Author: Marc Estes
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Book: Four Pieces For Power /Rekindle the Flame of The Vendicatori Series
Accomplished writer, Marc Estes, is proud to present his award winning debut novel, Four Pieces For Power, Book One of the Vendicatori. Four Pieces For Power marks the first in a series of Vendicatori novels developed by Mr. Estes. He is a two-time winner of the Vermont Playwright’s Award for his plays, What Would Dickens Do?and Glass Closets. What Would Dickens Do? also won the 2012 Robert J. Pickering Award for Playwriting Excellence. His play, Gumbo (adapted from the short story by Charles Huckelbury) was a finalist in the 2011 Safe Streets Arts Foundation Short Play Competition and was presented at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His play The Practice of Killing (co-written with Robert Johnson, and adapted from the short story by Mr. Johnson) has been published in the Spring 2013 edition of Tacenda Literary Magazine. In 2013 he was also awarded the Robert Chesley Award from the Chesley/Bumbalow Foundation in Los Angeles and selected to receive the Artist in Residence Grant from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. His play Going Home was presented at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the Fall of 2014. His second novel, Rekindle the Flame, Book Two of the Vendicatori is scheduled to be released in Spring 2015. Estes is a native of New England and graduate of the University of New Hampshire.
I currently run quarterly promotions where I donate 50% of my royalties to a specific charity. Through June 30th I am working with ASPCA and from July –September I am planning to help the Trevor Project.
When mysterious strangers arrive at the home of Andrew Correo, they provide him with life changing news. He learns of the Vedicatori, a secret organization established by his ancestors, an organization he now has the chance to inherit control over. In order to gain this control, he needs to compete with Robert Stavero in a global scavenger hunt. They must search for four illusive crystals that, when brought together, will tell them their final destination. Also in Edson, Monica Correo is planning a wedding to her love, John Weaver. With the wedding so close to Halloween, the pair decide to have a masquerade ball for the wedding reception. It will be an event no one in Edson will ever forget. With just a clue and limited guidance, both Andrew and Robert set out on their secretive journey. For both, the path leads to mystery, suspense, and self-discovery. As Andrew looks forward to his future, while putting parts of his past behind him, Robert grows greedy and develops a love for deception and hate. The hunt brings them through the ruins of Teotihuacan to the Eternal City and its history, but who will have the cunning to come out on top?
Written by Anita Lock, US Review of Books
“Both shared in the amazement of how two complete strangers could become such bitter enemies without even a single exchange of words.”Andrew Correo learns the truth about his deceased grandfather and the involvement he had with the Vendicatori, a powerful organization developed to protect the Correo family’s fortune. But in order for Andrew to claim his inheritance as the next Correo heir, he must compete in a challenge against Robert Stavero, an unknown contender and master of disguises. The object of the challenge is for the winner to procure all four pieces of the puzzle that will reveal the “final destination, and the largest prize in the world.” Questions remain whether or not Andrew can keep this perilous competition a secret from his sister and mother, as well as outwit his maleficent opponent.Awarding winning writer Marc Estes has produced a suspenseful story that has a James Bond feel to it. The first in a series of Vendicatori novels, Estes’ third person narrative is a rapidly paced page-turner filled with un-hackneyed character scenes between his sister’s upcoming wedding; the contest and Andrew’s nerve-racking encounters with Robert, his maniacal antagonist; a bit of romance; and other supporting characters—a few that may seem harmless now but could easily turn into future villains in subsequent sequels. Aside of the constant influx of juxtaposed scenes, Estes not only draws readers into the plot’s action, but also into the lives of a well-developed cast that goes beyond Andrew, Estes’ principal character. Good examples are Brad whose mother and sister were brutally murdered and Jenna who has a thing for Andrew. Estes’ thriller closes with a mind-boggling cliffhanger. Earmarked to be a best-seller, there is no doubt that Four Pieces For Power will keep readers on edge till the very end.RECOMMENDED by the USR
The rain fell hard on the roof as Andrew Correo sat in his study re-reading his favorite classic novel, The Phantom of the Opera. The weather outside set the mood for the story. Andrew planned to sit by himself all morning and afternoon reading the book from cover to cover. The book and its characters filled him with great emotion every time he opened to chapter one. Bayberry Road was a quiet road on the outskirts of Edson. The surrounding serenity motivated Andrew’s family to choose this land and build their home. Seldom would cars explore the old country road, and when one did, it provided just enough noise as it passed to alert Andrew. He heard one such vehicle approaching as it sloshed along the wet road toward his property. He glanced out the window, and looked through the trees surrounding the yard. A long black limousine approached on the road. Its lights reflected on the wet pavement. Andrew never expected to see a limousine on Bayberry Road. The last one had escorted his family to his father’s funeral. Often, a Sunday driver explored and admired the beauty of the road, or the occasional teenagers would venture out on the road at night, seeking the privacy that Bayberry Road could provide. Andrew never thought twice about the juveniles. He remembered doing the same thing as a young man and just let the matter go at that. Edson was a small town. It seldom had troubles and crime. The population of the town topped out at 4,800. Everyone knew everyone else. The Correo Family were no exception to this. They were upstanding citizens of Edson and well respected. From the time the Correo family settled in Edson, they helped the city with donations of their family wealth to whatever causes needed it most. At one point, Andrew’s father was named philanthropist of the year for his contributions to the community. Andrew watched the limousine signal, and then enter his semicircular driveway. Seen from the third story, the driveway mimicked a moat encircling the front yard. He got up and left his study for the front door. His curiosity and excitement stirred him to take two stairs at a time, something he had not done since he was a teenager in school running late for History. As he reached the foyer, he checked himself in the mirror above a small table used to store his car keys. Running his fingers through his thick blond hair, he examined his round face and then stared for a moment into his own blue eyes. He looked fine, not a hair out of place, and ready to greet his guests. He reached the front door as the limousine came to a stop in front of it. Peering out the diamond window in the door, he watched the driver get out. The stranger opened an umbrella as he stood. The rain continued all around him as he hurried along the side of the car to the back, passenger side door. Andrew could not see the rider, or riders, through the car’s black tinted glass. Holding the umbrella both over himself and the car door, the driver pulled up on the door latch. This gave Andrew his first glimpse inside. An older, rather portly man, about fifty by appearance, was the first person to step out. The man’s salt and pepper hair was slicked back, revealing a strong forehead. His thick eyebrows seemed to shadow his large dark eyes as he peered up to the house, making eye contact with Andrew. Andrew continued to study the old man’s features, noticing a strong, broad chin and small firm lips. Two other gentlemen, Andrew’s age of twenty-nine, were next to follow. One had short, dark hair. His eyes were covered by sunglasses, odd on such a cloudy, dreary day.
The other man looked more like Andrew. His blond wavy hair hung down over his forehead, leading down to his light eyes. He looked up to the house and smiled noticing Andrew staring back. Andrew’s interest outweighed his fear. He opened the door for the group as they reached the top step. “Can I help you gentlemen,” Andrew asked in a friendly tone. “Andrew Correo?” The eldest man asked. Andrew stammered, “Yes, can I help you?” “My name is Dominic. I have news about your family.” He looked up at the rain with obvious frustration and continued, “May we come in?” Andrew’s thoughts raced to his mother, Brittany, as he let all four of the men in from the rain. Andrew handled emergencies stoically and remained strong as he prepared himself for bad news. He took their dripping coats and hung them in the foyer closet. The limo’s driver declined Andrew’s gesture to take his coat and turned for the door. He returned to the limousine without a word. Andrew’s anxiety reached its peak. It could only be his mother. His sister, Monica, was fine at home on the other side of town. Brittany and Monica were all he had left. His mother moved to Laguna Beach, California three years before, sick of the snow and the cold in New England. “What’s happened to my mother?” Andrew said, unable to hold his patience. “Your mother?” Dominic questioned. “No my friend, we came to talk to you about your grandfather, Antonio.”
* * *
John Weaver stepped out of his shower and reached for his towel. His eyes were shut tight, keeping out any water. After wiping his eyes and face, he walked to the window. He gently separated the blinds with his fingers and glared out at the gray September sky. The leaves on the maple and birch trees in front of his condo were starting to turn light shades of red, orange, and yellow. The rain loosened some of the leaves, forcing them to fall to the ground in the wind. This depressed him. The summer was over and the doldrums of autumn and winter were approaching. He thought of Monica. The thought brought a brightness back to his soul.
He let the drapes fall back into place and began to towel off the rest of his dripping body. Monica Correo dated John for over two years. Regardless of her hints, John just lacked the nerve to ask her to be his wife. Now the time had come. Walking into his adjoining bedroom, naked except for the towel wrapped loosely around his waist, John slid open his sock drawer and found the small, velvet jewelry box. He pulled it out and opened it. A two carat marquis diamond ring sparkled back at him. He looked up from the box to the picture of Monica on his dresser. He smiled and spoke to the photo, “Tonight, Monica, tonight.” He winked at the picture, closed the small black box and placed it back with his socks for safekeeping. Marriage filled his mind. All of his friends supported the move. Asking Monica was the hardest part. John moved back to America from England five years ago after graduating from college in London. He was brought up in a family that believed schooling abroad would enhance his education and give him experiences that he could not have in America. Now, he was the youngest restaurant owner in Edson. Weaver’s became a success and gave John lots of new friends and acquaintances in the area. He dated off and on after arriving in Edson, but no one had affected him as much as Monica. His parents had been right. England had given him several new experiences, just not all beneficial ones. Past relationships had soured him to love. It was hard for him to get involved with any woman, never mind the commitment of marriage. Monica changed all that. She brought him out of hiding and showed him that there was life beyond his past.
Walking into the living room, Andrew and his three guests made themselves comfortable in the overstuffed furniture. Sitting in his favorite chair, Andrew was the first to speak. “My grandfather has been dead since I was nine years old. What could you possibly have to share with me?” “Twenty years ago, your grandfather found his life in Edson too hard to handle along with the other responsibilities he had to see through. He left this life in secret to begin a new one. He left Edson and everyone in it,” Dominic responded. “You’re not telling me my grandfather is still alive? Impossible, it’s just impossible,” Andrew retorted. “Was there ever a burial for your grandfather? A full funeral?” Dominic questioned. “My grandfather died in a car accident. The car exploded, and he was cremated in the car. We buried ashes.” “No body.” Dominic stated, trying to assure Andrew that what he said was true. “I told you he was cremated in the car. There’s no way he survived.”
“Unless the explosion was planned, and Antonio had gotten out of the car just before it exploded over the cliff.” Andrew stared. He hadn’t mentioned Tucker’s Cliff. How did this old man know so much about the accident? “I think I’ve heard enough,” Andrew said, angrily standing and walking to the front door. He expected his now unwelcome guests to follow suit. He turned toward them, “I loved my grandfather and I am proud of every member of family. I don’t have time to listen to you lie and degrade them. I need you to leave.” Dominic removed a small manila envelope from the inner pocket of his overcoat and extended it to Andrew, “Overconfidence can be a dangerous thing.” “So can lies,” Andrew snapped as he grabbed the envelope. He recognized the stationary. The Edson Inn had only been in business for eighteen months. An etching of the Inn along with its address embossed the upper left corner. “He used that to assure you that the letter was recent,” Dominic said, answering Andrew’s next question before he could ask it. “So? You could have written this and forged his signature,” Andrew said, tearing at the mysterious envelope. He didn’t look down. Instead, he stared into Dominic’s eyes, waiting for any sign proving his deceit. Dominic sat stoically, “Read it. It will answer all your questions.” Andrew read aloud:
My dearest grandson, I am sorry for any pain that this news might bring to you. Dominic is an honest man. Unfortunately, I will never be able to see the young man that you have become. If you are reading this, I am already gone. I instructed Dominic to give you this note only in the event of my death. I can only think of one way to prove to you that I do, or at least did, survive the explosion. I remember the last birthday the two of us spent together. You were supposed to have a big party at your house, but Monica had the Chicken Pox. None of your friend’s parents wanted to risk exposing their children to the disease, and forbid them to go to your party. You were crushed. Remember what I did for you? I planned a surprise party for you at the city pool where all of your friends could come and you could have the party you deserved. I made a request of you that day. I told you to love your sister because the day would come when she would be the only family you would have. You were still mad at her, but I think you understood. Today, that prediction is a reality.”
A tear rolled down Andrew’s cheek as he continued.
I truly love you Andrew and I wish things could have been different. Now that I am gone, I realize that it was all for the best anyway. Please, don’t think that I just deserted you or the family. Leaving was the hardest thing I ever did, but I was always there for each of you, just not physically. You were always under my protection. Now it is finally your turn to have the power that I had. I know you will do your best.
All my love, Antonio G. Correo II.
Wiping his eyes and then his nose, Andrew looked up at Dominic. “Please excuse me. You can make yourselves comfortable. I need a moment.” Andrew walked up the stairs to the second floor. His bedroom door now faced him. He entered his room, walked over to his chest, and opened it up. Inside he found all of the things that had great sentimental value to him. After a short search, Andrew found what he was looking for: an old, faded blue envelope protected a small birthday card, browned with age. He removed it from the envelope, and silently read the outside cover to himself. “Happy 9th birthday to my Grandson,” The “9” on the card was a large balloon held by a smiling clown. The clown held a cake with nine candles in his other hand. He opened the card and read the inscription inside,
“Happy Birthday, Andrew. Please don’t be mad at Monica. It’s not her fault. Love her because she is the only sister you have, and someday you will need her to be a sister and a best friend. All my love, Grampa”
It was true. Reality hit Andrew hard. First, he wanted to call Monica, then he wanted to learn more from Dominic. Now, he decided the only thing he wanted to do was be alone. Holding the card, Andrew sat on his bed feeling the tears forming in his eyes. He gave in to the pressure, and in that quiet bedroom, the tears flowed as freely as the rain outside his window.
Monica Correo was a young and attractive woman, with defined Italian features. She was dark haired, with a tan, Mediterranean complexion. Her round, dark brown eyes accented her flawless face and curly black hair. Unlike her brother, Monica showed every sign of her family heritage. She stopped typing at the end of her sentence and stretched back from her slumped position over the keyboard. She ran her fingers through her hair and messaged her neck. Shaking her head to wake herself up, she grabbed for the vibrating cell phone to her left as it skidded over the surface of the desk. Anyone calling Monica always knew to give the phone a couple of extra rings. She never stopped typing half way through a sentence. This time the phone only rang three times, and Monica had a good guess as to who would be on the line. She looked at the small screen and her suspicions were correct. “Hello,” she answered. “Is this the best mystery romance writer in Edson?” the voice stated in response. “Well, that doesn’t say much,” she answered. “I’m the only mystery romance writer in Edson.”
“It’s the thought that counts.” John laughed into the phone. “Can you do me a favor, Monica?” “Anything after such a compliment,” she joked. “What’s up?” John had the whole idea planned out, “My guy that was supposed to help me with inventory had a family emergency. It’s not a hard job but I need to get it done.” “So you need me to count dinner rolls?” “And other things. It shouldn’t take more than a couple hours,” he bribed,” I’ll even make you dinner.” “From the menu or do I have to have one of the specials.” Monica teased. “You can have whatever you want.” “What time do you want me there?” John smiled to himself, “Nine will be good. The dining room will be closed then. How’s the book coming?” “Actually it’s going well,” she responded, reading the few lines on the laptop screen to herself as she talked, “So, I’ll be there at nine. Prime Rib, end cut, as close to medium as you can get it with a ton of fries.” “I’ll have that and the defibrillator ready. Thank you Monica.” “Yeah, Yeah. It’s a good thing I love you.” “I love you too. See you then.” “Yep,” she heard the phone hang up on the line and pushed the END button on her phone. Monica sighed and glanced at the screen shining back at her. She hoped her latest novel would be her best yet. She felt the same for every novel she started. She looked up at the books on her shelf. The Elements of Style, The Writer’s Handbook, and the three of her own novels looked back at her. She reached for her best-seller, Passion in Paradise, and pulled it down. The characters on the cover were kissing while reclining on the shores of a deserted beach. Monica pictured John and herself in that scene. She put her and John in her scenes often. A warm feeling of love rushed through her veins. This feeling of love that she shared with John enabled her to write successful novels. She smiled to herself, realizing that she wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything in the world. She returned the book to its spot on the shelf and once again gazed at her laptop screen. Sunken Pleasures took form in front of her eyes, only about two-thirds complete. She planned it’s completion in time for the Christmas shopping season. At the same time she didn’t want to rush it and risk failure. Lowering her hands back down to the keyboard, she continued typing.
* * *
Andrew returned to his guests. He thought it best to know the whole story before he broke the news to his sister, or his mother. Even though he knew Brittany lived for a crisis. No matter the circumstances or facts, she had to be a part of it and develop a conspiracy theory behind it. This would be too much for even her to grasp. Ironic that this revelation was the definition of conspiracy. As Andrew entered the living room, Dominic got up to greet him. Andrew’s puffy eyes affirmed his acceptance. Andrew was ready. “How did my grandfather die?” Andrew cleared his throat, “And how do I know I can trust you?” “He was killed in a plane crash flying back to the compound,” Dominic responded, “We can play the trust game all you want, but right now, I am one of the few people you can trust.” Dominic looked into the eyes of his new charge. “I’m here to help you keep the power in your family. You need to trust me.” “Power. What is this power that you and my grandfather were talking about?” Andrew questioned, reclaiming his seat in the overstuffed chair. Dominic intended to tell him everything. For now though, he could only tell him what he needed to know. “I’m sure you’re aware of your family’s proud Italian history,” Dominic said. “And you are also aware of your family’s exile from the country centuries ago.” “Yes, I know all of that. It was all over the money and political power,” Andrew said,” but this can’t be the power you’re talking about.” “When your family was exiled, some took refuge in the Italian Alps in order to escape persecution while still remaining in their homeland.” “Defying the exile.” Andrew added. “Right, and the ones who stayed behind received a great deal of support from loyalists rebelling against the government. The family retained its fortune. They decided all the money in the family would be used to aid the family through the years, and also help the loyalists who helped them. Augusto Correo, your ancestor, decided the best way to keep this mission alive, would be to pass the money and the political strength down. It would bring happiness and help to others as the family line progressed.” “You’re saying they were some kind of Mafia?” “No,” Dominic smiled, “the Vendicatori are based on the idea that people should be helped when they are in need. While keeping it away from those responsible for their exile. Some of the money has gone astray, but for generations the organization has taken pride in stopping any misuse, and punishing those who tried to misuse it.” “So what does this have to do with me? I’m sure that money was gone centuries ago.” “I’m afraid not,” Dominic interrupted, “the money is still there, and you are the next in line to inherit all of it.” Andrew sat back in his chair, “How much money are we talking about?” “Enough to keep the family tradition going strong for many more generations,” Dominic replied. “And now it’s mine?” Andrew asked, still unsure of Dominic’s story. “Not quite,” Dominic responded, “You need to go on a journey first.” “Journey?” “When your grandfather oversaw the Vendicatori, many members of the organization felt that another family should have the opportunity to control it. This caused him to stage his death in Edson. He had to prove to the Vendicatori that he could maintain it the way it should be maintained. He consistently tried to fight the new resistance.” “Of course. There has to be a resistance.” Andrew smiled in sarcasm. Dominic remained serious. “As I said, some of the money went astray. Some families within the Vendicatori wanted to form a new alliance; a new faction with a new mission. They wanted to use the money for their own gains and they tried hard to achieve their goals.” “So they killed him for real?” “Quite possible. Francis Stavero, lead the resistance. He was behind the murder, I’m sure. Francis and the resistance forced your grandfather to develop a challenge in his will that would determine who would inherit the money and the Vendicatori. “And he killed my grandfather before he could change his will back.” “We don’t know. Stavero went down in the same plane as your grandfather.” “Then what makes you think he was responsible for my grandfather’s death?” Andrew questioned. “Seems to me if I was going to kill someone in a plane crash, I would be far, far away from the plane.” “We don’t believe he was meant to be on that plane. Perhaps even the resistance has a resistance.” “So what is in the will?” “You must compete to win the inheritance. You just need to complete the challenge before Robert.” “Who is Robert? And what is the challenge?” “Robert Stavero, is Francis’ grandson. As we speak, He is being told this same story. The challenge is Quattro pezzi per potere.” Dominic translated, “Four Pieces for Power.”
The rain blew around furiously outside the window on Beacon Street. The Charles River across the street, looked more like the ocean as the wind made waves crash against the shoreline. Robert Stavero sat in silence listening to the story that three mysterious men were telling him about family heritage and power. The man with all of the answers was Ramos. The aura around him made Robert feel uncomfortable, and yet Ramos had known so much about him and his life. He felt compelled to trust him. Robert was raised in Boston. His father oversaw a lot of the activity in the Combat zone before it was “cleaned up”. Robert had seen men of this type many times, but none quite fit the caliber of Ramos. Ramos was a young man, well versed in the ways of the Vendicatori. His jet black hair and deep brown eyes added to his shady appearance. His face was round, yet rigid. A man with a purpose. Standing, Robert walked over to the mirror on the wall above the fireplace. He straightened his tie, shifted his paisley suspenders, and took a glance at his gel-slicked hair. To Robert’s frustration, his hairline receded a bit above his dark eyes. His thin long face accentuated his height, from his dark eyebrows to the deep dimple in his chin.
Turning back on Ramos, Robert spoke, “You mean to tell me that I have to take part in this scavenger hunt against a guy I’ve never met before. And if . . . that’s a big if . . . I win, I’ll have all the money I can know what to do with.” “Correct,” Ramos said. Still believing this whole thing was a joke, Robert smiled, “All right. I’m game. Where do I sign up? I need a little excitement in my life.” Ramos reached into the inner pocket of his coat and pulled out an envelope. Expecting the end of the joke, Robert took the envelope and opened it. He unfolded the cryptic letter and read it out loud:
“South of the border is where you’ll begin. There you will find the first key, the first step to a win. They are found in Egypt as well as to the west. Near the capital city is the first stop of your quest. Look toward the sun and you will find, the key that will unlock the door of a different kind.”
Robert looked up, realizing this wasn’t the end of the joke. He began to believe it wasn’t a joke at all. The second man reached in his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. He handed it to Robert. Robert felt its hefty weight and awkward shape. “It’s your first piece,” the man said. “Andrew Correo has been given the same clue and a piece of his own. It is up to you to get the remaining two pieces before him, then retrieve his piece in any way you can. Once you have all four of the pieces, they will fit together and show you your final destination, and the largest prize in the world.” “Well, I guess I should get packed and call the airport,” Robert replied. “All travel costs are covered for you,” Ramos assured, “One of us, primarily myself, will be with you at all times.” “Even better,” Robert smiled and started for his room to pack. “Robert.” Ramos called out. Robert turned on the stairs looking back, “Yea.” “When you win this you will be one of the most powerful men in the world.” Robert thought a minute. He liked the sound of that.
* * *
Looking up from his piece and clue, Andrew was taken aback. “Mexico?” he questioned. “Why there?” “We don’t ask questions. Our instructions were to guide you, and make sure that you gain control and win this. Can I help you pack?” Dominic replied. Without an answer, Andrew headed for the stairs once again. This time, Dominic followed. They both reached Andrew’s room and began packing. Andrew packed light. He knew the southern sun would do its part and keep him warm. No need for heavy clothing. “There is one more thing we need to discuss,” Dominic said. Andrew stopped. “I don’t think I can handle another surprise today, Dominic.” “No more surprises, I promise. I just need you to know this whole thing has to be kept secret. No one can know, not even Monica or Brittany. “ It no longer surprised Andrew when Dominic came out with information, like names, that he had no way of knowing. “Agreed. The more I think about it, I don’t think they could handle the truth anyway.”
* * *
Evening began to blanket Edson. This day, the sunset went unnoticed because of the gloom from the rainclouds. Monica looked up from her laptop to glance at the clock. It was 6:52. She finished up her final thoughts so she could get ready for her work date with John. She picked up her cup of coffee, still half full and long cold from when she had poured it nine hours before. She carried it to the kitchen sink. Looking out her kitchen window, she watched the last of the day give in to the night as her backyard surrendered to the dark. She remembered the night she met John for the first time. It had been a rainy night, similar to this night. Monica had been having car troubles out on route 4. Soaked to the bone, she stood outside of her car looking under the hood. She somehow hoped that if she stared at the engine long enough, it would tell her what was wrong. At least it would help pass the time until AAA arrived. John drove up, saw her in distress, and stopped to offer her some assistance. Regrettably, John wasn’t very mechanical either.
Deciding to leave the cure for the car up to AAA and their tow truck, John offered to give Monica a ride home. The chemistry between the two was immediate. They were like old friends and talked all the way back to Monica’s. Their chance encounter would lead to a long lasting relationship. Turning the water off at the sink, Monica left the kitchen and went to her bedroom to get changed out of her sweats. She knew that the evening was going to be special. Every evening with John was special. The phone rang as she struggled to fasten the clasp on her necklace. She gave up, putting the necklace back on her dresser, and reached for her phone. Andrew’s picture smiled at her from the screen. “Hello,” she answered. “Hi, Monica. I wanted to let you know that I’m going on a short trip to Mexico.” “Mexico? What’s in Mexico?” “Just a pleasure trip. I feel like getting away for a few days. Autumn always depresses me, you know that.” “How long will you be gone?” “Just a few days. I wanted to let you know in case you stopped by or my phone was out of a service zone.” “I don’t know about you, Andrew, kind of spur of the moment isn’t it?” “That’s me Mr. Spontaneous.” “Still thinking about Colleen?” With everything going on, Colleen wasn’t even in Andrew’s mind, but he quickly realized it would make a good cover, “Let’s just say I’m trying to put my past behind me.” “You loved Colleen and she loved you. You shouldn’t try to forget about her. You couldn’t do it. I’m glad to see your trying to go on with your life though. I’m sure that’s what she would want.” “I know. I gotta go.” “Well, have a good time Andrew. I’ll stop by the house now and then until you get home to make sure everything is safe.” “I’ll have the alarm on, so be careful when you come in. I’ll talk to you later. I’ll call when I get back.” “Talk to you then. Stay safe.” It bothered him that he had to use Colleen’s memory as a cover. Colleen was the biggest part of his life even years after her death. He still struggled to move on without her. He thought about Colleen’s brother, Brad, and her mother, Brenda. They were his second family. Only Brad survived now. Andrew felt an obligation to watch over him, and Brad felt the same about Andrew. Andrew made it his mission to help Brad move on. This helped him avoid his own issues and, deep down, he knew it. Andrew looked out the window at the falling rain. This mission was exactly what he needed.