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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Solitary - 9. Chapter 9

“So there you have it,” Don began Monday’s lunch meeting. “It’s a theory. It doesn’t make sense. And we have nothing to back it up. But it’s what we keep coming back to.”

“I keep coming back to the twenty-thousand dollars,” Elena had to admit. “As I told Eliot Felton, I had no idea you could make that much playing local Poker.”

“And after expenses,” Don added.

“He wasn’t exaggerating?” Jae asked.

“Why would he?” Ike countered.

Jae shrugged. “To show off? Inflate an insurance claim?”

“That’s the point,” Elena emphasized. “He couldn’t make an insurance claim, just as there couldn’t be a police report. You can’t say something’s stolen, when you’ve made it illegally. Not without getting arrested.”

“Are we sure it was all Poker money?” Rob questioned. “Since he admitted there were drugs in the house. Even accepting that you can win a lot at Poker – in friendly games. Even built up over three or four years.”

“You’re sure he only played in one tournament?’ Ike pressed.

“That’s what he said,” Don assured them.

Ike shook his head. “It sounds more like drug money. Even for something as cheap as pot.”

“The question,” Elena posed, “is ‘Could Jess Timmons steal it?’ Does that sound at all like her?’”

“The candystriping preteen?” Rob scoffed. “I see the problem.”

“But the pawnbroker said he’d seen her before,” Owen reminded them. “So the money and watch weren’t the first time.”

“Did he remember the other items?” Jae asked. “Were they even stolen?”

“She’s right,” Owen agreed. “Maybe it was just for something she sold. A couple things – possibly a couple times. Does he keeps records? And for how long?”

“He said it was hard to go back that far,” Elena reported. “The same way he could only go so far back in his videos.”

“That sounds a little convenient,” Ike objected. “Maybe it was something he and his cousin concocted. Though it’s not in his cousin’s favor.”

“And he admitted they were fishing for information,” Elena went on. “And when he couldn’t get it from us, he let his cousin try.”

Rob laughed. “All his cousin did was hang himself – though we know he didn’t steal his own money and wasn’t trying to fake an insurance claim.”

“And he and his friend Pete weren’t partners in the gambling,” Elena resumed. “With his friend fronting the money. So they didn’t have to split the winnings. He even said he originally paid his friend out of his profits.”

Owen backed them off a bit. “Hold on. Say Jess Timmons had other things she wanted to sell – maybe things she’d gotten as presents she didn’t want or family items her older relatives were passing down. Say there was a legitimate reason for her to be in the pawnshop.”

“Or maybe she even bought junk in thrift shops,” Jae suggested. “Things she knew would be worth more if she fixed them or cleaned them up.”

“Aren’t we going out of our way to keep her honest?” Ike protested.

“Maybe a couple bucks made on low-end antiques were all she wanted,” Jae continued.

“So you’re thinking there might really’ve been a high school boyfriend?” Rob considered. “Who – if he didn’t lift the watch – actually won it in a Poker game, and Eliot Felton was too proud to admit that?”

“Or too drunk. Or high,” Ike offered.

“He seemed pretty well grounded,” Elena admitted.

“He does now,” Owen pointed out. “But this was eight years ago.”

“OK – so the boyfriend gave her the watch knowing she sold old stuff,” Don theorized. “And she was never near the party house. Then why did Eliot Felton tie this to the money?”

“Because he couldn’t identify her from his house,” Elena prompted. “He and his friend Pete weren’t even sure she’d been there and that the watch and money both disappeared on the same night.”

“Awfully circumstantial,” Rob undermined.

“Then say the watch was stolen,” Jae offered, “but she didn’t know that and sold it innocently.”

“Then why did she take off as soon as she saw her picture on the news?” Ike questioned. “For a hundred buck watch?”

“That doesn’t hold together,” Owen admitted.

“That’s why it makes sense that she was at the party,” Elena reasoned. “And that she took the watch and the money together. Then was afraid of being recognized.”

“But after eight years?” Jae questioned. “She didn’t even know the pawnshop owner had her picture.”

“There are signs all over the place,” Elena assured them. “Saying, ‘Smile! You’re On Camera!’”

“Do people take those seriously?” Rob undercut. “And did she think he still had her picture?”

“And why did she sell the watch to begin with?” Owen asked. “If she had the money?”

“That was her big mistake,” Don acknowledged. “And I think she quickly realized it and was always afraid it would come back.”

“Then it did,” Elena confirmed. “And because of her own fault – her temper or lack of patience. No matter how provoked she was, she never should’ve snapped.”

“By the way,” Don interrupted, “we talked with Kye Cooper this morning. He’s out of bed, out of his braces, and testing fine. His doctors still want him to take it easy, but his first question to us was, ‘Am I being arrested?’”

“He was a mess about that,” Elena seconded. “And at least we were able to tell him, ‘No.’”

“He knew he’d lost his job,” Don picked up, “which as far as he was concerned was fine. He said he didn’t have the guts to go back in that place.”

Elena smiled. “That’s not quite how he described it.”

“I’m giving the kid a break,” Don parried.

“He also said that he’s not about to start lifting trays,” Elena filled in. “If anyone’ll even hire him.”

“And he’s completely embarrassed by how much damage he’s done,” Don continued. “No matter how accidentally. He mainly wants to see Jess Timmons and apologize. Said he should’ve let himself pass out or anything that wasn’t so typically ‘dumb guy.’”

“I don’t know,” Jae defended. “If I were being choked, I’d fight pretty hard.”

“Anyway,” Elena picked up, “Jess Timmons possibly saw her mistake come back as soon as she saw herself on TV. Though that specific connection doesn’t really matter. It’s like how she got from Northampton – we don’t need her reasoning as long as she realized what it could mean.”

“And she probably wouldn’t’ve been feeling that way if she hadn’t taken the money,” Don repeated.

“The other thing that’s important,” Elena introduced, “is something Rob followed up on this morning – from something Mira Banerjee said about Jess Timmons’ college loans. We asked him to find her balance.”

“To see how much pressure she might be under,” Don explained.

“And the thing is,” Rob offered, “and I was kinda surprised, is that I couldn’t find any sign of the loans. It’s not even that she took them out and has already paid them back...”

“...from what she was making at her two jobs,” Don inserted.

“I still should’ve been able to find those records,” Rob went on. “But there’s nothing there.”

“Could they’ve been private loans?” Owen asked. “Through a relative or a family friend? Or even loans that’d be forgiven for certain kinds of jobs or degrees – like being a social worker?”

“There’d still be records,” Rob contended.

“Her parents also didn’t know about the loans,” Elena informed them. “They said she’d always worked.”

“So this theory we keep uncomfortably coming back to,” Don went on, “is that Jess Timmons was a petty thief – even if only one time.”

“Twenty grand isn’t ‘petty,’” countered Owen.

“Or an opportunistic housebreaker,” Elena rephrased. “Maybe even someone who’d started doing it younger – for fun or with friends.”

“It doesn’t sound like her,” Jae admitted.

“Not the version her mother and Mira Banerjee gave us,” Don agreed.

“Or the nursing home manager. Or the hospice director,” Elena supported. “Everyone was very positive.”

“But for one night at a party in a house where nobody knew her,” Don tested, “she stumbled on a payday she couldn’t resist.”

“Or she was too young to realize what she was getting into,” Elena concurred. “As Owen said, it’s grand theft.”

“And she used the money for the one thing she’d be needing it for, ” Don concluded. “College. But the older she got, the more she realized her mistake.”

“So maybe she stopped using the money,” Elena said, “and starting saving to pay it back even before she graduated.”

“That means she’d always have to know where Eliot Felton was,” Owen objected.

“It’s another weakness,” Don admitted. “But fortunately, he hasn’t moved, and he has family all over the place to trace.”

“And once she knew his name,” Elena augmented, “she could follow his advertising. He pops up on any Springfield contractor search.”

“I’ll vouch for that,” Rob confirmed.

“She might even’ve been able to return the money anonymously,” Don argued, “and Eliot Felton would know immediately where it came from.”

“If not ‘why,’” Elena added.

“Then where’s the money now?” Ike asked. “Where’s Jess Timmons been saving it all these years if it’s not in a bank? In her own little cash box?”

“She could have it in an account under a different name,” Rob suggested. “She already has two.”

“But you need an identity to open an account,” Jae asserted. “At least a social security number and usually a driver’s license. And how many of those does she have?”

“From what I’ve seen, just her real one,” Rob admitted. “But I haven’t looked that hard.”

“Could she be using something from a relative?” Ike asked. “Possibly a dead one? Do banks fully check the information before they need to?”

“What about just a safe deposit box?” Owen questioned. “Does she have one? Most people don’t – especially at her age – and many banks aren’t even offering them anymore. But if she had one, the money could be sitting there.”

“We’ll have to check,” Elena agreed. “Coincidentally, Eliot Felton said he used to keep money in a safe deposit box.”

“Maybe that’s what put it in my mind,” Owen acknowledged. Then he went on. “And – OK – say any of this comes together.” He paused to grin. “And nice thinking, both of you. But what do you want to do next?”

“That’s what we need to know,” Don told him. “How much freedom do we have? Though before we can do anything further, we still need Jess Timmons to feel comfortable enough to come home.”

“And we can’t tell Mira Banerjee what we’re thinking,” Elena said, “because if she even hinted at it to Jess Timmons, that might wreck their relationship.”

“We simply need Jess Timmons to come back,” Don allowed, “and hope that what seems to be in her is true – that she’s been saving her money and intends to quietly pay Eliot Felton back. That would make a lot of this go away.”

“But not everything,” Elena admitted. “Because she might lose her full-time job and might have a hard time finding another one – because of her anger.”

“You don’t think she’d press charges against Kye Cooper?” Jae asked.

“I’ll bet she’s as embarrassed as he is.” Don replied.

“What’s to keep her from not coming home?” Owen wondered.

“Her family,” Elena pointed out. “Mira Banerjee. Her career – if she can rescue it.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Owen confessed. “I was just testing.” Then he seemed to consider. “So – again – we’re waiting. Is that what you all thinks best?”

Elena and Don nodded. Then Ike, Jae, and Rob. Owen seemed to weigh it.

“Do you want to set a time?” he soon asked. “Say a month, and then we’ll look at it again?”

“I don’t think it’ll take a month,” Elena offered softly. “It’s been a week, and I’ll bet it doesn’t take much longer.”

“You’d bet on that?” Don joked.

“Well, it’s not Poker.”

Copyright © 2022 RichEisbrouch; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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