Eileen turned down the private road that led to the Jankins’ lakefront villa. It was a scorching hot day, and the air-conditioner was running full blast, and the interior of her Jeep Cherokee seemed way warmer than it should have been. She had a fluttery, empty feeling in the pit of her stomach, her heart was pounding, and she had a little trouble catching her breath as she turned down the driveway that led to her destination.
A large stone wall spanned the perimeter of the Jankins’ property. As she crossed through the open wrought-iron gates leading to the large circular driveway in front of the estate, she flinched and squeezed the steering wheel so hard she thought she might lose feeling in her fingers. Parked right by the front door was an Arizona Highway Patrol cruiser. “I thought he said he was going to be off work today,” she told herself. She pulled in behind the cruiser. Seeing Eileen had arrived, Damian got out of his car and headed back to her Cherokee just as she began lowering the driver's side window.
“Sorry! I hope I didn’t surprise you too much. I called and left you a message at your house earlier, Ms. Jankins.” “I never pay attention to that home phone, and please, call me Eileen. I keep the ringer turned off. Way too many crank calls and salespeople,” Eileen said sardonically. “So, they just let you take your patrol car on personal business whenever you want, do they?” Eileen asked. The question flummoxed Damian momentarily before he could come up with an answer. “I got called out at the last minute to investigate a crash up near Salome. I did that, and technically I have the rest of the day off. We work all kinds of weird hours, so they’re pretty flexible about us using department vehicles off-hours.”
“Let’s go inside. It’s hotter than, well, you know,” Eileen said as she turned off the Jeep and grabbed a sizeable bag-like purse from the seat beside her. Damian opened the door for her, and as she got out, Damian observed just how tall and lean Eileen Jankins was. She was wearing a thin camisole tank top, cropped tan pants, and heeled sandals. The heels made her look even taller than Damian had remembered when they first met at her house. As they approached the front door, a slightly puzzled look came over Eileen for a brief moment. “I hope I remember the alarm code. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here.”
She turned towards the front door. There was no keyed lock. Instead, there was a small panel with a keypad on the wall just adjacent to the door. She punched in a series of numbers. Nothing. She tried again—still nothing. Then, after looking like she was counting some numbers in her head, she entered a sequence into the keypad in an exaggerated staccato-type fashion. An electronic buzzing sound followed, and the door popped open slightly. It reminded Damian of the Yuma County Detention Center when some unseen person would “buzz you in” to the facility. Except this was no detention center, that was for sure.
As impressive as the villa seemed from the outside, with its sprawling collection of marble statues and neatly groomed ornamental cacti, the interior was a portrait of opulence. Damian noticed the foyer sported a gleaming marbled tile floor with patterned decorative inserts as the two stepped inside. It led to an expansive living space furnished with various Old World Spanish-style furniture pieces. Large antique-looking paintings framed in gold leaf adorned the walls.
“Not bad for a beach house, huh?” Eileen blurted. Damian grinned, “it reminds me a little of my aunt and uncle’s home in Mexico City.” “Wow! They must be well-off then,” Eileen countered. “Oh yeah. My uncle was high up in the Mexican government. He’s retired now, though. They helped put my father through medical school.” “So, your dad is a doctor, huh?” Eileen quizzed. “Yes, he’s a neurosurgeon. He’s one of the top neurosurgeons in Arizona.” “And you’re a cop. That must not have sat well with your parents,” Eileen stuttered slightly, realizing she might have been a little too presumptuous with someone she barely knew. “It’s a long story, really, but everything things fine nowadays,” Damian replied, not feeling the slightest bit defensive. Eileen broke the awkwardness by asking Damian to join her in the kitchen.
“There’s a nice place to sit over there in the nook,” Eileen said as she motioned Damian to have a seat at a table next to a large bay window with expansive views of Lake Havasu. “I’m going to make some coffee. You want some?” Eileen asked. “Sure. Cream no sugar, please. Ms. Jank-, I mean Eileen - you mentioned on the phone that there was some more information you wanted to tell me about the relationship your ex-husband had with Sheriff Koontz.” Damian had tried to quiz Eileen about the information over the phone, but Eileen insisted on meeting in person.
“Yes, I do. I thought it might be useful to you,” Eileen said as she went to place an empty coffee cup and a small cup of creamer on the table. After putting the creamer on the table, she got very close and laid her hand ever so gently on Damian’s knee. “I really appreciate you coming here today,” she murmured as her gaze drifted between Damian’s eyes and his lips - then down to his knee where her hand was placed. The touch of Eileen's hand sent a bolt of electricity through Damian, and he jerked back ever so slightly. Sensing the trooper’s retreat, Eileen removed her hand, place the coffee cup on the table, and began walking over to the chair at the other side of the table. “I mean, it just didn’t seem right that no one has questioned the sheriff’s actions that day. Barry was kind-of crazy and unpredictable, but never in a really dangerous kind of way.”
“That’s odd,” Damian said. “Sheriff Koontz told me that day out at the crash scene that he initiated the elaborate pursuit because he was convinced that Barry posed a grave threat to public safety.” Eileen began to burst out laughing, then realized that probably wasn’t appropriate, and caught herself. “Barry, a threat to public safety, oh please!” “Ok, Eileen, but can you tell me why you had a restraining order on your ex. and why did you call 911 that day?” Damian asked.
Eileen stared intently at Damian as if she suddenly resented what she thought might have now turned into an interrogation. Sarcastically, she responded, “First off, I did not call 911! That was my crabby, nosey old-bitty neighbor Betty who did that. She’s a total drama queen, and second of all, the only reason I had a restraining order on Barry was to just keep him away from the house. He would come over all the time when I wasn’t home, stirring Lizzy up with all kinds of stupid ideas. One time, when Lizzy and I left to go to San Diego for a long weekend, Barry came over with some of his friends and partied all weekend. They left of total mess. I changed the locks on the house several times, but Barry kept finding a way to get in!”
Realizing Eileen suddenly seemed very defensive, Damian tried to defuse the tension. “Sorry, Eileen. I had no idea of your circumstances, and I didn’t mean to imply anything.” Eileen’s gaze softened, and she replied. “No, I’m sorry, Damian. You’re just trying to help. It’s just that I get a little worked up when I think about that day.” Damian reached across the table and gathered Eileen’s clasped hands in his right hand. “No worries, Eileen. Everything’s going to be alright. I mean, this is explosive stuff you just told me.”
“Really?” Eileen asked. “Yes. Absolutely! The sheriff was clearly lying to me about how some of the events went down that day when I interviewed him at the accident scene. That’s something I’m going to have to look into.” Eileen continued, “You know, Barry and that sheriff had a history that went way back. Also, there was some weird kind of thing between the sheriff and Barry’s dad - maybe that goes back long before Barry. I don’t know.” “Weird kind of thing. What do you mean?” Damian asked. “One time I overheard John, you know Barry’s dad, saying some not so positive things about the sheriff. John never trusted the sheriff. “
“So, what do you plan on doing?” Eileen asked. “Well, first, I need to go back and review my report from the crash scene to remind myself exactly who said what.” Damian feels a little reassured by what he’s just heard. If, in fact, the sheriff had lied to him, that would qualify as a false report and provide him the license to investigate the matter further. “You mean the sheriff could be in trouble for lying to you?” “Yes,” Damian replied. “More importantly, it's possible that if the sheriff didn’t act responsibly that day, this might turn out to be grounds for a wrongful death claim.” “Hmmm… I hadn’t even thought of that, Damian.” “I probably need to talk to John Jankins. Do you have his phone number?” “Sure, let me find something to write it down for you.”
Eileen got up from the table and walked over to the coffee maker sitting on the counter. As she did, Damian's gaze explored Eileen’s slender physique. She looked back briefly and noticed his gaze. When their eyes met, she smiled and gave him a subtle wink. Damian kept trying to tell himself he was here “on business matters,” though that farce was breaking down quickly. Yes, he was there to dig up some dirt on the sheriff, but the woman in the room with him, the one who reminded him so much of his old girlfriend, the lady who smelled so good when she came over and placed her hand on his knee. Well, he might have gotten the 411 that he was looking for today, but he increasingly got the sense that a lot more than that was going to happen.
Eileen scribbled on a notepad, then turned to the coffee maker and began to remove the carafe from the machine when she stopped. She slid the carafe back into the machine and turned the power switch off. Wheeling around slowly, she began to saunter back to Damian. As she did, she pulled the bottom of her tank top out of her pants and started lifting the top over her head as she now straddled Damian’s legs. He was now sitting very upright in the chair. She lowered herself slowly onto his lap, then grabbed his hands and guided them up until his giant mitts cupped her supple breasts. As Damian began caressing her gently, Eileen let out a long, slow, sultry groan. She grasped the back of Damian’s neck with her hands, pulled his head forward, and locked her lips on his. Damian began to remove her bra when she whispered, “Not here. If you think the living room was amazing, wait till you see the master bedroom.”
To be continued...