17 April 2011

Into the Frying Pan

The sun was beginning to set when Jane pulled up to the small parking lot of the Lakeview Bar. Not her first choice of how to spend her precious few hours after work, but it was ideally suited for her purpose- hidden, out of the way, and exactly the kind of place Moe wouldn't be caught dead in. Of course, she had no experience in this situation. Where are you supposed to meet the private investigator whom you'd hired to track down the person sending you threatening emails because you know about a murder they most likely committed and refuse to tell your husband about it? But the PI had suggested the meeting place, and who was she to argue with someone like Jebediah Kane? He probably did things like this all the time.

"So, Mr. Kane... What news do you have for me?" No pleasantries, no small talk, just getting straight down to business. But after all, she was paying by the hour.

"Unfortunately, not much." The investigator shook his head. "I spent some time following the woman you told me about, Jenni Jones-Brown... Well, Jenni Baker, now, I should say," he corrected himself.

"Wait, what?" The last time Jane had seen Jenni, she'd been screaming at her on her front lawn about staying away from "her man"- aka, Chase. But now she was married?

"Yes, I actually know her from... somewhere else. Went to her wedding a few weeks ago, funnily enough. From what I hear, she's a piece of work." Jebediah rolled his eyes in disgust. He'd met Jenni when she'd hired him to follow her ex-boyfriend, and she'd been a regular customer ever since. From what he'd heard, she was living with both her husband and another man. She had kids with both of them, and word on the street was that she might be expecting a baby from a third man. A very married man. His wife had recently hired him to find out whether or not these allegations were true. The husband had doubled his money to make sure she never found out.

The citizens of Twinbrook were single-handedly funding the Kane children's college tuitions.

"At any rate, based on what you told me about that incident on your lawn, I agreed that she seems like the most likely candidate for your mystery murderer, so I followed her around for a bit, just to get down her daily routine. It's pretty much the same every day- the woman doesn't exactly lead an exciting life. Out of the bedroom, anyways." Jeb cleared his throat and turned to the next page in his notebook.

"Every morning, she goes to the gym and works out for an hour. Usually the treadmill, sometimes an elliptical, nothing really strenuous. Just enough to keep in shape. Then she heads to the market and gets groceries. Fairly standard stuff."

"After that, she usually heads to the consignment store to do some shopping. Occasionally she pawns some of her own stuff. I've seen her lugging boxes down there and coming back out with a fistful of cash." Jeb rifled through his notes. "She doesn't seem to talk to many suspicious characters. Mostly older men, single and married, but nothing out of the ordinary, at least for her." Jeb snorted in derision.

"After that, she does other errands. Goes to the Laundromat a lot, though she probably would have a lot of laundry to do with all the bastard children she's got running around. I've gotta say, Mrs. Pesce, everything seems on the level, as far as criminal activity is concerned," he concluded, putting his notepad away. "If I had to guess, I'd say Jenni wasn't your culprit. A bit of a whore, maybe, but not a murderer or vandal. Sorry I couldn't be of more help, ma'am."

She'd only known him for a few days, but she already disliked this Jebediah Kane. But what else had she expected from a private investigator? One suspect didn't work out and he was already willing to give up.

"Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Kane. I'll send you a check for the bill." Jane began to stand up.

"Well, hold your horses, Blondie. I didn't say I was done. I can keep looking at other suspects, of course," he pointed out, scowling grumpily. "There are a couple other contenders I can take a look at, and I can take a look at your computer, maybe do a little digging."

All of which spells more money, Jane thought wryly. But what price was her family's safety worth?

"Do whatever you have to," she assured him. "Just catch the damn bastard, I don't care about the cost."

Jebediah smiled. That was exactly what he'd wanted to hear.

After her meeting with Jebediah, Jane headed straight to the library. She'd been camping out there for the past few weeks; it was one of the only safe places to research Amy Jenkins' life and death. She'd had too many close calls with Moe peeking in on her or people like Angie dropping comments that might lead him to become suspicious. She'd already changed the password on her email three times, and it never felt like enough.

So the library had become her safe haven, a place where she didn't have to worry about Moe finding out that she'd been lying about stopping her investigation. Even if it was more like careful wording, rather than lying, she still felt horrendously guilty.

As she reached for a dusty and frayed book about Twinbrook's local artists, she heard a familiar voice call out her name.

"Hey! Jane, right?"

She turned around to see who had called her, and smiled warmly as she spotted the firefighter she'd interviewed about Amy Jenkins. "Hey, Matt! Nice to see you again," Jane greeted him.

"How's the investigation going?" Matt nodded to the book. "I hope my answers were at least a little useful."

"They were," Jane nodded, lying slightly. So far, nothing had been useful. "I'm just here looking up a bit about her artwork, to see if anything stands out."

"Find anything interesting yet?" Matt inquired.

She shook her head. "Nope, not yet. Well, a few things, here and there. Got an interesting lead the other day, as a matter of fact." More lies, but she couldn't help it. This was one of Amy's friends- she felt like she owed it to him to find the killer. Admitting she was getting nowhere felt like letting him down.

"Well, keep going!" he encouraged. "There's got to be something somewhere. I think we'll all sleep a bit better at night knowing whoever did this is behind bars."

"Thanks." Jane smiled ruefully. "At least you believe me! Between you, Angie, and Chase, that's about three people who do."

"Speaking of the devil!" Matt nodded towards the doorway where the stylist had just entered. "Hey, Angie!"

Angie smiled politely and paused for a second to greet them. "So, what are the two of you up to?" 

"I was actually just about to leave when I ran into Jane," Matt explained. "I hate to run out on you, but I should probably get going." He waved goodbye and loped down the front steps, leaving the two of them alone. 

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Angie said anxiously. "I'm glad I caught you, though- I did want to talk to you about some of the questions you asked me." They spent the rest of the afternoon discussing Amy, and Jane forgot all about the book she'd come there to read. 

The only thing Jane wanted to do when she got home was take a nice, warm bath. It had been a ridiculously long day, and she had absolutely no energy left. But when she walked into the house, Moe was blocking the entrance to their bedroom door. 

"Hey, Moe," she greeted her husband wearily. "Can I get by? I'm going to hop into the bath." 


"Um... what do you mean, no?" Jane was taken aback by her husband's uncharacteristically rude demeanor. 

"No, as in, no, I won't move. We need to talk." Moe was clearly standing his ground, but Jane had no idea what for. 

"Talk about... what?" she asked in confusion. 

"About you and Chase, and why the hell you're going around to his house and getting all lovey-dovey with him!" Moe announced angrily. 

"Okay, what?! That never happened! I have no idea what you're talking about!" Except that she knew perfectly well what he was talking about. But how in the world did he know? There was no way he had any proof. He hadn't been there, and Chase wasn't crazy enough to actually tell Moe anything... was he? 

"You can cut out your fake protestations, Jane." Moe's voice was coated in thinly-veiled rage. "I saw the pictures, okay? I know." 

"Wait, what pictures?" Jane was thoroughly confused now. Who the hell had been taking pictures of them? They'd been alone in his house. 
"I don't know, they just appeared on our doorstep in an envelope. I don't really care who took them, or when- all I know is that you've been lying to me." He threw the pictures down on the table in disgust. "I trusted you, Jane. Maybe not him, but I always trusted you. And then... this." 

Jane's eyes filled with tears as she realized just how much of a mess she'd made. "Listen, Moe... Nothing happened, okay? We were just talking, and it brought back some old memories... And he just touched my cheek, that's all. I left right afterwards." Unbidden desperation crept into her voice as she tried to get him to understand. 

"I don't believe you, Jane. I really don't. You've been acting so secretive lately, and now these pictures? If it was so innocent, why didn't you just tell me?" The more he pointed fingers and yelled at her, the worse Jane felt. 

"It really didn't mean anything, Moe. That's why I never told you. It just wasn't important, especially not with... everything else." She had to stop herself from mentioning her impromptu investigation. Something told her that wouldn't go over too well right now. 

"You can't say anything to make this better, Jane." Moe turned around and started to walk away, leaving Jane feeling heartbroken and helpless. She didn't know who'd taken those pictures, or who'd left them on their doorstep, but everything was going wrong somehow and she had no idea how to fix it. "Moe, please don't do this," she begged. "Can we just talk about it some more? It really was just an accident..."

"No, Jane, just leave me alone for a bit, okay?" Moe started to close the bedroom door, but stopped in horror when he glanced out the window. "Jane..." 

"Okay, I heard you the first time. I'll leave you alone," Jane added bitterly. 

"No, Jane! Turn around! I think the house is on fire!" Moe pointed behind frantically. 

Jane rushed over to the window, staring in shock at the waves of fire that were engulfing the garage. "Oh my God! Moe, call the fire department!" Even as she watched, the tendrils of fire started to jump from the garage to the roof of the kitchen. She backed away fearfully as the kitchen filled with oppressive heat. 

As Moe ran into the bedroom to grab Izzy, Jane looked around for the twins. "Ethan! Sophie!" As she looked around, she grew more and more frantic. 

"Mom?" Their voices echoed from the yard. She exhaled in relief and ran over to the door, pausing only to grab her purse and notebook. The twins wore matching expressions of fear and shock, and Jane wished that she could say anything to make them feel less afraid. But she couldn't- she couldn't even make herself less afraid. Not at a time like this.

Moe ran outside, gasping slightly as he carried Izzy. Already, the house was filling with thick black clouds of smoke. He hadn't had a lot of time to look at the damage on his way out, but what he had seen hadn't been reassuring. The flames had engulfed the entire kitchen, and were well on their way to spreading. 

The blare of the fire engine filled the night with a horrifying shriek, but to Jane and Moe, it was a reassuring sound of assistance- one that couldn't get there fast enough. Jane glanced at her husband, but he shook his head dismally. "Jane... it's not good." She blinked back tears, but kept silent. There was no point worrying the children any more than they already were. 

As the Pesces watched their home burn to the ground, all of their petty problems and arguments seemed to disappear. The memories they'd made there, the childhoods they'd formed, the experiences they'd shared... All of it was fading away before their eyes. None of them could speak; words were too painful. Jane slipped her arm around Moe's shoulder, and he didn't shrug it off. Their previous argument about Chase had escaped both of their minds- the only thing that mattered now was that they were all safe. Whatever happened next, they'd have to face it as a team. After all, there was nowhere to go but up now. Things would have to get better. 

But things were going to get far worse before then. 



... :-O!

First: Jeb is heellllaaa hilarious. Man. He looks SO young, too. I really love the scene of him and Jane--not just because it's Jeb, though. It's cool that Jane had Jenni stalked! Ha!

Hmmm... The library scene makes me scratch my chin. HM! So Matt and Angie are trying to help Jane catch the thief... MAYBE. *chin scratch*!

OH MAN. Well. Obviously the murderer knows Jane hasn't stopped snooping, because wow. Showing Moe her slip up? Starting their house on fire?! This guy/gal is seriously vindictive. O.O But something tells me that'll only make her more urgent to discover who it is!

(And now I can see why you were saying that Jane will likely stop being such a curious cat after this part, LOL. XD)

Awesome post, doll. Got some great shots of the house going up in flames, of their fight. And I'm in uber suspense for the end to come! :S

Nice scene with Jeb. Love that Twinbrook will fund the college funds of the Kane offspring.

:) It's Jeb, I wouldn't be surprised if he was threating her to get more business.

Oh dear, someone took photos and sent them to Moe. Their life is very complicated now. :)

Wow, what a way to end a fight. Massive fire that takes out the house. At least the family is out and safe.

@ Kaleeko: Thank you! I was worried about that scene, but it helped to run it by you ;) And really, who else would Jane suspect but Jenni? I mean, the chick threatened her once before, to her face.

As for Matt and Angie... well, their friend was killed, wouldn't YOU want to help catch the murderer?

The pictures... Well, we don't know who left those for Moe to find, or do we? ;) Burning down the house... That's been in the works for a long time. I've actually put it off quite a bit, because I wasn't sure if it'd be too much or not. But whatever, I like the drama.

I think Jane might be a lot more low-key with her investigations, but will she stop? It'll be tricky for her. Now it's become more ofa need to protect her family, rather than solve a mystery. And let's face it, she's a reporter. She's just too damn curious.

Thank you! Like I told you before, it took quite a few takes to get the fire just right. The screenshots above are from two different fires, and there was a third one where I got distracted by Fiddler on the Roof and... bad things happened. XD

@ PiB: Thanks! There is entirely too much drama going on in Twinbrook- and the sad thing is, I didn't make any of it up, outside of the Jane/Moe/Chase/Murderer stuff. Jenni really did do all of that stuff. As for Jeb- he's definitely not above doing something like that, is he? XD He's gotta make an "honest" living somehow.

Yeah, everyone got out safely (at least, in this take. Previous takes- Ethan may or may not have died).

This mystery is getting better and better and the dramatic finale of the house burning up was great--not great that their house burned up, just very intense drama.

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