Dale had been busy working a lot that week, and Skylar hadn’t had a chance to see him. So when she asked, Sharlee stopped by Dale’s office. Kristian came into the office while Sharlee and Dale were talking. He needed to update some files that were on Dale’s desk. Kristian had finished his residency and had been offered several job opportunities.
However, he hadn’t received the one offer that he really wanted. Dale had not offered him a permanent position in his practice. Kristian knew that it was because of his feelings for Sharlee, the one and only woman that he wanted and couldn’t have. Sharlee and Kristian greeted one another, and then Dale continued his conversation with Sharlee.
“Yes, but Noah isn’t going to be able to go with us. He’s got a meeting with one of Harley’s engineers about his new engine design. He wanted to give Harley first crack at using it. After the meeting and the evaluation of Harley’s engineers, he’ll find out what they want to pay him for the use of his engine.”
“He’s going to offer it to other companies as well isn’t he?”
“Eventually, but since he already has a business relationship with Harley, his lawyer agrees that Harley should have the first and sole rights to it for an agreed upon time limit if they want to use it.”
“I wish! The rain we’ve had over the past couple of weeks slowed the work down and also slowed down the work on our new house. The house will be full of workmen again tomorrow, and I’ll need to be home. Mom’s keeping Skylar at your house for me, and then I’ll pick her up after they leave. At least the windows upstairs have all been replaced, and the ones downstairs should be done tomorrow. So Skylar and I aren’t flying out until tomorrow evening.”
“The repairman said that he replaced the temperature gauge, and that the heater should be good for at least three more years. Since Harley is paying to replace the windows and doors and painting outside, we decided not to ask them to replace the heater. The builder said that our new place should be finished in around five more months, and then Harley is going to sell the house we’re in now.”
Dale started to mention Sharlee’s pregnancy and then didn’t because Kristian was still in the room. Noah and Sharlee had only told family and a few close friends about the pregnancy because they weren’t ready for Harley to know. Their contracts were up for renewal soon, and they had not yet decided if Sharlee should renew hers. They didn’t want her pregnancy to be a factor in the contract negotiation until after they came to a decision.
“Say goodbye to Grandpop and to Mr. Palmer.”
“Bye bye Granpop and bye Miser Palmer.”
Dale and Kristian told them goodbye, and then Sharlee and Skylar left the office.
The next day Sharlee was correct. Her house was full of workmen from various companies doing different things in the house. The laundry room floor was being refinished. Windows were being fitted and replaced. The framework for the garage door had to be reinforced. Sharlee was there if they needed to ask her a question, but for the most part they didn’t bother her.
She was getting a drink in the kitchen, when a workman hurried past her. Something about him seemed familiar, but she only caught a quick glimpse as he went past. If he’d known her though, she guessed that he would have stopped to greet her. Since he didn’t, she just forgot about the incident.
Sharlee looked inside Skylar’s mouth and saw that Skylar had a tooth coming in. Usually teething went smoothly with Sky, but occasionally like now, it was painful for her.
Skylar was still fussy during the night, and so Noah laid in the nursery holding Skylar on the daybed until he could get her back to sleep. He’d insisted that Sharlee stay in their room and get some sleep.
Noah opened the window and pulled out the fire escape ladder that they had in each upstairs room. The window had been a bit hard to open because it had not been opened since the window had been replaced and the sill had been painted. Noah climbed out of the window and onto the ladder.
“Hold onto me tightly, baby girl!”
A downstairs window exploded and smoke poured out!
Sharlee was standing at the window trying to get the glass to break by hitting it with something. The windows had been replaced with new ones containing shatterproof glass. Noah had intended to purchase special hammers to break the glass in case of emergencies , but he hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet. Sharlee had already tried to open all of the ones in the bedroom, but they wouldn’t budge.
Noah ignored the admonition! He had to get Sharlee!
In her heart, Sharlee had known that he would come back for her. Noah pounded on the outside window casing to loosen it, and then he motioned for Sharlee to try to open it as he forced it from the outside.
Despite trembling in reaction, Sharlee took Skylar and tried to sooth her. Noah wrapped his arms around both of them, relieved that they had all made it out safely. Skylar calmed down as Sharlee held her in her arms.
The fire department arrived and started trying to put out the fire. Dale and Alissa came as soon as Sharlee called them. After being checked out by the EMTs, they went home with Dale and Alissa. When the sun rose and the fire was out, the fire investigators got to work. Thankfully the damage was not as extensive as Noah had feared.
They spoke with Noah privately. The fire had mainly been contained in the downstairs laundry room and started in the mechanical room off of that room. They determined that the water heater had been the cause of the fire, but it had not been due to a defect in the heater. They believed that arson was the cause of the fire. The lead investigator questioned Noah about the water heater, and Noah gave him the number of the repairman.
The repairman had an excellent reputation, and he was outraged when the investigator told him what was believed to have been done to the water heater. The water heater had not only been sabotaged but done in such a way that the fire would not start until several hours had passed. The smoke alarms had been deactivated throughout the house. The investigators did not believe that the repairman had been involved. However, it was clear that someone had deliberately tried to murder the Hall family.
Noah was questioned as to who he thought was behind the attempt. He told them that he didn’t know anyone who would want to kill his family. He was furious that someone had tried to harm Sharlee and Skylar!
Suddenly it dawned on Noah that whoever had done it, had not expected Skylar and Sharlee to be in the home. Sharlee had canceled her trip at the last moment, and only Dale and Alissa had known about the change in plans. So the murder attempt had been intended toward him. In his gut, he knew who was behind it, but he had no proof, and so he didn’t mention who he suspected to the police. He’d take care of it himself once and for all.
They questioned Dale as well and told Noah and Dale that they would question Sharlee later that day.
Alex flew in that afternoon. He immediately had put it together that this was a second attempt on Noah’s life, and that Sharlee and Skylar had not been the intended the victims. First, he spoke with Sharlee alone.
“Uncle Alex, thank you so much for coming to help us.”
“Sweetie, you don’t have to thank me. Of course I came as soon as I heard what is going on. My team is working on a case without me this time. Family comes first. I need to ask you some questions about yesterday.”
He had her describe everything that she could recall from the previous day. Sharlee told him what she could remember and then paused.
“I guess it wasn’t so much his appearance that was familiar, but the way he walked. When he saw me looking at him, he hurried past me. So that made me believe that I was mistaken about knowing him. I wish I knew more!”
“One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that people who do things like this don’t think as we do. They are focused on their end objective and do whatever it takes to reach it. We just have to figure out who wants Noah out of the way. I promise you that I’m going to find out who is behind this.”
Alex seemed to know what was going through Noah’s mind. “You have to trust me, Noah. Yes, I’ve made some bad mistakes, but I’ve learned from them. When it comes to my family, I do whatever it takes to keep them safe. You have to let me handle this. You’ve got a baby girl and a pregnant wife who need you. Let me do my job.”
“No, but you have good instincts.”
Alex’s response surprised Noah. He still didn’t give his trust easily. However, he knew that whatever he did would effect Skylar and Sharlee. He told Alex his suspicion and why he thought that it was Kristian.
Alex didn’t hesitate. “I’ll interview him today. Don’t mention it to anyone else. I don’t want him to expect me. No one outside of the family knows that Skylar and Sharlee were home last night during the fire. I’m going to break the news to Kristian when I see him.”
“Alright, and thanks, Alex.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Noah.”
Alex quickly contacted his team’s technical analyst to gather information about Kristian and learned as much about Kristian as he could. Later that afternoon, he went to Kristian’s home. Kristian answered his door and saw a stranger standing there. He seemed a bit familiar, but Kristian knew that he had never met him before now.
“What can I do for you?”
“I see the resemblance now. Please come in.”
Kristian let Alex into the house.
Alex didn’t answer. Instead he asked a question of his own. It was a baseline to determine Kristian’s reactions and expressions when Kristian was giving him truthful answers and when Kristian was being untruthful.
Alex already knew the factual answers to the questions. He’d spoken with his family beforehand in order to develop the questions. He’d done it in such a way that they did not know that Kristian was a suspect in the murder attempts on Noah.
“How long have you known Dale?”
Kristian answered the question. Alex asked him a few more questions in a very conversational way, and then when he began to ask about Kristian and Sharlee, Alex saw Kristian’s eyes light up whenever Kristian said Sharlee’s name. He had the same gut feeling as Noah had. Kristian was responsible for both attempts on Noah’s life.
Kristian was answering questions without realizing that he was being questioned. Alex made him feel as though they were just having a normal conversation. He answered Alex’s question about the lab program that he and Sharlee had attended. Of course, Kristian didn’t mention the pass that he had made at Sharlee, but Alex already knew about it. They spoke about Skylar and what a little sweetheart she was. Alex could see that Kristian had a true love of children, and that was part of the reason why he was a good pediatrician.
However most psychopaths compartmentalized their lives until they began to devolve as Kristian was beginning to do. It would only be a matter of time before Kristian’s psychopathy started to effect his day to day life and those with whom he interacted. Alex didn’t know what had triggered Kristian’s devolution, but that wasn’t necessary.
Like most psychopaths, Kristian knew the difference between right and wrong, but he chose not to follow those guidelines. Kristian did whatever helped him to achieve his own twisted goals. The psychopath, Ted Bundy, had been thought to be extremely charming and intelligent too. Ted Bundy had become a serial killer.
When Alex turned the conversation to Noah, Kristian’s responses became more forced. Kristian’s contempt for Noah came through in his expressions and tone of voice. Alex also saw Kristian’s extreme jealousy of Noah, and he knew that Kristian didn’t acknowledge that jealousy in himself. Kristian suddenly seemed to become aware that he was doing most of the talking.
“You haven’t told me why you’re here.”
Kristian saw Alex’s expression harden. Alex took out his badge and showed it to Kristian. Dale had never told him that Alex was an FBI agent. He’d never said much about Alex.
“Where were you yesterday?”
Kristian bristled! “What are you talking about! I had nothing to do with it. I would never do anything that might harm Sharlee or her daughter.”
“We both know that you are the man responsible for cutting Noah’s brakes and for sabotaging the water heater and smoke alarms in his home. The question now is what to do about it. You have two choices.”
Kristian’s face was even paler, but he knew that he had left no evidence in either of his attempts on Noah. He didn’t think that there was any way to prove he’d been the one responsible. He’d worn disguises and used gloves. His IQ was close to genius level, and he’d carefully planned out both attempts.
One of the things that drew him to Sharlee was her intelligence. He felt that she was his intellectual match as well as the strong physical attraction he had for her. That was another reason why he couldn’t understand Sharlee choosing a moron like Noah.
“If you’re waiting for me to confess, you’re wasting your time. As a matter of fact, this conversation is over. Anything else you have to say to me can be said through my attorney.”
Still Alex didn’t stand.
“As I stated, you have two choices. Your first choice is the one that I strongly recommend you take. You leave the state and never return here. You forget about Sharlee and never try to contact her again.”
Alex let his words sink in. Then he continued.
“Choice number two is just as easy for me, but harder on you. Let me give you more information before you make your final decision. Noah also knows that you tried to murder him. He is a very astute young man, and his only hesitation in ending you is the effect his actions might have in the lives of his pregnant wife and his baby daughter.”
“Yes, and as you can imagine, the fact that you almost killed her doesn’t sit well with Noah.”
“I’m not afraid of Noah.”
“If you aren’t afraid of him, then you have underestimated him. That is another big mistake that you have made. You clearly don’t know what he’s capable of doing to you. You’ve underestimated Sharlee as well if you assume that she’ll be with you if something happens to Noah. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, and it probably won’t be long before she realizes that it is you behind the attempts on Noah’s life. However, as of now, Noah is not the one you need to worry about. It is true, that there is no legal evidence proving that you’ve attempted to murder Noah and his family, but for me that’s not necessary. I know that you did it.”
“If you refuse option one, then I will go with option two. You will have a lethal “accident” before this night is over.”
“You can’t really be that naive.”
“How long do I have to leave?”
“You’re finished with your residency, and you’ve received job offers out of state. Call the hospital and call Dale to tell them that you’ve decided to accept one of those offers, and you’re giving your notice as of today. Make sure you accept an offer that is far away from here. You can take care of those calls right now.”
Kristian pulled out his cell and called the hospital to resign. Then he called Dale and told him that he was accepting a job offer in Maine. Alex made him call the hospital in Maine that had offered him a position and tell them that he was accepting their job offer. Then he had him make a plane reservation for the next morning.
“Don’t ever come back here Kristian. You have no family here, and so leaving should be easy for you. If I ever hear of you contacting anyone in my family again, option two will immediately go into effect. You’d better hope that this solution is satisfactory to Noah. If it isn’t, he’s going to come after you, and I won’t stop him. You’re a fool if you’re not afraid of him.”
Kristian packed quickly that night and didn’t get any sleep at all. He caught a taxi to the airport the next morning and was relieved when his flight took off. However, after he was on the plane, he began to have second thoughts about leaving.
Alex had told Noah about Kristian’s decision and the warning that he had given Kristian. Noah felt that Kristian had gotten off easy and was upset. He didn’t trust Kristian to stay away from Sharlee or not to make another attempt at murder. However, Alex reminded him that they had no legal evidence of Kristian’s guilt and that the authorities would not have been able to charge him.
“I understand your feelings, Noah. Believe me I do. When I was younger, I’d have felt like you do if someone had done to me what Kristian has done to you and Sharlee. However, if he does dare to come back here, I will take care of him for good. I’ll keep an eye on him from afar. You have my word on it. Also, I’ve spoken off the record with George about Kristian. Kristian won’t be back here.”
“Sharlee, Alex has taken care of the situation. The person who is responsible won’t be making any more attempts on my life.”
“Even though he didn’t confess, Alex and I know that it was Kristian.”
At first Noah thought she was just using that expression, but he saw in her eyes that she was serious.
“He tried to kill you twice, and he almost killed Skylar. He had no right!”
“Sharlee, Alex has taken care of the situation. Kristian is gone, and he won’t be in our lives ever again. He’s left Santa Fe permanently.”
Then she said, “Dang pregnancy hormones!”
Noah smiled for the first time that day.
The following week, Dale received news that Kristian had been killed in a car accident. The brakes on Kristian’s car had failed. Kristian’s car had crashed, bursting into flames. Dale sent a condolence card and flowers to Kristian’s family.