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Chapter 4

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Photo illustration by Samuel Hoffman, The Journal Gazette

Chapter 4

The smell of baking bread from Aunt Millie's factory wafted on the morning air.

Stevie made her way from the newspaper office to her car. It had been a long night. Thank goodness it was her day off, although most of the early morning was spent reporting and writing about the latest city murder.

All she could think about was going home and crawling into bed.

Stevie lived on the top floor of an older home that had been converted into apartments. Hers was a loft-type apartment with wonderful wooden floors and an attic-like feel. The room still had its original woodwork and decorative molding.

Her landlord had allowed her to paint some of the rooms as long as the colors weren't too out there. She chose a buttercup yellow for her kitchen and a muted green for her living room. She hadn't had time to finish the bathroom yet. Not that it mattered. She hardly ever had guests, except for her mother and sister who visited over Christmas.

Stevie climbed the stairs to her apartment and was just about to put her key in the door when she heard a door slam below. Oh, no. Not now. It's 5 a.m. She tried to turn the key quickly but it was too late.

"Stevie. Just getting home?" A smell of cologne mixed with some smell Stevie couldn't place invaded her nostrils.

"Yeah, Crandall. Just getting ready to open my door," Stevie said, rattling her keys.

Crandall Roberts is Stevie's downstairs neighbor. Actually, he was one of the few neighbors she didn't mind seeing. It could've been cat lady. The woman is always covered in as much hair as her cats. Worse yet, she pushes a baby stroller with her cats up and down the street. Her favorite feline wears a bonnet during the ride.

Crandall was nice-looking and had no cats. At least she didn't think so. She just wasn't in the mood for chatting today.

"I heard you walk up the steps. I was working too. Just stopped to take a break." Stevie could see the red glow of his cigarette in the pre-dawn darkness.

She didn't really know what Crandall did. She knew he was some kind of artist and he worked mainly at night. He didn't leave his apartment much, and it showed. His complexion was pale from a lack of sunshine. Framed by his dark hair, it really stood out. He had beautiful skin; the kind of skin that you wouldn't normally see on a guy. It reminded Stevie of a vampire. But not like a creepy vampire. More like a motorcycle-riding Keifer Sutherland in "The Lost Boys" vampire.

He seemed to be a nice guy. She saw him mostly when she was just getting home from work. At least she had a neighbor who watched out for her, even if it was annoying at times.

"Well, Crandall, I really should get inside and try and get some sleep."

"Sure, sure. Maybe you can come to my apartment sometime and I can show you my work. My latest piece is gonna make me famous," Crandall said as he turned to go back down the stairs.

Stevie waved and walked inside.

The bed felt so good as she slipped under the covers. And although she was tired, sleep wouldn't come. There were too many things on her mind. She rolled over, trying to get comfortable – shoving the pillows up behind her head. Why don't I have a boyfriend? It's not like I haven't had opportunities. Crandall is nice and cute. But there just wasn't a spark – except from his cigarette. Maybe I'm just being too picky.

She began to think about the photographer. Jason Mullen.

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to network a little with sources. He may know something about the murders. And if she found herself wrapped in his muscled arms, would that be so bad?

Stevie remembered that he had a photography studio downtown. She decided she would add an extra stop to her list of errands later that day.

By Terri Richardson, managing editor for features.