Author retains all rights to this original work of fiction.
March 12th, 8:33 AM
I rolled over lazily, pulling covers from every corner of the bed around me. Paul was gone; he left sometime around 2 AM. There wasn’t much conversation when he left, but the kiss goodbye certainly made me feel like this evening could be considered a success. I stared at the ceiling, listening to the drone of the AC and couldn’t help but smile. This was a major shift in my universe; I hoped he felt the same way I was feeling.
My stomach gurgling and an urgent need to pee made it difficult to keep basking in or replaying the events from last night. Time to get rolling…
March 12th, 9:21 AM
The plan for the morning – eat and get in a run before it got too sweltering hot out. Forecast for the day, low 80’s. I had changed into my running gear, took along my Android tablet, and was seated at a window table in the restaurant. Food was ordered with little fuss from a polite server that barely gave me a second look – thankfully. I’d pulled my hair back, so if someone had their “Transgender” radar on – well it would probably be going off pretty loud about now - maybe. I finished off my first glass of water and motioned to a busboy for a refill. He came over quickly, I flipped over the three other glasses on the table and he got the message – filling them with a smile.
I opened my tablet and started a browser and navigated to the firm’s webmail client. Credentials entered and I had seven new emails since checking yesterday. Two were likely questions about work that I was doing and reassigned to others, one IT warning email about virus protection, two about food in the break room, travel arrangements from Kendal for Sunday, and one from Lisa. I opened that one first:
‘Hey, you better come back with a tan! I saw the weather forecast; bring some sun back with you. Not to be a rumormonger, but you said you were helping Jacob with a case down there right? Well, rumor around here is Janet and Martin are splitting from Jacob… Don’t know how that would work exactly – I mean, this is his firm and the majority of the clients are because of Jacob. You didn’t hear that from me. Bryant says “Hi!” You know I’m gonna do some crazy shit to that boy one of these days! Hey – get laid while you’re down there will you! Hugz! Lisa’
There would generally be a lot to smile about in this email – if it didn’t have that rumor crap regarding Janet and Martin having plans to break the firm up. I respected each of the partners, but I certainly didn’t want to have to choose sides or be without a job all together. Maybe Jacob knew this was in the works and is the reason for the ‘no sharing’ demand with Janet – and viscera Janet wanting to know everything. Great! Did I need to update my resume?
My yogurt, banana, and oatmeal were delivered with a smile by my server – I thanked her and asked for the bill. She returned a minute later and I signed it to my room, grabbed the yogurt and banana, and headed back to my room – I ate the banana on the way. Inside my room, I finished the yogurt, grabbed a bottle of water, headphones, armband, and headed for the door. Room key? Check… I needed to clear my mind.
March 12th, 10:19 AM
At nearly the three mile mark and halfway into the song 'Havana' by an artist I wasn’t familiar with, but was totally digging the heavy Latin beat, my phone rang… Out of breath I answered, “This is… Elizabeth.”
“Hey… You running?”
“Hey yourself…”, I was trying really hard to not huff into the microphone hanging from my headphones, “Yes, about three miles in, another two and I’ll be good…” I slowed to a stop on the side of a trail between developments.
“You’re already good…”
How could you not want to hear that daily and often? “You’re not so bad yourself…”
“Oh, I’m bad… But I won’t divulge those secrets just yet…” Paul said chuckling, “Hey, reason for the call is, I could use your insight into something. I’ve been looking over the internet traffic from the Carsons and Amber was in a chat room talking to someone named ‘FlowerGirl’. Nothing too crazy in the transcripts, but the IP address traces to the general Vancouver, BC area. Too close to her, 'Daddy' not to have a second set of eyes look over their conversation. You going to be much longer?”
If I picked up the pace, I could be back at the hotel in fifteen minutes. Of course, I’d be wiped – but that was part of clearing my head, the reset running did for me. Then I'd need to get cleaned up, so in about an hour, hour and a half… “Where you at?”
“Just leaving the Carsons'…”
“Are you talking and driving,” I asked playfully, my breathing nearly back to normal.
“No! I hate that shit…”
“Good, me too… Wanna come to my room, say…,” I looked at the time on my phone, “Twelve-ish?”
“It’s gonna take you that long to run two miles?”
“No…,” I complained, “But I’ll need to get cleaned up! Sheesh…”
“I’m kidding, just kidding… Sure, I’ll pop by around twelve – unless you need help in the shower…”
OK, if he were in front of me I would be blushing… Then I wondered if he really knew what he was suggesting and how that might look – us in the shower together? No, he’s just being a normal guy – I’m taking it to the polar extreme. Fuck! Get a grip… “Thanks for the offer, but I can manage…”
“OK, but if you change your mind give me a call.”
He didn’t sound disappointed or anything, but I felt weird about that exchange. I mean, YES! Come over, wash my back, and let me wash you aaaaaalllllll over! However, there was that one thing remaining… Augh! God! Get fucking over it! Take his banter for what it was – good-natured flirting. Sheesh! “You’re pretty silly… See you in a bit.”
March 12th, 12:07 PM
Breathe… Being late wasn’t a crime! Should be, but… Augh! I hated being late to anything and people who were late were… The knock on the door kicked that thought down the road for another time. I didn’t look out the peephole and just opened the door, Paul was smiling and extended a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos's, “Peace offering for being late… Got them in the gift shop. Reeeeally expensive!”
I couldn’t help but smile, taking the bag and waving him in. He knows late isn’t my thing, that’s something, right? He cares to know that… He stepped inside, kissing me quickly, and then heading for the couch to setup his laptop. I was floating, soaring really, from one little kiss. Sure, I’d liked it to have been longer, but it meant the world to me that we were being normal people - especially given some of what had taken place the last twenty-four hours. No awkward reset or regret or starting over or… “Hey, you gonna join me?”
Doh! “Yeah…. Water? There’s pop in the frig, but I think they charge for that?”
“They do… Coke please,” he said smiling.
“Oh, so that’s how it’s gonna be?”
I went to the refrigerator and pulled a Coke for him, bottle of water for me. I joined him on the couch, watching various screens flash on the TV as he was trying to get setup. The Coke opening made him pause, he kissed my cheek, and took the can from me. I broke open the bag of chips and he grabbed a couple, crunching them while something was obviously loading on the screen. Did he have any idea what this, him, us, just sitting here all normal like – meant to me?
“OK, so here’s a list of sites she visited. I asked the Carsons to pull the plug on the video game machine the boys used and to refrain from connecting to their Wi-Fi network. So everything here,” he scrolled down a huge list of activity, “Is all from Amber. Certainly she’s bored - some of this stuff is insignificant, but she’s also trying to figure out getting back into her accounts – see here, Patreon – failed attempt. Oh, and PayPal – she locked out her account trying to guess the password.”
I watched as he flipped to a browser, pulled up a Hotmail login page. He entered an email address and password, went to the ‘Sent’ folder, “She created this email account last night. Here you can see she’s trying to remember an email address – could be his, could be someone else. Each attempt failed, email address unknown errors kicked back to her. Tough one to pin down likely – I mean what kid even knows a phone number for a friend? Nothing in any of the failed emails - just her saying 'Hello - write me back!'. ”
“I don’t know hardly anyone’s number – Thank God for having a contacts list… I’d be totally lost without it. Same thing for email addresses - address book for that...”
“Exactly… She tried combinations of these addresses b8dlef, b8dleaf, lefb8d, and a few others like that – see here,” he flipped to a list of returned error emails from unknown email addresses kicked back from the Hotmail server, “Looks like ‘b8d’ something is part of someone’s address – maybe his. I keep reading ‘Be-eighty’.”
“Makes sense…,” I buy all that - seems reasonable. I had hoped with all that had happened maybe she was going to move on from trying to connect this guy, “Did you do a search for just the ‘b8d’ as part of a possible email address?”
“Yup, almost a million references in Google, even more in some off the grid searches.”
I must have looked confused, he explained at a really high level about a ‘dark’ web that the general public couldn’t venture to without knowing a lot of shit about what the internet really was. OK, so there was an underbelly on the web – they were likely not communicating there, “Did you check her email accounts to see if she emailed anyone with an email address like this? I mean she talked to the guy via email plenty of times, but that address was something like ‘dla’-something right?”
Paul nodded, flipping to some program or command line prompt thing. There he started typing computer gibberish and hit enter, flipping back to the main screen for her new email account. “Do you think she knows you were in her account,” I asked.
“Her being locked out, she knows her accounts have been viewed - that's my guess...”
“You said she was in a chat room with someone?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s probably a dead end, but here…,” more clicking, screens changing quickly on the TV, then a listing showing the conversation. “Here,” he handed me a wireless mouse and a pad to run it over, “Scroll and see what you think.”
I began reading:
FlowerGirl: No Names, no rules now
FlowerGirl: Waiting long
FlowerGirl: Feel better
FlowerGirl: He wants to know about the police
Abreeze: I didn't say anything
FlowerGirl: Best to let things settle
Abreeze: Parents are pissed
FlowerGirl: Figures, you're a big girl. How are they?
Abreeze: They hurt
FlowerGirl: They will look great. I'm jealous
Abreeze: I hope so
FlowerGirl: You see them?
Abreeze: Yes Gross, bruised. Wrapped up per doctors orders
FlowerGirl: Time, they'll be amazing.
Abreeze: I know
FlowerGirl: New clothes for you!
FlowerGirl: He’ll buy them
Abreeze: I miss him
FlowerGirl: He knows
Abreeze: Next week?
FlowerGirl: Working on that
FlowerGirl: Yes, details
Abreeze: Call him?
FlowerGirl: Will see. Email first. Could be monitoring you
Abreeze: Parents are hovering.
FlowerGirl: To be expected. Email
Abreeze: I will
I read it twice, crap… Could be him, but then again the conversation sounded like a third party? I put the mouse down. “See what I mean? Could be someone connected to both of them and intermediary,” Paul said. "If they are doing that whole 'Daddy + Sissy' thing, maybe there is another girl?"
Damn mind reader! I suppressed an urge to smile, “Yeah, some of it sounds like two girls talking – then again it could be twisted to be him talking to her. It feels like the whole conversation is coded, but I don't understand why. Why not just ‘chat’ if this is him? Does he know she’s being monitored? Maybe she knows? Could she know?”
“He had to have seen the police presence in Santa Fe and he’s probably really spooked, overly cautious now about anything the says or does. This could be something they worked out as an emergency way to converse… I don't recall seeing any activity in this chat room before on her computer. This is strange for sure.”
“FlowerGirl? That just isn’t… Wait! Flower… Oh crap! French! Canada is French and flower, that’s la fleur! This is absolutely him! David Lafleur, that’s his name right? This is them talking, I would bet money on it!”
I watched Paul switch to a browser, Google, typed in ‘flower in French’, hit enter, and on the screen was ‘fleur’. “Whoa… Well, that’s interesting! I agree, this is probably him, this is…,” he looked worried, “This isn’t good though, ‘Next Week’… Are they meeting somehow?”
I asked him to switch back to the chat transcript; there it was – ‘Next Week’. Not good… “Did you search for the user name ‘FlowerGirl’?”
“Yeah, sixty-eight-million references and most are for the actual words together ‘flower girl’.”
“Dang… What’s that email address she was trying to connect too, ‘b8dlef’? What if it’s ‘b8dlafleur’? Can you send a message to that address like junk mail and see if it bounces back?”
“You sure you don’t know computer stuff?”
I laughed, “I can barely login to email by myself, let alone search the web…” That was actually a tiny white lie, but only because I didn’t want to turn the spot light of the successes from the last couple minutes onto my use of the internet in a past life I was happy to be rid of.
“I highly doubt that…,” he said flipping to an email client and opening a new message, typing ‘Job Opportunity’ in the subject line, then typing ‘Earn a six-figure salary after just three months. We show you how. Contact Carmen Carey at 801-552-3266’, “That’ll do…” He hit send, “If it’s going to fail it’ll be pretty quick. I'm positive this isn't an email address she's ever tried to use before...”
We watched the screen for over a minute, “I think that worked… Can you spoof her email account?”
“Right, you don’t know aaaanything about computers… Spoof? You crack me up Liz…,” he was smiling and I pushed his shoulder playfully, “Hey now... Just telling it like it is.”
“Ha ha… What’s taking you so long to spoof her email account?” He laughed and extended the laptop toward me, I stood and took the chips, “No chips until we’re talking to this guy…”
“I’m working on it… Probably should call Jacob, can you do that while I get this going?”
“Sure…” I went to the bedroom and grabbed my phone from the nightstand, found Jacob’s number in my 'Recent' calls, him calling me the other day and hit dial…
On the third ring he answered, “Elizabeth?”
I put the phone on speakerphone, “Yes Mr. Wentz, I’m here with Paul..." I looked at Paul mouthing for him to talk...
"Hey Jacob... We’ve been reviewing the internet traffic from last night. We think Amber contacted David Lafleur in a chat room and made several attempts to contact him via email.”
“That’s unfortunate… I think Stephanie is going to have to pull her access completely.”
“Yes, that’s probably best for now. We are going to try making contact with him via email to see if we can figure out what they might have had in the way of contingency plans…”
“Why are you going to do that?”
Paul didn't hesitate, “In the chat there’s mention of ‘Next week’. In the context of what’s in the chat there’s no conclusive proof this is David Lafleur, but we feel there’s enough going on here between the chat and her attempts to contact him via email. Plan is to spoof her email account, make contact, and see what we can figure out. Provide that to Landon or Phoenix PD.”
There was a pause, “She’s tried to email him?”
“Yes, Jacob. She couldn’t remember the exact email address. We think we’ve figured it out and are going to try making contact.”
“Do it… I’ll let Landon know what you’re doing. You still working with Tim at the bureau?”
“Keep him in the loop. Let the bureau coordinate with Phoenix PD. Anything else?”
Paul looked at me, I quickly shook my head ‘No’. “No, we’re good here Jacob…”
“Thank You both… Great work.”
“Elizabeth cracked this one open Jacob, any chance we could keep her around a few more days?”
Another pause, “Let’s see where this email thing goes. If you think she’s needed Paul, I’m going to defer to your judgment. Elizabeth, any problems staying longer?”
“No Mr. Wentz, however I can assist you and the Casons, I’m on board. I did get travel plans from Kendal in an email though, I'm leaving Sunday morning at 12:45 PM.”
“OK, let's see where this goes. Excellent work, Thank you both again. Call me with an update later Paul.”
I said, “Yes, Mr. Wentz…” at the same time Paul was saying, “Sure thing Jacob…”
The line went dead… I looked at Paul with a questioning glance before putting my phone back on the charger on the kitchen countertop. “What? I don’t want you to leave,” he said smiling.
Back to soaring I went…
March 12th, 2:38 PM
We took a break for lunch in the hotel restaurant, followed by a little kissing after returning to my room. It could easily have progressed, but we both sensed we had to get back to making contact – if this email address was even the right one. Paul checked – still no return error, so the address was good, but was it David Lafleur’s.
Over lunch it was decided I would craft the email to David, but beforehand I needed to study some of her previous email correspondence to capture her tone, style. If this was his email address, we didn’t want to scare him off. Getting their plans was key. Hopefully Jacob had arranged the cutting of Amber’s access to the internet and the Carsons were told to be on high alert, given what we suspected was some kind of meeting of these two next week.
“No pressure…,” Paul said with just the slightest of grins.
“Thanks…,” I said, nervous about what I was going to type.
“Probably best to keep it simple, lure him into conversing…”
“I agree, just have to capture how she talks to her ‘Daddy’…”
I began typing, wasn’t like we couldn’t edit this email a hundred different ways… She always referred to him as ‘Daddy’ never as David, she was his Sissy - I wanted to gag thinking about all the connotations that entailed, when talking about her breasts they were ‘tits’, never talked about ‘making love’ – it was always ‘fucking me’, and there were always references to money as if they had earned it together. Augh! This wasn’t going to be easy…
I miss you’z. I need you’z! Cops have all my accounts and won’t let me back in. Our money is locked up and I don’t know how to get it back. Can you get access? Should we contact PayPal? My parents are watching me crazy. Tits hurt like crazy! I need out of here. Next week, you said next week, right? I want to be with you’z, like we were fucking in our vid.
I looked at Paul, “Well?”
“Looks good to me. You’re using her terms of endearment, not much content except for wanting direction, letting him know what’s going on, and of course pressing about next week. I don’t think it’s too much for a first email.”
I read it again, deleted the ‘Can you access?’, explaining to Paul if she wasn’t getting into her account it was likely she’d know he couldn’t either, so why ask. We both read it again and Paul took the laptop back, saved the email to the Drafts folder, then tossed out an idea about how to capture his IP address. I didn’t understand it, but it dealt with putting a link in the email which went to a clothing store site – after capturing the user’s computer information as part of the click redirect link. “So, just say something about wanting to wear something from this site for him – he said he was buying clothes – give him something to look at that she would want to wear for him.”
“That shit always worked to get me to doing…,” he looked embarrassed, “A lifetime ago…”
“I get it, don’t sweat it…,” I reached for the laptop, “Let’s see what you’d like me to wear for you, maybe it’s good enough for Amber and her 'Daddy'?” I smiled at him and jumped into browsing in the lingerie section. After a few ‘Nahs’ from Paul we settled on a pinky sheer teddy. Pink because I’d seen an email from David saying he liked a picture Amber sent him wearing pink sheer panties. Probably overkill, but the lingerie had a large underwire bra built in – maybe he could envision her enhancements nicely peeking out from the whole ensemble.
“Do you mention the size,” Paul asked.
“No, he was there, he knows what her breast size is now.”
“Yeah, good catch…”
Paul reopened the email save to the Drafts folder, added the link and associated tracking features, then had me add the bait around the hook. The new email read:
I miss you’z. I need you’z! Cops have all my accounts and won’t let me back in. Our money is locked up and I don’t know how to get it back. My parents are watching me crazy! Tits hurt like crazy! I need out of here. Next week, you said next week, right? I want to be with you’z, like we were fucking in our vid
I want to wear this for you’z Daddy… <[ link ]>
We both reread it, nodded our agreement that it looked good, and Paul hit Send. I had seen a couple email where she ended them with 'Noozle you'z'. No idea what that meant exactly, hopefully it was the right bait to get him talking. Time would tell if we were barking up the right tree…
March 12th, 5:26 PM
"And then the car just stopped..."
I looked up from my basket of Buffalo wings, licked a couple fingers, and gave Paul a look. "I'm listening silly... Not sure why you started talking about a car chase..." We'd decided on casual and something quick for dinner, so we wouldn't be away from our test email too long. This lead to learning we both had a love for good Buffalo wings and how we ended up in an upscale bar in Scottsdale known for its Buffalo wings.
"No, something is up. What's got you tuning me out?"
OK, 'Yes'... I was tuning you out. I heard everything you said about working for Cisco Systems or whatever high tech firm that sounded like Cisco. Then you thought it would be funny to talk about a police car chase you'd seen - 'And then the car just stopped...' To the point - guilty, I was thinking about so many things - Amber and her trying to contact her 'Daddy' and the email from Lisa about Janet and Martin possibly breaking up the firm. "It's nothing... I hope."
"OK, it must be something. I don't usually bore a date so much she tunes me out...," he chuckled, "What else is rolling around between those pretty ears?"
I knew I was blushing, so I picked up my rum and Coke, taking a sip. If we're gonna 'date' guess there's no harm in sharing, right? "OK, you asked... Got a weird email from Lisa today, not sure how to process it."
"She talking about her espresso guy again?"
No, but she had a number of times in emails in the past. I wondered if some IT guy somewhere... Wait, had part of Paul checking me out included hacking into the firms computer systems and tooling around my email? "I... You already know about Janet and Martin, don't you?"
Now it was Paul's turn to squirm, he reached for his beer and took a long pull. "I might..."
::: --- :::
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
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