Picket Fences

It’s the start of the day in the waterfront town of Benicia, as the residents begin their morning routines, and the Wingates are no different. Angela, who is always the first one up, is making breakfast trying to keep her mind off Connie being in a coma and Sydney’s return. “Good morning,” Payton says, coming into the kitchen. “Hey, you,” Angela responds, serving him a plate. “How did you sleep?” she asks. “It was fine, and my neck is feeling better” Payton answers. “Good. You know, we have to start talking about your birthday,” Angela says. “Yeah, my boy is turning eighteen,” Bruce says, coming into the kitchen. “So what do you want to do?” he asks. “I don’t know yet, I’m thinking maybe a BBQ, a real fancy one though.” Payton says with excitement. 

At that moment Madalyn lets herself in from outside and helps herself to coffee and toast from Bruce’s plate. “Good morning, everyone,” she proclaims. “What can we do for you, Madalyn?” Angela asks.  Madalyn takes a sip of coffee. “Actually, I’m here to ask Payton a favor,” Madalyn says.  “Me?” Payton asks, surprised. “Yeah, so… Sydney’s been home for a few weeks now and we’ve enrolled him in night tutoring classes with some other young people at the library and I was wondering if you could go to his first few classes with him, you know… so he won’t feel so alone,” Madalyn asks, hoping to get a yes. Silence fell over the kitchen for a few seconds. “Yeah. I can do that… I’d be happy to.” Payton says. “You will? … Thank you!… I’ll go tell him right now,”  Madalyn says, elated.

“Well, I have to go,” Payton says, getting up and walking out the door, leaving Angela and Bruce looking at each other thinking the same thing: “Is this a good idea?”

The Wingates aren’t the only ones with a bad feeling. 

At the Benicia police station, Agent Edward Benning is at his desk looking over evidence pulled from Connie’s house. He hears a voice behind him. “Wow, the Baxter house just can’t catch a break. Good luck,” the officer says in passing. Agent Benning, surprised by the statement, replies, “The Baxter house, what do you mean? this came from Connie Spalding’s home, the home invasion.”  “Yeah but that’s not the only crime that’s happened in that house, about two years ago Shane Baxter was found dead, and his wife—what is her name? Carol. That’s it. She just disappeared without a trace,” the officer recollects. “Is it still an open case?” asks Agent Benning. “Yeah, it’s still open but it’s gone cold now,” the officer replies. “Thank you, I’ll look into it,” he says. He begins to look up the Baxter case in the database and takes himself down a rabbit hole. It is becoming clear that there may be more to Benicia than just seaside views and beautiful homes.

But Agent Benning isn’t the only one finding information.

Payton decides to look at the information on the flash drive. He inserts it into his computer, fearing what he might find. He opens the drive on his desktop and the screen starts to flood with documents he didn’t understand. They look financial in nature.  Sifting through the documents, he finds two files: one named “Renaye Fuqua” and the other “Angela Wingate.” Payton’s heart skips a beat. He can’t help but think how this could change his family’s life. He glances at a family picture thinking, is it worth it?  Shaking the feeling off, he opens the file labeled “Angela Wingate.”

Yes, information… It can be a powerful tool. But, dear residents of Benicia, the more you know, the more it can hurt you.