Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 8

(If you'd like to read from the beginning you can go Here.)

Jilly traded coats and hats with Anne after only a few moments persuasion and the promise of the full story later on at home. Anne crossed her fingers. With any luck the guy would follow Jilly. Surely by the time she left the theater after her audition he would realize that he had the wrong girl.

Anne left the store in a clump of other girls. She forced herself not to look around for the man in the gray suit but pasted on her brightest smile and forged ahead, arms linked with her chums.

One by one the other girls broke away from the pack until Anne found herself on her own. She could resist the urge no longer. Trying to be discreet she paused in front of a shop window. She stared at the window for a moment and then glanced behind her.

She turned back to the window. No one seemed to be paying any undue attention to her. She licked her lips. One more look wouldn’t hurt. Would it? Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman had made this sort of thing look so much easier in Notrious.

She satisfied herself with turning around slowly and surveying the scene. What was she supposed to be looking for anyway? Something out of place? She was in New York City for pete’s sake. Nothing was out of place.

A new thought pushed through her anxiety. What if the man wasn’t simply following her, but meant her harm. Jilly.

Cold terror swept up her spine.

She was only a block from her apartment. She would grab something for Jilly to change into so that they might get away easier.

Bounding into the hall breathlessly, Anne rummaged for her keys. She must take the time to clean out her handbag someday. Her feet hit the first floor landing and she slammed into a wall.

Not a literal wall. She looked up into fathomless blue eyes.

“Whoa!” Erik Carter snatched her arms to keep her from bouncing back down the stairs.

Anne clapped a hand on her snappy green beret and stared like a mime in shock.

“Are you okay?” He released her and she found herself wishing for his support again.

“I’m just fine. Thank you. Are you all right?”

“I think so. You pack a wallop though.” He rubbed his arm where she had barreled into him.

“I’m sorry Mr. Carter. I must pay more attention to where I’m going.”

“Call me Erik. I just wish it were me you were in such a rush to see.”

Anne did too. She bit her lip.

She would give anything if her only concern was the desire for a date on Friday night. But she had to make sure Jilly was okay. She could never live with herself if something happened to her friend and she did nothing.

“I’m sorry I don’t usually do this on such short acquaintance, but would you care to go to dinner with me tonight?”

Anne sucked air between her teeth. This was just too painful. “I cannot. I would like to. Really. I am busy tonight though.”

He nodded. “Okay.” But the look in his eye told her he thought she had rejected him outright.

She put a hand on his arm. “I really do have to run right out again this evening, but I do hope you will ask me again sometime.”

He nodded and the warmth returned to his gaze. “I will.”

Relieved, she smiled back. “Please excuse me then, I am awfully late.”

She hurled herself up the last flight of stairs to her apartment and thrust her key in the lock. The door swung in on darkness. The scent of cigar smoke stopped her as effectively as Erik had. Her hand groped for the light switch.

Light burst into the room. She couldn’t take it all in.

The apartment had been ripped apart. Every book had been pulled from the shelf. They lay in a forlorn heap on the floor. The couch had been slashed open and spilled it’s stuffing indecently. Pictures had been taken down and flung at random. Even her precious typewriter lay on its side on the floor, the ribbon hanging from it dispiritedly. She slumped against the doorframe, hand to her mouth.

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