The three of them walked abreast along a narrow road consisting of no more than two bare strips of dirt in the grass. What they had witnessed in the last hour required the silence of personal reflection. Their lives were now entwined with the two people they left alone in that building. Each of them had contributed in some way to that relationship. Each had walked away with something.
Len had gained four new friends. Protect and Serve took on a new perspective. To his right, walked the woman he might marry – Connie Spencer. To his left, her brother, Howard walked in reflective silence. Each still held the final pieces to the puzzle they left behind. For Len, those pieces were essential to wrapping up his case. Yet it was Howard who broke the silence first.
“I’ve got to hand it to you Len; I had it figured completely different. How did you unravel all that?”
“Sleuthing mostly, but it didn’t take me long to realize that most people give a lot away if you listen and observe profoundly.” Len paused and eyed the young lawyer respectfully. “You were a lot harder to read. There is one thing I still don’t understand – it’s out of character. Lisa said that when she was choking, you stood by and did nothing.”
Howard colored and shook his head. “She was having a hard time of it, but she was breathing. I was keeping my eye on Allen. He went straight to the driver’s side of his vehicle. When he opened the glove box, I was sure he’d come out with a gun, but he had a little tablet instead. By the time he got in his car and left, Lisa was recovering.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know why I kissed her. Well, yes I do, but I don’t know why I gave in to temptation at a time like that.”
“I do,” Len supplied instantly. “There is something about the way she looks at you when she needs your help – so vulnerable. I don’t think she has a clue how irresistible men find her. Maybe that’s part of her charm.”
Connie sighed. “She knows men are attracted to her beauty, but she doesn’t realize it’s merely what gets them to her door. Her personality is the attraction after that.”
Len took her hand. “Reminds me of someone else I know.” He was rewarded with an adoring smile.
“Yes,” he continued, looking at Howard. “I remember that little tablet. He must have gone straight from there to me. He sure was anxious to unload everything he knew about Giddon. There wasn’t anything on that tablet that I didn’t already know at that point, though. Ironically, it was something he told me Lisa said that gave me the idea to search somewhere else.”
Howard stopped and they all faced each other. “What was that?”
“Allen said she told him she didn’t know who Yancey was or what he did. He couldn’t understand why she would say that when she’d been living in his house so long. I had already searched for the name Yancey Giddon, but found nothing. Not even a birth date or social security number. I went to Lathum and told him what I had. I figured he’d be upset because I was still working on it. He was impressed that I had done so much on my own time and without breaking any rules - so impressed that he got me limited security access to do more sleuthing. I figured that if Giddon was using a pseudonym, he would have to either do his banking with his own name or fill out some kind of paperwork to do business under another name. I looked up pseudonym on-line to see how to do that. It had a lot of information about authors, which made me think of her term, temperamental – as in artists. Then I remembered her talking to me about the paintings on his walls. I looked up Andy Gordon and found lots of pictures of his paintings, but no pictures of him - and very little information about him. I thought that was odd. I finally searched the identity record in the US Copyright Office records for Andy Gordon and Yancey Giddon. That’s where I found the connection. Andy Gordon and Yancey Giddon are the same person.”
“But how did you know he wouldn’t do something to her to keep his secret. She did say he was temperamental,” Connie said.
“The day Allen attacked her; I talked to Lisa and Yancey on her front porch. Yancey encouraged her to file a police report, and she refused. She didn’t act like she was afraid of him. She acted like she was trying to protect him. Now, if I was trying to hide my identity, the last thing I would want her to do would be to file a police report while she was living under my roof. He did act hesitant about it, but his encouragement sounded sincere. That impressed me. It also told me he was willing to make a sacrifice for her protection. Lisa had time between when Howard left and Yancey arrived to call the police, but she didn’t. It was Yancey who called me. No, he wasn’t going to hurt her. It did cross my mind that Allen might have something to worry about, though.”
Howard grunted. “I suspected him right from the start. That’s why I talked to Allen.”
Connie caught her breath “So you were the one who told him how to get to the house. I trusted you with that information and you gave it to the one person she didn’t want to know.”
Howard shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground. “It wasn’t intentional. I thought I could get information from him, but as an informant, he was a pretty good spy. I had the address you gave me laying right there on my desk when he came in to talk to me. I feel bad about that.” He finally looked up at Len. “I could understand why Yancey...Andy would be chasing her, but if I’d have known she’d go for a guy older than me....”
“But he isn’t,” Connie broke in.
“I’ve been admiring Andy Gordon paintings for a decade,” Howard countered.
“Right. So has Lisa. She was the one who told me that he was a child prodigy. He sold his first painting at age fifteen – something like $17,000.” She shook her head in dismay. What are the odds that she’d ever meet him, much less marry him? And when she’s surrounded with his work, she still doesn’t recognize him. I’m surprised she didn’t figure that one out right away.” She sighed. “I guess it’s true. Love is blind.” She glanced quickly at Len. “Sometimes.”
Howard nodded. “I figured Yancey was dealing with some kind of contraband. That’s why I paid Allen for information. I knew he and Lisa had dated for a long time, and I knew they had a falling out, but I never thought he’d try to hurt her physically. I didn’t realize he had seen the address until later, anyway. I was busy researching the buyer. Lisa seemed to fear him more than she did Yancey.”
“Yeah,” Connie chimed in. “She told me she thought she loved Yancey, but at the same time she was having Howard investigate him. It’s almost like fear drew her to him.”
“Not fear, adventure.” Len said. “It’s been a game of matching wits for them from the beginning. His mood changes would drive the average person insane, but it supplied her with a constant source of mystery. He needs to take some anger management classes – as much for his own good as hers. From everything I’ve read, he’s always been unpredictable – sometimes even violent with inanimate objects. I read where he destroyed one of his own paintings in a fit of rage. By all accounts, he’s never been violent toward people or animals, though. I don’t think Lisa was ever actually afraid of him. I think her biggest fear was that she’d lose him. She didn’t want to believe he was doing something illegal, but it was fresh on her mind that the unthinkable actually does happen.” He shook his head. “I know how she feels. I always thought I knew what was going on out there. I was shocked at how harsh reality can be. It takes a while to adjust. I think helping Lisa has made me realize that one person can make a difference. You just have to work at it a little at a time. Each case I handle gives me that much more experience. For every tragedy, there is a possible happy ending. Lisa wasn’t looking for it, but when she saw it, she knew what it was.
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Author Linda Rigsbee