Your Thoughts CanTrap You: A Sammi Evans Mystery -- First Chapter By Jeanne L. Drouillard
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Rated "G" by the Author.
Sammi Evans has her own secret way of solving crimes. Few in her world know about it, but she shares with her readers.
Samantha Evans returned the telephone to its cradle with a more or less instinctive gesture. Her mind was numb and reeling from the pressure imposed on her. Her services were again being requested by the FBI. Why couldn’t they take no for an answer? She had already told them that she didn’t want to work for them.
That call was from Ben Collier, an FBI agent she had met earlier in the year on another case. He said he needed a little favor. As far as she was concerned, the favors for the FBI were never small. But they were stuck and knew she had uncanny methods for acquiring information from people. When others failed she seemed to succeed. Her concerned mind rehashed the call.
“Hi Sammi, this is Ben Collier. Remember me?”
“Sure, Ben, I remember you. How’s it going? I must say this is quite a surprise.”
“It shouldn’t be,” he said. “We’d still like to hire you.”
Sammi laughed. “I don’t think so, Ben. Not this year anyway.”
She wondered why he would be calling her. It was unusual for him to call her directly.
“I won’t keep you guessing. I know you must be wondering the real reason for my call.”
“Yes, I am. What’s it been, more than six months at least?”
“That’s about right. I did try to call you a while back, but I never got an answer. I asked you again if you’d be interested in working for us.”
“I figured you knew my answer, Ben.”
Sammi remembered. When she had helped out her friend, Detective Dave Patterson on a fraud and money laundering case, Ben Collier had turned out to be a plant at the bank where she worked in Scranton. And she was surprised to find out he worked for the FBI. He had been impressed by her work, didn’t know how she got her results, but was quite fascinated by the outcome. He had offered her a job on the spot, which she declined. Yet, he still pursued her hoping for occasional assistance.
“We’re in a spot, Sammi; we’ve hit nothing but dead ends, and we need some direction. Won’t you consider helping us out?”
“I can’t, Ben. I’ve got my hands full around here. You know I help out the local police.”
“We could easily get priority over them.”
“But I don’t officially work for them. I work strictly on my own so that I don’t have to get involved all the time. That last job was much more than I usually do.”
“Sammi, we need a lead and we don’t have one. We’ve been working on something for more than a year and are still in the dark. I know you have your ways of getting information. Damn, we need a break. Can’t we talk you into helping us out?”
“My schedule’s full. I simply can’t do it.”
Sammi had an unique talent. It’s the main reason that she let herself get involved in anything at all. But now, it seemed that every year things were getting more and more intense for her. More people were finding out she was valuable and she found herself recoiling at the thought.
“We need someone like you.”
“I’m sorry, but I need some time to unwind, you know. I’m still trying to get my life back down a peg or two after that last assignment.”
“I’m there all the time.”
“But you chose this profession, I didn’t. I simply help out a few people sometimes on the side. I’m sorry, Ben. I have to say no.”
She did have her ways and could get something out of anyone if she put her mind to it. She had this little talent that had started when she was seven years old and had never stopped. She could hear what other people were thinking. Incredible, right? But nonetheless true . She would stand next to someone, concentrate and their thoughts would talk to her out loud as if she were having a regular conversation with them. She didn’t know how she did it; she’d never questioned it.
Her Grandpa Logan could do it, too. But he was the only other person she knew. And he had helped keep her rational about her gift. He taught her the value of when to harness it in or expand it as needed. But he had died when she was fourteen years old and now Dave Patterson and her friend Julie Watson were the only ones in her nearby environment who knew what she could do. But in truth, there were three other people in the world who knew--she’d helped them in the past, but they had been sworn to secrecy.
There was a long pause at the other end of the line. Then Ben started up again. “Let me give you a few details--that could help you make up your mind.”
“I’ve already made up my mind. And I’m sorry, really I am, but I don’t want to get involved in anything else. Sorry.”
“Okay, Sammi. We could use your expertise, but I’ll respect your wishes. I know you’re overworked.”
“Thanks, Ben. I’m so worn out; I simply can’t do it. I wish you the best of luck.”
Sammi usually felt bad when she turned someone down, but she was still worn out from the last case, which wasn’t entirely over. Dave had gotten shot. He almost died and six months later was still recuperating. He had returned to work, but wasn’t at his best even yet. That could still take a while. And the two main offenders were going on trial sometime next month. She didn’t know if Dave would decide to go to court and watch the proceedings, but if he did, she wanted to be there for support. No, at this time she felt that she had made the correct decision.
A few hours later she received another call that unnerved her even more.
“Hello Professor Harley, it’s been a long time.”
He had been one of her college professors at Scranton University, and she hadn’t talked to him in nearly twenty years.
“Yes, it has Sammi. I trust you’re well and living a good life.”
“Yes, I am. Thanks. And how about you?”
“I’m doing fine for an aging professor.”
Sammi laughed as she remembered his unique sense of humor.
“But I’d guess there’s a serious reason for your call.” She had detected a slightly nervous tone in his voice.
“And you’d be correct. I might be requesting your help again in the near future. I haven’t bothered you in more than twenty years, but something serious is happening which involves some friends of mine. I don’t plan to go into the details right now; hopefully, it won’t be necessary. But I’d like to know if I could possibly talk to you about it, if and when the circumstances demand it.”
“We could always talk about it, professor.”
“I could tell you something now, if you like.”
She thought for a moment and answered, “I think I’d rather wait, since as you said, you may not need me. Why don’t we wait until that time?”
“That’s probably the best way to handle this. I’ll call you sometime in the future if I believe you can help out. Would that be better?”
“I think so. I’d prefer to wait until then.”
“Okay, Sammi. That’s what we’ll do. In truth, I sincerely hope that I don’t have to request your help. That would mean that a favorable solution has been reached. But if not, then we can discuss how to proceed. Agreed?”
“Yes, I can agree with that.”
“Good luck to you, Sammi, and bless you for your past help.”
“Thanks and the same to you, professor.”
That call left her somewhat upset and confused. When the time came she didn’t know what she’d decide. She would have to confer with Dave. He could always help her see all sides of a situation. She appreciated having someone trustworthy to consult.
* * *
Detective Dave Patterson was still having trouble with his left shoulder at times. It had been over six months since he’d been shot in a sting operation and he’d had most of the necessary therapy. When was this aggravation going to stop? He was forty-three years old and had a lot of time ahead of him as a policeman, but even now he had to be careful. Was he being impatient? The doctor had said it would be at least a year before he was thoroughly healed and he would probably always have a slight weakness in that area, yet able to perform his duties without concern. Still, he was annoyed and it was something he’d have to work on mentally.
He brought the holster up to his left shoulder. He didn’t have a choice, he was right handed. Lately, he could wear it a few hours a day, but that was all. Damn, he thought, he could go to a belt form, but he was used to the shoulder apparatus. He would try and tough it out a while longer. His muscles had to strengthensoon.
The phone rang and yanked his mind out of his self-defeating pity thoughts. He laughed thinking the timing was perfect.
“Hi Dave, it’s Sammi.”
“Hi there, are you still at work?” He always perked up when he heard her voice.
“Yes, but I’m leaving soon. I need to talk to you about something. Are we still on for tonight?”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“I think I’ll hold it for later. I called you at work and they said you’d left early. Everything okay?”
Dave could hear tension in her voice. She could never hide her feelings from him. “I’m still having trouble with the holster. I can’t seem to wear it for long. I may have to go to another form for a while, probably a belt-type. Not my favorite, but it’ll work until my shoulder mends enough.”
“You’ll work it out,” she said.
“Yep, I will. It’ll take more time, that’s all. You don’t want to talk now?”
“No, as long as we’re still on for tonight; that’ll be better. It can wait until then.”
“How about I pick you up at six?”
“Sounds good, got to go. See ya then.”
Dave smiled as he put the phone down. He and Sammi had a strange relationship. They were presently in a courting-style arrangement. They both cared about each other and were trying to figure out how they wanted to move forward. For some reason, they were both hesitant.
He remembered a wedding they had recently attended at Laurel Highlands’ penitentiary. There was an innocent man in prison for a murder he hadn’t committed, but verifying it was taking time. And Sammi was instrumental in proving his innocence. When the trial started next month, this convict had a decent chance of being released. But he wanted to remarry his former wife now and everyone who had worked hard on his case was invited. It was an emotional time for both of them. Dave held Sammi’s hand throughout the ceremony and they both looked at each other wondering if their time would ever come. What was holding them back? They loved each other, and yet…
The phone rang again. It was Tom Harrington, his police buddy.
“Hey, Dave, how’s it going?”
“Fine, Tom, but I only left you a little while ago. What’s up?”
“I got a call from a Sergeant Anderson from Allentown. He’s been looking into some of the audio thefts that have been happening in their area. He’s asking for some files from us and I know that’s your case. He wants to see if there’s a connection. What do you want me to do?”
“Can’t it wait until tomorrow or even Monday? I’d like to talk to him myself.”
“Of course. I’ll tell him you’ll call him back.”
“Thanks, Tom. I’d like to see for myself if there are any similarities.”
“Next week should work out. You want to come over tonight?”
“Can’t, I’m taking Sammi to dinner. How about Saturday? We could make it a foursome.”
“That’d be great.”
“Talk to you later.”
* * *
Dave always felt comfortable when he pulled into Sammi’s driveway. She meant home to him. You know, the casual, be yourself, no need to pretend atmosphere that he could feel in her presence. When she was around he could relax and be himself totally. He’d never found that before.
When she answered the door he walked in and gave her a long hug; he always did that. There was something almost therapeutic about holding her for a few moments and feeling the strength she provided for him. She had been his anchor during his recuperation and although that might not sound romantic, it was for him. He could never have imagined the deep connection that was possible to develop with this one human being.
“Sammi, you always feel so… reassuring to me.”
She smiled back at him. It was obvious she felt the same.
“So where for dinner?” he asked.
Sammi said, “It’s your turn to choose, surprise me.”
He picked a restaurant that had little individual rooms where they could talk privately. He knew when he first saw her tonight that she had something heavy on her mind. He couldn’t imagine what could have happened since yesterday.
As soon as dinner was over, Dave couldn’t wait anymore.
He watched her take a deep breath before she began. Why was she so upset?
“First, I got a call from Ben Collier earlier today.”
“What? What did he want?” he asked, feeling an alert signal beginning to form inside.
“It seems that he has a little job for me to do. They seem to be stuck on some type of connection they need and were hoping I’d help them out.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him no. I don’t want to get involved in anything right now, Dave. Besides, I don’t want to be associated with the FBI. It’s different working with you at the police station. But even there, people could relate me with the police. The difference is that we’re dating…”
“Courting, Sammi,” he interrupted. “We’re courting. That’s one step up from dating.”
He saw her smile at his teasing look. “Right, we’re courting. But that seems to give me a protection from people thinking I’m working with the police all the time.”
“Yeah, but you told him no, so that should be it.”
“He did mention that he could take priority over the police department, if needed.”
“Whoa! You must have really impressed him.”
“I do like to help out when I can, you know that. But I told him that I don’t work for the police department, but simply help out at times, and I don’t take every assignment I’m offered.”
“That should be the end of that,” said Dave.
“Yeah, but I know he’ll keep trying. And Dave, I’m in as deep as I want to be. You know I use my talent for other things that aren’t so…I don’t know…visible.”
“It’s up to you to draw the line. But when people realize what you can do, more and more you’re gonna be targeted.”
“I know. I never thought it would lead to having to make these kind of decisions.”
“Getting heavy for you, isn’t it?”
“It is,” said Sammi as she looked away into space. “It’s not what I had in mind when I first helped you. And I know you never said anything--so I don’t blame you.”
She sighed out loud and caught his attention.
“Look, Sammi; you’re not obligated to anyone. Do what you want to do, what you’re comfortable with.”
“But I feel I was given this talent for a reason. I should help out when I can.”
“And you do help a lot of people. But you can’t help out everybody every time, and if you don’t keep yourself on safe, solid ground, you won’t be able to help anyone. Besides, we’ve recently finished a big job. You’ll probably feel differently in a few months. It’s taken me a while to heal physically and I think you need time to recuperate mentally and emotionally. What do you think?”
She gave him a reassuring smile. “I think you know me too well.”
“I hope so,” he said with a broad grin.
* * *
After a few moments of silence, Sammi brought up another subject. She hoped Dave wouldn’t be overly sensitive to this one.
“Dave, are you planning to attend the trial?”
His jaw took on a harder position. So much about this trial irritated him and Sammi knew it. Linda Saunders, an old acquaintance, had fingered the policeman that had been killed at the pier. And Keith Jensen, one of the dock workers, was the innocent man now in prison convicted of the crime. Linda had continuously made a play for Dave and it unnerved him. And Jerry Macy, had been a trusted employee of the governor and he had been one of the main offenders in the fraud and money laundering scheme. What a pair those two were.
“Dave, Dave, what are you thinking?” asked Sammi.
“Sorry, got lost in my thoughts. In a way I want to go to the trial and of course, I’ll have to go the day I testify. But I’d rather not be in court every day. And we’ll have our own department reps there and they’ll keep us all updated.”
“Why?” asked Dave.
“Why? You asked me why?”
“Because you didn’t ask an empty question. You had a reason. What is it?”
“Are you sure you’re not beginning to read my thoughts,” said Sammi, a little amused.
Dave smiled and waited. She was enjoying this.
“I wanted to be with you if you decide to go every day. I’d like us to be there together.”
She saw him lean back in his chair and look at her. He didn’t say anything for a bit, but had a strange look on his face. She would have liked to read his thoughts, but they had a deal. She wouldn’t take unfair advantage in their relationship.
“You would like to be there with me, would you?” he said with a look of admiration beginning to cross his face.
“Yes, I would…I think I should.”
“Why? Why do you think you should be there with me?”
“We shared this whole case together. We went through all of it and worried about all the details together. And we both went through hell when you got shot. They’re on trial for attempted murder, Dave. They tried to kill you. If you go to court, I’m going to be there with you.”
Dave leaned over and kissed her and said, “How did I ever get so lucky?”
“Dave, you’re getting so emotional these days,” Sammi said, trying to hide her own uneasiness.
“Cause I’m finally realizing what I’ve got.”
Sammi was embarrassed. Dave was expressing his thoughts more than ever before. He had told her a few months back that when he almost died it gave him a new outlook, a fresh approach as to how he dealt with life. He didn’t want to leave things unsaid anymore. And since then he usually conveyed most of his deepest feelings and she was still trying to adjust to his outspoken candor.
* * *
Sammi shifted in her chair a few times before she had the courage to bring up the last topic she wanted to discuss this evening. In a way, it was much heavier than the other two. It had to do with something Dave knew nothing about, but she felt it was time to let him know.
“Dave, I’ve one more thing on my mind I need to talk about.”
“I know,” he said.
She looked at him searchingly. She knew he couldn’t read her mind, but he seemed to be fully sensitive to her moods these days. How would they act with each other in years to come?
She smiled at him as she began. “This is a difficult one. I’ve kept it to myself for years; there was no reason to discuss it. I’ve told you that there are three other people in this world who know that I can hear people’s thoughts. All people I’ve helped before.”
“Yes, you’ve told me that.”
“One of them called me earlier today and he may have to ask for my help again in the near future.”
“What’s it about?”
“I don’t know. I told him that I didn’t want to know yet. But if he needed me to call and I’d make my decision at that time.”
Sammi felt anxious yet was completely focused. She knew Dave caught her mood and waited patiently for her to continue.
“I’d like to tell you the first story. I simply want you to know. If I choose to help him again, I’d need your support.”
She knew he caught her dependency at that moment. Her burden could be heavy at times. Sharing made it easier and she could trust him. Of this he was aware.
“Do you remember Professor Harley from Scranton University?”
“I know who he was, Professor of English. I’ve heard about him, but never had a class with him.”
“Yes, that’s the one. If you remember I was one year behind you and this happened in my last year. You had already graduated.”
Dave nodded and listened intently. Sammi was dead serious.
“He was a very articulate professor in every way--his speech, his mannerism, the order of his lessons, even the way he organized his desk. He almost never broke his pattern of anything; he was so disciplined. Toward the middle of the first semester before Christmas, he began acting nervous, clearly anxious and was easily distracted. One day he completely forgot his notes and had to return to his office for them. We all looked at each other in total disbelief. He would go off in half sentences and forget what he had said and once he began to write something on the blackboard and forgot the ending of the paragraph. We all thought he was acting very strangely.”
She knew Dave was patiently listening and caught up in the intrigue of her story.
“One day when he’d been particularly preoccupied I stayed behind after class. When I got close to him his thoughts were screaming out wildly at me. At first, I didn’t know how to handle the situation. He was so confused, absent-minded and appeared thoroughly lost so I thought I’d give myself a day to figure out how to help him. Possibly I could catch him at a time when he was a little more settled, although I wasn’t sure that would happen.”
Sammi had to take a moment and stop. She looked down and was caught up in a long ago nightmare. Her eyes filled with tears remembering.
“The next day after class I asked if I could meet with him in his office and he consented, almost not realizing what I’d asked. Dave, he was so out of it. I followed him back there and when I closed the door I told him immediately what I knew, which was--your son has been kidnapped and they’re holding him someplace that the police haven’t found yet. It’s been over a month. They think you have access to added secrets of a certain formula on sequencing DNA results and are holding out until you admit it and get the information to them. The people involved were from Germany and international activities had its hands all over this mess. And, the worse part was, they had delivered one of his son’s fingertips and his ring to him, and were threatening to kill him.”
“My God, Sammi. What did you get yourself involved in?”
“Gee, Dave, what would you have done? I knew what was happening. I felt that people would think that I was being nice to a professor who was having a breakdown or something like that. No one knew what I could do and they don’t to this day. Only Professor Harley knows. They had no reason to target me.”
“But he’s a Professor of English. Why focus on him?”
“Because his degrees are in English and Literature, but his sideline has always been science and especially the DNA applications in modern times. But he was a bystander. He didn’t have what they wanted. So he was in a real mess.”
Dave had to stand up for a minute and Sammi watched him take a few steps around the table to clear his mind. This was as tough for him to hear now as it had been for her to live many years ago.
“All right, go on,” he said trying to keep his mind on the subject and away from the evil implications.
“At first, Professor Harley thought I was involved in some way with the kidnappers. I couldn’t get him to understand that I could read his thoughts. So we started on some testing. He would think things and I would repeat them back to him, word for word. Then he actually started in on some scientific formulas and I repeated them back to him. In fact, that’s what convinced him because I was terrible in science and he knew it. So when I could repeat explanations of some especially complicated formulas, he knew I was reading his thoughts.”
She wasn’t surprised when Dave smiled. Then he said, “Okay, then what?”
At this moment the waitress came around and asked if they wanted anything more. Sammi wanted a glass of wine to calm her down and Dave had more coffee. They both sat patiently, waited for their order to arrive and gave themselves a few minutes to relax before Sammi continued with her engrossing story.
“So after I made Professor Harley promise to keep my secret we tried to figure out how my talent could help. Within a few days, he got a phone call from the police telling him that they had brought in a couple of guys with German accents on another charge, but wondered if they might be involved in some way. They wanted the professor to stop by and see if he had ever seen them before. He brought me with him.”
Sammi noticed Dave sit up at this point and grip the table. He seemed so concerned.
“Sammi, this could have been dangerous for you.”
“We played it like I was his designated driver and he was too upset to drive. It seemed to have worked out because the police bought it and that was important as well.”
“The outer room of the police station was quite noisy and the suspects were behind that hard glass they have in interrogation rooms. For some reason, that made it difficult for me. So I told the professor that we had to get in there so that as the police questioned them, we could appear to be witnessing the procedure. After all, it was his son that was missing. At first, the police were hesitant, but then they agreed.”
She noticed Dave take a deep breath and shake his head. He was realizing more and more the situations that she could be involved in. And it was another reason why Sammi had never told him this story.
“And, were they involved?”
“No, they weren’t. But they knew who were. And when the police asked them what they knew about the kidnapping, I must admit that their thoughts were all over the place. I had trouble reading the thoughts of two irrational people at the same time. However, they themselves were in the United States to create havoc in another area. Kidnapping was not their purpose. But they gave me all the information I needed. And they even knew where his son was being held. To be more exact, they knew it was one of three places since he was moved around a few times.”
“So you took care of that.”
“Yes, well, the hard part was telling the police where to look and how I knew. That’s why it’s so great working with you, honey. You get the information out there and I don’t have to make up stories. But in this case, we both stayed and talked to the police for almost two hours, getting the information out there without them realizing they didn’t know how it was obtained. By the time it crossed their minds, if it ever did, I was long gone.”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Dave had to laugh.
“Leave it to you, Sammi.”
“Remember that I was a lot younger then and I wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as I am now. Practice has helped a lot. Anyway, unfortunately that boy had been abused. He did lose the top of his index finger on his left hand. That was not a trick. The police hit all three places at the same time and they got him the next day. He did recover fully and of course that put Professor Harley forever in my debt.”
“I think you’re a gift to the universe against criminals.”
“Thanks,” she said as she leaned back and smiled. “But there are other uses for my talents which I enjoy. I don’t like to see this side of life, but it’s happening more and more now.”
“Yeah, and crime is way up since we went to college.”
“Anyway, I needed to tell you that story. Professor Harley has kept my secret all these years. I knew he would. But he called me this morning and said he might need my help again. Could he ask me to help if it came to that?--that’s what he wanted to know. And I couldn’t say no. But I did say it would depend what it was.”
“There’s a limit to what I want you involved in. Nothing dangerous or risky, agreed?”
Sammi sat quietly for a moment. “But life can be dangerous and risky, Dave. You can’t protect me from everything. I have to respect your job as a cop and I do. I don’t like the risks you have to take. You’ll have to do the same with mine.”
She could tell he accepted that, but looked quite worried. He had no idea what she’d been involved in previously.
“And you’ve told me about Father John Meyer, the priest in Ontario that you’ve recently helped. So there’s still one more who knows your secret,” said Dave.
“Yes, but it was a simple little job. Nothing nearly as interesting.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“Most of my jobs are quite low impact, honest. The more dangerous ones are when you’re involved.”
* * *
Dave had trouble leaving Sammi at her door that night. He depended on her so much. He expected her to be there when he needed someone who understood and someone who’d simply listen when he needed to talk. He shuddered at the thought of something happening to her.
“You’ve got to be careful, Sammi. Some of these people are dangerous and if they even suspected you,” Dave paused realizing the seriousness of the situation, “you could be in real danger.”
“But I usually merge into the background as an unimportant character. Listen to me, Dave. Do you think to this day that either Linda Saunders, Jerry Macy or any of the others in that money laundering scheme believe that I had anything at all to do with them being brought down?”
He did mull that around in his brain for a few minutes. And his mind came up blank.
“No, I guess not. But if it ever happened…” he didn’t finish.
“Come one, Dave, if you didn’t know me as well as you do, would you ever believe that I could hear other people’s thoughts?”
“No, I guess not,” he said in an amused tone of voice, “but it worries me, that’s all.”
“I know and I worry about you as well.”
They stood and looked at each other for a minute longer. Then he gave her a long, intense kiss, hugged her and left. He had to laugh when he thought about it. Who would believe that anyone could hear another person’s thoughts?