Fatal Hesitation

(A story in the When Heaven Meets Hell series)

Part Four

© 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.

A crash of gears and the screeching of tires had Olivia's truck hurtling up the drive of the church hall. Fortunately, she had the presence of mind, but only just, to slam on the breaks and stop the vehicle before it hit anyone or anything.

Standing and watching the rapid entry to the church property, Sharon Agnew's poise appeared calm. However, inside the woman was seething. She had been waiting like a lemon for the detective for over half an hour. I am paying this outsider good money to provide me with a solution to my problem. Not being around isn't any help to me at all!

When Sharon watched the private detective climb out of her vehicle as if she didn't have a care, she moved quickly to confront her. "Glad you decided to make it Detective Santos. I was beginning to think you'd forgotten me."

Olivia heard the belligerent tone and cocked her head slightly to one side to take in her client's demeanour. Then, she deliberately glanced at the broad strap on her arm, noting, according to her watch, she was exactly on time. "Sorry if you think I'm lapsing in my work Ms. Agnew. I can assure you that I've been working on your behalf since I left you. Now, do you need to go elsewhere or is it straight home?" She hadn't changed her attitude or stance. It was purely professional and right now, if Agnew was going to be a pain in the butt, she would have preferred to be a thousand miles away. Even more so with the chaotic thoughts that were streaming through her head regarding Amelia and what had just happened between them.

"I think I'd best return home considering the circumstances."

The way Agnew intoned circumstances, had Olivia puzzled. The woman's inflection held more than the word appeared to convey. "Anything I need to know?" Maybe she's received another communication here at the church. That really doesn't sound plausible but the doc did indicate that an escalation was possible.

A hand went to Sharon's mouth, as she sighed heavily. "You haven't heard? No, no why would you? You're a stranger in town. If you recall, I told you last night about my neighbour, John Russell. He's been found at the edge of the lake... dead."

"Is it a suspicious death?" Olivia was deeply interested now and her thoughts were focused completely on the case at hand. This could confirm where the ear came from. It certainly would make morbid sense.

Sharon shook her head. "I'm not sure. The sheriff hasn't given any specific details. The only reason I know this much is because the caretaker of the parish is his only living relative and was informed this morning."

Olivia consumed the brief details. This sheds a different light on the situation altogether. I need to speak with the sheriff and take that damn ear with me. As she thought about the ear she realised that in her haste to leave the motel, she'd left it behind. "I need to speak with the sheriff Sharon, but first, I need to speak with my colleague who arrived this morning. She's an integral part of the agency...in fact she's my business partner. We'll leave your car here in the lot. From now on, until we find the person who is harassing you, you don't go anywhere on your own, is that clear?"

Sharon beamed a bright smile, possibly too bright as she eagerly agreed.

On the short drive to the motel, Olivia debated if she should call Amelia and inform her about their impending arrival. She decided it would be a bad idea. Besides, what will it achieve? As the few short miles disappeared and the motel hit her line of sight she wished she had. What if Amelia has cut and run out on me? It is an infinitely possibility. As she cornered the bend, she saw Amelia's rental vehicle and a small smile of relief lingered on her lips. She stopped the vehicle and climbed out, failing to notice that Sharon Agnew had also exited and was immediately behind her. Olivia knocked on the door and waited for a reply.

After hearing a shuffle of feet from the room, the door was opened and Amelia stared wide eyed up at Olivia. Her mouth opened then closed as she tried to find some words but they failed to emerge.

"Hi Amelia, I need your help." Olivia knew that the two key words, your help, would always be the doctor's undoing - no matter what she was feeling inside.

With a faint movement of her head, she replied, "How can I help you Olivia? Is this you... our client?" She said motioning to the woman standing behind the much taller figure.

With a start of surprise, Olivia wondered why she hadn't noticed the woman in her personal space. This whole situation is out of my control. She needed to wrestle it back from the impending abyss. With a wry glance behind her, Olivia nodded. "Sharon Agnew, I'd like to introduce you to my business partner Amelia West." She decided that at this point she should remove the doctor tag - it might make the woman jumpy.

Sharon Agnew moved slightly and held out her hand as she was formally introduced to the petite woman who didn't look like a detective. She certainly isn't built like the woman who has taken on my case. Nor is she as beautiful. Quite the opposite really...plain would be a more apt description. "Pleased to meet you Ms. West."

"Hi, do you mind if I call you Sharon? I'm Amelia. It's less of a mouthful don't you think?"

As Olivia listened to the platitudes, she found herself being irritated and began jangling the truck keys in her hand. "Sorry to cut the pleasantries short, but I need to see the sheriff now. Amelia, will you take care of Sharon while I do that? Is the package we were discussing earlier still here?"

Amelia heard the urgency in the detective's tone and peered back into the room. The offending article was on the dresser just where Olivia had left it. "Sure, it's where you left it."

Olivia waited a minute before shaking her head. Clearly, Amelia isn't going to fetch it for me. She brusquely brushed past the doctor and retrieved it herself. "Amelia, will you take Sharon home? I'll meet up with you both after I've seen the sheriff."

Amelia's hackles rose. That isn't a polite question. It is more like a directive. Why should I have to take on baby sitter duties? But, I can see the logic of the proposal. After all, she does know why she wants to see the sheriff. "Sharon, here are my keys, the car is right there." She pointed to a small off white car. "I'll be with you in a moment. I need to have a quick word with Detective Santos." Amelia smiled warmly at Sharon, who she noted, had a speculative expression. Does she notice the body language between us is highly charged? You could ignite a forest fire with it and I should know.

 "Okay. Good luck with the sheriff Detective. I've found in the past she usually isn't very cooperative." Sharon walked away from the pair.

Amelia waited until she was in the car before she spoke. "What's so urgent that you want me involved directly with your client? I thought you didn't want me to meet her face to face?"

Olivia looked at the slightly opened door before fully realising what a mess she was making of everything. Now it is as clear as the nose on my face that I work much better alone. Always have and probably always will. "I know I owe you an explanation but can't it wait until I get back from the sheriff's office? Then, I promise to be straight with you... please."

Amelia caught a flash of dark eyes as Olivia finally looked in her direction. There was something going on between them that she didn't understand. Frankly with everything else that is happening in my life I don't want to understand either. Life is far too complicated as it is. She did expect some kind of explanation if only an apology for Olivia's behaviour. I am, after all, she still technically a nun. "Olivia you owe me more than one explanation for your behaviour. Although, right now I can wait. Make sure I don't wait too long...I might not be as worldly as you, but I know when I'm being made a fool of."

The weight on Olivia's shoulders lost a few pounds as she realised the doctor had let her off the hook, for now anyway. With a warm smile she responded, "You got it Doc. One more thing, don't begin a shrink session with Agnew unless I'm there. Is that clear?" Flicking Amelia's nose, in the rather odd way she did, she turned and hastened to her truck.

Amelia grimaced, wondering if she preferred the gesture of a kiss to the embarrassment of the other action. Shaking her fist at Olivia, she saw a wide grin on the woman's face as her truck sped out of the motel parking lot. Turning back to the motel room, she reached for her purse then locked the room. Seconds later, she was walking towards her car and the waiting Sharon Agnew.

+ + +

Sheriff Mason began allocating details to several officers who had been assigned to her from a larger town thirty miles away. A murder in her town wasn't something she had ever expected on her watch. In the hundred and eighty years since the town had been established, they had been proud of the town's remarkable record - the lack of major crimes. Most amazing was that today's world wasn't much better than back in the 1800's. In her view, the only differences today were the tools that helped people commit terrible crimes were much more sophisticated. Human nature is still as dangerous as it has ever been. Fortunately for her, the biggest misdemeanour, in the two years she'd been sheriff, had been a bungled attempt to rob the bank. Bungled was the operative word - the two locals had been drunk as skunks when they made their daring attempt. On reflection, perhaps it was more comical than criminal.

Finally, she dispatched the officers to various areas to follow up on what leads, or lack thereof, they had in the case. She walked over to the crime scene photos on the wall and reviewed all the information they had to date. Gruesome came to her mind as she looked at the head shot showing the open wound where once an ear had been. Another mystery.

John Russell, as far as she could tell, didn't have any enemies. He'd lived in the same house for much of his sixty-five years. The only time he had lived elsewhere was during his time in the military when he was a younger man. He had worked at the local sawmill for the length of his working life and had retired eight months earlier. He was unmarried and, like many of the older timers, hadn't been bright enough or confident enough to go into the city to find a bride. Women in these out of the way rural areas are as rare as hen's teeth. The town's doctor did the autopsy and had confirmed that Russell had died from poisoning. No water was evident in the lungs indicating he had been dead when he was placed in the river. The ear had been cut off prior to death - if the man had suffered or was unconscious at the time, only the murderer knew.

"Hi sheriff, sorry to bother you..."

 "Hey, how did you get in here?" Sheriff Mason growled out as she faced the private detective. Interesting...what's she doing here?

Olivia gave a shrug and motioned to the open door. "I was looking for you and there wasn't anyone to ask."

Mason gave the woman a hard stare. She hadn't received a call back from the contact on the business card the woman had given her the day before and right now she was the only oddity that had turned up in town. Supposedly, she is working for Sharon Agnew who just happens to live on the same street, if not a direct neighbour of Russell's.Curious, very curious indeed.

"I see. What can I do for you Ms...?" she asked, feigning recollection of the private detective's name.

Olivia ground her teeth silently. The sheriff knows my name. She is just being awkward. Well two can play at that game. "Santos, Olivia Santos, I came to see you yesterday about a client of mine."

A faint smile crossed the sheriff's thin lips. "Sure you did, I recall now. You're a private detective. Tell me, have you solved your client's problem?" she asked maliciously. Mason purposely walked towards Olivia preventing her from viewing any more of the crime scene photos than she already had.

"Not exactly. Have you solved yours?" Tit for tat, I could eat this woman for breakfast if I had a mind to. Fortunately for Sheriff Mason, Olivia didn't have that kind of time to spare. "Look, Sheriff, I might have information pertaining to my client's case that might be of help in yours."

With hands on her hips, Mason gave a cynical laugh. "Really? I find that hard to believe, but I'm all ears."

Olivia gave a feral smile as she tossed the small black polythene bag towards the sheriff. "Actually no, I think I have all the ears... or should I say one in particular you might find of interest."

Susan Mason was astonished as she zipped open the bag and peered inside. Her face creased in distaste as she saw the offending appendage. Her eyes turned suspicious as she glanced at the tall imposing woman in her office. If she is the murderer, then I'm alone in the station with her. She looked at the woman again hard as she sized her up. I'm not sure I'd have a fighting chance if things become messy. Her hand slowly reached for her gun in the holster on her left hip as she waited for more information.

"I'm not the threat sheriff. Pulling a gun on me will not instil confidence or be beneficial to our conversation, now will it?" Olivia saw the woman's hand reach for her gun in what she considered a natural knee-jerk reaction. I would have done the same. "Oh and incidentally, if you did shoot me you'd be shooting an innocent woman." For this crime at least, Olivia added to herself.

"How did you get this? Where did you get this?" Susan Mason had been a good judge of character all her life, or so she told herself. Although she was as wary as hell of the private detective, a part of her told her she wasn't responsible for Randall's murder.

Olivia didn't waste any more time. "A package was left on Sharon Agnew's doorstep – that was in it."

 "Sharon Agnew's place you say? When was this?"

Olivia knew the sheriff was interested and there was a note in her voice that indicated she knew something else relevant. "This morning...I was supposed to be on surveillance."

The sheriff's head cocked slightly as she heard the word supposed. "Sorry to be intrusive, but supposed to be? Did you have to leave?"

"Not exactly, I think I was drugged. Either something I ate or drank." Hmm, drank...now that's interesting. Olivia had been so preoccupied with her own failings it had taken her away from the issue at hand. When was I drugged and who could possibly have had access to my food or drink?

"Are you sure it was a drug? It might be poison, have you been checked out by a medic?"

Olivia had been too upset at her own weakness of not doing her job efficiently that she didn't take the time to think it could be any worse than a mere sleeping draught. "No time for that right now...I can do it later if necessary."

Mason nodded. "Do you recall something that might identify who drugged you?"

"Yesterday when we talked you didn't appear to be too worried about my client's situation. Care to share your views? It might prove pivotal for us both." Olivia wanted to drag the woman out and force her to tell her everything. Right now, she felt that through her own disregard for anything other than her own needs, had put the doc in danger.

Susan Mason considered the request. She wasn't intimated by the flashing cold, dark eyes that dared her to say no. Well at least I'm not totally browbeaten by the woman. I have to admit, the detective has a style all her own, which is setting off warning bells. "Sharon Agnew has a record of delusion paranoia. Doctor Smith, her physician, could relate more of her case if it wasn't confidential. All I can say is that when she was growing up she's was in and out of various mental institutions. Since she hasn't had an episode for years folks around here think she'd grown out of it. She is, after all, a teacher at the school and an upstanding member of the community. She's even a member of the church board."

The sheriff drew in a deep breath. "When she began her stories about a year ago, I did my duty and looked into the situation, however it appeared unfounded, there wasn't any hard evidence that anyone was leaving her messages or threatening her in any way. Then of course, I was told in confidence she had a history back when she was younger of having...a very active imagination shall we say. I decided the woman was under a certain amount of emotional stress since she was advised that the school would be closing at the end of the year and she would lose her job. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities that she had a relapse and that it would go away once she sorted herself out."

Olivia closed her eyes briefly. She was angry - angry as hell. Her anger wasn't directed towards the sheriff but at herself. Perhaps if I'd done my homework on this woman, I wouldn't be here now and Amelia wouldn't potentially be in danger.

 "I think you were wrong Sheriff - Agnew hasn't allowed it to go away, she's gotten worse. The victim Randall, lived next door to her?"

 "Yes, I know. Are you thinking she's responsible for his death?" Although she had fired the question as an impossible situation something told her it wasn't. Her conversation with the detective was making that scenario more and more plausible and that had all kinds of bells and whistles going off in her head.

Olivia nodded, "Worse thing Sheriff, is that my partner is alone with her at this very moment." Olivia's eyes looked directly at the sheriff. "How do you want to deal with this?" I know how I want to deal with it. I'll drag Amelia kicking and screaming if necessary out of the Agnew house and let the sheriff deal with the deranged woman. She knew, now that Amelia was involved, forcing her to leave would be impossible. Maybe Amelia hasn't decided which life she wants to lead but there is one thing that will never change - her need to help people. It didn't matter to Amelia how bad a person was, she was always ready to be there for them – Sharon Agnew fit the bill perfectly.

Blue eyes flashed at Olivia. "Can she handle herself as well as I imagine you can? Right now we are looking at a potentially serious suspect for our murderer. Fortunately, for your partner she isn't a psychiatrist because Agnew hates doctors generally. According to Dr. Smith she can become quite violent towards that profession."

 "Let's go," Olivia ground out through clenched teeth. She was half way out of the building before the last word was spoken.

+ + +

"Have you lived here for a long time Sharon?" Amelia asked interested in her companion. The drive to the Agnew home had been relatively quiet, except for Sharon's rather active interest in the detective. Too active, Olivia thought when the subject turned to Olivia's her health. She knew that Olivia wouldn't have told the woman much about herself. Even after six months I've had barely scratched the surface of who Olivia Santos really was.

Sharon Agnew gave the friendly stranger a non-committal shrug as she walked agitatedly towards the kitchen leaving Amelia in the study. The action seemed odd to the doctor since Sharon never asked about making her a drink. From the study, she could see the woman touch a few items before stepping back towards the study. Amelia quickly stood by a table and picked up a photograph. "I don't like strangers prying."

Amelia calmly replaced the photo. "Sorry. You look like you're having a great time. Is this your family?"

 "No!" Sharon once more left the room and walked towards the kitchen and Amelia moved so she could see what she was doing. Her initial thought in the car was the woman was beside herself with worry. She spoke about anything but what was happening to her and, Amelia surmised that it was exactly how anyone would act considering the circumstances. However, as soon as they had entered the house, Sharon had gone from reasonably affable to downright negative. Right now, Sharon was rearranging her kitchen utensils - particularly the chopping knives. Maybe she is one of those house proud people who feels the need to keep her idle hands happy.

The next words shredded that thought completely and put Amelia on a cautious watch. "Why are you spying on me? Is it you that's been sending those awful letters and objects? Why can't you leave me alone?" Sharon pulled several faces that would have made a contortionist proud, as she paced the kitchen with a small paring knife in her hand.

"I'll just sit in the study and wait for Detective Santos, would that be okay?" Amelia had one thought on her mind as she tentatively returned to the safe harbour of the study - classic paraphrenic tendencies. Sharon Agnew was about the right age, mid-forties, appearing to have ideas people were persecuting her and/or doing her harm. That being the case, the letters and objects she supposedly has received could be in fact manufactured by her. As she pondered the classic symptoms a thought struck her - the mutilated ear. The thought had her breathing deeply as she decided what to do. If Sharon has done this to a person, who I can only assume was alive fairly recently, then she could possibly be progressing into violent dementia. Right now, being in the same room with her could be sensibly classed as dangerous. She had experienced being alone with mentally deranged people before, though none that she could recall had ever committed such an act. However, maybe I'm jumping the gun and assuming things. Darn it, I wish Olivia had allowed a discussion about who she thought might have drugged her. If this woman did give Olivia any kind of food or drink during the day that well may be the answer. That means that Sharon Agnew has no scruples about who she hurts or uses during her paranoia episodes.

It was clear that outside her domain Sharon could function normally or at least appear that way. But, once she stepped inside her house it was a totally different situation. That begs the question -did Olivia unknowingly notice something that wasn't quite right when she met the woman here and consequently requested my professional assistance? It is an interesting gambit and the safest course of action would be to leave and take refuge in my car until Olivia arrives. That would mean abandoning someone who needs my help and amazingly I'm the right person in the right place. This is exactly what I feel God's work is all about, she thought. Walking back over to the photo of a happy time for the woman, Amelia considered how to approach asking about it without having a knife thrown at her. As if on cue, Sharon appeared apparently without any weapon of any kind.

 "Hey Sharon I don't like to pry, but you and your friends look like you were having a great time, were you on vacation?" Amelia watched the glazed look that clouded the woman's eyes flash brightly for a moment, but only a moment. She seemed calm and didn't show and outward signs of anger. Perhaps too calm, Amelia thought.

 "I was in college, they were my roommates. We had fun. It was a time when friends meant something."

Quickly using her expertise, Amelia smiled warmly and nodded her head. "I know what you mean."

Accusing eyes flashed angrily at Amelia as Sharon moved menacingly towards her. "You can't know what I mean? You weren't there. How can you possibly know anything... unless you're a spy?"

With a gentle smile, Amelia shook her head. "I'm not a spy Sharon...I'm here to help. We have to keep you safe from the people who want to hurt you remember? I work with Detective Santos."

The explanation appeased the woman as she paced the room and finally stopped in front of a crucifix and began to pray. It was the Lord's Prayer and Amelia began to silently chant along with Sharon. The lord is my Shepard... Some people sang along with popular tunes, but Amelia could never resist the Lord's Prayer. That was certainly not going to be a titbit she would share with the detective. She could imagine the teasing she would receive if that became public knowledge. However, it did allow her another avenue of conversation and while Sharon was praying she wasn't doing anything nefarious.

When the woman had finished, Amelia quietly spoke again. "Detective Santos informed me that you're a member of the church committee. It's a very noble and selfless act to help others."

There had been a bristling of the hairs on the back of Sharon's neck. Amelia had anticipated that type of reaction as Agnew turned to stare in her direction. Facing her was the Sharon Agnew who she had first been introduced to at the motel. "I consider myself very fortunate that I'm able to help others. Are you a member of a church?"

Am I a member of the church - oh yeah big time. "Yes, God's work is never done is it? There will always be lost souls waiting for us to help them...or so the Mother Superior of the local convent relates to me frequently."

 "Us...yes, I like that. We have means to help and everyone should do their part, but so many do not. They should be punished for not doing so." Amelia could see that Sharon was lapsing back into her delusional state. It has always fascinated me that those in the grips of paranoia and schizophrenia have a propensity to manifest God or religion in some form or other as the voice calling to them.

Very carefully, Amelia answered the woman. "I'm afraid not everyone shares our faith in God Sharon. However, that does not mean that those others are not charitable. I know of many people who do not believe that are very generous. For some people they do not require to hold an institution such as God as their inspiration to do good works."

"Evil people! People who do not believe in God are all evil. We should cleanse the world of them all! Don't you agree?" Flashing eyes, which turned cold and hard pierced Amelia and she found it difficult to hold the gaze.

Hands settled on her shoulders as Sharon shook her to answer the question. "Don't you agree Amelia?"

Attempting to create a springboard where she could stop the situation, Amelia tried to change the subject. "I'd love some tea and we can talk about this some more."

At first, Sharon didn't release her then she moodily agreed and stomped off towards the kitchen.

Raising her eyes heavenwards, Amelia sent up a silent prayer. Thank you Lord for delivering me from the hands of those who may want to harm me.At least I have a reprieve for a short time. Where is Olivia?

+ + +

  Olivia had parked her vehicle around the corner from the Agnew house just in case things became difficult. She suspected they might since the sheriff had opted to bring along a doctor. They had lost precious minutes waiting for him to secure the drug he wanted to inject into Sharon Agnew. The necessity might arise to sedate her until she could be transferred to a secure facility. Questioning would come later. Sheriff Mason parked her vehicle so it was effectively blocking the drive just in case Sharon decided to bolt at the sight of their arrival.

The sheriff nodded to Olivia as she headed towards the front porch and tapped on the door. Mason and Doctor Smith would be right behind her when she gave the signal. It wasn't wise at this stage to put the private detective's partner in any more danger than she already was.

The door opened slightly, and a wild-eyed Sharon Agnew stared first at her then at the police vehicle blocking the drive. Her eyes scanned the outer perimeter of her yard trying to perceive where the police were located. She failed to notice any other officers and asked, "Did you arrive in that?" Sharon pointed to the offending car in her driveway.

Olivia smiled at the woman. "Nope. Sheriff Mason is at the Russell place hoping to find some clues. Looks to me like she misjudged the parking area, no harm done though, right?" The nonchalant reply seemed plausible so Sharon opened the door wider and allowed Olivia inside.

"Actually, I need to have a private word with Amelia." She shrugged. "You understand...its business." Olivia wanted Amelia out of harms way and this was the only gamble she was willing to take. Once I've secured Amelia's safety then the local people can take over. My only concern is getting Amelia out of here - the rest is no longer of any interest to me. This particular case has been strange enough.

Sharon's gaze narrowed as she furtively flashed her glance once more around her front yard. "She's about to have tea. Don't take too long!" The demand in Sharon's voice angered Olivia but she kept her temper in check. It won't help if I agitate her now.

"No fear of that. In fact, I'd love a tea myself if that's possible. Your coffee last night was delicious." One lie on top of another was all grist for the mill when she met her maker but, at this moment, she didn't care.

Sharon called to Amelia who appeared at the door with a smile wreathing her face when she saw Olivia. "Hey there, you're just in time for tea."

She made eye contact with Amelia trying to convey the danger was in. For Olivia, subtly wasn't one of her strong points - she preferred action. "Yeah, I heard. I need to speak with you privately." She said as covertly as she could. "Will you please step outside with me for a minute?"

Amelia was as grateful for that request as she would have been if Mother Superior had given her praise for a job well done. "Of course. Sharon," she said turning to the woman, "I'll be right back for that tea."

A hand flashed in front of them as Sharon caught Amelia's wrist in a tight, vice-like grip. A hissing tone accompanied her next words. "See that you are or the tea will get cold."

Bracing herself to face the deranged woman, Amelia gave her a warm smile. "Don't worry Sharon I'll be back in time." She felt the grip loosen and fall away as the woman walked briskly towards her kitchen.

Olivia didn't waste any more time. Grasping Amelia's hand, she dragged her out of the door, virtually pulling her across the yard to the relative safety at the end of the drive. She rapidly signalled Sheriff Mason, Doctor Smith and a couple of deputies who had been at the Russell house to move in.

The next ten minutes were a blur for Amelia as she watched the disturbed woman being dragged out of her house and pushed face down on the ground where the doctor administered the sedative. The violent sounds that followed weren't lost on Amelia until she saw Sharon's eyes waver as the sedative took hold. Then she saw the lost expression appear on the woman's face, which seemed to Amelia to be an appeal for help. That cut into her heart. I would be the ideal candidate to help Sharon. In the short time they had been in each other's company, the woman appeared to trust her.

 "Let's go," Olivia announced abruptly as she watched the deputies load the woman into the back of the sheriff's vehicle. Her job was done, except for the statement she would have to make about her part in the day's events. Eventually it would lead to a court appearance unless Sharon confessed to all her miss deeds. There was a very real chance with medication and counselling, that would happen.

Amelia turned shocked eyes towards the detective. "We can't just leave her like that. She needs our help!"

Here we go again, Olivia thought as she traded glance for glance with the doctor. "No she certainly doesn't need our help. We've done our part by bringing her to justice. Eventually she'll receive the proper care she needs in a medical facility."

 "No! She needs my help if not yours. She trusted me and I know I can help her get through this." Amelia appealed to Olivia's better nature, which the detective hid remarkably well, at times, behind a wall of indifference.

"She killed a man for no reason Amelia. She's a basket case and yes I know that's your field, but she'll be placed in public care. Take my word for it that even in the public system they have good shrinks. Or, do you think only private professionals like yourself Amelia are the best?" Olivia gave a shrug as she headed for her car noticing that Amelia's rental was not blocked in by the sheriff's vehicle. We can go to the precinct and make our individual statements then go home. It really is as simple as that.

Duly chastised for her notion that she thought she was the only one who could help a patient, Amelia hung her head. It isn't the first time and probably won't be the last that my self-importance has come to the fore. After all, it is one of my biggest faults. Olivia has clearly made a point and I'm going to heed it... this time. "Let's make that statement and go home."

Hearing the resignation in the doctor's voice, Olivia wondered, was I too harsh. There was no doubt Amelia never gave up on cases, Teal had assured her of that. The small woman indicated that it was one character trait had caused Amelia the most irritation at the convent. If Amelia feels that same pressure is building in our business relationship then maybe she'll go back to the convent. – better the devil you know. That was hardly a phrase she'd allow Amelia hear her say regarding the convent. "Hey, look, let's make our statements and then next week after the dust settles we'll return and check on how she's doing. How does that sound?"

The beaming smile that followed from her business partner had Olivia's heart rate soaring but she would never admit to it. The doctor's delight at the words hit home with her in a big way. In fact, she'd even go so far as to say it made her happy too. How weird is that? She watched for a few moments as Amelia headed for her car and then, with a shrug, she returned to her own vehicle for the journey back across the small town.

+ + +

The insistent ringing of the telephone brought Olivia out of her heavy sleep. She had ensured that Amelia had arrived safely at her apartment and left after she saw that she was safely inside. She had refused the offer of coffee, one which she'd have taken up normally, so she would be scarce when the doctor went inside her apartment. The surprise she had arranged for her return had been set to announce itself five minutes after her arrival inside the hallway. When she arrived at her place she felt the weariness of the last forty-eight hours take its toll. Maybe I should go for a check up with my doctor. Who knows what Agnew spiked my coffee with that took me out for the night. Sheriff Mason might be right, it could have been poison rather than a sleeping drug. Flopping down on her bed fully clothed, she closed her eyes knowing she was beat and sleep wouldn't be far behind. Now, glancing at the clock next to her bed, she saw it was only two hours since leaving Amelia. "Hello," her voice laden with sleep said. She cleared her throat for clarity as she repeated, "Hello.".

"Olivia is that you? You sound strange. Are you okay?" Amelia's voice was just the opposite of the detective's - not the least bit tired.

A faint smile crossed Olivia's lips as she replied, "Yep I'm okay. Tired, but who wouldn't be after our little adventure. Although, from the sound of your voice, I'd say you are very mellow and rested. What's your secret?"

A chuckle at the other end forestalled any conversation then Amelia gushed out dramatically, "Oh Olivia you know why I'm mellow as you put it. It's ALL your fault, and I'm very, very grateful."

Olivia positioned herself more comfortably on her bed as she smiled slowly. "All, my fault, huh? And, how do you deduce that my dear Doctor?"

Amelia laughed at the words. "Because you're the only person I know who has a system like this. How did you know I loved that particular feature in your home? No, no don't tell me let me have one guess... Teal."

"Ah, I see you are not only a talented doctor but becoming a very gifted detective too. Yes, Teal. I thought it might help you relax from the stresses of your profession."

In the time they had shared together over the past months, the detective could hardly be called the most caring person she'd ever met. However, there were times like this, when a small chink appeared in the armour of indifference to others that she wore effortlessly. It makes the detective ever more endearing to me. "Thank you Olivia. I know the words are inadequate. Particularly after last week I really did need a stress reliever."

Olivia heard the pent up emotions in Amelia and gave herself a slap on the back. I made an excellent deduction. "Yeah, well, maybe for a while you can forget the convent, forget your cases and enjoy a little down time when you get home in the evenings." Suddenly she heard Amelia's words...particularly after last week. "What was more stressful about last week? You were on vacation?"

Amelia hesitated over what she might say next. She hadn't been remiss in imparting the reasons for her leaving the vacation early because they really hadn't had the time to discuss anything but the case. Besides, Don isn't an issue anymore. He'll get over me just as he did fifteen years ago. He was probably only being nice anyway, making me feel like a woman again rather than a nun. At least that's the only way she knew how to handle what had happened. "Oh nothing more than usual...it never quite leaves you does it. Thanks Olivia, I'll wish you goodnight then. Oh, do you want to catch up for breakfast tomorrow morning before we go into the office?"

A smirk crossed Olivia's face as she digested the offer. It's a good one but Teal has plans and it involves Amelia finding the second part of her surprise. Amelia's office had been outfitted exactly the way her apartment had. To celebrate, Teal promised English muffins drizzled in butter just the way the doctor liked them. "Sorry Doc, I have another appointment for breakfast but I'll take a rain check, okay?"

Although disappointed, Amelia understood. At least one of us is busy, which means the agency wouldn't be failing anytime soon. "I understand perfectly. Sleep well Olivia."

"Goodnight Amelia." Olivia replaced her receiver and sank back down into her pillow. The question is do I need anymore sleep or not... not. She decided a shower was a much more plausible option. She peeled off her clothes, stepped into the shower, and leaned into the soft spray of water. As her mind filled with thoughts of Amelia, she knew she would be ostracised by the church if anyone read them.

part 5

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