A Legal Trap - Chapter 7

Author retains all rights to this original work of fiction.

March 11th, 1:41 PM
I had to think about whether I really wanted to reply, what I should
say... There was no denying there being an attraction, but Paul's fears
reconciling us being more than co-workers - after arguably a stress
filled last couple days of working to find Amber - was sobering. It wasn't
like I hadn't experienced the same kind of reaction a few times
before, but in those cases the men didn't know I was Trans or in a few
cases ignored it completely - though it was clearly spelled out on my
online dating profile.

Of course when I told some of them I was Trans - they went running.
It was frustrating, that they could like the person they were talking with
online, in text messages, even Facetime a few times, but somehow being
Trans was never part of the equation for them - though my profile
clearly stated that and some of them knew! It was just part of this
phase of my transition I would likely have to deal with many more times
in the future. I prayed one day it wouldn't matter - that was probably
a pipe dream.

The difference with Paul though was he knew about me and he knew much
more about my past than I cared for any man I had the slightest romantic
interest in knowing. Same set of fears I have dealt with on my side of
the equation, same frustrations about not being complete enough for
him... The difference was I truly thought Paul was different. He seemed
comfortable being around me, talking to me, arguing with me... It was
hard for me to accept he couldn't overcome my not being complete. He
had to have thought this shit over - why did he try to kiss me? If he'd
have just said "See ya..." at my door and not come back - I would have
gotten it completely - not interested, no harm, no foul. But he didn't
do that - he kissed me...

Would it have mattered if I was fully who I was supposed to be? Only
one way to find out... I looked at my phone and began typing. "We
should talk. Meet in the lobby at 6. Wear comfortable shoes. There's
a park about a mile from here. Let's go for a walk and see what we
think about last night." I read it twice, removed 'We should talk' and
'and see what we think about last night'. Read it again and pressed
'Send'.

Not twenty seconds later I had my reply. "Thank you. See you at 6 in
the lobby." I was nervous, but what did I have to lose? It's going to
be what it's going to be... I needed to not over-think any of this, to
not anticipate how the conversation was going to go and twist and turn
those words into something they weren't. 'Good luck with that' I thought
absently...

I clicked out of iMessenger and pulled up Janet's phone number. I was
dreading this call, but pressed the button to make the call. On the
third ring she answered. "Elizabeth... How are things going?" she said
almost too cheery, relaxed.

"They are good Miss Larson. Amber is home resting, the Carsons
continue to work with the authorities. Not much is really going on that
I'm aware of..." All truths...

There was a momentary pause, almost like one of us had bad cell phone
coverage, but she jumped into asking questions and I stammered to reply
to them without lying or giving away too much of the truth. How was
Jacob? What were the Carsons doing about Amber long term? Were they
any closer to knowing more about this 'David' character? That question
made me wonder how she'd found that out, as I had only found out today
the man's first name. Was there anything useful the doctor told
authorities? Were the FBI investigating?

"I spoke with Jacob an hour ago, sounds like he was going to release you
to come back to Seattle. You'll have ticketing information in an email
later tonight. We agreed that a Sunday return would work best? Gives
you a chance to decompress, enjoy the nice weather, take in some sights
maybe... You deserve a little break, I'm sure it's been stressful these
last couple days."

I wasn't sure what to think about getting to go home, but realistically
it only made sense that eventually I'd be going home. It was a nice
gesture to let me stay over the weekend, especially since all my
expenses were being picked up by the firm. What could I say? "That
would be great Miss Larson... I would enjoy a few more days here.
Thank You... I... Guess I will see you Monday morning then..."

"Excellent. Oh, Elizabeth... If something significant breaks free, I
would like to be notified immediately, understood?"

"Of course Miss Larson... I will do that."

"Alright then... Well, enjoy your down time. We've got plenty of work
here waiting for you. Good bye..."

"Good..." And the call was clearly over, I thought the word 'bye' for
my own satisfaction. Rude...

Janet Larson was an interesting woman, driven, and not likely to be put
into a corner without a fight. I had seen her during cross-examination
on a DUI case and she was merciless in getting legal points made to get
her defendant acquitted. I wasn't sure why she had to be in the know
about everything about Amber, but since I didn't want to lose this job I
was going to do whatever I was told to do - even though Jacob had said
not to mention what was going on to her. Augh... Too many high-level,
high-powered people I was trying to please all at once. More like dodge
- while trying not to be squished. I think I will be happy to get back
to my job and the mundane legal research I did for Brandt, Larson, and
Wentz.

March 11th, 6:07 PM
I was running late... Over-slept the power nap I thought I could sneak
in before meeting Paul. I was rushed dressing, getting my hair to do
what I wanted, and deciding on what I should wear. Too many things were
giving my brain a cramp right now and I was annoyed about being late.
One of my biggest pet peeves was being late or others being late. I
needed to let it go, but it was an idiosyncrasy that was pretty
consuming at times. I probably had OCD... No, I'm sure I was in the
deep end of the OCD pool.

I turned the corner to the lobby just as Paul was checking his phone -
probably for the time... "Sorry I'm late... Note to self - set two
alarms and get a wakeup call from the front desk if you're going to take
a nap." I huffed that out way too fast when I was within earshot.

He chuckled. "Don't worry about it. I was a couple of minutes late
myself... My excuse was I was talking to Jacob. He mentioned you are
free to get out of here, Sunday right?"

"Yeah, I spoke with Janet Larson and she told me that he said I could
return to Seattle. Not sure, I'm value added at this point anyway. I
don't have mad computer skills like you." I tried to make that last
part sound playful, but it sounded like I was being guarded. Relax!
Breathe...

"You have skills Miss... Don't cut yourself short."

We headed out into the Arizona sunshine, it was at least eighty degrees
out - even at 6:00 PM. Seattle gloom and rain was going to suck
compared to this. I was glad I decided on a light top and shorts, with
anklet socks and white Sketchers. Paul was in shorts, a polo, and
tennis shoes. I was glad he also went the comfort route also.

"I'm following you..." he said when we made it to the curb.

"Think it's this way..." and I started us in the direction of the
setting sun. "Anything new?" I figured we could maybe small talk
first, and then see what organically rose to the surface with this
little jaunt to the park I had run past earlier that morning.

He hesitated a second. "Yeah, pretty sure we know who the guy is."

What?! "Oh my God... That's great!" I was looking at him and his
excitement about having told me the news put a permanent grin on his
face.

"Yeah... I really didn't have much to do with it other than following
that lead on the guy not being at the house because he went out for
donuts. I started looking for places he could get them, gave the list
to the FBI guys, they did some traffic camera stuff, compared the sketch
artist renderings from the staff at the doctor's office, and they got a
potential match at a grocery store about two miles from the Air BnB they
were staying at. With a good screen shot of the guys face from the
stores security camera they ran facial recognition and got nothing."

I must have looked confused. "But that's when Jacob mentioned you
telling the Carsons what Amber had said about the guy was 'already on
his way home' or something like that. One of the FBI analysts ran a
search for air travelers to Santa Fe Regional Airport and there he
was... Flight checks, customs, TSA, all of that searched and we found
David James Lafleur - Canadian national. Criminal record including lewd
contact with a minor and an arrest for soliciting a prostitute. He left
Vancouver BC three days ago and returned yesterday on a modified ticket
- he was going to be here until mid-next week, then return. We already
kind of knew that from the Air BnB rental agreement."

"Oh my... That is creepy and an amazing breakthrough. The guy came all
this way? Do they know anything else about him?"

"Works for a software development company, divorced - coincidentally
around the time of the soliciting arrest. Wild shit, huh?"

Wild, crazy, and certainly unexpected. Someone from another country
makes contact with Amber, grooms her for a relationship, spends time and
money to get here, convinces her to get breast implants, pays for them,
and escapes back to Canada. Tell me that isn't one crazy list of
happenings! What would have happened if she left the country with
him... "Does she know yet?"

"No, they don't want her to possibly make contact and warn him. The
Carsons know, Jacob of course... This case has gone from Phoenix PD,
to FBI, to Santa Fe PD, and now to the RCMP in Vancouver. I doubt this
guy is going to get far... Not bad timing wise, the authorities have
him in their sights within a couple days. I have to monitor Amber's
computer use - to see if there is some other way they are communicating.
If she creates a new email account and knows his or some other way to
contact him - well we might not be out of the woods yet."

Yes, they know who he is and found out pretty quickly, but he got here
and back to Vancouver, BC - until he was in custody I wouldn't be saying
he was a shoe-in to be captured. "God, I hope Amber isn't going to try
and contact this guy... I'd like to see his ass behind bars and then
throw away the key."

"Me too... I got the cliff note version of your talk with Amber from
Jacob, what do you think? She going to be alright?"

We stopped at a corner to let a delivery truck get around a car stuck at a
Stop sign with its hood up for some kind of mechanical issue. When
the truck passed we crossed. "She's going to need someone, a
professional to talk with."

"No big sister, little sister connection?"

How could he make that kind of statement, but ran away after kissing me
last night. I thought about saying something, but I held my tongue -
the 'us' conversation would start when he was ready, be patient... "No,
not really. She's your typical millennial and has a rebellious streak
I'm pretty sure. I'm five years older than her and she acts like I'm as
old as Stephanie."

Paul assured me I didn't give off an old woman vibe, then turned the
conversation to the legal charges that might face this guy. Again with
a normal, expected, feeling about who I was from his mouth! I gave him
a look, like he should expand on that train of thought - but he miss-read
it and jumped into explaining how Jacob had done some work with a
Canadian law firm and asked them to look into the law from their side.
That Amber was eighteen at the time of their physical contact - the time
they had made their sex video - well, there could be trouble hitting the
guy with anything more than a slap on the wrist. I wasn't sure of our
laws, but it could be a similar for the US version of this case. It
made me sick to think this guy might not get everything that was coming
to him...

The block before the park Paul began talking about working with the
FBI. He was like a kid, giddy, geeky, and pumped about every aspect of
it. He was sure he wouldn't have had such access, but because of Jacob
and Landon's relationship concessions were made.

"You know their crypto abilities..."

"That's interesting and all, but you've said a few things about me that
make me wonder what you really think of me Paul..." I interrupted him
midsentence. I'd waited long enough for him to start talking about last
night and just couldn't hold my tongue any longer. What happened to his
mind reading abilities?

He looked confused, "Like what?"

"For one - 'Big sister'. Not an 'old woman'... What is that? " I
snapped a little too forcefully.

He looked like he didn't get the point I was trying to make, but
attempted to put out the steam coming from my ears, "I'm not really sure
what you mean, but I thought you might have had better luck with Amber
since you two are closer in age..." He gave up trying to pin words
together into a cohesive explanation of his thought process.

"Do you mean we're both Trans - so that's the connecting bond we share?"

"Sure, no doubt that's something you two have in common. I just thought
as women you could connect."

"There! That's what I want you to explain to me - that we're both women
and could connect. Do you really see us both as real women?" I was
about done mincing words with him and felt my frustration coming out
angrily.

We caught a look from a couple walking a pathway around the park. I
didn't care. Paul looked at a bench just ahead and motioned toward it.
I followed him. After we sat he looked like he was trying to figure out
my last question. "Yes, I see you both as real women. Do I understand
how this happens to people? No. Do I think it is real, absolutely."

"And last night? Good conversation all night, dinner, drinks, all the
flirting..."

He was a little quieter, "All enjoyable, yes..."

"So, what the hell happened?" Now Paul looked really uncomfortable. He
had certainly thought about this meeting more than once over the last
however many hours. Time to reveal the truth...

"I'm not sure..."

"Look, this is still new for me Paul. I've tried dating a few times in
the past couple years, lots of communication, lots of trying to figure
out if there was an attraction. Break this down for me - do I have a
good personality?"

"Yes, I think you're very intelligent. You are caring, speak your
mind... I like that you push back and don't just roll over when
confronted."

That was insightful - not sure I speak my mind as much as I'd like, but
I'll take that. "So, there's an attraction to my personality?"

"Of course, personality is part of what makes a person attractive..."

"How about looks? I was good looking enough to kiss, right?"

"I kissed you, yes, I... I wanted to and I did."

There was a tinge of defense in his voice. "Are you gay?"

"No. I'm not gay and I don't care if people are or not."

"You identify me as a woman - though I'm not biologically one and you
know that. You aren't gay, I'm not either by the way. You like my
personality. You know more about me than anyone I've ever met. For the
record I am not that person in any way, shape, or form from anything you
may have seen or discovered about me online from over three years ago.
I have not been with a man, let alone a woman in over two and a half
years - like what you may have found online. I've been on HRT for
twenty months now and everything you see, that I present or represent as
female is all me. After I have surgery to get rid of the last remaining
reminder that I was born in the wrong body - well, it's unlikely I'll
ever be questioned about who I really am..." I took a breath, watching
his face as he was listening intently. "What were you afraid of Paul?
We're beyond BS'ing each other, just tell me..."

He jumped in as my voice trailed off after that ask, "Elizabeth, this is
new for me. Transgenderism or whatever the technical term is, it's all
new. I understand so little about the struggle, the journey... I can't
even fathom what this would be like for someone..."

Nice, but no surprise - most people don't get it. They don't get the
unexplainable itch, tickle, that something about how you feel in the
body you see does not match what you feel inside. I was going to say
that, but didn't want to control the direction of his answer. I moved
my head ever so slightly as if to say, 'And?'

"I... I don't have all the answers Elizabeth. I look at you and I see
a pretty woman with a strong, beautiful soul, and a spunky personality
that I really like... I barely know you, and I truly do think that. I
feel, I don't know exactly how to explain, but I feel like I want to
know more. But, I know a lot about your past and it's not what I see in
you now, but I've seen it... Does that make sense?"

Amber, if you could be sitting here listening to this, could feel my
heart-ache, the pain... You'd realize what I said about those choices
you made coming back to fuck you up. OK, this is now going where I
expected it would - he's made up his mind and can't forgive my past,
"Yes, it makes sense Paul. I really... I do appreciate you sharing
with me your thoughts and feelings. I don't know what to say other than
I'm sorry, that I'm not proud of a lot of things I've done. I feel
plenty of shame, probably will never really get over it. Thanks..." I
stood, this conversation was over, and turned toward the park's
entrance. Before I could take my first step I felt him take my hand.

"Are we done?" I heard him saying, through a ringing in my ears and a
tear rolling down my face.

I couldn't walk away because he had hold of my hand, but I couldn't look
at him either. I sensed he was standing now, then felt his arms wrap
around me. All bets were off and the tears flowed uncontrollably.

March 11th, 7:47 PM
It took nearly five minutes to get composed, but Paul was patient. He
held me until I was comfortable enough to stand there on my own and even
gave me a few tissues. I must have had a questioning look about them
and he told me they were for him - allergies he said. We eventually
ended up sitting on the bench again. He refused to let my hand go
and truth was I liked that but was a little confused. Hadn't he
indicated this was just too much for him to absorb, get past?

"We've talked a lot about feelings, but I don't think I got a chance to
say I was sorry about last night. I was scared, I just... I just
didn't know how we would work out the things that we might feel insecure
about. I wanted to ease into whatever we were wanting..."

I looked at him, his eyes were searching for some concrete sign I
understood... Problem was, I didn't know what he was talking about, did
he want to pursue a relationship? "I'm not following... You, you want
to see me after this?"

There was a slightest sign of a smile at the corner of his mouth, "Well,
I was trying to get to that, but you were like ready to walk away. I
couldn't figure out what I'd said wrong..."

"I thought you were saying my past was too much to un-see or something
like that. I thought that was it, you didn't want to see if there was
something we could, like be together..."

"No, I was saying I know that person isn't you. I'm not comfortable
with that person, but I am with you here and now."

I was certainly way off the mark on that one. Didn't I warn myself
about jumping to conclusions, putting words in places that had different
meanings? Augh! I was embarrassed... "I'm sorry Paul, I... I had
over thought what you'd said..."

"Well don't do that!" he was smiling and pulled my hand towards his
chest, which caused me to lean into him. He wrapped his free hand
around my neck leaned in and put his lips on mine. He kissed me softly,
tongue searching, dancing with mine, passionate... It was brief, but
felt right.

Kids on a the climbing toy in the park were laughing at us - oh well...
"A lot about my life is complex Paul, a lot. I just want to warn you.
I will be totally transparent... I mean you've already seen me at my
worst, but I am much more than that person..."

"I'm really not too worried Elizabeth. I have my own set of life
complexities. Let's just take it slow see what happens."

The kids were now chanting something about us getting married and I
didn't want to be their entertainment any longer, "You know, I was
offered dinner tonight. Any chance we could get out of here and figure
that out sooner than later?"

March 11th, 10:43 PM
The walk back from the park to the hotel seemed to take less time. Not
for lack of talking all the way back - which we did - but the walk to
the hotel was much more relaxed. Was that it - was I more relaxed?
Maybe we were just hungry and walked faster? There was no handholding
or anything of that nature, but it was nice to get back some of that
feeling, the flirty banter we had from last night before things went
south.

We decided to skip trying to find a restaurant chain nearby and just ate
in the hotel's restaurant - which had a Michelin Two Star rating. The
food was incredible, the drinks went down easy - I had nearly finished
my third rum and coke before the check arrived. When it did arrive,
Paul grabbed for it before I could. We argued playfully about who
should pay and my offer to split it fell on deaf ears - not that I had
any money on me to do that - but I could expense it. He eventually
compromised after much playful harassing - saying I could pick up the
tab tomorrow night. It would be a lie to say that didn't warm my heart
or maybe it was just the alcohol - no, it was definitely that we were
going out tomorrow night. Internal smiles a-plenty after that
exchange...

I asked if he was up for getting a drink in the bar, to which he
explained he had an early morning with the FBI and he was going to snoop
on Amber's internet usage before bed, to bring anything of interest to
the FBI. My confused look about his snooping got me the 10K foot level
explanation about a device he had hooked up to the Carsons router to
track traffic and grab content. It was interesting and all, but he was
not doing his mind reading thing very well because if he had he would
have realized I did not want the evening to end. There was no playful
racing to the room from the lobby like last night - which I doubt I
could have done anyway feeling as tipsy as I was. His techie
dissertation lasted until we made it to my room. Hello! Snooze
alert...

It had been almost three months, just before Christmas in fact, that I
had last went on a date with someone and there was no comparison to
being with Paul. That date ended on my terms - I caught an Uber home
right after dinner because the guy was a total douche. He knew I was
Trans and after too much alcohol before and during dinner, the
conversation turned to sex and him wanting to be topped. It was a real
disappointment, especially since leading up to the date he came across
as so normal.

"Well, this looks familiar..." I said pulling my phone out and
retrieving my room key from a slot inside the phones protective cover.
Paul just watched as I slid the key into the slot, got the green light
and click from the lock. I pushed the door open and decided I was going
to make a move. I had wanted to kiss him since the park bench some many
times I had lost count. I wedged a foot in the door, turned back to
him, taking his hand and pulled him closer. "I had a really good time
tonight... I appreci..."

Oh! We were kissing before I could complete my speech about him opening
up to me. I stopped that train of thought quickly and was fully
participating in everything that was happening - the taste of the
alcohol on his breath, how he was so gentle and passionate - anxious
with his tongue probing mine, the feel of him embracing me - hands at my
waist - then holding me tight as the kissing became more intense. It
was dizzying and I so wanted to continue this inside.

When he broke away, he still had me held close and was looking into my
eyes. "I appreciate you giving me a chance to work things out..."

I gave him a peck on the lips. "I'm happy we set things straight..."

He smiled, pulled me in for another kiss - shorter but no less mind
numbingly uplifting... This time after breaking the kiss he held me a
second longer then took a step back. "Alright then - tomorrow, dinner,
your treat. How about you pick out someplace, cool?"

"Deal..." I tried to say as calmly as possible with my heart trying to
beat out of my chest.

"G'night..."

I got another quick kiss that I didn't want to end. Can't you hear what
I'm thinking! I watched him turn to walk down the hall, he looked back
smiling, I waved and entered my room when he rounded the corner and was
out of sight. Much like last night it was very still in the room, but I
could feel my heart pounding and I was high on what had just transpired
I could barely hold a thought. Now that was a much better ending! OMG!
That was incredible! I wished it hadn't ended, but I was certainly
cherishing every moment of the last three minutes or so...

My mind was wondering all over the place and the thought of hydration
was knocking at my giddy salacious subconscious. I needed to hydrate or
there was no way, as much alcohol that was swimming in my system would
make for a good run in the morning. I didn't want any excuses for not
making it at least five miles. I opened the refrigerator and pulled a
bottle of water, twisting the cap off, and taking a long pull. A knock
at the door cause me to choke a little, cough hard, and a few drops of
water dribbled down my cheek. Shit!

I looked through the peephole to see Paul standing there and opened the
door. "You forget something?" Kind of a Déjà vu thing to say... I was
smiling. Can you see I'm happy to see you?

"No, but I really don't want to go back to my room..." he said in a low
voice, his eyes studying my face for a reaction.

I smiled. "I'd like you to not go back to your room also..." I extended
my hand, which he took, and I pulled him into the room.

::: --- :::

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... Also a few other's who reached
out to help me correct minor Oops! on my part (check your emails). Thank You
All!!!



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