"They were planning to kidnap someone. A young woman."
"Who? Did you get a name?"
"Evelyn. Didn't hear a last name, though. You'll help her, right?"
Chris went over the conversation with Oscar several times on the way to the Hammilton's. The concern in Oscar's voice pained him; he wasn't sure if they could prevent anything without knowing exactly whom they were planning to take.
Evelyn. How many young women named Evelyn could there be in the area? It was an older name, so probably not many. And the fact that this girl had recently seen someone dumping a body certainly narrowed it down. There was probably enough evidence to do some surveillance on her and begin looking for suspects. He would have to send someone to the law office the next day to get a list of workers and ask around, see if anyone saw people leaving late. He would also send someone to get an official statement from Oscar Fredrickson.
Looks like we have plenty to discuss tonight, he mused to himself as he pulled up to the gates of a large, beautiful estate. He checked the address. This was it.
"State your name, please," a very proper-sounding woman answered when he rang the bell.
The woman paused. "I don't take kindly to jokes," she continued skeptically.
"This is not a joke, ma'am. I'm with the police department; I need to speak with Evelyn Hammilton." He showed his badge to the security camera as he spoke, and there was another long pause.
"Very well," she said finally, and the gates slowly spread open. "Drive straight forward and park in the second garage to the right."
Chris snorted as he drove ahead, hating the injustice of this: David Hammilton spat out lies for a living, and here was his reward. His daughter must be spoiled rotten, he thought, once again bracing himself for a terrible evening. He parked and made his way toward the front door. Whoever did the gardening surely knew what he was doing, Chris had to admit. Flowers of every kind in hues of soft pink, lavender, and ivory decorated the stone walkway to the door. It would have been quite enticing had Chris not been dreading every step.
The front door opened swiftly after one knock, and a thin, frail-looking maid appeared in front of him. "Good evening, Mr. Reeves." It was the voice from the gate. "Please, come in and sit down. Miss Hammilton will be with you shortly."
"Thank you," Chris replied, and the maid led him into a high-ceilinged room filled with white carpet and overly ornate furniture. What a waste, he thought to himself, amused. If I had this much money, I'd make this a bowling alley.
He sat down on a terribly uncomfortable armchair the maid pointed out to him before excusing herself to find Evelyn. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and prayed that she would be cooperative. It then occurred to him that maybe he should not be so judgmental. After all, he had never met the girl, just her father. Then there was the fact that as a Christian, he was supposed to exercise loving compassion toward those without Christ in their lives. He sighed.
"It is a rather boring room, isn't it?" a soft voice echoed slightly as it filled the room.
Startled, Chris leapt to his feet. "I'm sorry, Miss..."
He stopped. It was the first time he could ever remember losing his head on the job. The first thing he noticed was what he least expected: The small pocket Bible in her left hand, a slender finger marking her spot. Then he noticed the way she dressed, trendy but modest, midriff completely covered, contrary to the fashion choice of almost every young woman in the area. He noticed she was slightly taller than average, slender, fair skinned. Soft chestnut waves framed her delicate face beautifully, and freckles lightly dusted the bridge of her nose under bright green eyes.
And he knew.
It didn't come with a feeling, nor were there any words spoken to his heart; it was just the simple knowledge that he would marry her someday.
Well, that was unexpected, he thought. Lord, could you give me a little warning next time you're going to tell me that a witness is going to be my lifelong companion? Thank You, Lord. Truly, thank You.
"Evelyn," the woman offered, mistaking his fumble for a question. "You can call me Evelyn."
"Yes, Evelyn. Sorry," Chris said, recovering. He stepped forward to offer a handshake. She took his hand daintily, and he noticed how gracefully she moved. Typical traits of high society, but he liked them in her. A smile tugged at his lips, and he resolved to make their first meeting a memorable one.
Evelyn smiled as a formality, but inside she was becoming frustrated. Her parents were attending a dinner that evening and had not required her to come. This was a rare occasion, as she was usually expected to join them despite her disinterest. So she had planned her evening of freedom carefully: She would spend an hour or so in prayer and Scripture, about forty-five minutes playing hymns on the grand piano, half an hour putting together a craft for her kindergarten Sunday school class, and twenty minutes working on the dish cloth she was knitting for Mamma Loretta before finally going to bed. There was simply no time for visitors.
But this visitor did not seem to intend to leave any time soon. "Officer Chris Reeves, chief of police," he introduced himself. "Please, sit down. I have some questions for you about what you witnessed around eight o'clock yesterday evening."
Evelyn remained standing. "Do you mean the men who were dumping garbage in our lake?"
"Ma'am, what you witnessed is actually evidence of a homicide. A body was found in the lake this morning."
She shook her head in stubborn denial. "You must be mistaken," she said. "No sensible person would dump a body in our lake. Ours is a safe neighborhood."
"You would call a murderer a 'sensible person,' Miss Hammilton?"
"Of course not," she replied, offended. "But they usually have some common sense."
She saw him write something down on his notepad as he muttered under his breath. She caught a few words and almost dropped her jaw.
"I do not equate murder to greatness!" she exclaimed. If this was the chief of police, she was beginning to feel a lot less safe in her town.
"Never mind that, Miss Hammilton. Now, why don't you tell me what you saw last night?"
His tone was a little too condescending. "I hardly saw anything," she snapped. "Three men and a large bag. That is all. Do you need me to show you the door? I have plans this evening."
"What were you doing at the lake yesterday evening?" he persisted. "Please, Evelyn—"
"It's Miss Hammilton," she corrected briskly, forgoing her friendly introduction.
"Miss Hammilton," he said calmly, "please take a seat. All teasing aside, I have some very serious matters to discuss with you."
So he had been 'teasing'. Evelyn didn't care; she still found the man infuriating, and that after only a few minutes of conversation. Thinking the more quickly they were finished, the better, she sat stiffly in a chair across from him.
"I would have thought serious police business would be much less insulting," she quipped softly.
"You'd be surprised," he said, leaning forward in his chair and resting his elbows on his knees. He gave her an uncomfortably piercing stare for a moment, then continued. "Now Miss Hammilton, please tell me what you were doing at the lake yesterday evening."
"I was taking a walk with my friend Bridgette Markkson."
"Do you do this often?"
"Every Monday at eight?"
"Every Monday at seven thirty. We walk home at eight fifteen."
Officer Reeves shifted his notepad to his knee and jotted down some notes. As he did so, she noticed how young he looked. His frame filled the dainty chair (she surmised he must worked out quite a bit), and he had a full head of sandy brown locks, except for a slightly receding hairline above his left temple. When he looked back up at her, curiosity got the better of her.
"May I ask you a question, Officer Reeves?"
"No can do," he said a little too cheerfully. "I'm afraid it's my turn to do the questioning tonight."
"I think I deserve a question after how rude you've been," she shot back as she folded her arms across her chest, eyes narrowed.
He paused, considering her for a moment with the same piercing stare, and she noticed his eyes matched the color of his hair almost perfectly. She wondered if he really cared or if he was 'teasing' again.
"Alright," he finally agreed. "One question, Miss Hammilton."
"How are you chief of police? You can't be much older than thirty. I have never heard of a police chief being so young."
"That's quite a long story, Miss Hammilton," he replied. "Are you sure you want to hear it? I know you have plans for the evening, and we have a lot to discuss."
Now Evelyn was very curious. What was so important that he needed to discuss? Hadn't they already discussed what she saw at the lake? She did have her evening planned, and she was already twenty minutes behind schedule, at the very least. But it seemed as though he had much to say and would not let her go until he had said all of it, so was there even a point to thinking she could get things done? Still, she wanted to get as much done as possible. She wished she had more time to make a decision.
"How long will you keep me here, Officer Reeves?" she finally asked.
"How long is a while?"
"A while is an undefined period of time."
"Could you possibly provide me with a defined period of time?" She was very quickly growing tired of his games.
"Let's get straight to the matter, shall we?" Officer Reeves said finally. "We'll save my story for another time."
Evelyn considered this for a moment, but by then she was more curious about what he wanted to discuss than about how he came to be chief of police.
"Okay," she said finally. "What is so important that you must interrupt my evening?"
A/N: Sorry for the long wait on this one! I told myself I was not allowed to write more until my much-overdue wedding thank-yous were written and sent. Well, they're almost finished, so I think that counts. Sort of. I digress.
Thanks to all who have reviewed! I very much appreciate constructive criticism. I have tried to develop Evelyn's and Chris's characters a bit more, so please let me know what you think about that matter. Character development is probably my biggest weakness when it comes to writing, so constructive criticism is definitely welcome. If there are some discrepancies in the details of this chapter and the others, let me know (I am at my in-laws and don't have access to the Internet or the other chapters, so it's difficult to tell.) Thanks for reading!