Quiet Lost is a story of betrayal, murder, love and lost love. It will require several chapters to tell Neil’s story.
Monday, September 14
The day was not going well. He’d had trouble concentrating during the 7:30am once-a-month staff meeting. The gathering that usually proceeded with light-hearted teasing and sharing of ideas was dry and long-winded; his staff sensing their boss was preoccupied and upset.
He refilled his coffee cup for the fourth time on the way back to his office. A slow, lethargic gate had replaced his usual long, deliberate stride.
“Sheila, do you have a minute?” he asked his assistant as he walked past her office. He plopped down in his chair. “Close the door, thanks,” even his words seemed sluggish.
Sheila sat quietly as Neil told her in as few words possible about the devastating weekend. She looked stunned by the time he finished.
“And, on top of all that, I had to drive Brad’s truck to work.”
“OK?” She shrugged a shoulder. “Why? Is there something wrong with your car?”
He snorted a derisive laugh. “Yah, it’s missing.”
“Last night I told Brad that he had to be gone before I got up this morning.” Sarcasm animated his words, “Moved out, vanquished, go live in a hole-in-the-wall; I don’t care, but away from our house…” Animation gave way to self-disgust. “But I forgot to put his key on the key rack after Sam and I picked his truck up from the Old Boulder Bar. I found it in the pocket of my jeans this morning, right where I left it.”
Neil shook his head. “I can just imagine how delighted he was with the option of driving my BMW. Worse than that, my cell phone’s in the car. He didn’t answer the first time I called, and now it’s going straight to voice mail. He’s not answering his phone either.”
He furrowed his brow, lowered his voice slightly, “Brad told me a story.” He paused, not sure whether he should involve Sheila but needing someone objective to help him interpret; someone he trusted explicitly. “I have no idea whether or not to believe this, but I need a fresh ear to listen.” He asked her permission with his eyes; she nodded for him to continue.
“He told me that this ‘beautiful’ Mexican woman, Calista, was living with him in San Diego – it sounds like he’s pretty crazy about her. Together they were selling drugs. He says it was all her idea, who knows; I really don’t care.”
Sheila’s face showed concern. “I knew Brad could be trouble, but I thought it was just drinking and mischief.”
“Well, that isn’t the half of it. He says she talked him into skimming money off sales; they were making an extra thousand dollars a month. Then last Thursday, she tells him he has to leave San Diego ‘PRONTO’; someone found out they were ‘chipping’ – that’s what he calls it. He told her he was coming to Boulder; she was supposed to follow him here.
“Why did he have to pick Boulder…?” A look of bewilderment crossed his face, then faded to resignation. “She called him Friday night while he was at the bar and was supposed to meet him there. She never showed up that we know of, but the two Mexican fighters did. Brad’s convinced that they made her tell them where he was. He hasn’t been able to reach her since then.”
“Wait… I don’t understand. Who are they? What do they have to do with Brad and his girlfriend?”
“Brad says they supply Calista with the drugs they sell.”
They sat quiet for a moment, both lost in thought. “Neil, something doesn’t sound right. Why didn’t she just come to Boulder with Brad? Why would she not call him after she didn’t see him Saturday night?” Sheila said.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask him all that; I wasn’t real patient with him – I got tired of the bullshit and told him he had to be gone.” He dropped his voice lower, “It’s scaring the hell out of me. I don’t know what to do about all this. I’d go straight to the police if I hadn’t just been arrested for killing one of the guys. This is crazy; I need to talk to a lawyer.”
“What about Charlie White, can he represent you?”
“He said he’d find me a good criminal lawyer – I guess this is above his head… and he doesn’t even know about Brad’s San Diego shit.”
Sheila interrupted, “Why would he not know?”
“Because, I didn’t know until late last night when Brad finally fessed up. We haven’t talked to Charlie since he got my bail set.”
“Neil, this needs some immediate attention. I’ll call Charlie as soon as I’m at my desk.”
“Thanks.” He leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling. “I’m glad Brad’s out of the house. It’s surreal; my life turned up-side-down in a matter of hours.” He met Sheila’s eyes. “I’ll have to talk to the bank board at some point.”
“I’m going to do everything I can to help.”
Stress pulled at the corners of his eyes. “You sure you want to? It may not be in your best interest.”
She cocked her head, looked a little annoyed. “Neil, I’ve worked with you thirteen years, give or take? Have you ever not backed me up?”
“I don’t recall a time I ever needed to,” a small smile flitted across his face. “Thank you, Sheila – it means a lot. You’re already helping me – just listening.”
“How are Cassie and Samantha handling it?”
“We told Cassie that I was in a fight and a man was accidentally killed; nothing about the arrest, though. I don’t think she even completely understands. It’s probably more like some TV plot than real life in her eyes. If it ever comes to the point of having a trial, though, she’ll be very aware of the reality.”
He leaned forward, eyes earnest. “You know what the worst part of all this is? … Samantha – I promised all those years ago that I was through fighting. If it had just been a normal fight… no I shouldn’t have been fighting at all… ; she loves me and she’s working on forgiving me, but it’s so huge, so terrifying to her… she’s lost. I can see the fear in her eyes.” He dropped his head in his hands, elbows on his desk. “Oh, God, what have I done?”
Neil dialed his home number from his office phone, struggling to keep his voice cheerful, glad his daughter couldn’t see his face. “Hey, Cassie, tell your mom I’m leaving the office in a little while. I should be home by 6:30.”
“OK, Dad, she’s fixing dinner.”
“Mmm, can’t wait. What is it?”
“Spaghetti. Where’s Uncle Brad? Will he be home for dinner?”
“Cass, Uncle Brad decided to find another place to stay. I don’t know if he’ll be there tonight, but you’ll still see him plenty. I better get off the phone, Sweetie, so I can get out of here. I’ll see you in about an hour.” He hung up; began wrapping up the details of the work day.
Sheila stuck her head in the door. “Charlie gave me the name of a lawyer. I set up an appointment for tomorrow morning. The details are in your calendar. I’m heading home. Goodnight, see you in the morning.”
Forty minutes later he locked his office door and headed for the parking garage.
Click on Quiet Lost: Chapter 10 to the right.