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Orlando, Florida

    Florida could not be any nicer. Over the last three and a half weeks Bryan had struggled through his transition from third shift to working hours that, though irregular, coincided with the sun being present in the mid May sky. At times he missed the consistency of his four day a week, metronome like late night schedule but then he thought of how beautifully challenging he was finding his new position, and new pay-rate, at Cedar Walk Pets. His initial paystub from April 24th had been a little confusing because the take-home pay he received was quite a bit less than he had figured on. He had been a little dismayed when that initial check at his new rate had only been about $250 greater than he was used to. He had thought that perhaps his raise wasn’t what he’d been promised but when he checked the columns of figures and the math he discovered that, just as Sandy had warned him, even though his gross pay went up nearly $400 his take home increase was closer to the two fifty range.

    Cassandra’s predictions about him finding a house before the end of the month seemed to be spot on as well. Though they had looked at about a dozen homes for sale in Rapida Cedro and the outlying municipalities they had not yet made an offer, yet alone entered into a contract, on a new place for him to live.

    Another one of Sandy’s predictions had turned out to be true but this one was far more to his liking. Because they hadn’t known one another very long and physical intimacy was somewhat novel to Bryan Sandy had agreed to limit their sexual adventures to something called ‘Outer Course,’ a system of non-coital, sexually gratifying activities. This non-sex sex had lasted for less than two weeks and when she had told Bryan that her visit to her OBGYN had included a new diaphragm they had celebrated her newly replaced prophylactic device with a romp between the sheets that culminated with sexual intercourse. For Bryan and Sandy intercourse tolled the death knell of Outer Course.

     The night of May sixth they had flown from the Eastern Iowa Airport to Orlando International Airport where Sandy had rented a sub-compact car. Because Bryan wasn’t yet 25 she was the only one who was supposed to drive the rental and they had gone from the airport to a Days Inn that was reasonably priced and less than three miles from the Winter Park Police Department building where Sandy had planned to meet with ‘Justice Jake,’ aka Police Detective Jake H. Callahan, the next morning. ‘Planned’ being the operative word.

     Bryan and Sandy had arrived fifteen minutes early for their 10:30 appointment with Detective Callahan only to discover that Jake worked for the Winter Garden P.D. and they were at the Winter Park station. Fortunately this confusion was not novel to either police department and with the help of GPS they managed to find their intended destination, albeit fifteen minutes late rather than fifteen minutes early. Jake had greeted them with a condescending head shake but a warm hug for Bryan and cordial handshake for Cassie before telling Bryan, “This will probably take a while. You can wait in the lobby if you want but there’s a coffee shop catty corner across the street, Axum, where you might be more comfortable. Oh! And there’s a bike shop like a block east, if you want to go kick some tires. Figure on an hour or so. You ready, Sandy?” he asked.

     With time to kill Bryan had walked down to Winter Garden Wheel Works, a bicycle shop that was heavily stocked with beach cruisers. “Go figure,” he said to himself as he meandered through the store. A young woman who looked to be about fourteen approached him and struck up a conversation about cycling. “Hi. I’m Breanna. Is there something in particular you’re looking for?”

    “Oh, no,” Bryan had replied. “I’m just waiting on a friend.”

     “Okay. Well, I’ll check back on you, okay?”

     “Sure. Thanks,” he had said and after taking a quick tour headed out the door.

     “Goodbye!” the petite, spectacle wearing brunette had offered to his retreating form.

     He had crossed the street and walked the short distance to the Axum coffee shop, passing a pleasant little outdoor garden that featured a fountain and park benches. After standing in line he was greeted by a barista who smiled when he ordered a cup of coffee and after ringing it through the register said, “Two ten, please.” Bryan had fished in his pocket, grabbed two dollar bills and a dime and handed it to the young man behind the counter who had inhaled deeply, given him a half smile and said, “Thanks. Next please.”

    The coffee shop had outdoor seating and free wifi so Bryan had relaxed with his coffee in the pleasant warmth of a Florida May morning. The wifi had given him access to the internet that didn’t burn minutes from his data plan and he used his time to look over emails and respond to ones that required attention.

    Almost as if a timer had been running he received a text from Sandy that read, “Whew! Glad that’s done! Where are you?”

    “Coffee shop across the street. I’ll be right over,” he had texted back, and picking up his cup walked the short distance to the Winter Garden P.D.

    Jake waited with Cassie in the building’s lobby and again shook hands with her and Bryan. “Thanks, Sandy,” he said to her. “I know that was hard for you. I promise I’ll do everything in my power to get to the bottom of this. Who knows? Maybe there’s an explanation.

    “Bryan? Call or text me later, okay? Mandy and the girls want to know when you’re coming over. And they’re anxious to meet you, Sandy. Maybe this weekend?”

    “Count on it,” Bryan had replied. “Thanks for everything, Jake,” he had said, and then bringing his mouth closer to the big cop’s ear whispered, “I mean everything. Love you.”

    “Yeah. Me, too. Now get, I’ve got work and you’ve got a week in paradise, right?”