Click here to read the previous chapter Demented
They both took a journal as Britney explained what they were to do with the journals. Then they discussed spending more time together.
“I want you two to do activities together. Start rebuilding the emotional bond you two once had.”
Britney listened to them decide to take an art class together. “That sounds great!”
After the couple left Britney texted her brother to come back home. Her phone rang and she thought it was going to be Nicholas but instead it was Gabby, one of her best friends.
“Hey Doc, are you coming to meet with us for lunch today?” Gabby asked.
“Who’s going to be there?”
Gabby laughed, “The usual. You, me, Misty, and Ivy.”
“Where are we meeting?”
“The Cornish Hen. Ivy keeps asking to eat there.”
“Okay sounds good. I’ll see you in twenty.”
Britney sent a text to Nicholas that she would be out and quickly got ready to meet with her friends.
At the Cornish Hen
“So? Who’s the sexy sounding Dr. Clooney on your show?” Ivy asked.
Britney blushed, “He’s Brad Clooney and he’s a colleague. Nothing more.”
“Yet,” Misty chimed in. They all started laughing. Britney had been having lunch with these girls for years. They had all become friends in college.
Britney’s phone dinged and she checked her message. It was from her brother.
“What the hell??? You went to have lunch without me? What kind of big sister are you?” The text caused Britney to laugh because she knew that her brother was joking. She looked at the women around her and asked, “Oh did I tell you all? My brother is back in town!”
“What! When are we finally going to meet him?” Gabby asked.
“I don’t know. He might end up hitting on one of you and that would be awkward.”
Ivy laughed, “Is he cute?”
“He’s my brother but even I will admit that he’s handsome. I mean really handsome.”
“Where was he?” Misty asked as she took a sip of her sweet tea.
“He wouldn’t tell me. He can work from wherever since he’s a freelance graphic designer but he wouldn’t even give me a clue.”
“That’s weird. You’re his sister,” Gabby said.
“Tell me about it. I’m afraid he secretly knocked some girl up and doesn’t want to admit it to me. Ladies, I love my brother…but he’s a player.”
They all started laughing.
“So does he not have a steady income?” Ivy asked.
Britney raised her brow, “Please don’t tell me you’re actually interested in meeting my brother.”
Ivy raised her hands in defense, “What? He’s single…I’m single.”
“He makes good money. A lot of companies want him to become a steady employee with them but he likes to travel too much to stop doing freelance. If you can get him to settle down, I would love it.”
They all started laughing as their lunch was being brought to them.
In a corner of the Cornish Hen sat a man who was staring at four women having lunch. He hadn’t expected to see them there but what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be. He was close enough to listen to their conversations. He learned their names: Gabby, Ivy, Misty, and of course Britney Reyna. She was the woman that would have to be taught a lesson. He flagged the waitress and asked for his meal to go along with the check. As she brought his food in a Styrofoam box, he stood up quietly, not wanting to be noticed by the four women. He went to pay and as he did so, he wrote a quick note on the back of a napkin. He asked that it be passed to the table that the four women were at. The cashier nodded and after the man had left she passed it to one of the waitresses.
“Excuse me, is there an Britney at this table?”
The four women looked up in surprise.
“I’m Britney. Is there a problem?”
“A customer that left asked that we give this to you?”
The waitress nodded.
Britney read the note and paled.
“What’s wrong Britney?” Gabby asked.
Britney flagged the waitress and asked her, “The customer that gave you this…what did he look like?”
The waitress shrugged, “I don’t know. I didn’t see him. I’ll ask the cashier.” She quickly left and then came back. “I’m sorry she doesn’t remember. All she said was that he had dark hair.”
“Well that helps a whole bunch,” Ivy said sarcastically. “What does the note say Britney?”
Britney shook her head and stuck the note in her purse. “It’s just a fan, that’s all. Hey Ivy are you going to eat that biscuit?”
The girls weren’t sure whether to let it drop but they did once Ivy answered, “No. I don’t need to be eating anymore carbs as it is. Take it from me you heifer.”
After lunch was over, Britney sat in her car and pulled out the napkin. She thought of the e-card she had gotten earlier and sighed. The note had to be from the same person. So much for being a nightly stalker. It was lunch time and she was getting creepy notes. The lyrics from the popular Police song were right in front of her as she read the note again and the last line was underlined.
I’ll be watching you.
“Actually, I was going by myself. That kind of makes me sound like a friendless loser, doesn’t it?”
“Of course not. Going to a movie sounds like fun, even if it’s by yourself.”
“It would be more fun if I had a beautiful woman going with me.”
Misty laughed. He was cute. Too cute.
He cleared his throat, “I don’t suppose you would like to go with me?”
Misty grinned, “Well it depends.”
“On what movie you wanted to see.”
He chuckled and answered, “I’ll watch whatever you want to watch. My name is Jake by the way.”
“Hi Jake. I’m Misty.”
“Misty? That’s a very unique name. I like it.”
“Why thank you, Jake.”
The two ate their Bob Barker burgers and then went to the movies where they watched some chick flick about a woman falling in love with a rich man that ended up being her boss. After the movie, the two of them went for a walk at a local park.
“So Misty, I see you keep fiddling with that ring you’re wearing. Is it special to you? Are you secretly married?” He was laughing as he asked but Misty stopped walking.
“How did you know?”
“You’re married? I was just joking! Oh man…I’m sorry. I would-” Misty’s laughter stopped him from continuing.
“Very funny,” he shook his head.
“Sorry, but of course I’m not married. I wouldn’t have gone to the movies with you if I was.”
Jake sighed at her admission, “I’m sorry. I once dated a married woman but I didn’t know she was married.”
“Are you serious? What happened?”
“Let’s just say that her husband found out about it and it wasn’t pretty.”
Misty laughed, “How horrible!”
“It was. So what’s the deal with the ring?”
Misty lifted the ring to be at eye level with her face, “It’s beautiful isn’t it? It was my grandmother’s ring.”
It was white gold with a red ruby and opal stones surrounding it.
“It’s beautiful and unique,” Jake admired, “Just like its current owner.”
The park they were at wasn’t overly crowded, “Did you know that behind those trees, there’s a pond with some ducks?”
Misty shook her head, “No. I can’t say I normally come to the park.”
“Do you want to see it?”
Misty couldn’t help but be drawn into Jake’s handsome face, “Sure. Why not?”
He grabbed her hand and dragged her behind the trees. Misty was laughing until they were hidden from the other park-goers and frowned.
She looked around, “There’s no pond here.”
She didn’t see him lifting a rock before slamming it into the back of her head. She was knocked out cold. He removed her ruby ring and lifted it to the moonlight. It really was unique and beautiful. He placed it in his pocket and pulled out a multipurpose knife that he carried. It would be difficult, but he knew he could use it to get the job done.
He leaned forward and whispered into Misty’s ear, “I’m sorry about this…but you really should have picked better friends.”
The following day, Britney was sitting across the kitchen table from her brother Nicholas when her phone rang. Britney recognized the caller immediately.
“Yeah. Hey I’m sorry to bother you over the weekend but I just wanted to call and thank you again for the other night. You really helped me out of a bind.”
“Okay…well I guess I’ll see you tomorrow at work.”
“Right. I’ll see you tomorrow Chase,”Britney disconnected the call and turned around to see her brother Nicholas clucking his tongue at her.
“What?” she asked him.
“A guy calls you and you give him the cold shoulder. That’s cruel, sister.”
“What are you talking about? He just called me to thank me.”
“And you call yourself a psychologist. How can you ignore the signs that are right in front of you?”
“Nicholas, don’t even go there. Dr. Clooney is my colleague and that’s it.”
“Riiight…and I’m Saint Nicholas.”
“Whatever you want to call yourself is your business, brother.”
The sound of a really old TLC song filled the air.
“Is this the stone age? Change your ringtone!” Nicholas teased his sister.
“Shut up you scrub!”
Nicholas started laughing and she answered the phone to a frantic Gabby.
“Gabby what’s the matter?”
“It’s Misty. Oh Britney!”
Britney was having a hard time understanding her friend Gabby. She would speak a few words and then break into tears.
“Okay Gabby. I’m going to need you to take a deep breath.”
“What about Misty?”
“She was mugged in the park.”
“What? Is she okay?”
“Oh Britney. It’s terrible.”
“Gabby! Get a hold of yourself. What happened to Misty? Tell me slowly.”
Britney could hear her friend sniffling on the other end of the line, “Her brother called me today from Arizona. The police had contacted him because her ID was on her…but they took her money and her jewelry.”
“They left her with her ID though?”
“Yeah it’s like they wanted the police to know who she was.”
“Well how is she? Is she at the hospital right now?”
“She’s not at the hospital.”
“Because Britney…whoever did this…they didn’t just mug her.”
“Dammit Gabby how is Misty?”
After a moment of silence, Gabby finally answered, “She’s…she’s dead.”
It was raining. Black umbrellas were circled around the plot of Misty Ward with the exception of one pink and white polka-dotted umbrella.
Dr. Britney Chong looked at her friend Gabby who mouthed the words, “Sorry…I couldn’t find a black umbrella.”
Normally Britney would have smiled but today she couldn’t. She felt numb. Her friend was dead. Misty had been brutally murdered and the police didn’t know who had committed such a disturbing crime. She had been robbed. Misty wasn’t rich so her life was essentially valued at a few hundred dollars. Britney was devastated. She looked over at Damon Ward, Misty’s brother. He was sobbing. Britney inhaled a shaky breath. Damon was a Navy Seal. He was probably the bravest man she knew and here he was…sobbing over the death of his sister. Gabby and Ivy looked pale and distraught, mirroring how Britney assumed she looked as well. When the preacher finally said the last few words of his prayer, family members and friends began to step forward and place red roses over her casket.
Meanwhile, he stood behind an old weather-beaten tree…watching. Dr. Reyna looked upset. He smiled. He could hear the thumping of the rain splattering against his umbrella but he couldn’t remove himself from the scene. This was his doing. His actions brought Britney to this cemetery. If he wanted, he could bring her here again. Maybe next time it would be her funeral. He chuckled and turned around. As he walked back to his car, he couldn’t help but whistle at how wonderful the day was.
After the Funeral
“We’re all going to Dendra’s apartment. Does no one but me think that’s weird?” Gabby asked.
“It is weird,” Ivy chimed in from the backseat of Britney’s Scion.
“Damon isn’t from here so it makes sense to have it at her place. Besides, it’ll be cathartic for us to see her things, look at her pictures, that sort of thing.”
“Will you stop your psychobabble Britney and get real? No amount of picture book looking is going to make this better.” Ivy was sitting in the back seat with her arms crossed and her eyes closed.
“I know that…it’s just that this may be good for us. We all miss her.”
“I miss her like crazy,” Gabby whispered, “Who is going to get their nails done with me from now on?”
“Stop it Gabby. I know what you’re trying to do,” Ivy said with her eyes still closed.
“What am I trying to do?”
“Get one of us to go with you to the manicure place where they insult you in Korean. No thank you!”
Gabby rolled her eyes, “One of our friends was just buried and all you can do is make jokes? Don’t you care at all?”
Ivy opened her eyes and grimaced, “Of course I care! Why wouldn’t I care? Just because I’m not crying every five minutes doesn’t mean I’m not sad.”
Gabby was about to snap back at Ivy, so Britney intervened, “Okay you two that’s enough. We’re here.”
They walked to Misty’s apartment and were instructed to leave their umbrellas, rain jackets, and purses in the spare bedroom.
As they were walking out of the room, Britney overheard Damon, Misty’s brother, “I still can’t believe it. All she had was our grandmother’s ring and maybe less than a hundred dollars on her. Why would anyone want to kill her for that?”
Britney remembered the ring Damon spoke about.Misty always wore it and even once said that she would be buried in it. That wasn’t able to happen. Someone else took that choice from her. As the gathering was coming to an end, Britney felt her phone vibrating. It was a text from her brother Nicholas.
“When are you coming home?”
She responded, “Within thirty minutes.”
“Okay. See you later snake.”
“That’s not how the saying goes!” she texted back, “It’s see you later alligator.”
She gave a faint smile as she thought of Nicholas. She was lucky that he was still with her unlike Damon and Misty. She gave Damon her condolences and grabbed her purse and jacket from the spare bedroom. Her friends were already waiting for her beside her car. Britney dropped them both off before heading home.
“Nicholas!” she shouted into the house. She walked into the living room, “Nicholas?”
The house was silent. “That’s strange. He said he would be home,” Britney whispered to herself. She was about to step into the kitchen when a hooded figure jumped in front of her.
Britney screamed and grabbed a decorative glass statue she had in the hallway. She screamed again and hit the hooded figure in the face.
“Dammit Britney! That hurt!”
Britney looked down to see her brother Nicholas, wearing a too tight Spiderman costume.
She giggled which turned into outright laughter, “What are you doing?”
“I was trying to cheer you up,” Nicholas removed his hood and began rubbing his face.
“Nicholas you wore that costume when you were eighteen…how are you able to fit into it at twenty-four?”
“Duct tape and determination.”
Britney looked at her brother, “What did you just say?”
“You don’t want to know.”
Britney began laughing as she thought of her huge brother fitting himself into a tight costume just to cheer her up. She smiled and hugged her brother, “Thank you Nicholas for being such a great brother. You really did cheer me up.”
“That’s not all. Dinner is on me sis,” Nicholas began ushering Britney out the door.
“Nicholas, you’re still in that costume!”
Britney laughed in response, “You’re going to go out in public like that? Where did you even find it?”
“In the attic. I started cleaning it out so I can use it as a studio for my graphic designs.” He put the hood back on and escorted Britney to his car.
“Sounds cool,” Britney stifled a guffaw as the neighbors spotted her brother in his Spiderman costume. It was clearly too tight and he was walking very slowly so that he didn’t rip the costume’s cheap material.
“Where are we going?” Britney asked.
“The best place ever!”
Fifteen minutes later, they were waiting in the drive-thru of their local What-A-Burger, a fast food place.
“This is the best place ever?” Britney asked.
She laughed as Nicholas nodded in his Spiderman outfit. He pulled up to the drive thru and she continued to giggle as he ordered them two number fives all the way. She was in tears of laughter as he pulled up and the poor teenager that was working the window didn’t know how to respond.
“That’ll be twelve seventy-two sir,” the pimpled teen mumbled.
“What? Superheroes don’t eat for free?” Nicholas asked while Britney was looking out the passenger side window to stop herself from laughing.
“I could ask my manager,” the teen said, clearly flustered.
“No need,” Nicholas realized that he didn’t have any pockets to put his wallet in.
“Typical!” Britney groaned, “Even Spider-man pulls this kind of trick to get out of paying.” She handed him her debit card and he handed it to the cashier. On their way back home, Nicholas rolled down his window at a red intersection light. The young kids in the car next door to them kept banging their fists against the window to get his attention. Nicholas laughed and flicked them off. Britney gasped and hit her brother, who was driving, “Nicholas they’re kids!”
“So? You probably shattered their superhero dreams for life. What if they looked up to Spiderman?”
Nicholas shrugged, “They should learn early on in life that they have to look up to themselves not others.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Awww but sister, you have to love me anyway.”
Britney was still laughing when they got home. Because of Nicholas, she had forgotten all about her grief from Misty’s passing…at least for the time being. As they came inside, Britney tossed her purse on the couch and followed her brother into the kitchen.
“I love you Nicholas.”
“Eeew gross. We’re just about to eat and you want to get all girly with me.”
“Shut up. I’m serious. You’re my brother and I love you so please…don’t leave me like Misty left Damon. He looked so broken up at the funeral.”
They were quiet for a moment, “Britney. You’re my sister and I love to give you a hard time but if anything ever happened to you…I would be devastated. I mean…who else would financially support me?”
“Please, you probably make more money than me.”
Nicholas grinned as he bit into his burger, “Yeah I probably do. I’m in high demand sister. High demand.”
Britney rolled her eyes. “You weren’t supposed to agree with me. I’m a psychologist. I make more money, remember?”
“Anyway, don’t forget…you can’t die on me first.”
Nicholas laughed, “I don’t make promises I can’t keep.” He got up to get some paper towels but accidentally tugged too hard on the dispenser, causing the roll of towels to fall to the ground. He bent over to pick it up when they both heard a loud ripping sound followed by Nicholas cursing.
Britney pounded the table in laughter.
“Don’t even say it Britney!” Nicholas wrapped paper towels around his waist and slowly walked to his bedroom to change out of his Spider-man costume.
He groaned in embarrassment as he heard his sister shout behind him, “You should have used more duct tape!”
The Next Day
She was running late and slammed her purse in between the closing elevator doors.
“So we meet here again,” Dr. Brad Clooney smiled at her.
“Yeah. I guess we do.”
“I’m sorry about your friend.”
“Uhmm…thanks. I’m still wrapping my mind around the whole thing.”
“I got your message about doing a show on losing your loved ones in a relationship. I think it’ll be great.”
“Thanks. I prepared a list of books that I thought I could share with our listeners.”
“Sounds great,” Brad smiled at Britney and they both walked to the office they were now sharing. Britney placed her purse on the desk she used and then left with Brad to the sound booth.
“Where’s your list of books?” Brad asked about ten minutes after they had begun prepping for the show.
“Oh crap. I left it in my purse. Let me go get it. I’ll be right back.”
She sprinted to the office that they shared and bumped into a janitor who had a cap on and his face lowered as he was leaving her office, “Be careful miss.”
“Oh sorry,” she automatically responded, a little flustered to almost be run over by the giant waste bin he carted around.
She stepped into the office and a feeling of dread filled her. “What is up with me?” she asked herself. She spotted her purse sitting on her desk. A feeling of worry filled her, “You’re going to sit in Purgatory for doing this Britney,” she said as she began checking her wallet to make sure her cards and money were still in place. She didn’t know the janitor but she didn’t want to take a chance that he may have gone through her purse that she left foolishly out in the open. Everything was in place. She rummaged through her purse for her list of books when something caught her eye.
She ran back outside of the room and down the hall but she didn’t see the janitor.
“Britney? There you are! I’ve been looking for you. You need to hurry up and get back to the booth.” Mack, her producer, was standing in the hallway, flagging her down.
“Mack, do you know where the janitor’s office is at? I need to ask him a question.”
“The janitor? I don’t think they’re here today. I think they only come in on the weekends. I don’t know what cleaning issue you’re having…but it can wait. Get back to the booth now!” Mack rushed back the way he came, leaving Britney alone in the hall while carrying her purse. She brought up her purse and pulled out the object that had caught her attention earlier. It was a ruby ring with small opals. She didn’t know how it had been in her purse, but she knew, without a doubt… that it was her dead friend Misty’s ring.