Mystery and Crime Fiction posted July 24, 2021 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 


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Allie goes undercover

A chapter in the book Secrets in the Wind

Secrets in the Wind - Chap 11

by Begin Again




Background
Jack McKinley's recent death appears to be suspicious. The investigation of one crime leads to another and so many other secrets in the wind.



Allie, I think you’ve lost your mind.



 She didn’t recognize the drab, lifeless girl staring back at her. A scratched piece of stainless steel cemented to the wall served as a mirror. Bunk beds, a stainless steel toilet with an attached sink, and a matching shelf furnished the 8x10 cell. Auburn hair tied in a ponytail and a well-scrubbed face replaced Allie’s fiery red mane and skillfully applied makeup. 

 After four grueling days of preparation with Garth and arrangements concluded, Allie entered the Jackson Correctional Facility with eager anticipation. Within minutes she soon learned knowing about prison life and living inside the concrete walls differed like night and day. 

 It was the loudest, most chaotic noise she’d ever heard, including the wildest rock concerts she’d ever attended. A multitude of sounds blended and reverberated down the corridors creating a deafening roar. A television blared at full volume. Women argued, threatening to kill each other or beat some woman’s sorry ass. Others sang off-key or rapped, attempting to drown out the others. Add in the fist-pounding, the bone-chilling clang of cell doors and the rough authoritarian commands of the guards, and the description chaos was mild. 

 Her skin crawled when she saw the gaunt faces and lifeless eyes. Her first breath of prison life came with disinfectant, sweat, urine, and a slight whiff of lavender. Today, after being transferred from Hayden’s county jail, her new cellmate, Cassidy Rotello, would discover the horrors of prison too.

The disgusting sounds of catcalls and vulgarity announced Cassidy’s arrival. Two guards supported her trembling body as they escorted her to her cell. With hunched shoulders and her face buried in her few belongings, Cassidy cowered against the cell wall as the guards slammed the door. She jumped at the sound of the cold metal locking behind her.

 Okay, front and center, Allie. It’s showtime. 

 Allie sprawled across the lower bunk. Her heart thumped against her chest. She understood Cassidy’s fear, but she couldn’t appear soft and cuddly either. 

 “Hey, Chickee, welcome to your new home.” When she didn’t get a response, she lifted herself off the uncomfortable bed and shuffled across the concrete floor, moving closer to Cassidy. At five-foot-nine inches, she towered like the Green Giant over a petite, undeveloped bean sprout. 

Cassidy’s wide eyes peeked over her bundle of clothing and froze. She stared as Allie’s right arm raised from her side and extended in her direction. Cassidy squeezed her eyes closed and scrunched her head and shoulders as if in anticipation of a fist slamming into her face. Allie couldn’t stop the roll of her eyes nor the chuckle that followed.

 “Relax! I am not going to hurt you.” With her arm still extended, she tried to ease Cassidy’s stress. “I wanted to shake hands.”

 Cassidy nibbled the corner of her lower lip, struggled to swallow the lump in her throat, and reached out to shake Allie’s hand. Her palm was sweaty. “Sorry.” She ran her hand down the side of her pants.

 “You got a name?” Allie’s voice tottered between stern and concerned.

 Before Cassidy could answer, her legs buckled, and she slowly slid down the wall until Allie grabbed her.  “Breathe, girl.” Allie moved her toward the bunk. “Sit down. Sure can tell you’re a first-timer. Just a tip. You act scared like that, and you’ll be asking for trouble.”

 Cassidy just hugged her belongings and stared across the room at the fly on the cement wall. 

 “Don’t fall over. I’ll be right back.” Allie walked to the sink, took a paper cup, filled it with water, and brought it back to Cassidy. “Drink it.” When Cassidy stared at the cup, Allie snapped, “I’m not trying to poison you. It’s only water.”

 Cassidy lifted her eyes and looked at Allie. She sipped the water and murmured, “Thanks.”

 “You’re welcome.” Allie laughed. “Let’s try again.” She stuck out her hand, raising an eyebrow as she watched Cassidy. “I’m Phoenix St. Angel, but most people call me Angel.”

 A sliver of a smile tweaked Cassidy’s lips. “I’m Cassidy Rotello.” She clasped Allie’s hand and shook it.

 “See, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?” Allie crouched on the floor across from the bunk bed. “Where are you from, Cassidy?”

 “My father was military, so we lived around the world. As a teenager, we moved to Italy. Jon, my brother, was enrolled at the seminary, and I finished my schooling in Sicily. My father died, my mom got ill, and Jon decided to return to America. Since he controls the purse strings, I followed. We live…” She cleared her throat. “I lived in Hayden, about one hundred miles from here.”

 “Hayden, Illinois? My best friend moved there about a year ago. They bought a large estate, a vineyard and a winery, I think.” 

 “Really? Do you know which one?” Cassidy relaxed a little; talking about home seemed like a safe subject.

 “Sweet Haven. Are you familiar with it?” Allie sensed Cassidy's hesitation. lack of eye contact and wringing hands spelt extreme nervousness.

Cassidy mumbled,  “Umm… I think I might have heard of it.” Changing the subject, she asked, “Which bed is mine?”

 “The top one unless you’re afraid of heights.” Cassidy’s quick change of subjects set alarm bells off in Allie’s head. She tried another topic. “Got a boyfriend?”

 Allie watched her cellmate struggle with the threatening tears. “I figured you did, being so pretty and all.”

 Cassidy smiled. “My brother always accused my parents of scraping the bottom of a barrel to come up with my looks.”

 “I already don’t like this guy. Did you say he’s a priest?”

 “Jon was the pretty boy. He always had one girl after another. Then he messed up and got a girl pregnant. When my parents found out, we shipped off to Italy, and Jon ended up in seminary school. He was never going to be one of God’s chosen few, but it was a good cover story for him.”

 “Wow, what happened to the pregnant girl?”

 “My parents forced me to tell her Jon was dead. We never heard from her again.” Cassidy dropped her head and rubbed her hands together. A look of sadness covered her face. “I was always sorry for that. My life story, covering for Jon’s mistakes.”

 “And what’s the story on you? You never answered about the boyfriend.”

 “He owns a casino and resort plus a large ranch. We were going to be married, but…” Tears brimmed on Cassidy’s lower eyelids. “I guess it doesn’t matter now.”

 “Sure it matters. It doesn’t take Einstein to see you’re still in love with him. What happened?” Allie didn’t want to push too hard. She stood and walked around the cramped area. “I’m getting old. My legs stiffen up.”

 “You old? I bet you have a string of men waiting for you.”

 Allie smiled. “Maybe one, but he doesn’t know it yet.” Both girls laughed. Allie had broken the ice with Cassidy. 

 “You know, I didn’t do what they say I did.” Cassidy’s sad eyes pleaded with Allie to understand. 

 Allie shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah, hear that a lot around this place.”

 No, I didn’t do it. My brother knows it, and so does my boss’s housekeeper. Mason promised he’d straighten it out.”

 “Your boss?” Allie paused and then laughed. “My new cellmate murdered Mason Caldwell’s wife.”

 “Stop it! I didn’t murder anyone and Mason knows it. He’s going to clear my name.”

 “Honey, that man’s already forgotten about you. Don’t you read the papers? He’s already the toast of the town with high-style models on his arms.” Allie cringed as she watched waves of pain cross Cassidy’s face.

 “That can’t be true! He told his wife he wanted a divorce. We were making wedding plans.”

 “Maybe you were, sister.” Allie hated twisting the invisible knife into Cassidy’s heart. “Mason Caldwell isn’t your knight in shining armor, and he isn’t riding a white horse to rescue you.”

 “How can you say that? You don’t know him.”

 “Maybe not, but I’ve known enough guys like him.”

 “You’re wrong! He’s kind, loving, and he adores me.”

 “Then why did you end up in this hell hole? Didn’t his housekeeper testify against you?” 

Cassidy tossed herself across the bed, burying her face in the rough pillowcase. “I’m innocent. I don’t care what you say. Mason’s going to protect me.” She continued to sob until she fell asleep, exhausted.

Allie sighed and climbed up on the top bunk. As she stared at the ceiling, her thoughts drifted to Garth, and she fell asleep with a smile on her lips.




Recognized


Theodore (Ted) and Meredith Cranston - previous owners of Sweet Haven Estates
Jack McKinley - present owner of Sweet Haven Estates - deceased
Elizabeth (Liz) McKinley - Jack's widow and owner of Sweet Haven Estates
Alyssa Shelton - Liz's best friend and an Investigative Journalist
Darryl Pennington - Estate Foreman for past and previous owners
Mary Hunter - Retired nurse and current caregiver of Faith and Annie
Faith Cranston-Newton - daughter of the Ted and Meredith Cranston
Annie Cranston-Newton - Faith's daughter
Dr. Eugene Copeland - the local physician
Sofia Sanchez - Mason Caldwell's housekeeper
Miguel Sanchez - vineyard supervisor
Jon Saladino - Priest and much more
Cassidy Rotello - assistant of Mason Caldwell
Mason Caldwell - rancher and owner of a gambling casino
Garth Woodman - (Jeremy) Undercover FBI
Hank Armato - Private Investigator
Cynthia - librarian, historian, town gossip and wanna-be detective
Michael - realtor and Cynthia's nephew
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