For Jeff, the rest of the week flew by just as the first part had. It was now Friday afternoon, and he found himself standing in the elevator in Brooke’s building. She had sent him a text earlier in the day to let him know that she had seen Rick in the building. If Jeff was actually going to talk to him, then now would be the time to do it.
He had taken the afternoon off from work and decided to go see Brooke. If he ran into Rick while he was there, then he could use Brooke as a cover for trying to feel Rick out. He would get a chance to see just how much Rick knew.
As the elevator doors slid open, he wondered about Detective Martell. He had not heard anything from him, but he had also not seen anything in the news about his capture. The city newspaper had run an article on Thursday morning about Martell’s disappearance at the bottom of page eight. The article said nothing about Jeff or about the red vigilante, but had mentioned that Martell’s disappearance was suspicious, that he was wanted for questioning, and that he might be armed and dangerous.
As he walked down the hall searching for Brooke’s cubicle, he reminded himself to have faith in Martell. It had paid off more than once already.
“Hey,” he said as he rounded the corner to Brooke’s desk. Brooke was gone, but Rick sat in her chair. He was just closing the center drawer of her desk when Jeff surprised him. “Can I help you with something?”
“No,” Rick stammered. “I was just waiting for Brooke to return.”
“I can see that. What did you want in her desk drawer?”
“I wasn’t in it. I was just opening and closing it as I waited. Anyway,” he said as he stood up and tried to slide past Jeff, “I’ve got important people to meet with. I expect to be contacted soon, or I may have to act without them.”
As Rick moved by him, Jeff slid in behind and followed. Jeff noticed that Rick moved quite well, not relying on his cane to get him by. He still carried it, but he did not put weight on it, and he clearly did not use it for support as he flicked it around, sometimes swinging it in circles as he moved.
Rick reached the end of the hall, and just as he turned to enter a small office, Jeff stepped forward and pushed Rick forcefully into the office just next door. Jeff noted the pictures of some woman and her family on the walls, but she was not here at the moment, and to Jeff it seemed a safer place to talk than a room Rick may have prepped with an audio recorder for Jeff’s visit.
“What’s wrong with you?” Rick complained as Jeff moved him into the next door office. “This isn’t my office.”
“That’s the point,” Jeff said as he stepped in behind and shut the door. “Brooke told me something that bothered me.”
“I thought it would. I’ve kind of got you between a rock and a hard place, don’t I?” he said as he sat in the woman’s desk chair and reclined it.
“I don’t have any idea where you come up with your fantasies, but I want you to stay away from Brooke. I don’t like people making things up about me. You know how crazy you sound?”
“Crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy. Putting on a dark suit and mask and then running around the state of Illinois catching criminals. Or is it?”
Jeff stared into Rick’s eyes, searching for Rick’s true intent. What was he saying?
“I’m going to be very honest with you,” Rick said with a smile. “I have no evidence that you are who I think you are.”
“I think you’re an idiot,” Jeff said. He turned to leave when Rick spoke up again.
“But I do know that it was you that saved Brooke, Lillian, and I. You took down both men. And I can follow the news as easily as anyone else. If you push me on this, I promise you I’ll follow you wherever you go until I collect enough evidence to prove you’re the vigilante.”
“Why even try to make your stupid theory stick?” Jeff asked angrily as he turned back around. “Brooke won’t leave me for you. This job of hers may have been tough for us, but we’ve been through worse. I love her and she loves me. Back out of it.”
Jeff turned for the door but again stopped at Rick’s words, this time with his hand on the door handle.
“Brooke has nothing to do with this.”
“You’re just full of lies, aren’t you?” Jeff said as he tried to decide whether to leave or not. His hand was still on the handle of the door, but he needed to know Rick’s motive. “What does it have to do with? Honestly, it seems to me that you’re just making things up about me to try and get to Brooke.”
“I like Brooke,” Rick said, leaning forward in his chair. Getting control of himself again, he leaned back. “But I can’t say she deserves someone better than you.”
Jeff turned around full of confusion. What was going on? Now Rick was complimenting him?
“Look, you may not think much of me, I certainly didn’t prove myself to be very worthy when I had the chance, but I think I proved I’ve got the guts. Let’s put Brooke to the side for the moment and talk about you training me.”
“For what?” Jeff asked. Rick really was a lunatic, he decided. He was still not sure exactly how he knew about the mask, but Jeff was sure that Rick wanted to end Jeff and Brooke’s relationship.
“To fight along side of you. I’ve dreamt of doing something like this for years, and now I’ve got direct contact with a guy who does it for real. I want in.”
“There’s nothing to be in,” Jeff said, turning for the door for the third time.
“Don’t let it go this way, Jeff,” Rick said, standing up as Jeff opened the door and walked out. “I’ll stay glued to the news. I’ll follow everything that happens, and eventually I’ll prove what I know. It’s your choice.”
Growing up in north-central Indiana, Matthew learned the value of a good imagination at an early age. Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s Batman, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, and Ian Fleming’s James Bond were constant visitors to Matthew’s imaginative world.
At the age of 14 Matthew began taking writing classes from none other than his own mother. Having a Master’s in English, she wanted her children to be able to communicate properly with the written word. Of course, Matthew hated this. However, nearly twenty years later the lessons learned combined with the imagination born from sheer boredom have cultivated a desire to share his imaginings.
To better tell his adventure stories, Matthew began taking lessons in Martial Arts in 2011. Having achieved a Red Belt in Tae Kwan Do and having broken his nose during a sparring session, Matthew has a unique ability to combine his imagination with real-life experiences to tell stories in a way that are creative and adventurous, yet gritty and realistic.
In September of 2011 Brighton Publishing made Matthew’s second book, The Good Fight, his first published novel. The sequel, Nothing Good is Free is now out in eBook and will be released by Brighton in paperback in March 2013. The final installment, The Price We Pay is currently being written and will hopefully be released during the summer of 2014.
You can contact him clicking the “Email the Author” link from the homepage. You can also follow Matthew on both Facebook and Twitter.
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