Chapter 31 & 32
Meaghan stiffened for a moment, then relaxed and sighed as she nestled against Rickie’s chest. She felt one hand slowly stroke the back of her head; he smelled of spicy aftershave and healthy male. After a moment, she pushed at his chest and took a step backwards as his arms loosened. She looked up at him.
“What are you doing here?”
Rickie gave a sheepish grin, which faded as he tucked a sable tendril behind her ear.
“I just wanted to see you today. Can I come in, maybe for a cup of coffee?”
Meaghan caught herself glancing at the other houses, whose dark windows belied anyone watching them.
Rickie raised an eyebrow at her actions. “Are you afraid that your nosy neighbor will see us?”
“Shel? No, She’s been out of town for a couple of days, and I don’t know when she’ll be back. But I think I’d better go back inside.” Meaghan had turned from Rickie and towards her house, when she felt him grab her wrist and gently pull her back around.
“Are you sure I can’t stay?” Rickie pouted a bit. Meaghan smiled and placed a hand to his cheek.
“Maybe next time. I really do need to sleep.”
Rickie quickly turned his head and kissed her palm, still warm from contact with his skin. She immediately pulled her arm away, her eyes wide.
“Next time, Meggie,” he spoke in a low tone, then grabbed her shoulders, tenderly turned her back to her door and gave her a little push. He stood there and watched as she opened, then closed, her front door without looking back. He took a deep breath, willed his unruly body to relax, and headed back to his truck.
Meaghan leaned against her door, trying to slow her breathing. Shaking it off, she quickly went to her bedroom, climbed under the covers, and attempted to fall asleep. After what seemed like hours, she rolled over onto her back and threw an arm over her eyes. Sleep was long in coming.
On Friday, Rickie was in his office when he received a phone call from JoAnne. Without preamble, she spoke.
“We’ve had a situation with one of our France employees by the name of Ivoire. According to the embassy representative that contacted us, she was found dead in Bangkok yesterday. They believe it might be a homicide.”
Rickie thought for a moment. “Why did they get in touch with us?”
“It appears she didn’t have any other emergency contact information, and they found her business cards in her luggage. I checked out her employee records. She had requested temporary emergency leave for her sick grandmother. Other than that, I have no further information. Mystisith was a new hire at the time, so she was placed in the position without a handoff from Ivoire. I haven’t spoken to her supervisor yet; we just found out a short time ago.” JoAnne paused. “Your girlfriend might know something.”
“Meaghan?” Rickie was confused. “How is she involved?”
“She was the analyst at our main distribution office, so she received the monthly reports from all of our branch offices, including France. Ivoire was her direct contact, and I understand they were on friendly terms. I talked to Cynthia here, and she was going to contact Meaghan directly and tell her the news.”
Rickie sat up, wondering how Meaghan was going to take the news.
JoAnne continued. “Since she was still an employee, your father is making the arrangements through the company. Don’t worry; I’ll make sure he doesn’t overtax himself.”
“Did she have any relatives?” Rickie asked.
“There are none listed in her personnel file besides a grandmother in Cameroon,” JoAnne replied, “Your father is attempting to contact her now.”
Rickie nodded at the phone. “Okay, let me know if there is anything I need to do.” He sat for a moment after hanging up, thinking. On impulse, he contacted Cynthia, and requested she not say anything to Meaghan until Monday.
~ ~ ~
Meaghan bustled through the living room, cleaning up fallen popcorn and drink cups. The party started with a movie, and a giggling game of Truth or Dare. They were currently doing a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood; Meaghan had arranged a series of stops with her neighbors. Shel still wasn’t back home, which was unusual, but there were plenty of others that were willing to help out.
She started spreading out the food: curry puffs, pandan-wrapped chicken bites, western-style mini hamburgers, chick peas, and sliced fruit. She had just finished with the setup when the door banged open, and a stream of chattering girls entered the house. Bright-eyed and happy, Leaf bounced over to her sister and gave her a hug.
“Kakak! That was the best!” Meaghan smiled as she returned the hug, and then turned to address the group.
“Everyone go wash their hands and we’ll eat.” There was some good-natured ribbing as the gaggle wandered off toward the bedrooms. Leaf looked over the table and grinned.
“That all looks great! Did anyone else stop by while we were gone?” Meaghan wondered what she meant.
“Why, did someone miss the party?” Meaghan asked, but didn’t remember anyone missing from Leaf’s female friends.
Leaf shook her head a little too quickly. “No, no, everything’s cool.” And with that, she headed to her bedroom, pulling her cell phone out of her dress pocket. Meaghan shook her head, and started herding the returning girls towards the plates at one end of the table. Soon everyone was sitting on the floor, eating and talking at the same time, something which only a teenager can manage easily.
After dinner and the cake, they were going to stage a fashion show. She had already spread out the outfits the girls had brought with them, and had moved her cheval mirror and cosmetic case to Tina’s room to help with their primping.
Meaghan was just putting the candles on the chocolate fudge cake when the door bell rang. She walked out of the kitchen just in time to see Leaf sprinting for the door. She threw it open and all but yelled.
“You found it! Thanks!!” The person filling the door frame was very familiar, one that had haunted her sleep last night.