March’s short story is brought to you by a random idea I had one day that spiraled into something bigger.

(Yes, this is a sneak peek of “Vanilla Latte.”)

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!

Vanilla Latte (Part Five)

The police station was nothing like Andrea had imagined in her head. Her nerves pestered her the whole car ride, assuming there would be crooks and murderers wandering about. She had pictured burly police officers downing coffee, scratching their heads at seemingly unsolvable cases, or hustling to bust someone at a call.

Instead, the station was quiet. Upon walking inside, Andrea and Katrina were greeted by a uniformed woman sitting behind the front desk. Andrea tried to see what was going on behind the main lobby, but it was difficult to tell.

“Can I help you ladies with something?” the female officer asked.

“Yes, we’re here to see if Josh Hagger is done with his questioning? We’re here to pick him up,” Katrina explained with a calm tone.

Andrea folded her arms together tightly. Her anxiety began to take over again. She felt light-headed, knowing they weren’t supposed to be there. However, if Andrea mentioned that she wanted to wait in the car, she’d feel silly. She knew Katrina would understand, but the reason Andrea was here was to keep Katrina company. She was here to support Josh with Katrina. If she ran away to wait in the car, what good would that do?

“His ride, huh?” the officer repeated quizzically. She clicked a few things using the mouse on the desktop computer, not that Andrea could see what she was doing.

Was Josh not getting released? Did this woman know they were lying? Did Josh already call for a ride? Did he already make it home?

What if the police thought that Andrea, Katrina, and Josh were all in one this murder together? Assuming the customer was, in fact, murdered by the vanilla latte. What if the police were looking for Katrina and Andrea as well? They walked right into the station willingly!

“Are you alright?”

Andrea snapped out of her thoughts, suddenly feeling hot with embarrassment. She felt Katrina’s gentle touch on her shoulder before noticing the officer staring with concern.

“Do you need to sit down? You’re pale,” Katrina said.

Andrea swallowed a lump in her throat while shaking her head. “No, I’m alright. Sorry.”

“Are you sure?” the officer pressed. She pointed to a few seats on the other side of the lobby. “You can go sit over there. There’s a water bubbler, too.”

Andrea cracked a smile at the woman’s generosity, but she shook her head again. However, before she could politely decline again, Katrina began pushing her over to the seats.

“You sit here,” Katrina ordered, pushing Andrea into a chair. “I’m going to get you some water and then find out where Josh is. Don’t move.”

Andrea opened her mouth to protest, but Katrina had walked away to the water bubbler. She didn’t dare move, knowing Katrina would have words with her and she certainly didn’t want to make a scene. Especially not inside the police station.

Katrina came back within moments, handing Andrea a small paper cup of water. “Take deep breaths and drink small sips. I’ll be right back,” Katrina ordered. She turned her back immediately walking back over to the officer behind the main desk.

Andrea, without argument, obeyed. She took a small sip of the cool water, feeling the chill run down her throat. Admittedly, it did make her feel better. The room had stopped spinning too when she sat down.

From this angle, Andrea was able to see what was behind the main desk. She could take a glimpse at the other officers, sitting at their desks. Some seemed to be filling out paperwork, some were talking on the phone, and others were chatting amongst themselves.

Andrea wondered where Josh was in all this bustle of police officers. She knew there were a few floors to the police station, so Josh must have been upstairs somewhere, or maybe even downstairs, if there was a downstairs.

Andrea glanced back to the main desk where Katrina stood chatting with the officer. She sighed, wondering what they were talking about. Was Josh coming out soon and they were waiting? Or was the officer explaining that Josh was being booked for murder?

Even though Andrea knew Katrina needed the company, she had no idea what she was doing here. She wasn’t contributing anything helpful. If anything, Andrea’s boss had to babysit her so she didn’t get sick in the middle of the police station embarrassing them both.

Also, Andrea barely knew Josh. Sure, it sucked that he got called in for questioning, but that wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t even Katrina’s fault. She didn’t know what she was doing here.

“I don’t know,” Andrea said, expressing her thoughts out loud.

“Um, you don’t know what what?”

Andrea jumped, suddenly noticing a tall gray-suited man standing before her.

It was Harvey.

Of course.

“I said, it was fancy meeting you here,” Harvey repeated himself. Andrea hadn’t heard him the first time, let alone seen him sneak up on her.

Andrea sighed, wanting to jump back into bed and hide from the world. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you, I was thinking out loud.”

Harvey pointed to the seat beside Andrea. “Do you mind?”

She did mind, but Andrea shook her head.

Harvey sat down. “Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

At this moment, Andrea would prefer to meet a ghost.

“I’m fine, just got in over my head for a second, that’s all,” Andrea replied. She glanced back over at Katrina, who was now laughing with the other officer. Andrea snarled to herself, knowing she would get no help from her boss.

Harvey pointed between Andrea and Katrina. “Did someone call you guys in for questioning?”

“No,” Andrea replied curtly.

“Oh, good. I was just going to say, I’m in charge of this case and I don’t recall ever asking someone to get in contacted with you two.”

Andrea looked at Harvey, confused. “You’re in charge of Calvin’s murder?”

“Death,” Harvey corrected gently, “we don’t yet know the cause or if there was any foul play.”

Andrea nodded, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

“So, you came here concerned for your co-worker, is that right?” Harvey asked, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

“Katrina dragged me along,” Andrea replied, deadpanned. “If you don’t suspect foul play, then why call Josh in? Why not me or Katrina?”

Harvey’s expression changed back to neutral, taken aback but the sudden question. “Mr. Hagger was the one who made the drink.”

“So, that automatically makes him a suspect?”

“No, but he might know more about the process, especially since the victim was a regular at the coffee shop.”

“But I was the one who delivered the drink to Calvin, why not call me in for questioning?”

Harvey snickered. “Are you upset that we didn’t?”

Andrea huffed, leaning back into her seat. She took another sip of water.

“Are you assuming we’re questioning Mr. Hagger because we believe he put something in the victim’s drink?” Harvey asked.

Andrea found herself nodding. “All I’m saying is that I’m capable of putting something in someone’s drink, too.”

Harvey pressed his lips together, holding back a grin. “Are you now?”

“Yes,” Andrea replied firmly. She winced at the memory. “I put salt in someone’s coffee once. Katrina was pissed.”

Harvey laughed.

“It’s not funny,” Andrea said defensively. “Well… it’s kind of funny now, but it wasn’t in the moment. The customer never came back, but I’m assuming he didn’t drink the coffee.”

“Why would you ever think to put salt inside someone’s drink?” Harvey questioned.

“He was being a jerk to the other girl I was working with,” Andrea replied. “So, I might have accidentally forgotten which container held the sugar and which container held the salt.”

Harvey laughed again. “Well, then. Now that I know how sinister you are, I guess I should ask. Did you put anything into the victim’s drink when handing it over to him?”

“No!” Andrea replied insulted. “I mean,” she cleared her throat, “no, of course not. Calvin was a regular and he didn’t bother anyone. He was polite and kept to himself.”

Harvey nodded, still grinning. “I see, I see… well, thank you for your time.” He stood up as if he was getting ready to leave.

“Wait,” Andrea grabbed his arm, “I do have something to tell you. Something I remembered last night.”

Harvey’s expression switched back to detective mode, suddenly serious. “What is it?”

“There was another customer, but I don’t know who he was or where he went when Calvin croaked.”

“Croaked…?”

Andrea ignored the detective. “This customer was the one who noticed that Calvin was slumped over in his booth. He was the one who told us about it. We called the police and the cafe became a crime scene and we were all held to get our statements, but I realized, that customer left. I don’t know when he left. He must have run out after announcing that something was wrong. Everyone was so concerned over Calvin that none of us seemed to notice he left. So, you guys are missing a statement from one of the customers.”

Harvey looked around the area, before sitting down again. He took a photo out of his suit jacket pocket, handing it to Andrea. “Is this the guy?”

“Why do you just have that in your pocket?” Andrea asked.

Harvey sighed. “Just answer the question. Was this the other customer?”

Andrea took the photo in her hand. It looked like a screen shot from the security footage at the coffee shop. A man sat at one of the tables in the middle of the cafe with a clear view of Calvin taking a sip of his vanilla latte in the booth beside the table.

“I can’t be sure if this is the guy, but since he was caught on camera, I’m going to assume it was him. I didn’t get a good look at him and forgot about him until last night,” Andrea explained. “He doesn’t have a drink in front of him either, so I don’t even recall what he ordered, if anything at all.”

Harvey took the photo back, putting it into his pocket again. “His name is Declan Kerns, and he’s Calvin Miller’s business partner.”

Andrea’s jaw dropped. “Do you think he…?”

Harvey shook his head. “I’m not saying one thing or another. All I’m saying is that we’ve been looking for him since the incident occurred and we haven’t been able to get a hold of him.”

Andrea hid her shock behind another sip of her water.

“Knowing that he was the one who first noticed Calvin collapsing and then running away from the scene, well…” Harvey’s voice trailed away.

“It’s suspicious?” Andrea suggested.

Harvey sighed. “Mr. Hagger is just about done. One of the officer’s was getting some of his info. He should be out any minute now.”

“So, he’s not being arrested?” Andrea asked, watching Harvey stand up.

Harvey shook his head, buttoning his suit jacket. “Not today.”

Andrea frowned, wondering what that was supposed to mean.

Harvey smiled at her. “Despite the circumstances, it was nice seeing you again. I’m doing everything I can to solve this case so you guys can get the coffee shop reopened as soon as possible, okay?”

Andrea nodded. “Thanks.”

Harvey dipped his head and departed further into the station.

Katrina walked over, sitting down beside Andrea. “Is that Harvey, your sister’s boyfriend?” she asked.

Andrea nodded, taking a sip of water.

“He’s handsome, huh?” Katrina said, watching Harvey turn the corner and out of sight.

“I haven’t noticed,” Andrea replied.

“Oh, please.”

“No, really. He’s dating my older sister, why would I look at him that way?”

Katrina let out an exaggerated sigh. “You’re no fun.”

“Hey,” Andrea said in a hushed tone, “guess what? Harvey showed me a picture from the security cameras at the cafe. The other customer I remember seeing? Apparently, he was Calvin’s business partner. They’ve been trying to find him, but can’t.”

Katrina sat straighter, her attention suddenly sparked. “Really? That’s… unnerving, actually.”

“And also, guess what?” Andrea continued. “Harvey says they don’t suspect foul play, at least not yet, but I noticed, in the picture Harvey showed me, Calvin was drinking his coffee.”

Katrina furrowed her brows in confusion. “So?”

“So,” Andrea began to explain, “that means if foul play was involved, there’s a good chance someone poisoned Calvin’s vanilla latte.”

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Rachel Poli

Rachel Poli

Author

Rachel Poli is a multi-genre author with a soft spot for mystery.

She often experiments with short stories and flash fiction, however, she's currently working on the first book of her detective fiction series.

When she's not writing, she's usually cleaning, reading, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.

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