“This could take a while,” Joshua said. They were finished gathering intel and heading home, wherever that was. Alex wasn’t privy to that information. “Please go about your daily lives as we develop a case against these guys. Agents will be coming back and forth and interviewing people but it’s best if you know nothing about that. Don’t purposely avoid people, but don’t go out of your way to hang out with them either. You are still very much possible suspects since you each have a one-quarter interest in the business that’s benefitting from the sales and manufacturing of those solar arrays.”
“We are potential suspects?” Alex asked, a panic crushing his chest. “But we’re the ones who called and asked you to come investigate.”
“Nothing is ruled out at this point in the game,” Amber said. “You’d be surprised how many people report a crime they personally committed just to throw the police off their own trail. They think the cops won’t look at them because they reported the crime. We will leave no stone unturned at this stage.”
“That’s understandable,” Mark said, nodding and lowering his eyebrows sternly at Alex. “We wouldn’t expect anything less. Since we are innocent, we have nothing to hide.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Alex said, still apprehensive. He glanced out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the waterfall that seemed to flow out of the side of the home, crashing with fierce intensity over the rocks disturbing the serene pool of water below.
Joshua and Amber packed up their files in rolling filing carts and briefcases and cleared out their things from Mark’s dining room. The agents had become more like friends these past few weeks and Alex almost felt a sense of loss seeing them pack up and leave.
Aaron ran into the dining room and slammed into Joshua’s legs.
“Hey, little buddy.” Joshua swept Aaron up in his arms and rested him on his hip. “You be a good boy for your mom and dad, okay?”
“I miss you Josh-wa,” Aaron said in a baby voice too young for even a two-year-old. Alex hadn’t realized they’d grown close because he usually came over after the kids had gone to bed for the night. The thought never occurred that Joshua and Amber had been at the Sayid’s house nearly every day for almost three weeks. Aaron reached his hands out to Amber and she transferred little Aaron to her arms for an affectionate hug. “You my friend now, Amber.”
“Yes, Aaron, I’m your friend now.” She pulled back slightly to look him in the eye. “Will you keep drawing me pictures? You can have your mommy mail them to me and then I’ll send you more stickers.”
“Yay! Stickers!” Aaron threw his arms up into the air and squirmed to get down. He ran from the room, calling out to Hazel. “Mommy, I need drawing. I get stickers.”
The four adults still standing in the dining room chuckled and Mark stuck his hands in his pockets.
“I’m baffled why Aaron runs to his mommy for drawing supplies when his daddy is standing right here.” He didn’t sound jealous, just resigned. “At least he doesn’t see me as a mean tyrant.”
“If anything, you spoil him, Your Highness,” Alex said, pushing Mark’s shoulder.
“Someday, when you’re a father, you’ll understand,” Mark said.
“He’s right,” Joshua said with a nod. “Anyway, we should get on the road. Thank you for allowing us to monopolize your lives for a few days. We’ll be in touch, but like I said, it could be a while.”
“Thank you for your diligence upholding the law,” Alex said, reminding himself that there was more on the line than just some tax evasion. A man had been murdered. “We appreciate you coming so quickly.”
They all reached around the room to shake one another’s hands and then Amber and Joshua strode to the front door, down the path to their waiting SUV and drove away.
“Why does it feel like my best friends just left and we’ll never see them again?” Mark asked, standing at the door watching the now empty driveway.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Alex said with a sigh. The green leaves on the trees lining the driveway created a tunnel out to the road. “This thing’s gonna blow up in our faces isn’t it?”
“When we least expect it.” Mark leaned against the wall in the hallway and turned to Alex. “We did the right thing, though, calling the FBI.”
“I agree. Hey, change of subject,” Alex said, leaning against the opposite wall. “Krystina’s taking me to meet her parents. Any advice?”
“Now I’m advising you?” Mark chuckled.
“You’ve done this before. I haven’t had a serious relationship since early college. And she sure didn’t take me home to meet her family.”
“Well, you have several advantages.” Mark rubbed his chin. “No one’s encouraging an arranged marriage, Krystina’s an adult rather than a seventeen-year-old high school senior like Hazel was when I met her, and of course you have the added benefit of not being a crown prince.”
“Ah, yes, that is an advantage.” Alex laughed.
“I think my best advice is to establish parameters for your relationship before you meet her father,” Mark said, more serious. “I’d hate for you to ask for her hand in marriage and then find out all she wants in a non-committed relationship.”
“Good point.” Alex nodded. “She and I will have to talk about that.”
“Has it gotten that serious already?” Mark asked.
“I think so.” I hope so.
“Already?” Hazel came traipsing into the room, her growing belly proceeding her. “Mark here asked me to elope the night we met.”
“Getting married that night was your idea, my darling.” Mark pulled his wife into his arms and made no attempt to hide his fascination with her growing baby bump, resting one hand to the side of where his son was growing.
“Yeah, you suggested we skip the wedding and just go for it right there on the beach,” she teased.
“That is my cue to get the heck outta here,” Alex said, slipping on his shoes. “I’ll let you know how things go with Krystina’s parents.”
“Come over for dinner on Saturday, okay?” Hazel called as Alex bounded down the path, trying to get as far away from the lovebirds as quickly as he could.
“Have your people call my people to set it up,” Alex called over his shoulder.
“You are my people,” Mark called back in a teasing voice. “It’s your job to set these things up.”
“Fine then.” Alex turned all the way around to where Mark and Hazel still stood in their open doorway, wrapped in each other’s arms. “Have your wife call my w—future wife.”
“I’m gonna tell her you called her that,” Hazel called out in jest.
“Go for it,” Alex said, climbing into his Porsche, then mumbled to himself. “If I don’t tell her first.” He clicked his seatbelt into place, shoved the gear into reverse and conducted a perfect tight-radius three-point turn and spit gravel behind him as he gunned his sports car onto the road, feeling a little invincible and ready for the next phase of his life to begin.