Chapter Four ~
Under normal circumstances Jude would've told Jackson he didn't need to be rescued like some helpless schoolgirl, but this was an exception. He wasn't running away, he was stepping back and regrouping. This new facet had changed the whole scope of his investigation. Could the killer be someone he went to school with? Was he a copycat, or was he the original 'glitter killer?' Did I go to school with a mass-murderer?
The possibilities flew through his mind, swirling around until he felt light-headed. If the glitter killer was after him, why had he killed Justy's parents? Nothing made sense right now. He had to look at this from an objective point of view. He needed to act like he didn't know the murder victims, and catch all the angles this time.
When Jackson knocked on his door, Jude grabbed his jacket and his bag, turned around to give the place one last glance, and then walked out to meet his friend.
"So tell me what's going on?" Jackson took the piece of paper Jude was holding by one corner. He pulled it up to get a good look. There was a sharp intake of breath, and then, "Wow, it has to be someone you knew in school. Who hated you?"
"That's the thing, nobody. I was the cream of my class." He rubbed his head tiredly. "I just want to lie down and get some sleep. Hopefully this will all look better in the morning."
"Well, it may not look any better, but you'll be better able to handle it after some rest. Come on, Amy's got a cake in the oven."
"Isn't it a little late for a snack?"
"Well, we got a little sidetracked." Jackson retorted with a sheepish grin.
"Oh, I get your drift. Does she make a mean cake?" He wanted to change the subject to something less personal.
"Next to Chester, she's the best."
"I thought you employed a cook?" Jude asked curiously. "Can't she bake, too?"
"Well, I did for a while, but Chester wanted to take over. Amy loves to cook too, so if Chester needs a break, Amy takes over. It's working out pretty good. Matilda's made us a good Mexican meal a few times, too. Amy's grown to love them both, and that makes me happy." He slid into the driver's seat of his black sports car.
"They do make a cute couple. Have you made any progress getting Chester to acknowledge he's your uncle?" Jackson had confided in him it was Chester's idea not to let anyone know who he really was. He wanted to act as Jack's butler, but knew it would be awkward if people knew the truth. He wanted to avoid that, especially since he loved his job.
"Yes, he's coming around. It makes it easier with Amy around. He loves her, and he's grown closer to the kids since she's been here." There was no doubt he loved his wife and kids, and even his rascally old uncle. Jude felt a twinge of envy, but shrugged it away.
"Are you okay man? You seem a hundred miles away. I was asking when you and Amy were gonna have a baby..."
Jackson laughed. "Did someone tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
"Amy's already pregnant." A wide grin spread across his handsome features.
"You're kidding man, that's fabulous." How far along is she?"
"She's almost four months. She's already found out it's a girl. She wants to name her Natalia Blue." Jackson’s face twisted with distaste.
"Oh, you can't let her. What about Amber Nicole?" Jude suggested lightly.
"I like that much better, but I don't think Amy will be swayed. She loves the name Natalia."
Both men hopped out as soon as Jackson pulled in the driveway and Amy came rushing out the door, wiping her hands on a blue-flowered dish towel. "Are you okay, Jude?"
Jackson's back straightened, and he threw a look of disapproval Amy’s way, but she ignored him. "Hey you, I missed you." He stopped her by grabbing her waist and pulling her around for a peck on the cheek. She laughed knowingly and said under her breath, "I missed you too, you jealous man." She gave him a hug as he propelled her into the house.
"Jack says you've got a cake in the oven. I bet it's gonna be delicious." Jude sensed the tension and was trying to dispel it. He didn't want to come between his friend and his wife. He cared too much about both of them. Besides, Amy didn't know any other man existed but Jackson, and Jude didn't love her like that, anyway. He loved her like a sister in the Lord, because that's what she was.
The little girl of the house ran out to meet Jude, too. She raced to him and jumped up, knowing he would catch her. "Uncle Jude! Did you bring me something?" She asked in barely concealed excitement.
"You know it." He pushed his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a little plastic bubble that held a tiny little bracelet. He held it up and it shone brightly in the well-lit kitchen as they stepped inside.
She grabbed it, pecked him on the cheek and slid down, running to show Benji, her younger brother. She held it up for him to inspect and the cute curly-headed boy tried to grab it from her hand. Angie rewarded him with a shrill scream of anger. "Let it go, Benji! Right now, or I'll tell!"
Amy looked at Jude apologetically and shrugged. "Sorry about that. I'm still working on their tempers."
"No need to worry, I brought Benji something too. Every time I go in a store I stock up." He pulled a whole handful of them from the opposite pocket. "The right pocket's for Angie, and the left one is for Benji." He grinned.
"Wow, you'd make such a great daddy, Jude. When are you gonna get married?" Amy asked as she walked over and checked inside the oven. The delicious smell of chocolate cake permeated the air.
"I don't know. If I could find someone who could create the kind of smell that's coming out of this kitchen, I'd definitely give it some serious thought." He pulled a bar stool out and sat down at the counter.
Amy laughed. "Well thank you Jude, I appreciate the compliment."
"It's just the truth as I smell it." He grinned in amusement at his corny play on words.
Jackson laughed and said, "If you can stop flirting with my wife long enough we can sit down and enjoy a piece." He said it with a straight face, but Jude detected jealousy just under the surface. He would talk to his friend later and reassure him he didn't think about his wife that way.
They sat down at the table and Jackson said a prayer while the chocolate cake steamed in the middle of the table. At the end of the prayer, he said amen and they looked up expectantly at the cake.
Benji repeated, "Amen," and everyone laughed.
I want a family like this, Jude thought.
Quiet ensued for a few minutes as everyone ate the delicious chocolate cake with white glaze poured over the top. As soon as the children finished, Amy took them upstairs to get ready for bed. It was a couple hours past their normal bedtime.
Jude took the opportunity to talk to his friend. "Jackson, I can't help but notice you're still jealous of me where Amy is concerned. I want to reassure you once and for all I don't think of Amy like that. She’s your wife, for heaven's sake. I'm not going to lie and say I don't care for her, because I do, but the love I feel for her is as a sister-in-Christ, and as a friend."
Jackson rubbed his hand across his brow while Jude spoke. He knew it was a movement of frustration in his friend.
"I know that. I mean, my mind knows it, but my heart refuses to acknowledge."
"I know you know; deep down, that I don't have any designs on your wife, Jack. Let me try to make you a little more comfortable. As soon as Justy is out of mourning for her parents, I plan on asking her to be my wife."
The silence was deafening as Amy walked into the room. "Did I miss something?"
"Actually, you did. I was just telling Jack I plan to ask Justy to be my wife as soon as she's out of mourning."
"That's awesome news, Jude!" She about knocked him over in her bid to give him a hug.
Jude caught Jackson's look of disapproval and laughed again. He was going to continue being jealous, and there was nothing he could do or say to dispel the feeling. Maybe once he was married Jackson would calm down.
He never gave a thought to the possibility she might turn him down. After all, she'd had a huge crush on him in high school, hadn't she?
Chester came in and shooed them out of the kitchen so he and Matilda could do the dishes. They'd had a late private meal together in the cottage down the driveway and had returned to clean up the kitchen and do last minute chores for the night.
"Hello Mr. Johnson, sir." Chester said as he started collecting plates from the table. "I hear you'll be staying with us for a while."
"Yep, you don't mind, do you?" Jude asked with an impish grin. The old man was fond of him, and Jude never gave up the chance to rib Jackson over the fact. Jackson wasn't jealous of Chester though; go figure.
"I certainly don't. I'm looking forward to finishing our game of chess, ole boy." Chester smiled from ear to ear.
"I'm eager to finish, too." Jude said before following Amy and Jackson into the formal living area.
"As soon as Chester has a moment I'll have him take you up to your room." Amy said with a smile in his direction. "You must be having a hard time dealing with everything right now." Her voice was soft with compassion and Jude felt another twinge of envy of Jackson. Not specifically over Amy, but because she was so much like what he wanted for himself.
"Yes, it must be." Jackson said.
"It is hard, but I know Justy is suffering way more than I am. I wonder, Jackson..." He looked as if he was trying to gather his words before he asked, "Do you think maybe Justy should stay here, too, just in case. I mean, what if the murderer was really after her in the first place?"
"That's true. Is there a security detail on her?"
"Of course, but I can't trust the killer won't get past them. I mean, whoever it is managed to get past the Sanders' alarm system with no problem."
"Have we figured out why yet?" Jack asked.
"The CSU techs say it looks like he shorted the alarm on the outgoing wire." Jude said. He sat down on the couch tiredly. He wanted to rest after that huge piece of cake.
"If he messed with the wires it should’ve automatically sent an alarm to the station." Jackson said.
"I know but that's all we've got, man. I'm really worried this killer may be someone I went to school with. I think I should go over to Justy's and make sure she's okay. Maybe I could take her to a motel or something."
"Nonsense, you will not." Amy said forcefully. "Let me grab my coat and we'll go pick her up and bring her here. She should be safe now that Jackson has all the malfunctions in his system fixed. I'll drop by the kitchen and have Matilda ready another suite." She walked out of the living room. It became so quiet for a minute you could've heard a pin drop.
"Well...she certainly takes care of a situation, doesn't she?" Jude asked into the awkward silence.
"That she does my friend; that she does. I just hope she doesn't cause more undue worry for the girl in her haste to be kind."
"I have a feeling Amy's interruption will be welcome. When I dropped Justy off I couldn't help feeling she was scared, but too embarrassed to ask to stay with me, which I couldn't allow anyway, not being a Christian and all." Jude rambled. "I could've taken her to a motel though, and I feel like kicking myself for not suggesting it earlier."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, friend.” Jackson gave Jude's shoulder a squeeze and walked out the front door to wait on Amy.
He didn't have to wait long. She came rushing out the front door wearing a blue-gray hooded jacket that matched her eyes.
"Come on pokey-slow. I wanna get there before midnight." Amy said to her husband as she hopped into the back seat of the luxury car.
Jude got in the front passenger seat, eager to get going. His heart was doing flip-flops at the thought of seeing Justy again and he felt a little guilty because part of his reason for going to get her was purely selfish. He wanted to be near her. "Did I tell you where she lives?"
"Nope, you haven't told us a thing."
Jude gave him directions and asked, "You don't think she'll be insulted do you? I mean, do you think I should call her and let her know we're coming?"
"Yeah, that might be a good idea. We women need a little extra time to get ready for things," Amy said with a grin and a laugh.
"I'll say you do..." Jackson teased. Amy threw a blue-gray fuzzy mitten at him for his troubles, and they all laughed.
For a minute Jude felt guilty they were all laughing after what happened that morning. It seemed like an eternity ago, and still he couldn't believe Justy's parents had been murdered. That it was a possible serial killer with a grudge against him was such a horrible thought he pushed it out of his mind.
Jude looked through his contact list until he came to Justy's name. He hit the call button and waited breathlessly for her to answer. It rang and rang, until he was ready to hang up. Just as he moved the phone away from his ear, he heard a noise on the other end. It wasn't a voice, but heavy breathing, like someone had been running and was out of breath.
Jude said, "Justy, is that you?"
"No, it isn't Justy," A horrid voice said sarcastically. "I told you I was going to get her, didn't you believe me?" An electronically altered voice asked flippantly, and then an evil laugh like nothing Jude had ever heard broke the silence in the car. Terror burst through his heart like an arrow hitting the kill spot as the line went dead.
"Nooooooo...!" Jude yelled in a tormented voice. "Hurry Jackson, the killer's there and he’s got her!"
Jackson stepped on the gas at the same time he hit the button on the window. He stuck a red siren out on the roof of the car and turned it on. They raced toward Justy's house with sirens blaring and hearts thumping in hope that they would get there in time.