To Catch a Cheat: Episode #12

In episode #11, Carter, still questioning love, found herself in a compromising position; when she went against the grain and followed her passion and heart, she was left devastated.

In this episode, Carter, spurned from a major diss from Vince–at least in her eyes, decides to hate all men, but when she finds Kenneth Stevenson’s wife in an uncompromising position, she decides all fair is in love and war…well, make that lust and war.

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Monday, April 11

In the dark recesses of my mind, I heard whispers and faintly felt someone touching my arm. I awoke kicking and throwing punches.

“Whoa there, girl.”

Through sleepy eyes, I saw Suzie hovering above me. Her black suit, purple hair, tan face and smoky-colored eyelids made her look cartoonish to me. I rubbed my eyes, then lifted a hand and touched her hair, wanting to make sure it, and thus Suzie was real.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. I twisted and turned until I was seated upright on the loveseat. I yawned and looked up to Suzie.

“Morning, Miss Sunshine,” Suzie said. “Um, what are you doing here?”

“Fell asleep, obviously,” I answered.

“Obviously.”

My watch read 7:30. Our briefing was in thirty minutes.

“Shit,” I whispered. I jumped up and made my way to the bathroom. I pulled out a pair of jeans and a brown and orange t-shirt from the small closet, and my unmentionables.
I stared in the mirror and groaned. Gray tracks of dried tears dotted my cheeks, and my eyes were red and puffy.

“Why have you been crying?” Suzie asked. She walked up beside me and stared at my reflection in the mirror.

“Wasn’t,” I responded. I quickly removed my clothing and stood before Suzie with my bra and panties on.

“Okay, so the dry tears aren’t tears, and you slept here last night?”

“Right.”

“Why do you have an attitude this morning?”

I threw a hand on a hip and pivoted in Suzie’s direction.

“Are you really going to bother me right now when I’m trying to shower and get ready?”

Suzie mocked my hand to hip action though she had a lot less hip to contend with.

“What’s the deal, Carter?”

“Okay. Here’s the deal in a minute or less. I’m never listening to my girls again. Vince is in love with me, y’all said. Well, we got hot and heavy last night and then he told me that he was sorry. It should not have happened. So this in love thing y’all talk is a crock of shit.”

I began walking toward Suzie, and she backpedaled out of the bathroom.

“Right now, I added, “excuse me if I feel like saying fuck Vince, fuck y’all, and especially, fuck love.”

I slammed the door in her face.

***

After I laced up my brown and orange Adidas, I pulled my ponytail tighter, grabbed a pad and pen, and left my office for the command center.

My steps were slow and deliberate. I wasn’t ready to see Vince just yet. I hadn’t fully prepared my game face. Besides, if I knew Suzie, she had run from my office and told everybody but Vince the gossip. I was definitely going to have to learn to keep shit to myself.

The first person I ran into was Nate. He was coming out of his office. He walked up to me and gave me a hug. You have to understand that this is big shit here. Nate and I get along, but we’re not 100% cool. I think he’s a sexy prima donna, and he thinks I need to get laid to change my unsunny disposition.

I stood, stiff in his arms. He released me and said, “How are you?”

I shrugged and kept on down the hall. I didn’t have time for the I know you’re hurt but I’m faking like I don’t know you’re hurt, but I’m going to check to see if you’re hurt shit. I knew I had this coming at least two more times. Raven would want to woo woo me, and later, Daria would be stuffing me full of chocolate and ice cream. Rico and I had an understanding. He knew that if I needed him, I would go to him, so there’s none of this aw, woo-woo the baby mess.

When I stepped into the command center, everyone else was there and all eyes were on me. I didn’t look at anyone, especially, Vince. I took my seat beside him and scooted away and closer to Nate’s seat. Nate sat beside me and patted my hand. I scooted back toward Vince.

“Okay,” Vince said. I could feel him look toward me, but I kept my eyes on my pad. “I just wanted to touch base with everyone and see what’s going on. I have several appointments today with new clients, so expect a few new assignments to come your way.”

“Cool,” Nate said. “I’m about a day away from wrapping up my latest two assignments.”

“Last night,” Vince jumped in, “Rico, Carter, and I were in a crazy situation, but it ended rather smoothly. We were in and out pretty quickly.”

“The shit on the screens was straight-up porn,” Rico said, laughing. “I couldn’t believe this man had the nerve to sex someone like that in his girlfriend’s house.”

“Now you know you’ve been here long enough to see all kinds of shit, Rico,” Raven threw in.

“That may be true, but it don’t make it less surprising.”

“Raven,” Vince jumped in, “what’s going on with your assignments?”

I sat, disinterested as we did a roundtable. Raven talked about three investigations, one UC and the other two, stake out. Suzie had been her “wing man” for the investigations, making sure audio and video feeds were good to go and that Raven had back up. Slowly, Suzie was becoming our female Rico. Soon, she would be begging to go undercover for an assignment. Vince discussed the three contract investigators we had, and their assignments, and then I came out of my fog when he asked, “So what’s going on with you, Carter?”

I smacked the table and laughed. I couldn’t help it. It just came right out of me. The question he posed just sounded so ridiculous, yet so appropriate. I wanted to say, “Well, you know, I’m feeling like shit because my heart used to be this nice piece of stone that just hurt when I breathe, but now it was this living piece of shit that hurt when I breathed, thought, felt, everything, and it’s all thanks to you.”

“What’s funny?” he asked.

I turned in his direction and smiled. “Not a damn thing, sir. Anyway, like Vince said earlier, we finished an assignment last night. I have one stake out and a new UC case starting tomorrow, and I’m still working on the Kenneth Stevenson case.”

“Still?” Raven asked. “Girl, when are we going to put a stop to this one?”

“Well,” I replied, “Mrs. Stevenson still wants me to investigate. I told her she’s just asking for trouble, but we’ll see.”

“So when are you seeing him next?”

“Tonight,” I said. A wicked grin spread across my lips. “He’s cooking me dinner at my place.”

“Bring condoms,” Nate said, and everyone fell out laughing but Vince.

Good, I thought. Serves him right.

“I think I’m going to use my feminine wiles tonight and see if he bites.”

“Mama,” Rico said, “if you use any more wiles than you did at Satisfaction, you may want to heed Nate’s advice.”

“Carter knows that it’s not appropriate for us to start sexual relationships with our clients,” Vince said, “or with the suspects.”

I nodded fervently. “You are correct, Vince,” I said, matter-of-factly. “I promise to stop whatever happens before it gets too out of hand.” I smirked and rolled my eyes.

“Okay, well if that’s it, meeting adjourned,” Vince said quickly. He turned to me and whispered, “Carter, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Sure deal.”

I followed Vince out of the center and down to his office. Once inside, he spun around to face me and said, “What gives?”

“What are you talking about, babe?”

“You seem distant this morning.”

I shook my head. “Naw, I just overslept, and I’m a bit cranky, but I’m straight.”

“Okay.”

I walked toward the door, but then turned and asked, “Did you put someone on Cynthia Stevenson yet?”

“Was going to do it today.”

“Make sure you do. I want to figure out what’s up with her. Talk to you later.”

Vince said “Love you” just as I opened the door.

Without looking back, I replied, “Back atcha” and left.

As soon as I walked past the command center, Nate, Suzie, Raven, and Rico all bounded out the door and tried to follow me to my office. I stopped them at my door.

“Go away, y’all,” I whined.

“We just want to make sure you’re okay,” Suzie said.

“We’re sorry about the misinformation,” added Raven. “Rico and Nate had talked to Vince. He told them that he was in love with you.”

“He really did,” Nate said.

I looked at Rico, and he nodded.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “I know what I know now, and it’s cool. In fact, I’m so unbelievably cool that I could freeze water on my ass.” I opened my door and stood in the doorway. “I officially am making myself not care about any of this.”

Raven pushed me into the room, and Nate and Rico both took an arm and dragged me to the loveseat and pushed me down.

“We are not going to let that happen,” Raven said. “Every time you become disinterested or get into this I don’t care phase, all you do is hurt yourself.”

There was a chink to my armor. My right eye blinked. Repeatedly. A sign that tears were coming. Rico began rubbing my back. Tried as I might, tears began to fall. Everyone crowded around me. Someone jutted out a hand full of tissues.

“Look guys,” I said. “I appreciate your concern, I do. I love you for it. Even you, Nate though you piss me off so much.” I punched his thigh. “I’ll be fine, I guess. I hurt. Who doesn’t? When have I not?”

I stood and left them all surrounding or sitting on the loveseat.

“I just don’t care,” I said and shrugged. “And please don’t go to Vince and try talking to him about it. I don’t think I could open myself to feeling like that again.” I closed my eyes and could see Vince leaning toward me. Could feel his lips on mine. I smiled.

“For a short minute, I felt something I never felt before,” I said. “I started wishing and hoping.” I shook my head. “But I can’t do that anymore, and I’m not. I’m just going to go for whatever we’ll get me through. Wishing is for asses, no offense.”

I went to the door and said, “I’ll check y’all later” before leaving. I needed to purge some of this anger and bitterness before my dinner with Kenneth. Staying at F.A.C.E. would just remind me of how close I am to Vince and how far apart we really were.

***

Normally, I don’t go into big chain bookstores, but one was staring me right in the face in all its three-story greatness, so I pulled into its parking lot and got out. It was hitting on 10, and I could use a great cup of coffee and some books on women who hated men, or how to be happy and still hate men.

After getting a mocha cappuccino, I walked through the audio CD aisles. I wanted to find someone just as angry as me who would tell me that it was okay to be angry. That it was okay to be a walking contradiction because even though I wanted to fight from ever feeling like I did last night again, my heart had now witnessed it, and it wanted love; I was torn. Some angry woman on a CD had to convince me that being angry, just angry was okay.

I had just picked up a copy of So You Think You Want to be Alone? when I overheard a woman say, “Now stop that. We’re in public.”

I chuckled and wondered if someone was trying to get a little play in the bookstore. Just a week before, I had heard that a guy was caught jacking off in the children’s section. In his defense, the sexuality aisle is perpendicular to the children’s section, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

I picked up the CD box set, plus a David Sedaris collection, and attempted to peek around the aisle to see the couple. What I saw stopped me cold.

Cynthia Stevenson and some distinguished-looking black man were standing rather close in the biography section. She had a book in her hand; he had a coffee. She was giggling as one of his hands found itself around her waist.

I jumped back, then knelt down. I dug into my purse and pulled out a gold case. I pulled a camera pen from the case and then stood back up. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself. As I looked through the rows of books on CD, I snapped pictures of Cynthia and her friend. My money shot was the kiss shared between the two.

Mrs. Cynthia Stevenson was so adamant that I catch her husband that she kept the heat off of her and her own cheating ways. I took my cell phone from my hip and dialed Vince’s office.

“Speaking,” he answered on the first ring.

“It’s me.”

“Hey me,” he said, his voice much softer. I almost fell into its sweet lull, but I steeled myself.

“Guess what?” I asked.

“What?”

“I’m at the bookstore on Pier Street, and Mrs. Cynthia Stevenson is kissing a man that ain’t her husband.”

“Are you for real?”

“And I got it on camera, baby.”

“So what, were we a diversion for her to sneak around and cheat?”

“That’s what I’m thinking, but who knows. It’s so crazy.”

“So what are you going to do with tonight?” I didn’t tell him that now I was even more excited to see Kenneth. If he wasn’t a cheater and his wife was, then a kiss or two between us surely wouldn’t be a problem, would it?

“I’m still going to meet with him tonight.”

“Why? I think we should call Mrs. Stevenson in, show her the pics, and see what she says.”

“Sounds good, but I want to question Kenneth a bit. See if I can get him to shed some light on things.”

“Is that all?”

I looked around the corner and saw Cynthia and her friend coming my way. I headed down the aisle, and walked the entire circumference of the bookstore before coming to a register.

I would wait a minute or two to answer Vince. I wanted him to sweat it out, to wonder why I was so persistent on keeping my date.

“What do you mean, is that all?” I asked. “What else do you plan for me to do?” I paid the cashier, grabbed my bag, and rushed to my bus before Cynthia could spot me.

“Nothing, Carter.”

“You sure?”

“Definitely. Just be careful, okay?”

“As always. Later.”

I drove off, ready to get home, develop my pictures, and then get sexified for Kenneth. Vince and his suspicions would be the last things on my mind once the date began.

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