The journey back to the city had been consumed mainly in silence. The nun had looked totally out of her depth climbing into the passenger side of the car. The glances from other nuns who had seen the Sister's departure were a mixture of relief, surprise and, Amelia was certain, fear. These nuns, from the notes she had read, clearly disapproved of moving in the real world in any way. When she had been brought to the Mother Superior before they left, Amelia had felt like she had years earlier when being brought to task for misdemeanours at school. The older nun's face was a picture of censure and displeasure and there were a few moments that she wanted to say forget it. However, Sister Marie knocked on the door and was ushered inside quietly. The younger nun had given the Mother a focused expression that brooked no dissension. Within minutes we were out on the open road with the convent being left behind with each passing second. As the final turret was lost from vision Sister Marie sighed heavily and, to Amelia's sensitive hearing, the sound was profoundly sad.
"Hey we'll be back for vespers, I promise."
Sister Marie didn't speak remaining silent and pensive for the remainder of the journey.
Amelia had contacted a friend who had agreed to contact a gynaecological specialist and at short notice it was going to cost Amelia in the future. Fortunately, her friend's cost rarely ran to more than a decent dinner at her favourite Italian restaurant. Her friend was to leave the address and time of the consultation at Amelia's office. She had decided that the best way to go about the situation was to return to her office and the nun could change in privacy there. They would have the consultation, return to the office to change and then back to the convent all in the same day. That was the plan anyway.
Pulling up outside her office, which was in a small leafy tree lined lane on the outskirts of town, she glanced around her to the surrounding buildings. The church she had worshipped in since she was born was a couple of hundred yards away. Her old high school was two blocks away and her family home, where her parents still lived, was only several blocks from there. She was one of the lucky ones finding a place in the world that she loved and wanted to spend the rest of her life in - where helping the local community wasn't a chore but a willing devotion she would sacrifice her life to. Now, as she scanned her building, a converted nineteenth century three story house in red brick with the classical bow windows, she smiled feeling relaxed now she was home.
"Is this the doctor's?" Sister Marie asked quietly. She had noticed the smile and Amelia's relaxed posture.
"No, I work here. I'll show you where you can change into, shall we say, more acceptable clothing for your doctor's appointment." Amelia stepped out of the vehicle and walked around to open the door for the nun. The sister gave her a grateful smile as she, with difficulty, extricated herself from the car. Her habit had twisted around her legs in the three-hour journey and seemed to refuse to straighten out. Reaching out a hand, Amelia took hold of the slight one of the nuns and helped her out of the vehicle. Once again she thought the nun was emaciated and could do with a few months of nourishing food especially if her condition proved to be valid. It would be interesting to hear what the doctor had to say about her physical condition. A few minutes later they entered Amelia's office and the nun stared at the various certificates and awards on the wall of the outer office. A desk manned by a dwarf dimensioned blonde grinned warmly at them both as they entered the room.
"Hi Teal did you receive a message from Magda? Did you get those clothes I asked for and has the Father managed to send over…"
With a hand held high the tiny woman grinned. "Yes, yes and yes to both items from the Father."
Quizzically Amelia stared at her assistant, two things, she wondered.
A low pitch voice that sent tingles down Amelia's spine entered the conversation, "I believe I'm one of the items from Father Johansson."
Spinning on her heels Amelia faced a woman who was around her age but definitely of a Latino background. Her body encased in tight fitting black leather trousers with a vest and jacket to match gave the woman a forbidding presence. Her tawny hair fashioned in a short attractive style complimented the olive skin and dark brooding intelligent eyes. Who on earth is this?
"I'm sorry, Father Johansson sent you?" Amelia had never seen a woman look quite so… primitive in her life. She hoped that this wasn't another of the Father's lost charity causes, because right now the nun was her first priority. As she thought of the Sister, she glanced in her direction and saw the nun observing the stranger, clearly fascinated by her.
Holding out her hand, Olivia smiled directly at Amelia waiting for acknowledgment. "I'm Olivia Santos. I believe you have work that requires my specific services."
At a lost for words and completely thrown by the arrival of this woman in her office, Amelia inanely retorted, "I do?" Gathering her thoughts she turned to Teal. "Will you make the Sister comfortable in my office? I'm sure she'll welcome some refreshment after our journey." Then she smiled at the nun who was still staring at the dark apparition with her features schooled in a calm expression but those expressive eyes held another emotion and it wasn't fear. "Sister if you would give me a few moments I'll be right with you."
Seconds later Amelia was alone in the room with the woman called Santos. "Exactly what services do you offer Ms. Santos?"
With a wry expression and a shrug, Olivia shook her head as she answered, "I take it you are Doctor West?" Amelia nodded. "At least that's something. You know who you are." The cynical remark made Amelia bristle accompanied by a glare.
"Of course I do! Now please, I have other important business to take care of - exactly what did the Father indicate I needed from you?"
With a wicked gleam in her eyes, Olivia spoke in a distinctly sultry voice, "I'm a private detective. Do I need to say more?"
Oh no , she'd forgotten that the Father was going to send her a helper. She had thought it would be a priest or another nun, not this…this outsider. "No, no that's perfectly alright I understand why you are here now. Look, I haven't the time to go over the details with you right at this moment. Can you return tomorrow?"
This time Olivia was the one to bristle slightly. Not that anyone could tell as her facial expression didn't change. "Look, I told Father that I would help him out and he could have twenty-four hours of my time at no charge. If you don't want to use it lady that's fine by me I have other paying work to take care of."
"Okay, okay we can work this out. Teal, my assistant, will give you a copy of my notes, which will have precise instructions on what I need to find out. I'll talk with you later on with your findings." Amelia directed her stare at Olivia Santos and didn't flinch when the woman focussed a hard gaze in return.
"Has this anything to do with the nun inside?" Olive motioned to the inner office door.
"Yes it does. I'm sure Father Johansson gave you a little background. I need to go now. Is everything clear?"
"Perfectly, I'll catch you later." Olivia walked towards the exit.
Puzzled Amelia placed a hand on the detective's arm and was amazed at how solid the flesh felt under her touch. This is one fit woman. "Haven't you forgotten something?"
Olivia glanced initially at the hand that was attempting to prevent her leaving. If only the woman knew just how puny that felt on her forearm. She could snap the wrist in a second if she had the mind to. Fortunately, she didn't have any such intention… yet. "I need a couple of things from my office I'll be back for that list."
Amelia could do nothing but stare open-mouthed as the detective left her office. Rubbing her forehead in frustration, she opened the door to her office and found Teal sitting on the edge of her desk talking amiably with the Sister. At least the nun now looked a degree more relaxed, that was a good start.
"Thanks Teal, any chance of a sandwich before we leave? I'm starving." Teal grinned. Her miniature body swung familiarly off the side of the desk as she asked the nun what she'd like to eat before she left. For such a tiny woman, Teal left a great void when she exited a room.
"Sorry about that Sister. Occasionally things crop up when I'm out of the office. I'm sure Teal made you comfortable."
Sister Marie smiled slowly. The serene expression she had as a permanent fixture on her face at the convent now returned and set the nun's whole face glowing. "I understand. Teal is a very special person and it was a privilege to meet her."
Amelia listened for any sign of condescension. Though why she should, had her baffled as the nun was hardly likely to have any hateful thoughts about her assistant. With a chuckle Amelia nodded her head.
"Yes she is. Teal and I started out together fresh from college and I don't think I would have done half as well without her wonderful administration and people skills."
The nun lapsed into silence for a few moments then spoke quietly, "Yes, I see her heart is filled with love and compassion for everyone. What she doesn't share in stature her soul has been doubly blessed."
Well that was the truth. The fact that Teal was a dwarf didn't appear to bother her at all and once you were around her for any period of time you found out that she was a giant of a woman on the inside. "I agree with that diagnosis completely Sister. Now, I'll show you to the bathroom where there are some clothes Teal has chosen for you. They will be suitable for the visit to the doctors. Why don't you change while I confirm the appointment and Teal brings us lunch?"
Fifteen minutes later the three women were talking generally over the snack lunch, at least Amelia and Teal were. The nun merely listened and gave the odd nod when asked a question. The entrance door opened sounding a bell that someone came in the outer office. They saw a tall figure silhouetted against the backdrop of the frosted glazing of Amelia's office.
"I see tall dark and sexy has returned. Now what do you make of her clothes Amelia? I wouldn't even attempt to wear anything so close fitting though she reminds me of someone and it's on the tip of my tongue." Teal glanced disparagingly down at her figure and the beautiful cut of her own wardrobe, specially made for her. With a wink at the two women she left them to greet the visitor.
"A modern day Emma Peel and they look like David and Goliath." Amelia hadn't realised she had spoken her thoughts until the nun responded.
"Except they are both on the same side." The quietly spoken words seemed to echo in the room as Amelia grinned to hide her embarrassment. Thankfully the nun hadn't picked up on her initial remark. The appointment with the doctor was in an hour's time and they needed to make it across town.
"Sister do you mind if I call you Marie Benoite until after the consultation? I was thinking that we need to drop the Sister."
"That is my name and I'm happy for you not to call me Sister for this purpose. It has no meaning where we are to travel." The oblique words had Amelia's intelligent and professional mind musing the content. She would mull the words over when the nun was having her exam.
Picking up the note holding the address and her pocket book which never left her side, they exited the room and virtually cannoned into the detective who gave them both a long hard stare. The olive complexion of the Santos' woman was a marvellous creamy colour and, except for the odd wrinkle around the eyes, was almost flawless. What does she want now? Amelia thought as she stood facing the detective with barely inches between them.
"Can I help you?"
A slow smile pulled the woman's full lips like a bow across her face as she replied. "I'm coming with you. And before you say no, forget it."
Amelia, closing her eyes briefly, puffed out an exasperated breath. She had no time for this. "Okay, but I'm driving." Driving herself around was a phobia she'd had from childhood.
The smile on the detective's face disappeared at the thought of someone other than herself in control. However, for the moment, she would allow it - but only for the moment. "Lead the way boss."
Sister Marie watched the interchange between the two women and a twinkle began in her eyes. It was mirrored in part by Teal who had finally ushered them out of the office with the words they would be late for the appointment.
Thirty minutes later they arrived at the doctor's office. The journey had been relatively silent although Amelia had been pleasantly surprised at the conversation that the detective had undertaken with the nun. It wasn't an interrogation as such but, at the end of the journey, the detective had garnered many of the answers to the questions on Amelia's list.
"Hi, I'm Doctor West and this is Ms. Benoite we have an appointment with Doctor Franklin."
The fresh-faced young receptionist smiled and nodded towards the seats in the waiting room. There was only one other occupant in the room - a middle-aged woman who had been reading a magazine when they arrived but then blatantly staring at Olivia Santos. That wasn't a surprise since the woman certainly looked out of place dressed as she was.
"Thanks," Amelia decided that the detective could take a little teasing as she and the nun sat in the two chairs opposite the older woman leaving the detective to either sit next to her or on the other side of the room. With a knowing look, the detective sat quietly next to the older woman who looked terrified since the detective appeared to be larger than life next to the average-sized woman.
"Hello, are you here to see Doctor Franklin too?" the older woman began conversing with the detective.
"No, I'm here supporting a friend." Olivia's eyebrows rose to motion towards Amelia, who gave her a glare.
"I see." The older woman frankly turned her gaze from Olivia to Amelia with a sparkle of interest in her eyes. Probably one of those gay couples who wants children. The woman was open-minded and the thought didn't particularly bother her - she was just curious at what they looked like.
Olivia smirked at Amelia as she heard the intonation in the woman's voice. Clearly mixed messages were being sent. Well the shrink has only herself to blame. "We were recommended by a friend. How good is the doctor?"
The older woman smiled widely her perfect teeth glistening as the afternoon sunlight bounced off the pearly whites. "Wonderful my dear. Trust me, I've been in his care for the last ten years. There isn't a doctor in this field any better. I'm sure he'll work miracles for you both."
Under her breath Amelia muttered, "Miracles we have and we don't need any more."
Sister Marie had been listening to the exchange with interest. It was so rare to hear this type of conversation. Most people she came across in her work were so, soul weary and introverted that a simple conversation like this wasn't in her experience in the years she had been in the convent. Hearing Doctor West's comment about miracles cause her a small smile as her own thoughts drifted. All their lives people strive to achieve miracles and when they happen they find them totally unbelievable. As is the situation in my case. Why doesn't my own Order believe me?, It is evident that even the Mother Superior has grave doubts.
"Miracles happen all the time Doctor - perhaps if you were more receptive instead of clinical." The nun spoke in a whisper that only Amelia heard.
Darn it my tongue was going to be my undoing . Amelia gave the nun a shamefaced glance then the door to the doctor's office opened and a handsome, late thirty's, thin bespectacled man with a ready smile entered the waiting room.
"Ah Mrs. Calder, you're early as always. Nurse Daniels will take your blood work before your consultation." He smiled warmly at the older woman who responded with an eager one of her own. From Olivia's position she could see that the woman had a crush on the doctor and it wasn't surprising… she might have been the same if she didn't have other preferences.
"Doctor West and Ms. Benoite please follow me." The doctor, taking in Olivia's general appearance with a speculative look wondered who she was. She didn't look the usual type who could afford to pay for his services. However, he had to stop this assuming, he had done so in the first few years of his practice and he'd paid heavily for being overly smart on that front.
Amelia stood and turned to the nun who hadn't moved. Fear was evident in her expressive eyes so Amelia, with an encouraging smile, held out a hand to the Sister. The nun grasped it like a lifeline and followed Amelia into the doctor's office.
Olivia stood up and Amelia glared at her. "I'll let you know what's going on later, okay?"
The detective gave Amelia a shrug and with a wink replied brazenly, "I'll be waiting," much to Amelia's annoyance and Mrs. Calder's amusement.
+ + +
Darkness invaded the vehicle as Amelia and Olivia Santos sat side by side in the car, neither speaking. The consultation had been thorough and within two days they would know conclusively the results, although Doctor Franklin had already given his diagnosis. The Sister, Amelia suspected, had been exhausted in part by the rigour of the tests but mainly by the journey and the unfamiliarity of the whole day. They had arrived at the convent to late for vespers and the Sister had insisted that she wanted to go inside and talk with Mother Superior alone. That had been reluctantly agreed upon and an hour later they were still outside the convent waiting.
Finally Olivia spoke, "I don't know about you but I'm hungry. Are we leaving or staying here all night on a vigil?"
Anguished eyes glared at the detective. "I should have gone inside with her. We don't know what's happening now and I'll feel responsible if anything bad happens to her."
"Then you should have followed her or better yet, go inside now and seek an audience with the Mother. I suspect she'll want your take on the doctor's initial findings anyway, which, by the way, you haven't told me about yet."
Amelia hadn't thought about informing the detective of the details. It was a need to know basis and, in her opinion, she didn't need to know. "It's a very sensitive subject matter. How about you tell me what you found out talking to Sister Marie."
Olivia stared out of the car's windscreen considering the request and the lack of information forthcoming from the shrink. Sure there was patient/doctor privilege and all that went with it, however asking for her help even if second-hand must mean there was an element of risk or the Father wouldn't have involved her. She wasn't noted for taking on minor enquiries. "Okay, she's an only child. To the best of her knowledge, and its limited, since she was orphaned at five, her parents hadn't suffered from any major illness. She hasn't been alone in the company of a man, excluding Father Johansson, since she entered the Order, and he's the only man allowed on the premises. This is her first venture beyond the walls alone in five years. Nothing much more I could glean from the notes you had given me. I'd need to speak with some of the other nuns or the Mother Superior."
Impressed with the concise way the detective talked Amelia had to hand it to her - she had mastered the art of extracting information without the nun realising what was going on. "Looking at this place in your professional capacity, do you think someone could have broken in the convent without anyone knowing?"
Practised eyes surveyed as much of the building as darkness would allow. There wasn't enough light to see properly to make a clear judgement call. Opening the door to the car Olivia slid out. "Where are you going detective?"
With a side-ways glance, Olivia smiled, her white teeth illuminating her face like a light bulb. "You asked me a question I'm going to find out."
Aghast at the words Amelia whispered, "You can't do that, what if you're caught?"
With a chuckle that sent ripples of nervous energy down Amelia's spine, Olivia gave her a wicked glance. "Then you will have your answer. If you're that concerned about me why not join me?"
Spluttering over her words, Amelia quietly hissed, "I'm not concerned about you at all detective. Father wouldn't have sent you if you hadn't been able to look after yourself. However, if you're caught what will the nuns think?"
"Suit yourself." Olivia closed the door and slid into the night like a chameleon.
Shaking her head, Amelia didn't know what she should do now. Father Johansson better have a good reason for involving this woman in this problem because right now she thought of the detective as a liability rather than any help. Mentally wishing she was anywhere but here, Amelia stepped out of the car and vaguely went in the direction of where she had last seen the detective.
Awkwardly Amelia positioned herself between the outer gate of the wall and the tiny cabin like building that faced the east side as she swung her gaze around. She saw no sign of the detective then she heard the sound of footsteps crunching on the gravel close to her position but on the other side of the wall. Oh god what a fool I'll look like if they find me skulking around in the dark. Then she was shocked out of her composure, if she had any left, when a strong arm snaked around her and dragged her inside the building. On the verge of letting out the highest pitch scream she could her words were silenced as an olive skinned hand was placed over her lips.
"You'd never make a good private detective Doc." The voice of Olivia Santos echoed in the small hut as she glared at the woman who was taller than her by about five inches. The flashing of her teeth and eyes were the only visible sign that she was there since she was decked out in black and could literally disappear like a shadow in the night.
"What was that for, I almost had a heart attack?" Amelia was angry and let her frustration of the evening vent itself with the few words she did say, her tone bordering on manic.
A long, slim finger gently silenced her again as Olivia pulled Amelia towards the small shuttered window of the cabin. A few pieces of the shutter were missing allowing an observer to barely see out onto the road. "We aren't the only ones here Doc and very soon now they are going to see your car." Olivia whispered into Amelia's ear as she felt her heart thudding at the thought of being discovered loitering outside the nunnery. What will Father Johansson say? I dread to think.
"Can you see who it is…not that you'll know them of course…at least I wouldn't expect…?" Amelia was silenced by that forbidding finger again.
"Please be quiet doctor." Olivia had long distrusted having a partner even though Max had constantly nagged her to have one. Now, the woman at her side with her idiotic babbling proved why she constantly battled against her business partner's demand.
The footsteps stopped twenty feet from the cabin and the strike of match on the coarse board of a match box indicated that the newcomer was perhaps lighting a cigarette. Soon, the aroma of the tobacco infiltrated the night air. "I know that brand it's expensive and not very common."
Amelia, surprised, squeaked out, "You know the brand? How do you know it?"
That finger, this time held a degree of pressure, forced Amelia into silence once more.
Another set of footsteps approached from the inner courtyard and then they heard the creaking of the side door next to the gate open. They waited in anticipation of what was happening next.
"We need to act swiftly. I've been given my orders." The voice was male, educated and had a youngish tone.
A female voice with an older scared tone answered, "I can't do it this evening it's impossible."
"If you don't, it will be too late. You were informed this is a dangerous situation."
"Things have changed and now it will be impossible to do what you ask without someone else knowing." The woman was agitated and there was a distinct rattle of beads possibly wrung through nervous fingers.
An exasperated sound was heard from the man as the sound of a foot grinding something into the gravel was heard. "I'll be here until midnight after that …I don't need to say what will happen do I?"
"No, I understand. I will do what I can. Is that your car?"
Amelia and Olivia both drew in a deep breath as the question floated in the air. Had their vehicle been seen?
"Yes, I'll have dinner in the nearest town and be back in two hours. It's up to you." Footsteps were then heard heading away from the convent.
Seconds later, hurried steps could be heard passing by the cabin as both women ducked their heads to avoid anyone seeing them. The sound of a rusted hinged door being opened and steps rushing back into the courtyard had both women letting out a slow breath.
"Now that's what I call interesting. Do you know what it's about?" Olivia turned to Amelia though her expression wasn't easy to decipher in the dark.
Her eyes flared upwards at the question. Did this detective think she was up to no good? "Of course not! Why would I?"
"Anything is possible. However, back to your original question - yes the convent can be broken into. The side door this presumabe nun came out of has a lock that can be easily picked."
"You picked the lock?" Amelia asked accusingly.
"Yes, it was a piece of cake. Therefore I conclude that entry, if one is experienced enough, can be accomplished." Olivia's voice held a smirk and satisfied tone.
"How could you pick the lock to a sacred place, why…why it's blasphemous?"
There was a small chuckle from the detective who flicked the end of Amelia's nose hurting it slightly, "To you maybe but I'll take my chances when I reach the pearly gates."
Amelia felt this woman becoming more and more infuriating as the day had gone on. She would be glad when her services expired tomorrow at lunch. "More likely the gates of hell," Amelia muttered and felt a sense of chagrin when she heard the detective laugh softly again.
"Why I didn't know you knew me that well Doc. It would be more fitting."
+ + +
Max Anderton had to take a second glance in the direction of the open door to his office. Well, in actual fact, the only office in the space that he and Olivia rented in the lower level of a three story building in one of the worse run down areas of the city. That made the appearance of a smartly dressed and very attractive woman standing in the doorway that much more surprising. True they had their moments with the odd wealthy client, but not often enough for them to upgrade to a more salubrious area. Though, with Olivia's views on moving from the area, it would take more than money to wrench her away from the people she said needed their services more, but it didn't pay the bills though. Take today for instance and her gallivanting off on some crusade for a priest, admittedly Father Johansson, who couldn't do anything wrong in either of their books, he was the salt of the earth even if he was Catholic.
Shifting his attention to what he hoped was going to be a paying customer he smiled brightly. "Hi, how may I help you?"
The woman gave him a careful and, from his powers of deduction with over twenty-years on the police force, a calculating and somewhat dismissive stare before she spoke. "Is this the Anderton-Santos Detective Agency?"
Max had learned over the years to be cautious when something didn't feel right in his gut and at this moment the woman in the room with him gave off those vibes big time. Thing was, he had the feeling that he'd seen her before. Damn mind was letting him down more and more these days. "Yes, how may I help you?" he asked again with a slightly more pointed emphasis.
Deep brown eyes glanced around the room, less than impressed. The office was tidy but could certain benefit from a good coat of paint and, in some places, general repair since the plaster in various spots on the walls and ceiling were peeling away like an orange from its skin.
"I have a small matter to take care of and I heard that you might be the people for the job."
Max wasn't fooled by the complacent tone. There was a hint of deviousness hidden inside that his experienced brain had winkled out of its shell. "Take a seat Ms….?"
"Ra…Frobisher, Danielle Frobisher. I need someone followed discreetly and I heard that this is a particular field you're very experienced in."
"You heard about us from whom if you don't mind me asking? We like to send a Christmas card to people who recommend us." Max smiled disarmingly. He knew she would probably think him an addled brained old man with a quip like that. It often served its purpose when he wanted to scrutinise someone more deeply by often putting them at ease thinking he wasn't all there in the head.
The woman smiled at him with perfect white teeth as she answered him, "I'd rather not say at this time, does it make a difference?"
"Depends on the type of work you want us to do. Did you say you want someone followed?"
Danielle Frobisher nodded. "Hmm. An associate of my husband - I have all the details. Here take a look." She handed him a buff A4 folder with several sheets inside.
Taking the notes, Max scanned over the sheets and the picture inside. "The name is familiar to me of course. I'd like to know why you want him followed and how intensely?"
Danielle gave the old man a long hard stare. Her face had the inscrutable look of someone who had a hatred of the subject matter. "How intense can you be, because that's what I want?"
Shaking his head slightly, Max pondered that question for a moment. "Except for sleeping with the man we can get as close as anyone who has known him for years. Now the key question is why?"
"I believe he's leading my husband into something that could ruin him. I need proof that he isn't what he says he is. It's the only way my husband will listen to me." The woman sounded convincing to the inexperienced ear but not to him. There was something so pat about the whole situation and now he remembered where he'd seen her before and her name certainly wasn't Frobisher.
Max pulled at his short greying beard as he studied the photo of the subject in question. "I see, and there's nothing more I need to know other than what's in this folder?"
"Nothing more, except I need you to start immediately. I know there's a special meeting at his office this evening and I need you there on the case."
"No disrespect Ms. Frobisher, assuming we take the job I will need to have a few hours to prepare. Before we can accept your case I will need to discuss this with my colleague." Max didn't need to wait for Olivia to return to the office to decide if a job was going on the books or not but this whole thing wasn't what it appeared.
Danielle Frobisher opened her purse and pulled out a wad of notes, all hundred-dollar bills. "I'll pay so much up front if you take the work and begin immediately." A wad about three inches thick was slapped on the desk in front of Max.
Eyeing the greenbacks, Max wanted to say no to the woman because now he was sure this wasn't on the up and up except… the bills had to be paid and they were already two months behind in rent not to mention a few other pertinent items that demanded payment before they could resume certain aspects of their work.
Max stood up and held out his hand, "We're on the case Ms. Frobisher. How often do you want an update?"
With a satisfied smile, Danielle stood up to and accepted the handshake for all of a second before she dropped the detective's hand as she might get leprosy. "Daily, unless you have something important and then you can contact me at this number." An expensively printed business card was passed to Max. On it a cell phone and a landline number, but no name.
"No problem at all. We'll be in touch this time tomorrow unless the meeting you mentioned is all you need." Max was speaking to himself as he said the last word - Danielle Frobisher had left the building.
Sitting down and flicking through the wad of hundreds, he wondered just why the woman had to lie about herself. There was no mistaking Axel Randal's wife. She was a society hostess and he recalled her picture from a magazine a couple of months ago, though the picture hadn't done her justice. Peering at the clock on his desk, he noted it was 2:30 in the afternoon. With luck, Olivia would be back in the office to take over the case. If not, for the first time in over three years he'd have to go solo.
+ + +
"Mother, is this what you really want to do?"
"What other choices have we? I cannot see the Order erupt into chaos and possible dissolution over this! There have been Cascadian nuns here for centuries. To have our Order scrutinized and ridiculed not only external of our walls but inside as well does not bear thinking about. What other choice do we have? What other choice do I have?"
Sister Anne-Mary walked over to the Mother Superior and placed a gentle hand on her arm in understanding. Since this situation with Sister Marie Clarise-Benoite had arisen the Order had been gradually decaying into disorder and faithlessness. The worse thing about it all was that the Sister had been their guiding hand over the last few years. Her understanding of others' pain and ability to heal those in fear of their souls had been a gift from God that had helped to save the financial woes of the convent in recent times. Now what would people make of this if it was allowed to become knowledge to those who could never understand? The fact that the baby was no longer a potential figment of the Sister's overworked imagination but, according to the doctor's report, a reality was a testament that the Sister was no longer true to her faith or the Order. How dare she continue to maintain the baby she carried is a gift from God! The only reasonable explanation was that at sometime Sister Marie had formed an alliance with a man and been seduced - it was the only rational explanation. Though, no one would say when this possibly could have occurred or with whom.
"There is no other choice Mother. I'm sure when you explain your reasons to Sister Marie she will understand perfectly."
The older and more superior nun sighed heavily and agreed it was the only way. Under her breath, as her second left the room, she asked God for his forgiveness for what she was about to do. Closing her eyes briefly, she picked up a pen and wrote an address on a crisp white envelope before placing a letter of recommendation inside and sealing it. Placing the letter on her desk for the postal service in the morning, she retired to her chamber deep in thought knowing that a part of her wanted to believe that Sister Marie was indeed the chosen one.
+ + +
Amelia turned to the detective after another lengthy silence and spoke quietly, "I don't know what to do now, any ideas?"
Olivia wondered when that would happen and a part of her wanted to mercilessly tease the woman beside her. She was so uptight and had brought it upon herself. All she had to do to appease her conscience would have been to go inside with the nun, simple as that. However she hadn't, which had puzzled her. Okay so the nun had insisted she enter the convent alone but that didn't mean that the doctor had to take any notice of that request. In fact, if it had been her call she'd have ignored what the nun wanted and gone inside anyway. What the hell, there must be a screw loose in the woman if she thought her pregnancy was the second coming. "You're asking my advice?"
There was a frustrated silence for a few moments. "Sure, isn't it why you're here?"
"In part I guess. Okay, first I think you made a bad call initially by not going inside with the nun. Second, I think it's too late to ask for an audience with anyone inside." Olivia was about to say more when Amelia interrupted her.
"For the record, the nun, as you call her, has a name, she's Sister Marie Clarise-Benoite and it was a professional call. I take it you think we need to go, so that you can have dinner?" There was disappointment in Amelia's voice as she responded instinctively.
Olivia flicked her finger at Amelia's nose and was pleased with the response as the woman hissed again that it hurt. "Do you always interrupt a person after asking for advice? I hadn't finished my summing up of the situation, but we'll do whatever we have to although I am hungry."
Amelia felt like she was being treated like a four year old especially when the detective flicked at the end of her nose to make a point. That is really a sooo not adult way of handling things. "I'm sorry. Please continue I do want your stance on this."
"Okay, Doctor this is what I think we should do. I might have said it wasn't the time to go inside the convent however I didn't say we'd leave. Quite the contrary. I'm interested in knowing what's going on inside those walls that an outsider needs to sneak around in the middle of the night to arrange. Also, it looks to me that there could be a bad apple inside that convent, which might have some bearing on this case. Of course that's part of my job and it interests me. If you want to leave by all means do so. When you get back tomorrow I'll be waiting." Olivia had a gut feeling that something wasn't right and she rarely ignored that feeling, it was too dangerous to do so she'd found out to her cost in the past.
Directing her gaze at the detective, Amelia peered into what were intelligent dark blue eyes and in the dim light of a half-moon they looked more black than blue. "Why put yourself at risk? It could be dangerous that man didn't sound very nice."
Olivia laughed heartily at the question as her eyes caught the surprised ones of the doctor. The woman had warm brown eyes that complimented her profession she guessed. To drown in, came to mind but she quickly shrugged that thought away. "Any man that you don't know very well is always suspect. And, I've met a few stinkers in my time Doc. Take it from me, most of them still live in the dark ages or wish they did with the woman at the bottom of the food chain."
Startled by the detective's aggression and her view of men, Amelia's sharp mind wandered into her professional territory as she wondered why the woman had that kind of negative impression of men generally. "Don't you think that's a little harsh detective?"
Olivia lifted her hand and Amelia quickly moved away so that offending finger didn't flick her nose again. With a feral smile the detective spoke again, "Don't go working your shrink magic on me Doc. I've seen the best and believe me they never find what they think they are looking for. Look there's still a couple of hours before our guy comes back. I need something to eat or my stomach might give me away later. Let's go to that town and the general store and pick up a snack then you can drop me off here and I'll let you know what I find out tomorrow."
"No way! I'm in this too. I might not have your training but I want to know if anything that happens this evening has any bearing on my case with Sister Marie. Let's go, I'm hungry too." They headed for the car and Amelia hastily turned the key in the ignition as the car sprang to voracious life. As she concentrated on the road back to town, Olivia grinned. This was turning out to be not as boring as she had thought earlier.
Olivia removed her cell from her pocket and dialled Max. Several attempts at locating him at home, the office and his cell proved fruitless. Maybe for once the old man had finally taken her advice and gone bowling or something that you could call a life.
"Was your call important? Maybe you need a better signal - we can locate a phone in town," Amelia asked as she headed towards the town.
"Nope, it can wait until tomorrow," Olivia announced and closed her eyes as they drove closer to the town.
+ + +
Max Anderton donned the uniform of a security guard to help him in his quest to seek out as much information as possible on Axel Randal and his business dealings. He had arranged everything except the guard's ID badge in the hope that Olivia would show up and take the first watch. He would take the early morning stretch to relieve Olivia for a few hours. He didn't assume she slept, because he very much doubted she allowed that kind of practice in her life. Not the conventional sleeping that most conducted to function as a normal human being anyway. No, Olivia had a body that could cat nap and in a few minutes charge up her batteries to the top. It amazed him and although he'd worried about this when he had first taken her on, medicals over the years showed that she was one hundred percent fit and showed no signs of lack of sleep or strain of any kind. He, on the other hand, was getting older and his body was finally admitting defeat in some areas. Notably, his stamina and the fact that he now had high blood pressure, which wasn't good for this kind of work. He'd have to speak with Olivia again about taking on another body. That way he could stay in the office and wouldn't feel guilty that she was doing all the hard work.
However, today he was on his own. Olivia hadn't returned and her cell went straight to voice mail. If she was in the middle of something important she usually switched it off until she had finished whatever she felt was important. Glancing down at his cell, he saw the flashing of the battery power cell, it was running on empty. Darn it, he'd forgotten to charge it the night before. Dragging open the cupboard on the far wall, he delved into the stationery he kept there looking for the spare. Finding it, he placed it in the phone and found this was dead too. Damn. If Olivia finds out she'll be livid. One thing or should he say one of things that annoyed Olivia was his scattered brained approach to minor details like topping off the battery on the phones. Oh well she'll never know. He thought as he plugged both batteries into the two chargers on the wall.
Scribbling a quick message, he placed it on Olivia's desk in case she returned to the office later. O, I've gone on a stakeout - check the file that is marked, Frobisher-?- you'll understand when you read my notes. Come relive me at the guy's office when you get back. M He'd call her service using their landline and leave the same message and his location.
Flicking the office phone to the answering machine he turned the lights off and left the office, heading for Randal Enterprises.
+ + +
"How well do you know Father Johansson detective?" Amelia asked as she bit into her bacon and lettuce sandwich. They had a tepid cup of coffee in the general store before buying several sandwiches and a couple of bottles of water prior to returning to the convent and their vigil.
Olivia swallowed her mouthful of tuna sandwich and wondered how to answer that one. "I've known him for about ten years. He was the local priest that we would call at the precinct I worked in at that time."
Amelia turned intelligent enquiring eyes to the dark ones of the detective who looked totally absorbed in her food rather than the conversation. "Ah, you were a bona-fide cop before you went out on your own?"
"I'm not on my own I have a partner remember. And yes, I was in the force for a time," Olivia stated quietly.
Amelia heard the slight rebuke in her words, it must be a touchy subject matter, I wonder if I should delve further, Amelia thought as she munched happily on her sandwich. "Why did you leave or is that too personal a question?" Amelia asked quietly glancing at her food in the cellophane wrappers rather than the detective. It was a natural thing for her to ask questions and she loved hearing about different people and why they did what they did and it didn't all come down to trying to solve any hidden problems. Though, she admitted privately that this woman had issues and who knew, she might be able to help.
Olivia had long ago dispensed with politeness when it came to her sudden career change when asked. Although it was usually some snotty nosed junior reporter trying to make mountains out of molehills and a name for themselves at her expense if she allowed them. "I killed a man in cold blood, does that make it clear for you doctor?"
The matter of fact way the words spilled out of the detective's mouth made Amelia's skin crawl. There was no remorse or guilt when Olivia mentioned the death, quite the opposite. There was a certain relish and satisfaction in her action. At a loss for words for a few moments, Amelia had to gulp down some water to prevent part of her sandwich from choking her. "I see, was it in the course of duty or…" she was unable to finish the sentence because there was no way she wanted to be affiliated with a murderer. Surely Father Johansson would never have put her life in jeopardy surely.
A wicked sparkle flashed out of Olivia's eyes as Amelia's gaze was captured in the cross-fire. "Depends who you talk to as to how the deed is interpreted. As far as I'm concerned it was a necessary act and I'm not sorry for my actions. Okay, what about you, when did you meet the good Father?"
The reversal of conversation was both welcome and not, because in a perverse way Amelia wanted to know more about how Olivia Santos ticked. "He was the priest who christened me. I guess you could say I've known him all my life and he's always there if I ever need him."
"I can understand that, he has that ability to reach out to a part of you and stick there like glue no matter what happens. Did you always want to be a shrink?" Olivia was making small talk, an unusual occurrence for her. However, this situation was unusual - normally she undertook surveillance on her own which was exactly how she liked it.
With a smile Amelia considered the question. "Not initially. I wanted to be a vet, don't we all." When there was no answering agreement to her statement, Amelia continued. "I was gradually sucked into the field by a very talented woman who was one of my teachers in high school. I never quite went back on track to being a vet." She shrugged. "I find my work stimulating and rewarding."
"I guess we both have rewarding work then because I feel the same way about what I do." A finger was gently placed on Amelia's lips as Olivia cocked her head to one side listening intently. "Whoever was here before has returned, do as I say okay?" Olivia whispered as she silently opened the car door and slid out, "Stay here I'll be back."
Before Amelia could do anything but look surprised Olivia had disappeared into the night. What should she do now, wait? The lights from a car flashed up in her mirror as she ducked down to avoid being seen, though that was highly unlikely as the detective had directed her to a spot that couldn't be seen from the road unless you were searching for one. Breathing in deeply, Amelia looked over to the cabin that was visible from her position and she saw a tall man in a dark overcoat and Panama hat, standing in the light of the moon. She could see that he was smoking and his stance was patient as he waited. Where is the detective?
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