Abby ran her hand through Zach’s hair as he rested his head on her stomach. Outside, the sky was beginning to lighten, bringing with it their first full day of married life. How many days they had, they didn’t know, but they knew they had at least until Friday. After that, only time would tell. Time and the mysterious file, of course. “I still can’t believe they kicked us off the riverfront at sunset, even if it was beginning to rain,” Zach muttered, staring out the window.
Abby chuckled, “Yeah, but the bowling alley was more than willing to take in a rowdy crowd of half drunk idiots. We should send them a Thank You note.”
“Indeed. Thank you for saving my impromptu wedding reception! I’m sure the mess on lane seven will buff right out. The best man apologizes for that, by the way.” Zach squeezed her hand as they both laughed.
They watched the sun rise in peaceful silence, neither moving until it had risen well above the horizon. Across the room, their cell phones buzzed at the same time. Zach pushed himself off the bed to retrieve the phones, taking the warm blankets with him, causing Abby to erupt in a startled squeal as the cold air hit her skin. Zach laughed and sauntered slowly across the room, a mischievous smile splitting his face in two. Abby glared at him as he took his time getting back into bed. The second he was within reach, she snatched the covers and retreated back into their warmth. Zach chuckled and dropped onto the bed before he tossed her phone onto the blankets she snuggled under.
Rearranging their pillows, they sat back against the headboard and read their messages. “Dad says congratulations, my boss says I’m a sucker for a pretty face, and Bret wants to know why he woke up in the back seat of the midtown bus.” Zach’s laugh shook the bed.
“His party didn’t end when ours did, it seems,” Abby rolled her eyes as she remembered helping Bret into the taxi as they were leaving the bowling alley. Zach and his father practically carried him to the car and shoved him inside. Just as Abby pushed the door shut, Bret’s foot fell off the seat and got smashed between the car and door. “Tell him I’m sorry-not-sorry about his foot,” she mumbled. Zach smiled as he typed his reply.
“Well, Mom says she’s happy for us and that they already wrote a check to the alley so we shouldn’t worry,” Abby laughed as she typed a quick reply, thanking her parents and asking they wanted to do lunch later. “Oh, and Rhonda says thank you for including her in our big day.” Her forehead wrinkled in a frown. “I still don’t know what she has to do with all this stuff.”
“We could always see what the file has in store for us today,” Zach was already pushing blankets away and pulling on a pair of jeans, but Abby grabbed his arm.
“Not right now,” she said, “We have until midnight to check it. Today is getting off to a great start, so let’s not ruin it.” She smiled innocently.
Zach blinked. “Well, what would you like to do then? He gave her an equally innocent look.
“Well,” she said fidgeting with her hair, “you could always make me some breakfast? I’m starving. Oh! How about some French toast?”
Zach’s face fell into a glare. Throwing his jeans back to the floor, he grabbed the blankets and pulled them completely off the bed. The blankets quickly muffled Abby’s shrieks as Zach jumped onto the bed and pulled the covers over their heads.
Abby’s mother took a sip from her lemon water, her eyes moving from Abby to Zach, then back to Abby. While she supported their decision to suddenly elope, she was curious as to why. The newlyweds scanned their menus, talking quietly and pointing at various appetizers and entrees. They acted as if nothing out of the ordinary occurred less than twenty-four hours ago. “Since you skipped the planning stage and jumped straight to the wedding, are you going to put more time and thought into your honeymoon?”
Zach glanced at Abby, fully expecting her to answer her mother’s question, but Abby’s face resembled a deer in headlights. “Honeymoon? We, uh, haven’t really thought about that, Mom,” Abby stammered, her face reddening slightly.
“No honeymoon?” her mother shook her head, “what is it with couples skipping the honeymoon now days? Back in my day, it was a big deal! It was our opportunity to get to know our spouse better and, of course, to-“
“Yeah, Mom, we know what a honeymoon is for,” Abby buried her face in her menu. Across the table, her mother laughed mischievously. Her daughter always was very shy when it came to talking about the more intimate aspects of life. It was pure entertainment to see Abby squirm in embarrassment whenever such topics were breached.
“We’re thinking about maybe taking a trip to the Virgin Islands in the spring,” Zach tried to placate his mother-in-law’s ferocious curiosity, but he only gave her more material in which to pester Abby with.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, her eyes wide over a face splitting grin. “The Caribbean! Such a beautiful place! I went there once with my second husband, before we were married actually. We joked about visiting the Virgin Islands when we were obviously not virgins anymore.” She glanced at the ceiling wistfully. “Those were the days.” She looked at Abby who was now glaring at her mother. “I imagine you’ll be making the same jokes we did, seeing as you have been living together for months now.” She smiled innocently. Abby’s jaw dropped in shock. Yes, my mother really did just say that out loud in a busy restaurant, she thought angrily.
“Mother,” Abby spoke slowly, forcing a smile on her face. Beside her, Zach put down his menu and downed half a glass of beer while hoping to avoid being dragged into the mother-daughter discussion. Abby continued, “Not only are your comments inappropriate and unwarranted, they are also blatant lies, told only to get a rise out of me in front of Zach and everyone else wanting lunch today. I know for a fact you have never been married before Dad, and I know you haven’t been to the Virgin Islands. I didn’t invite you to lunch to discuss my business, so why don’t we change the subject to something more appropriate, ok?”
He mother laughed, “Of course! We could always talk about why you decided to elope yesterday?” The innocent smile appeared again.
“And there it is,” Abby said, taking a sip of water, “the real reason you accepted my invitation instead of going to your church picnic with Dad.”
“Oh, no,” her mother shook her head, “I would have agreed to a double hip replacement if it got me out of that picnic.” She shuddered, and Abby knew her mother was telling the truth. “Besides, I really am curious about the honeymoon.” She took another sip of water.
Abby sighed and closed her menu. “I don’t know, we’ll have to see what happens-“ Zach coughed, interrupting her train of thought before she dug herself into a hole.
“Happens with what?” Her mother watched the two as they shared knowing glances.
Abby’s mouth worked as she tried to form a reply.
“With work, she means.” Zach answered his mother-in-law’s question. “We’re both busy, and with the holidays coming up, we just aren’t able to think about a honeymoon right now.” Abby squeezed his hand in thanks.
“Oh, that makes sense,” her mother said. “What does Piper have you doing lately?”
Abby relaxed, thankful in the change in subject. “Taking notes, grabbing coffee, pulling random files, nothing new really.”
“Random files? What for?”
“I don’t know,” she frowned as she remembered some of the names on the files she pulled. “Some of the files were past-employees, but most I don’t recognize. I just pull them and hand him a stack of the ones I could find. I haven’t seen any of them since.”
“That’s kind of odd, don’t you think?”
Zach nodded, informing Abby’s mother that even he thinks something is going on at the law firm.
Just then, their waitress approached the table and began taking their order, putting an end to their discussion.
Zach lifted the laptop screen. “Ready?”
Abby shook her head. She really didn’t want to know how much her spur-of-the-moment wedding changed things. She had a feeling she wouldn’t like what she was about to see.
The clock in the hall was striking 10:00 p.m. Zach put off checking the file as long as possible, but he wasn’t willing to miss a day. He still wasn’t convinced that it was real. He wasn’t convinced it was a prank, either.
The starting screen illuminated the living room. They had been watching a movie only minutes before, and the credits still rolled on the TV screen across the room. Zach idly tapped a rhythm on his knees as he waited. The background image finally appeared, and after another moment it was once again covered in icons.
“Let’s see what the mysterious A.D. has prepared for us today.” Zach moved the curser over the appropriate files and clicked his way to his intended target. After a quick double click, the contents exploded onto the screen. Zach scrolled down through row after row of new items. It looked as if the file size had doubled overnight. Abby repressed a groan.
Zack chose an item and double clicked. A small image appeared, clearly taken from a security camera, showing both Abby and Rhonda Davis standing side by side near a water fountain. “That’s at work, next to the restrooms by the kitchen.” Abby leaned in closer and shook her head. She pointed at lights and garland hanging over the water fountain. “Those Christmas decorations weren’t up when I left the office Friday.”
“I wonder what day this week they’ll show up at work?” Zach shot her a curious glance before closing the image and opening another item. This time it was a small newspaper article titled “Bombed Law Firm Death Toll Holding at 3.”
“Three?” Abby gasped. “Does it identify anyone?”
Zach shook his head slowly as he scanned the short article. “No. It says no names are being released at this time because of the ongoing investigation.” He closed the article and moved to another.
After thirty minutes of exploring the new file contents, Abby sat back and sighed. “So many new items, and they all say the same thing: three dead. Who-“
Just then a new image opened. The scan was of a front-page article:
Identities Released; D.L. Hughes, Abigail Dresden, Rhonda Davis Confirmed Dead; 2 Still Critical
“Oh.” Abby’s shoulders slumped forward. “I guess getting married wasn’t such a great idea after all.”
Zach leaned forward as he read the article. “I don’t understand how our wedding changes things to this degree,” he said after a few minutes. “Something else has to be at work here. I mean, why is Rhonda all of a sudden dead? She would have to be right there in the middle of the action, and she wasn’t there before, so what changed?” He shook his head as Abby stared absently at a commercial on the TV while deep in thought.
“It makes sense, really. She is Hughes’s secretary, so why wouldn’t she be there?”
Zach’s eyes widened. “Do you think the gift was from her?” Abby’s face contorted into a frown as she looked at Zach. “We already know the gift was intended for Hughes, right?” He had turned slightly in order to face Abby while explaining his theory. “Who else at the firm would have a better motive?”
“She just started. I doubt she hasn’t even spent more than five minutes alone with him in the same room yet because he’s been keeping her busy elsewhere. It doesn’t make sense.”
Zach frowned. “Ok, so as of now, we know that the bomb is intended for Hughes. He is killed, and takes both you and Rhonda with him to the morgue. What we still don’t know is who and especially why. Maybe if we can find some clues that point to either of those we can stop this whole thing from happening.”
Abby stared wide-eyed are her husband. “You speak of my impending death as if you’re just hashing out your current article. Must I remind you that we’re talking about real people dying? About me dying? Could you please put a damper on your inner journalist’s excitement for a few more days, please?”
Zach opened his mouth to reply, but snapped it shut a second later and nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to-“
Abby cut his apology short with a wave of her hand. “You’re just doing your job, I get it. You still don’t even believe this is really happening, so how about I look for clues to the why and who and you keep looking for your prankster. Perhaps one of us will find something.” She rubbed her eyes in frustration.
Zach nodded. He moved the curser to close the whole file, but stopped when a new item caught his eye. He clicked on it and regretted his decision the second the image appeared.
In Memory of Abigail Dresden
Abigail Dresden departed this world on Friday December 18. She was twenty five years old. She is survived by her mother and father, and her husband, journalist Zach Dresden. There will be a gathering of loved ones on Tuesday, January 29 to remember the young woman so violently taken from this world.
Zach moved to close the image but was too late. Beside him, Abby sighed. “I’m going to bed.”