Chapter 1



“I can do this,” she whispered. “I can finish this interview.”

Nerves rattling her fingers, Trenae looked down at the now crumpled piece of paper. She held the fluttering paper close to her face, a nearby street lamp offering a small parcel of light. “8-5-4-7”, she whispered again, “19th street north.”

She looked up. The same numbers, 8-5-4-7, hung near the front door of a light blue house with white trim. A long, straight cement walkway, about 50 feet in length, led to the home’s front porch. Trenae began stepping toward the house.

Several large trees, some with low, empty branches and others covered with large pine needle plumes, hovered ahead on her right and left sides. But regardless of their type, they harbored a dark, silent eeriness; they could be a place for someone to hide. Trying to ignore their doom, she stared directly ahead. Some relief arrived; the older, illuminated blue home, possessing a charming, white rail porch, beckoned her on, giving a bright, welcoming grin.

She dug for and found some nerve. She hurried her legs, cutting through the darkness from the trees. Disturbing chills surged through her body, as she hoped no one waited in secret, ready to pounce upon her and do what she had long feared they would do. Other thoughts, memories, helpfully distracted, though their presence gave little comfort: “Okay, Trenae,” said Claire Bartell, Editor-in-chief of The Examiner, Boise’s only newspaper, “this is the situation here. You see, we can’t print an article about some major slander against the Governor, or anyone really, unless you can supply us with police documentation, an FBI report, legal document, like a filed lawsuit against the Governor, as proof.” Warren Emter, Jenny’s editor, a heavyset man with a shimmering bald head, agreed: “Or we could face a major defamation lawsuit.” 

Some words jarred far less: “Happy before-hand birthday,” Jenny had remarked, after hearing Trenae’s 22nd Golden birthday was only two days away. A quick sigh of relief puffed through Trenae’s lips, as she continued her fast pace.

Yet the dark trees grew, expanding their powerful, sinister arms around the walkway, tightening their doom.

Think of other things. Quickly.

But Trenae hadn’t left quietly into the morning. No. Instead, she dropped the bomb: Jenny needed to know why Trenae was still alive, even after all she had been through. The answer? An alien had helped her. And lo and behold, Jenny hadn’t laughed! No. Rather, Trenae had been invited here, to do an interview exactly about her encounter with an alien. Not for a newspaper article, but for a book. The irony!

Luck in her pockets, Trenae soon reached the bottom step to the porch, unscathed. She quickly skipped up the white steps and arrived in the encircling comfort of soft orange light from a ceiling porch lamp. She lifted her fist, ready to knock, but then stopped herself, pausing to think. She turned around. No one slinked or crept from the dark. She turned back toward the door. Would this really work, instead of having a newspaper print the story? Was it worth the risk to come here? A newspaper article just seemed better. Yet too, as long as someone wrote it down and had it published, word would get around.

And fortunately, after doing a little bit of checking, Jenny appeared trustworthy.

Cold, nerve-clenched knuckles landed three soft taps on the wood. 

The door opened. “Oh, great! You’re here! Come in, Trenae,” Jenny said, her words grateful, excited. “Are you okay?” Jenny’s tone suddenly changed. “You look rather pale.”

Trenae stepped inside. Trying not to spoil the reporter’s cheerful mood with her own obvious fear, she gave a kind smile. “Well, I guess I’m all right now. We should be okay.”

Jenny swung the door close. “You worry a lot, about them still trying to get you, don’t you.

“Yes, I do.”

With eager fingers, Jenny bolted both locks on the door. “We should be safe now, right?”

Trenae stared into her eyes. “I honestly don’t know, to tell you the truth. But I think so. They’re not here, now. They would’ve gotten me already, before I made it to your door. I guess that’s why I looked so worried…I think we’ll be okay. You want me to leave, though?”

Jenny walked in front of her. “Are you kidding? I never let my fear get in the way of a good story. Even though, I have to admit, this is a little unnerving.” Some fear did pale the reporter’s face. “But, unless they cut the phone line or something, we can always call the police. Or run to the neighbor’s house. There are houses on either side, you know.”

What happened to not being afraid of Governor Willson and his crime scene, like Jenny said at The Examiner? Oh well, this woman’s only human. “Yes, I know,” Trenae said, “I saw them.”

“So, take your jacket off.” Jenny smiled. “Relax. I think everything will be fine. Just lay it on that red chair behind you. I’ll be right back- got to check on that tea!”

Jenny hurried away, toward the kitchen.

Turning back, Trenae laid her black leather jacket on a comfy red sofa, positioned in the room’s corner, a tall lamp with a white, ruffled lampshade looming above. Then, she turned around.

Cozy, warm lighting greeted her, from lamps placed in various locations around the small living room. In front of her, on the room’s right side, a flight of Victorian era stairs led to a second floor. Turning left and back, she noticed double, side-by-side windows, facing the porch, bordered by light blue curtains. Thankfully, the curtains were shut. She turned forward again and saw a blue and white striped sofa. Not far from the sofa, near the kitchen entrance was a red sofa chair, matching the one now keeping her jacket. Both the striped sofa and coffee table rested upon a large red, blue, and tan Oriental rug.

With the room’s cream-colored walls and particular spectrum of warm hues, Trenae began feeling coaxed into a semi-relaxed state.

Jenny appeared, carrying a small oval tray with two white teacups and proceeded toward the coffee table. “Come on over,” she said, “don’t be shy.”

Trenae began stepping around and in front of the sofa, near the coffee table.

“Here, you can sit here,” Jenny said. She placed the tray on the table and began wiping crumbs off the sofa’s far left side, the side nearest the kitchen entrance. “Sorry, I always eat in front of the TV at night.”

“No, that’s okay.” Trenae smiled, her spirits lifting a little. “I don’t mind.”

Finished wiping, Jenny pointed to the clean area. “Go ahead, sit down. I’ll be right back. Left my recorder and note pad in the kitchen.” Jenny hurried away.

Lowering her body upon the requested spot, Trenae began thinking, feeling a little nervous. I’d better listen carefully, for any unusual sounds, from either outside or inside.

She stared at a wooden TV entertainment center, across the room, to keep her nervous mind occupied. A DVD-CD player? She saw one, with two matching large floor speakers boasting their presence on both the left and right side of the entertainment center.

Clomping footsteps diverted her attention. “Take a cup of tea,” Jenny said, entering again. “Go ahead. I just need to move this chair over.” The other red sofa chair received a good yank, dragging from near the kitchen entrance and being placed diagonally to Trenae’s left. “There, that’ll work.”

Trenae grasped one of the white cups, lifting it to her mouth, sipping the hot, fragrant liquid. “Gosh, this is pretty good.”

“Thanks, I try.” Jenny placed the tiny digital recorder, the same one she had at The Examiner on the coffee table. Its miniscule LCD screen displayed Tues, 2/20/07, 7:09 pm. She also placed down a similar note pad and pencil. Trenae suddenly remembered Jenny’s mention of her odd, atypical reporter quirk, at using both a recorder and note pad at the same time. And she remembered too, Jenny’s obsession with chronological order of details.

Bending forward, Jenny picked up the remaining white cup and took a sip of the chamomile tea. She looked at Trenae. “Trenae, if you don’t mind me saying, but, you really don’t seem the type to work at Fontel’s.”

“Is it that transparent?” Trenae placed her cup on the table.

Jenny smiled. “I suppose you could say that. I’ve interviewed some of those girls before, when there were some community protests going on about smut businesses in town, and you don’t fit the bill. Maybe one was like you, but not many.”

“What do you mean, exactly?”

“You seem kind of shy, introverted. Too sweet, not hardened. Know what I mean?”

Trenae looked down at her jean-covered legs and brought her hands together, rubbing them slightly. Then she slipped her fingers around the bottom edges of her black flannel top, adjusting it better, by her waist and hips, to relieve her chest area; her large breasts could often impede a comfortable position. There, that’s better. She reached forward, taking the cup of tea again.

“But you really look good, if you don’t mind me saying. You have such pretty blond hair, so wavy and long, and you’re attractive and look slim too.”

“Thank you,” Trenae said sweetly, giving Jenny a smile.

Trenae glanced at Jenny’s body. “But you look slim too.”

“Yeah, I suppose we’re both lucky that way.”

“Why? How much do you weigh?”

“I’m 5’8” tall,” Jenny answered, “and usually weigh about 112, depending.”

“Really?” Trenae felt surprised. “That seems a little skinny. I’m 5’51/2” and about 115.”

Jenny took another tea sip. While she did, Trenae secretly noticed Jenny’s thin, shoulder length red hair hung loosely and softly by her face, bringing out her deep blue eyes.

“Most days I just don’t find time to eat, running here and there with reporting, doing my book,” Jenny said. “But mostly, it’s genetics. My mom and dad, they’re both thin.”

Though white-skinned, Jenny had a healthy glow. But she did seem a little too skinny in her form-fitting yellow tee shirt and tight jeans, especially judging from the prominent boniness of Jenny’s hands, wrists, and elbows.

“Both my mom and dad are a little heavy,” Trenae said.

“I still think you look really good, though. And I’m gonna guess that was the main reason you got hired. Were you one of those really popular girls in High School?”

A disturbing memory sliced its way. Trenae looked down, just a moment. She eyed Jenny. “No, not really. Somewhat, in a bad way. I just slept with this one guy, just one time and--”

“You were a virgin?”

“Yeah, like my first time.” Trenae stared down. “And then all of a sudden after that, I was given this reputation as easy, a slut. I couldn’t believe it. I was 16 then. I just sort of withdrew from everyone and kept to myself. My grades went south. I had always been a good student, like straight A’s, but…Some of the things the guys said, even some of the girls too, was just so cruel. It was a big problem for me. I missed a lot of school days. That’s why I left school, later that year. I never graduated.” She stared in Jenny’s eyes. “Believe me, looks aren’t everything.”

“Darn, I’m really sorry. But, I still think you’re pretty. I would say good enough to be a model, if you ask me.”

“Really, you think so?”

“Yes, honestly.”

“Thanks, I could use the compliment,” Trenae said softly, her gaze lowering a little.

Jenny crossed her arms, being careful not to drop the small note pad. “But with that kind of negativity in High School, what made you go to Fontel’s House?”

Hoping the hot liquid would ease the troublesome nature of Jenny’s question, Trenae took another quick sip. A slight tremor fumbled her hand, as she placed the cup down. “My mother wanted me to take the job.”

“Wait a minute…your mother?”

“Yes, my mother.” Trenae’s voice softened again.

“My mother would kill me, literally, if I worked at a strip club!”

“Well,” Trenae began, “I was working at Stan’s Pharmacy, in Idaho City, where we lived. But my mom thought Fontel’s would help me come out of my shell, make us some good money. And as my brother would say, help me get over being such a big loser.” Jenny’s jaw dropped. “Actually, that’s what my mom always called me too. That, and the ‘B’ word. They both called me that. So, I figured I had--”

“I can’t believe this.”

Trenae gazed down at the Oriental rug, away from Jenny’s shocked stare. “Umm, my mom and brother are not very nice people.”

“Yeah, sounds so,” Jenny said gently.

“They’re the opposite of me. But my mom is also an atheist, a firm believer in evolution, and so her belief system is a little different than most people.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Jenny said, a serious tone edging her voice. “I’m pretty much an atheist too, someone who feels evolution is rather accurate. But I’m a good person.”

“Yes, you seem to be. But not my mom. Or my brother.” Trenae sighed, and then stared into Jenny’s eyes. “They’re evil, trust me. I went through many years of physical and emotional abuse, after my father died.”

“Really? When did your father die?”

At the mention of her father, Trenae felt a little better. But then she remembered his death. She took a deep breath and began explaining the sad details. Her father died of a massive heart attack in the summer, the summer before Trenae’s freshman year in high school. He was just 51. His death crushed Trenae mercilessly, since not only was he a kind, caring man, but his presence softened the blow from her mom’s coldness. And Darin too, treated her with more respect when her father was around. With Dad gone, her mom and Darin attacked Trenae, emotionally and physically, like never before.

Caring, attentive sparkles lighted Jenny’s eyes, encouraging Trenae to continue. She revealed how Dad often called her ‘Resi, my sweet, caring Resi’, and then gave Trenae a big hug. ‘Resi’ came from Trenae’s middle name, Resica, the namesake of picturesque falls gracing a park in eastern Pennsylvania. She explained further, after Jenny mentioned the names were pretty, that her mom wanted Renae, but her father wanted Tamara, and so they hit a compromise. And Lafayette was French, though her father held Swedish and Chippewa Indian heritage too.

Jenny’s gaze filled with concern. She asked Trenae if high school teachers or counselors, social services, or the police ever became involved, with the abuse Trenae encountered. Trenae then explained how the abuse worsened, but then turned for the better. Recalling ugly, pensive memories, sadness toning her voice, Trenae revealed how one evening before supper, when she was 16, her mother angrily stalked her around the kitchen, accusing Trenae of stealing money. Darin just stood by, watching silently, though Trenae knew he was actually responsible. Backed into a corner, Trenae tried to get away. But her mom was too quick, grabbing, pushing Trenae through the open basement door. Fortunately, the basement stairs flowed down five steps, then became a platform, and then turned another direction down more steps. Trenae merely crashed to the platform, but not without damage; her arm had caught an exposed nail, and her fall broke only by the cement wall butting the platform, causing further pounding, bruising injuries. In pain and shock, she looked up the stairs, at the doorway. Darin and her mom just stood there, quiet shadows, not saying a word.

Jenny gasped, but Trenae kept going.

Finally, her mom asked if she was all right. But not Darin. He remained the quiet, malevolent shadow. Yet eventually, Darin did help Trenae up the stairs, placing her in the car. Traveling to the hospital, Mom pleaded Trenae not to tell what really happened. And as typical, Trenae often being the sucker for people and their problems, Mom’s pleading words melted Trenae’s startled mind; she didn’t tell.

However, her forgiving behavior appeared to pay off. After observing Trenae’s injury, a gash needing 32 stitches, Mom and Darin avoided further physical abuse toward Trenae, until she left and lived at Willson’s mansion. But she figured their behavior stemmed from fear of arrest, not compassion. And since the injury happened during autumn, when she wore long sleeve shirts to school, no one else found out, hence preventing accusations by teachers or friends.

Even so, her mom and Darin’s emotional abuse did not end.

“Your brother, he really hurt you too?” Jenny asked.

“Yeah, Darin had punched and kicked me a few times…But worse, he had tried forcing himself on me a few times.” I can’t believe I just said that, Trenae thought.

Jenny covered her mouth. “You mean like, try to rape you?”

Sensing concern from Jenny, Trenae felt able to go on. “Yes. With all the stuff happening at school, and he had heard about it from some friends, he kept asking me. I said no, of course, every time. He tried to attack me once, but, I got away. He never really bothered me again, like that. It was…it was…terrible being around them.” Trenae gently shook her head, gazing down and grasping her hands together. She again remembered the fall, the terror, of being pushed down the stairs. An involuntary shudder rattled her body. Her arm hurt so much!

“You all right?” Jenny asked.

Trenae snapped her head up and smiled. “Yeah, sorry. I’m okay. Sorry I told that, about my brother. I guess I needed to tell someone.”

“No, no. It’s okay. But why on earth do you think they were so mean? What was going on?”

Taking a tea sip at the same time Jenny did, Trenae began her answer. After her father died, Trenae’s mom had trouble keeping a job. Mom should have moved them to Boise, to make things better, but she did not. So they were on and off welfare, food stamps, going to food banks, and so on. Trenae grew up poor. Though her father, a welder, didn’t make that much money, it was definitely financially better when he was alive.

Apparently, the stress from poor finances eventually crumbled her mom’s steadfastness. Mom always drank, but then she and Darin began smoking pot, and then doing harder drugs. They both tired to pressure Trenae to use some, but Trenae explained to Jenny, looking her directly in the eye, that she always feared drugs, for some reason. Trenae just kept to drinking alcohol, her mind comfort of choice. But she concluded that was the reason her mom and brother became mean, then meaner, even stronger and more aggressive, as the drugs settled within their brains, wrecking mental stability. Trenae just crouched and hid more, avoiding friends as well.

But toward the end of her 16th year, Trenae noticed more money landed in Mom and Darin’s hands. And the two seemed more positive, less critical of Trenae, though they both still behaved with malicious intent. Trenae wondered, since Darin, 20 then, merely worked at Wyatt’s Welding and Machine, in Boise, a rather low paying job. And her mom yet received some state help. Trenae’s only conclusion, though she had no proof - Darin and her mom were selling drugs.  

Trenae paused and formed a wondering stare. “Gosh, Jenny, this is really negative stuff I’m talking here. You must really think I’m some sort of lowlife now.” Trenae looked down at her hands.

She heard Jenny lean forward a bit. “Hey, no. We all have extra baggage we carry from the past. Everybody does. But your dad was a great person, right?”

Sunlight found a space between the clouds, so its light could shine through. Trenae lifted her head. “He had been in the Marine Corp, in Vietnam.”


“But, it changed him, for the better. He always used to tell Darin and I that he had seen enough death and destruction, that he just wanted to see peace and love now. He became a born-again Christian after he ended his time in Vietnam. He used to go to a Baptist church in Boise, quite a few Sundays. He took Darin and I, but my mom, of course…”

“Wouldn’t go, right?”

“Yeah, you got it. He could never change her. She would always throw the evolution stuff on my dad, and he could never give her a convincing enough response, I guess. He just kept telling her it was a matter of faith. But…” 

Jenny placed the note pad and pencil on her lap, leaned back in the red sofa, and crossed her arms. “Trenae, how on earth did those two ever get together? They seem totally different. Though I know opposites attract, but still.”

“Tell me about it. I used to ask my dad why he didn’t divorce Mom. He said it would break us up, cause us to struggle. My mom was so mean, to him and me. But my dad said she was street tough when he met her, but still rather sweet. Somehow, over time, the sweetness left. She became bitter, full of anger and hate. And, so…”

“Say, why don’t we change the subject. Come in the kitchen with me.”

Jenny arose from her chair, laid the note pad on the coffee table, and began walking away, encouraging Trenae to follow with a smile and quick head turn. Trenae did.

While doing so, it occurred to Trenae just how comfortable she felt with this person. Relaxation and sociability came hard for her around people. Yet somehow, Jenny had accomplished this a little. Not completely, but more so than most people. Had she found a new friend? Or was Jenny’s behavior merely a ruse, designed to deceive, for possibly this reporter’s background check had been cleverly fabricated?