Lex and Geni drove separately in Geni’s car in case Geni had to leave before the interview was over. Lex was grateful to not have to drive with Danny and Shanna after they overheard her and Geni talking. Life was awkward enough without having to endure any forced gaiety during the ride to the police station. Not that the ride with Geni was less awkward for Lex with Geni acting like all was well after their talk, and Lex still trying to wrap her mind around the past few hours, days, okay the entire month since she heard Danny’s voice on the phone.
Detective Newman was at the station entrance holding an evidence bag in one hand when they arrived. After the cars were parked, Shanna sprang from Danny’s car and ran to Newman clapping and screeching excitedly. The other’s followed, but less exuberantly.
“Oh, detective, you found my box!”
Newman lifted the evidence bag away from Shanna’s reaching hands. “This is evidence, Mrs. Burton, please refrain from grabbing it.”
“Okay,” Shanna smiled at him. “And please call me Shanna, John. You were the first person I met when I moved here.”
“And still, you chose Michael,” he said, and laughed.
She grinned at him.
Newman raised an eyebrow at Brandy and Olivia in their parents’ arms, “This isn’t a daycare service.”
Shanna cut in before either parent could answer, saying, “Don’t worry, I’m going to watch the girls. I don’t really want to be party to the interview process with Harvey.”
“You’ll need to come in and make a report, and then identify the man who mugged you by a line up. After that, you are welcome to babysit,” Newman said and turned to follow an officer escorting a handcuffed man into the building.
“I’ll watch the girls until you’re free, Shanna,” Geni said.
“All right,” she agreed, then grabbed Newman’s sleeve. “Why do you have Dr. Golden in custody?”
“The man being taken into the station just now.” Shanna pointed to the doors closing behind the men. “That was Dr. Golden, he ran the study here in New Haven.”
“Really?” Newman studied the closed glass doors, then turned to Shanna, “Shanna, was this box of Vetiver the item taken in the mugging?”
“Shhhhh.” Shanna stepped closer and looked around them, causing Lex to do the same, but they were alone in the station yard. “That is a hot commodity in New Haven and I can’t let it get out that I have any, or that I managed to loose it too. Please, can you keep what was taken quiet?”
Newman rubbed his jaw. “Shanna.”
“John. Please, for me.”
“You know, Shanna,” Lex spoke up, “you can just put down ‘essential oils’ as the mugged item and not actually name it.”
“Brilliant! Thanks Lex!”
If looks could kill, the one Newman was giving Lex would have caused her instant demise. Newman did not like falsehoods of any kind. Lex smiled sweetly at him and proceeded into the station.
Geni said, once they were all inside, “I’ll keep the girls here in the lobby with me. Shanna, I need to leave in time to meet my kids at 3 o’clock, so come find me once you’re all finished.”
Lex froze. No. Please, no. Geni stepped closer to Lex, offering up her strength and support to Lex.
Olivia wiggled out of Danny’s arms and waddled across the floor to Nichelle who’d come around the check in desk to pick up the giggling child.
“Hey, baby doll,” Nichelle gave her daughter a big smacking kiss on the check, “I didn’t think I’d see you today and I missed you.”
The smile dropped quickly from Nichelle’s lips and her face twisted into something ugly when she looked up and saw Lex standing between Geni and Danny. Nichelle set her daughter down and crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at the three of them. For two years, Lex had been able to avoid this woman in the small city, and now, in the space of a few hours since Danny was thrown back into her life, Nichelle Carter also returned. It gave Lex a small bit of glee to see that Nichelle wasn’t as slender as she used to be nor was her makeup done up like it would have been in college--having a baby had taken a toll out of Nichelle. Lex recalled the times when Nichelle wouldn’t go to the apartment swimming pool without doing her makeup first, now she looked exhausted and worn out.
Lex knew the color had drained from her face, but she wasn’t going allow herself to be further affected by this woman’s presence. She raised her chin and turned away to talk to Detective Newman.
“Do you want us to wait for you in interrogation?” she asked him.
“Yes. I’ll take Shanna through all the necessary paperwork and meet you and Wolfe down there.”
Great. Time alone with Danny Wolfe was just what she wanted.
“Okay, John,” Danny said, “Lex, I’ll be down after I talk to Nichelle.”
Lex nodded, despite wanting to be brave and put on a good front, she really just wanted to get out of there--fast. Geni gave her arm a reassuring squeeze and Lex smiled gratefully back at her.
“Who let you in here? Crawl back under the trash heap you came from.”
She halted as Nichelle stepped in front of her, blocking her way.
“Nichelle,” Danny snapped in warning.
Lex held up her hand to silence him and calmly surveyed Nichelle Carter from head to toe. She could actually feel the room freeze and hear the lack of breathing as everyone waited to see what she would do.
It was hard to believe that Lex had once called Nichelle friend and even made Nichelle her maid of honor. Both of which had been done to appease Danny, but still, there had been a time when Nichelle, Geni, and Lex had been roommates and confidants.
Hundreds of answers spun through Lex’s mind with many different ways she could see this conversation going. She could take the upper hand or she could give back to this wretched woman exactly what she gave out. After the day she was going through--having this cold, Shanna bursting into her home with another case, and with Danny popping back in her life, reminding her of all she’d lost--being polite to Nichelle just wasn’t going to work for Lex today.
Her lips curled into a mean smile and she opened her mouth to give Nichelle just what she deserved, when out of the corner of her eye she caught movement and turned slightly to see Shanna pick up Olivia and hold her close, not once taking her eyes of Lex and Nichelle. Olivia also gazed at Lex but with pleading eyes, silently begging Lex not to hurt her mom.
Was Lex really going to stoop so low as to belittle Nichelle in front of her own daughter?
Bile rose in her throat and Lex had to force herself not to vomit in the trash can by the desk. What was wrong with her? Before the events of two years ago, she’d never have even considered purposefully hurting someone. How could she have let herself become so bitter and angry?
It was easy to see when Nichelle registered that Lex wasn’t going to join in the confrontation. Nichelle’s smug look changed to one of surprise as Lex adjusted her curled lips into an actual smile, nodded to the other woman, then stepped around her and continued toward interrogation. All the while she was screaming in her mind to turn around, go back and land a good punch to Nichelle’s nose, or just tear her up a new one. But Lex was raised by a good woman who taught her to not say anything if she had nothing good to say and who said physical violence never solved anything.
Especially if the opponent’s child was there to witness everything.
Just keep walking, Lex, keep breathing, and don’t look back.
Written by Linsay Ernst