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.

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 ~ Sorry for a lack of updating, been caught up watching the World Cup. 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

 

Chapter Three

Tuesday, 27th October

L aurie turned up at 7.30 the next morning to relieve the investigators on the night shift and to escort the doctor to her practice. Joey was scheduled to be at the office by 9, their usual starting time, to start going through Kate's list of patients. It was a good day to be indoors. The weather was surprisingly cheerful, the sun out for the time being, but the temperature was down to -3 and the wind that picked up now and then was bitterly cold and made everyone hunch their shoulders in order to protect themselves.

Chris got a lift to the local car dealership with Harrison to pick up her new car, then gratefully headed home to the house she hadn't been in for two weeks. She drove up to the gate-house that stood at the entrance of the unique, private cul-de-sac known locally as "millionaires' row". One of the benefits of living there was that the road was closed off to the public, another was the undisturbed view of the sea Chris had from the back of her home.

"Hi, Denis. How are you this morning?" she asked the day guard, smiling warmly up at him.

"Hi, Ms. Branagon. I'm fine, thank you. Finally got your car, huh?"

Chris loved her new custom-made BMW 650i Sport Convertible. She had ordered it in Atlantic blue and had picked the cream leather interior. She could have had the car sooner, but had ordered all the little extras she thought she needed.

"Yeah. It was worth the wait," the blonde grinned.

"Haven't seen you around for a couple of weeks. Been on holiday?" the friendly man asked.

"No. Sadly I was away on business." Another car pulled up close behind her stationary car and Chris frowned into her rear view mirror. "What's that license plate number say, Denis?" she asked, unable to see it.

"W7 CHA."

Chris rolled her eyes. "It's a friend of mine. Let him through after me, will you? Have a good day."

The guard smiled and hit the switch that would open the gate and waved her and the car behind her through.

Chris pulled to a stop outside her home and got out of the car, locking it. She watched Charley pull in behind her and climb out of his 1955 Corvette. He had rescued it from a junk yard and, along with his brother, had restored it. Now a shiny, sexy red, with white leather seats, it looked like it had just rolled off the production line. "What are you doing here?" she asked, as he strolled towards her.

"We need to talk," the handsome blonde answered. He had changed out of his work suit and was looking very attractive in cream trousers and a dark tight T-shirt which showed off every ripple of muscle in his torso. Despite giving up playing sport, he liked to work out regularly.

Chris felt her heart beat a little faster. She couldn't deny he was attractive. Very attractive. "About what, Charley?"

"Us."

"There is no us." She turned away from him and walked up to her front door. She lived in a two-storey house that didn't really have a known style. The front of the property consisted of a wonderfully manicured green lawn and a paved double car driveway that narrowed into a path and led over to the right, leading up to the front door. There was one large bay window downstairs, whilst upstairs had three windows visible. Around the back, Chris didn't have a garden. Her wooden deck had three steps that led straight on to a private sandy beach and to the sea.

"So what is it, Chris?" he asked, following her.

She heard her pile of mail being pushed back as she opened her front door and scowled. Stepping inside, the blonde punched in the code for her security system and stooped to pick up the waiting mail. Chris walked straight through her light blue living room and into her white dining room, dropping her mail on the dining table as she walked past it.

The downstairs was open-plan, the rooms all bleeding into each other with no doors to open or close. The blonde loved the feeling of spaciousness. She came to a stop at her double-glass sliding doors that led out on to her back deck and looked out at the view she adored -- the sea.

Charley stopped behind her and slid his strong arms around her waist, chin resting on her shoulder. "We're good together, lass. We fit, like two pieces of a jigsaw."

"We don't fit, Charley. It was just sex. It was always just sex." They had been working on a difficult case together. One night, feeling down about the case, they had gotten drunk and acted on the spark of attraction that was between them, one thing led to another and they had fallen into bed. Ever since, Charley had been wanting more than Chris could give.

Charley kissed the blonde's neck, his hands sliding up under her T-shirt, stroking her taut stomach, his fingers swirling over her ribs.

Chris allowed herself to lean back against his chest, feeling safe and taken care of in his arms. She knew he cared about her and that was the problem. She didn't care about him, not that way. Ohhh, but it's been so long! She tried to think back to the last time she had been intimate with anyone, frowning moments later when she recalled it had been with Charley the previous year. That's a long damn time.

Charley slid his fingers under her bra, his palms pushing up and gliding over her breasts, as he trailed light kisses down her neck. As his thumbs rubbed her and he smiled at her gasp, knowing he was close to getting what he wanted. "But it's good sex, right?"

 

* * * * *

Harrison sighed as he walked into his one-bedroom flat. He lived alone and liked it that way. He was a loner by nature, but while he liked to stay away from crowds of people, he did realise this was why he remained lonely. "I'm not asking a lot, am I? Go out, meet a nice girl, settle down," he said to the empty living room.

The living room was small but suited him. He hadn't changed it since the day he had moved in; the walls were still a sickly yellow, the carpet threadbare and needing to be replaced. His television sat in the corner, an impressive stereo on a wall unit and a top of the range computer on a desk he had picked up for £5, were his electronics. A battered old green sofa completed the living area.

Not much, but it's mine. He flopped down on his sofa and reached for the stereo control, clicking it on. As Roy Orbison's voice drifted through the speakers, he sighed again. "Should stop talking to myself. It's the first sign of madness!" Harrison stood up and walked over to the computer. After switching it on, he walked through to his simple kitchen as he waited for the machine to start up.

The kitchen, like the living room, was small but suitable for him. He grabbed a jar of peanut butter out of the cabinet and a spoon out of the drawer and made his way back into the living room. This case is going to be a bitch, he thought, as he sat down and started typing at the computer. A stalker! The only way we're going to catch him is if he fucks up!

Harrison checked his e-mail first, smiling as he found one from an old friend who had taught him everything he knew about computers. Legal and illegal. He stuck the spoon, covered with his favourite treat, into his mouth and moaned in delight as the flavour hit his tongue. The phone in his bedroom started ringing and frowning, he got up, walked in and picked it up. "Hello?"

" Hello, dear. Where have you been? I've left God knows how many messages on your machine! "

Harrison rolled his eyes at his mother's words, then frowned as he looked down at his answering machine. "I don't know what to tell you, mum. The machine says I have no messages."

" Well, I called you at least three times! "

"Is everything all right? Is dad okay?"

" Oh, yes, dear, we're fine. I was calling because Mrs. Drake is coming for lunch tomorrow and I thought you would like to join us? "

Harrison rolled his eyes again. "Why would I want to join you and Mrs. Drake for lunch?"

" Because she's bringing her daughter, and I thought... "

"You're trying to set me up!" Harrison exclaimed in horror.

" Well... "

I was just bitching about being alone, he thought. So what if my mum had to set it up? People meet in different ways all around the world. "Okay, mum. I'll be there. I gotta go. I've got to get some sleep before I go to work tonight and I want to take a look at the answer machine."

" You're working nights now? Do people really have computer problems they need fixing at night? "

"You would be amazed, mum. Take for instance insomniacs. What would they do without my help late at night?"

" Well... I suppose you're right. "

Harrison smiled. "Okay, I better go."

" Okay, dear. You be careful tonight and I'll see you tomorrow at noon. "

 

* * * * *

"How does it look today, Fran?" Kate asked her receptionist, as she approached the high reception desk. She was feeling incredibly timid and couldn't help but nervously look around, expecting someone to jump out at her.

"So far you have two patients waiting and one due in soon, Doctor Levens."

Kate and Laurie were standing in the waiting area of Kate's practice. Kate had opted for light pink walls in here rather than the traditional white, making the waiting area warm rather than sterile. She always made sure she had recent magazines and newspapers lying around and fresh flowers. She had found that if her patients were in a pleasant environment, they usually went in to see her in a better mood.

"Mrs. Ogden is in room three. She has the sniffles. Devon Amplas is in room one. He says he hurt his wrist."

Kate nodded. "Thanks, Fran." Laurie followed Kate down the hallway to her office and stood in the doorway as the doctor dumped her briefcase and coat. "I'm scared," she admitted quietly to the investigator. "I hate having to fear everyone around me. It seems surreal that it could be one of my patients!"

"If you check out Mrs, Ogden, I'll go and sit with Mr. Amplas for a couple of minutes," Laurie said, all business.

Kate raised an eyebrow at her.

"I need to ask him a couple of questions," the brown-haired investigator explained.

"But he's just a boy," Kate protested.

"He is a teenager and you know how some of them like to play pranks," Laurie argued. "This could be a prank that has gotten way out of hand."

Kate nodded as she slipped into her white coat. She picked up a pen, then walked toward Laurie. Out in the hallway, she pointed. "Room one is to the left, Laurie. And... perhaps after you're satisfied it's not Devon, you could check out the builders working on my extension?"

"Thanks, Doctor Levens. I'll be sure to do that." Laurie smiled kindly and reached out to squeeze the older woman's arm in support. "Shout if you need anything.

 

* * * * *

They lay in Chris' bed, their bodies slick with sweat, the sheet beneath them crumpled and half of it hanging off in a silk pool on the floor. Chris lay on her back staring up at the ceiling, wondering why she always ended up in bed with Charley. Even though she always told herself it wouldn't happen again. Release, she thought. I do it to get rid of the pent up... emotion.

Charley lay on his side watching her. "What are ye thinking?" he asked softly.

"You don't want to know," she muttered.

He inched closer, his hand sliding across her toned stomach.

Chris turned her head to look at him, feeling his fingers tracing their way along her cooling skin. "You should go," she finally said, as his hand started sliding down.

"Oh, that's nice! We fuck, then ye want to kick me out!"

"Charley, it's one of our rules. Remember? We fuck, as you put it. No sleeping together, no letting the others know, and no being sentimental." She brushed his hand off her body. "Anyway, I have to rest. Otherwise I won't be able to stay awake tonight."

The handsome blonde smiled as he lifted himself slightly, pressing his lips to her hot flesh and tasting the salt they had created. "Why don't we get married?" he suggested. "We could start having weans, have a big family around us." He slid on top of her.

Pushing him off, Chris got out of bed and started gathering his clothes. "You should go." She threw the clothes at him.

Charley sighed in frustration. "Why do ye always push people away? Why do ye push me away? Ye never let anyone close, Chris!"

I can't. Not again. She turned and stared out of her bedroom window at the sea, hearing him get out of the bed and start dressing.

"Ye know, one of these days I'm going to get tired of waiting for ye, Chris. One day you'll turn around and I'll have found myself a proper girlfriend!"

"I hope you do, Charley, 'cause I don't want to settle down with you!" she snapped. "I don't do relationships."

He stormed out of the bedroom.

Chris stood motionless, still looking out at the sea until she heard the front door slam. Why can't he be happy with what we've got? Why does it have to be more? Sighing, she crawled back into bed, set her alarm and fell asleep quickly.

 

* * * * *

Kate finished seeing her morning patients and headed for the reception desk with patient files. "Did you manage to get in touch with Mrs. Amplas, Fran?"

"I did. She said she would meet Devon at the hospital," the receptionist replied. "It was serious then?" she asked.

"I think it could be a break, I sent him for an x-ray." Kate sighed. "I need a coffee," she said wearily, turning to head for the small staff room to make a cup of coffee before doing anything else.

"Oh, Doctor Levens." Kate turned at Fran's call and smiled pleasantly. "A package arrived for you and I signed for it. I hope that's okay?"

"Of course it is, Fran." Kate walked over to the receptionist's desk and looked down at the white box, complete with its red bow. What the hell is this?

"Looks like you have an admirer," Fran smiled.

The doctor smiled weakly and removed the bow, slowly sliding the lid up. Bile rushed into her throat as she looked inside.

 

* * * * *

At 3 in the afternoon, Chris got up and showered, dressing in a smart navy blue suit before she headed downstairs.

She loved her kitchen. She had designed it and loved every small detail. After moving in, she had completely gutted the old kitchen and now had it how she wanted. She had instructed the builders to put in a larger window on the back wall, which looked out over the sea. She had a soft creamy-coloured linoleum put down on the floor and cherry wood cabinets and marble work-tops installed.

As the blonde prepared something to eat, she listened to her build-up of phone messages on the answering machine. There was nothing important. Everyone who counted in her life had known she was out of town.

After eating and checking over the pile of mail she had thrown on the table, Chris stood out on her deck and looked out at the sea. She loved that her house backed on to the beach, loved that with just a few steps she was at the water's edge, she loved the peace and solitude.

The sea breeze was comforting and gently teased her loose hair. The temperature had risen, though the sun had disappeared to be replaced with clouds. Chris lived in a house far too big for just her alone and had only brought the property because it was a beautiful place located on a private beach, with a gorgeous ocean view she could look at every day. She loved the sea, the smell, the sound, the soothing calmness it instilled in her. The neighbourhood wasn't bad either. The cul-de-sac was closed off to the public, a guard booth and gate barring anyone from entering who wasn't authorized. Chris had seen her neighbours only a few times since she had moved in. They were quiet and private, and if she didn't know better, she would have thought she was completely alone on the street.

Looking down at her watch, Chris sighed as she saw it was slowly approaching 6. She wasn't due to start work until 7 and she was bored.

 

* * * * *

Glancing down at the clock on her dashboard, Chris realised she was half an hour early. She had finally grown too restless and had decided to head out early. As Kate's gate opened for her, Chris drove down the doctor's long driveway, slowing to a stop just past the front door.

Joey whistled in appreciation. "Finally got your baby," he said as he approached, his brown eyes roaming over the car. Nodding appreciatively, he smiled crookedly at her. "Take me for a spin?"

Chris smirked. "Sorry, hon. I'm about to clock on. What are doing here anyway? Weren't you supposed to start checking out the patients?"

Joey pouted at her. "Yeah. So far they're clean. I was stuck indoors all day doing background checks," he complained.

"You should be grateful," the blonde scolded. "It was a bloody horrible day." She smiled as the raven-haired man pouted again. "Seeing how you're here, did something happen?"

Joey slowly nodded. "Yeah. The boss wants to see you. He's in the living room."

"Are Charley and Harrison here yet?" Chris asked frowning.

"Harrison is. No sign of...."

Charley's car came roaring down the driveway, quickly coming to a stop next to James' Mercedes. "Hellooo, sexy," Charley's voice rang out as he came up to Chris' car.

Chris turned to see him running a hand over her car's rear end, acting like he hadn't already seen it.

"Babe, is this sexy little thing your new car?" he asked.

Chris smiled and nodded, playing along. "I'll give you a lift home tomorrow if you leave your car at home."

"Wait! He gets a ride, but I don't?" Joey protested.

"We're on the same shift," Chris shrugged apologetically. She took Charley's arm. "Come on, we're wanted in the living room. Something happened." Leading Charley towards the front door, she glanced back at Joey who hadn't moved. "You not coming in Joe?"

The older investigator shook his head. "I've been sent out to keep watch."

As the two investigators entered the living room, they saw Mrs. Levens, Janet and Laurie sitting on the black leather sofa. Harrison was in the armchair and James was pacing.

"What's going on?" Chris asked, frowning as she let go of Charley's arm.

James spun around to face the new arrivals. "Where have you two been?" he asked, his tone stressed as he ignored Chris' question.

Chris looked down at her watch. "Boss, we don't technically clock on for another twenty minutes. What's wrong?"

"That was delivered to Kate's office this afternoon," James said, pointing down at a box on the coffee table.

Chris walked over to the table and lifted the lid. "Jeeesus!" she exclaimed, stepping back in horror. "What... that's... that's not a human heart, is it?" she stuttered in shock.

"We don't know," James replied. "I'll have to take it in for testing." He held out a plastic bag with a single piece of paper inside.

Chris took it, looking from her boss to the paper and started reading it out loud. "This is what you did to me when you didn't respond to my letters. You tore out my heart. But I understand now. It was a test, wasn't it? I've sent you this gift to show you how much I really do care. Nothing can keep us apart now, darling. See you soon."

"So he's delusional," Charley stated.

"Did he give you an address in the letters you got before?" Chris asked Kate, looking over at the doctor.

"What?" Kate replied monotonously, a frown creasing her brow as she looked up at the blonde.

"He says here, "When you didn't respond to my letters, you tore out my heart." Did he give you an address?"

"Oh, uhh... no. I think he just uhm... set up meeting places, like the park, the beach, that sort of thing."

"I want you all to stay very alert tonight. After this, we know this isn't just a few prank calls and letters now," James said sternly. He looked at Chris, knowing she wasn't going to like what he was about to say. "Chris, I want you inside again tonight."

"But, boss..."

"No arguing. I know you can handle yourself, but amuse me, okay?" He picked up the box and took back the note. "Call me if anything happens. It doesn't matter about the time."

Harrison stood up. "I'll be out in the car," he stated, following the Colonel and Jackson out of the living room; leaving Chris and Charley to look at each other.

"Charley..." Chris started.

"No, lass."

"You don't even know what I'm going to say."

He gave her a look. "I have a good idea."

"Swap with me, please."

"No, Chris. Ye know we all worry about you and Laurie. This nut is obviously unhinged. I don't want ye out of the hoose where he could attack or something."

"We worry about you guys, too. You know we're all like family," Chris replied. "What makes you think you're any safer than I would be?"

Charley sighed and ran a hand through his blonde hair. "Because I'm... I'm not arguing with ye, Chris. Just stay in the hoose, okay?"

"But..."

"I'm going to check the perimeter." He walked out of the living room before she could argue further.

Laurie stood up from her seat on the sofa. "I better get going." She finished her tea and set the empty cup down on the coffee table. "Chris, walk me to the front door, hon." The two investigators left the living room together and walked over to the front door. Stopping and turning to face her best friend, Laurie looked closely at Chris as she got into her coat. "I think you have a fan," she said quietly, smiling at the blonde.

Chris frowned in consternation. "A fan?"

"Janet, the attractive daughter of our client," Laurie replied in a hushed voice. "She has been asking me questions about you ever since she got home."

"So?"

"So... maybe you should try being sociable."

"Sociable? Why would I want to be sociable?" Chris asked.

"Because, honey, your friends are us guys and you work with us. Wouldn't it be nice to go out with someone who you don't see day in, day out?"

"I'm straight, Laurie," Chris responded flatly.

"I'm not saying you should date her, Chris. You could use a friend. A friend away from work. And anyway, when was your last relationship, Chris? Why do they never work out? Maybe it's time to try something... new." Not getting an answer, Laurie continued. "Not since you went undercover with Helen," she answered her own question. "That Jeff guy. Helen wouldn't want you miserable, hon."

"And what about you?" Chris asked, turning the spotlight onto her friend.

Laurie's brown eyes closed as her heart ached. Opening her eyes, she looked into Chris' blue depths. "It's... different for me. We've been... we were together six years. Married. Had a... home together. I... I can't... I'm not ready." The two friends looked at each other, thinking back to before Helen's death to good times. "Be careful tonight, Chris. This person... is a real nutcase."

The blonde nodded and hugged her friend, conveying her feelings through the hug. "You have your car?" she asked, as she pulled back. Laurie nodded and Chris pulled her walkie-talkie out of her blazer pocket, lifting it to her mouth. "Charley..."

" I'm not swapping, Chris. "

"Come around to the front and walk Laurie to her car."

" On mah way. "

Laurie hugged Chris again and smiled. "Go do your check and be safe."

Chris returned the smile and nodded. "See you later," she waved and headed back into the living room. She looked down at the still seated doctor and Janet. "Doctor Levens, I'm going to check upstairs now. Are you okay?" she asked gently.

The usually strong and in control woman stood up and cleared her throat. "I'm going to put the kettle on. I bought some tea this afternoon. Would you like a cup, Ms. Branagon?"

Chris smiled and nodded. "Thank you. Two sugars, please."

"Janet?" Kate asked her daughter.

"Tea sounds good. Thank you, mom."

Breathing in deeply, steeling her nerves, Kate nodded and walked out of the living room.

"Do you want some company?" Janet asked, as she stood up, eyes locked on intense blue. Stop staring into those baby blues!

"I thought you weren't going to be nice anymore," Chris teased, smirking.

Sighing, Janet turned to walk away.

"Company would be good," the investigator replied quietly, secretly glad that the attractive policewoman wanted to accompany her. The two women walked out of the living room and headed for the stairs.

"Mom, I'm going to check upstairs with Chris," Janet called out to Kate. "Okay, honey."

"Apparently, you've been checking up on me," Chris grinned. "You think I'm the bad guy?"

"No, I... I was just..." Janet trailed off as she saw Chris' smile. "I was curious," she mumbled, as they started up the stairs.

"So, why did you become a cop?" Chris asked, wanting to keep the conversation going between them. I can be nice.

"They gave me a baton," the brunette smirked.

"And the uniform's sexy, right?" Chris joked back.

"Oh, very!" They looked at each other and laughed.

God, are you flirting with her? Chris shook her head, getting a strange look from Janet. "Shivers," she said in way of an explanation. She walked into the first bedroom.

Janet hovered in the doorway while the blonde checked the room over. "I joined because I wanted to help people."

"Why didn't you become a doctor like your mum?"

"I was going to. I was supposed to go back to America to attend Harvard. But..." she sighed and looked around the room, avoiding looking at Chris. "After two years at college over here, I decided I wanted a change."

"You did all that all time then quit?"

Janet nodded.

"Wow!" Chris headed for the door, satisfied that the room was secure. "Did you make the right choice? Are you happy with what you do?" she asked, as they headed along to Kate's bedroom.

"Oh, yeah, definitely! I get to help my community and I get to do something different every day. It keeps life interesting." Janet again watched from the doorway as Chris walked in to check the room. "Why did you start working for James?"

"He offered me a job, so I took it."

"How did you meet him?"

"In May Diamond's book shop," Chris chuckled. "We got talking somehow and I ended up telling him I had worked on the police force for a while and he offered me a job before we went our separate ways."

"So you like to read?" Janet asked, loving to read herself.

Chris nodded and headed out of the bedroom. "All sorts of books. Do you have a favourite author?"

"I'm a big fan of Patricia Cornwell and Richard Laymon and, if I'm in the mood for something with a bit of romance, Sarah Waters."

Chris smiled. "Tipping the Velvet," she commented.

Janet smiled. "You've read it?"

"No, I saw the thing on TV. Well, part one anyway. I've been looking out for it being on again, but it hasn't been repeated yet. Or if it has, I've missed it."

Janet nodded. "I've read three of her books, and I've seen Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith."

Together they walked along to Kate's office, Chris slightly in front of the policewoman. Janet watched the investigator as she walked ahead. The blonde was dressed more professionally tonight. Yesterday she had been casual, tonight she was wearing a suit that fit her perfectly. Dark trousers, a crisp white shirt and a dark blazer, and her hair was tied up into a neat ponytail.

"Do you carry a weapon?" Janet asked, as they walked into the office.

Chris glanced over her shoulder at the brunette. "Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering how you would protect yourself if the need arose. This job can't all be smooth sailing."

"There's... batons, which you coppers use," Chris smiled. She turned back to the window she was checking. "Pepper spray, stun guns, uhm... handcuffs."

"Do you use any of those?" Janet asked, genuinely curious.

"Sometimes."

"Tonight? You didn't yesterday."

Chris got on with checking the window. "I came straight here from being away on business."

"You don't carry a weapon when you're... undercover?" Janet asked.

Chris turned, blinking in surprise.

"I know what it is you do, Chris. I mean, hello, you're here looking after my mother," Janet explained.

"Well... it depends on the case," Chris said, answering the question. "For what I was doing, I didn't feel the need for one." She walked back over to Janet, both women heading out of the office.

"Laurie told me you usually fill your pockets with tools and things you might need," Janet said, as they walked along to the spare bedroom.

Chris nodded. Laurie talks too much! She took out a slim case and handed it to Janet. "They were a birthday present from the guys."

Janet nodded as she looked the miniature tools over, seeing a screwdriver, lock pick, and a knife among other things. "Have you ever used them?"

"Now and then. Joey's the real expert."

"When was your birthday?"

"Back in April. The 20th."

"Handy to have I guess," Janet said, turning the tools this way and that as she looked each one over.

Chris smiled at the policewoman, who grinned back. "When's your birthday?" she asked.

"January 17th." Janet handed the case back. "As long as they work and keep you out of trouble." Her gaze lingered on Chris for a moment. Their eyes locked. "Or is it the opposite and they get you into trouble?" she asked softly, a smile curling her lips.

Chris frowned as she felt a tug of desire. What is going on with me? "We should uhm..." she swallowed hard. "...get back downstairs." They finished checking the bathroom and Janet's room, then headed back downstairs and to the kitchen.

Kate was sitting at her glass-top dining table, staring out into her dark back garden. She looked at the two younger women as they entered the kitchen. "Everything all right upstairs?"

Chris nodded and pointed to a mug sitting on the counter, asking silently if it was hers. Getting a nod from the doctor, the blonde picked up the hot mug and wrapped her hands around it. The evening was very cold, winter seemingly arriving early.

"Are you looking forward to Christmas, Ms. Branagon?" Kate asked, deciding to break the silence around them.

"I don't give it much thought until December."

The doctor nodded. "Will you be going home?"

Chris shook her head. "No. This is my home."

Kate brushed a hand through her auburn hair. "Maybe you would like to join Janet and myself?"

"Mom!" Janet exclaimed in surprise.

"Uhh... I uhm..." Chris stumbled around for some words.

Kate smiled. "You have plenty of time to think about it, Ms. Branagon."

"You uhm... won't be going over to America then?" the investigator asked curiously.

"No," Kate shook her head. "Our family is coming over here for Thanksgiving, then for Christmas they'll be going off to their in-laws. It rotates every year."

The kitchen fell quiet and they sat in a comfortable silence, drinking their hot drinks. The peaceful quiet that surrounded them was shattered suddenly by the security system, making all three women jump.

Chris put her mug down quickly and pulled out her walkie-talkie. "Charley..."

After seeing Laurie to her car, Charley had remained outside to resume doing his check around the perimeter. " On mah way to the front door, " he responded.

Chris turned her attention to Kate and Janet. I should get the doctor away from the windows, she thought, not knowing what sort of threat they were facing. Just in case. "Why don't we move into the living room to wait for Charley?" she suggested. The blonde followed after the two Levens women as they hurriedly left the kitchen. In the living room, Kate and Janet sat down on the sofa and huddled close, offering each other comfort; while Chris paced.

"Sh-should I turn off the alarm?" Kate asked after a couple of minutes of blaring noise.

"Hmmm?" Chris turned to look at the doctor, distracted. "Oh, yeah." She led Kate out into the hall, then looked elsewhere as the doctor punched in her code. Returning to the living room, Chris walked straight over to the window and pushed aside one of the curtains to look outside for Charley. With still no sign of him, she took out her walkie-talkie again. "Charley?" She waited for his response. "Charley, are you reading me?" Still no answer. "I swear to God, if you're pissing about!" When she still got no response, she switched frequencies. "Harrison, come in."

" What's up, Chris? "

"I'm getting no response from Charley," she told him, concern lacing her tone.

" Maybe he's just taking a leak. "

"No. Didn't you hear the alarm going off? He was on his way to the front door to meet me."

" You're kidding! Sorry, I... I've had the radio on, I didn't hear a thing. Want me to come down and look for him? " he asked nervously.

"No, come down here and sit with Doctor Levens."

" On my way. "

Chris turned to face the two Levens women and found them staring back at her; Kate's eyes wide in sudden fear, Janet's strangely worried.

"You're... going out there?" Janet asked.

"Yeah. I have to find Charley."

"I'll come with you."

"No. You stay here with your mum."

"I can help, Chris," Janet protested.

"You're a cop," the investigator replied. She watched Janet frown even as she nodded. "I need you to stay with Harrison and your mum. Harry doesn't usually do this sort of work and I need someone who can stay calm."

In case something happens to you, Janet thought, understanding suddenly. She swallowed nervously as she thought of the blonde investigator being hurt.

Someone knocked on the front door and made all three jump in surprise. Chris lifted her walkie-talkie to her lips. "Is that you at the door, Harrison?"

" Yeah, Chris. Hurry up and let me in, it's freezing out here. "

She walked quickly to the door and let him in, then led the way back into the living room.

Seated back in the armchair he had been in earlier that evening, Harrison looked up at Chris. "You shouldn't go out there, Chris. We should call the boss."

"You call him. Tell him the alarm went off and now Charley's AWOL."

Resigned to the fact Chris was going out no matter what, Harrison nodded. "Leave your walkie on so we can hear what you hear," he told her, seeing the blonde nod as she left the room. "Hey, Chris," he called out, more nervous and afraid than he cared to admit.

Chris appeared in the living room doorway sporting a frown. "Yeah, Harry?"

"Be careful."

 

* * * * *

Standing outside, the closed front door at her back, Chris listened to the night sounds. She took out her stun gun and her torch and held both out in front of her. Switching the torch on, she did a sweep of the dark front garden. Satisfied that no one was waiting to jump her, she moved off to her left.

Chris walked slowly, her torch showing her the way. The gravel under her feet crunched with each gentle step, her thundering heart sounding loud in her ears. She reached the side of the house and paused, licking her lips nervously, before spinning and scanning the darkness ahead of her. No sign of Charley or anyone else. Taking a deep breath to calm her racing heart, she moved on. Her movements were now quieter, the gravel having given way to grass, which was soft under her feet. The blonde made her way towards the back garden, trying to control her breathing, straining to hear any sound that didn't belong. She heard nothing, the whole night seeming to be at a standstill.

The kitchen light had been left on and it lit up a lot of the dark, but not the area near the pool house. Chris walked into the light and switched off her torch. Dropping it into her pocket, she retrieved her walkie-talkie. "Does Doctor Levens have lights in her pool house?" she asked.

There was a pause then, " She does. "

"Can she turn them on from inside the main house?" Chris asked, scanning the dark trees and hedges as she waited. The pool house lit up suddenly, lighting up the back part of the garden. Chris turned and looked back at the three worried faces that appeared at the kitchen window. Smiling, she stuck up a hand and gave them a quick wave. Knowing they were the eyes at her back, Chris walked towards the glass-enclosed structure that housed the pool.

Walking around the edge of the garden, Chris carefully checked in the bushes and shrubbery for any sign of Charley.

" Is he out there? " Her startled jump at the crackle of her walkie-talkie must have been clearly visible all the way back at the house. " Sorry, " Harrison said, sounding apologetic.

"There's nothing back here," Chris replied. "I'll check down the right side of the house and come back around to the front door."

" My right or yours? "

"Mine," she answered, facing the house. Chris headed towards the kitchen, her eyes briefly meeting Janet's. As she veered right, she took out her torch and swept the beam down the side of the house. She felt her heart begin to pound as the beam of light illuminated a familiar pair of black Dockers. "Charley!"

Continued...

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