(Last Sunday: Chartan and Brazil engage in introspection while Gina tells Julie she is pregnant.)
Brazil glared at Julie: “Didn’t you ever think about why we got married an hour after meeting?”
Brazil watched tears roll down her cheeks. He hadn’t given their marriage day any thought and he wasn’t going to lie to make her stop crying.
“I’m moving back to my place for a few days,” he said. “I need time to think, be alone. Understand?”
They were standing a few feet apart from each other in the middle of Julie’s living room.
“I’ve never had anybody love me,” she said.
Brazil took a step forward and grasped her chin with the burly fingers of his right hand.
“I’ll be back. Is that good enough for now?” He eased his grip and dropped his arm to his side.
With eyes like wet rugs, Julie asked, “Do you love me?”
“Yes.” He gave her a quick kiss and left.
Twenty minutes later he opened the front door to a dark, 1,000-square-foot house that looked like all the others on the block. He hadn’t been in it for two weeks, or slept in the bed for over three months, yet, he knew he was home even though he could leave it tomorrow and never miss it. He sat down on a sofa and pulled out a wallet. The slip of paper was heavily wrinkled but he could read the 10 numbers—he didn’t recognize the area code.
With a cell phone pressed to his ear, he tried to slow his breathing. Funny, it’s like I’m nervous, like I want this call to take me away from the mess I’m in with Julie. Probably some clown selling cremation services.
Brazil blinked. The one-word response from a deep male voice caught him off guard.
“I’m calling the number I saw on a poster—I’m a combat vet.”
Brazil paced around the living room, replaying the brief conversation with Riley who said the number Brazil had called would be disconnected in an hour and that he’d have to wait for a call back. Brazil was a detective who didn’t like waiting.
A few minutes later his was staring at a computer screen. He typed in Riley’s phone number and within 60 seconds he had a dozen hits on Lexis Nexis. A ‘Riley Jackson’ lived in Niles, Ohio while a ‘Jackson Riley’ was located in Chester, New Jersey. The search term “military” went nowhere, but after pairing the name with ‘green beret’ up popped an article in Las Vegas Sun from two years ago. Jackson Riley had delivered remarks at a gathering of former members of the Green Berets, according to the paper. There was one quote from Riley: “We need to keep our skills sharp.”
Based on the research, Brazil put Riley’s age at 67. He created a file for the relevant documents with this notation: An old veteran with dangerous ideas. He’d found a distraction to help him forget Julie.
(Continued next Sunday)
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