A/N: Thank you guys for all of the kind reviews! Almost at 100 views already :) Sorry for the wait on this chapter, I've been busy with school and work. Hope you guys enjoy it! :D
I shoved the wallet into the back of my sock drawer, and promptly purged all thoughts of it from my mind. For the next three days, it was a constant, raging battle inside of me. The curiosity was nearly irresistible, pulling at me incessantly. The name tugged at my conscious in every spare moment; Ezekiel.
My previously unknown skills as an actor became apparent during those days. I never received even a wayward glance from either Tony, Molly, or any of my other friends or acquaintances. The thought that at least I didn't look suspicious, if nothing else, was comforting.
By the fourth day after my encounter with the mysterious thief, my willpower was wearing thin. After a long, arduous day on the streets, I treated myself with a lengthy, soothing shower. I collapsed onto my bed with a thump, exhaling deeply. I bit my lip thoughtfully, then reached over to my nightstand, where my cell phone lay. Within a few seconds, I had the phone pressed to my ear, while it rang noisily. After four rings, there was a crackle, then a familiar voice.
"Hey Mom," I said brightly.
"Charlie!" I smiled to myself at the enthusiastic tone of my mother. "It's good to hear from you."
"I know," I replied. "Sorry it's been awhile. How have things been over in Boston?"
"Oh, just fine," Mom answered. "Work is keeping me busy, as usual. But my friend Kim and I are planning a girl's trip down to St. Louis next month, so that's something to look forward to." I listened attentively as she continued to babble on and on for several minutes, interjecting here and there to let her know I was paying attention. "But enough about me," the woman finally said, and I stiffened, awaiting the inevitable. "How are things in the big city?" I held back a sigh.
"Alright, I guess," I responded. "The job's been… well, a little tough lately."
"I'm so sorry, honey," Mom said in a sympathetic tone. "Anything you wanna talk about?"
"I just..." I began, rubbing my temple in between my fingers as I stared up at the ceiling above me. "I joined the force because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to hunt down the bad guys, ya know? The people who really deserved to be put down. It just feels like all the people I've put away… they don't matter. Petty thieves, part-time crooks, nothing too important."
"Sweetheart," Mom answered in a gentle voice. "The work that you do is very important. Those petty thieves would turn into big-time criminals eventually. You're just saving the world from more heartache and hurt later on."
At least that's what everyone wants me to think, I thought to myself, although I didn't dare to utter it aloud.
"Yeah, I guess I'm just in a low spot right now," I replied, brushing aside my inner doubts.
"Well," Mom said, her tone suddenly becoming suggestive. "Have you had any luck with your number recently?" I closed my eyes, a sinking sensation in my stomach.
"No," I lied, the single word leaving a bitter taste inside my mouth.
"Your day will come, Charlie," my mother assured me. There was a pause, as I contemplated my next words carefully.
"Mom…" I began quietly.
"Yes, dear?" was the anxious reply. I bit my lip nervously.
"Do… do you ever think the numbers are wrong?"
Silence followed, and my chest tightened as my heartbeat accelerated.
"What would make you think that?" Mom finally said, her voice filled with concern.
"I mean, after everything that happened with Dad," I answered. "I just wonder if maybe there are some mistakes out there."
"Oh, honey," Mom replied softly. "Your father… he had issues. A lot of them. You know that just as well as I do. But think about it; if I hadn't married him, we never would have had you. And you… you are the farthest thing from a mistake, Charlie." I smiled slightly at her words, although they really weren't the least bit helpful to my current predicament. "I really did love him, you know," she went on. "Before he started drinking, he was a wonderful man. It wasn't hard to believe that we were soulmates."
"Yeah, well," I responded dryly, "Pardon me for having some doubts on that."
"When you find your number, I think you'll understand." I clenched my teeth together in frustration.
"Alright," I said in a resigned tone. "Well, I should go."
"Call me soon, sweetie," she said.
"I will," I returned. "Love you."
"Love you too," Mom said.
There was a click, then silence. I let out a long, shaky sigh, running a hand through my damp hair. The minutes ticked by, and my resolve was rapidly dissolving. The presence of the wallet was picking away at my mind, as was the growing concern after my own sanity.
Ezekiel Blackwood was a thief. I had lied to my own coworkers, my roommate, and now my own mother about him. My own words came back to me: I joined the force because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to hunt down the bad guys, ya know?
And what a great job I was doing of that. I had let a thief avoid justice, all because of a stupid number on his wrist. A deep anger stirred inside of me. What had I been thinking? I had a job to do.
And with thought, I forced myself into action. Within seconds, I was in front of the mahogany armoire opposite my bed, digging through my sock drawer. The wallet was stashed in the very back, but my hand emerged from the mess of mismatched socks triumphant. I took out the driver's license, scanning it thoroughly this time.
At least he was an organ donor, if nothing else.
I located an address near the bottom, and smiled victoriously. Grabbing a slip of paper from my nightstand, I hastily scribbled down the address. I slid the ID back into the wallet, then set it down next to the paper on my nightstand. Leaning back against the bed, I began to formulate a plan inside of my mind. Tomorrow just so happened to be my day off...
And it was most certainly not going to be a day wasted.
Clouds formed a dark, ominous blanket over the skies of New York City. A light drizzle was beginning to cascade onto the cool pavement as I exited my apartment building. I shivered, pulling my black jacket tighter over my light blue blouse. My boots splashed through the puddles as I climbed into my bright red Volkswagon beetle.
When the address was plugged into my GPS, I set off on my journey. I put on some soft, classical music in an attempt to calm my fraying nerves. Such a thing had always soothed me in times of crisis. This was definitely a time of crisis; I was going to arrest my soulmate, after all.
What if you're wrong about him? The thought intruded my mind abruptly, and I swiftly shoved it down. I couldn't think like that. I couldn't allow such foolish hopes to cloud my judgement.
After a half-hour of driving, I finally began to approach the address. I stared out the side windows nervously. This wasn't exactly the best side of town. The buildings on either side of the street were run-down, and the road was worn, and desperately in need of a repaving. The children who were playing in front of the apartment complexes were dressed shabbily, and their clothes hung heavily on their thin frames. I felt a rush of sadness roll over me at the sight.
The time for sorrow came to a quick end, however, when my GPS beeped noisily at me. I turned to the left, pulling into a parking spot on the side of the road. I hesitated at first, then reached into my glove compartment and pulled out my Beretta and spare handcuffs. I slid the pistol into the back of my jeans, hiding it underneath my blouse and jacket, then stepped out of the car with as much poise as I could muster.
The apartment building that stood before me was perhaps the most dilapidated of those on the street. Faded, peeling shutters were hanging askew, several missing entirely. There were empty spaces were bricks should have been, and quite a few windows were sporting cracks and holes, some of them looking suspiciously akin to bullet holes. I swallowed the nervous lump in my throat, then threw my shoulders back, striding into the front lobby.
The inside was even worse than the outside. The walls were stained, and the ancient wallpaper was falling off in nearly every corner of the small room. An old, junky desk stood in the corner, abandoned. I spotted a rickety staircase at the back of the room, and headed for it.
As I climbed, I heard a various array of noises and voices coming from the rooms. A woman arguing with a child, a group of men discussing something with rigor, an old couple bickering, and many others. With every landing I passed, my heart rate doubled. Perspiration started to form across my freckled brow, and I tucked my loose, bright red hair behind my ears.
I glanced down at the paper in my hand once more, checking the address for the last time. Room 7K, it read. I breathed out lightly. I had reached the seventh floor.
I opened the door, revealing a dimly lit corridor in similar condition to the lobby downstairs. Holding my breath to avoid the putrid stench of mildew, I sauntered down the hallway. I followed the crooked signs, and eventually reached Room 7K at the end of a small, side hall. I stopped in front of the plain, black door. My heart was racing. I shook my head slightly, struggling to appease the avid curiosity that was rising inside of me. I reminded myself why I was here: to arrest a thief.
With renewed energy, I raised a fist to the door and knocked loudly. Then I waited. Silence. No footsteps, nothing. I tapped my foot impatiently, then knocked again. Still nothing.
Suddenly, a door opened from behind me. I jumped in surprise, then whirled around to see an older woman standing in the doorway opposite from 7K. The woman was short, and stout, with heavily-grayed brown hair, olive skin, and a shockingly joyful pair of eyes considering the state of her living conditions.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked kindly, pushing her wire-rimmed glasses up her nose as she inspected me. "I'm the landlady here."
"I-I'm looking for Ezekiel Blackwood," I stammered. The woman raised an eyebrow.
"Lookin' for Zeke, eh?" she murmured, nodding thoughtfully. "Well, he's out at his job right now, but he should be back soon."
"Oh?" I said, my head tilting to the side.
"Is he a friend of yours?" the woman asked, her eyes narrowing slightly. I gulped.
"Uh, no," I answered carefully. I reached into my purse, pulling out the black leather wallet. "I found this the other day at a… outside a convenience store," I babbled. "I just wanted to return it."
"Oh, how kind of you," the woman said, smiling brightly. She eyed me with an approving gaze.
"Do you know when he'll be back?" I queried, struggling not to sound impatient.
"It won't be long now," the woman assured him. "He works a few blocks from here, at some big warehouse that ships food all over the country."
"Really?" I said, my interest piqued.
"Yes," the woman answered. "He's such a kind boy. He brings damaged goods back from the warehouse, and shares it with nearly everyone in this building. It beats me how he manages to get his hands on all of it, but I'm certainly thankful. Times are hard around these parts, and a lot of my tenants are in dire need of these things."
The longer she talked, the more confused I was becoming. If he had such a stellar job, why on earth would he be robbing a convenience store for food? Something wasn't adding up here, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
"That's interesting," I said, only half-paying attention as my mind swirled.
"Well," the woman said. "I'll go ahead and let you into his apartment for a bit. I'm sure he'll be back anytime."
"I appreciate it," I mumbled thankfully as the woman pulled out a ginormous ring of keys, and used one to unlock the door to 7K.
She opened the door, and led me inside. I studied the simple living room just inside, although there wasn't much to see. A threadbare couch, a cracked television, a squat bookshelf in the corner. The walls, a rather bland shade of beige, were bare of any decor. In all, it was a very droll room.
The woman praddled on and on, leading me around the room. I ground my teeth together irritably, glaring at the door in the hopes that Ezekiel would show up soon.
"Is he a good tenant?" I asked during a brief moment of silence between the woman's ramblings.
"Oh, simply marvelous," the woman answered enthusiastically. "Because he's such a help around here, what with bringing us food and supplies and so on, I don't make him pay rent. He's a wonderful boy."
"Umhmm," I said, thinking to myself.
"You seem awfully curious about someone you've never met," the woman remarked, eyeing me up and down. I swallowed hard.
"Well I drove all the way out here," I answered, laughing nervously. "I guess I just want to know who it was for."
"Fair enough," the woman responded with a nonchalant shrug. "Now, I do believe I hear him coming…" her voice trailed off as she wandered over to the doorway. My blood ran cold as ice.
Sure enough, there was the unmistakeable sound of footsteps approaching. I froze as the man suddenly appeared in the doorway. Our gazes locked instantly. He halted, his expression instantly turning into shock. I glared back unflinchingly. His jaw visibly tightened, his dark eyes narrowing.
"Hello, Zeke dear," the landlady cooed, interrupting our staring match as she patted Ezekiel's shoulder gently. "I'll leave you two to sort this out." I forced a smile at the woman, nodding gratefully as she exited the room.
The door clicked shut behind her, leaving me alone with Ezekiel Blackwood. There was a brief stretch of silence as he gazed at me with a look of both curiosity and astonishment. So great was his shock, it would seem, that he couldn't even speak. At last, amidst my pounding heart, I found my voice, matching it with a shaky, but satisfied smirk.
"Sorry, angel," I said, grabbing my handcuffs as I stepped forward. "I'm gonna need you to put these back on."
A/N: Thank you for reading, and please review! :D