The drive, though uneventful, was extremely uncomfortable. At least for Lex. Danny drove since Lex wasn’t in any position to focus on driving, and Shanna announced that she had no intention of driving at all. The three of them packed into his Dodge Charger with Shanna claiming the front seat before Lex had locked up her house. She didn’t mind taking the back, it kept her as far away from Danny as possible in the car. Before they’d left, Shanna made Lex more lemon and honey tea that she put in a Hydro Flask to keep warm through the day. Lex made sure to put the bag of essential oil tissues and the chest cream into her shoulder bag, along with DayQuil tablets; she was going to keep all her bases covered to get this cold under control.
She could hear a conversation happening in the front of the car, but couldn’t bring herself to participate, or even listen to the words. Lex fiddled with the baggy of tissues, curious to know if they worked or not.
“Sweetie, are you feeling congested?”
Lex looked up to see Shanna peering at her over the back of the seat. She glanced at Danny and met his eyes of pity in the rearview mirror and sat up straighter.
“No, I’m good.” She stuffed the baggy back in her bag. “Are we almost there?”
Shanna said, “Yes, it’s just around this corner.”
Lex was startled to look out the window and see they were in the rough part of town.
“Shanna, what brought you to this area of New Haven?” she asked.
Uh, huh. Probably not legal business.
“Oh, right here, detective.”
Detective? She must not have been paying much attention back at her house, because she didn’t remember anyone saying Danny was a detective.
Lex unbuckled her seatbelt as the car was parked and shut off, then asked, “When did you make detective?”
What had she done? She shouldn’t have spoken to him.
He looked at her over the hood of the car, his dark eyes piercing deeply into her hazel depths, and she remembered. She remembered the day they met, at college orientation. His curly hair had been longer then, his eyes filled with laughter and he’d looked at her across the sign in tables that divided them in almost the same fashion as now. Back then she’d been pleased to have him looking at her, notice her, the plain, curvy girl, and appreciating what he saw. It was rare for Lex to be noticed like that. She’d been attracted to him from the beginning, but her insecurities kept her from believing he returned her feelings, and sophomore year was almost over before she let herself believe him when he said he liked her. It was even longer before she trusted that he actually loved her.
That’s why it was so easy to walk away from him that night. How could he have truly loved her if he was willing to sleep with Nichelle Carter the night before their wedding?
Nichelle Carter. Lex hated that woman. She’d known Nichelle was bad news when they met at orientation--the same time she met Danny. Danny and Nichelle had grown up together and came to college together. Their moms had grown up best friends, and Lex had felt that his mom disliked her for not being Nichelle. Danny always said he and Nichelle were just friends. What a lie.
He said, “A year ago.”
Oh, why did his voice still send delicious shivers through her body? She was over him! Wasn’t she?
Lex wet her dry lips and took a sip of the lemon and honey tea--it was still warm because of the Hydro Flask.
Very articulate, Lex. She slammed the door shut and stalked over to Shanna, who stood looking up at the graffitied building walls. Lex looked up at the walls, but couldn’t see a reason for Shanna to be staring so intently at them.
“What’s up, Shanna?” Danny said as he joined them.
Shanna pointed to a patch of graffiti. “Do you recognize that?”
Lex tilted her head from side to side and then she saw it.
Danny said what she was thinking, “It’s the same word as the tattoo.”
“Yes,” Shanna agreed, “Chrysozizan. I think--”
She was cut off as the musical tones of My Little Pony filled the air. Both women stared at Detective Danny Wolfe as he sheepishly pulled his cell from his pocket to answer the call.
“Sorry,” he said, “my daughter chose my ringtone.” He looked at the screen, then said, confused, “It’s Geni.” Danny looked at Lex. “I better take this.”
Lex pulled her phone from her back pocket and saw she had three missed calls from Geni. The time on them said she’d called while Lex had been trapped in Danny’s eyes and transported to the past.
“Geni, I’m going to put you on speaker.” Danny held his phone put for them all to hear. “Tell Lex and Shanna what you found out.”
“So I researched chrysozizan and I think I know what it is, it was very simple to find actually, it’s--”
“Vetiver.” Shanna cut in.
“Yes,” Geni exclaimed from the phone. “How’d you know?”
“It’s an essential oil with a musky, grassy scent. I should have know it the moment I smelled it on that man.”
Lex asked, “What is it used for?”
Geni said, “Many things, but a study was done in 2001 by a Dr. Terry Friedmann on the effects of different essential oils on ADHD kids. He found that Vetiver worked the best. That study made the oil famous.”
“So, what does that have to do with Shanna getting mugged?” Lex took another gulp of her tea. It really helped her throat.
“I have no idea,” Geni said.
“Well,” Danny tugged at his cropped curls, “when I was working narcotics a year ago, I heard of an underground movement, or gang, whatever you want to call it, that specialized in distributing essential oils--not over the counter. Since the oils weren’t like cocaine, most of the force just turned a blind eye, but if they are now turning to mugging people for their oils--I’m assuming you had oils on you, Shanna--then we need to look closer at this underground movement.”
Shanna turned on her heel and marched toward the car. “I want to drop the case, Detective Wolfe.”
“Huh?” Lex said.
“What did she say?” Geni asked.
Danny said, “Geni, I’m going to have to call you back.” He hung up the phone and ran after Shanna. “Wait, why do you want to drop the case?”
Lex followed more slowly, running was not going to happen for her today.
“Is something wrong, Shanna?” she asked.
Shanna spun to face them, “No, nothing’s wrong, I just want to drop the case. Is that so hard to do?”
Danny and Lex looked at each other. “No,” he said, “but it would help if we had more of an explanation.”
Shanna took a deep breath and pressed a hand against her chest. “I know,” she whispered. “I know why he has chrysozizan tattooed on his wrist and graffitied on that building. I know why he mugged me.” Shanna wiped tears falling silently down her cheeks. “He’s my brother.”
Written by Linsay Ernst