The smell of strong coffee beans and old books floated in the air, I don’t care, I love it. Angels sang every time someone cracked open a book and fingers snapped whenever coffee flowed. Ruth’s Nook is far more superior to those “bigger and better” bookstores and coffee shops.
My Dad, Johnny Foster, didn’t say why, but he wanted to meet here. He was the lieutenant of Rosebaum Police Department, up until a couple weeks ago. When he got into a spat with his sergeant Don West, but he never said what about.
Since then he’s renewed his private detective license and brought me on to help him with cases as needed. Today’s case has brought us to Ruth’s Nook and now I’m sitting here slumped in a ball chair overlooking downtown Rosebaum waiting for God knows what.
A tapping sound comes from above the chair, “That you Foster?”
“Tom?” I peer out of the chair to see that bright smile he holds so well. Why did the boy have the best smile I’ve ever seen?
“Of course, you’d be here on a weekday,” he squints his eyes, “Or are you following me now?”
I scoff dramatically, “Oh yes Thomas,” I beam, “I want you, I need you oh baby, oh baby.” He nods approving.
“Nice comeback, but we both know, it’s not yours,” he grins My phone starts to ring, “You’re alright Kris,” he knows its business.
Quickly clearing my throat I answer, “Speaking?”
“Ya know, I’ve seen the Hayes boy around, he’d be good for you,” Dad says, I turn from Tom, cheeks burning, “Kiddo, if you're done flirting meet me at the owner’s office on the first floor.”
Regretfully, I turn to Tom, “I gotta go its--”
“Business, I understand you’re a busy girl Foster,” he grins, “We should make plans, if you’re not doing anything this Saturday…”
I can’t help, but chuckle, “I’m not, so I’ll meet you here?”
His lovely smirk says it all, he points to me and mouths, “Saturday.”
With that I stride off past the reading area bouncing down the stairs to Dad, who’s browsing the nonfiction rack as I go down the stairs. He addresses me, “Kiddo Mom’s going to be mad, but,” he chuckles, “I need to read this.” He playfully waves the book in my face, Roxane Gay’s Not That Bad. I couldn’t help but giggle. “What, Kiddo?”
I nod approvingly, “It’s nice to have a dad that supports combating sexual assault issues.” Before he could reply, Nate McAllister, one of the owners came over. He and his wife, Bronwyn opened this place not long after marrying fourteen years ago.
The tall, lanky man offered his hand to me, “Hi there Kristen,” then Dad, “Johnathan, let’s go into my office. Quietly he leads us down the narrow hall into his office. The office is cozy and well decorated, with an impressive bookshelf loaded with nothing but the best and an impressive t-shirt blanket hung over a chair. Holding the various anniversary shirts of both the couple and the Nook.
“Please, Jonathan and Kristen pull up some comfy chairs.” Dad pulls up two velvet covered armchairs and sink into them, I have to quietly adjust for the fact that I’m being swallowed up by the chair. I settle for resting on my legs and turn my attention to Nate, only to see him wiping at his eyes. I exchange a look with Dad, this cannot be good.
“Sorry, um,” he clears his throat and begins to tug at his collar, Dad sits at attention, “Something is going on with my wife and I need to know what. I’ve tr- tried talking to her, but nothing.”
No, no, no, she would never she’s always been so nice and loving, and- “Be honest, Nate,” Dad warns, “What do you think she’s doing?”
He swallows thickly, voice croaking, “I think she’s cheating on me.”
Dad sits up, “Nick, are you sure?” I see what Dad’s getting up, he’s been doing this since before I was born. This could easily be something else, maybe something worse.
“Johnny,” he starts pacing back and forth. His face reddening as though he is on the brink of tears, or worse. Dad looks over at me as if saying, Give us a moment?
Wordlessly, I take my leave making my way back out to the main area. Before I can even go back to grab Gay’s book, Brownyn is practically running out the door in the direction of the alley. I take out my phone, pretending that I’m getting a call and race out behind her to answer.
“Brownyn, good to see you!” a voice says. I peek around the corner to see a man in an open button down shirt with sunglasses on. As she closes the gap between them, their voices lower. I creep closer towards the only dumpster in the alley to hide.I’m too far to hear and there’s nowhere to hide so I can hear better. Based on his at ease demeanor, she’s not in any danger and seems to know him. The only thing I can do is take pictures of the encounter and head back inside for the book. I send them to Dad and all he says is that we’ll talk at home. Brownyn what have you gotten into?
As Saturday rolls around I follow Brownyn's schedule to the second. Dad trailed her these past two days and we have nothing on her, which I’m elated about. I think Dad is too, but won’t show it.
As she turns and loops her way through the aisles of Meijer looking for her normal body wash. Headphones in not a care in the world, she hasn’t spotted me yet. Still I pull the black baseball cap down a little farther and pretend to care which body scrub I’m buying.
A body wash rolls to my feet, “I’m so sorry,” Shit. Crouching down, I awkwardly hand it back to her.
I cough, “No problem ma'am,” I rush away faking a cough and swiftly duck behind the card stand. She walks away to check out. While I wait for her to check out I look at her schedule, Only one more stop and nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe she isn’t cheating at all, she could be in a funk. Her card’s in to pay, time to go. I’m back to trailing her in the car and since I’m stuck it doesn’t hurt to call Tom.
After the first ring I get an answer, “Foster, glad you called?”
“Thought I’d get cold feet?” I ask sarcastically. He sighs, he can’t make it.
“I have to stay home tonight, I’m sorry Kristen something came up and I was gonna call-” Bronwyn veers into the left lane.
“Tom,” I say hurriedly, “You owe me.” I hang up, so sorry Tom. This was not in the plan. I texted Dad, 911: She’s going off schedule, follow me.
Fifteen minutes later, Dad and I are in his Buick, waiting for her to go inside of the brick building that seemingly leans into the shadows. There’s a bulky man, at least as tall as Dad, guarding the door clipboard in hand.
“Kiddo, what’d you find out about this place?”
“Nothing, this building is owned by someone, but I haven’t dug anything up on them yet,” I breathe heavily, “She’s not cheating so what’s she doing here?”
A click answers my question. “I need you to stay here, while I go in.” he instructs. Confidently he strides over to the guard shaking his hand, only for him to shove money in his pocket and let him in. The old bribe and dash, old man hasn’t lost his touch. It could be tricky going in before her, but Nate needs answers. Hell, I’m eager to know myself, please, please don’t be cheating.
Finally, exiting her car she enters, without so much a look at the list. I snap multiple pictures and to my surprise looking at the last shot, he’s here too. I scoff, Something came up huh?
After half an hour Bronwyn and Dad exit wordlessly, I open the door, “What-”
“We’re going to the Nook, Nate’s meeting us there.” He refuses to talk about it on the way there. The silence is deafening and eating away at my thoughts, I’m especially wondering why Tom was there, why’d he lie to me? So instead of wondering, I send the picture to him, no words, no ranting, nothing. The picture says it all.
By the time we make it to Ruth’s Nook, Nate and Bronwyn are raising their voices at each other, and it's not looking good for either party. Dad is quick to break up the psat and sit the couple down once they’ve calmed down he speaks, “Nate, she’s not cheating on you. Kris and myself have tailed her and until an hour ago we had nothing, but what’s going on is for her to tell you,” he pleads, “Tell him what you’ve told me.”
The dark-haired woman pulls herself together, “I’ve been trying to find a way out of this for a while now,” she shudders, taking in a breath, “I’ve gambled away everything, we might have to close.”
Dad turns to me, “Kiddo, give us a moment?” I nod in understanding. Only they know the pressure their under. The thing is I wasn’t alone for long.
Meet me around the front door of the Nook? Looking back to the group, they wouldn’t really miss me for a couple of minutes. So I go and sure enough Tom is already waiting for me. “So, how do you plan to explain your way out of this one, Tom?” I ask, scrunching my nose up a bit.
He sighs, “I understand you’re angry and I don’t blame you. I made plans and backed out for reasons I hope you will hear me out on.”
I throw my arms out, “We’re here now so I’m game.”
“My family is in debt to the same people that Brownyn are. I’m working off my family’s debt. At least for now.” Woah. His family is in bed with gamblers?
“But you can’t tell anyone, Kris, o-”
“Why?” the question just bursts out of me ,”Why, if you’re in trouble and my Dad is a private detective then what’s supposed to stop me from telling.”
“My Dad and Brownyn will go to jail if you do Kris. My family will fall apart.” he explains.
“Hey Kiddo, who’s this?” Dad asks. He finished with them so soon?
I smile at Tom before addressing my Dad, “My friend Tom, he was just saying goodnight.”