Chapter 7.15 – Judge

An impending sense of danger had seized Amber’s chest as though it were a massive boa constrictor, soon after Billy answered her question regarding marriage.
 
And during that moment, she could almost feel somebody else speaking through her when she berated him; demanding a proper and elegant proposal in place of his woefully deficient effort. The glare he shot at her seethed with murderous indignation, and he retreated wordlessly from the estate wearing that same expression.
 
She could not get over her profound sense of fear that night, and slept at the foot of Peter’s bed in the sleeping bag normally reserved for his friends. Even then, it was a restless sleep with one eye focused on the only entrance into the room.
 
The bits and pieces of clues she had gathered inside her head over the years have been swimming about with no catalyst to pull them together. It has nearly driven her mad with frustration; until now. She had not ever considered Billy to be part of the entire mess. He was always just a bystander, or maybe even a victim. The inexplicable attraction she feels toward him wrends her heart as she slowly concedes that he may not share her sentiment; or worse, that she represents little more than physical amusement to him. But why marriage?
 
Undoing her emotional tethers to Billy will not be easy. Who knows, it may not even be possible. But she will not let them get in the way of her investigation. Perhaps she can harness the emotion to assist her. But it will have to wait for at least one more day. The ending of the third book in her mystery novel series sees her teen heroine becoming a young adult, and going to work for the mysterious well-dressed gentleman.
 
Wendell has again invited her to celebrate over dinner. She finds that talking with Wendell always brings her back down to earth. There is no information to extract from him, and he has no ties to the ongoing real-life mystery causing so much drama in her life. Since he is the only sim who knows the identity of the best selling author, “Barbi Meerman”, she also enjoys the chance to talk about writing.
 
Their second meeting amid countless phone conversations gives Amber the much needed opportunity to let her hair down and relax. The earnings from her books have been surprisingly strong, and Wendell is quick to show humble appreciation for the work of his best selling author.
 
Their conversation continues in a light-hearted exchange until an innocent question posed by Wendell catches Amber by surprise. She had not considered how she would explain where she gets her ideas, or that he would ever ask.
 
The question is simple enough, but Amber finds herself unable to fabricate a plausible lie. After a lengthy pause, one which causes Wendell to take notice, Amber searches his eyes, hoping to find a way around the question. His confusion is evident.
 
Amber looks away when she finds Wendell reading her own eyes. But it is too late. He sits back in his chair, stunned by the sudden realization that there may be more fact than fiction woven into her mystery novels. Then, he gently asks if she is in trouble. The sincere concern she hears in his voice almost causes her to scream yes; but she instead shares a good laugh with him, and insists that most of it is just made up.
 
After dinner, they take a short walk to a beachfront bar with the intent of finishing the evening with a late-night drink. During their walk, she learns that Wendel’s pronounced limp is caused by an old injury. He was in the military some years ago, and was accidentally shot in the foot during a live-fire exercise. He received a medical discharge and has been working with authors ever since, admitting that his first real love is for books.
 
When Amber hugs Wendell, laughing, she tells him how lucky she is that he was shot. He finds himself wishing the hug were not quite so friendly. He resists drawing her in to a more intimate posture, out of fear of how she might react. Instead, he takes the humble road, and insists that he only stocks bookshelves. Then he compliments her gift for writing.
 
He remains at the beach, lost in thought, long after Amber has gone home. And he watches the first rays of the morning sun reflect on the calming seawater before leaving to get some sleep.
 
Brand had asked Amber to find whatever information Mr. Dworkin had discovered before his death, by snooping around the Jones mansion. She feels strongly it is not going to be found inside their home. Amber had been shown all around the mansion by Billy, but nothing stood out to her. The limo parked in front of the house that day, however, had sent off signal flares in her brain. Whatever is going on with the Jones’ is directly related to that visitor.
 
Amber spends the next morning across from the Jones mansion, staking out for anything unusual. With any real luck, she may be able to follow Mr. Jones to a good lead. Persistence and patience are requirements when it comes to observation work. She had spent so much time doing it as a child, that it comes second nature to her now.
 
Luck is on Amber’s side today. It is shortly before lunchtime, about three hours into her stakeout, when the limo pulls up. At first, she dismisses it as Billy, but immediately scrambles to action when she sees a balding, heavyset man exit. Using her telephoto lens, Amber begins to snap pictures at high speed. This is no ordinary visitor. His name is Andrew Arlington, and he is a District Court judge; one of the most powerful men in Sunset Valley and beyond.
 
Amber moves to get a better view of their activities through the bedroom window and manages to contain her revulsion long enough to get incriminating photos. Amber does not fancy herself a peeping sim, and is tempted to wait until the judge emerges again to continue her surveillance. She’s glad she stuck with it, but not for the obvious reason. Just as the judge is getting dressed again, Amber observes Mrs. Jones handing him a packet filled with papers.
 
Amber’s heart races as the neurons in her brain fire with excitement. This is what Mr. Dworkin discovered. The Jones family has its own, personal judge-in-a-pocket. Amid her excitement, Amber realizes that she needs to get those papers. Searching frantically, Amber locates an old newspaper laying on the doorstep of the house she is using for her stakeout, then pilfers it. Excitement transforms to nervousness as he readies herself. She has only one shot at this, and it needs to be perfect.
 
The limo pulls back up to the Jones house just as Amber crosses the street. Putting on her best distraught act (running makeup, tears, and all), Amber runs with a full head of steam toward Mrs Jones and the judge, crying inconsolably about wanting to reconcile with Billy. Just as planned, she barrels directly into the judge, nearly toppling him over. She throws her arms around him to keep from losing her own balance, and makes the switch with nobody being the wiser.
 
Blubbering with tear-filled eyes, Amber apologizes and walks toward an outraged Mrs. Jones with her arms open, in the same manner a toddler wanting a hug would go to her mother. The woman’s screeching voice startles Amber. She screams blasting insults at her, and demands to know how she dare come to the house without announcing herself first. She continues, spitting that Amber is not a Jones yet. Spinning on her heal, she continues to screech obscenities all the way into the mansion.
 
Judge Arlington had vanished during the exchange, most likely fearful of being recognised during the altercation. The taxi Amber had called shows up with perfect timing as a frantic Mrs. Jones emerges again from the mansion, running down the walkway furiously toward Amber. She tells the driver to go, leaving a panicked Mrs. Jones standing in its exhaust. Evidently, Judge Arlington discovered the old newspaper in place of the package Amber now carries under her jacket.
 
Amber’s mood swings from elation to purified shock when she opens the packet and glances its contents. She repeats the word No, over and over as she flips through the pages, then eventually breaks down into a sobbing mess. The sudden mood swing prompts the driver to ask Amber if she everything is okay.
 
Amber nods, collecting herself enough to speak, then weakly asks to be dropped off at Officer Nava’s house.
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2 thoughts on “Chapter 7.15 – Judge

  1. Wow, this was such a great update! Amber seems to have lots of secret thoughts going on in her mind! I really like Wendell so far and I hope to keep seeing him throughout the next chapters! Great cliffhanger as well!

    Auburn
    loved the chapter!

    Like

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