To Catch a Cheat: Episode #5

In episode #4, Carter put on her counselor hat to talk to a cheater about trying to preserve her marriage, a session that left Carter thinking about her mother’s infidelities. When she arrived home, she got news from her mother that made her lash out at her mother and made her want to hide away from the world.

In this episode, we get a glimpse into Carter’s past as a child who had to endure a parent’s indiscretions. When Vince comes to check-in on her, he almost loses his life, and Carter almost loses her sanity when she learns she’ll have to meet the woman responsible for her latest investigation.

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Episode 5

Friday, April 8

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I sat in the backseat of the station wagon drinking a cherry cola. I twisted my wrist and looked at my Scooby Doo watch; it read 5:30. Ma had been in the room with Mister David for over an hour. I was scared, but I pretended I was a big girl, not some seven-year-old in a car at a Budget Motel. I wondered what they were doing up there. I mean I had my suspicions, but I was a kid and a naïve kid at that. My mother repeatedly told me she loved my dad even though she also had moments when she ranted about how he didn’t take care of her the way she needed to be. “I need him to make me the most important thing in his life,” she would cry to me just before we arrived home. “I want to be the center of his world.” At the time, it seemed ridiculously shallow, even for a seven-year-old. But who was I to tell my mother that she was acting like a child?

There was a rap at the door, and I screamed. A white man who resembled a broke Santa Claus stared at me.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I nodded, too afraid to speak.

“Where’s your mother, father?”

“They’ll be right back,” I stuttered.

“You been out here awhile.”

I looked around me, suddenly beyond frightened. How long had he been watching me?

“My mother is coming back.”

“Would you like for me to sit in there with you?”

I peed a little as I watched dirty Santa stare at my bare legs and travel his red eyes up to my shorts and t-shirt. I was grateful the doors were locked and the windows were up, but I knew that if someone wanted something bad enough, locks and windows were not going to stop them.

“I’m okay,” I said.

He tried the door. “Come on, sweetie. Let me help you.”

He yelped when Ma’s purse connected with the back of his head.

“Get the hell away from my daughter,” she yelled as she swatted him for about half a block.

She raced back to the car, got in, and looked in the backseat at me.

“Are you okay, baby?” she asked.

I nodded. I knew my eyes were wide because I was starting to get a headache from the straining.

“I’m so sorry I left you out here that long. Are you hot?”

“A little,” I whispered.

She closed her eyes. “Why do I smell urine?”

I was about to tell her how scared I was when she started jumping up and down in her seat.

“Honey, honey, honey,” she squealed. “Look what Mr. David gave me.” She reached thin fingers down her buttoned-up blouse and pulled out a thin chain with half a broken heart. “He says he’s holding onto the other half until we’re together.”

 

For the rest of the way home, I sat, squirming in my wet panties and shorts while Mother talked about how much Mr. David loved her. I couldn’t help but wonder if Mother even knew what love was. As she steered with one hand and rubbed the half-heart with the other and blabbered on and on about Mr. David and nothing at all about me and Daddy, I already knew my answer.

 

~~~

 

“I was scared,” I muttered before sitting up in my bed. I looked around my darkened bedroom and tried to calm my erratic breathing. Sweat made my red blouse stick to me. “I’m hungry.”

I stood and began walking in stockinged feet to the hallway when music stopped me.

“Oh shit,” I whispered. Had I locked the front door? Did I leave the key in the lock like I did when I was being absentminded? I took a breath and rocked my head from side to side. After rolling my shoulders, I tiptoed back into my bedroom and reached over onto my nightstand to grab the stiletto dagger an old friend from college bought me on my 21st birthday. If anything, the sight of a black chick with a 13-inch dagger was sure to give pause to an intruder—give me enough time to kick their ass and call 911.

I slid the dagger from its sheath, gripped my hand tightly around the handle and with slow, silent steps, made my way down the hall to my office. I stood outside the office door. All I could hear was the music and someone shuffling papers. I counted to three and kicked the door open.

“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” I screamed as I jumped into the room, ready to pierce something or somebody.

“Carter!”

I screamed again. Vince sat at my desk, surfing the internet and sifting through a stack of files.

“Vince,” I yelled. I laid the dagger on top of a file cabinet and ran to him. I slipped my arm around his neck and fake-choked him. “What the hell are you doing here, man? You scared the shit out of me.”

Vince tried to laugh, but it came out in short snorts. “I was worried about you, Samurai Jack,” he replied. “I used the key you gave me. You were sleep when I got here, so I let you sleep and I came in here.”

I leaned his head back and kissed his forehead, then playfully smacked the back of his head. “Well, I lost about ten years of my life because of this shit. Next time, wake me.”

I sat on the edge of the desk. “Besides,” I added, “I told you I was okay.”

“I know you, Carter,” Vince said. “You were sobbing on the damn phone. I’m supposed to just ignore that?”

I shrugged.

“How are you feeling?”

“I dunno.” I watched feet as they swung. “Pissed at Mother. Sad for Daddy. Confused about me. I’m just gonna have to play it by ear, I guess. This is something I can’t fix as much as I would want to. I just hope Mother doesn’t act like a complete ass when she tells him.”

Vince opened his arms, and I immediately sat on his lap and let him fold me up into him.

“I’m sorry, Carter,” he said. He kissed my temple and left his lips there. They were warm and moist. I sighed and snuggled closer.

“Thanks, babe. It’ll be okay.”

He kissed my temple again, and said, “You say that, but this is big for you. If you need some time away from F.A.C.E., let…”

“Unh unh, no.” I looked him in the face. “I need F.A.C.E. I need the group. I need you. I don’t need time.”

“Okay.”

“So,” I said, “did you contact Mrs. Stevenson today?”

I stood and reached for a chair to bring near Vince.

“Yeah,” he said. “She actually came by.” He looked down at his hands.

“Okay, so what happened?”

“She wants to meet with you tomorrow.”

My left eyebrow rose. Typically, if you went undercover, you never had contact with the client. Your job was to play a role, get the dirt, and get out the way without having your cover blown.

“Why does she want to see me?” I asked. “It’s because I looked so stupid with her husband, right?”

“Honestly,” Vince said, “I think you spooked her. She saw the footage, and I could tell it bothered her that you looked so much like her.”

I leaned back in my chair. “That would spook me, too, I guess.”

“And,” Vince hesitated, “let’s not forget that you looked very happy to be with Kenneth.”

“I was acting, Vince,” I said, a tinge of anger in my voice. “What, am I supposed to act indifferent?”

“Come off it, Carter. You mean to tell me that not once did you feel anything for him?”

I couldn’t face Vince’s hard stare.

“That’s what I thought,” he said. After a few minutes, he added, “Anyway, I scheduled a meeting for 11 a.m.”

“Okay.” I snuck a glance of Vince and noticed him looking away from me. His jaw was tight, eyes unblinking. I tapped his knee. “Are you mad at me, hon?”

He shook his head. “Never that,” he answered. “Love you too much.”

“Aww.” I pulled him from his seat and stood to hug him. “I love you, too, Vince.”

“Are you hungry?” Vince asked into my hair.

I nodded yes against his chest. “What time is it?”

“A little after midnight.”

“Damn. I slept my life away.”

“Before I leave, I’ll fix us some scrambled eggs.”

“With cheese?” I asked, smiling.

“And ham, if you have some.”

I took Vince’s hand and smothered it with kisses. “You’re always looking out for me.”

“I aim to please.”

“Well, let me go take a pan out for ya.”

“How about you go and put the dagger back on the nightstand?” Vince said. “I can’t believe you came at me with that.”

I laughed. “You lucky I didn’t bring out the gun. I probably would have shot without even asking who was in here.”

Vince laughed and continued out the office. I sat back down and spun myself around in the chair. Within seconds, the smell of breakfast filled the room. I smiled, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking of Cynthia Stevenson. A part of me had hoped she would call off the investigation. I thought she might see some connection between Kenneth and me as we danced at Satisfaction. If she wanted to meet me, that meant she might prolong this a bit more…after she did her own investigation on me and ruled that I didn’t want her husband.

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