Between Bianca and River’s work schedules, it was difficult for the entire family to get together at the same time. Whenever those opportunities presented themselves, it was all the more sweet and a welcomed break for Melody. One Sunday afternoon, the Sheridans decided to drop in unannounced. Maurice was in the living watching TV when he heard his grandparents coming up the walkway. He ran outside to meet them.
“Hey there, Maurice! Guess we can’t sneak up on you, huh?” She bent down and gave him a tight squeeze.
“Nope! I can hear everything!”
She laughed to herself and said, “I’ll bet you can.” Poor kid, he he.
Meanwhile, Giancarlo was already inside catching up with River.
“Riv! My favorite son-in-law…”
“Heh, are you allowed to have a favorite, Giancarlo?”
“Hey…I’m getting old…I do and say what I want,” Giancarlo said.
“I know that’s right. This is a nice surprise! Melody is feeding Harmony right now, and then it’ll be time for her nap. She’ll be out in a bit.”
“Of course. Well…I can see her anytime. You on the other hand are very hard to catch…” Giancarlo paused to see if River would catch on, and he did.
River’s shoulders slumped, and he looked at the floor and sighed. “I know. I’ve been working a lot.”
“I know,” Giancarlo said. “And that’s honorable. I totally respect you for that. You’re still young, you still have young kids, and your life is crazy busy so I know it’s hard for you to see sometimes, but–
“Ahem…” Bianca had just come in and saw Giancarlo and River alone in the same room. She had a few ideas of what that conversation was about and decided that it was neither the time nor the place. They were there for a social visit, not parental lectures.
“Uh oh,” Giancarlo said. “The warden is here. Quick, change the subject to sports or something!”
River laughed. “You are a crazy crazy man, Giancarlo. How have you dealt with him all this time, Ms. Bianca?”
“I keep him locked in the basement when we’re at home. He doesn’t know how to act when I let him out,” she said.
“Today, I got food and water,” Giancarlo said.
River laughed and shook his head at the pair. He loved to be around them. Their playful love was encouraging to him. It was a comfort to know that even after 38 years of marriage to the same person the spark could still be there. He and Melody’s love occassionally had a playful edge to it, but lately things had been very serious. But, he kept the faith and believed that it would all be over soon and they would be back to normal in no time.
“Stefan! Maurice! Come out here!” There was authority in River’s voice, but it was also tender and sweet. Within a few seconds both boys were seated and joined the conversation. Melody joined them after Harmony was sorted, and for the first time in a long time, her family was together in the same room. It was beautiful.
Giancarlo and Bianca hung around for another hour or so before they decided to let the Pitts family go into their nightly routine. They hugged and kissed their grands goodbye and hugged the adults too. River had something he needed to do, so he tried to do as much as he could at home so Melody wouldn’t frown too much. He washed the dishes, put the leftovers away, and cleaned the countertops while Melody began to put the boys to bed. Stefan’s 13th birthday was coming up soon, and he had already begun to separate himself from “baby stuff.” Those days he went to bed and didn’t want to be tucked in or kissed goodnight. He most certainly didn’t want any stories. This particular night, Maurice was very tired and didn’t need a story, and so Melody had some extra time on her hands with no other chores to do. She came out of the boys’ bedroom and shut the door quietly. River was standing in the hallway waiting for her.
“I cleaned up the kitchen,” he said.
She smiled widely. “Thank you!”
“Can I do anything else for you?”
It had been a really good day. The boys didn’t fight too much, Harmony was cooperating with the schedule Melody had been trying to get her on, her parents came to visit, and now her husband had helped her. She didn’t quite know what to do with herself. “Ummm…no…I don’t think there is anything left to do.”
“Great,” River said. He took a few steps closer to her and held her hands. “I’m gonna go for a run. When I get back, I will be all yours.”
“All yours.” He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her forehead. After he changed his clothes, he dashed out the door. He ran down the street until he knew he would be out of sight. He stopped, looked around, and then called a cab to take him to Oasis Springs. He had butterflies in his stomach the entire way. This was the first time he had ever done something like this. It wouldn’t be the last, but he felt a bit uneasy about it. He trained for this, and it should have been a piece of cake. But that didn’t erase the fact that he would rather not do it. The cab stopped in front of a small house, and he got out.
It was Aden Renteria’s house. Aden was his friend who loved his children so much. He had a habit of going to bed early which was why River hung around the house as long as he did. Ok, Riv…this is it. He tip toed to the back of the house and peered in the windows to see if Aden was in bed.
The house was really just an open space with a bathroom in it. The bedroom was tucked away at the front of the house, but there was no door on it similarly to their old house in Willow Creek. River listened for a few minutes and kept an eye on Aden’s bed. Every now and then he saw movement at the foot of his bed. He was definitely asleep. River walked away from the window and went to the backdoor to pick the lock. He was good at picking locks. When he entered the house, he tip toed to the bedroom to check on Aiden who was sleeping soundly.
River watched him for a few seconds and mouthed the words “I’m sorry” to him. Before he began his search around the place, he went to the bathroom to give himself a pep talk.
I am River Pitts, secret agent of the S.I.A. Tonight, Aden is not your friend. He is a potential suspect in an investigation under your care. This investigation is vital to the safety of your wife and children…don’t screw it up.
River started his search in the bathroom and went through the medicine cabinet. He found a single toothbrush and toothpaste. This guy doesn’t shave? He closed the medicine cabinet and tip toed back to the bedroom and went through the drawers as quietly as he could. There were a few shirts, boxers, and pants. There were barely enough items to last a week, and it puzzled him, yet nothing to be alarmed about. The last drawer was a bit sticky, and he couldn’t close it all the way. He looked back at Aden, making sure he was still asleep. He opened the drawer again and attempted to push it shut, but it just wouldn’t budge. He tried to give it one strong shove, and it worked but not before Aden’s alarm clock tipped over and slammed faced down onto the wooden chest of drawers. River’s heart stopped and he froze in his tracks. His breathing rapidly increased and sweat began to form on his brow. After a few seconds, he got the courage to turn his head toward Aden. He groaned and tossed over to the other side of the bed and began snoring again. River let out a long sigh as he tried to catch his breath and put the clock back where it belonged. He quickly tip toed to the living area and flipped through the four lonely books on the shelf for any loose papers. Nothing. Finally, he quietly went through the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. There were just a few plates and some cutlery, a pot, and a pan. On one hand, River was glad he didn’t find anything. But on the other hand, the house was suspiciously clean. Not only did he find zero evidence, but there was barely anything there. Aden had a very good job as a scientist, so River knew he wasn’t broke. He knew some people lived minimally, but most of those people probably had a drawer full of clothes. It was strange, but for the time being, Aden was in the clear and River could move on to his next suspect.