watching me, I wanted to give the impression I was scared and running away. I scooped up a stack of papers on my desk and deftly moved the copies of the other notes Emily had given me underneath the untidy wad. I went into the living room and flung various items in the suitcase as well, finally plunking Chris’ laptop on everything. I sped away quickly in the truck. I had one more stop to make.
I parked the vehicle in an alley and quietly shut the door. I pulled a black jacket on and jerked the hood up over my head. A huge pair of sunglasses effectively hid my eyes. I walked quickly until I reached the back door of my store. I knew no one was inside. I’d told my mother to phone Alexia, my one remaining employee, shortly after the kidnapping to tell her I was closing the shop indefinitely. Mom had mailed her a generous check that had cleared out what remained in the business account. However, I didn’t want to advertise the fact I’d been there.
I slipped the key in the lock after turning the security system off. The door opened easily and I flipped a pen light from my pocket on. I made my way to my office and sat down at my desk. Without the medicines fogging my thinking, I had finally been able to pinpoint what had been bugging me about the notes from the kidnappers.
They’d written them in purple ink. Who used purple ink? Teenage girls maybe, but I knew one other person who had.
When I’d believed some random person had snatched my family, I hadn’t had a reason to suspect anyone I knew. The kidnappers had made a mistake, though. They hadn’t asked for a ransom. Instead, they’d made a personal attack on me.
After my experiment last night and the footage I’d caught, I felt safe in trusting myself again. I dug into the bottom desk drawer and unearthed a box. I opened it and plucked the index cards inside out. I thumbed through them. The cards Alexia and I had filled out were all in blue and black ink but intermixed at the back of the stack were cards emblazoned in purple ink.
I’d started filling out the cards with customer information in hopes of building a mailing list. I remembered a few months back when I’d gathered the cards and tried to run them on the photocopier. I’d planned to put them in a binder where I could enter the addresses in a spreadsheet. It was a monotonous task and I didn’t want to be stuck inside doing it. I had wanted to type the info into the laptop while I sat on the porch and watched Daniel play. The index cards would have flown everywhere in the wind. The copier had worked fine until I’d encountered the stack filled out in purple ink. The copier was old and had trouble reading it. I’d had to adjust the machine to make the page much darker.
I pulled the copies of the kidnappers’ notes from my pocket and unfolded them. I laid them next to the index cards. I hadn’t been expecting an exact match but I was still disappointed. The writing wasn’t close enough for an amateur like me to determine it was the same. I stared at the samples closer. The letters did seem to have the same rounded features. I put one of the cards in my pocket.
I locked the store and crept back to the truck. It was probably crazy to even think my former clerk was involved. Casey Leech had only been with me a couple of months before I’d had to lay her off. She hadn’t seemed unduly upset when I’d delivered the news, but she’d never exhibited a great deal of emotion of any kind. The store had gone from good sales to bust so quickly I still had trouble believing it. When I’d hired Casey, it had been a particularly busy week and Alexia and I hadn’t been able to keep up. She answered my ad I’d stuck on the glass window.
When she’d approached my sales counter, she’d had the look of a sulky teenager. She wore a plain navy shirt and ripped up jeans.
In comparison to Alexia’s color coordinated outfit and perky demeanor, she looked disgruntled. However, her quiet answers to my quick round of questions didn’t raise any red flags. She was taking a couple of classes at the community college and needed some extra cash for books and tuition. She was willing to work weekends.
Upon hearing that, I’d told her she was hired. It was hard to find help that would work for minimum wage and on Saturdays. I’d made copies of her driver’s license and social security card. She’d started working the same day.
She wasn’t friendly or overly helpful but she quickly learned the cash register and rang out the customers while Alexia and I concentrated on selling. She’d been a big help the first day. I’d had my doubts whether she’d be reliable in showing up to work when scheduled. I’d had that trouble in the past until I’d finally struck gold with Alexia. She’d recently graduated from the local college with an interior design degree and a mountain of student loans. I’d hired her when the store had taken off and given her a nice entry-level salary. She had originally asked for more but quickly realized living at home with her parents and working at my store was still a better bargain than moving into the city and footing the bill for an apartment.