Eliza’s new position afforded her a day off in the middle of the week, and she was overjoyed to learn it overlapped one of Robert’s off days. Naturally, the promotion and victory over the Chief and Det. Farris excited her, but being able to have a guilt-free day every week to spend with her family sent her over the moon.
A new toddler-friendly park opened in the Spice District, and she had been wanting to take the twins there. But, with Robert working on the weekends and Breanne spending time with Kaiden, going to the park alone with the twins made her uneasy. The park was also pet-friendly, and if one those filthy beasts came near her precious babes, the four-legged pest would never return to the park ever again if it knew what was best for it.
In the middle of the family fun, Eliza received the most unusual phone call. “Hello. Eliza Pancakes speaking.”
“Good afternoon, Eliza. This is John…John Jones. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
John Jones? Why on earth would he be calling her? It must be serious. “Of course not, John. How may I help?”
His end of the line was silent for a moment, save a few hesitant sighs. “I hate to be a bother…but, you see…I need some advice. Police advice.”
Though she hoped he was all right, she couldn’t help but get excited to learn what the matter was. “Good gracious, John. Are you in trouble?”
“No! No, I’m sorry for being cryptic. I’d rather not talk about it over the phone. Would it be possible to speak in person? I’m living in the Spice District now–“
“The Spice District?” Ah HA! She finally caught Mary in a lie. She had suspected trouble in that faux paradise for a while and figured they probably divorced, but now she had the truth. “I’m actually in the Spice District right now. I could drop by if you’d like.”
“Oh…really? I mean, I don’t want to take you away from whatever you’re–“
“I am a civil servant, John. I’m never too busy to come to the aid of people in need.”
He chuckled. “Ok. If you say so. I’m at 19 Culpepper House.”
“Splendid. I will be about in a few.”
“Thank you, Eliza.”
Robert was not going to like this one bit. She didn’t work nearly as hard as she did when they were childless, but she was always on the job. Besides, a civil servant’s job is never done. After taking a deep breath, she strode beside him, grabbed his hand and watched the girls play for a few minutes.
He smiled. “Are you ok?”
“Of course, dear. Of course…” She cleared her throat. “But…I do need to step away for a brief moment.” She smiled brightly to avert any negative feelings.
It didn’t work. “Lizzie…”
“It’s fine, Robert. Someone needs my expert opinion on a law enforcement issue. I’m not going to arrest anyone.”
“What’s the point of having days off if you’re going to run to work every chance you get?”
“Robert…please. I’ll only be gone a few minutes. And, I’m only going across the street…to talk. I’m not working.”
“Fine. We’ll be here. Don’t be too long.”
“I’ll be back before you know it.”
That went better than she expected. In a way, she could understand his objection, but at the same time, it could be worse. She could go back to working 12-18 hour days like she used to. He should be grateful she’s at home every night. Still, it hurt to know he didn’t approve of her dedication to the people. Didn’t he want her to be the Chief of Police? Did he cheer her on only because it was the right thing to do? Looking over at her happy little girls, they were so clueless about everything. Still, did they have an opinion?
Shaking off the guilt, she walked across the street to John’s apartment. Though there were a handful of nice units in that neighborhood, she already knew John didn’t live in one of them. It bothered her to know the depth of the pretense Mary had displayed. And for what exactly? She seemed to have fallen all the way down from grace. At the same time, Eliza felt justified in her original opinion of the woman. Something was indeed off with them. Part of her still wanted to dredge up all the details to understand what she was hiding from, but the last time she went down the road, her performance at work suffered. There was no time for slacking off. She had an office to claim.
John was in the hallway waiting for her when the elevator door opened. “Thank you for coming so soon.”
Sweet plum juice! He had changed so much. A beard and relaxed, casual clothes? What a transformation! What on earth had he gone through in that farce of a marriage to warrant all that change? Whatever it was, it looked good on him.
“Come in, please.”
Hopefully didn’t see her checking him out. It wasn’t at all inappropriate, of course, but who knows what went on in the minds of divorced philanderers.
The apartment was worse than she imagined. Money issues were probably one of the main causes of their divorce. Poor things. It was beyond her why young couples can’t seem to balance their checkbooks. Don’t they teach these skills in school?
“Please, have a seat. May I offer you some water?”
“Thank you, no. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get right to it.”
“Of course.” He shifted. “It’s a sensitive matter…I don’t even know if I should be telling you this…”
“I will consider this an anonymous tip if, of course, this has something to do with a crime. We get those all the time.”
He seemed relieved. “Ok. What should I do if I suspect…domestic violence?”
“Heavens, John! Please tell me this is unrelated to anyone in your family.”
“Of course not! I wouldn’t be so hesitant if it were.”
Eliza breathed a sigh of relief that time. She and Mary were not friends, and she would never wish ill will on her, but abuse was just one of those things that touched her in the deepest of places. Images of victims were forever etched in her brain, and she never wanted to see anyone she knew in that position.
“A neighbor then?”
He lowered his head and nodded.
“I see. Well, John, there’s really only one thing to do…call the police! Don’t engage the perpetrator. Don’t attempt to diffuse the situation. Call the police. Who cares what your neighbor will think! If someone is being hurt, call the police! Heck, call me and I’ll come arrest that sack of llama turds myself!”