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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 9 July 2007 - 12:55am.

Chapter 6

It was a new day and Denise found herself singing in the shower. The sudden realization struck her as funny and she began to laugh at the thought that she was now emulating Barb. Whatever the cause, she was in a good mood as she soaped herself and continued to sing. She even began a little swaying dance to accompany it.

“Keep that up and we’ll never get on that plane, my dear.”

“You startled me.”

The shower curtain was open and Ron, naked and grinning like the cat that ate the canary, was admiring her again. “Sorry. Let me make it up to you.” He took the soap from her and stepped into the shower, closing the curtain behind himself. Their ticket purchase would have to wait a little longer.

“We’re coming home, Barb.” Denise exuded confidence as she spoke into the phone. “Our plane is about to leave now. See you when we get there.”

“Answering machine?”

“Yeah. Anyone you want to call before we leave?”

“Just everyone who knew what you and I were going through. Everyone from the diner staff to your boss.”

“Ron, that’s brilliant! Get signed and notarized statements from them as to what they saw and witnessed. All those TV courtroom shows seem to favor whoever has the most documentation. Why not us?”

“I was just kidding, but it may not be a bad idea, after all.”

She could sense the wheels turning in his head as he began to punch the buttons on his cell phone and she knew that her knight was indeed a fighter who would not be easily defeated.

When the plane landed at the airport, Hunter and Barbara were there to meet them.

“Paul wanted to come, too, but he had a special meeting he had to attend. How was the flight?”

Denise hugged her and replied, “It was a bit premature, but we have an important battle to fight.”

“We’re with you all the way, you know that,” Hunter offered.

“Yes, I know that, Hunter. Thank you for coming to meet us.” She hugged him, too, and he seemed a little surprised, but smiled appreciatively, checking Ron’s reaction. When Ron hugged him, too, he relaxed.

“You can sign a statement of all that happened in the last five weeks. That is what would help us most at this point,” Ron interjected.

“Five weeks! I still can’t believe it. It seems like forever.” Denise was amazed at the thought.

“What, being married to me?” She could see him repressing a smile and nudged him harder than usual.

“Well, Barb, that is one technique I wish you’d never taught her. Thanks for nothing.”

Barb grinned widely. “Don’t mention it. She’s a quick learner.”

“Yes, she is--in more ways than one,” he said without first weighing his words.

Barb raised an eyebrow and Denise raised both. Ron was now suddenly speechless, while Hunter attempted a timely rescue mission. “Shall we go, ladies?” He walked between them and herded Ron toward the doors as best he could, shooting him a ‘what are you thinking’ look. The ladies, now behind the men, followed this silent act a few seconds before turning to one another and repressing a giggle. A pantomime of their own now going on, Denise simply smiled and fanned herself with her hand in response to Barb’s questioning gaze.

The next day Ron and Denise drove to the police station and approached the desk. The feeling of déjà vu was unmistakable.

“Officer, I believe you want to talk to me. I’m Ronald Jameson.” He waited for some sense of recognition. The officer stood open-mouthed and silent for a long moment and then hurried into the next room, where muffled discussion could be heard and then total silence. A new face appeared around the corner, stared a moment and again disappeared. Both Ron and Denise had to smile. One officer had gone into the room and now two returned, the same look of puzzlement on both faces. The new face said simply, “Would you please follow me?”

“Yes, of course.”

They walked along behind him like they were going to the gallows, but there was resolve in their bearing and a determination not to buckle under the pressure. Again they were led down a hall to a room very similar to the one they had occupied in Hawaii. Again they were invited to sit.

“I’m Detective Daniel Hudson. I must say that I am surprised to see you come in of your own accord.”

“No disrespect, Officer Hudson, but why shouldn’t I? I’ve done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. It’s only logical that I cooperate, wouldn’t you agree?”

Hudson paused longer than they expected. Perhaps he thought it was a trick question. When he finally did answer, he spoke hesitantly. “Yeah…I guess I would. Still, I have a job to do, no matter how distasteful it may be. I’m sure you’d agree with that, wouldn’t you?”

“I would expect nothing less.” Ron spoke politely, but Officer Hudson bore the look of someone who was not quite sure yet what kind of trick was being played on him.

“Good…. If you’ll excuse me one moment.”

“Yes, you’ll need your notepad and recorder,” Denise responded.

Hudson turned again and looked thoroughly stunned. When he recovered, he said simply, “Yes…uh…I’ll be back in a…uh…” pointing down the hall and then he left, still looking lost.

When the officer was out of earshot, Ron asked, “Was that entirely necessary?” Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but smile.

Denise was quite obviously enjoying it. “Payback--delayed, but immensely enjoyable. You should try it.”

“Wrong person to deliver it to, dear.”

Denise shrugged unconcernedly.

“You are incorrigible, do you know that?”

She winked and nodded her agreement. They could hear Hudson returning down the hall.

“Take a deep breath and relax. Here we go again.”

“Keep your chin up, Denise. We’ll be okay.”

Hudson set his things on the table and was just beginning to open his mouth when Ron jumped in and suggested, “So, which of us would you like to wait in the lobby first?”

Hudson looked confused again, as if he’d been leaped upon from above and had yet to discover how it had been done.

“Tell you what, Ron…why don’t I wait outside until the good officer calls me, okay?” She rose without further delay and winked at Ron as she left, closing the door behind her.

Hudson was just on the verge of recovery when Ron suggested, “Well, let’s get started, shall we? Oh, you might want to turn that thing on first,” pointing at the tape recorder.

The next hour went by as easily as one would expect of a week. Hudson was getting fidgety and Ron was cutting him no slack.

“Well, Mr. Jameson, I think I am about out of questions.”

“Ah, good. Now comes the fun part.”

Hudson looked very reticent to ask, but couldn’t help himself. “The fun part?”

“Yes, now you get to talk to my wife. Good luck.” The emphasis was slight, but not lost on Hudson. He looked befuddled as to why he was being wished good luck. Ron could only guess what his thoughts might be, but he was getting a bit of a giggle out of it. With that, Ron stood and opened the door and called down the hall to his wife, knowing that everyone would hear easily. “You’re turn for the third degree.”

Hudson, who had looked unduly worried at the first statement of ‘good luck’, now winced as this impromptu announcement was made in megaphone style to all the station.

Denise approached her grinning husband. “I’m incorrigible?” she whispered.

“I had a great teacher--she inspires me. Have fun.”

Denise entered the room and without waiting took over. “And now comes the fun part, right?” She had an evil glint in her eye that worried Hudson.

“Ma’am?”

“The part where you lock him up to keep him from leaving town.”

“Mrs. Jameson, I have no reason to do so yet and no orders to do so.” Hudson looked a bit like a whipped puppy and Denise began to have some compassion for him.

“Have a seat, Officer Hudson. Relax. I’m sorry. You’ve been very decent with us until now and I’ve failed to recognize that. Please forgive me.” She spoke calmly and kindly now.

He sat, but didn’t relax immediately. Something about her telling him what to do in his own precinct office made him uneasy. There was no reason for him to come on strong with her and reaffirm his position, either, so he just resigned himself to being uncomfortable for as long as it took to get through the questioning.

“Ma’am, you’ve been through a lot in a short time. I’ve read the reports and heard the comments from the other officers who were involved. You’ve held up remarkably well under the most difficult circumstances. And Mrs. Jameson, this is still America--innocent until proven guilty, ma’am.”

“Exactly, Officer Hudson. Exactly.” She looked meaningfully into his eyes and he got the point, his own words driven home ever so gently.

He nodded his submission and bowed his head for a moment, deep in thought. He continued with a somewhat different attitude. “Mrs. Jameson, I understand this is your honeymoon. Why don’t you go and enjoy some of it. We can talk later, if we need to, okay?” He smiled and gently motioned toward the door.

Denise was taken back by this sudden display of tenderness and fought back a tear as she gave him a look of unspoken gratitude and smiled graciously. “Thank you, Officer Hudson. See you around,” she replied softly.

He chuckled silently and thought, now there’s class--real class.

Ron stood and shook hands with Detective Hudson. He, too, had calmed down and had second thoughts regarding his behavior in the last hour. “My apologies, Officer Hudson. Things have been incredibly horrific for us and we have no right to take it out on you. Please forgive us.”

“I’m truly sorry to add to any discomfort you’ve already suffered. Off the record, I believe you. No hard feelings? Just let me know before you take any long trips, okay? Thanks for your cooperation. It took guts to come in without being asked.” He offered his hand to Ron and to Denise and they thanked him and left.

The rest of the day was spent dealing with insurance claims and gathering as many signed statements as they could.

“Denise, I forgot to let Officer Pulé know we were leaving. I’d better call him, too.”

She threw a raised eyebrow at him again, but smiled when she thought of Pulé’s reaction when he got the call. “As soon as you’ve done that, we need to go for dinner and a movie. We need to relax again, Ron.” She looked weary. He knew the feeling.

“It’s strange how all this mundane stuff is almost as draining on me as the heat of battle.”

“You want to be chased by an insane murderer again?” She saw no humor in it, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to needle him.

“No, thanks!”

“Well, technically he never murdered anyone--not that he didn’t intend to.” She shivered at the thought. “Anyway, I understand your sentiment. You miss the adrenaline and fresh air, right?”

He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow in a sarcastic pose, “Oh, yeah--that’s it! Puh-leeeez! Let’s just go have fun.”

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