Chapter 11 - Part 2

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"I see." The man nodded, sounding like he'd put something together. There was nothing to put together though, otherwise Desi would have already considered it, to save his own ass. Maybe he was just putting together the same shit as everyone else. Desi really was the prime suspect.

On another occasion, he might have called the man on it, argued, tried to defend himself, but his sharpness from before had dissipated with the nicotine hit and now the exhaustion that he'd thought he'd shaken with the good night's sleep was settling in again. He'd been awake for all of twenty minutes for fuck sakes.

He just wanted this to be over. It hadn't even been three days and Desi felt like he'd been living this nightmare for an eternity already. Maybe this guy didn't seem like much of an investigator, but if there was any chance of Desi having his name cleared, it certainly wasn't with the police, so many this was his next best chance.

It was worth a shot. "Listen, man. I don't know what the fuck happened to Ashley. The whole fucking town thinks I did something, and... Maybe rightfully so. But... I fucking loved her. I just want to know what really happened. And... knowing the police in this town they're not going to bother looking into it when I'm a perfect scapegoat, so if you're here to figure out what actually happened, I'll help. I'll tell you whatever you need to know."

Desi didn't really know what he was saying, he was just so desperate to not be written off by another person, he was making promises that he wasn't sure he'd be able to keep.

The man scratched at the hairs on his neck, considering while pulling his smoke down to the filter with a long inhale. On the exhale he responded.

"Loved."

Desi gave a confused look. "What?"

"You said you 'loved' her. Past-tense."

Desi's stomach twisted in a knot of regret, remembering his admission to Casper the night before and realizing this only confirmed it. He had no proof other than the feeling in his gut, but he'd already dwelled too long on the possibility that Ashley was gone.

That wasn't why the man was bringing it up though. He sighed, like a disappointed parent, and said, "That's the kind of shit that's going to get you in trouble."

Desi nodded, understanding. It was suspicious, to sound so sure.

The man took pity though, softening a little to add his own proposition. "You seem like a good kid. I want to believe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But you're not exactly giving me reason to believe anything other than what's already going around." He sighed, like it was a frustrating admission. Desi appreciated the attempt at being open-minded though. When the man continued, it was more questions. "Is there absolutely nobody that can vouch for you or your whereabouts that weekend? Didn't make any calls or text? Nothing?"

"No. No one." Desi responded out of reflex, sighing as he whallowed momentarily in his own shitty situation. Then he remembered. "Wait. Yes. I mean, not someone over the weekend but, I texted Casper after I went back to look for Ashley. He'd left his bag in my car, and after I texted him he came to pick it up. So he saw me at the park."

The man lifted an eyebrow, curious. "Casper?"

"Guidry. This is his place." Desi watched as the man rummaged into his backseat for a notepad, scribbling down the name.

"So he's a friend of yours?" The man asked as he wrote, and Desi resisted a cringe. It was a fair assumption, consider Desi had just spent the night there, but he imagined Casper's appalled expression if he'd heard it.

"Sort of." When the man gave him another questioning look Desi offered an awkward laugh. "We have Econ together?"

The man didn't seem to see what Desi thought was funny, but let it slide to instead work out the information. "Well if this 'friend' saw you that soon after Ashley's disappearance it makes a decent argument in your favor. Do you have the text you sent him still?"

"I should." Desi dug for his phone, which was still somehow hanging onto life at ten percent battery after not having a chance to charge it since Friday. He opened his text and scrolled through the messages to find the ones he'd sent that Friday night. When he scrolled too far, he went back to the top, assuming he'd just missed the text, looking a second time. Again, he scrolled too far, not finding them, and gave a weird noise in response. "Um. They should be here. I can't... I can't find them though."

The man couldn't help his face going skeptical in response and Desi felt his stomach twist again with dread. Right when he was winning him over a little, he was being caught in what now looked like a blatant lie.

"Casper probably still has them on his phone. I can ask him."

The man hummed and nodded. "Alright. You do that." He shifted in his seat again, this time leaning over to the glove box to retrieve a business card. During the brief moment the latch was opened, Desi spotted the silver, the shine of a handgun barrel. The man closed the glove box and handed off the card. "You can send me a screenshot if you want, or we can meet up again. And if you got anything else to tell me that you think might be valuable, you let me know. I'm here to figure out what happened to her also."

Desi tried for a weak smile, reading it over. Dante Vidales. Private Investigator. He almost laughed. That didn't seem like a P.I name, in his opinion. Actually, this guy didn't seem like much of a P.I at all, with his scruffy appearance and weird rolled cigarettes. When Desi imagined a private investigator, he imagined someone older, whiter, and with a name like Anderson or Kane. Desi wasn't exactly one to judge though, when he was the only person in town willing to give Desi the chance to clear his name.

"Ok. Thanks." Desi pocketed the card as he got out of the car, closing the door behind him and rounding the front again to return across the street to his vehicle. When he got to the other side of the road, the man had rolled down his window to call out a last warning.

"And kid. Just because I turned out to not be a real cop, doesn't mean they aren't keeping an eye on you also. So just, don't do anything stupid for a while, yeah?"

"OK." Desi agreed, giving a wave of his hand in appreciation, watching as the man pulled his car away from the curb and drove off down the street, out of sight.

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