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Jul 25, 2020

Mystery

                                                           Promise

      Detective Ryan Finnagan pulls up to the home of Helen Chastaine. There are protests in the area, and many are worried and on edge. A suspect is believed hiding out in the neighborhood. A master of looting, arson, and murder, he is on the run. He has been identified on video for destruction of property, and is the principle suspect in the murder of a shop owner two days ago. The city is no place for him now, and if he hasn't left town yet, the suburbs are the next best thing. Ryan wants to touch base with Mrs. Chastaine to make her aware of the situation. She is alarmed with the present violence in the city with all the looting and protests. She is also upset with the disrespectful attacks and accusations of racism against the police. It's personal to her. Her husband, now deceased, was a detective for twenty-five years. Ryan doesn't want to scare her, but he knows her husband Johnny would want her to be on the lookout. Johnny was Ryan's mentor who taught him so much. To say he owes him is an understatement, and Ryan feels very protective of his widow. Ryan rings the bell.  

     Mrs. Chastaine sees it's Ryan. She is always happy to see him. "Come in, Ryan. And what do I owe for this pleasant surprise."

     "Just checking in, making sure you're doing alright, Mrs. Chastaine."

     "Oh, you're so sweet, Ryan."

     "I want to let you know a man who is wanted for several crimes was seen in this area. Might be a good idea to make sure everything is locked up real good."

     "Don't worry... I'll be fine."

     "This is serious, Mrs. Chastaine. This man is dangerous. He's a murder suspect."

     "Oh Ryan, nothing to worry about. Johnny is watching over me."

     Ryan is thoughtful and careful in his response. He doesn't want to take anything away from her belief that her Johnny is looking after her. He tells her, "I know, but... Mr. Chastaine is..."  

    Mrs. Chastaine completes his sentence, "Gone...Yes, I know, Dear, but he promised."

     "And I promised him, I'd look after you."

     Mrs. Chastaine appreciates Ryan's dedication, and the bond he and Johnny shared as detectives. She remembers Johnny said he could always count on Ryan. She knows she can too. "I'm in good hands, then... Oh, Ryan, I'll be careful. Why don't you stop by this evening, and I'll have you a fresh coconut pie ready to take home and share with Janie."

     Ryan wonders if she is nervous and seeks security wanting him to return later. He is happy to return and plans on it, but he has to admit the pie sounds good too. However coconut and his wife don't mix. "Thanks, but I have to tell you Janie is allergic to coconut. She breaks out in a rash."

     "Oh, my. We don't want that." Mrs. Chastaine asks him, "How about a nice pecan pie?"

     "Great. Pecan pie is one of Janie's favorite. I'll check on you later. Remember now, don't let anyone in."

     "You worry too much. Johnny's here." Mrs Chastaine points to the ornate urn on the mantle. "Aren't you, Dear?" Johnny always protected her, told her he would be there forever, and she holds that thought most dear. 

     Mrs. Chastaine shows Ryan out and locks the door. He hears the lock click shut and checks the door just to make sure it's locked. As he gets in his car, he remembers how Johnny was like a hero to him. He smiles when he thinks he'd hate to be the person who tried to hurt Mrs. Chastaine. There'd be hell to pay. He drives off.

     Mrs. Chastaine is nervous and checks the back door. It's locked, but still she looks around. She goes to the mantle where Johnny rests in the urn and puts her hand on the urn, feeling comforted, and secure. Glancing at the clock, she realizes there's still time to watch some TV and try to relax before she makes Ryan and Janie's pecan pie. She opens the ice box to get a coke, takes a sip then opens a bottle of bourbon and mixes a drink. Sipping her drink, she goes to the living room turns on the TV. 

    A man looks around through a bedroom door and sneaks quickly and quietly to the doorway of the living room. She doesn't see him. She sits on the couch as he peeks around the corner. She turns up the TV, and he all but smiles knowing his steps won't be heard. He softly makes his way behind her, puts his hand over her mouth, and as she jumps and lets out a muffled scream he says, "Keep quiet. If you scream, I'll kill you." He lets her go but points his gun at her at the same time as she stands.

     She tells him, "Get Out."

     He threatens her with his gun. "Shut up, old lady... Sit down. Now! Where's your jewelry and purse? Sooner I have it, sooner I'll go."

     "My bedroom around the corner to the left. Jewelry box on my dresser. My purse is on the bed."

     "Don't try to run."

     He runs out... She looks at the front door, but knows she wouldn't make it out. He's back almost immediately with the jewelry box and purse in hand. She's happy she didn't try to make it out. He watches her as he stuffs credit cards and jewelry into his pockets.

     She looks at him in disgust and says, "Just take it and go."

     "You live here alone? Best tell me. Anyone walks in, they're dead." A car door is heard. "You expecting somebody?"

     "No"

     "Don't move." Keeping his gun on her he looks out the front window. "It's a police car. You called the police?" He asks in surprise and anger, as he presses the barrel of the gun to her forehead. 

     Frightened, she closes her eyes tight. "I didn't... I didn't...  It's probably Ryan. He's a friend, said he was going to check on me." There is a knock at the door, and the protester turned robber presses the gun even more firmly to her forehead and threatens, "Tell him you're not dressed... unlock the door and tell him to count to ten before he comes in and to wait in the living room." The fear in his eyes reflects a cornered animal, while the venom and snarl in his voice loudly screams of an animal ready to strike. He grits his teeth as he says, "I swear to God, I'll kill you both if you say anything. Get rid of him." He moves off to the side, keeping a view of her face.

     Mrs Chastaine goes to door. "Who is it?"

     "Ryan."

     "I'm not dressed. Count to ten before you come in. You can wait for me in the living room, Dear."

     "Alright, Mrs. Chastaine."

     Keeping the gun on her forehead, the robber pulls Mrs. Chastaine into her bedroom and out of sight. 

    Ryan enters after the appropriate count saying, "Coming in... A screen looked out of place. I came back to check it out."

     "Thank you , Dear, but I'm fine. You run on, now. Don't worry about me." After a short pause, she adds, "Why don't you come back later this evening, and I'll have that coconut pie for Janie."

     Ryan reminds her, "Well, Mrs. Chastaine, coconut is the one.."

     Mrs. Chastaine interrupts, "I know Dear. Coconut is her most favorite pie. I remember. You told me she loves coconut."

     Ryan politely answers, "All right, Mrs. Chastaine." He thinks to himself, 'What the heck, I like coconut, I'll eat it.' He tells her on the way out, "I'll lock the door behind me. Make sure you do the dead bolt."

     "Okay, Dear. Thank you."

     The robber hears the door shut and relocked then looks around cautiously as he reenters the living room pushing Mrs. Chastaine ahead of him with his gun. "Where do you keep the rest of your jewelry? Tell me, old lady... Now!" 

     Mrs. Chastaine, scared, looks to her husband, Johnny for comfort and security. 

     The robber notices her glancing at the mantle. "What's in that urn?" He moves closer and opens the lid.

     Mrs. Chastaine quickly tells him. "Leave it alone. It's my husband's ashes. Please, don't touch it."

     "Looks like he belongs in the fireplace to me." He picks up the urn and holds it as he stands by the fireplace. He laughs, "The only way he can keep you warm now is if I pour him in... Maybe I'll flush him down the toilet. What are you going to offer me so I don't do that."

     Now the hate displaces her fear. "You wicked man." She tells him. "There's a safe in the right corner of my closet. Get it and get out."

     "You stay right there."  He quickly exits and in a moment returns with a small safe in his hands. He sets it on the coffee table. "Open it." She does, and he takes out a couple of diamond necklaces and a ring then stuffs his new found booty in his pockets. "More like it... Give me your scarf."

     She puts her hand on the scarf she wears protesting, "My husband gave it to me. My scarf isn't worth that much." Suddenly he grabs the scarf from her neck, adjusts his hands for a better hold and moves simultaneously behind her as he begins to strangle her. Surprised Mrs. Chastaine can't move, can't breathe, but she manages with her last bit of breath to scream loudly, "JOHNNY." 

     Outside the door Ryan has returned and calls, "Mrs. Chastaine?" Alarmed at no answer, he yells louder and louder.

     Mrs. Chastaine begins to lose consciousness as the robber suddenly coughs and gags. Unable to keep the needed pressure, his stranglehold is weakened. Ryan breaks the window glass and starts to climb in the front window. The robber regains his strength and applies the needed pressure but then again coughs, gasps for breath, and gags. With a final violent gasp he falls to the floor, releasing Mrs. Chastaine as Ryan runs to her. He catches her as she falls and holds her almost lifeless body as he kneels beside her. "Mrs. Chastaine, Mrs. Chastaine." She opens her eyes. "Thank God."

     She asks, "Where is?..."

     Ryan looks at what appears to be a lifeless man.  "Right there. I don't think he's breathing."  Ryan crawls to the man on his knees and takes his pulse. "He's dead. He was here when I stopped by earlier, wasn't he?" She nods. "I thought so. You said you would bake Janie's favorite pie... coconut."

     Mrs. Chastaine smiles, feels very proud and says, "It was a clue that something was amiss. Like in the mystery shows."

     "You lie still... I need to use the phone." Ryan gets up, takes out his phone and calls. "I want an ambulance sent to 2278 Maple St., and the coroner... Victim is alive but bad guy is gone, as in dead... I believe she's fine, just want her checked out..." Ryan looks at the robber. "Cause of death?...  No idea... looks like he just dropped dead...         No, there's not a mark on him." Ryan ends call and helps Mrs Chastaine to a chair. "What happened?"

     "That man tried to kill me. Johnny saved me."

     "Johnny?"

     "Johnny said he would take care of me, Dear." 

     Ryan looks at her wondering if she might be in shock and tells her, "You need to rest."

     "Mrs. Chastaine asks him, "Would you look in the box, see if Johnny's ashes are there?"

     Ryan decides to humor her and says, "Of course." He goes to the box and looks inside. The ashes are in there. "All of the ashes are there, Mrs. Chastaine." Suddenly he remembers when he came in, the man was coughing and gagging trying to catch his breath as he fell to the floor. He looks at the box, wonders and thinks to himself, 'Maybe I'm the one in shock.' Ryan looks at the man, lifeless with no mark on him, and slowly moves over and kneels beside him. He peers into his mouth and sees ashes. Ryan takes out his small flashlight and looks closer careful not to touch anything. The autopsy will determine the cause of death, but he thinks he knows. Ryan moves back over to Mrs. Chastaine, positions the couch pillow under her head, and smiles.

     Mrs. Chastaine smiles and holds his hand. "I told you Johnny would take care of me, Ryan. He promised."

                                                     The End

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