In episode #5, we got a glimpse into Carter’s past as a child who had to endure a parent’s indiscretions. When Vince came to check-in on her, he almost lost his life, and Carter almost lost her sanity when she learned she’d have to meet the woman responsible for her latest investigation.
In this episode, Carter gets serious as she goes toe-to-toe with Kenneth Stevenson’s wife. She aims to be a professional in the meeting, but Mrs. Stevenson is a complete 180 of her seemingly sweet self, leaving Carter wanting to throttle her and Vince, and unleash her anger by seducing Kenneth.
I felt the need to look beyond presentable if I had to meet Cynthia Stevenson. There was no hitting the snooze button for this. I awakened 2+ hours ahead of schedule to sift through my closet. I wound up wearing an understated black pant suit with white pinstripes and my black, satin, Blahnik Mary Jane’s. I brushed my hair back smooth and into a bun and wore my diamond earrings (a gift I gave myself after my first real case). Before I left, I placed a white gold bangle watch on my right wrist and a pair of platinum bands on my left hand: the larger one on my thumb, the other on my wedding finger. They had belonged to my paternal grandparents who were like parents to me. Just before my granddaddy passed, he gave me his band in the hopes that I would remember what real love was like; two months later, my grandmother did the same thing just before she passed from missing my granddaddy too much. I kissed both rings before leaving the house to meet Mrs. Stevenson.
As soon as I hopped into my Trailblazer, my F.A.C.E. cell rang. I placed the earpiece into my ear and hit talk.
“Cassie speaking,” I answered.
“Good morning, Miss Deckart.”
I pulled out my driveway as I replied, “Good morning, Mr. Stevenson.”
“How are you doing this morning?”
Just fine, I wanted to say. About to meet your wife to talk about your supposed infidelity. How are you?
“I’m doing okay. On my way to work. How about you, mister?”
“Getting ready to go to lunch in about an hour. Just want to say hi and that I’m looking forward to the game tonight.”
“I am, too. I’m an Orioles girl at heart, so that is going to be cool. You being there will be an added bonus.”
He chuckled. “Thanks. So, I’m still picking you up at your place?”
“Okay, I’ll see you then.”
“That you will. Bye.”
I pushed end. There was not one fuzzy moment in that short conversation. At the very least, I learned that if I thought about Cynthia Stevenson, my libido went code blue and no amount of fire could revive it.
There was a pre-calm down meeting in my office with me, Raven, Suzie, and Nate.
Suzie dropped two antacids in my palm before rubbing my back.
“So how do I look guys?” I asked. I spun around once, then added, “I look professional, right?”
“Professional in a sexy way, definitely,” Nate replied. He sat in my seat behind the desk. “You know, out of all of us, you’re the only one that comes to work still looking like a broke college student.”
“What?” Raven, Suzie, and I screamed at once.
Nate fell out laughing. “I’m just playing,” he said. “Kinda. You should wear things like this more often. Or what you wore on that tape at Satisfaction.”
“Forget you, ass,” I said as I wondered how someone so attractive could be so ignorant sometimes, but then I realized that when you look like a runway model with a chiseled jaw, perfect body, even chocolate brown skin, kissable lips (not that I’ve kissed them), and a voice that could melt the most icy heart, you could afford to just tell it like it was.
“Ignoring how ignorant Nate put it,” Raven jumped in, “you look good, girl. What you need to do is keep quiet. Only talk when asked to talk.”
“I agree,” Suzie added. She sat on the love seat with Raven. She fingered her spiky purple hair, the tips of each point now a frosty white. “Mrs. Stevenson looked pissed off yesterday while she watched that video. If you go in there all talkative and apologetic, she will eat you alive. Just sit and talk when needed.”
Rico sauntered into my office and asked, “What are y’all talking about?”
“How Carter should act in the meeting,” Nate answered.
“Yeah,” Rico said as he came to me and offered me a hug, “play it cool. I just saw Mrs. Stevenson go into the command center, and she looks ready to go to war. This is definitely not the wholesome, sweet, low-self esteem having wife we saw on the video.”
“Great.” I sighed. I chewed on the antacids and began pacing the floor. “Just calm down, Carter. Breathe.”
Everyone began chanting “breathe,” and I fell out laughing.
“Thanks, guys,” I began, “but I think…”
There was a knock at the door and then Vince popped his head in.
“We’re waiting for you, Carter,” he said.
“We’ll wait for you here,” Nate said.
I nodded at them and headed out. I wasn’t going to be scared. I wasn’t going to take my time down the hall. I steeled myself for whatever was to come and quickly marched down the hall. When I reached the command center’s door, I opened it, stepped inside, and said, “Good morning.”
What greeted me was not what I expected. Cynthia Stevenson sat at the head of the conference table and stared straight into my soul. I shivered. Her brown eyes were almost black and matched perfectly with her pantsuit. She could have been me, sans the pinstripes. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and stood. We reached out to shake hands at the same time.
“Good morning, Miss Devlin,” Cynthia said, her voice clipped, much different than the soft, sad voice that played on our audio tapes.
“Good morning, Mrs. Stevenson.”
She held my hand for longer than I would have liked, but I would have taken the hand holding over her examination of me. I felt her eyes check out every piece of my face and my body before she zoomed back to my eyes.
“I can’t believe how much we look alike,” she whispered.
“Eerie, isn’t it?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t believe how much.”
I slipped my hand from hers and took the seat beside her. Vince sat on the other side of the table.
“I called this meeting today,” Vince began, “because Mrs. Stevenson wanted to let us know her decision on continuing the investigation.”
Despite the attraction I felt for Kenneth, I wished for her to tell us to stop. Something felt wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what. This wasn’t the woman I knew from the tape, from the pictures. This chick sat straight in the chair. She had her hands cupped and propped on the table. She tilted her head slightly to listen to Vince and then immediately volleyed it over to me for a response.
“Um,” I said before clearing my throat, “after witnessing our evidence, Mrs. Stevenson, would you like for us to continue?”
Cynthia raised her left hand and appeared to admire her cotton candy pink nails and the huge diamond-platinum ring that swallowed up her wedding finger. I wasn’t sure if the show was for me or her. I wasn’t impressed.
I shrugged, and asked, “Well?”
I jumped slightly when Vince kicked me under the table. I looked his way and scowled.
“I would like for you to continue,” Cynthia said matter-of-factly.
“You really believe your husband is cheating on you?” I asked. “I’ve seen a lot of men…”
“I’m sure you have.”
I let that slide. She was mad. She saw her husband dancing with me and enjoying it. I would let her have that one. But only that one. I was getting some kind of award after dealing with this ice bitch.
“From my experience, I have to say that your husband doesn’t seem like a cheater.”
Cynthia laughed, a little too loud for it to be genuine. She looked at me and for a second, sadness flashed in her eyes. “Aren’t all men cheaters?” she asked. “At some point, a man will cheat.”
“So what, are you going to keep on provoking him until he does cheat on you? What would be the point of that?”
“Carter,” Vince warned.
“No, no, no,” Cynthia said. She smirked and leaned forward slightly to pat Vince’s hand. I mentally recorded the gesture. “Don’t chastise her. I want to hear what she thinks. She has a lot invested in this.”
I sat back in my chair. “What do I have invested?”
Cynthia dropped her ‘uptown girl’ pretenses, if only for a second as she turned toward me and rolled her neck. “Let’s not play coy, girl,” she said. “It was obvious that you were attracted to my husband.”
I didn’t blush. I wasn’t embarrassed. I simply said, “And if that’s the case, why would you want me to continue seeing your husband?”
“Because I could tell that he liked you.” She closed her eyes briefly and bit her lower lip. When I did that, I was nervous, apprehensive. Neither of those things applied to her.
“And that’s a good thing?” I asked.
“Personally,” Cynthia said, “I think he’s substituting you for me. It’s not really you he likes at all. Being interested in you is his way of getting back to me.”
Okay. That hurt a bit. I was just some twin for Kenneth to play make believe on. Of course he couldn’t find me attractive. Of course he couldn’t want me. It wasn’t like I wanted him to want me anyway…but that wasn’t the point.
“Well,” I said, dragging out the word. “If this is how you feel, what do you accomplish by continuing with the investigation? Why can’t you just be the woman he wants and stop investigating him like he’s a criminal?”
“I have my reasons, Miss Devlin,” Cynthia said. “All you really need to know is that I would like for the investigation to continue.” She tapped her nails along the table, then asked, “Will someone be at the baseball game tonight to watch the pair?” She directed the question to Vince.
While she faced him, I slightly bucked at her. I wanted to jump out of my seat and rip her long hair from the root. But I didn’t. I sat there and waited for Vince’s response.
Just as he opened his mouth, I asked, “You don’t trust me and your husband alone together with 50,000 of our closest friends?”
Cynthia looked at me, hard, smiled, and said, “I just want to make sure that things go as professionally as possible and people don’t forget they are working and not having a real date.”
I stood and took a step toward Cynthia. Vince was up out of his chair and over to me before I could land a smack. He pulled me tight to his side and said to Cynthia, “We will have people stationed in the park and in our van. You have our word.”
“Good.” Cynthia stood. She shook Vince’s hand and rubbed the top of it. My lip twitched, and I fought the urge to rip her hand from his and smack her until she lost all feeling to her face. “If something important happens before Monday, please call me on my cell phone, please.”
She looked my way and walked out the door. When the door shut, I raced to it and began punching it. Vince grabbed me by the waist and dragged me to the table.
“Sit down, Carter,” he said, voice firm.
“I’m not sitting the hell down,” I yelled. “That bitch dissed me. She sat in here like the Queen of fucking Sheba. She needs to be taken down a peg or two, man.”
I rubbed my left fist into my right palm. My fist itched to connect with Cynthia’s face. I knew I would be dreaming of hurting her tonight. Well, that was if I wasn’t dreaming of her husband. In that small part of me that is wicked and decrepit, I thought of seducing Kenneth into my bed just to fuck with Cynthia. Normally, the good side of me would kick a thought like that completely out of my head, but I was pissed. It would linger.
“It’s okay,” Vince said. “She’s gone.”
“What the hell was up with her?” I asked. “She did not act like the chick that came to see you. Does she have a damn twin?”
“You’re the twin,” Vince said, then laughed.
I punched him in the stomach. He laughed harder.
“I didn’t put all my weight in that,” I muttered.
“Unh huh,” he said. “Whatever. Do you think your anger will be gone by game time?”
“Maybe…if I drink enough before then.”
“Just don’t do anything stupid tonight, okay?”
I grabbed Vince’s shirt and turned him to face me. “So what, you agree with Cynthia, too, Vince?”
He removed my hand and rubbed the side of my cheek. I swatted his hand away.
“Don’t play honey now, mister,” I said. “What gives?”
“I don’t know how many times I have to say this to you, Carter,” he answered. “I know your ass. You’re angry, and when you’re angry, you get back at people.”
“Do not.” I pouted.
“Remember when I started dating Vickie Tenson?”
My upper lip twitched, but I tried to play it off. Vince took up with Vickie in grad school, and she was the type that always had to be up around Vince 24-7. It got to the point where Vickie practically lived in our house. To me, there was never to be another pair of stockings draping the shower rod but mine. If she wasn’t at our house, giggling at everything Vince said, she was on the phone, wanting every breath and word from Vince to be only for her. Vince never had enough time to hang out with me and Rico while she was around. Needless to say, I didn’t like her.
“She was a nice girl,” I said, shrugging.
Vince laughed. “Yeah, you remember her. You hated her and when I refused to listen to you and to stop seeing her, you stole my favorite pair of shoes and buried them.”
I bent over and laughed my ass off. He really did love those sneakers.
“I don’t think I ever told you where they were, did I?” I asked.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Want to know now?”
“Fuck you, Carter.”
I laughed even harder. “Look,” I said, trying to calm down. I grabbed my stomach and slowly quieted. “Look, I will not let my anger mess up this investigation. I know I can get a little hot tempered…”
“Shut the hell up while I’m trying to be professional here, all right?”
Vince crossed his arms and stared down at me.
“I can do this, okay? Everything will go okay and with any luck, Cheater Number 5302 will hit on me hard and we can call this investigation closed.”
Vince scrunched up his face. A flash of what looked like anger appeared in his eyes and just as quick, disappeared.
“Just don’t let him hit on you too hard, okay?” he said.
I pulled Vince into a hug. He hugged me back and nearly cut off my circulation.
“Sorry,” I said, giggling. I looked up into Vince’s face and added, “I promise to be good. But not too good.”