Book of Days
Chapter one-The Accident
Hearing her name, Lizzie Cromwell blinked a few times behind the counter of Jo's Corner, a coffee place that was highly active during the day with the Santa Barbara police department only a block away. Police and detectives usually came in for their morning rush and this morning was no exception as it was extremely busy. Lizzie realized she'd gone into some kind of narcosis and that had frozen in her tracks. Her boss and boyfriend, Adam Greene came up beside her and handed the police officer his cup of coffee. Lizzie shook herself and seemed to snap back into motion.
"Are you alright? You spaced out," Adam said scrutinizing her carefully.
Lizzie looked up as a tall, lanky blue-eyed detective entered the shop next. Lizzie turned to Adam.
"I think I need to sit down for a bit," she admitted as Adam stepped up to take care of the detective. She lifted the gate section of counter up and stepped out from behind it. The detective watched her curiously as she sat down at a nearby table. You could pretty much tell detectives from police officers. They carried themselves differently and she could see his badge clipped to the waist line of his pants. Lizzie pulled off her apron and ran a hand through her shoulder length blond hair. Lately, she has felt weird, but she pushed it off as nothing but stress. Her blue eyes watched Adam as the detective glanced at her, offering a faint smile, which she returned, before he hurried out.
With several more SBPD law enforcement that came and went, it was now quiet time and time to breathe again. Lizzie crossed her arms over the table and let her chin rest on her forearm. Adam came over and sat in front of her. He had short dark brown hair and blue eyes, framed by dark lashes. He smiled and gently placed a hand over hers, giving it an affectionate squeeze.
"Hey," he said softly. "Why don't we take a little vacation this weekend? It'll be just the two of us. It'll help you unwind."
Lizzie smiled wanly at his offer and gently put a hand on the side of his face, her palm cupping the side of his jaw.
"That's sweet," she said softly and appreciatively and went to respond, when suddenly, the door burst open and a man dressed entirely in black stormed in, holding a gun. He had a ski mask over his face, so only his eyes could be clearly seen.
"Give me your money!" he ordered. "No funny business or I'll shoot!"
Adam raised his hands in a placating way and slowly rose from his feet. The criminal ushered Adam behind the counter by gunpoint and he opened the register, scooping out the bills that he'd earned this morning. He handed it to the criminal, who snatched it greedily. Lizzie rose in fear. Her heart was hammering wildly in her chest and she was shaking violently. The man moved the gun on her and clicked back the hammer. Adam took that opportunity to slide over the counter top and lunge at the man. The man turned, and pulled the trigger.
Adam went down as a large red stain formed on the front of his shirt. He began gasping for air. Lizzie cried out and dropped to her knees beside him. She placed her hands on his chest as the blood stain spread and she could feel the warm liquid beneath her palms. Lizzie's eyes had filled with tears. Grief and agony filled her chest and it was almost like she'd lost all feeling at this point. She felt numb and detached from the situation. Adam raised a hand to the side of her face, accidentally smearing some blood on her cheek. He kept his eyes on hers as his breathing got shallower and shallower until Lizzie saw the light diminish from his eyes and they were now dull and lifeless.
She remained kneeling, shaking as tears spilled over and streamed down her cheeks. Then, anger and rage flooded her. Her blond hair had fallen around her face as she slowly rose to her feet and clenched her fists at her sides. The criminal aimed the gun at her, preparing to shoot her but when her head snapped up an invisible breeze whisked her hair back over her shoulder. Her eyes locked on the criminal and intense loathing and anger radiated off her. The criminal froze for a moment, and that's when two large flames licked the cuff of his pants and shot up both limbs. He screamed and frantically tried to put them out, but they only rose up to his back now. He began flailing around, trying to put out the flames. He fell to the floor and didn't move.
At this point, the flames have now moved to the curtains hanging over the windows. Lizzie began slowly walking toward the front door, as behind her the flames licked the walls and ran the ceiling, igniting everything and anything in its path. Lizzie grew closer to the door, which snapped open and as soon as her foot touched the ground outside the coffee place, the doors snapped shut behind her. She suddenly felt like a cloud had lifted from her mind and she could hear fire engine sirens wailing in the distance
She walked to the curb, completely in a daze and dropped to her knees and that's when the world went silent, then faded into blackness.
Lizzie was sitting on the curb, with a gray wool blanket wrapped around her. The world had come into focus again and she could hear and see everything going on. Red and blue dome lights of police cars rotated, their reflection bouncing off the buildings nearby. An ambulance had come for her, while a coroner van was loading two bodies into the back of it in black bags. She hugged the blanket tighter around her and she could still feel Adam's hand on the side of her face. On instinct, she reached up to touch her cheek and when her eyes landed on her hands, sticky and dried with blood she remembered everything that had happened in the coffee place and a scream tore from her throat as she began frantically wiping at her cheek to remove any blood that might've gotten on her. She didn't notice Detective Carlton Lassiter and Detective Juliet O'Hara, start to approach her from their place near the coroner van from her peripheral vision.
She sensed two people in front of her. It was a man and a woman. They crouched down and when Lizzie's eyes met a tall, lanky blue eyed detective, she recognized him from earlier. He was wearing an expression of sympathy mixed with firmness. The blond-haired woman was matching his posture next to him. She had a kind and sympathetic expression on her face.
"Hi," she said warmly. "I'm Detective O'Hara and this is my partner, Detective Lassiter. What exactly happened in there?"
Lizzie registered her question, but returned to frantically wiping at her cheek, trying to remove Adam's blood. The minute Lassiter and O'Hara saw her hands, O'Hara understood immediately.
"Oh," she said softly.
Lassiter glanced at his partner, confused.
O'Hara returned his gaze and responded softly and quietly.
"I think she saw the young man get shot," she responded returning her eyes back to Lizzie. "That's his blood on her hands." (An unspoken understanding sigh escaped both O'Hara and Lassiter. They could only imagine what the girl saw)
Realization dawned on Lassiter as O'Hara watched Lizzie frantically wipe at her cheek. There had been blood there earlier, but it was gone now. O'Hara gently reached into her pocket and pulled out a tissue and gently reached out to grab Lizzie's wrist. She began carefully wiping at the blood that had dried on her palms. Lizzie allowed her to clean her hands and by now, any remains of the blood were now wiped clean. She quickly pulled her hands back underneath the wool blanket and Lassiter tried speaking to her now, hoping he would be able to get through to her.
"Miss Cromwell? What exactly happened?" he asked in a calm, collective tone. Both detectives could see she was totally rattled and shaken (then again, who wouldn't be after something like that?)
"I killed that man," Lizzie croaked out thickly. "I burned him alive."
Lassiter and O'Hara looked at one another. Lassiter gently grabbed Lizzie's elbow and helped her to her feet. O'Hara remained beside her as they put her in the back of the Crown Victoria. They climbed in the front and peeled away from the scene. Lassiter wanted to hear how this young woman could have possibly lit the criminal on fire when the fire chief told him they found no evidence of arson, cigarettes or anything that would've ignited one spark.
At the precinct, Lizzie sat in a chair behind a table in one of the interrogation rooms. Detective Lassiter paced back and forth, while O'Hara sat in the chair across from her. He leaned over the table, placing both palms face down and his tie dangled above the surface.
"What happened in there, Miss Cromwell?" he asked.
His cold blue eyes held Lizzie's as she shakily reached for a cup of coffee that O'Hara had gotten for her. Her hands wrapped around the warm Styrofoam and slowly raised it to her lips. O'Hara glanced up at her partner. He was being surprisingly patient which she found startling but strange. She watched as Lizzie put the cup down and took a deep breath. She seemed a bit sturdier than earlier, but O'Hara could see a crack forming in her behavior that any minute, it would open into a fissure.
"Adam, my boyfriend and I were sitting at the table," Lizzie said slowly and thickly. She kept her eyes locked on Lassiter as she spoke (the pain, anguish and grief was clear beneath her words). Lizzie ignored the blanket as it slid down off one shoulder as she continued.
"We were talking about taking a vacation this weekend," she went on. "Adam's father owns a small place near the beach. We go there often." Lizzie said shutting her eyes momentarily and shaking her head as though she was getting off tract. "Anyway, this guy charges in with a ski mask and demanded money so Adam gets it and gives it to him. The man in the mask turns the gun on me and Adam lunges at him. He shoots him…." Lizzie's voice trailed off as it got unsteady and wobbly. Her eyes snapped open as fresh tears formed in her eyes. "I-I collapsed near Adam and I got angry. The next thing I knew the criminal was on fire and everything ignited after that. I don't remember anything after that. My mind's a blank. I woke up outside sitting on the curb and remember meeting you two."
"Sweetie, the fire chief didn't find any evidence that you started the fire," O'Hara said softly leaning forward. "Why on earth would you think you did?"
"Because I think there's something seriously wrong with me," Lizzie said as tears streamed down her cheeks. "Strange things happen around me!"
O'Hara and Lassiter exchange looks again and Lizzie watches them.
Lassiter gently grabbed O'Hara's elbow and pulled her aside out of ear shot of the young woman.
"O'Hara, witnesses saw the door open and she just walked out unharmed! That is impossible! The security system had malfunctioned and the doors would've been locked! How do you explain how she just up and left?" he whispered furiously to her.
O'Hara glared at Lassiter.
"So? Isn't it possible that the heat from the fire melted any wiring?" O'Hara argued reasonably. "Carlton, I don't think this poor girl had anything to do with the fire!"
Lassiter turned to the young woman.
"Are you taking any medication?" he inquired.
O'Hara glared at Lassiter and gave him a pointed look, which caused him to mumble something incoherent. O'Hara turned to Lizzie.
"We're just trying to understand what happened. You've been through an incredible ordeal now. You saw your boyfriend's death. I think all you need is a good rest," she said warmly gently squeezing Lizzie's hand.
Hearing the words from O'Hara, Lizzie burst into fresh tears. She crossed her arms over the table surface and buried her face in them. Sobs ransacked her shoulders and O'Hara got up and came around the table to put her arm around the girl's shoulders. At that moment, the door to the room burst open and she could hear two young men step inside.
"Lassie! Jules, I just got a 'vision'…" a young man's voice trailed off. There was a pause, then: "Lassie oh my god what did you do to this poor girl? Did you try to kiss her? No wonder she's traumatized!"
If Lizzie hadn't been so devastated, she would've found that statement hilarious, but she kept her face buried in her arms as she cried. The one person she loved more than life itself was gone. It felt like someone had ripped Lizzie's heart out and stomped on it numerous times, then sent it through a meat grinder.
"Four your information, dimwit," she heard Lassiter growl through clenched teeth. "The girl saw her boyfriend die in front of her and she's convinced she set the fire. Anymore wise cracks?"
There was an uncomfortable silence that followed that statement.
"Oh bummer," she heard the young man say and he plopped into the seat where O'Hara had been.
Lizzie raised her head and saw a man with scruffy wheat brown hair and a trimmed beard that gave him a cute unkempt look. The second man was darker skinned and slightly bald, but he dressed nearly impeccable. The young woman watched him with interest.
"Lizzie, this is Shawn Spencer. He's our resident psychic. If anyone can prove to you that you didn't start the fire, he can," O'Hara said softly.
Shawn flashed Lizzie a 40 watt smile, but she didn't return any facial expressions. A few moments later, she watched as Lassiter came over and stood next to her left side and placed one hand on his hip. He scowled at Shawn, and she wondered if this was some kind of routine thing that went on between them daily.
Shawn suddenly cried out and raised the heel of his palm to the top of his eye.
"What is it Shawn?" O'Hara asked.
"I-I don't know," Shawn said shaking his head, as though trying to clear it of something. "I-I can't seem to get a reading on her. It's like I slam into a brick wall."
"There is a shock," Lassiter muttered.
Lizzie looked up at him and they held one another's gaze for a moment. She could see the wheels turning in his head. He had this calculating expression on his face which led her to believe he didn't think she was a suspect to begin with. Lizzie lowered her gaze to her lap and twisted the hem of her shirt in her hands. There was still some blood stains there that she knew she would never be able to get out…let alone be able to wear this outfit again seeing Adam's blood.
"Spencer, here I thought you were the big psychic who could read everyone," Lassiter said smirking at him. "Well well."
"Lassie my divine gift doesn't work like a light switch," Shawn said. "But wouldn't that be awesome if it did? Gus could flip my Shawnawesome switch on and off like a light buddy!"
Gus just rolled his eyes.
Lassiter turned his attention to Lizzie. "Right now I think it's best if Miss Cromwell returns home for the night. We'll be in contact with you," Lizzie just nodded and solemnly rose to her feet. She knew the detectives believed she didn't start the fire, but she knew she did. She remembered doing it. She just couldn't explain how.
Lizzie pulled into her driveway and put the car in park. She just gripped the steering wheel, staring at the Chevy logo in the center of it, completely lost in her own thoughts and emotions. She burst into tears and angrily slammed her hand on the edge of the steering wheel. She really didn't know why she didn't burn in the fire (She caused it right? So why didn't she burn? And what was going on?) She shut her eyes and sobbed uncontrollably. Suddenly, there was a knock on her window. She looked up and saw a man holding an axe, poised as though to strike her window. She screamed and shoved the car in reverse. The tires screeched as the car lurched backwards and bumped down the driveway curb. She heard a slight 'whoosh' of air, and screamed again when the axe blade broke through the back windshield, shattering it into pieces. Little shards of glass littered the back seat, and floor of the car. She began heading down the block and when she looked up into the rear view mirror to glance at the man, he was gone. *************************************************************************** Lizzie's tire bumped up on the curb in front of the SBPD. She was aware she had parked half on half off, but at this point she didn't care. This was the only place she truly felt safe so it was the only place that came to mind to go to for help. She put the car in park and shoved open her door, launching herself up the front steps. She stumbled into the precinct, searching for the two detectives. Her eyes finally landed on Detective Lassiter, sitting at his desk, typing on the computer. He had a pencil clenched between his teeth as he typed. Lizzie headed over to him and practically fell against his desk. He looked up at her startled and quickly yanked the pencil out of his mouth and stood up in alarm (she was sure he could see her terrified and panicked expression. It was clearly written on her face like an opened book)
"Miss Cromwell? What's wrong? I thought you'd gone home for the evening?" he asked worriedly.
"Someone just tried to kill me," Lizzie sobbed. "I pulled into my driveway and this guy was holding an axe! I got out of there as fast as I could and I came here."
"Jesus," Detective Lassiter said and gently grabbed her shoulders, guiding her to one of the chairs near his desk. She sat down and hugged herself as Detective Lassiter yelled for someone named McNabb. He turned and crouched down beside her.
"Did you get a good look at him?" he asked her.
Lizzie shook her head and raised a hand to her forehead. "No," she said miserably. "I just wanted to get away."
"It's alright. I'll send someone out to your house see if he returns," Lassiter said and turned to a burly looking officer. He threw the officer a look and he nodded and hurried off. Lassiter turned to Lizzie.
"I'm also going to call O'Hara. I don't think it's safe for you to return to your home just yet especially since we don't know what's going on," he said as he sat back down behind his desk and grabbed his phone. He quickly dialed O'Hara's number as Lizzie hugged herself. Her boyfriend dies and someone wants to kill her all in one night. Could this get any worse?