Prompt: Forbidden Places | Word count: 1800 | Genre: Drama
Warning: Violence and profanity.
(Continuation. Links to previous installments in comments.)
A shadow fell over him seconds before brown leather loafers stepped between his face and the black mat 20 centimetres below his nose. These shoes were out of place on the gym floor. Tristan lowered his planking body and raised his head to find an unexpected, but familiar face towering over him.
“Hey Gavin, how are you?”
“Fucking fantastic,” grunted his sarcastic visitor.
“Long time no see.” Tristan stood from his disadvantaged position and still had to raise his head to look his ex-brother-in-law in the eyes. His extended hand went unmet.
“Is something wrong with Susan?”
“Why would I know anything about that bitch?”
“Um… ok, then what are you doing here?” Tristan’s forehead creased.
“We need to talk.”
“I’ll be finished in ten.”
“No, now!” There was no arguing with Gavin’s growl or his beefy hands and boulder biceps.
“Ok, I’ll meet you at the cafe outside as soon as I have my bag.” Tristan jogged to retrieve his stuff from the locker wondering what conversation awaited him outside—half tempted to find a back exit. Why on earth would he call Susan a bitch?
“Your new kid has just taken ownership of a law firm,” Gavin dived in as Tristan sat.
“He’s not my…”
“I want all records of me being a client erased, including paper files. You have until he sells the company or Susan might hurt herself.”
“What? First of all JJ isn’t my kid and secondly why would Susan hurt…” Tristan stopped as his internal light bulb burst into flame. “You do remember that we are divorced,” he tried for nonchalance.
“Yes, and you’re hanging around again. Get it done!”
“Why would you threaten your own sister?” Tristan asked the disappearing hulk. He sank into the chair shaking his head and weighed his choices.
Could he do this? He’d need to get JJ involved and the kid was just settling down at Susan’s. Susan—maybe as JJ’s guardian she could get access, then he would find out what the sibling hostility was about. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to do Gavin’s bidding though. There must be something incriminating in the files for him to go to these lengths. Attorney client privilege wasn’t enough. He’d had his share of run-ins with the law, mostly alcohol, drugs or speeding, but all self-inflicted, nothing heinous… and he didn’t want to start now. Would he harm Susan? After all these years Gavin knew that Tristan still loved Susan and would protect her at all cost.
“You’re not supposed to be here and I definitely shouldn’t be showing these to you, but this will explain everything. I warn you they are shocking. I got assigned the case which should have been a slam dunk, but a high-priced lawyer and doctors on the take got the scumbag off.”
“Thanks Craig, I appreciate it.” Tristan took the seat that his police detective friend vacated. He gasped as his eyes focused on a photo of a bloodied, smashed up face. “Are you positive it is her? I can’t even tell by this.”
“Unfortunately it is. They took these when she was unconscious, but she didn’t look much better when I went to the hospital two days later after she came too. She also couldn’t remember some things due to swelling on the brain, but she knew who had done it and the lawyer coming to see her about their parent’s estate saw him leaving.”
“I would never have known. Today there are no signs that this happened—at least not visible,” Tristan coughed as bile rose in his throat. He started shivering at the thought of his strong ex-wife crumpled into the smear that was on these pictures.
“He never denied that he did it, but they came up with undiagnosed bi-polar for his defence. As long as he sees his doctor regularly and remains on medication and there are no further charges brought against him, the bastard is free to walk the streets with you and I. These are the cases that make me hate my job. Often the guys can’t help themselves and it’s not long before they do it again and then we get them locked up where they belong, but Gavin Suttie has kept clean. Hopefully we can help each other with this.”
Tristan clicked to the next photograph on detective Latham’s laptop. He gagged at the distorted angle of Susan’s right arm.
“The lawyer took some of these while waiting for the ambulance when he found her curled up whimpering. He was afraid to move her and knew the importance of evidence. She passed out before the paramedics arrived.”
“Why? Why did he do this?” Tristan didn’t notice his tone until he saw the surrender hands from his friend raised, palms forward to the sides of his chest.
“Sorry, I know it’s hard to look at. His reasoning was that she had sold some of his parent’s furniture without consulting him and he became angry and attacked her in a blank fit. Susan could only remember that he seemed to be looking for something, but not what. We suspect he had drugs or something else of criminal value stashed in what she sold. She was within her rights to dispose of their assets as she was sole executor named in the joint will.”
Tristan clicked through the other photos glancing at them and moving on, swallowing hard in case he laid his recently eaten lunch out on the table. The world around him vanished from vision as he came to the end. The date on the bottom right corner caught his attention—15 April 2017. It was etched in his mind, but not because of this – the day he got out of rehab and vowed never to go back. His fingers came up and stroked the screen where blue and purple bruising replaced milk white skin over the whole uncovered left side of her torso. She must have been laying on her side as he used her as a soccer ball. Only one tear escaped from the sea he hid inside.
“How are we going to get this guy?” Tristan shot at Craig, clear eyed and ready.
“You’re not going to like it, but it is the only way.”
“No! No! No!” Susan hit Tristan’s chest and threw her arms out, dislodging his hands from her elbows. He took hold again catching a thump from her tight fist as he pulled her in and held close, rubbing her back while she cried for ten minutes solid. “How did you find out? Never mind. I don’t want to talk about it ever again. That place and time are another life and I am not willing to revisit them. My therapist was happy with my progress and I moved on—end of story. If there isn’t anything else you want to talk about, then please leave.”
This wasn’t the normal Susan—she was never rude. Tristan could only imagine the pain she had suffered and it explained why she understood JJ’s situation with his parents trying to kill him so well. Family should be the people you can count on, but they had both learned that it wasn’t guaranteed.
“I’m sorry I upset you, I didn’t want to, but Gavin has threatened you if I don’t do what he wants and I will do anything to keep you safe.”
“What does Gavin want you to do?”
Tristan explained his last three hours since those shoes almost scuffed his nose.
“I hoped that I could carry on my life if I stayed away from him and forgot that it ever happened—after lots of therapy.”
“What happened? I know the police version, but I’d like to hear it from you. I don’t want to dredge it up, but we need to find a more permanent solution to him.”
Susan sat on the couch and began rocking herself. Tristan sat beside her and turned her into his lap and rocked with her, his arms and chest protection from the outside. The story was the same as he’d heard from Craig, but a blow by blow account of what she could remember.
“I should have been here for you.”
“It wasn’t your fault. We’d been divorced for so long, but I must admit I could have used your presence then. I was lonely and scared.”
“I hate to do this, but I need to play you the conversation I had with Gavin this morning—I somehow knew it had to be recorded. I need you to hear how psychotic he sounds so that you know we have no choice but this plan.” Tristan started the playback on his phone and watched Susan’s already pale colour bleach even more.
Tristan jumped at the scream that came from Susan as the recording finished.
“I remember now. His bloody voice reminded me. He was looking for one of my parent’s paintings. He was fuming when I told him that I’d sold it and demanded to know to whom, and when I said that I didn’t take their details—which was a lie—he started hitting me.”
“Do you still have the buyer’s details? I need to give them to my police friend.” Tristan phoned Craig with the information and waited in hope that what they found in the painting—if they found anything—would stop the uncomfortable plan to use Susan as bait to catch her lunatic brother.
Five hours and twelve minutes later the call came through. “Thanks Craig. I’ll let Susan know.”
Susan came down the passage in her pyjamas, slippers and gown after a hot bath that Tristan had recommended. He had assured her that he would stay until the situation was resolved and he was sure that she was safe. It eased Susan’s mind a little that JJ was sleeping at a friend’s house. She didn’t want him in danger, because although he’d only been living with her for a month, life had begun to feel good with him around—she felt useful.
“They got him!” Tristan jumped up and lifted her off her feet.
“Is he in jail? Why?”
“Craig found the painting and hidden in the frame were documents and photos used as proof of death in an unsolved murder from two years ago. The method matches four other open cases, so besides the one they now have evidence on they are investigating him for the other killings as well. Seems like big brother has been making his money as a hit man before assaulting you. They think he laid low since then because they were watching him.”
Susan slumped against Tristan. “I saw that killer that night. Please don’t go – stay the night and just hold me.”
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