Teal had settled down to what she would describe as an ordinary meal although most would think it gourmet. Her cookery expertise was only out-matched by her administration skills. Today she deserved the beef bourgeon that had been slow cooking all day. Within three hours of Amelia and the detective leaving the office, calls had swamped her inquiring as to where they were and when were they expected back. She really didn't, thankfully, have any answers but it was the information the callers gave her that worried her most.
Apparently her associate had done something, if not terrible in some eyes, was worthy of a reprimand at least. First, there had been a frantic call from a Sister Augustine, with a rather brusque demand that Amelia attend a meeting with Mother Sara within the hour. When the hour came and went and Amelia hadn't arrived she heard about that too. Not that she had tried Amelia's cell, she hadn't - her boss was tied up in drastic actions and she wasn't going to pass on any message, even if it was from Mother Sara. Another call came from Father Johansson. He sound initially his usual cheery self, but that changed as soon as Teal refused to tell him where Amelia and the detective had gone. He'd, of course, assumed that the detective was with Amelia and had even whispered that he'd been a fool to put them in each others paths. What that meant exactly only the father was privy too. His angry retort that Amelia was to call him immediately as she was contacted had Teal wondering if her friend had bitten off more than she could chew. And, it didn't end there.
By the time she was closing for the evening a further call hit the switchboard and this time it was Mother Sara herself; a totally out of character scenario. There had been no pleasantries either and Teal had to admit that after a ten minute dressing down by the Reverend Mother even she might attend church on Sunday. Totally confused by all the calls, she could only assume that her friend had created some kind of problem between the time she left the office and now. And, it all had to do with a certain Sister Marie.
Relishing the first mouthfuls of her succulent meal, Teal groaned as her cell phone vibrated on her hip. For a few seconds she was tempted to ignore the caller knowing that the ID would be saved and she could call back. However, with how the had gone she at least should see who was calling. Replacing her knife and fork on a napkin, she took the phone from her belt and immediately answered when she saw who was calling.
"Hi yourself Amelia, where are you?"
"If I told you I'd probably have to shoot you. However, I'm not so sure that isn't the truth. Teal I need to contact the detective I asked you to send a message to earlier. Do you have Detective Santos' number handy?"
Teal heard the slight desperation in her friend's voice and knew for sure that things weren't exactly rosy in her friend's particular garden. "I left it at the office. I can go back if it's important and call you when I get there?" It would be a chore to cross town again, but she would if necessary.
There was silence for a few moments and she heard Amelia speaking softly in background, which made the situation even more interesting for Teal. If she needed to ask for that particular number logically that meant Olivia Santos wasn't with her or was indisposed. "Teal I know how you hate going back to the office after hours but…"
"Save it Amelia. With the calls I've been receiving all afternoon, I'm not surprised that you need some help from me."
"Who has been trying to call Teal?" a surprised Amelia asked.
"Let's put it this way Amelia, if I didn't know better I'd say you went to the top of the most wanted list. Anyway I'll explain later. If I leave now, I can call you back in say half an hour tops."
There was a heavy sigh of relief. "I owe you one Teal, thanks."
Teal laughed. Thinking, isn't that the truth, as she said a swift goodbye. Collecting her now cooling congealing dinner, she placed it back in the oven and reset the timer to warm up her food for her return.
+ + +
Danielle watched a few expressions flicker across Amelia West's face as she talked to the person at the other end of the line. They were obviously good friends as the warmth in the doctor's voice would be hard to conceal. It was the tone that was only used, in her opinion, on someone you cared about a great deal.
"Is everything okay?"
"It will be. Teal will find the number and call me back."
Amelia sounded preoccupied so Danielle asked again, "you sure you're okay?
"Yes, really Danielle, I'm fine. It was something Teal said but didn't elaborate further on."
Danielle liked the doctor. She was very open and largely, she suspected, very intelligent except when it came to obeying simple instructions from a certain private detective. In that particular vein, she was, in her personal opinion, somewhat foolish. "What did she say?"
Amelia gave Danielle a grin, her mind obviously on another planet, with the far off look in her eyes, "Oh just that people were looking for me. Apparently, according to Teal, I could win the prize for the most wanted of the day today."
"I see. Who is Teal?"
"Teal is my associate and good friend. I guess it could be just her way of teasing me. She does that from time to time, especially if I go off on excursions without letting her know what I'm doing." Yep Teal never did like being kept out of the loop, Amelia thought.
Danielle smiled. She wished she'd had a friend like that. At least then she might not be in this bind and need strangers to help her out. To take her mind off her own problems, Danielle pointed to the curtained sleeping area. "How is the Sister?"
Amelia's eyes travelled to the same spot as Danielle's and then mused over the question for a few moments. How the heck do I know how the Sister is? Who can know in her current predicament? "Truthfully I don't know. She hasn't spoken since we picked her up from the diner."
"Do you think that the Sister being taken from the parking lot might have something to do with you being… hmm, popular today?" Danielle was champing at the bit to know what was happening in that quarter. As no one conversed much on the journey back, she was loath to ask. She had enough problems of her own.
"Hmm, probably, but bringing the Sister here wasn't exactly what her convent had in store for her today." There was a sombre note to the doctor's voice as she pensively continued to gaze at the curtains, which billowed slightly with the air conditioning in the room.
"Look, how about we continue to make something to eat? For nothing more than to take our minds off what might be happening…what do you say?" Danielle didn't wait for a reply as she headed for the flight of stairs on her way to the kitchen.
Amelia nodded but didn't immediately follow. Instead, she walked over to the curtains and pulled them back slowly to check that the nun was still sleeping. She appeared to be, which, was a blessing at the moment. The Sister could do without any more added stress. No matter who the father was it was clear, to her at least, that the baby and the nun would both need to be made of strong stuff to even have a chance of being born, never mind make it in the world. Retreating from the area, she wandered over to the racks of clothes that hung on one wall and was amazed at the variety of outfits. Some she had to admit required a rethink. No one in their right mind would want to be seen dead in flowery sixty's style gear. Then she unzipped the protection on a rack of clothes that were different again in style. They exuded taste, money and a sensuality that even with her prim and conservative observance to fashion, had her drooling. Others she was familiar with and knew now that this was the private wardrobe of the detective. It begged the question as to why she chose to keep her clothes stashed away here instead of her own apartment. Then it suddenly dawned on her… this was the detective's apartment, or at least abode. How on earth did anyone live like this? It was akin to the frugality in furnishings and personal belongings as being a nun?
Surreptitiously she re-zipped up the garment protection and moved on to the garage part of the area where the cars and mechanical equipment to maintain them resided. Clearly everything had an order and all the tools along with the vehicles as far as she could see were maintained to a high standard. She was lucky if she remembered to take her car for the required service each year. Scanning the rest of the room, she observed an area hidden behind flimsy screen partitions reminiscent of the Japanese style. Looking around her guiltily, though she knew that the only person whom would disapprove wasn't even close to being in the vicinity, she peeled back one of the doors and peered inside.
Again it was minimalist in furniture, but what was there looked totally right for the décor. A low coffee table, with sleek lines matching the entertainment equipment on one wall, with seating also low slung and ergonomically designed, some might even say were futuristic in design. On the opposite side of the entertainment area was a large bookcase and next to that a fish tank all in keeping perfectly with the harmony of the small area. It was a place that Amelia would say belonged to someone who had found a safe haven for their thoughts and the stress' of the day. In fact, as she stepped inside, she was astonished when the light strains of a famous classical piano concerto seemed to insidiously pour from every object in a soothing manner. If she didn't know better, she'd wonder if whoever designed the area wasn't a member of her fraternity. The small area was like an island and, if you chose it, a deserted one.
A voice from the floor above was shouting her name and she reluctantly exited the area and closed the door. The music stopped immediately.
Danielle was standing at the threshold between the staircase and the kitchen. "Shall I make something for the Sister too?"
"I'll be right there," Amelia replied as she longingly looked at the partitions that screened off the area. What I wouldn't give to have a place like that to spend at least an hour or so relaxing in everyday after work. Quickly she mounted the steps to see what Danielle was making - it certainly smelled great.
+ + +
Teal hated travelling the streets at night. It wasn't unheard of for people to be carjacked when stopped at red lights in some of the quieter areas. Tonight was even worse as rain began first in small droplets and then a sudden change to larger globules that dashed against the windscreen obscuring her view. Switching on the wipers that travelled across the drenched glass, she smiled slightly when the obstruction cleared. Her heart beat rapidly at each set of lights and when she finally drew up at the tree lined street outside the office, she admitted to herself she was thankful. Inserting the key in the door, she opened it quickly, pressed in the numbers for the alarm system, and then flooded the small hallway with light before quickly crossing to her desk. She found her notebook and flickered over pages until she found the information that Amelia needed - Captain David Tourney's cell phone number and the slip of paper that had the message Olivia had asked her to deliver. Teal speed dialled her friend and waited for the call to be taken. She didn't have to wait very long.
"Hi, here's the info you required. Have you a pen and paper ready?"
Amelia grinned. She glanced around for something to write with and reached out for a piece of chalk and wrote on the board next to the larder door. In a way it made the detective a little more human as she noticed the odd word indicating, she suspected, items of grocery shopping she needed. "Go ahead Teal I'm ready." Amelia scribbled down the name of the police officer and his cell number.
Teal asked, "You want the original message Olivia gave me?" It was really cryptic to me but at least the cop seemed to know what I meant.
"It doesn't make much sense but here goes anyway…Max in trouble. John Doe syndrome, email me with details, owe you one. That's it, doesn't make a great deal of sense to me but maybe you can find out. Amelia, are you in any trouble… other than with our church bigwigs?"
"Thanks Teal. Yes, it makes a little sense of this odd situation we're in. Not any trouble that I know of, but I can be prone to end up in the mire in someway or another that seems to follow me around. Teal go home. I promise not to disturb you again… unless it's a matter of life or death." Amelia spoke in a calm voice but a small tremor gave her away.
Teal, for her part, cringed at the final words. "Never say that Amelia. Will you be in the office tomorrow?"
For a moment Amelia wasn't sure if she knew and then decided optimism was the best laid plan. "Sure I will. If the Reverend Mother is after me I'll need some strong coffee to help me get through the day."
With a gentle peal of laughter, Teal felt happier. "You got it. Take care Amelia and give that gorgeous detective a wink for me. See you later babe." She ended the call.
Closing the notebook that she held in her hands, Teal decided to lock it in the filing cabinet. Something in her gut told her that it was important to do so. A few minutes later she'd reset the alarm and was locking the door when a hand was placed on her shoulder. She gave a diminutive squeal of fear as she turned to look into the eyes of the person who had snuck up on her.
+ + +
Captain David Tourney sat at his desk and twirled a pencil between his thumb and forefinger as he contemplated the day. Most of it had been routine except for the message from Olivia Santos. Her words had surprised him and in the end, caused him deep sadness. Finding Max Anderton's body in the morgue under a John Doe had been hard, but not as difficult as arguing with the medical examiner though. Her initial assumptions that it was another suicide and Max had jumped off the bridge into the river were flawed. He had no choice but to inform her of the fact that Max Anderton had never been a quitter in his life. A month earlier he had spoken with his old mentor and he was actually more upbeat than normal. The medical examiner had called him back later and apologised. After careful examination, she had found several puncture wounds and his bloodstream contained traces of a drug that had virtually disappeared. If she had waited another hour and it would have. Anderton's body had been caught up in the propeller of a small pleasure boat and though it was badly cut up, it had been brought to the surface much quicker than the killer or killers had bargained for.
Max's murder meant only one thing, Olivia would go off and avenge his death and in the process, put her life and liberty at risk. When fuelled by personal tragedy she wasn't the most cautious of people and, taking risks was all part of who she was. However, if she stepped over the line and took matters and the murderer into her own hands the chances were she'd end up behind bars for any injury or death she caused them. Not that she would care, Max was her family. At least the only family she allowed inside the ironclad shell she surrounded herself with. Her heart was in the right place, but her emotions ran deep and dark.
Over the years he wondered if she didn't cross that fine line between good and bad, like many of the criminals he brought down. Max, he suspected, was her saviour and kept her inches from going over to the wrong side of the law. Now, who will stop her? He knew he wasn't capable of it, and a part of him wanted the revenge on Max's murder as much as she probably did. Max had been his mentor in the early days of the force and they had remained friends. He'd also been a great marvellous source of information and help over the years. He knew that sending the email would set Olivia off on her crusade - he'd seen it all before. Right now, he wanted nothing more than to see the perpetrators of Max's death avenged. Bu, by justice, not by an avenging angel even if the angel was closer to evil than good.
His cell phone ringing dragged him out of his woeful thoughts as he answered it quietly. "Tourney here."
"Hello Captain Tourney. You don't know me, but we have a mutual friend, private detective Santos."
Tourney cocked his head to one side. What is that old saying? Speak of the devil. "How can I help you Ms…?"
"Oh sorry Captain, my name is Doctor Amelia West. The detective and I were working on a small case I have, and well you see…" Amelia stopped, what do I say now?
David Tourney gave a grimace. And so it begin just as I thought it would. "Don't tell me she disappeared on you and you're worried about her?" Classic Olivia. Although from the sound of this woman's voice, it appeared she actually cared what was happening to Olivia.
Surprised, Amelia answered quickly, "Why yes, how did you know that?"
"Typical Olivia Santos behaviour when she has a mission. She'll be back for you don't worry. One thing I know is that Olivia can handle herself in most situations that are dealt her."
Just how well did this man know the detective? Perhaps he was more than a friend. Amelia hadn't considered that and when she did it made a nervous sensation in her stomach. Not that she knew why at this moment. "I'm sure you're right Captain. However, I don't think this is a normal circumstance."
"And how have you deduced that Doctor West?" Interested, David leaned back in his chair as a small smile creased his face. He'd like to meet the woman behind the voice; she sounded interesting. In fact, he'd say she had one of the most dulcet tones of voice he'd heard in a long time. Wonder if she has the female assets to go with it.
"Did you send her an email that had information pertinent to her partner Max?"
"Immediately after reading it she left us here like a bat out of hell," Amelia announced as she turned to focus on Danielle who was heading in her direction with a quizzical expression on her face.
"Us? I take it there are more than you on this… small case you have? Regardless of that, I sent Olivia some information - what was in that communication was private. If you want to know what was in it you'll have to ask her."
Exasperated, Amelia dragged in a deep breath of air and spoke again, "Look, I don't want to go into any of Detective Santos's private affairs. I simply want you to help her. If what you told her is relevant she'll need help, I can feel it." There was a small sound at the other end of the phone and Amelia couldn't decide if the Captain was laughing at her.
Then, his voice halted her thoughts as he answered her seriously. "Do you have any idea where she went?"
"Well, we think Axel Randal's home."
David flinched at the name. It was a powerful one in the bureaucratic circles that were attached to the force in the city. The mayor in particular was a close friend of Randal's. "Are you quite sure that's where she's gone? Who else agrees with you?"
Amelia sighed heavily. "Randal's wife. The detective is helping her with a private matter. Apparently it is the case her partner Max was working on before he went missing yesterday. Look Captain, I think she's in trouble and needs help. If I could help her I would, but she's security alarmed the place we are staying at. In the detective's style of operating, as much as I know of it, she refrained from allowing us the cancel commands. Therefore, we don't know how to prevent the alarm from going off until it finishes its cycle in the morning. Can you help her… no will you help her?"
Now that is a different situation altogether if Randal's wife is involved. "Is Mrs. Randal with you now? May I speak with her?"
Handing over the phone to a nervous Danielle, she responded to the Captain's questions and then replaced the phone in its cradle.
David Tourney stood up, opened up the drawer of his desk and removed his revolver. Tonight he was going to be home later than normal. If he was lucky, he might just get a commendation out of this instead of a reprimand. Also, he might save the neck of someone who didn't realise they needed saving. Fortunately, it appeared that there were people in the world who wanted to diminish the hold Satan had on a certain female detective. It sounded like Doctor Amelia West was one of them.
+ + +
Olivia had ridden her bike at a high speed through the relatively quiet deserted industrial side of town. Right now there was no way that she wanted to be stopped by the cops. David's email announcing, what she had known in her heart, that Max was dead, had been a body blow the likes of which she had never felt before. Having a partner, friend and father-figure extinguished without the ability to say goodbye, had fired up her whole being for revenge. She didn't care who got in the way as long as she avenged Max's death.
From all she had gleaned from Danielle, the surveillance had been routine – nothing more dangerous than the usual spousal disagreements that they had been involved in before. For some reason Max had been at Randal's office and there was the possibility that something was going down that was illegal. It was plausible; guys like Randal sometimes had business power that extended beyond the legal jurisdiction that bound everyone else. If that was the case, then Max might have seen something that he shouldn't. Damn, it was all assumptions. She didn't know anything for certain. Except that Max was dead and the last person to see him in all probability had been Axel Randal. Her mind drifted back to the goons who had been to the office earlier that day. Their message, although cryptic, had to have come from someone who didn't want her interfering. The fact that they had staked out the office had to be important to someone and shortly she would find out if that someone was Randal.
When they'd arrived back at her office she'd had second thoughts about stashing the three women in her domain especially with the two heavies watching from the side street. She hadn't mentioned it to anyone, but fear could do strange things and those women, with perhaps the exception of the doc, were frightened enough. The doctor was a strange mix and she felt that something didn't hang right with her. If all went well tonight, they would then settle Sister Marie someplace safe where she could have her baby and decide on her future. Then, it wouldn't matter if she ever found out what was irritating her about the doctor - their paths were never likely to cross again.
Slowing the bike, she came to a halt at the fork between the Randal house and the adjoining street. She assessed her target: the wall around the place would probably have some kind of security feature and the main entrance would more than likely be guarded by a security guard. That left only the second exit for the domestic staff which was a common enough practice for people who built house complex's such as these. They had to have the help, but they didn't want them coming and going by the main gate. Parking her bike out of sight and electronically locking the wheels and the ignition, she walked quickly down the side street to find the secondary entrance.
Not finding the entrance she proceeded to go around the back of the compound which was on a quiet tree-lined street facing a small church. People never learn, she thought as she assessed what she considered a flimsy padlock on the gate and on the small wooden side door. Upon closer inspection she saw that her initial assumption had been correct and proceeded to pick the locks that any rookie wannabe could handle. Selecting the appropriate tool from within her jacket, she inserted the lock pick and within a short time had the door open and, with a quick look around, she stepped inside the walled gardens.
With a grim expression on her face, her mind calmly travelled over certain scenarios. She'd prefer to slice the guy who killed her partner open with a razor knife or, simply put a bullet into his brain. Either scenario I can carry out with ease. And, in these circumstances who would suspect me? Perhaps the widow might have suspicions, but somehow she suspected that wouldn't be an issue. As she slowly made her way to the house, there appeared to be no guards patrolling the grounds. There was a single light that shone from one of the downstairs' windows. This couldn't be any easier if I'd wished it.
Approaching the window, she peered inside and saw a man working at a desk in a room, which from the layout, looked like a study. This will be like taking candy from a baby. Assessing the easiest option for gaining entry, Olivia, with her keen vision, saw a trip wire that would set off an alarm. At this time, it was a situation she'd rather prevent. Reaching inside her jacket, she selected a multi-purpose tool that was a glorified Swiss Army knife with a couple of additions customised just for her. A small switch on the handle indicated that the wire was live. Summing up the situation in a second and without flinching, she cut the wire. She waited a few seconds to see if there would be any reaction to the wires being cut. When none was forthcoming she flicked a lever to retract the wire cutter then released an innocuous looking flat piece of metal. Within seconds she had prized opened the window and, with a furtive glance behind her, noiselessly slid open the window. She smiled with a wink to the heavens that there wasn't any major wind that evening. Climbing inside with more grace than would appear possible, Olivia slid onto the polished floor with barely a whisper - the man at the desk was oblivious to her entry into his sanctuary. First things first. Before she confronted Randal, she needed to find out if there were others in the vicinity of this room or in the house. Reaching inside her jacket once more, she smiled cynically and extracted a small rectangular object that looked like a Palm Pilot. What would I do without it?Probably be killed on most occasions. In actuality, it was a heat sensor that could detect, within a radius of three hundred metres, any heat sources that might prove dangerous to her. The instrument indicated three heat sources in the tracking area. The only one that moved and it was at least a hundred metres away. Just as I had hoped…a piece of cake.
Axel Randal won't know what hit him , figuratively speaking of course. At the moment, the opportunity to rough up the man was preying heavily on her conscious. Moving stealthily out of the disguise of the thick partially-opened curtains, Olivia stepped silently up behind Randal. Then, as her breath fanned his cheek, he squealed like a pig that had been frightened by a ghost. Anticipating that he would have some alarm close to him that could be triggered, she dragged his chair away from the desk and gave him a cool penetrating stare. Most people would have been scared by the blank, direct gaze burning into their eyes but not Axel Randal. He had recovered swiftly from his initial fright and gave Olivia a malevolent stare right back.
It took a lot to have Olivia on the back foot but at that moment she was unsettled. Most people would be afraid and wonder why but not the man that stared back at her. "Aren't you going to ask why I broke in or who I am?"
With a sneer, Axel Randal answered in a tone that showed none of the fear that she would have expected. Why is that? She wondered. Did I miss something? "Pointless questions that I've found in the past to be highly irrelevant. Besides, I knew you would come eventually. We do have a mutual acquaintance. What was his name now…ah yes, Max."
Olivia felt a surge of pure rage as she thought of Max. If there had been any doubt in her mind that Danielle lied about her husband, it was gone. Now she knew for sure this man was responsible for her partner's death, even if he hadn't done the dirty work himself. She forcefully drug Randal out of his chair and away from any possibility of pulling the switch that would have brought his troops immediately.
"Well that makes my job easier then." She twisted his shirt tightly around his neck. "I want to know two things from you Randal then we're done. Why did you have Max Anderton murdered?" Olivia hissed out the words her emotions wanting to kill the sorry bastard without any compassion or regret just as he had done to Max. She would do it too. It wouldn't be the first time, or probably the last. All she needed was to find the evidence to back up her actions. Self-defence, when you were dealing with the under belly of the criminal world, had its day in court at times.
Randal chuckled with a mixture of sarcasm and enjoyment. With her free hand, Olivia punched him in the stomach to gain his attention. He hadn't expected that move from her.
"You have the wrong man lady," he spat out. "Why do you think I would anyway?" he said contemptuously. "Besides, it isn't my scene…I'm a respectable…" Another punch, this time in the groin, had Randal moaning in agony.
Olivia, through gritted teeth, finished his sentence. "Don't give me the crap that you're a respectable member of the community, I've heard it all before. Try again!"
Randal had met people like this woman before, usually a male counterpart, but nevertheless the same type. Ruthless, obsessed and blind to what was best for them. Fortunately for him, he had a few on the payroll, and one who happened to be inside the house. If only I could make it back to my desk and hit the alarm. She'll make a mistake I'd stake my life on it. Olivia seized his neck and put him in a chock-hold. I guess I've already made the bet or I'm going to die here and now. "You want me to say I killed your partner?" he said gasping for air. "Go ahead and kill me now because frankly I'm not going to say that to you or anyone."
Olivia's dark eyes glowed like black embers. She had no real proof that he was responsible for Max's death. What she did have was Danielle and Randal had threatened her too, perhaps that was the direction to take this conversation.
Without giving away that she was unable to produce conclusive evidence that he was involved, she spoke again in an icy voice. "Danielle says you threatened to kill her. That will get you a court hearing and by the time you get on the docket I'll have you on Max's death too." As she heard herself speak, Olivia knew that the edge she usually had in any case she worked on was failing fast. This time she didn't have an edge, merely emotional speculation and that didn't work. Max had always tried to make her see that.
A derisive laugh was her initial answer. Then, as she increased the pressure around his neck, he spoke haltingly. "My wife…is neurotic. There isn't a judge…in the world that will…prosecute me on what that bitch says. I'll have eminent…doctors in the field of psychiatry that will…say my wife should have been locked up years ago. Except that I've been…very patient with her, after all, I take my vows seriously,…in sickness and in health blah, blah, blah. But perhaps you've never experienced that kind of emotion… whoever you are?"
"Don't play the long-suffering spouse Randal. You wouldn't suffer for a moment longer than you had to in anything. Judges aren't that easy to fool, I'd know about that first hand."
There was a slight dropping her guard for what was only a second as she recalled the judge who had dismissed the case of murder against her. Will it be as easy a second time around? I doubted it.
Randal was squarely facing her, his grey eyes full of hatred and disgust when he spoke again. "You messed up big time lady. There isn't anyone but you who will be on the docket with a judge about to take your liberty. You broke into my house remember? Trust me they will. In fact, to sweeten the deal I'll say you kidnapped my wife… even murdered her perhaps, particularly as she hasn't come home this evening."
As the words slipped into her mental calculations of what she had expected from this meeting that wasn't one of the scenarios. For a moment she wondered if she had made the fatal mistake of allowing personal emotions to cloud her judgement and put her life in jeopardy. When that happened in the past she had Max defending her back, but he wasn't there now, no one was, she was alone. Damn, I walked into this like a fool! The bleeping of the phone interrupted her thoughts as she stared blankly at the offending instrument on the desk.
"If I don't answer it my bodyguard will want to know why. I guess you have about sixty seconds to decide if fleeing the scene is worth saving your skin or if you will use the time to kill me… you have about forty-five seconds now."
Olivia decided that today wouldn't be the day to take his life. Leaving there without killing him meant she would be a marked woman and that made life even more difficult for her. However, she couldn't kill him unless she had proof that it was him because if she did, she'd be no better than him. Even though she might cross the lines on occasion, she never twisted them to meet her expectations. No, she'd leave and find the missing pieces and when she did, no security or bodyguard would stop her killing Axel Randal. That she would deem true justice and was all she cared about.
"You'll see me again Randal…bank on it." Olivia pushed him off-balance as she fled the room the way she entered. Before she had gone ten yards she heard the sound of at least two pairs of feet running in her direction.
A short time later, Axel Randal faced his embarrassed lead bodyguard and punched up the monitor that had recorded Olivia's presence in his study. "I want to know who this woman is. When you've done that, I want to know how the hell she managed to get inside my house without your knowledge, got it?"
A hard, weather-beaten face accompanied by a nose that had been broken several times peered at the small screen. The hulking man, who was seething with the knowledge that the woman had broken his defences, shifted uncomfortably as he hung his head and mumbled something to Randal.
"What did you say? Speak up Finn." Axel stood close to the man and waited for his explanation; it had better be good. For the first time in his life he had actually felt threatened and he had no intention of feeling that again. Wait until I find that bitch and my wife, they'll both pay big time for that feeling alone!
"I've seen her before from the pictures the guys took of that detective agency. She was the secretary."
Axel paused at the picture of Olivia on the screen. Grinning evilly, he thought this was way too easy. "I guess she's not the secretary. Find out all you can about her. Do you have those clowns you call professionals waiting at that office?"
"Yes sir. They reported that a black-out vehicle was seen driving into a storage area at the back of the building a few hours ago. What shall I tell them?"
Accompanied by a malevolent laugh, Axel spoke softly, "Tell them to check out the storage area and if they find my wife… kill her and please make it clean. Don't leave any witnesses."
The phone rang as Finn nodded and left the room. Picking up the instrument, Axel answered abruptly, "Yes?"
"Sir, we have a police officer at the gate, he needs to speak with you urgently. Shall I send him to the house?"
Axel couldn't believe his luck. People always say there's never a police officer around when you needed one. Oh this is working out wonderfully. "Send him up. I have need of his services."
+ + +
Hi Sister. How about something to eat?" Amelia sat on the edge of the bed after placing the delicious broth Danielle had made on the bedside table next to the bed. Sister Marie had been awake when she had entered the curtained off area looking remarkably refreshed, which was a wonderful sign.
Sister Marie glanced around her. The surroundings must have been to her satisfaction as she smiled at the question nodding her head before speaking. "She's gone hasn't she?"
Blinking rapidly at the strange question Amelia reached for the bowl and spoon and handed them to her. "I don't follow Sister. Who has gone?"
With a strange expression, wistful yet out of this world, Sister Marie quietly mentioned, "Olivia Santos."
Now how does she know that? Amelia wondered, as she automatically whispered, "Yes," in true bravado style. A serious expression captured in the nun's eyes worried Amelia as she quickly tried to reassure the nun. "The detective left a note that she wouldn't be long on an errand. She hasn't been in her office for a couple of days you know how that is… well you know what I mean." Heck how pathetic is that!
"Doctor West, because I'm a nun and in this unusual situation you do not have to humour me. I'm aware that Detective Santos is a troubled soul and driven by demons. At any time in my life other than now, I would have given any sacrifice to help her and release her soul into the light. At this time however, I have another soul to reach out to and help, one that doesn't even know yet that they need help. When that happens all will fall into place, including the detective's exodus back to a faith in what is good." Sister Marie had that same happy, yet sad expression that Amelia had witnessed the first time they had met. It was ethereal and she felt her whole body relaxing under its spell.
Frowning at the words, Amelia was at a lost as to what to make of them. Who is in crisis that needs help so badly that it outweighs someone that is clearly in need of help? She herself had thought in her own professional way that Detective Santos might need help from her profession. How can anyone know who needs help more than another especially when the event hadn't occurred to cause the catalyst? "I wouldn't presume to humour you Sister. Believe me I understand the nun thing all too well. It's strange but I wondered if Detective Santos needed a little help from someone like me. Therefore, I guess we are on the same wave length although I wouldn't like to second guess who needs your help more." Maybe it is Danielle? That would certainly make perfect sense.
A compelling stare was the only answer she received as the nun appeared to enjoy the broth.
"Danielle's a great cook isn't she? She created this from basically nothing in the larder. She has also prepared another concoction for us. Have you the strength to sit with us at the table or would you prefer to rest here?"
"I will eat with you, thank you."
Amelia smiled warmly and as she stood up from the side of the bed. She heard Danielle shriek out her name and ran fast as she could until she saw the other woman at the console in the middle of the room.
"What's the problem Danielle?" Amelia's stomach churned as she saw the pale features of Danielle staring at the monitor and pointing. "They're coming to get us Amelia. What shall we do?"
Who the heck are they?
Gazing at the position the finger pointed to, Amelia saw what was making Danielle afraid. Two men were checking the building for an opening and if that wasn't bad enough they both had weapons. Sucking in a deep breath, Amelia wondered what to do next. She had already sent the only police person she knew personally after Detective Santos. Who else did she know that could help them if the defences that the detective had placed on the building were breached? Looking at the thugs outside she wouldn't put it past them not to try and use brute force with perhaps explosives or something along those lines to break down the walls.
Placing a calming hand on Danielle's shoulder, she smiled encouragingly at her even though inside she was as frightened as the woman along side her was. "Danielle I don't think they can get in. The message from Detective Santos mentioned we were stuck inside here until morning. I suspect it means they can't get in from the outside either. She'll be back to help us for sure by then." As she spoke her mind went to the obvious - should I call 911? No, that will place us in even more jeopardy since Danielle's husband knows some powerful people.
Eyes filled with alarm gazed into hers and Amelia had to use all her powers of control to prevent giving way and admitting she too was scared witless. "Do you really believe that? I don't want to die Amelia."
Spontaneously Amelia threw her arms around Danielle's and hugged her warmly. Then releasing her she said, "We haven't gone this far to have a couple of goons stop us now have we? Besides, we have God on our side. You think he's going to allow anyone to injure Sister Marie and the baby? How about we eat and who knows, Detective Santos might be back by then."
Danielle knew the faces of these men, they work for my husband. She had seen them on the grounds guarding their property. How did they find out I'm here?It doesn't take a mathematical genius to know who they are here for. Amelia and the nun were just unfortunate victims to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a watery smile Danielle decided it was best to keep the identity of the men to her self. What will it help to speak out? "You want to eat now?"
"Oh yes, the smell is fabulous. And here comes Sister Marie…she's going to join us too. Hey, if we are going to have to work out a strategy we need the strength, and food I've found is the best source there is." Amelia wasn't sure if she could make good on what she said - her stomach might protest, as it whirled around beneath her clasped hands.
Reluctantly Danielle headed back up the staircase to the kitchen. At least it will keep me busy. As she picked up the tray holding the food her thoughts travelled to her son, will I ever see him again? As the thought pierced her heart she wept silently inside.
Amelia picked up the cell that she had left on the desk and punched in a short code. "Teal, my friend, you're going to hate me today and will be asking for a raise in salary."
+ + +
Teal was surprised by the person who had turned up at the doorstep of the office as they nearly gave her a heart attack. However, as her terrified eyes turned to see who it was she heaved a sigh of relief as Father Johansson stood there with a friendly expression in his eyes.
"Ah, my friend Teal. Did I scare you?" His words were little solace at that moment for her rapid heart beat but at least it was a friendly face.
With a shrug of her diminutive shoulders, she gave the priest a roll of the eyes and a shake of her head. "Not me Father, I'm made of sterner stuff. Was there something you needed? Amelia isn't here."
A flicker of the eyelids of the man had Teal reconsidering her first impression that the Father was no threat. The coldness that shone out of his normally warm cornflower eyes had her wondering just why is he here at this time of night?
"Aye to be sure I didn't think she would be here right now Teal. I need to see her though… now!" His voice had increased an octave and it was clear he wasn't going to leave without knowing where Amelia was.
Teal decided that things hadn't been going to plan since the moment that Amelia had taken the assignment for the priest. Her intelligent mind began setting off those bells that said all wasn't what it should be. She didn't exactly know what Amelia and the detective had gotten themselves into since they left the office earlier that afternoon but something wasn't right. "Sorry Father, she didn't say where she would be. Just that she was involved in a case that needed her full attention. Maybe she'll be back in the office sometime tomorrow. Want me to have her call you?"
The priest rubbed at the stubble forming on his chin. The action fascinated Teal. It was one of those actions that you would expect from a man, except whenever you thought of a priest you never quite put them into the realms of the normal day to day personal care that other males had to suffer. One of those weird things about the clergy and people's perception she supposed.
The coldness in his eyes dissipated and the old warmth she was use to shone through. "Teal we haven't had the time in recent months to catch up. How about we have a coffee and we can catch up…if you have the time?"
She was about to say no, but the handclasp on her tiny arm had her sucking in a breath at the pain. If the pressure increased much more she was sure her arm would be broken. She wasn't exactly built for any man-handling and right now if she had been in anyone else's presence she would have thought her arm in jeopardy. Maybe it is. "Okay, can't stay too long catching up though Father, I have dinner in the oven."
"Ever resourceful Teal, now tell me what concoction you've made for yourself today." The Father's words were warm but there was an underlining tone that had her hackles rising. The fact that the vice-like grip hadn't eased until they were seated opposite each other at the café across the street from the office worried her too.
For an hour she was pumped for every single piece of information regarding Amelia's current whereabouts. The answers were given in Teals' own version which meant very little was revealed. She could see that the Father was becoming more and more frustrated as the conversation progressed. In the past, when Amelia had worked on a case for him, there hadn't been this urgency to track her down. What is different about this case? She wondered. What she wouldn't give for her friend to call her with an update. As if on cue, her cell vibrated on her hip and she moved slightly in her chair to see the screen and the caller ID. Well darn it all Amelia, do you have a bug in here? "Excuse me Father I need to take this call."
Standing up, she headed towards the restroom and, with a backward glance, saw the priest heading in her direction. There was only one thing for her to do - she opened the ladies restroom door and entered. Now he can't follow me in here. "Hey Amelia what's happening?"
"Teal, you're going to want a raise I know but I need you to do something for me again."
Walking over to the basin, Teal checked that the room was empty and began to speak in urgent whispered tones. "Amelia you're never going to believe this but …" A few minutes later after having revealed her news she waited for her friend to say something. The silence on the other end unnerved her somewhat. "Amelia what do you want me to do?"
It was true that Amelia thought that the Father's interest and persistence unusual but with all the strangeness about this case, it wasn't surprising. She was getting more and more worried about the situation as the seconds ticked by. Maybe he's heard about the detective's partner's disappearance. He has friends everywhere. "Teal I was going to ask you to come over and help us out but maybe the Father will be just the tonic we need. Tell him where I am Teal and ask him to come over."
"I don't think that's a good idea Amelia. Look there's something not right about him tonight. If I didn't know better, and I'm not sure I do, he looks more like a criminal than a priest. Something evil is going on his mind." Teal knew she didn't sound convincing. How on earth could she be? They had both known the priest for years and for Amelia, he was more like a father-figure than a priest.
Amelia heard her friend's caution. She's probably ill at ease at being out in that part of town at night. Who wouldn't be? Teal was more uptight about it than most people, primarily because of her size - she felt she was a great target. "Don't worry Teal there's no danger from Father. I'd bet my faith on it."
"Okay, so be it. It's on your head if anything bad happens and I won't say I told you so either. Do you want to speak with him first or shall I just tell him your location?"
"Tell him where we are. I'll expect to see him on the monitors in about half an hour. Teal go home and enjoy that gourmet meal you've cooked and a good movie." Amelia smiled knowing her friend very well.
Teal grinned at the comment. "Hey what monitors?"
"If I had time to tell you now I would but, I can't. Let's just say Detective Santos is diverse in lots of ways. I'll see you tomorrow Teal…and yes I'll take care of myself."
Amelia hung up and Teal smiled she felt a little better that Amelia's enthusiasm for the Father was high. Although that wouldn't stop her worrying and she would until she saw Amelia in the flesh, safe and sound. Placing the phone back on her belt, she exited the restroom to tell the Father the good news.
+ + +
Olivia had long ago given up pondering why she put her life in danger recklessly. It wasn't as if she was stupid or dumb. She was neither of those and had a keen understanding of how the world clicked, principally the criminal world. Yet she'd done it again and left behind people who needed her help and all because she was on a path of revenge for Max. Her partner would be turning in his grave, except he hasn't been placed there yet, admonishing her for leaving the clients behind to go on a pointless crusade without all the information. As the road sped by her at a tremendous pace the pent up energy of the bike mirrored her own as she refused to allow it to go at a dangerous speed for she'd surely be picked up by the cops.
She was ten minutes from base and all she'd done was put the people inside her home in danger. She'd seen the men positioned outside her office when they had arrived there earlier, but it had been irrelevant to her because she thought she could out manoeuvre anyone who tried to gain access to her building when she wasn't there. True it was difficult to gain entry when she wasn't there, but not impossible. Unfortunately because of her haste, she had forgotten one thing… the doctor didn't seem to understand any request she gave. More than likely she had compromised the building already, and if that was the case… what carnage could she expect to find? Because frankly, there is no way Randal doesn't know who I am by now.
Increasing the pressure on the throttle she decided that right now getting a ticket wasn't the worst thing in the world. Nope she had to get back and ensure the women who were under her care received exactly that. Even the troublesome doctor!
+ + +
Sister Marie ate the meal with an enthusiasm that amazed Danielle. Her son relished her cooking but she put that down to him being her son. The nun appeared to pay homage in the same way by eating everything in front of her. The beaming smile and the tiniest smacking of the lips brought a faint smile to her face. A miracle in the circumstances that she now felt they were in. The doctor, on the other hand, was eating her food but her mind was obviously elsewhere.
"Are you okay Amelia?" The quiet words drew Amelia's attention immediately and that of the nun who watched the two women closely.
"Sure, I've called in the reinforcements. We'll be out of here in a flash, no harm done." Although her words were meant to boost confidence they hardly held any great vibes to do so.
Unexpectedly Sister Marie, who was as far as Danielle was concerned, rather reticent since they'd met, spoke. "She will return Doctor to help us. I can feel it."
Flushing slightly at the comment, Amelia tried to shake off the inference that she was worried about the detective. She was, however it puzzled her as to why since the woman was well able to take care of herself if this place and all its modern gadgets are anything to go by.
"Oh I know Detective Santos is a very capable woman Sister, that's why she was chosen by Father Johansson to help us. Besides, the Father will be here soon and he'll work out what to do next." Amelia hoped she was right. He'd have to not only navigate the goons outside, but the security system too.
Danielle decided that it might be best to take their minds off the present dangers by changing the subject. "So Sister, when is the baby due? I'm sure you're looking forward to the birth." As soon as the last word left her mouth she realized she spoke without thinking. With a brief shake of her head in negativity and with eyes cast downward, she thought in disgust at her own insensitivity.
Sister Marie glanced down at her bulging belly and her head moved slowly characteristic of the nodding dog in the rear window of a car. Amelia, for her part, closed her eyes at the crass comment. Surely Danielle would know that for a nun pregnancy was a no-no. Before she could say anything to help the situation Sister Marie quietly replied.
"I believe I'm seven months along. Though many of my fraternity would not be happy about such an occurrence, I look forward to receiving the child of God into my care."
Danielle's eyes opened wide at the answer. Child of God? Her mouth opened like a fish and Amelia saw the puzzlement flood her features. Surely she wasn't going to make another gaff! "Sister it's a wonderful gift too. I'll never forget the birth of my son."
Amelia silently thanked God for small mercies as Sister Marie gave Danielle a relieved, serene smile. "We must trade stories Danielle. I know that you love your son very much. As will I regardless of the personal cost his birth will cause me."
Hadn't it already! Amelia thought as she collected the used dishes and left the two women to discuss the merits of childbirth. It was one subject she definitely had no interest in. Paradoxically it would be good for the nun to speak to someone not associated with anyone remotely connected with the church. She and the detective were tainted by knowing Father Johansson and, in the nun's eyes she surmised the Sister needed a stranger to talk to at this time. She had been the initial tentative communication branch, but it hadn't worked out and things had gone belly up in that quarter. As far as Amelia was concerned, she knew little more about the Sister and what had happened to her than at the first moment she had met her. As she placed the dishes in the dishwasher, she pondered the detective again. Is it written on my face that I've been thinking about the woman? She was sure that she wasn't that facially expressive. The nun was supposed to be incredibly intuitive and often reached out to the hurting souls. Can it be she feels that my soul is in pain? Staring blankly at the photo on the unit by the door, her mind wandered on a path she hadn't allowed it to for several years. What she saw there had her doubting her vocation and not for the first time.
Dragging herself from the encroaching painful observations of her own psyche, she focused on the photo on the wall. It was a happy shot of a woman receiving an award of some description. As she peered closely at the print she was amazed to see that it was the detective. She looked so young and Amelia was staggered by the innocence that shone out of those startling incredibly communicative eyes. The smile that flooded the detective's face made her look… beautiful. If she used that smile more often people wouldn't be as intimidated by her, although that was probably not a good thing in her profession. As she digested every detail, she saw a man in the background, his expression appeared proud. He wasn't old enough to be her father but from the similarities he could be a relation. The award was a small shield but the writing was too tiny to make out. Maybe one day when we got out of this mess I'll ask her about it.
Stepping out of the kitchen and walking slowly down the steps, she could see that the two women in the building with her were into a deep conversation. Remarkable! Here she was trying to prize an oyster from its shell and Danielle was achieving it without any trouble at all. I wonder who the real psychiatrist is here. Walking over to the desk and the consoles, she saw the two men impatiently pushing and kicking in frustration at the metal doors that were the only visible signs of entrance to the building. At the rate the men were going they'd need new shoe leather before they scratched the surface. Keeping a close eye on their movements, she saw something flicker on the side of one of the monitors. It was slightly out of focus and she didn't know how to zoom in with the equipment and if she did move something she might lose the only sight they had. Dare I take a chance on that? As she pondered that thought, the two men were apparently hailed by the new visitor as they left their current positions and headed in that direction. Yes! Reinforcements are here!
She had to try and zoom into that position. Now what to press is the hundred dollar question. Glancing at the different options on the console she saw something that looked vaguely like a control that might be used for zoom. Well, nothing ventured nothing gained. She pressed the button and after several strange noises from the equipment one of the monitors went blank and an array of numbers filled the screen for several seconds. Then the screen came up with an official looking screen prompting for a password. "Heck that isn't what I wanted." Amelia muttered at the console. Okay what next? She pressed several other buttons and nothing that she could see happened. Finally, she turned to the computer console and her eyes flooded open in dismay. This is when Teal is in her element. What she doesn't know about office computers hasn't been written yet. If only she was here now. Computers and associated machinery was definitely not her strong point. The nearest she came to using technology was the Palm Pilot that Teal had painstakingly taught her to use to keep her updated. Well, as much as one can be with a person who preferred the pen and paper option.
"Amelia is something going on?" Danielle asked her quietly as she and Sister Marie stood beside the desk with curious expressions on their faces.
"Do you know anything about computers…particularly zooming in on subjects?" The desperate tone had Danielle peering closely at the equipment.
"I'm not familiar with this sophisticated technology, but let's see if the computer holds any keys. Have you touched anything yet?" Amelia wanted to say no, in fact she wanted to tell an all out lie. Right now she felt so helpless and admitting she was inept at using a computer was a blow to her pride. Darn I'm going to have to ask forgiveness for that sin.
"Well, I did kinda pushed the odd button but nothing much happened, except that," pointing a finger at the password prompt on one of the monitors.
Danielle swapped positions with Amelia as she tried to find out if they could do anything with the monitors. It might not be possible, although she had to admit that with the stuff here it was likely that zooming in was part of the package.
Amelia stared at the monitor that thankfully still held the men in view. They were talking avidly and that worried her so much so that Sister Marie placed a comforting hand on her arm. "She'll be back, they won't hurt us."
With a faint smile Amelia nodded. "Sure, I know Sister. May I ask you a question?"
The Sister smiled that sweet serene smile of hers. It was much like the Madonna pictures she had been brought up with in the convent school. It had been the first impression she'd had of the nun and, in a way, it was the perfect expression. "Yes Doctor West."
Tracing the tip of her tongue over her dry lips she spoke softly. "How did you know I was thinking about Detective Santos over dinner?"
A far away look breached the serenity in her eyes that, although appeared to be looking directly at her, were in contrast a million miles away. Then the nun spoke in a whisper, "Some people's souls are more easily understood than others."
Cryptic, and why not, I should have expected that .
"You think that my soul and that of the detective's are on a similar wavelength? Is that it Sister?" If only they were in another situation, like back in her office on the comfy couch and the chair she had there. Not here being hunted like criminals in a storage building…albeit a rather elaborately furnished one.
Sister Marie merely smiled peacefully again. "One day you will understand and everything will make sense to you."
"Hey ladies, I think I've got it, let's try this?" Danielle spoke excitedly as she did something with the computer and the monitor began to move closer to the objects in question. "Can you see who it is yet?"
"A little more Danielle, that's it!" Silence filled the room as Amelia couldn't believe who it was they were talking to. Croaking out a question she asked, "Danielle does that thing pick up any sounds?"
Puzzled, but pleased for managing to solve the zoom problem she looked at the console. Thank goodness I took up the offer by my son to learn some simple things about the computer. "Let me try something else."
The sound of shuffling feet and the agitated voice of one of the goons flooded the room. "The boss told us to take care of this not you."
The voice speaking now only verified Amelia's recognition of the stranger. "Let me take care of it. There is no need for you here."
Amelia turned to Sister Marie who had a far away look on her face that was different from the other times - she didn't appear to be mentally with them. I'll cover that later. "Danielle I think we have more trouble here than we expected."
Danielle stood up and peered hard at the monitor. "Do you know him?"
"Unfortunately I do. The detective and I crossed his path a couple of days ago. How he found us and why he knows these men, is something I can't answer right now. All I know is that it isn't good."
Danielle chose that moment to confess her recognition of the other two men. They all looked at each other wondering about the connection but unable to piece it together. "Some puzzle huh?"
A roaring sound attracted their attention from the Mexican stand-off of the men in the yard drawing their attention immediately from other disquieting thoughts. They were even more astonished when the metal doors of the building began to open. Within seconds the roaring sound was a crescendo of noise and fumes as a motorcycle powered its way into the building. The metal doors clanged shut barely millimetres from the back of the bike, as the sound of fans filtering out the fumes kicked in for a few minutes in the background.
The three opened-mouthed women stared at the figure that alighted from the bike and removed the darkened helmet from their head. Dark hair flowed easily back into its well shaped style, as intelligent eyes quickly flashed over each of the women.
"Hi, looks like I arrived just in time."
In all of Amelia's life she had never been so glad to see anyone. The relief it afforded her inside was unexplainable. Calmly she moved forward, though her innards shook like a milkshake, and stood next to Olivia Santos. "About time you showed up, we were going to send out a search party!"
Olivia's eyes widened a little as a smirk crossed her lips briefly before she whispered, "Really? I didn't realise that you would miss me that much Doc?"
Amelia blushed slightly, feeling that now familiar gentle flick of the nose, as Olivia passed her heading towards her desk and the consoles. Turning to following in her footsteps, Amelia muttered under her breath, "I didn't. You have an ego bigger than the Empire State Building!"
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