(A story in the When Heaven Meets Hell series)
© JM Dragon 2006
Love/Sex: This story features relationships between adult women. If this bothers you, is illegal in the State, Province or Country you live or if you are under the age of 18, find something else to read. There are loads of general stories out there
.Language: No strong language.
Violence: There is implied violence in this story.
Hurt/Comfort: There are scenes of heartache to be dealt with by the characters.
Staring at the sign, When Heaven Meets Hell, above the moderately comfortable building it adorned, the onlooker sighed. She had to admit to a certain degree of trepidation at the name of the agency. For some reason the name had appealed to her when she selected it from the numerous ones in the phone book. But now, it didn’t exactly give peace of mind in one’s hour of need. Shaking off the initial doubts, the woman opened the door to the office area and walked in as confidently as she could muster.
Inside, she was amazed to see how normal it looked. Perhaps too normal. Maybe this is the catch to knock you off balance before reality sets in. Glancing around she saw a couple of desks opposite each other and what appeared to be a small reception counter which, as far as she could see, was unmanned. The walls were covered in small landscape paintings, nothing too elaborate, but soothing in their own way. There certainly weren’t any of the angry depictions of waves crashing over gigantic rocks or stark and lonely scenery. No, these depicted more gentle scenes, babbling brooks and colourful cottage garden types. The colours adorning the walls were done in pastel greens and yellows, producing a feeling of calmness to wash over one’s soul.
A phone rang and a voice appeared from nowhere. They must have been hiding because I haven’t seen anyone. Waiting a few minutes until the call had ended the woman neared the reception counter and in a soft tone called out, “Hello.” Virtually jumping out of her skin when she saw the head of a woman peeked over the top of the counter.
With an engaging smile, the woman replied, “Hello yourself.”
“My goodness I didn’t realise you were hiding behind the counter,” the potential client remarked after the surprise of seeing the woman. Her voice initially was breathless but gained composure soon after by catching her breath.
Teal grinned warmly with a faint expression of apology in her eyes. “Sorry about that. I like to work at my level for all the normal duties. I’m a dwarf you see,” she explained cheerfully. Seconds later Teal appeared from behind the counter and motioned the visitor to the desk on the left. “How can we help?”
How they had stumbled across such the name for the agency baffled her. The place seemed far removed from a troubled scenario. Instead, she had been greeted by soothing ambiance and now a woman, though of tiny stature, was certainly big on personality and abundantly cheerful. “I’d like to book an appointment with a private detective, today if possible. I’m in town from the country.”
“Of course, I’m sure we can arrange that. Detective Santos is free… let me see now. Ah yes, she’ll be available for a consultation at one or four o’clock this afternoon, take your pick,” Teal announced in an upbeat professional manner, while flicking through a diary on her desk.
“One will be better for me then I can travel by train back home.” The woman accepted the appointment gratefully.
Teal grinned as she picked up her pen, “I need a few details…” Upon noticing a flicker of caution enter the woman’s eyes, amended, “nothing too personal.” Hmm wonder what she’s got to hide, Teal pondered as she took down the woman’s contact details for the file.
With the formalities over, the woman stood up ready to leave until her appointment later that day. “Thank you, I will be back later. Goodbye,” she said politely.
“See you at one o’clock Ms. Agnew.” The door closed quietly behind the woman. It left Teal to speculate, which was a small game she played, as to what type of case this would be. Perhaps an affair gone wrong… no she’s too timid. Maybe the husband doesn’t understand her syndrome and all that went with it. Then again it could be…
The inner door of one of the offices adjoining her domain opened and crashed shut behind the person leaving hastily. From Teal’s position it looked like the session wasn’t very productive. The man, with a face that was red and angry, left the building without a word. A few minutes later, that same door opened and an exasperated woman stood with a frustrated expression on her face, “Teal, any chance of a decent coffee? I think I’m in need of an OD of caffeine.”
Teal chuckled softly as she saw one of her bosses and good friend, look none too relaxed. “I think you need more than an overdose my friend. I see Mr. James was his usual bubbly self after your session.”
“Teal, how can you equate bubbly and Mr. James in the same sentence? Hmm, well at least we’re making progress.” Doctor Amelia West walked into the calming atmosphere of the room and lounged against the desk that Teal was sitting at.
“I’ll take your professional word for it Amelia,” Teal stood up placing a friendly hand on her friend’s shoulder, which she could only just reach. Fortunately, Amelia wasn’t as tall as her other employer. There was no chance of the same action being taken with the private detective, no matter how much she dreamed of touching the muscles in that well sculpted body. Eat your heart out Theron, Teal thought as she left to make the requested coffee.
Amelia glanced down at the diaries of both her and the private detective. She was amazed to see that the detective had more appointments than she did for the rest of the week. Although, in truth, since moving away from her old neighbourhood and taking up residence in a district a couple of miles away, her clients had been severely reduced. The detective’s, on the other hand, had increased dramatically. Perhaps she should rethink her profession along with her old lifestyle. Not that she had completely cut herself off from the Order - she hadn’t. In fact, with the recent changes and the need to find out what she really wanted in her life, be it the church or… to be honest, she hadn’t decided yet. She had wonderful and meaningful conversations with Mother Sara, late every Saturday afternoon for six months now. Perhaps one of the Mother’s suggestions that she take a vacation wasn’t such a bad idea. With such a small amount of work on her books it might be the perfect time.
Her folks were heading to Maine next week for a month. A visit to the ocean might be a good tonic for me. Has it really been so long since I visited the old haunt by the ocean. Amelia’s memory kicked in big time as she recalled the last summer she had been there. The weather had been glorious and life had been beckoning her to do something great. As all adolescences think of it as being their right, and as her parents had often told her, she would be wonderful at whatever she chose to do. Then there had been Don…Don Clayton Junior. He had been her long time pal through the summers of her childhood and on through her teenage years. Everyone thought they would eventually end up together when they grew up. Smiling at the old memory of the young man she recalled with warm affection, she wondered what he would look like today. Had he changed in any way and where his life had taken him? Yes, yes she would take a vacation. It would be the ideal solution for her at this time. The old familiar places might be the tonic she needed to find where her path should lead her.
Concentrating on the diary in front of her, she shouted softly to her associate. “Teal, do you think it would be possible to rearrange my calendar for next week, no maybe two weeks, without any hassle?”
A voice that wasn’t Teal’s answered her as she guiltily looked up. Her eyes moving in the direction of the only person who had a voice like that, Private Detective Olivia Santos. “Darn it Olivia do you have to creep up on people like that?”
A glimmer of something, and Amelia decided it was mischief, glowed in Olivia Santos’ eyes as she neared her business partner’s position. “All part of the training my dear Sister Amelia. Are you going someplace nice Doc?” Knowing the reference to her nun days would rile the woman. She is so very easy to tease.
Amelia’s head moved from side to side as she pursed her lips about to retort something smart back, but she knew it would be futile. Olivia Santos could be so childish sometimes. Take the flicking of her nose as an example, which she still did from time to time, why she never fathomed, but one day she would. It was all part of her own agenda to find out how the detective ticked. “I’m considering taking a vacation; therefore the answer would be yes.”
Dark eyes followed the doctor as she moved away from her locality and headed towards Teal. “Doesn’t always equate in my book, however each to their own, any place special or… perhaps with someone special?”
Teal had listened to the banter between the two of them, it always fascinated her. Mainly because of the chemistry that ignited when they were close to each other. As to whether that chemistry was good or bad, she hadn’t figured it out yet, but it was the early days yet. “I can clear your schedule Amelia for as long as you need.”
A laugh erupted from the detective at Teal’s remark. Through the laughter, Olivia remarked, “No clients to keep you occupied Doctor? Want to take one or two of mine and lighten my load?”
Slightly angry at the reference to her lack of cliental, Amelia wanted to respond harshly, but fortunately her invaluable church training took over and decided she would suffer in silence. Finally, taking a deep breath, she answered her insufferable-at-times business partner. “I’m taking a vacation with my folks, any objections?”
Olivia’s dark eyes smouldered at the reply and she was about to say something else when Teal interrupted her. “Olivia, I’ve booked you another appointment at one, don’t be late. Great idea Amelia, don’t your folks go boating in Maine this time of the year?”
Amelia smiled at her friend, thankful that at least Teal was on her side. She laughed inwardly at the detective who groaned at having to go through another meeting. One thing the detective hates is the initial interviews…oh yes and the paperwork too. “Yes they do. It’s been a while since I last took a vacation with them.” Her eyes were in a far distant place as she was given her coffee and she ambled, in a better state of mind, back to her office.
“What are her folks like Teal?” Olivia asked nonchalantly.
Teal smiled warmly. She knew Olivia’s tactics. She was interested in Amelia’s background but refused to ask the doctor personally. “Great, wonderful people you couldn’t ask for more stable parents. I think deep down they were disappointed that Amelia went into the church like she did. They thought she had the promise of being a high flyer in her profession.”
Olivia pondered that a moment and then asked, “What do you think they think of her decision to join up with me?”
With her hands behind her back and fingers crossed she answered cheerfully, “Oh they think it’s great.” They didn’t however, far from it, but Olivia didn’t have to know that. It wasn’t as if she was ever likely to meet them.
For a few moments Olivia digested the information and then with a shake of her head glanced down at her solid looking appointments, “What was the new potential client like, in that role-playing mind of yours, Teal?”
They both laughed as Teal’s supposed secret musings were revealed. She began to describe Ms. Sharon Agnew and her own thoughts on what the case might entail.
+ + +
The smell of the sea breeze as Amelia gulped in another lung full was a cherished memory. It was one that she recalled when the overpowering dryness, and at times dirty air, of the city invaded her life. Amelia smiled as she waved to her parents who were about to take out their small boat for a couple of hours. She had arrived earlier that day surprising them with her decision to vacation with them. Turning up on the doorstep of their rented condo had been a gamble, but one that had paid off. They had been there and were overjoyed with her decision to join them for a couple of weeks. That night they were all going to dine a place she hadn’t been in for over fifteen years - the sailing club on the marina. The last time had been there was summer before she decided to enter the nunnery. Her decision, just after turning eighteen, had been in part made up that summer. Turning to leave the jetty, Amelia strode towards the house where she finally settled into a wicker chair with a book at her side. Soon she had closed her eyes, relishing the peace and quiet of her surroundings. I’ve missed this place.
As she let the smells and sounds of the area permeate into her body, she felt as though another load had been lifted from her shoulders by just being here. Then, her thoughts drifted to the office. Teal had arranged her diary to allow her as much time as she needed, the whole month if she required it but that, she felt, wasn’t an option. Surprisingly, even her business partner had been, for once, enthusiastic about her leaving. Too much so she felt. The woman had almost frog marched her out of the building on that last Friday. Anyone would think she wasn’t wanted at work, though work was a debatable expression at the moment. Her work with the church had virtually dried up and she had only a handful of old clients. Soon they would be gone too leaving her with a very light, maybe one would say non-existent, caseload. Not even the compulsive Mr. James will be with me forever.
Her goal must be to make new contacts and start all over again. All she had to do was remind herself that she was good at what she did - her previous results proved that without a doubt. At the moment, the church was being rather stubborn in lending their support and it had nothing to do with her taking a break from the nunnery. The leaders hadn’t forgiven her for her involvement in the death of Father Johansson. They had chastised her at length for not involving them earlier in her doubts and allowing him to die at the hands of Detective Santos. Even though there had been no time and the detective’s actions had been in self-defence, they failed to hear her explanation and had closed ranks on her. Only Mother Sara still had any time for her, but after six months she knew that the Mother would want her to decide which road she wanted to take in the future. At the moment, she was still at the same crossroads she had been at months earlier. Each road offered her parts of a life that she wanted but, at the same time, there were parts of the life that she didn’t want or need.
A noise, the crunch of gravel on the side drive, woke her from her thoughts as the sound of footsteps got closer. Standing up, she walked the few feet to the gate at the end of the drive and peered over it to see who was visiting. As she saw the figure of a man approach she put her hand to her mouth in disbelief. A handsome, tanned, athletic looking man nearing the gate, returned her gaze as his lips curved into a warm smile.
“Well, my folks were right. They did see you arrive this morning. How are you doing Amelia? You look fabulous.” The man’s voice had a deep timbre full of rich tones. It was one of those voices you could listen to for hours and never really care what was being said.
Amelia returned the smile with a surprised, but pleased, one of her own. Quickly opening the gate, she closed the gap between them then hugged the man warmly. “This is a wonderful surprise. I never thought we’d meet here again. Don, you look as marvellous as always. You’ve become even more handsome than you were at twenty-one.”
Don Clayton Junior grinned down at the petite woman in his arms and then pushed her gently at arms length so he could look at her properly. His glance took in every aspect of her face and figure. From the smouldering look in his eyes, he still liked what he saw just as he had when they had been growing up. “You haven’t changed a bit Em. I wasn’t sure if being a nun would have been good for you but it obviously has been. What are you doing here?”
Gently disengaging from his grip on her arms, Amelia smiled at the pet name he had for her. He had shortened her name to Em on the first day they met when she had been six and he had been nine. After that, he had been her friend during each summer vacation and each year they had been inseparable. Don had been her first and only boyfriend and had shared her first teenage kiss with him. For her, it had been nothing more than a growing up, learning experience - she had never been serious about him. But, he had taken it very seriously and during that last summer he proposed. She had tried to let him down gently but it hadn’t been easy. Eventually he wished her well although, at the time, she felt that he hadn’t meant it. Still, that had been years ago and he was probably married by now.
“Taking a vacation, my parents probably told yours that I’m taking a break from the convent?”
“Yes they did. Isn’t that a little strange? I didn‘t think that was allowed.”
Amelia laughed as she motioned for him to follow her to the veranda. “We are not prisoners just because we take our vows Don…but you’re right, it isn’t a common practise. Anyway, what about you did you? Did you finally settle down and have a family? I remember that’s what you always wanted.”
There was silence for a moment and she thought she’d hit a nerve. Maybe he is divorced or something such as that.
“Nope, never found anyone like you. I guess you spoiled me for anyone else.” He grinned at the remark and Amelia wasn’t sure if he was teasing her or not. She decided that he was. There wasn’t way was she going to have her professional mind kick in, I’m on vacation.
“Oh, there’s a girl out there for you Don, you just haven’t found her yet.” Amelia smiled warmly as they engaged in small talk. Now it really did feel like she was part of her old life again.
+ + +
Teal had left for the evening as Olivia sank down into her leather chair behind her paper strewn desk. She contemplated the assignment for the night. She would be tailing a guy whose wife was suspicious of his frequent late evenings at the office. Classic affair type experience in her book, though she could be wrong, but rarely was. The following weekend she was going to travel to the country and a small town called Ransomville. It was a place she had never heard of until Sharon Agnew had arrived at her office hoping she would take her case. If certain aspects of the case hadn’t interested her she would have declined the work. Travelling out of town for three hours wasn’t her idea of fruitful work and she had plenty to choose from closer to home.
Picking up several folders, she tossed them into the filing basket thinking tomorrow morning Amelia would have been in my office and cleared away the old files into the filing cabinet. It was a job that she hated and one that Max had always taken care of. Except Amelia won’t be here and won’t be back for at least two weeks. The information registered in her brain and it made her feel deflated. As much as she loved to tease the doctor she also knew it was a defence mechanism - she didn’t want Amelia to know that she was important to her. In her mind, the doctor had replaced Max in some ways in her life, especially here in the office. Standing up, she walked over to the window and watched the rain splash against the pane groaning at the prospect of her work tonight. Hopefully, Amelia is enjoying much better weather. The ex-nun deserved the break and when she returned maybe her work load would increase for the better. Or, maybe she’ll return to her old job as a nun if things don’t start looking up for her. That particular thought caused her to sigh heavily. Shaking away the depressing notion, she switched her phone to the service. Picking up her outdoor gear, she left the office for the evening now concentrating on the work at hand.
+ + +
Amelia laughed at her parents knowing looks as they shared a light snack prior to dinner. “Okay, out with it, you’re both dying to say something, what do you want to know?”
Pearson West winked at his daughter as he buried his head back in the local newspaper, allowing his wife to elaborate if she chose.
“Darling, whatever do you mean?” Shirley West had to mask the smile that threatened to engulf her features and give it all away.
“I mean that smug I told you so look. I might have been out of the family unit for a while now, but trust me it’s something a child never forgets.” Amelia crossed her arms across her chest waiting for the response. She knew her mom would cave in, she always did and right on cue her mother’s voice chipped in.
“Amelia really, we just happened to notice, your father and I, that is, you’ve been spending a great deal of time with Don. Will you be having dinner together tonight too?”
She might have known, although she could hardly blame them for their interest. Six months away from the convent and her vows, and now she was gallivanting around the area with one of the most eligible bachelors around. “Don and I are catching up that’s all. We haven’t seen each other since the last time I was here. I had to be around eighteen then. It’s no big deal.”
Shirley West held a hand to her face, silently wiping away the comment she was about to add. Her daughter, for all her professional expertise, was a novice when it came to men, and Don certainly wasn’t a novice. For the past ten years he’d brought a different companion for his vacation time here. Even his poor parents had given up on him settling down. “Please remember, Amelia, you are still a nun and you need to follow some form of decorum. Don isn’t exactly the shy retiring type.”
In the week she’d been back in Don’s company, she hadn’t gained the impression he was a Don Juan, far from it. He appeared, to her anyway, tentative and shy in the emotional stakes. Does this mean he is holding out on me? Or, is he watching out for me regarding critical remarks heading in my direction from other than family members? “Mother I’m old enough to know what I can and can’t do, and trust me, nothing sinful is going on.” Amelia winked as her mother blustered and walked away from the table. Her father’s chuckle from behind the newspaper indicated he was enjoying the retort.
“What do you think of Don these days Dad?”
Pearson lowered the paper and smiled gently at his only child, “Some people are never satisfied with what life has given them. Don’s one of those people. Maybe your coming back into his life will provide him with a direction.”
Amelia scowled. “Dad I’m not thinking of a serious relationship with Don. No way is that in the cards now or in the future.” The very thought made Amelia’s stomach churn. She wasn’t ready for any kind of commitment except for the ones she’s already taken on board.
“Have you told him that?” Pearson’s voice rose in a serious tone. He hoped Amelia knew what she was doing. Don had always had a thing about her and it looked to him as if the torch hadn’t extinguished over time.
With a chuckle, Amelia grinned at her father as the ridiculous nature of the conversation finally sunk in. “I’m sure he’s under no premise that we are anything other than old friends. Look, I need to get changed he’ll be here in an hour.” Noticing that her dad looked slightly worried she kissed his cheek on the way past. “Okay, just for you I’ll make sure he knows that there can’t be anything other than friendship. Will that satisfy you?”
Pearson didn’t reply immediately and Amelia was out of ear shot when he did, “Works for me darling but I doubt it will for Don.”
+ + +
Teal watched Olivia mooch around the reception area. It was Friday. Normally at this time of day the detective and the doctor would spend an hour over coffee discussing, as much as they could without divulging any privacy of their respective clients, their current and prospective case loads. The session was as formal as Amelia had managed to pin the detective down over how their mutual business partnership was working. As Teal watched the uncertain movements of the detective she considered what action if any she should take to bring Olivia out of her funk. In truth, she had been like this all week well, ever since Amelia left for her vacation. God help them if her friend decided to go back to the convent and leave this life behind. There was no way the convent would allow her to continue with this existence.
“Any plans for the weekend Olivia?”
Full lips pursed in the olive skin of the beautiful woman who towered over her like an avenger. Then intelligent emotionless eyes stared hard into Teal’s warm green ones and, as she spoke, they lit up fractionally, “I’m going to Ransomville in the morning to look into the Agnew case.”
Teal looked down at the diary and a faint smile flooded her small mouth as she shook her head at the statuesque woman. “Don’t you do anything but work Olivia? I bet even Amelia is having fun and she’s a nun. Not that a nun can’t have fun, because they do of course, but in their own way if you know what I mean.”
“I’m sure the good sister will appreciate your understanding of her sense of humour. Though it’s been my experience that the personnel attached to religion in general are bereft of a decent belly laugh in their arsenal,” Olivia remarked drolly.
Teal laughed at the comment because, of course, Olivia wasn’t far short of the mark. “You didn’t answer my question, are you going to?”
The slight drop of her eyelids over her eyes had Teal for a moment wondering if Olivia was teasing her with a wink. However, her next words disproved the notion. “No time for a private life, my situation causes too many casualties.”
Pondering the solemn words, Teal had to agree that perhaps, in the detective’s case, she did have unfortunate accidents happening to those she loved. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t keep trying. I’m proof of that. “Oh I don’t know Olivia. Believe me, being a dwarf isn’t the easiest when it comes to having a stable romantic attachment. Now look at me, I can honestly say the last three months have been the happiest in my life and it’s all thanks to you.”
Olivia gave a mocking laugh. “I hardly think you meeting the architect for the changes we had to this place was my doing.”
Walking around her desk, Teal stood next to the detective who was three times her size. Raising her hand and extending her index finger she stated, “One, did you not recommend the company?” Not waiting for an answer, she extended another finger. “Two, who was it that brought Phil in on the project?” Not missing a beat, a third finger was added to the other two. “And third, who owns the company, but Phil.”
“Don’t split hairs Teal, if it makes you happy to think that way go ahead, I’m pleased for you. Have you told my business partner about your love affair yet?”
Teal, this time, looked the more hesitant of the two as she mulled over that question. It shouldn’t have been difficult to talk to Amelia about her love life she was her oldest friend. Although, they had never talked seriously about romantic attachments. Amelia being a nun made Teal hold her tongue when it came to romantic dalliances. Except this was different, totally different, she was in love. Currently at this crossroads in Amelia’s life she didn’t want to throw her another curve ball. “Not yet there hasn’t been the right moment.”
Olivia gave Teal a long hard look and then directed her glance away to the window. It was bright sunshine and the weekend was going to be the same. “Okay, don’t leave it too long, because friend or not, she’ll wonder why she wasn’t taken into your confidence earlier. Right now, she needs all the bolstering she can get into believing she belongs with this life of ours.” Olivia decided to move on as Teal was looking out of her comfort zone. “Changing the subject, the last of the changes are due next week are they still on schedule?”
Grateful for the conversation switch, Teal grinned. “They sure are. Amelia’s going to be stoked when she returns. I’m glad I mentioned that particular item to you by accident.”
Olivia smiled at the buoyancy that exuded from the pint-sized woman. “Yes, so am I.” Although, initially when she heard that Amelia loved the ambience in Olivia’s private quarters at her warehouse, in particular the soothing music, she had been somewhat annoyed that her domain had been invaded. Eventually, she had shrugged off the notion that the doctor had been spying on her and decided to incorporate similar aspects into the doctor’s room at the office and her own apartment. Things had worked out perfectly when Amelia wanted a vacation. It meant that the work could be carried out when she wasn’t here, thereby creating a surprise for her return. In a way, it was Olivia’s way of saying thank you for being there. Sometimes actions speak louder than words and she hoped that it would swing the doctor to remaining there permanently rather than returning to the convent.
“We are having a party Saturday night, want to come over for a couple of hours?” Teal decided that as there were no clients due and it was Friday, closing the office half an hour early wouldn’t be a problem. Teal returned to her desk and began placing her work in the cabinet to be locked until her return on Monday morning. “Anyway I thought I’d call it a day now.”
“I’m not sure I can make it Saturday. Ransomville is three hours away and I’m not sure what to expect. I’ll take a rain check Teal, thanks all the same.” She had been thinking exactly the same about leaving the office early. She needed a change of scenery and a drive on the Harley out of town for a few hours would be refreshing.
“You have it. Anything you need before I leave?” There had been no need for her to ask if it was okay to leave early she was in charge of the administration. If she closed the office early, or opened it late, neither partner would say anything. It was all in the way they split the work load.
“Have a great weekend. I’ll see you Monday.” Olivia walked back towards her office then swung around and asked, “Have you heard from our vacationing doctor, Teal?”
Without thinking, Teal excitedly narrated her last tentative contact. “Not exactly. Her mother answered the phone when I called and would you believe it…Amelia was out… with a man!”
The cheerful words seemed to jolt Olivia bodily as she tried to find something to say about the situation. Turning on her heel, she muttered, “Good for her,” as she closed her office door with a sharp click of the hinges.
Teal was so engrossed in leaving the office tidy she failed to notice the detective’s pallor at the news. If she had, interesting thoughts would have been rumbling around in her head to match up with the others she already speculated upon.