A Legal Trap - Chapter 3

Author retains all rights to this original work of fiction.

Thank You for reading my story! I especially enjoy hearing your thoughts,
criticism, and ideas. Rachel M. Moore

March 9th, 6:18 PM

We arrived late to the Carson's for dinner. It was a mixed bag of
emotions for me as we walked to their front door because I hated being
late for anything and we left so many leads back at the hotel. I never
arrived at a set appointment any later than ten minutes before it started
- so being late by nearly twenty minutes made me anxious, made me feel
like any fidgeting I did was hyper-pronounced. I needed another Xanax,
the one from this morning had long worn off. Paul didn't seem to care,
which annoyed me beyond words. He was pretty good at reading my mind -
he'd done it twice so far - why hadn't he picked up on how being late
pissed me off?

After entering the Carson's beautiful home, the obvious protocol was
introductions - I was dreading this since learning we were coming here
this evening. Paul shook Jacob's hand, then Amber's dad's hand - Gary,
then her mother - Stephanie. I went through the same greeting line,
apologizing each time for being late. I am sure I sounded lame, neurotic,
nervous... It fell on deaf ears it seemed, as we were ushered without
ceremony to the formal dining room. There were just five place settings -
which meant the other two children would not be joining us for dinner.
Drinks were offered and delivered quickly by what I assumed was a live-in
butler / chef - I downed my glass of water within the first couple minutes
and wished I had asked for two glasses. Everyone else was either drinking
wine or beer. It was just the five of us gathered around the large table
- which wasn't large enough to make me stop being self-conscious about
every move I made, every mannerism. Paul launched into what we'd found
without being prompted - which was a relief. I just sat back and tried
not to make eye contact with Amber's parents or Jacob for that matter.

On the way over Paul and I discussed Amber's activities thus far. What he
considered 'dark' - webcam broadcasts from her room (I assumed), videos of
her with toys - masturbating - posing - lingerie - etc., and many
suggestive pictures all along the same lines as her videos - wasn't close
to what I considered 'dark'. Her stuff I would classify as 'gray', hardly
'dark'. In contrast, the looping Tumblr graphic image of her was
absolutely 'dark'. Welcome Paul Kline to the real hell, to the real
'dark'. Until we had stumbled onto that graphic, I had thought Amber was
skirting the edge of 'dark'. Teasing to the edge of that cliff, playing
for attention and not really willing to crossing that line. The only
bright spot - the Tumblr posting had been made on Monday. It was
impossible to know when the graphic had been captured or who had posted
it. We assumed Amber had posted it - which didn't make that any better in
the scope of things. The bright spot was maybe she might still be out
there, which was encouraging but we didn't have solid proof.

Paul explained to the Carsons what we'd found - which sounded like a
rehash of what he'd already passed on to them days before. He outlined
our summation of her activities online, careful to keep it generic - but I
could sense they were well aware of what he was saying. Jacob described
much of the same stuff as being reported by the police - except they
hadn't found or cracked into these new accounts we had. Paul explained
that the one Word document which had broken it all open for us contained
credentials to three different email accounts, an Amazon wish list, two
porn sites - nothing we found yet contained anything she was featured in,
and PayPal and Patreon accounts. He also mentioned it was my persistence
that got us there. I could have done without the attention - I got a nod
from Jacob and Gary, a blank stare from Stephanie trying to burn my skin
off. There was evident relief on behalf of the Carsons regarding the
Tumblr post timing - though if they knew what the post was it would
certainly be relief smeared with horror.

Questions flew quickly from Stephanie at that revelation. Paul answered
each one patiently, with real class - compassion. I was impressed and
grateful I wasn't on the spot for answering: Where is she? Did she look
alright? Heartbreaking... Jacob interjected, turning the tide back to
our investigation - instructing Paul to keep this information close,
meaning not to share it with the police, until we'd had a little more time
to comb through it. He described his meeting with the local FBI Director
as productive and by early next week there would be a resource for us to
use. There were a few things the Director was going to look into and get
back to Jacob on. That got approving nods around the table - but it felt
like the Carsons already knew everything Jacob was saying. I wanted to
blurt out questions but held my tongue - I was feeling like I was on the
outside looking in still. That would probably sound odd to these people -
since I had been Amber four years ago. I wasn't about to share that
though...

Paul continued describing Amber's activities, going over browser history -
while having been deleted, he was able to pull a list of sites she visited
regardless. How? I wish I knew, because I'd like to destroy that kind of
shit on my own personal computer and Android tablet, though on my tablet
I was using an app to mask my browsing via a proxy server. Who knows,
that could probably be figured out by someone. Paul then dove into the
last two accounts we found and their significance - which was they were
used to manage subscription content Amber was providing to people. We had
plenty to comb through just in terms of the subscription content,
subscribers, and he left it with we would be working around the clock to
come up with solid answers. I hoped it was a figure of speech - I felt
spent from a day that seemed twenty hours long already. When he mentioned
the amount of money in the accounts totaled nearly twelve-thousand
dollars, the Carsons gasped...

March 9th, 7:51 PM

Stephanie had excused herself from eating with us. Gary apologized after
she had left - it wasn't like we didn't get it. Conversation over dinner
was limited to a few discoveries Paul went into further detail about, but
mostly about the Mariner's upcoming season. Jacob was a season ticket
holder and Gary must have followed them and whatever the Arizona team was
- Diamondbacks? I had picked at my plate the entire time - not that the
food didn't smell amazing - I just didn't have an appetite. I forced
myself to finish my salad and two more glasses of water - which prompted a
request for a bathroom. It was a relief to get away from the table, but
upon returning the vibe was very much different. The table had been
cleared and dessert was being placed before everyone - some kind of pie.
I would have to press Paul as to what I had missed.

When I made no move to touch the dessert Gary asked if I wanted to see
Amber's room. Paul had already been through the room, so there was no
reason to duplicate efforts - but I felt obligated to agree since Jacob
was there. Had to give the appearance of participating - even though I
knew this was going to be hard for me, maybe even the Carsons.

I followed Gary to Amber's room - it was on the first floor and at some
point had probably been a large bonus room converted to being a bedroom.
Gary wasn't cold, but he was a little standoffish. I couldn't put a
finger on it. "Feel free to look around..." he said walking to a large
walk-in closet, opening the door and flipping the light on, staring into
the closet. "The police and Paul have been through everything. If you
could just put things back where you found them that would be..." He
turned. "My wife and me appreciate you helping us with..." He walked
head down out the room without another word.

Augh... A lump was now solidly in my throat and making it hard to
swallow. I felt tears welling and stood up straighter - can't go there
Elizabeth! What do I know? What's in this room? What were you thinking
Amber? I looked around the room and everything you'd expect was there for
a teenage girls room. Pink pillows and a light green comforter on a
double bed, stuffed animals, and a poster of a boy band and one of Bruno
Mars. A clock radio - one I was already familiar with - in fact this
corner of the room looked exactly like the picture from her tattoo selfie.
That meant, I turned to see a freestanding mirror behind me. I stood
where she must have stood to take that picture - yup, I've seen this.

A first floor room - it meant she could escape through the window. I
pulled the curtain aside and looked out into the dark. Be a short skip
around the side of the garage, driveway is right there, and she'd be in
the street out front in less than twenty seconds. Did the Carson's have a
security system with cameras? Neighbors with cameras? I'm sure those
things had been covered by the police canvassing the neighborhood. We
would have been told about that if there was anything significant.

I walked to her desk, pulled the chair back, and sat down. There was a
mirror on the wall, makeup, brushes, a hairdryer, curling iron, everything
she would need to get ready daily. Wherever she was she would need all
this stuff, she had to replace it. Question: Did she have a bank account?
Credit cards? I looked behind me to her closet - it was packed with
clothes, shoes, coats... She would need all this stuff also - what's the
cost to be whole in regards to wardrobe? What about her prescriptions?
Where they missing?

I got up and wandered into her closet, thumbing through various blouses,
skirts, dresses - I was jealous, envious. I had less than a third the
outfits she had - fuck! She had at least forty pairs of shoes - heels,
flats, Ugg boots in three colors, riding boots, cowgirl boots - I was
beginning to fume. Seriously! Three pairs of Ugg's! Focus... There was
a chest-of-drawers in the closet and I pulled out the top drawer, socks.
I felt around, nothing. Second drawer, lingerie - there was expensive
shit mixed in with Victoria Secrets stuff. What was striking - there
wasn't just say ten, fifteen pairs of panties - no, there were over
thirty. Amazon wish list stuff? Fans sending her things? Did she sell
these after wearing them? Did stuff get delivered here - if she order
stuff? The last couple of drawers - leggings, stretch pants, sweats,
PJ's, three garter belts, hose, and four bustiers. I shook my head - what
the fuck!

This kid had ever opportunity given to her on a silver fucking platter and
she walks out on it? What the hell am I missing here? I sensed movement
behind me and spun around startled... "Oh... Mrs. Carson, I was just
looking to... I mean to see if I could..." I was struggling to speak.

"We removed some of the items you might be looking for..." she replied at
just above a whisper.

"Ah, no... That really isn't what I was... No..." I looked to my right
and flipped the light switch off, exited the closet and shut the door. Oh
my God! Awkward! I wasn't trying to find dildos or vibrators... They
had removed them? That meant the police, maybe even Paul had seen them.
I didn't need to see that shit...

"Jacob told us that you are Trans..." She was still speaking at just
above a whisper and with the thumping of my heart in my ears it was hard
to hear her, "Why?"

Oh God... Why? Why what? Why was I Trans? Why did Amber leave? Why
had she done some of the things she had? What the hell was I supposed to
say? "I think I'm as baffled as you Mrs. Carson. By all appearances,
Amber had everything and... I mean I just don't get it, not yet at
least." I tried to sound hopeful, but could sense my voice didn't match
my intended goal.

"Jacob said you've had similar experiences?"

OK, what the fuck! I tried to control my emotions but could feel my face
flushing. I was going to kill Paul! I tried to regain my composure,
breathing slowly, focus... Focus... The best interview technique I have
found is to reverse the rolls - be interviewed, but be the question asker,
not the question answerer, "I've had some rough times. Is there any
reason you can think of that would make Amber just disappear?"

"No... She was happy. School was good, she got excellent grades..."

"Did she have many friends?"

"No, but it didn't seem to bother her. We talked plenty of times about
it, about becoming involved with support groups..." She turned and pulled
the desk chair out and sat. "Her psychiatrist was happy with her
progress. Amber was right in line with where she thought she should be."

I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but had to rein in my need to
blurt them out in a verbal diarrhea stream, "When did she start hormones,
I mean HRT? Were there any complications?"

"Just after her sixteenth birthday. We were told the dosing would be
moderate at first, but she did so well that gate was crossed after the
second month. Dosing was increased to standard amounts with no adverse
effects. The testosterone blockers were probably tough at first, but she
was fine with the dosing after a month." She sat back in the chair,
crossing her legs casually. "When did you start?"

No, no, no... I'm asking the questions. "A year and a half ago. So, no
close friends? No one knew what she was doing... I mean in regards to
her internet..."

"No... Gary and I had no idea. I... I blame myself, I doted over
her..." She fell silent. "I loved all my sons equally..."

Question answered - Amber was one of three boys. "I think most parents
would give their all to making their children's lives all they want it to
be Mrs. Carson. I'm sure no one blames..." Shit, that wasn't what I
wanted to say, "Thinks you or Mr. Carson brought this about." Fuck! I
felt like I had just stepped in it...

"Thank you... We just want her home. We will be there for her, to help
her through all of this..."

"I'm sure she knows you both are there for her..."

"I just need to understand this, what she's going through, how I can fix
it..." She huffed the last couple words as if she had been defeated.
"How did you make it through all this, this hell?"

Oh shit... No, we're not talking about me. Not talking about my journey
through this shit... I tried to think of a way around talking about
myself. "To be honest Mrs. Carson, I... I just did. I made some poor
choices, but learned that those choices weren't getting me to the real me.
It was hard and I didn't have the support of a loving family to have my
back. My mom, she did what she could without screwing up the orbit she
was in with my dad, but in the end I had to hit rock bottom before I could
stand on my own." And I stopped talk as if the off button on my brain had
been clicked. It was also more than I had expected to put out there and
was surprised how effortlessly that flowed. The silence dragged on longer
than I was comfortable and said, "Paul mentioned she got a tattoo, is
there anything else she wanted that maybe you and Mr. Carson were opposed
too?"

Amber had nearly twelve-thousand dollars in ill-gotten subscription money,
there was no way she wasn't spending it on stuff or saving up for
something - hello! - shoe collection! Stephanie seemed to be measuring
her answer, "She wanted gauges for her ears. We said no, but offered the
compromise of the nose and belly button piercings. Amber is very self-
conscious about her appearance, not being female enough. She accessorized
to heighten her feminine appearance. Glasses, jewelry, you know..."

Are you fucking kidding me?! Seriously, put her and me in a line-up and
ask people to pick the freak out and every time they would pick me. Give
me a break! I shrugged. "I sense she gets a lot of encouragement from
you Mrs. Carson, was it the same from Mr. Carson? Her brothers?"

She looked to be thinking again about how to answer that. "Her brothers
teased her certainly at first. It was mean spirited stuff, but we nipped
that in the bud pretty quick. They've come to accept her choice I'm
pretty sure. Amber is the oldest, Chase and Donald are fifteen and almost
fourteen respectively. She used to beat their asses, but that's changed -
she puts up with their rough edges now, but I don't sense there's much
conflict amongst them. I don't know if Gary will ever fully understand
Amber's need to be her, but he has supported every want and need she's
come to us with. Secretly I think he likes having a daughter, but you
would have to ask him... There are a lot more resources these days to
help families, so we've been lucky I think."

Yah! Perfect family dynamic... STOP! Be happy for the kid not getting a
shit upbringing like mine... I tried to get back on course, "Anything
else she mentioned wanting?" I wasn't trying to repeat myself to force an
answer out of her, but I sensed there was more. I wished she would open
up a little more. "As Paul mentioned, there was a lot of SR stuff she was
researching, anything like that? One of her profiles states her as having
the 'she / her pronouns', did she show an interest in boys?"

The pronouns statement caught her off guard and we discussed briefly the
whole gender vs. sex vs. whatever the hell number of pansexual, poly,
disphoria, classifications there were. She seemed to get it, "Pretty sure
she had interest in boys. We were shopping once and she totally went
numb, dumb founded, seeing a boy from school in the mall." She looked
like she was thinking again, then she looked a little more relaxed, "We
talked about SRS, a lot in fact. Gary and I told her would support her
decision on taking that final step, but she had to go through all the pre-
process pieces first. So, I don't think that's what the money would be
for..." Her guard looked to be creeping back into place. "We were
against her getting implants... There were more than a few heated
arguments on that subject. Our stance was to wait, see how the HR
treatment went and after SR if that was something she wanted she could
save up for it on her own."

"She's had a trachea shave? Any Facial Feminization Surgery?"

"Yes to the trachea surgery, this past summer. No, to FFS, I don't think
she thinks that's necessary. The HRT process has been nothing short of an
amazing transformation, especially this last year. Her doctors have all
said that starting when she did, or younger, typically makes the biggest
difference."

Seriously, try starting that shit when you're twenty-one! We talked for
another twenty minutes. I found out a few other things about Amber, like
she did have a passport, she was bullied at school, and she had left all
her medications behind. That last one was curious - we'd have to look
into refills on those and whether they had been filled recently, like in
the last couple days. Finally, she insisted on me calling her Stephanie
and gave me her cell number. The number came with a couple of hooks -
like she want to know everything when I knew it, no matter the time of
day. She also wanted what we found to not make it back to Brandt, Wentz,
and Larson - she specifically named Janet and her not needing to know her
families business. That was going to put me a very uncomfortable
position. I tried to explain that Janet was fully backing the firm
helping to investigate. Her reply, "Don't trust everything she tells
you..."

I wanted to get her to expand on that, but Paul appeared at the door with
Jacob. "You about done here?"

I looked toward them as Stephanie spoke, "Yes, I think Elizabeth has what
she needs." She stood and we shook hands, which felt like a reversal of
the last twenty minutes.

"Yes, Thank you Stephanie... We will be in touch when we learn of
anything of significance, I promise..."

March 9th, 10:19 PM

We had pulled into the hotel parking lot after the short drive from the
Carsons'. Our conversation had been about the strange pow-wow Jacob had
with us as he walked us to the car. In short - he echoed what Stephanie
had told me - nothing got back to the firm - he would handle that exchange
of information. Janet was expecting me to report in today at some point -
how the hell was I going to do that?

Paul opened his door and got out, looking at me over the roof of the
Toyota Camry he asked, "You drink?"

I have in the past, but it usually turns into something I regret later. I
tried to figure out if he had some kind of angle from the look on his face
- which was stupid because, we weren't like that. We were just co-workers
on a project, nothing more. Why was I being stupid about this, "On
occasion..." I said shyly.

"Bar is open until midnight or we could go back to my room, look at some
of her accounts..."

What could go wrong back at his room, with some liquor in us both, some
Transgender porn in the background? "I'd be up for one at the bar..."

"Good, wanted to hear what Stephanie had to say about Amber. I'm guessing
you got an earful."

"I don't know that I've got some inside track to anything worthwhile, but
we can discuss that..."

"Good, I was hoping you could crack into her side of this. I'll share
what I got from Gary."

March 9th, 10:26 PM

We had ordered our drinks from the bartender; he was the only one working
- which meant either this wasn't a hopping place to hang out or the hotel
wasn't booked up or both. There were two couples in the place, one in a
booth, another at a small table. At one of two longer tables were three
business men talking way too loud about nothing, but filling the upper
levels of the noise being made by bad music playing from some lost
elevator tracks. We grabbed the booth furthest from everyone.

"Cheers! To good teamwork..." Paul raised his beer mug to my rum and
Coke.

I sipped it and it was ninety percent cheap crap rum with a splash of Coke
for color. Augh, I cringed.

"Too strong?"

I smiled. "Not my brand of rum..."

"Really, you're a rum aficionado?"

"Let's just say I know my way around a decent bottle of rum..." I grinned
an evil smirk. Lisa wasn't going to believe this, that I was out in a bar
with a man. My grin turned to a satisfied smile.

"I miss something?"

"No, I'm just happy this day is over... It is over, right?"

Paul laughed. "Yeah, think we can pack it in for the night. I am going
to look at a few things, but I promise I'll be in bed by..." He looked at
his phone. "Midnight."

I could see the clock over the bar, it was 10:31, guess this was just
going to be one drink and done. Grrr! What the hell! Get over yourself.
This is nice, at least you're not in your room alone. This is perfect. I
smiled. "OK, I'm going to hold you to midnight. I'd like to be out long
before that." And I felt self-conscious about saying that, hoping he
didn't take it the wrong way... I mean I would sit here longer if he
wanted.

"I hear ya... Jacob and I met for breakfast at 6:00 AM, so I'm tired for
sure..." He sipped his beer and looked toward the long table of business
men laughing loudly about something. "Easy boys..." he said looking at
me.

This was nice... Paul had a relaxed way about him, he was cute - well his
looks were growing on me, and he did have a nice ass. We finished our
drinks while discussing Jacob and the firm. Paul didn't really have
anything to connect what was up with this new 'secret' mode we were
supposed to operating under. He asked if I wanted another, mine was half
drunk - due to the rot-gut rum - I declined. He pulled the last couple
sips of his beer and as quickly as we entered we were exiting the bar.

March 9th, 10:55 PM

Paul walked me back to my room. The exchange at my door wasn't too
awkward, well until he caught my closing door and said he was in room 210
- which must be on the other side of this complex, as I was in 98. I
thanked him. He apologized for being late to the Carsons, then wished me
a good night - the door clicked behind me. It would be a lie to say those
moments in the bar didn't make me feel more alive than I had been in
years. I wished it would have lasted longer... Maybe next time, if there
is a next time. And what is with him in my brain again?! He knew I
wasn't happy about being late...

No time to ponder our minds intersecting - on occasion. I needed to figure
out what to say to Janet Larson without it sounding like I was withholding
information..

::: --- :::

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Bronwen Welsh in proofreading
and giving me insightful advice. She is an accomplished author in her own right
and I appreciate her time more than I can say...



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