Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc., are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author-mama4dukes. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Bella and Linda decided to go out for an early morning run on one of La Push's trails. After Linda showed up at our door, I wished them well, threw my sneakers on, and followed them from a distance. There was no way I would let either of them run alone on the reservation, especially after listening to the recording of Angela and Fuller the other night.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was concerned. I heard the approach of footsteps from behind me and then alongside me. I knew it was Collin, so I didn't bother turning around. We didn't say anything to each other. We just nodded our heads in greeting and followed the girls. And thank the spirits we did. About ten minutes later, we heard Linda yell, "Hey!"
Then we heard Bella scream, "Bastard!"
Collin and I increased our speed and made it to the girls just in time to see Linda stomping on Marcus Cedro's foot and Bella kicking Travis Johnson in the balls, sending him to his knees.
Collin reached for Cedro's fist, which was preparing to strike Linda, and shoved him up against a tree with a deadly scowl on his face. Meanwhile, I picked Johnson up with one hand, forced him to stand, and held him by the collar.
I was furious. The shady cop had no right approaching my imprint, and he knew it. I looked straight into his eyes. "Problem?"
The asshole immediately began shaking. "N… No. No p…problem at all."
"Then what business do you have with our wives? In fact, you've never even been formally introduced to my wife."
Johnson's eyes started wandering as he searched for an answer. Finally, his eyes landed on Cedro, who was trembling, petrified, as Collin stared him down.
"We… We were just saying hello to Linda."
"Were you? Then why did our wives seem to think otherwise?"
Johnson shrugged his shoulders and wiped his hand with his latex-gloved hand. Interesting. Why was he wearing latex gloves? I glanced at Cedro. His hands were ungloved.
Johnson decided to change tunes. He plastered a greasy smile on his face. "It's great to see you, Paul." I didn't respond to him. Instead, I continued scrutinizing his face. "I… I happened to go to the prison yesterday to visit your father and noticed your name on the visitor's list. I bet you didn't know Johnny and I are friends. Anyway, I was going to transport him to his new halfway house, but he had already been released. So I was wondering if you know where he is. He's my best friend."
I didn't react to his words.
Johnson continued speaking. "Because… Because I can help him. I can get him a job. I only want the best for him."
"Is everything okay?" Seth questioned, approaching the scene in uniform. Jacob and Quil were standing guard in the distance, unseen by the others.
I turned to our wolf cop. "Johnson here was just explaining how he is going to get my father a job. What that has to do with Cedro and him harassing our wives puzzles me."
Seth observed Johnson, who was now perspiring—beads of sweat coated his forehead, the perspiration dripping into his eyes. Considering it was about thirty degrees outside, it was quite a feat.
"What are the gloves for?" Seth questioned.
"Uh, it's cold out."
"So, naturally, you wore latex gloves."
"Yeah, I didn't have anything else." His eyes kept shifting between Cedro's shirt pocket and the forest floor by his shoes.
I caught a glint of silver under a leaf. Seth also caught sight of it. He pulled out a pair of latex gloves from the utility belt of his police uniform and placed them on his hands.
"What? Are you going to arrest us, Clearwater? We didn't do a goddamned thing except say hello to Linda and Bella."
"Have we met before you snatched my friend and me when we stopped while I tied my shoelace?" Bella questioned Johnson. "It's just that you seem to know my name, but I know for sure we've never been formally introduced."
Seth knelt on the ground and brushed away a few leaves, through which a glint of silver peeked through. It turned out to be a filled syringe. He packed it away into an evidence bag and glowered at both Cedro and Johnson, who were both trembling in fear.
"That's not mine," Johnson immediately stated, his voice quivering.
"Oh, really? So, I suppose it just landed on the ground here?" Seth asked.
"It probably belongs to Bella and Linda. They were most likely going to do drugs. That's why we approached them."
Cedro was shaking his head furiously without saying a word.
"Is that right?" Seth arched his brow at Johnson. "So, naturally, you brought your buddy Cedro here with you on a police investigation."
"Yes, it was a crime in progress. Bella was kneeling on the ground when we came upon them. She was going to inject herself with that syringe. Linda was just waiting for her turn."
How dare that weasel accuse our wives of doing drugs! I was seething and could tell Collin was, too. We were doing a remarkable job staying calm, but Cedro and Johnson were not.
"Really? Don't you think frequent drug usage would appear on a simple drug test? Or did they not teach you that in police school?" Bella questioned. "Oh, and if Linda and I were intravenous drug users, we'd have scars on our arms to prove it. I bet you didn't take that into consideration, did you?"
"I don't have to answer you! I don't even know you!" Johnson spat and turned his nose up at Bella.
It was interesting how Johnson used Bella's name a second ago and denied any knowledge of her identity a second later.
He ignored Johnson's rant and radioed for backup. Colin and I released the two suspects after Seth handcuffed Johnson and used a zip tie on Cedro.
"B… Back-up?" Johnson sputtered. "You're blowing this out of proportion. Marcus and I were just taking a walk."
"Oh, sure, then why did the two of you grab our arms and pull us off the trail?" Linda asked.
"We were just saying 'hello' to you."
I don't think Johnson realizes how many inconsistencies he has spouted from his mouth in the last few minutes.
"Generally, greetings can be accomplished without manhandling the other party," my wife pointed out.
"Bella, I'm going to need a statement from you and Linda." Seth turned to Collin and me. "I'll need one from the two of you as well."
Assistance in the form of two Forks Police patrol cars appeared at that moment. By now, Johnson was sweating bullets. His eyes were flickering to the left and right, and then he tried to bolt into the forest behind us, where he met a wall in the forms of Jacob and Quil.
"Oops, sorry," Jacob said dryly. "Didn't mean to run into you there."
Johnson was patted down and read his Miranda rights, which I'm sure the shady cop knew by heart. Cedro was also patted down. The officer patted him down, checked his shirt pocket, and asked for an evidence bag.
"I swear that syringe isn't mine. Check the prints on it. It's not mine," Cedro insisted. For some reason, I believed him. It didn't mean I forgave him. His youngest son was one of the boys on the reservation who beat up Willie Black. The Cedros were seriously the type of people you wanted to avoid. Marcus Cedro's oldest daughter, Lydia, was in my grade at the tribal school. In her junior year, she dropped out of high school because she became pregnant. According to Jared, she now had seven kids from seven different fathers and worked at the tribal store at Kim's old job. She wasn't a bad sort—she just didn't know better, and having Marcus Cedro as a father never exactly provided her with a role model to look up to.
After agreeing to meet at the Forks Police Station, Collin and I took off with the girls who insisted on completing their run. We jogged alongside them to the Oceanside Resort where we were staying. Collin and Linda drove their SUV back home. We showered and headed to the Forks Police Station to give our statements.
In the evening, after dinner, Charlie informed me that the two syringes taken in as evidence were filled with lethal doses of heroin and that both Travis Johnson and Marcus Cedro had asked for court-appointed attorneys. Unfortunately, neither was willing to talk yet, but my father-in-law had no doubt that the syringes came from Fuller.
"I want to know why they went after Bella and Linda," I stated.
"My assumption is Fuller's main objective is to bring you down, Paul. If your wife was found dead by an overdose, it would damage your credibility."
"Dad, are you saying that he would kill Bella just so my credibility would take a hit?"
"I would say so. Fuller knows he's one step away from losing everything, and he's currently in the process of hiding away his cash and assets. He's well aware he's under investigation, and making you a scapegoat would take the attention away from him. By the way, Angela seems to be a willing accomplice. She is now under investigation, too."
"Is that why he wants to involve Johnny Lahote?" It was still difficult for me to call him my father. He had caused so much heartache for my mother and me.
"I'd say so."
The doorbell rang. Charlie got up from the chair to check through the peephole to see who it was. But, before he opened the door, he grabbed his gun and holster and attached them to his body.
"Fuller. How can I help you?"
"Hello, Chief Swan. I heard Paul is back in town and wanted to say hello."
"Apparently, Tony Fuller wants to say hello, Son." My father-in-law rolled his eyes.
"In private," Fuller added.
I approached the door. "I don't see what business you can possibly have with me, Fuller, but whatever you have to say can be said here in front of my father."
"Where's your beautiful wife?" Fuller asked, a greasy smile plastered on his face.
I replied with a simple, "I don't know. She went out for a run earlier, and I haven't seen her since. What do you want?" I knew precisely where Bella was, but I wasn't about to tell Fuller.
Fuller craned his neck to look into Charlie's house. My father-in-law and I had no intention of letting him in. The unwanted visitor sighed and said, "I know your father was just released from prison and wanted to give him work on the reservation doing maintenance. Do you know how I can get in touch with him?"
The guy had some nerve approaching me. How dare he ask about Johnny Lahote's location?
"My father is right here." I pointed to Charlie. "As far as I know, he's never been in prison. Have you, Dad?"
"I've been to many prisons, but I've never actually resided in one," Charlie replied. We both turned to Fuller with smirks on our faces. The asshole wasn't too pleased with us.
"I mean your real father—Johnny Lahote. He and I are close friends, and I wanted to give him a leg up now that he's been released from prison. Travis went to pick him up to take him to the halfway house, but he had already been released. So if you tell me where he is, I'll make sure he's employed as soon as possible."
"Unfortunately, I have no idea where he is. I did, however, talk to some guys who were previously employed doing maintenance on the reservation. Apparently, they're owed a significant amount of back pay because you don't have the funds to pay them. How you plan on employing Johnny Lahote when the tribe is out of funds is beyond my realm of knowledge."
"Who said they weren't paid?"
"Oh, no, you're the comptroller. I'm not going to do your job for you."
Tony Fuller clearly wasn't used to being denied anything. "Who told you they were owed back pay?" When I didn't reply, he stated, "You know something, it's none of your business and neither here nor there. Now, where is Johnny Lahote?"
"I have no idea where he is." I wasn't about to tell the asshole anything. It was none of his business.
"Now, you and I both know you're lying. According to Travis, you visited him in prison with Chief Swan and your wife."
"I did, but it doesn't mean I know where he is now, and I don't see what business you have with any of us."
"Like I said, I have a legitimate job offer for a friend. Your father and mother were very close friends of mine."
"Oh, really? That's a surprise. I had no idea you even knew them."
"Oh, I did. God rest Paulina's soul. She was a good woman." But, rather than a look of sympathy, he had a malicious smirk on his face. How dare he? After what he did to my mother, how dare he even speak her name?
I took a deep breath and controlled my temper before mentioning, "That's interesting because you didn't knock on our door once to offer help while I was growing up."
"Well, I can see I'm getting nowhere with this conversation. I tried to be a friend." Then, after a pause, he stated with a lecherous grin on his face, "Please give my regards to your wife." With that, Tony Fuller got into his car and took off for who knew where. Scratch that. I knew he was driving back to his own house with my new tracking gift. What a lazy shit! He could have walked. He only lives one block over.
"What the hell was that about?" I asked my father-in-law after Fuller left.
"I believe Fuller hasn't heard from neither Johnson nor Cedro and is becoming antsy. He probably has no idea that they've been arrested. Fuller is the last person either of them would want to contact. If you noticed, he asked about Bella twice, which is odd. He should know better than to ask about her. He's hoping she's missing."
"Who is missing?" Bella asked, walking into the living room with a freshly bathed Geoffrey, smiling happily at his sister.
"That was Fuller at the door. We think he was checking on your whereabouts, most likely hoping you were missing, and we were in a panic."
"It's nice to know Fuller is concerned about my well-being." She rolled her eyes sarcastically and then walked into the kitchen. She returned to the living room holding a warmed-up bottle and began feeding Geoffrey, who devoured his meal appreciatively.
"Should he be drinking that so quickly?" I asked. I don't know much about babies, but Geoffrey was sucking on the bottle like it was the last meal he was going to get. "He's guzzling that milk."
"He's fine. He's just hungry," Charlie stated.
I watched Bella feed then burp Geoffrey, fascinated by how she efficiently handled the infant. "Well, now, you're bathed and fed. I think it's time for your big sis to read you a story. What do you think?"
Geoffrey cooed, clearly delighted by Bella. She read a picture book about fruits to him, enunciating the words, and then brought him to his room and put him to sleep. He didn't cry one bit.
"I swear, Bella, you have the magic touch. He always protests when I put him to bed," Charlie noted.
"That's because you spoil him rotten."
Charlie decided to change the subject, "Don't you want kids, Bells?"
"Eventually," she replied.
Oh, thank God, she didn't say now. Bella and I needed time alone before kids infiltrated our lives—if we even had kids.
"Let's hope I'm still alive when 'eventually' comes around."
"Oh, Daddy, stop! You're as healthy as an ox!"
With a serious expression, he turned to the two of us. "Listen to me, and listen to me good. I want you to be extra careful while you're on the reservation. Fuller is unstable, and there's no telling what he'll do. Bella, no running in the morning. If you want to work out, do it elsewhere with Paul."
"Don't worry. After this morning, we decided against it. So we're hitting the gym instead. Collin and Paul are coming with us."
"Good. With Johnson behind bars, La Push is, once again, under my jurisdiction, but it still isn't safe while Fuller is free. He'll be behind bars sooner than you think. You mark my words."
"Honestly, I can't wait until all this BS is over."
"Neither can I, Paul. Neither can I."
Considering how unsafe the reservation was, Bella and I left the following day. In fact, it was Charlie who advised it. But, unfortunately, Tony Fuller was a loose cannon, and there was no telling what he would do once he discovered his lackeys were under arrest.
"Mark my words, kids. Fuller will become careless and screw up at some point. When that time comes, I'll be waiting for him," my father-in-law had vowed. "In the meantime, I want you kids off the reservation. Go home to Arizona, where it's safe."
So, now, we were enjoying the last couple of days relaxing at home. Alright, I wasn't exactly relaxed. Bella and I were in her pink monstrosity of a garage. She was staring at the 55-gallon drum of olive oil I had purchased in Mesa last month and had tucked into the corner of the garage, hoping she wouldn't notice.
"Paul, what is this? Do we need it in the garage?"
I cleared my throat and donned a neutral expression on my face. "It's olive oil."
"Yes, it's organic extra virgin olive oil from a farm in Mesa. I'm surprised it took you this long to ask about it." Yes, throwing it back in her face was an excellent tactic for delaying the inevitable anger.
"It seems awfully large."
"Yes, it's a 55-gallon drum."
Her jaw dropped, and then she put her hands on her hips. "You bought a 55-gallon drum of olive oil? What were you thinking, Paul? And when exactly did you go to a farm in Mesa?"
"It was when you were in Tucson. There was a Bacon, Brews, and Blues festival in Mesa. Did you know Mesa is a haven for foodies? They have all sorts of farms there. And they have breweries and wineries." Maybe talking about Mesa would help.
"Yes, I know about Mesa. I grew up in Arizona. How did you manage to leave without buying any beer and wine?"
"Uh…" I had no words because I knew I had gone a bit overboard. I had to fess up.
She ran her fingers through her hair. "Well, there's nothing to be done about it now. We'll have to share some with the pack. I'll call Jess and see if she needs some. I know they use a lot of olive oil in their house."
"Embry already has two cases," I admitted.
"Interesting. So, Embry is involved. I'm not surprised. Come on, Paul. Tell me. What did the two of you purchase? Jessica sent me a text message telling me that the two of you went overboard and were storing your purchases at Carlisle's house."
"I'll have you know we are actually helping Carlisle keep up a human façade!" I stated indignantly, folding my arms in front of my chest. "Besides, you've made stupid purchases, too. What about that tennis racquet stringing machine you bought when you weren't working?"
"I admit it was a ridiculous purchase, so I donated it to the local Boys and Girls Club. They have a tennis court there and were very appreciative of the stringing machine. I also donated some of our old racquets for the kids to use. Just so you know, my purchase resulted in a tax write-off." My wife lifted her nose in the air and then relented. "Oh, alright. I suppose we both do stupid things, but Paul, restaurants order olive oil in 55-gallon drums. This is going to take us years to use."
"Meh. So, we'll share it with the pack. We certainly have enough." I reached for the nape of her neck and pulled her towards me for a kiss. "We can't be serious all the time."
"No, we can't." She tipped her head up, looking into my eyes. "I love you so much, Paul."
What could I do but kiss her again? Bella accepted and understood all my odd eccentricities, just like I did hers. I was so lucky to have her. If Joel Vandenberger, Travis Johnson, or even that vampire James had succeeded in inflicting their evil plans, my wife wouldn't be here standing in this ridiculous, pink garage arguing with me about olive oil. And I'd rather argue with her about olive oil than face a lifetime without her.
A/N: I have a new Jasper/Bella story called The Road Back posted. It is complete. Give it a read and let me know what you think.