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This is Love, Baby(7)

By:K. Webster



I swallow down a thick ball of emotion and grit my teeth. Lynn had always been good to me. When Tony and Gabe would mess with me, like they often liked to do, she’d always shoo them off and mollify me with motherly smiles my own mother could never give. It was like she, too, knew Baylee and I weren’t just some passing fling, but instead true love. That we were meant to be.

I loved Lynn as if she were my own mother.

Baylee is going to be devastated.

Giving her the news via email seemed impersonal and wrong. I always knew I’d be the one to hold her through what would inevitably be the worst time of her life. I just didn’t realize that it would be so in more ways than one.

With a sigh, I set down the duffle bag and unzip it. I stuff the picture into it and on a whim decide to grab Lynn’s white sweater which she always kept on the chair near her bed. I look around the room, pondering whether or not I should take anything else. She’ll need memories. I don’t want her to be denied of any of them.

I snatch a few more things and toss them in the bag. After zipping it back up, I stride back through the house to leave. A loud, sudden bang on the front door nearly stops my heart.

My blood runs cold in my veins, nearly turning to ice, as I freeze in my tracks. I’ve been staying in this house for a while now and nobody has come over. Hoping it’s just a neighbor I can easily get rid of, I prowl over to the front door and peek through the small window. I lock eyes with the shrewd brown ones of Detective Stark.

Fuck.

Another pound startles me. “We can see you in there,” her partner’s deep voice booms through the door. “Open up. We’d like to ask a few questions.”

I grit my teeth and reluctantly pull open the door. Stark widens her eyes in surprise before she schools her expression.

“Brandon Thompson? Funny seeing you here,” she says carefully, her eyes darting behind me into the house. “Do your parents know where you’ve been?”

I shrug my shoulders and drag my gaze to her badge on her belt to avoid her scrutinizing stare. “I’m eighteen. I wasn’t missing, just needed my space. She knows I’m alive and well.”

She makes a cluck with her tongue and our eyes meet again. “I see. We actually came to pay a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Winston. May Detective Shilling and I come inside and ask a few questions?”

Glancing at Shilling, who chews on a toothpick like it’s a piece of gum beside her, and then back at Stark, I shake my head no. “Uh, didn’t you hear about Mrs. Winston? She’s dead.”

Stark’s partner slides his hand over his gun, the movement almost unnoticeable. But I see and cringe.

“Her liver finally shut down and she passed on,” I add quickly before they start getting the wrong idea.

Stark waves her hand at her partner, trying to calm him, I guess. “Yes, we knew she was very ill,” she says solemnly.

Shilling nods and relaxes. Slightly.

“Where’s Mr. Winston?” Stark questions, her eyes flitting behind me again as if she’s cataloguing everything in the house.

“He’s not here—went into San Francisco to see a friend,” I say and wave behind me. “But you’re welcome to come inside and have a look around. I can tell you want to. But if you’ll excuse me, I was on my way out.”

When I start to walk over the threshold, Stark stops me. “What’s with the bag, Mr. Thompson? Heading somewhere?”

I nod. “Talked to my mom. I was headed back home to stay with them. At least until I find a job and can get on my feet.”

Stark narrows her eyes at me. “I see. So, Mr. Thompson, you’re telling me you’ve been staying with Mr. Winston this whole time?”

My palms begin to sweat so I make a fist with them. “Yeah.”

“Check it out, Shilling. I’m going to chat with Mr. Thompson for a minute.”

Shilling shoulders past me and begins nosing around the house.

“I gotta tell you, son,” Stark says with a sigh, “I’m awfully curious how, just a few months ago, you acted like Anthony Winston was your enemy—that he was a part of some elaborate scheme to get rid of his daughter—and now you two are roomies? Can you explain that to me?”

I clench my teeth and glare at her. “My opinion of him hasn’t changed. We’d formed a sort of alliance to search for Baylee. Remember her? The missing girl you blew me off about? Plus, he’s been having a hard time since his wife died, and he is my girlfriend’s father. So, I’ve been here because obviously Baylee can’t be. Is that a crime, Detective?”

Her gaze softens and her lips press into a line. “Of course not, Brandon. Actually, that’s what we came here to talk about. Baylee and where she’s been—what she’s been up to. Have you had any contact with her?”

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