Thursday, February 22, 2018
First Meeting from Call Me by Dellani
Moira Crane is a high school English teacher who is having a very bad day. At school, she makes all the students put their phones in a bin, and adds hers, at their request. When she passes them back out, hers is missing. Highly distressed, she reports the phone to the company, but also goes to the police. (It's a very expensive phone and was a gift) It's not so much the phone, as the pictures on it, of her stepdaughter. She's no longer with the girl's father, who was an abusive, reprehensible man. Leaving the station, she meets someone new.
Trying to find a tissue, she dropped her keys on the pavement. Tears nearly blinded her as she groped for them. A shadow fell across her and she looked up.
"Are you all right, Miss?" He squatted next to her, picking the keys up for her.
"Not really." She took the proffered keys. "Thank you."
The man stood, holding out his hand to help her rise. He was about six feet tall, built like a swimmer with broad shoulders and muscular thighs. His gray eyes had a silver cast to them. His dark blond hair was close cropped, like a military cut. He wore a gray straw hat that would have looked ridiculous and affected on most men. On him, it looked comfortable and natural. The color matched his eyes.
"Are you sure? Can I help you?"
"I just filled out my papers." She gestured vaguely toward the door. "Someone stole my phone." She burst into tears again.
The man pulled a clean, linen handkerchief from his pocket. It coordinated with his light gray suit and purple tie.
Moira dabbed her eyes. Her makeup in ruins, she didn't want to stain the handkerchief. She handed it back to the man. He wiped gently at her face, his fingers under her trembling chin.
"Come inside," he said softly. "We'll chat."
"You're very kind, but the woman said an officer would call if he wanted to speak to me."
"Well, he does." He grinned, flipping aside his jacket. A badge glittered on his belt. "Detective Rhys Fletcher. Come inside, Miss—?" He left the sentence hanging, waiting for her to supply a name.
"Crane. Moira Crane."
"Come inside, Moira. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this for you."
"Thank you. I don't want to waste your time. It's just a cellphone."
He gazed at her, an unreadable expression on his face. "It's more than just a phone, isn't it?"
How did he know that? How could he look right into her soul and know the pain this caused her?
Detective Fletcher held the door for her and she walked in ahead of him. She could feel his eyes on her. Normally, having a man ogle her that openly, would have embarrassed her, but she found she didn't mind.
Lois buzzed them in. Fletcher held the heavy security door for Moira, following her quickly through. He led her to a small office a few feet away. The desk was neat, although there were files and papers stacked around on every available surface.
"Sorry for the mess. They're repairing my usual office. Had a water pipe burst. So I'm stuck in the file room. They're in the process of converting to paperless." He held up a file, pulling a silly, sad-clown face.
Moira smiled. "I thought maybe you were just incredibly busy and awfully disorganized."
"Me?" Fletcher tossed his hat on a rack near the desk. "Neat as a pin. Ask Lois." He nodded to the woman outside.
"Don't listen to him, he's a slob. They're all slobs," the older woman laughed.
"Thanks. Make me look bad in front of the lady." Rhys invited Moira to take the only chair in the office. He perched on the edge of his desk, one well sculpted thigh slung over the corner.
In the small, windowless room, Moira could smell his cologne. It was dusky, spicy and tingled her nostrils. An uncomfortable warmth filled her. She shifted in the chair.
"I know it's a little cozy in here. I'm sorry." He shifted too.
Moira got the strong impression she had the same effect on him that he had on her.
"So, tell me what's wrong, Miss Crane."
Moira told him about what had happened in class and her actions afterward. Fletcher nodded, pressing his lips together.
"So, you don't think any of your students could have done this?"
"Maybe, as a joke. None would do it seriously—at least I hope not."
"Could it have been taken by mistake?"
Moira shook her head. "I doubt it. My phone case is very distinctive and childish. My ex-boyfriend's daughter gave it to me for my birthday. She's five."
Moira gulped, her eyes watering again. She pulled out a crumpled tissue from the stack Lois had given her, smiling when Fletcher's handkerchief appeared in front of her. Laughing, she took the handkerchief.
"I'm sorry, I got mascara on it." She handed it back to him.
Fletcher tossed it aside with a smile. "That's what I pay the maid for. I can't guarantee we'll get the phone back. If it was stolen, it's probably been sold off by now. But you did the right thing by contacting the phone company."
"It's the pictures," she wailed. "I don't have copies of them. I know I should have saved them—"
"But you don't think about that," he said quietly. "Not with something as precious and spontaneous."
He sounded so subdued, Moira stared at him. She never tried to read people she'd just met. Sometimes, their emotions were so obvious, she couldn't help it. The pain radiating off him was intense. He'd lost someone he loved dearly—and the pain was recent. Moira's fingers brushed his hand before she could stop it. She got a flash of a grave—no, two. One adult sized and one very small one.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered. "It must be quite awful to lose your family."
Rhys Fletcher recoiled from her touch, jumping off the edge of the desk. He knocked his lamp to the floor in his attempt to get away. The bulb shattered on the tile floor.
"Who are you? Did he send you?"
"What are you doing in there, Rhys Fletcher?" Lois called from her desk. "If you break another lamp...."
"Sorry. My fault," Moira called.
Moira stooped to pick up the lamp. Her long, sable hair cascaded over her shoulder. Their eyes met when she stood up. Fletcher's were dark, penetrating, glaring at her.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't mean to pry. It's just—I sense things. I know it sounds all freakish, but when I touched you, I saw graves. Your wife and child?"
"Who are you, Miss Crane?"
"I'm an English teacher at the high school."
Fletcher signed, running his hands over his close cropped hair. "I'm sorry, Miss Crane." He adjusted his shirt sleeves, tugging at the cuffs. "It wasn't my wife and child. It was my sister and her daughter." He set the lamp well out of his way and sat on the desk once more. "I apologize. I'm naturally suspicious."
"You asked if he sent me. No one sent me, Detective Fletcher. I'm here about my phone."
"Of course. If I haven't completely blown any chance in hell I had of getting to know you better, would you like to go to dinner?"
Moira's eyes widened. "What?"
"Dinner." He eyed her calmly, smiling.
"Like a date?"
"Yes." He folded his hands in his lap, waiting.
Moira crossed her legs, twitching hair behind her ear. She couldn't read any deception in his face. He really wanted to ask her out. If the feelings she got from him early on were any indication, he was genuinely interested in her. In fact, she suspected this conversation was brought on less by him being a police officer and more about being a man.
"Are you married?" Her eyes narrowed.
"Lois, am I married?"
The older woman didn't even look up from what she was typing. "Nope, more's the pity."
"Am I dating anyone?" He winked at Moira, knowing that would be her next question.
"There's not a woman alive who would put up with you long enough." She smiled up at him. "Is that young whelp asking you out?" she directed at Moira.
"Well, he's not completely untrainable, but you'll have your hands full. He's better than most and not as bad as some others. Go for it." She waved at them. "With my blessing. Now, leave me be. I have work."
"You have the Lois Seal of Approval," Fletcher said. "What more can you ask for?"
Moira laughed. "I guess I can't ask for anything more. Okay, I'd love to have dinner. I need to go home and fix my face."
"I'll pick you up at seven."
"Don't you need my address for that?"
He picked up her paperwork, grinning as he waved it at her. "I've got it right here. All your most intimate details."
"If you weren't a cop, that would be a really pervy thing to admit," Moira said, her lips twitching as she tried to hide a smile.
"Moi?" He pointed to himself with both index fingers. "Not a perverted bone in my body," he said as he walked her out.
"You're a man, aren't you?" Lois said, without looking up. "You're all perverts."
"Well. Put that way.... At seven?"
"Yes. And thank you, Detective Fletcher."
He kissed her hand. "Rhys, please. I promise that dinner isn't part of our usual customer service."
© 2016 Dellani Oakes
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