Author's Note: To those of you that support me and this story completely, to those who left me reviews letting me know how much you support me and where this story is headed... Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are truly the best. Love you all!
These characters are NOT mine.
I took a deep breath and entered the chic down town restaurant. George looked up at the sound of the tinkling bell and his face broke out in a huge grin. The man with the coal black eyes had eyes on George and then turned to see what he was smiling about. His face broke out in a smile as well. But unlike George's reaction, Coal Black Eyes made my toes curl and I shivered involuntarily. Both men stood up in unison and I in return put a smile on my face and walked towards them.
"Good morning, Officer Weasley." I greeted him as he drew me in for a hug. I watched as Coal Black Eyes frowned hard and I closed my eyes quickly. I didn't need him to see me watching him.
"What happened to George, Steph?" He questioned as he drew back.
I rolled my eyes. "Fine. Good morning, George."
He laughed. "That's better." He put a hand on my lower back and together our bodies turned towards our dinner companion. "Steph, this is..."
He interrupted before George could introduce him. "Diego." He held out his hand and his eyes watched my face closely. I didn't know what he was waiting for but I took his hand in mine for a firm handshake. I shiver when our skin touched and his lips twitched. He knew how he effected me.
"Good morning, Diego..." I trailed off hoping he would give his last name and I wasn't disappointed.
"Diego Manoso." He said his last name slowly, like I wouldn't be able to pronounce it later.
My brows furrowed in confusion but I shook it off. "Stephanie or Steph." I replied, still holding his hand.
"Which one do you prefer?" His thumb caressed my wrist and I let out another shiver.
He nodded and finally let go of my hand. It was then George cleared his throat and let out a nervous, shaky laugh. "Okay. Now that the introductions are out of the way." He gestured towards the chairs. "Let's sit."
We all took our seats and as soon as we did a waitress appeared at our table. "What can I get you?" She was looking at me. "Coffee and pancakes." I replied. "The biggest stack you have." I added before she could ask me. She grinned. "Coming right up."
I looked back to find both George and Coal Black - oh excuse me, Diego looking at me. Grins on their faces. George broke the silence. "Pancakes, huh?"
I shrugged. "Pancakes." I replied. "So.. what's the news?"
George looked at Diego and back at me. He opened his mouth to speak but the waitress appeared with my coffee and little packets of cream. I thanked her and poured me some coffee. I added a little bit of sugar and creamer.
"Does the name Frankie ring a bell?" George asked me as I fixed my coffee. I glanced up at him and shook my head. He frowned. "Well damn. I was hoping it would."
"Do I know him?"
"He's from Bandana, Kentucky. Apparently he saw some news where you were missing and he came forward. You stopped there over a year ago."
"Stopped there?" I questioned.
George nodded. "Frankie stated that unfortunately he did all the talking so you didn't talk about yourself much. However, he did say that you were traveling through with a Ford Econoline van."
My eyes lit up. "Really?"
"Yes. We tried to see if there are any Ford vans registered under any Stephanies but it's a long search. That's where Diego comes in."
I had forgotten about Diego. I turned to look at him at the same time the waitress brought my pancakes. As anxious as I was to hear why Diego was here, I had a certain relationship with pancakes that couldn't be rivaled with anything else. So I dug in and waited for George to tell me what was going on. Instead Diego spoke up.
"I own a business that specializes in several things, but one of those things is investigation work. I'm going to do a little digging and investigating.."
"You're a PI." I pointed around a mouthful of pancake.
Diego smiled. "Yes. Among other things."
"How is this different from what George has been doing?" I asked.
"Officer Weasley is bound to his badge. I'm not."
My brows furrowed in worry. "That doesn't sound very lawful."
George laughed. "Diego and his team fly just above that line. And sometimes they just happen to have a little turbulence."
Diego nodded in reply. "George also has other cases and I don't. My focus will be on you and finding out everything I can."
I choked on my pancakes and shook my head. "I can't afford that."
George reached out and laid a hand on my arm. "Diego owes me a favor, Steph. Don't worry about it."
Still shaking my head, I told him no again. "No. Not for me. I can't let you do this."
"Stephanie." At Diego's sharp tone, my head snapped in his direction. Once my eyes were on his, he spoke. "I do owe George a favor but it won't be this one. Once I heard your story and what you've been through and how much you fought to rise out of the hell you've endured I knew I wanted to help any way I could. So stop worrying about it."
I frowned. I didn't like his tone, but at the same I wanted to do exactly as he said. I didn't understand the war my body and my mind was having with each other. So for now, I just nodded and went back to my pancakes. And I turned my attention back to the safer of the two men.
"Why do you think AFIS is taking so long? Could I not be in the system?"
George took a sip of his coffee, shaking his head. "Not necessarily. I think it means you're not a criminal and you are definitely not wanted." He assured me.
I heard Diego say something as did George. Both our heads turned to look at him. "What did you say?" George asked him, frowning.
Diego shook his head and took a bite of his omelet. That only made George frown harder. I spoke before George could. "What do I need to do? I mean, not to sound rude but why this meeting?"
Diego quickly swallowed. "Not rude, Steph. I understand where you're coming from. This meeting is so I can tell you that we'll be meeting quite a lot until I can find something or unless AFIS spits out a name for us."
I nodded. "Okay."
Inside, my stomach was churning. I had to spend more time with this man. I didn't think I would survive him. As it was, I was already having a hard time keeping my legs still and I was shaking all over. My palms were clammy and I was sweating. But to find out who I am.. I would walk to the end of the earth and back again. I wanted to know who I was.
Or did I?
"Hey White girl. Who are we going after today?"
I bit into my Boston Creme donut and shrugged. I passed her the folders as I continued to eat my donut. Maybe if I hurried and finished this one I could get the second one before she did. My gaze fell on the woman in front of me and I barely contained my grimace. She was wearing bright yellow spandex today. It barely held on the essence that was she. Her hair was done in a cute little bob type of thing but it also was bright yellow. She looked like a giant banana.
"Eh.. 'ow about this one? He looks like he wouldn't cause too much trouble. After all I just got my nails did and I can't have the messed up before my date with Tankie-poo."
I glanced up to look at her nails but everything was fuzzy. I couldn't see her face anymore. My eyes watered and I shook my head. The scene changed and I was standing on a curb looking at a quaint little house that looked so familiar. I looked around trying to see if there were signs announcing where I was but I saw nothing. Suddenly I was spinning in circles with voices in my ear. Everything was so blurry that I couldn't make out anything but soon I had to close my eyes because I was spinning so fast I thought I was going to puke. I felt like I was in the middle of a tornado. It was then the voices started. They were saying different things and they sounded so very angry.
"Stephanie! Why me?"
"I need my money. Why aren't you out there?"
"I made pineapple upside down cake."
"I won $200! Thanks Steph!"
"Why do you do this to your mother?"
"I'm a rich man, Steph!"
"You're giving me heartburn."
Then the laughter started and I started crying. Their voices were taunting me, mocking me. I could feel them around them around but when I tried to turn to see who was speaking, they disappeared just as quickly. I woke up screaming for the voices to stop. I was covered in sweat and tears and I was shaking so bad I could barely stand. I was grateful that Mary was still out with her boyfriend so she didn't hear me screaming. I shed my clothes and stepped into the shower, turning it to hot as I could handle. All those voices and the laughter. It was cruel. It wasn't meant to be actually funny. It was meant to hurt. Is that why I couldn't remember anything? Because it was too painful. I couldn't stop the tears that were coursing down my cheeks as I curled up in the bottom of the shower, wrapping my arms around my knees. Now I wasn't even sure if I wanted to remember my past. I was happy here in Jacksonville. I had a great job and I was working towards my degree in nursing. I had friends too. I had great friends. If that dream was any indication, I didn't want to remember after all.
RangeMan - Tybee Island, Georgia(10 months after Steph went missing)
"Make sure it arrives in one piece. If anything happens to that vehicle, there will be no saving you from Ranger's wrath." Tank called out as a few members of RangeMan loaded it up on the back of a flat bed truck.
He watched as Ranger talked with the head of the impound lot. The guy made a bunch of gestures towards the East that Tank could only assume meant that's where it was picked up. Ranger shook the man's hand and then walked back towards Tank.
"Anything?" Tank asked once Ranger got close.
Ranger shook his head. "They picked it up not too far from here. It had been there for about a month he said."
"Any keys found?"
"Not in the normal hiding spots and the guy said he hasn't been in it. Not their job or their rights he said."
"That's good for us."
Ranger nodded but didn't reply.
"What's the next move?" Tank asked. He was curious where Ranger would go from here. After hearing that Steph put the van in Alexander Ramos' name, Ranger went to work and while it took quite a bit of time, he finally located the van here to this impound lot.
"Fine tooth comb."
"You gonna have Lester and Bobby do it since you trust them the most?"
Ranger gave a small shake of his head. "No one is touching that van but me."