Welcome again to my 31-day writing challenge where I am attempting to write a fictional story in just 31 days. I’m sure I will be doing a ton more after October ends, but for now, this is a purely unedited, freely written story. Start here if you’ve missed the beginning. Every other chapter can be accessed by clicking the “previous post” link at the bottom. Comments are welcomed!
“I feel like I’m in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Erin said out loud, but mostly to herself.
Scott looked up, “I know what you mean. Come look at this.”
Erin scooted back around the bar, walked to the desk and looked over Scott’s shoulder as he navigated the mouse on the computer. “Weird thing is, there wasn’t any password. I was able to get right in.” Erin tried to make sense of what she was seeing.
“I’m no cyber expert,” Scott admitted, “but it looks like she was doing a lot of research on Green Glass Vineyards and Winery. By the looks of it, she was also hacking into their computer system.”
Erin didn’t think she could be shocked by anything anymore, but she was shocked. “Hazel? A computer hacker? What in the world?”
“I know, right? People aren’t always what they seem,” Scott acknowledged as he continued scrolling and searching on the computer. “I loved my cyber intel classes at the Academy, but this is beyond me.”
Erin turned around to peruse the folders and books that were neatly lined on the shelves behind the desk, her blue eyes wide as she digested what she was seeing. Most of the folders had names she didn’t recognize: Manny Mancado, Ralph Spanoli, Eddie Franco. She hated to stereotype, but these sounded like mob names. She continued, finding more names: Joey Randall, Michael Powers, Ken Cramer. Those names didn’t mean anything to her. She looked at the spines of the books. “Barry & ‘the Boys’: The CIA, the Mob and America’s Secret History,” “American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power,” “The Grim Reapers – the anatomy of organized crime in America,” “Mafia: The History of the Mob.”
“Scott,” she said over her shoulder, “what do you make of these?” She read off the titles to him. “Could Hazel have uncovered something going on at Green Glass Winery?”
“Bernie worked for the government, right?” Scott asked.
“But I thought he was just a data analyst,” Erin answered. “Could he have been more than that? I mean, all the wine bottles over there, “ she pointed in the direction of the bar, “every single one, is from Green Glass Winery. Something is definitely going on.”
“Agreed,” Scott said. “I think it’s time to do some digging back at headquarters.” He glanced at his watch. “Whoa, it’s almost 11:00. I’m supposed to meet Cory at the park at 11.”
Erin was loathe to leave with so many more questions instead of answers. “Can I stay and keep looking around?” she asked Scott.
He stood, turned off the computer and shook his head. “Not a good idea, Erin. We need this to be completely on the up and up in case we discover criminal activity. I will report everything we did and saw, but I can’t leave you alone in the house since you’re not family.”
“I understand,” Erin said, “I’m just so intrigued and worried and, and, I don’t even know what else I am.” She followed him out of the room, switching off the light, and headed back up the stairs. “So where do we go from here?”
“I wonder if there’s a key around here somewhere,” Scott said as he made his way to the kitchen. “It would be nice to not have to break in next time.” Both of them started opening drawers, finding the normal silverware, cooking utensils and potholders. Erin thought about where her dad kept his spare key and headed to a door off the kitchen that looked like it might lead to a walk-in pantry.
“Bingo,” she said, as she opened the door and stepped in. Just to the left was a series of hooks on which were keys neatly labeled: garage, Honda, front door. Grabbing the key labeled “front door,” she strode back to the entry hall to try it in the locks. It fit in both the knob and the deadbolt.
They stepped outside into the warming morning, locking the door behind them, and then heading to Scott’s car. “I’m going to meet Cory for our game,” he told Erin, “and then I’ll head to headquarters and start looking into some things and talk to Lt. Griffin. Let me see where it gets me at this point.”
“My family is getting together at my dad’s place later this afternoon for the rest of the day,” Erin said. “I’m going to pick his brain about who exactly he thinks Hazel Hodges is.”
“Good luck with that,” Scott laughed as he backed the car out of the driveway. “But if we can’t figure out ‘who,’ we definitely need to figure out ‘where’ for now.”