For disclaimers see part one
Maureen yawned when she turned the corner onto Council Road. It would take her another ten minutes before she would be home and she hoped she would be able to stay awake. The evening had been a success and, deep down inside, she was grateful to Gertrude, Hannah and Rachel for providing Lauren and her a few hours of good food, pleasant company and a well-deserved break from work.
Maureen’s eyes cast a look into her rearview mirror and she smiled when she noticed Lauren was right behind her. Throughout the evening, her friend had been relaxed, witty and absolutely charming, making it even harder for Maureen to ban Lauren from her thoughts. There had been a lot of...looks, Maureen mused. Maybe it was wishful thinking on her part, but it was almost as if Lauren constantly followed her with her eyes, knowing exactly where Maureen was, even though she was moving from room to room.
And then there had been all the times the other woman had touched her, innocent touches that, to Maureen, meant so much more and she wondered if Lauren touched Rachel and Hannah in that manner as well. A few moments of reminiscing showed her the answer to that was ‘no’. Lauren hardly ever touched her other friends. But with Maureen she often briefly touched her arm, her shoulder or knee and on one occasion Lauren had covered Maureen’s hand with her own, just for a split second, but for Maureen it had been long enough to realize how soft and warm Lauren’s skin was and how pleasant it was to feel the slight pressure of the other woman’s hand on her own.
“Lauren DarkWolf, if I didn’t know any better I’d think you were flirting with me tonight,” Maureen sighed wistfully, casting another look in her rearview mirror. The unexpected sound of her cell-phone almost made her jump and, with a muttered curse, she reached into her purse on the passenger seat.
“Hello?” she spoke, a little more gruff than she intended.
“Maureen, it’s me. Are you okay?” Lauren’s voice sounded, its rich tones filling Maureen’s chest with a deep warmth that made her want to lean back, close her eyes and relax. She could listen to that voice for hours.
“I’m fine, just tired,” Maureen answered. “What’s up? That’s you behind me, isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lauren answered and Maureen could easily hear the smile in her voice. “You’ll make a fantastic policewoman one day,” Lauren added in a teasing voice.
“You think?” Maureen smiled. “Maybe I should consider a change in career then.”
“I could get you an appointment with my Captain,” Lauren continued.
“Let me think about it,” Maureen sighed. “I might not like the hours.”
“I know what you mean,” Lauren’s voice had lost its teasing tone and she suppressed a yawn. “Aren’t you wondering why I am calling you?”
“I’m sure you’ll tell me, eventually,” Maureen chuckled. “By the way, didn’t we just pass your exit?”
“We sure did,” Lauren grunted. “All right, here’s the deal; since you’ll be coming with me tomorrow, to have a nice relaxing weekend at the lake, I thought we’d be more....time efficient, if you’d spend the night at my place.”
Lauren’s suggestion was followed by a silence that lasted so long, the dark-haired woman wondered if Maureen had heard her.
“Are you...?” she started hesitantly, but Maureen quickly interrupted her.
“I’m still here and, yes, I heard you. Um...I guess you have a point. Are you...are you sure, though? I mean, it’s no trouble to...”
“We’ll both be able to sleep a little longer,” Lauren smiled, wishing she would be able to see the conflicting emotions in Maureen’s expressive green eyes.
“Now you’re talking,” Maureen laughed, knowing Lauren’s dark eyes would sport a mischievous twinkle.
“Is that a ‘yes’?”
“Is that why you’re following me?”
“Of course,” Lauren answered dryly and Maureen laughed.
“All right, keep following me home, so I can pack a weekend bag. Your car?”
“Sure,” Lauren smiled, pleased with the easy way Maureen had accepted her offer. “Lead the way.”
“I guess I should have been worried about someone following me,” Maureen continued in a relaxed voice, not ready to break the connection yet. “I could have hurt you, you know.”
“I know,” Lauren answered in a voice that was so serious it made Maureen chuckle. “I was taking a huge risk.”
“You’re in a playful mood,” Maureen laughed, slowing down for a busy intersection.
“I am,” Lauren admitted with a sigh. “And why not? I had a great meal, visited with my friends and tomorrow I’ll visit my family...’in the company of a beautiful, attractive woman’,”she silently added. “Right now, life is good.”
“Amen to that,” Maureen agreed in a soft voice.
After a few minutes, Maureen turned off the main road, entering the addition where she lived. Lauren dutifully followed her partner, knowing exactly where they were heading.
“Please, don’t mind the mess,” Maureen’s voice broke the silence. “It’s been a while since I’ve been home long enough to make the place look decent.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lauren answered, following Maureen onto a wide driveway.
With a click of the remote garage door opener, the door opened and Maureen drove her car inside, while Lauren parked in the driveway. She exited the car and stretched out to her full height, feeling the pull of her tired muscles.
“Come in, Lauren,” Maureen encouraged, gesturing her friend to follow her into the kitchen, which Lauren obediently did. “Make yourself at home, I won’t be long,” she called over her shoulder, disappearing into the hallway, heading for her bedroom.
Lauren sank down on a barstool in the kitchen and with curious eyes she looked around, deciding she did not like what she saw. The kitchen was almost barren and peering through the doorway into the living room, Lauren noticed a leather couch, a coffee table, a TV and at least a dozen moving boxes that were neatly stacked against the wall. That was it. There were no books, no CD’s or DVD’s, no photo’s of any kind, no art on the walls, nothing that indicated somebody actually lived there.
“Don’t mind what mess?” Lauren mumbled, repeating Maureen’s words, aware of a feeling of sadness that quickly settled in the pit of her stomach. The house looked like Maureen was in the process of moving in, while she had been there for months already.
“If you want something to drink, there should be something cold in the fridge,” Maureen called from the bedroom.
After the big meal Gertrude had cooked for them, Lauren did not feel like eating or drinking anything at all, but the interior of Maureen’s house had made her curious and, after a moment of hesitation, she quickly stood up from the barstool and walked toward the big, side-by-side refrigerator. Even before she opened the door, she knew she would not like what she would find. She was right. The inside of the refrigerator revealed five cans of Diet Coke, a bottle of Ketchup, a jar of pickles and a couple of apples.
“Oh, Maureen,” Lauren sighed, having suspected her friend had not exactly been taking care of herself lately. Grabbing a Coke, Lauren closed the door and turned around, startled when she looked straight into a pair of familiar green eyes that gazed at her with a mixture of guilt and defiance.
“After this weekend, when we’re back in town, we’ll make it a rule I’ll cook for you at least once a week,” Lauren decided. “You don’t have to return the favor, although it would be nice,” she added with a wink.
“I’m a terrible cook,” Maureen answered, too tired to fight Lauren’s suggestion. “I manage to burn water.”
“Don’t tell my mother that, or she’ll make you her special little project,” Lauren chuckled. “She thinks everybody should know how to make at least a couple of decent meals.”
“I guess she has a point,” Maureen sighed. With tired eyes the red-haired woman looked around her kitchen, suddenly embarrassed by the lack of personal touch. “Listen, Lauren, I know this place doesn’t exactly look homey, believe me, but lately I’ve been so busy and...and when I am home, I usually try to catch up on my sleep. Besides, it’s...I...”
Lauren noticed the turmoil in her friend’s eyes and she remembered part of a conversation they had the night a few months before, when Maureen had told Lauren she was going through a divorce. The redhead had confessed she did not like to be alone, after which Lauren had told her that Maureen could count on her being a friend.
“It’s hard to be alone, isn’t it?” Lauren softly spoke, seeing Maureen cast down her eyes, while she slowly nodded. The dark-haired woman stepped a little closer and gently lifted her friend’s chin, so they were eye-to-eye.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Maureen looked into the deep, warm brown of Lauren’s eyes and for a moment it was like she was floating on air, like the genuine compassion in her friend’s gaze literally lifted her up, holding her in a strong embrace. She became aware of the pounding rhythm in her chest and reluctantly she looked away, afraid she might make a fool out of herself if she didn’t.
“I meant it when I said you don’t have to face your demons all alone, Maureen,” Lauren continued. “I respect it if you try to work things out by yourself, but I’m still a good listener, so, if you want to talk about something, anything at all, I’ll be there for you. Alright?”
Oh, Lauren, if you only knew...
Maureen lifted her eyes and swallowed hard when they were immediately caught by a pair of dark, almost black ones.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Lauren could tell Maureen was not willing to talk about anything yet, but she did not push it. Maybe the weekend would relax her enough to share some of her worries with her friend. The dark-haired woman knew she would not be able to solve Maureen’s problems, but the least she could do was listen and be there for her.
“Are you ready to go?” Lauren asked, feeling that changing the subject would be the best thing to do. “All packed?”
“It’s not that much,” Maureen frowned, wondering if her friend was being serious or not. When she allowed her eyes to be locked with Lauren’s she noticed the little sparkle and with a snort she backhanded her friend in the stomach.
“Better watch it, Wolfie,” Maureen growled.
Lauren rubbed the offended spot and chuckled at the frown on her friend’s face.
“What did you just call me? Wolfie? You’re a courageous woman, Maureen, I’ve hurt people for less.”
“Sure,” Maureen nodded, not at all impressed by Lauren’s mock-glare. She was thoroughly enjoying the sudden, playful mood. “Did they live to tell about it?”
“I’ll take the Fifth on that one,” Lauren grinned, taking a sip from her Diet Coke.
“Smart,” Maureen nodded. “Well, I’m ready when you are,” she added, secretly pleased to be able to leave the depressing confinements of her house. She suppressed a smile when Lauren took over the bag she had slung over her shoulder and headed for the door, holding it open and gesturing Maureen to walk through.
“Your Mama taught you manners,” Maureen mumbled, while passing the taller woman.
“You bet,” Lauren answered with a smile, resisting the urge to snake out an arm and wrap it around her friend in order to give her a one-armed hug. Maureen’s eyes still held a hint of sadness and pain and Lauren wished she could just wipe that away. But hugging the other woman would probably only add to the redhead’s confusion And upsetting her friend was the last thing Lauren wanted to do. She clearly remembered the look on Maureen’s face when she had given her a hug after they had been on a date. They had enjoyed a great dinner at Pete’s and afterwards they had strolled through town, just talking and window shopping. Both women had felt like they had grown a little closer that evening. Lauren had wanted to deepen their friendship, she still did, but she felt like she needed to tread lightly, for Maureen’s sake. The other woman clearly had a hard time adjusting after her divorce and Lauren knew she needed time to settle comfortably into her new life. The hug had been spontaneous, but it had left Lauren craving for more, which had been unsettling. And when Lauren had slowly let go of the other woman, gently giving her shoulders an encouraging squeeze, Maureen’s eyes had been moist and filled with a mixture of quiet joy and wonder. But Lauren knew Maureen’s emotions were still out of balance so shortly after her divorce, so she decided to keep her distance, giving the other woman the opportunity to find her equilibrium again, emotionally and mentally.
“Are you alright?” a voice suddenly interrupted Lauren’s thoughts and, with an apologetic smile, she nodded.
“Sorry, just took a trip to La La land. I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind me staying at your place? I mean, I’d understand if...”
“It’s fine, really,” Lauren said, stepping in her car. “I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t want you to stay. All right?”
“Okay,” Maureen nodded, letting herself sink into the passenger’s seat. Even though her tired body was protesting her every move, deep down inside she was excited to spend the entire weekend with Lauren. For the last few months, they had not been able to enjoy any time together and it would be interesting to see if they could pick up where they had left off after their date, back in February.
Maureen must have been asleep for only a few hours when she woke with a start. Pushing herself up to a sitting position, she took a deep breath, willing her pounding heart to slow down. She had no idea what had pulled her from her deep sleep, but, whatever it was, for a few moments it had left her completely disoriented.
“What the hell?” Maureen mumbled, pushing her hair away from her damp forehead. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room and with a sigh she reached out to switch on the lamp on the small table next to the bed. The soft light illuminated the tastefully decorated guest bedroom, with its Southwestern furniture, colorful handwoven rugs and Native American art that decorated the walls. The moment Maureen had set foot in Lauren’s house, she had felt the warmth of the place enveloping her like a blanket and she had immediately recognized Lauren’s touch in all she saw. It had been strangely comforting and Maureen had felt ashamed about the cold state of her own house.
Blinking against the light, Maureen looked at the alarm clock and frowned when she saw it was just after three in the morning.
“So much for a good sleep,” she muttered a little more than annoyed. “Well, whatever it was that woke me up, it will have to wait,” she decided, stretching out her hand to turn off the light so she could go back to sleep. At that exact moment, two things happened simultaneously; Maureen’s pager beeped twice and there was a knock on the bedroom door.
“What?” Maureen growled, a little more gruff than intended, while reaching for the pager.
The door was opened and a sleepy looking Lauren stepped in the room. She was clad in a yellow t-shirt and gray knit shorts and, in spite of the situation, Maureen could not stop herself when her eyes traveled down a pair of long, strong legs with an appreciative glance.
“I got paged,” Lauren grunted, suppressing a yawn.
“So did I, apparently” Maureen sighed swinging her legs out of bed, while pushing herself to a sitting position. “What’s going on?”
“We need to go to Washita County.”
“Washita County?” Maureen repeated, the disgust evident in her voice. “That’s hours away. Do we need to go there now?”
“He wants us there at first light,” Lauren answered with a shrug of her shoulders. She could not hide the disappointment in her voice and immediately Maureen’s irritation melted away.
“I can go,” she spoke with determination. “You’re supposed to have the weekend off and visit your family. I’m sure I’ll be able to cope and...”
“It’s your weekend off as well,” Lauren interrupted. “Besides, the Boss was very specific about the assignment; you and me, both, because, for some reason, he thinks whatever happened there ties in with both our cases we’ve been working on lately.”
Maureen gestured Lauren to take a seat on the edge of the bed next to her, so she did not have to crane her neck, looking up at the tall woman.
“What do you know?” she asked, all traces of sleep forgotten.
“Not much,” Lauren answered, pushing back her thick, long hair. “He gave me a name and phone number and told me this person, a local Sheriff, could fill us in. All I know is that a civilian found a body on the dirt road in front of her house, somewhere between Burns Flat and Elk City.”
“A dead body?”
“Very much so,” Lauren sighed. “And there’s more, there was a baby as well.”
Maureen’s head shot up and she glanced at Lauren with eyes full of shock.
“A baby? Was it...?”
“Barely alive,” Lauren answered with a grim face.
Maureen’s eyes rested on a pair of hands that were holding the steering wheel in a relaxed grip. Lauren’s hands were strong, she could tell just by how the veins and muscles moved underneath the smooth, tan skin. It was fascinating to see the occasional twitching of the long fingers, illuminated by the light of the dashboard instruments and the headlights of oncoming traffic. Maureen could not help wondering what it would be like to run her fingers over the soft looking skin, what it would be like to feel her hand disappear in Lauren’s strong grip and how...
“Are you doing okay?” a soft voice interrupted her thoughts.
Maureen immediately cast down her eyes, grateful for the darkness inside the car, so her companion would not be able to see her blush.
“I’m fine, just zoning out,” she answered quickly, taking a deep breath.
“Tired?” Lauren asked in a compassionate voice.
“What do you think?” Maureen softly snorted. “I’ve been yanked out of bed in the middle of the night after a two-week period of chronic sleep deprivation.”
“I take that as a ‘yes’,” Lauren replied dryly, making Maureen chuckle. “Usually I like my job, but sometimes it really sucks.”
“Is this ‘sometimes?’” Maureen asked with a smile in her voice.
“Absolutely,” Lauren nodded. “I was so looking forward to tomorrow and Sunday that when my pager went off I seriously considered flushing it down the toilet.”
“Maybe we should have,” Maureen muttered, rubbing her tired eyes. “I’ve no idea why the Boss insists on having us there. Besides,” the red-head hesitated and glanced aside at Lauren, who, even though her eyes were on the road in front of them, seemed to listen intently. “I hate cases that involve kids,” she confessed with a heartfelt sigh.
“I do too,” Lauren nodded. “Every case that involves a child is one too many.” There was a brief silence in which Maureen stared outside the window, trying mentally to prepare herself for what they would hear and see that morning. Whatever it would be, she knew it would be hard. Deep down inside she hoped she would be able to handle it. She was so bone-tired her emotions were all over the place and how embarrassing would it be to break down in front of curious, local police officers.
Maureen’s thoughts were interrupted by a warm, strong hand that unexpectedly covered her own. Immediately, her heart skipped a beat. Lauren felt the other woman tense, but to her credit she did not pull away, knowing the gentle touch had taken the other woman by surprise. And when the hand underneath hers turned and boldly entwined their fingers Lauren involuntarily sucked in a breath. The physical contact felt so good she had to force herself not to pull over so she could bury herself in Maureen’s arms. They were in a moving car, on their way to a, no doubt, horrific crime-scene and she knew she had to prepare herself mentally and emotionally . Instead, her entire focus was on the warm hand that had comfortably wrapped itself around hers and on the way her body and mind were reacting to that.
“Maureen...,” Lauren started uncharacteristically insecure. “I...Maybe if...”
“We need to have a talk soon, don’t we?” Maureen interrupted in a gentle voice, while her thumb caressed the skin on Lauren’s hand.
“Yes. Yes we do,” Lauren breathed, glad of her friend’s remark. “We really need to. And I think, maybe we should have a while ago, but...”
“But work keeps getting in the way,” Maureen nodded. “Like now.”
“I’m sorry,” Lauren spoke in a soft voice. “I didn’t mean to...”
“Ssh, not now,” Maureen interrupted, gently squeezing Lauren’s hand. “We’ll talk later. We need our focus on this case, now even more than ever, because we’re both so tired.”
“I know I am,” Lauren admitted, surprising Maureen with that confession.
“What? You’re not a super hero?” the red-head gently teased.
“Sorry,” Lauren muttered, sending her companion a tired grin.
“Doesn’t matter, I like you anyway,” Maureen replied, barely audible, but Lauren had heard the confession and increased her grip on Maureen’s hand.
“I’m glad,” was the whispered answer and with a smile Maureen closed her eyes, reveling in the warmth that had settled in the pit of her stomach, while their linked hands rested on her thigh.
“Why don’t you close your eyes and take a nap?” Lauren suggested. “It’ll be at least another hour before we’re there.”
“You don’t have to twist my arm,” Maureen yawned. “Will you be alright, though?” she asked with a sideway glance.
“I’ll be fine,” Lauren smiled, reveling in the warm pressure of Maureen’s hand.
“Wake me a couple of miles before we get there, so I can iron the wrinkles out of my face,” Maureen sighed, burying herself deeper into the seat.
“I will,” Lauren chuckled.
There was a brief silence in which Lauren wondered how long it would take for her friend to fall asleep. Maureen had looked so tired it would probably only take a few minutes. She was right, because, less than a minute later, Lauren could feel Maureen’s grip on her hand relax, while the red-head’s breathing became deep and regular.
“Sweet dreams, Maureen,” Lauren whispered, not at all inclined to remove her hand from its comfortable resting place.
Bradley Henderson stared at the police cruiser that slowly made its way down the dirt-road, followed closely by what looked like a silver-colored car. His tired eyes lit up when he recognized the form of Sheriff Boswick, exiting the cruiser. The gray-haired man slowly walked to the car behind him and opened the passenger door.
With curious eyes, Henderson watched two women get out of the car and, for a brief moment, he was stunned to find out the OSBI agents were actually women. Being in Law Enforcement could be a dangerous job and he wondered if they realized that.
Unconsciously straightening his shoulders, Bradley Henderson looked at the Sheriff when he lead the two woman towards the cordoned area.
“Henderson, these are Agents Darkwolf and Lawrence, from the OSBI Headquarters in Oklahoma City.”
Bradley Henderson nodded and grabbed the hand that Lauren offered him.
“Nice to meet you, Henderson,” her low voice sounded genuine when she shook his hand, while Maureen sent the young Deputy a tired smile. “What do you have for us here?”
‘Umm...it’s...well,” the young man stammered, casting a glance at the Sheriff who stood behind Maureen, patiently waiting for him to continue.
“Well, right behind us here, alongside the road, the owner of the house, Constance Perez came across a...a bundle of, what she initially thought to be fabric, like a carpet or rug.” Deputy Henderson cleared his throat, well aware of the intense gaze in a pair of dark-brown and green eyes. “She was under the impression her dog was guarding the...bundle and she was curious about it. Especially since it had not been there when she had left for work in the morning. Mrs. Perez stated that when she approached the bundle she detected a movement and when she carefully lifted up a corner of the fabric she...she...” Deputy Henderson mentally slapped himself for stuttering again, but, when he saw the barely perceptible nod the tall dark-haired Agent gave him, he took a deep breath and continued. “When she lifted the fabric she saw a baby, held in its mother’s arms, but the mother seemed...deceased.”
“Was she?” Maureen asked dryly, frowning at the young man. She was a seasoned Agent and the way the Deputy was carefully choosing his words was testing her patience. When the young man shot her a puzzled look, Maureen let out a sigh and she was about to roll her eyes, when Lauren’s hand lightly touched her arm, giving it a gentle squeeze. She immediately knew what her friend was trying to tell her and she nodded. Lauren was right; the Deputy was a true rookie. He looked so young in his immaculate uniform and she was sure he had gone through a tremendously stressful day.
“At the time Mrs. Perez found her, was she dead?” she asked, not unfriendly.
“Yes, ma’am,” the Deputy nodded. “According to what Mrs. Perez told me when I arrived, the victim was de...had died, ma’am.”
“What about the baby?” Lauren asked.
“The baby, a boy, was alive. He was wrapped in the victim’s arms and he looked in good condition, although he seemed pretty lethargic, but the paramedic said he could have been dehydrated.” The young Deputy swallowed hard, still trying to come to terms with what he had found that afternoon. It was hard to get rid of the image of the helpless baby, clutched in the arms of a dead woman. He knew it was something that would stay with him for a long time to come.
“Where’s the baby now?” Maureen asked , peering over the yellow tape to get a good look at the crime scene. It was hard to get a clear view, because of the darkness. A couple of floodlights were haphazardly placed around the area, but the light was so bright, it was still impossible to get a detailed look. Their Captain had been right when he had urged them to be there at daybreak; they needed daylight to canvas the area and look for any clues.
“They took him to the hospital in Elk City. He’ll be in DHS custody until they find his family. If he has any,” the young Deputy answered with a sigh.
“Any clues or leads?” Lauren asked, pushing the tape down stepping over it with her long legs. Still holding the yellow tape down, she motioned for Maureen to follow her, which the red-head obediently did.
“Not really,” the Sheriff answered, speaking for the first time. “We haven’t really investigated the crime scene yet. When Henderson here radioed in what he’d found, I came down to take a look, but I already knew this case would be out of our league. We don’t have stuff like this happening around these parts.” The Sheriff shot Lauren an inquisitive look. “Wilson promised he’d send his best,” he continued and both Lauren and Maureen could easily detect the doubt in his voice.
Ignoring Maureen’s barely audible snort behind her, Lauren turned to cast a look at the Sheriff. Her expression was neutral when she slowly nodded.
“We do have a lot experience,” she explained in a low voice, wondering if the small-town Sheriff was one of the many ‘good ol’ boys’ who still thought women should be teachers or nurses, but certainly not top investigators for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
“That’s what I heard,” Sheriff Boswick answered. “I gotta tell ya, when I first saw the two of you drive up to the station, I was surprised.”
“Really?” Maureen drawled. Without looking back at the other woman, Lauren knew the green eyes were shooting fire and she suppressed a chuckle. “Surprised how?”
“I thought I heard you both were involved in that meth-lab thing, last week. I’d have thought Wilson would have given you some time off.”
“You know him?” Maureen asked with rising curiosity.
“I sure do,” Sheriff Boswick grinned. “I’ve known him for a very long time.”
“Well, he thinks this case could be linked to our previous ones,” Lauren explained. “I’m not sure how, though.”
“Maybe this clipping will give you an idea,” Deputy Henderson spoke, almost reverently handing Lauren a clear, plastic bag. With raised eyebrows she took the small bag, intently looking at its contents.
“It’s a newspaper clipping,” Maureen said, leaning closer to Lauren to get a better look. “Hey, look at the picture ! That’s...”
“Us,” Lauren interrupted with a nod. “This must have been taken last month, when we left the courthouse after we testified in that...”
“Drug-trafficking case,” Maureen added with surprise. “What the...?”
“See that number that’s scribbled on the bottom?” Sheriff Boswick pointed out.
Lauren nodded while Maureen gasped in surprise.
“This is the OSBI phone-number,” Lauren said pensively. “That’s interesting. Where does this come from? Was it found here, at the scene?”
Deputy Henderson cleared his throat while he shook his head.
“No, well, actually, sort of,” he replied, blushing when Maureen sent him an impatient glance. “It...I found it in the lady’s pocket, of her coat, when I was looking for an ID,” he quickly explained. “I immediately bagged it, because I...I recognized Agent Darkwolf.”
“You did?” Maureen asked, looking at the Deputy in surprise.
“You...um...Agent Darkwolf spoke at my Highschool, a few years ago. It...um...it was very interesting.”
“What did she talk about?” Maureen inquired, nudging Lauren with her shoulder, suppressing a smug smile when the dark-haired woman sighed.
“It was about how many people are affected by crime, no matter how small and how...fulfilling it is to solve crimes and help bring justice to the victims and to our society.”
“That does sound interesting,” Maureen admitted. And it sounds just like Lauren.
“Thanks for bagging this, Henderson,” Lauren spoke, changing the subject and ignoring Maureen’s soft chuckle. “You did a good job.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” Deputy Henderson blushed.”To be honest, I...I wasn’t really sure what to do. This is the first time I’ve been involved in a case like this. But, I’ll be right here, so, just tell me what to do.”
“You can help me when we canvas this area,” Lauren smiled at his boyish eagerness. “It’ll be a good learning experience.”
“Great ! Thank you,” Deputy Henderson tried to answer in a calm voice, but both Lauren and Maureen heard the undertone of enthusiasm and they smiled. It had not been that long ago since they had been rookies themselves.
“Found anything?” Maureen yawned, glancing at her watch. It was close to nine o’clock. The sun was already heating up the air and Maureen was getting thirsty and hungry.
“Was it only last night I ate fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and mashed potatoes?” she mumbled, not aware of Lauren, who was standing right behind her.
“Don’t forget the gravy and green beans,” the other woman smiled, wishing she could stretch out a hand and smooth a rebellious strand of red hair away from Maureen’s forehead. Her friend looked pale and tired and Lauren knew it would only be a matter of time before the other Agent would keel over.
“I know you’re hungry, so am I,” Lauren said in a soft voice. “We’re almost done here and as soon as we pack up, I’ll find a place to eat.”
“Just a cup of coffee would be heaven,” Maureen sighed.
“You got it,” Lauren smiled. “Hang in there, okay?”
“I’m trying,” Maureen yawned. “What do we have so far? Some tire tracks, a shoe, that newspaper clipping and...what else?”
“A wallet,” Lauren spoke. “The one she was carrying.”
“But there’s no ID in there.”
“Nope, just some coupons and an appointment card. There’s no name on it, though.”
Lauren handed her the small bag with the appointment card. The top part had been cut off, so it was impossible to see which Doctor’s office, clinic or hospital the card had come from. ,
“April 7th,” Maureen muttered, twirling the small bag with the card around her finger. “Why does that sound familiar to me?”
Lauren did not answer, but looked at Maureen in fascination. Her friend had a formidable memory and, on a few occasions, she had been witness to Maureen digging up information from within the deep recesses of her brain. It had been interesting to witness. Maureen had stared, mumbled, closed her eyes in concentration and a few minutes later, she had come up with the answer.
“April the seventh,” Maureen spoke slowly, as if she was tasting the words. “April. The Seventh.”
With her eyes closed, the red-head rocked back and forth on her heels, willing her memory to give up the information. Her lips moved, but there was no sound and, unconsciously, Lauren held her breath. Then, all of a sudden, the green eyes popped open, glancing at Lauren in satisfaction.
“There was a Health fair that day,” she said. “It was in downtown Oklahoma City and sponsored by St. Andrew’s. There was a special deal about pregnant and nursing mothers.”
“Really?” Lauren replied, clearly impressed by Maureen’s information. “How do you know?”
“Because, a few weeks before that day, I had to take a suspect to the hospital and I saw the poster in the elevator,” Maureen answered with a small smile. Her heart had skipped a beat when she had noticed the admiration in the other woman’s eyes and all of a sudden she felt a lot less tired. “I know that appointment card could be from some place totally different, so it’s a long shot,” she added with a sigh.
“It’s worth looking into, though,” Lauren said, knowing they barely had a lead. Right now, anything was welcome. “You’re amazing,” she added, so softly Deputy Henderson, who was still carefully searching the long grass alongside the road, would not be able to hear her.
“You think?” Maureen replied, having meant to sound playful, but instead there was a tiny quiver in her voice.
“Absolutely,” Lauren smiled, stuffing her hands in her pockets to keep herself from doing something stupid, like pulling Maureen into her arms right in front of Deputy Henderson.
“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Maureen glanced up and sucked in a breath when she noticed the intensity in the other woman’s gaze. Again, her heart did a double-take.
“No, I really don’t,” Lauren replied. She leaned forward, until her lips were dangerously close to Maureen’s ear. “See? You’re special,” she added in a whisper, before turning around and walking back to Deputy Henderson, who was straying away from the crime scene.
Maureen’s tired eyes were filled with smoldering green fire when she stared at Lauren Darkwolf’s retreating back.
“Breathe, Maureen. Breathe.”
To be continued
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