Don immediately recognized the pill bottle in her hand and felt himself tense up. "Where did you get those?"
"Are they yours?" She asked ignoring his question.
Don sat back into the couch. "Yes, but again, how do you happen to have them?"
Anne shook her head, it was obvious she was upset at finding them. "I have the Judge's approval to search the house."
Don realized that she was right, the Judge had allowed it. "So?"
"Don, I'd like to think that . . well . . it's just that . . . I have to know what this is."
Don could see the conflict in her and for some reason it made him feel good. When this started, he knew she would have jumped on the opportunity to show him as a drug user, now it seemed, she was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. He hoped that was so, because he knew that what he was about to tell her could be a problem. "Disulfiram," He answered deliberately.
"Disulfiram?" She repeated thoughtfully.
Don took a deep breath and let it out. "You probably know it as Antabuse."
"Antabuse!" Anne spat out. "Why?"
Don leaned forward and put his head in his hands. "I don't know if I'm an alcoholic, all I know is I wanted to make sure I didn't lose my daughter because of drinking." He answered.
"Do you have a prescription?" She asked with hesitation.
Don just shook his head and looked back up at her. "I would have had to be diagnosed or gone to AA, how would that look?"
Anne just stared at him, now what was she going to do she wondered. She needed time to think. "I have to go," She said suddenly and stood up, gathering her purse and jacket.
"I have to go, I don't know Don, I don't know." She said and then let herself out.
Later as she tossed and turned trying to sleep, she tried to decide what she would tell the partners tomorrow. Her weekly report was due and she had no idea how she could withhold this information. He was taking prescription medication that he wasn't prescribed. That was a fact, but the medication was to keep him from drinking, he was trying so hard, could she be a part of taking his daughter over this. She finally decided she had to be honest, she would have to tell them tomorrow. What she couldn't understand was why that thought made her feel so sad that she could feel tears tickling at her eyes as she drifted off to sleep.
As Don lay in bed that night, he realized that all of his efforts may have been for nothing. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but now reflecting back, he should have trusted his self-control. As he finally drifted off, he felt the incredible stress welling up in him.
The explosion ripped through the armored personnel carrier directly in front of the Humvee. The sound of gunfire and bullets whizzing by came only a few seconds later. Don quickly grabbed his lieutenant and pulled him into his face, "WE'RE IN AN AMBUSH, CALL FOR CHOPPER SUPPORT, NOW!"
Don heard the young platoon leader calling for help as he grabbed another radio and gave instructions for the platoon to return fire. They had to keep the enemy's head down until their support arrived, he knew it would only take a few minutes but a few minutes was a long time under fire.
The sound of a scream cut through the air and Don jumped from the Humvee and ran towards the burning vehicle over thirty yards ahead of him. He grabbed the rear door handle and opened it to see several stunned and bleeding men. A small fire was building in the front and he knew it would only be a matter of time before it all went up. He grabbed the first one and threw him into a fireman's carry and ran back to drop him at the Humvee. "Medic," he yelled out as he returned for another. Suddenly he felt a searing pain go through his side and he was knocked off his feet. Jumping back up, he grabbed a second man and pulled him from the burning vehicle.
Around him he could hear his men returning fire and he hoped in the confusion and chaos he could get the rest out. Running back to the vehicle, he grabbed another and started back but he was spun around as another bullet struck him in the shoulder. The pain was incredible but he staggered back to the Humvee with blood covering him. Somehow he returned and grabbed another but as he pulled him toward the door, Don could see that it was too late; a gaping hole was through his chest. Another man was slowly crawling to the door, so Don grabbed him and threw him over his bloody shoulder and moved back to the protection of the Humvee. He dropped the fourth man at the Humvee and quickly took in the sight of two medics working on the rescued men. He could hear the sound of choppers in the distance and knew help was on the way.
Totally exhausted, Don gathered what strength he had left to return to the burning vehicle. As he moved across the opening another bullet hit him in the leg, taking him off his feet. "NO," Don yelled out as he looked to the armored personnel carrier. There were still men inside that were alive as an incredible blast shook the ground and fire poured from the open rear door. Don tried desperately to get to his feet as the concussion from the explosion threw him back to the ground. Suddenly the sound of screams pierced through the noise as the remaining men were being burned alive.
Don struggled but no matter what he did, he couldn't get up, his left arm was useless and his right leg collapsed every time he put weight on it. The screaming was becoming intense as the flames consumed the vehicle. He heard them yelling for help over and over but he couldn't get up.
"NO! NO! I'M COMING, HOLD ON!" Don yelled, as he tried once more to regain his feet.
"DADDY! DADDY" he heard through the fog.
"DADDY WAKE UP, DADDY!" Grace yelled, terrified by the screams coming from her father as he rolled around in bed.
Don jerked upright as Grace's voice penetrated his nightmare.
"Daddy, are you all right?" she asked, calming quickly once she saw he was awake. "Did you have a bad dream?"
Don was wide awake now as he saw Grace standing beside his bed in her little nightgown with some kind of tiny unicorns on it. "I'm okay sweetie." He said trying to sound calm. He opened his arms and Grace jumped into him for a hug. He held her for a second and then gently lowered both of them to the bed.
"Did you have a bad dream?" She asked again, pulling back a bit from him.
"I did honey, but I'm fine now." Don said to her as it struck him that this was the first one since he found out about Grace. "I'm sorry I woke you."
Grace snuggled in a little closer to him. "Daaaaddddy?" she said, drawing it out so Don knew a question was coming.
"Is mommy watching over you too?" She asked quietly.
Her question made Don pause, he realized the stress of the evening had probably triggered his nightmare, but maybe there was something to her question. "I hope she's watching over both of us." He answered her.
"I think she is, cause I don't have any more nightmares."
Don could only hope that was true as he felt her drift off back to sleep. He carried her back to her bed and laid her down, covering her up. Sitting down in the chair beside her bed, he wondered if he would ever get tired of watching her sleep. She was so sweet and innocent, so precious; maybe someday she would understand how she had saved him from the path of self-destruction he was on.
Her question was still on his mind as he sat there. Suddenly, thinking of tonight's revelation he whispered a quiet prayer. "Libby if you are watching over us, help us now."
As Anne readied her weekly report, she dreaded what she knew she had to say. "Everything normal, nothing significant to report." She said halfhearted.
Roger picked right up on it. "What do you mean significant, sounds like something happened?" he asked.
Anne looked at the partners and realized they seemed to be like wolves at a sheep dinner. "I spent some time this week, running more checks on his finances, arrests, work record, and so on, but there was absolutely no changes, no negative issues since he got Grace."
"But?" Mark asked.
"I searched his house as is allowed under the Judge's agreement and I found a bottle of prescription medication that was not prescribed to him." Anne said, her heart wrenching as she let it out.
"That's it, he's on drugs, that violates the agreement and we can take Grace from him." Brett exclaimed.
Anne was startled by the reaction, it was if he was overjoyed by the revelation. "I'm not sure." She added.
"What do you mean, it's obvious that he is has violated the deal, let's pick her up." Roger threw in.
Anne was aghast, she couldn't believe how heartless and cruel that would be to wrench Grace away from her father and they were ecstatic over the idea. Could they really be this unfeeling? "Hold on, that may not be the best course." She said forcefully.
"Explain yourself Miss Summers." Mark Winters said calmly.
"First of all the medicine he had was Antabuse, which he is taking to keep him from drinking, it is certainly not a narcotic. Second the Judge may see this as a positive, not a negative; he made it very plain that I was to contact him before I acted, unless the girl was in immediate danger. This hardly qualifies."
"But still, he violated the rules, we can take her!" Brett reiterated.
"No, we can't! Not unless you want to rile up the Judge, I think he has a soft spot for him and if we go in and take Grace, I can almost guarantee the Judge will not be happy or supportive!" Anne argued back at him.
Then looking straight at Brett, Anne's voice changed and everyone could hear the challenge in her tone. "Maybe YOU want to go to that house and TAKE Grace from him!"
Brett slunk down in his seat and looked away, the concept of taking the little girl sounded much better to him than the actual action required to do so.
"She's right, I hate to admit it but we have to be careful with this Judge, if we take her it could backfire." Roger finally added in, thinking back to his run in with Judge Baker.
Mark Winters had been listening intently. "I agree, this is evidence but it is not the nail in the coffin. We will file it away and use it later, but we don't want to open a can of worms."
"But . . but, " Brett stammered out.
"No, this is done. Miss Summers good job, keep a close watch on him."
Anne nodded and left, silently breathing a sigh of relief, the thought of taking Grace away almost made her sick.
After she left, Brett Langman's bravado returned. "What the fuck, we had him!"
"No we didn't, let's not jump the gun; we have to build a case not just act like a bull in a china shop." Mark answered him. "Besides, I thought you had a plan?"
"I do, but what if it doesn't work?"
"Doesn't work, I thought you had an iron clad deal brewing." Roger jumped in.
"Nothing's fucking iron clad." Brett spat back at him.
"Look, we have to stay the course, if we go charging in there and the Judge gets suspicious this could all still fall apart, there's no hurry, let's stay calm and keep to the plan. Brett, you hold up your end and we will be fine." Mark said, making the decision.
"I'll hold up my end, don't worry." Brett said as he went out the door.
It was a very worried Don that awaited Anne on Friday afternoon. It had been a rough time for him as his mind was on Grace all day. When he picked her up from school and brought her home, he just sat and cuddled her for the longest time, worried that he might lose her. Finally she grew restless and wanted to play upstairs, so he had to let her go. Deep in thought, he waited on Anne to make her appearance.
Anne saw the worry when she came in and gave him a small smile. "Don, I reported the drug to the firm but that's as far as it went." She said to him.
"Whew," Don let out as he felt an immediate relief.
"But remember, it's not really our decision when we go back to the court, the judge will take everything including that into consideration."
"I know, I was just worried I would lose her today."
Anne didn't know what to say so she just waited as he seemed to be thinking of something else. " I . . . I don't know what I would do if I lost her." He said, his voice trailing away at the end. Watching closely, she caught a small tear trail down his cheek just before he turned away.
"Miss Anne" Grace yelled as she came running down the stairs. "I thought I heard you, are you here for dinner?"
"I don't know, who's cooking?" She said with a laugh as Grace grabbed her for a big hug.
"Daddy is, he's getting better you know!" Grace answered back in her matter of fact way.
"Hmmm, sounds risky!" Anne said teasing Don.
Don had been listening as he was trying to dig himself out of the worry that had consumed him. "Not funny you two, how about some burgers on the grill?"
"Can I play on the swing while you cook?" Grace asked quickly.
"Sure, come on, let's get some dinner." Don said as they all headed to the kitchen.
Anne readied everything inside while Grace played on the swing and Don got the grill going. As she finished up her preparations, she wandered over to the window and watched Don carefully. As always, he kept a close eye on Grace and she could hear them bantering back and forth.
"Monster," she thought, that was what everything said. The other words she saw in her reports came back to her as she took in the scene, drunk, brawler, criminal, angry, violent; but that isn't what she saw outside. She saw a handsome and intelligent man; a father who she had witnessed shed a tear at the thought of losing his daughter. Was he violent, absolutely, she had witnessed it; but she remembered her words in the Judges office and now she knew she had been so wrong. This man would never hurt her or Grace, she knew it. But she also knew that there would be no limit to the violence that he would perpetrate on others defending Grace.
But there was another side, as she remembered the way he held her as she cried over her lost child. The way he had caressed her cheek and brushed the hair from her face, he had a gentleness that confused her. How could a man that big and powerful be that gentle?
Her thoughts were interrupted as she saw him call to Grace and the two of them come to the table for dinner. After they said grace and began eating, the light banter between the three of them continued as both Grace and Anne teased Don on his cooking. Don always laughed along with them and joked right back at them.
"Daaadddddy?" Grace asked as they finished up.
Don had to chuckle as he had grown to know when she was going to try to get something from him. "Yeeeesssss" he answered back.
"Can we go to the park tomorrow?" She asked quickly.
"I suppose so."
"Daaadddy?" She asked again with a giggle.
"Can Miss Anne go too?"
"I don't know honey, we would have to ask her but I don't think she will." Don answered and looked over at Anne with a smile.
"Why not?" Grace asked.
"Well, I'll have to make a lunch to take and you know she hates my cooking!" He answered continuing the game.
"No she doesn't, she just says that to tease you!" Grace said and started laughing.
"Hey, don't tell my secrets!" Anne finally jumped in to the conversation. "Just for that, I'll bring lunch and you two have to eat it!"
"That worked pretty good, didn't it." Don said leaning over towards Grace.
"To use your words, not funny!" Anne threw out quickly with a laugh.
After clean up and dishes, Grace took Anne back outside to play with her on the swings. This time it was Don that watched them through the window. He could see them laughing as Anne pushed her on the swing and it suddenly hit him. As much as he would be devastated if he were to lose Grace, what about Anne. What would she do if he got permanent custody, would she drop out of their lives, and what about Grace, she had already lost a mother. What if she lost Anne?
But as he pondered that situation he was trying not to see the other problem, did he want to lose Anne? The answer was no but he knew that there was nothing to be done about it. He didn't want to admit it but it was becoming more evident every day, he cared for her very deeply. But he would lose her because she was so far out of his league that if it weren't for the situation they were in, she wouldn't even talk to him. Oh she was nice enough to him, but when it was over, it would be over and the memory of her face at the restaurant made it so. They would never be a couple.
Shaking his head, he knew that it would be hardest on Grace. She adored Anne and losing her was going to be tough on the little girl, maybe someday he could find someone to be her mother but until then, he knew that he was going to have to deal with her disappointment.
Grace finally tired and he saw Anne take her hand and they walked across the yard. Grace was beaming and Anne had a look of contentment that was easy to see. Yes, as much as he wanted to deny it, there was a train wreck coming in two weeks either way!
"Daddy, Miss Anne is going to get me ready for bed." Grace announced as they came in.
Don was surprised and looked at Anne. "If it's okay?" She asked shyly.
"Fine with me, I'll take my hug and kiss now and then you deal with the little tornado."
"Daddy, I'm no tornado!" Grace answered him with a frown.
"Okay, come here then." Don said and got his hug and kiss before the two of them went upstairs.
As he watched them climb the stairs hand in hand, he couldn't help himself from muttering. "Yep, a real fucking train wreck!"
Don surprised them with morning pancakes that came from a mix but were still a hit, and then it was off to the park where they spent most of the day on the playground. Anne had made a great lunch that they shared on a picnic table before they did a small hike down a trail. Grace was enthralled at being the center of attention for the day and she reveled in that role. She talked constantly and kept up a steady stream of questions for Don and Anne, which they answered while trying to keep up with her.
Anne noticed that Don seemed distant but couldn't figure out why. Whenever they weren't entertaining Grace, he seemed to be off in another world. He rarely addressed her directly and it seemed like the subtle joking that had become commonplace was gone. She tried to figure out why and the only reason she could come up with was her getting Grace ready for bed, but that didn't seem to upset him then, why would it now.
Don was a bit remote, but for another reason. Since they got to the park, something seemed strange. Instincts honed in the desert were coming back to him and he was noticing things that weren't quite right. They had been in the park most of the day, and though it was a large area with multiple playgrounds, hiking trails, baseball and soccer fields, he kept seeing the same two guys over and over. In a park so large, it wouldn't seem possible to notice that. In the war, as you went through villages, if you saw the same faces it meant they were tracking you. They were setting you up, trying to learn your destination to set up an ambush.
Don started to watch closer and not surprising, he saw them again. They were some distance but they were definitely watching them. Don suggested they go back to the main part of the park that they had come in to. As they walked, Don kept them in his vision, never staring, just watching them. Sure enough they followed for a ways and then were gone. Don was on edge as they got to the playground. Why would anyone else be following them, his personal keeper was with him?
Don pushed Grace on a merry-go-round and suddenly felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up for just an instant.
"Hey don't I know you?" He heard behind him.
Reacting instantly, Don grabbed up Grace and handed her to Anne. "Go to the car, now!" He told her firmly.
Anne had been watching Grace but looked around and saw the two men. She nodded and took Grace and started walking quickly to the car.
"Yeah, I know you, Duncan, that's your name. You owe me money." Don heard as he turned to face them.
"I don't know either of you, and I damn sure don't owe you anything." Don replied trying to stay calm. He kept an eye on Anne's progress, wanting to make sure they were well away before anything happened.
"Oh, I think you do." One of the men said as he stepped closer, he was a few years older than Don and looked like he could handle himself.
The other hesitated and Don realized he was a follower; he was younger and obviously not really itching for a fight.
The older man was right in Don's face. "You think you're so tough, take your best shot punk!" He spat out at Don.
Don saw it coming but decided not to stop it, Anne was almost to the car, he just needed another few seconds. The slap caught him right on the cheek but it barely moved his head.
Anne had reached the car and was safe inside, as Don turned to his assailant.
"HEY!" Don heard from across the playground.
"Hey, hold on there!" Came the voice again and Don could see two cops running towards them. The younger man looked over his shoulder and immediately took off running. The older one hesitated for just a second before following him.
Don stood his ground as the cops came running up. The two troublemakers had disappeared into a large bunch of people across the way and neither Don nor the officers could see them.
"What was that all about?" One of them asked him.
"I have no idea, I think I saw them following us earlier, but I don't know who they are." Don replied, still wondering about the unprovoked attack.
"Do you have some ID?" the same one asked.
Don hesitated for a moment. "So two guys come up to me and slap me and instead of going after them, you want to hassle me?"
The police officer looked up at Don, obviously sizing him up. "Look, we saw the whole thing. The guy swung at you and you did nothing wrong, but if it is as you say and they were following you all day, it just seems more than a simple argument."
"Makes sense." Don replied, he hated to admit it but what the he said seemed true. With that he pulled out his license and the officer took some notes.
"Mister Duncan, you might want to be careful, it seems odd that two guys would follow you around and then go after you in a city park." He said as he handed Don back his identification. "I'm going to file a quick report, it's in your best interest, that way if they end up going after you again, we will have a record."
"Thanks, I appreciate it." Don replied.
The cop seemed to appraise Don for several seconds before he spoke again. "I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised that they decided on you as a target. No disrespect, but going after a guy as big as you doesn't strike me as being a real smart idea!"
"None taken, but I had my daughter here, I wanted to make sure she was safe." Don answered.
The cop nodded his head. "Good thinking, nothings worth getting your child hurt. Well, be careful Mister Duncan."
As Don walked back to the car, his mind was racing. Too many incidents added up to one thing, something was going on and he had to figure it out. He saw Anne in the car and wondered if she could have something to do with all of this but then immediately dismissed it. While she might not care one way or another about him, he knew she would never put Grace in danger.
Finally, reaching the car, he slid in behind the wheel. He saw Grace almost asleep in the back seat, the day in the park having worn her out. When he looked over at Anne, she looked scared, he knew he was right, she couldn't have been involved.
"Are you okay?" her voice shaking as she asked.
"Yeah, fine," Don answered quietly, not wanting to concern Grace.
The ride home was quiet as they both seemed to sense that this was not something to discuss when Grace could hear. Later, after both of them got her a quick dinner and into bed, they sat out on the deck as it got dark. Seated beside each other in chairs they gazed at the swing set in the backyard.
They sat quietly until Don decided someone had to start. "I don't understand it, I never saw either of those guys in my life."
Anne hesitated but then decided to press on. "Don, please don't take this wrong but is it possible that you may have been in a run in with them and not remember?" She asked very cautiously.
Don turned to her and he could see the anxiety in her face. "It's okay Anne, that's a question I even asked myself, but no I would remember and not only don't I remember them, I don't remember the two guys from the zoo."
Anne felt a sense of relief at how calm he was so she continued. "All right, what about college, the Amy, jobs you had, anything you can think of?"
Don just shook his head. "No, I went through that too, I never met them in any way, good or bad."
Don wanted to see her so he turned his chair towards her. "Anne, I swear to God, if I thought for a minute that I had some dealings with people that would put you or Grace in harm's way, I would tell you."
Anne looked at him thoughtfully before she gently laid her hand on his huge arm. "I know that Don, I know that."
She withdrew her hand and Don felt the loss of her touch. "But then that still brings up the why?" She asked him.
"I just don't know." Don answered, shaking his head.
They sat in their own thoughts until Anne finally realized it was late. "I better go." She said as she got up.
"Anne," Don started but then stopped. He didn't want her to go, he just wanted to protect her. "Anne, your welcome to stay, I mean, what if . . . oh I don't know, but I worry about you."
Anne stopped and looked at him carefully, she should be shocked that he would even suggest it but it was just the opposite, it gave her a warm feeling. "No, I appreciate it, I'll be all right."
He nodded his acceptance and followed her out to see her off.
Later lying in bed, he ran through the day again and kept coming to the same conclusion, something was wrong but what he wondered.
Sunday dawned with Don having spent half the night tossing and turning without a resolution to the situation. He got up and got some breakfast for him and Grace before placing a call to Mike.
He was surprised when Bobby showed up with him and even more so when Bobby took charge of Grace. After they went out to the backyard, he and Mike sat at the table over coffee.
"What's wrong son?" Mike finally asked him.
Don stirred his coffee for a second, wondering where to start. "Something's going on and I don't know what."
"If it was just me, I could handle it, but a couple things have happened and I'm afraid for Grace and -." Don stopped himself suddenly, leaving the statement hang in the air.
"And?" Mike asked distinctly.
Don just ignored the question as Mike let a small smile cross his lips.
"Do you remember the foreman that you fired, the one who almost attacked me for not drinking with him?"
"Yeah, have you had trouble with him again?"
"No, not him but twice now, once at the zoo a couple weeks ago and yesterday at the park, I had two guys try to pick a fight with me." Don explained.
"Did you know them; I mean it could be someone you had trouble with before."
"No, that's what Anne asked but I'm sure, I never saw them before."
Mike took a sip of coffee as he mulled over what Don was telling him. "In broad daylight at the zoo and in a city park, two guys come at you for no reason?" he finally asked.
"Yeah, and the guys yesterday, I am sure I saw them follow me around most of the day."
"Followed you or followed Grace or Anne?" Mike asked.
Don hesitated before answering, the fact is that he had simply assumed it was him that they were after. "I don't know, that's a good question."
Mike rubbed his jaw for a second before he continued. "Don, how much do you actually know about Anne? For that matter, how much do you really know about Grace?"
"Grace!" Don blurted out. "What's to know about her, she's a little girl?"
Mike shook his head quickly. "No that's not what I mean."
"Well than what are you talking about?" Don asked quickly with a scowl on his face.
"What I mean is, Grace's family. Obviously you knew her mother but I don't remember ever hearing her or you talk about her family at all."
Don sat back in his chair, his thoughts going back to Libby. Mike was right, he knew nothing about the family but if they were all dead, then what was to know? "I understand, but if they died, then that should have been the end of it. I do know that Libby was an only child and she did mention once that her parents were quite a bit older. If that's the case, it assumes that her Grandparents are gone and that would only leave maybe some aunts or uncles."
Mike thought about Don's response for several minutes before replying. "Don, let me check around."
Don nodded just as the door opened and in came a giggling Grace with Bobby right behind her. "Okay, I'm worn out, I need a break, how about you take a turn Dad." Bobby said as they came in.
"Come on Mister Mike, let's go!" Grace yelled out as she grabbed at Mike's hand and tried to pull him up.
"Okay, okay, let's go" Mike answered as he got to his feet and left with Grace leading the way.
Bobby grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator and plopped down across from Don. "Wow, is she a little whirlwind or what?"
Don snickered a bit. "Yeah, she gets wound up and she really gets going."
Bobby stared at him for a few seconds before Don started to feel a bit uncomfortable.
"What?" Donny finally asked.
Looking down at the table for a minute, Bobby seemed to be gathering his thoughts. Finally, he looked back up at Don and smiled. "You know, you're really doing this, I mean, you're really a great dad."
Don's eyes caught his younger cousins. "That means a lot to me, thanks." He said quietly.
Bobby hesitated for a few seconds before starting again. "I had a talk with one of the city fellows, he said you had some trouble."
Don's eyes flared open. "How did you happen to do that?"
Bobby gave him a smirk. "Come on, you know how it is, everybody knows everybody."
"I didn't think they even recognized me."
"One of them did, but he didn't say anything, he just called me." Bobby replied and then paused before continuing. "But that's not the issue."
For the next few minutes, Don repeated the conversation he had with Mike. Bobby took it all in and then softly whistled. "I may not be the best detective in the world but something odd is going on. I think dad is right, I'm going to do some checking myself, not much to go on, but it may be good to run some background on everyone involved."
"What do you mean everyone?" Don asked sharply.
"Don, dad's right, you really don't know anything about anyone." Bobby quickly replied.
"You seem to suspect something?" Don asked, his face turning hard. "Or someone?"
Bobby took a gulp of water and set it down. He knew he would have to tread lightly with his next statement. "Don, I'm a cop, I suspect everyone, but let's face it, there's someone who has an interest in you getting in trouble."
Don shook his head. "No, I know where you're going damn it, and if it was just me, maybe. But I refuse to believe she would EVER endanger Grace."
"Don," Bobby began but was quickly cut off by the door opening.
"Daddy, Daddy, I'm hungry!" Grace exclaimed as she threw herself into Don for a hug.
Mike was laughing as he followed her in. "Hey we better get going Bobby, don't you have an early shift today."
Bobby quickly stood up and headed for the door. "Yeah, I do."
Mike quickly noticed the look on the two younger men's faces and after getting another hug from Grace, followed Bobby out the door.
"Hey, how about some lunch?" Don said as he lifted Grace up and twirled her around.
"YEAAA," she yelled as he set her back down.
While Don fixed sandwiches, Mike and Bobby were driving home.
"What happened with Don?" Mike asked cautiously.
Bobby gave him a quick glance before answering. "You don't miss a thing do you?"
Mike's face showed that he was to continue. "One of the city guys told me about Don's trouble, I asked and he told me the whole story."
"And?" Mike asked.
"I made the mistake of raising the obvious."
"Oh." Mike replied. "I suppose he didn't take it too well."
"Not a bit." Bobby hesitated but then went on looking over at Mike. "But that doesn't change the fact that it could be true."
Deep in thought, Mike stared out the window as they drove back to his house. Instead of just dropping him off, Bobby followed him inside. "What are you thinking Dad?" He asked as they both settled into seats in the living room.
Mike shook his head slowly before answering. "For the first time in a long time, I'm scared."
Bobby sat up quickly. "Scared, scared of what?"
"I've been having the same suspicions, and if we're right, I'm genuinely afraid for what he might do."
"You don't think he would hurt her, do you?" Bobby asked with deep apprehension in his voice.
"No, never, and that's the problem. He won't hurt Anne or Grace, but anyone else I'm not so sure of."
"Including himself." Bobby threw out, vocalizing a thought that he wished hadn't come to him.
"Including himself," Mike repeated.
'"What do we do Dad?"
"I don't know for sure, but the one thing I am sure about is that we don't know enough about everyone involved. That's step one."
"I'll run checks and backgrounds on everyone I can think of." Bobby said.
"And I'll find out what I can, my way." Mike said forcefully. "He's come too far to lose him now!"
"Do I want to know about your ways?" Bobby asked sheepishly.
Mike looked him dead in the eye. "No Sheriff, you don't"
Bobby stood up quickly, he got the message. "If I find anything, I'll let you know."
Mike got up and saw him to the door. Slapping his son on the back, he reiterated Bobby's statement. "Anything!"
As Grace shoveled down her peanut butter sandwich, Don's heart felt heavy over the mornings conversation. Could Anne be behind the mysterious problems he was having? That question kept going through his mind, but he was unable to come up with a logical reason why she would be. What would she have to gain? Would she really put Grace in danger? He knew that while he mattered little to someone like her, he believed that Grace did, and as he looked over at her finishing her breakfast, it brought back the train wreck that he knew was coming when Anne was out of her life.
Suddenly a thought came to him that caused him to push his own lunch aside. If he didn't keep Grace, could Anne end up with her?
May 9, 2018 in romance