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Posts tagged ‘mystery’

Tamper with Time

“Good morning cadets!” said Constable Lester.

“Good morning sir!” we returned in unison, on cue.

“Your assignments for today will be solved and unsolved historical crimes and solve it. You will be assigned according to your ability and you will only have access to the same technology they had at the time as well as the evidence,” briefed Constable Lester.

Everyone tittered in excitement. Historical cases allowed for us to utilize the police department’s training equipment including and not limited to combat simulators and time machines. And by the sounds of things of things, the Constable was hinting at individual assignments.

Constable Lester set out several cases about a hundred years between them so that we wouldn’t interfere with any of the other student’s progress.

“You will all be taken by time machine back to a few months before the crime is committed, not so that you can prevent it, but so that you can acclimatize and fit in with the locals. I know how all throughout your years here you’ve been trained to prevent rather than have to clean up after, but remember if we change the course of history, today as we know it may cease to exist, so be very careful what you do in the past. That’s why before you go you will be prepped by a historian of your designated time period. You will not have to operate the time machine alone, you will be dropped off and picked up by one of your teachers,” explained Constable Lester, “The rules state that the only change to history that will be tolerated is the provision of a solution to an unsolved crime. You must not be the one who takes the credit for it though, you must plant the idea into the mind of someone from that time period and have them take the credit. Questions?”

Everyone shook their head. We all wanted to know which time period and case we were to be assigned.

“Very well, let us begin,” nodded Constable Lester, pulling out a list of each student’s assignments, “Let’s just get this legendary case out of the way, Juliana, Victorian England, Jack the Ripper.”

Everyone groaned, that was a legendary case that everyone wanted to have, just to prove that they could handle it, to catch Jack. I paled. Such a high profile case meant high expectations. Constable Lester took no notice of the groans and continued reading off his list.

“Victoria, Hungary, 1500s, Elizabeth Bathory, Ivan, Russia, 1900s, Andrei Chikatilo…” droned Constable Lester.

It seemed forever before Constable Lester got to the end of our assignment list, but he finally did and when he did, he sent us off with different historians.

“Juliana, you are paired with William,” instructed Constable Lester.

I hesitantly got up and followed William out to an empty classroom. It had been pre-setup with all of William’s teaching materials, about the case and about Victorian England.

“How much do you already know?” asked William.

Using the pictures he had posted on the boards around the room, I listed off the details each of them signified, William looked very impressed.

“How do you already know so much?” he asked raising an eyebrow.

“Before I decided to go into the police force I spent a few years studying English literature from the Victorian period as well as Victorian England as part of my history degree. But those didn’t work out well for me, so I switched into my lifelong passion of policing.

“In that case, I think you’re ready to go,” said William beckoning me to follow him again.

He led me to the time machine room, where Constable Lester was waiting.

“Already?” asked Constable Lester, “I thought you said Victorians were complicated. How can you be sure that Juliana truly understands everything?”

“There was nothing to teach her,” laughed William.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Constable Lester confused.

“I mean that she was a history major who specialized in Victorian England,” answered William.

“Hardly,” I piped up, “I only took a few courses on Victorian England and English literature from the period.”

“Well, it’s far more extensive than what I had prepared, so I’d say you’re good to start on your case,” smiled William.

“Ready?” asked Constable Lester.

I bit my lip nervously and nodded.

William led me into the time machine with another constable.

“I’ll introduce you to some of my contacts when we get there. While you are there, you will live at my house,” said William.

***

“Juliana, this is Edward, the Assistant Commissioner,” introduced William.

“Pleasure to meet you,” I smiled offering my hand.

Edward took it and kissed it. I blushed, as if on cue.

Edward was a very good looking gentleman and in the 21st century I had a weak spot for men in suits. He was clean shaven, wispy blond hair and chocolate brown eyes that were flecked with gold.

“It’s rare, I must admit, for a lady to be in the police force, but I have been told that you are one of the best, so we certainly appreciate the assistance,” smiled Edward.

“I hope that you don’t find it too improper,” I murmured.

“It is a bit,” said Edward, “But London is a big city with rampant crime. As I said, your help is much appreciated.”

***

“Juliana…you wouldn’t think me improper if I asked you to dinner, would you?” asked Edward late one night, the Ripper murders were to take place.

Of course no one except I knew that something was going to happen. Tipping him off about a crime that was about to happen was definitely a big no-no.

“What I think doesn’t really matter,” I said quietly, “It’s what my family thinks.”

Edward smiled, “For a lady working in the police force in a time when it’s not normal for a lady to work and seen as respectable, you are very traditional.”

“Well…”I said hesitantly.

It was dangerous for me to fall in love. Any tampering with history would destroy the future, but I was only human, what could I do?

“Dinner sounds lovely,” I smiled.

He took me on his arm and helped me up into his carriage.

I learned from my months there, Edward was the son of the Earl of Bath. He didn’t really have to work, but he did. To be involved with someone like him made my heart protest. He was a gentleman, a species long extinct in the 21st century. It was a dream come true to meet a type that had haunted my dreams for far too long.

“Juliana, I hope you won’t be upset with me, but I may have told you a small lie,” said Edward midway through the carriage ride, interrupting my thoughts.

My heart skipped a beat. My overactive imagination took over and I thought maybe he was Jack the Ripper.

I tried to be calm and asked softly, “Where are you taking me?”

Edward smiled, “My sister is having a party at the house, so dinner won’t be quite as we had planned.”

“A party? I’m not dressed properly,” I protested.

“It’s a simple Western party,” shrugged Edward, “We can stop by a place I know to buy some clothes for you.”

“Why Western?” I asked curiously.

“For us, the West, America, holds a certain fascination for us,” smiled Edward.

“Just like the Victorians and Elizabethans hold a fascination for us in the 21st century,” I thought.

“You’re from America right?” asked Edward.

“Canada,” I corrected.

“Apologies. Do you know what your southern neighbour’s western wear is like,” asked Edward.

“I’m pretty sure I do,” I laughed, “It’s not hard to figure out.”

I was from Calgary, “cow town.” Western was second nature to me.

“I’m not usually one to ask, but will you help me choose something suitable to wear?” asked Edward timidly.

“Of course,” I nodded.

***

“Are you sure it’s supposed to be worn this way?” asked Edward, twisting to look at the back of his duster.

“Yes,” I reassured for the hundredth time.

“It doesn’t feel right,” protested Edward.

“How do you know how it’s supposed to feel?” I asked stifling a laugh.

“I don’t, just clothes shouldn’t feel this uncomfortable,” said Edward.

“Uncomfortable, coming from a Victorian seems a bit ironic,” I thought with a smile.

“Let’s just go before your sister questions your tardiness,” I sighed, slapping his hand away as he tried to readjust his hat again.

***

“Edward!” exclaimed his sister, Lady Phillipa, “Who’s your lady friend?”

“Colleague,” said Edward both embarrassed and proudly.

“Just a colleague?” teased Phillipa.

“Yes,” said Edward firmly.

“Sure,” said Phillipa, winking at me.

I was dressed like a Southern Belle and I was glad that I had curly blond hair so I didn’t look completely ridiculous.

“Edward, who is this?” asked an older lady I supposed was his mother.

“My colleague, Lady Juliana,” introduced Edward.

“A woman is your colleague?” clarified the older lady.

“Yes, I know what you’re going to say, but she’s not a new woman,” said Edward defensively.

“But she’s working?” she said.

“Yes,” nodded Edward.

“In the London police force?” she continued.

“Yes,” said Edward, edging on impatient.

“Are you courting her Edward?” demanded the lady.

Edward hesitated for a minute, “Yes!”

“She really is very beautiful,” interjected Phillipa.

“Yes, but that’s besides the point,” said the lady huffily.

“I think that’d be romantic! Like…like all those gentlemen in the South of the United States and the beautiful Southern Belles, I think you would be one of them,” complimented Phillipa.

“Get your head on straight, young lady! There is nothing romantic about Edward marrying a servant girl!” scolded the older lady.

I sighed, “With all due respect Duchess, I have no intention to disappoint you. Though it appears that I have captured the heart of Lord Edward, I know that I can never marry him. “

What I had to say next broke my heart, “I’m already engaged to someone back home.”

Edward’s face fell and I wanted to hug him the way we did in the 21st century, but I wasn’t in the right time to act in that way.

The older lady smiled triumphantly and glided away.

“I don’t doubt it! You’re so beautiful, who wouldn’t propose to you!” exclaimed Phillipa excitedly, “A bet he’s a southern gentleman!”

I looked at Edward bashfully, “I hope you don’t think me rude to have lied to your mother.”

Edward looked at me surprised, “My, my you never fail to surprise me. I suppose I lied earlier, so I should pardon you for doing so yourself.”

I laughed, “Let’s grab a bite, I’m famished.”

Edward nodded and followed my lead.

***

After a couple dozen dances and mingling with the party guests, I made my way back to Edward, who I had somehow lost in the duration of the evening.

“Edward, it’s getting late, I should go home,” I whispered gently in his ear as I passed on the way out.

“Please, allow me to escort you home,” offered Edward, catching me around the waist.

I smiled, “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” returned Edward.

Edward helped me up into his carriage and we headed to my apartment. To get to my apartment we had to pass through Whitechapel and I dreaded. It would be the first time seeing one of the Ripper’s victims in something that was not a picture.

As we passed through Whitechapel, the carriage suddenly stopped, sending me flying into Edward in the seat across from me.

“What’s the matter?” demanded Edward angrily, helping me up onto the seat next to him.

The driver turned around, his face pale with cold sweat running down his face.

“Sir…” he started in a shaky voice.

“Why have we stopped?” Edward asked, opening the door of the carriage.

He took a step out of the car and froze in his tracks. A look of horror passed over his face as he grabbed the edge of the carriage door frame to steady himself.

“Juliana, stay in the carriage,” ordered Edward.

“What’s the matter?” I asked feigning stupidity.

“You do not want to see this,” said Edward.

“Edward, what is going on?!” I asked, even though I knew what to expect.

“Fine, you might as well come out,” sighed Edward relenting, “I’m sure we’ll end up with this case anyhow.”

“Case?” I echoed, stepping out.

No amount of preparation would prepare me for the sight of Mary Ann Nichols mangled body lying in the middle of the road. Her throat had been slit by two very deep cuts that had probably severed her jugular vein and/or carotid artery. The lower part of her abdomen was sliced open as well as several slits around her abdomen. It appeared as though her attacker had medical experience and something against prostitutes. I grabbed the door frame of the carriage to steady myself. Everything was hazy and spinning; Edward ran forward to support me.

“Call an officer on duty,” Edward ordered his driver,guiding me back to the carriage.

The driver took off yelling as he went.

Edward sat me down at the edge of the carriage and put his arm around me.

“Are you okay?” asked Edward tenderly.

He removed his duster and wrapped it around me.

I nodded, “We should see what we can glean from this crime scene before it gets contaminated.”

Edward looked at me in shock, “You’re already ready to get to work?!”

“I didn’t think I would be sleeping tonight,” I joked.

“I don’t think so,” sighed Edward, “I’m taking you home.”

His driver returned with an officer on duty.

“I want you to cordon off this area, I’ll be back in a while to deal with this,” ordered Edward, helping me into the carriage.

“Is there anyone who can stay with you?” asked Edward.

“William,” I answered, “Are you sure I can’t help?”

Edward shook his head, “Not tonight.”

***

“Hey, William, I’m a strong, independent woman right?” I asked, making myself a cup of hot chocolate in the kitchen.

“Depends how you define that,” grinned William.

“Oh, stop,” I said, smacking him.

“Then yes,” said William, “Where are you going with this?”

“You think that I can propose to someone?” I hinted.

“No,” said William flatly, “Don’t even think about it. Don’t mess up the time-space continuum.”

“Oh, I wasn’t thinking of Edward,” I grinned.

“Then who?” asked William confused.

“Just someone I know,” I laughed.

“Yeah, who?” repeated William.

“A guy,” I continued.

“Juliana, you’re driving me nuts!” exclaimed William.

“He’s handsome and has a sweet Russian accent and wears a cowboy duster. Or sometimes he’s a dandy dabbling in the underground world. Or even an undead evil creature of the night,” I said dreamily.

“Undead evil creature of the night, wait who are you talking about?” demanded William.

“Oh, just a couple guys I’m considering proposing to,” I laughed.

“I would not propose to the dandy or the evil creature of the night,” suggested William doubtfully.

“Well that’s narrowed it down for me,” I smiled.

“Does he have a name?” asked William.

“Dimitri,” I answered, “Dimitri Belikov.”

William groaned, “Juliana! Go to bed!”

I laughed, “I’m sorry William, I’m just bored out of my mind.”

“Well you did just pretend to be a fragile lady and almost faint,” said William dryly.

“I’m sure Edward wouldn’t have allowed me to do anything anyways,” I said.

“Yes, well, you are taking this case, everything has been arranged so that it is the only course of action that Edward will choose,” said William.

“Alright, good night I supposed,” I sighed.

***

After months of working on the Ripper case with all his gruesome crime scenes, I was beginning to become desensitized and appreciative of his brand, though grotesque, of art. I didn’t want either, but nonetheless working with the Ripper had hardened me.

Late one Friday evening, when only Edward and I remained in the office, did he dare approach me about my plans for the long weekend.

“This case is going nowhere!” exclaimed Edward, pushing his chair away from his desk and leaned back into it, “We’re no closer to catching him than we were when we found Mary Ann Nichols!”

He stood, slamming his fists down on the table startling me.

“That’s no reason to get physically violent,” I chided.

“Apologies,” said Edward sheepishly.

“I think you’ve overworked yourself and need to take some time to refresh your mind. Go out of town or something this weekend and don’t you dare think about work,” I suggested, “An overly stressed mind will not yield you any useful results.”

“I suppose you have a point,” conceded Edward, “Do you have any plans for this weekend?”

“Not particularly, did you have something in mind?” I smiled.

“Have you heard of Kenilworth?” inquired Edward.

“It was a 14-19 day event, I say 14-19 because there is a debate amongst some scholars about the length. Anyways, it was hosted by the Earl of Leicester, Robin Dudley for Queen Elizabeth’s summer progress in 1575,” I said.

“You are well-informed!” exclaimed Edward delighted, “Well there is something like that that is happening this weekend, I was wondering if you cared to join me?”

“What will your mother say?” I asked worriedly.

“Why would my mother care?” asked Edward confused.

“Well she thinks I’m engaged, remember?” I said.

“Oh…yes,” said Edward absentmindedly, “That would look so improper, unless…”

“Unless what?” I demanded.

“Unless we say the engagement was broken off,” grinned Edward.

“You’re more mischievous than I gave you credit for, you scoundrel. Look, it doesn’t matter to me how we cover up our lies, I’m still going to get called an unsavoury name any way I go about this,” I sighed.

Edward laughed, “I’ll stop by around 10 tomorrow morning, does that suit you?”

I nodded standing, “Good night Edward.”

“Good night Juliana,”

***

“Good morning Juliana,” greeted Edward, “Have you packed an overnight bag?”

“No, why?” I asked, thrown off by the question.

“Well, I thought we could stay there for a couple of days,” said Edward looking injured, “Just to take our minds off the case.”

“No, you’re absolutely right, this would be good for the both of us,” I said, “Just to get away for a little while.”

“Wonderful!” smiled Edward.

“Well come in,” I invited, “There’s no use making you wait outside for twenty or more minutes. Does your driver want to come in for a moment?”

Edward stepped inside and closed the door.

“I don’t have a driver this time. It’s just going to be me and you this weekend,” said Edward.

I smiled wanting to give him a hug, but knowing my place, I refrained.

“Would you like me to help?” offered Edward.

Noticing my awkward embarrassed stare at the ground, he quickly rephrased, “Not with anything personal…just any heavy lift, and maybe…no, just heavy lifting.”

I laughed, “Alright.”

Edward lifted my case from the top shelf of my closet and set it gently before me.

***

We made good time despite my last minute packing. We checked into our hotel close to the fairgrounds. Our rooms were adjacent to one another and we went up to drop off our bags before heading to the fair. Edward took me on his arm and together we walked through the gate into Wonderland.

It was dazzling, just like walking into a Victorian Disneyland, only better. Greek Gods and Goddesses roamed the park like they owned the thing, fairies flitted between guests, there was even a steam powered dragon terrorizing patrons, and King Arthur and his knights rescuing damsels in distress. I felt like a child again, in awe of everything a hundred times over and over again.

Some fairies fluttered over and encircled us throwing flower petals like fragrant rain upon us. They linked hands and danced merrily around us, chanting a prophecy:

A pretty princess dressed in pink
A high lord not far from the throne
A love doomed to be
A Romeo to her Juliet
For unbeknownst she comes from a future past
And he is bound in time
Tied to custom and codes of chivalry long forgotten
She, though free
Is fettered by duty to the people of the world
Doomed, doomed, doomed
Is this sweet innocent love

They disappeared as quickly as they had come leaving me shocked speechless.

“Juliana? Are you unwell?” asked Edward, worriedly as my face had gone paper white.

I nodded, still speechless.

“You don’t actually believe their prophecy do you?” asked Edward incredulous.

I nodded again.

“Oh for heaven’s sake Juliana…” sighed Edward.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled running back to the hotel.

The only thing I could think of was to call William, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t deny I have feelings, that I don’t love him. I’m in too deep, I’ve gotten too close. If this goes on…I don’t know how much more of this I can han–”

A knock on the door interrupted me mid-sentence.

“Just remember Juliana, make sure whatever you choose to do, you make sure you exit is smooth. He won’t remember you after you go, but don’t be reckless with him. Some things can never be forgotten. If you must, give him a token, that doesn’t matter because no matter how much he looks into it, he will never remember you,” advised William.

“Thank you,” I said quietly, hanging up.

I went to the door.

In front of me stood the Duchess of Bath frowning.

“Your ladyship,” I said uncertainly.

“Don’t even pretend you belong in our sphere of influence! Don’t you dare go near my son again! Leave, just pack your things and leave. You had no right coming here with him. Don’t tell Edward a thing, just go and I’ll forgive you for this gross transgression,” she said her eyes flashing with violent anger, “But if I find you courting Edward again, I will make sure you wished you had never been born. Do I make myself clear?”

I trembled and nodded.

“Mother?” called Edward, from the end of the hallway, making his way towards us.

The Duchess spun around with a smile plastered to her face, “Oh, hello Edward.”

“Not a word,” she growled at me, loud enough only for me to hear.

“Are you berating my Juliana?” demanded Edward, aggressively, coming to my side.

“Berating, heaven forbid I would do something so cruel. No, we were just having a chat,” simpered the Duchess, “Besides, she’s betrothed, how can she be your Juliana?”

“There has been some complications, she’s now betrothed to me,” said Edward, putting his arm around my waist.

“Excuse me?” exclaimed the Duchess affronted.

“Though you are my mother and I respect your decisions, I am master of myself and will choose to give my affections to whomever I see fit,” stated Edward.

“What if she was a prostitute?” said the Duchess smugly, as though the one question could ruin everything, “Would you lower yourself in such a demeaning way?”

“The point is, is that she isn’t a prostitute and your ‘what if’ is invalid. And you forget mother, you were once a simple country girl. A title, manor, and city life has let the power go to your head,” reminded Edward gently.

“Like father, like son,” sneered the Duchess.

“Don’t you dare disrespected my father,” ordered Edward authoritatively, “He died protecting the values of this family; I will not have you drag his name or memory through the dirt.”

The Duchess shrank back in fear.

“Father loved you far too much to see past your follies. He loved you so much so that he allowed you to commit far too many cruelties. Don’t think for one second I won’t hesitate to turn you out onto the streets,” continued Edward.

She stared at him in horror. The thought of scrounging for food amongst peasants disgusted her.

“Not another word about Juliana out of you, do you understand?” said Edward firmly.

She nodded meekly and disappeared into her room down the hall.

“Thank you Edward,” I said quietly.

“Not at all,” smiled Edward affectionately, “But I’d like a word with you in private.”

I nodded and let him into the sitting room in my suite.

“Firstly, I want to know why that prophecy bothered you so much,” asked Edward.

“Because it spoke the truth,” I said vaguely.

One of the rules of time travel was that no one in the time we traveled to could know about it, but seeing as I had broken a dozen other rules about time travel it didn’t make any difference if I broke another. Besides, after all this was said and done, Edward wouldn’t remember a thing.

“But time travel doesn’t exist,” urged Edward.

“Not a word to anyone,” I said, lowering my voice, “Promise me.”

Edward nodded and leaned closer.

“Time travel exists where I come from,” I answered.

“Where and when are you from?” asked Edward curiously.

“Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2218,” I answered.

Edward looked at me in awe, but then the realization hit him and his face fell.

“You’re only here to catch the Ripper and leave isn’t that right?” he asked crestfallen.

“I’m a cadet at a police academy, this was just another assignment, but I became too attached…emotionally, I have to go,” I said, trying to control my emotions.

“To me?” asked Edward surprised.

“Yes, to you,” I confirmed.

Edward looked at me speechless, as though he had never known how I had felt. I stood to leave.

“Wait, will I remember any of this? Will I remember you?” asked Edward uncertainly.

“Luckily for you, you’re going to forget all this pain,” I said, “I’ll never forget though.”

“Wait, I have something for you. Something that may help with the pain,” said Edward, “A token to remember the happy times we had together.”

He opened a box with a beautiful diamond ring in it. It was a pair engagement rings, one for the each of us.

“I can’t,” I said.

But he insisted, slipping the ring onto my finger and putting the other one.

“I promise never to marry. I will never find someone as dazzling and inspiring as you,” whispered Edward in my ear.

I threw my arms around him, fighting back tears. He leaned in and kissed me tenderly. I wished the moment would never end, but I knew it had to.

I cut a lock of hair and handed it to him.

“Tomorrow when you wake up you won’t remember anything. That lock of hair will mean nothing to you, but you’ll have the Ripper’s name and you will have the credit and a place in history for being the man who single-handedly caught Jack the Ripper,” I said handing him a sealed envelope.

He looked at me in surprise, “I don’t want to forget you. Someone like you should never be forgotten. I’m sorry we were not born in the same era; your talents would have made you shine. How long had you known who the Ripper was? Was it last night? Or sooner?”

I gave him a small smile and walked away.

Good bye my fancy.

***

When I returned to London, I was still in tears. I had finally found my prince charming, but I couldn’t bring myself to break the rules and let myself be in love with him.

“Juliana, I thought…did you not go with Edward out of town this morning?” asked William, when I came into the apartment.

I shook my head and wiped away my tears again, “I caught the last train back.”

“Oh…Juliana…what happened?” asked William embracing me.

“It’s done. I’ve given him the name of the man we once knew as Jack the Ripper. He has a name and he as a face and Edward will get the credit for this breakthrough,” I sobbed.

William nodded knowingly, “Then it’s time to go.”

***

I returned to the academy and headed straight to the archives. My heart was aching far too much to concentrate on much else. I had to know what had become of Edward.

I went to the history books that detailed the lives of prominent aristocrats and flipped through it until I came across Edward. The first six pages were background information on Edward’s childhood. It was interesting, but it didn’t matter to me. I read about how he discovered who Jack the Ripper was and how he went on to solve several high profile cases including a joint case that led to the conviction of H.H. Holmes. On the last page was a full length photograph of Edward. He still wore his matching ring in the photograph. Underneath the picture was a small paragraph: Lord Edward Windsor, Earl of Bath died at age 45, unmarried and without children. His large estate was donated to a girl’s boarding promoting greater female involvement primarily in the police force.

Prompt: Rework an existing piece (either one created during this challenge or else a previous work from before this challenge) [this piece was from last summer’s August Writing Challenge]

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Moving on

His picture framed sat on my desk as it had for two years. I couldn’t bear to look at it, but equally could not bear to have it removed. He had meant something to me once, but now he was dead and gone. Moved on with his life. He was probably somewhere in the world, happily married, enjoying a cool refreshing beer on the sunset beaches of Hawaii. I could only imagine how great his life had become as mine dwindled to nothing. I wasn’t bitter. It was for the best. But yet it hurt and I found it hard to move on.

It was late on Friday night, I had expected that all the younger employees and clerks had gone home or out to party. For that reason I loved working Friday nights, it was in fact the only evening I could work undisturbed. But tonight was different. Of course it had to be. I had looked at his picture. I had wondered about him. I had speculated on his wonderful life abroad. How could tonight be the same after all that?

“Alice? You still here?” called Maximilian, my senior partner, sticking his head in my office.

“Yes,” I returned.

“Do you have a moment?” he asked.

I nodded, clearing away my notes for my latest case.

“Done? I can file it for you if you are,” he offered.

“What’s up, Max?” I asked, cutting to the chase.

“There’s a client here to see you. I offered to take him, I know you’ve been busy as of late, but he refused. He insisted that he must see you and that it was urgent. So, if you’d like, I’ll file those for you,” recounted Maximilian.

“That would be nice, thank you,” I nodded, “Show him in. Or get a clerk to if any are still around.”

Maximilian smiled, “No, they’ve all gone off to some bar for the night.”

I returned his smile, “Then if you don’t mind.”

Maximilian nodded, I handed him the file, and he headed down the hall into the waiting room. I only had to wait for a few minutes before I heard a soft knock against the hard oak door.

“Come in,” I said.

The knocker hesitantly pushed his way in. It was him.

“Christian-I, what can I do for you?” I asked standing, though caught off guard.

“Good evening Alice, I’m sorry if this is a bad time. I was hoping you could help me with a situation,” started Christian, looking visibly distressed.

“Please, have a seat. I would offer you some coffee, but it’s a bit late for that. Can I get you something else perhaps? Water?” I offered.

Christian sat, shaking his head and played with his fingers the way he used to in high school.

“I’m sorry I never called…that I never tried after…” began Christian, licking his lips.

“Please, don’t make this more uncomfortable that this already is. What is your situation? I will do my best to assist you,” I said, cutting him short.

“Do you remember Alana?” said Christian.

“How could I forget? She was my best friend,” I returned.

I knew where this was going.

“Last month I asked her to marry me. Spent a fortune on her ring, nearly $3 million…the problem is…is that well it was a fake. When I bought it for her it was most certainly real, now some time between the purchase and my proposal, it must have been stolen. It’s the only explanation! She’s had the ring on the entire time, no one could have taken it from her finger and switched it. The only logical explanation is that it was stolen in the time I was contemplating the proposal after its purchase,” said Christian agitated.

“Who had access to the ring?” I asked, pulling out a spare notebook.

“No one,” answered Christian, “No one else knew I was going to propose. It was an impromptu kind of thing. I was just walking back to the office from lunch when it caught my eye and I though that I had to have it. That it was finally time to ask her to marry me.”

“The jeweler would have known,” I said dryly.

“Yes, well, why would he steal it?!” exclaimed Christian.

“To swindle you out of $3 million,” I stated.

“So you think he never put the real ring into the box and instead gave me the fake?” asked Christian.

“Did he put the ring in the box in front of you?” I asked.

Christian frowned, “I’m not sure. I was too hyped up on excitement to be positive about seeing him put the ring away in front of me or not.”

“Does Alana know?” I inquired.

Christian shook his head, “I don’t think she does. I don’t think she can tell the difference between genuine and imitation diamonds.”

“What’s the catch?” I sighed.

“Well she was completely oblivious until one of her coworkers pointed out that it was cheap plastic and then she lost it on me. She accused me of insulting her intelligence by claiming a piece of plastic to be a $3 million ring. I was absolutely appalled and upon re-examination was horrified that she didn’t have the ring I had purchased,” said Christian, “Do you think you can find it?”

I looked over my notes; I had some ideas, some places to start.

I shrugged, “You know it’s a Friday night right?”

“Please Alice. I’ll pay anything you ask. I’ll pay you double any price you’re accustomed to getting,” begged Christian.

“I’ll think about it. I’ll call you in the morning Christian,” I said firmly.

Christian nodded, still upset, but was powerless to do anything else. He rose, still dazed and headed out the door. I looked back down at my notes and when I looked up again found Christian lingering in the doorway.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing, I just…forgot to say good night to you,” said Christian.

I smiled, “Good night Christian.”

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The next morning I headed back down to the office and found Maximilian was already working away on the case file.

“Excuse me? Did you go into my office without my permission?” I said.

“Sorry, it sounded like an interesting case,” apologized Maximilian.

“He was my ex…” I said.

“Oh…my God, I’m so sorry. Did you want to say no?” Maximilian said, thoroughly embarrassed.

I laughed, shaking my head, “No, you’re right, this is an interesting case. Tell me what you’ve found.”

“Shouldn’t you call him?” asked Maximilian raising an eyebrow.

“Brief me first,” I said.

“Ok, so I’ve called up our private detective, he’s out digging up information on Alana and Christian. Both on their relationship as well as their personal lives. Is there anything you want to add?” explained Maximilian.

“That’s it?” I asked unimpressed.

“I came in five minutes ago!” exclaimed Maximilian defensively.

“Oh, well, good job then,” I laughed.

I called Christian telling him that I would take the case; he was overjoyed.

“What do I know? Well Christian and I started dating when I was in grade 10 and he was in grade 11. He was everything you could ever hope for in a boyfriend, loving, attentive, rich,” I started, “We were always thought of as the couple most likely to succeed. Well, that clearly fell apart because on the evening of my graduation I found him in the bathroom having sex with my best friend…it…it was hard…”

Maximilian looked at me sympathetically, but said nothing to comfort me.

“That was Alana. I was more hurt by it than I was angry. I left in a cab and the next day, well…they both tried to apologize to me saying that they were drunk and didn’t know what they were doing, but I knew better. There had been no alcohol and neither of them were smart enough to smuggle any into their systems. I was in a hard spot because I was pregnant with Christian’s child. He had promised everything would be taken care of that he would be there for me and stuff, but then he and Alana-and I just told them it didn’t matter. That I would be alright by myself,” I continued, “They believed my lie. They moved on together and two months after my graduation I gave birth to a baby boy. I barely had time to acclimatize before I had to start university. But Christian kept his word and started paying child support once he received news of the birth of his child. Yeah, it was arranged through the courts and stuff, but he’s never missed a payment. He never comes to visit Valentine, but has no problem paying extravagant amounts of money…”

“Was Alana ever upset that you had Christian’s child?” asked Maximilian.

I nodded, “Alana can’t have children and Christian’s always wanted to have children…I mean they’ve discussed other options, but Alana has always been upset about artificial mean of producing a child.”

“How did Alana come off as to you? Smart? Stupid? Slut?” inquired Maximilian.

“She was decent. Not a genius, but she had a brain,” I said.

“Could she have been able to tell the difference between plastic and a diamond?” pressed Maximilian.

“Yes,” I answered, “She’s not that stupid.”

“That’s what I thought. We’ll wait for our detective to get back to us,” nodded Maximilian.

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

“Yes? Ok, thank you, yes, ok, thanks, bye,” said Maximilian hanging up the phone.

“Well?” I asked expectantly.

“It’s as we thought; Alana is more than she appears to be. She has been involved in no less than fourteen hundred black market sales of rare and expensive goods,” started Maximilian.

“Fourteen hundred?!” I exclaimed, dumbstruck.

Maximilian nodded, “The latest sale?”

“No way…” I said in disbelief.

“Yes,” agreed Maximilian.

“Why?” I asked, utterly confused.

“Because she needs the money to support her drug habit and husband in France,” answered Maximilian.

“Kay, hold up a sec, where the heck is our detective getting this information?! This does not sound reliable,” I interjected.

“Yeah, the drugs sounds a bit fishy,” agreed Maximilian.

“So does the husband!” I said.

“Apparently that one checks out. Our detective called up the husband in France and he confirms that Alana Conners is indeed his wife,” countered Maximilian.

“But the drugs?” I asked.

“Might be a cover,” suggested Maximilian.

I nodded slowly, “Maybe it’s time to call Christian in and ask him some questions.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

“WHAT?!” exclaimed Christian, “No, show me some proof.”

“Does a facsimile work for you?” asked Maximilian.

“What’s it of?” questioned Christian.

“Her marriage certificate,” said Maximilian, handing him the fax.

Christian sank into a chair as he read the names on the certificate.

“It can’t be…I can’t believe it. Alice did you know?” said Christian, repeating himself several times.

I shook my head, “This was all news to me. Apparently, she has three kids with this guy, so that thing she told you about not being able to reproduce…that’s all a lie. You see her youngest requires some very expensive treatment for her cystic fibrosis and their family can’t afford it. What better way than to cozy up to a nice rich gentleman and sell everything he gives you and everything he owns to pay for your daughter’s treatment?”

“Oh my God…I thought…I thought that it was my staff. It was her all along? And the ring? She sold the ring?” asked Christian, still having a hard time taking it all in.

“Yeah, I’m really sorry Christian…I wouldn’t have wished this on anyone,” I apologized.

Christian lapsed into a silence.

“I’m sorry Alice for having to put you through all this,” he said at last, “Stirring up old feuds is never fun. I never should have said those things to you, never should have said good bye…I couldn’t see the good I had until I lost it…oh Alice…I’m so sorry.”

“You can stop apologizing, Christian. Valentine and I have grown accustomed to our lifestyle and you’ve always been good in supporting him in whatever he does,” I said gently.

“Do you ever think I could ever be a part of your life again?” asked Christian timidly.

I shook my head, “I’m sorry Christian. You broke my heart once, I’m not about to let it happen again. But for Valentine’s sake you can have your visitation rights back. That is, if you want them. I think he deserves to know who his father is.”

Christian nodded sadly, “I have a lot of regrets, Alice. You are one of them. I will never be able to replace the moments I’ve taken away from you and Valentine. And I can never repair what I’ve done to you. But you’re right, Valentine deserves a father and despite all that I’ve done wrong I’m determined to make things right, especially for him.”

Christian rose, heading towards the door.

“I’ll see you in court on Monday then?” I called to him.

“You’ve got it, nine A.M. sharp,” smiled Christian calling back over his shoulder, “For Valentine.”

Prompt: Write the story of the words that broke your heart.

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