Tom-”

“Yeah I know.” James said grimly. He looked at Jasmine. “You are bit cryptic with your messages aren’t you?”

“You figured it out didn’t you?” Jasmine said. “Besides I had to write it in a hurry.”

“Are you okay?” James asked Toni.

“Yeah I’m fine.” Toni said. The paramedics arrived. James looked at his partner lying down on the ground again. Was he dead? He thought. He hoped not. He wanted answers.

“Detective?” Jakes said, shaking James out of his reverie.

“Yeah?” James said, coming out of his flashback.

“I got word from the hospital.”Jakes said. “Hazel Stuart is awake.”

“Oh that’s alright.” James said. “Any word on O’Brian?”

“No he’s still in a coma.” Jakes said. “I got two uniforms guarding him though.”

“Yeah, but I doubt he would be going anywhere.” James said. “What about our guest. How is she holding up?”

“Well she still refused to leave her cell.” Jakes said. “I don’t think she would be giving a confession anytime soon.”

“She wouldn’t need to.” James said. “We have her.”

“What about John Heathway?” Jakes said. “What are we charging him with?”

“I don’t know that’s the DA’s problem.” James said. “But he confirmed Corbin is Colby. Apparently Corbin helped do some dirty work, in return for cash. Jeremiah never met him.”

“So O’Brian killed Thomas Bridges and Jeremiah Gates.” Jakes said. “I still can’t wrap my head around that.”

“Me neither.” James said looking at the far end of the room. Someone had walked in. It was Richard Prescott.

“Excuse me.” James said standing up to meet him. “Mr Prescott.” James said.  “What can I do for you?”

“I called you last night.” Richard said. “I told yo I have some information.”

“Oh that won’t be necessary.” James said. “We have our killer. We caught him last night. He was trying to kill your daughter.”

“Yes I heard, I saw Toni briefly this morning.” Richard said. “But there is still something else.”

“What?” James said guardedly.

“After we talked yesterday, I checked some documents he gave to me and I found a name, Zas. Does that mean anything to you?”

James froze for a moment and then walked briskly to the holding area. He went to Jasmine’s ell.

“What can you tell me about Alex Stone?” He said without preamble.

“I thought we already established I am not saying anything.” Jasmine said.

“You should talk.” James said. “What do you have to lose?”

Jasmine rolled her eyes and said nothing.

“You saved your friend’s lives.” James said. “You could have made a clean getaway, but you stayed. That shows there is still something in you so do this for them. Not for me.”

“You are really terrible at speeches.” Jasmine said. She stood up. “Let’s see, I met Alex last year.” She said. “He helped me set up the account I used in my dealings, He also gave me the info that Morraine Heathway was embezzling. Was instrumental in framing Jeremiah, and he helped keep Tom off my back. Well he tried anyway, I had to steal his computer to erase some files he gathered.” She finished. “You’ll never find him anyway.”

“Why do you say that?” James said.

“He is a drifter.” Jasmine said. “The reason he helped me was because my dad saved his life in the army. That was what got him killed.”

“So he rewarded him by helping his daughter become a drug lord.” James said. “Bravo to him.”

“Well I never said his morals weren’t questionable.” Jasmine said. “He is long gone now anyway.”

“You told me something in that church.” James recalled. “‘While you were awake’. That verse your father taught you. Do you think this is what he had in mind?”

“Not exactly.” Jasmin said. “And you told me you were speaking from experience when you told me memories stay when people die. You never told me who it was.”

James stared at her for a moment. Then he turned and started walking. After a a  few steps he turned around to face her, and opened his mouth. “My mother.” He said. Then he walked away.

*                                                            *                                                       *

It was the next day. Hazel had been discharged from the hospital. Toni had come over to hang out with her after school.

“So did you hear about John?” Toni said. “Heard he was arrested.”

“I just want a break from all that drama.” Hazel said. “Jaz, and Detective O’Creepy are locked up. End of story.”

“You know she did save us.” Toni said. “If she wasn’t there, we would have been killed.”

“Yeah sure.” Hazel said. “But she did start this whole thing.”

“I saw Keith today.” Toni said. “Poor kid looked distraught.”

“Poor kid?” Hazel said. “He is taller than you are.”

“You know what I mean.” Toni said throwing a pillow at Hazel.

“Ow.” Hazel laughed. “My head is still sore.”

They both giggled and were quiet for a moment. “What do you think would happen to Jasmine.” Toni asked.

“Well she is eighteen, so she’ll probably go to jail.” Hazel said. “I don’t want to think about that.”

“Me neither.” Toni said. “I saw Richard yesterday by the way. He is living town.”

“Really?” Hazel asked. “How do you feel about that?”

Toni shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean he is like two hours away so I guess we will see. But the funeral is tomorrow, so he isn’t leaving until sunday.”

“Oh yeah, Tom’s funeral.” Hazel said. “Crazy year huh?” She said sadly.

“Yeah.” Toni agreed. “Crazy.”

*                                         *                                              *

It was the next day. Thomas Bridges funeral was today. James thought to how this crazy chain of events had started. It had all started with Carla Heathway. And just like a stack of dominoes, everything began to fall apart.

He watched at Thomas’ family, The Bridges graciously welcomed everyone who had come. Ava Bridges looked different last time he saw her. He looked more, worn. Like she had carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. As he moved closer he noticed Toni was standing beside her. Richard Prescott was nowhere to be seen.

“Thanks for coming Detective.” Ava Bridges said taking his hands.

“No problem.” James said. “I’m sorry for your loss.” He nodded at Toni and walked inside. He remembered the last time he came to a funeral. He was with Corbin then. He looked around. It Had almost the same turnout as Carla’s. He took a seat and waited for the ceremony to start.

His phone buzzed. He removed it from his pocket. It was Jakes. He sighed and picked it up.

“Hello?” He spoke into the phone.

“Detective.” Jakes said. O’Brian is awake.

*                                                                 *                                                         *

James walked into Corbin’s room. Corbin was on the bed propped up, his left hand handcuffed to the bed. He had a cast on his right leg, and a bandage on his head. When he saw James he sat up.

“Hey Ashwood can you tell me why I’m handcuffed to the bed?”Corbin said. “Don’t  tell me you got kinky”

James didn’t reply. He pulled up a chair and sat down. Then he started stone faced at Corbin.

“James?” Corbin asked. “Why am I handcuffed to my bed?”

“What do you remember?” James asked.

“Hazel Stuart and Toni were in an accident.” Corbin said. “I was trying to help when Jasmine Green knocked me over with her car.”

James laughed derisively. “I knew you would try to lie your way out of this but I never knew you would be terrible at this.”

“What are you talking about?” Corbin asked looking confused.

“Toni and Hazel claimed you ran them off the road.” James said.

“Are you kidding?” Corbin said. “I didn’t run them off the road.”

“Pieces of black paint was found on their car.” James said. “Your car showed signs of damage, and also, Toni saw you pointing a gun towards their direction .”

“If black paint was found on their car, that was Jasmine’s doing.” Corbin said. “And as for the gun, I drew it out as a precaution.”

“Hazel and Toni received a note from Jasmine identifying you as Bridges’ Killer.” James said. “I received the same from Jasmine too. They were on their way to tell me when you hit them.”

“You are seriously going to believe Jasmine’s word over mine?” Corbin laughed. “She killed Bridges-”

“Toni said you came to their house trying to intimidate them.” James said.

“She called the station and hung up.” Corbin said. “I just went there to check on them.”

“Stop lying.” James thundered. He calmed himself down. “I found an email correspondence between you and John Heathway. John Heathway. John Heathway confirmed you as the person that was helping him and Jeremiah.”

“That kid is lying.” Corbin said.

“I didn’t just believe Jasmine.” James said. “I did the math. When Gary Stevens was murdered, I was at Bridges house. You left saying you had to take care of something. That was around the time Carla’s body was stolen.”

“So you think I killed Gary Stevens?” Corbin laughed.

“No, one of those druggies did.” James said. “We checked your call records. Jeremiah called you around the time Gary Stevens was murdered, that’s why you left. After I dropped you off at home, You drove down to the ME office, You stole those autopsy files, and cleaned up the scene before anybody else arrived.”

Corbin laughed. “That’s absurd. Can you prove any of these?”

“Actually I can.” James said. “We searched your house.”  James pulled out a piece of paper. “We found stacks of cash that Jeremiah was obviously paying you, we found a compound similar to the poison used on Bridges; I remember you were the first on that scene too, and the security footage  for the day Jeremiah Gates died in his cell was recovered. It showed you stabbing him with a desk nail. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” James looked up.

Corbin’s smile faded. “Funny how evidence seems to turn up when you know the right place to look. Where did you get the security footage by the way?”

“Actually, I don’t have it but you just confirmed you killed Jeremiah.” James said. “Why did you kill him anyway?”

“I am not saying anything else.” Corbin said lying back down. “You can get out  of my room.”

“Really? You are giving up just like that?” James laughed. “I thought you were going to fight harder than that.” He stood up. “You are under arrest for the murder of Thomas Bridges, and Jeremiah Gates. You are going away for a very long time.” James walked out of the room. He didn’t look back.


It was Three days later. Toni sat down waiting patiently, her fingers drumming the table nervously. She stared at the glass absently her mind recapping the past three weeks. She never thought all of that would lead here

The door opened and Jasmine walked through, escorted by a security guard. Jasmine saw Toni through the glass and hesitated, then sat down  and picked up the phone.

“Hi.” Jasmine said.

“Hi.” Toni said. She paused. “Orange is so not your color.” She said.

Jasmine laughed. “I don’t think so.” She smiled wistfully. “Happy birthday.” She said.

“Thanks.” Toni said.

“So this is how you spend your birthday?” Jasmine said. “Visiting your friend who killed your other friend in prison?”

“I wasn’t in a celebrating mood.” Toni said.

“Where is Hazel?” Jasmine asked.

“She left town.” Toni said. “After Tom’s funeral she decided to take a break.”

“Can’t say I blame her.” Jasmine said. “So what are you doing here?”

Toni shrugged. “I don’t know. I just drove around and ended up here.” They stared in silence for a few seconds. “So what is going to happen now?”

Jasmine shrugged. “I don’t know.” She said. “But they are moving me to a different facility tomorrow. They say this is overcrowded.”

Toni nodded. “I never did thank you.” She said. “You actually saved my life.”

“Well I couldn’t let you die.” Jasmine said. “And I don’t need your forgiveness. I’ve made my peace with everything.”

“I wasn’t going to give it.” Toni said.

“I could always tell when you lie.” Jasmine said. “Don’t try now.”She looked back. “My time is up. It was good seeing you.” She hung up the phone. The guard came and escorted her back inside.

“Yeah it was good seeing you too.” Toni murmured, but Jasmine was already gone.


James was in the office when he got a phone call. He picked it up. “Hello?”

“Is this James Ashwood, lead detective of the Heathway case?” A voice said on the other line.

“Yes.” James said “Who is this?”

“This is Heather from the department of corrections. I am afraid I have some news for you.”

“What is it?” James said.

“Jasmine Green died this morning.” Heather said. “She was found dead in her cell this morning.”

“Jesus christ.” James said. “What happened?”

“Looks like a heart attack.” Heather said. “There doesn’t seem to be any foul play involved.”

“Okay, thanks.” James said. “Where are they taking her body now?”

“Her family has asked it to be sent to them.” Heather said.

“Alright.” James said. “Just send over the paper work.” He hung up the phone. He sighed. Hopefully, this would be the last death in this town.


 

EPILOGUE

She sat down on the bench waiting for her train to come. By her right a man had his head buried deep in a newspaper. One of the headlines said:  ‘Local murder mystery ends in death’. She was disinterested. She had already heard that story. She looked at the date on the paper. It was a week old. After a while, the bus finally arrived. The man put down the  newspaper and picked his bag. He headed towards the bus. The girl remained seated. She wasn’t in a hurry. She would get the next train. She picked up the newspaper and flipped through it. There was a section on dying hair. She stopped and looked at the various hair colors. She always wanted to try platinum blond. but it did’t seem like it would suit her. She touched her black hair, it had green highlights in it. She smiled at herself at the irony.

An hour later another bus arrived. She put down the paper picked her bag. Her trip to Montreal would take a couple of hours. She  missed New York though.  She had only been there for a few days, but she had fun. It was better than boring Ottawa. She would definitely go back. She stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder, and entered the bus. She sat beside an old woman who was knitting. As she sat down the woman looked up.

“Ohh nice perfume dear.” She said. “What flavour is that.”

“Jasmine.” She said smiling. “You like it?”

“Very much so.” She said.

The girl smiled. People were nice in Canada.

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