Disclaimers ~ This is an original work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places or events is purely coincidental. These characters belong to me, if they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.
Bad language ~ A fair bit.
Love/sex ~ Romance between men and women and between women. Sex between consenting couples.
Sickness & death ~ There are some deaths in this story. If that's not for you, I hope you enjoy reading something else.
Author's note ~ As always, a big thank you to my beta readers. Without your help this would be littered with errors. This series takes place in the fictional town of Honeyport in the South of England.
Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk
© June, 2006 Cam Taylor
Monday, 26th October
J ames Anders sat opposite his dearest friend in her living room. Not only his friend, but his wife's best friend. Seeing her shaken by a night visit from a suspected stalker had him less than happy.
Kate Levens was a successful doctor, who was currently in the middle of expanding her small private practice. Coming over to England for school, she had fallen in love with the south coast of England and had settled easily into life in the small seaside town. She had returned to her native Boston, Massachusetts, and married; but when her marriage broke down, she returned to England with her daughter and started up her own practice. Her latest project was the main news and she was getting a lot of publicity.
"I just don't need this right now, James!" she exclaimed for the fifth time since he had arrived, along with his team of investigators.
"I know, Kate. Believe me, I know how important this project is," James replied, patting one of the hands he held. At least she's stopped trembling, he thought, hating to see her so shaken up.
Colonel James Anders was fifty-four years old and had retired from the army after thirty years of service. He had started up his own investigative agency after hearing complaints from people around town about the police being useless in certain situations. His investigators did things the police wouldn't or couldn't do, for a price.
Just after five that morning, James had picked up his house phone and listened to the very frightened voice of Kate telling him what had happened at her home.
"Why don't you tell me how this all started," James said calmly, letting go of her hands as one of his investigators walked in with a cup of strong coffee for her.
"Hang-ups," Kate replied simply, hands wrapping around the hot mug. "A couple of weeks ago my phone started ringing and when I picked it up it would go dead. Then it progressed to me picking it up and... hearing someone breathing."
"And then?" he encouraged her to continue.
"And then I got some letters in the mail. And last night... someone... came to my house." She went on to explain how the security alarm had been activated, waking her up. Getting grumpily out of bed to shut it off and to check that it was just an animal that had triggered it like usual, she had found the bloody torso of her cat on her doorstep.
"Do you still have the letters?" James asked, eyes glinting with hope.
Kate shook her head. "No, I threw them away." She looked up and met his eyes. "I know, James, before you say anything. I... threw them away because I've had these sorts of letters in the past. Only, nothing usually comes of them."
A frantic young policewoman rushed into the living room. "Mom, are you all right?" she asked, her American accent becoming obvious in her distress. She sat down on the black leather sofa and took one of her mother's hands.
A male officer walked into the spacious, cream-coloured living room and stood hovering near the door, his brown eyes darting about to all the strangers in the room. He didn't know who they were or why they were there, but his partner didn't seem bothered by them.
"Hello, Janet. How are you?" James asked politely.
"Hi, James. I'm fine, thank you. Yourself?"
The older man rubbed a hand through his short, silver hair. "I've been better."
Janet nodded, a small smile quirking her lips, before she returned her attention to her mother. "Why didn't you call us, mom? This is really a police matter."
"I don't want the police," Kate said quietly, not wanting Janet's police partner to hear her. "You can't help with this... situation. I phoned James because he has no boundaries. I need this... person taken care of so I can get on with treating my patients without having to fear them." She looked over at the officer near the doorway. "Hello, Randy," she greeted, offering the man a weak smile.
Randy Granger smiled and gave a slight nod, his brown eyes quickly settling back on Janet. He had been Janet's partner since she had joined the Honeyport police force almost a year before. He didn't mind being partnered with a woman. He knew some had a problem with it, but not him; especially since the brunette was incredibly attractive. One day he planned to actually tell her how he felt and see where things led.
James shifted in his seat. "I'd really like to give you my best investigator, but she's off on another case at the moment." He looked towards the three men standing at the living room window. "Don't get me wrong, all of my investigators are top class. But Chris... Chris is something else."
One of the investigators walked over to where the trio were sitting. "Sorry to interrupt, boss."
"What is it, Harrison?"
Harrison Kiene, who at thirty-five was James' oldest investigator, was a nervous-looking man. In a room full of people he was usually a stammering wreck, but in front of a computer or working on something electrical he became confident and sure of himself. James had been hired to stop him from hacking into a company's computer system. He had been impressed by the man's obvious talents and had offered him a job. Not once had James regretted his decision.
"Chris just pulled up and Jackson is giving her a bad time," Harrison said. "It looks like she's going to punch him and knowing Chris, she will do it."
"Chris is here?" James stood up and looked from Kate and her daughter to the window. "Excuse me a moment." He rushed out of the room, while Harrison walked back over to the other two investigators to watch the scene outside.
* * * * *
Janet Levens felt her breath catch as an attractive blonde sauntered into her mother's living room. Dressed in tight black jeans and a dazzling white t-shirt she had no trouble filling, the stranger was breathtaking. Jesus, Janet! Breathe for God's sake!
The woman looked down at the two seat women, her eyes unreadable behind dark black sun-glasses. With a small smile dancing across her lips, she turned her attention to the three male investigators grinning at her. "Hello, boys," she greeted in a silky smooth voice. "Did you miss me?" She walked over to hug each of them.
"We were worried about ye," the tall blonde one said, his Scottish accent making him sound gruff. "How did it go?"
James walked back into the living room frowning, followed by a tall, tanned, pissed-off man, dressed in an expensive suit.
"But, boss, she's not supposed to be here!" Jackson whined. "She's supposed to be undercover up in Manchester."
James sighed wearily and looked across the room to the blonde-haired woman. "I have to agree with him, Chris. What happened to the perp you were tracking?"
"I know exactly where he is." Chris Branagon turned around to face her boss and Jackson, her shoulder-length hair whipping around as she did. Looking in Jackson's direction and using her middle finger, she lowered her sun-glasses so she could see over the top. "He's in your boot."
The man's mouth fell open, flapping up and down as he tried to form words. "You... you wouldn't!"
Chris smirked, a pale blonde eyebrow lifted in amusement.
Jackson turned and ran out of the living room, the investigators behind Chris laughing loudly until James raised his eyebrows at them and gave each a stern look.
"Is he really in the car boot?" James asked Chris nervously.
Chris took the car keys out of her pocket and held them up. "He doesn't know it was me. I paid some muscle man to knock him out and dump him in there."
Jackson ran back into the living room and grabbed the keys that were dangling from Chris' finger, then rushed back out again.
"Uhm... boss, he isn't tied up," Chris offered helpfully, smiling sweetly as the silver-haired man's grey eyes widened.
"Oh, God!" James ran out after Jackson, followed quickly by Randy.
Taking her sun-glasses off, Chris locked eyes with the stunning young policewoman who sat gaping up at her. Wow! She is... stunning! she thought, just before frowning. Okay. Stop staring, you idiot! What's wrong with you? She let out a shaky breath and shook her head to clear it. Jesus, what am I thinking? The brunette was close to her own age and dressed in the light blue uniform of the local police force. Her green eyes were locked onto Chris' blue, mutual curiosity showing in them. Chris swallowed nervously as Janet gave her a ghost of a smile. What the hell has gotten into me? the investigator wondered, turning to walk over to the window. Standing with her colleagues, she watched as the perp in the trunk jumped out and flattened Jackson.
The investigators laughed hard as Jackson struggled with the irate man, both men flapping about as they tried to outdo each other. Finally Jackson got the upper hand and managed to subdue the man as James looked on, his face serious, jaw clenched.
Jackson Valmont was not liked. He was twenty-four, six foot tall, tanned, toned, and wealthy. The rest of the investigators hated him, not because of his money, but because he never worked for anything. He had bought his way into college when his grades weren't good enough, bought his way out of being kicked out of college, and had his father buy him a place on their team when he decided this was the job he wanted to do. James couldn't refuse the money offered. At the time, he had needed all the money he could get just to stay in business.
"You don't write, you don't call, then you stroll in here and don't even say hello!"
Chris turned around to face her best friend and fellow investigator, Laurie Maguire. "I was undercover. How could I write or call?"
"Don't be smart!" the brown-haired woman said, smiling as she approached her friend.
"How are you, Laur?" Chris asked seriously, eyes trailing over her friend, checking for any possible injuries.
"I hate Jackson. He's a jerk!"
"What did he do now?" the blonde growled.
"Oh, the usual," Laurie sighed. "He started going on about you and Helen."
"I'll kill him!" Chris declared. "He just doesn't know when to stop!"
Laurie wrapped her arms around her friend hoping to placate Chris. "No need. They guys already dealt with him."
Chris looked over her shoulder at the men and grinned. "What did you do?"
"Let's just say it involved a lighter, a razor and some shaving cream," Charley Rigg replied, giving her his trademark cheeky grin.
Their boss walked back into the living room alone, having left Jackson and the perp back at the car. "Charley," he barked gruffly, not looking pleased. "I want you to go back to the office with Jackson. I want to know everything that guy knows about the Mayor's missing daughter. I don't care how you get the information, just make sure we know all he knows."
Charley, a former high school and college rugby star, leaned closer to Chris. "Thanks a lot, babe. An afternoon with the delightful Jackson Valmont!"
"See, I knew you would appreciate some alone time with him," Chris replied grinning, not sorry in the least.
Charley stuck his tongue out at her as he left the living room.
"Harrison, do your thing with Mrs. Levens' phones," James continued, organising his team. "Joey, you check out the driveway and scout around the neighbourhood. And Chris and Laurie, check out the back garden."
* * * * *
Joey Devine walked out the front door and looked up the long driveway. How did he or she get over the high fences? The dark-haired man pondered, as he took out a cigarette from his open pack and placed it between his lips. Maybe he has a key for the gate? He lit the cigarette with his Elvis lighter, a long ago birthday gift from Helen Maguire, and inhaled deeply. Back when life made sense, he thought fondly, rubbing a thumb over the lighter. Himself, Laurie and Helen had been the original team of investigators when James had first set up business. The trio had been good friends and close. His missed his friend desperately.
He shivered slightly from the afternoon chill, the weather having taking a turn and a drizzle starting to fall, and quickly buttoned up his leather jacket. Blowing out a stream of smoke, he headed up towards the gate, his dark brown eyes darting left and right as he searched the trees, looking for hiding places and anything the night visitor might have dropped. His shoes sounded loud in the stillness that surrounded him and it put him on edge.
* * * * *
Chris and Laurie walked out into the back garden. The sun was visible but wasn't giving off any heat. The sky was cloud covered, not unusual for October, and a drizzle of rain slowly fell. Gulls flew above them in the sky calling out to each other as they ducked and weaved, their cries the only thing breaking the silence.
"Wow!" Laurie exclaimed, looking around the large garden. "It's so... perfect."
"She probably has a gardener," Chris replied, blue eyes roaming about, taking in everything.
The very lush green, perfectly cut grass stretched all the way back to a glass-enclosed building. There were many flowerbeds scattered about, nothing in bloom at the moment.
"What the hell is that?" Laurie pondered aloud, her soft brown eyes on the glass building. The windows were tinted, so they couldn't see in. "A private gym perhaps?"
"Her shed?" Chris smirked. "Do you have your notebook?" she asked, already deep in thought.
"Do you have yours?" Laurie retorted, smiling knowingly. She shook her head and took out her small pocket sized notepad and a pen, knowing full well Chris never carried anything except money and sometimes a weapon. "What's on your mind, Chris?" she asked.
"We should check out the gardener if she does have one." Laurie started writing as Chris spoke. "Find out if there's a fence up beyond the trees and hedges..." Chris stopped talking as the sound of someone approaching them became apparent. The two women turned and saw the daughter of their new client coming toward them.
"Hi," Janet greeted shyly. "We're uhm... making coffee. Do you want a cup?"
With dark sun-glasses in place, Chris freely looked the woman over, watching as her chestnut-coloured hair stirred gently in the breeze, her green eyes switching from herself to Laurie.
"I'll have a cup," Laurie replied with a smile. "One sugar, please."
As green eyes turned her way, Chris shook her head for no, then turned her attention back down the end of the garden.
Janet took the opportunity to study Chris. Loose, shoulder-length blonde hair, almost golden, stirring slightly; her strong arms, tanned from hours in the sun, her broad shoulders, a tight....
"Was there anything else?" Laurie asked, suppressing a grin.
Green eyes widened in surprise as they darted back to the brown-haired investigator. "Oh... no. I... I was uhm... I should... get your coffee." Janet spun on her heel, turning to go back to the house.
"My friend and I were just wondering what that building is," Laurie called out, seeing Chris turn back around and raise an eyebrow at her out the corner of her eye.
Janet turned back around to face the two women, her head tilted to the side, a playful smile curling her lips.
"Chris thinks it's a fancy shed, but I guess at a gym," Laurie smiled. "Are either of us right?"
Janet laughed in amusement and shook her head. "No. That's an indoor pool. My mom had a building put up around it because of the lousy British weather." Green eyes flicked to Chris, sparkling as she held back a laugh. "A fancy shed?" she questioned.
Chris shrugged. "Could've been."
"You must know Joey, right?" Laurie asked. "Joey Devine?"
Janet looked at Laurie. "I've seen him around town over the years."
"You've lived here all your life?"
"Since I was seven," Janet replied. "But I've been going back to Boston whenever I can to visit family."
"How old are you? Twenty-something, right?"
Laurie smiled and glanced at Chris. "Did you hear that Chris? Janet's only a year older than you." Maybe you can make a friend, she thought silently, knowing how solitary her friend's life was.
Janet blushed, while Chris glared at Laurie. "I should..." Janet pointed over her shoulder. "Get the coffee."
Once Janet had retreated back to the house, Laurie turned to regard her best friend. "I think you've sparked her curiosity," she teased.
Chris didn't respond, even as she looked at Laurie.
"Hey," Joey called out.
The two women turned in his direction and watched Joey walking their way. "Find anything?" the both asked, looking at each other and smirking.
The dark-haired man shook his head. "The doctor has high security gates. The only way I figure he or she got in is by waiting for her to drive up, then he snuck in just before the gates closed. Or... he or she has a key. Hey, what's that?" he asked, looking at the glass-enclosed building.
"Fancy shed," Laurie replied, chuckling.
Chris looked over towards the out-of-season rose bushes. "Did you check the front for footprints?" she asked Joey.
"No, just took a walk."
"Should get on that."
Joey blew out his cheeks and nodded. "Yeah, I have to go and check out the neighbourhood anyway." He turned to leave. "Hey, Chris," he said, turning back to look at the blonde.
She glanced at him, a puzzled frown on her brow.
"Glad you came back in one piece," he told her, before turning and walking away again.
* * * * *
James stood looking out of the living room window. "I'll split my investigators up into two teams," he said. "Three on the day shift, three on the night shift." He turned around to look at Kate and Janet. "Of the day shift, one investigator will accompany you to work," he told the doctor. "The other two will be checking out any evidence we gather, plus your patients. I'll need a list, by the way."
"The night shift will be with you here in case of a return visit."
Kate nodded again.
"I have files for each of my investigators. I'll go and pick them up so you can look through them. A little back ground information on them will hopefully put your mind at ease."
"Do you do this for all your clients, James?" Kate asked, a hint of a smile dancing along her lips.
"You're my wife's best friend. If anything happens to you, she'll never forgive me. I will do everything in my power to find out who this prick is and take care of him!" The two old friends smiled at each other.
"Do you trust these... investigators, James?" Janet asked from where she sat, not convinced that her mom surrounded by strangers was the best course of action.
"With my life and my family's. But, like I said, I have files for you to see."
Chris and Laurie walked in and surveyed the room.
"Did you find anything?" James asked hopefully.
The two women shook their heads. "I have a couple of questions though," Laurie said, as she looked at Kate.
"Go ahead, Laurie," James permitted.
"Doctor Levens, do you have a gardener?" the investigator asked.
"At the moment, yes. I don't usually because I like to work in the yard myself. It helps me unwind. But I'm so busy lately, what with the expansion."
"Man or woman?" Chris asked, blue eyes trailing around the spacious living room, taking in the personal touches to the room. She briefly glanced at the family photos that lined the mantle, the exquisite rug in front of the fire place; the room looked homely and comfortable.
"A man," Kate answered. "I can give you his contact number and references."
"References can be faked," the blonde replied.
"What about your pool?" Laurie interjected, placing a hand on Chris' arm, silently asking her friend to ease off.
"I employ one of my daughter's friends."
"Do you have contact details for her?"
"It's not Sue!" Janet snapped angrily, from across the room, her voice high in annoyance.
"We have to check everybody and everything, from minor to major," Chris told her calmly.
Janet's usually soft green eyes fixed angrily on to cool blue.
Laurie cleared her throat and turned her attention back to Kate. "I uhm... I noticed that around your garden you have a lot of trees and hedges."
Kate nodded. "Yes."
"Is there a fence behind that?"
"Yes. It goes all the way around. When I brought this house, the first thing I did was put up a decent wall for privacy and security."
James sat down on the sofa. "Is that everything, Laurie?" he asked, looking weary.
"Just one more question," the brown-haired woman replied. "How many people have a key to your gates?" she asked Kate.
The doctor frowned. "Janet and I have one. The cleaner I used to have might still have one, I can't remember if she handed it back or not."
Laurie shared a look with Chris, then turned her focus back to Kate and asked, "Do you know where we can find her?"
"I have a phone number. I don't know how good it will be, I've never actually tried ringing her."
"All right," James said. "I want you two to stay here with Mrs. Levens, while I go to the office."
Joey walked into the living room, a deep frown on his forehead. "I found a couple of partial footprints among the trees out front. Someone was watching the house." Brown eyes glanced at Janet and he smiled as she met his gaze.
"I'm going to the office, Joey," James told the investigator. "Stay here and keep an eye on Chris. I'll be back shortly."
"Hey, why me?" Chris protested in disbelief.
"Because knowing you, you're the one who will get herself into trouble," her boss replied, smiling warmly at her.
Joey and Laurie laughed, as Chris scowled.
"Seriously," James said, all business. "Stay alert. I don't think he'll try anything during the day, but you never know."
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