“She’s my girlfriend,” says Gavin. “I sent her home and continued using the car because it’s already been booked.”
“Why did you send her home?” the Black man asks.
“Because she’s only a couple months away from graduating and I didn’t want to be the reason that she didn’t. She came out to join me and we had our bit of fun, but I had to send her home.”
The man reaches into Gavin’s pocket and pulls out his phone. “We’ll see what she has to say.” He dials a number.
“Darling, miss me?” Belle answers.
“Is this Belle Silverman?” the Black man asks.
“Yes,” says Belle. “Who is this and what are you doing with Gavin’s phone? Don’t tell me he lost it again already? I swear that boy needs me to watch him like a baby. One day. Just one day away from me and he does something stupid like this. He’s just lucky a guy found the phone. If a woman had it, I’d swear he was cheating on me again.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” says the man. “I did not mean to disturb you. I was just checking on a possible stolen vehicle.”
“Stolen vehicle?” asks Belle.
“Yes, Mr. Sparks here was driving a car rented out in your name.”
“Oh, of course. I rented the car when I went out to see him. The rental company was happy to allow him to use it for the remainder of the time I had already reserved. Did they say differently? If so, I’ll learn not to use them again. You just can’t trust what anyone tells you.”
“No, ma’am. Again, I’m sorry to have involved you. I did not check with the rental company. I should have tried them.”
“Well, that’s a relief. At least no harm done. Now, can I speak to that errant beau of mine?”
“Uh, he’s a bit tied up at the moment. Perhaps, he’ll call you later.”
“If he does not call back in five minutes, I’ll be sending detectives after him,” says Belle angrily. “I’ve got the money and the connections. I’ll bet he’s paying you to keep quiet about his activities. I don’t know why I put up with him, but he can be such a darling at times that it’s difficult to let go. Did you know-”
“Oh, he’s free now,” interrupts the man. He puts the phone to Gavin’s ear and holds a gun nearby. “She’s a talker, but if you say one word…” He waves the gun meaningfully at Gavin.
Gavin suppresses a grin. “Hello, darling. Miss you terribly.”
“I’ll bet you do,” says Belle. “Tied up, huh? Don’t worry, I’ve alerted the police and given your whereabouts. Hold on tight. Your friend thinks I’m accusing you of cheating.”
“Darling, I swear I love you and only you. And I’ll be home soon. Being away from you is torture and I’ve had enough.”
“You’d better come home. That’s all I can say.”
“Love you, sweetie.” He blows a kiss into the phone and the man hangs up.
“Well, your story holds,” says the Black man.
“What’s that noise?” asks the White man. He looks out the window. “There’s a helicopter flying about above.”
“Go find out what it’s all about,” says the Black man.
“What was that all about?” asks Nicholas, as he and Rachel watch Belle hang up the phone.
“Throwing dogs off the scent,” Belle answers.
“Is Gavin really in trouble?” asks Rachel.
Nicholas and Belle look at her. “No offense, Rachel,” says Nicholas, “but it’s part of my investigation.”
“Are you asking me to back off?” asks Rachel. “I’d like to help and I promise not to get in the way.” She turns to Belle and smiles. “I’d like to do it for you. You might not understand…”
Belle returns the smile. “As a matter of fact, I think I do. But I’m not sure you can help in this. It’s very top secret.”
“I won’t breathe a word. You can trust me on that. I’ve learned to keep secrets.”
“All right,” says Belle. “We’ll trust you to keep quiet. But I’m still not sure there is anything you can do to help. Gavin is in trouble. He has been literally tied up. But he had already called me before to tell me where he was, so I asked the local police to go out there. All we can do for now is to sit tight. And I hate it when I don’t know what’s happening.”