Christmas with Bobby

December 21st, 1987- Justin

Justin’s parents didn’t stay anywhere for long. The Johanssons had lived in Florida and North Carolina in the last five years. He was twelve, so he had never lived in one place for very long.

They were writers. They could live wherever they wanted. Justin’s social life was not of consequence to them. Justin mostly stayed to himself, because he was never in one place long enough to make friends. He was into history, and most of his spare time was spent reading a book about some war or in the library looking at pictures from one.

Justin reached for the front door of the two-story, brick Victorian house that they were going to be renting. The door was heavy and a deep, rich mahogany. The owner had left a Christmas wreath hanging on it.

Justin took his coat and hat off and put them on the coat rack just inside the entryway. Since they were virtually nomadic, his parents opted out of owning furniture and instead only rented a house if it came furnished. They brought with them whatever would fit into their van, and if it didn’t it got left on a curb in whatever state they were fleeing. As long as Justin had his books and his supplies for painting his model battle figures, he didn’t pay much attention to anything else.

He walked around the house looking into each room and then made his way up the spiral staircase. He could choose between two different rooms. He chose one that had a brown, four post bed and a fireplace. There was a bookcase with a set of books on the top shelf and a stiff chair in front of it with a tall lamp.

That afternoon he unpacked his clothes and his figurines and books; when he was finished, he went outside to look around. There was a tire swing and an old shed, and then there was a pond about a hundred yards away. He went to the edge of the pond closest to the house and sat down.

As Justin was staring at the lake, he heard leaves crackle and he turned around expecting to see his mom or dad. It was a boy who looked about Justin’s age. He had brown hair, dark brown eyes, and he was dressed in jeans and a brown sweater.

“Hi, I’m Bobby,” the boy said.

Justin assumed he must be from one of the houses down the road so he stuck his hand out for the boy to shake.

“I’m Justin. We just moved in today.”

Justin invited Bobby in. He wanted to show him the figurine collection and all of his books. He walked into the kitchen and asked his mom for two glasses of lemonade and a plate of cookies, and then he and Bobby ran upstairs.

December 21st, 1987- Rhonda

Two glasses of lemonade. Maybe he was just thirsty, but she was worried it was starting up again.

They moved a lot. She knew it sometimes upset Justin, even though he didn’t show it. When Justin was younger, the moves were easier. He was more easily persuaded by the promise of new adventures.

The first few moves were about the experiences and making a better life. The last couple have been to escape the experiences of th past lives.

She hoped this latest move would be one of the last ones. Her husband, Raymond, loved the thought of settling down in Maine, and he was tired of running.

December 22nd, 1987- Justin

Since there wasn’t any school because of Christmas break, Bobby said he would be back over the next day. Bobby was quiet and didn’t have much to say when Justin asked him questions, but Justin was just glad to have met someone before he had to go to the new school- at least there would be a familiar face.

Justin waited on the front porch, and at about 10:00 a.m. Bobby came walking down the driveway.

They spent the afternoon inside. It was too cold to stay outside. Bobby told him about how he had been the new kid last year, and he didn’t have many friends either.

“All the kids here play hockey. My dad is in the military so we move a lot too. I can’t even skate,” said Bobby.

Justin felt like someone his age finally understood him. For the rest of the afternoon and the next day Justin and Bobby painted figurines, and went and explored the property around the new house.

Justin was going to ask his mom if his new friend could spend the night.

December 22nd, 1987- Rhonda

Justin walked in and he looked excited.

“Hey honey, get washed up for dinner. It will be ready in twenty minutes.”

“Okay. Can Bobby stay for dinner and spend the night Mom? I was hoping he could help put up the Christmas tree and decorations,” an excited Justin asked.

Her face fell. “Sure, I’ll set an extra plate for him.”

She talked to her husband that night when they were doing dishes and Justin had gone to decorate the tree.

“Baby, what are we going to do? We’ve been here two days, and it’s the same problems as always,” said a tired Rhonda.

“I don’t know anymore Rhonda. They said anything could trigger it,” he sighed. “I’m done moving though.”

December 23rd, 1987- Justin 

His parents didn’t like Christmas. He knew that, but he still loved celebrating, so he was excited to get a small tree (that his dad begrudgingly went and got for him) up and decorated last night just in time.

Bobby had gone home that morning after breakfast, but he said he would come back tomorrow so they could hang out.

Five years earlier (Denver, Colorado): December 24th, 1982-Rhonda

Her life was shattered. She sat next to Jonathan praying and rocking back and forth. It had been an accident- just an accident. She wouldn’t let herself think anything else.

Justin stood at the top of the stairs staring blankly into space.

December 24th, 1987 (Morning)- Rhonda

Justin didn’t remember that Christmas Eve in ’82. He didn’t remember his brother either. The doctors ran tests and they talked to him for months after it. They finally just said that he had disassociated himself, and that anything regarding his twin brother or the incident seemed sort of like a dream to him.

From the outside looking in, Justin seemed like a normal twelve year old.

The last five years around Christmas Justin would see people who weren’t there. They were all boys about his age. They thought if they moved that Justin’s “friends” would go away, but they never did. The doctors had put him on medicine, but the medicine made him violent, so Rhonda took him off of it.

When they lived in Florida, he had pushed her husband down the stairs on Christmas Eve for telling him that his friend “Dustin” didn’t exist. They chalked it up to it being the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, but it seemed like every anniversary, Justin had some type of outburst.

She hoped as he got older, things would improve, but it seemed like the delusions were just getting stronger. She was terrified to take him to a hospital though, because she knew they wouldn’t let her leave with him. She had lost one son, and she was determined not to lose another of her babies.

December 24th, 1987 (Afternoon)- Justin

Bobby showed up around 4 p.m. and they were upstairs in his room looking through some of the old books that had been left in the bookcase.

Justin could tell his mom and dad didn’t like Bobby. They didn’t speak to him at all, not even a “hello” until Justin called them out on being rude. They forgot to offer him anything to drink or eat unless Justin asked. It was ridiculous. He knew they were in their own little worlds writing, but that wasn’t an excuse.

He wasn’t going to lose his friend like they had run away all of his other ones. His Dad had said Dustin didn’t exist; he obviously did. He just didn’t want Justin forgetting about Jonathan. How could he forget Jonathan? He had ruined his life. He had broken Justin’s new toy he got, and when Justin got mad and pushed him, he fell down the stairs and died. Justin didn’t mean to do it. He just meant to hurt him.

Everyone blamed him for it. They didn’t want him having any friends, or having anyone to talk to. They just kept taking them away from him.

Not this time.

He heard his Dad coming out of his room.

December 24th, 1987 (Night)- Rhonda

She sat with her husband’s head in her lap; he was still breathing but it was shallow and he was weak. She screamed in agony when she saw Justin at the top of the stairs. She didn’t know why she bothered to even look up. She knew when she heard her husband screamed what had happened.

“Baby please don’t leave me,” she wailed.

She could hear the sirens. For the first time, she prayed they would take her son away too.

Carrie’s Cup- Final Chapter

Carrie tried to muffle out a scream for help, but she knew it was useless. It was getting dark and people would be arriving for the play soon. It was so cold and she was only wearing a thin sweater. Her hands were ice and the only thing keeping her teeth from shaking was the cloth Donovan had so generously shoved into her mouth. She looked around for anything that could cut the rope around her. She saw some garden shears, but she couldn’t exactly pick those up and use them, so she kept looking.

The rope was not very thick and Carrie knew if she could just find anything sharp that she could back up to, she could possibly cut it off. She could stand, but she was tied to a chair and the door was shut, so she knew her only way out was to free her arms. She scooted her chair closer to the edge of a metal table and tried to use the corner to saw through the rope.

“How could Donovan have done this?” mused Carrie.

Carrie blamed herself. If she hadn’t hired Mary-Anne, Donovan never would have had the opportunity to be near her. She knew there was not anything she could do to help Mary-Anne at this point, other than to stop Donovan from getting away with this.

She kept sawing at the rope until one popped. She moved on to the other one and she prayed by the time she got it undone, Donovan wouldn’t have already left town.

After what felt like another hour, Carrie finally got the second rope undone. She ripped the ropes off, pulled out the cloth from her mouth, and tore across the greenhouse only to find that the door was blocked by something.

“Wonderful! Someone please help me!” screamed Carrie. She kicked and screamed on the door until tears were streaming down her face and her voice was growing raspy.

Suddenly she could hear someone coming. She backed away from the door and grabbed the garden shears she had seen earlier in case it was Donovan coming back to check on her.

It wasn’t Donovan.

“Beatrice!” exclaimed Carrie. She had never been so excited to see that woman, or anyone for that matter, in her life. “Thank God you’re here. How did you find me?”

“Carrie,” cried Beatrice, “why are you in here? What is going on? When you weren’t there for final alterations and curtain call, I went looking for you. Donovan said he thought you had just run back to the coffee shop, but I knew something was off.”

“He’s still here? Listen Beatrice, Donovan put me in this shed. He is the one who killed Mary-Anne. I figured it out, or I was about to, and he confronted me when I got to the school earlier today. We have to go right now.”

Beatrice looked pale, but she nodded her head and they ran towards the school.

“Beatrice, go inside and find a phone and call the police department. Ask for Detective Johnson- tell him to meet us here and not to make a big scene.”

Beatrice nodded and followed it with “Wait where are you going Carrie, why aren’t you coming in to wait on him?”

“I have something I need to grab while I still can from Donovan’s house. If he’s in there, and does not know I’m out of the shed, this is the best time to do it” said Carrie, and she took off down the sidewalk.

Donovan lived close to the school, so Carrie hurried towards his house. When she got there, she ran around the back and grabbed a key from under the stone frog beside his door. She let herself in, and gasped at how the heat felt on her face. She looked around. She knew his laptop had to be here; she just needed to find it. She wouldn’t need any more proof than that to hand Detective Johnson.

She grabbed a coat out of his hall closet to try to stop her bones from shaking, and she made her way into his bedroom. The laptop wasn’t there. She was walking out of the room when she saw it on the master bathroom counter out of the corner of her eye.

Carrie snatched the laptop up and ran out of the house as fast as she could back to the elementary school.

As she opened the double doors, she was met by Beatrice and a confused Detective Johnson and ushered into a side room.

“Beatrice, go make sure he stays where he is until I can talk to Carrie and figure this out,” ordered Detective Johnson. Beatrice left the room, closing the door behind her.

“Tell me what happened Carrie. Beatrice was a mess and I only got half of what I assume is the story.”

“Donovan killed Mary-Anne,” said Carrie flatly.

She explained how she found the mug handle, how Waffle had gone missing, how she had gone through Mary Anne’s Facebook and figured out she was talking to someone. Then, she explained the connection of Donovan and Connor’s name, and how he confronted her and tied her up inside the greenhouse.

“So, you left to go to his house to get his laptop so he wouldn’t be able to destroy it?” asked Detective Johnson.

“Exactly” smiled Carrie.

Detective Johnson opened the laptop and looked through the messages. Turning a shade of red, he closed it and stood up.

“Carrie, you did really good with this. I’m going to go get him now.”

Carrie nodded her head and followed him out of the room. No way was she going to pass up the opportunity for Donovan to see her.

His reaction did not disappoint. He pitched a fit in front of everyone standing in the lobby of the auditorium. As Detective Johnson put handcuffs on him, Carrie smiled and waved at the frowning face of the man she once considered her closest friend in town.

Guess she would have to find someone new to have coffee with every morning.

 

 

Carrie’s Cup- Chapter 6

Donovan was waiting on Carrie when she got to work the next morning.

“Sorry I didn’t call back. I fell asleep early last night…wasn’t feeling well,” said Donovan.

“Aw I’m sorry you weren’t feeling well. Come on, it’s cold out here. Let’s get some coffee,” Carrie said.

They walked into the shop, and Carrie made a pot of coffee. She poured two mugs, and sat one down for Donovan on the table and took the chair across from him. She told him about the night before, and Donovan sat and listened quietly. She told him about Waffle being missing and the coffee cup handle. She told him more about Connor and Noel mentioning that no one in Mary-Anne’s life had met him.

“I think it’s weird,” mused Carrie. “Don’t you think it’s weird? No one knows him, no pictures of them together. Do you think it’s a fake profile?”

Donovan nodded, but he was quiet. Carrie figured he just still did not feel great from the previous night. He had a second cup of coffee and then was off to work.

The Thanksgiving play was that night. With everything that had been going on, it hadn’t been at the front of her thoughts, but she only had one small part of a Pilgrim costume left to finish.

Carrie closed the shop early at 4:30 so she could get to the school to finish the costume. No one was there yet; the play wasn’t until 7 p.m. so she didn’t expect anyone to be there until around 6 p.m. Carrie preferred it that way- fewer distractions. She got out of her truck and hurried inside. It wasn’t even dark yet, but the temperatures were dropping quickly.

Carrie sat down at the sewing machine, and fixed the hemline on the Pilgrim skirt she was working on. It didn’t take her long, so when she finished it, she pulled out her laptop.

Carrie googled Donovan’s name, and a few different things popped up. Donovan had grown up in Ristretto, and some local news articles about him popped up, including a list of graduates from the year Donovan graduated high school: “Donovan Connor Landry.”

Carrie stared at the name. “His middle name is Connor?” she questioned.

Is it a coincidence? Since she spoke with Donovan earlier, all she could think about was how out of character he seemed. She was just starting to wonder if she needed to call and speak to Detective Johnson when she heard a footstep.

Carrie felt a hand touch her left shoulder, and she jumped slamming her laptop closed.

She turned around and Donovan was standing behind her.

“What did you find Carrie?” Donovan asked.

“Wha…wha…do you mean?” Carrie stuttered.

“Why did you save that handle Carrie?” asked Donovan. “Why couldn’t you have just let the Detectives do their jobs? They wouldn’t have found out, but at least you wouldn’t be in this situation now.”

Carrie turned white. “I don’t know anything though. What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb with me Carrie. You’ve been digging around asking questions, looking for answers that you don’t need. I loved Mary-Anne.”

Carrie gripped the arm of her chair, as Donovan started laughing. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to interrupt him.

“She’s the one that suggested we meet at C4. It was her idea. We’ve been talking for months, and I told her I’d “fly in” to meet her. She didn’t want her mom to know she was meeting someone off the internet so she wanted to meet at the shop instead. She got there and didn’t seem happy to see me. I tried to explain that it didn’t matter that I was older, that she wouldn’t get in trouble. She tried to leave; she was upset. I grabbed her arm to stop her, but she started screaming. I couldn’t let her leave. I hit her in the head with the mug, and I dragged her into the back room. You know the rest,” Donovan sighed.

Carrie felt like she was going to be sick. “Did you break into my house?”

“Not exactly,” laughed Donovan. “You left your door unlocked and I snuck in before you got home. When you fell asleep, I let Waffle out and when you went to look for him, I found the mug handle.”

Carrie felt the room shift out of focus.

“Now what to do with you?” asked Donovan.

Carrie tried to get up and run, but before she could, Donovan pushed her down. He grabbed a rope from a supply box under the table and tied her arms. He rushed her out the back door of the school without her coat.

Donovan led her to a shed behind the school that the kids used in the spring for their garden. He tied her to a chair and put a piece of cloth in her mouth so she couldn’t scream out.

He left her there.

Carrie’s Cup- Chapter 5

Carrie poured herself a glass of Merlot that night and sat down on the couch with her laptop, Waffle, and her favorite fuzzy blanket. Carrie attempted to keep her mind occupied with online shopping, but her brain eventually shifted her back to Connor Dalton’s Facebook. She opened up his messenger to see if she could see how long it had been since he logged on; Connor had not been on Facebook for five days.

Carrie called Donovan. She hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, and she missed him. When Donovan didn’t answer, she left him a voicemail telling him about her suspicions about Connor, finding the mug handle, and what Noel had told her at the funeral.

She must have fallen asleep, because when she woke up, it was 2:44 a.m. and Waffle wasn’t on the couch with her anymore. She called out to him, but he didn’t come. She walked to the dining area, where Waffle’s bed was and saw that the porch door was open. Shivering, Carrie pulled the blanket around her shoulders, and hurriedly ran to the door.

“WAFFLE!” yelled Carrie. “Are you there boy?”

Nothing.

Carrie ran back into the house screaming for Waffle, but he never came out. She threw on her coat and her boots. She grabbed her keys and ran out the front door forgetting to lock it behind her.

Carrie drove around for hours looking for Waffle, and in tears she pulled into her driveway as the sun was rising. She dragged herself back in the front door, and when she opened it, there was Waffle stretched out on the sofa.

“Waffle!” squealed Carrie. “Where in the world have you been?”

As soon as Carrie got over the shock of Waffle being home, she looked around the living room. Someone had been in her living room… drawers were flung open, things were thrown across the floor. The wooden box was open. Carrie ran over to it, and horrified she saw that the handle was gone.

Waffle had been let out; she was sure of it. She just didn’t know how.

Carrie didn’t call the police. They’d think she had just dreamed all of it. What could she say “Someone stole a piece of evidence that I didn’t hand over to you”?

So, she made a pot of coffee and got ready to go into work.

Carrie’s Cup- Chapter 4

Carrie pulled into her driveway and turned off her lights. There wasn’t anything special about her two-bedroom bungalow, but with the snow on the rooftop it did look charming. She got out and braced herself for the inevitable attack of Waffle as soon as she walked in the door.

Sure enough, as she turned the key to the front door, there was Waffle to greet her. Waffle was a shaggy haired, ninety-pound mutt that she had rescued from a shelter two years earlier. He barreled down the hall to her as she opened the door, white-grey hair flying as he ran. Carrie scratched his head as she walked into the kitchen and poured his dinner, and then she went and sat on the couch.

She pulled out the mug handle and ran her fingers over it, wondering if the mug had been the murder weapon, and if it was, how the murderer had not noticed this piece missing when he cleaned up. Carrie put it in the small wooden box on her coffee table.

She opened her laptop and googled Mary-Anne’s name. Her Facebook popped up, and Carrie clicked on her page. She saw a lot of posts expressing sympathy for Mary-Anne’s family, but Carrie ignored those and clicked on the relationship status section. She saw that Mary-Anne had been in a relationship with a boy named Connor Dalton. She clicked on his page, and was surprised that she didn’t see any mention of Mary-Anne’s death. All she saw were selfies of Connor, and that he had about fifty friends. She thought it was strange, but he was only seventeen. There wasn’t a reason for him to have a lot of friends on Facebook being from such a small town, and just because he wasn’t mourning on Facebook didn’t mean he didn’t care about Mary-Anne’s death.

Carrie shut her laptop and got ready to go to bed.

She laid awake that night for what seemed like hours, and when she finally did get some sleep, it was fitful and full of dreams about the previous day’s occurrences.

The next day was uneventful. Carrie cleaned up the backroom after she was given the go-ahead by the police department.

Mary-Anne’s funeral was to be the next day, and she had resolved to go for several reasons. The first reason being that she had been Mary-Anne’s employer and she was a sweet girl and Carrie wanted to pay her respects; the second reason being, that she wanted to see if Connor would be there. She wanted to see him for herself.

At 3:00 p.m. the following day, Carrie stood at Mary-Anne’s graveside. Mary-Anne’s mom, two brothers, and grandmother were on the front row, along with who Carrie assumed to be Mary-Anne’s best friend, a young girl looking to be sixteen or seventeen. While Carrie saw a lot of teenagers around, there were no teenage boys with white blonde hair that looked like the Connor she saw on Facebook.

After the service, Carrie gave her condolences to the family, and when the girl friend of Mary-Anne’s was alone for a brief moment, Carrie approached her.

“Hi, I’m Carrie. Mary-Anne worked for me at my shop,” Carrie introduced herself.

“Hi, I’m Noel. Mary-Anne talked about you a lot. She thought you were nice” said Noel.

“That’s so sweet, she was a good girl, and I feel awful about what happened,” expressed Carrie. “Do the police have any idea who could have done such an awful thing?”

“I don’t think so,” said Noel. “She was my best friend; I just want this monster in jail.”

“I do too,” said Carrie. “I know she had a boyfriend; is he here today?”

“No, he’s not,” Noel said kind of surprised, “He lives in California. I’ve never met him.”

Carrie once again expressed her sympathies, and she excused herself. Walking back to her car, she wondered if anyone else in Mary-Anne’s life had ever met Connor either.

Carrie’s Cup- Chapter 3

Carrie looked around to see if anyone was watching her, and when she felt comfortable that no one was looking she hurried over and picked up the handle of her coffee mug and slipped it into her cardigan pocket.

She didn’t know if it was important, but she did know that Detective Johnson would just shrug it off, just like he shrugged her concerns off before. She didn’t want to risk it being thrown away.

Two hours later, the officers were gone and she was left with an empty store. Donovan had gone home before the officers were finished; he needed to decompress.

Carrie sat down with a warm cup of coffee and pulled the mug handle out and gently placed it on the table. She stared at it, willing it to give her answers about what happened.

She didn’t have long to sit and wonder though, as several people began to trickle in. She shoved the handle back in her pocket, and got to work pouring coffee and handing out cookies.

The rest of the day went by without any issues, other than a few nosey people coming in to ask her questions about what happened that morning. Before she knew it, she was getting ready to lock up and head to the elementary school. Donovan had signed her up to help with the Thanksgiving play, forcing her to get more involved with the town. He was under the impression that her staying home every night with her dog, Waffle, was a problem. Carrie didn’t see the issue with it, but she agreed to help with the play anyway.

Carrie pulled up to the school and got out of her truck, pulling her parka tight around her. She rushed through the door of the school auditorium, where she found the students and the other volunteers getting into costume. The play was only three days away, and everyone was starting to panic over final dress rehearsals.

Carrie shook off her coat, placed it on the court rack by the door, and then reported to the costume design section of the auditorium. Her job had been to make the Pilgrim outfits, and she thought she had done a pretty decent job. She had not sewed since high school, but she made it work. Carrie smiled warmly at the volunteer named Beatrice who was staring in her direction.

“I’m sorry Carrie, I didn’t mean to stare,” said Beatrice. “It’s just that no one thought you would be here after the um…incident…in your store this morning.”

“It was certainly awful Beatrice, but to be honest I needed the distraction” confessed Carrie. “I’ve been inside my head all day trying to figure it out and understand what could have happened, but I’m getting nowhere.”

“Perhaps you should just leave it to the police then,” Beatrice mused.

Perhaps, thought Carrie, but maybe I should ask around and see if anyone saw anything the night before.

Play practice was over in about two hours, and Carrie wrapped up to go back outside and home to Waffle. She walked over to her truck, and as she did she got a sudden chill that someone was watching her. She shifted around looking over her shoulder, but no one was there.

If she had looked a couple of seconds sooner, she would have seen the hooded figure disappear into the trees behind the parking lot.

Carrie’s Cup- Chapter 2

Carrie was sitting at a table with her right leg pulled up under her chin, when after what seemed like hours, the paramedics finally arrived. Frantically, she showed them where to go, but she knew it was useless.

When Carrie realized what she smelled was blood, she had cried out to Donovan to come help her. He pushed open the door, and behind it they found the body of her seventeen- year-old employee: Mary-Anne Wilson.

Mary-Anne’s body had been there for hours cold and alone; Carrie couldn’t help but wonder if she knew what was happening to her, or if it was all over very quickly. Carrie couldn’t help but wonder why she was there at all. Mary-Anne had not worked the day before.

Almost immediately after the paramedics arrived, the police and the coroner swarmed her once calm store. This type of thing did not happen in Ristretto, so the minute the news of a dead body went out over the radio, every officer in town showed up to help.

Carrie watched as the officers examined the body that the Coroner pronounced dead at 7:41 a.m. The officers took pictures of Mary-Anne, the room where her body was, the backdoor, the door they had to force open to get to Mary-Anne, and even the doorknob. One officer pulled out little clear baggies and put several of Mary-Anne’s personal things into separate ones. Mary-Anne’s body was placed into a bag and zipped up. They took her out through the back door, so that the small crowd that had gathered outside of the store would not be able to see.

As they started dusting for fingerprints, the detective who looked to be calling the shots walked over to her.

Carrie stood up.

“Good Morning Miss Uh..French, is it?” asked the Detective.

“Yes, Carrie French. And you are…,” Carrie glanced quickly at his badge, “Detective Johnson?”

“That’s correct. Okay, I’m going to have a series of questions for you, and this shouldn’t take long, but you should know, your store is going to be closed for most of the day,” warned Detective Johnson.

“It’s not a problem at all. I just want to help. I’ve only known Mary-Anne for about three months, since she began working here. She was so bubbly and I don’t understand this,” said Carrie.

Detective Johnson ushered Carrie to another table so they could sit and speak alone.

“Miss French, what time did you get to your store this morning?” asked Detective Johnson.

“I normally get to the store at 6:45 a.m. every day, but today it was 6:48 a.m. because my dog ran out of the front door as I went to leave and I had to put him back inside, so I was running a little behind,” explained Carrie.

“And around what time did you find Miss Wilson?” inquired Detective Johnson.

“It was right after Donovan got here at his usual 7:15 arrival, so I’d say around 7:20 or so,” figured Carrie.

“Did you notice anything suspicious when you entered the store today?” Detective Johnson asked.

“Not at all,” Carrie said, “unless you count being out of sugar as suspicious.”

The Detective did not glance up from his notepad.

“What did you do when you realized there was something wrong?” asked Detective Johnson.

“Well, first I called Donovan to come help me push the door open so I could get into the room. As soon as I turned the light on when I was able to get the door cracked before he came to help, I smelled what I thought to be blood. Donovan was able to get the door open for me, and as soon as I was able to process what happened I called 9-1-1,” said Carrie.

“How did you know you were smelling blood?” asked Detective Johnson.

“When I was younger, my dad would take me hunting. When I killed my first deer, he spread the blood across my face, and the smell was stuck with me for weeks after,” explained Carrie.

“What is Miss Wilson’s work schedule like?” asked Detective Johnson.

“She comes in every afternoon after school and works until we close at 6:00 p.m. Sometimes she closes the store for me if I have somewhere I have to be,” said Carrie.

“So, she has her own key?” asked Detective Johnson.

“No, I keep a spare one in the potted plant by the back door,” said Carrie.

“How many people know about the spare key?” asked Detective Johnson.

“Donovan, Mary-Anne, the UPS driver- Nathan-, and me,” said Carrie.

“Interesting” mused the Detective. “Okay, Miss French, I don’t think I have any further questions for now, but I do want to speak to Donovan before I leave. Here is my card; call me if you think of anything else,” said Detective Johnson as he handed her a white business card with gold letters on it.

“Thank you so much,” said Carrie as she grabbed her own business card off of the counter to give to him.

Carrie sat down and wondered if Mary-Anne’s mom knew yet. She was a single mother and had two sons also, but Mary-Anne was her baby. She thought about calling her, but she didn’t think it was her place, so she left it to the officers.

To pass the time while she waited on the officers to gather evidence and finish their work, Carrie started unloading the dishwasher full of coffee cups and placing them on the shelves. Most of these cups were from thrift stores and places Carrie had traveled to and gotten as souvenirs. She thought it added more character to have these than a set of matching ones.

Almost immediately Carrie noticed that a mug was missing. It was her favorite one- big, light blue, with a dancing hotdog on it that she got from a minor league baseball game a couple of years ago. Carrie looked at the cup Donovan still had in front of him, and noticed that it was not the Hot Dog cup. The Dishwasher was empty, and the cup was missing from the shelves. She called Detective Johnson back over.”

“Detective Johnson, this may not be important, and I might sound silly but my favorite coffee mug is missing. It wasn’t in the dishwasher like I thought, and it’s not on the shelves. I don’t know if it’s important or not, but I thought it was strange. I don’t misplace things,” stated Carrie.

Detective Johnson furrowed his brow and looked at her and said, “Well I’m sure it will turn up. It isn’t high on my priority list right now.”

Carrie shrunk away embarrassed and was just going to drop it; then, she noticed a light blue handle pushed up under the cabinet in the kitchen.

Carrie’s Cup- Chapter 1

It was rainy and cold, and as Carrie French looked at her dashboard, she noticed she was three minutes later than normal- 6:48 a.m. Carrie pulled up to her store in town square: C4 (Carrie’s Cupcakes, Coffee, and Candles). Just like every morning before, she picked up the newspaper at the doorstep, unlocked the door, turned the store lights on, and turned on the coffee pot. She had a new Keurig in the back that someone had given her for Christmas one year, but she was old-fashioned and preferred the smell of a pot of coffee brewing.

Still new to town, Carrie found it difficult to make friends. She was from a one stoplight town two hours outside of St. Paul, and had moved to Ristretto a year ago to open her shop. The people in Ristretto were nice enough, but only a few of them had become regular customers that she could expect to see each morning.

Every morning at 7:15 she could count on Donovan Landry to be at the door waiting for his morning coffee and the cookie of the day. Today was no exception, and she grinned as she saw her pale, white-haired friend bundled up in his signature blue trench coat and hat waving at her.

Opening the door, Donovan said with a big smile, “I’ll have a mug of your finest brew and a cookie too!”

And as she did every morning, Carrie rolled her eyes and poured him a cup of coffee in one of her secondhand mugs. “Coming right up Donovan. You keep this up and you’re going to turn into a sugar cookie,” Carrie gushed.

“Do you promise?” Donovan winked.

Carrie dipped her sugar cup down into the canister and was met with an unexpected PING. “Shoot. Could you watch the store while I go to the storage room and grab a bag of sugar please?” Carrie asked.

Donovan nodded, barely looking up from his coffee and phone.

Walking to the back Carrie realized that the door to the storage room was unlocked and slightly ajar. Carrie tried to push open the storage room door further, but it wouldn’t give. She dipped her shoulder into the thick, metal door and pushed until it opened just enough that she could fit the top of her body into it. She turned the storage room light on, and as she did her nose immediately turned up at the familiar smell of iron.

Carrie knew it was blood.